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Cycle for Life

Serious health reason set King City attorney out on a 500-mile trek
by: Bob Schoenberg, Scott Strahm on his bike.

Cycle Oregon 2006 was nearly 500 miles of Oregon country roads through the Blue Mountains taken in gulps of up to 80 miles a day over 7 days. Cyclist's lungs burn for oxygen, legs tighten up from too much lactic acid, joints scream in pain as the riders pedal for all their worth to make it over just one more hill.

For some, the mid-September bike ride was the first time they've had to face insurmountable odds with grit and determination to just finish. Although the organizers do everything possible to make the trip by bicycle as enjoyable as possible, it is still up to the individual rider to prepare themselves for riding up to 80 miles in a day, to sometimes will themselves to the end of the day's ride and finish at the camp set up for them with plenty of food and drink to soothe away the aches and pains.

For King City's Scott Strahm, it was a ride to remember, and, he says, it will have repercussions for the rest of his life.

'It was one of those life changing events,' Strahm said.

Asked what could possible possess a man in his fifties to suddenly take on Cycle Oregon, he said he was thinking about his health and the advice from his doctor.

The lawyer, who handles finances and estates of many of the area's seniors, said that working with families through health issues got him to thinking about his own future.

After a recent exam his doctor warned Strahm that his sedentary lifestyle is no longer acceptable. He was told he needed to loose weight and to get up and do some exercise, moving about to get his heart rate up, or he could end up with adverse health consequences.

'That was the genesis of all this, I needed to be active and I wasn't doing it.'

Thinking over what he could do to become more active, Strahm ruled out running as too hard on the body. His research pointed towards riding a bicycle as an ideal way to become active, and further research led to organized rides and eventually to Cycle Oregon. That's a quantum leap for a man who just a while back admits he did not exercise for the good of his health.

He said to keep at the routine he needed a significant goal to achieve and he picked the annual fall bicycle tour that attracts about 2,000 riders. He invited his brother-in-law to join him and another friend of his came along as well.

The organizers provided as much information about the ride as they could and posted it on their Web site, CycleOregon.com. They include training information for riders so that they will be in peak shape the week of the ride.

But individual motivation is the still the key to success.

That motivated Strahm into a training routine. He used a heart monitor that helped him maintain efficient levels of exercise and track his progress for getting in shape.

'That kept me going, training systematically,' he said. 'I learned to understand how the body works, what my limits were, keeping my heart rate at an efficient level and monitoring my progress.'

He learned about proper fueling of the body exerting itself over an entire day of riding and how to maintain the effort and finish the tour.

'I felt stronger the last two days than the first five,' he said. 'My training paid off.'

It was not without its problems though. Strahm said on the first few days his knees began to bother him and he was worried he would have to drop out if the pain increased. He suspected that something mechanical on his bike needed adjustment.

He took his bike to the mechanics from Portland's Bike Gallery, who volunteer for the event to help people with mechanical problems during the tour.

It was getting late, and the mechanics had been busy all day working on bike problems. Strahm didn't think they would be able to get to him in time and he would have to struggle through the next day of riding.

'But they said they weren't leaving until they got to me. They had a look at how my bike fits, raised the seat 3/4 of an inch and made some other adjustment and that is all it took. The rest of the ride my knees didn't hurt.'

But in case Strahm leaves the impression that it was a struggle up impossible hill climbs, driving rain and desert heat, it wasn't.

'It was an incredible experience, and not just the tour, it was the people I met.'

The Cycle Oregon organizers see that there is a healthy breakfast each morning, plenty of water during the ride during the day, helpful signs all along the way, support wagons and more food at lunch time.

At the end of the day, riders awaited cold drinks, showers, entertainment and a comfortable campsite to rest their weary bodies.

'I saw a lot of people out there, in their 60s and 70s, people who got on a bike and rode consistently better than me,' said Strahm. 'The route was stunning and the organizers did just an outstanding job.'

Strahm hasn't slowed down either, after accomplishing his goal, that is, besides finishing Cycle Oregon.

'In doing so I lost 45 pounds and my blood pressure is down,' he said.

This month he begins another training program so he doesn't get rusty over the winter. He wants to go again.

'Oh yeah, next year is the 20th anniversary of Cycle Oregon, it will be a big year. I want to do it again.'