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Cancer Survivor to Ride 1,700 Miles for LOWVELO

timmy samec rides his bike across lowvelo finish line

Timmy Samec, who rode the 100-mile Jerry Zucker route in LOWVELO last year, has a different connection to the event this time after beating cancer earlier this year.

Some people don’t mess around. Take Timmy Samec, a doctoral student in the Clemson University Department of Bioengineering Nanobiotechnology Lab, for example. Samec, who was selected as MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s first LOWVELO graduate fellow earlier this year, took on the top challenge, participating in the 100-mile Jerry Zucker route in the inaugural LOWVELO in 2019.

This year is no different. He has committed to riding 1,700 miles in the 2020 virtual LOWVELO that runs through Nov. 14.

An athlete who has participated in triathlons throughout his life, Samec also found himself facing a new challenge earlier this year when he was diagnosed with stage 1A testicular cancer. Thankfully, shortly after being diagnosed, Samec was able to receive the surgery he needed to have the cancerous lump removed. Below, he discusses his commitment to LOWVELO and whether his outlook on the event has changed since becoming a cancer survivor.

Q: What initially drew you to participating in LOWVELO?

I think it was shortly after I had applied for the Hollings Cancer Center Fellowship Program during my second year as a Ph.D. student that LOWVELO had a booth set up in the Watt Center on Clemson’s campus. I just happened to be walking through that day and immediately recognized the Hollings logo, so I stopped at the table and learned all about the event. I knew that it was something I had to be a part of as an individual and something we should be a part of as a cancer nanotechnology research lab. My advisor, Dr. Angela Alexander-Bryant, also thought this was a great opportunity for us to make an impact outside of the lab environment. We have been very fortunate to be a part of the Gynecological Oncology research team at HCC as well, so it was fantastic to see many familiar faces at last year’s event!

Q: What are your thoughts on LOWVELO going virtual during COVID-19?

It is for sure the correct decision, and nobody can fault the move at all. It’s just one of those things that is — keep everyone as safe as possible. And this may actually help gain more interest and participants since it is an “on your own” style of recording miles. It will be hard not to see all of the amazing people at this year’s event and have the awesome food afterward, but we can all keep track of one another on Strava.

Q: Why did you choose 1,700 as your mileage goal this year?

Honestly, I made a best guess at what I expected my bike mileage to be from completing my usual triathlon training and gave it a bit of a nudge upward. I am moving back to long-distance triathlon (70.3 and Ironman), so my coach and I will be increasing the training volume steadily. At the same time, I wanted to push a bit further than what I expected my coach to give me, so I figured 1,700 would be a good goal. It’s been a little bit of a slow start, though, with moving apartments and getting things ready to roll back on campus, but I have no concerns about not hitting 1,700!

Q: Being a cancer survivor now, is your outlook on participating in LOWVELO any different this year?

A little bit yes, a little bit no. I’m still riding for those who cannot and to support everyone out there battling cancer or working diligently to make better treatments and diagnostics. I’m just very happy and fortunate to be riding at all at this point. I think that gives it the most difference. It is just the pure appreciation to be able to do what I’m doing. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint, but getting my diagnosis really brought things into perspective. It helps you fully understand what is actually important.

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