Posts Tagged Cycle for Survival

Cycle for Survival Raises $30 Million

starting the ride with grandchildren(my right and behind) and friends

starting the ride with grandchildren (my right and behind) and friends

On March 13th, I was spinning for the 6th time in the annual Cycle for Survival fundraiser. Another $30 million was raised for Memorial Sloan Kettering to study rare cancers and hopefully cure them…or at least make the illness less painful for patients. This year’s total was up from $25 million last year…bringing the total to $105 million, since these events started in 2007. This year over 27,000 riders in maybe 15 cities rode to raise funds.

I was again really tired after my 50-minute ride. I barely trained before the big day. And then I played tennis four days in the following week. I was exhausted…only playing tennis so much, because groups needed subs two of those days.

But I realized later that I was also mentally and emotionally drained this year. Too painful to be reminded so intensely that my son-in-law Evan was not there as in previous years to cheer on his friends and family like last year or to actually ride for four hours as he did almost all of the previous years. I really missed him. I again couldn’t help getting into the loud music and following the trainer’s “orders” to climb up the hill out of the saddle. I had practiced that technique 2-3 times an hour when I trained at home. We must have done it 15-20 times at the event for real. It hurt.

But knowing that Evan was gone since last July was just too upsetting. My enthusiasm was false.

I love to tell the story of how last year Evan couldn’t ride, because he had just had back surgery. So he stood and clapped and cheered for four hours to keep the rest of us riding eagerly and ignoring our weariness. I know that I couldn’t have been that strong. After the Event, there was no family snack in a nearby restaurant. I assumed Evan was just too tired and went home to recover. Later I learned he had gone right home…but only to pick up his suitcase and escort his University of Pennsylvania city-planning students from JFK to Brasilia, where they spent a couple of weeks working on an actual design project for the government. What a guy!

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Another Cycle For Survival

Well I did it! Rode in this year’s Cycle for Survival event and helped raise $24,750,000. My Team Evan raised $54,000+ with the addition of our new California group. That’s $76 million since 2007, all for rare cancer research. And from 230 riders the first year to 20,000 in 2015.

riding next to my granddaughter Avery

riding next to my granddaughter Avery

The first 10 minutes were surprisingly hard for me, and I panicked that I wouldn’t be able to cycle for an hour. But then it gradually became easier and demanded less effort. Especially after the half hour mark. I got into the zone, spurred on by the loud music, cheerleaders, instructors’ urgings, and some younger riders around me who were pedaling at twice my speed. I was even howling passionately with the crowd

After the race with Evan and my grandson, Dylan

After the race with Evan and my grandson, Dylan

The hardest part is standing up out of the saddle to climb an imaginary hill. I’d practiced that for a minute here and there at home. But the boot camp, drill instructors had us going up and down every 20 seconds at times. It was exhausting at first…and painful. I could have just stayed seated and pedaled gently the whole time. But I didn’t want to cycle like that. I was determined. I survived my own mini-challenge.

crazy mad cheerleaders keep the riders pumped

crazy mad cheerleaders keep the riders pumped

Thank you all for your contributions and words of encouragement. They really helped motivate me. Now I can put away the bike for another year…

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Super Achievements!

Anne and Perry--super duo

Anne and Perry–super duo

I wrote in 2012 about Anne Zimmerman’s eight-hour, extreme ride at the Cycle for Survival event. This year I learned that of 16,000 riders, around 50 did it for four straight hours (with breaks at hourly changeovers), and only 3-5 rode for eight hours.

Just reconnected with Anne and learned that she did four hours on Saturday and then another eight hours on Sunday!!! This has to be a record achievement. I know she spins a lot during the year, but still…

Way to go Anne! Her many-cities teams raised $530,000, the most in the country. And best of all, her 12-year-old daughter Perry has apparently beaten all three of her cancers. Great news. They are both tremendously inspirational…

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This Year I Survived The Cycle For Survival Event

cycling away

cycling away

For the fourth year I—and 16,000 other cyclists—made it through the Cycle for Survival annual fund raising event. Over $19.6 million was raised this year, up from $14 million last year. Over $50 million has been raised since 2009. And these funds go 100% for rare-cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Thanks to all of you for your cheers and caring and generous contributions to my particular ride. It was a bit difficult for me, because I couldn’t adjust the bike properly…and then I am never in shape for this challenge, given that I don’t cycle other times. My wind was fine, but my quads and butt and palms were hurting.

