Bill & William Tymms
With a little help from my Son
Bill Tymms, 52 is riding 60km further than he routinely trains in Melbourne, Australia where it is flat with no Bear Mountain to climb. There are two reasons for this. The first is simple, Tymms simply doesn’t want to part ways with his bike at half way and put it in a truck.
The second is not so simple. Tymms might not be here today if his father had decided to ‘select’ a child who would be free from Charcot Marie Tooth Disease (CMT), a mutation in the gene, passed on from a parent carrier. It is a controversial topic and a conversation Tymms has had with his father who carries the disease and is now confined to a wheelchair.
“If my father had been able to ‘choose’ a life free of CMT then I would not be here today.”
Tymm’s sits in the corner of better not to know. He has four children (3 boys and 1 girl) and they are all now of an age where they can get tested to see if they are also a carrier. Some want to know. Others prefer not to know. CMT is a disease that has a 50% chance of affecting your offspring. So statistically two of Tymm’s kids could have the disease. One of those is Tymm’s son William, 23, who will be riding with and assisting his father on Sunday.
“15 years ago I became conscious of the disease. I literally had to stop playing tennis, as my legs just would not work correctly. But if I dig back further there were indicators that you tend to ignore.” A cyclist of 25 years, cycling suddenly became an outlet that allowed Tymms to have some sense of normality, it helped to keep him sane and just like everyone else when out on the bike.
“I strongly believe riding helps defer the eventuality of this disease. I do not want it to define my life. It will not kill me. There always is someone else worse off and I am blessed in so many other ways.” It was a bike mechanic who referred Tymms to a podiatrist five years ago who in turn recommended an Ankle Foot Orthosis. Tymms began to wear the AFO and his riding dramatically improved.
However, as Tymm’s got stronger the off-the-shelf orthosis would break. An answer came in the form of an Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis (IDEO), a device designed by the US Army for returning soldiers with leg injuries. “An IDEO is similar to an amputee running on blades, it gives the wearer an energy return. On the bike it allows me to keep my feet in the correct position and get out of the saddle and ride (try) to keep up.”
The difference the IDEO AFO makes to Tymms life is night and day. With far less impact on his legs and back walking becomes brisk. The downside is the braces are extremely uncomfortable when sitting down for extended periods and limits the time to which Tymms can wear the IDEO AFO. “Without the IDEO AFO I walk slowly with a stick and have a very stilted gait and often stumble. Balance is extremely difficult as is standing, as I generally need something to hold onto. It is truly amazing how much difference the IDEO AFO makes.”
Campagnolo GFNY is 60km longer than any rides Tymms has been doing but there is a secret helper in his back pocket in the name of son William, an undergrad doing his Masters in architectural design in New York.
“He is on the University cycling team and we have always talked about doing something together.
There was always a reason I couldn’t and then William said just come to New York and let’s do it. I will do it with you. And so here we are. My biggest trepidation is can I actually do it? I won’t find out if I don’t try and I do know this could be my last chance physically to do something like this with my son.”
Follow Bill, Bib# 2957 & William, Bib# 2958 on race day via our athlete tracker.
Keeping it in the family
By Emma Bishop
Alena Borgmann (21) was the youngest rider in GFNY 2012. She is back for her forth outing along with her mom and dad. The event has become an annual tradition for the cycling obsessed Montclair, NJ family.
“It’s important to me to do the race every year because now that I’m in college, I don’t get much bonding time with my parents anymore and GFNY is the ultimate bonding experience.”
After the initial GFNY induction in 2012 the competitive spirit started to come out in the Lovi-Borgamnn household. In 2013, Mom, Catlin (49) took the honors ‘kicking everyone’s ass (according to Alena) and in 2014 they finished together.
“Mom and I stayed together mostly out of coincidence last year. We happened to be at similar fitness levels and after the first 80 miles figured it would be mean for one of us to drop the other. This year my mom will probably win. She’s a beast.”
Dad, John Lovi (54) was the pioneer, getting first into triathlons in 2006. Catlin soon followed and then Alena and cycling soon became the favorite thing to do with Mom and daughter routinely mashing the pedals leaving dad in the dust. But wife, Catlin has nothing but admiration for her husband who has little time to train due to work commitments.
“He never fails to come through and join us. John is just an incredible trooper to even be doing this tomorrow — I’m so amazed and gratified that he keeps on doing it every year. We are very big on traditions in this family!”
