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Pedal for Pat "Summitt Cyclist"

$14,297 of $15,000 goal

Raised by 73 people in 5 months
Created September 13, 2017
GG
Ginny Gilder
on behalf of Pedal for Pat, LLC Joshua Crisp


Can you help me? Ok, not exactly me. More like people in your life and our communities who suffer from Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in our country.

I’m embarking on what some might consider a crazy endeavor to raise money to find a cure for this horrible disease. I’m a “Summitt Cyclist” for the Pedal for Pat fundraiser. That means I’ve committed to riding 1,098 miles over the course of 12 days, from Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Florida Keys, all the way at the bottom of that looong state. I’m inviting you to join me on my ride, by fueling me with your financial contribution.

The first $10,000 raised will be matched 100% by a generous anonymous donor. That means your gift will go twice as far to fight the good fight to beat Alzheimer’s!

The ride starts at the Pat Summitt Plaza on the University of Tennessee campus. It’s a fitting beginning, as honoring Pat Summitt was the event’s inspiration. The head coach of Lady Vols basketball for nearly forty years, accumulating 1,098 (that number look familiar?) wins over the course of her career, died of early onset Dementia, Alzheimer’s type, at the way-too-young age of 64 just last year.

I never met Pat Summitt. So, it’s reasonable to wonder why, exactly, I am doing this ride.

The truth is, I didn’t know much about Pat until ten years ago. Back then, I didn’t follow women’s basketball, but then my life changed in a whoosh. I became a co-owner of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm franchise (long story for another time). Suddenly, I was in the thick of women’s professional basketball. Pat Summitt's Lady Vol graduates peopled several of the league’s rosters. In my first year as an owner, 2008, one of her players, Candace Parker, went #1 in the draft.


Suddenly, I knew about Pat Summitt. And just like that, I became an instant fan of this driven, passionate, and wildly successful woman, a big one.

Fast forward to the present: I’m irate that she was cut down too early by a disease that not only robs its victims of precious years, but also strips away their memories and stories, and their ability to retain connection with those they love.

Pat was an inspiration when she was alive, and she continues to serve as one. She was tough and engendered tough. In a world where people are relentlessly researching, writing and talking about how to develop persistence, how to coax the growth of grit, we have Pat Summitt to show us the way.

I only know of Pat through others’ memories and public accounts. But I have a good imagination. I imagine that she was a hard ass with a giant heart. She was tough on those she cared for, because a well-lived life demands toughness, and how else could she prepare her athletes for the rigors of adulthood, except by being demanding and exacting? Love is not all about sweetness and light. It’s about figuring out how to call forward the best of those for whom we care. Pat Summitt did that, and, in doing so, exemplified the hidden-in-plain-sight promise and power of high expectations.

I believe in the power of persistence. Too often people resist dreaming big or give up on their dreams too soon. To counter that tendency, I’ve publicly committed myself to an admittedly aggressive physical challenge, just as Pat Summitt publicly committed her program and her athletes, year in, year out, to pursue a national championship. What better way to speed the quest to identify how Alzheimer’s wreaks its havoc on those we love, than to raise funds to defang the illness?

So, I’m doing this, committing to ride a ridiculous number of miles in a pitifully small number of days. I want to honor Pat Summitt. I want to kick Alzheimer’s in the butt. I want to remember those in my community who have been similarly afflicted. And, if I can inspire others to dream and pursue their own dreams, so much the better.

After all, I’ve done my fair share of crazy things in life, pursuing dreams I had no reason to dream. I guess that’s why I’ve got an Olympic medal stuffed in a drawer somewhere, a memoir published by Beacon Press in 2015, and a share of ownership in one of the WNBA’s model franchises. If you want to learn more about me, please visit my website: ginnygilder.com




