Having a partner helps in the effort to excel Cycling: Two Towson women train together to do what neither thought she could - complete a 350-mile, four-day ride.

Fitness Profile

August 09, 1998|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Kim Smith, 36, and Kelly Gonteski, 29, decided to ride in a 350-mile, four-day bike ride, they didn't even own bicycles. They hadn't ridden since high school.

But after a friend of Smith's told her about the ride, the two decided to enter the Washington, D.C., AIDS Ride II.

Their motivation? The two Towson residents wanted to get in shape, meet new people "and do something you never thought you would do," Smith says.

Not only did they complete the ride, which started in Raleigh, N.C., on June 18 and ended June 21 in Washington, but between them they raised $5,600 for D.C.'s Foods and Friends, a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to AIDS patients, and the Whitman/Walker Clinic, an AIDS clinic.

They began their training last winter on borrowed bikes. In January, Smith attempted 10 miles on the B&A bike trail. "I thought I was going to die. I thought, I'm never going to be able to do this."

Gonteski, meanwhile, began tackling the hills around Loch Raven Reservoir.

They also took spinning classes, similar to aerobics but on stationary bikes. The front wheels are driven by weights, and different settings simulate going up hills and on trails.

Gonteski, a runner, also used free weights to build upper-body strength.

Their first long ride - 65 miles - was on Earth Day in April on the Eastern Shore. Suddenly, the 350-mile ride seemed doable.

They continued to ride during spring, one of Maryland's rainiest. "It was brutal," they say in unison. Both agree they couldn't have done it without a partner to prod and push and do "whatever trick we had to pull to get the other one to go," Smith says.

Smith is a medical social worker in a neurological rehabilitation center, and Gonteski is an occupational therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital. "We were very cautious in everything we did," Smith says, and Gonteski adds: "We didn't want to become one of our patients."

Still, during the ride, Smith struggled with dehydration and heat exhaustion, and she temporarily lost the use of her left hand when the ulnar nerve became irritated from gripping the handlebars, a common injury among cyclists.

The trip was about doing something challenging, something that pushed them beyond their own expectations.

Beyond the physical feat, says Gonteski, "Mentally, it changes your whole attitude.'

Adds Smith: "I did it, and it was something I never thought I would do. I think it gave me inner strength to try new things."

Two weeks after returning, Gonteski went back to running, completing a 10K run with her family in Atlanta. And Smith just bought herself a bike.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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