There is lots of cheering, people waving arms and towels and pom poms to pounding and eardrum-breaking music, the instructor urging cyclists to stand up to climb a pretend hill or sprint. It’s impossible to not respond enthusiastically. So you push and exert and make some pain. I really love it, but am welcoming some rest.

Evan with son Ryder (wearing headphones) held by my daughter Josslyn

Evan with son Ryder (wearing headphones) held by my daughter Josslyn

Evan was one of just 50 who rode four hours. A real inspiration, and Team Evan raised over $43,000, up from $26,000 last year. We were the #1 team at our gym in the morning and #3 in dollars/bike for the entire day.

One woman in her 40’s did two hours just before me, and I was so impressed at her stamina. After my hour was done—and I had been watching the clock this year, hoping the time was passing swiftly—she informed me that she has been spinning 2-3 times a week for the last year! No wonder she floated through her two hours so enviably.

You gotta practice these things. But I made it. I had to. One friend said he would only donate if I completed the ride. And of course I felt responsible to everyone who gave to the cause without any conditions.

Thank you all for your faith in me and your willingness to help Evan survive, as well as the many other rare-cancer patients like him. You did a good deed…

BTW Evan wore his San Francisco Giants shirt, because he is such a devoted fan who lived there for years. I wore a Miami Dolphins cap, because my high school classmate Steve Ross owns the team and also the 17 Equinox gyms that host the Cycle for Survival event. Ahhh these little connective touches to make the cycling a tiny bit easier.

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Mice Are Helping Save My Son-in-law’s Life

On March 2nd, I will again be riding with hundreds of others on stationary bicycles for one to four hours near Grand Central in Manhattan. All to help raise funds for rare cancer research that is poorly supported by major charities. Over the last seven years, the annual Cycle for Survival events have raised $43 million, and all of it goes for experiments and loving care at Sloan Kettering in New York.

You may know that I cycle to help keep my son-in-law Evan alive, because he has a cancer so rare that there are only 100 cases like his in all the literature. The great news is that the research and hospital support have been working. Evan’s total laryngectomy in 2012 was followed by a special prosthesis that allows him to talk softly, and just recently with no hands! And when his neck tumor was removed, some of it was grafted onto mice that were then given different medical cocktails to see what worked best. Amazingly one combination of meds has affected some of his current tumors positively, so that he is still able to work, ride, and enjoy raising his three-year-old son. All very good news. But the fight is not over.

Evan gives me a good luck kiss before I start my ride last year, while daughter Josslyn laughs at my nervousness

Evan gives me a good luck kiss before I start my ride last year, while daughter Josslyn laughs at my nervousness

This year there will be 16,000 of us riding on eight days on 3950 bikes in 13 cities. We will all be cycling away to music, speed and terrain cues from the spinning instructor and the encouraging shouts of hundreds of friends and family members. It’s a very thrilling ride. Evan has again signed up for four hours, while I struggle to make it through for one hour.

If you would like to help support this event, a donation of any amount—no matter how small—would be greatly appreciated and help treat rare cancers (less than 200,000 cases in America), which include cervical, stomach, brain and all pediatric cancers. Most of the money raised through other programs goes for the common cancers, like lung, breast and prostate.

The people I contacted last year were very generous as a group, and my son-in-law and daughter were astonished by how many of you gave and sent good wishes. Evan wouldn’t be alive if he hadn’t had his laryngectomy, and your contributions really helped keep him going. Sloan Kettering is a very supportive community for its patients. Forgive me please for writing about this again, but this is the only non-profit I raise money for…and it’s for a great cause that I can relate to and then see direct results. So thank you with much gratitude.

