Riding For a Cure

If you had told me a year ago, as I hobbled around on an arthritic knee, that I’d be completing a 15-mile group bike-ride through Manhattan streets (in 89-degree heat, yet) I’d have suggested you see a good psychotherapist. But on a fine June Saturday, I did just that—riding in the Tour de Cure, an annual cycling event that raises funds for the American Diabetes Association.

Ready to ride! Photo: Ken Snyder

Both my parents became diabetic later in life; I’ve been told by my doctor that I’m headed down that road myself if I don’t do something about my weight (which I am). But mostly, the ride was just a challenge I wanted to meet as a new cyclist.

Okay, so I wasn’t starting out from 54th Street at 6:30 a.m. and biking all the way up to Stony Point (as were the 100-mile riders) … or beginning at 7:30 a.m. and heading up to Dobbs Ferry (the 55-mile route). I wasn’t even riding up to Inwood, as were the 30-milers. But the 15-mile circuit—which took us downtown to SoHo and across Worth Street, up the East Side, into Central Park as far north as 104th Street, around and out of the park at 90th Street, and then back down the West Side to the pier on 54th Street—felt challenging enough to make me drag my butt and bicycle home (on the subway) feeling like Lance Armstrong.

A pre-ride warm-up. (Yup, that's me: No. 168!) Photo: Ken Snyder

After checking in at 9 a.m. and affixing our numbers to our shirts and bikes, we were led through a brief warm-up (primarily stretches) before heading out in a cloud of excitement.

And they're off! Photo: Ken Snyder

Riding in Manhattan traffic is not my forte … and had it been my first time, I would have been a little freaked out. (Some 641 riders participated, not enough to qualify for lane or street closures.) But there’s safety (or at least visibility) in numbers, and I wound up with an escort of volunteers partly through an embarrassing accident. Barely out of the gate and stopped at our first traffic light, I whipped out my camera to document the moment.

Our first stop light... the photo that cost me a tumble once we started up again!

When the light changed faster than I anticipated, I struggled to put my camera away with one hand after we’d taken off … and tumbled off my bike onto the road, splat! Camera and body were intact, but my bike’s brakes were jammed tight, and I had visions of being knocked out of the game before it had even begun. But thanks to the repair efforts of one of the volunteer escorts riding along with us (whose name, alas, I never got), I was back in business after about 20 minutes … and still not too far behind.

The pace of these congenial riders was a good match for my own, so I followed them for the rest of the course; it was as good as having my very own personal OnStar. There were some very cool-looking arrows at various points along the way indicating our respective routes (depending on mileage) that I was so tempted to capture in a photo … but knew better than to risk life and limb, and waited until I spotted some at a point where we were well out of the way of traffic.

Colorful arrows show riders they're on the right course. (Ours is the green one.)

Once we turned up the East Side, there was no shelter from the sweltering late-morning sun, and my lone water bottle was quickly depleted. As the combination of strenuous exercise and allergies turns me into a mouth-breather, I was becoming dehydrated as well as overheated, and knew I wouldn’t make it three more miles uptown to our only official rest-stop. At my pleading, we stopped at a vest-pocket deli to buy water (a move that the entire group appreciated), and I downed one bottle and stockpiled another. Semi-refreshed, we forged on uptown to Sutton Place, where a tent—set up with orange slices, water, fruit-and-nut bars, and ADA-approved sports drinks—awaited us (and where I ruined my cheap watch when I gratefully plunged my arms elbow-deep into the ice-water in which the drinks were floating).

Our "official" rest stop ... as welcome as an oasis in the desert!

After a decent break that brought my core temperature down to something resembling normal, we headed west and into Central Park. It was nice to ride without cars for a change, but now we had hills to deal with … and the “biggie,” which I had successfully climbed twice before without having to dismount, proved just too much in 89-degree heat (and with 10 miles already under my belt). I admit it: I walked my bike up … and welcomed another rest at the top afforded us when our fearless leader stopped to aid another cyclist whose tire had blown with a loud explosion while he was taking the hill.

