I stepped off my crazy training plan on Friday to drive out to Ohio to visit The Million Mile Man, Danny Chew. Ever since I met Danny about 6 years ago as Cycling Fusion asked permission to film The Dirty Dozen, I have been inspired by him. From winning RAAM twice, to his goal of riding a million miles in his lifetime, to the crazy 24 hour Cathedral of Learning step climbing, I just couldn’t imagine having goals that big. In fact, after I finished riding the dirty dozen in our camera car the first year we filmed it, I was even more convinced that I could not handle those hills.
One year later, it was the very fact that I did not think I could do it that made it feel like a “Danny goal”. I had to train for 3 of the hardest months in my life so that I could be the first double hip replacement to finish. That all happened, because Danny’s goals showed me that mine were always within my comfort zone, and I would never know what I am capable of until I start picking goals outside of it.
Fast forward to last September, and Danny’s world is turned upside down. From the man with arguably the strongest legs in Pittsburgh and beyond, to a man who can no longer feel his body from his chest down. As Danny put it to me on Friday, he went “From the ceiling to the floor in the blink of an eye”. Now Danny’s mission is to build his upper body to be as strong as his lower body, and this challenge alone doesn’t even touch the magnitude of what is before him. He is learning life all over again. He is starting his “second half” by starting over from head to toe. The enormity of just learning to live day to day without the bottom half of your body would put most of us in a hopeless tail spin…. But not Danny.
On Friday I watched him work out harder with a personal trainer (Jerry Guerriero, from Central Wellness) than I have ever done when I had my trainer a few years ago. I watched him follow that up with a 3 mile wheelchair run (timed with my stop watch of course) as he tried to beat his best time even after that excruciating workout. I watched him look at his life, and how “upside down” it is right now, and find one good thing after another that can provide hope and motivation for his day to day struggles.
Believe me, Danny is not feeling like life is butterflies and rainbows right now. He is painfully aware of both how much his life has changed, as well as how hard each day is now and going forward. The “good news” is though, he chooses not to make that his focus. He knows that he can not only create goals for himself to crush (something he continues to excel at), but he can continue to inspire others and in many cases more than he has done in the past. It has already happened multiple times since his accident. His sphere of influence now is wider than ever.
I left my visit feeling like my life doesn’t shine a candle to Danny Chew… a familiar feeling from all the years I’ve known him. Yet, just like in years past, I left feeling inspired to become the best version of myself I can be. Whatever I think is that “best version” is, there is probably one level better if I can never give up and remember to think like Danny Chew. Thanks Danny… you’ve done it again.