2008-10-02 / Health & Wellness

Leukemia survivor races to help others

GRATITUDE—Vinnie Tortorich will participate in a two-day race to express thanks for the second chance at life he's been given. GRATITUDE—Vinnie Tortorich will participate in a two-day race to express thanks for the second chance at life he's been given. Just over a year ago, ultracyclist and professional trainer Vinnie Tortorich faced the toughest endurance challenge of all—the race to save his own life from a rare form of leukemia.

A competitive athlete all his life, Tortorich found himself strapped to a chemotherapy pump receiving hours of treatment each day.

Now in remission less than a year after finishing treatment, Tortorich is preparing to race in the upcoming Furnace Creek 508, scheduled for Oct. 4 through 6 in Southern California.

Considered by many to be one of the most challenging races on the world cycling circuit, the nonstop two-day race begins in Santa Clarita, stretches 508 miles across the Mojave Desert and through Death Valley, and ends in 29 Palms.

With an elevation gain of 35,000 feet over 10 mountain passes, the race has steep climbs, stark desert landscape and long stretches of desolate road, with temperatures often above 100 degrees.

Tortorich is training in the hills of Calabasas and Westlake Village.

Tortorich also decided to raise funds for people affected by leukemia, cancer and other catastrophic illnesses, and will be racing on behalf of the Maximum Hope Foundation, founded by Westlake resident Jill Garrett.

Maximum Hope is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to families who have been affected by the costs and issues of caring for a terminallyill child or adult. Maximum Hope supplies financial assistance to families who need help with rent, car payments, food, counseling, and utilities, while paying for medical expenses.

"I felt fortunate because I had good support from family and friends, and good insurance. Then I learned that many people die waiting for treatment because they can't afford it or that they survive, but then literally can't afford to live. What impressed me about Maximum Hope is that almost 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to people in need. Even with insurance, cancer is a very expensive illness and not everyone is insured and not everyone has someone to turn to. Completing this race is my way of showing my gratitude for the love and care I received and for the second chance that I have been given," said Tortorich.

Tortorich is from Louisiana, where he attended Tulane University and began his private training career after graduation. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he continued his career as a private trainer, attracting an upscale Hollywood celebrity clientele, while still pursuing his interest in ultracycling.

He participated in numerous bike races and rides including The Furnace Creek 508, Eastern Sierra Double, Solvang Double Century, 12 Hours at The Summit, and more. He began his ultra-cycling career with mountain biking in 1998.

Most recently, Tortorich participated in the 500 mile-plus Race Across Oregon, and is collaborating on a book about his experiences with a New York Times bestselling author.

His plans include an attempt to break the 13-year-old record of cycling across Louisiana from west to east.

Donations can be made by pledging for each mile Tortorich rides, or by making a flat donation of any amount. All donations are payable to Maximum Hope, 10866 Wilshire Blvd., Ste, 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

For more information, call (818) 438-8038 or visit www .maximumhopefoundation.org.

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