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Why first-time rider Justin Eveland joined the cause

The bond between a father and son is incomparable, and that’s apparent in the admiration Justin Eveland has when sharing memories of his dad. 

“The way I would describe my dad is someone who lived for today and not for tomorrow. He was always the life of the party and someone who could make you smile in your worst of times,” Justin stated proudly.

His father, Ken Eveland, worked in law enforcement for almost 40 years. Justin says he was the family organizer, always planning activities to bring people together, including an annual Buffalo Bills bus trip from their hometown of Geneva, New York.

“He had been bringing me to Buffalo Bills games ever since I was just a little guy.”

But, those games, along with other family adventures, would come to an unanticipated pause.

In 2017, Ken was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer.

“What we thought was going to be an in-and-out procedure turned into a more elaborate and elongated issue for our family,” Justin explained.

By 2019, the cancer metastasized to his lung and then to his brain in 2020. Ken is still fighting today.

“For a long time, I have felt very helpless, like I can’t do anything for my dad. I can’t ease his pain,” said Justin.

Driven to make a change, Justin committed to a new challenge. This summer, he’s cycling more than 500 miles to end to cancer. 

Justin Eveland and his dad, Ken.
Ken Eveland holding a boxing glove

Becoming an ESR Road Warrior

Ron, Justin and Ken

The Empire State Ride is a week-long bike tour from New York City to Niagara Falls that raises funds to fuel cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Justin joined the movement as a first-time rider for #ESR23. With his dad in mind throughout his training, he’s prepared to push himself emotionally and physically along the way.

“I didn’t have a road bike prior to signing up for the Empire State Ride, nor have I really ever ridden probably longer than 10 miles on a bicycle at any given time,” he explained. “But this is what I’m doing to help fight against cancer and maybe one day find a cure.”

For others thinking about joining, Justin echoed the sentiment that riders are not alone.

“The support you receive from the Empire State Ride team and the Empire State Ride community is astounding. There’s a Facebook group, and there are people asking a ton of questions, with veteran riders helping new riders overcome any fear that they might have.”

 

Fundraising Made Easy

For some first-time riders, hitting the $3,500 fundraising minimum may be intimidating. However, using the tools available and the ESR team, it can be easier than expected. Justin is a great example of this.

By mid-March, four months before the ride, Justin had already raised more than $6,000 — with a personal goal of reaching $7,500.

He says utilizing social media, both Facebook and LinkedIn, has been extremely effective.

“I wanted to make it as personal as possible,” Justin added. “I think what’s worked for me is sharing stories from loved ones and the folks that I’m riding for, because, after each week, someone new would donate after reading a particular story.”

Justin leaned on the ESR Facebook group for unique fundraising ideas, and his main piece of advice is: “Don’t be afraid to ask.”

 

Family photo
Ken, JJ and Ken's wife

The Finish Line

Justin’s first Empire State Ride is fast approaching, and he’s eager to build friendships at camp and hear other people’s stories. Above all else, he’s already picturing crossing the finish line, alongside riders who share a common goal of ending cancer.

Riding for his father during ESR will be even more meaningful now that he is a dad himself. Justin has two sons: Jonathan and Bennett.

“Someday, I’m certainly looking forward to being able to share the experience with my sons when they’re old enough to understand,” said Justin. “When it’s easy to sit back and do nothing, I think they’ll be proud to know that their dad did something to make a difference.”

Rider Spotlight: Meet BillytheKid

Meet BillytheKid

Here, Billy talks about the family business, being on the road for ESR and his journey with thyroid cancer

You’ll see BillytheKid Klein on the road during Empire State Ride sporting a large red nose and a sly smile. If you ask him about his nickname, he’ll tell you it’s just who he is. His family called five-year-old Billy by that name, and he now uses that name for all his businesses. He even signs his checks with a little running man heart and BillytheKid — anything to make people smile.

Billy lives on a large farm in rural Pennsylvania, where he’s resided for more than 45 years with his family, raising horses. His daughter won two world championships and a reserve in equine competition during her youth. When Billy and his wife retired from breeding stallions, they shifted their focus to more sentimental occasions: weddings. They acquired carriages and started a business that takes brides to the altar — in true Cinderella-style. The pair has several Victorian outfits and top hats that they wear to give the carriage ride a more magical feel.

“Taking a father and daughter to the altar for the ceremony and hearing their intimate talk and seeing the tears, and then, 25 minutes later, taking her to start her new life with her new groom — I would do that for nothing, just to experience it,” he said proudly.

Billy’s Cancer Journey

On a sunny day in New York City, Billy sat in a large waiting room of a local hospital. As he looked out over the East River, a group of people close by started talking about cycling. Billy’s ears perked up when he heard them mention a tour that went from Staten Island to Niagara Falls. He grabbed a seat next to them and started asking questions about the adventure. They pointed him to the Empire State Ride website, where Billy learned about the 500+ miles it took to get from one end of New York to the other, the road warriors who make it happen and the critical funds raised for cancer research.

