The Big Peach Ride + Run Podcast is hosted by Big Peach Running Co. Director of Marketing, Dave “D2” Martinez. The podcast is being relaunched with D2 as the primary host going forward. The podcast will focus on sharing stories that will motivate & inspire listeners. Before asking others to share their journey, “D2” felt he should share his own to kick off the relaunch.
I hope this episode provides a little more insight and background into my journey. There’s not much to share in the show notes except a few links about my friend Wendy Chioji. I forgot to mention this on the podcast, probably because I might get too emotional but when I last traveled for an adventure was in October 2019. I had taken Wendy’s words to heart to experience life through travel. I booked a trip to Kanab, UT for a 3-day trail festival running through Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Horseshoe Bend (Grand Canyon). I flew into Salt Lake City, Utah with the plan to stop by and visit Wendy on the way back. We had been communicating via text and made plans to meet. I was unaware of how sick she was at this point. I never heard back from her on the day we were supposed to meet. I figured she may have had doctor’s appointments or simply was having a bad day and wouldn’t be able to see anyone.
The following day I was at the airport scrolling through social media when I saw a post from Wendy’s brother informing her friends that she had passed. I posted the following on social media as my tribute to her. I broke down in the middle of the airport as I wrote this.
This is going to be a long post. (I started writing this on Tuesday and had to stop multiple times. Reading everyone else’s post had me in tears.) I’m sitting at the airport reading all these posts of Wendy Chioji. She passed away Monday. Cancer. sucks I’ve been reading these posts all morning holding back the tears while I sit in public areas. Here’s the thing, when I signed up for this trail running trip, it was largely because of Wendy. I chose to fly to Salt Lake City when I could’ve flown closer to the trail base camp. The plan was to see Wendy before I returned home. We had been messaging for a few weeks and would finalize plans once I got back to Salt Lake City before flying home. I purposely took an extra day in SLC and made time so that we could see each other. I got the last text on Sunday night stating that she would call in the AM after she found out what was planned for her on Monday. She’s been going through chemo and I knew she had some good days but she also had some bad ones. I never got her call in the morning but was optimistic that I would hear from her. I decided to explore SLC on my own. It was later in the day when I saw a post from her brother with heartbreaking news.
I met Wendy when she was an Anchor at WESH-TV in Orlando and I was an intern. She was always friendly, and kind, and had an infectious laugh. One day she overheard a conversation a few of us were having on mountain biking. She said she also likes to ride. I think we were all a bit surprised to learn this but we decided to ride some trails and that was the start of our friendship. She not only kept up with the boys, she could also beat a few of us (including me). She gave me the nickname “Downhill Dave” for my lack of mountain biking abilities especially going downhill. That’s how she responded to me when I reached out to her a few weeks ago. We started entering Adventure Races in Florida and since we had similar skill sets and athletic abilities, we were frequent teammates. Our group of friends would travel frequently on the weekends to ride our bikes, run, and train for upcoming races. We spent a lot of time together back then, one of my favorite times of my life due to the experiences and friendships made along the way and one of the strongest bonds to this day.
As I look back, Wendy had a real impact on my life even if I didn’t know it at the time. It was Wendy that first got me started in running. I signed up for my first marathon because of her. Of course, I didn’t actually complete one until almost 10 years later. She had a way of inspiring and motivating people. Her energy was so infectious you wanted to be a part of whatever she was doing.
I think that’s the same reason I started doing triathlons. After seeing her battle cancer and still complete an Ironman, I overcame my fear of swimming and started doing triathlons, eventually completing 2 Ironmans of my own.
I also came to a time in my life when my career took an unplanned turn and I had to start over and I looked to Wendy for inspiration. I had to start over and eventually came out better, happier, and fulfilled.
It was the way she lived her life, fearlessly, passionately, and intentionally that inspired me to start traveling. To “Say Yes” to opportunities or find opportunities to say yes to. I haven’t had any regret since doing so and I’ve had some of the best experiences because of it. After each trip, I take some time to reflect and be appreciative of those opportunities. This last trip certainly did. As I look back and think of Wendy, I realize how much of an impact she made in my life. Your message to “Say Yes”, to seek adventure, to live life to its fullest will always be with me. You will always be with me. “I hear you. I’m on it.“ This is how I will honor and celebrate your life. I love you, Wendy. Until we meet again my sweet friend. #Defy #LiveFearlessly #LiveLikeWendy
If you’d like to see a tribute by one of her colleagues that edited several of her interviews, click here.
She shared why she used the word “Defy” almost as a mantra throughout her life.
She also blogged about her journey and if you would like to know more about this incredible woman, you can read her words here.