Ride for Refuge: A Wrap Up

So I did it.  Yep, I rode for miles and miles.  I rode up hills and flew down them.  I talked to a few dappled horses on the way.  It was in the country and what are you supposed to do when a horse looks at you chewing.  You say,”I know, crazy right?” and you keep riding.  I rode mostly alone because I am slow. A fact that I knew and brought me only a little shame on Saturday.

I kept riding.  My thighs burned and begged.  I seriously dropped the F-Bomb like it could literally flatten hills before me.  I would have shaken my fist at the wind but I still can’t ride with less than both hands on the handle bars.  I nearly fell of my bike trying to change my playlist.  

Oh! I never fell off! Not once!

The day started with this sign as I pulled into the Byron Center Christian Middle School.
Ride for Refuge – Every Mile Matters – May God Use You Mightily

How could you not be pumped after reading that?  I registered and gave them the cash I had been given by my wonderfully generous friends.  I raised, let’s see….my calculator says……$415.00.  

Lovely Volunteers

I had to give them a phone number for emergencies too.  I did notify them that I was not planning on having one.  If you raised over $75 (which I so totally did) you got a voucher for a t-shirt.

The energy was palpable but for me, it was surreal.  I still wasn’t sure if this was a good idea.  Sanity has always been questionable for me. My nut was cracked long ago.

Anywhoo, after registration was done it was time to go.  At the beginning of the ride, a woman mentioned my friend Chuck and his energy last year.  We all teared up and my heart ached for something he would’ve been doing.  His mother was there.  She was just inside with a board that read,

In Memory of…

She is so strong and amazing.  She matches the picture of Chuck.  Our entire team felt like a secret society that was no longer accepting new members.  We were all so grateful for the opportunity to be his friend and to be riding in his memory.  

And then we were all off! I never took any pictures.  The very thought seems very ridiculous.  I only got off my bike to walk up one hill.  It was a very big hill that after a few F-Bombs did not dissipate.  So I walked up it.  During the ride their were pit stops with granola bars, hot chocolate, fruit, cookies, cheese and crackers, coffee…you name it and it was there.  


I ate a little at every spot.  At about 1:30, the Red Cross vehicle that had been circling all of us stopped in front of me and said I had about 13 miles left and only a half an hour to do it in before the signs for the route were coming down.  We discussed how much farther I could go, which was about 5 miles and decided on the route.  If you remember from earlier posts, I can ride about 10 miles in an hour.  

The most embarrassing moment was riding in with that car on my ass.  I wasn’t the last rider.  I was just the last one not willing to go the route without signs.  Do you have to make me look last?! Okay, I might have been last.  Seriously! Couldn’t that have been just between the two of us Red Cross guy?
When the ride was over lunch was provided by a sponsor and I ate like food had just been created.  That was it.  It was over.  I came, I rode and now it was time to go home.  About a half an hour into my ride home my body began to crash.  I can’t remember ever being so very tired.

When I got home, I took a hot bath in Epsom Salt, put on my PJ’s and got under my down comforter in my bed.  I didn’t get up again, no joke, until the next morning at 9am.  When I woke up, I wasn’t really that sore.  Strangely.  I even went for a jog at 7pm.  

I told you.  My nut cracked long ago.

So all in all, our Ride for Refuge raised about $75,000 of our $100,000 goal.  The international event has raised about $665,000 of the $1.5 million they aspire to. My team was awesome.  We raised $3,893.00 which far exceeded the $2,000 we aspired to… and that doesn’t include any cash donations.  Chuck was very much with us.  I didn’t give up.  

All I keep thinking is…

Refugees don’t get pit stops.  There is no fancy t-shirt.  No one asks them who to call in an emergency.  Their life is an emergency.  There is no well heated bathroom with a tub full of hot water.  They don’t sleep until they are rested or eat like food was just created.  I am proud of myself for completeing the ride.  I am also very, very humbled.  50 miles is nothing. 