So who is going to take the honors on Sunday? Dad gives his 0.02…
“Although I started the cycling tradition, the girls totally rule the road. It’s a toss up between my wife and daughter for Queen of the Cycling. This year I would say my wife will be the fastest because Alena is getting over a serious bike accident last year. It’s just amazing and inspiring that she has bounced back so well. It makes me cry with pride just thinking about my brave daughter. SHE ROCKS!!”
The bike accident John speaks of happened one week after last years GFNY when Catlin was on a routine training ride for Ironman Coeur d’Alene when she was hit by a car and subsequently had to pull out. She sustained serious injuries and facial lacerations that required over 40 stitches.
“Lorraine (my road bike) was destroyed but my love for the sport wasn’t. Part of my rehab included cycling to strengthen my knee (my MCL was torn). Physically, getting back into triathlon has been difficult as I still have knee and shoulder pain. If I didn’t enjoy cycling so much, I don’t know that I would have continued doing it.”
Undeterred by events of one year ago, Alena has reset her sights on a do-over this year with mum also signed up for her first Ironman. Sunday may be a training ride but dad still thinks there will be a little competition going on between mother and daughter.
Catlin admits to targeting 6:20-6:45 and Alena would like to finish in 6:30 but admits it could be closer to 7 after coming back from the accident.
Dad is happy to let his girls go ahead and has no shame in bringing up the rear.
“I will be happy to beat the SAG wagon this year. But having my wife and daughter waiting at the finish line will push me though it. My main goal is survival!”
With three GFNY outings already in their pocket the family know the course well and are all in agreement over the best (which also happens to be the worst) part of the course.
“Bear Mountain, hands down. Uphill is tough but never too steep and the downhill is a ton of fun.” Says Alena.
“I agree,” says Caitlin. “Bear Mountain! I love how it’s really long but not too steep, and it’s so gorgeous, absolutely amazing views. And then you are rewarded with that spectacular downhill. I’m getting excited just thinking about it!”
Follow the Lovi – Borgmann family tomorrow via our athlete tracker. Alena #1434, Catlin #376, John #3092
Once an athlete, always an athlete
By Emma Bishop
For School Principal, Erik Simonsen, 46, two artificial hips and rheumatoid arthritis is no excuse to stop being an athlete.
The physical setbacks to Simonsen’s life have never stopped him in his pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, rather they challenged him to come to terms and understand what he could do to continue being an active.
The New Jersey native blames years of running, football and wrestling for beating up his body to the point he required his first hip replacement in 1997.
“I was a wrestler my whole life and coached high school wrestling. The body takes a real beating, not just in the act of wrestling but the constant need to always be a certain weight. We know so much more today (on healthy training), the information just wasn’t there in my day.”
Just what happens when your hip ceases to function?
“It’s very hard to explain. I was in chronic pain before the operation and afterwards it was like it had never happened. Despite the first hip replacement taking place 18 years ago it is still working like new.”
Time eventually caught up with Simonsen’s other hip and eighteen months ago he underwent a second replacement.
“It was amazing how much progress has been made, after the operation they have you up the same day and within 48 hours I was (happily) back on my bike.”
Simonsen got into riding when he was in college and turned back to the sport five years ago when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. A regular visit to the doctor for his joints the doctor saw Simonsen’s swollen hands and the pain he was in and asked if he had ever been tested for arthritis.
“They diagnosed it straight away. Medication definitely helps alleviate it but exercise I firmly believe is the greatest way to prolong my movement. Without daily exercise of some level be it riding or swimming the arthritis becomes more severe.”
Luckily for Simonsen he loves the buzz of exercising and the endorphins the body is left with post exercise. For someone not quite as excited about exercise but stricken with arthritis, explaining that simple movement can actually alleviate the symptoms could be a hard sell. But it still is a message that should be encouraged and Simonsen is evidence of just how much you can do.
“Cycling is a non-impact sport, so I am able to compete and be competitive while putting a lot less strain on my body. It’s fun to compete against yourself and gives me a reason to keep training. I actually started with triathlons. Cycling was the biggest discipline but it was the area I was weakest in so I made it a mission to improve.”
Improve he did. Training with a group of hardcore ironman triathlete friends also helps keeps Simonsen motivated.
“I can stay with them on the bike, but that’s probably because they just did a 20mile run!”
