Siobhan Cahill, 19, Takes On Cross-Country Cycling Adventure

July 2015

By Mason Lipman

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For some students, “summer” means being at home, working a part-time job and spending time with friends. For others, “summer” means parties and vacations, and for a few it means an additional school term.

Siobhan Cahill and her ride group

Siobhan (third from right, no helmet) and her entire
team took a selfie with the Kentucky sign.
Pictures by and courtesy of Siobhan Cahill

For Wake Forest resident Siobhan Cahill, however, this summer means riding her bike 4,000 miles across the country from Baltimore to San Francisco.

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Cahill was motivated to participate in the charity ride known as “4K for Cancer” by the death of her stepmother Linda, who died of cancer during Cahill’s senior year of high school.

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Cahill completed her freshman year at North Carolina State University in May and shortly thereafter set off on the cross-country bike ride, which was to last 70 days from when they left Baltimore in late May.

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“About a week into my senior year of high school, I found out that Linda had lung cancer and wasn’t going to live much longer,” Cahill said. “It literally rocked my world.”

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From there, she said, she searched for a way to turn her “pain into action.” She stumbled across 4K for Cancer on the Internet. It immediately caught her eye, in part because only a couple hundred people had ever participated in it.

Cahill spent three months mulling the idea over before deciding to do it. Once she had decided to participate, however, she was in for the long haul.

“I figured if I didn’t do this I’d be sitting at home all summer twiddling my thumbs,” she said. “I get to go out and see the country, meet new people, exercise and think.”

Between school and extracurricular activities, her training time was cut down from the recommended 12 weeks to hardly a month.

Straddling state lines

Siobhan (third from left) and her ride group posed by straddling the Virginia/Tennessee state line in Bristol.

Local business owner Bryan Staffey of Run N Tri Outfitters supported Cahill’s mission from the start.

“I was introduced to Siobhan through her mother, who had explained to me the monumental task that she had ahead of her, as far as riding across the country on a bicycle,” Staffey said.

Run N Tri has donated water bottles, tires, inner tubes and quality cycling clothing to Cahill. In addition to the gear, Staffey and his employees provided insight on essential training for the ride, including core-strengthening exercises to help endure the long stretches of time on her bike.

4K for Cancer is a bona fide adventure for young people willing to undertake it. Geared for young, college-age adults, it is absolutely not a summer camp. To participate, riders must first raise at least $4,500, all of which goes to directly to cancer research. At the $2,000 mark, riders receive a donated bike to use for the ride.

In order for the money riders raise to be considered charitable donations, participants must seek out donations of food every day in “host cities.” A host city is a city where a person or organization has offered riders free food or lodging to help keep them going on their journey.

It is not always without struggles. “Actually the first night, we got to our host city and our host had backed out,” Cahill said. “Thankfully we had an alumnus of the trip who was able to find us a host really quickly.”

There are 28 other riders making the trip with Cahill. Every day they get up at 5 in the morning and prepare to leave for the next host city by eating breakfast, doing chores and doing a dedication circle in honor of those who have died of cancer. Then, they break into groups of four to six and set off. Those groups ride together throughout the day, keeping each other motivated.

Outrunning a storm

One of the hazards of the trip is weather. Siobhan’s ride group out rode a storm in Illinois the day they entered Missouri.

On June 15, Cahill rode 90 miles from Erin, Tennessee, to Union City, Tennessee. The team kept a similar pace of about 90 to 100 miles per day, and passed through Missouri the next week, entering Kansas on the June 24.

The planned route runs from Baltimore, Maryland, into Southern Virginia, through Tennessee and Missouri to the Midwest. From there, they will ride to Colorado, into Idaho and then Oregon. Finally, they will ride south through California to their destination of San Francisco.

“We should be – we will be in San Francisco on August 8th,” Cahill said confidently.

The exact mileage of the ride puts Cahill and the other riders closer to having ridden 4,400 miles. Upon reaching San Francisco, the team will meet their families and loved ones, part ways and find their way home.

Cahill plans to stay in San Francisco for a few days to explore the city before returning home.