By Gary Hirsch, a member of the Rotary Club of Tucson, Arizona, and an organizer of the Ride to End Polio
Being a cyclist, I didn’t think much in advance about completing the 111 miles of El Tour de Tucson for the 2012 Ride to End Polio. The 111 miles is a big haul, but not as big as planning an event like this.
The ride began for our planning committee back in March. District Governor Randy Brooks set an audacious goal of raising US$200,000. I didn’t think we’d make it, but then I didn’t think we would make last year’s $100,000 goal, which we did. Once again, I was unnecessarily pessimistic, so far we have raised more than $375,000.
But this year for me was different. I caught a cold a week before and had to keep running my business and coordinating the final planning efforts for the ride and associated events. I thought the cold would be gone by ride day, but I was wrong. I didn’t want to disappoint friends and supporters, and mostly me, by dropping back to a shorter distance.
We met at 6:15 a.m. so we could gather for photos with General Secretary John Hewko and his wife, Marga, and other Rotarians in for the ride. I wouldn’t let myself question whether I could make it. All that was left was to ride.
At the 75 mile point my phone rang. My wife, Kandy, had reached the Rotary aid station. I was about eight miles away, so she waited for me to arrive. She was concerned about how I was holding up. We spoke briefly. I was tired. She resumed her ride, and I elected to finish the remaining 30 miles with Charity McKenzie, daughter of Bob McKenzie, our top fund raiser.
Those last 30 miles were tough. My cold was getting to me and after seven plus hours in the saddle, I was sore. To make matters worse, eight of the last dozen or so miles are on Silverbell Road, a virtual washboard. But we pedaled on, neither of us admitting how tired we were. When we reached the turn off the I-10 frontage road, the officer told us we had one mile to go. I knew I was home.
We rode into the finish line chute—the Rotary booth in sight. Kandy was there to meet me. I cried — for the kids we would immunize and for the effort it took to ride that day. Some things are hard even when they’re for a great cause.