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From the Gulf to the Pacific – Tom Roberts ride for 3000 Miles to a Cure

by Maria Parker on August 24, 2017 No comments

Tom Roberts has been involved with 3000 Miles to a cure since 2013 when he crewed for my solo Race Across America.  He’s since volunteered for two more RAAM crews.  There’s only a few people in the world unselfish enough to do that.  During one particularly tough and sleepless section of RAAM 2017 we chanted together “never again, never again, never again….”, but knowing Tom – he’d do it again.  Don’t worry Tom, I won’t ask!

In addition to his incredible work ethic, Tom is one of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He also has a quiet, but wicked sense of humor.  I was delighted when he decided to use his own epic journey from Texas to California, on a bike….. Self Supported,  as fundraiser for 3000 Miles to a Cure.  He raised a lot of money for brain cancer research and it was an adventure.  What follows is his blog.  Read and enjoy.  Thank you Tom for coming alongside us in the journey. We love having you with us and together, we’ll cure brain cancer.

 

Tom’s blog:

Like most, I discovered long-distance cycling in an incremental way. First there’s the ride around the block, then around the neighborhood, then local group rides. Then you hear there is a ride called a century, and you can’t believe it’s even possible to ride a bike that far, but something in you wants to do it…And you do it, and you eventually do it a bunch of times.  Then bike touring is discovered, which is when people ride many days consecutively; even cross-country or further.  I had the desire to do a long-distance bike tour for several years, but there were always things preventing it from happening. This summer, however, things seemed to fall in place for a self-supported tour, not all the way across the country, but from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean!

I was scheduled to be a crew member for Race Across America (RAAM) in June, supporting the four-person team 3000 Miles to a Cure.  For this I drove my car from my home in Texas to California.  At the completion of RAAM in Annapolis, instead to flying back to California to get my car, I flew home to Texas in order to set myself up for a cycling tour to California to retrieve my car.

Over the years I had collected most of what I needed for a multi-day tour (sleeping bag, air mattress, tent, panniers and most importantly the Cruzbike S30).  A few items were added in the weeks before the ride began, the most significant of which were a solar panel for charging electronics, a computer tablet, and a Garmin Edge Explorer 820 for cycling data and navigation. Since I live close to the Gulf Coast, dipping the back wheel of my bike in the Gulf of Mexico to start the ride seemed appropriate, and this is a custom for those departing from either the Atlantic or Pacific coast to make a cross-country trip.  The idea to raise funds and awareness for brain cancer research was somewhat of an afterthought.  3000 Miles to a Cure had been the charity for which the RAAM team had worked so hard for, raising $37,000.  So I thought, “Why not continue the effort on my tour?”  Maria was totally on board with the idea, and so another dimension was added to my trip, which actually became the most meaningful aspect of the adventure.  Now I wasn’t just riding to retrieve my car or to ride my bike 1,700 miles, but now the ride was to aid in the defeat of brain cancer!  My fundraising goal was $1,000 and thanks to all those following the journey I approximately doubled that amount!

                    

The ride began Saturday, July 15th in the tiny community of Austwell, TX.  Early that morning the back wheel was dipped in the Gulf of Mexico, and the ride began.  That first day was one of the hardest physically.  I got acutely sick and thought that my first day might also be my last day.  But I completed the 75-plus miles and managed to regain my strength overnight.  The next morning I felt ready to go. With the exception of the last day’s ride on the Santa Ana River Trail, I had not ridden any of the route before.  So every day was a new adventure.  Day 2 ended in Charlotte, TX.  This town has no motels so I stopped at a church and asked if I could pitch my tent on their lawn.  They were fine with that and even let me shower the next morning. The next days finished in Hondo, Uvalde, and Del Rio, where I met Dex Tooke.  Dex is well known in RAAM circles, having ridden twice and crewed multiple times. We exchanged RAAM stories, and he gave me advice on the upcoming portion of the ride.  Leaving Del Rio, I crossed Lake Amistad, which is partly in Texas and partly in Mexico.  The terrain was getting rougher and the climbs were getting steeper and longer.  Eventually, I crossed the Pecos River and entered into the territory once governed by Judge Roy Bean, who was known as “The Law West of the Pecos.”  His courthouse doubled as a saloon.  This was in Langtry, where I spent another night in my tent.  From here, it was on to Sanderson and then Alpine, where I took my first rest day.  The next stopping point would be Van Horn, which was 102 miles down the road.  Marfa is in between, but not far enough along to stop for the day.  Outside Marfa there is a sign “Next Services 74 Miles”—an hour in a car but about 5 on a loaded bike.  I had plenty of water and made it with no problems.  Along the way I took pictures, some of which are of historical markers, which I never stop to read while travelling by car.  Between Van Horn and Fort Hancock I entered into the Mountain Time Zone (still in Texas).  There is a back road from Fort Hancock into El Paso, so I avoided I-10 for a while.  I stopped at a bike shop in El Paso for directions through the city and a customer gave me $20 for 3000milestoacure.  on day 13 I finally departed from the great state of Texas and head for Hatch, NM.  I saw pecan orchards everywhere watered by irrigation canals.   The irrigation canals first appeared east of Van Horn, and they continued through NM, AZ and CA.  I hadn’t realized there was such a network of these canals.  Without them this land would only be desert.  With them the desert blooms with pecans, cotton, chili peppers, dates, citrus and more.  Hatch is not much for motels, but Sparky’s is a great place to eat.