A Good Ride

Tonight was my shortest, slowest and most contemplative ride since I started training for the Ride for Refuge.  I could blame my slow as snails play list, my shortened opportunity due to soccer games or my physical exhaustion but truly, I had a lot on my mind.  The past couple of months have been earth moving for me.  Decisions have been made that will alter my reality.  Decisions that have me over the moon with excitement and others that paralyze me with fear.

Like I said, It’s been quite a month.

My mother attributes my commitment to pride.  I couldn’t handle failure after committing to something because I don’t like to feel like I have lost.  This rule applies to more aspects of my life than service.  That is part of the reason that I made sure to announce my goal of 60 miles on Facebook.  I knew that once you all knew, I couldn’t balk.  No turning back.  Money, meet mouth.

To my surprise, this experience has given me so much perspective.  The actual ride has not even happened yet and I feel so gratified and so grateful.

I have thought about the refugees I serve every time I climbed onto my bike and rode miles on the river trail.  They, along with the homeless and vulnerable, became a part of my daily dialogue.  I thought about them every time a friend said how thin I was and I told them about the event.  I thought about them when I considered buying expensive biking gear for my one excursion and realized how wasteful I could be.

I have no idea if I am going to ride the entire 60 miles on Saturday.  I only get about 6 hours to do it.  I do however, intend to ride that entire time.  It will be my homage to my friend Chuck who kept organized the Michigan Darfur Coalition while literally battling the cancer that eventually took his life.  I will be standing in solidarity with those refugees in Sudan and all over the world facing so many, many challenges.

I am not terribly athletic and so far, I have not been able to make good on my promise to fall from my bike (which strangely does not hurt my pride one bit).  I have gotten used to the push it takes to get over hills.  My shoulders no longer get sore from the jostle of the handlebars and…I have padded shorts!!!!  I can even pull my water bottle out, take a swig and replace, all while in motion!

I have found something else that I can do.  Something big, intimidating and out of character.  I don’t have a bucket list but if I did, this would have been in it.

The work I am able to do that benefits the displaced, vulnerable and exploited makes me proud.

Then sings my soul.


P.S.  For earlier posts about this “Ride”, click here!

5 Things I Learned on My Latest Bike Ride

Yesterday was the official “back to training day” after two weeks of vacationing and lethargy.  I found my capri sweats, tank top, helmet, iPhone and ear buds all more ready to go than I was.  I love the solitary provided by an evening bike ride and after a weekend of schlepping kids all over tarnation, the silence was my main motivation.  The added fear of trying to ride for 60 miles without training put a little pep in my step too.  All the children went for a walk with daddy and I was off.  I learned a few things on this trip that I thought I would share.

First, I want you to watch this video explaining in detail what the Ride for Refuge is and why I, and thousands of others, participate.

Now that we are all on the same page…Let the countdown begin….

5.  I still need to get bike shorts.  A Va-Jay-Jay does not get used to the bike seat.  Concessions need to be made.

4.  If your iPhone is set to shuffle when you shake it, every bump interrupts your song.  Although Lansing’s River Trail is darn near perfect, there are a lot of bumps.  It’s hard to get into a groove when your groove gets interrupted every 30 seconds or so.  After the settings were corrected I was able to sing along to Duffy’s Syrup and Honey http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=m0bdd-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0018RBQPW&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrfor the enjoyment to the dismay of fellow walkers, roller bladers and bikers alike.

3.  After spending an afternoon with a man who has lost everything because of the genocide in Darfur, reflection and meditation are neccessary.  When he finished his story he said that because of the work I do, I am like his sister.  Then he said…”Don’t leave me.”  Heavy, deep, soul exhausting….all words that cannot begin to describe my heart in that moment.  I fought back tears and he never shed one.  Strength, fortitude, perseverance….all words that barely grasp the making of that man.

2.  When given the opportunity to keep pace with a stanger whose calves look like he rides 60 miles a day, do it.  It’s a great way to pick up your pace and to improve your faith in yourself.  See…I can almost see him through those trees…I’m not really THAT slow. 

