When the going gets tough…

We’ve gone west! Today was the first day that I’ve looked at the map from the website in a very long time, and it blew my mind that we’ve already gone through so many blue dots. Go team! It hit me even harder to realize how many blue dots we have left: so many more days of hills, wind, cows, rest stops, bikes, portraits, and all of the other things we go travel through every day.


Yesterday was the first truly mentally challenging day I’ve had since Philadelphia. The pure amount of headwinds, hills, sun, and just overall torture of 77 miles really got to me for the first time in a long time. Never before have I asked myself what I’m doing here. I’ve never wondered if I would’ve been better off spending my summer at home, working or researching or spending the time with my farm, my family, and my friends. I’ve never contemplated why on Earth I’m spending 6-10 hours a day on my bicycle, with the same 27 people, every single day.


Yesterday I did. I spent more than a few miles feeling incredibly sorry for myself: my knee hurt, my back hurt, breathing hurt, not breathing hurt, pedaling hurt, not pedaling hurt. I was sunburned, hungry, bleeding (only a little), dizzy, sick, and more exhausted than when we rolled through the Appalachians.  The motivation to roll on, to keep pedaling, just wasn’t there. I couldn’t dig deep enough to make the day be as beautiful as every other day has been. Something snapped yesterday that made me wonder why everyone thinks that what we were doing is so amazing. Yesterday certainly didn’t feel amazing. It basically only felt like hell.

Since we rolled into Rochester last night, I’ve questioned how I could feel so awful all day yesterday. I realized that I was right about one thing:
What I’m doing, Illini 4000, isn’t that amazing.

If you compare the trials that we go through each day, it doesn’t even begin to compare to what the people I’ve met so far on this trip have gone through.  Every member of the team has been affected by cancer in some way, but so has almost every person I’ve met across the country. Just a few days ago, I was standing in a gas station and met Russ Wooten, whose grandson was diagnosed with cancer at age 10. He said that it was worse than being punched in the face; it brought him to his knees. I also met Chris Schubert, who was kind enough to allow us to swim in his pool and do laundry at his house, whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age 16. Even today, I met with Robin, my roommate/best friend’s mom, to talk about Robin’s sister, Lisa, who is currently being treated at Mayo Clinic. I also met Bill Brown, who was recently diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer, and is currently at the Hope Lodge in Rochester, while his two kids are at home while he goes through treatment.

Compared to what these families, and SO many others, went through and still go through on a daily basis, biking 77 miles uphill into the wind just doesn’t seem that bad. We’re here by choice. I signed up to bike 77 miles, uphill, into the wind everyday if that’s what the route and weather say to do. Cancer patients don’t have any choice. The fight they have every day is MUCH more than the fight I go through. I can see the tops of hills, I can stop pedaling, I can take a break and eat a snack. People battling cancer don’t have the choice to stop working.


So, when you look at the battles that are fought every day, by people who by no means chose to fight it, biking every day just isn’t something that’s amazing. It’s hard work, certainly, but it’s nothing in comparison.

Comments (5)
  • Tom Kelleher says:

    Amen Tory. I went to a wake last night of a co-worker whose 57 year old brother Jamey Trainor just lost the battle. It started about 2 1/2 years ago. In that time Jamey had two heart attacks. He had one while driving, pulled into a gas station and called 911. When the ambulance pulled into the station across the street, Jamey walked over there, much to the chagrin and amazement of the paramedics. He went from a 160 lb martial arts teacher to 90 lb. At the very end, Jamey thought he was just resting up for the next round of chemo. Please dedicate a few miles to Jamey’s memory.

  • Shary Devine says:

    Hello-I know you are at Mayo’s and it really is an amazing place. Stay strong, all of you are doing a truly wonderful thing. I am so proud of you!!!!!! Love, A. Shary

  • I live in part of what is called the Appalachians….our Grand Son Justin Taylor rode the 4000 in 2010…our Mountains are steep and the valleys deep, but the people are the best in the world…I just learned to day that our neighbor is in Cleveland Clinic in the fight of his life, with Colon and Stomach Cancer…my niece has survived Colla-rectal cancer at age 44, every check up, she holds her breath praying for a clear report…a cousin who is fighting Milaloma and going to Duke for a Stem Cell transplant as soon as he can get his counts stable and raise thousands of dollars…it is all around us…and last but certainly not least, my husband and my Grand Children’s Grand father is being treated for Prostrate cancer…so ride on great people, the hills will be steep and the weather the worst, but the reward at the end will be worth it all….you are doing a great work for human kind….

    Aileen Taylor
    West Virginia

  • Bob Shaevel says:

    Nice, Tory. My mom / Kenny’s grandma (he called her “glampa;” she passed away before Kenny turned two) had two surgeries at Mayo that prolonged her life a few years, but did not save it for a normal life span. The continued funding and research hopefully will save more and more years for more and more people.

  • Annmarie Cross says:

    Wonderfully said, Tory. But what you are doing IS amazing when compared to what most students your age are doing. And we are all incredibly proud of you for this, and for your goals and dreams to create a different future for the next generation.

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