RRHS alum treks 4,000 miles for cancer research
For the first time in her life, Elaine Posluzny was so certain about a decision she didn’t even need to make a pro-con list.
The Round Rock High School alum and University of Texas graduate jumped at the chance to ride 4,000 miles on a bike from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska in the name of cancer research.
“It was a gut decision, something I felt I needed to do,” Posluzny said. “A friend of mine lost his leg to cancer, my uncle has been diagnosed, so cancer has been a big part of my life. I had a lot of reasons to do it. Every day I got a new reason to ride. It stinks that cancer is so prevalent, yet it’s what brings us all together. Everyone is connected by cancer.”
Pozlusny and 78 other UT Austin students embarked on the 70-day journey in May. Riders divided up into three routes (Ozarks, Rockies, Sierra) and met up in Yukon Territory to complete the ride together toward Anchorage.
Along the way, riders stayed with volunteers (in their homes, in churches, or on couches) and gave presentations on cancer awareness. They also raised funds that would later be divided among grant recipients and to staff one full-time researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
University of Texas students are annually selected for the Texas 4000, an eight-month program designed to cultivate the next generation to lead the fight against cancer.
Students are also empowered to raise $4,500, ride 1,500 training miles with a team, volunteer more than 50 hours, and play an active role in planning aspects of the ride to Alaska.
To keep her spirits up during the grueling days filled with difficult rides, uncooperative weather and exhaustion, Pozlusny set mini milestones for herself.
“I really didn’t look at a topographical map until I was on my way, and anything west of New Mexico is mountains. I learned to take it one bit at a time, so every day the first challenge would be to make it to the first rest stop, then take a break. Then get back on your bike, make it to the next point. Sometimes it was a mile-by-mile type of thing. I learned to keep moving forward, and before we knew it, it was Day 69 and we just had one day left.”
While bike ride of more than 4,000 miles can be a difficult feat, Pozlusny said she found several more positive outcomes from her experience. She kept track of these moments either in group emails to family and friends, or in a small journal she jotted down notes in along the way.
“I picked up a lot of unexpected lessons from staying with gracious hosts, camping, being in wilderness,” she said. “Throughout the ride I just saw what we’re doing to be a humble metaphor for [fighting] cancer itself. The ride of course doesn’t suck as much as cancer, but some days are tough and by laughing at ourselves and having a positive attitude, we could see the good in the world.”
Pozlusny said she also learned a great deal from those they met along the way.
“We were these sweaty, stinky bikers and people went out of their way to help us,” she said. “This ride really showed me how individuals are such good people. People would be so happy with what we’re doing, and we were so happy they opened their homes and made us breakfast.”
In the fall, she plans to move to Dallas to start a new career as a consultant. Pozlusny sees her experiences from the summer helping her make the most out of her new career.
“I learned a lot about perspective, and to not only have passion for what I’m doing in my work, but to also ask people what they’re passionate about. It’s about living every day to the fullest. I got to bike across the country, which is such an awesome thing to do, but I don’t want that to be the best thing I’ve ever done.”
by Fauzeya Rahman