Eileen Marks and Team Epiphany.

Following the success of the My-State Trek in 2020, the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI) is excited to once again offer cyclists all over the world the opportunity to virtually participate in our signature fundraising event, the Tri-State Trek. While the continuing rollout of vaccines and improving COVID-19 numbers have allowed to us put on a limited, one-day in-person ride, we understand that many in the community might still be unable to join us. To make sure everyone in our #TrekFamily can participate, cyclists from near or far can choose to ride along through the Virtual Tri-State Trek.

Cyclists who choose the Virtual Trek have a number of options to participate in the way that works best for them. They can either cycle the traditional 270 miles of the Tri-State Trek, or take on the same 100 miles that in-person riders will cover at the in-person event this year. These miles can be ridden over time or all at once, on a road or mountain bike or indoors on a stationary bike or a trainer, and be completed any time between May 1 and June 21. Registration is free, although there is a $1000 minimum fundraising goal for Virtual Trek participants.

Many longtime Trek cyclists and supporters have chosen to join us for the Virtual Tri-State Trek this year – and are already planning how they’ll tackle the miles while keeping the Trek spirit alive. Eileen Marks has participated in the Trek since 2017 in honor of her late husband Rick, who passed from ALS in 2018. For the first few years she supported by fundraising for a team of cyclists from her church – Team Epiphany – and joining them for the last few miles of the ride in Greenwich, CT. With last year’s My State Trek, she was able to ride further and longer with the team, while raising more than $10,000 for research at TDI. This year she’ll join the team again for their ride through the suburbs north of Boston. She credits the virtual format with helping attract new people to the team – and into the Trek Family.

“The nice thing about the virtual track was that because it was local, we had several people join the team that that were new, that had never done it before,” she says. “The benefit of the virtual option is that we can involve more people there, a lot of people who would like to participate but aren't up for a 300-mile ride or up for driving all the way to Greenwich for the for the big finish.”

Jason Kinchen, the Captain of Team Epiphany, agrees that the virtual option has allowed them to expand the scope of their team by giving people multiple options to participate.

“The virtual option is great for people like Eileen, who's the heart and soul of our team,” he says. “Before that, she was able to cheer us on and go to the events and show up at the Saturday event. But last year she went out and did some of the rides, and it was really fun.”

To make the ride as accessible as possible for all everyone joining them, Jason and his teammates have planned options that work for everyone involved – from hardcore cyclists who will participate in the team’s virtual group rides as well as the 100-mile in-person ride, to newer cyclists who opt for shorter options.

“Last year, we did our own in-person ride on the day when the Trek would have been,” he says. “Two of us rode 100 miles, a bunch of us did a 40-mile ride, and we designed it as a loop so that we could do the 40-mile ride and then go on and do the rest of it. We're going to do a similar thing this year on the day of the Trek, or maybe the day before.”

The Virtual Trek is also a great option for people who simply can’t make the live event on June 26th. Shane Samuels, of Team Samuel’s Rock, has been riding in the Trek for three years, in memory of his grandfather, and is glad that despite circumstances he’ll still be able to ride virtually and support ALS TDI.

Shane Samuels and Team Samuels' Rock.

“I'm a senior in high school and my graduation is the day of the Trek,” says Shane. “So, my whole family was going to take the year off. I'm sure we were going to raise money or something, but we wouldn't be able to actually attend. So, this happened to work out in my favor. I can still do graduation, but on my own time I can ride in the Tri-State Trek.”

To join the virtual ride, all virtual cyclists need to do is sign up, track their miles (we suggest on Strava so that others can follow your progress), and encourage their friends and family to donate to support their ride – and our essential research at ALS TDI. While Virtual Trek cyclists will not all be gathering together physically, they will still be able to come together as a community through Trek webinars, virtual Trek “Ride Together” days, and a “We are Trek Family” virtual Saturday night program on June 26th, the day of the in-person ride. There will be a “Trek Town Hall” to go over how to participate on April 29.

“If you’re thinking about the Virtual Trek, I would I would say go for it,” says Eileen. “You could you can do as long or as short a ride as you want, but it's definitely a way to connect with the ALS community, to feel like you're not alone, and that progress is being made.”

To learn more about all the different options for participating in this year’s Tri-State Trek, click here. To support Eileen, Jason, or Shane’s virtual rides, you can contribute to Team Epiphany and Team Samuel’s Rock.