“You’re in a certain state of mind when you’re in a hospital and with other people who share your problems,” he said. “Something really clicked. I felt chills reading the stories, seeing the testimonials. I was hooked. I did all the research I could and said, ‘I’m in!’

Cycling is a big part of Billy’s life, but the thought of riding between 70 and 100 miles per day seemed like a whole new ballgame. Embarking on Empire State Ride in honor of cancer patients felt like a challenge that he needed to take on to help others and honor his own story.

Billy’s cancer journey started in 2014 when he found himself more congested than usual. His doctors sent him for a chest X-ray, and that’s when they made a startling discovery: Billy had thyroid cancer. He soon had a full thyroidectomy followed by a round of radioactive isotopes to wipe out the residual cancer. For a while, that was it. They monitored Billy closely for five years.

Then, in January 2019, Billy’s doctors ran a round of tests that showed poorly differentiated thyroid cancer — cancer cells that don’t look like normal cancer cells. He began treatment again but soon became iodine resistant. The cancer started to grow, and it hasn’t stopped.

Billy’s First Empire State Ride

BilltheKid holds up a tribute card on the road during the 2022 Empire State Ride
Billy stands nose to nose with another ESR rider.

Billy’s own cancer journey, and those of his loved ones, made his commitment to participating in the 2022 Empire State Ride even more meaningful. But it’s the experience that Billy had on the road that sold him on hitting the road again this year for #ESR23.

“It was life-changing,” he said. “You know how you go to a concert or a movie that’s so great you don’t want it to end? You don’t look at your watch. You don’t want to know the time. Well, that’s the feeling I had the last day of ESR.”

Billy raves about the community of people that he was surrounded by as he rode the 500+ miles across the state. Despite some riders being younger and having better endurance, Billy said people really looked out for him and helped him complete the mileage.

Billy wears his clown nose

“The amount of support from others … I mean, they knew I was the old guy and they put me in a slipstream and surrounded me to protect me,” he said. “I just so appreciated that. It really helped me feel like part of the group.”

On Fundraising

As for the fundraising, Billy said he really felt intimidated by having to raise $3,500 when he first signed up. Many of his friends were retired and on strict budgets. So, he started by asking for small amounts and he kept asking everyone he knew. Before he knew it, he’d hit his goal. Then, on the road, Billy would share his daily progress. Once people saw firsthand what Billy was doing, even more donations rolled in.

“I put in a report every night to my contributors on Facebook,” he said. “Money just started flowing in. It was overwhelming. I went to sleep crying every night because I was so touched.”

As for fundraising for 2023, Billy sought out an endowment from a local Jewish organization. He presented about the impact Empire State Ride has on cancer, and they offered a $3,000 donation. Now, he plans to raise his goal and keep going for a cause that’s helping other survivors and thrivers just like him.

“My grandfather used to say a dollar is made up of 100 pennies. That's really kind of what Empire State Ride is, you know? It takes a lot of $25 bills to add up, but to just sit back and watch it grow is astounding. I choke up every time I think about it.”

Learn more about where the funds go below and register today!

BillytheKid's new ride for 2023

Coach Charlie Livermore: Nutrition and Hydration for ESR Training

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.

All blogs by Charlie.

Coach Charlie Livermore on Nutrition and Hydration.

The aim of this blog is to give you simple tips you can use to fuel your hydration and nutrition strategy as you train for the 2023 Empire State Ride. 

In my coaching practice, I spend equal amount of time prescribing training and the fueling strategy necessary to complete those workouts and adapt positively. In this era of low carbohydrate diets, getting my athletes to consume enough carbohydrates is a struggle. When they do, the difference in the consistency of their moderate-to-high intensity efforts is astonishing.

Carbohydrate needs may be different at different exercise intensities. When exercise intensity is low and total carbohydrate oxidation rates are low, carbohydrate intake may have to be adjusted downward. With increasing exercise intensity, the active muscle mass becomes more and more dependent on carbohydrates as a source of energy.

Hydration is perhaps even more critical to get right for all workouts. One of my favorite quotes, “Nutrition doesn’t work in a dehydrated environment,” sums it up well.

Here’s a closer look at both areas:

Hydration.

The weather gets hot in July, and your body’s cooling mechanism is sweat. You must replace both the liquid and the electrolytes that make up your sweat. The less acclimated you are to heat, the more electrolytes you lose through sweat. Here are some tips to keep you well hydrated all week:

  • Drink 1 to 1.5 bottles per hour, depending on the intensity and length of the ride. Use an exercise hydration product that primarily focuses on replenishing electrolytes and carbohydrates.

