Eleven years ago, on the second Friday of October, I gave of myself, and it put me on a path that has changed my life. A small gift of my time has been repaid to me in more ways than I could ever imagine, express or repay.
We’ve all been told that when you “give back” you receive far more than you give. My life is an example of this statement.
Growing up I was blessed to have parents that volunteered for EVERYTHING. My dad coached every sport my brothers, and I played. He was a Boilermaker in Local #5. Boilermakers are skilled laborers who usually work in, build and repair electric power plants. The work is strenuous, dangerous, hot and dirty. Anyone who has ever done this type of job knows that you need to follow the work. Some jobs are 15 minutes from home, others 2 hours away. No matter how tired or how far he had to commute my dad never missed a game or practice. My mother was a stay at home mom. She was always helping at school, church, sports, Boy Scouts and community events. My parents were always there, often I had to share them with the other kids, but that was okay with me, I felt loved and liked having them around. They “gave back” and my brothers and I were given the precious gift of time with them.
When I talk to people about volunteering or “giving back” to the community, I’m sometimes asked, “why bother, no one appreciates it, it’s just waste of time.” Yes, there are some narcissistic and ungrateful people in the world, but they are a minuscule percentage of the population. Most do appreciate and remember good deeds done for them. Never was this more apparent than when my mom lost her battle with lung cancer. At her wake, there was an endless line of mourners. It felt like every one of them had a story about how my mother had touched their life in some way. On the day of her funeral, the progression of cars was well over a mile long, and in the church, it was standing room only. As I sat there grieving in the first pew with my mother’s casket only a few feet away, I couldn’t have been more proud of her. In her short 46 years of life, she had touched every one of these people in some way. Through her life, death and all the love and appreciation, I was seeing she had proven to me that a life of giving is never a life wasted.
My parents showed me that “giving back” is exactly that, GIVING. Sometimes the giving is money or goods sometimes it’s time and of yourself. When moved to Denver, about 25 years ago, I was offered a management position in a fitness center at a local community center. This fitness center was operated as a private health club, and its profits were used to support other parts of the community center, but our profits weren’t always enough to the cover all the facility’s expenses. We were lucky to have an incredibly generous community, and many donated to our cause anonymously and trusted management to use their gifts properly. But there were those few who wouldn’t give unless a room or wing was named after them. There were also a few who would, on what felt like a daily basis, complain about everything and anything and threaten to pull their pledge if I didn’t give them special treatment. These few narcissistic donors reinforced the lessons taught to me by my parents. When you give, YOU GIVE and don’t ask or expect anything in return.
When my boys, Seth and Christian started playing sports it just felt right to follow in my father’s footsteps and volunteer to coach them. Seth and Christian are now seniors in high school, and I haven’t them coached for the last three years, but I’ll always cherish those many many hours we were able to spend together. I never made a dollar coaching the many sports the boys played but the time spent with them was priceless. Yes, there were a few parents that didn’t appreciate the time and energy my assistant coaches and I spent coaching their kids, but most did. I was given the special gift of seeing all these boys grow and mature into better athletes but more importantly into amazing young men. Giving back, pays back, in so many ways.
Let’s go back to what happened eleven years ago on that second Friday in October.
After being laid off from the community center mentioned above, I found a new home at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club. I wasn’t in a management position anymore, but that was a blessing because it gave me the flexibility to coach all my kid’s sports. At Greenwood, I was coaching the master swim team, triathlon team, personal training and teaching indoor cycling. I loved everything I was doing, but felt most at home leading indoor cycling classes. I had slowly and steadily built a following and was trying to find a way to use this new found gift to “give back” in some way. As I was reaching a roadblock on what I could do, it felt like an answered prayer when Greenwood was asked to host the Roadless Ride to benefit Brent’s Place.
Brent’s Place is a living facility for families with children who are receiving treatments for cancer, bone marrow or organ transplants in the Denver area. Brent’s Place provides a pristine living environment for children whose immune systems are severely compromised due to these treatments or surgeries. The Roadless Ride is a fundraiser held annually at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club that consists of 12 one hour Indoor Cycling classes where participants donate to ride in each cycling class.
