Texas 4000: Why We Ride -- Part II

How do you get a group of 80-plus college students ready to ride to Alaska? You start by doing a lot of burpees.

Ben Keeler

In Texas 4000, we center our mission on spreading Hope, Knowledge, and Charity from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska. In order to do this, we will ride the world’s longest charity bike ride—just more than 4,500 miles across North America—in an effort to touch as many people’s lives as we can. So while the ride itself isn’t what Texas 4000 is all about, it is the mechanism that allows us to have the greatest impact.

Let’s start from the beginning. Riding a bike across the continent to fight cancer requires a special kind of person and a special kind of passion, and that person might not necessarily be a cyclist. In fact, the organization has evolved significantly since the first team rolled into Anchorage in the summer of 2004. While that team was comprised of experienced cyclists who were looking for a way to apply their specific talents to the fight against cancer, the current iteration of the team is made up of very diverse backgrounds. Very few of our riders had any cycling experience prior to being selected for Texas 4000, but rather a passion for making a profound difference in the cancer community.

So how do you get a group of 80-plus college students, many of whom haven’t been on a bike since middle school, ready to ride to Alaska? You start by doing a lot of burpees.

As a Texas 4000 rider, you are selected a full 18 months prior to your departure date because the process of planning and training for a bike ride of this magnitude takes so long. The team doesn’t receive their bikes until about eight months before leaving for the ride, so this means that for nearly 10 months of being in an organization dedicated to riding a bike to Alaska, we didn’t have bikes. We went through a lot of early morning workouts at Austin High School, 5K runs around Clark Field on the University of Texas campus, and yes, a lot of burpees. As with any sort of training for an endurance event, it is important to build a sold foundation of fitness upon which you can add levels of intensity.

Fast forward to November 2013. Thanks to our partnership with Jack and Adam’s Bicycles here in Austin, each rider was fitted for a brand new 2014 Felt Z85 road bike. From there it was a matter of running through a lot of basic bike skills such as getting used to clipless pedals and becoming comfortable on a road bike. The team caught on quickly and then it was time to finally begin out training rides.

The structure of Texas 4000’s training is very simple, but effective. We have scheduled team rides on Saturdays that riders are required to attend and during the week, we try to ride whenever we have a free couple of hours. We are all college students, so between work, school, other organizations, as well as all of Texas 4000’s commitments, including fundraising, volunteering, and planning the summer ride, it can be hard to find free time to ride. Regardless, we make it happen, as each rider is accountable for a minimum of 1,500 training miles before leaving for Alaska. Texas 4000 is a group of incredibly driven young people, and that quality is best exemplified by how well all of these responsibilities and commitments are juggled.

Training rides are extremely important to Texas 4000 for a myriad of reasons. Obviously, they are essential to getting our bodies ready to ride for 70 days to Alaska, but they also provide the perfect opportunity to bond with your teammates. There’s not much else to do while on the bike for six hours, so you’re forced to get to know one another. One of our very first training rides as a team in January was a short 30-mile ride around Shoal Creek in North Austin. It was an extremely surreal experience, as we had been in the organization for more than a year, and we had finally taken the first steps to getting to Alaska. From there, we have steadily increased our distance and pace to the point that 30 miles is considered a quick ride to fit in after class.

In March, we dedicated the first weekend of Spring Break to riding for three days, making a triangle between Austin, San Marcos, and Lakeway. For most of the team, it was the first time they had ever ridden three days in a row, much less without sleeping in their own bed in between. This was our first taste of the summer ride, and it was certainly a wake up call. Sleeping on a gym floor after riding nearly 60 miles in the rain only to get up and do it all over again is no easy task, but that’s Canada, or so alumni have told us.

Our ride distances have increased since then, and our training will continue until we leave for Alaska. Each rider is required to pass the Century Test—100 miles in less than 10 hours—before leaving for Alaska, and soon rides like that will become the norm. As we train, we remember those who we are riding for. The names of our loved ones who have been affected by cancer run through our heads as we are battling a hill, or a killer headwind, or the rain, and we know that no matter how difficult things get on the bike, it will never be as difficult as fighting cancer.

We ride to spread Hope, Knowledge, and Charity from Austin to Alaska, and we won’t stop until cancer is a thing of the past. 

Texas 4000 is dedicated to fighting cancer by sharing hope, knowledge, and charity.  We cultivate the next generation to lead the fight against cancer through our cornerstone event, a more than 4,000 mile bicycle ride from Texas to Alaska.  Join the 2014 team on the first day of their 70-day journey in Texas 4000’s ATLAS ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas.  The ride features a 25, 50, and 70 mile option and ends with a finish line party at Pillar Bluff winery in Lampasas that will include Texas BBQ, wine tasting, and live music.  Find more information and register here: atlasride.org.

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