When Quitting is Not an Option

The cover for "When Quitting is Not an Option"

The cover for “When Quitting is Not an Option”

Over 18 years ago, Arvid climbed onto his bike to go for a 40km ride. After 30km, he couldn’t make it any farther and had to call it quits. Over the next two decades, he would challenge the norm for biking, pushing himself to go further and further. In 1999 he rode from Vancouver to Winnipeg in 5.5 days. In 2011 he set the Guinness World Record for crossing Canada in 13 days 6 hours 13 minutes.

When Quitting is Not an Option is the story of Arvid’s life, including his failures, successes, and everything in between. It takes you from the mountains of Alaska to Cantaloupe Corner, from Californian deserts to the shore of the ocean in Halifax.

When Quitting is Not an Option will be released February 19, 2014, 6:30pm at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg.

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RAAM 2013- My perspective – Part 3

RAAM 2013, My perspective Part III/conclusion: 3rd possible DNF avoided *”Quitting is not an option”* * * I was glad to have made it this far holding my own. Out of the 39 solos that started, (all categories) 20 or so were ahead of me. I had survived the the extreme heat, managed to regain an effective sleep cycle, controlled the fluid retention in my legs with compression stockings and elevated legs during my sleep breaks. A number of individuals had pledged to donate to Mully Children’s Family based on my final official RAAM standings. For every rider (all categories) I finished ahead off (including those who DNF’d) $4,000 would be donated to MCF. Since I knew that historical data indicated that 30-40% would DNF, it was very important to become an ‘offcial finisher’. At the same time, if I passed a few more riders on the way, it meant more money going to help rescue more children from a life of hopelessness. I was in a comfortable position and felt good about my chances of reaching Annapolis in under 12 days.

Then it happened. My morning crew, which included my wife Ruth had just left to find a motel. Suddenly, without warning, I developed a severe pain in my left knee. I tried to ride through it, but it got worse very fast. The terrain was reasonably flat when it happened, so I simply pushed much less with my left leg and did the brunt of the work with my right leg. However, we soon reached the many steep grades found in Eastern USA. The climbing required me to push full out with both legs and even stand in the pedals. Every time I tried, it felt like my knee was buckling under the pain. I called Ruth and told her about this new adversity, as I was not sure what was going to happen. This news hit her without warning (as it had me). A possible DNF is probably as hard on the crew, as it is on the cyclist. There is no way I could ride some 750 miles doing most of the work with one leg, especially with all the climbing.

Ruth contacted some people back home and it became a prayer item. I took some pain-killers, but it did little. We stopped and I lay down under a tree so my crew could wrap ice around my knee. I rested and let the ice reduce the internal swelling.

There is no doubt that cycling at this level means we push our bodies to the limits and sometimes beyond. About 15 years ago I made a promise to Ruth that if I sensed that I was incurring an injury on a ride, (no matter how big the event was) that had potential lasting negative effects on my health, I would withdraw. It is a promise I intend to keep.

Seven years ago, I sensed God’s call to become an ambassador for orphaned and abandoned kids rescued by Mully Children’s Family. I quit my job of 31 years to volunteer full-time to do that. I chose ultra-marathon cycling as my platform from which to do so. I also promised God that I would do my best in all aspects, including cycling. As I lay there, uncertain about what to do, I had total peace about the outcome of this event. The ice and the pain-killers helped so I could ride again. At time station 42 I recorded a short statement for our website www.grandpascan.com. You can clearly sense that I was far from certain of becoming an official finisher again. http://grandpascan.com/2013/06/23/time-station-42-deeper-meaning-to-raam/. The remedies we tried, worked. As the hours and even days passed, my pain subsided.

I rode strong through the last 24 hours with only one short nap. I created some distance between those who were chasing me and came to within 12 minutes of passing one more rider, but more importantly, I became an ‘officlal finisher’ a second time, cycling across the USA in 11 days, 20 hours and 8 minutes. Nineteen cyclists finished ahead of me and I fared better than 19 (including those who DNF’d) resulting in an extra $76,000 being donated to MCF.