The Roadless Ride is the most rewarding event in which I have ever been associated. Ever since the loss of my mother to cancer I wanted to find a way to help the victims and their families of this terrible disease. The Roadless Ride let me use my God-given talents to help the families of Brent’s Place endure the most challenging battle these kids AND parents may ever face.
The first year we hosted this event at Greenwood was amazing. Incredible energy, great classes, tears, joy, stories of survival, stories of loss. We raised close to $100,000, and no one asked to have a room named after them or wanted anything in return. We were all simply riding hard for a great cause. I couldn’t have been more proud of the Greenwood Athletic Club family. We all couldn’t wait to do it again next year.
The second year was as successful as the first all the same energy all the same generosity. I taught and rode multiple classes this year. In one of the sessions towards the end of the day, I got this crazy idea of riding all twelve hours next year. Sometimes these crazy thoughts fade away, but this one stuck and at the third annual Roadless Ride I was the first rider ever to complete the Roadless Century. I consider that 12-hour ride as one of my greatest accomplishments. Yes, the ride was physically challenging but the emotions of riding inside for 12 hours, hearing all the stories of how cancer had affected so many people’s lives, thinking about my mother and her battle and wondering how I would handle one of my kids getting cancer was so difficult yet so awakening.
The 12 hours of the Roadless Century is a spiritual experience. After I completed it for the first time, I couldn’t stop talking about it. It was another example of when you “give back” you get so much more in return. My goal was to raise money for the kids of Brent’s Place, I did that, but the journey I experience during those 12 hours is something I could never repay.
I guess all my talk about an awakening, a spiritual experience and journey resonated with some people because each year since there have been between 20 and 30 other riders who go on this adventure with me. I look back at my first Roadless Century as one of my greatest personal accomplishments, but I’m most proud of what the Roadless Century has become. Each year it’s a team of selfless riders, who take their bodies to their physical limits for some kids and families whom they may never meet, but do it because they know it’s a worthy cause. This team asks for nothing in return, but the gifts they receive, though not material, are worth so much more than the funds they raise.
The Roadless Century had become the highlight of the year, every year, it was like an “A” race for me. Eventually, my boys, Seth and Christain, started joining me for this event. It was like the gift that keeps on giving. I kept giving, and I kept getting more in return, but the Roadless Ride and the kids from Brent’s Place were about to give me the biggest gift yet.
On the morning of January 10th, 2013 I started receiving e-mails from people congratulating me. I honestly had no idea what everyone was talking about. I finally had to ask someone what I had done to receive all these congratulatory e-mails. A friend sent me to the online issue of Competitor Magazine where I had been awarded the Mountain West Region’s Best Spin Class. I was shocked. Colorado has some of the best indoor cycling instructors in the world, how could I have won this award? Also, I hadn’t opened Competitor Magazine since my days in triathlon, how did anyone even know to vote for me. As I looked through the other Mountain West winners, I started to see how, once again, when you give you get more in return. Brent’s Place won for Best Charity To Fund Raise For, and Greenwood Athletic Club won for Best Health Club. The staff and members at Greenwood as well as myself didn’t want anything from our association with Brent’s Place, all we wanted to do was help the kids and their families, but this selflessness was once again rewarded.
This award has changed my life. It got me recognized by John Macgowan, the owner and moderator of The Indoor Cycling Instructor Podcast and Website were I was interviewed for multiple podcasts and wrote numerous blog posts. This visibility led to me being noticed by the team at Stages Indoor Cycling and my eventual hiring. I know feel like I’m doing the job I was born to do. I have the honor of being part of the development team that is building the most advanced indoor cycling group display system in the world. We are taking the indoor cycling experience to places only dreamed of a few short years ago.
I have been incredibly blessed in my life, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has helped me get to where I am. I often think of the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost he writes, “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” I may not be as poetic but, I have “given back” in my life and THAT has made all the difference.
This year’s version of the Roadless Ride is this Friday, October 13th. You can participate in this event by registering at www.roadlessride.org
If you cannot ride you can support my ride at. https://www.classy.org/fundraise/team?ftid=133823