Chuck Podgurski

My first bike was red. It had a banana seat and long handlebars. I loved that thing. I rode it all the time growing up, around the neighborhood, through the woods, exploring as far as I could. It was my escape. Sometimes it turned into ’69 Plymouth Fury when we played cops… I may have been the last one picked on most backyard football games, but I could get on my bike and ride like a maniac!

As an adult in New York City, I tooled around Manhattan for exercise on my road bike. I wasn’t Captain Safety back then. I don’t know what I was thinking. For 20 years here in Atlanta, I rode a hybrid each day, mostly to burn off work stress. I’ve always enjoyed my cycling; just me and my thoughts and a sturdy bike.

Then I met Jonny Wood three years ago; speed-demon Jonny Wood, who did marathons and rode his bike 40 and 50 miles. He invited me one weekend to ride with a mutual friend of ours. Ummm..yeah, I couldn’t really keep up.  I kept riding though, each weekend that summer… 20 or 25 miles, eventually without Jonny since he started training for yet another marathon… or at least that’s what he told me. Poor guy spent a lot of ride time waiting for me at the top of hills.

me & jonny! top fundraisers for 2011… can we repeat it this year?

Anyway, I was hooked on the purposed ride. January 2011, Jonny invited me to an AV200 Rider Recruitment event. I thought it was just some party. As I met one nice, upbeat person after another, I began to hear about the ride itself and why people were involved. On the way out, Jonny asked if I wanted to do the ride with him. Now, I’m usually unbelievably analytical about the commitments I make and I’m ok with that. But for some reason, in that moment, my gut told me to commit. So I did. Right then.  I was in. What’s really funny is that I told him, “But I don’t want to spend lots and lots of money on cycling equipment.” Yeah, right. Of course, now, two bikes later, I look back and … well you know.

“cool people” I’ve met…
(this photo & caption was inserted by the editor who may or may not be in this photo…)

So, the ride last year, all the training before and since, all the people I’ve met through it, the fact that the money raised actually makes a difference — each has been an incredible gift, an amazing part of my life’s journey. I love that cycling is a metaphor for life: There are hills and valleys; there are limits to be acknowledged and there are limits to be blown apart; sometimes you succeed with the help of your friends and sometimes you succeed by digging down deep inside yourself and pulling up what you didn’t think you had. Cycling has helped heal me in so many ways. I love it. I love it. I love it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now let’s talk about fundraising. If there’s any area in which I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, it’s my fundraising. I’m not saying it’s healthy or unhealthy, but I ended up sending emails to EVERYONE on my contact list. I didn’t care who they were. Last year when donations started coming in, I was absolutely shocked. Then I sent out a few more emails. Then I got more donations. And then it was all out. I got drunk with success. I got donations from people I hadn’t seen in years and even a few I hadn’t met. This year I sent out over 500 emails. Basically, donations are like heroin to me! I can’t get enough. Healthy? Unhealthy? Who’s to say? Ok, maybe the American Psychiatric Association. But please don’t worry. I plan to find a 12-step program for whatever this is, soon after the ride.

chuck_family_SOM

team chuck! my cousin Neen and her husband Tony with me at the end of day two

Alright, all joking aside, let’s get back to the reason I ride.  I’m actually dedicating this year’s ride once more to three dear, sweet men who were my friends, who passed much too young, who I miss very deeply, who would probably still be here if we had a vaccine: Andy Cannon, Jim Buccalo and Kerry Schwoyer.

Sometimes I talk to them when I train. Sometimes I picture them next to me when I’m struggling up a hill. Mostly I think of all the people who will live when a vaccine is discovered.

-Chuck

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One thought on “Chuck Podgurski

  1. Pingback: AJ Long | AIDS Vaccine 200

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