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6:39 am Seattle time, the last Sunday in October. I am sitting in my living room, wide awake after two weeks on eastern standard time. The house is quiet, dogs stretched out at my feet, my wife, Lynn, upstairs, snuggled deep under the covers, sleeping soundly. The fog is pressing up against our picture windows. There is nothing to see. And I? I am brimming with memories to cherish and gratitude to express. So much to share.
Yes, the Pedal for Pat adventure, all 1098 miles of it, over eleven, not twelve, days of riding, from Knoxville, TN down to the Florida Keys, is completed. We did it. That “we” includes so many people, some of whom I will never know, some of whom I knew quite well in advance of striking out on this adventure, some of whom I met in advance, thanks to my decision to embark on this ride, and others of whom I got to know and care deeply for over the past two weeks.
My “we” includes over seventy donors. Every single contributor helped power my way forward. Every day, I thought of specific individuals who have lost treasured family members and friends to this dreaded disease. I recalled the tidbits of their stories, shared by my donors. I thought about the power of love and the pain of loss, and marveled at what we humans are willing to do to change the world, to create a better future. And I reveled in the generosity of those who stepped up to support this cause and me personally.
The last day of riding turned into a very long day. About half way through Day 10, sitting at lunch on our way down to Pompano Beach, the sun hot and the tail wind waiting to push us further south, our group leaders realized we were heading into the beginning of a tropical storm that would hit the Keys early on Saturday, the intended last day of our ride. Conferring with several riders, they decided nearly instantly to compress the last 2.5 days of riding into 1.5 days.
And so, we did. We rode over 115 miles on Day 10 and 130+ on Day 11. We made it part way down the Keys, then turned around and headed back to Key Largo, just as the sun was setting, a fitting end to the day and the entire trip, both of which had started at sunrise, albeit in different states, over a thousand miles apart. We rode through Miami’s northern and southern outskirts and chugged through its downtown. That part of the ride was frustratingly slow and fraught with peril, as our core group of eight, augmented by several day riders, had grown to thirteen, the length of an eighteen wheeler when in motion, and lacked the experience of pace riding in heavy traffic. We reached the seven mile bridge that connects the Keys to the mainland; narrow, busy with cars and trucks hurrying by, offering a breakdown lane filled with hurricane debris that threatened to knock us off our bikes and flatten our tires; the sun beating down, but not a distraction, as our wind stream kept us cooler than you’d think (not cold, for sure, but not boiling). We made it through, led by one of our pro cyclists, 28 year old Jon, such a steady rider, deeply experienced, who joined the ride to be of service and more than delivered on that score.
And then, as is so with all good things, even all bad things, and especially adventures like this, suddenly, in a rush, we were done. Champagne and cheers greeted us. Hugs, laughter, a few tears (if you know me, you know this is exactly the time I will cry), gratitude for having attempted this endeavor, for having completed it safely, for having met and grown close to a tiny handful, of thoughtful, caring, passionate people, for all the experiences that comprised these two weeks, little and big: the purple-branched cotton field by the side of a Georgia road; the dog sporting a pair of goggles, head poking above the sunroof window while its owner drove down the highway; the exquisite shade of a grove of giant banyan trees along a south Florida street; miles of the Atlantic Ocean, a broad stripe of grey lightening to aqua marine as we moved towards the Caribbean; quiet conversations about past struggles and life lessons learned, debates and some disagreements, rarely about politics, more often about religion, the matter of whether we humans are sinners or merely deeply flawed; ever-deepening tan lines in odd places, and always, always, checking in with each other, “how are you doing?,” “remember to drink,” “yeah, my legs are sore too.”
So quickly, our present recedes into our past; it’s hard to hold onto the exquisite satisfaction of having been part of something so much bigger than myself, of having contributed some of myself to further humanity’s knowledge, of having completed something that was physically challenging (but by no means impossible). But maybe, holding on isn’t so important. This experience has likely seeped deep into my psyche. I may not notice any obvious changes shortly, but I imagine it has changed me. Possibly made me a bit more open to others, more interested in listening than talking, more aware of how intricately we are all connected, our protests of independence and individuality notwithstanding.
To all my donors, thank you for joining this effort. This ride absolutely put the Pat Summitt Foundation on the map. That was the point, after all, to build awareness and raise funds. Just think: 53 spectators watched the first game Pat won in January 1975. Over forty years later, besides winning all those 1098 games, she has reached and affected the lives of countless people. She has left a legacy that is deeply rooted in her fierce love for the sport of basketball and much more importantly, her players. And now, all of us who participated in Pedal for Pat’s inaugural ride, we are part of her legacy too. That is an honor and a privilege.
My trusty Orbea, w/out her, I'm nowhere
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It's late, nearly midnight. Not smart, perhaps, to be up so late after so long a day, but sometimes wisdom has to yield to opportunity.

You see, we are staying on the beach, Pompano Beach, to be precise. You know, the Atlantic Ocean, whose waters turned from dark blue to that Caribbean mix of lighter blue and aqua, oh about fifty miles north of where we are staying. So tempting.

We followed Route A1A down the coast, right next to the beach for miles and miles, and all I could think about was putting my feet in the water and feeling the sand grit up between my toes.

So, that's what I did tonight, after a latish business call which slid into seroiusly late by the time it ended. I grabbed Jon, one of the two young cycling pro racers in our core group, and we walked along the water's edge, frozen pina coladas in hand, and marveled at the view, the water's warmth, and the fact that we are now going to attempt to finish this Pedal for Pat ride tomorrow.

Yes, that's right. Apparently, a huge storm front is blowing in and the Keys will be battered on Saturday. Not good for flimsy bicycles attempted to cross threads of land exposed on all sides to water and wind.

Soooo, we rode about 115 miles today. According to my count, we have about 116 to ride tomorrow, but other riders' gps totals indicate different numbers, so I'm not exactly sure how far we will go. I've heard numbers stretch to 135. Let's just hope the weather doesn't shift before we're done.

