For Ben Talbert and his family, the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic has already changed their lives.
A middle school principal, Ben started cycling a year ago to set an example for his students. After budget constraints forced the school to cut some transportation runs, he decided to start riding his bike to the school to show students and parents that it was doable.
“My argument was that if I could do it –as fat as I was– they could do it,” said Ben.
Riding to school instantly became a daily habit, and Ben was soon biking to all his other usual activities such meetings, church, and errands as well.
After a few months of biking every day, a friend – who’s an avid one-day STP rider – encouraged Ben to try doing the STP.
“Two hundred miles sounded outrageous to me at the time, having only gone 16 miles as my furthest ride to date,” recalled Ben. “But he was encouraging, supportive and inspirational, so I decided to start going after longer rides to see what I was made of.”
Thirty-mile-rides turned into 50, then 80, and finally, 100 miles.
“I rode every day, rain, snow, or shine,” Ben said. “My son began riding back and forth to school with me, and my wife started going out with me, too. We found we enjoyed riding together so much that we would make the STP a family commitment.”
The Talbert family joined Cascade Bicycle Club in November and signed up for the STP on the first day of registration. In February they used their tax return to outfit their six-member family with new road bikes.
Meanwhile, Ben’s dedication and lifestyle change has been contagious.
“My younger sons started riding with me after school and on weekends, too. A couple of my friends have started riding and commuting daily because they say we’ve inspired them, and I’ve seen a dramatic increase in students riding at my school,” said Ben. “We even organized a Thanksgiving Day ride/run/walk we called the Turkey Trot. And we had about 50 kids participate in ride to school month.”
All the biking transformed Ben’s physical health.
“I’ve been a Type II diabetic for over 10 years, and in 2008, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy,” said Ben. “I’ve made slow improvements in my health since then but preparing for the STP really accelerated my progress.”
Ben has lost 100 pounds, his heart function is back to normal and his diabetes is under control and he no longer has to take medication or insulin.
What makes the STP a special event for the Talberts is that it gave the family a huge goal that ultimately transformed their lives, said Ben.
“The health benefits have been great, and just as important will be the impact on our family. We’re so excited to be doing this together as a family with some of our friends,” he said.
Following the STP, Ben plans to attempt his first triathlon in August, and he’s running a half-marathon with his wife on Labor Day.
“Our family has been greatly blessed by taking on this goal together. I wanted to let [the folks at Cascade Bicycle Club] know how much [they’ve] helped our family by offering great events and great support,” said Ben in closing. “I wanted to make sure you know that you’ve made a difference in ours.”