What did I do?
The Wish-A-Mile 300 was an event that I had been looking forward to all year. I trained with my mom and Mrs. Jill (a family friend) as the “Shooting Stars”. We raised over $3000 for the foundation via our bottle drive, flap jack fundraiser, bake sales and other sponsored events. The experience was life changing and I will forever be touched by the event.
We began by driving to the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) where we loaded our bikes onto a large Meijer truck; registered & received our information packet, jersey and wish hero wrist band; and finally found a bus. After talking to the other participates there was a general consensus that the WAM 300 was amazing in the previous years! Several of the people we spoke with reiterated that the people you meet are the highlight of the event. Some of the participants had ridden 13-20 years in the WAM. It was very inspirational!
After about 2 hours on the bus, we stopped to eat lunch and then continued up to the school in Traverse City. At the school we unloaded our bags, locked up our bikes, ate dinner and then headed to the hotel to sleep. The most apprehension I felt throughout the entire tour was on the first night. I was so worried about the ride the next morning. We had 103 miles to get to our next destination. Fear aside, I knew the pain I was about the feel would only be minimal compared to the pain felt by the children who receive wishes from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The service component of this particular collaborative project was performed throughout the year in fundraising for the event itself. Apart from training, the actual riding part of the tour was the action component.
Friday morning was chilly. After eating breakfast we set off, peddling our hearts out, trying to ignore the burning sensation in our legs. The day was set up so that every 10-15 miles there would be a rest stop with portable-potties, water and snacks. Throughout all three days all I thought about were the small 10-15 mile increments that I needed to ride before making it to the next rest stop. As the rain started to drizzle down upon us, the damp sensation helped to cool us. A vibrant double rainbow could be seen in the distance. It was a magical sight.
The hills the first day were unrelenting. There was also a strong headwind and quite a bit of rain which caused the temperature to drop. Nevertheless, I was so touched by how supportive and smiley all of the participants were throughout the entire event. SAG vans (Support and Guidance), were decorated and would drive up and down the course looking for thumbs up or thumbs down from the riders. If riders were to give a thumbs down the SAG vehicle would stop. There were bike racks at the back of the vans so that the riders could be taken to the next rest stop.
The second day was the longest, 109 miles. We set off early in the rain. It was much less hilly and the cold air had subtle warmth. However I was as sore as ever. My mom, Mrs. Jill and I trudged on singing Christmas songs, 99 bottles of beer on the wall and talking to other riders. Each day we rode for over 7 hours in the rain and shine. All the while I felt incredibly protected. At big intersections Michigan state troopers and or local police would watch the riders. There were also Red Cross volunteers and Ax men that patrolled the course.
The third day we rode 89 miles. In the morning the temperature reached a low of 49 degrees Fahrenheit. We ended up wrapping ourselves in reflective heat blankets to keep our muscles from seizing up. I was really surprised at how warm I felt. Towards the end of the ride, while travelling down a hill I was hit in the head by a beetle and then a giant bee stung me on my thigh. It was quite scary seeing as a bright red rash began to develop. However after visiting the medics I was given the okay to finish.
Before riding into the Michigan International Speedway where the finish line was, there was a section of road called the silent mile. On the pavement was “Shhh” and standing on the hill to the side of the road were stars that commemorated all of the previous wish children. It was a very emotional experience. Afterwards we rode towards the finish line where people lined the rode with posters cheering us on. The joy in their eyes was unexplainable. We had finished.
After checking in we were given the opportunity to meet our wish hero, Keyan H. She was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and cerebral palsy but she had a magical smile. As she placed the metal around each of our necks I couldn’t help but revel in the moment. Meeting Keyan was such a highlight and I am forever hooked to the WAM event. I can’t wait to do it again next year!
What learning objectives did I achieve?
I increased my awareness of my own strength and areas for growth: Prior to the event I had only ridden 50 miles on my bike. Riding 100 mile three consecutive days in a row was very intensive. I will be sure to train more thoroughly next year so that I can achieve higher speeds on my bike.
I undertook new challenges: The Michigan weather was probably the hardest part. Throughout the three days we experienced sun, rain, wind, cold temperatures.
I planned and initiated activities: I was given the privilege to be the “Shooting Stars” team captain and helped to lead our team to the finish line.
I worked collaboratively with others: Riders signal to one another. We point when there is a pot hole or gravel and yell “car back” when a car is coming. We stick together and help each other.
I engaged in an issue of global importance: The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to enrich the lives of children with terminal illnesses. I was able to support this wonderful cause.
I considered the ethical implications of my actions: While on tour I was given the opportunity to think about the daily battles thousands of children have to endure each day. It made me truly appreciate my life.
I showed perseverance and commitment in my activities: Despite the pain, the cold wind, the hills and rain our team pushed on and was able to finish the tour!
I develop new skills: After 7 hours of riding each day I became a master of shifting gears. I also learned how to successfully draft.