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An uphill battle with cystic fibrosis

Isaac Brambila
ibrambila@tahoedailytribune.com
Riders and team members of Brian’s Ride Charese Lashinsky, Steve Roberts, Brian McCandless, Emily DiMatteo, Marisol Cruz and Paul DiMatteo pose next to the team’s van Tuesday afternoon.
Isaac Brambila/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Getting to Tahoe was tough.

Many times during the more than 80-mile ride from Camino to South Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, coughing through a lot of the ride, Brian McCandless, who suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF), thought many times of quitting.

“So many times, my body, I was sure it would shut down and not be able to finish, but with my team’s encouragement, I rode into South Lake Tahoe and got to bike another day,” McCandless said after fishing the section Tuesday afternoon. “At many points today I thought about everyone that has helped me along my way and that gave me courage to keep pedaling.”

“He suffered,” Steve Roberts and Charese Lashinsky wrote in a journal entry in the team’s website. “He stood in his lowest gear and clawed his way up that 5,000-foot climb. WHY, because if he doesn’t now, he may not be able to later.”

CF is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. McCandless, 27, who was hosted in South Lake Tahoe by Hope Lutheran Church of the Sierra members, has struggled with the illness all of his life, but he’s always been able to overcome the challenge.

“With cystic fibrosis, a lot of people told me I wouldn’t be able to exercise. And, one day when I was sitting in class, I was looking at a giant map of the U.S. and I thought, ‘you know what, I’m going to ride my bike from Pennsylvania to Florida,’” he said.

Tuesday’s section was part of McCandless’ third cross-country ride, and the longest so far. He plans to ride roughly 3,400 miles from San Francisco to Annapolis, Maryland. Along the way, McCandless and his team are attempting to raise at least $20,000 for CF research.

As of Friday, in the morning of their fifth day of a scheduled 48, the team had raised more than $2,600. The group will raise money from crowd funding donations as well as the leftover money from funds raised for the ride. The money will go to the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

McCandless was born with CF and was often bullied in school, according to his website. Many believed that he would not be able to do simple exercises or even live to graduate high school.

But he was not willing to let his illness determine his life path, and he is not willing to let it determine the life path of others either.

“I didn’t want people to feel that because you have CF you couldn’t go exercise,” he said.

Going to the hospital when he was younger, he would hear stories from nurses that people with CF would never start their life because they were expected to die at an early age.

“That blew my mind,” he said, “that someone could be told to live like that. I don’t ever want anyone to feel like that, so I try to inspire others.”

“It doesn’t matter other’s expectations, you have to just believe in yourself,” he added.

In addition to the previous two cross-country rides, McCandless has accomplished a 350-mile cycling trip from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Musselman Half Ironman in Geneva, New York, which included a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike section and a 13.1-mile run. He has also been on a the Great Buckeye Challenge Half Ironman in Springfield, the Charleston Marathon, the Seoul, South Korea International Marathon, the Couer d’Alene Ironman and the Central Florida Tough Mudder.

Still, the effort is a struggle.

“I find it harder and harder to maintain that flatline level of health,” he said. Seeing his health deteriorate over time is probably the toughest part, he said.

But through the pain on Tuesday, McCandless was still able to find enjoyment in the tough climbing day.

“It was really cool coming into to Tahoe because, we’re really tired obviously, and then as soon as we turned on [Highway 50], we had a tailwind into the city,” McCandless said.

“It’s really beautiful, when you’re coming down the hill and getting a look at the lake and everything. It’s really cool.”

To learn more about Brian’s Ride for cystic fibrosis or to donate to the cause visit http://www.briansride.org/ or http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/briansride/briansride.


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