Konan Stephens is a man on a mission.
Konan Stephens is a man on a mission.
Currently competing in a grueling 2,745-mile bike race through the heart of North America, from the Canadian Rockies to the Mexican border, Stephens said he finds solace in knowing a large contingent of supporters back in Pickerington are cheering on every mile.
The head pastor of C3 Church in Pickerington is participating in The Tour Divide, an ultimate endurance mountain bike race that lasts at least three weeks.
"It's officially the longest off-road bike race in the world," Stephens said.
"It follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains."
The race, which started June 9 in Banff, Alberta, Canada, will wind through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and ultimately New Mexico.
Stephens, along with over 150 other hard-core mountain bikers, will ride mostly dirt and gravel fire roads. Pavement is essentially prohibited, save for connecting between desolate trails.
"It's off-road and unsupported," he said, meaning riders cannot have any outside assistance to complete the trek.
Race officials acknowledge only about less than half of first day entrants will finish the race, but Stephens is optimistic he is well-prepared, with the exception of perhaps the altitude changes.
"It's crazy because I can't train for the altitude living in Pickerington, Ohio," Stephens said. "The hill on Pickerington Road is 250 feet elevation.
"I'm going to be doing 12,000 feet so that makes you put it in perspective.
"I've spent a lot of time training in my living room because I didn't want to sacrifice too much family time," Stephens said.
"There's really no way you can prepare. I'm in decent shape. It's going to come down to whether I can push through the pain," he said.
Stephens said his plan is to pace himself.
"My goal is to do 110 miles a day," he said. "I will be trying to finish under 25 days."
That equates to 16 hours "in the saddle" every day, and at the end of each ride, there will be no luxury accommodations awaiting him, only what nature provides.
"You go out in the woods, pull out a sleeping bag, get a decent night's sleep, get up and do it again the next day," he said, adding he will be permitted to carry 5 liters of water on him and refuel with "junk food" -- mostly at the gas stations he finds right off the trail.
Stephens said he is racing because he wants to return to Pickerington "physically and emotionally" refreshed so as to better lead his flock; however, he is also using the race as a fundraising vehicle for Pickerington-based Tyler's Light.
The nonprofit drug-abuse-prevention and awareness organization is the recipient of Stephens' $10,000 fundraising goal.
Stephens said he chose Tyler's Light because of the good work it does in Pickerington and beyond.
"I think addiction is definitely an underground problem every community has," he said.
"We have an incredible community, but I've seen the harm (drugs) has done to young people and old people."
Through his efforts with The Tour Divide, Stephens said he wants "to bring awareness and some hope" to those who are either wrestling with addiction or have been effected by it in some way.
Tyler's Light President Wayne Campbell said he is in awe of Stephens' commitment to his organization.
"At 40 years of age, to take this on is ludicrous," Campbell quipped. "But he's doing this for other people, people he never met."
Campbell said the pastor's efforts are greatly appreciated.
"We've been in nine states," Campbell said. "The funds will go to help finance Tyler's Light outreach efforts.
"It's outstanding he's doing this for another organization," said Campbell.
Stephens will bicycle through the desolate hinterlands of the American frontier to help inspire people to save lives. But even he acknowledges a lot can happen out on the trail, even with his trusty high-end titanium Motebecane bike.
"It's supposed to be tough enough. Time will tell," Stephens said.
"But things can break -- either your bike or your mind," he said.