And that’s (roughly) the letter that I got from Anna Claire Ziegler. I let her polish it a bit for publication. In the original version, she mentioned that Drew had shown her what I was doing with my Shiv as something noteworthy but that he felt that wasn’t something he deserved. Well, she felt it was something he deserved. And so, being a plucky Mississippi girl, she decided to write on his behalf. As a quick aside, among the bike parts he sold to finance their honeymoon? His race wheels. Seriously, I thought stuff like this didn’t exist outside of Lifetime movies… Well, in addition to his wife thinking he deserved the bike, so did I, and so did basically everyone I enlisted to help me read all of the “applications.”
I had quite the committee, and being such an eclectic group, I thought you might enjoying knowing a bit about them. I was so moved by the fact that people were sharing these stories with me, that I knew I couldn’t decide on my own. Reading the stories was incredibly emotional, and the idea of turning any one of those folks down broke my heart (and still breaks my heart, which is why I haven’t written the “I’m sorry…” letters yet. But I will. To everyone. Promise). My first recruit, who in typical fashion self-selected himself – was Jon. Jon was a former elite rower turned cyclist who now races XTerra. Jon has no children and is generally totally unsympathetic towards the demands of parenthood. His general bias was towards the young and aspiring kids who wanted to become pros, mostly because they reminded him of him, and he’s very fond of himself. He’s also an excellent judge of character and one of my good friends. And he was willing to read 40 (some additional ones trickled in) stories.
My next recruit was Alan, who was just shy of 300lbs before deciding to take control of his life. Alan’s first triathlon was an Ironman, which tells you most of what you need to know about his drive, perhaps only complemented by knowing that his PB for 140.6 is sub-10hrs. Alan is a proud parent of two wonderful children. I knew Alan would help to provide some insight into the meaning and importance of the several weight-loss related stories I received, which were truly inspiring.
Alan helped me recruit Jay, who was a former 2:16 marathoner at a time when white kids from the US generally didn’t run 2:16 for the marathon. But due to injury, Jay can no longer run. But he’s a helluva bike rider. And a parent. Like Jon, Jay had a soft spot for the kids wanting to become pros, again flashbacks to his own glory days.
And lastly, I asked for my wife’s help. As a former elite athlete who faced injury and as a new mom, she had her own biases. And, of course, as a Canadian, she was especially biased towards those trusty folks from north of The Border who wrote in.
As for me, I was touched by everyone in a profound way. Not only because the stories were so remarkable, but because they were telling them to me because they wanted my bike. And they wanted to pay for my bike. The reason I asked people – initially – to pay was because I thought it’d be a good way to do some good while also doing what I regularly do, which is turn the equipment I get into income. But as the stories came in, I realized there was no way I could take the money. And I didn’t want to. But I didn’t want to give the bike away, because in my experience, people tend to 1) want ANYTHING if it’s free and 2) care about it less. Having done giveaways at expos, people just grab because “IT’S FREE!” and I wanted to avoid that. So that’s why I decided to require some money, although as I wrote, it’s going 50/50 to World Bicycle Relief and a charity of the recipients choosing. For his half of the $500 (the amount that seemed doable to pretty much everyone which is how I settled on it) to charity, Drew is giving to the National Autism Center.
With the help of my friends, we narrowed it down to the most compelling stories. There were a few names that kept popping up in everyone’s list, and Drew’s was one of them. Drew’s story touched everyone. Ultimately, I settled on three finalists. And I planned to have the world-at-large vote on those three. But then, while I was out training, I changed my mind. Someone raised the good objection that votes often become a popularity contest. And I liked the idea that I got to choose someone and say to them, “I choose you to have my bike,” as opposed to, “The world chose you.” Of the three finalists, only Drew didn’t have a bike (because of his wreck). The other finalists, who replied after I told them of my change of plans (I had previously written to ask them for a “final draft” submission that could be made public), both said that they thought it appropriate that the bike go to someone without a bike.
To the young kids and aspiring pros out there, yours were among the hardest to read. I felt for every one of you. Some, I was inspired by the massive obstacles you’ve already overcome. Others, by your zeal and passion for the future. In the end, I wasn’t sure how to choose among all of you, so I thought it best to just eliminate you all as a group. It was too hard to find the right mix of results/need/etc. But I am certain you will all find success, as your passion was obvious. I wish I had bikes for all of you. And if I can help you find one, I will. I’ll touch on how when I write back to each of you.
To everyone else – and you really ran the gamut – I wish I had bikes for you all as well. Some of you needed “a bike,” (though likely not pure race bike like my Shiv), and I hope you find one. And if I can help, I will. Again, I’ll touch on that when I write back to each of you too.
I was truly inspired. As seems to happen so often, whenever I do something that seems to “inspire” other people, I’m really the one who comes away even more inspired. So thank you. And, Drew, enjoy your new bike. I’d say I’m expecting big things, but you’ve already done plenty…