Keller college student to bike from Austin to Alaska to fight cancer

Bikers on treelined road

Next summer, Kristopher Novak plans to travel from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska — by bicycle.

Novak, a Keller resident and senior at the University of Texas at Austin, is set to pedal the more than 4,500 miles along with 79 other adventurous young people in the 2017 “Texas 4000” trip.

Founded in 2003, the Texas 4000 (tagline: Fighting Cancer with Every Mile) is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world. It aims to “cultivate student leaders and engage communities in the fight against cancer,” the website says.

The bicyclists — all of them UT students, though the program is not sponsored by the university — raise money for organizations that play a significant role in fighting cancer, including the American Cancer Society, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical School and the Livestrong Foundation. Participants also reach out to each city visited during the trek to spread messages of hope and education about cancer prevention through presentations and conversations.

Novak got involved with the cause last fall through a friend, who this summer rode in the Texas 4000.

WE MIGHT NOT HAVE THE SAME SKILL SETS AS DOCTORS OR MEDICAL RESEARCHERS, BUT WE CAN STILL DO SOMETHING TO HELP PUT AN END TO THIS TERRIBLE DISEASE.

Kristopher Novak

“By the end of the conversation, I was convinced that I should join,” Novak says. “To me, the Texas 4000 shows the world that folks as young as me can make a difference in the fight against cancer. We might not have the same skill sets as doctors or medical researchers, but we can still do something to help put an end to this terrible disease.”

Initially, Novak worried that he might not have what it takes to make next summer’s trip, even though he “felt warmth” in his chest, he says, every time he heard mention of the Texas 4000. But when he met and began working with his teammates, his mind was put at ease.

“I suddenly realized why I had such doubts,” he says. “I’m confident that I wouldn’t be able to bike to Alaska alone, but with the incredible individuals I have trained with, I believe anything is possible. We complement one another’s strengths and weaknesses and at the same time are united by our cause.”

Novak says many of the people who join Texas 4000 aren’t necessarily cycling enthusiasts. They join because of loved ones who have had cancer.

Novak isn’t a cycling newbie, but he’s no Olympian, either.

“I first started riding seriously last summer to commute to work,” he says. “I thought it’d be a good way to combine fitness and my love of sightseeing — it also helped that my workplace had showers. It was a 24-mile round trip, which might not be much for a cycling enthusiast, but it was quite the challenge for me on my mountain bike.”

Grueling workouts

Novak took this summer off work to prepare for next year’s trek. He could be found riding his bicycle all over Keller, particularly the northern area.

“It’s hilly enough to get a good workout, but also quite serene, especially in the morning,” he says.

To be eligible to ride in the Texas 4000, Novak must attend weekly workout sessions and put in 2,000 training miles with his team. He has also been eating healthfully, stretching and drinking lots of water to supplement his cycling regimen.

“Before our routes are assigned to us in the fall, we focus on two things: cardio and building our core muscles,” he says. “Cardio usually consists of running a few miles. Building core muscles involves intensive exercises focused on the abs, glutes, hamstrings and back. Many biking issues, particularly those in the back and knees, are related to not properly engaging the abs while riding.”

Each Texas 4000 participant will ride one of three routes: Sierra, which goes through Lubbock, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver; Rockies, which goes through Dallas, Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Calgary, and Vancouver; and Ozarks, which goes through Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. All three routes begin in Austin and end in Anchorage, and each averages more than 4,000 miles.

5,700Gallons of gas six 12-passenger support vans and three support cars will use. They will drive over 9,500 miles each.

35Gallons of sunscreen used

5,000Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten by the team

700Gallons of sports drink consumed during the trip

10,000Energy bars consumed during the trip

The trek is harrowing: 70 nights spent in various places — 30 nights camping, 16 nights in a gym, 14 nights with host families, nine nights in churches and one in a donated hotel room. Typically, they face 15 thunderstorms, three hailstorms, and wind gusts of up to 40 mph usually await the team, the organization says. They average five flat-tire changes per day.

Luckily, the group is allowed to fly home after reaching Anchorage.

Novak hopes to travel to Alaska by way of the Rockies, but said he will not be disappointed if he’s assigned the Sierra or Ozarks route.

In addition to extensive training, participants must do 50 hours of community service.

“We completed 25 of those hours in the spring,” Novak says. “The focus at that time had two parts: helping the 2016 team get ready to leave, and interacting with the Austin community. The next 25 service hours will consist of anything from volunteering at cancer clinics to helping out at other cycling events.”

Novak must also raise money for the expedition.

“My personal goal is $8,000, which may seem like a lot, but it is a good place to start if we want to reach our overall $1 million goal,” says Novak, who has a donation page atwww.kristophernovak.com. As of press time, he had raised $2,309 toward his goal, with just over 400 days to go.

Most of the money goes to the charities that benefit from the event, he says.

“While we, the riders, are expected to pay for almost everything out of our wallets — gear, tents, replacement tires, etc. — some of the raised money is used toward the bikes or important expenses that may occur during the ride,” he says, “such as if the support and gear van breaks down and needs to be repaired.”

This fall, Novak will continue his electrical engineering studies, a field that relates to his passion for helping those suffering from cancer.

“In graduate school, I hope to research how electromagnetic radiation can be used to treat and destroy cancers,” he says, “particularly in ways that do not require invasive surgery.”

See original article here.