A thousand miles: Local cyclist takes 10 day journey to fight cancer

Dave Rustico, center, took to the road for the annual ERRACE.org cycling event to raise money for cancer awareness and research. This year, Rustico biked 1,000 miles during the event. Above, he is encouraged by his friend and fellow racer, Daren Casey, who has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.



Dave Rustico was on a loop that brought him down into Guilford, East Haven, and New Haven when he saw the clouds gathering. He turned north in New Haven for his final stretch towards Southington. That’s when he noticed a sudden change in the scenery.

“I could see the sky turning black,” said Rustico. “It was about 6:30, and it looked like it was nine o’clock at night.”

Rustico had just passed Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, and was enjoying a tailwind that propelled him to a speed of over 25 miles per hour on Route 10 as he aimed to beat the storm home. Then he noticed a light drizzle when he passed Wentworth’s Ice Cream.

“It wasn’t looking good, and I could see lightning ahead kind of off to the west,” said Rustico. “I could hear thunder, but I was still dry and not close to it.”

About five minutes up the road, it began to rain. Rustico had entered an area that was wooded on both sides of the road and wasn’t near any businesses or buildings, so the Southington cyclist kept pedaling through the storm. It wasn’t until he entered Cheshire that he finally sought shelter under a carport foyer.

“I was standing under that, and the water in the road was forming a little stream,” said Rustico. “The thunder and lightning were literally right on top of me. The door was locked, and I couldn’t go inside. I had my back up against the wall.”

Rustico waited under the carport foyer for about 35 for 40 minutes until the storm finally blew over, and he eventually finished his last 10 miles home. This was only the second day of his 1,000-mile bike ride.

After weathering Friday’s storm, Rustico was faced with even more storms that popped up throughout the remainder of the week. But he still managed to complete his 1,000-mile journey and raise money for Everyone Ride/Run Against Cancer Everyday (ERRACE).

After completing a 300-miles bike ride in one day last year, Rustico came up with the idea of doing a consecutive-day challenge for this year’s ride. Instead of 300 miles in one day, he decided to more-than triple the mileage with a bike ride of 100 miles a day for 10 consecutive days, labeling it “ERRACE 10×100.”

“Like last year, I wanted to do something that was going to push me beyond anything that I had ever done before,” said Rustico. “That resulted in the 300-mile ride. Around the time of January and February, I started to think about what I can do for this year’s event that will be different and push me beyond what’s normal.”

Rustico planned to start his journey nine days prior to the actual ERRACE.org event, which took place on Saturday, July 8 at the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center in Avon. He finished his final day of riding on Saturday.

Before attempting the ERRACE 10×100, Rustico thought that the ERRACE 10×100 wouldn’t top the one-day 300-mile bike ride. But on the third day of his 1,000-mile journey, he discovered that the ERRACE 10×100 was actually tougher.

“Once you do the 300, you’re done,” said Rustico. “It’s one day, you can recover for a day or two, and then you’re good to go. This, you had to keep coming back with no recovery.”

Typically, an active recovery day consists of an hour or 90 minutes of light riding. Rustico was out for close to six hours of light riding.

“What I’ve found over the last 10 years, being 60-years-old, is that recovery comes much slower as you age,” said Rustico. “My recovery days were still being done with 100 miles of riding, just at a lesser rate. I was just out there longer doing active recovery days.”

Rustico was surrounded by multiple bikers the entire time during his one-day 300-mile bike ride. For his ERRACE 10×100, however, he rode alone for six out of the 10 days.

When riding alone, you don’t benefit from drafting. The average time Rustico rode by himself during a 100-mile ride was around five and a half hours. When he was with a group, Rustico finished in four hours and 38 minutes.

“It’s because I was with a group, and you get the benefit of a draft,” said Rustico. “You’re riding faster, but you’re actually not even working as hard.”

Aside from being without the benefits of drafting, the simple fact of being alone was more of a challenge for Rustico than anything else.

“Being alone is definitely much different than being with a group for an extended period of time,” said Rustico. “It was lots of reflection, thinking about the purpose, and thinking about the people supporting me.”

Age and isolation might not have helped Rustico in the ERRACE 10×100, but logging the mileage over the years did. In some ways, the mileage has made it easier on his body.

“Muscle memory is key,” said Rustico. “I’ve turned my legs around so many times that it helps having lots of miles in my legs. But you still need rest and recovery time.”

Rustico started from his home in Southington every day of his 1000-mile journey. Every 100-mile ride featured a different course through the state, depending on the direction of the wind. Rustico planned to ride into the wind for the first half of his ride with a tailwind for the second half of the ride.

Rustico races for Team ERRACE, which is presented by D.S.O. Manufacturing Company in New Britain. Team ERRACE’s goal is to raise awareness about cancer and programs for cancer patients. Their two main benefactors are the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center and Livestrong Foundation.

When asked what his bike ride will be for next year, Rustico said that it was too soon and will mostly likely have an answer in the winter.

For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/07/12/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-july-14-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.


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