In this #RideLumos Stories, we focus on the importance of men's health issues, featuring Ethan Hosford and his ride for Movember. Movember Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness and funding for men's health issues. As a leading charity changing the face of men’s health, they also support mental health and suicide prevention, and shed lights on testicular and prostate cancer. Wanting to spark a conversation on the importance and correlation of mental and physical health for men, Ethan decided to start an incredible journey as a new cyclist hoping to raise 10,000USD for Movember Foundation. This is his story.
Throughout this interview, we delved into:
1. Ethan's Motivation to Raise Awareness
2. Preparing and Overcoming for the Long Cycling Journey
3. Personal Achievements and Connections Made
4. Future Projects and Interests
"I've known a lot of people who have lost somebody that they care about to mental health issues and health related illnesses. I think it's a conversation that's not talked about enough. And I think guys are less inclined to open up about their feelings or share their stories, than women are. I want to enable creating a space in which I can share my story."
Ethan's Motivation to Raise Awareness
Hi Ethan! Can you give us an introduction of yourself and how you got involved in cycling?
I really just started cycling about two months ago. I'm a very outdoorsy person, so I do a lot of big hikes all over the world. I lived in Seattle and Denver, so I’m big into snowboarding, hiking and outdoors events. But cycling has been something that recently picked my interest, and I wanted to see if I could cycle from Seattle to San Diego. I've heard it's been done before, but I wanted to see if I could physically do it, and if my body was up to the challenge. And so, I decided to pick up a bike and train for a couple weeks and then went on my way.
Do you have any specific goals or milestones that you hope to achieve during your bike ride?
I was looking to try to raise about $10,000 for the organization for my own personal goals. I’m also intrigued to see how physically strong I could be, in terms of how many miles I could go for and how hard I could push myself. I've learned very quickly that it's not just about riding a bike. At this point, I'm about two weeks in and I'm averaging about 50 miles a day. But about a week ago, I was very much struggling because of the weather. So, I was just battling with the wind, the rain, the hills and pretty much everything. All of the elements for six days in a row really takes a toll on your physical ability and your mental ability. But in terms of goals at this point, I'm just trying to make it down to San Diego. I think every day is its own challenge. So I try not to think too far ahead. I try to focus on where I am at the moment and what I can do at the moment.
Preparing and Overcoming for the Long Cycling Journey
We're intrigued, how do you prepare yourself mentally and physically knowing that you've never cycled this long? Is there anything in particular that you do?
I think I didn't get a lot of my gear and other stuff until it was much later. I did do my training on just the bike, but without the weight. I started about a month before doing the trip, and I worked myself up to being able to do about a 50 mile ride. But my mistake was that I didn't add any weight to the bike, which is a very different ball game than just biking without weight. It’s completely different than carrying just water and a couple of other gears.
Looking back on it now, I totally would have trained better and I definitely should have done a lot more road riding. I did a lot of trails and paved trails which were really nice to ride on but they didn't prepare me for the hills and the cars. A lot of those things that were pretty rude awakenings, right from the get-go. Safety was a massive concern. I didn't think about safety until I'm on the road and there were cars flying by you, going about 50 to 60 miles an hour. So looking back on it now, I definitely would have prepared better in terms of weight and being more comfortable with cars and traffic.
You mentioned that the biggest concern that you had on the road was safety. After everything that you went through, how do you prepare yourself afterwards?
I think the best way to decrease fears is through exposure and becoming aware of your surroundings. It's recognizing when to take a break especially when the rain's pouring down really hard or the wind is really strong that it’s pushing me into the road. So the solution is that, for the next 30 minutes, I hop off and just take a break. If I’m at a place where I don’t feel safe on the road, I will push myself just a bit further to make sure I can reach a place where I can rest for the day. It's knowing when to push and knowing when to get off because there's going to be times like heavy traffic and bad weather. I don't need to be a superhero. I know my goal is to get to San Diego alive, and if that means getting off and stopping for the day, I got to get off and stop. So it's like listening to your body and listening to where you draw the lines of your safety.
Was there a time when you had to physically ask for help throughout your new cycling journey?
