People ask me all the time why I do triathlons. I usually just fumble around and say something like, “I enjoy it.” But the truth is, I do triathlons to claim ownership over my future. Let me explain.
Eight years ago I had never ridden a bike farther than about a mile. I had never swum more than two laps in a pool. I was an okay runner, but not great. And then I got this idea in my head that I was going to become a triathlete. It turned out that that idea was more powerful than my reality at the time (my reality at the time was that I had little fitness, no experience, and no idea where to start).
I started swimming, gasping and struggling through two laps, then four, then six. I started biking farther and farther, often ending up completely exhausted, miles from home, with no way to get back except by somehow getting back on my bike and pedaling through the pain. I ran farther than I ever dreamed possible.
In the end, I became a triathlete, and in the process, a new person. I proved to myself that a person with an idea (better in my case to call it a dream) can fundamentally change his or her reality, if they have the determination to do so.
That ability to change our own futures is also why Pilot is so excited to sponsor the Cadence Cycling Foundation. The CCF offers cycling instruction, training, and racing opportunities to young people from under-served communities in the Philadelphia area. To date it has formed eight teams that compete and win against better-funded teams with more experience.
That is wonderful, but the reason we support the CCF is not to create cyclists, but to help these young people realize the power of their dreams and, the determination to make them reality. That is why the CCF does not stop with cycling. It provides SAT coaching and other services to help these young people become the person they dream they can be. If you have a minute, please read the college essay from one of our athletes, Leroy Hayes. Leroy is everything you imagine from the essay. He is remarkably bright, dedicated, and I can say from personal experience, one of the most delightful people you could know. What he does not say in his essay (perhaps because, like me, he knows that it is probably the least important aspect of his journey) is that he has become one of the top junior cyclists in the state. It’s a remarkable story.
After you read Leroy’s essay, check out this recent Philadelphia Inquirer article about the organization and some of its members. Pilot is proud to sponsor Leroy and others, as they realize the power of their dreams.
As a 283 pound 10th grader standing at 5’7” I slowly walked down the hall with my chin hanging to the floor. On my way out of school on a warm autumn afternoon, a blonde hair man with a smile that stretched from ear to ear snatched me by the arm and said “Would you like to join the cycling team?” The thought of actually joining a physical activity made me pause, because I found it tiring to walk up the steps to the fourth floor for my classes. Then he said “Come see what it is about.” While still in his vice-like grip he pulls me into a room filled with athletic looking students. I felt so out of place; I felt as if everyone was staring at me. I could see it their eyes “What is he doing here?” During that information session he explained the sport of cycling with so much enthusiasm that he convinced me to at least attempt the sport.
After practicing with the team for a few weeks, I felt like my body was being pushed to its breaking point. Almost every night half way through practice I felt like just calling it quits. The pain wasn’t worth it. Moreover, I felt my body screaming inside, that someone had set my legs aflame. At every practice my coach told me “determination is the key to doing great things.” It was his words that made the brutal workouts bearable. Now I am 100 pounds lighter and one of the best junior cyclist in the state.
During my eleventh grade year I struggled with the work load. That year, I had a hard time maintaining a grade high enough to stay on cycling team. The SATs arrived and I was not too confident about my test taking abilities. My cycling coach provided me with SAT prep classes to boost my self-confidence. The class was two and half hours of practice test after practice test every Wednesday for 5 weeks. As a result, I was able to get the highest SAT score out of my entire 11th grade class.
For my dedication and strides academically, I was named captain of the cycling team in my senior year. I was transformed from a 10th grade student who talked in a low voice and walked with his head held down to a person who walks with his nose in the clouds and makes it his objective to be heard. This year I was told by a junior cyclist “I want to be like you.” At that point, I knew that I was becoming the type of person I always wanted to be; someone others would look to as a role model.