Running in 20 marathons and participating in multiple triathlons would seem a strong athletic legacy, but La Cañada Flintridge resident Don Sheppard has eyes on the holy grail of U.S. cycling: a cross-country ride.
Next week Sheppard, 65, starts on a 41-day, 3,215-mile trek from Santa Barbara to Charleston, S.C. His training rides have included trips up Angeles Crest Highway to Mount Wilson and other tests in the San Gabriel Mountains as he prepares for a journey that will include a grueling 93,000 feet of climbing.
When he reaches the East Coast, he will have added to another legacy — his and his wife Cayce’s history of charitable giving.
The Sheppards have long been donors to La Cañada academic and athletic causes, supporting Paradise Canyon Elementary School and athletic programs at La Cañada High School. Sheppard’s ride across America will benefit four charities: The Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research; Young Life Capernaum, which provides adventures and experiences for children with disabilities; Project Goal, an educational nonprofit supporting athletes; and the organization Sheppard founded, the Los Angeles Fútbol Club.
Sheppard said part of his motivation was personal.
“In the spring of 2011, I was nearing my 65th birthday,” he said. “I realized that I wanted to get back in shape and in good health, and I needed a long-term goal to motivate me to do so. I needed a difficult challenge, one that would really test me.”
Sheppard said the hardest part of the ride will likely be physical exhaustion as he rides between 35 and 140 miles each day on a schedule that requires riding five out of every six days.
“The unrelenting nature of waking up every day and having to face a major bike ride will be the hardest part of the whole experience,” he said. “I expect to get stronger with each day, rather than weaker, and once I get the daily routine down, it will be slightly easier.”
Accommodations for the ride, including breakfast, lodging, lunch and dinner, are all taken care of by Wisconsin-based Trek Travel, which outfits riders for journeys around the world.
Sheppard has cut back on carbohydrates and kept to a rigorous training schedule, but his wife Cayce has taken the changes in stride.
“I tend to be on the healthier side, nutritionally, so for me his diet was not difficult to adapt to,” she said.
Overall, she said, she’s thrilled he’s taken on the challenge.
“I’m really excited for him,” she said. “He literally has been talking about doing this for 27 years. It’s really, really exciting that all the planets aligned for him.”
Don Sheppard plans to update his blog regularly throughout the ride. To follow along or donate to the cause, visit www.donsheppardbikesacrossamerica2012.com.