Summary:

  • Over the years of riding long distances for a purpose, I have learned that when I reach the end of my abilities, God is still in control. I however still have to continue to do my best.
  • I have learned that making a significant difference does not come easy and there is a personal cost to it.
  • I have learned that the personal sacrifices I am making are insignificant compared to the personal rewards I am experiencing.

My goal is to inspire and challenge others to share my passion to bring hope to an abandoned child. Because a child’s life may depend on it, quitting is not an option.

The things we do for ourselves will be forgotten when we are gone,
The things we do for others will live on. – Grandpa Arvid

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RAAM 2013 My perspective Part II: 2nd possible DNF avoided

*The middle third syndrome – sleep matters* * *

During my 20 years of riding long distances on a bike, I have developed a special respect and maybe even fear for the middle third. For me, it does not matter how long the event is, the middle third becomes a mental battle unlike any other part of the ride. This is when I am too far into an event to turn back, yet the end is so far away that it is not possible to even conceive reaching it, yet I continue.

RAAM was no different. My 90-minute sleep plan with a couple of short naps as needed had worked well. I had held up well, physically, mentally and emotionally, but I was now in the middle third. The mere idea of reaching Annapolis was difficult to comprehend. Since my crew was ‘on duty’ in 12 hour shifts, (we changed around 2pm and 2am) I set myself distance goals for each crew. This helped me stay on track and not waste time.

As the number of days passed, it felt like the crews played an active part in achieving this goal, almost as if they were on the bike with me. My plan worked well, until this one night. I am no fan of riding through the night, and with the lack of sleep it is even more difficult. Henry and Brigitte and Matt were behind me. The road we were on this particular evening was through a forest with huge trees creating this tunnel effect. The black asphalt surface had been coated to make it pitch black. The van was behind throwing shadows into this already surreal setting. The need for sleep came early. I wanted to make the next time station before I would take a break. It became a battle. The headlights of the car illuminated the overhanging trees, putting images into my over-tired mind that did not exist. Mentally I began to lose focus. I was in control of my bike, but I was slowly losing the ability to think clearly. I was on RAAM, but it felt like I did not know who was in the van behind me anymore.

When they pulled up beside me, I thought I saw David and Evan Balzer in the van. They had been on my support crew during my Guinness World Record ride across Canada in 2011. It was time to get off the bike. During my 90-minute sleep break I continued to have dreams. My one crew was taking me in the direction of Annapolis and when we switched crews they were taking me in the other direction. Needless to say, I woke up disturbed and confused. I did get on the bike and rode about 13 km to the next time station. I was still uneasy about everything and decided to take a motel, a shower and a three-hour sleep.

When I got up, my mind was clear and I was ready to continue. We still had a number of days to get through this middle third. Shortly after Pratt, Kansas, the halfway point, I was able to do a radio interview with CBC in Winnipeg, while riding. It helped to again validate in my mind my purpose for being on RAAM in the first place. The knowledge of knowing that the distance to the end was less than what we had already travelled, was also the beginning of seeing light at the end of the tunnel. This was the first time that I felt that maybe, just maybe I could do this. I often say that ultra-marathon cycling is a classroom.

Within a defined time-frame I will experience more than many people do in a year. To learn from those experiences and apply them in real life where it matters is my reward. The middle third provides an opportunity where you have to find a way through a situation that does not seem doable. It is incredibly hard, especially mentally. How do you keep going when you cannot even imagine reaching the finish line? It seems like I am working hard to reach a goal, without any real hope of doing so. But you keep going anyway. This middle third is almost always the place for the biggest dropout rate. The mental challenge often is too overwhelming to overcome the physical challenge.

In 2001 I DNF’d after 6 days of an 18-day event. It took me a year to resume any kind of competitive/serious cycling. I also know that if I find way through this rough stretch, the challenges of real life seem pretty manageable in comparison. Experience has taught me that when I think I have reached the bottom of the barrel of my strength, I still have more to offer. However, it takes courage to dig that deep, but it is amazing what you will find when you go there. It will change you forever. God has created us wih a will to succed. I believe that He finds joy in seeing his children do their best. Do not underestimate what YOUR best is/can be. You are more capable than you think.

