Pedaling with a purpose; riding with pride | AspenTimes.com

Pedaling with a purpose; riding with pride

Jon Maletz

Under brilliant blue skies and 80-degree temperatures they rode. Some went 30 miles while others tested themselves with a full century.But no matter how far they chose to ride, all of the estimated 600 participants in the second Aspen Ride for the Cure on Saturday had some driving force pushing them toward Paepcke Park and the finish line. A pink sheet of paper with three names and a smiley face drawn with black marker adorned the back of Basalt Elementary School teacher Rae Christian’s teal Bianchi bike. For Christian, 47, memories of a mother, close friend and co-worker lost to cancer followed her with every tire rotation.Following a taxing ride that took close to 7 1/2 hours, Christian’s tired legs were accompanied by an understandably heavy heart.Her mother, Georgette, was lost to Leukemia when Christian was only 6. In March, close friend Mary White lost a four-year struggle with breast cancer at the age of 47. Joanne Henry, a former Basalt Elementary School teacher and breast cancer survivor one year ago, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during Christmas in 2004. She passed away in July at 57. “I was the rookie and she was a vet,” Christian said of Henry. “We taught together for 15 years and for 10 of those we were right across the hall from one another. She was a great teacher who was always relaxed and very calm. Whenever I was working too hard she would always tell me to take time for myself.”Instead of taking time for herself on one of her two days each week out of the classroom, Christian decided to ride. She decided to brave the early morning conditions, when shade, headwinds, and water on the road made the route difficult. She decided to challenge herself on a course stretching from downtown Aspen to the Maroon Bells and Old Snowmass, listening to Huey Lewis and the News on her new silver iPod as she negotiated challenging elevation changes.”It felt like I was going up and down – no, up, up, up and then down,” said Christian, of Woody Creek. “I passed my house twice while riding and I didn’t stop, which I think is a good sign. I would definitely do it again.”Last year Christian handed out bottles of water to riders but was in search of a way to get more involved. She sent out a message to community members from Roaring Fork to Basalt telling them of her intent to ride, even began selling light pink breast cancer awareness wristbands. She purchased them for $1 each but sold them for $2. As part of her pledge to raise at least $500 to benefit the fight against breast cancer, Christian was overly ambitious, traveling to Fannie Hill on concert nights to sell her bracelets.”I had a third-grader come up to me at school with $4 in quarters and ask if he could buy two,” Christian said. “He had already bought two less than a month before. The community really responded.” Ski school instructors from Snowmass, where Christian helps out with the Big Burn Bears teaching children between the ages of 3 and 6, joined her in the ride, as did the husbands of three Basalt Elementary teachers. Whether directly or indirectly affected, those involved understood the importance of awareness and education. Every day, 100 women die from breast cancer, and the disease affects one in seven women in the United States, according to Ride for the Cure’s website. Close to 75 percent of the money raised from the event will stay in the valley to provide education, prevention and diagnostic services to those without adequate health insurance. For Christian and others, Saturday was one chance to honor those lost and a time to celebrate lives saved.For the second straight year Allen Parelman, 71, participated in the century ride to recognize his wife, who survived her bout with breast cancer in 1996. “Somebody told me I was the oldest person here to ride,” said Parelman, of Aspen. “I love to bike, but this event has a lot more meaning for me. My wife, my friends and my relatives lost were all a part of my thoughts out there. I’m 71 so this was brutal, but if I can I will be back here next year.”Jon Maletz can be reached at jmaletz@aspentimes.com