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Jane Eshbaugh: Chasing the wind

How One Cyclist Seeks Adventure in the Face of Cancer

In the middle of winter in Ellicottville, NY, Jane Eshbaugh wakes at the crack of dawn. After a morning cup of coffee, she makes her way to Holiday Valley Ski Resort where she begins her ascent to the top of a nearby slope. At the peak, she’ll pause to take note of the temperature and surrounding conditions to later compile and share in a detailed ski report. In the meantime, she straps on her skis and carves her way down the slope through freshly fallen snow, a smile on her lips.   

This daily routine is one of joy for Jane, and one that’s been a near constant in her life for more than four decades. 

She’s built her life around skiing and the outdoors, from her career as Holiday Valley’s marketing director to countless ski trips and her marriage to Holiday Valley President and General Manager Dennis Eshbaugh. The couple has two daughters, Kate and Maggie, who both have thriving careers in the ski industry and a deep appreciation for adventure, just like their mom.

“Jane has given our kids the ability to see the world in a bigger manner, to enjoy every experience for the moment, to never lose track of the importance of making the best of what you have in front of you and appreciating what you have,” Dennis says.

Though Jane’s now (semi) retired from her 41-year career as Holiday Valley’s marketing director, she still embraces the ski lifestyle and stays involved in day-to-day operations. When the weather warms up and ski season ends, Jane finds other ways to get active outdoors, including biking, sailing, swimming and running. She’s participated in the Ride for Roswell for close to 20 years and the Empire State Ride, a seven-day adventure across New York State, for almost four years.

For Jane, it all comes down to the wind on her face. There’s just something about that feeling.

“Feeling the wind in my face is a little bit of a theme in my life. I definitely get it when I’m riding or skiing or hiking or doing anything outside. It’s just such a feeling of freedom. The wind in my face represents health, happiness and freedom,” Jane says.

That’s a feeling that Jane continues to chase, even in the face of some of life’s biggest challenges, including the biggest one she’s faced yet.

Jane’s Cancer Diagnosis

One year ago, Jane was training to ride her bike across the U.S. with her friend and fellow ESR rider, Bonnie. But Jane felt off during training. She made an appointment with her doctor and went through an ultrasound and other testing to pinpoint the issue. In early April, Jane received devastating news: She has stage IV pancreatic cancer.

In the wake of Jane’s diagnosis, her family rallied around her, each one taking on a different supporting role.

“When you first hear those words that someone you love has a tumor, has cancer, there is a numbness that overcomes you. There’s a disconnect and potential for despair,” Dennis says. “But very quickly, you make a decision that there’s a job to be done. And I think it is remarkable what we’ve been able to do as a family.”

Their daughter, Kate, became the investigator, diving into Jane’s treatment and prognosis to fully understand Jane’s options. Maggie became the “soul” of the family, nourishing and supporting her loved ones, and Dennis became the facilitator, the one who saw to it that everything that needed to be done got done

That freed up Jane to focus on what matters most: fighting for her life.

A portrait of Dennis Eshbaugh sitting in the living room in front of a camera
A portrait of Jane's husband, Dennis

“When you first hear those words that someone you love has a tumor, has cancer, there is a numbness that overcomes you. There's a disconnect and potential for despair. But very quickly, you make a decision that there's a job to be done. And I think it is remarkable what we've been able to do as a family.”

Jane’s Journey with Pancreatic Cancer

Jane stares at NYC from the Staten Island Ferry during ESR

“I have not cried ever since my diagnosis. I didn't even cry when the doctor told me that I had cancer or when I told Dennis or my kids. But I'm going to cry when I ring that Victory Bell.”

Jane’s advanced staging made her ineligible for surgery. With guidance from her family and her doctors at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, she decided on an aggressive treatment plan that included chemotherapy. She also had genetic testing of her genes and genetic testing of her tumor, the latter of which showed that she had two actionable mutations that qualified her for immunotherapy.

Once Jane finished chemotherapy, she transitioned to immunotherapy treatments every three weeks. The difference between the two courses of treatment felt like night and day. With immunotherapy, Jane says she feels healthier and stronger overall compared to the highs and lows that come with chemotherapy. She’s able to do the activities that she loves, like training for this year’s Empire State Ride.