Next, it was on to Deming, then Lordsburg, and soon the state of Arizona. Safford was my first stay in this state and where I took my second rest day.  Globe came next. I passed through an Apache reservation along the way.  After a night in Globe, it was on to Superior.  It was only 25 miles but perhaps the most difficult and dangerous leg up to that point.  This is copper and gold mining country. …Lots of traffic and lots of steep gradients, both up and down.  I passed through a tunnel on a 7% downhill grade with no cars behind.  I was thankful to make it to the motel safely. Then it was on to the Glendale, AZ, which meant passing through the Phoenix metropolitan area.  Mesa was the first city.  I was a few miles into the ride on Hwy 60 when a highway patrolman informed me that riding on this road is not permissible. It was still a long way to Glendale. Garmin maps suggested paths along irrigation canals (some paved and some not) along with some busy streets. The day was extremely hot. I came across a Starbucks none too soon. Iced tea and air conditioning revived me for the rest of the day’s ride. The next day I covered 60 miles to Tonopah, AZ. My total mileage was over 1,200 at that point.  The following day was the longest of the entire trip. I ride 107 miles through blistering heat to Quartzsite, AZ, arriving at the Yacht Club Motel.  Each room had a different nautical theme.  I stayed in the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) room.  California was only a few miles away, and the next morning I crossed the Colorado River, entering into Blythe.  From there I headed south toward Cibola, AZ.  Since the border between to two states follows the river, I re-entered AZ.  The next morning an early start got me on the road to Brawley, CA, which is another very dangerous section.  Hwy 78 is a two lane road with steep rollers and no shoulder.  18-wheelers coming in both directions meant getting completely off the road on a number of occasions.  In the beginning the landscape looked like the surface of the moon, then around Glamis, CA, it became sand dunes and resembled the Sahara desert; then thanks again to irrigation, cultivated fields appeared approaching Brawley.

The next morning the riding began at 6:30am. My destination was Palm Desert.  The route was Hwy 111 almost all day. The road surface was chip seal but not as bad as Texas chip seal…just rough enough to make you want something better. 18 miles outside of Brawley came the town of Niland. From there for most of the rest of the day the pavement was extremely smooth….A pleasure to ride and many miles yet to go. The Salton Sea was off to my left for most of the day.  At one point the elevation was 200 feet below sea level!  There was not much activity, but it is a large body of water.

Approaching populated areas the desert began bearing fruit thanks again to irrigation…citrus, dates, grapes. All in all it was a good day on the bike though a bit warm (at least 111 degrees).  Day 27 (the next to last) was the day to forget, though the toughest experiences seem to be the ones that stick with us the longest.  Of the 62.8 miles I rode that day, probably 52 were spent on I-10. There is really not a good route between Palm Desert and Redlands for bikes. I was stopped by two CHPs. The first one informed me that bicycles are not permitted in this area but said that I could go ahead. That was about 15 miles from my destination. The second CHP with speaker blaring pulled me over and in no uncertain terms told me that I had to get off the freeway. I placated him, and he gave me good directions to my motel. I made it safely.  
 
