Ira grinds and guts it out

Yesterday I was spinning during the last hour of the 2012 Cycle for Survival event. Four thousand cyclists participated in New York City and another 6000 in other parts of the country. I am guessing there were 125-plus bikes in the Equinox Gym where I was huffing and puffing. Friends and family all cheering us on, telling us we can do it, make it, don’t stop. Very exciting, dynamic, loud music, people yelling and singing over the spinning instructor’s microphone commands. My second year riding. A real high. I loved it.

I was only scared a bit maybe 90 seconds into the hour when my quads started feeling the strain as we rose off the seat—out of the saddle, they say—and I hadn’t practiced that at all on my stationary bike at home. I was glad after just four days of training the week before the event that I was able to comfortably build up to an hour. Sure I had done it last year, but that only convinced me I could do it. I didn’t remember how tough it had been. Eventually I was dazed and numb and felt no pain.

Sometimes I stayed in the saddle, when others attacked or took the hill. But I felt wimpy. Right next to me, I learned after a few minutes, was a woman and three male riders who were doing EIGHT HOURS! Both morning and afternoon sessions. What amazing endurance.

Joss and Evan look fresher after four hours than Ira after just one

These are not professionals. Just devoted, passionate amateurs who spin 4-5 times a week. The only reason I was in the section for extreme cyclists is because my son-in-law Evan, who has cancer, was again riding the whole four hours solo, and so was his wife, my daughter, Josslyn, soloing for the first time. They both ride during the year and were in shape for this challenge. Their third team bike for me and three others (an hour each) was privileged to be right in front of them. Members of some other teams only ride for 30 minutes.

Amazingly out of 10,000 riders, there were only 36 extreme cyclists this year, who rode four hours or more…including the four who rode eight hours total. There were 40 last year out of 4000 riders, and 25 in 2010 out of 2500 riders. Evan has been an “extreme” these last three years.

cyclists cheer and yell after the ride

I met a young man in the locker room after the ride who had been spinning in Chicago the day before and in California last weekend. “You are amazingly passionate about this fundraiser to be flying around to the various events like that,” I commented. “Well I co-founded the Cycle for Survival with my wife,” he informed me. I was totally humbled, partly because his wife, Jen Linn, had died last year after a seven year battle with cancer. Then because they had tried to raise just $10,000 for rare cancer research the first year, and it had grown so big that this year $7.8 million was raised, surpassing the $7.45 million of the first five years. And thirdly because what Dave and Jen Linn started has raised funds that led to research that has kept my son-in-law alive with new Sloan Kettering drugs and clinical trials. The Linns have really made a difference.