“Roswell Park to me means hope,” Jane says. “When I go there, a guy is playing the piano or the accordion or the guitar. People walk in, and they’re scared a lot of times when they come through the door. But then you see them realizing that this place is helping us to get better, especially when you hear them ring the bell.”

According to Dennis, Jane undertook her cancer diagnosis with determination, optimism and a strong will. She’s focused on always having a positive attitude, making the best of life at every step, despite the challenges.

“I have not cried ever since my diagnosis. I didn’t even cry when the doctor told me that I had cancer or when I told Dennis or my kids,” Jane says. “But I’m going to cry when I ring that Victory Bell.”

Setting an Example for Her Kids

A portrait of Kate sitting in the living room in front of a camera
Jane's daughter, Kate, (above) sends a special message to her mom

When Jane’s mother was battling breast cancer, Jane said she didn’t dwell on her pain but instead focused on being the best she could be. As Jane goes through her own treatment, she’s trying to emulate that mindset and pass it on to her own daughters. Her daughter, Kate, has this message for her mom:

“Mom, I want to tell you how inspiring you are to me. Throughout this journey, you have supported me as my mother, which is crazy because I'm the one who's supposed to be supporting you. But your ability to make the best of this and to keep living and to never give up, that's what keeps me going,” Kate says.

Fundraising to End Cancer

Jane is committed to riding in the Empire State Ride again this year, along with her husband Dennis and a crew of others on Team Holiday Valley. She’s excited for July and says she’s feeling great — so much so that she’s planning to ride the whole week. Last year, during chemotherapy treatments, she tag-teamed the adventure. Dennis drove the van while she rode, and they switched back and forth.

Since Jane’s diagnosis, her team has almost tripled in size, and team donations have continued to roll in. Jane is passionate about continuing to fundraise for cancer research so that one day there will be a cure for pancreatic cancer — and for the countless other types of cancer out there.  

“To end cancer is optimistic but doable. And every day, we get closer. One day it’s going to happen. Empire State Ride is one of those things that are going to help find that end to cancer.”

Until that day, Jane plans to continue living in the moment and making the most of every adventure.

“Being on my bike and doing the things I love to do, that’s who I am. And cancer doesn’t get to take that away from me,” she says.

Stay in the loop on #ESR23 for more on Jane's 500+ mile journey.

A group of ESR riders on the final day of ESR22. Jane is in the front row to the far left

Your $1 donation turns into $23 in cancer research funding

There are many powerful ways to support Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s goal of freeing our world from the fear, pain and loss due to cancer. One of those ways is riding in or donating to the Empire State Ride. That’s because the funds raised by ESR road warriors and donors each year are put to work immediately, fueling cutting-edge cancer research for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Roswell Park has the best and brightest researchers and doctors who have come from around the world to dedicate their life to studying and treating cancer. Donations to Roswell Park through the Empire State Ride enable breakthrough cancer discoveries and bring new treatments from the bench (lab) to the bedside (patients).

We’re proud to say that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park is now able to leverage an additional $23 from external grants toward that research. This is thanks to the support of ESR and the hard work of Roswell Park researchers.

How cancer research funding works.

Cancer research requires a lot of work, resources and investment. With the great wealth of talent among Roswell Park’s researchers and scientists, there are a lot of promising ideas brewing. Many of these discoveries are only able to move forward with the support of donations. Each year, Roswell Park scientists apply and compete for grants from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC process is led by Drs. Mukund Seshadri and Kirsten Moysich, who select an internal objective group of peers to sit on the committee based on expertise and areas of research. Reviewers are asked to thoroughly evaluate and consider the scientific promise of each application. The most promising grant applications are awarded with donor-raised funds to allow scientists to continue their cancer research. This seed money is used for researchers to obtain primary research data and, in turn, apply for larger national grants. The initiatives that receive support often lead to long-term funding from national organizations and new treatments.
This photo shows a researcher in a leukemia lab conducting cancer research.