Day 28: August 11, 2017
Redlands, CA, to Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach. 70.1 miles.
Total: 1697 miles
This was the final day of my tour. I started about 8am, found my way to the Santa Ana River Trail (SART), and enjoyed not having to look out for cars. There are two sections to the SART which are not connected. The upper section plus the streets to get to the lower section is 40 miles; the lower section is 30 miles. A cycling friend, Glenn Frank, met me on the lower section, and we rode together for several miles. I enjoyed the company. And the SART is the only portion of the tour I had ridden before. I simply clicked off the miles until the deep blue sea was in view. 
Thankfully, a safe trip. …No real mishaps–not even a flat tire!  Also, the S30 handled very well fully loaded!
For what it’s worth here are a few lessons I learned.  They may be useful should you undertake a similar bike tour.
  • Pack as lightly as possible; then cut it in half.
  • Take care of your feet, hands, face, lips and seat.
  • Take care of the bike.
  • Wear full-fingered gloves. (I got blisters on both index fingers from sun exposure.)
  • SPF 50+
  • Spin don’t mash
  • Learn to appreciate 15 mph. (You may not see it that often.)
  • Don’t attack anything.  You will run out of fight before you run out of things to attack.
  • Accept the environment. 
  • Enjoy the journey. 

Thanks to all who followed and supported me and especially gave to my 3000 Miles to a Cure campaign on this journey,
 
Tom
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Maria ParkerFrom the Gulf to the Pacific – Tom Roberts ride for 3000 Miles to a Cure

Crossing the Canyon: Susan’s Story

by Lucia Parker on October 24, 2016 No comments

This is a guest post from Susan Ely who crossed the Grand Canyon in memory of her mother and her brother. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your story.

I crossed the Canyon in memory of two of the most loved and inspiring people in my life.

I crossed for my mother, Kathy Perritano Ely, who passed away when I was in second grade from an Astrocytoma brain tumor. She was loved by many and stories about her fill my heart with so much love and so much yearning. She was admired by many – both loved ones and strangers. People have told me that she had the biggest heart and that she always treated everyone equally and showed compassion for all. She loved the four of us children – Sarah (8 years old at the time she passed), her twins Kristen and me (7 years old) and the baby, Chris (five years old). My aunt still tells stories of my mother being the best of mothers. She talks about how she’d put the four of us in two shopping carts, playing and strolling us around, making motherhood look easy. Her love for us was unconditional.

And I crossed for my brother, Christopher Michael Ely, who passed away just two days after Christmas last year from Glioblastoma, Stage IV brain cancer. It took him quicker than any of us had ever imagined after a fight that, to witness, will never match up to anything else in my life. He was like my mother in the way he always put family first and he was a true gentlemen to his core. Chris always had a please and a thank you, a wink and a smile to make your troubles go away or to put you at ease. He may have been the youngest, but he was known as the big brother, giving advice and sticking up/by us sisters through all. He was wise beyond his years and he put others first, especially his family. Even when sick, his children and wife came first. He loved them more than anything and they were constantly on his mind and in his heart. He loved them with an unconditional love that will forever be truly admired.

Grand Canyon National Park by Susan Ely

What were your first few steps into the Canyon North Kaibab Trail  like? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about?

I was a bit nervous but excited to be heading down into the Grand Canyon with brother’s wife Kristen Ely. My brother, mother, sisters and family were in my thoughts. I was wishing we were all together on this trek but, was so thankful to share this journey with my sister-in-law. I was also hoping I wouldn’t fall and was excited to see the magnificent colors of the Canyon as the sun rose. I’d heard that it is a spiritual place and no words can describe it. Both turned out to be true.

Grand Canyon National Park sunrise North Rim

Describe the most difficult part of this experience. How did you get through it?

The most difficult part of the journey was the climb up the South Rim. The switchbacks started to take a toll. I was nauseous, too, at elevation and after hours in the sun. I fueled up on salty food shared by those hiking beside me. It was grueling. Yet it was a journey that led me to dig deeper physically, emotionally and spiritually. Luckily, I had a small group of people that inspired me and helped me fight through the struggles to climb to the top. But most importantly, I was inspired by my mom and brother, who were with me in spirit along the way. I could see my brother’s feet from when he was in physical therapy. The courage, determination and grit he had every day to try and get back up, no matter how tired or exhausted he was during his illness, just so he may have the chance to walk and playfully chase after his kids again. The thought of his feet guiding my feet every step of the way back up to the top led me farther.

What was it like taking your last few steps out of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail?

The last few switchbacks were emotional and exhilarating. We met a couple a mile from the top and their words were beyond uplifting and encouraging. Not only were they excited about why we were crossing and how far we had come, but they also shared their gratitude for our cause and told us about a friend whose son had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.  Their words and encouragement, on top of the memories of my mom and brother, flooded my thoughts and emotions. Being at the top with a small group of incredible individuals that helped inspire me and encourage me as the sun was setting over one of the most magnificent views, overwhelmed me with such beauty it brought me to tears. So much hope and so much love. It was a moment I will never forget.

