Saturday, April 19, 2014

Key to Keys 2014

It is hard to put the experience that is Key to Keys into words. Take 8 days of the best summer camp you could ever go to, with amazing friends, and add more laughter and tears than you could imaging packing into that time frame. Everyone on the journey has a story. This year we had three volunteer drivers, all with connections to cancer, the Ulman staffers who all have their own stories, and 25 riders. There were survivors, and many who had lost loved ones to cancer. Some days we laughed a lot... using levity to get through the day. Other days, we would ride in our SUVs and someone would say to a rider or support staff "tell me your story". You cannot hear the story of someone losing a child, spouse, parent, or loved one to cancer, and not be moved. Every day, I was surrounded by people who picked up the pieces of unimaginable loss and moved forward to help others. I was humbled to be with these amazing folks. I also know that we touched people at every stop along the way.

Having completed the ride last year, I definitely had a different focus. The aspects of the ride that brought me the most joy (aside from that moment when you peeled off your bike saddle at the end of a long day), were those in which I could help someone achieve a new distance. Several people rode longer than they ever had on Day 1, and continued to shatter their personal records on subsequent days. This trip is truly about the journey, and I am so thankful to Tommy and my kids for supporting me on this journey once again.

How it Works
Each day, we woke up and were split into 5 riding groups. To me, the beauty of Key to Keys is that we never know where we are riding until that morning. We were assigned our groups, and each group rode 25 to 70 miles each day (one group pulled a century on their longest day). The shorter rides were associated with visits to cancer centers along the way (6 in all this year). We had business cards with information about the ride, and used them to help people follow along with the journey. The challenge was to give out as many cards as you could.

Each morning starts with a dedication circle. Everyone who wants to speaks about who they are riding for that day. It is powerful and emotional and inspiring. To have a purpose and a person in mind each day provides focus. It also provides insight into what is motivating your fellow riders on that day.
Dedication circle in Charleston, SC

SUV selfie...Chris and the ladies

The ride itself was not about being fast, and I feel like we saw amazing sites along the way. Some days were back country roads and avoiding being chased by dogs, while others were more well-traveled roads and beach towns. We stopped and saw the sights, including the Navy Seal museum, a Revolutionary War era church, and even the Oscar Meyer mobile.
Riding with the boys, Day 2
In 8 days, strangers become family, random people on the street donated cash when they heard what we were doing, and we laughed and cried on a regular basis. As a group, we raised enough to fund the cancer navigator position at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Meg is that navigator, and her program will provide services to young adults (ages 18-40) in the military who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis. 

Riding into Key West
The most bittersweet part of our journey was the ride into Key West. You want to pedal backward, to delay the inevitable. Even though friends and family are there at the finish, you want to enjoy the ride just a little longer. Inevitably the Southernmost point arrives in the distance, and we pedal to the finish of our journey. While Key to Keys 2014 has ended, there is still much to do in the young adult cancer fight. We ended our dedication circle every day with the UCF slogan: 
"Cancer Changes Lives....So Do We"

Many thanks to all of you who supported me on this journey, and to those who were support staff or riders, thank you for sharing those 8 days with me. If you would like more information about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, click here.

Riding the bridge into Savannah (much steeper than it looks here)

We had just passed Kennedy Space Flight Center and seen a rocket launch.

No one can ever pass up an amazing photo op!

Day 8... Getting ready to saddle up for our ride into Key West. 

1 comment:

  1. Love that you have done this twice now! So proud of you!