EUGENE, Ore. – Leslie Thomas hadn't been an avid bike rider since she was a child, but once she had her first exposure to a friend's triathlon she knew she found a new passion. Thomas, a runner and swimmer herself, just needed a bike to give it a try. About seven months later, she bought her own and still rides it to this day.
Thomas said, "For me it's the challenge of being able to accomplish a certain distance. So I started off really what I thought was a moderate distance...like 20 miles, and then from there I would try to go like 30 miles, then 40 miles. And then I just kept pushing myself. I want to do more. Once I could do the distance, I wanted to be able to do it faster each time. So then that's what started pushing me. Now I want to go for speed, it's not just endurance. Now I want to be able to be with the fast group."
She then joined a cycling club, that would later become Eugene Velo Cycle Club, and began consistently competing in races.
"It's the camaraderie I feel in this community that I belong to. This is an amazing community of cyclists that I belong to here in Eugene and Springfield. They're all inspirational in one way or another and we all uplift each other," said Thomas.
Just like any athlete, the competitive edge lives inside of Thomas but it's not always about crossing the finish line for her.
She said, "To me, it means freedom. There's definitely a feeling of freedom when you're on the bike...it's a stress reliever. It's a way to feel more connected to nature. I can't think of a better way for me to experience lane county and the beautiful parks we have and the river fronts we have. Roads that maybe most of us only drive on a car, we can see on a bike. And you see things that you won't notice when you're in your car."
She said she listens to her body and knows when it's had enough. This weekend during the Mohawk Metric Century in Armitage Park, Thomas didn't cross the line on her bike. On that hot day, she suffered from cramping and wasn't able to finish the fundraiser race.
The fundraiser had three options of different lengths, including a 50k, 100k, and a 150k which included riding up through Coburg, Marcola, up to Sweet Home, and Sodaville, before heading through Brownsville, and back to Eugene.
Thomas has torn an AC joint, broken four of her ribs, two of her fingers, and her wrist, but it's never crossed her mind to quit.
"The biggest reason it's important for me to get back to the bike is that my children expect me to be back out there and they encourage me to be back out there," Thomas said. "A lot of times my kids are my motivation because, I want them to be able to see that even though I have a full time job, sometimes it requires me to work almost 50 hours a week. But I want them to see that I make time for me. I make time to take care of myself. And I want them to see that their mom lives a healthy lifestyle and I'm hoping that through what I do as a cyclist or other you know athletic endeavors that I have that they're going to be motivated to do the same as they grow up."
Later this year, her daughter will be graduating from high school and attending the University of Oregon in the fall. While her son will be turning 13 and entering the 8th grade. Just like their mother on her bike, she hopes they won't give up on chasing their dreams.