Rein in Sarcoma volunteer Carol Skaja-Jacobsen was unsure about participating in the Chainbreaker bike ride, but she did it for the cause and had a great experience. Read about her experience below.
When I received the very first notification regarding the Chainbreaker ride, I immediately deleted it, thinking this would never interest me, nor would it be anything I would ever consider doing for a number of reasons.
When I saw that Dr. Cheng, who I am fortunate enough to administratively support in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Minnesota, was our department champion for Chainbreaker, I realized I wanted to help somehow, even if it was just volunteering on the day of the Chainbreaker ride.
This year I volunteered at the Rein in Sarcoma Party in the Park. That experience changed my mind regarding the Chainbreaker ride the instant I arrived. I saw so many people who have endured cancer either by being the patient or a family member of a patient. I saw proud and happy survivors taking photos with the physician who treated them. The part that really made my final decision to join the Chainbreaker ride to fight against cancer was seeing the lighted luminary bags in memory and in honor of so many loved ones that evening. My own father passed away from cancer, so I wanted to ride in memory of him as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and friends, and also for those who endured cancer, and are survivors.
In addition to riding to help raise funds for the fight against cancer, I decided the exercise I would get while training for the ride would benefit my own health. I thought of it this way: I am a healthy 48-year-old who has the chance to benefit something so worthwhile while getting myself in shape, why not!
I signed up for the 25-mile ride and enjoyed every single training bike ride this spring and summer. I started out only riding a few blocks and slowly built up endurance and went further each ride.
The evening before the ride, the Chainbreaker event started with a great picnic-type event. There were food, drinks, speakers, and music that made me really excited for the ride. We were able to drop our bikes off safely and keep them there overnight. The check-in process ran extremely smooth and was one less thing to worry about on the day of the ride.
On the morning of the Chainbreaker bike ride, I woke up excited and also, in a way, dreading the bike ride. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it. The weather was absolutely perfect though! I arrived by 5:30 AM and there was already music playing, food and beverages set out, volunteers everywhere, and our bikes safely in their spots. Picking up our bikes was just as easy as dropping them off. The numerous volunteers were extremely helpful during the entire event.
After everyone had a chance to fuel up on food and beverages, we lined up according to groups with the 180-mile riders first, followed by the 100-mile riders, then 50-mile riders, and last but not least, the 25-mile riders. The crowd was full of energy. Seeing the different teams together, taking photos, chatting, and laughing was so uplifting.
Team Sarcoma lined up together in our bright yellow shirts and off we went. I have to admit, the very first hill, which was just a few minutes into the ride, was quite difficult for me. I thought I would have to quit! Watching people from all different athletic abilities, ages, shapes, and sizes make it up the hill ahead of me gave me the encouragement to do it, not to mention, I am a bit competitive. There were several parts of the course of going up and down hills, but the adrenaline kicks in when you watch everyone doing it. There were people in neighborhoods cheering us on which made it all the more fun. My teammate, Larissa, was right alongside me giving words of encouragement also. After a few miles, we had a rest stop. There was more music, a lot of snacks, beverages, and more cheerleaders for us. It was perfect timing for a little rest and for some refreshments.
The ride was lovely, going through the country, through parts of cities where I have never been. Within no time at all, I saw another sign which said “rest stop ahead.” As I climbed up one last hill, I could hear more celebratory music. There were more volunteers telling riders where to go. After a turning a couple more street corners, we had the Chainbreaker volunteers cheering us on as we crossed the finish line. It was the best feeling ever!! In addition to that, there were a lot of family members and a few co-workers along with Pete and Sue Wyckhoff welcoming us and congratulating us on our successful ride.
I felt like I accomplished a huge goal, but decided that isn’t enough. I promised myself that next year I want to ride 50 miles in the Chainbreaker ride, after losing 50 pounds in the next year, all before I turn 50 in October 2018.
I am encouraging more and more people to join this great fun event next year. If I could do it, anyone can. Prior to this spring, I have not even been on a bike for about 30 years. I’d have to say, Chainbreaker changed my life since I plan to continue biking, and will definitely join in the Chainbreaker ride annually. I hope everyone reading this plans to ride next year. You will love it!
- Carol Skaja-Jacobsen