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Jon Potter Completes AidsLifecycle

July 7, 2010

A few weeks ago we mentioned on the blog how proud we were of  Jon for participating in an event that meant a lot to him and pushed him to do something extraordinary.  In his own words,  here is of recap of  his experience –Jim


By Jon Potter, Western Regional Director (CA), Nelnet Partner Solutions

On Sunday, June 6 I cycled out of San Francisco headed south to Los Angeles in an attempt to make a difference in the fight against AIDS. It had been a long time since I’d been on a bike, and I had some concerns about it. Will everything work out okay? Did I train enough for a 555-mile ride down the coast of California? Can I physically handle this challenge being in my 40s? I couldn’t help to notice lots of people in the room were younger. I began to calm myself down by recalling all of the training rides I’d completed, and that I indeed was ready.

 I began training in December 2009 on a clunky bike with a squeaky chain. I’d wake up at 6:00 a.m. to set out for a 20-mile ride on Saturday mornings. I would allow four hours so as to not put too much pressure on myself. As time continued, I increased my mileage from weekend to weekend and also began taking spin classes. I thought it was important to put in saddle time on the weekends but also build strength in my legs for hill climbing during the week. Slowly, I began to notice a difference in my endurance. By early March, I began signing up for 50-mile rides and completing them within two and a half to three hours. It was then, with my new found confidence, that I began planning out my calendar looking to sign up for the longer rides that I needed to be ready for the AidsLifecycle.

 In late May, I signed up for a two-day, back-to-back, double-century ride (200 miles). It’s called the Jon Pon ride, and it’s a run through of what takes place on the actual ride. This ride is tough with plenty of climbs, tough terrain, and headwinds that don’t cooperate. The course takes you from San Francisco to Guerneville, California, along the most beautiful scenic coastline in all of the U.S. On that ride, I considered myself one of the luckiest people ever. Most people don’t ever get to experience this…in quite this way. Still I was a little nervous, as I knew that my performance on this ride would determine if I was ready for the AidsLifecycle ride. As I rode back into base camp on Sunday, there was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment (and fatigue). I did it, and now I think I’m ready for this incredible journey!

 On June 6, me and 2,000 other cyclists woke up at 4:00 a.m. to attend Opening Ceremonies. The ceremonies never disappoint, coupled with poignant and motivating speeches to help you focus on why you’re there in the first place. As we cycled out, the crowd was overwhelming with cheers, and bells, and whistles—it’s very moving. I was called a hero that day…I will not forget it.

 From Day 1 through Day 7 you become a road warrior. The goal is to finish each day making sure you hydrate, eat, and ultimately have a fun time! Approximately every 20 miles there is a rest stop for you to snack, stretch, and socialize. There is an amazing sense of camaraderie on this ride, as people really watch out for each other. I assisted others with broken chains, flat tires (ugh), and cycled behind my friend as she was concerned she was too tired to finish one day. As you can imagine, you have a lot of time to think while on a bike for 80 miles a day,  and I began to count my blessings for the people in my life. Good friends, family, and colleagues are what make up the network of my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.

 On June 12, two miles away from Closing Ceremonies, my chain fell off. I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry but realized I’d come this far and knew I wouldn’t let this or anything else stop me from finishing. As I flipped over my bike to fix my chain, I could hear the crowd in the distance cheering on cyclists crossing the finish line—I couldn’t get there fast enough! As I turned the corner, I saw new and familiar faces all celebrating what we had accomplished over the grueling week physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was worth every flat tire, broken chain, and sore bum! Thanks to all the folks at Nelnet for the support, encouragement, and donations…I couldn’t have done it without you!

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