Best Buddies Challenge


Spandex. Check.
Helmet. Check.

Padded bike shorts. Double check.
Last month, Rob and I participated in the Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle – a bike, run or walk event supporting Best Buddies programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities– with our best friends, Jimmy and Lizzy. After attending a work event for Lizzy, we somehow found ourselves signing up for the Challenge in September and figuring out ways to get the necessary equipment to train. Although Lizzy and I had no prior road bike experience like our husbands, we decided we were up for the challenge and eagerly signed up. Little did we know what we were in for! Knowing that we could easily ride 15 miles (the shortest course option), we challenged ourselves to 30 miles down the gorgeous California coastline to raise awareness and support for this charity. Besides supporting a great cause, we were excited to ride down Highway 1 and reach the finish line at Hearst Castle.
Best Buddies International is a nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Through Best Buddies, hundreds of thousands of people with IDD have successfully moved from segregation and isolation to a new acceptance in their schools and community, and workplaces around the globe. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Shriver, the Best Buddies community has grown from one college campus chapter to more than 1900 chapters internationally in the past 26 years and remains an important cause to the Shriver family– Anthony and Maria Shriver ride and host the event every year with support from the Hearst family.
We made our way down to San Simeon the night before the ride, but it was dark and we couldn’t even see the ocean even though we were staying right on it. We woke early, loaded the car and drove to our shuttle meeting point. From there, they would transport us and our bikes to the starting line. We ended up driving the course we were going to ride back down and let me tell you, that bus ride was intimidating! We’d driven it plenty of times before, but the beauty must have blocked out the memory of how windy and hilly it truly is– the coast has sweeping turns and hills at every corner. We weren’t quite sure what we’d gotten ourselves into, but everyone on the bus was really excited and helped calm our nerves.
But that didn’t last too long. We were anxious as ever to get going and knew that the beginning was the most difficult portion. Two major hills totaling approximately 5 miles in length were waiting for us– like, up hill the whole 5 miles. Have you ever seen cyclists on the road that look like they’re just spinning their pedals and not going anywhere? Well, that was us. We were in the lowest gear possible and just as we’d think we’d reached the top, we’d turn to find we were only halfway there– if we were lucky. Everyone was in the same boat and encouragement came from anyone that passed you or anyone you passed. “On your left– great job, you’re almost there!” “Way to go! See you on the down hill!” Those first 15 miles were brutal and exhausting, although I did love going downhill after. I reached my max mph on that first stretch at 31mph and it was amazing! The gorgeous views and wind in your face almost make you forget how awful the hills are… Almost.
We couldn’t have been more excited to reach that 15 mile marker! The rest stop was fully loaded with snacks and bike support, restrooms and drinks and tons of volunteers and Buddies cheering us on. We almost felt like we were starting out new by the time we geared back up for the second half. We knew the last 15 miles would be easier than the first and that the worst was finally behind us… Hallelujah!
We cranked the bluetooth speaker a little louder and sang until we reached the finish line, crossing together, incredibly proud of ourselves for not only challenging our abilities, but accomplishing what we set out to do. Overall, Lizzy and I ended up with 30 miles in just over 3 hours and a total elevation change of 2440 ft. Whew!
The finish line was full of celebration, pomp and circumstance, vendors of all kinds and plenty of food and drinks. After meeting up with the guys, we got our massages and headed to the buffet and took a seat on the coastline. Eventually, we made our way back to the house to get ready for the party at Hearst Castle later that evening.
Once we arrived back at the Castle, we were shuttled out to the evening’s entertainment– an all-you-can-eat/drink buffet and bar and an auction hosted by Anthony and Maria followed by a Beach Boys concert. It was incredible to see everyone rally together for a charity they greatly support– most people we talked to have done this Challenge for years! The positivity and liveliness surrounding the organization is clearly evident. We were thrilled to participate and see the impact of our commitment firsthand with all of the Buddies encouraging and supporting us along the ride and throughout the weekend. We headed home the next morning grateful for the Challenge and ability to support such a wonderful cause and happy that we’d accomplished our mission…. and that we weren’t as sore as we thought we’d be 🙂
To learn more about Best Buddies, visit and sign up for your next Challenge!
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