We welcome back guest blogger, Loretta Hoffman, who along with her husband, UCT’s CEO, Joe Hoffman, rode to raise money for cancer research. Take it away, Loretta!
A couple of Saturdays ago, almost seven thousand Pelotonia bicyclists rolled out of downtown Columbus. Made up of routes ranging from 25 miles to the two day 180 mile total, the bicycling fundraiser has raised over fifty-four million dollars since the first ride in 2009. All of the money raised goes to fund cancer research at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Care Center. At the Friday night opening ceremony, there were a number of men and women in the crowd with t-shirts that read, “My research is funded by Pelotonia.” That made it real. On the ride, bicyclists had names written in marker on their arms and legs honoring survivors, those gone and those still fighting. That made it mean something.
At 7:05 AM, Joe and I began our pledged 100 mile ride. On long bike rides, I live (and die) by my watch. Two or three hours of riding between stops is something I can agree to. In my world, I don’t so much ride 100 miles as go for four longish bike rides in a row. Here is how they went.
The first ride of the day, so to speak, was the longest. Heading south from downtown Columbus, we wound our way through city streets, out through industrial areas and into outlying suburbs. We were still somewhat bunched up, often four or five abreast using lots of hand and voice signals as we passed a road hazard or another bicyclist. It was cool, no wind, the sun was low in and the sky overcast. Perfect. At 10 AM, Joe and I reached the breakfast stop at the Bob Evans headquarters in New Albany. Forty miles of the one hundred done. We ate chicken wraps and cookies, downed juice and coffee, refilled water bottles and headed out for the next ride.
Now we were in the country. The land softly rose and dipped and the crowd of riders had thinned, strung over miles of country roads. We shifted from initial excitement to long haul perspective. Occasionally we struck up a short conversation with another rider going about our pace, but mostly we rode without talking, keeping an eye on the pavement and our legs going. When we rode through Granville there were people standing four or five deep on the sidewalks cheering, clapping and ringing cowbells. That was a huge boost. We got to the Granville High School rest stop at noon; sixty five miles done and the weather holding cool and overcast. Amazing for August.
Riding to the next stop in Homer, our legs began to talk back. Long, low hills creased by tree lined creeks gave way to rollers; short, steep hills dropping down into narrow valleys only to rise up again for the next set. More people walked the uphills and the sun had broken free from the clouds. Joe and I rode slower and coasted longer. I took somewhat less joy in the beauty of the surroundings. Just outside Homer were two signs – I have to paraphrase but they went like this: “Because you ride”… “They found a cure”…. Just beyond was a man holding the final sign which read “Thank you for helping save my wife.” Sore legs really weren’t much to complain about. We rolled into the Homer rest stop a little after 1 pm. Only seventeen miles to go.
The last ride of the day was a tad hilly, a tad hot and a tad sunny. But we had only an hour left. Then houses got closer and suburban street signs appeared. We had made it to Gambier. Making the last turn of the ride, we saw the chute ahead with “PELOTONIA FINISH” sign arched above. As we rode in, kids held out their hands to high five us, people cheered and rang cowbells and we fist pumped and cheered ourselves a bit as we passed the finish. It was 2:25 PM and it was glorious.
Every once in a while, breaking free of all the day-to-day minutia, you get to do something that helps someone else. If you are extra lucky, you get to do it as part of a community. The two thousand volunteers who manned food stops, signed in riders, drove sag wagons or did a host of other things, and the almost seven thousand bicyclists who rode whatever distance, and each person who donated to the ride, were all one that day, each doing their part to fight cancer. Thank you everyone at UCT for your support. If anyone is thinking maybe they’d like to ride next year, go for it. Think of it as a short ride in the country.