Impact of fundraising at Roswell Park.

Since 2011, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, with funds from the Empire State Ride and other related fundraisers, has awarded over $16 million to researchers through the Scientific Advisory Committee through 245 grants to 146 scientists. These grants have led to the publication of 167 papers, the start of at least 20 clinical trials based on homegrown science at Roswell Park and the investment of over $96 million in external grant funding. That means that for every dollar donated to cancer research, Roswell Park receives an additional $23 in external funding for cancer research. The dedication and commitment of riders, donors and volunteers is driving work in state-of-the-art labs that fuels discoveries that are changing the future of cancer.

Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling and Shifting 101

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

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 Pedaling.

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

For many of you training for the Empire State Ride, the outdoor riding season has finally arrived. The transition from indoor to outdoor riding adds the challenge of varying terrain, wind and group dynamics that require skills to manage well. Let’s look at what arguably are the most important skills that will make you a better cyclist: pedaling and shifting.

Pedaling.

Why is pedaling technique so important?

A line of ESR riders pedal together
Shows a close-up of an ESR rider's bike

Good pedaling efficiency results in getting the absolute most power from each revolution of your pedal stroke. Do it well, and youll produce more power for the same or less energy output.

Most amateur cyclists pump their legs down, in a style which results in spikesin torque, rather than a smooth, consistent application of power. Pedaling this way is all start-stop-start-stop. Rounding out your pedal stroke decreases torque spikes with each pedal revolution.

How do you pedal efficiently?

If you’ve had a good bike fit and are sitting optimally centered around the bottom bracket (seat height and for/aft position), you’ll be able to create full torque from 12 o’clock (top of the pedal stroke) to 7 o’clock (just past the bottom) with each leg. While your foot is traveling from 6 – 7 o’clock, the opposite leg takes over to create torque. It’s not full circles with each leg! Think a good smooth 1/2 circle with a well-timed handoff to the leg coming up around the back. The result is constant torque all the way around, all the time.

How can I spot inefficiency in my own pedaling?

Change up your cadence to highlight weaknesses. Say you ride naturally at 80 rotations per minute (RPM) — increase the cadence for a minute to around 100 rpm. If you are bouncing on the saddle, your pedal stroke is probably inefficient.

Similarly, try riding at a slow cadence, 50–60 RPM, and notice if the pedal stroke feels like a push-and-stop effort. If you’re constantly finding yourself re-engaging on the pedals, it means you disengaged from them. Disengaging results in a loss of speed and requires a re-engagement, which is the same as reaccelerating. Acceleration requires much more energy than keeping speed steady.

Shifting.

What's shifting all about?

Two ESR riders ride around New York City during ESR22.
An ESR rider cruises down the street.

The primary function of gears are to enable us to maintain a comfortable pedaling speed (cadence) regardless of the gradient or terrain. 

 

A high gear, sometimes referred to as a ‘big gear,’ is optimal when descending or riding at high speeds. The highest or biggest gear on a bicycle is achieved by combining the largest front chainring size with the smallest rear cog or sprocket. Vice versa, combining the smallest front chainring size with the largest rear sprocket size results in the lowest available gear, which will help you keep your desired cadence when the road points up.

 

Again, shifting is about pedaling efficiency. Having a much broader choice of gears for a given situation will allow you to apply torque smoothly around the pedal stroke. I recommend having the greatest gear ratio possible for ESR. I’ll be riding a compact crankset 50/32 with an 11–30 tooth cassette on my bike.

 

Since we are all proficient drivers, I like to use the car analogy to bring home a point. Just like a car, bicycles benefit from a low gear to accelerate from a standstill, or to climb a steep hill, and at the other end of the scale, a high gear helps you to achieve high speeds without over-revving.

 

Continuing with the car example, using too low a gear at high speed would result in high fuel consumption. The same is true of your body pedaling a bike. More gears means more scope to your pedaling technique by fine-tuning your cadence to suit the gradient or terrain, often resulting in a lower energy cost.

On Cadence.

