A couple years ago, Steve Edwards gave me a bike. I don’t mean a beat up, rusty ol’ beach cruiser, but rather a high performance, decked-out Cannondale road bike. At the time, I had little more than a passing curiousity in cycling, but Steve decided I was worth the investment. I guess he knew something about me that I didn’t.
It wasn’t the first time Steve’s done me a solid. In fact, it was just the latest in a long series of beers, burritos, sagely advice, and employment opportunities (including my current gig as Director of Nutrition Content at Beachbody) that he’s done for me over our 25-year friendship—but its impact was certainly the biggest. Within a year, I had completed my first century (100-mile ride). Within two years, centuries had become a typical weekend outing; double centuries were my new thing. I’d also joined a cycling team (Big Orange) and raced on a regular basis. I quickly outgrew the Cannondale and have put over 11,000 miles on my subsequent bikes. (I have a stable of them now.) After 40-odd years of floating between 225 pounds and 170 pounds with occasional bouts of fitness, but little athletic direction, I’ve found an identity. I have become an under-sleeping, over-trained, deliriously content cyclist.
Just because Steve Edwards gave me a bike.
Of course, no matter how much I thank him, he brushes off my gratitude with the Grand Torino-era Clint Eastwood growl he uses in place of sentimentality. “I wasn’t using it,” he grumbles. “A bike’s meant to be ridden,”
But that’s Steve’s world. He’s too busy designing multi-million-dollar-setting workout programs for Beachbody, setting 5.15 climbing routes across Utah, or mountain biking over the Himalayas to get all mushy. In fact he used a similar gruff, nonchalant inflection last year when he announced to me, “So, yeah, here’s a thing you should know. I’ve got cancer.”
Specifically, he had mantle cell lymphoma, a rare, difficult-to-treat immune system cancer. The moment he told me this, my entire world dropped out from under me, like a dunk tank from hell. Steve, however, took it in stride, taking only two days off work through his entire chemo because he was, “feeling kind of grim.”
The details of Steve’s treatment are for him to share. I can, however, assure you that I’m doing anything I can to help, which mostly means dealing with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo at work, soothing crying coworkers while not bursting into tears myself, and talking to Steve about bikes as often as possible. He encourages this practice because it allows him to procrastinate at work, which he claims is the only thing he has the strength to do lately.
This brings me to the Birthday Challenge.
The idea of celebrating one’s birthday with a feat centering around one’s age was pioneered by Steve’s idol, fitness legend Jack LaLanne, who, among other accomplishments, swam a mile while towing 70 boats at 70-years-old. However, it was Steve and his band of misfits who brought the Birthday Challenge to the modern age, crafting the execution of their elaborate challenges into a minorly cultish (the good kind of cultish) club where absurdly fit people do absurdly fit things in celebration of aging.
I’ve dabbled in Birthday Challenge waters a few times and helped Steve accomplish a few of his. This year, his largely centered around surviving cancer—his most impressive one yet. And therefore, I needed to make mine a fitting tribute. It needed to celebrate our friendship. It needed to celebrate the sport that’s completely reshaped my life. It needed to take a stand against the disease that robbed me of a few friends and family—and will not rob me of this one. And most of all, it needed to be really, bloody tough. Cuz that’s how Steve would want it.
So on May 30-31, for my 45th birthday, my training partner/Big Orange Cycling teammate Kevin Nix and will ride our bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two days. That’s 450 miles in 45 hours, with the goal of raising $4,500 to donate to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Steve concedes that he might be slightly too undertrained to join us, he has blessed the challenge as “frickin’ rad.”
And that’s good enough for me.
If you’d like to help us on this challenge, there are all kinds of ways. First and foremost, you can donate to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Here’s my fundraising page.
You can also join the 450/45 Cancer (Birthday) Challenge Page on Facebook for updates.
Finally, you can follow the action on Instagram @realnutritionnerd, where I’ll be posting photo updates over our two days on the road.
Maybe we’ll see ya out there. A couple of our Big Orange teammates have offered to come along, but I’m not holding them to it (yet). Either way, if you see two or more knuckleheads in orange lycra cycling down the California coast that weekend, feel free to give us a thumbs up–or a bottle of water. Giving Steve all the support we can give requires all the support we can get. That may not be something the man himself would ever admit, but as we often say around the office, “Not everyone can be Steve Edwards.”