|Deanna Adams looking chipper after 43 hours and 17 minutes of racing in the Furnace Creek 508. She is the youngest female finisher to have completed – and to have attempted – the race. Deanna has epilepsy.|
Doubt Kills Dreams. This idea is a way of life for Deanna Adams. Deanna is a twenty year old cyclist, adventure racer, student, and athlete from Prescott, Arizona. She also has epilepsy. Deanna has been racing bicycles competitively for the past four years, and has met with great success. Just a few months ago, she finished the Furnace Creek 508, a 508-mile road bike race which has a 48-hour time limit. Known as, “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport,” the 508 follows roads North from Santa Clarita, CA through the heart of the Mojave Desert and Death Valley to a very distant finish in the small town of Joshua Tree, CA. When Deanna crossed the finish line after 43 brutal hours of racing, she became the youngest female finisher to complete the race, (in fact the youngest female to have started the race) and the youngest finisher with epilepsy to have completed the race. The 508 is a grueling two-day affair in Death Valley which pits riders against other racers, themselves, and mother nature as they find themselves riding through hundreds of miles of heat, exhaustion, and darkness – it is necessary to ride much of the race at night. Deanna`s seizure disorder did not cause any problems for her during the event.
Deanna`s condition – Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy – did not give her any trouble during the 508, although epilepsy has provided her with frequent and serious challenges throughout her time growing up. Deanna often had a very difficult time at school, especially with fellow students who did not understand her situation, and who did not allow her to fit in because of her seizures. She was not allowed to participate in sports such as soccer or swimming for fear that a seizure might cause injury. At age 15, Deanna learned to swim for the first time, tried out for soccer, and began to make some good friendships through athletics. Deanna played 4A soccer as a forward at her high school, and described it as being a blast. With the steady and as Deanna says, sometimes pushy, support of her mother, Deanna was able to make it through school. She credits those two factors – athletics and her mother – with having made high school a positive experience. Deanna said that, “athletics helped me get through high school, and helped me to make great friendships.”
Eventually, Deanna found her way into the office of a doctor who gave her some real help. Deanna credits her mother greatly with the persistence that it took to find the right doctor – an epileptologist – who was able, finally, to properly diagnose and treat Deanna`s condition. The diagnosis – Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy – gave Deanna and her parents a great deal of peace of mind. At the time of her high school graduation, Deanna had been seizure-free for five years. She wanted to join the Marines. However, about a month after graduation, she had a seizure. The seizure closed down that career path. Instead of becoming a Marine, Deanna took a running scholarship to go to Mesa Community College to run Cross Country in 2006/7. She spent the year studying and running, and is now taking some time off to focus on racing, and accomplishing great feats. This is a task to which she has devoted herself fully and shown results, while at the same time taking safety precautions to minimize risk while riding.
During the years since her diagnosis, Deanna has found many ways to be active despite having seizures. Deanna pedals her bicycle as much as anyone around. She is also careful to always carry an index card which lists her medications and symptoms when on longer rides. The card would be of use to a passer by or to EMS in case Deanna were to have a seizure. Also, she gets a great deal of support from her mother, who, on longer training rides (centuries, etc.), sometimes drives support for her in a car. When asked about her thoughts on being active while living with epilepsy, Deanna boiled her feelings down to this: “Each person living with Epilepsy and/or other challenges is capable of more than they could possibly comprehend. Once you let go of your doubt…you truly are invincible.” Deanna has said that some of the most important things to have facilitated her being able to live such an active lifestyle while being epileptic are the support she receives from her mother, and the information that she has gotten from her doctors – particularly her epileptologist. Deanna`s mother was tireless and persistent in her pursuit of new doctors, neurologists, treatments, and schools for Deanna until she finally found a combination that worked. Deanna said that at the time, this could cause friction, but that now she is incredibly grateful for having had such support from her mother. About her parents, Deanna says, “my parents have been rock stars about any epic challenge I have in mind,” and that, “The most helpful thing my parents have done is taking a step back (protective wise), while continuing to support whatever epic challenge I want to take on. That`s the most important thing that they could possibly do.”
Today, Deanna has found her niche in the cycling world where she seems to fit right in, earning podium finishes and breaking records in long distance races. Her next major project is to become the first person to complete the Great Divide Race on a fixed gear mountain bike. The Great Divide trail runs for more than 2000 miles from Canada to Mexico along a route which roughly parallels the Continental Divide. “I love engaging in any epic journey,” Deanna says. The Continental Divide on a fixie? Certainly sounds like a recipe for an epic to me. To Deanna though, this is just another race to prepare for, another feat to be accomplished. Is her plan to race the Great Divide on a fixie a bit crazy? Perhaps. Is there any doubt that she will succeed in living her dreams? Not the slightest bit. Deanna seems to have gotten rid of doubt. She would tell you that doubt kills dreams. And if it has to be one or the other, Deanna Adams has clearly chosen to dream.