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Spinning His Way Into History
By Jim Joyce
(Editor Note: Click newspaper links at end of story for photos and more information.)
This guy spins his wheels hour after hour, day after day, going absolutely nowhere...except into the record books. He is Dan Oshop, ice-cream shop proprietor, union electrician, tireless charity fundraiser, world bicycle traveler--and now--a proud record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Before the crack of dawn on Friday, November 16, Oshop mounted an upright "Life Fitness" stationary bike in the window of his Bruster's Old Fashioned Ice Cream & Yogurt Shop, a minute's bike ride from his Pittsburgh home and across the Monongahela River from whence stood the Homestead Works, the world's largest steel mill for a time. Sixty-one grueling hours later he ran out of steam, cranking his final pedal stroke, but not before shattering the previous record of 60 hours of continuous stationary cycling. While he faithfully stayed seated, news of his attempt to break the record sped into the pages of the local papers and across the television screens of Western Pennsylvania and adjacent states.
Though he hails from a neighborhood known as "Greenfield," Oshop is anything but green to cycling. The 50-year-old, seasoned cyclist circled the World on his road bike in 2000. What is green, however, is the estimated $50,000 he has raised in his many cycling adventures over the years, starting with his first MS 150 Tour 18 years ago.
"I was hooked," said Oshop, whose been biking miles by the thousands to help others ever since. He also turned the recent stationary ride into a fundraiser, this time for Katie's Fund, which fuels research into pediatric cancer prevention at the Pittsburgh's UPMC Children's Hospital. One day after the event, he'd already raised $5K in pledges.
"I like cycling and I like raising money for charity, and that's why I do these things," said a strikingly upbeat, cordial Oshop, after being rousted from sleep for a phone interview at 8 p.m. the night after his ride. That's just 25 hours after the feat. But what is even more impressive is what lay ahead. "I just went to bed because I have to head off to Washington, DC, at 2 a.m., so that I can start a job there at 6 a.m." This time he'd wear the hat of an electrician.
To be merciful, The Bicycle Exchange suggested an interview at a better time, but Oshop insisted he would be fine and went on to relate the many highlights, and a few lowlights, of his historic ride.
"I didn't do anything special to prepare for the ride," he said. "Though I did do an English century the Saturday before." He added with a chuckle, "What I really missed practicing was sleep deprivation!"
Oshop kept well-fed during the ride and insisted on keeping his shop open for business. Slides of his world tour, videos, and chatting with friends and customers helped him pass the time. A second stationary bike was brought in so fellow cyclists could take turns riding alongside him, giving him encouragement. One kind soul even donated a satellite dish so the crew would not miss the Steelers game. The strict Guinness rules allowed him to break for just 15 minutes every eight hours.
"During those breaks," said Oshop, "It was amazing how a 12-minute nap would help."
Naps and hearty eating were keys to his success, he insisted. Occasionally, his crew would briefly encircle him with a sheet when he had to take care of--let's call it--urgent personal business, while he continued riding. He also slipped into the restroom during his breaks. He recalled that one of the funniest moments of the ride resulted when an unexpected attack of stomach cramps caused him to call for the encircled sheet as he had to continue pedaling. Suffice to say it was a good thing there was a nurse on duty to assist with a tricky maneuver.
"That's one part I won't miss," laughed the cyclist.
Oshop recalls "hitting the wall" twice during the ride and fearing that he would not finish due to leg cramps, which eventually subsided. During the last few hours, he wasn't that tired because he was in a "trance" of sorts.
"I felt like I was in a different place altogether at times. Sometimes, I wasn't sure of what was happening."
But he kept pedaling.
At 6:45 p.m. on Monday, November 18, Oshop surpassed 60 hours, the former mark reached by two men, from South Africa, who had held the record for exactly one year, three weeks.
At 61 hours, however, he knew he could go no further than the 1,307 virtual miles on his odometer. "My butt was just so unbearably sore," he said, "and my legs hurt so bad."
Except for the Guinness Book's certification, it was official. The Iron Man with a heart of gold, from the Steel City, had etched his name in the world's most renowned record book.
And so, as his phone interview wound down and he looked forward to further, precious sleep, Oshop pondered the idea of another such run for the record, should his ever be broken.
"This time I had no idea what I was getting into. Now I know. I would be better prepared. But would I ever do it a second time?" He paused for a moment, and then added with certainty, "I'd do it again for charity."
(Note: If you would like to contribute to Katie's Fund in commemoration of Mr. Oshop record-setting ride, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette articles covering Dan Oshop's record breaking ride.
November 12, 2002 (Photo included)
November 18, 2002 (Photo included)
November 19, 2002 (Scroll down to find article)
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