The cycle of success

By Laura Smith

September 24, 2008

This weekend, while most Elon professors will spend their two precious days off relaxing at home or grading papers, sociology professor Thomas Arcaro, will be in the North Georgia Mountains, bicycling… for 103 miles.

Photo courtesy of The Pendulum

Photo courtesy of The Pendulum

Arcaro will be participating in the Six Gap Century bicycling event on Sept. 28 in northern Georgia. Beginning at 7:30 a.m in Dahlonega, Ga., approximately 2,500 other riders will bike across 103 miles of rocky terrain and hills up to 3,490 feet.

“In my fantasy world, I don’t think it would be impossible for Lance Armstrong to show up,” Arcaro joked. As this year marks the 20thanniversary of the race, he believes there will be a good turn out of supporters and make for a huge cycling event.

Arcaro began bicycling when he started participating in triathlons in the late 1980s. He began by participating in 5Ks, then 10Ks, then marathons, and found that he loved the exertion so much that he continued to push himself harder. Arcaro even participated in the Boston Marathon and the Ironman competition.  Earlier this month, Arcaro participated in the Tour de Moore in Moore County, N.C.

The Tour de Moore was the same distance as the Six Gap Century, but with much fewer hills. Arcaro finished the Tour de Moore in 5 hours and 35 minutes. He predicts the Six Gap will take him closer to seven.

Image courtesy of Cycle North Georgia

“This is a whole different beast,” he said.

During the event, Arcaro will sustain his energy by stopping at stations called SAG stops, where volunteers replenish the riders with food and drinks. Though he plans to keep his energy level high with healthy foods like pretzels and fruit, Arcaro knows how important it is to stop as little as possible though to maintain his energy. His strategy is to stay with a group of other riders.

 “Biking is just like a lot of things, it’s easier if you’re in a pack,” he said.  “Partially because of the aerodynamic advantage of riding behind someone – even when you’re going slower, having someone pace you takes some of the psychological duress off.”

“If you happen to be with a good group at the time, then that really determines what you do and what you don’t do,” he said. “It’s actually critical to hook up with people at the same skill level because together you’re stronger than you are alone.”

For right now, Arcaro is trying to prepare both physically and mentally as well as he can. He said that he stays healthy for these events by taking multi-vitamins, drinking pomegranate juice, and getting to sleep early.

“I’ve found that once I’ve got a race on my calendar, I’m a lot more conscientious about what I eat and my sleeping,” he said.

However, more sleep definitely does not mean less work for Arcaro.

“I’ve been trying as much as possible to do more hill work,” he said. “It’s more of a science than you think. I’ve really learned in the last few weeks of doing hill work, that it really matters how you pace yourself.”

Image courtesy of Cycle North Georgia

Most of all, he feels very grateful to be able to do what he loves.

“What will keep me going is the gift of being able to do it; it’s honoring that gift,” he said. “There’s a bazillion people in this world that don’t have the health that most Americans enjoy, that I enjoy. And I realize every second of the day what a gift it is to be able to do this. The race day is actually a celebration.”

Arcaro is planning on participating in triathlons again in the near future as well.

“I’ve got no stopping me. I plan on doing this as long as my body allows,” Arcaro said. “When I’m at that starting line, there’s no place in the world I’d rather be.”

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