BTW if you are in New York and want to actually cheer us on and experience the excitement of the event, or if you want to donate yourself, contact me at ira@irasabs.com for more details. We’d love to have you shouting along

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Cycle for Survival 2013 Raises $13 Million


Here I am strong in the beginning of the ride

Well the 2013 Cycle for Survival is over. What an extraordinary time we had. I made it through the hour, but it was really hard this year. My daughter Josslyn did two hours, Evan was able to do one, and over $13,500,000 was raised…bringing the seven-year total to $31 million! All of it for rare cancer research. Thanks again to all of you who supported this event, whether with silent prayers, encouragement or donations.

Evan gives me a good luck kiss at the start of the ride, while Joss looks on

Evan gives me a good luck kiss at the start of the ride, while Joss looks on

Although I am in pretty good shape from tennis and squash, and had stationary-cycled at home for two weeks before the big day, I only did gentle spinning while watching TV and would then stand up out of the saddle for 60 seconds, 2-3 times each session. On the day of my New York ride, the female spinning instructor was like a marine drill sergeant who “loves hills.” Unlike the previous instructor who led seated, easy rides and occasionally had the cyclists stand up for “hills,” my fearless leader had us constantly standing up for FIVE-minute pretend hills, and then seated for only a minute. Then back up again, again and again. I was wiped out.

After 30 minutes, she decided to lead sprints–six of them for 2 minutes each, I think, with a slight break in between. I was pretty numb by then, so I could barely hear or notice anything. Of course I didn’t have to listen to her directions, and some family members told me to just ignore her, sit down and peddle comfortably. But the seat in the gym was hard and painful, and some of the members of my team would come over and make fun of me for pedaling so slowly or sitting down. To my right was a friend of Evan’s who is a very experienced mountain biker. He was churning furiously the whole time, to sort of challenge himself with a heavy workout. Yikes! I was tired just watching him whirring his legs like a robot, non-stop the whole hour. And at the same time, it was all completely exhilarating.

Anyway, it is called the Cycle for Survival, and I did. Proud once again, because I only use these cycling muscles two weeks a year. Support from friends and family helped push me to stay with it, not be wussy and slow, and as Josslyn said, “fight fight fight.” I broke through lots of barriers thanks to others’ caring, contributions and messages. Hopefully many cancer patients will survive much more than an hour in the gym as the result of everyone’s efforts.


Here is an overview of the gym I was at with hundreds of spinners and enthusiasm and sweat!

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Anne Zimmerman’s Unbelievably Inspiring Cycling, Training, Mothering And Her Family’s Fundraising

Anne Zimmerman (ctr) pedals magnificently in the last hour of her all-day spinning marathon—2/12/12



To my left at Sunday’s Cycle for Survival was a woman who had been spinning for almost eight hours and inspired me to pedal faster than I wanted to and keep rising out of the saddle, rather than be seated like a wuss. Anne Zimmerman was the only woman in the group of just four EXTREMELY extreme cyclists this year who rode for both morning and afternoon sessions. And there were just 32 others who rode for four hours out of 10,000 people participating in this year’s event. She was magnificent.

I asked about her training to get ready and if she wanted to write about it. Little did I imagine that she spins 10 times a week, does 100 push ups, and road bikes 350 miles a week in the summer. I was also awed to learn that her team raised more money for the event than any of the other 2000 teams. Here is her amazing and powerful story.

Sunday I sat on a medium comfortable, ok, not so comfortable, spin bike for 8 hours sweating and panting but having the time of my life. Cycle for Survival raised almost 8 million dollars this year and our team, Team Perry, just crossed the $300,000 mark the other day. All of us riding for Team Perry draw our inspiration from one brave little girl, my daughter Perry Zimmerman.

But I think this story is supposed to be about me, not as easy a subject as my family and friends or the food that I write about on my blog, nutrimommy.com . Ok, me as an exerciser. I admit to being a fanatic, and I go to about 10 spin classes during a typical week here in New York City. I add to that one long treadmill run anywhere from 7 to 13 miles always before my Monday morning Darryl Gaines spin class, which is a rockin’ good time, plus one or two short runs, and a Thursday insane short run with Robert Pennino that often involves killer sprints up extremely steep inclines. I occasionally dabble in a duathlon, half iron length and am always prepared for that, so have never officially trained. Other than that, I do 100 push-ups of questionable form twice a week and occasionally pull-ups as I see fit. I do not seem to have achieved Ira’s abs quite yet.

