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Reach the Beach

I am honored to serve on the Local Leadership Team for the American Lung Association (ALA). Reach the Beach Washington is a cycling event organized by ALA to promote lung health and raise funds for research on lung diseases. Reach the Beach was held this past weekend, starting in Lacey, WA, and ending with a celebration on the beach in Westport, WA. Participants choose from four distance options: 25, 44, 77, or 100 miles.

I wanted an adventure! So, I hatched a plan to park my car at Westport on Friday, the day before the race, and then embark on a 44-mile ride to Elma, WA. I calculated that on ECO mode, my e-bike would give me a range of 44-62 miles on a full battery charge… There, I would rest at a hotel, all set to rise and shine for the race on Saturday morning. It sounded like a perfect plan. A thrilling journey awaited. Little did I know that my adventure would take an unexpected turn two miles into the ride.

As I pedaled through the picturesque landscape, my excitement was high. The wind in my face and the thrill of the upcoming race filled my heart with anticipation. But then, it happened. The dreaded flat tire!

My heart sank as I realized I had a long way to go with this unforeseen obstacle.

Determined, I steered my e-bike with the flat tire into a quiet neighborhood, desperately seeking help. That's when I saw him, an older father with his daughter. They graciously offered me the use of an e-bike pump, hoping it would solve my predicament. Unfortunately, the pump didn't work, but what I learned next was far more valuable than any repair.

During our conversation, I discovered that this kind-hearted stranger, Joe, had experienced profound loss. He had lost his wife and his father to lung disease. I felt a deep connection to him, a shared understanding of the weight of grief and the importance of supporting one another during challenging times.

Now, let's pause here to acknowledge the incredible generosity of those who donated on behalf of their family members affected by lung disease and those who donated. Their contributions are a testament to the power of community and the impact of our shared experiences.

I shared with Joe the loss of my mother, Sheila Lee to Covid-19. He was genuinely happy to lend a hand. Joe went above and beyond by offering me a ride back to the bus depot two miles away. From there, I caught a bus to Aberdeen, WA, where I hoped to find a solution to my flat tire dilemma.

My hopes were dashed when I arrived at DK Performance Bike Shop, discovering it was a motorcycle shop. At this point, I knew I was facing a considerable challenge. I had a four-mile walk ahead of me to the next e-bike shop and a 30-mile ride to Elma and the sun setting. My adventure was hanging by a thread.

Feeling lost and overwhelmed, I reached out to the Executive Director of the American Lung Association and her team for support. They quickly connected me with my guardian angels, Leah, who introduced me to Pete and Carlene from Oregon. As fate would have it, Pete and Carlene were part of the volunteer staff responsible for setting up the finish line and providing support during the race.

In a remarkable twist of fate, Pete and Carlene happened to be in Aberdeen at that very moment. They graciously gave me a ride to La Vouge Cyclery in Hoquiam, WA, where my tire was expertly repaired in just 20-30 minutes. After the repair, they kindly dropped me off at my hotel in Elma, WA, right on schedule. It was as if they were my guardian angels, ensuring my adventure could continue.

Despite the unexpected flat tire and the detours it led to, I was only a mere hour behind schedule compared to my original plan. This adventure taught me the importance of resilience, the kindness of strangers, and the beauty of unexpected connections. Sometimes, the detours make the journey unforgettable, and I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything.

After checking into the hotel, I couldn't wait to grab a delicious meal to fuel up for the adventure that awaited me. I headed to Shujacks in downtown Elma, a charming little spot that beckoned with promises of satisfying food. It didn't take long for me to settle on the classic Philly Cheesesteak, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed. The flavors danced on my taste buds, and the hearty meal gave me the energy I needed.

After indulging in a drink or two to celebrate the impending challenge, I knew it was time to call it a night. Rest was crucial if I wanted to conquer the 44-mile ride ahead. With a full belly and excitement, I turned in for the night, eager for the adventure that awaited me.

Morning arrived, and I was ready to tackle the day. The hardest part of the race was surely behind me—yesterday's unexpected flat tire and the kindness of strangers. As I sat on my e-bike at the starting line, my battery fully charged and my body well-hydrated, I felt a surge of determination. I knew I had it in me to conquer those 44 miles.

With my trusty Bluetooth speaker and a carefully curated playlist on my iPhone, I was all set to keep myself entertained and motivated throughout the ride. The beats pulsated through my ears as I pedaled away, the rhythm of the music matching the rhythm of my heart. Each mile passed by, and I was in the zone, feeling the wind in my face and the thrill of the open road. During the ride, my e-bike odometer registered 3,000 miles!

As the ride drew to a close, I couldn't help but notice that my e-bike's battery was running low, just 4 miles short of the finish line. But I wasn't about to let that deter me. I pushed myself, relying on my strength and determination to cross that final stretch. The finish line was in sight, and I was determined to reach it, battery or no battery.

Sitting amongst the other Reach the Beach Race participants, I felt a profound sense of accomplishment. The American Lung Association had set an ambitious goal of raising $140,000, and I was elated to learn that we had met that goal. It was heartwarming to be recognized as a top fundraising team and to see the collective effort pay off.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those who supported my team, honoring their loved ones and my mother, Sheila A. Lee. Your contributions made a significant impact, not only in achieving our fundraising goal but also in the fight against lung disease. Together, we've made a difference, and I couldn't be prouder to have been part of this incredible journey and organization, the American Lung Association.

As I reflect on this adventure, I can't help but look forward to next year. The Reach the Beach Race has become more than a challenge; it symbolizes resilience, community, and the power of coming together for a cause. Till next year, my friends!

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