A few folks from work were bugging me early in the season to participate in Pelotonia. I had already done this 2 times before and my enthusiasm ran out for the fundraiser during my 2 nd time. That time was in the summer of 2020. Folks decided not to have an official Pelotonia due to the pandemic. The fundraising was tough when the excitement is taken out of it. After a few arm twists I gave in. I was committed to riding 102 miles. Why 102 miles? My guess is that they wanted to be sure no one’s strava said 99 miles.
My memories were still accessible from the first Pelotonia experience in 2016. I had ridden 50 miles in the event. I can remember how awesome it was to ride with so many people and to see how many sincere supporters along the streets for the whole 50 miles.
But this year, 102 miles was a lot. I was intimidated. I had never ridden longer than 50 miles at a time before in my life. But mountain biking is permanently engrained in my being and training for a road ride can’t be as hard as riding mountain bike can it?
At Cardinal Health, I helped organize Wednesday night group rides and participate in a Saturday group ride. We did our share of training. I pulled in a few 25 mile rides, a few 30 – 40 mile rides and one 64 mile ride. That 64 mile ride was my new distance record. But to be honest, that 64 mile ride was super boring. There were no awesome trails to rip down, no sweet jumps to hit and no rock gardens to tame. The ride was from Columbus to Mechanicsburg and back. Half of the ride I rode alone. Endless corn fields, flat and straight roads and one rolling coal from the locals. I wanted it to be over. What saved me was during the last 20 miles or so, I put on my Def Leppard Pandora station and jammed to some top rated rock ‘n roll.
The event was going to be anything but boring and I knew that. The pre-party was awesome with live music, food and booze. All free for riders and their (1) guest. We got cool swag and tons of free samples. We were able to try this drink called Kill Cliff. We never heard of it but it tastes great. They allowed us to take home 6 cases of it.
The race day was off to a hilarious start. I go to pull into the parking garage and some rider clipped into his bike decided to pull next to his buddy in my lane. He didn’t realize there would be cars entering so he panicked and fell right over, unable to unclick. Since he didn’t get hurt I could laugh about it on the inside. It was about 6:10am. I grabbed my bike and headed over to the Cardinal Health team.
During the ride, we had stops every 20 miles. The first stop being at the 10 mile marker. We stopped because all that anticipation makes you want to pee. We started back on and rested at the 20 mile mark to refuel. Pelotonia is so organized, each stop had bike racks, shots of pickle juice, more Gatorade than you can shake a stick at and tons of food and fruits. Food was mostly peanut butter and Jelly. One of my favorites.
A fully staffed lunch was provided at the 57 mile marker. Great time to recharge. I ran into my sister-in-law at that stop. She is a nurse practitioner volunteering at the first aid station.
I was in a group of 3 riding the 102 mile. The lead is a Triathlon competitor. She was fast. I carried the pace for about 60 miles. So many times I thought my body would quit at that pace. After 60 miles, I fell back to a slightly slower pace. Fortunately, with so many riders, you were never alone on the road. Even if you were, every intersection was managed to give the biker the right of way and signs clearly marked the turns.
At mile 80, I took a 30 minute break. It was a good time to refuel and socialize with other Cardinal Health riders before doing the final stretch. The last 10 miles were the most hilly. Taking a break was a good idea.
I was tired but not exhausted by any means. This surprised me since 64 miles was the longest I’ve ever done. During the last several hill climbs I saw many people walking their bikes and folks along the side looking completely defeated. This was about the time my mountain bike training took over. I raced up each one of the hill climbs with ease. It was amazing how much energy is restored after a 30 minute break.
The finish was epic. You go from deep countryside to a metropark trail that ends up at Kenyon College in Gambier. The finish is a long epic finish with folks lining the sides cheering us on. My wife and son were there to see me roll in. It made me so happy inside to see them there supporting me.
Riding Pelotonia 2022 was an amazing experience. I raised almost $3K in donations. 100% of that goes to fund cancer research. Most of us riding in Pelotonia have had a loved one fall victim to cancer or are survivors themselves. Me personally, I lost a mother to cancer in 2007. She was 45 years of age when she lost her battle. My mother was an avid cyclist. I remember when she bought her Giant Kronos road bike in 1993. It was awesome and I wasn’t allowed to ride it. When I got older, my mother let me ride the bike on some longer rides. That bike is what I ride in Pelotonia. Same bike in both 2016 and 2022. It has seen some sweet upgrades since then. What I loved most is that feeling of remembrance during the ride and knowing there is a possibility that my mother was with me along the way.
Pelotonia is so meaningful to many people. If you could imagine the total of everyone’s sense of meaning during that riding weekend it would fill a mountain. Thanks to all who supported my ride.
-Tommy Schira Jr