Hospital's Laura Walker Pushes Pedals to the Top
Pedal 102.7 miles in less
than 10 hours.
Check and double check.
The 102.7-mile bike ride to the
pinnacle of Mount Mitchell was recently checked off Laura Walker's
"Bucket List" of things to do in her lifetime.
A very fit physical therapy
assistant at St. Luke's Hospital, Walker says she participated in the
May 20 "Assault on Mount Mitchell" purely for the experience. And she's
certain it was one experience she will never forget; nor ever repeat!
"This was my first attempt to
ride the 'Assault on Mt. Mitchell,' and it's safe to say it was also my
last!" Walker said. "It's great to cross the finish line, but it's even
better to cross and say 'it's finally over.'"
The "Assault on Mount
Mitchell" is an annual bicycling endurance contest that starts in
Spartanburg, S.C., winds through country roads and crossroad towns
before climbing 10,357 vertical feet to end, amid cheers and chants, at
the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi
River. Mount Mitchell is located in Mount Mitchell State Park in Yancey
County, N.C. Only 1,300 cyclists are accepted to participate. Half
choose to stop in Marion at the base of the strenuous climb up the
mountain. The other 650 cyclists continue the climb; this year, Walker
was one of only 50 women who finished the entire ride.
Other St. Luke's employees
who have challenged themselves in past years were unable to participate
in the bike ride this year. So Walker began training on her own back in
January, following a training program on the website for the
Freewheelers of Spartanburg. The Freewheelers is a group of cyclists who
help sponsor and organize the elite bike ride. For the past six months,
Walker was cycling up to 100-150 miles a week.
Though this was Walker's
first cycling event, she is no stranger to competition. She is an avid
runner and competes in numerous road races. Walker also competed in
numerous sprint triathlons (running, cycling and swimming) and placed in
the top three of her age group every year.
Just like the energy and
enthusiasm she shares with her patients, Walker can empathize with a
patient's mental and physical push through the pain and doubt on the
road to recovery.
"I understand how difficult
it can be to keep pushing yourself, whether it's pain from hours on a
bicycle or pain following knee replacement," Walker said. "But it's a
really great feeling when you reach your goal, whether it's to the top
of the mountain or a walk around the hospital."
Her first time up a mountain
on a bicycle, Laura pushed and pedaled for nearly 10 hours to reach her
goal. And then she checked it off the list.