Final pre-race thoughts

It's been over 10 years since I first attempted to qualify for the Super Bowl of Ultracycling races, 6 since I achieved it and the day is finally here for the start of it. Since arriving here in Oceanside on Thursday, the days have been filled with pre-race setup, inspection and meetings. I'm thankful to be surrounded here by an amazing group of people who are willing to sacrifice so much to be here to help see me to the finish line of the Race Across America.  When we get there, the accomplishment will be just as much their's as it is mine. 

In a recent interview, I mentioned that Speaking Up was "truly life changing". Cliche or not, it is the truth. I've gotten the opportunity throughout the last couple of days to spend time reflecting on how life was. How life is. With the grace of God, I was given a second opportunity. One which has allowed me to enjoy the morning snuggles of the Lil Boo Bear. To see the smile on her face as I watched my amazing wife dip my daughter's feet into the ocean for the first time. And today, when Fred Boethling calls, "Mr. Welch" to the starting line as he has many times, we will line up as a voice for all of the Cameron's who are battling silently.

When we first started this journey, I told Michael, Parker, David and Grace we were going to help people. Later, I would tell the crew, if we pulled out of the race in the desert of Day 1 of the race, it would still be a win if we helped even one person find the courage to SpeakUp about their depression and/or anxiety. Although, I still whole-heartedly believe that, we don't plan on stopping at one. Not one day. Not one person. Powered by you, a relentlessly encouraging community, we will do our best to spread Cameron's message of love across the country before arriving in Annapolis less than 12 days from today. Your love and support will be what gets us there. If you haven't already, please consider making a donation to the Cameron K Gallagher Foundation here. We would love to reach our goal of $50,000 before the end of the race. 

The race will be a roller coaster of emotions for both the crew and I. I can promise you, we will feel good and we will feel terrible.  If you would like to follow along on the journey with us, there are links on our homepage of where to find current race standings, updates from the crew, live video feeds and links to our Facebook page. Please be sure to leave a message as they will all be read to me throughout the race. I truly find inspiration in each of you. 

Serenity and Discovery - Thank you!

Despite the mockery from some, safe places have existed for longer than any of us have been on this planet. They are the places we go when we need to change the direction of our thinking.  Mechanics retreat to the garage. Gardners to the yard. Some find solace in the written word while escaping through literary masterpieces. For Cameron and I, we both used excerise as our safe place. She ran. I ride.

These places exist because all of us are in need of places absent of judgement. Places full of inclusion not exclusion. Places full of love. Places to unwind.

It is very rare for someone to have such a strong tie to a place they have never visited like I do. Or to be so grateful for the Lord putting people into our lives when we most need them. For the longest, time I heard stories of how my sister would visit a local farm on a regular basis. Of how great she felt after leaving and her anticipation to go back. Of the feeling she felt as a mother knowing her son felt so welcomed and included while visiting. All of the while hiding the fact she went because it calmed her anxiety. An anxiety which has proven to be debilitating at times. Her place?

On the surface, you will see Chipping Twigs Farm as a supplier of healthy produce to their local community. Once you visit the farm, you quickly realize it is a special place. It is a place where Farmer Kevin and Crystal want people to stay. They encourage folks both young and old to learn by doing. Because of this, you have to be on constant lookout for who may or not be in control of the "Big Tractor" as my nephew calls it.

Farmer Kevin and Crystal may not have known what they were building when they started Chipping Twigs Farm. That it would ultimately turn into a safe place for others. That their love and compassion would save a stranger one day. A stranger who would ultimately become family. The love in which Kevin and Crystal have surrounded others with is immeasurable so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, they were the first to sponsor a timestation for this year's Race Across America in honor of Cameron's message.

  A single plot of land where both serenity and discovery lay right next to each other.  

  A single plot of land where both serenity and discovery lay right next to each other.  

Today and everyday, we are thankful for everyone who are like Kevin and Crystal and places such as Chipping Twigs Farm. We are humbled and privileged to race on your behalf Kevin and Crystal.  If you would like to join Farmer Kevin and Crystal in spreading our story in the Race Across America, please consider sponsoring a timestation of your own by visiting our online store

Time Station Sponsors

We want to fill all 55 spots with sponsors! RAAM has 55 time stations that are spaced about 40 to 90 miles apart across the 3000-mile course. Regular time stations can be sponsored for $100, while the start, finish, and midway point are available for $500. If we reach this goal, we will raise nearly $7,000 for the CKG Foundation and Andy’s race expenses.

Sponsors will be recognized on social media at each milestone and key sponsors will be given extra exposure during the race. This is a great opportunity for small businesses, families and individuals to speak up and fight the stigma against depression and anxiety as we take Cameron's message coast to coast. All donations are 100% tax deductible!

If you wish to become a sponsor of one of the time stations you can register here

The Power of Me Too

It has been almost 18 months to the day since I had made the decision to speak up and tell someone about how I was suffering with depression and at the time, losing the battle.  It has been 6 months since that February night I spoke publicly about it for the first time. After that night, many of you have called, texted, emailed and personally come to me to thank me for speaking out. You have shared stories of your experiences with depression and anxiety. 

Last week, the National Alliance of Mental Illness posted a blog about Olympians being able to prove living with a mental illness does not make a person weak. In the article, Laura Greenstein stated that if the percentages were correct than there are approximately 110 of the 554 US Olympians competing in Rio right now are living, competing and succeeding with a mental illness. Her hypothesis as to why more athletes hadn't spoken up, "Probably stigma. Athletes want to be viewed as strong and empowered, and rightly so. They don’t want the public shaming them for any type of issue or condition, but especially one that is so heavily stigmatized in our society." 

Although I am not an olympian, I do pride myself on pushing myself as a cyclist beyond what most people see as conceivable. Fear of the stigma IS the reason why it took me over 10 years to say something. While I have learned ways to lessen or shorten the effects of an "episode" through therapy, nothing has helped more than reflecting back on the stories which have been shared with me. Knowing I am not battling alone. Knowing there are many others who are living with a mental illness while leading highly respected lives. 

At the time of my speaking up, I didn't think I could hurt anymore than I already was. In hindsight, it has been the most therapeutic action I have ever made. Join me in encouraging everyone who may be living with a story to SpeakUp as we share this message across the nation during the toughest bicycle race in the world, the Race Across America.

We have a goal of raising $50,000 for the Cameron K Gallagher Foundation. By making a 100% tax deductible donation to the CKG Foundation you will not only help me spread this message of living stigma free but also give the CKG Foundation the power to reach young adults who are suffering from depression and anxiety. 

The true power of our stories however, lay in their ability to end the stigma. Our "me too" stories hold the power to not only lift someone up but more importantly they are the wrecking ball to the wall the stigma surrounding mental illnesses have been allowed to build around us.