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RAAM 2013, My Perspective, Part 1

“It was hard, and then it became difficult” After months of training and planning, it was great to finally leave the starting gate. I had said my farewell to Charles and Esther Mulli. I very much appreciated them arranging their schedule to be there for me at the start. It is important for me to keep my cause, Mully Children’s Family, closely linked to my cycling platform. I also very much rely on the prayer support of the hundreds of beneficiaries (rescued children) back in Kenya.

While preparing for RAAM, I was very aware of the challenges I would face: the unfamiliar heat of the desert, long, difficult nights and relentlless climbing. I live and train in the prairies. RAAM claims that to reach Annapolis, riders must climb 170,000. In my estimation, 40% of the total climbing can be found in the first third of the journey. That simply means we need to climb Mount Everest every 2 days (assuming we would start at sea level, not base camp) Closer to home, if you live in a two-storey house, you need to climb the equivalent of walking 13 flights of stairs to the second floor 2000 times a day.

My 8% grade, 4000 ft descent into the Mojave Desert via the Glass Elevator was simply exhilarating. The view was out of this world. I was able to negotiate the hairpin turns safely at about 10km/hour above suggested speeds. After reaching Borrego Springs, the desert heat began to play a big part.

Over time I have learned that the shock to the system of going from 20-25 degrees to 40-50 degrees while putting in a huge physical effort cannot be avoided, but must simply be accepted and managed. I took in a lot of fluids, (2-3 bottles/hour) and stuck with liquid food (Sustained Energy and GoChi juice). I deliberately consumed less calories than I burned. It worked well for the first 30 hours or so. I had chosen, like most other riders, to not take a significant sleep break the first night. Since we were in the leap-frog stage, my support vehicle would sometimes be one km up ahead. No big deal, unless of course you are not sure that you are not going to pass out from the heat. There is no shade. The only refuge from the sun and heat was the back of the van, with air conditioning going at full blast. My crew would pour water over me, I had ice in a refillable pouch hanging down my neck. It all helped, but it took its toll. Other riders dealt with it their own way. We saw one crew holding up a big blanket for shade, while their rider lay on, what looked like a stretcher, also being cooled down with water and ice.

By the early evening of day 2, I began to lose the desire to drink, and of course eat as well. Not good if you need to ride another 4200 km.We reached Salome. A restaurant with ceiling fans provided some cooling. I managed to eat a bit, then took a 90-minute sleep break in the van. After that I was able to eat some more and off we were again. I recall mentioning to my crew that it seemed to be a bit ‘cooler’. The car read 38 degrees. It is all in perspective.

With the worst heat (at least it was a dry heat in the desert) behind us, we were now facing some serious climbing. I recall a man standing on the side of the road. He had a young child in a stroller with him. He used my name as he cheered me on. I found that strange, so I asked him, “Who are you?”. He said, “just a fan of RAAM” Than he added” Welcome to Colorado, home of the real mountains”. His words were somewhat surreal, and I frequently remembered them as I was climbing Wolf Creek Pass, the Continental Divide and highest point on RAAM (10,856 ft). The descent allowed me to reach 92.5 km/hour, my second fastest speed ever on a bike.

I had 1/3 of RAAM behind me. We had successfully avoided a real possibility of a DNF in the desert heat. I can thank my crew for ‘nursing’ me through some difficult times. So what did I learn? Accepting the reality of my situation (severe heat and unrelenting amount of climbing) was the first step of finding a way through it. Even though a DNF would have been an option, and a few riders did, quitting did not enter my mind.

In 2006 when Ruth and I visited MCF, we heard many life stories (told to us by the rescued kids as part of their rehabilitation process). They were difficult to listen to. One story in particular by a young woman named Rebecca (not her real name) has stuck with me. She told us how her alcoholic mother, living off the sex trade for survival, beat her with a machete, (we saw the scars) poured boiling water with pepper onto her private parts, etc. This was part of trying to get this young girl (age 8) to sleep with a man to help earn a living.

