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Headwinds and Tailwinds - Cycling For Climate Awareness in a Global Pandemic

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September 15, 2020

Written by: Ellen Starmann

If you told me at the beginning of 2020 that I'd be cycling 250 miles in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan, fundraising for an organization called "Climate Ride", and wearing a face mask to go grocery shopping - I would not have believed you.  Yet, since March 2020, we've all been living the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic. Social distancing, total lock-down for some, living and working from home, and dealing with a narrowed life experience. 

For those of you that don't know me, I'm Ellen Starmann, Akamai Senior Major Account Executive in the Americas. I've always been an athletic, outdoor enthusiast. When Chicago, the city where I live, shut down the beautiful Lake Michigan lakefront where I walk my dog, run, swim and meditate, due to Covid-19, I needed another outlet. 

I tried my other favorite walking paths, but they were closed too. I tried playing tennis, but the courts were locked. Zoom cocktail parties - thank you. You were great, but we had to break up.  

Finally, I found an answer on the typically busy streets of Chicago. They were suddenly desolate, open and beckoning to me and my bike. Out I went, and a whole world opened up for me. Among other things, I saw colorful street art, beautiful parks, tried curb-side taco stands and stumbled upon a few breweries to try some new beers ☺.

With my new focus on biking, I researched other ways to enjoy the outdoors on a bike. I learned about an organization called Climate Ride. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that organizes biking, hiking and running events to raise climate change awareness, sustainability, active transportation, and environmental causes. I decided to sign up for a most socially distanced event in August, riding through the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

I learned on the first day of my trip that a 20 mph headwind made my 40 mile ride seem like a 60 mile ride. Such headwinds can zap your energy and enthusiasm. I was worried the rest of the trip was going to "blow" (pun intended). However, I was lucky to ride the rest of the trip with the winds mainly at my back. 

I've named the title of my blog, "Headwinds and Tailwinds", since we're all dealing with a bit of both these days.

Speaking of winds, it has been impossible to overlook the series of recent destructive weather events. While on my trip, a derecho storm hit the central United States. This devastating storm produced a straight line 100mph + wind that leveled over 40% of Iowa's corn crop, and then spawned 15 tornados in the Chicago area. See the picture below for the derecho front coming across the plains. Estimates say it caused over $500 million in damage. The derecho happened in parallel to the wildfires in Colorado, and California, and now Oregon.  Additionally, a tropical storm hit New York that left millions without electricity for over a week, and Hurricane Laura devastated Lake Charles, Louisiana.

These extreme weather events are costly "headwinds" for our society. We know these regular catastrophes are the new reality and will persist for many years or decades ahead. I am proud of Akamai for working to turn these headwinds into tailwinds, with its commitment to using renewable (e.g. wind, solar) energy to power 50% of its global network operations.

Our trip raised over $42,000 and the funds will go towards such organizations listed on this page: https://www.climateride.org/beneficiaries/. How about an Akamai Danny Lewin Days/Climate Ride event to align Akamai's sustainability efforts? I'm planting the seed! For those interested in doing a similar ride, here's information about the organization, https://www.climateride.org and my individual fundraising page.  https://support.climateride.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=8092

I've included a few pictures because, well, pictures make everything better. Enjoy and may your headwinds turn into tailwinds!

Written by


September 15, 2020