It was a watershed moment for Robin Hungerford, who hasn't missed a Pelotonia ride since the first one 10 years ago.
Six years ago, she decided to ride the 100-mile route, which didn't seem too daunting, because she had completed the 50-mile treks in the past.
"I didn't have a buddy," said Hungerford, 56, of Schumacher Place. "I always wanted to do this by myself. I didn't want anybody to wait on me."
At the last rest stop, about 20 miles outside Gambier, the final destination, she became physically overwhelmed and decided she couldn't finish the ride, she said.
She tried to call her husband, Wade Hungerford, who didn't answer his phone.
"I saw another rider sitting off to the side of the road crying, like I was," she said.
They talked about their exhaustion. The other rider, Jennifer Heitmeyer, had dropped off a car at Gambier the night before so she could drive herself back to German Village, where she lived.
Hungerford asked if Heitmeyer could pick her up and drive her back to the neighborhood. Heitmeyer agreed and summoned up the strength to set off for Gambier.
"She left, and I left after her and I caught up to her on the first hill," Hungerford said. "And we credit each other for inspiring each other for finishing that day."
Heitmeyer and Hungerford became friends and continue to ride in Pelotonia.
"Had I not met her, I don't know if I would have done it again," Hungerford said.
"It is a blessing to be able to do something good with the fundraising and get so something so wonderful in return," Heitmeyer said. "And we're raising money and get to feel good about it, but the human friendships we're making together, it's worth it."
This year, Hungerford said, she agreed to ride the two-day 180-mile route as a birthday present to Heitmeyer.
Hungerford is considered a High Roller by the organization, meaning she has committed a minimum $5,000 for the ride. A financial analyst for Dawson Healthcare, a division of Dawson Resources, she rides for the L Brands -- International/La Senza peloton, and the L Brands Foundation will match her contribution, she said.
Hungerford said she started riding in Pelotonia because she lost a 35-year-old sister in-law to cancer.
Since the first ride, she has formed the German Village Cycling Club with five or six other riders in the neighborhood.
Describing Pelotonia as "my thing," she said it has helped her develop meaningful relationships with others who share the same charitable spirit.
"I think for me it's like anything: The experience is so much more meaningful when you share it with people," she said. "And the Pelotonia community is just so passionate and gracious."