Burien Cancer Survivor Completes Seattle-to-Portland Ride – On One Wheel

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by Rachel M. Lusby

Kevin Williams never thought life would take him here; to being a unicyclist who treks along with hundreds of bicyclists in 200 mile races, such as the Seattle-to-Portland race.

This year, however, Williams completed this race at 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 18.

“It is still hard to believe,” he said recently.

In 2009, Williams tried to make the Seattle-to-Portland ride, but did not succeed; dehydration and vomiting stopped him in his tracks. This year, though, he made some changes to his training regimen and to his unicycle and is prouder than ever.

Williams almost was made unable to ride anything again, though, in 2004. He was working back and forth between the Seattle area and Henderson, NV when he began experiencing horrible pain and swelling in his left knee. He dealt with it until this job was through for three months and went to the doctor.

He had an MRI and the doctor saw he had torn a muscle in his knee and had to have arthroscopic surgery.

When he came out of surgery, he said “no one would make direct eye contact with me.”

“Your doctor wants to talk to you,” he said, is all anyone would tell him.

He found out he had a large tumor growing in his knee and it was possibly attaching to the bone.

He had to have the tumor removed; it was ten centimeters long, and was cancerous. Williams had to endure radiation therapy, which he says completely wiped him out.

“After a couple weeks,” he said, “it just drains you.”

What helped him through this time, abolishing any feeling of self pity he had, was care bridge groups where he sat with others in similar situations and listened to them talk about their own trials.

“It really puts things in perspective,” Williams adds.

Realizing he could have it so much worse, Williams was able to continue on without much grief.

He spent one month going through radiation, and then had to go through physical therapy.

This is where the unicycle comes in.

He heard a friend’s wife talking about doing the Seattle-to-Portland race and how someone had done it on a unicycle.

He was intrigued by this.

“It just blew me away,” said Williams.

As a child, Williams had a paper route for The Seattle Times, and the first thing he bought with his money from the route was a Schwinn unicycle.

Williams decided to begging riding a unicycle around again. One night he was riding around the Normandy Park/Burien area, near the Highline Food Bank, when a guy pointed at him, and he saw a flash of light.

A bullet whizzed past him, narrowly missing his head.

He called the police who arrived quickly, and discovered the man who had fired the shot was actually a convicted felon who was currently in possession of a stolen firearm.

This made Williams really think. And his story was published by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (link here).

He made the decision, then, to begin training for the Seattle-to-Portland race. 2009 was not to be his year, however, and as he said he “fell off the mount.”

“I didn’t have it,” he said.

2010 would be entirely different, though.

“I just trained harder this year; a lot harder,” Williams said. “Last year I felt more like I needed vindication. This year was a celebration of all that remains.”
For the 2010 race, Williams, in addition to more physical training, also made some modifications to his unicycle.

He mounted an arrow bar and pads; shortened the cranks, added a bash bar, and stretched a 29-inch tube around the wheel instead of the 36-inch one he’d had.

This year, he also wore much lighter footware, whereas last year he had worn hiking boots.

He joined a spin class at the Y and would ride his unicycle with the 36-inch tube on it, as it is a more difficult ride than the 29-inch would be.

In addition to all this, he also modified tools he would need to carry with him. Williams is a welder by trade and so he was able to weld together the pedal wrench, socket wrench, and other tools into one.

To aid him in his venture, Williams also “drafted” fellow unicyclists and Seattle-to-Portland veterans Joe Meyers and Bruce Dawson. They offered him advice and some much needed encouragement and for that he is thankful.

“It was not so long ago that it was a struggle to even walk,” said Williams. “When I left the last radiation therapy at Overlake in 2005 I had taken a solid hit to the core and it felt like I was really struggling just to stay even.”

Williams says participation in the 2011 Seattle-to-Portland race is very much a possibility.

Here’s a point-of-view video Kevin shot of himself; here’s how he intros it:

Just a goofy video of me riding down a dock and back up in a small town I was working near. Looked like a little bit of a challenge to ride down to the end, turn around, and ride back up the walkway. Docks are kinda narrow and if I fall in the drink it’s game over for my phone and camera. Some kids start following, I thought, but turns out to be drunk women. Nice place.

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One Response to “Burien Cancer Survivor Completes Seattle-to-Portland Ride – On One Wheel”
  1. Just for clarification: The STP is a bike event. It is not a race. “You can’t pedal fast enough to not-win a non-race”. There are no “losers” on the course of the STP. The only race involved during the STP is human. The event is not some superlative moment that occurs when you connect Point A to Point B. The STP is less about how much real estate is traversed in how much time and more about the inner terrain a person can reveal while pedaling 200+ miles. Finding inner strength and endurance to prevail against the physical challenge of that goal. If a person completes 100 miles they are still “batting 500”. If this were baseball, batting 500 is considered really pretty good. The significance of the STP is self revelatory and defies a cookie cutter translation, but it is not a race. Anyone that has an interest in challenging themselves should prepare and roll out for the STP and enjoy the ride.

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