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Big Gains From Weight Loss

Cyclists Shed Pounds to Race in Prouty Events

Lebanon — For years, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center web developer Ayaz Asif and longtime event volunteer Todd Grammell could only watch the Prouty bicycle ride while friends and colleagues around them participated.

This year, the pair will be riding right alongside them.

Asif, of Lebanon, has lost 139 pounds since November 2011, while Grammell, a Norwich resident, has dropped 157 in the last 3 1/2 years.

The 37-year-old Asif will ride in the Prouty Ultimate, a 200-mile trek over two days beginning July 12 in Manchester. Grammell, 44, will ride in the Prouty 100 century ride beginning and ending in Hanover on July 13.

Both events benefit DHMC’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center research and treatment facility.

Asif’s progress comes after a vow to his late sister, Farah, who died two summers ago at age 29 of lymphoma.

“When she was getting cancer treatment, I promised her I would get healthier,” Asif said in a recent phone interview. “The two-year anniversary of her passing is coming up right around the time of the Prouty, so this is a way for me to honor that promise.”

Weighing 270-280 pounds during much of his adult life, Asif weighed nearly 300 in November 2011 when he decided to honor his pledge to Farah once and for all. He began eating healthier and walked the 3.5 miles from his Mechanic Street home to work at DHMC. Last summer, he invested in both road and mountain bicycles, the latter so he could take advantage of the vast trail network connecting DHMC to West Lebanon’s Boston Lot Lake.

As his progress continued, Asif has felt better, looked better and can finally join some of his DHMC peers on the Prouty Ultimate.

“I’ve been working here since 2005, but was just never in good enough shape to do the Prouty,” said Asif, a native of Long Island who is now a fit 158 pounds. “Getting better and better has been very liberating. It’s something I really wanted to do in memory of my sister. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

As an addendum to the Prouty, Asif is pedalling another 200 miles across Vermont today. Departing this morning from the Quebec border at North Troy, Vt., Asif will join others on a beautiful — but grueling — trek through the heart of the Green Mountains to the Massachusetts line.

“It’s called ‘200 on 100’ because about 75 percent of the route is on Route 100,” Asif said. “It’s meant for more of the hard-core cyclists. I’ll be the beginner among the group, but I think I’ll be able to do it.”

Since 2004, Grammell has been a main volunteer “trash man” at the Prouty, handling the garbage, recycling and compost containers and the portable toilets the company he works for donates for use at the event.

“They called me ‘The guy in the night sky,’ because I’d be doing a lot of the after-hours, cleanup stuff that not a lot of people find appealing,” Grammell said. “It’s going to be awesome to have a chance to finally ride in it.”

Grammell weighed 450 pounds in early 2009 when he had an eye-opening experience at his doctor’s office. Presented with six different medications to counteract his unhealthy lifestyle, Grammell refused to continue along the same path.

He also had plenty of incentive at home, where Grammell’s two young children were beginning to outmaneuver him.

“My son (Tyler) was 2 and my daughter (Emily) was 7. Physically, I couldn’t keep up with them anymore and it was taking away from the experiences I was having with them,” Grammell said. “That was the last straw for me.”

He controlled his food portions, walked and used an elliptical machine. When a friend asked him to join him at the gym for moral support, Grammell ended up acquiring a membership and began weight training. A year and a half ago, he added spinning classes to his repertoire and bought a bike late last winter.

He’s been pedaling around the Upper Valley this spring, both on weekly rides with a Norwich-based cycling group and on solo rides in various distance increments.

“To train for the Prouty, I started doing 20-, 30-, 40-mile rides,” said Grammell. “On Father’s Day, I got up to 65 miles from Norwich to Route 25A in Orford and back.”

While admitting he’d like to finish the 100 miles in less than seven hours, Grammell isn’t placing any added pressure on himself.

“It’s not a race. I’m just going to see what happens,” he said. “I’m just really happy with what I’ve done to get here.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.


This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The two-day Prouty Ultimate begins July 12 in Manchester and the Prouty 100 begins and ends in Hanover on July 13. The dates were incorrect in an earlier version of this story.