By Erin Brallier
This past Saturday I rode 62 miles to support the Jim Calhoun Ride for Life Saving Research. I lost my grandmother fifteen years ago to bladder cancer. Grandma Carnese was an angel on earth, a woman who raised six crazy children and left behind a legacy of ten grandchildren. She truly knew how to run it like a mom and made the best eggplant parmesan! My ride was in memory of her and many other friends and family who have lost their battle.
I am certainly not raising six children, but I am faced with the challenges of raising my seven-year old son as a single working mom, who thrives on finding time for fitness! Caleb also lost his own grandmother to brain and lung cancer, so when I tell him “hey buddy I am not going to make soccer practice, so I can get 25 miles to train for my cancer ride,” he completely understands. I also feel it’s a positive for Caleb to make a connection in remembrance of her. More often than not, Caleb’s response back to me is “only 25 miles mom?” I smile and say back, “Ok coach, you think I should do more?” I often call Caleb my “coach” because he truly is.
The weather on race day was perfect. As we lined up to the starting line Coach Calhoun provided some encouraging words about resilience and thanked us from the bottom of his heart. How could you not ride 62 miles after that? Off we went …the sound of riders all clicking into their pedals, a sound I have grown to love.
I started out with the team Cigna pack and eventually, like any road race, the pack dwindled and I started to hook up with people riding within my same pace. It’s critical to find at least one partner in a long race. After mile 20 my pack dwindled to just two of us. A bond of sorts starts to form with who you are with. You are in it together, taking turns setting the pace, moving to the front to break the wind, or behind to leverage a much needed draft. You also have time to get to know your new-found race partner, hear about their family, and even talk some work, particularly during the steady 4 mile climb.
As I headed into the last ten miles the wind picked up, the sun was blazing hot, and my legs were screaming. There was one point I even questioned if I missed the last sign to turn and had to stop to bust out a map. This is when I always think about my grandmother, her warm smiling face and others fighting the fight to push through and finish.
I started cycling three years ago, and continue to pedal forward. My rides are my constant, a time to reflect, maybe even pause to take in a mountain view and realize how precious life really is.
I often hear “You rode 62 miles? I don’t even drive that far in my car! Doesn’t your a$$ hurt?” This morning it does just a bit, but the aches and pains are just a reminder of how I spent four hours making a difference.
Thank you Erin! Awesome job riding for a cause…and for yourself! You must have a great coach 🙂