MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride  --  2018

Well the 2018 MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride is in the record books. We had a challenging weekend with temps in the 90’s and a pretty good headwind MS1on Sunday.  This left quite a few riders in trouble as the day went on mostly from improper hydration. Hydration is one of the most important things when doing a ride like this. Hydration starts a couple days prior to the event.  A small steady intake is necessary.  Your body can only assimilate a few ounces of water at a time; the rest is pumped overboard so to speak.  So guzzling a 16oz glass of water and then thinking that you are good for the next couple hours is not a good recipe for success. I try to drink a big gulp of liquid every 15 minutes throughout the day, alternating between water and Gatorade. This year I got the opportunity to try “Pickle Juice”.  It has proven itself as the best way to ward off muscle cramps.  Many marathon runners and triathletes use pickle juice for just this reason. The problem with drinking so much liquid and working so hard is you lose salt. It is called Hyponatremia. In hyponatremia, drinking too much water causes the sodium in your body to become diluted.  When this happens, your body’s water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell.  This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening as well as cramping.  Pickle Juice keeps the sodium levels up helping to ward off these symptoms rapidly.

My nephew Jake and I rode together again this year.  We make a good team and understand the differences in our physical endurance, bikes, and training.  We allow each of us to do what we want while always staying in contact with one another.  It can be frustrating to speed up or slow down your preferred cadence just to ride close with someone.  He knows I am fast on the down hills on my recumbent, but he is faster up hills so a little leapfrogging takes place but it seems to work out just fine.  I must say that I look forward to the ride because he is with me, and I enjoy when we can have some quality time together. His commitment to his Aunt is inspiring. What I don’t like is that compared to him I am an old man and if he wanted too he could smoke me at any time. But like the good man he has become he gives me the respect tMS2hat I find all too lacking in our younger generation.  Thanks Jake.

You might notice that I do not have on my team shirt that I usually wear while riding.  This shirt was designed by my niece Samantha.  Many of you know that we lost Jake and Samantha’s mother and Sara’s sister and closest friend Rosie to an aggressive form of lung cancer last year.  She volunteered for years and then rode for years to support her sister Sara and her struggle with MS.  This shirt was used by Samantha’s team at an event in Colorado to help support the cure for cancer in honor of her mother.  I thought it would be nice if Rosie road along with us for a day this year, so I wore this shirt on Saturday to honor her sacrifice and commitment of always helping the family in any way that she could.  We love and miss you Rosie and know you are looking after us always.

This year we had the pleasure to meet up with a person who lives in our town whose husband was diagnosed with MS a few short years ago. This was her first year doing the MS-Ride.  She spent many days preparing for the ride and putting a lot of miles on her bike and as expected she was well prepared for the challenge of riding 150 miles in 2 days.  I had talked with her many times but had never met her or her husband.  I found out her rider number was #354, but finding a specific rider with 1500+ cyclists on the road is like bumping into a friend at a jam packed concert.  So you can imagine my surprise late on Saturday when I rode up behind a single rider and saw the number #354 right in front of me.  So like it was meant to be, we met for the first time on bikes.  We all stopped at the next rest stop to get better acquainted.  Congratulations Lisa for doing an outstanding job on the bike and an equally outstanding job of fundraising.  If we could just have a couple hundred Lisa’s we just might put an end to this terrible disease.

Saturday went off without a hitch and Jake and I were blessed with no mechanical issues or flat tires to slow us down.  The only bad part about Saturday is that we planned to meet up with Sara about 5 miles from the finish and have her join us on her recumbent trike that I recently electrified.  Unfortunately when we got there the hot temps and the beating sun had gotten the best of her and her legs just would not co-operate.  We had to make the tough call and the bike went back into the truck and she headed off to the finish line to be there when we crossed. The emotional toll MS takes on Sara is for me the hardest part of this disease. Wanting so badly to do something and then not being able to do it is like a knife in the heart.  When I see her cry because of the frustration of having to always be on the sidelines well, it is like a knife in my heart.  Our team name: MS-Sucks pretty much sums up how we feel.

We got to the finish line to all the accolades from all the folks who create a gauntlet of sorts at the finish to cheer us on as we cross. This is a time for reflection and pure joy as we relish in finishing the long journey and achieving our goal while working toward something greater than ourselves. For me however it also was a sad moment, because the person I ride for was not able to experience that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and had to watch from a distance.  I HATE MS with every fiber of my being.  It has robbed us of the life we dreamed of and constantly challenges us with new issues that interfere with our future dreams and goals. MS3More importantly I HATE that after a 75 mile ride, the cafeteria is out of chocolate milk. How am I supposed to recover without my chocolate milk fix? Grim.