The couple Susan mentioned insisted on taking a photo of us. I’m glad they did. The woman greeted us by saying, “I can tell you’re coming to the end of a significant journey.”

What do you think you’ll carry with you from Crossing the Canyon 2016?

I will carry the stories shared, the hike and climb for our loved ones and thoughts of all those we’ve lost and those who are still fighting. I will carry hope that future generations won’t have to experience this unimaginable prognosis and loss. I will carry hope for a cure for this awful disease and I will carry the knowledge that we are not alone, that others share the same fight and the same hope.

We are honored to have shared this journey with Susan and Kristen, in memory of Susan’s mom and Chris Ely. In addition to her courage and encouraging spirit, Susan brought the gift of her amazing talent for photography. Many of the stunning photographs of the 2016 Crossing the Canyon event are hers.

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Lucia ParkerCrossing the Canyon: Susan’s Story

Crossing the Canyon: Gail’s Story

by Lucia Parker on October 24, 2016 No comments

This is a guest post from Gail Zaharek, who joined us for our 2016 Crossing the Canyon event. She crossed the Canyon for three brain cancer warriors in her life. Thank you, Gail, for sharing your story and being part of this effort to cure brain cancer.

I crossed the Canyon for three people in my life. The first part of my hike was dedicated to Jon Bass, husband of my good friend Kristen Erikson Bass. Kristen and I spent a lot of time rowing in a double as Jon’s health declined and Kristen found solace in rowing with all she and her boys William and Christopher were going through. Jon lost his battle to brain cancer in 2007. I am so happy to say that Kristen and I are back rowing (and laughing) together. The second part of my hike as I crossed the floor of the Canyon was dedicated to Anne Murray, sister to my husband, Mike, wife to Sean Murray and mother to Brendan. Anne has endured over 13 years living with multiple cancers. She is currently living well with brain cancer and lives more life than many of us. Always hopeful and maintaining a sense of humor, Anne has been on many adventures, crossed off more bucket list items than most ever get to. She is currently off chemo for the first time in years – and is healthy! The final part of my hike – the ascent up the Grand Canyon was dedicated to my best friend from college and maid of honor, Michele Washburn. Michele was the strongest fighter I have ever known. We rowed together on the Ithaca College crew and she was always able to surpass her expected strength and power for her size. It was my goal to finish the ascent strong, which I did. I did not stop once in the last 3.5 miles. Michele’s strength carried me through.

What were your first few steps into the Canyon on North Kaibab Trail like? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about?

It was strange starting out in the dark, mysterious not knowing what we were getting into. The first hour we kept peering around anticipating the sun rising so we could actually see the magnificence of where we were!
2016-blog-gail-04

Describe the most difficult part of this experience. How did you get through it?

The ascent back up the canyon was extremely challenging, both physically and mentally. The altitude had a big impact and the last 3.5 miles are a relentless, steep climb. I dedicated the final climb to my college friend who died of brain cancer 2.5 years ago. She was a fierce competitor who I called on for strength.

What do you think you’ll carry with you from Crossing the Canyon 2016?

 The connections I formed with the people who went through this with me will never be forgotten. Whether people knew someone with brain cancer or were there to support the cause, we were all taking on an extreme physical and emotional feat that will never be replicated. It was a special adventure I will never forget.
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 Gail is part of a wonderful group who joined us for this event from Primacy, an award-winning digital agency currently developing a ground-breaking virtual reality platform to amplify the impact of change-making organizations (among other amazing projects!). We owe Primacy a debt of gratitude for all they have done to support us in our mission since we met through Google’s Giving through Glass Initiative in 2014. The way this team harnesses new technology, creatively applying it to connect and empower and to make the world a better place is so inspiring. 
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Lucia ParkerCrossing the Canyon: Gail’s Story

Crossing the Canyon: Anne’s Story

by Lucia Parker on October 23, 2016 No comments

On October 11, 2016 Anne Paparella and 17 others crossed the Grand Canyon on foot, in one day. Beginning on the North Rim 9,000 feet above sea level, we took our first steps into the canyon before dawn. Thirteen hours later as the sun set, the last of the team reached the South Rim on Bright Angel Trail. The journey was 23.5 miles and tested us against 10,000 feet of descent and ascent. As we hiked together, we shared our stories, hope and encouragement. Thank you, Anne, for sharing your reflections from the journey.

I was honored to begin this journey walking for my sister, Jenny.  As I trained and fundraised, it became so much bigger. In my community, I know so many people who have been affected by brain cancer, and I walked in honor and memory of them.

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Anne wore this shirt, covered in the names of those she walked for, in her Crossing the Canyon effort.

