You may have heard of a B.H.A.G. It stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which helps a business focus on one single goal which is very bold but still achievable.  Jim Collins created this phrase in his book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

Individuals can set B.H.A.G.’s for themselves, too, though.  Back in January, when my small business coaching client Nancy Donnelly’s company, RightStar Systems, challenged its employees to set a big personal goal for themselves in 2013, she set herself a B.H.A.G.: to ride in a Gran Fondo with her son.

What’s a Gran Fondo? It’s an Italian term used to denote a short to long distance, organized, mass-participation cycling event, typically held annually. In this case, it was 106 miles, held in Richmond, Virginia. She decided to raise money to fight ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has afflicted some of Nancy’s family members.

Before setting herself this goal, Nancy, a 57 year old, Senior IT Process and Systems Consultant, was only a casual, recreational cycler. And while she enjoyed taking occasional hikes, she was not an athlete nor did she consider herself to be in top condition.

Her son, Brooks, 25, acted as Nancy’s trainer. A top level amateur racer for the past 5 years, Brooks competed in many national level pro-am races and holds two state titles, a collegiate conference title and numerous race wins around the country.

In January, Nancy started her training with spinning classes to start getting in shape. In May she started cycling outside on a road bike she purchased in April. Her first ride was 4.7 miles. As the weeks and months passed, I heard about her rides, her successes, her challenging rides in the rain (lots of rain!) and bouts with stinging insects, and hills, hills and more hills. Her husband, Tycer, provided awesome support, helping her plan routes and picking her up at the end of her rides. Her longest ride was in September at 76 miles!

After training hard for nine months, Nancy was ready. On October 4, Nancy & Brooks rode in the Richmond Gran Fondo. It was a clear, incredibly hot day, ranging up to 93 degrees.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of Nancy. She took an outsized goal and persevered. She grew physically, mentally and emotionally.

bike riders, Brooks & Nancy Donnelly

Brooks & Nancy after the race!

The organizers added 4 miles to the ride the week before the event.)  It took about 7½ hours to ride the course.  What Nancy thought was to be a course with 1850 ft. total elevation gain ended up being 4500+ ft. elevation gain!

“I was SOOO tired and SOOO hot,” she continued. “When my left foot started cramping at mile 30, I continued on.  I told myself that people with ALS have muscle cramps, and they work through them, and I was going to have to figure it out.  I maintained my training speed of 14.3 miles per hour throughout the ride.  For my division, age group and gender, there were 72 riders starting, 62 finished and of the 62 that finished, I was 36th!!”

As if her courage and tenacity wasn’t enough, Nancy and Brooks raised over $1800 for ALS research and she is going to continue to cycle. It has been quite the journey for Nancy and one that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Not only am I incredibly proud of her, but I am also inspired by Nancy. I hope you are inspired as well and set yourself a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Let me know what it is, so I can cheer you on.

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