MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride  --  2016

Well another MS-Bike Ride is in the books (our 12th year), and Sara and I would like to send a huge THANK YOU to all of our family and friends who again so generously supported our fundraising efforts to fund research for a cure for MS. This year between the 2 of us, we raised well over $5000. We are now close to $60,000 in total money raised to fight MS since we started doing this ride back in 2004. This year provided a whole new set of challenges and curve balls as only MS can throw at you.

The weather over the
weekend was what we pray for each year, but rarely get. We had temps in the upper seventies, no rain, and light winds. Having done this ride many years in 95 degree humid weather with the wind howling out of the west, this was an extra special treat. Someone up there was looking out for us, and we know who that person was……

Our ride this year was bittersweet as we were missing Sara’s sister Rosie who began riding about 6 years ago. Rosie was Sara’s younger sister and was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer in September of 2015, and died from it on February 22nd of 2016. She was a vibrant, healthy, fit woman who did not smoke and yet lung cancer took her from us at such a young age. Sara and Rosie were the best of friends and talked on the phone daily. It has been very hard for me to see my wife grieve at the loss of such a close family member and friend. It has left a hole in her heart that will take a long, long time to heal if ever. Rosie was one of the most driven people I have ever met. When she decided to do something it was best to get out of her way because it was going to be done, NOW! I remember when she started volunteering at the MS-150 when we began doing the ride. She was not a biker and didn’t even own a bike, but wanted to support her sister in her fight against MS. We saw her at rest stops and often at the finish line where she enjoyed greeting the riders as they crossed with a cold bottle of water and congratulations on a job well done.

One day when we were over at Rosie’s house I had the opportunity to be alone with her for a while and knew this was my chance to do something that I had wanted to do for some time. We talked about her volunteering at the MS Ride, but I offered her this; “If you really want to do something profound for your sister and feel something that you have never felt before, you need to actually do the ride, not just volunteer”. Her response was; “yeh right, like that will ever happen”, but I had planted the seed and that was my goal. What happened next is just what I should have expected her to do. She went to the local bike shop, walked in and gave the salesperson a dream come true. “I want to do the MS-150 bike ride this year, so I need everything that will allow me to achieve that goal” was her request. An hour or so later she left with a bike, pedals, shoes, cloths, helmet, gloves, computer, the whole enchilada. I am sure the salesperson still talks about the day he sold the whole store to one woman. But that was how Rosie rolled with everything she did, no muss, no fuss, just get it done. Then began the training required to be able to ride 150 miles over 2 days.

One thing about training is that it is lonely to do by one’s self, so she got together with a long-time friend Dave Mairet and they began riding together as he was already doing the MS-150 to support a relative with MS and knew just what had to be done. This was great for her because with Dave’s guidance she had a good friend looking out for her and making sure she would be safe and ready when the day came. Dave’s work was a huge success and Rosie had a great first ride as she was very well prepared.

As I knew all too well, after that first ride she approached me with a big hug and said; “I now know what it was you were talking about and thank you for suggesting I do the ride for Sara, it feels awesome”. There is something that happens to a person when they suffer for another who is less fortunate. There is a level of clarity, for it is the first time you touch your sole and realize that life is not always about yourself and your own personal gain. It is about what kind of a “legacy” will I leave behind when I’m gone? What kind of a “difference” will I make in the lives of my fellow man? Not only did Rosie feel awesome to ride for Sara, but knowing that she was also riding for everyone affected by MS, this became a very powerful, satisfying and motivating force. She was hooked, and the MS-150 became an annual event in her calendar as it is in ours, as it should be in yours. I highly recommend that you find something that has meaning in your life, whether it be Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Muscular Dystrophy, Supporting a Food Bank, whatever, there are many things similar to MS where your involvement can make a huge difference in the lives of others. The satisfaction from helping someone less fortunate will pay huge dividends in your life not to mention making this a better world for all of us.

                                         “If you’re not reaching back to help anyone, then you’re not building a legacy.”

                                                                                                 Germany Kent

A couple years after Rosie started doing the ride she was able to convince a close friend of hers to do the ride as well. Rosie and Patti Epstein became riding buddies and rode several times a week to prepare for the ride. Patti had run marathons in the past so she was no stranger to developing a fitness routine to prepare for a grueling event. So it was as devastating for Patti as it was for us when her good friend passed. But to her credit and devotion to her friend, she decided to ride again this year. Patti said that Rosie made sure of it by making her sign up for the ride and giving her the first donation prior to her passing. So this year I made a point to meet Patti at the start and we rode together for the entire first day.

