Allison King, an affordable housing attorney, fixes her eyes on the spinning wheel and the road ahead of her, her tired legs pedaling harder with each cycle, sweat crawling down the spine of her back, her bicycle fighting the intense push of the wind.
She breathes hard and releases her hands, one by one, easing the tight grip she has on her handlebars. For Frances, she thinks.
King lost her maternal grandmother, Frances Johnson, to cancer, and that's why she will be riding 100 miles in her memory on November 2, choosing the hardest of the three LOWVELO routes.
With Johnson as her motivation, she made a commitment to dedicate a portion of her time to LOWVELO after being introduced to the ride by her close friend, Colleen Cloud. Both an indoor cycling instructor at Tidal Strength & Cycle Studio and program manager at MUSC's Center for Cellular Therapy, Cloud inspired King to take the leap from indoor cycling to an outdoor road bike.
Since then, she has been riding about three times a week throughout the trails of Washington, D.C., the scenic Charleston Greenway and quiet roads near her home on Johns Island. "Cycling is amazing exercise and a great way to see the world," she says, adding that she and peloton member Trish Schuler recently took their love of cycling overseas to the Italian Dolomites in preparation for LOWVELO or, as King calls it, the "Tour de Frances" in memory of her grandmother.
Since February, King has raised $1,900 individually and has joined the Tidal Strength & Cycle peloton, which has raised nearly $7,500. Gaining an overwhelming amount of support from her friends at Tidal Strength & Cycle, her coworkers and family members, King has motivated many of her peers to support her ride. After sending out only a single group email, people donated right away and even reached out to others to spread the word, she says.
King says she also has discovered that people are incredibly willing to donate. "Cancer has touched the lives of so many people in all walks of life," she says. "They all want to support this cause."
King explored many different fundraising strategies, finding that a simple conversation, email or text message to be most effective in meeting her fundraising goal. Her peloton organized a fundraising event at Seanachai, a local pub owned by one of her peloton members, and they encouraged small business owners who attend Tidal Strength & Cycle to donate a portion of their proceeds to the cause. She has also turned to social media to help advertise the ride and inspire people to donate. A few local businesses have posted information about her fundraising events, which has been pivotal in spreading the word.
"An elaborate fundraising event is great, but not needed. Just telling people about LOWVELO speaks for itself," she says.
King encourages all interested people at any fitness level to participate in the ride and in fundraising. "If you would love to ride but are worried about meeting the fundraising requirement, a peloton is a great way to go," she says. "Many of the pelotons are looking for more riders, and your team can help you fundraise. Reach out to teams if you don't know anyone who rides. It's a great way to make new friends."
Along with meeting her fundraising goal, King enjoys training with her peloton, made up of mostly Tidal indoor cycling class participants. Every couple of weeks, the peloton members meet to train outdoors. They train on medium to long rides and usually stick to well-traveled bike routes throughout Charleston, as most of the riders are new to outdoor cycling. They also attend indoor cycling classes at Tidal Strength & Cycle and regularly incorporate strength and flexibility training into their regimen. She notes that participating in local cycling club events together and attending fundraising events as a group is a great way to keep peloton members motivated.
As King continues to spread the word about LOWVELO and recruit new participants for the ride, she keeps Frances at the top of her mind. With the incredible amount of support she has received from her community, she's confident in her ability to finish the ride.
Her advice to others: "Hop on a bike and start fundraising, post on social media and send an email to your coworkers, and begin to embark on your own â€˜Tour de Frances.'"
Story by Emma Navarro