Sunday will be Simonsen’s second Campagnolo GFNY. The attraction? Always to try and better his timing but as a solo rider the event offers much more than just a long day in the saddle.
“I do all the Fondo’s alone, it’s just my thing. Along the way I get in packs and chat. You find someone in your pace and help him or her out. You meet new people, get talking and enjoy the scenery and camaraderie that the event offers.”
Weather dependent and despite recent injections for some back problems Simonsen is looking to duck inside last years timing of 7:42:21hours.
Follow Erik’s progress on race day via our athlete tracker. Race number #2395.
Challenge, it is just a state of mind
By Emma Bishop
Tragedy strikes when you least expect it. It is not something you can prepare for nor predict. With it comes challenges that at first are seemingly insurmountable but as time passes, nothing is impossible.
In February 2008, Osborne and his partner were on an ill-planned winter hike in the mountains of New Hampshire. Stranded due to a fierce winter storm, his partner tragically passed away. Osborne survived but lost his right leg below the knee and his left toes and right pinky.
The previous summer Osborne and his partner had started to get into serious cycling and overnight the life he knew and loved was taken away.
“I miss walking on the grass; I miss feeling the sand between my toes. There is a lot to miss but they are just normal things. When something like this happens you need to give yourself time and you need time to heal both physically and mentally and figure out what life is like as an amputee. When I think about my accident, it was all my own doing. We had no business being out (hiking) but by some grace of ‘angels’ I am here to talk about these things today.”
A little over a year later after the accident Osborne got back on his bike and through trial and error learnt what worked and what couldn’t work with his prosthetic.
“Some amputees who have a dedicated prosthetic they can ‘mash’ a bike with. I use a walking prosthetic to ride. It works, but I lose geometry in getting out the saddle and am slow getting up hills. It doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that it is very important to have these sports I choose to do. I am not going to win anything, but I am in better shape now than before losing my leg. I have more stamina and my mind is so much stronger.”
The winter following the accident James, an avid skier learned to ski as an amputee with the New England Handicap Sports Association. Learning to trust that his new ‘leg’ would hold up on the slopes was a defining moment and from then on there was no stopping the Elementary teacher.
“By 2010, I completed my first century, the 3-Notch Century here in NH. In 2012, I made my first trip to ride in California with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) riding in a back-to-back century. In 2013, the highlight so far was CAF’s premier cycling event, a fully supported ride from San Francisco to San Diego. The ride is 620 miles covering seven days.”
Sunday will be Osborne’s first Gran Fondo and first competitive ride. Without the spectra of sport Osborne admits his life and recovery would have been very different.
“It is human nature to move, to exercise and find new limits to push toward. I feel indebted to those that helped me recover through sport and I am thoroughly looking forward to the Campagnolo GFNY.”
“The Fact that organisations are open to have challenged athletes ride with them and accommodate them is a wonderful thing. Generally speaking the people who are also riding are very accommodating. And as inspiring as I may be to others, it is equally inspiring to me to see a couple thousand people gather on a given day and just ride bikes.”
Follow James Bib# 1948 on race day via our athlete tracker.
Just Keep on Riding
By Emma Bishop
In 2010 forty three year old Shannon Fogarty was sitting in a consultation room with Alicia, his wife of 12 years. A bout of illnesses that just would not go away had hung around for ‘quite long enough’.
The diagnosis was shocking and nothing a routine dose of antibiotics would fix. Grade III anaplastic astrocytoma, (stage 3 cancer) of an inoperable tumor on the brain. According to the doctors Fogarty had six months to live.
Five years have passed since the death sentence was delivered and Fogarty is still cheating the odds. How is he doing this? It could in part be due to a stubborn Irish streak running through the Westchester resident. But according to his doctor it is his love for cycling.
Fogarty’s path to the Grand Fondo start line this Sunday has been far from easy. The first year of his diagnosis was spent fighting an internal battle of denial, refusing to admit that he had this ‘thing’ that would eventually inexplicably change his life and that of his wife and then three year old daughter Alexa.
“I felt no different, it was very hard to accept, and I refused to accept it and didn’t want to give up my current life.”
The acceptance came at a weekend retreat called Inheritance of Hope. A place for families facing life-changing situations, the organization offers a support system and the message that no one is alone. Arranged by Alicia, Fogarty felt far from ready to ‘share’ but agreed go.
