Catonsville native completes 4,349 mile cycling trip from Baltimore to Portland

For some, Cannon Beach is simply one more site on of a long list of tourist spots along the Oregon coastline.

But for Catonsville native Sarah Robbins, dipping the front tire of her Cannondale Synapse bicycle into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 8 at the southern Oregon vacation destination was a sobering moment.

It meant she and her 26 teammates were within 100 miles of Portland, their final destination of a 4,349-mile, coast-to-coast bicycle trip from Baltimore's Inner Harbor that was part of the Ulman Cancer Fund's 4K for Cancer.

Robbins, a 21-year-old rising senior at University of Maryland College Park, said the feeling on that Thursday was surreal.

"You're just kind of like, 'Is this real life?' That's the first thing you think," she said Aug. 15, two days after returning to Catonsville from Portland and the end of her 70-day journey.

"Because it seems impossible really," she said. "I've never done anything close, not even remotely close, to the 4K before."

"Oh my God, we actually biked here from Baltimore," she said. "We all dipped our back tire in the [Inner] Harbor and we all dipped our front tire in the Pacific."

The ride began June 2 and ended Aug. 10. It took Robbins from Baltimore to Chicago, Boulder, Colo., and finally Portland.

Daily rides were from 30 to more than 100 miles at a time and Robbins said it took some time to adjust to the rigorous physical schedule.

"The first day was good, because everyone was really excited and everyone was really pumped up," she said last week. "[But] I remember getting to that first hill and being like, 'Oh my gosh. I can't do this.'

"We started by [our trip] climbing the Appalachians, so I think our trip was the hardest," Robbins said, in comparing her trip to other 4K rides to San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

"Then there was the third day and the fourth day and you start getting up and doing it every day and you realize it's going to be OK," she said.

"You start getting less tired and you know how much you have to sleep,' she said. "You sort of get into this routine."

Over the course of the trip, Robbins and her teammates battled flat tires, bad falls and climbs of more than 5,000 feet at a time.

Through it all, they were constantly cognizant of a bigger, ongoing battle — the fight to cure cancer.

Each day, the cyclists wrote the name of a person they know who is in treatment for, has been diagnosed with, survived or died from cancer on their calves to dedicate that day's ride to them.

Robbins dedicated her first day's ride to her grandfather, who died from cancer and was her inspiration to apply for the ride.

"One of the girls [on the trip], her mom actually got diagnosed on the trip with Stage 4 cancer," Robbins said. "I think all of us dedicated at least one day to her and her family.

"It's hard when you think about it," she said. "There are some days when people are teary-eyed when they're thinking about who you're riding for.

"I think doing that really brings you back to why you're riding," she said. "Because some days when you're climbing a hill, you have no motivation.

"But doing that is not harder than having cancer," she said.

In all, Robbins said the experience was fulfilling, both mentally and physically.

"I never could have imagined everything that I saw," said Robbins, who collected pledges for nearly $5,000 for her trip. "Obviously, America is huge. But I never really thought about it. And you're biking across it and see how different everything is.

"You're so proud of yourself. You're so proud of your team. Oh my gosh, it was so exciting," she said.

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