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Money for Parkinson's disease motivates STP riders

Thursday July 18, 2013

Cindy Teixeira

Nisqually Valley News - When it comes to long bicycle rides, a dad who can’t sing well is a great motivator for Hailee Christensen.

When the 13-year-old feels as if she wants to stop, her father’s singing motivates her to keep pedaling to get ahead and away as quickly as possible.

“He can’t sing and it’s embarrassing,” she said. “They are totally made up songs and they’re terrible.”

Hailee and her father, Shawn Christensen, of Yelm, rode the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, or STP, last weekend. It was her first time, his fourth.

Besides Shawn’s singing, another motivator was the approximately $1,200 they raised for Parkinson’s disease, a malady that struck one of Hailee’s relatives. She’s ridden in shorter events — fewer than 100 miles — but the STP is 204 miles. It involves close proximity to cars, steep hills and bridges, and for Hailee, a boring section near her house where she’s been training on the Chehalis Western Trail.

A most recent training session was when the family went to Oregon. She and her dad rode from Seaside to Astoria, then back to Cannon Beach. One thing the pair learned during their Oregon training session was they needed a real tire pump.

“Those CO2 cartridges just didn’t do it,” Shawn said.
Since the STP was new to her, the eighth-grader admitted she was “a little nervous” due to the cars and all the other riders. She didn’t expect her backside would get tired, yet knew her muscles would be sore.

“My shorts have padding,” Hailee said. And so does her bike seat.

STP riders can make the trip in one day or two. Those aiming for one day leave the start line in the wee hours of daylight Saturday morning. After that, the two-day riders line up and are released to leave in groups at about 30-second intervals.

The night before the race, Shawn said he was looking for a 6:30 a.m. start, but according to Kari Christensen, Hailee’s mother, the start area was crazy. It took more than 90 minutes to get the bikes through traffic to the start.

The pair hoped to be in Yelm by lunchtime, but between the late start and the long haul up the steep South Hill in Puyallup, they were running behind. At noon they were in Spanaway and arrived in Yelm at 2 p.m. After a short 10-minute rest, they set off pedaling again. It was about 5:30 p.m. when they reached Chehalis and camped out with thousands of other riders.

“We were so tired, we took a shower and just fell asleep,” Hailee said, which left her mother to watch the gear and get everything ready for the next morning.

Sunday saw the pair get off to an earlier start as they hit the trail at 6:30 a.m.

Still, it seemed easier the second day except for the last pull up the hills into Portland. Getting over the Columbia River wasn’t as difficult as it was scary, she said, and “once you get over it, you think you’re almost to the finish, but you’re not.” When they saw the finish line at about 3:30 p.m., Hailee said it was a great feeling.

“I was thinking, ‘Now I get to rest,’” she said.
Despite tables of food, bike vendors and all sorts of exciting things at the finish line, Hailee and Shawn took a photo, loaded up the bikes and Kari drove them to get pizza.
“On the way home we were all happy and excited and singing, and then I fell asleep,” Hailee said.

Looking back at the bike adventure with her father, Hailee said “trying not to get run over by cars” was a major issue. She saw plenty of close calls.

“As a parent of a rider, I don’t appreciate the drivers who honk at the young riders and startle them,” Kari said.
Some people would honk and yell, and tell them to get off the road, Hailee said. Aside from that, though, her advice for bike riders everywhere is to “stay hydrated, believe in yourself, keep going and don’t think about how far you have left to go.”

“Enjoy the ride,” she said. “When you’re done, you can be proud you did it.”

Shawn said the secret is never to compete, but stay focused and positive.

“It’s more mental than anything,” he said.
Hailee is planning a shorter ride with her mother in September for WAVE, Women Against Violence Everywhere, but she is undecided about doing STP again.
At 13, she’s got plenty of time.

And for the record, during the STP, her father did not sing.

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