RIDING TO BEAT CANCER
On Jan. 12, Liz Hardaway submitted an application to be one of 108 cyclists riding segments of a coast-to-coast route from Cannon Beach to the Jersey Shore throughout the month of September.
As an employee of Bristol Myers Squibb, Hardaway, a Wilsonville resident, is participating in the fifth annual "Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer" ride for the first time in an effort to raise funds for the V Foundation for Cancer research. It's fitting that the day she applied to join her colleagues in cycling across the country to beat cancer was the 15-year anniversary of her father's death.
"Both my parents died of lung cancer, first my mom 23 years ago and then my dad. It was tough, for sure," Hardaway said. "I've had my own personal experience with cancer, but my reason for applying was bigger than that. When you think about it, my story is not unique, there are many families out there going through what mine has gone through so this is bigger than my own story."
Hardaway, joined her colleagues last week on a 600-mile stretch from Cannon Beach to Boise, Idaho in which she cycled more than 160 miles over three days. Coming into this experience, Hardaway wasn't a long distance cyclist. She'd never clipped into a road bike before and it took some time for her to get the technical aspects of riding down pat, but through her persistence and a few falls at intersections she learned to become a master cycler in just under eight months.
"I went from being a novice road cyclist to riding 160 miles over three days. The journey has been painful at times, but well worth it," she said. "If people saw my training around Wilsonville, it wasn't pretty."
Training with her husband Mike Sjodin made the road to mastering her bike a little easier, and it allowed the couple to bond over a shared love of cycling, an activity that Mike has enjoyed for years.
The ride was split into three segments containing about 200 miles each with teams of riders — Team Hope and Team Inspire — splitting the distance each day in legs anywhere between 65 and 80 miles. For having only picked up cycling earlier this year, the distance and volume of riding Hardaway had to tackle is an incredibly impressive feat.
One of the aspects of this ride to defeat cancer that Hardaway has cherished most aside from raising money for a good cause was getting to know some of her colleagues better and sharing the experience throughout the training process.
"We've all been touched by cancer and there's this team goal and spirit," she said. "For me this is a ride in celebration of hope, and I loved sharing this experience with my colleagues."
The goal of the coast-to-coast ride is to raise $1 million for the V Foundation through donations and sponsorships of the seven groups making the long trek. Hardaway's group, fittingly titled "Mission Possible," began their ride Wednesday, Sept. 5 and rolled into Boise two days later on Friday, Sept. 7 after tackling grueling inclines and stretches of road that leave riders exposed to the elements. Mission Possible raised $72,528 from more than 700 contributors — $6,275 of which Hardaway helped raise her-self.
Hardaway said she was on an emotional roller coaster leading up to the start of her ride on Sept. 5, from anxiety over her preparation to worrying about the safety of some of the roads along the route and whether or not she'd trained hard enough. She had to put all of those feelings to the back of her mind and simply trust that she was ready to accomplish this major undertaking for a cause that means so much to her.
"We're all wearing names on our backs, general groups of people, cancer patients for example, this person or that person. So I know when I look up and see those reasons why we're riding, that's what
will motivate me," Hardaway said.
The Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer ride is currently on its third segment of seven stretching between Salt Lake City to Denver. This year's event has raised $515,000, a little more than half of the $1 million goal. To find more information about the ride or to donate, visit cancerbikeride.org.