What were your first few steps into the Canyon on North Kaibab Trail like? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about?

 I was so excited to be part of this group. I was nervous but felt ready to descend!
Anne in the early dawn light of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Anne stops for a photo in the early dawn light of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Describe the most difficult part of this experience. How did you get through it?

 The most difficult part of Crossing the Canyon was ascending Bright Angel Trail. The altitude caused breathing issues. I decided it didn’t matter how long it took, that I would make it out. I concentrated on the next step, one foot at a time and tried not to look at how far I had to go, but focus on how far I had come.
2016-blog-anne-05

Susan, Rob, Anne, Lucia and Carly (plus Maria, behind the camera!) in the last few miles of Bright Angel Trail.

What was it like taking your last few steps out of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail?

 The last few steps on Bright Angel Trail were so amazing, it was still light but the sun was setting. It felt like miles to go and then we were there. I was so proud of myself and humbled by the challenge. I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of my little group.

What do you think you’ll carry with you from Crossing the Canyon 2016?

 Crossing the Canyon was the most difficult physical challenge I have ever been part of. It made me realize how grateful I am to be able to walk and climb and have great health. I truly loved this experience and was honored to be with so many determined people. I felt loved and supported by my community back home too. What a gift to be able to spend time with my sister and niece and to meet so many lovely people along the trail.
Maria and Anne stop for a photo early in the morning on the North Rim.

Maria and Anne stop for a photo early in the morning on the North Rim.

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Lucia ParkerCrossing the Canyon: Anne’s Story

Crossing the Canyon: Nike’s Story

by Lucia Parker on October 22, 2016 No comments

On October 11, 2016 Nike Beddow and 17 others crossed the Grand Canyon on foot, in one day. Beginning on the North Rim 9,000 feet above sea level, we took our first steps into the canyon before dawn. Thirteen hours later as the sun set, the last of the team reached the South Rim on Bright Angel Trail. The journey was 23.5 miles and tested us against 10,000 feet of descent and ascent. As we hiked together, we shared our stories, hope and encouragement. Thank you, Nike, for sharing your reflections from the journey.

I crossed the canyon to honor my sister Dana and the many, many other friends who have lost their lives to brain cancer. Dana was my little sister and only sibling. She was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma at the age of 25. She had recently been married. Doug and Dana loved each other immensely and were determined to live life to the fullest, even after a death sentence. Dana was a gutsy, determined person who would not let brain cancer get in the way of what she wanted to do. The most important thing to her was to have a family. After her initial radiation treatments, Dana stopped taking all her anti-seizure medications and became pregnant. It was a perfect pregnancy and on April 30, 1996, she gave birth to Kati – my beautiful niece! After Kati’s birth, Dana felt a renewed sense of purpose and resolve to help others battling brain cancer. It was at that time that she decided to create a 5k run/walk to raise awareness, community support and research dollars for brain cancer patients. May 7, 2017, will be the 20th anniversary of the Race for Hope. In the past 20 years, the race has connected thousands and thousands of families facing this disease, given hope to survivors, and raised over $27 million for research. It is an incredible legacy that Dana leaves behind. She created a ripple effect…survivors and loved ones who have participated in the race have gone on to inspire others to get involved and make a difference.

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What were your first few steps into the Canyon on North Kaibab Trail like? How were you feeling? What were you thinking about?

As we descended into the canyon in the predawn darkness, I felt excited to start this unique journey. I didn’t think about whether or not I could make it – I had to make it, there was no other scenario. This mindset reminded me of when my sister Dana and I co-founded the Race for Hope DC with our friends Lionel and Sandy Chaiken. We had never created a 5k run/walk before, but it had to be done because it was Dana’s wish. It had to raise awareness, it had to raise dollars for brain cancer research. During my Crossing The Canyon trek, I dedicated each mile to a friend of mine who has been impacted by brain cancer. The first mile was dedicated to Pamela Sue Chaiken, Lionel and Sandy’s daughter who passed away from brain cancer many years ago.
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Describe the most difficult part of this experience. How did you get through it?

Once we passed Indian Garden, the final 4.5 miles was probably the most physically challenging part of the trek. Hiking those last few miles with a 3,000 foot elevation gain put us to the test. I got through it thanks to my hiking buddies, Kieran and Rosie. The mutual cursing, laughing and numerous photo ops (which was code for “I have to stop right now and take this picture or I’m going to collapse!”) propelled us to the top!

Nike's Crossing the Canyon Story

Mandy, Kieran, Anne, Nike, Kristen and Susan smile on the South Rim.