1.  Once I arrived home, I whipped out my BikeTracker and saw that I did 10 miles in 1 hour.  Do you know what that means?  That means that it is possible.  That I may be able to do all 60 miles in the 6 hours of the event.  I will spend the next two weeks picking up the pace.  (Which loosely translates to less Erykah Badu and more Fergie on my playlist)  I look forward to crossing that finish line with my arms up in the air….well, I can’t actually do that without losing my balance…but in my head that’s what I’ll look like. :)
If you would like to join my team or make a donation click here
Where your money will go….
In memory of Chuck Breen, for his dedication and tireless efforts for the people of Sudan, MDC has established the “Charlton Breen Refugee Assistance Program Fund (CBRAPF).” In August of 2009, the Michigan Darfur Coalition launched CBRAPF to assist refugees from Sudan who are living in Michigan. Our goal is to help them become self-reliant. Assistance is provided on the basis of the refugee’s long term goals and our determination of how we can best help.

The Best Things in Life are Free

Today brought with it a little surprise.  Holly from Diamond Potential gave me an award! 

Awareness Award Button

Last Wednesday I participated in her Awareness Wednesday Blog Hop 
and shared my link to the 5 Reasons to Ride for Refuge.

Awareness Wednesday Button

Today I am going to take the opportunity to thank her very much for the award!
It’s my first one.

Thank You! Thank You!

And to shamelessly beg for donations to my cause!

I am excited to sacrifice my body for the game.
I am sure that this will build my character and my physical endurance.
This event will bring real and practical help to millions of people suffering.


I get some money!

That’s all I want!

Where your money will go….
In memory of Chuck Breen,  for his dedication and tireless efforts for the people of Sudan, the Michigan Darfur Coalition has established the “Charlton Breen Refugee Assistance Program Fund (CBRAPF).” In August of 2009, the Michigan Darfur Coalition launched CBRAPF to assist refugees from Sudan who are living in Michigan. Our goal is to help them become self-reliant. Assistance is provided on the basis of the refugee’s long term goals and our determination of how we can best help.

5 Reasons to Ride for Refuge

On October 2nd, 2010, I will be participating in the Ride for Refuge.  This event is a 60 mile bike ride to spread awareness and raise funds for the vulnerable, displaced and the exploited people all over the world.  I started training last week riding 5 miles for the first time ever.  Unfortunately, a seminar coming up in our dump of a almost renovated new office threw my training schedule out the window.  I will be back at it tomorrow morning.
Currently, I have joined fellow Michigan Darfur Coalition board member Ginny Mitchell, Mary Breen and hustled encouraged my sister in law Leah to share in this event with me.  As of today, I have raised $0.  We all have to start somewhere.  Today I want to focus on why you should join our team.  
Don’t freak out.  You can ride as little or as much as you want.  There are courses mapped out for 5, 15, 30 or 60 miles.  
So let’s count these puppies down David Letterman style…without the celebrity (unless you count me, which most don’t).

5. There are millions of people suffering all over the world.  They struggle to find food, adequate medical care and a safe place to rest.  This is one day of discomfort (minus months of training…but whose counting, right?) that will remind you of just how cushy your life is now.  The money you raise for our team will help refugees new Americans from Darfur, Sudan that live in Grand Rapids. 

You probably thought this would be number one.  Sucker.  I am way more original than that.

4.. I am a mother of three boys that have lived inside of and totally ruined my body.  I have never exercised to do more than allow myself to eat whatever I want. Exercise is all about making that ooey gooey pizza at 10pm justifiable.  I do, however, expect that my ass will be as tight as a toddlers’ race to the toilet by October.  It will be a short lived victory but I’m okay with that.  I am already wondering where we should go for drinks after the ride of a lifetime.

3. Cool points.  Stand around the water cooler and tell your office peeps that you are training for a 60 mile bike ride.  It doesn’t matter if you make it the entire way.  The important thing is that look of WTF! awe in their eyes.  After they pick their chins up off the floor, drop the whole charity thing on them and they will be nominating you for sainthood by September.  Boo-yah! Instant karma.

