In summer 2014, Karissa Blamble, speech language pathologist at Clyde-Savannah Central School District, signed up for the 400-mile Cycle the Erie Canal Annual Bike Tour. As it turned out, her friend and fellow FLASHP employee Rita Wlodarczyk, Wellness Coordinator and business secretary at Lyons Central School District, was also thinking about taking the epic cycling trip. After talking to Blamble, Wlodarczyk made it official. And so began the dynamic duo’s journey on one of their many fitness adventures.
Blamble and Wlodarczyk are used to pulling one another into fitness challenges. In fact, the pair, who met through their involvement with the Wellness is Now program, have built a friendship on it.
“We found ourselves at the same table over initiatives that involved our schools,” Blamble says.
But it wasn’t until Blamble took over teaching Wlodarczyk’s step aerobics class that the two sparked their camaraderie. Their friendship grew thanks to another fitness activity—this time it was Blamble who drew Wlodarczyk into something unexpected.
“Someone from another gym asked if I was interested in getting an instructor certification for Body Pump,” Blamble says.
“It required traveling to a training site and two full days of lifting weights. I asked Rita if she was interested in going. She was a little unsure but said she’d do it. We shared a room and have been great friends ever since.”
Blamble and Wlodarczyk often go for bike rides along the Erie Canal and finish up with a meal at Aladdin’s.
“We’ll go to Newark or to Fairport and back,” Wlodarczyk says. “About 30 miles is pretty typical.”
Despite their comfort on two wheels, both were a little surprised at the intensity of the Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour, an eight-day ride across New York between Buffalo and Albany.
“After the first day all I could think was, ‘What have I done?’” Wlodarczyk jokes.
It rained for two days, and they had to cut the trip a bit short due to other commitments, but the two say they loved every moment.
“The day we had to leave we were the saddest kids in the world. The whole trip was such a thrill,” Bramble says.
Wlodarczyk says sharing the experience with others and enjoying the local scenery made the trip extra special.
“Every night you share your day’s adventures with the other campers. We felt like we were tourists in our own backyard,” she says.
Finding Common Ground
The two friends have shared many other fitness adventures, from simple things like walking their dogs together to snowshoeing around Wlodarczyk’s family apple orchard. Another time Wlodarczyk says she dragged Blamble up to Big Moose Lake for a four-hour kayak excursion. They even went on a cruise together with their families.
Both have the time and flexibility to enjoy their adventures. Blamble doesn’t have children, and Wlodarczyk is an empty nester. The two say they’ve been lucky to find kindered spirits in one another, friends who share similar interests.
“It’s hard to find people in my age group who are interested in doing the kinds of active things that I like,” Wlodarczyk says.
For Blamble, it can be difficult to find people in her age range who have time to hang out because many of them have children.
“Many people my age are just doing different things,” Blamble says. “I just love Rita. She’s become my ‘B’ mom. She’s like family. Age just doesn’t matter.”
As for the future, the adventurous pair plans to keep on moving. In fact, Blamble says that Wlodarczyk has started talking about doing an even bigger bike ride around the Finger Lakes.
“I would do it in a heartbeat,” Blamble says.