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 Coast to Coast 210 and the Coast Loop 100 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.


Troy Tuyls
We have all heard the quote, “It’s not about the destination; its about the journey”(Ralph Waldo Emerson). I have always understood this as some sort of self-talk for those who failed to reach their destination. Enter 2020; COVID canceled all of our events, races, and competitions, which forced me to view my journey from a different perspective!

A 42 year old out of control diabetic fluctuating between 225lbs and 265 lbs, maxed out on oral medications, taking injections and gaining little control over my A1C. I decided to purchase a treadmill, initially focusing on walking which progressed into running, and eventually participating in 5K events. I was able to stabilize my weight at 225 lbs, eliminating my dependency on injections, lowering my A1C to around nine. My ankles; however, would not support the amount of mileage required to maintain my new healthy lifestyle. My ankles started to develop inflammation and swell, preventing me from running on consecutive days.

Unable to run and refusing to revert back to my old lifestyle, my cycling journey began mid-summer 2019 after purchasing an entry level mountain bike. I started cycling around 7 miles daily, which progressed to 14 miles. It didn’t take long before I stumbled across an event called, “Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder” a 210 mile event. I began watching YouTube videos from participants in disbelief, which became “what if’s, and eventually a relentless calling that I couldn’t escape. So I did what any cyclist who had never cycled over 14 miles would do, I traded-in my mountain bike, and purchased a gravel bike and began training. At first I simply increased my mileage to 21 miles, challenging myself to beat my previous time. As the summer progressed,  I found myself cycling in the dark and less then desirable weather to get the mileage in that I thought I needed to build my base.

I didn’t want my training (healthily lifestyle) to end with the summer season, so I purchased a Wahoo snap, a Zwift account, and enrolled in a twelve week active off season training plan and stuck to the plan. A plan which, forced me to cycle for hours by myself in the corner of my basement, contemplate quitting, experience fatigue, pain, and uncertainty.  As the winter months progressed so did I. Getting excited for the thought of the event, I joined several Facebook gravel groups, signed up for the Michigan Gravel Series, and entered the Barry Roubaix to measure my endurance.

Covid paused the world, not my progress! I utilized my trainer as a distraction from the uncertainty of the world. I remained optimistic that the “Coast to Coast” would take place on the alternate date, and utilized the postponement as an opportunity to increase my FTP, and speed. I created a hybrid training plan that included Zwift, and outdoor activities, such as out and backs on the Kal-Haven trail. As the event drew closer my goal of completion transformed into a completion time.

The Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder is cancelled! A message that I hadn’t considered a reality at any point though-out 2020. A message that flooded me with mixed emotions, for the last year and a half I spent hundreds of hours physically preparing for the coast to coast. An event that has consumed me, both physically and emotional. I could conclude that all those hours I spent preparing were for naught, or change my perspective! I chose the latter and examined my journey. A journey that led me from being an out of control diabetic, to a diabetic that eliminated injections, two oral medications, and reduced the one remaining oral medication to the lowest dose available. A diabetic with an A1C of 14 to one that maintains an A1C under 6. A journey that has reduced my weight from 225lbs to 170lbs. A journey that has equipped me with the mental toughness to overcome challenges that seem insurmountable. A journey that has established a love of cycling that will sustain my cardiovascular, cognitive, and mental health.

The Coast to Coast was described as a point to point journey; however, I will forever understand this event as the starting point of my journey. One that has led me to achieve a lifestyle I once thought was as impossible as the Coast to Coast itself!  A journey that has ignited a passion for fitness and the outdoors, a journey that has allowed me to interact, and meet some wonderful people within the cycling community I would have not otherwise have had the pleasure to meet. Coast to Coast community: thank you for providing the spark that allowed me to change my life. I look forward to seeing everyone next year at this event!

– Troy

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.”

2014.
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!”