I was at mile 66 when it really started to hit me. Aching legs, prickling numbness in my lower back, a listless sense of fatigue. I was fading, and fading fast.
That’s when I heard the shout.
“Man you guys are hard to keep up with!” The source of the disembodied voice came zipping up beside me, a chipper, crimson flash who provided a much-needed jolt of encouragement and energy. It was Bill Swank Jr., president of development and construction for Twenty Four Seven Hotels—and one of 30-or-so hotel-industry teammates on Team RockBridge’s Peloton.
For the uninitiated, the word “peloton” comes from the French meaning “little ball” or “platoon” and refers to the main group of riders in a road bicycle race. It’s garnered a more familiar connotation in the Midwestern vernacular during the past few years thanks to the annual Pelotonia event in Columbus, Ohio.
The event, held this year from 10-12 August, is a varied-distance bike race to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Each rider—there were more than 6,500 of us this year—commits to bike a distance of 25 miles, 50 miles, 75 miles, 100 miles, 155 miles or 180 miles. Each distance also comes with a fundraising requirement. Those who commit to bike 25 miles, for instance, also commit to raise $1,200, while those biking the ambitious 180-mile course commit to raise $2,200.
|A bird's eye view of the Pelotonia starting chute at Columbus Commons.
The best part? Every dollar raised goes directly to cancer research at The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Though this was the fourth annual Pelotonia, I was completely unaware of the event until the HotelNewsNow.com team received word from a RockBridge PR rep. The Columbus-based integrated hotel investment firm has supported the event from the start, and this year the company was hoping to up the ante by hosting its first “ROCK the Road” event to bring in hotel industry representatives from across the country. The program consisted of a luncheon and roundtable Friday afternoon, as well as a team-based fundraising effort, or “Peloton,” for Pelotonia.
A casual road biker myself, I jumped on the opportunity and made my way south to Columbus to take part. I found more than 60 hoteliers in attendance Friday, more than half of whom had committed to bike the next day. (The remaining participants were “virtual riders”—those who raised funds online but opted not to ride.)
Though the “ROCK the Road” program was filled with valuable insights, more memorable were the opening comments from Pelotonia founder and CEO Tom Lennox, a cancer survivor himself who ditched a high-profile PR gig to start the non-profit.
|Your humble blogger, with trusty bike in hand, in the starting chute at the fourth annual Pelotonia fundraising event to raise money for cancer research.
“I’m still not a development person, and I won’t be a development person … I like to rally people. I like to give people the opportunity to get on board or join, whether it is our 6,200 riders, our 1,800 volunteers … our supporters … I like to get people to get on board because it’s easy. It’s really tough to say ‘no,’” he said.
The reason it’s so difficult to say “no”? Quite simply, cancer sucks. The oft-cited adage is that “cancer touches everyone,” whether you personally suffer or watch as your family and friends do. Lennox said that adage is a misnomer. “Cancer doesn’t touch everyone,” he said. “Cancer makes people grieve—all of us.”
I saw the shadows of that grief on my 100-mile trek the next day. Whether circling the city streets of downtown Columbus or branching out farther into the rolling farmland of the Ohio Valley as we pedaled north, the footprints of this crippling disease were everywhere:
A spray-painted bed sheet hung in a cornfield near mile 45: “You’re riding to honor the memory of Jason.”
That man holding a sign near mile 80: “Thanks for raising money to save my wife’s life.”
The pictures and names pinned to my fellow riders’ jerseys: “I’m riding for Mom.” “I miss you, Dad.” “Each mile is for Aunt Cathy and Uncle Steve.”
But breaking through the clouds of grief were also rays of optimism and hope. Crowds cheering along the road. Young kids clanging cowbells. Frenetic volunteers furiously making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at each rest stop.
It was overwhelming, truth to be told. And incredibly humbling. As I made my way down the final chute, finish line in site, there were hundreds of people cheering me on from either side. I had a hard time making eye contact. I wasn’t riding for me, for these accolades, for the clapping and shouts of support. I was riding for my Uncle Bill, who passed away when I was too young to know him, and my Uncle Bob, who passed away when I was old enough to know I didn’t want him to go.
Pelotonia’s slogan is as significant as it is succinct: “One goal.” The organization doesn’t aim to ease suffering or slow the effects of cancer. It aims to eradicate it outright, to help create a cancer-free world.
Lennox told my fellow hotel-industry peers and me that while we can all make bad decisions at times, “people are inherently kind. I know this.”
Having ridden 100 miles, I now know this as well.
I’m banking on that inherent kindness as I make a request to you, reader. While the event has come and gone, we’re still able to fundraise for a few more weeks. If you could spare any funds, whether that be $1 or $1,000, I encourage you to click here and donate. Again, 100% of every dollar raised goes directly to cancer research.
And for those of you interested in joining RockBridge and your fellow hoteliers in what’s sure to be a bigger and better “ROCK the Road” event next year, please contact Gavin K. Freytag, RockBridge’s senior VP and chief of staff. He’ll be happy to provide you with more details.
Gavin K. Freytag
And now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week I
£212.22: Average room rate, in pounds, reported by London hoteliers during the Olympic Games, according to STR Global. (The U.S. dollar conversion is $334.04.) The figure represents an 86.1% increase from the same two-week-plus period last year.
Stat of the week II
$7.1 billion: The amount U.S. hotel transaction dollar volume was down through the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, according to the STR Analytics’ Hotel Transaction Almanac Midyear 2012 Update. Volume during the first six months of 2012: $6 billion. Volume during the same period in 2011: $13.1 billion.
A few other key findings from the Almanac:
- Only 13% of transactions involved distressed assets, a sharp decline from 2011 when almost one out of three asset trades included struggling properties.
- Only 16% of hotel acquisitions were by REITs, a noticeable decline from 2011 when 35% of purchases were by REITs.
- The average room revenue multiplier was 3.9, a modest drop from the average multiplier of 4.2 in 2011.
- Surprisingly, the average cap rate declined to 9.2% in 2012 from 10.5% in 2011.
Comment of the week
“Qatar and Katara Hospitality will someday learn that money will not buy a soul. You know the old saying, "Be nice be (sic) people on the way up bcause (sic) you will see them on the way down"
—Commenter “Mohammad” issuing a warning to the Qatar Investment Authority amid its hotel buying spree that was first reported in “Qatar makes splash with hotel spending spree.”
Quote of the week
“A freeze is not what we would have liked to have had happen, but it’s a positive outcome compared to something that would have been dramatically challenging to overcome.”
—Mark Carrier, president of Washington, D.C.-based B. F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, responding the U.S. General Services Administration’s decision not to drop U.S. per-diem rates for federal employees, as reported in “Hoteliers cheer efforts to halt per-diem drops.”
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
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