After a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run, Austin Heil wanted more.
But not more on the actual day in 2016 when he finished the Ironman 70.3 Ohio race. On that day, he needed sleep and food. But weeks after getting to the finish line, he wanted to do a group ride with some of the people he bonded with along the course.
“You’re near death in the last leg of a triathlon, so you meet a lot of people,” the 2009 CFAES graduate joked.
A few months later, Heil organized a bike ride near his Kenton, Ohio, farm. Using a Garmin app, he mapped out a course that formed a handwritten “Ohio.” The first year, a handful of people showed up. The next year, he turned the ride into a fundraiser for research and treatment for cystic fibrosis, an illness two of his cousins have.
Sign up for next year’s ride at bikereg.com/cursiveohio.
Held the Saturday before each Labor Day, the Cursive Ohio Bike Adventure has since made a few changes to the course, such as shorter options for casual riders. Participants can choose to ride 17, 35, or 64 miles. The 17-mile course goes through just the “Oh” and dots the “i.” Riders who take the 35-mile and 64-mile routes get to trace “Ohio,” with the 64-mile participants riding slightly longer after the “Ohio” part of the course.
This year’s ride raised $2,600 for the Ohio AgrAbility program, which offers services to Ohio farmers with disabilities or long-term health conditions, to determine which types of assistive technology they might need.
“Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries we have, but we don’t have a very strong peer-to-peer group for injured farmers,” said Heil, 36. “I felt it was the right time to connect with Ohio AgrAbility and help them meet farmers right where they’re at.”
The money helps pay for an annual, educational lunch Ohio AgrAbility hosts for injured farmers where farmers learn about technology that might help them, and they swap ideas for ways they’ve devised to overcome obstacles to allow them to still do their jobs. The money could also help pay to send a couple of farmers to a national conference for farmers with disabilities.
“The money is really nice, but the awareness is also really important,” said Laura Akgerman, disability services coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility, which is run by OSU Extension.
“A lot of the people who participate in the ride have never heard of AgrAbility. We’ve heard people say, ‘We’re the best kept secret in Ohio.’ We don’t want to be a secret,” said Akgerman.
As a sixth-generation farmer, Heil wanted to give back to an organization that supports farmers. Although he himself isn’t challenged by injuries or major health concerns, he knows that might not always be the case.
“We’re always one second away from needing it,” he said.