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Houseman getting back in the saddle ; Rejoins Roswell ride year after bad injury

Pete Houseman was with a group finishing a bicycle training ride when he spotted a car down the road driving through a stop sign. His heart raced.

No one was in any danger, but the sight of a vehicle breaking a traffic law while he was on his bike brought back bad memories. It was only 12 months ago that the 28-year-old Houseman was hit by a truck the night before the Ride for Roswell.

He broke his pelvis, spent three months off his feet and painful months relearning how to walk.

And on Saturday, he will return to his bike to complete the Ride for Roswell.

"It's been a little difficult," Houseman said of getting back on his bike. "I did most of my workouts on a training bike or on my bike on a trainer at home. I haven't done too much road riding. There are drivers out there who aren't paying attention. It's a little tough for me on the road. I can't see myself doing too many long rides alone."

But neither could Houseman see himself sitting on the sidelines, watching his love of athletics atrophy along with his muscles while his bones and body healed.

That isn't Housman's personality. Also, the Ride for Roswell was too meaningful. There was unfinished business there -- physically and emotionally.

The Ride for Roswell, entering its 15th year, is a fundraiser for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Riders are required to raise a minimum donation of $150 to participate and are able to choose from a variety of bike courses, from 3 to 100 miles.

Those who raise $1,000 are part of the "Extra Mile" club and have the chance to be one of 100 people to participate in the "Peloton," a 12-mile, police-escorted ride from Roswell Park to the University at Buffalo, where the main event takes place.

Last year, Houseman had raised more than $1,000 and was set to ride the 62.5-mile route. The fundraising and the training were an outlet for him. That year, he had lost two cousins to cancer and wanted to channel his energy and grief into something positive.

"Last year was my first year involved with the ride. My whole family through the years had issues with having cancer," Houseman said. "I wanted to do something to help support research in the area. Roswell Park has always been a great landmark in Buffalo and is a really great hospital. I wanted to get involved in helping out and with my cousins dying, it was very relevant."

Training for the 62.5-mile ride was an extension of a lifestyle Houseman had already adopted. Wanting to improve his health and manage his weight, he began running in college, then took up triathlon, where cycling became his favorite sport.

Houseman started competing in triathlons four years ago, completing about 15 including the Musselman in Geneva -- a 70.3-mile race. He's also run the half-marathon and the Buffalo Marathon, which he deems as one of his greatest personal achievements.

But the comeback from his crash may one day outrank that race.

On the night before the 2009 "Ride," Houseman went out to test new wheels he had put on his bike. In Hamburg, near the end of his ride, he came to a divided road with a median. Riding on the correct side of the street he decided to sprint the final distance. A truck came the wrong way down the street to cut the median and turned in front of Houseman, who had no chance to slow, stop or steer away.

"I was having a great ride -- one of best I had all year," Houseman said. "Everything was good on the bike. The truck was trying to cut the drive short instead of going all the way around to the end of the median and turning around. I was on a sprint on my bike and as someone who rides regularly I could find myself going 35-40 miles an hour. I was probably going about 35 miles an hour when the truck cut in front of me. I slammed on the brakes but still went into the truck pretty quick."

He broke his pelvis and had to undergo surgery for extensive repairs. The first three months he spent primarily in a wheelchair, unable to put any weight on his right leg. Some of his muscles atrophied, but Houseman wanted to work with a physical therapist to get back -- not just to walking but to athletic endeavors -- and to finish what he started with the Ride for Roswell.

"I was so pleased but wasn't surprised because I knew he was that strong," said Kerry Jones, Houseman's friend and the communications coordinator at Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.

"When the accident first happened they didn't know when he would be able to do something like this again. He really put his heart and soul into it to get back on the bike. I really think the fact he was a triathlete before the accident and in good shape really helped him in the recovery process."

Houseman is working toward his $1,000 fundraising goal and hopes to ride in the 12-mile Peloton on Saturday. Next summer, he is hoping to make his return to triathlon.

"I absolutely believe my previous conditioning helped in my recovery," Houseman said. "I was driven enough just to get back to where I had been. Also I don't really like hearing that I may not be able to do something, so there was a bit of me that wanted to show everyone it could be done."

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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