I caught up to JJ and his escorts: his brother in law Doni Weinraub and Doni’s teenage son.
I’m the coach to these three riders, but this is JJ’s team. Team decisions are his call because he is the captain.
(So you lead a mutiny on the bounty.)
So I recommended we have the SAG driver drive to the 60 mile point and return with food.
(Because you are Jewish and going more than two hours without a tea room is a major avera?)
Because my job, in addition to setting the cruising pace for each athlete, is to ensure that they eat and drink regularly.
(Is it really that big an issue?)
You take grown men like JJ Eizik, Yossi Rotberg and Yehuda Gelman, who have been told “They can’t”; put them on bicycles and leave them unsupervised...they will run themselves into the ground. They will forget to eat and drink.
At one point I was riding up and down the line doing sweat ratio analysis on each rider.
To make sure everyone was staying hydrated.
(So while they were riding forward, you were riding from the front to the back.)
And back again, yes.
At 6 p.m., we stopped for our first dinner.
(Wait. What happened between 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. while you guys rode?)
I told jokes.
(Your jokes are terrible. You tell Dad jokes.)
I also told my Ironman Triathlon stories.
(Ok. Maybe the jokes aren’t that terrible.)
“I told my wife that for our anniversary we were going camping and the experience would be in tents!”
(I was wrong, your jokes are terrible.)
JJ’s parents met us with snacks. Our real dinner was 40 miles and four hours away.
We thanked JJ’s parents. Then we got back on the bikes. Then it rained.
(So you stopped.)
So we laughed and pedaled on.
Wet on a bike beats being dry at work.
We finished day one, by 10:30 p.m. We ate dinner. I gave a short speech where I told everyone how proud I was of these three men. Then we called it a night.
Two major events made the second day even more special.
First, we were riding along, 30 miles in and Yossi Axelrod yelled, “Everyone stop for the group photo!”
(In the middle of the road?)
(With cars behind you?)
(Wasn’t that dangerous?)
No, our SAG vehicle was between us and the line of cars that followed us.
So we stopped and I put my hand on JJ’s hand...and I felt a hand on my hand.
I wondered to myself, “Who has such a strong grip?”
It turned out it was Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. To an ordinary cyclist like me, this was a big deal.
(Why was he there?)
There were a half a dozen celebrity athletes on Bike4chai. They all wanted to meet JJ.
(You still had the SAG wagon behind you blocking the oncoming cars?)
Yes, but the second event of the day made those cars look harmless.
We rode on, up and down hills for another hour. Finally, we pulled into the next rest stop. That was when the SAG driver said to me,
“If you want beer, there’s a beer over there.”
(A beer? Like, one beer?)
That’s what I wondered. Well, it wasn’t a beer, it was a BEAR!
(So naturally you turn around and pedaled away.)
So naturally I got closer for selfie.
(How are you still alive?)
Dunno...I guess it’s something I learned from watching The Office.
(The difference between black bears and brown bears...)
Two hours later we arrived at the staging area. Staging was set up as a place for all of the 500+ riders to eat and assemble for our finale.
We lined up behind JJ and we rolled into Camp Simcha. There we were greeted by the greatest finish line in the world:
The campers of Camp Simcha/Chai Lifeline. These kids are the reason we rode.
To hear JJ’s inspiring life story of triumph over cancer and adversity, at your school or venue he can be reached at [email protected]
David Roher is a USAT certified marathon and triathlon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and a veteran special education teacher. He can be reached at: