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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National Life's Riders on the Zone

I am reproducing my article from last weeks eWeekly here.
National Life's Riders on the Zone
by Venkat Rao
National Life Group sponsored a bicycle team of 13 for the Prouty 100 Miler Challenge last weekend. This week Venkat Rao writes about the adventure in eWeekly and on his blog.
Photo: The National Life's Riders on the Zone. Karly Bressete participated in 35 mile event while Cyndy Cross, Judy Emmons, Sara Matthews, Denise Sullivan, Elizabeth McCarthy completed the 50 mile event. Ann O’Day, Rob Levasseur, Kim Potter, Jan Prive, Donna Morgan, Eric McCarthy and Venkat Rao completed the 100 mile challenge.

Why a 100 mile bike ride?
I think all endurance sports have their origins in the man’s innate desire to push the limits to understand how far he can go. It is the same desire to push the limits and to see if we can do it that makes us aim higher when we reach a certain target. Although I have done quite a few 100 kilometer bike rides, I was yet to ride 100 miles on a bike. So, I had to do it.

Why the Prouty ride?
When Rob Levasseur mentioned about the Prouty 100 mile bike ride event that requires the participants to raise money for cancer research, I thought it would be a nice way to get past the 100 mile barrier. What appealed to me was not just the challenge of riding 100 miles on a bike but the cause. Finding a cure for cancer has been a huge challenge for medical experts for many decades. Even though there are huge improvements over the past remedies, the treatments available even now make patients endure hell. If we can contribute, if only a little, towards a cause such as finding a cure or better treatment procedures for cancer, millions of kids and adults suffering everyday throughout the world will benefit. I have seen my good friend and guide, Dave King at National Life, fight cancer. He is a veteran marathoner and gets out running whenever he can, even between many debilitating chemotherapy sessions he had to undergo. He is a huge inspiration and the main impetus behind my association with this particular ride.

Why this bike?
My previous best in terms of distance was around 85 miles at one go. So, I know that I can ride 100 miles. It may not be easy but it should not be that difficult either. I always thought riding a fixed gear bike is difficult. Because, it only had one gear, you do not have the choice of lowering the gear to climb a hill etc. Moreover, with a fixed gear, you do not have the option of coasting. The bike moves if you pedal and stops when you stop pedaling. That means, even on down-hills you have to keep pedaling. So, with a fixed gear bike, I was no longer sure that I will be able to complete 100 miles. That sounded very challenging. So, I decided to do it on my fixed gear bike. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be.

What about the team?
Our team is named Riders on the Zone. Last year, Riders on the Zone participated in the Prouty Challenge. It only had two members - Rob Levasseur and Eric McCarthy. This year, we became a thirteen member team. While the team had a few veteran riders like Rob and a budding triathlete, Eric McCarthy, to guide us, most of us did not have much riding experience. The fitness levels were as varied as the people on the team. But one thing that everyone on the team had in common was the desire to push their own limits and contribute to a good cause.

Who were the contributors?
I see National Life Group as a great company in not only contributing directly to the community but also in encouraging its employees to contribute positively to good causes. For this ride, they co-sponsored our team jerseys along with Country Floors. Many of my colleagues generously donated. I always thought that cancer is a very rare decease. But I was amazed to hear from a number of friends the stories of how their families have been touched by cancer. It was through these stories that I truly understood the importance of the cause. On behalf of our team, I take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has contributed towards this cause. You are the true heroes.

What was the experience like?
It was an amazing and inspirational experience. The rain gods blessed us with cool showers for most of the day. We were relieved that we didn’t have to ride in the sweltering heat we had the previous week. We had a great time riding together as a team.

One particular rider who amazed me was a ten-year old kid who rode the 100 mile course. He was riding alongside his parents and apparently it was his second century ride. What I learned talking to them was that he started riding on the Prouty charity ride as a three-year old riding in a trailer as his parents pedaled. Then at age seven, he participated on the 50 mile ride followed by 75 miles the next year. At age nine, he completed his first 100 mile ride. So, to me, he is a veteran rider. He is an amazing kid with amazing parents who clearly lead by example.

Thank you:
Thanks again for all the contributors. Each one of you is a hero for the cause. Thanks again for my team mates who have taken me on many of their practice rides and made me one of their own.

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