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By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

ICG® believes the brand Be Your Own Hero® represents a way of liberating ourselves and raising our quality of life through service. It”™s possible for everyone to be heroic. To live life as a hero — and view yourself as doing so — is not ego. It”™s a personal commitment to helping others with your unique talents, day in and day out, while making an occasional statement that commands attention on their behalf.

Anna Mei is an Italian schoolteacher in her 40s, married and helping to raise two children with her husband Stefano. She lives her life heroically. Her talent is ultra-distance cycling. On top of family and job, Anna chooses to ride her bike incredibly long distances, day in and day out, to support, and raise money for, the Butterfly Children — children who suffer with Epidermolysis Bullosa.

This is how she shares and helps others, using what she was given at birth. That”™s being a hero, and it”™s not always easy. Anna gets tired, hurt and injured like everyone else. Her life has ups and downs. Being Her Own Hero simply means she reminds herself every day that living life as a hero obliges her to get on her bike and call attention to the Butterfly Children.

Early this year, Anna set a new world record for miles ridden on a track by a woman — 441.55 miles in 24 hours. Riding in circles. When you speak with Anna, she rarely mentions the record. Instead, she talks about the Butterfly Children.

This past weekend, ICG® sponsored Anna in the 24-Hour World Road Championships in Coachella Valley, CA. I was her crew chief and honored to be part of her team. It was a tremendous display of heroism on Anna”™s part.

The event began at 6:00 p.m. The cyclists would race through the night and then the next day in the blistering desert heat near Palm Springs. Starting at night means you”™ve already been up for 12 hours prior to the race start, making the final 12 hours during the day even more challenging.

The race started with great promise. Anna was racing alongside legendary ultra-cyclist Seana Hogan, who had surpassed Anna”™s 24-hour world record in June by riding 445 miles. Six hours into the race, Anna suffered a crash during a handoff. For a handoff, the rider must ride dangerously close to the support vehicle to take fluids and food while riding. The lacerations on Anna”™s legs were extreme, but she had no broken bones, and the bike was not damaged.

Any cyclist who has crashed and gotten back on the bike understands the pain of riding with road rash. Only an ultra-cyclist can understand what it means to have to do it for 18 more hours.

After dawn the route changed, and support vehicles were no longer allowed to follow the riders. We had to remain at the Start/Finish line as Anna repeated a 30-km loop. We saw her every 55 minutes or so. During her third lap, Anna called me. She had been driven off the road by a car and crashed into a ditch of sharp stones and broken glass. We raced to the scene and saw that the lacerations on her arm were more extreme than those from her earlier crash. These would require stitches. Again, no broken bones, and the bike was still ride-able.

Stefano, an ER nurse, cleaned the wound and applied temporary bandages. Without hesitation, Anna got back on her bike. She had 6 more hours to ride in near 100-degree heat.

Anna finished the race, totaling 349.2 miles, enough for 3rd place. She”™d put in an incredibly brave 24 hours. What was most heroic about Anna was that, after the finish, there was no thought of how well she might have done if she”™d had a better day and hadn”™t suffered two crashes. This race was a cry for people to pay attention to the Butterfly Children. That”™s all.

Living life heroically is a quiet, personal experience. There”™s no want. It”™s a simple choice to use attributes you were born with, or developed in life, to help others and occasionally to make a statement that draws some attention.

If you tell Anna she”™s an inspiration, she”™ll thank you. But that”™s not what she”™s after. She”™d prefer that you support the cause to which she has dedicated herself. That”™s why she heroically rides her bike every day.

Living life as a hero has a personal cost. Stefano”™s anguish and fear as his wife got back on the bike after her second crash made that clear. He understands, though, that this raises his wife”™s quality of life — and, through her efforts, that of others.

Anna is truly a hero from within. She wouldn”™t be happy living life any other way.


To learn more about Epidermolysis Bullosa, “the worst disease you've never heard of”, and help the Butterfly Children, please click here.

Jim Karanas
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