When we thought this story could not get any worse, Rebecca took a deep breath and summarized her life thus far in this way: “Up to this point, life was hard, and then it became difficult”, and she went on to tell us the rest of her incredible story. To summarize my first third of RAAM with the phrase: “It was hard, but then it became difficult” is tempting. That however, would be completely disrespectful to children like Rebecca and many others. No matter how difficult some of my endeavours are, they pale in comparison to what many children have to endure. Mully Children’s Family provides thousands of children with an environment where that ‘difficult life’ is being changed to a life full of hope, love and opportunity. What a privilege it is for me to be called by God to be a voice for children like Rebecca. I have simply chosen ultra-marathon cycling, and in this case RAAM, as my platform from which to say: I have heard Rebecca’s story, I have heard her cries, and I will respond with action, not just empty words.

Stay tuned for Part II: Sleep Matters

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Home Safe and Sound

We are home safe and sound. Even though it has been a number of days since I am off the bike, I am stlll in my 90 minute (at as time) sleep pattern. The good thing is I can repeat it 5 times a night. I am sure in a few days that will change and I will sleep right through the night again. I feel great and seem to be well on my way to full recovery. I marvel at how resilient God has created the human body. It is we who are often unwilling or afraid to explore our full potential. I will give a more extensive report from my persepective in a couple of days. Thanks for showing interest by following our journey across the USA. I have only one regret. I did not get to see a live armadillo on the road. – Arvid

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Arvid Across America — An extended look

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Now that the race is behind Arvid and the crew, we can take an extended look at the momentous day.

They say it’s the world’s hardest bicycle race. Twice as long as the Tour de France, longer than the Giro d’Italia, it spans the entire continental United States. Its elevations shift enough to ascend and descend mount everest over a dozen times, with weather ranging from shivering cold rain storms to 45 degree celsius desert infernos. It spans three time zones across 12 states.

On June 23rd, just after midday, Arvid Loewen crossed the Race Across America (RAAM) finish line in Annapolis, Maryland, joining the many dozens of cyclists, solo and teams, from over 25 countries who completed the race, clocking in at 11 days, 20 hours, and 18 minutes — a mere 2 and a half hours shy of the end of official race time.

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In the days preceding the race, Arvid had suffered from various complications — pain and stress in his knees, maintaining caloric consumption, and extreme fatigue from excessive ascents. However, he reflected positively on the bigger picture . “It’s been a wonderful experience, but also a very difficult experience. These things do not come easy… I guess that’s why they call it the toughest bike race!” We, his crew, had likewise anticipated a to-the-wire struggle to complete on time, but we were pleasantly surprised as he proceeded to finish with hours to spare in — as you can see in these photos — fantastic spirits.

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On the finisher’s stage, Arvid shared with those gathered just how much a race of this calibre asks of a rider at any age — not simply physical, but also mentally. “At two o’clock at night, facing a headstorm and an extreme desire to quit, it really isn’t about how good of an athlete you are – it’s about being at peace with yourself and saying, ‘No, this is a commitment I made, and I’m going to continue to do that.’”

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For Arvid, the key point of his dedication in cycling is what it teach him and exemplify to others about how to live life off the bike and beyond the finish line, when the race becomes a memory. “Within [12 days], I have experienced more mental, physical, and emotional experience than most will in a lifetime. For me, though, the idea is, ‘do I know where to apply them in real life where it matters?’” Since 2005, Arvid has raised $2.5 miillion (CAD) for Mully Children’s Family by cycling in events such as RAAM. In doing so, he has not only brought to the light the work of MCF, but become something of a living athletic metaphor for the perserverance of its founder, Charles Mulli, and those who have joined him in the mission to save the lives of Kenya’s street children.

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And this is a journey that Arvid and Charles invite you to join. You don’t need to be a cyclist – you just need an open heart and an awareness that the capacity to create a positive change in the lives of others across the street or around the world is not limited to ambitious ultramarathon cyclist grandpas – anyone possesses this capacity. Grandpas can – and so can you!

