Getting behind the Booty

Bettina Freese

Although road biking may be a little less exciting than mountain biking — for instance, there’s not much call for dodging rocks and trees with the reflexes of a 13-year-old video-game junkie — there’s a weekend road event coming up in Charlotte that should grab any cyclist’s attention: 24 Hours of Booty, slated for July 28-29.

You heard right: Ride your bike for 24 hours. Can’t do it? Don’t want to do it? Then quit your moaning and get the family to help. Each of you can take shifts, just like the age-old military tradition of standing watch. Talk about a bonding experience: There’s no time to harangue each other over dirty dishes, who left the car’s gas tank empty, or whether the kids will ever learn how to do their own laundry.

An event like this requires a team effort. Having trouble with your spouse and looking for a weekend relationship workshop? Sign up for the Booty instead. By the time it’s over, you’ll be acutely aware of your ability (or lack of same) to function as a team. By Sunday morning, you will either have broken up or be madly in love with each other. More likely, you’ll be too exhausted to do anything other than hold each other while whimpering feebly.

The ride is a fund-raiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a well-known cancer-research fund. There’s camping, there’s eating, there’s drinking and there’s stuff to win, not to mention free bike support, free meals for riders, and plenty of people to meet.

The Booty “loop” wraps slightly less than three miles around Myers Park, which is just outside the city center. The route, which rates as Charlotte’s most popular cycling-and-running loop, crosses gently rolling terrain and will be traffic-free throughout the event.

I’m planning on bringing my 3-year-old son to the Booty. I’ll pull him in a trailer, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to hurt — me, that is, not him. The good thing for him is that he doesn’t have to be trapped in the little trailer for 24 hours. He can get out whenever he wants to, play with other kids or hang out in our tent. During past events he’s been in the trailer for more than five hours at a time, alternating between naps, songs, stories and trail-mix snacks. Thank goodness I don’t have to rely on a DVD player to keep him happy. I mean, how much would that weigh?

The thing about the Booty is, you don’t have to ride all 24 hours. I mention this because I can’t even imagine what my crotch will feel like after just 10 hours. I’m thinking ice packs for me, and loads of peanut M&M’s for the little guy in the back.

The event, which will mark five years this time around, is the brainchild of Spencer Lueders. I had the pleasure of being soigneur (team support) for Spencer and his dad when they cycled the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway awhile back. Apparently he took advantage of the ample thinking time he had while he was pedaling, because he’s managed to create an incredibly successful event, which attracted more than 800 riders last year. Participants helped raise more than a quarter-million dollars for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, as well as local cancer charities like The Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas.

Many of the participating riders are cancer survivors, are currently battling cancer, or are riding in memory of a loved one. Others are just trying to see how long they can stay in the saddle in a situation where they can just as easily stop when their booty starts complaining too much.

There are a lot of ways to do this ride, which emphatically is not a race. Some people ride all 24 hours, stopping only to replenish or drain, but they’re a bit touched in the head, I’m afraid. You’ll see them in the middle of the night, leaning against a rail in the rain, eating directly from a warm pot of gruel as blood trickles slowly down their elbows or shins and they cry softly about how they just got passed by the person in “first place.”

I wouldn’t recommend this approach — unless, of course, things are so bad with your spouse that you’ve got to purge the grief with some serious physical pain. A better idea is to ride until you know you’ve built your endurance enough for future rides, or until you’ve gone a little longer or farther than you ever did before. Trust me — this option is much more empowering than the first one.

Besides supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s good work, you can also make a whole new group of friends by doing this ride. Check out the Web site, www.24hoursofbooty.com, for tips on fund raising as well as sample letters and information on corporate pledges and matching funds. See you there!

[Bettina Freese can often be found bleeding in the woods after a particularly good mountain-bike ride.]

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