Two days, 250 miles and nearly 20,000 feet of high altitude climbing. It’s an alchemy of the two of the most revered off-road road cycling events in North America. One of America’s toughest, grittiest mountain bike races followed by an equally challenging 144 mile gravel race.
For the 2020 Leadboat Challenge athlete, this is more than a test of mental and physical fortitude on the bike. For some of our athletes, just making it to the start line will be a victory.
We’re featuring two athletes who have shown resilience to overcome adversity. Enjoy these inspirational stories of Meg Fisher and Jay Thomas who will be taking on the #LeadBoatChallenge in August.
Story 1: Meg Fisher
At age 19, Megan (Meg) Fisher was a promising Division 1 tennis player with the world at her fingertips. While on her way to start her second year of college, Meg’s life took a drastic turn for the worse. She was involved in a car accident that almost killed her and changed her life forever. While lying in a coma, Meg had her leg amputated in order to save her life.
“Before bikes were a part of my life, I was involved in a horrible car accident that stole the life of my first love and my left leg. I awoke from my coma to a new reality.”
Following the accident, Meg was forced to re-learn some of life’s most basic tasks – eating, standing, and walking. In a true testament to her work ethic, Meg returned to college and competed in her first triathlon just one year following the accident.
Meg at the Rio Olympic Games
For most people, going through this type of life-altering trauma would leave them without hope to compete in any type of sport, let alone one that’s inherently driven by two legs. Meg, however, never believed that her injury would stop her from competing and living her life.
Since competing as a paralympic athlete, she’s gone on to win Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in the Paralympic Games in Rio & London and has 11 World Championships to her name.
Leadboat, however, is a totally different animal and a true test of endurance and grit. When asked about taking on Leadboat, Meg was confident and inspired:
“I relish a challenge. Very rarely in our adult lives do we get to try something entirely new with the outcome unknown. LeadBoat is a huge challenge.”
Meg has since gone on to launch a successful career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is involved in many research projects that test and improve prosthetic technology. She uses her story of trading tragedy for success as a message of hope and inspiration to those around her.
“I can’t hide my physical scars and I hope others will see elements of their story reflected in me. Additionally, I hope others can take a piece from my journey and use it to fuel theirs.”
With Meg’s determination and competitive drive, there’s no doubt she’ll take on the Leadboat challenge in stride. We look forward to following along on her journey to the start line on August 15 & 16.
For 51 year old Jay Thomas, his route to the Leadboat startline has taken a different path. During his day-to-day, Jay balances a demanding work life, owning two successful businesses in the bike industry and committing to his family as a dedicated father and husband. Life is seemingly normal, but for Jay, there’s more than meets the eye.
In 2012, Jay was a nationally competitive cat 1 racer, competing in over 50 races and taking home the top step at Gravel Worlds. An entrepreneur and competitor at heart, he owned 7 bike shops with 120 employees while managing a competitive elite racing schedule. Following the 2012 race season, Jay took a serious crash while on a training ride in California. He hit the ground and something within him snapped and surfaced some deeper, darker parts of his past.
Earlier in life, Jay served as a U.S. Marine in the Gulf War. He was running surveillance as part of a sniper task force. Being exposed to war at an intimate level left him with memories that haunted him and lived suppressed deep in his psyche. When he hit the deck in his training accident in California, those memories surfaced and his life went into a downward spiral. He hung up the bike and reached for the bottle. Drinking became his hobby and cycling was out of his life. He continued to drink and descend further and further into depression, until he found AA and began an intensive outpatient therapy program. He worked diligently through the program, focusing on his mental health and overcoming his demons and PTSD while abstaining from drinking.
“After that crash, something in my head snapped. I realized I had been holding in deep, challenging memories from my past. And all of the sudden, they surfaced.”
Overcoming alcoholism and treating his PTSD was a major life hurdle for Jay. A little over a year ago, he picked up the bike and began riding again. He reached out to an old coach who got him back on track and fit. He began feeling like himself again. He’s been sober since 2017 and prepared to take on his first bike race since 2012: the Leadboat Challenge. For Jay, Leadboat is more than just two hard days on the bike, it’s a chance to talk about bigger issues.
“I want to bring awareness to mental health issues. These are real issues and we can’t keep them silent. Particularly for us Marines, we are told we can’t talk about this stuff, but I want to change that.“
Jay on Leadboat:
“For me it’s much more about my internal demons and giving myself something physical that will keep them at bay. No doubt the challenge and the adventure at the age of 50 will certainly help with that.”
With a reinvigorated appetite for competition and the personal momentum of overcoming his battle with alcoholism, Jay’s motivation to ride is higher than ever. He’s no stranger to intense competition, but this time, his journey takes on more meaning than ever before.