Tour de Pink
January 01, 2016
There are so many great stories about why our riders do this ride each year. Here are just a few that we'd like to share with you. Click on a photo below to read the story.
If you would like to share your Tour de Pink riding experience with others, please complete the Share Your Story form.
When I finished riding nearly 200 miles in last year’s Tour de Pink (TdP) West Coast, the panorama that greeted me at the finish line at Point Mugu was stunning: deep blue sky, the sun reflecting off sparkling water, soft sand, finishers posing for photos in front of the crashing waves. But it was the view 180 degrees from the picturesque beach that was more intriguing to me.
As I watched riders reveling in the glow of a challenging ride completed, I gave myself some time to compare my TdP journey with my first Tour de Pink ride the year before.
My 2013 West Coast ride was nothing short of amazing, with the Pacific Ocean in view nearly the whole way. Uphill climbs were countered by the rush of a rapid descent, and foggy mornings opened up to cloudless skies. Our team celebrated with glasses of wine at the pool after hours on the road. When I crossed the finish line on day three, I was ecstatic. After months of training and hard work, I had done it. I felt a great deal of satisfaction, and couldn’t wait to sign up the next year.
This year’s ride was just as spectacular, but I felt a shift in my outlook. At the starting line in Paso Robles, I noticed feeling a little different. The year before, I was focused on myself: Was I ready for this? Had I trained enough? Would I make it to the finish line? I turned to my friend and teammate, Karen. I could tell she felt it, too. We both had tears in our eyes. Choked up, we embraced. We looked behind us and saw a sea of pink-clad riders. We didn’t have to say anything to know what each other was feeling. This wasn’t just about “me” this time. This time, it was about "us".
The route was challenging and the days were hot. It seemed there was a hill -- steeper than the one before -- around every corner. But this time, instead of worrying so much about myself, I opened myself up to the other riders. Normally quiet and focused on rides, I engaged with the members of the Lemon Heads -- a friendly team from Spokane whose members, despite reeling from the death of one of their own earlier that year, were so upbeat and friendly. I called out words of encouragement to riders on the tough hills, and chatted about their cute tights and fun costumes on the flats. I waited for one of our new team members at the finish line on day two, passing up the opportunity for a glass of wine and a shower to instead embrace her as she finished the most grueling ride of her life.
As I sat alone on a bench near the finish line of the 2014 Tour de Pink West Coast ride, I turned my back to the glistening waves and the blue sky and focused instead on what really mattered. All the riders had crossed the finish line, had lunch, and were preparing to board the bus back to Thousand Oaks. My gaze passed over each person — survivors, supporters, friends and family — and realized that every one of them had some burden they were carrying, whether it was the angst associated with their own diagnosis, doctor’s bills, sore muscles, whatever. But at this moment, they were all lost in the revelry of having completed a really tough ride together. Everyone was happy and celebrating, and forgetting — maybe just for this brief moment — all their other worries.
It wasn’t about me this time. It was about us.
All of us.
In April 2009, my girlfriend Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 32. The hardest part of being a co-survivor was the feeling of helplessness. You want to protect your loved ones from everything. I had to come to grips with the fact that I couldn’t protect Erin from cancer, but I could help her with the fight in lots of different ways. I was a shoulder, a sounding board, note taker at appointments, the guy who makes the doctors explain things fully and doesn’t let them just rush out of the room and – above all else – the researcher. (That’s how we found the YSC website and Community Boards.)
Erin and I got married in 2010, about a year after her last surgery. In 2011, Erin and I participated as one-day riders in our first Tour de Pink® (TdP) as a way to give back to the organization that helped us so much. The next year, I rode all three days, but Erin had to sit that one out since she was pregnant with our daughter, Dalia. In 2014, to celebrate Erin’s five year mark, we both rode all three days of the East Coast ride.
Our TdP team, “I Ride 4 Her,” has raised more than $80,000 during the past four years. TdP is really a family. We have this terrible disease in common that’s affected us all, but we’ve all come out on the other side of it stronger and eager to share our experiences with each other. My wife and teammates inspire me every day.
After his friend, Kristen Martinez, told him he should do "this little bike ride," Tony quickly agreed. It was wasn't until days later that he understood that this little bike ride was over 200 miles. And he had not ridden a bike since third grade. His first ride was life changing. After Kristen's passing, it was hard for him to ride the next year. With others, he formed Team Why We Ride in 2011. And their team keeps growing. Tony and his team have raised over 250,000 in five years for Young Survival Coalition.
Soon after the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, my wife Melody and I made the decision that I would join the Army. I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army on October 17, 2002. My first six years in the Army, I was stationed in Germany and Italy and deployed three times to the Middle East to help do my part in fighting the global war on terrorism. I have been through some very tough times in my life including 15 months in Afghanistan from May 2007- July 2008.
Those were the most difficult times I’d ever experienced until July 9, 2013 when the love of my life was diagnosed with breast cancer. I immediately felt helpless. I wanted to fix this. There was nothing I could do but sit back and hold her hand. We spent most of the first week taking turns crying on each other’s shoulder. The only thing we knew was we were going to get through this together. Melody is the most amazing woman I have ever met. We knew it was going to be a journey that would be difficult and painful. Melody would eventually undergo two surgeries and 6 weeks of daily radiation treatment. No matter how much I wanted to help, I knew it still would not be enough. I needed an outlet to help focus on in order to stay positive. I found that outlet in the YSC Tour de Pink.
July 18th, I signed up to ride the 2013 Tour de Pink. Focusing on training for this ride and raising money for this amazing cause was exactly what I needed to constructively focus my energy. I initially did not know if I would be able to raise the funds to participate. After some reluctance, I decided to take the leap. I was amazed by the support of my coworkers, family and friends. I quickly surpassed my fundraising goal and kept pushing to raise even more money.
The week of the 2013 YSC Tour De Pink, Melody was scheduled to start her radiation treatments and would not be able to attend the event with me. All she could do is meet me at the finish line. I was going to have to spend three days with 200 people that I have never met. Many were going through the difficult fight against cancer, had fought and beat the disease, and others had lost love ones to it. I could not understand how I would fit in. I really had no idea what to expect but I knew I was going to have to face it alone.
It turned out to be the most amazing experience I could imagine. I met so many extraordinary people. Everybody was welcoming and immediately I felt that I was part of this organization. I was one of the three individuals asked to speak the second day of the ride. I was extremely nervous to tell our story after hearing the incredible stories of the others the night before. Afterword, it was amazing to see the tears shed and get hugs from so many. By telling our story, it gave me an opportunity to give back to YSC, and form bonds with everybody. I realized the moment I left the stage that I was now a part of the organization too.
Melody is now cancer free and will continue to follow up to ensure the disease does not return. I could not take the pain from her going through all of her treatment, but I was there to provide her with loving support and care during the difficult times. We continue to fight this disease together. We rely on each other for strength and support. See you in 2016!
Share the road!