Posted by Editoress on 06/4/08
Taking the Pain
By Tim Buckley
Starting on June 11th, 2008, a team of eight local cyclists will be testing the absolute limits of their physical and mental stamina in the crucible of most demanding endurance race on the planet: Race Across America (aka "RAAM - The World's Toughest Bicycle Race). Their hope is that by pushing the boundaries of their own capabilities, they will be able to help the young patients at Toronto's SickKids Hospital better cope with the pain and fatigue that often marks their illnesses. Team Racer Sportif/ Mattamy Homes (named after the key organizers and sponsors) will compete in RAAM to raise $100,000 toward SickKids' groundbreaking research into pediatric pain and practical solutions to alleviate it.
RAAM starts in Oceanside, California and ends 5,000 km away in Annapolis, Maryland. The team members ride nonstop in alternate sprint shifts across mountain ranges, deserts and plains through all weather conditions until they reach the finish line on the other side of the continent. Top teams will complete the race in five to six days. A support crew of over a dozen travels in several vehicles to look after the riders' needs and enable them to focus solely on the task at hand: maintaining a 24/7 race pace across the country.
This is not the first cycling adventure in which Mattamy Homes has joined with Racer Sportif to raise money for SickKids Hospital. Peter Gilgan, owner of Mattamy Homes, is dedicated to the cause and has organized a number of very successful fundraising rides over the last several years. This year, however, he wanted to do something extraordinary to put an exclamation mark on his commitment to SickKids. Peter called on longtime cyclist and owner of Racer Sportif, Dennis Mizerski, to build a team of local athletes to enter RAAM as the only Canadian eight-man team in the broad international field of competitors. Included with Dennis and Peter on the original team were local riders Glenn Grandy, Brad Lewis, Doug McInnis, Paul Millar, Mark Parsons and Kirk Schiza.
However, beyond the extraordinary nature of the race itself, the compelling aspect of this story of giving back is found in trying times faced by the team before even reaching the starting line. It has not been a simple matter of joining together for a common cause and then progressively pushing physical limits to build toward peak performance on race day. Throughout many months of intensive training, the riders have been forced to go well beyond the physical and deal with many psychological and emotional obstacles that have forced the team to recalibrate and renew its commitment.
Shortly after the team was formed, the first casualties were Glenn Grandy and Peter Gilgan himself. The bane of all businessmen - lack of time - prevented these men from fully committing to the demanding training schedule that is necessary to adequately prepare for RAAM. They withdrew from the contest, but continue to morally and financially support their teammates for race day. Their replacements were drawn from the team's standby reserves: Tim Buckley (a Toronto lawyer) and Gord Knowlton (a former CFL football player).
Then, a bleaker reality struck. Team architect and captain, Dennis Mizerski (56), was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It was almost ironic that while focusing on improving the health of others, Dennis (affectionately called the Big D over the course of his long cycling career) was forced to leave the team and concentrate on his own health. This was a big blow to the experienced rider. It was also a major loss to his teammates in light of his critical role as team leader.
Life, however, has a way of rebalancing things. Coincidently, Dennis's son, Frank Mizerski (24), had been actively supporting his father's cause from the beginning by participating in the team's six-hour training sessions. Frank had hoped to learn and gain insight for the future from the rigors of training. However, after learning of the diagnosis, Frank stepped up to follow through with his father's commitment by joining Team Racer Sportif/ Mattamy Homes to give his all in a true Big D Junior fashion.
After these major reconfigurations in the team, and well into its structured training program, the riders suffered another blow when teammate Gord Knowlton went down hard in the rain during a training ride and seriously fractured his wrist. A further roster revision was forced on the team. They again dug deeply into second-generation reserves and replaced Knowlton with 17 year old young gun McKenzie Parsons, son of team member Mark Parsons. Today, despite these obstacles, the team feels strong, united, and ready to compete as race day draws near.
The team members come from very different backgrounds, and each one has his own unique reasons for participating in ultra endurance cycling. However, one common goal has pushed them to unite to compete in the sport's premiere event: helping SickKids Hospital overcome the challenge of pain; often an invisible and subjective symptom that can be devastating in effect on young patients and their families.
With months of intense physical and mental training now behind them, and only a few weeks left until the starter's pistol, the members of Team Racer Sportif/ Mattamy Homes are calling on their communities to give generously to their cause. By making a pledge to SIckKids Foundation on behalf of a rider, you will bring the team closer to its goal of raising $100,000 and make a significant investment in the future health of Canada's children. Your support will help these ambitious local riders endure their upcoming physical and mental ordeal because they know it means that, one day, the children at SickKids Hospital will be spared much worse.
For more information on Team Racer Sportif/ Mattamy Homes, their cause and how you can help, please visit www.raceforsickkids.ywd.ca
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