To learn more about Mully Children’s Family, visit their website.  If you would like to join Arvid and make a donation, click here.

Enjoy this slideshow from the day at the finish line!

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At Long Last!

After 11 days, 20 hours, and 8 minutes, Arvid Loewen has finished RAAM!

Arvid has made it across the line as an official finisher! The long trek from across the country from sea to sea has come to an end. Grandpas can!

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Stream update

UPDATE – still waiting for Arvid to reach the jump point. Please stand by.

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Annapolis. LIVE.

Annapolis at last! We are finally here!!! Thank you for all your prayers. These thousands of kilometers from sea to shining sea have boiled down to a two-digit figure! Arvid is within 29 of the final checkpoint preceding the finish line - LIVE Ustream will begin with within half hour – more live updates to follow!

NOTE: Ustream will show previous content until we begin stream. We will provide notification when stream starts.

RAAM Live Stream - Click here for the link. (Live stream will appear in Box at top of homepage)

Our UStream – Click here for the link. 

***NOTE – Please refresh the live stream fairly regularly. We will update you on when the live streaming will begin. Until that time, visiting the link will show you clips from the start of the race in Oceanside.***

Tune in Now!

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Time Station 42 – Deeper Meaning to RAAM

Arvid stops at Time Station 42 on the race to share where he’s at and also a deeper personal meaning to RAAM, just beneath the surface of what is plainly seen.

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About Arvid’s Mechanical Counterparts

p>Without a bicycle, even the greatest cyclist cannot complete, much less compete in, any race of any kind. To complete a trek as grueling, unforgiving, and long as a 12-day race across the entire United States of America, you can’t just use any bicycle.

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Bikes & Beyond

In addition to sponsoring Arvid with top-class racing bicycles, Bikes and Beyond has provided expert mechanic assitance to make sure his bikes are tuned to maximum performance.

A giant among bikes

Arvid rides a GIANT “Defy” custom touring road frame equipped with Dura-Ace Rims and Continental Handmade Slicks. It runs a 18-speed transmission system, and it’s specialized components are all extremely lightweight and optimized for strength and aerodynamics.

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Carbon Fiber Construction

Carbon fiber is a 20th century innovation. Small fibers of graphite carbon are woven into meshes, much like baskets are wovement. At high tension, they are set into rigid forms using expoy resin, creating a rigid material that is both incredibly light and incredibly strong — Arvid’s frame and the front fork are all carbon, as well as various components.

Hybrid Brake-Shifters

The brake levers also incorporate gear shifters into them. When pulled, they trigger the brakes, but pushing them perpendicular to their mounts controls transmission. This concentrates transmission and braking into one location, allowing the hands instant access to both at once. Both brake mechanisms are standard cable-driven rim brakes.

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Outfitted for Extended Riding

Protruding out from the center of the handlebars is another set of parralel handlebars, and above the center of the handlebars are canadian pharmacy healthcare a pair of padded armest cups. Resting the forearms in the armests while gripping the perpendicular handlebars allows relief of the hands, arms muscles, and back, which come under intense stress during climbs viagra sale usa and extended periods of intense steering and navigation, like for instance, Arvid’s 3-hour downhill run out of Flagstaff on Day 4.

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Slick Ride

While it may be hard to imagine having no treads on your tires, high-performance competitive road racing is almost done universally with slicks — tires without any tread. The lack of ridges and bumps on the tires mean there is a great amount of surface area contact between the tires and the road, translating as much of Arvid’s vertical leg power to forward motion. The downside to slicks is that they are more likely to lose traction and slide than treaded tires when the road or pavement becomes wet or dusty — Arvid has dealt with this issue in thundery rainstorm with just slicks.

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Comfort 

Most racers race thin, narrow seats, but Arvid has opted for a cushioned seat as they are more comfortable when spending whole day not only sitting, moving legs up and down, coming into continuous contact with the seat.

Preparing for Issues.

