Not too little for long bike ride

August 13, 2013

By Kristine Kim

Susheel Cheeti, of Issaquah, cruises on his bike July 13 during the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. By MarathonFoto

Susheel Cheeti, of Issaquah, cruises on his bike July 13 during the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.
By MarathonFoto

Since February, 11-year-old Susheel Cheeti has biked more than 1,400 miles. Of those, Susheel completed a little over 200 within 17 hours during the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic over the weekend of July 13.

The recreational bike ride, sponsored by Group Health, hosts up to 10,000 riders in support of bicycle education, advocacy, commute and riding programs throughout the greater Puget Sound region. This was Susheel’s first year participating. According to M.J. Kelly, director of communications and marketing at the Cascade Bicycle Club, he was one of 137 Issaquah residents who participated in the event.

For the 11-year-old who just finished fifth grade at Cascade Ridge Elementary School, a lot of his determination for the 200-mile trek came from his five years of tae kwon do training at True Martial Arts in Sammamish.

“We have a mental requirement for every rank. A couple belts ago, it was no giving up,” he said.

Before the STP, Susheel was not sure of his chances when it came to completing the ride in two days, let alone one. It was only a week before the event that Susheel’s group decided that they would aim to complete the STP in one day.

“I was in the middle,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I could do it in one day. I felt more nervous than I did before. We practiced to do it in two days, and maybe in one day.”

The Seattle to Portland ride is in its 34th year. Since its start as a time-trial race in 1979, the event has evolved into a recreational one- or two-day ride for people from around the world. This year’s STP brought in riders from 45 states, Canada, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France.

Riders start at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium and end in Holladay Park in Portland, Ore. The path is 202.25 miles long. According to the Cascade Bicycle Club, about 25 percent of participants complete the ride in one day. The other 75 percent celebrate and rest in Centralia with a midpoint festival.

As a young man who achieved a big goal in a mere 17 hours, Susheel advises his peers to look to the future.

“I would say that if you have a goal, you should actually practice a lot for it,” he said. “Find out what might hurt afterwards.”

For Susheel, what hurt the most were his legs — after he finished his 200-mile ride, he said he could barely walk.

“He made us proud,” said Susheel’s mother Sravani Cheeti. She calls her son’s finish “one of the best moments of our life.”

Before the race, the boy’s parents had been telling family members about Susheel’s participation in the ride. Even so, they knew not to put their expectations too high. After all, it was Susheel’s first time participating, and he is 11. Neither of his parents wanted to put too much pressure on him.

For Susheel’s parents, the feat is not something their son could have accomplished alone.

“You can achieve anything as long as you have motivation, practice and parents’ guidance,” his father Anand Cheeti said.

Sravani Cheeti described the role of a parent in a child’s dream as one that requires commitment.

“As a parent, you have to be ready,” she said. “It’s not just their goals. You have to make it as your commitment if they want to get something done.”

On their part, the Cheetis made sure to demonstrate their commitment by getting their son on schedule. For a couple of weeks before the race, they made sure he went to sleep early enough. They practiced waking him up at earlier and earlier half-hour intervals, culminating in the 2:45 a.m. wake-up call the day of the race.

Though they did not bike along with their son, three friends of the Cheeti parents were there with the boy during the ride. Not only was at least one adult with him during the duration of the STP, but the group also took Susheel out to regular weekly practices for months beforehand.

“We can’t appreciate the help enough,” his mother said. “In everything, they were together with him.”

With all the hills Susheel encounters while biking, the path to a 17-hour STP definitely had its ups and downs. At the end of February, in his second week of training for the STP, Susheel suffered a fall on the hill of 228th Avenue Southeast, going toward Inglewood.

“I was trying a new position that everybody uses, but I couldn’t reach the brakes properly,” he said. “After I fell, everything was blue and yellow for a bit. My vision was blurry.”

Even so, he persevered. In fact, he gave a definite nod when asked whether he would participate in future Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classics.

“Two of his friends got inspired by him,” Susheel’s mother said. Though he might not be able to ride with his friends in next year’s STP due to a possible family trip, he will keep moving forward with his training. His dad said that, at this point, Susheel even hopes to bike as a professional.

On the web

Learn about next year’s Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at https://shop.cascade.org/content/events/stp.

 

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