What I Learned from Cycling 300 Miles in 3 Days
By Julie Rogers
Coltivare Assistant General Manager & Bar Manager
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in and completed the Chefs Cycle 300 mile bike ride in three days to raise awareness and money for No Kid Hungry, a charity that uses its funds to supply breakfasts in schools and education in meal planning to promote nutrition and success in the classroom. Physically, it was by far one of the most challenging, empowering and humbling things that I've ever done.
We left each morning with the rising sun from central Santa Rosa and biked through the varied terrain of Sonoma County. The rides each day were filled both with their own distinct beauty (biking down the coast along Highway 1 as the morning fogs dissipated, through the misty and foresty redwoods, and through the rolling hills and bucolic vineyards of the Sonoma County countryside) as well as a number of challenges (like the infamous Coleman Valley climb, which persists for miles and is an aggressive 12 degree climb for the duration), and it was easy to get lost in the grind and ignore the former for the latter. Were it not for the support of everyone involved in the ride--from the riders themselves to the support of the numerous volunteers--I don't know if I would have been able to finish; and so, the only way I know how to tell this story is through my shared experiences with everyone that helped me through the finish line and beyond.
The sense of community was remarkable to see and experience. Ages of riders ranged from early 20s to mid-70s; there were nationally-acclaimed chefs and TV personalities, friends who were just along for the ride, business owners of large chains, apron-makers, specialty salt sellers, father-and-daughter teams, brewers, sommeliers, professional cyclists, newbie riders and everything else in between. On the road, we were all extremely diverse members of the same team, giving aid and advice, exchanging conversation and encouragement, and throwing out lots of thumbs-ups. I have a tendency to operate independently and shun help, and I feel that this ride reminded me time and time again that opening up to support and friendship makes for a more enriching and successful experience. Each day, I rode with a different bunch, and each day, we all cheered each other on through the hard times, celebrated our collective and individual triumphs and relished the calm and serene times. But, remembering that we were all on the road for the sole purpose of raising money to supply kids in schools with meals was a pretty humbling and inspiring motivator that made it so much easier to push through with a smile.
One of the things about the ride that left the biggest impression on me were the volunteers and support staff. These folks all worked 12-hour days to ensure that we had a smooth and safe ride, and their presence was distinctly felt through every twist and turn--so much so that the volunteer group as a whole has become my new standard for hospitality. The third and final day was pretty tough for me, and at a couple of the rest stops, I was one of the last to visit. The rest stop attendees had seen the pros roll through hours ago and had been in the hot sun all day, waiting patiently for the stragglers. Despite arriving at the end of the day, we were still met with mounds of smiles and encouragement, which never failed to give me renewed energy to keep chugging along.
Although my chef wasn't able to attend, his presence was definitely felt on the ride. He was, after all, the one who got me into cycling in the first place, when he corralled me and several other staff members to join him in the inaugural Dallas Chefs Cycle ride last October. Ever since, cycling has become my meditation and my motivation. The majority of my training rides involved chef in tow, and his encouraging texts at the start of each day subsequently played a big role getting me through some of the tougher parts of the ride.
I walked away from this experience feeling physically stronger and mentally more capable, and I am definitely proud of my own personal tenacity. But the most important thing that I took from this experience was the realization that we are able to lift each other up higher than we thought we could ever climb on our own. At least, that's my become my new mantra.