We had a great time riding together and I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did. We rode to support Sara and to remember our friend. Somehow, climbing hills seems easier when you have motivation like that behind you. I have told many people that bike riding is 50% physical and 50% mental. When I arrive at the bottom of a big steep hill I imagine Sara standing at the top asking for my help. Somehow the road becomes flat and my ascent becomes certain. My one commitment to myself is that I will never ever walk my bike up a hill. You conquer the hill in your mind first and your body will follow. If you think that you cannot imagine riding 150 miles on a bike, you are wrong. It is mind over matter. YOU CAN DO IT!!

Saturdays ride went off without a hitch and we hooked up with Sara a short ways from the finish line. It is our routine to switch over to the tandem bike so we can ride across the finish line together. This year was extra special as we were on a mission. Rosie had asked Sara shortly before her death that she would like us to spread her ashes as we crossed the finish lines. So we took some for each of us to spread each day. As the three of us crossed the line and the ashes flew, we were filled with emotions and many wonderful memories of Rosie’s life and how she touched us all. We pulled up to her team tent where many of her Sonic Streamer team mates were and celebrated together with them. The pain in our bodies vanished and we began to think of our next day’s ride and the great forecasted weather that would stick with us for one more day.

Well I began this summary by stating that this year provided a whole new set of challenges and curve balls as only MS can throw at you. After our great ride on Saturday and riding the high that a successful day in the saddle provides, disaster struck. Sara and I headed off to our hotel to rest and get cleaned up for the big Saturday evening program. This is always an emotional event as the head of our Wisconsin chapter of the National MS Society, Colleen Kalt updates us all as to some of the research and progress that is in the works to cure MS and how the money we raise is benefiting those with MS. She also takes this time to recognize the accomplishments of all of us who are riding and fundraising for the cause. I was able to capture this photo early Saturday morning of her and the #1 fundraiser Chuck Sherwinski. Chuck has been the #1 fundraiser every year since we have been doing this ride and most years he exceeds $50,000 in personal fundraising. He is a champion for the cause and has all the motivation he needs as he himself has MS.

Unfortunately this year we were unable to partake in the festivities as we had a little snafu in our hotel room. We checked in and the first thing on the agenda was a nice warm shower. I took mine first and when Sara went to take hers, she slipped on the towel she was standing on and went head first across the tub and landed right on the metal grab bar, hitting it with her face/cheek. Immediately it was swelling and there was a blood spot on the white part of her eye as well. She was in a lot of pain and we were concerned about a broken cheek bone, her eye, and if she had suffered a concussion. A call to the doctor ended with the recommendation that I get her home where she could be more comfortable, ice the area, rest, and allow me to monitor her for any post-concussion issues. So here we were, enjoying the achievement of a great day of riding and checking out of our hotel an hour and a half after we checked in (no refund offered by the hotel). This is how even the simplest thing can be so difficult when you have MS. Sara was heartbroken as you can imagine and was mad to have ruined my Sunday of riding in the good weather, but what can you do. Her health is more important than me riding my bike, so our ride for this year ending right then and there.

On our way home I called Patti to give her the bad news and inform her that I would not be able to ride with her the following day. She agreed to do the ride on her own and do her best. She made us proud by completing the ride and even spread some of Rosie’s ashes across the final finish line in Madison to complete for us the mission we had promised Rosie we would do in her honor this year. Next year we plan to make it right and spread the remaining ashes ourselves over that same finish line.

This photo is the day after the accident, but if you saw her a couple of days later she had a huge black & blue ring around her whole eye and looked like she gotten the bad end of a bar fight with a big biker dude. I was certain the police would be knocking on our door and taking me away for spousal abuse as it really looked bad. But now a few days later, it seems to be improving. A trip to the eye doctor showed that although she had some blurred vision at times her eye is fine and the blood that now fills the outer portion of her eye will slowly go away. Falls are becoming common in our house and we try to mimimize them any way that we can. But as much as the brain says "I can do this" the body does not always go along with it. She uses a walker now all of the time and even then, sometimes a fall just happens with very little warning. I for one am always afraid when I am at work and not there if something were to happen. But we communicate often when she is home alone so she can keep me updated to how she is doing. I am only 10 minutes away when at work and our retired neighbors can be there in just a couple minutes if needed. We have great neighbors who care about us and understand our situation so we are very lucky.

I think the words on her shirt (our team name) pretty much says it all as MS does in fact SUCK big-time.

I would like to again thank everyone from our family to our good friends for supporting us on this journey. We are forever in your debt. You are truly the rock-stars of this effort to rid this planet of MS with your generous donations toward research to come up with a cure so no other person or family member has to go thru what we do each and every day.
In the mean time we will keep our heads up high and take each day that we are given and make the most of them. We enjoy each other as we always have. Although MS has robbed her of her physical abilities and added mental stress and frustration, she is still the same Sara that I fell in love with years ago. I mean, how can you not love a woman who jumped off El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

We will see you next year when we ride our 13th MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride. Be good to each other and we wish you a healthy and safe year.  Mike