  • If you have a computer that has an “Alert” feature, program it to remind you to drink every 10-20 minutes. The latest research recommends drinking greater amounts every 20 minutes vs. small sips every 10 minutes. If you choose every 20 minutes, you’ll need to drink a third of your bottle at a time. Either way, you’ll be fine.

  • Drink before and after your ride. Drink 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning and begin hydrating for the next day as soon as you finish you ride. A common practice I use (it’s hot in Florida) is to weigh myself before and after my ride. Then, I hydrate until I recapture my pre-ride weight. If you lost more than 3% of your morning weight, you didn’t drink enough during your ride.

  • If you’re urinating a lot throughout the day and the color is toward the clear side, you may not be absorbing what you’re drinking. Add some electrolytes to help absorption.
Meal #1 of ESR
Meal #1 of ESR

Nutrition.

Now that we’re beginning the level of intensity in training that requires glycolytic energy metabolism, we need to make sure we have the fuel/energy for the work required. For this type of work, carbohydrates will be your primary source of energy — but you also need protein.

 

Click the headings below to learn more:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates requirements depend on the duration of your workout or ride. For the purposes of this guide: I’m going to break it down to three categories: Short: 45-60 minutes, Medium: 60 minutes to 2 hours and Long: 2+ hours.

Short: 45-60 minutes.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a Gel 15 minutes prior to the workout.
  • During workout: An electrolyte hydration mix is all you need for this workout. I prefer LMNT or Liquid IV.
  • After workout: Drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration recommended above, especially if your workout was indoors or in hot weather.

Medium: 60 minutes – 2 hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a sport bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 40g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 1x Gels (20g of carbs) = 41g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a medium-intensity workout, drink 24 oz to 32 oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake. I like Skratch Recovery.

Long: 2+ hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 60g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 2x Gels (40g of carbs) = 61g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a long workout, drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake like Skratch Recovery.

Current data suggests that dietary protein intake needed to support metabolic adaptation, repair, remodeling, and protein turnover generally ranges from 1.5–2.0 g/kg/d or to make it very simple, 1 gram per pound of body weight. Daily protein intake goals should be met with a meal plan providing a regular spread of moderate amounts of high-quality protein across the day.

Recommendations are currently to consume 25-30g of protein per meal. The key to maximizing muscle protein synthesis is to consume that amount, 4-5 times per day with at least three hours in between each consumption.

Nutrition itself does not make you fitter on the bike. What it does, however, is provide significant contributions to what we are trying to achieve from training.

 

Good luck, 

Coach Charlie

How ESR impacts cancer research across the nation (and the globe)

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve committed to riding Empire State Ride this year or you’re thinking about tackling this adventure of a lifetime soon. ESR has strong New York ties, particularly Western New York, the home of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

But what if your out-of-state donors or your prospective donors don’t have those same ties? Maybe they’ve never stepped foot in Buffalo, but they’re passionate about finding cures for cancer or they’re simply interested in supporting endeavors you’re passionate about.  Maybe you’re from out of state and are looking for a way to explain your impact. 

Here's what you can tell donors about the impact you’re making through ESR.

1.

When you make a gift to support Roswell Park through ESR, you’re ultimately making a worldwide impact.

Through regional, national and global collaboration, the funds that come to Roswell Park go into efforts that will change the way we prevent, diagnose and treat cancers of all kinds everywhere. After all, we’re all on the same side in the fight against cancer.

Rider holds gratitude banner with all her loved ones on it and the ESR sign in the background

2.

Donations fuel cancer research at Roswell Park. That research can be done by small local teams or larger, collaborative teams.

Either way, if the studies bring incredible discoveries (as they often do), that research leaves the lab and enters the realm of clinical trials which expand to reach patients everywhere. Still other research contributes to growing pools of data that scientists all over can learn from as our experts at Roswell Park make sense of what they’re finding hidden in our genes and in our immune systems.

A sign honoring loved ones affected by cancer

3.

Many clinical trials at Roswell Park are funded by donor support.

While every trial starts small, careful study brings those trials to patients in Western New York and then beyond. Clinical trials reach cancer centers all over, meaning they reach patients all over, bringing those promising treatments to people who are searching for hope in the toughest times of their lives. International partnerships in clinical trials have brought treatments developed by Roswell Park investigators to Australia, Canada, Cuba, China and beyond.

ESR rider holds sign at finish line in Niagara Falls

4.

The comprehensive cancer center in your region may have collaborated with Roswell Park on lifechanging work.

One easy way to start looking into that is through a simple search on Roswell Park’s website and the website of your local center.

