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'Bring it On'

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Executive: Roxie Jerde, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Jerde regularly interacts with the business community and donors in her role with the foundation, which has nearly $240 million in assets in more than 1,100 charitable funds.

Diversion: The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, commonly called Ragbrai. The ride is an annual seven-day summer event that's also a celebration of small towns and cities across Iowa. The route changes every year. It normally covers about 500 miles and it starts somewhere in western Iowa, on the Missouri River, and ends somewhere in eastern Iowa, on the Mississippi River. Two columnists for the Des Moines Register newspaper founded the ride in 1973.

Iowa flyers:
An Iowa native, Jerde has participated in Ragbrai for 18 years, ever since she and her husband, retired attorney Mike Jerde, first tried it in 1994. “Once we did it,” says Jerde, “we were hooked.”

Just breathe: Jerde, 60, participates in a host of sports and activities, from yoga to skiing to cycling. But she suffered from asthma when she was younger, and rarely did anything athletic. She took up running in her mid-20s, and at first she struggled. “My legs were great,” she says, “but I had the worst time with my lungs.” Jerde eventually overcame the asthma and in her 30s she completed a marathon in Lincoln, Neb. She later completed triathlons.

Ride together: Cycling is Jerde's passion and something she shares with her husband. “This is our golfing,” she says. “It's our hobby and our vacation.” The couple has gone on training rides all over the Sarasota-Bradenton region, including the Legacy Trail in south Sarasota and over the Ringling Bridge. One of Jerde's favorite local rides is from Marina Jack, at the Sarasota bayfront, to Anna Maria Island and back. The couple has also gone for rides at Glacier National Park in Montana and across Vermont.

Think through: Riding, says Jerde, is where she figures out work, and life. “It's an opportunity to kind of check out and it really clears your mind,” Jerde says. “I do my best thinking when I'm on my bike. It's where I come up with the best solutions to problems.”

Rough it: Ragbrai is a blast, says Jerde, both for the ride and the sense of community in every town that hosts an overnight or rest stop. But she has no delusions: The ride isn't the Ritz. It includes sleeping in tents, using a Porta Potty and showering in high school gyms. “You can't be prissy,” says Jerde. “I don't bring a hair dryer or makeup.”

Good eats: Jerde also doesn't expect to return from Ragbrai any slimmer, even though she hits at least 75 miles a day on the bike. That's because the rest stops, with well-meaning supporters, are full of food, from spaghetti to fried chicken. There's even a pork chop man, who, with his son, makes many stops along the ride in a pink bus. “I've never lost weight riding Ragbrai,” Jerde says, “because I end up eating my way across the state.”

Uphill battle: One of the hardest Ragbrai days, says Jerde, was the year the ride's route include Potter Hill, or in Ragbrai-speak, Potter Hell. Many riders, she recalls, walked their bikes up the steep incline. But Jerde was determined to ride up the hill and about halfway up she created her own mantra for motivation: Bring it on, I am strong. Jerde eventually made it. “It was one of the toughest things I've ever done,” she says. “When I got to the top I had tears in my eyes.”

Keep going: Jerde wants to ride in Ragbrai many more times. “I love being physically active,” she says. “I hope I can still do it when I'm 70 or 80.”


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