I ride because of friends and family. At first I was drawn in by a group of buddies who were helping with a fledgling effort to help cancer survivors. As an avid rider I was a good choice to participate and the Connecticut Challenge was an excuse to join others in a long ride for a good cause. Helping mark the course for the big day and marshaling riders along a tough century course was my idea of fun. Over the years my participation has become more personal.
Since the inaugural ride, several of my family members have been treated for skin cancer, the threat of which never seems to go away. Neighbors, co-workers, and students have shared their stories with me because I work with the Connecticut Challenge – their experience makes me want to help in whatever way I can. If I could write the big check that would make a difference, I would. However my best efforts lie in helping others to join the ride and complete their goals. Want to try the Challenge, but the idea of riding a 25 mile hilly course makes you nervous? I can help. Never done a 50 mile bike ride? You can, both for yourself and for others.
No one chooses the challenge of cancer, but you can choose to challenge yourself in other ways. This choice is always an optimistic one, it is hopeful. It is something to look forward to and it is habit-forming. The Connecticut Challenge is not just about raising money, it is about accomplishing something difficult and the joy that brings us.
As a coach my approach to any challenge is always the same. First, identify your goals; what do you want to do and when do you want to do it. When you are committed to your goal, make it public – “I will ride 25 miles in the Connecticut Challenge at the end of July this year”. Second, working backwards from your goal-date, decide what has to happen for you to realize your goal – “I will train for the ride by gradually building up the time I spend on the bike and the difficulty of the terrain I travel”. Third, lay out a concrete plan for the mini-goals you will accomplish in your training – “By the end of May, I will be able to spend an hour on my bike as a routine thing; I will be able to ride the big hill near my home without stopping”. The specifics for each person may differ, but the pattern is the same.
Join us for the ride, not just for that day late in July but for the process of getting ready for it. I have made wonderful friends through our shared experience and desire to help. Embrace the challenge for others and yourself.
- Bob Ford, Teacher and distance running coach at Fairfield Prep, life-long endurance athlete in swimming, biking and running.