The only bike Annette Pankoski owned was an old Kmart special with a tire rim she tried to straighten by standing on it.
Pankoski admits she was never an avid cyclist -- she rarely took a spin on old reliable, and when she registered to participate in Focus on the Family's National Bike Ride for the Family, she realized a new bike was in order.
She outfitted herself with a new mountain bike with road tires and began to prepare for the 200-mile trek from Anchorage to Cantwell, which starts Friday and ends Sunday.
Pankoski said she decided to participate in the ride because Focus has meant a lot to her throughout the years.
"There is a satisfaction in knowing that I have been able to give something back to Focus on the Family because they have had such a big impact on my life," she said.
When she lived in Colorado, Pankoski had her oldest daughter in daycare for 50 hours a week until she was 2. Everyday, driving to work she listened to the radio messages of Dr. James Dobson's, Focus' founder, emphasizing the importance of a strong family.
"I recognized that I needed to be at home raising my own daughter."
Pankoski and her husband moved to Alaska so she could stay at home to be with her two children. She said she has remained committed to her decision and her daughters, who are now 16 and 14.
However, she always felt like she needed to give something back to the organization which has inspired her for nearly 20 years, so when she read about the ride in Focus' magazine she signed up.
Beyond personal satisfaction of a job well done and a 200-mile bike ride completed, Pankoski said she hopes the fund-raiser helps to further Focus' ministry.
"If this gets anyone else aware of their ministry and they gain from it, it is worth the scariness of it," she said.
For Pankoski, the physical conditioning wasn't the most difficult part of this undertaking, she said the prospect of raising money scared her so much that she waited until April to begin.
It may have been hard for her, but she managed to surpass the organization's suggested individual goal of $3,000 by another $500.
"It was slow at first, but I just really trusted God with it and (the pledges) started coming in. I was astonished by the amount of money that some individuals, friends, made."
She has also surprised herself by improving her cycling skills so drastically over the past eight weeks. Focus provided several sample conditioning schedules. Pankoski said she shot for schedule two, the hardest one, but would have been happy if she finished somewhere in the middle.
"When I first started, I did the loop from Kenai to Soldotna, and it just killed me."
By the end, she was cycling the twin city circle three times for a total of 91 miles in one day.
"This is the first I've done of any biking. It's gone good," she said. "I've learned a lot about biking, and I've had a lot of time to think. This really made me slow down and think."
She will have plenty of time to think on the long ride.
Pankoski is one of nine riders from Alaska who plan to cycle for Focus. Two individuals from other states are joining the Alaska team, as are six Focus staff members who ride along to boost enthusiasm.
"That is what our riders are there for, to make sure everyone has a buddy, someone to ride with," said Cari Zeigler, a public relations representative for Focus.
Staff members participate in every ride across the country. The founder's son, Ryan Dobson, will have ridden in 30 out of the 50 trips once the event has concluded.
The National Bike Ride for the Family is a cooperative effort covering all 50 states. It began in January of 2001 and will run until midsummer of 2002. Alaskan riders are the 17th group to take part in the fund-raiser.
Thus far it has been successful, Zeigler said. "I think it promotes Focus' overall goal that is to bring the family together. It has been a good way for families to train together. It motivates people to spend more time with their family."
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