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Texas 4000 Riders Battle Cancer by Bike

Texas 4000 rider with mountains in the backgroundFor many college students, summer is a time to do something good for themselves and the community. Some choose to participate in internships while others volunteer in order to make an impact in the world, but this summer a group of McCombs School of Business students gave back by means of a bicycle.

Texas 4000 is a student-run bike ride that is named for the 4,150-mile trek between Austin, Texas, and Anchorage, Alaska. Each summer since 2004, from late May to early August, dozens of students from The University of Texas at Austin participate in the ride to help fund cancer research as well as spread the Texas 4000 pillars of hope, knowledge, and charity to a wider audience. This year's ride reached its conclusion on August 8.

The bike ride relies on money raised by the riders — and donations from the general public — to support researchers' work finding a cure for cancer. Each rider is expected to raise a minimum of $4,500 before the ride begins.

UT students wishing to take part in the ride must apply two fall semesters prior to the ride. In addition to the online application, students must participate in an interview process. After acceptance into the ride, there is an 18-month preparation period where students attend meetings, volunteer, and fundraise. As the riders get closer to the start date, they spend time training. Each individual rider is responsible for completing 1,500 miles in the spring semester prior to the ride.  

Of the 79 riders who participated in the 2014 ride, nine were McCombs students representing almost every undergraduate program within the school.

Seth Snyder, BBA '14, who was a co-ride director for one of the three routes on the trip, decided to apply for the team after his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year of college. This was his first time taking part in the Texas 4000 ride.

"I wanted to do something in order to be alongside my grandmother as she fought the disease," said Snyder. "This allowed me to show my appreciation for her battle and do something about it when she could not."

Texas 4000 divides its riders into three separate routes — Rockies, Sierra, and Ozarks — with each route having two ride directors who fill the traditional roles of a captain.  Snyder held this position for the Rockies route, and it was therefore Snyder's responsibility to make sure everyone stayed on their bikes and continued to ride.

"I always encourage them [the riders] to keep riding," Snyder said. "I ask 'Who did you promise to do this for?' and that gives people motivation to keep pushing forward to our goal."

Snyder said as the route went through different towns, he encountered people on a daily basis who have been affected by cancer in some way.

The ride's goal is to lessen the number of people who are diagnosed with the disease or have to watch a loved one pass as a result of it, Snyder said.

As a recent McCombs graduate, Snyder said lessons he learned in school helped him prepare for this journey as well as the new journey he will face when he begins his career in the real world.

"I have worked in team settings and been a part of big projects with high stress situations that can translate over into the summer ride," Snyder said.

Snyder compares the deadlines for projects he worked on as a student to the schedule he and the riders must adhere to each day. Snyder said his prior experience working in time crunches helped in pushing the riders to get to their next destination on time.  

Texas 4000 riders standing outside and holding signs"The big picture aspect of team projects at McCombs contributed to keeping track of progress on the ride," Snyder said. "Problem solving helped, too. You have to figure it out on your own in the real world and the difficult classes at McCombs do that, so I was able to learn how to problem-solve on my own."

Snyder said his involvement in Texas 4000 has made this summer one to remember: While on the ride, Snyder learned that his grandmother was cancer-free after three years of fighting the disease.

Now that he has completed the Texas 4000, Snyder will begin work in Houston as a financial analyst for an integrated natural gas company.

Elaine Posluszny, BBA '14, is another McCombs student who took part in the ride this summer. Her motivation behind riding was sharing the stories of those she knew who were affected by cancer.

"Cancer is something that unites everyone, but in an unfortunate way," said Posluszny. "Everyone knows someone who is fighting or has lost their battle. I wanted to do something…to be even a small part of the generation of people fighting for a cure."

Posluszny was a part of the Sierra route, which went west through New Mexico, Arizona, Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada before reaching Anchorage. She said while riding, it is important to remember whom you are riding for. They gave her the strength to face the physical challenges of the ride, which seem miniscule in comparison to their disease.

During the nearly two-and-a-half-month ride, participants grow and gain skills that they can apply to their careers, Posluszny said. Now that the ride is over, Posluszny will be working with Deloitte Consulting as a business analyst in their Strategy and Operations Consulting Division.  

By biking through a diverse array of landscapes and climates, Posluzsny said she was able to see anything is possible with determination.

"While a successful professional career is something I do aspire to," she said, "I also understand that kindness, generosity, and passion are far more rewarding than any promotion."

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