For several weeks leading up to camp, during my flight to camp, and even throughout the entire two weeks of camp I felt at any moment I was going to wake up from a dream. Yes I know, the story of ‘dreams coming true’ is cheesy, cliché, and a slightly over told, but bare with me…because I am, at heart, a big cheese ball. Along with being full of cheese, I have always been a big dreamer. For as long as I can remember I wanted to DO something, BE something, and although those dreams have altered throughout the years starting with my extreme desire at the age of 5 to be just like Malibu Barbie, to my aspirations of becoming the next Mia Hamm, all the way to my quest to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, the spirit to dream, and dream BIG, has always been a big part of my life. As you could have guessed, my journey to become a surgeon came to a slight halt when I fell in love with a pink bike and the new dream it gave me. This new dream had new idols, and their names are the names of the girls I now get to call my teammates.
From the very beginning I knew there was something different about this dream, and I know now that it wasn’t so much ‘something’ different as it was ‘someone’ different. Matt Bradley (a former USA Para cyclist, social activist, and dedicated Professor) is that someone in my life who taught me to dream big, and make it happen. He believed in my dream even before I did, and it was this belief that has made it a reality. Matt passed away tragically last year but his memory will always be with me. The dream he gave me isn’t over, it has only begun, and I am determined to make something of it for him.
My Mom has believed in my dream from the very beginning, when it was just me, my heavy pink bike, and some borrowed spandex, she was there cheering. She gave everything to help me follow this crazy dream, so along with Matt, every pedal stroke is for her. My entire family (and I mean everyone, Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) took over where Matt left off in terms of support. They are there at every race they can make it to, rain or shine, cheering until they lose their voices. Last year during the final stage of the Exergy Tour, when I was off the front with Clara Hughes, my Dad and Uncle Gerry ran next to me up one of the small climbs on every single lap (along with a random nearly naked guy in full red body paint and devil horns). I was in a world of hurt that day but hearing their voices each time around that circuit kept me going. I had nearly ten family members at that race and the Wiles/Swensen/Gehrke/Romero/Guzman clan made themselves known! The dream Matt gave me is now being kept alive by the love and support they give me every single day.
So yes, I have always been a dreamer, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned just how much power those dreams possess when you have people behind you that believe. It is the people in my life that have made my dreams possible. So for Matt and his family, my incredible family, lifelong friends, teammates, and last but not least my girl Olivia, I ride for all of you. Thank you for teaching me to believe and fighting for my dreams.