The excessive spin classes are just a warm up for long summer and vacation bike rides. Last summer I had myself going about 350 miles a week with at least one 80 to 100 mile ride in there. Our marriage counselor, Gregg Cook,(hah, he is really a spin instructor) thinks I need to rest. Yet I assure you I do this all purely for fun. I know some people have questioned my wasting my precious babysitter (free) time this way, but I cannot think of a better way to explore my community and broaden my world beyond the gates some of my friends rarely pass through. By riding to farmers markets and grocery stores, I save myself from sitting in a car, something we city women cannot get our head around.

Outside our Maryland summer community, I have found amazing Chesapeake views, crazy hills, a swath of fishermen communities and farmers as income diverse as you can imagine. I’ve met people through my own flat tires, through my blabbering on about unhealthy sports drinks with artificial colors and through my poking around little farm stands like the one that always gives me a glass of water or the one where the woman cannot believe I am over 40:) I love that woman!

In Florida, I have discovered every health food store from Ft. Pierce to well north of Melbourne, and inland have found organic farms and bootlegged raw milk and illegal organic groceries. I even was carded buying Kombucha at Jungle in Melbourne…boy is Florida odd.

Every year in August, in spite of some whining and complaining by my husband, we take a hiking trip in eastern Canada. Last year, I let him talk me out of it, and we headed to Florida where we discovered an enormous lump in my daughter’s leg. Since she had had retinoblastoma as a baby, and a huge brain tumor as a two year old, I immediately suspected cancer, had it confirmed and came home to Sloan Kettering.

Since then, I gave up most of my career-related activity, I do not advise on nutrition, nor take law school classes toward that LLM in environmental law. I no longer research and write about unreasonably ridiculous FDA laws, nor do I visit the NYC public schools to check on the vegetarian lunch program. I rarely get the chance to take my younger three kids to an after-school activity, but I do still exercise.

I think the sacrifices are small, and the time at the hospital with my recovering daughter who has three more months of chemotherapy is worth every sacrifice. But the exercise keeps my mind and body strong for her.

And believe me there has been heavy lifting involved. After her 15-hour surgery I squatted for a half hour holding her leg up…OMG that hurt. Hauling a few backpacks of her school work and her IV fluids a block to hail a cab, or pushing a wheelchair sometimes for more than an hour or two, is not physically easy either.

If I look back on this cancer experience since August, the incredible support of friends and family, my husband and my other three nutty kids, the crazy rockin’ fun heavy exercise of Darryl’s spins, and the seriously tough exercise of Avery Washington and Robert get me through my long, sedentary, often stressful hospital days. So, I am already looking forward to next year’s 8 hours, when I am again a regular mom with four healthy kids.

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Thrilling Spinning At The Cycle For Survival Fundraiser

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.

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Help the Cycle For Survival Save Lives

Last year Evan (rt) looks fresher after four hours than I (ctr) and my son do after just one hour—2/2011

Last night I started spinning at home. 20 minutes. Why? Because on February 12th, I will again be riding with hundreds of others on stationary bicycles for 30 minutes to 4 hours near Grand Central in Manhattan. All to help raise funds for rare cancers that are poorly supported by major charities. Over three weekends, there will be 10,000 of us on 2000 teams (it was 4000 total on 850 teams last year) in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, NYCity and Long Island, NY. We will all be cycling away to music, speed and terrain cues from the spinning instructor, and the encouraging shouts of hundreds of friends and family members. It’s a very thrilling ride.

The annual Sloan Kettering “Cycle for Survival” raises money for research of rare cancers, which are those with less than 40,000 reported cases in America in one year. Most of the money raised through other programs goes for the common cancers, like lung, breast and prostate. Over the last four years—and including this year’s donations so far—the annual Cycle for Survival events have raised over $14 million for experimental research, and I hear that all of it goes for research.

