“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Recently, in a strange turn of events, we were able to say that one of the benefits of living in Los Angeles was actually the traffic. We went up to a little town north of L.A. called Ojai to ride and to "get away from it all". Ojai (pronounced O-high) is a quaint town that sits in an interior valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. To a certain degree, it is frozen in time and is a wonderful base for riding. Traffic is fairly light, the roads are in good shape and if you want to ride out of the basin towards the East or the North, you will get a great work out in as you climb up and up through endless orchards.

We went up for a one night stay and got in a couple of rides. For a change, we were able to ride and talk without constantly worrying about someone popping open a door or running us over as they sped by, cell phone in hand texting away.

During our ride, we bounced from topic to topic but kept coming back to the concept of Courage. When we finished riding and began the trip home, we hit the expected log jam of cars once we got within sight of Los Angeles and had plenty of time to continue our conversation.

As you probably know, the word Coeur is French for heart and the root of the word Courage. “Heart and Courage” is our motto and we’ve made references to it many times.

We’re aware that this may sound a bit contrived but we actually started debating what we really meant by the word Courage. Now, to be clear, we don’t spend all of our time pondering the big questions in life but we do take more than our fair share trying to get a handle on “what it all means”.

Our conversation was fueled partially by a desire to not be guilty of (as Winston Churchill once said) terminological inexactitude and partially by the fact that this specific word gets used so frequently that there’s a risk of it losing some of its true meaning. You hear about soldiers, police and fire fighters showing courage as they perform their duties and it’s hard to argue that they do not.

However, we also hear commenters talk about athletes showing courage as they line up to compete when they’re a bit undertrained or coming off of an injury. Is that courage too? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. So, what is courage really? In our humble opinion, courage contains an emotional element. If you put yourself in danger without fear, you’re surely brave but you might not necessarily be courageous. Examples of bravery are rare but we thought it was even more rare to find examples of true courage. Especially if you agree that there is an emotional element. That what you are doing or saying could subject you to public condemnation of some sort even though it serves a greater good.

Perhaps that’s because, we all care more than we’d like to admit about what others think. It seems that society puts an enormous amount of pressure on people to act, speak, behave and yes, look a certain way. The pressure to conform can be absolutely enormous. Maybe that is why so many social media posts are comprised of the words “Had a great time….” Or “We had a lot of fun….” followed by a description of something amazing, an image of someone smiling and laughing, (while holding their stomach in) as they casually snap a picture of themselves “living the dream”.

Was courage really that rare? We honestly began to wonder.

Then, in a span of four days, we were treated to not one but three examples of true courage on the Coeur ambassador team.

First, we saw the wonderful news that Marison Beniek is now cancer free. For those of you who don’t know Marison, she is one of the kindest individuals you can ever meet. We felt completely sick when she announced the news last year that she had breast cancer. But rather than drop into seclusion, she elected to show that she would continue living her life. That she would be “real”. That she would laugh more than she would cry and that she wouldn’t shy away from being true to herself and her situation. When someone elects to have a Farewell to the Boobies party, you can’t help but use the word courageous to describe them!

Two Coeur Ambassadors

Then, literally the next day, we came across a blog post from Sonja Wieck, who is one of Coeur’s newest ambassadors. We’ve admired Sonja since we met her a couple of years back but our admiration was based largely on her work ethic, her dedication and her tremendous results. After reading her blog, our admiration grew exponentially. You see, Sonja had the courage to admit that not only were there days when she did not want to train but that she didn’t even want to get out of bed. She laid her soul bare, truthfully described her feelings and shared details about how people responded to her situation. We suspect, you might know what we’re talking about but to once again borrow from Winston Churchill, we’re referring to those days when the “Black Dog” comes to visit. There is no way, we can do her post justice, so we’ll just say that it was inspirational, it was moving and most of all, it was courageous.

Finally, as this blog was being written, we received some more insanely wonderful news. It concerned Coeur ambassador Amy Gluck. For those of you who don’t know, Amy has been a friend for years and Kebby had the good fortune to share the podium with her at Ironman Louisville. She is dedicated, fun, compassionate, and tremendously gifted as an athlete. She was also a fixture in Kona and we looked forward to our annual meeting on the Big Island. Then, in 2012, during her final prep for Ironman Hawaii, the unthinkable happened. Amy was struck by a Gravel Truck that had blown through a stop sign. In a flash, she went from being in peak physical condition to being in Critical Care. There’s no other way to describe her injuries as anything other than catastrophic. When the details of the accident were revealed, we can honestly say we expected the worst. Then, over a period of weeks, then months, then finally years, something amazing happened. Amy came out of ICU and began the long, long journey to recovery. Rather than pretend that things were a certain way, she elected to share her struggle. Every day wasn’t good and success wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Rather, she admitted that it was hard and that doubt, sadness, and fear were very much a part of the process. In other words, she was vulnerable, she was real, and yes…she was so very courageous.

Today, Amy tackled her first triathlon since the accident! The mind boggles at what it took mentally for her to get back on a bicycle. We’ll ask her to write in more detail about what it meant to toe the line once more but we can’t help but marvel at how the universe decided to weigh in on our conversation about courage.

Amy swimming

Amy on the swim today.

Our hope is that when that when real life inevitably forces its way past the social media façade that so many have constructed, people will be able to look to these three individuals for inspiration. You see, despite what many would want us to believe, imperfection, challenge, and sometimes even failure are as much a part of life as the successes and amazing times that are all too frequently put on display.

Perhaps these three women will help others realize that that they are not being singled out for hardship when it comes and that will make the challenge a bit more bearable.

The definitional debate can continue but there’s no doubt that we “know it when we see it” and over the past couple of days, courage has been on full display and for that we are incredibly grateful.

Heart and Courage everyone!

Your friends at Coeur

 I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

Becca Neumeier