“We needed a break from the cancer as a family. I didn’t want to go but looking back it was the best thing that could have happened. By the time the weekend was over we had some of the best friends and support you could imagine.”
It was a complete about turn for Fogarty and today he maintains strong ties to the retreat deciding to ride GFNY in support of IOH and to help change the life of families like his own.
Accepting the cancer was a monumental breakthrough but it was not the last hurdle Fogarty would have to tackle. An insatiable appetite brought on by cancer medication spiraled Shannon’s weight to 298 pounds. Feeling out of control, a family trip to Disney World was the final turning point.
“I decided I cannot continue to have this weight on me if I wanted to give my life a chance.”
Turning an old mountain bike into a road bike Fogarty began to ride 40-60miles each weekend. It became his savior, a pathway to forgetting about the cancer. Alicia naturally thought he was doing too much ‘in his condition’ and made a call to the Chemo Oncologist with the understanding he would tell her husband to slow down.
“I walked into the consultation room and on seeing my weight loss the doctor told me straight out – ‘it’s this bloody biking that is keeping you alive. So just keep doing it.’ I guess Alicia’s plan didn’t quite work out the way she wanted!”
Fogarty may now have a free pass to ride but the battle continues and he recently had to stop driving due to seizures brought on from the tumor. He now commutes and sometimes rides his bike to the train station.
“Giving up my Jeep Wrangler was a bitter pill to swallow but I am not going to let the disease live me and I am not going to let it determine what my life is.”
And so here Fogarty is gearing up to take on his first Gran Fondo. Rather than be intimidated he is excited about Sunday.
“I have trained over much of the course. I feel as strong as an ox, and just want to finish. Under 10 hours, within 7 would be great.”
Follow Shannon Bib# 1404 on race day via our athlete tracker.
Robert ‘Bob’ Stasey
Defying age on two wheels
By Emma Bishop
Robert ‘Bob’ Stasey refuses to get old. Each year he challenges himself to do things that he has always wanted to do and he isn’t thinking of slowing down anytime soon just because he turned 70 back in February.
“I have done the B2VT ride 5 times. It’s a 150-mile ride and a beauty and a beast all at once. I have always been the second eldest so decided I would keep on doing something until I am officially the eldest. So it is a nice surprise to know I have reached that goal this weekend! I have good genes and would love to still be doing this when I am 90.”
Life wasn’t always so non-stop for Stasey who spends time between New Hampshire and Florida. He had a couple of wake up calls before deciding to change his habits and lifestyle.
“My mother came to visit and asked me to go for a ‘power walk’ with her. We walked for 5 miles and I couldn’t keep up. That was quite embarrassing.”
Some verbal goading when Stasey’s young nephew asked him to join him in the Chicago marathon drove the second wake up call.
“He wanted me to actually do it with him and all I wanted was to get out of it. He called me a wuss. And that didn’t sit well with me.”
Stasey didn’t run Chicago with his nephew but a seed had been laid or perhaps he didn’t like being called a wuss. Everyone needs a wake up call and some sort of motivation and Stasey’s appeared to come in the form of a simple insult.
Stasey was 52 when he decided it was finally time to step up but not without first asking a friend ‘if an old man like me’ can run a marathon. It works out he could, and could run pretty well to the tune of 7 Boston outings with a personal best at the age of 63 in 3:29.
“I was hooked but with each marathon I would run 1000 miles and I didn’t want to end up with hip and knee replacements because I did too much. That was not going to be me.”
After 20 marathons and with 25,000 miles of running in his legs Stasey decided switched from running to triathlon to cycling in 2008. The transition went well and Stasey continues to enjoy life eating and drinking what he likes and seeing the country on two wheels.
“I am 5 pounds under my high school weight. Can you believe that! My doctor singles me out as an example, it’s all rather embarrassing but it is proof of what you can do. Cycling is now my real joy. I am not going to get problems, as it is a non-impact and it comes with an amazing lifestyle. I get to see many different parts of the country and thrive in nature.”
This Sunday Stasey is signed up for the 50-mile distance although he knows he will be tempted to see if he can push further.
“I have only just got back on the bike after being out of the saddle for a year due to a platelet illness that caused internal bleeding. So really I am just thrilled to get out there, this is my first Gran Fondo and this is all about having fun.”
Follow Bob’s progress on race day via our athlete tracker. Race number #4101.