Monica Davis Birthplace (what town you are originally from?): Frederick, Maryland Your current home town? After being away for over a decade, Frederick, Maryland is now my permanent hometown! Profession? Department of Defense How did you first get into endurance sports? You mean, why do I enjoy prolonged periods of physical and mental stress? Mind over matter, and inspiring others by being inspired by others. My first time on a grown up-sized bicycle was 25 June 2015, over 25 years since riding around the neighborhood as a child. I have been riding semi-competitively for just over two years, and I still consider myself a newbie because I am learning so much every year, growing stronger each year. I have also only lived in mountainous Maryland since 2018, which has meant training in an entirely different way after having learned how to ride road on the flats of Virginia Beach. I fell in love with cycling, like fell in love hard core save my soul type love, because of my involvement with non-profit organizations whose focus is on alternative therapy, like cycling, within the military, veteran, and first responder communities. After returning home from Iraq, I experienced some not-so-awesome post-traumatic stress. My time overseas wasn’t the only contributing factor, but it was the crux that brought to the surface memories my subconscious deliberately hid, abuse and trauma from my childhood. While fighting depression and debilitating anxiety, I reached out for help in what was an unlikely choice for most. I began volunteering with organizations born from the September 11th tragedy, whose focus was alternative therapies like arts and film, outdoor adventure, storytelling, and cycling to help our nation’s military and first responders heal after trauma. Once I saw firsthand how incredibly impactful these therapies were, I too began to take part in them. I fell madly in love with cycling, which has become my anxiety soother, depression terminator, and joy bubble locator. And let’s face it, once you witness wounded men and women cycling hundreds of miles as raw physical and mental therapy – sorry, not sorry – I had no excuse. Inspired. Motivated. Empowered. Getting my feet wet in cycling then led to my love of endurance training – which no matter the sport I perform, it saves my life each time I participate. What forms of cycling do you participate in now? Primarily road with the occasional gravel ride. No matter what type of bike I am riding, my favorite thing to do is climb mountains! Why do you ride now? Cycling is as a form of mental purging, it is therapy and fitness wrapped up in a super fun, opt-outside, challenge yourself, soul-freeing adventure. Every time I ride, I feel like I have grown into myself – I get to know myself better on the bike, I allow myself to break down on the bike, and I have accomplished so much in the two years I have been semi-competitive. My entire trajectory changed when I started taking cycling seriously, but I did make one promise to myself. If competition ever got in the way of my joy, I would reconsider that trajectory. What advice would you have to offer those just getting into endurance sports? Enjoy the ride. Don’t bet your happiness on competition. Train to your ability and then push yourself out of your comfort zone. When you can find that happy medium between encouraging yourself to do better, to become stronger, but also have fun and staying positive – then you’ve won. You are your biggest competition, comparison can be a thief of joy. Your body can do marvelous things when it is tested, but if your mind isn’t joyful, then you’ve lost the fundamental reason we ride in the first place. What have been some of your positive personal experiences from participating in endurance sports? Everyone puts pressure on themselves to do their best, to win even – and I have been super lucky to win or podium in many national events. But I’ll repeat what I’ve already said, my main focus is always the joy, finding my peace, purging my demons, and allowing any sport I participate in to help me grow as a human being, to help me love myself more, and inspire others to do the same. What are some of your challenges? Some days I scream and cuss on the bike or on a run, some days it is so hard to simply get out there – but I know that this passion of mine saves my life each and every time I do it. My journey includes coming to terms with childhood abuse and trauma, experiencing Iraq’s warzone, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and most recently in 2019, a gnarly diagnosis of Chronic Lyme and Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome (MSIDS) that I’ve apparently had for many years. My symptoms began to rear their ugly faces years ago, and I blamed it on cross training, over-training, stress monsters, my already known battle with anxiety, etc… Once I was finally diagnosed, I felt relieved to know that those symptoms had a name – but I also knew that my athletic journey would take a beating. Since I started my treatment for Lyme and MSIDS, my symptoms began to worsen – as soon as I began to fight hard, so did the diseases. Extreme joint and muscle pain, cognitive and speech decline, tinnitus, nervous system failure prompting consistent fight or flight, exacerbated anxiety and panic which I also experienced on the bike over the last year, insomnia and loss of appetite, the list goes on. I had to brick wall stop training, cancel all remaining events and races, and did not know when I would be able to do the things that bring me the most joy. It’s a lot, I know. But it’s also a lot I am overcoming. My treatment is working, and although I will never be fully cured, my goal is remission and then to take great care of my mind and body so symptoms don’t reappear. I have started to run and ride and swim again, my mind wants so badly to start training like I had been – but my body just isn’t there yet. Nonetheless, I can feel my body getting stronger everyday, so I do have some pretty epic events I plan on conquering in 2020. Everesting and climbing almost 30,000 feet in one ride, winning my age group again at the Maryland Endurance Challenge with a goal of riding 220+ miles in 12 hours, getting on the podium again for the Diabolical Double at Garrett County which is legit a diabolically awesome event, and having strong finishes at the Maryland Gran Fondo National Championship and Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen. I’ll also be completing my very first ultra running event this year. What single piece of encouragement would you offer to a young person experiencing homelessness? What matters is the right now, this moment. This moment will define your next moment, and the next. You must focus on what is directly in front of you. More importantly, how you control your perspective is a ripple effect to finding the little joys in your everyday. You must realize that you are loved, you are valued, you are wanted and worthy. Once you realize how important you are, how much you have to give, your trajectory will change. You will hold yourself more accountable, you will have higher standards for yourself, and you will make decisions based on your resilience, your self-assurance, and the support you receive from others. Lastly, when someone offers you resources – accept it. There are people and organizations out there who want to help you navigate this life – do not feel ashamed or guilty. Feel loved, feel needed, feel respected – because you are.