Letters, Part 2: To Our Sponsors
The ladies of Team PHenomenal Hope aren’t elite athletes. Not that we haven’t experienced some glory on the bike, we all have had the taste of some local hero type stuff. But, let’s be real, now, we aren’t considered A-listers in the racing scene, nor would we produce a blip on the national radar. Maybe that’s what makes this even more special—there was never an expectation set for us to do something like a 3,000 mile long race in the span of a week. Nothing in our resume to hint at ultra-endurance greatness. Yet, the idea cooked up by Patty and Stacie went from being a little daydream, a big “what if,” to a fully-sponsored reality.
And again, the question that begs to be asked: “who in their right mind is putting their image, their brand, their money, behind this madness?”
I remember clearly sitting in a conference room with a magnificent view of the ‘Burg skyline. I was in the infamous Steel Building, and UPMC was hosting the visit.
We ran through some introductions. There were a lot more of them then us. The Public Relations team. They had a lot of questions, as they should have. I felt anxious. I couldn’t remember everyone’s name and title.
Gene Nacey was sitting at the table—a non-UPMC person, like me. He said he started a couple of bike-related companies: Global Ride and Cycling Fusion. He said something about being on board, spoke about some potential for collaboration. So many ideas were thrown around, so many names… I felt like a deer in headlights, and my head was spinning, but somehow in a good way.
How did I get here?
After some inspiring pitches from Patty, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) had come on to be our Presenting Sponsor. They had some skin in the Pulmonary Hypertension game, with a rehabilitation clinic and treatment facilities. Patty was one of their docs, one of their own. They were onboard, excited, ready to make some checklists and action plans.
Someone asked, “So, how much will you need to ride to prepare for this?”
“A lot.” We replied in unison.
And that was it, the dream started to turn into a reality. UPMC dedicated more time and resources into us than I could ever have imagined. They sent crews out to video us, interview us, and get us interviews with local newspapers. We started to get the word out—about PH, about the PHA, about the Team and its mission. The platform that we would perch ourselves on to make a difference was taking shape.
Gene and the Cycling Fusion team took us under their wing. They provided excellent winter training, with sage advice and more opportunities to get the word out, including a Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen workout broadcast and, with the collaboration of UPMC, the Pulmonary Hypertension Rehabilitation webcast. Gene also introduced the team to TumblTrak, who generously offered to send us to a week of winter training in Hawaii. Due to some scheduling difficulty, only Anne-Marie was able to attend the trip, and TumblTrak responded a second time by providing the gift of Vector Pedals (which have integrated power meters built into them) to help us train with laser-like precision. Soon enough, we were sporting (and delivering) team shirts designed by Garbella, and using special wallets on the bike designed by Soul Run. Bikes and equipment, and later a bike mechanic, were generously provided at least in part by Big Bang Bicycles. Primal Wear got on board, sponsoring the jerseys that we will proudly cover in sweat and (happy?) tears (but hopefully not blood!). Patty’s coach, Jim, from Endurance Performance started us on a dedicated training plan to prepare our bodies and minds for RAAM. Fiks:Reflective stole our bikes and made them un-invisible—covering them in cool but functional reflective designs to keep us safe 24 hours a day. UPMC Sports Medicine partnered with the team to host a bicycle ride during bike month, and also administered some baseline testing in case anyone got a concussion, despite wearing the helmets provided by West Liberty Cycles. Generation UCAN and NUGO sent us and our crew nutrition for the trip, and Eat’n Park loaded our RV down with edibles after hosting a delicious send-off dinner at Six Penn Kitchen. Star Auto Mall sponsored our van rentals. Zipp sponsored wheels that I have no business being in the same room with, let alone ride. We are also blessed to have Bayer Healthcare come on board as a featured sponsor, along with other pharmaceutical and medical sponsorships from Actelion, United Therapeutics (who hosted a 5K for us!), Inovalon, PoppyPocket and Pulmonary Partners LTD. The list doesn’t even end there; we got sponsorships from Radio360 and our RV now has a picture of my face on it because of Printscape. That’s weird to see and stand beside, but also pretty cool.
In the same way we dedicate ourselves to ride for the crew that supports us, we also dedicate ourselves to proudly represent the corporations backing us financially. We will promise to conduct ourselves with integrity, and in a way that will positively reflect their contributions and organizations. The race to Annapolis, the use of RAAM as a platform for PHA and PH Awareness would still be but a dream without their generosity, and their willing suspension of disbelief of the impossibility that four unknown athletes from the ‘Burg could leave those 3,000 miles in their dust.