Rider points to the back of his jersey, which honors loved ones affected by cancer

Looking forward

East coast, west coast, northern or southern hemisphere; any effort to better understand and more effectively treat and cure cancer is good news for all of us. Thank you, wholeheartedly, for joining us in this mission to end cancer as we know it. For good. Everywhere.

The Road to Empire State Ride, brought to you by Port X Logistics: Why volunteer at ESR?

Presented by

Solid Yellow Port X Logo

You don’t have to ride 500+ miles to enjoy everything that Empire State Ride has to offer. Our volunteers play a key role in the community, bringing the event to life and encouraging our road warriors along the journey. 

Some volunteers help on the road for the entire seven-day experience; others offer their assistance for a day or a few hours. Regardless of the role, each volunteer is essential to ESR.

Meet Your Volunteer Coordinator

“I would love for everybody to get to experience what the Empire State Ride truly is at its core. It’s people coming together for one cause,” said Ashley Gracie, senior volunteer coordinator. “To see that play out each day and then to hear these intimate stories that people share as their why is truly phenomenal. It really motivates you to want to do more.”

Among Ashley’s many tasks, she is responsible for building up the volunteer presence at ESR. 2022 was her first year on the ESR team, and it was also the first year of fully utilizing seven-day volunteers. They were integral to the journey from the kickoff all the way through the finish line, helping at rest stops and the campsites.

Ashley and the team also work to get people from each township involved along the way. Of the one-day volunteers, their reasons for getting involved varied. Some were riders in their own communities who wanted to learn more about ESR, others were former ESR road warriors who live in those respective areas and many were a part of organizations interested in giving back to the cause.

“If you have just a couple hours to share, I promise it’s going to be worth your while,” Ashley explained. “It’s something that stays with you, the experience itself. It’s why we have so many riders come back every year. It’s why we have volunteers come back every year.”

Photo of Ashley Gracie, senior volunteer coordinator
Photo of Ashley Gracie, senior volunteer coordinator

Hear From a Weeklong Volunteer

Janice Hetrick of Lancaster is a rider turned volunteer. She took part in ESR as a rider for the first time in 2017. Due to a knee replacement in 2022, still feeling compelled to be a part of the experience, she decided to take on a different role at ESR. Janice returned to the road as a volunteer for all seven days of the adventure. Along with her desire to give back, she brought an energy that kept the riders going.

Janice took on a variety of tasks while volunteering, from manning one of the rest stops to squirting riders with a water gun when they needed a cooldown and assisting at the HUB (Hospitality Updates and Beverages), which is the central spot for rider information. With each job, she made it fun!

“It’s captivating. It’s an uplifting experience,” Janice explained.

The experience was so impactful that Janice plans on returning as a volunteer for #ESR23.

Hear From a One-Day Volunteer

Gail Green-Anderson of New York City and her husband Rick are both one-day volunteers at ESR. Cycling is a part of the fabric of their relationship.

“My husband and I met while cycling. It was 1998, and we both went to the wrong starting point for a Five Borough Bike Club Labor Day Ride, and we spotted each other,” said Gail with a smile. “We eventually got married, and cycling is a really important part of our life.”

For ESR, Gail and Rick greeted riders as they came off the Staten Island Ferry, cheered them on and made sure they were headed in the right direction. It was the perfect way for them to get involved since they know the area well, both from living nearby and from riding their bikes all over New York City.

Gail explained seeing the riders embark on their journey was incredibly rewarding.

“What struck me were the big smiles on their faces,” said Gail. “Sometimes at the beginning of a big athletic event, people look anxious. These people did not look anxious. They knew why they were there. They had a sense of purpose. They had been prepared. They were on their way. I got to play a small role, saying, ‘Go that way!’”

For people who live in municipalities along the #ESR23 route who are considering signing up to volunteer, Gail says – “Just do it!”

She and her husband plan to help again this summer, and as she reflects on previous years, she says her volunteer experience has been worthwhile.

With tears in her eyes Gail explained, “For people who have sustained tremendous loss of loved ones to look that happy and that energetic doing something that addresses that loss – that’s pretty remarkable.”

Gail and Rick
This photo shows a volunteer holding a "mount up" sign
Two children hug their mother in front of a banner that reads We are proud of you mom

An opportunity for you

Whether you have an hour, a day or a week – you can make a difference on Empire State Ride.

There are dozens of volunteer opportunities and multiple shifts available. Tasks range from camp setup, to greeting riders, cheering participants on at the finish line and more!

See the full list of opportunities here.

By giving your time as a volunteer, you’re fueling the ESR mission to end cancer.

“That’s why I fight. That’s why I put so much passion and dedication into making the best experience possible so we can get more and more people involved,” said Ashley.

Questions about volunteering? Contact Ashley Gracie at Ashley.Gracie@RoswellPark.org.