What was it like taking your last few steps out of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail?

 The last few steps out of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail were exhilarating and bittersweet. Thirty years ago, I hiked the Bright Angel Trail with my sister Dana. We were young and carefree and laughed at our lack of preparation for the strenuous hike to Plateau Point and back. Somehow we made it back to the top and promised we would return to the canyon one day. Sadly, that never happened. I miss Dana and wish I could have been on this epic hike with her. I’m sure she was with me in spirit (and she probably made the last few miles harder just to kick my butt!)
Nike Beddow's Crossing the Canyon Story

Nike and Dana took a photo right here at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park on their trip to the Grand Canyon years ago.

What do you think you’ll carry with you from Crossing the Canyon 2016?

 I will forever carry street cred that I hiked Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon! Most importantly, I’ll carry with me the conversations I had with my fellow hikers who had lost someone to this hideous disease or who had encountered other struggles in their lives but found hope and healing through this communal experience.
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Lucia ParkerCrossing the Canyon: Nike’s Story

Gratitude

by Lucia Parker on July 14, 2016 No comments

Marshall and Rob pedaled their first miles of Race Across America one month ago today. They took a right turn on Surfrider Way and climbed east out of Oceanside, CA. With them were twenty eight crew. Twelve days later, that team had grown to thousands.

I’m overcome with gratitude and something harder to define. It’s a familiar feeling – one that I feel especially keenly during and after Race Across America. This event, these thousands of people coming together around the same purpose, it’s a reminder that we are not alone. It’s powerful and unexpectedly beautiful. We share grief and loss, but most importantly we share determination and hope.

Here’s what that shared hope did this year:

  • Together we raised $48,118  (and counting). Every penny will fund desperately-needed brain cancer research. That’s 120% of our $40,000 goal!
  • 60,313 people watched videos sharing the stories of our racers.
  • 99,067 people liked, shared or commented on a Facebook post.
  • All in all, our stories reached more than 250,000 people.

Thank you to Marshall Reeves, Rob DeCou and to your crew Adam Darby, Jacob Bouchard, Jesse Reeves, Joseph Josephy, Ryan Jean, Tyler Jandreau, Chris Clemens, Tyler Clemens, Darla Workman, Gay Hunter, Holly Cunningham, Jack Church, Jamaica Lambie, Jim Robertson, Kim Godawa, Kristin DeCou, Kyle Downs, Madisyn Heistand, Sean Flanagan and Totsie Robertson. Thank you Aly Moser, Bryan Cereijo, Cole McCauley, JoDee Ahmann, Joe Mulligan and Luke Rafferty for capturing and sharing the stories.

Thank you to each of you who joined our team along the way, offering encouragement, giving to brain cancer research and sharing the stories of our racers with your communities. Together we can end brain cancer.

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Lucia ParkerGratitude

Brain Cancer Took a Big Hit

by Maria Parker on July 4, 2016 No comments

Rob Decou and Mashall Reeves are home now, and hopefully beginning to recover from their Race Across America finishes. I’ve talked with a few of the crew, and they’ve each spoken of their experience with RAAM using terms like “epic,” and “unbelievable” with the same tired, but satisfied tones.  I too, am tired, but happy.  Each time I experience Race Across America, I come away exhausted and overwhelmed with so many emotions.

Relief 

I’m so relieved that both racers and all the crew made it to Annapolis safely. After Marshall’s massage therapist. Jim Merchant,  was in a terrible accident driving Marshall’s car with all his gear to Oceanside (Jim is recovering and should heal completely), I wrestled with dark worries.  Thanks to the care and attention of all the crews, my worries were put to rest.

Awe
I am in awe of both Marshall Reeves and Rob Decou. These two men, with full-time jobs and families, competed in the world’s toughest race, proving themselves  both incredible endurance athletes and heroes to all of us who watched them.  They endured so much, and in the end, finished with the help their crews and the support of their extended communities and because of their commitment to the brain cancer community.

Inspiration

Rob Decou may be the biggest person to ever start Race Across America and certainly is the biggest person to finish it. His heart is as big as his tree trunk legs and massive arms. Rob takes community to a whole new level. He brought with him as many people that he loved as he could, and the rest served him from afar by donating, and writing encouraging messages.  In a sport that attracts mostly introverts and loners, Rob is a wonderful anomaly. Rob taught us what community and trust could do

Perseverance and toughness are the defining characteristics of Marshall Reeves.  This year was Marshall’s third attempt at Race Across America and he was determined to do what he had not done in 2012 and 2014..  All the way through the race, Marshall focused on what was going well. In the last days of the race he attacked the mountains of West Virginia, as if he had a vendetta against them; he’d left the race near Grafton West Virginia in his 2014 attempt. Marshall was John Wayne and Clint Eastwood rolled into one, and like the characters both of those actors played, he is incredibly kind and good under his obstinate resolve.

