The Crew Van: Live Your Dream

February 01,2016

Yeah, small immeasurable gains, daily workouts, and often during training there is a lot of alone time. Whether you’re fitting in a workout, or you’re living out-of-phase with the rest of the world, settling down at night by 9 to be up at 4, for example, the path of an athlete – or of someone going after whatever their dream may be – can feel isolated, but the truth is – when it comes to the race and in the rest of life, the racer is never alone.

Not only does Team PHenomenal Hope race with the PH community when we race, but we race with a truly phenomenal crew. These people were the unsung heroes of the race, from our crew chief Pete, who assembled the Race Across The West 2015 team, to a group of special individuals, each with their own talents and a demeanor that would get us – no drama – from the start to the finish. Drivers, navigators, mechanics, nurse, athletic trainer, level-headed individuals who could problem solve and when off shift kind-of-sort-of-sleep in a deserted parking lot in a shady part of town in the back of a Ford Transit.

These brave and resilient people were our crew. They supported us, they believed in us at moments when we may not have believed in ourselves, they helped us race to our best and realize our best selves. They lived in this bubble with us for days, on little sleep, taking on our stress or worries and making them dissipate.

THE MOMENT: Carolyne

There was a moment when I realized how blessed I was to have my crew behind me. A turning point for me was just over the halfway mark, in Prescott AZ. The few hours leading into this were pretty brutal: We’d climbed the Yarnell Grade, the longest and steepest section of the race, in 108-degree heat. We’d been going for over 24 hours in extreme conditions, on very minimal sleep. I was having trouble getting food and fluid in; my stomach felt nauseated and cramped at the same time. Mentally, I felt like I was starting to unravel, from the shortage of sleep, the physical exhaustion, the heat, and the realization we still had over 400 miles to pedal.

It was in Prescott that our crew chief made the decision to take a team break and pull both riders for a rest and IV-fluid hydration. This was probably the toughest and smartest decision that anyone made during RAW. One of our crew members, a nurse, ran IV lines for both of us to replenish fluids and electrolytes and to cool us down. PG and I were both able to take a nap, during which time our crew was able to discuss strategy and even show up with a hot-from-the-oven pizza, which we devoured.

However, I don’t think it was the IV or the pizza that really brought me back to the cyclist I wanted to be. It was one of my crew, Carolyne, who shooed everyone else away from the van and sat me down for a heart-to-heart.

In a wonderfully encouraging way, she acknowledged that what we were doing was meant to be hard. She reminded me it was completely ok to feel tired, frustrated, hot, overwhelmed. She said I was doing great, but that she could see my spirits were down. Her husband, also on the crew, piped up that it seemed like I was comparing my performance to last year’s 4-person RAAM… which though a longer race, was actually easier because we were afforded two 6-hour rest breaks each day.

Carolyne helped me to refocus my energy on the positive: How many people can say they’ve biked through Arizona? How many people have experienced Monument Valley – let alone, have had the opportunity to bike through it? From that point on, I stopped riding with my Garmin bike computer. I realized that I was getting so hung up on my pace and how much distance we were covering, and stressing out about if my performance was good enough, that I was stressing myself out and missing out on enjoying the experience.

I was stressing myself out and missing out on enjoying the experience.

This is the mark of a true friend and true supporter – to help us gently peel back a layer of ourselves; to learn about ourselves; and to see how we can become a better version of ourselves. I am so grateful Carolyne was on my crew and was so insightful; I felt like a weight was lifted from me and my mindset became predominantly positive.

The crew van is such an essential concept, not only to ultra-racing but in life.

I remember ultra-athlete Rich Roll talking about this concept in a podcast interview a long time ago. The idea is that as we take on challenges – from how to live our dream and beyond – there are people in our lives that are in our crew van. These are the people that truly have our backs in life. It is these people who see us when we feel we are at our lowest points, and help lift us up, help us raise ourselves up, help us believe in our abilities to overcome whatever it is we face.

We all have people in our lives that have different roles, sometimes they’re the driver/navigator helping us stay on our course, sometimes they’re the nurse helping us heal, sometimes they’re the coach helping us develop a plan, sometimes they’re the teammate – the husband/wife/caregiver, who is literally at our side as we take on a challenge.

Do you ever think about your crew van?

Do you ever think about whose van you might be in?

You Are Capable of More Than You Think You Are

When we crossed the finish line of the Race Across the West 2015, it was an emotional moment. This year, in a 2-person race, we faced new challenges – the fatigue and the heat were amplified, and the challenges we overcame, with our entire team, felt monumental.

One of the surprising things when you push your limits is that if you just keep going, you find out you are capable of more than you think you are. Maybe on one level that’s why we do this – to test limits and push beyond them. That’s the ultra part of living our dream.

Not all life dreams or goals are about ultra-racing, but if they’re big or challenging, pushing us outside of our comfort zone, well, they become our “epic.” And it’s pursuing that epic that shapes us as people. There will be moments that might shake us, make us wonder if we’ll achieve our goal. And we know that not every race ends at the finishline – both AM and I have DNF’d (meaning did not finish) races.

I’ve entered races with high expectations and ended my race with sobbing in the medical tent, or being carted away by ambulance for stitches following a bike crash. Sometimes you stick your neck out and give it your all and the cards don’t fall the way you think.

Even if the road itself or the ending isn’t what we anticipate, we discover new things about ourselves, and if we push and strive towards to live our dream, it is the whole process that impacts us in ways we may have never anticipated, and that in turn, helps us to become who we are.

If you aren’t sure what your dream is yet, at the very least, jump in and ride along in someone else’s van. You can help them make their dream possible – and isn’t that exceptional?

Anne-Marie Alderson and Patty George

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