WINSLOW — If you had met Andrew Bourassa a year ago, he’d have probably told you that riding in the Trek Across Maine was an unattainable goal.

Bourassa, 47, from Winslow, weighed nearly 400 pounds and he had severe arthritis in both knees. His doctors told him he needed to get a knee replacement but didn’t qualify for the surgery because of his weight.

Physical activity of any kind, let alone riding in the three-day, 180-mile cycling trek, was out of the question. Most days when he got off work, he would head straight for his recliner in front of the television and stay there until it was time for supper, then head back to his seat until bedtime, Bourassa said in an interview. At his heaviest, he weighed about 440 pounds.

“I was just miserable,” he said. “I didn’t care. I’d sit in my chair. If stuff got done, it got done. If it didn’t, it didn’t, oh well. I just didn’t have the energy or ambition to do anything.”

When he was a teen, he was active and used to love to go for long bicycle rides, but after getting married and having children and a career, he started to put on pounds, Bourassa said. He was convinced that he could lose the weight himself and would diet to shed a few pounds, only to have it come right back.

Finally, last August, Bourassa opted for gastric bypass surgery.

“It’s been the best decision I’ve made,” he said. After his surgery, Bourassa lost more than 130 pounds, and he’s made every effort to keep the weight off. He goes on long bicycle rides at least four times a week, dances with his oldest daughter, watches what he eats and has planted a vegetable garden. Even better, his knee pain has dissipated.

Now he’s back on his feet and getting ready to take on the trek he’s always wanted to ride.

“When they first started doing the trek, I thought, ‘I’m definitely going to do that one of these days,'” Bourassa said. “As I gained the weight, I lost interest in riding and the bike sat unused. So when the opportunity came along again, I jumped at it.”

The weekendlong Trek Across Maine starts this Friday. Over the next three days, more than 2,000 cyclists will ride from Sunday River, in Newry, ending up in Belfast on Sunday with stops Friday night in Farmington and Saturday at Colby College in Waterville.

The event is put on by the American Lung Association and has raised more than $22 million in the past 30 years.

Bourassa is riding with a friend’s 15-year-old daughter. So far, he’s raised $1,200 in donations and his partner has raised $1,100.

Bourassa isn’t stopping at the trek, however. He plans on running in a Tough Mudder extreme obstacle course race in Westbrook later this summer.

His transformation after the surgery hasn’t been lost on Amber, Bourassa’s 19-year-old daughter. Before he lost the weight, she was worried that her father wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle when she got married. Now he’s so driven to be healthier that it’s encouraged her to get active and lose some weight herself.

“I’m just so, so proud of him,” she said. “I never thought this would be my dad. My dad has always been the big happy fat guy, and now he’s like the happy thin active guy.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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