Riding Because I Can
Eric Olson is riding GFNY to remind himself of the simple challenges his beloved wife faces.
Tracy Olson will never let her husband Eric, 52 take his health for granted. A Clemson Alumni, Olson has been riding for six or seven years and has tackled some of the world’s toughest rides. For cycling enthusiasts the names the Etape du Tour and Alpe d’Huez, B2B, speak for themselves. He has also ridden closer to home and heart on cycling endurance challenges in the name of fund raising.
“Ride 4 MEE was a 3 day 500mile idea my biking buddy had to help raise over $6000 for Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF). The MEE stands for Motivate Educate Empower.”
2016 was Olson’s first GFNY NYC after his best friend Kyle Schneider introduced him to the event.
“I definitely owe my finish last year to Kyle,” recalls Olson. “We had suffered many a mile together and due to the cold weather and inadequate clothing I was ready to throw in the towel at Big Bear!”
Olson is rolling out again this year, hopefully better prepared for what the weather may deliver. This year, wife Tracy will be his inspiration along the 100miles.
“Tracy has had MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for 29 years and the last five have taken so much away from her. On a beautiful day she’ll look out the window and cry when she sees people walking, biking, running and golfing. She hates the cold and feels isolated and confined in the winter. She can barely get around on her motorized scooter any more,” shares Olson.
The Olson’s have been together for thirteen years and married for ten. While Tracy thanks her husband for being on this “MS” journey with her, Olson thanks his wife, ‘his sweetie’ for letting him take the journey with her.
“Nothing has been harder or more rewarding than to JUST DO IT with her,” says Olson.
Tracy needs help with every simple act of daily life, getting dressed, washing, even putting her hair in a ponytail. But despite the daily struggle of life’s simplest tasks she still manages to go to the gym and do what she can. Her courage is infectious.
“Some people complain about pain when they stand or walk …my wife just wants to walk.” Olson impresses. “She does not quit and is an inspiration to all that know her,” Eric continues.
Olson is riding GFNY to remind himself of the simple challenges his beloved wife faces. Some challenges appear to be Herculean tasks and Olson knows Sunday will be a tough ride but for him it is just about finishing.
“I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. GFNY will remind myself what it feels like for her (Tracy) to get from the bed to the bathroom.”
A timeworn three-word mantra will play over in Olson’s mind on Sunday. ‘Just Do It.’
“I’m riding for Tracy because if she could JUST DO IT, It would be done.”
Olson says, “We are getting closer to Cracking MS but there is a long way to go. To find out more or make a donation please click here: msfocus.org. Alternately Olson asks that you simply donate some time to a neighbor in need or a friend that may be feeling down. It is the simplest most rewarding act of humanity you can give.
A Ride to Remember Bart
The old adage, ‘live every day like it is your last’ is one we are all two familiar with yet rarely heed. The truth of the matter is you just never know what lies around the corner.
On Sunday, four riders will be celebrating their friend who tragically passed away last year age 34. Each will be donning a headband with the slogan “Powered By Bart” to be reminded that as they push themselves through the ups and downs of the grueling Campagnolo GFNY World Championship course that their friend is right there with them.
Jeffrey Bart was a cyclist, not super serious but a weekend warrior, hobby cyclist. He had taken part in GFNY NYC in 2014 and 2015 and had tried to talk his best friend, Jared Rice into joining him on both occasions, but it had never worked out.
This year, 35-year-old Rice will be riding his first GFNY NYC. It will also be his first 100miler and he will be riding alongside some of Bart’s closest friends in his honor.
“He passed very suddenly. Alone in a hotel room traveling for work, we think it was due to an unknown heart condition or arrhythmia that caused heart failure. The true underlying cause of death was never clearly identified.” Reveals Rice.
Rice and Bart had been life-long best friends since the age of five.
“We literally went through every stage of life together from playing as kids, to high school to college. We lived in Colorado after college as ski bums; we traveled in Europe together for a summer, and then lived in NYC together for many years in our twenties.” Recalls Rice.
Not particularly avid cyclists, they both enjoyed riding as an occasional hobby.
“We didn’t really get into it (cycling) until I had moved back to Maryland, so living in different cities didn’t really provide many opportunities to ride together.”
Rice describes Bart as ‘always a happy guy – always up for going out to play, experiencing different and new things, and challenging himself.’ In the last few years he had become an avid Crossfitter, had run the New York City marathon and done GFNY NYC twice.
This Sunday will be Rice’s debut.
“I’ll be riding with our best friend Ron Kenigsberg who Jeff worked with for the last 12 years and two other friends, Paul Gigante and Franko Kokot.”