A quick word on cadence. I don’t believe there’s a specific optimum cadence for everyone, but current theories suggest that you should aim to train yourself toward a higher cadence as it’s a more efficient use of energy – moving the stress more to your cardiovascular system. The best cadence is the one that produces the smoothest torque around the pedal stroke.

 

Bike Practice.

Those long easy weekend endurance rides can feel boring and tedious, but they are crucial for aerobic development. These are the best rides to practice your pedaling and shifting skills and the focus will help pass the time.

This blog post by Chris Carmichael, “6 Shifting Tips To Be A Faster Cyclist Today,” is a good read to continue your education on shifting. 

I’ll leave you with a final thought on shifting: Never be satisfied with the gear you’re in. Shift constantly to try to find a better one. In a 75-mile ride, it’s common to shift 500–750 times. Keep an active hand on your shifter the whole ride.

I’ll be presenting an in-depth talk on pedal stroke at the ESR this year. I hope to see you there!

 

In the meantime: Train Right!

Coach Charlie

All Things Travel

Empire State Ride is an adventure unlike any other, and getting there and back shouldn’t be an added hill to climb! You may have questions about logistics, so we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know, including added fun after the finish line.

How Do I Travel with My Bike?

You’re not the first person to ask about this! The good news is you have some options if you want to travel with your bike.

  1. Ship your bike: You can ship your bike with Bike Flights. Campus WheelWorks can unpack and rebuild your bicycle, and we will transport it to Wagner College on July 21. Bike shipping is at your own expense.
  2. Take advantage of the bicycle shuttle truck: Another option for you is utilizing the bike truck, which takes shipped and local bikes from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center directly to the start line at Wagner College. More details are available in the ESR travel planner that is sent to you when you register.

What About Getting to and from Niagara Falls?

ESR road warriors come from all over the country. We know transportation can be a factor in your decision to join the adventure! Getting to and from Empire State Ride is your responsibility, but here are some suggestions to make it easier.

  1. Take the charter bus from Buffalo, NY. This bus leaves from Roswell Park on Saturday, July 22 and takes you to Wagner College. You’ll get there at around 3:30 p.m., in time for all the first-night activities! Cost is announced in the ESR travel planner.
    • Riders who are starting their trip from Buffalo are also welcome to drive and park their vehicles in the Roswell Park ramp for the week, free of charge.
    • Alternatively, riders can be dropped off at Wagner College or drive there and park their car for the week, free of charge.
    • ESR also offers a charter bus from Niagara Falls, NY, to Wagner College on July 30. Find further details in the ESR travel planner. 
  2. Prefer to fly? We encourage riders fly to Newark, LaGuardia or JFK airports in New York City, with ground transportation to Wagner College in time for orientation on Saturday, July 22.

If taking the train makes the most sense for you, you also have options! We recommend riders who prefer the train take Amtrack to Penn Station in New York City. Then, take the subway to the Staten Island Ferry. From there, they can ride a taxi or Uber/Lyft to Wagner College in time for orientation at Wagner College.

Extend your stay in Niagara Falls, NY!

Keep the adrenaline pumping and extend your stay on the other side of New York in Niagara Falls USA! Enjoy this bucket-list destination with the friends and family who cheered you on during your 500+ mile journey.

Niagara Falls USA offers:

View or download the Niagara Falls USA Travel Guide, or request a free printed guide delivered to you here.

Added benefits:

You can walk to the Falls from the finish line and from many of the downtown Niagara Falls hotels. You can also walk across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada if you have a passport or approved travel documents.

Pro tip:

If you are organizing a family weekend and want to choose another hotel, it’s a good idea to check your hotel’s proximity to the Falls on a map. Several hotels advertise the Falls, but may be further away and require a car or public transportation.

This is a photo of riders at the finish line in Niagara Falls after traveling from Wagner College in Staten Island.
This is a rider holding up his bike at the finish line in Niagara Falls after traveling 500+ miles for Empire State Ride

Visit the Niagara Falls USA website for travel planning information, or call 1-877 FALLS US to speak with a local expert.

If you’re already registered, check your travel planner for more information!

If you haven’t registered yet, what are you waiting for?