At any rate, I'm still out here, pedaling for pat. Today was hot, sunny, with another good tail wind which helped our speed and kept us pretty cool. I have a giant farmer's tan now. We traveled through some beautiful coastal areas, with amazing homes, and some shaded sections which made me want to lie on the pavement and stare up into the trees.

We are now accustomed to being on our bikes for 6+ hours, so the extra miles haven't been particularly painful. Music helps, talking helps, day dreaming is risky, because cars can do unpredictable things, and the many drawbridges with their cheese grater sections command respect. Fly over them without regard for their ability to trap your wheel in one of their many slots and you will live to regret your insouciance.

I still have a good 10% plus of this endeavor to complete, so stay tuned. I may not report back until Saturday, but I will return to provide you with the final report. In the meantime, I'm hoping somewhere, a handful of new donors will materialize, and another $1,290 will show up on the ledger for this campaign. It would be quite satisfying to meet the financial goal. Soooo, if you know anyone who may have a soft spot for supporting the search for a cure to Alzheimer's, by all means send them my way.

Ginny
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Day 9, neuf, IX, nine is fini, and not a moment too soon. It turns out that attempting four centuries over the course of four days is enough cycling to make anyone feel 400 years old.

It's true this ride is not particularly aerobically challenging, but it is also true that it is tiring nonetheless. I found myself ready to be done after our first stop this morning, with about 70 miles to go for the day, not to mention the remaining 250 miles that awaits. I felt tired at a psychic level, enough riding already, I thought to myself. When is this ever gonna be over, I wondered.

But, a few things conspired to distract me. First, we traveled along the intra-coastal waterway, a lovely and quiet road that was also flooded in several parts, which slowed us down but allowed us to relax and talk with each other for a bit, riding two abreast. Second, I had a nice, long, intimate chat with one of the professional cyclists who's along for the ride. (There are two, both quite young, 23 and 28, and absolutely wonderful, service-oriented young men, pleasant, funny, down to earth). Our topic of conversation was family, so you can well imagine that there was no shortage of stories to share, on both sides. I am constantly amazed by how consistently human beings behave badly, even terribly, to those they love best. What is that about?

But, I digress.... and perhaps that's for the best. It's late here in Fort Pierce, FL. I have wet laundry all over my room and am hopeful it will dry overnight, courtesy of the full-strength AC that's blowing enough cold air to freeze a penguin. It's time for me to go shiver under the covers and hope that sleep will come quickly. Under the circumstances, that's the best course of action.

Lots of people are getting in on the donation front, which is great for the cause, and inspiring to me. Right now, I welcome all the inspiration I can get, as remembering that this ride is much bigger than me keeps me on my saddle. So, thanks to all of you, my donors, for keeping me going when I wanna pack up and go home. We're gonna get to the finish line pretty soon here, and that wouldn't have happened without YOU. xox Ginny
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Well, I was, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG about the headwind's desire to hang with us. We met a wicked tail wind this morning when we left our St. Augustine hotel, a welcome relief. Our mph improved from yesterday's second slowest of the trip, 15.7mph , (the only slower day was the second, when we climbed over 5,000' of elevation) to 18.6 mph, over the nearly 6.5 hours that we rode 119 miles.

So, it was still a long day, but not nearly as long as it could've been. The weather continued to cooperate, as we chased ominous rain clouds all the way to Titusville, without ever catching them, thank goodness. I can't say we stayed dry, however, as it was incredibly humid, making us grateful for the cloud cover.

We rode by the beach for a long ways, and it was a pretty beautiful sight to behold. We also rode along the intracoastal waterway, just to our west, for part of the route, and that was lovely too., as was going through a mangrove reserve. No houses, lots of birds, including a bald eagle, not a rare sight for this Northwesterner, but always a thrill to see.

We've now ridden 765 miles and climbed over 90% of the expected elevation for this adventure. While many of you may have never doubted that all would end well, I harbored some suspicions that my making it all the way down the Keys could very well prove an elusive goal. However, as we have now passed the 2/3 mark and my legs aren't feeling particularly tired - how that works, that they are getting stronger without any rest, is truly beyond me (I cannot remember the last time I worked out so many days in a row without taking a break) - I'm starting to think that, come Saturday, I will find myself coasting to a stop at the end of a 1098 mile journey.

Proof again that, if you dream it, you can do it, with the understanding that part of the doing includes the preparing.

Hope you're working on delivering on your own dreams too, while I'm here sweating this one out to its completion. Life is definitely more interesting when we grab it and run with it in the direction we want to go.
The Atlantic Ocean, Central Florida
Another lovely day at the Florida beach
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$14,297 of $15,000 goal

Raised by 73 people in 5 months
Created September 13, 2017
GG
Ginny Gilder
on behalf of Pedal for Pat, LLC Joshua Crisp
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