2. Training sounds really awful unless you are a triathlon crazy person dedicated to healthy living.  If you happen to be a mother of young children, do you know what the word “training” means? Hours of solitude. You, your bike, a helmet and your favorite playlist or podcast on your iPod.  You will have time to plan your day, listen to a sermon or just sing along to your favorite Alicia Keys song.  

Here’s a link to our team page.  I should have you convinced by now.  If not, then number one should do it.

1. I am going to fall off of my bike.  It is going to happen.  Maybe not today. Maybe not in two weeks, but someday.  Where do you want to be when that happens?  Do you want to be at home reading about in my blog three days later?  Or do you want to be standing over me with your iPhone capturing an embarrasing moment to share with all of your Facebook friends?  You and I both know the answer to this one.

Again, here is the link. 

If I still haven’t convinced you to ride, consider making a little (or super duper big) donation to help support my peeps from Darfur by visiting our team page.  To read more about how the MDC helps refugees new Americans from Darfur, in the United States and Africa, check out our website.

You should also check out the Ride For Refuge Blog for more information about whose lives they intend to change by organizing this event all over the world year after year.

The Ride for Refuge

A week ago the members of the Michigan Darfur Coalition received an email to inquire whether any of us would be participating in The Ride for Refuge. Chuck Breen, who just recently lost his battle with Melanoma led our team for this event in the past.  He raised nearly $800 to help kick off the Charlton Breen Refugee Assistance Fund.  This year Ginny Mitchell is our team captain and I just signed up to ride too.

I am a little nervous about this challenge.  I am not an experienced rider.  The most I have ever ridden has been in my friend Jenny’s spin class. That was over four years ago and that bike was nailed to the floor. The Ride for Refuge can be as little of a commitment as a five mile family ride or as long as a 60 mile jaunt through Grand Rapids.

I have thought about it and decided that I am going for 60.  Apparently that is about a four hour bike ride.  
My friend Jacob Atem was carried through southern Sudan by his older cousin for miles to a refugee camp seeking sanctuary.  He is now building a hospital to meet the medical needs of the people of Sudan.  Abubakar has had to learn English on the fly. Not only to function as a new American but so that he can courageously share his story for the sake of the people he had to leave behind.  I thought walking the streets of Chicago for leisure and entertainment was going to kill me.   

I emailed Ginny tonight to let her know that I was in.  I dusted the cobwebs off of my bike, plugged in my iPod and brought my journal for another mini expedition along the way. I’ll tell you more about that later.  It included this….

…but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

On my maiden voyage, I discovered a few problems already.


Hitting my face, landing in my eye and generally giving me the heebee-jeebees.

I think I need some sunglasses.

Not like these show stoppers.

As per usual, built for style and not function.

 Hey, Lance! Got any glasses I can borrow!  While your looking for those, I could  also use a pair of those padded shorts.  If my Va-Jay-Jay was sore after a couple of miles it may be time for some padded shorts.

I also committed a serious biker infraction. I forgot my helmet!  Obviously, the safest combination is bike, bare skull and an iPod. I want to survive this experience in tact so from now on I will be covering my cranium.

I am looking forward to training with my sister in law Leah.  She is awesome.  She is also a much tougher girl than me.  Always a lady, unless the Red Wings are losing. However, for now, it’s just Ginny and I.  Send me an email or just visit my profile page if you would like to participate.  I promise I’ll ride in back so that when I wobble I won’t knock other team mates over. Unless you need the comedic relief to keep you motivated.  In which case, I would take a slow and uncertain lead. 

Cross my heart,

Read the next post; 5 Reasons to Ride for Refuge.

In memory of Chuck Breen, for his dedication and tireless efforts for the people of Sudan, MDC has established the “Charlton Breen Refugee Assistance Program Fund (CBRAPF).” In August of 2009, the Michigan Darfur Coalition launched CBRAPF to assist refugees from Sudan who are living in Michigan. Our goal is to help them become self-reliant. Assistance is provided on the basis of the refugee’s long term goals and our determination of how we can best help.