West Barnstable man cycles 180 miles of Cape Cod

WEST BARNSTABLE – Cycling enthusiast and West Barnstable resident Connor O’Reilly took another bike ride on Tuesday – this time over 180 miles around Cape Town.

O’Reilly set off at sunrise with the hope of completing his sunset ride the same day. “The longest day of the year and the longest race of my life,” O’Reilly said.

As O’Reilly and his partner, Raja Sinjab, pulled into the car park at Sandwich Marina Park at 5 a.m., O’Reilly admitted battling the nerves of the long drive ahead was part of the challenge.

“I really think for me it’s just getting into the headspace because you know, there’s definitely a physical (component) to that. But really, the last third of the race will be uncharted territory for me, and that will definitely be the hardest part. And it will be the mental game of ‘do I quit or do I continue?’ “, O’Reilly said.

Connor O'Reilly puts some oil on his bike chain on Tuesday before starting his 180-mile Cape Cod bike ride at Sandwich Marina Park.  O'Reilly is cycling to launch a non-profit organization he and his partner Raja Sinjab formed to raise awareness of the importance of tackling mental health issues.

O’Reilly is no stranger to long drives and pushes his limits.

Cycling to raise awareness of the issues is something O’Reilly has done before

In September 2020, he began his cross-country bike ride to raise money for WellStrong, a Falmouth-based fitness and wellness community for people recovering from an addiction disorder. He spent time riding in Cambodia in 2019 and recently returned to the United States after riding through Mexico with his partner just a few weeks ago.

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O’Reilly completes the Cape Cod ride to raise awareness and donate for his new non-profit organization, Real Eyes Truth. The nonprofit, created by O’Reilly and Sinjab, uses holistic practices in group settings to help people who may be dealing with mental health issues – from mild depression and anxiety to childhood and cultural trauma, to addiction recovery. The association became official in mid-February.

“I was inspired to start my own nonprofit with my partner, who is in the mental health field, and our lives, [which] was kind of surrounded by holistic practices and healthy living,” O’Reilly said.

Connor O'Reilly rides his bike on Tuesday morning as he explains why he rides more than 180 miles around Cape Cod in one day.

The ride was the “launch” of the nonprofit.

“It’s a way to raise awareness about something that’s really important to us. This is something we are working very hard on, and we need to build a team of people to support this movement,” Sinjab said.

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A therapist herself, Sinjab has done her doctoral research on historical and generational trauma, and notes the amount of work she does with young people struggling with their own mental health. She sees the results of everything from depression and anxiety to overdoses and suicidal thoughts, and believes in the help that holistic practices bring to those who are struggling.

“We feel really passionate about doing something about it. We just can’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” Sinjab said of herself and O’Reilly’s inspiration behind their nonprofit.

Going beyond to make a point

“Connor is someone who goes above and beyond to get a message across, to push himself for something he’s truly passionate about. And that’s what he does today. And maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but the fact that someone in recovery themselves can do something far beyond [what] he was before is like a message of hope that we want to promote,” added Sinjab.

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While O’Reilly has cycled many places in Cape Town, it’s this ride he hopes to use to connect with his community.

The idea for the ride came to him while he was cycling in Cambodia.

A bike ride to connect with the local community, says O’Reilly

“I wanted to do something closer to home. And I wanted to do something that people in my community could also experience. I had done all these trips out of the country, then across the country, and I was far from my hometown,” O’Reilly said.

“It was the biggest challenge comparable to cross-country running, but in one day,” he continued.

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Although O’Reilly does not consider himself a “professional cyclist”, he nevertheless has a passion for cycling. “The bike has been my vehicle to express myself in a deep way and this is just another example of that,” he said.

Part of O’Reilly’s journey was to check in via stories on social media. He had planned a meeting with a friend at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, while Sinjab publicized their work by teaching a holistic course in Chatham for teenage girls the same afternoon.

O’Reilly had no organized training schedule and said ‘most of it is a mental battle’

O’Reilly prepped for this race and said he was “in good shape” from his constant cycling, but didn’t have any kind of organized training regimen.

“What I realize for myself is that my mind is my first obstacle. And everything I do, whether it’s a mental thing or a physical thing, what my mind tells me may not always be true. “, O’Reilly said. “I’ve learned to overcome that and I can do more than my mind tells me I can.”

Connor O'Reilly checks out the Bryton Rider 450 GPS device Tuesday at Sandwich Marina Park before riding more than 180 miles around Cape Cod.

O’Reilly cites his own personal struggles and the incorporation of different holistic techniques into his life as something he is constantly learning to work with.

“The only part I miss is sharing this with others and feeling like part of a community of like-minded people,” O’Reilly said.

“So I think bringing people together and creating a space for people to heal and connect, like, on a deeper level. That’s really why I do it. We just want to be another resource that people can access and maybe try something different,” he said.

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This passion fueled O’Reilly’s Cape ride. He intended to go to Provincetown, Chatham, Woods Hole and return to Sandwich at sunset.

The opening of Real Eyes Truth will take place on July 9 at the Nové Yoga and Wellness Studio in Dennis from 4-6 p.m.

Real Eyes Truth will also be hosting workshops at the Cape Cod Wellness Centera. Sinjab noted their use of sound-guided meditation classes as a way to create a therapeutic space with holistic practices and to “bring emotions out” of the body.

O’Reilly’s bike ride on Tuesday is another example of how he lives this holistic philosophy.

“It works through fear and doubts about boundaries, like how you can overcome your own personal limitations,” Sinjab said.

“He has never traveled so many kilometers in one day. But I know he’s more than capable of doing it.

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