On October 6 & 7 of this year, I participated in my 4th MS Bicycle ride. Many Eliters helped in my fundraising efforts, and I promised to contribute my story to the newsletter.
In 2004, I was asked to ride the MS 150 Jack & Back ride with my boss. I laughed at him. He knew I liked to ride, but I was only riding about 20-25 miles tops. I had an old Wal-Mart bought mountain bike that was in pretty rough shape - slick tires, brakes rubbing, bent rims, the works. About the same shape I was in.
I hesitantly agreed to ride. I started training every weekend and on the stationary bike. I finally made a 56-mile ride two weeks before. (I agreed to ride the 75k both days). I knew I could do it, at least one day of it anyway.
The day came for the ride. I had spent the night at my boss David's house, awoke from very little sleep at 6 a.m. We traveled to the starting line, where it was raining a bit. Not much is worse than riding in a cold rain. My boss's wife Kendra had just had their first child in June but still decided to ride with us.
We started out on the extravaganza going uphill after the first couple of miles. I was not sure I could make it just after a few miles. David and Kendra both agreed that they would "fall behind" with me. I was doing good to break 12 miles per average downhill, lol.
This ride was awesome...until...right after our lunch stop, David and I were riding and chatting. His wife had ridden on at lunch because she wasn't feeling well and wanted to go to the hotel they were staying at. We had traveled almost 40 miles, with about 18 to go, when it happened. David had placed his rain jersey in between his handlebars until we got to our stopping point. His jersey fell down into his fork. He completely flipped, landing head first on the pavement. He was very disoriented, but kept trying to tell me, the volunteers, the paramedics, police officers, etc. that he was fine and to give him a minute to gain composure and he would ride on. At that point, the paramedic informed him that he probably had a broken collar bone, the police officer told him he had to go to the hospital, and I told him his bike was in two pieces...so obviously, he did not continue.
I was by myself for the remaining 18 miles (which were mostly uphill). I finally reached his wife, and in turn she took off with a volunteer to the hospital. On the way, I had a flat which caused me to veer off of the road and scratch my leg. So by the time I got to the overnight location, I was sunburned, parched, bleeding, and extremely sore in areas that I can't discuss, lol. I thought - man, I am not riding this thing back, here I am hurting, unprepared, nobody to be a riding partner, etc. I decided to eat, camp at the gym at the college, and then ride back with a volunteer on Sunday.
That night sort of changed my life. At the Jack Daniels Pavilion (Jack is the major sponsor of the ride called Jack & Back), in Lynchburg, TN, they had the absolute best catfish and barbecue dinner prepared for us. They even had a live band and just about anything you wanted as a beverage even though I don't drink. I had two plates of food. You see I was over 265 lbs. and had been eating peanuts and bananas all day, I WAS HUNGRY. Well, they get you here. Once you are up at the pavilion, they won't take you back until after the presentations at 8:00. So for the next 3 hours, I was a Jack Daniels prisoner.
The coordinators did the awards presentations, etc etc etc. I couldn't believe that some people rode these things 3 or 4 times a year, or that they were able to raise thousands of dollars. Then the guest speaker was announced. It was all an eye opener from there. Mrs. Tennessee was the guest speaker. She had to use a walker to get to the front with her husband helping her, had a colostomy bag and catheter attached and was very shaky. Like most of us, I sort of turn away, and take my own health for granted. And as I continued resting and drinking sodas to try to stay awake, I was awoken by her story. It seems that Mrs. Tennessee had just been crowned in April, and this was October. She had been perfectly healthy in April, and now, 6 months later, she couldn't even control her most basic bodily functions.
I could not help but start tearing up and getting a huge lump in my throat. You see, until that day, I had no clue what Multiple Sclerosis was and what it did. I had learned just two weeks prior that my first high school sweetheart had been diagnosed with MS. I had planned to try to meet her husband who was on the ride with me. I couldn't think about anything but this poor lady, her children, and her husband. But, during her 15 minutes at the microphone she told everyone how blessed she was - several times over. I really could not and still have problems understanding this. Apparently, MS can make you feel like you have no control of your body, your mind, or your life. Everyone I have been fortunate enough to meet that has this terrible disease has pretty much said the same thing over and over. They aren't concerned with having MS; they are only concerned about those of us who do not understand it.
This kicked me into high gear for the rest of the night and the next day. I was fortunate to meet a very good friend of mine who has ridden with me ever since. What really drove me to finish this ride though was Mrs. Tennessee. I couldn't help but think about her and her suffering and the millions of others that also suffer from this every time I felt like I couldn't make the 56 miles.
I finished that ride that day and went straight to the table to re-register for the next year.
Three years later, I just finished my 4th MS ride. I have more than tripled my fundraising efforts and amounts since that first year. I have learned a great deal about MS and support the MS Society as much as I can.
I plan to ride in this ride as long as I am able. I am hoping to ride in multiple ones in the upcoming years. Why do I do this? Let me tell
- Approximately 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with MS.
- Almost 200 people per week are diagnosed with MS. Some of these people include: Neil Cavuto, Donna Fargo, Annette Funicello, Heinrich Heine, Hal Ketchum, Wendy Lill, Alan Osmond, Richard Pryor, Clay Walker, and Montel Williams. Much more importantly, some of your own friends, relatives, and neighbors.
See even with all the money and fame that the people I have named have, not one has been able to "buy" their freedom from MS. They have to suffer just like everyone else with this horrid disorder. You and I can all help by supporting MS and the MS Society and learning to understand more about MS.
I wanted to share this with you since several Eliters helped my fundraising efforts and there are several Eliters who are also victims of Multiple Sclerosis.
Thank you each and everyone for your support this year, and hopefully I have if nothing else helped you to understand my drive to help raise money for "The Movement" as it has been termed to find a cure, come up with a prevention, to end MS!!