Gratitude
Over all my emotions and saturating all my thoughts is overwhelming gratitude.  I am so grateful to all of you in our 3000 Miles to a Cure Community.   Each of you gave so that those impacted by brain cancer might have hope and a chance for a future.  Some of you gave money, some donated time away from your families and jobs, many gave up sleep, some prayed and followed along, some of you did all of these.

Words of thanks are so little in comparison to the goodness of this great act of service, love and community. No one finishes Race Across America alone and  brain cancer will never be cured by a few.  Thank you for joining with us. Only together can we cure brain cancer.

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Maria ParkerBrain Cancer Took a Big Hit

June 27, 2016: Finished

by Joe Mulligan on June 27, 2016 No comments

I am sitting in a pretty little coffee shop, a few hundred feet from the Atlantic Ocean in Annapolis. A few minutes ago, Marshall Reeves finally crossed the finish line of RAAM 2016. He was close in 2012 and in 2014, but 2016 was his year to conquer the beast.

As he slowly unclipped his shoes from the bike pedals, he was greeted by whistles, applause, and countless hugs. His family was waiting to embrace him. His son, Jesse rode across the finish line with him while his daughter, Molly, and wife Madge, greeted him with hugs and tears.

Beer was immediately passed out to the crew, and Marshall had a Stella Artois in his hand with a enormous smile on his face. He popped it open, amoung cheers and congratulations ringing the air, took a big gulp, and declared he had finished, as if the beer was the final test.

With his beer still in his hand, he held up his shiny RAAM medal like a champion

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And he was. He was a champion. He completed the hardest bicycle race in the world at the age of 60.

At the finish line, it was loud, but under the din was this feeling of completion. It was like a massive exhale after a nervous breathe. There was yelling and clapping and tears, but there was also understanding. There was an understanding of what had been accomplished.

Marshall was excited and waves to the crowd greeting him at the finish line.

Marshall was excited and waves to the crowd greeting him at the finish line.

I have been changed by RAAM. In these 2 weeks, I have dealt with my insecurities and fears. I have cried tears of sadness and joy. I have laughed alongside the crew and Marshall and experienced the beautiful country around me. I am a different Joe Mulligan then started RAAM.

When Marshall crossed that finish line, burdens were lifted, smiles became wider and previously glassy eyes came into focus. In the noise, I could hear my mom’s voice calling out among the fans. She was there watching, congratulating Marshall on his amazing job.

Marshall's team stands with him and celebrate the finish of the Race Across America.

Marshall’s team stands with him and celebrate the finish of the Race Across America.

After the crowd left, I had a short moment alone with Marshall. I thanked him for everything, praising him for his effort and supporting 3000 Miles to a Cure. He told me that he was glad to do it, and thanked me for being there and representing the cause.

Marshall, you are an amazing man, I hope I get to ride in a plane you’re piloting. Thank you for representing 3000 Miles to a Cure and dedicating your time and energy to serve us. I will always remember this finish with happiness in my heart, and I will always be inspired by you.

You’re done.

Joe Mulligan

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Joe MulliganJune 27, 2016: Finished

June 25, 2016: Almost There

by Joe Mulligan on June 27, 2016 No comments

The last 24 hours of RAAM are in full effect. Fatigue is rampant through the crew and riders.

Marshall is now 200 miles from the finish. He is in territory he has never seen before. His last two attempts are fresh in his mind as he pushes to the finish.

Marshall’s cause and reasons are fighting the pain inside his head as he moves toward the finish one pedal stroke at a time. He is within hours of his official finishing time and there is some speculation as to whether he will make it.

The crew is doing everything they can to get him there, feeding, medicating, caring for all of his needs.

If he doesn’t push, he isn’t going to make it.

Please help Marshall, he did this for a cause much greater than himself. It is 3000 Miles to a Cure fighting alongside him as he conquers RAAM and seeks to conquer brain cancer. Every mile he pedals, is another small victory. Pledge just a small amount for every mile he finishes. Help get him to Annapolis and our goal of 20,000 dollars. Every dollar counts, donate BC_RAAM_2016_06_24_MorningIndiana-14today.

