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As cyclists from around the nation compete in the 109-mile El Tour de Tucson this Saturday, Nov. 18, one spunky neuroscientist will be cranking away for 11 straight hours on a stationary bike at a finish-line tent on Congress Street and Granada Avenue. Becky Farley, a research scientist in the Department of Physiology at the UA, is participating in the inaugural Indoor El Tour de Tucson to raise awareness for Power Over Parkinson's, a novel wellness program that's part of the Arizona Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. Farley, who is an avid cyclist, put down her bike and her research to chat with Tucson Weekly about the Indoor El Tour. If you'd like to ride the Indoor El Tour at the start-finish line at Congress and Granada, you can just show up. To ride anywhere else, you must register at the El Tour Expo in the Tucson Convention Center before Friday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. Note that the minimum contribution is $10 plus a $15 processing fee. For more information, contact El Tour at 745-2033 or download the brochure at www.perimeterbicycling.com.

You plan to sit on a bicycle, pedal for 11 hours and go absolutely nowhere?

Right. I'm going to sit on my bike from 7 in the morning until 6 at night. That's the goal. I'm going to ride a stationary bike the whole time. I'm doing it so I can raise $10,000 for our Power Over Parkinson's program. People can sign up to ride any amount of time, but I want to set the goal of having the longest time on the bike. Since it's the inaugural year, I have a good chance of actually winning that. I will be there, hopefully watching cycling videos, listening to music and talking to people. We're supposed to have a big screen out there, so we're going to watch videos people have made cycling around Arizona. So, I can go through Gates Pass and up Mount Lemmon and through Saguaro (National Park) East.

The question everyone is probably wondering about is: What about bathroom breaks?

Once an hour for five minutes after the first 109 minutes. I'm hoping that the bathrooms are close to where the start/finish-line tents are. I don't know how closely they'll be monitoring me. I know I'll have to take breaks.

How have you been preparing for the event?

I've actually been exercising my brain rather than my body, because we've been writing grants. I just ride two or three days a week on weekends mostly, doing about 40 to 60 miles. I run A Mountain to Tumamoc Hill just to get some difficult hills in.

Are you nervous?

Not really. If someone was challenging me to not only minutes but distance, then I'd be a little worried about my fitness level. No one's giving me guidelines about how fast the pedals have to spin, but I do have to keep moving.

Tell us a little about Power Over Parkinson's.

It is an education and wellness-resource program. The idea is that as soon as people are diagnosed with Parkinson's, they have a place to learn their options. This doesn't just mean medication, but exercise and massage. From the very beginning, they can get involved in being proactive about their health. We now know that exercise is a legitimate therapeutic option for people, and it may even slow the progression of the disease. That's research I'm doing at the university, and that's how I got involved with Parkinson's. With animal models of Parkinson's, you can actually halt and reverse the symptoms with exercise. I'm on the board for the American Parkinson Disease Association. I was the chair of the Power Over Parkinson's committee. It has since become a program that we would like to see spread across the nation. It's already established in Tucson, and we want to expand it to all of Arizona. Ideally, we would like the national chapters to put something like this in all their statewide organizations.

What's that $10,000 you raise going to do for Power Over Parkinson's?

It's going to help us locally. It stays in Arizona to help us spread out to Phoenix. We now have a coordinator in Phoenix, and he'd like to schedule some classes. We reach out to the community to find massage therapists and people who do tai chi, yoga, meditation and acupuncture, and who want to work with Parkinson's. We offer some free classes twice a year for the community.

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