Coming to terms with the passing of a best friend or loved one is hard at any stage in life but particularly trying when a life is taken so young. Jeff undoubtedly left a huge void in Rice’s life.
“I’ve definitely struggled to find ways to honor and remember my friend since he passed,” says Rice. When I talked to Ron about doing the GFNY this year, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to do to remember him. I remember being so impressed and in awe of Jeff’s courage and ability to commit to and tackle what looks like it’s going to be a beast of a ride.”
Rice continues, “I’m downright scared at how hard it might be. I’ve never even done a century, and have not trained as much as I would have liked but I know that whatever happens on race day, Jeff will be with us and we’ll do what it takes to make it to the finish line together.”
Rice will also have a favorite phrase of Bart’s that has become something of a mantra. The words ‘Wake up, there’s a whole world out there to enjoy’ can also be found engraved on an honorary bench in Central Park.
A little over a year ago Joe Sheppard could hardly make it up two flights of stairs without getting winded. This Sunday he will take part in his first 100-mile ride.
Joe Sheppard, 37 and father of 2 was at his heaviest a little over a year ago when the scale tipped 297 pounds. Every time he lost weight it would come back with interest. Finally at a tipping point, Sheppard spoke with his doctor about numerous diets, prescription medications and discovered that he had a metabolic condition that meant rather than his body allowing weight loss to stay off it was fighting to keep the weight on.
New research had proven that weight loss surgery would act as a reset for Sheppard’s body and prevent the weight from returning. This fact coupled with a family history of obesity and heart disease, Sheppard decided on Bariatric Surgery (gastric Sleeve).
“On August 2, 2016 I decided to use the surgery for exactly what it is, a tool and not a magic wand. I am now the healthiest I have ever been in my life, ” tells Sheppard.
Post surgery as the weight loss continued, Sheppard started to get to the point where it didn’t hurt to train and exercise.
“While exercising I decided that since I have been given the opportunity to have access to this tool I would put it to good use and chose to rejoin Team In Training and raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).”
Today, 140 pounds lighter, Sheppard is finding out nothing is impossible anymore.
“There are a lot of things I can do now that I couldn’t contemplate before. Good stuff, like playing with my kids, going for runs and of course riding my bike. I have way more energy and a new found confidence that I didn’t have before.”
The change came with many lessons. Having to drop 40 pounds prior to surgery, Sheppard had to be extremely disciplined about what he put into his body. The discipline has since become a lifestyle change that he has effected onto his kids and family.
“My family. They were my biggest motivator. I want to fight against any weight related disease in the future and be around for my kids.”
Cycling has always played a role in Sheppard’s life. He found out about Campagnolo GFNY through Team in Training and is looking forward to this Sunday where all the hard work will hopefully pay off.
“I had wanted to do a century ride for some time and living in NY State with family in the city, GFNY was the perfect fit.”
“I am looking forward to meeting the rest of my Team, crossing the finish line and the sense of accomplishment that will come with it. Knowing that slightly more than a year ago I could barely make it up two flights of stairs without getting winded and now I’ll be riding 100 miles.”
So does Joe Sheppard have any concerns for race day?
“I admit, I’m a little worried about Bear Mountain but I’m going to do my best and get up it, although I can guarantee it’s not going to be pretty or fast.”
If you want to support Joe and Team in Training you can find out more HERE.
On Sunday, Michael Halderman will wear number 343 with extra special pride.
There are many reasons why people request a certain bib. A lucky number, the year they were born, their age, the year they got married! Michael Halderman, 60 has been requesting the same number for the past three years and his persistence has finally paid off.
“I was a Captain on 9/11 and assigned to the FDNY. As a lieutenant I worked with and trained many of the 343 members that perished on that day,” tells Halderman.
Now retired and logging 10,000 miles a year on two wheels he admits to having attended too many funerals during his years of service.
“Through the 80’s and 90’s we lost a lot of members. Then in 2001 we had a Fathers Day fire in Queens and two more men were lost from my dad’s old firehouse in Woodside, Queens.”
Two months later Halderman’s father passed away. One month later 9/11 happened. If the culmination of events wasn’t already enough to process, Halderman lost his brother David that day. The question ‘why couldn’t it have been 342 souls’ is one Michael has asked himself over and over.
“For sometime that morning my mother didn’t know the status of the two of us. She knew he was working but didn’t know where I was. She wasn’t sure if she had lost one or two of her sons,” he recalls.
On reaching the scene, Halderman had to call his mother to say that they, Squad 18, were all gone.
