HILLSBOROUGH -- On a whim 20 years ago, Sharon Roggenbuck signed up to do the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's two-day bike ride in New Bern.Roggenbuck didn't know anyone with MS. It was just a good cause, and it sounded like fun.Next weekend, Roggenbuck, 69, will return for her 20th time for the 200-mile New Bern MS ride. She's no longer just a rider, though. She's now among the MS Society's biggest donors, raising more than $10,000 from individual donors for each of her last four rides. And then are you ready for this? Roggenbuck, who will be 70 next month, doesn't train for the ride. It's just part of her regular workouts."The hardest part is raising the money," she said.
Roggenbuck, who lives in Hillsborough, doesn't need to train because the rest of the year she's a triathlete who competes on national and international levels. She came to triathlons late in life. She did her first in 1981, when she was 40.As she's gotten older, there are fewer and fewer in her age group -- which means she wins a lot of the races. "Since I got started late, all I have to do is finish, and I win," she said.So she started going to USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship, where they take the top 16 finishers in each age group to compete in the International Age Group Triathlon."There are not many people in my age group, so I always qualify," she said.The races have taken her to places like Portland and Hawaii and then internationally to Vancouver, Denmark and Switzerland.She came in second at the most recent international competition in Vancouver in June."A German woman beat me," she said.With her winnings come medals. She has dozens in every room, she said. Sometimes, she gives them away to her grandchildren. Before she was a triathlete, Roggenbuck was a dental hygienist in Michigan. Then, 22 years ago, she and her husband moved to North Carolina and opened a Midas car repair franchise. They sold it a year ago in March.Now her husband, Jim, plays golf, and she trains full time.
Every year, Roggenbuck takes on the challenge of raising money for the MS Society ride. In the beginning, she tried to increase her fundraising total every year by $500.When she hit the $10,000 mark four years ago, she stopped increasing her goal. Now, as long as she's over $10,000, she's happy. Last year, she raised $10,070.While some riders get businesses to chip in or sponsor their rides, Roggenbuck does it all from individual donors. The biggest donations she gets is $250. She sends donation letters to friends, and gets on the pulpit at church once a year to ask fellow parishioners to donate.Roggenbuck would like to do other charity rides, but doesn't want to ask for too much money from her friends, so she sticks with this one, she said.Because she's among the top 50 fundraisers for this ride,^ the MS Society has treated her to participate in rides all over the country. "She's amazing and inspirational and the feistiest, cutest thing you've seen," said Haley Transou, the bike ride coordinator for the MS Society's Eastern North Carolina Chapter. And on top of that, "she's five feet tall and 100 pounds wet."With the downturn in the economy, this hasn't been the easiest year to raise money, Roggenbuck said. So far, she's collected $5,000 in donations. But she's confident she will hit her goal by Oct. 1 when the money is due.
As if triathlons weren't enough.Lately, Roggenbuck has picked up a new hobby: dancing.On Tuesday nights, she does two hours of tap and one hour of ballroom dancing lessons. On Monday, she does an hour of line dancing."I really like to dance, and I couldn't do it while I was working," she said.The other nights of the week are filled with running, swimming and biking.Roggenbuck doesn't plan on quitting her activities any time soon. "I have one friend who is 83, and she still does three triathlons a season," Roggenbuck said. And on Thursday, she left a message on this reporter's voice mail, saying she couldn't talk right then because she was on her way out the door to go water skiing.