My name is Veronica Baez and I am a first-time rider in this year’s Tour DaVita. I have been with The Everett Clinic for almost eight years, but my experience as a new DaVita Village member has been nothing short of amazing. In 2016, I read about Tour DaVita through internal emails and it caught my attention. But at that time, joining the tour felt like only a dream to me. At the time, I had not been on a bike in over twenty years and I felt that I was not strong enough, both mentally and physically. In my opinion, I was older, beefier and worn around the edges. However, despite all of that I knew I wanted to change my ways and get back to a healthier me.
Luckily, in late March, I was able to attend DaVita Academy in Denver. Everything I hoped that DaVita Academy would be – it was. My cup was filled with positivity and I felt empowered. And the best part is that at during DaVita Academy, Yoda announced, “The Tour DaVita site was just released yesterday. This year Tour DaVita will be in the beautiful Snohomish, Washington.” Considering this is my home town, I knew this was my year to take it on!
When I registered, I was afraid that I wouldn’t land a spot. But when you do something with intense will and passion, life has a way of bringing it to you. I completed the registration and I immediately knew that I was in for the ride of a lifetime. Now all I needed to do was to learn how to ride a real bicycle. When I was eight, I kind of got the hang of how to pedal and go, but I had no idea how to ride a bike with gears. I had never learned how to start from a complete stand still and I was nervous about riding on suburban streets. I was worried I’d lose my balance, sprawl out on the pavement and I was also concerned about what I would do if a car came. I feared going uphill because I thought that I might start rolling backward and then freak out.
I had no time to take a class so I started teaching myself by watching YouTube videos, and reading all I could on proper seat levels and RPMs during my kid’s swimming and soccer practices. I quickly learned that there was more to a bike than the ‘pedal and go’ I had learned in my early days. I eventually borrowed a bicycle and helmet from my son and made it to a bicycle trail.
Another source of worry for me is that I searched high and low and realized I am the only rider this year from The Everett Clinic. However, after time I realized that I already have the best training team, my very own family. I always imagined cycling would be fun, but I have found that it is exhilarating. Riding a bike feels like I’m really traveling. When you’re driving a car, the speed is mediated by the machine you’re controlling, whereas on the bike there’s a much stronger corporeal connection. Learning to ride as an adult is almost better because it’s more of an accomplishment. The confidence I’ve gained has empowered me to be more active in my life. I have lost 20 pounds, experienced better cardiovascular health, energy and overall strength. In addition, cycling is a fun family activity! It’s liberating, exciting and every day brings a new adventure on my bike. Another thing that makes me very happy is the effect it has had on my friends and family. People see my contagious joy and want to grab that for themselves; many of them are getting on bikes for the first time in years.
The fundraising part of Tour DaVita was also incredibly impactful. Raising money for people in need made me realize how much we all want to help. What I hear most from my family and friends is, “We want to help a good cause, but we don’t know how or where.” They say that donating to my cause has made it easier for them to give back. I feel that fundraising empowers me to be the bridge between my community and Bridge of Life, DaVita’s charity organization. Through this journey, I have come to realize that helping and caring for a person in need is the key to achieving happiness.
Training for Tour DaVita has taught me to conquer fear by connecting with others. To write about it, talk about it, put it on social media and to seek encouragement. With very little biking history I am excited to see what the future holds for me in the cycling world. Now I am good at a sport and can keep up with my kids. Last, but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge that I have taken an important first step, believing in myself. I am now part of a wonderful community and I know without the support from my family, friends and this community, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you for everything.