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Rider Stories

A point-to-point journey of any kind – whether on a bike or not – represents a departure, a realization that you’re never going back. Many of you were drawn to C2C because of this. We’re grateful to hear of racers who have battled cancer, obesity, abuse or mental health challenges and are NOT going back. This is their victory ride. They have left these things in the dust of the gravel road they ride on. Send us your stories and we’ll share some of them.
Jacob Henriksen
2013. Although he was not yet at his peak weight 0f 450 pounds, in 2013 Jacob Henriksen was offered a job working with special needs kids. He took it. “I think this was one of the things that helped me change my attitude. I knew I needed to be a better example to the teens I was working with.”

Jacob hit 450 pounds and was convinced that he would die fat. Little did he know his life was about to change.

“I was blessed to meet an amazing doctor. He was upfront and real without driving me away. The doctor said he had two things to tell me and I could take or leave em. ‘First, keep coming up with excuses and you won’t live to be forty-five. Second, put the MyFitness app on your phone and call me back in a month.’”

For two weeks Jacob logged everything that went into his body. He was eating 9,000-10,000 calories a day. He called the doctor and committed to making the necessary changes. “He told me he didn’t want me to change anything at first. I was startled but I trusted him. The first thing we did was set a calorie goal. No more than 8,000 a day. No exercises at this point because it could result in joint damage at my current weight.” By 2015 Jacob was down to 350 pounds. He could eat whatever he wanted as long as he did not exceed his calorie goal. At this point the doctor added light swimming to the mix and had him continue to follow the calorie goals.

“I think if I had tried to change all at once I would have quit. The obstacle didn’t show up over night. So you can’t go into the battle thinking that it will be short. If it took you 2-3 years to put the weight on, it will take you 4-5 years to take the weight off.”

2016. Jacob weighs in at 275. He discovers biking. Life in his words “is about to get kicked into overdrive.” Initially he was worried people would laugh at and tease him but he found cyclists to be different. “I found a sport that encourages all to be included. I found a group to ride with and continue to ride with to this day. They encouraged me, pushed me. I was never left behind and reached goals I never knew I could.”

There was a point at 250 pounds – he considered it might be good enough. But his wife and support system encouraged him to keep going. So he stayed focused on his goal weight of 170 pounds.

2017. Jacob completed his first century, 100 miles, and began to think of even bigger challenges.

2018. Jacob weighs 170 pounds today. He’s happy. Once standoffish, he now has the confidence to talk to anyone. Five years ago Jacob couldn’t walk around the block without having to rest.

Driven by his incredible change in health and newfound confidence, Jacob is ready to conquer the 210-mile Coast to Coast, his bucket list race.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned was that I am capable of more than I thought I was and I can do much more than I gave myself credit for. And with the right friends you will never be left behind. You’ll reach goals you never knew you had.”

– Jacob

(credit to Todd Poquette/Doing the Hard Things, for source content)

John Ford
From September 2016 through December 2017 I underwent five surgeries: one to stabilize two fractured vertebrae in my neck, two catheter ablations to repair two different heart arrhythmias (atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter), and two knee replacement surgeries. The knee surgeries were the last: October and December of 2017.

In February 2018 my recovery had progressed to the point where I could ride 7 miles on a trainer. That was when I signed up for the 100 mile Coast to Coast race. I set several goals for my recovery and made completing the Coast to Coast race one of them.

The race did not go to plan for me. I mis-estimated the pace I could sustain for 100 miles and bonked hard at 70. Was not about to quit, though. Even bonked, I was glad to be out riding instead of laying in a hospital bed.

Coming back for another finish in 2019 and looking forward to it!

Mary Jane Watson 
“Sadly, the cancer story is not an uncommon one. Fortunately, the survivor story is. Even better is a thriver story like mine, which is why the Coast to Coast was a victory ride for me.

One day in early 2015 I noticed something different during a self-breast exam. I was always skeptical of these self-exams – boobs are lumpy already 😉 Sure enough, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer on April 1. That was no April Fool’s joke. Over the course of several months of chemo treatments, surgery and rounds of radiation, I did not recognize myself or my body. Worst of all, there was no guarantee that the treatments would put my cancer into remission, that they would save my life.

I won the remission lottery and was looking forward to my “new normal”, whatever that is. I was not able to jog even a couple of blocks (I tried against my doctor’s advice and nearly ended up on the pavement), and recovery dragged on like a harsh winter. No one could tell me when I would be “back”, when I would feel “normal”. The docs were happy they and the treatments did their job, as was I. With all the uncertainty I chalked it up to being one big biology experiment.

As the months passed and I pushed through the pain, the fatigue, the self-pity, the survivor guilt, I was able to show up at group rides and hang on to the rider in front of me, despite my heart hammering in my chest and never catching my breath. My cycling friends understood much more than I did some days. Sometimes it was the simplicity of showing up, riding together and reveling in the RPM’s.

One fall day my partner told be about an inaugural gravel ride across the state of Michigan. That’s just nuts. The more he talked about it, the more it became a goal, a quest, a signpost that my badassedness was back. Many weekends were spent riding gravel roads together in eastern Indiana, so cold sometimes that I was somewhere between WTH and WTF.

All those training miles gave me strength and confidence to do the C2C. It also didn’t hurt that I had shared my goal with dozens of people and now had enough accountability to cover every inch of the gravel roads I trained on.

The race was an incredible expereince, although at 11 mph most would call that a ride. For me it was a race against my body and my mind. I am proud of being the last person across the finish line. It was a first for the event and a first for me – the first of many. See you next year!”
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