During the six years they spent together in Columbus, Lisa Metzler and her boyfriend often bicycled along the Olentangy River trail or meandered on two wheels around Metzler's Westerville neighborhood. The carefree rides, paced for conversation, never dipped deeply into the realm of double-digit miles, but sometimes Tyler Schutte couldn't help riding away from the girl he had known since childhood.
"Tyler was the one who was seriously into biking," said Metzler, a 24-year-old design coordinator at Abercrombie & Fitch who works for the company's Hollister Co. Bettys brand. "He was the one who did the long rides. When we rode together, I was always more or less along for the ride. Sometimes I'd just tell him to go ahead. He'd be very proud of me now."
This summer, during the inaugural Pelotonia bike tour for cancer research, Metzler will ride 180 miles of rolling Ohio terrain in memory of Schutte, who died in December at age 24 following an intense, six-month fight with cancer.
The fundraising tour, in which world-famous racer and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong is scheduled to ride, will benefit the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, where Schutte was treated. The tour idea grew from a similar bike ride in Massachusetts that, during the past 29 years, has raised more than $250 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Pelotonia participants choose one of three routes out of Columbus: a one-day 50-mile trek, a one-day 100-mile ride to Athens or a two-day, 180-mile option that goes to Athens and back. Metzler, who has swapped her old cruiser for a lean and light Giant Avail Advance road bike, will pedal the most challenging route.
She finds her training rides, which she does alone, therapeutic. "After rides, Tyler would talk about it being very invigorating," Metzler said. "He'd always talk about just being out there with the road ahead of him and the wind in his face. I can understand now."
Each Pelotonia rider was required to pay a $100 entry fee and raise $1,000 to $2,000 in donations. Metzler raised her $2,000 in six days, setting Pelotonia's first fundraising record. Money, she said, flowed in from generous family, friends and co-workers. "I was expecting $5 and $10 donations," she said, "and everyone was just so willing to give."
"Lisa is simply amazing," said Pelotonia executive director Thomas Lennox. "More than anything, I was just taken aback by her maturity and the way that she handled herself. She's handling herself with grace and grit. A number of people have indicated that raising $2,000 in this [economic] environment is quite a task. Lisa found it humorous that anyone would say that raising the money is difficult, based upon what the fight with cancer is like."
Throughout Schutte's bout with cancer at the James, he and Metzler, who are both OSU graduates, talked about how they could "give back" to the people at the hospital. This, she believes, is her chance.
"When Tyler passed away, right away I wanted to keep doing things that we had so much fun doing together," Metzler said. "He would want me to do Pelotonia. Toward the end, we were so open with each other. He wanted me to go on with life. Pelotonia is perfect for me. All this stuff we talked about doing came together in one event."
Pelotonia will run Aug. 28-30. NetJets provided a $12.5 million gift to the race so that 100 percent of donations will directly support cancer research at the OSUCCC-James. For details, visit www.pelotonia.org.