To say 9/11 changed how Halderman lived seems like an obvious statement to make. It changed lives around the world. For Halderman who is still haunted by the towers, it naturally prompted a change.
Halderman took his last drink on September 13, 2003.
“I wasn’t a hard core alcoholic, but I knew it was doing me no good. David fought the devil to drink but was well on his way to sobriety upon his passing. In some way I felt doing this act was in honor of him,” he reveals.
Halderman however was unprepared for the side effect of his new sobriety.
“I seemed to dwell upon more on what’s been wrong in my life rather than what’s going right.”
Refocusing on the positive Halderman ramped up his love for cycling and was quickly able to lose twenty pounds and then another ten. In 2004 he took part in a cross-country bicycle tour with other Fire Department members raising money for the Widows and Children’s Fund for non-line of duty deaths.
“That ride was such a humbling experience, so many people came and welcomed us into their small towns.”
Cycling has helped Michael finally find peace with himself and since finding out about Campagnolo GFNY through a bicycling magazine he now has a yearly goal to work towards.
“I admit a friend talked me into the first one in 2015 as I wasn’t sure how it would go.”
It went pretty ‘okay’ and Halderman made it his mission last year to make the top 10% and (this year) hopefully take a podium spot in his age group. It may also come as no surprise that for someone who logs an annual 10,000 miles he looks forward to the burning climb and challenge of Bear!
Tomorrow 28 riders roll out for their 7th consecutive GFNY NYC
Growing from one race in 2011 with 2000 riders to a global cycling marathon series with over twenty races scheduled for 2018, Campagnolo GFNY World Championship remains the ‘young’ granddaddy that draws cycling enthusiasts from around the world every May.
There are twenty-eight riders who have been rolling out for 100 miles every year since 2011. Through rain and shine, they have experienced first hand some of the best and some of the worst weather NYC can offer. So what brings these loyal riders back year after year?
38-year-old Ben Voss loves everything ‘GFNY’ He has ridden every event and has also taken part in GFNY Deutschland. Upon seeing an advertisement for the inaugural GFNY NYC, Ben immediately made it his goal to do the 100miles. The sea of green jerseys on GWB now brings him back each year.
“I got into road biking in 2009 at that point I had no idea what I had set in motion. My most notable memory to date has got to be the “rain”. It is still today my number one wartime cycling story when I come across a fellow GFNY cyclist,” he recalls.
Alex Ostroy started riding when he was just 12. Ostroy, now 51, took part in the inaugural event after an invite from Lidia and Uli.
“I’d say they forced me into it,” Ostroy kids “But seriously, you just can’t help but be impressed with GFNY’s scale of ambition and organization. My most memorable year was 2013. I felt like the event itself really found its footing.”
Ostroy has also participated in GFNY Ventoux, which perfectly doubled up as a holiday in Provence. He found there was a big difference to the finish line on top of Mount Ventoux compared to Fort Lee.
“The usual merriment was absent as finishers were just staggering around in a hollow-eyed daze. I swore to myself I’d never do it again while I was ticking off the final endless k’s up the mountain but one month later I signed up again for the next year!”
Lifelong athlete Hajo Thiele is a runner turned cyclist. “I started riding seriously in 1993 and haven’t stopped since,” he says.
A resident of Westchester, Thiele, 66, was curious about riding on the other side of the Hudson and was so impressed that GFNY were able to have the George Washington Bridge closed for cyclists he wanted to acknowledge this achievement and support them from day one.
“The peace of mind that we ride on closed roads is extremely appealing and I shall keep returning as long as I continue to achieve good results.”
Eric 48, Rene 47 and Jaime 52 are the Villeriaz brothers and have taken to riding the event annually together.
“Rene was the one who found out about the first GFNY and we all signed up. It was tough but fun. Since then we always manage to end up urging each other to sign up after each race – no matter how tough the ride that day was,” says Eric.
Most riders have a favorite part of the course but for Eric it is simply being on a course with so many other riders who just want to have fun.
“GFNY is the one and only ride that we all train for each year. My basement is a reflection of that work, posters; medals from all the rides are on display!”
Whether it is your first or seventh GFNY NYC, seasoned rider Ostroy has these words of wisdom.
“I’d say just try the event once and I’m confident you will find the experience both totally novel and worth every penny. I’ve ridden to Bear Mountain countless times (on weekend rides) and they blend together in my mind, but I distinctly remember each GFNY event vividly,”
He continues, “it’s also the only time you will be able to race through NYC blowing through every light and round ever corner and meet people to ride with at every level from all over the world.”