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Local cyclists bike across Iowa for charity


Tim Stahl and Jon Duke have trained for months to ride 370 miles across Iowa Contributed photo

If you get winded taking five minutes to bike to McNally’s, just take a second to imagine taking three days to bike 370 miles across Iowa.

That’s exactly what two local cyclists are doing this week — through wind and rain, across gravel roads and winding highways — to raise money for St. Francis Manor, a Grinnell rehabilitation and long-term care facility for those who have endured medical conditions that have limited their mobility.

Jon Duke and Tim Stahl created Stroke for Stroke Cycling to raise money for new equipment at St. Francis Manor, where they both work — Duke as a physical therapist and Stahl as a physical therapy assistant.

The name Stroke for Stroke comes from the work Duke and Stahl do every day, helping to rehabilitate patients who have suffered life-altering medical emergencies like strokes. Every stroke that Stahl and Duke take on their bikes will be one stroke closer to giving their patients new resources with which to recover.

The money they raise will go towards the purchase of a new $30,000 piece of specialized equipment called a LiteGait. The LiteGait is a partial weight-bearing system that can suspend patients above a treadmill and give them real-time feedback about their weight displacement. This can help patients with their balance and, eventually, help them to learn to walk again.

However, Stroke for Stroke Cycling isn’t just about raising money for the LiteGait. It’s also about raising awareness of cardiovascular health and issues of heart disease in America.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with about 630,000 Americans dying from heart disease every year, almost a quarter of all yearly American deaths.

Duke is a competitive gravel cyclist in his free time, but Stahl — a former wrestler and football player — was not a regular cyclist until recently, when he experienced some cardiovascular issues of his own.

“I had a situation with my health that wasn’t real good, and my cardiovascular health was really poor, and Jon — being the gravel cyclist that he is — he says, ‘Hey, why don’t you give gravel cycling a try?’ … And that was about 14 months ago,” Stahl said.

Stahl and Duke began their training soon after. Over the winter they logged more than 5,000 miles on a trainer and practiced outside in the elements whenever possible. They used Zwift — a virtual training program similar to a video game that simulates different environments to break the monotony of indoor training —anywhere from one to four hours almost every day.

For Stahl, the rigorous training has been a personal project that has greatly benefitted him in both physical and mental health.

“This is my first experience with it all, so it’s really been a journey for me,” Stahl said. “It’s not only been physical. It’s emotional, spiritual. You go through the whole gamut of emotions whenever you’re in an endurance activity like that.”

And now, after Stahl could barely make it 15 minutes early on, the two cyclists are ready to ride almost 400 miles across Iowa.

They will begin in Hawarden, IA, heading straight east towards Orange City and Decorah, finally ending in Lansing, IA, on the Mississippi River. They will have a support vehicle the whole time and will stop only if they have to. They estimate the trip will take them about three days.

Between training and the actual trip itself, this fundraiser is a huge commitment for the two cyclists, but it has already proven to be well worth the effort. As of May 1, Duke and Stahl had already surpassed their $30,000 goal, meaning that patients will soon see new LiteGait equipment at St. Francis Manor. All of the surplus funding will go to other projects around St. Francis. According to Stahl, that’s why they ride.

“That’s our passion: to help people that are in need — help to get them back to the functional level that they were before they got sick or injured — so they can get back to doing what they love,” Stahl said.

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    Jean DonaldsonMay 11, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Enjoyed this well-written article on two inspirational men.