The journey thus far: a day in the life of an Illini 4000 rider

It is hard to believe it has been just over a month that I have been on this incredible journey biking consistently across the USA (from the Big Apple to the City by the Bay) as part of the Illini 4000 team to raise awareness/funds for cancer research and patient support services. In addition, the ride serves as a vehicle to interact with countless people along the trip and we listen because be we believe that everyone has a story to share of how cancer as impacted their life and we try to to capture the stories to document the face of cancer on American society as well as share these stories with the world to help others that might be struggling with similar experiences, all done through what we call the Portraits Project (

To be honest at the onset of the ride, I though I would plenty of time to myself to internalize my thoughts and document my experiences each day of the ride here on my rider’s blog ( However, given the packed schedule on top of the physical and mental demands, I am amazed that I make it though each day. What I once thought was just a simple activity of riding a bike has become elevated to a whole new level of required focus, attenuation, determination, stamina, and dedication.

Resting at one of the many water/lunch stops


To help one better understand a day in the life of an Illini 4000 rider, the following is what a typical ride day is like for me:


  • wake up at 5:45 am
  • from 5:45 to 6:15am:
    • pack up sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and travel pillow ( stuff into compression sacks)
    • change into official Illini 4000 cycling apparel (i.e., jersey and bibs), this also includes applying a generous amount of chamois butter to mitigate and heal chaffing and saddle sores. I promise these are real and painfully plague riders throughout the trip.
    • brush teeth and complete any last minute hygiene
    • pack up all use used clothing into Australian style military rug sack
  • by 6:15am the rug sack and compression sacks with the sleeping bag and mat are brought outside near the support van to be packed by the van packers ( which is one of the rotating chores for two of the twenty riders).
  • between 6:15am and 6:30am I pack my special electronics satchel which hold the laptop and hard drives to backup the video and pictures that we take along the trip (note this is part of my static chore as the portraits coordinator). Bring this bag and the two digital SLR cameras for portraits to the van so that they are easily accessible during the day for documenting portraits.
  • at 6:30am breakfast is served (two riders have the rotating chore preparing breakfast); it is either oatmeal or cereal depending on whether we have access to a kitchen in the morning.
  • at 7:00 am rinse and save bowl, fill up water bottles, and finalize the dawning of special cycling gear since I burn very easy in the sun: sun arms, sun knees, skull cap, sunscreen of face, and sun glasses
  • at 7:15am bike is carried outside and helmet and cycling gloves are put on
  • between 7:15am and 7:30am with the entire team outside, we have a quick logistics meeting for the days ride and pass out direction cues.  Then, to set the tone for the entire day and remind us why we ride, we dedicate the day’s ride for a special person or groups of people which have been impacted by cancer in some way.
  • at 7:30am we start to roll out. Upon leaving, we split up into subgroups of 3 to 6 riders for safety. Finally, I start up my GPS cycling computer for the day’s route and send off an email to track us live as we start to cycle out of the parking lot of the stay-over location.


During the day’s ride:

  • We average 15 mph (but can range from <5 mph climbing steep mountains to > 50 mph on the descent) which is highly dependent on weather (e.g, rain, wind direction and strength, and heat), road characteristics (e.g., steepness and surface type), and rider’s health (both physical and mental).
  • The support van stops at rough every 20 miles through the day’s ride to allow each rider to refill their two water bottles and take a quick 15 min break before continuing the ride. (note, one rider volunteers to drive the support van each day).  Depending on the day, typically the second or third break becomes a roughly one hour lunch stop which the team supplies peanut butter and jelly sandwiches :)
  • Along the day’s ride we try to interact with as many people as possible. Some people we talk to want to have their story documented as part of the Portraits Project and then call the support van to bring the equipment so we can record the interview.


After the day’s ride:

  • The first subgroups to arrive at the stay over unpack the van.
  • Dinner is around 6pm or 7pm ( all depends when we arrive at the stay over, over time we had 113 miles and we did not get to the stay over until nearly 7:15am lucky the church was providing dinner so we did not have to cook pasta that night)
  • Shower (if available)
  • Setup my sleeping pad and bag as well as start charging my GPS and cellphone for the next day.
  • Setup my laptop to transfers, organize, and backup portraits we collected to hard drives.
  • Finally, lights out at 10pm and repeat the next day…


Comments (5)
  • Mary Wave says:

    Thanks for this Blake! I look forward to any and all posts from you all. You all totally amaze me! May the wind be at your back today and always. :)

  • Pat Stuntz says:

    WOW… I am blown away at the dedication you guys have for this amazing ride. Thank you Blake for why you ride!!

  • Sue Hausner says:

    I ditto the “WOW”, you guys all amaze me and that I’m “blown away at the dedication….” Having met many of you, I have to say I truly intrigued by the dedication and decency of you all. You are beautiful, inspiring people. I also look forward to all of your blogs, so keep them coming. Josh’s gram

  • jim broussard says:

    we will look for you in san francisco.
    jim & sara

  • Jossye says:

    I want to express my tknahs to this writer just for rescuing me from this type of problem. As a result of researching throughout the the web and getting opinions which are not productive, I believed my life was well over. Existing without the approaches to the difficulties you’ve fixed all through your good review is a crucial case, as well as the kind that might have negatively damaged my entire career if I had not come across your website. Your own capability and kindness in controlling all the details was tremendous. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not discovered such a point like this. I’m able to at this point look ahead to my future. Thanks for your time very much for your high quality and results-oriented help. I will not think twice to endorse your web page to anyone who needs and wants recommendations about this matter.

Leave a Reply