Second to none: Joyce Bricker reaches 15,000+ miles biking on campus

Joyce Bricker stands with her bike across from Hilton Coliseum on Aug. 3.

Emily Barske

Around 7 a.m. each weekday — rain, sleet or shine — you’ll see Joyce Bricker on her bike at Iowa State. And it all started because the university raised its parking fee.

Bricker, who has worked for Facilities Planning and Management for nearly 40 years, parks in Iowa State’s commuter lot after driving in from Stratford, Iowa, and makes her way to Snedecor Hall. She switched to biking in 1996 when the on-campus parking fee rose. That 3-mile round trip bike ride has turned into 15,000 miles biking on campus as of July.

She sees students in a different perspective — new students coming in and others leaving for the last time. She sees the leaves changing in the fall, the frost covering campus and deer munching on the dew-covered grass in the morning. She’s seen the bike lanes on campus change over the years and she’s been hit by a car. Twice.

She gets to Snedecor Hall at about 7:15 a.m. She always keeps an extra set of shoes and an outfit in the building in case that morning’s commute required powering through puddles or sloshing through slush. And she’s learned to keep her phone in a bag to keep it dry.

Bricker knows the building like the back of her hand. She’s been around to see the tree on the second floor grow from waist-high to almost touching the ceiling. She spends her day buffing the floors, cleaning the classrooms and conversing with the Statistics Department housed in the building.

Then at 4:30 p.m. she’s off, on her bike, back to Hilton.

Iowa State connections

Bricker’s family has been on Iowa State’s campus since just after World War II. James Hilton — whom Hilton Coliseum is named after — signed her father’s diploma. Bricker knew Iowa State well and started working here in 1979.

Some of her involvement in fitness activities has also stemmed from Iowa State. She had a trainer at the Lied Rec Center prepare her for running a marathon. It was also at Iowa State that she set the record in the donut run — not because of her speed but because she was able to down 25 donuts. And she’s participated in triathlons hosted by Iowa State clubs.

“I need to have something that scares me to death so that I’ll go out and exercise,” Bricker said.

Her Iowa State experience has also required working in a slew of buildings on campus during her time. She often gets to interact with faculty, staff and students. One memory of a student, who many Iowa Staters know beyond that capacity, sticks out to her.

When she worked at the Lied Rec Center, she recalls wrestler Cael Sanderson, who later won an Olympic gold medal, walking into wrestling practice and seeing Joyce just finishing up cleaning the floor. He always felt bad and made sure that it was OK for him to walk on it, Bricker said.

“You can tell a lot about how someone was raised by how they walk on a wet floor,” she said.

Fueled by the competition

Bricker races CyRide on her bike – and she usually wins. The “drag race” as she calls it, is just one of the thrills of riding on campus.

One time, she was asked to help buff the floors in the Knoll. After helping her boss load the buffer into the work vehicle, she biked her way to the building to meet him there.

“What took you so long?” she asked with a smirk when he got there.

Another time a co-worker laughed at Bricker when she said she was entering a triathlon. Her stature and age would leave some, including her co-worker, to believe she wasn’t fit for those types of races. But boy was he shocked when she brought her medal into work that next week.

“I love people that think I’m nuts,” she said. “If you laugh at me, I’m just going to finish to make you look silly.”

 ‘Last is not last’

Bricker said when you watch a marathon, bike race or triathlon on TV, they never show the people in the back. Those people she believes, are normal people doing extraordinary things — the people who work all day, take care of their families and still manage to train and enter the race. Even if you don’t finish in your goal time or place among the top contenders, there are millions of people that didn’t enter a race.

“Last is not last — last is those people sitting on the sofa,” she said.

That mentality got her through the 2006 Las Vegas Marathon — though she admits thinking, “well if I don’t finish, I’m still in Las Vegas” during the race. It got her through a bike ride across the country, from San Diego to the Atlantic Ocean, and a stop for a pint of Blue Bell ice cream as often as possible was a must. It’s taken her on bike trips across 33 states and motivates her to reach the 17 remaining states.

She’ll be retiring — or graduating as she likes to refer to it — at the end of October. And soon after she’ll be on a biking trip in Florida. 

And though she isn’t always in first place, she can still hold her own.

“I didn’t say I did these things well, I said I did these things.”

Editor’s note: The original calculation comparing 15,000 miles to the square miles on Iowa State’s campus in the “What does 15,000 miles equate to?” box was inaccurate and has been removed.