In addition to the bike he rides, the follow Caravan carries two bikes on the roof. The first is a near-perfect duplicate of the one Arvid is riding, and the second is an older TREK wide-frame road bike, an older design of bike. This bike is along because of its granny gear. A granny gear is an extra small gear ring on the fork (the front gear attached to the peads), which is an easier bike to work with when climbing steep inclines. It is more than likely that either bike will ever have to be used beyond one of its tires being swapped out when flats on Arvid’s bike happen.

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TO EACH HIS OR HER OWN

The truth is that each rider will ride a unique setup – unique frame size, tread amount, seat shape, gear configuration, handlebar shape, bike type, and riding posture. There is no perfect setup — only a set of proven principles to go by and work with in the hunt for a setup most suited to a rider and the race at hand. Arvid’s

The end is in site! Find more information on watching Arvid’s big finish LIVE here.

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Watch Arvid’s Sunday finish LIVE on UStream

You watched him begin this thing, and now you can watch him wrap it live as well. The Support Crew will all be there at the finish line, and you can join us LIVE on Ustream as well as RAAM’s Stream. While the time will vary, perhaps greatly, we’re letting you know ahead of time so you can set aside some time to catch it live.

We’re expecting that Arvid will cross the line sometime around 12:00-4:00 PM Annapolis time. We’ll be keeping you updated on exact times, as we find out more, but the stream location will stay the same:

RAAM Live Stream - Click here for the link. (Live stream will appear in Box at top of homepage)

Our UStream – Click here for the link. 

***NOTE – Please refresh the live stream fairly regularly. We will update you on when the live streaming will begin. Until that time, visiting the link will show you clips from the start of the race in Oceanside.***

See you at the finish line!

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Climbing

The terrain: what can one say? A 5 mile climb at 6% grade. A 3 mile climb at 8% grade. Most of us would have difficulty merely walking up a hill that steep. Much of the climbing is at an elevation of more than a mile. RAAM covers over 170,000 feet of climbing. That is like climbing  5-6 Mt. Everests. He trudges on …

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Final 24 – Racing to the Finish Line

Last night, Arvid took a turn for the worse. Sleep would not energize him and knees took to bothering him again – Appalachia’s high climbs are not letting him make good distance. He’s travelled a whole 4358 km, but he still has 461.8 to go –  just 10% of the ride remains to be completed in a little over 25 hours. At present, he’s heading toward Aurora, West Virginia.

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This the final run! Arvid is going to have to average 18 km/h, meaning he will have to push a 12.5 mph average, greater than his race-official average of 10.5 mph thus far. Please pray for energy and mental clarity as Arvid races against time and space to the end.

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Into West Virginia

Just to update you on Arvid’s progress, he crossed into West Virginia today at around 6 o’clock, crossing the Ohio river and heading straight up into straight up climbs. Today is the second last time for everything – tomorrow is the last full day that we have on the road with Arvid. It all comes to a dramatic finish on Sunday. The general feeling amongst the team, we’ve found, is one of surprise. We had all thought Arvid would be more ragged, more beaten up by all of this biking. The reality is quite different, and we’re all pleasantly perplexed – he’s still kicking the pedals, still cracking humor, and very much with it, mentally. Amen!

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GRANDPAS CAN 2014

Charles Mulli is a former street child from the slums of Kenya. He became extremely successful in business, but then God called him to give it all up and care for the orphaned and abandoned children still on the streets in Kenya. Charles Mulli is the founder and CEO of Mully Children's Family. To learn more about MCF, click here.

God has called me (Arvid) to be an ambassador for Mully Children's Family. I have chosen to use ultramarathon cycling as my platform from which to fulfill this calling. This year I will be challenging the Guinness World Record for the fastest person to cycle 10,000km. The record currently stands at 22 days 15 hours 34 minutes. You can follow my ride, here, at www.grandpascan.com/ride. To read more about me and my story, click here.

Donate

I am asking you to help. I am trying to raise $100 for each of the 2300 kids presently at MCF. This money will go towards the purchase of food. To learn more about donating, click here.