An uphill battle: McEnaney to ride in world’s eighth-toughest race for Jack Jablonski FundFor years, Bob McEnaney has been cycling for enjoyment and exercise. However, next month he’ll start riding for different reasons.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
For years, Bob McEnaney has been cycling for enjoyment and exercise. However, next month he’ll start riding for different reasons.
McEnaney, a longtime south Washington County resident, coach, trainer and endurance athlete, is launching a new fundraising initiative called Ride for a Reason. His first challenge will be the Furnace Creek 508 Bicycle Race on October 6 – 8, where he’ll be raising money for Jack Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s student who suffered a spinal cord injury in a hockey game and was paralyzed just over eight months ago.
“I think just about anybody who is an athlete, or at least lives in this state, has heard Jack’s story,” McEnaney, 54, said. “I think most people know about it, but I’m not certain everyone has donated yet. Hopefully, we can help make a difference.”
For the inaugural Ride for a Reason, McEnaney picked a doozy.
The Furnace Creek 508 Bicycle Race is known as “the toughest 48 hours in sport” and was ranked eighth on National Geographic’s list of toughest races in the world. The race is 508 miles from Santa Clarita, Cal., to Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, Cal., and must be completed in 48 hours. Participants must contend with 35,000 feet of climbing, temperature extremes brought on by the Mojave Desert and Death Valley landscapes and riding throughout the night on little or no sleep. Roughly 50 percent of competitors don’t make the time cut.
“This is going to be way, way more challenging than anything I’ve done before,” McEnaney said. “Nothing I’ve done compares to what this is. This race has just a little bit of everything. It’s certainly going to be unlike anything I’ve done before.”
Woodbury resident Dr. Michael Bryant will be driving McEnaney’s support vehicle along the way and Woodbury’s Penn Cycle and Jimmie Kelley will be providing him with a mechanic.
Net proceeds raised by McEnaney’s first Ride for a Reason will benefit The Jack Jablonski Fund and research for a cure to spinal cord injuries. McEnaney said he hopes to raise between $5,000 and $10,000 for Jablonski’s cause.
“One of the things that’s kept him going is knowing he’s doing it for Jack,” said McEnaney’s son Ryan, a Woodbury High School graduate. “It’s going to be two days of torture, basically, on his body. But, that’s nothing compared to the challenges Jack has for the rest of his life. Even with everything Jack is accomplishing every day, it’s still going to be a huge challenge for him every single day.”
Bob McEnaney played hockey growing up and through college at the University of St. Thomas. He was a hockey coach at Owatonna High School and, more recently, at Hastings High School from 1984-1986. He also, at one time, worked with Jablonski’s father, Mike, at 3M. Because of his ties to the sport of hockey and to the Jablonski family, McEnaney jumped at the chance to help.
“The hockey community has been tremendously supportive of Jack and I still definitely have one foot in the hockey world,” McEnaney said. “But, I’ve been an endurance athlete for roughly 30 years and I thought this would be a good way to not only raise money for Jack and his family, but also maybe expand the donation pool. The hockey community has been so supportive. I’m hopeful that if I can branch into the endurance community we could open up a whole other branch of donations for him.”
McEnaney said the challenge awaiting him doesn’t compare to what Jack Jablonski has faced.
“My challenge is those 48 hours and there’s no question it’ll be a huge challenge mentally and physically,” McEnaney said. “But, at the end of the 48 hours my challenge is done. Jack’s challenges are ongoing every single day. It doesn’t stop after 48 hours. My 48 hours of challenge is really nothing compared to what he’s going through. He’s obviously been a huge source of inspiration for a lot of people.”
Bob McEnaney has coached athletes for over 30 years, specializing in training cyclists and triathletes. He is a certified coach through USA Triathlon and USA Cycling and has also been certified as a personal trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. He trains endurance athletes through his website www.totalcyclingperformance.com. The McEnaney family has lived in Woodbury since 1984. Bob’s wife Terri helps run the Newport-based Bailey Nursery, which was founded by her grandfather. This year’s Ride for a Reason is just a first in what McEnaney hopes to be an annual series of fundraisers for worthy causes. Next year, he hopes to ride in the Race Across America, a 12-day ride from the west coast to east coast.
“The new program will combine exciting cycling and running events with an opportunity to give back to the community,” says McEnaney. “We are partnering with local businesses, charities, as well as world-class and everyday athletes alike to not only share the passion for what we love, but to make a difference.”
Ryan McEnaney said he’s amazed by what his dad is able to do.
“He’s a machine,” McEnaney, 26, said. “It’s surreal. It’s really, really amazing what he can do, what he wants to do and how he pushes himself through everything. He’s always said as hard as a physical challenge things are, they’re just as much a mental game.”
McEnaney, however, said he doesn’t see himself as an inspiration — like he does Jack Jablonski.
“I don’t put that label on myself,” he said. “But I guess I do hope some of the things I do and some of my actions can just help show people that if they set their mind to doing anything they want to do they truly can accomplish it.”
To donate visit: www.indiegogo.com/Jablonski-Ride-for-a-Reason