My son-in-law, Evan, has been fighting a rare cancer since 2007. In fact there are only 10 cases in all the literature of people who have his exclusive, and intensely serious, illness. The experimental drugs and treatments coming out of the Sloan-Kettering research have kept him alive and also strong enough to ride his bike in the streets, when there is no snow or rain. Last year he was one of just 40 riders who cycled non-stop for the whole four hours. You can see in the photo that he looks fresher after four hours than I do after just one hour.

If you would like to help support this event, a donation of any amount—no matter how small—would be greatly appreciated and help treat the rare cancers, which include cervical, stomach, brain and all pediatric cancers. Just go to this Cycle for Survival link to Team Evan.

And if you are in New York and want to actually cheer us on and experience the excitement of the event, contact me here for more details. We’d love to have you shouting along…

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Join Our Cycle For Survival To Support Rare-Cancer Research

Evan rides for research, a straight four hours non-stop—1/31/10

Today I will be one of more than 4000 riders (on 850+ “teams”) who pedal 500+ stationary bicycles for 30 minutes to 4 hours near Grand Central in Manhattan. Other people in Chicago and Long Island will also be cycling away this weekend and the previous weekend to music, speed and terrain cues from the spinning instructor, and the encouraging shouts of hundreds of friends and family members. It’s a very thrilling ride.

The annual Sloan Kettering “Cycle for Survival” raises money for research of rare cancers, which are those with less than 40,000 reported cases in America in one year. Most of the money raised through other programs goes for the common cancers, like lung, breast and prostate. Over the last four years, the annual Cycle for Survival events have raised over $4.5 million for experimental research, and some of that has been very relevant to my family.

My son-in-law, Evan, who just became a father on New Year’s Day has been fighting a rare cancer since 2007. In fact there are only 10 cases in all the literature of people who have his exclusive, and intensely serious, illness. The experimental drugs and treatments coming out of the Sloan-Kettering research have kept him alive and also strong enough to ride his bike in the streets, when there is no snow or rain. Last year he was one of just 25 riders (out of 2500) who rode non-stop for the whole four hours.

If you would like to help support this event, a donation of any amount—no matter how small—would be greatly appreciated and help treat the rare cancers, which include cervical, stomach, brain and all pediatric cancers. Just go to this Cycle for Survival link.

And if you are in the New York or Chicago areas and want to actually cheer us on and experience the excitement of the event, contact me at ira@irasabs.com. for more details. We’d love to have you shouting along…

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2000 Cyclists Spinning To Beat Cancer

I went into Manhattan two days ago to cheer for spinners at the Cycle for Survival. This is an indoor charity event where people can hop on a stationary bike and pedal to raise money for research on rare cancers. There were 400 teams (of one to eight riders) split between two Equinox gyms in which people would spin for a half hour or more. With music blaring, bikes close together, “coaches” with microphones saying “climb that hill,” “sprint for the finish line,” and friends and relatives waving arms and yelling, it was a very exciting, energetic and emotional experience.

spinning to fund research

spinning to fund research

Some of the cyclists are cancer patients. Most are not, and everyone’s participation is providing hope, support, and fund-raising enthusiasm. Over $2.2 million has been raised so far this year, a total of $4 million since the first annual event in 2007, all used for research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Next week 100 more teams will be cycling for the first time in Chicago.

he rode the whole four hours

he rode the whole four hours

Of all 500 teams, and over 2000 cyclists, only 25 are extremists who pedaled for all four hours. I was yelling for a cancer patient I know who rode solo the entire time. In good weather he rides about 70 miles a week. He says, “I cycle because it keeps me alive…because l can…because I am still here.”

A number of celebrities were cycling as well. Here is one I cheered on, Chris Mullin, a five-time NBA All-Star who also won Olympic gold twice.

NBA All Star, Chris Mullin

NBA All Star, Chris Mullin

Most funds for research are granted to the more prevalent illnesses like breast and prostate cancer. However more than half of all cancers are classified as “rare,” because each one affects less than 200,000 people. These include cervical, stomach, brain and all pediatric cancers. It’s unbelievable that so little money is being directed to cure these rare cancers.

To learn more, visit the event’s web site, www.cycleforsurvival.org

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