ROCovery Fitness in Partnership with Exercise Express
By Jonathan Westfall, ROCovery Fitness

How Cool Would That Be?!
In 2017, only a few weeks before the NYS Recovery Conference, a great idea was born: “Let’s ride bikes along the canal to the conference and raise awareness for recovery!” The idea had more enthusiasm than practicality, but that’s how many great adventures begin; first focus on the What, and then worry about the How. With only a couple of weeks to train, there wasn’t a lot of time to create what we have in place today. But the handful of people who started out from the ROCovery Fitness Outreach Center in Rochester to ride approximately 250 miles along the canal to our state capitol were full of determination and recovery spirit! It was an excellent learning experience, and the source of many great stories which will be told for years to come.

*The Erie Canal Trail is 80 percent complete today, with the longest section being the 100 miles running from near Buffalo, through Rochester, to Lyons. When finished, the east-west route will extend 360 uninterrupted miles from Buffalo to Albany, passing 200 communities along the way, making it the longest continuous intrastate multi-use trail in the nation.

A More “Refined” Approach
Training for the ride this year is a bit different. Along with having ample time to train and prepare, it is organized into manageable, although increasingly challenging segments (to ensure everyone is in the proper physical condition to handle the 360 mile ride) over the course of several weeks. This year we have an experienced cycling instructor, David Riley guiding our training rides and program. Dave says, “Riding for 4 days, almost century rides (100 miles) each day, is quite an endeavor. You must have a physical training plan for your body, but you also must have a nutrition plan as well—you can’t go into this and expect that your breakfast and your lunch are going to get you through the day.” In keeping with the theme of the Recovery Conference this year (The Journey to Recovery Wellness: Home, Health, Community and Purpose) there’s a lot of thought being put into each rider’s overall health and wellness and getting to the conference in the best form possible and not simply surviving the ride.

The first training ride was on May 27 and encompassed about 30 miles with 9 riders in all. It was a great introductory ride to get used to the bikes, some rider etiquette, and longer riding conditions. It was along some of the same terrain that the ride in August will cover. Mostly relatively flat miles along the canal trail. Since then, the distance has increased incrementally as has the variation in terrain—including some challenging hills in areas like Keuka Lake (which was a 45 mile route with over 1200 ft. in elevation gains around the lake), increasing overall stamina and conditioning for the longer rides. The longest group training ride to the date has been 50 miles, but each week the rides will get longer, culminating in a couple of 100 mile rides (for those who intend to do the full 5 day ride to Albany).

The mandatory weekly group training rides are only part of the physical plan. It is also expected that each rider complete an additional 3-4 rides, individually throughout the week. That said, we are inviting riders from all over the state to come out and join us for a couple of miles or an entire leg of the trip (if, for whatever reason, they can’t make it for the whole thing). We are seeking to support and engage people in the many communities we pass through along the way, and many others throughout the state, whether they are individuals in recovery or those who support us.

Sean Smith, Co-Founder of ROCovery Fitness said, “Last year we had the time of our lives and built incredible friendships that will last a lifetime. It is our goal to provide each rider with that same experience as we ride together in support of each other’s recovery. We ride together to show NY that we are stronger than this disease, and the stigma that comes with it. We ride for those still fighting and those we’ve lost.”

The Itinerary
We will depart from each start point at 7am each morning and aim to ride 12-15 miles per hour throughout the day. Team leaders will update support teams with our pace each hour so they can calculate arrival times to each checkpoint (3-4 checkpoints each day).

  • Day 1 (Wednesday, August 15): Clubhouse Buffalo, Buffalo to ROCovery Fitness,
    Rochester. Distance = 91.3 miles
  • Day 2 (Thursday, August 16): ROCovery Fitness, 1035 Dewey Ave. to Exercise
    Express to Reed Webster Park, Syracuse. Distance = 92.3 miles
    Day 3 (Friday, August 17): Reed Webster Park, Syracuse to Army National Guard
    Armory, Utica. Distance = 70.1 miles
  • Day 4 (Saturday, August 18): Army National Guard Armory, Utica to Creative
    Connections Clubhouse, Amsterdam. Distance = 67.3 miles
  • Day 5 (Sunday, August 19): Creative Connections Clubhouse, Amsterdam to The
    Capitol Building, Albany. Distance = 49.1 miles

Other Information 
If you would like to follow along with our training progress, weekly videos are being produced and posted to our FaceBook page for the ride in the discussion section at:

We are seeking support in many ways for the ride, if you are interested in helping us complete this important endeavor. Each rider will require food, water, miscellaneous supplies and lodging each night (for proper rest), plus conference registration costs and lodging at the conference itself, and a staffed “chase van” will also be put into the process this year as well—so monetary donations as support would be greatly appreciated. Those tax deductible donations can be made directly to ROCovery Fitness either by mailed check or at the web site donation portal on our home page at: (just make a note of “Recovery Ride 2018” on your check or electronic submission). And if you would like to come out and show your support as we ride through your community, or maybe even join us for part(s) of the ride, or just looking for more information, send inquiries to: [email protected]