We’ve all heard of the phrase “working on your bucket list,” or completing all the things you wanted to do in life. For most it’s things like skydiving, climbing Mount Everest, bungee jumping off big cliffs or visiting exotic islands. For me, it’s what I consider a challenge of a lifetime, which at the same time enables me to help someone else and leave a legacy for others to follow.

It’s called Race Across the West, a 920-mile grueling bicycle race which began in 2008, starting in San Diego, traversing through Arizona and ending up in Durango, Colorado. The time limit for this event is 2 days and 20 hours. In order to complete this “bucket list ride for cycling,” one must be organized, fully committed and in great shape. It takes a full team of supporters to keep the cyclist on the road, fed, hydrated and healthy. The conditions of the course can sometimes be both mentally and physically overwhelming. The team must deal with weather and climate conditions that include searing temperatures that can reach 125 degrees, which can drop down to the low 30s overnight, plus winds up to 50 miles per hour and elevation gains reaching a summit of 14,800 ft.

What also makes this race unique are the countless number of charities for which these cyclists are riding. The training alone is challenging enough, but the commitment to time and organization is full-time. The cyclists who participate come from all walks of life, mostly amateurs, doctors, lawyers, former athletes – some with disabilities. Some of these cyclists have raised as much as $1 million for their charity and spend countless hours trying to find reputable organizations to fund their costs. The costs alone for participating in this event, including registration, lodging, food, vehicle and bicycle maintenance, etc., can cost in excess of $25,000.

So, one always asks the question: why do these cyclists put themselves through such a grueling, exhaustive, financially expensive and sometimes life-threatening event? I can answer that question for you!

An athlete is always an athlete; at any age, we are always seeking something challenging and sometimes just plain crazy! The thrill of setting such an extreme goal invigorates us and gives us a purpose. I’m an avid cyclist and have done some of the most challenging, dangerous climbs and distances in California. Over the past three years, I have ridden for a 9-year-old girl battling pelvic cancer, who was so brave and courageous, but unfortunately lost the battle. This really affected me, and I was so motivated to make an impact on this world and pediatric cancer that I came across this ride and St. Jude Hospital. I am riding for pediatric cancer and to also push my athletic and mental limits.

Each one of us riding in the Race Across the West has a story. We are a very small group, but with big hearts and a deep purpose.

Editor’s note: We are all rooting for Mike on his ambitious journey. If you would like to support his efforts please visit www.fundraising.stjude.org (search Michael Butler) or send him an email of encouragement!

Mike is co-owner of Kinetix Health & Performance in Palm Desert and can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 200.1719.

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