It was probably day six or seven, while I was cycling. The rains were pouring down really heavily, and I just couldn't move on the bike. I was pushing really hard and it just wouldn't move. I was getting a really strong headwind and I was like, “I need to stop”. So I got off, I called some close friends of mine and I cried. I was vulnerable, physically and mentally. There were a lot of emotions, but it was one of those things where I went, “Ethan, yes, you signed up for this like. You decided that this is what you're doing, you didn't ask for this to be easy, but you also have to be concerned about where you are. So maybe cut your day short, get a hotel for the night. Don't try to make it to a campground in 15 miles. Just stop. Your knees and body's hurting. Just find a hotel in the next mile or tw and check in for the night.” I would say, it was probably one of the greatest things that I did. I have a hard time making that decision for myself but when I hear somebody else saying, “Hey it's okay to stop, it's okay to take a break” enables me to be able to have that mindset.
Personal Achievements and Connections Made
What's your biggest achievement or something that you’re really proud of so far?
Something that I'm really proud of is that I made a lot of friends on the route. I've communicated with a lot of people, I've talked to young guys in their 20s who became friends over beers and they invited me over for the night and let me crash on their couch. One day, I met a German guy who's biking to Argentina. I made friends with two girls who were staying at my campsite and we biked together for about two days. So I'm making friends and relationships as I cycle down the coast which I’m really proud of. I'm a pretty easygoing person in terms of making friends and making relationships on a daily basis. But it's been really nice to share the story of why I'm doing this, and what the causes are for and being able to interact with just people of all different backgrounds. I think something that's really cool that I found on my journey is that I've met more people that know other people. Have you ever heard of the six degrees of separation?
Up in Washington, I met a lady at the hospital that I worked in, I'm a respiratory therapist. I took care of one of her nephews in a hospital and then the other day, I ran into another cyclist who was doing about a hundred miles a day and was talking to her. And we found out that she has relatives that live in a bus in Washington, which I've seen a whole lot of times. So, it's so interesting to see the route that you never thought you would know anybody, yet you're making all these connections and you have things in common that you wouldn't even know existed. So I would say the connections that I've made with other people have really surprised me.
Coming back to Movember, so obviously you chose this particular organization for the reasons that you said before. But I want to know what made you want to do this, and what does it mean for you?
That's a really good question. I think in the last, probably two years. I've known a lot of people who have lost somebody that they care about to mental health issues and health related illnesses. I think it's a conversation that's not talked about enough. And I think guys are less inclined to open up about their feelings or share their stories, than women are. I want to enable creating a space in which I can share my story. Not that mental health has affected me directly, I think it affects everybody whether they want to or not. I have been very fortunate to have not had experiences with suicide ideation or addiction related illnesses, but I've seen a lot of family members, who have, and I think those conversations aren't talked about enough and so in order to draw attention to it, I think doing something that's out there, biking across the country is an example of something that's like, “Wow, that's really cool. Why is he doing that?” And then it starts a conversation. “He's doing that for mental health, maybe we should talk about that more”. It basically just creates a space to enable other people to feel comfortable talking about things that they struggle with on a daily basis. Or if it allows one of my friends to reach out to one of their friends, and if one person is affected by this, that’s enough for me.
Future Projects and Interests
Are there any other future projects that you wanted to do? Besides fundraising for cycling, is there anything in particular that you wanted to do for yourself or any other organization?
I mean, in terms of fundraising, I think Movember is going to kind of be my sole focus for right now. But in terms of other activities, the reason why I get outside is for my own mental health. It's therapy for me. So, I work in hospitals, particularly pediatric hospitals, and so I see death more than the average person. Which takes a toll on you for a long time. Imagine, every day going into work and being like, okay, I'm doing my best for these patients, but some of them don't always survive. There's no great coping or therapy mechanisms in the hospitals. And so, in order for me to have mental stability, and solace, I need to be able to get outside. Over the last couple years, I've done things like climbed Kilimanjaro, I went out and hiked Machu Picchu. I hiked the Tournament Blanc in France and I go outside and I just regularly exercise every day. In a couple weeks, I will go to India and then Nepal and hike the Annapurna circuit. I'm constantly moving and I'm constantly outside, but I also don't plan projects out very far. I don't make bucket list items. If there's something that I want to do, I'll just find the time to do it, and I'll go do it. So no particular big adventures after that. I can see myself doing another big cycling trip one day. I think, if I were to do this again, I would want to do it with somebody. Not only for a safety perspective, but also from a mental health perspective.