Caitlyn Epps, a nurse and former ETSU athlete, practicing for her cross country bike ride from Baltimore, Maryland to Portland, Oregon this summer. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
A bit different from her initial idea to run across the country for a worthy cause, a former injury-prone East Tennessee State University athlete has set her sights on another kind of super-endurance adventure.
“I’m the type of person who’s always wanted to do an adventure bigger than myself,” Caitlyn Epps said.
Because of her history with injuries as a soccer player and distance runner at ETSU, Epps decided a bike ride that benefits college-aged students suffering with cancer would be a better way to go.
On June 1, Epps and about 30 others involved in the Ulman Cancer Fund will leave Baltimore, the fund’s headquarters, and make their way toward Portland, Ore., in the 4k for Cancer. It will take them more than two months to cover the roughly 4,000 kilometers, or 2,500 miles.
The UCF provides support and help to young adults ages 18-39 with cancer by offering them scholarships for furthering their education. The bike ride is one of the organization’s fundraising events that helps make those scholarships possible.
Trying to cover around 60-80 miles a day, the riders will be provided with food and places to stay through the UCF. Along the way, they’ll also see the fruits of their labor pay off right in front of them. Some of the places the riders stay will be homes of the cause’s scholarship recipients, something Epps says is most rewarding.
According to the UCF website, through the 4k for Cancer, “groups of college students have undertaken journeys across America with the goal of offering hope, inspiration and support to cancer communities along the way.”
Epps is well up to that mission.
She’s about $500 short of her donation goal, but she hopes to even surpass the required fundraising amount of $4,500. While each rider is asked to raise about $4,500, once a rider hit the $2,000 mark, he or she was sent a road bike to begin the serious training.
Using her new bike has been fun for Epps as she trains to complete the cross-country journey. She often takes long rides on the country roads beyond Jonesborough as she readies herself for the event.
“I’m one of those persons who likes to be prepared,” Epps said, pointing out that she is adamantly trying to avoid an injury leading up to the event.
During the event, there are accommodations for riders who get sick or injured at some point along the way, including an emergency vehicle following the cyclists.
That being said, Epps doesn’t plan on being injured. She has trained hard since her road bike came in, sometimes hitting 80 miles on her long rides. This is typical for someone from the Epps family, though. Her parents are both marathoners, setting their daughter up with proper endurance genetics.
Her parents also will be offering their support, having already set out plans to see Epps at different spots along the way.
Epps recently graduated from ETSU’s accelerated nursing program and earned her license earlier this year. She has worked it out with her employer to be away during the summer months for the ride and then return to her job following the event.
To donate to Epps and her upcoming journey, visit 4kforcancer.org/profiles/caitlyn-epps.
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