Enjoying the exercise, part 3: cyclist rides to raise money

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Carolyn Viss
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs
When Tech. Sgt. Dwayne Johnson first brainstormed "Operation iRide," he didn't think it would be too tough.

As an avid biker, he was just taking what he knew - cycling - and throwing out a challenge to his unit: "I'll ride 1,000 miles in one month if you make pledges." The money was to go toward the 735th Air Mobility Squadron holiday party, so that Airmen in the ranks of E-4 and below could attend for free.

"Up until I started Operation iRide, the most I'd ridden in a month was 200-300 miles," said the air transportation specialist, who picked up a love of cycling at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

"A friend of mine kept bugging me to buy a bike," Sergeant Johnson said. "At first, I was totally against it. I didn't want to spend that much money for a bicycle, and had no interest in cycling."

But after years of running to stay fit, he was experiencing ankle, knee, hip and back pain.

"I needed an alternate method of staying fit, so I decided I'd give this cycling thing a try," he said. "I kind of fell in love with it."

Although he had completed somewhere around seven "century" (100-mile) rides in the four years he's been into the sport, this new challenge, which he had both created and named, was going to be a huge stretch for him.

"I ended up doing three century rides in one month," he said with a laugh.

At first, Sergeant Johnson, who was perfectly fit, was "all geeked out," and ready to go.

"I figured the days I might not be motivated I could just think about all the Airmen who would get to go to the party, and that would motivate me," he said. "But by the time I got to about 350 miles, I was like, what am I doing? The pain and fatigue started to set in."

But he couldn't stop. Pledges started pouring in from the non-comissioned officers and civilians in the squadron, and he even got a huge pledge from the owner of Oahu's Jamba Juice stores, who Sergeant Johnson had seen on the side of the road and stopped to help.

Altogether, Sergeant Johnson rode 1,000 miles in a series of 18 rides. Even with a squadron inspection and other duty-related obligations cutting into workout times, his Operation iRide raised $2,020.

Forty-five Airmen and their spouses, in total, were able to attend the holiday party for free.

"I felt like I really accomplished something on several fronts," Sergeant Johnson said. "One, I had the goal of making 1,000 miles, and I had never done anything close to that! Then I had a goal to make $2,000 for the booster club. And I had the goal of making sure everyone who wanted to go, could go. In my eyes, that was quite an accomplishment. I feel really proud about that."

He had been athletic since he was a child, playing baseball and taking Tae Kwon Do classes. But when he started riding with his friends from Yokota, guys who had been riding much longer than he had been, he was driven to keep up with them and even beat them. He was "compelled to excel - to ride harder, faster, father."

If it weren't for that naturally competitive nature, Sergeant Johnson probably wouldn't have ever gotten excited about cycling in the first place. From his love of cycling, his physical fitness naturally increased. Although he'd always had average fitness test scores in the high 80s, with an occasional score in the low 90s, he got his first perfect fitness test score in 2006, the year he started cycling.

"If I set a goal, I have to meet that goal," he said. "I have to. Even if I did feel like quitting, there were too many people counting on me. I had to do it."

In addition to Operation iRide, Sergeant Johnson has challenged himself in local charity rides as well, raising money for epilepsy and other charity causes. He always wears a POW/MIA shirt to represent his military service and the more than 8,000 brothers and sisters in arms who are prisoners of war and missing in action.

He does it for the health of it.