Exiting the park and heading back down on the West Side, I finally felt (with just two more miles left) that we were within sight of the goal, despite the hottest afternoon sun that I had ever ridden in. Exactly three hours after we’d started, I headed back to the pier, past the whistling and clapping welcome committee (whose whoops I returned), and dismounted to grab myself a vitamin water and a lunch bag. The biggest treat afterward? A mini-massage by one of the students from the Swedish Institute who had massage tables set up to unknot our aching muscles!

Bless the students of the Swedish Institute, who provided massages to tired cyclists!

Would I do it again next year? In a heartbeat! I’m hoping I can go for the 30-mile route. (And thanks to everyone who helped sponsor my ride; you were all with me in spirit as I pedaled along!)

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14 Comments on “Riding For a Cure”

  1. jomiddleton Says:

    Well done Jane! What a fantastic acheivement!

    I’m toying with getting a bike at the moment – I haven’t for about 20 years but feel I need to do something before my hips seize up completely :-)


    • Thanks, Jo! I say, go for that bike (and ignore any eye-rolling you might get from the girls)! It’s the best exercise for aging knees and hips, and there’s nothing quite like zipping along with nothing between you and the great outdoors. The best thing is to find a buddy to bike with; it’s more fun and gives you a sense of security when you’re just starting out. Let me know when you do!

  2. Maria Says:

    Jane,

    Congrats on riding and seeing it through! I’m glad you had fun!!

  3. Jessica Says:

    Congratulations on getting back on the horse that threw you — and on finishing the ride!

  4. Greta Says:

    Mazel tov, Jane – on the ride, the well-written article, AND your ongoing weight loss! Keep it up!

  5. marymaru Says:

    Good for you, Jane! That’s no easy feat…especially when you consider how hot it’s been. Your experience reminds me of the group rides I’ve been on, complete with arrow markers, Gatorade and sweet treats. Peanut butter on white bread never tasted so good.


    • Ah! Gatorade (low-calorie version, of course) has become my new secret weapon this summer! I never realized what a difference it makes until that weekend. Now I stock up whenever it’s on sale. ;)

  6. Barbara Says:

    Its terrific you are doing this riding. I will make it up to join you, soon I hope, for a ride uptown.
    Out now for a tour of Prospect Park.

  7. Christina Lightbourne Says:

    You are inspiring! thank you for sharing and encouraging all of us to get on a bike.

  8. Diane Biegel Says:

    You go girl! To think that you biked in such weather,
    and made it to the finish line is a real testament to your will and go-get’em spirit. Kudos from one of the MHC Dickinson Debs! I am in the midst of my own body challenge (the challenge being to find my former body as it is hidden by lipid) and you inspire to keep Jazzercising and following Nancy Reagan (hard to believe I am writing this) and just saying no to superfluous calories
    Diane B.


    • “Hidden by lipid” … ha! I love it!

      I brought pictures of me performing (at MHC, and a few years after graduation) to my Monday-night Transitions meeting this week, to show everyone that I really WAS a dancer … and getting that body back is what I’m aiming for. It’s pretty tough to “just say no” to Dinosaur Barbecue … but we can do it! ;)


  9. Nice to see someone raising money for diabetes ! So many people seem to sort of “frown” upon it a “self inflicted” disease.


    • Thanks, Steve; I know what you mean. Participating in the ride really educated me as well. Many of the people I know personally who have diabetes are overweight and not very physically active, and one might think, “Well, of course they’re diabetic!” But there were quite a number of people riding in the Tour de Cure with diabetes (identified by their t-shirts as “Red Riders”) who were in dynamic physical shape (and staying that way helps them manage their disease). I also know people who are rail-thin and have high cholesterol; all diseases are so much more complicated than they seem to the casually acquainted public!


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