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Joe MulliganJune 25, 2016: Almost There

June 26, 2016 The Last Day

by Jo Dee Ahmann on June 27, 2016 No comments

Here we are.  At journey’s end.

The sun rises over Rob one last time before he approaches the finish line in Maryland.

The sun rises over Rob one last time before he approaches the finish line in Maryland.

Random quotes from Rob since early this morning—on the phone.

“It’s so beautiful.”

Rob flies down a hill as as he gets within an hour of the finish line.

Rob flies down a hill as as he gets within an hour of the finish line.

“I can’t explain this.”

“This is far beyond my ability.  I’m not even a cyclist.”

“God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good.”

“Make sure God gets the glory!”

“When I’m done, I want to spend some time with my wife…and then I want to spend some more time with my wife.”20160626_award-4

“Pray that I will see the beauty.”

At Mt. Airy time station—

“Pray for me, I’m not quite here (mentally).”  I grabbed his face and said, “Focus, Rob, Focus” and then we prayed.  He always wants prayer.

“I am so blessed.”

“Can you believe this is the last day?”

“Watch that time.”  Said with a twinkle in his eye because he didn’t need to be concerned about time anymore.

"It's amazing how I can feel this good right now," says Rob as he eats a coupel donuts.

“It’s amazing how I can feel this good right now,” says Rob as he eats a coupel donuts.

“Oh, the miracles.  We pray for tailwinds.  We get tailwinds.  We pray for a chiropractor.  We get a chiropractor.  We pray for the coming storms and tornadoes.  We get clear roads and not one drop of rain.  We pray for strength.  Strength is there.  I couldn’t do this alone.”

And then, the last 50 long miles. Rob said, “This feels like an eternity.” He needed prayer to get to the end and finish strong. Next text from his wife, Kristin.  Rob says he feels better and thanks for praying.  He feels at peace.

And we waited our own little eternity at the finish line.  Finally, after many jokes about a last minute nap, or stopping to take a shower, he cruised down the finish—characteristic smile and wave.  We have learned to love and expect Rob’s kind gestures to all those around.  He is just that way—through and through.

They say that RAAM peels you back.  When Rob DeCou gets peeled back, there is utter consistency.  Still kind.  Still looking out for everyone else.  Still compassionate.  He told me before RAAM that God has remade him from the inside out.  Well, we have seen the outside and seen the inside and it all brings glory to the One who made him.

Rob was presented his medal.  A proud moment.  He immediately presented it to his niece, Madison who was on crew for Rob.  At the award banquet tonight Rob told me why he gave his precious medal away.  He said, “It’s important to give away the things you work hardest for. Otherwise, they can begin to own you. They can become idols.”20160626_award-9

 

 

In the midst of all the celebration, Rob asks that you remember to donate to 3000 Miles to a Cure.  He has reached his financial goal but no one will turn down extra. You may donate here.   And please continue to watch and pray for our other rider, Marshall Reeve’s.  Some of Rob’s crew headed back to see if they could help get Marshall in by his deadline.

After debriefing with the teams, it is time to say goodbye.  It is bittersweet.  You have all become our community.  We go our separate ways, but we are changed.  Sacrifice looks more tangible.  Hard work–well, I’m not sure I knew what it was before this race.  Community has a whole new meaning.  And God walks with us more closely than we dreamed.  Thank you for following on this journey.  Thank you for praying for Rob.  Thank you for donating so generously for 3000 Miles to a Cure.  We are pretty sure Christina is celebrating in heaven–loving the unfolding of this story–really a continuation of her story.  No fear living.  Abundance in the midst of difficulty, and joy no matter what comes.

Back at the start line in Oceanside, Rob’s good friend, Joe Chehade, prayed for his start.  Joe just sent me his finish line prayer.  It seems like a perfect closure to this great journey of RAAM.

Thank you, Jesus for accompanying Rob and his crew across the continent.  Thank you for sending your angels and keeping them safe.  Thank you for giving Rob the strength to climb over physical, mental and spiritual mountains:  Like an eagle, he flew by them.  We dare continue to ask you for more graces and miracles:  for Marshall’s safe and quick finish.  For Rob’s fast healing from his wounds and scars.  For the continued ripple effect of this race and the mission of 3000 Miles to a Cure so that many people get involved in this fight and many, many more get to know You and love You.  For the continued healing of the families of Jenny and Christina—to have the faith that their loved ones are happy with you now.

We love you, we thank you and ask you to use the rest of our lives for Your Glory!   AMEN

Signing off,

Jo Dee Ahmann, The Messenger

 

 

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Jo Dee AhmannJune 26, 2016 The Last Day