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Be on the lookout for riders Saturday

Published 10:58pm Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When I told my high school teachers and friends that I would be traveling 150 miles by bike over two days, most people were dumbfounded. “Why would anyone put themselves through such misery?” they asked.

I had many reasons. My mom had done the same ride every year for five years running and I wanted to support her. Money raised by riders went to multiple sclerosis research. And it was an excellent way to stay in shape during the break between the spring and fall soccer seasons.

But most of all, finishing the 150-mile trek was all about accomplishing the impossible. The route, which somehow included uphill portions on both days, followed mostly country roads on a path from Charlottesville to Farmville and back to Charlottesville. Some of the participants never made it the whole way, so they had to be picked up by bus and driven the rest of the way.

But I figured, if my mom could do it, so could I. So I signed up, pestered friends, family and teachers for money and trained for a couple months right before the mid-June event. But there was no preparing for this event.

The first day, it poured the entire time, causing issues with deep puddles, slippery mud and, sometimes, an inability to see more than three feet of me. The second day was thankfully sunny, but the temperature had climbed to 95 degrees and the air was so humid that it felt as though I was swimming instead of cycling.

But it was also one of the most fun and satisfying experiences of my life. Pushing myself to the limit in less-than-ideal conditions made completing the 150-mile, two-day trek a high point in my life. Knowing I was doing it to raise money and awareness for a disease that left people unable to control their bodies made the difficult part worth it.

Before the event, what scared me most was the prospect of drivers on the road not being careful. And with the race occurring on mostly country roads, there would be no sidewalks. Deep ditches lined most of the roads, leaving no safe place for bikers to go if a car got too close.

But my worries proved unfounded. The cars that did pass us decreased their speed to well under the limit and gave bikers wide berth. Many honked and called encouragement to us as they passed. Some, having read about the event coming to their area, put out thank-you signs on their front lawns. A woman who had recently been diagnosed with MS helped hand out water bottles at a rest stop near her home, just so she could personally thank as many riders as she could.

Looking back, I realize the support of strangers was probably the best part of the event. That’s why I encourage Suffolkians to pay attention Saturday morning if they travel the city’s roads.

Participants in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour De Cure will be raising money for research by biking 10, 30, 65 or 100 miles around the city, starting at King’s Fork High School. Take care to be vigilant, especially on back roads, and give bikers the room they need to reach their goals safely. Consider offering a friendly wave and a smile to those battling fatigue and heat to raise money for a disease that affects many in Suffolk.

And if you feel the urge to prove your mettle, you can still sign up to ride on the morning of the event. Just visit www.diabetes.org/hamptonroadsvatour for information.

 

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