Tapping into my “why” for riding bicycles actually begins with my background in running. For years, I ran recreationally and always called it ‘jogging’ instead of running. It wasn’t until my friend and her sisters convinced me to join on their long-run Saturdays that I realized moving my body at any pace was considered running for me, and after my first half-marathon in the heat of Tennessee in July, I was hooked. Throughout my miles pounding the pavement, I began to use the time as reflection on God’s blessings in my life. Many miles were spent praying for others and receiving promises on my own life.
Fast forward through a few running-related injuries and my gears shifted towards riding bicycles with my husband, Kyle. We met so many amazing people through years of riding and racing road bikes. Pedal for Alzheimer’s stood out along the way as an organization that we were introduced to by a mutual friend and knew we had to support. At the time, my grandfather, Kenneth Stafford, was only in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and still mostly the same, walking every morning and joining my parents for supper every night.
When I think about my journey with cycling, I’m reminded of the natural ebb and flow of life. Putting in hard work, grinding on days that seemed to be a chore, but enjoying the sense of accomplishment and the company of amazing people.
As the years progressed in my grandfather’s disease, I witnessed firsthand the work ethic of my mother in caring for him. I am quickly reminded the grit and determination that I love about cycling was more than likely ingrained in me from my grandfather’s hard work ethic. Observing my mother caring for her father was a true display of a long line of character traits that I still admire and aim to emulate.
He worked a full time job as postmaster of my small hometown while running a local dry-cleaning business. He then stayed busy even in retirement with fishing, woodworking, and gardening. When I explain that I honor my grandfather’s memory by cycling, it is not because he loved to ride bikes. Actually, I’m not sure I ever saw him on a bicycle. But, his drive, hard work ethic, and love for family time are some of the same qualities that I connect with cycling, and I’m determined to continue those qualities in his honor.
Julie and her husband, Kyle, reside in Springfield, Tennessee where she is an assistant principal for the local school district. They enjoy riding mountain bikes, camping in their van, and loving their 12-year-old furry family member, Gunner.