Sunday came too quickly as I felt I could have used an additional 12 hours of sleep, but I am always amazed at how the body can recover over such a short time.  I met up with Jake at 7am and we headed off for another full day of biking.  Sunday is always the hardest day as it seems from Whitewater to Madison it is mostly up-hill. We relish in the fact that the high cloud cover is blocking the direct sun so the morning ride to the lunch stop of roughly 40 miles goes great and we make great time.

Jake and I take in a rest stop to re-fill the water bottle and have a couple celery sticks with peanut butter on them to put a few calories in the system. The support on this ride is outstanding and the rest stops have all the goodies we need to keep up our strength along the way.  The volunteers are working hard to meet all of our needs and the corporate sponsors have provided us with all the goods. I offer a big thank you to all of them. After the lunch stop we find the clouds dissipate and the sun beating down hard while the temperature is climbing rapidly. In addition, we get the enjoyment of a 15 to 20 mph headwind to help us suffer just that much more. This ride always goes from East to West, so we almost always have some headwind to contend with.  We make our way biting off chunks at a time and soon are getting close to the last rest stop. This time Sara is getting on that bike and riding across the finish line with us and I can’t wait to meet up with her. She has kept herself cool all day via air conditioning (and a ½ tank of gas) but that is cool with me. I know she will be ready this time.

Near the end of the ride there is a hill and every year we have done this ride at the top of the hill was always parked a truck. In the back of the truck was a woman in a lawn chair cheering on all the riders as they pass by. She always had a sign that said; I have MS – Thanks for Riding. One year I stopped and told her how much I looked forward to seeing her each year and found out her name was Jan. Well last year for the first time she was not there. I always wondered if she was just not feeling well that day or what. So I was very interested in seeing if she would be back this year, but unfortunately she was not. I don’t know what has happened, but I hope it is not her MS that is preventing her from cheering us on. It was always a motivator for me and a reminder as to just why we are all here.

At this point we are getting close to Sara so I am feeling excited for her to finally get into the game and feel human again. We make a small change in where we will meet her and our good friends who give up this weekend each year to help uMS4s shuttle vehicles Gary and Colleen, are there to help in any way they can. We are so lucky to have friends like them, Thanks! Sara looks good and is ready to go. It has been a long wait for us to get there, but we hope it was worth it. She gets mounted up and the electric bike gets fired up and soon she is heading down the road toward the finish. Jake and I follow behind and we let her lead the way. I can hear her scream as she goes down a hill and it reminds me of how she would always do that once her parachute opened. I see the smile on her face and know right then that all the hassle has been worth it. SHE IS DOING THE MS RIDE! I realized that I had always crossed the finish line first all these years because we always did the ride on a tandem. So this iMS6s the first year she will ride over that line under her own power and not having to stare at the back of my head. She was always a backseat driver anyway. Sara does better than expected and soon we are crossing the beltline and the finish line is a short distance down the road. As we round the last corner, we can see our family in their orange team shirts near the finish waiting for us. They are always there to cheer us on when we cross and it makes finishing that much more special. We cross the official line to the cheer from the gauntlet of people that have lined the finish area. Nothing feels better to me than to cross with Sara by my side. For a moment, we forget she has MS and she is experiencing the joy that I get to experience each year. I could not be happier for her at this moment;  check out that smile. Sometimes it is just too hard to smile when you have MS, but not today.

If you notice, Sara has a yellow rider number. She is what’s known at the National MS Society as a BIG CHEESE. Big Cheese’s are the top 100 fundraisers. She may not be able to ride that much anymore, but she is always in the top 100 of fundraising which is the most important part of this whole event. And quite a feat given there are over 1500 participants. It is after all the money raised that makes for a successful event. That money will be used to fund research and programs for those with MS here in Wisconsin and wMS5orldwide with an estimated 2.3+ million affected. MS8

My Father and Mother are 92 & 90 years old respectively. They still get around on there own and come each year along with my brother and his wife to be there when we cross the finish. They know all too well the struggles Sara and I go thru each and every day dealing with MS. I know that if they could give all that they have to end Sara’s suffering they would do it without hesitation. But if it were just that simple. I do know that they are proud of me for staying in the fight and for building a legacy of trying to make a difference. Unfortunately we know that the money and awareness we raise today will not help us. But we are hopefull that the next generation will not have to contend with MS the way we have had too. There are some very exciting things happening in MS research these days and I see a day when a major breakthrough takes place.
We want to thank all of the people who have donated to MS over the past 14 years. You are really the champions of this movement. We will keep up the good fight and live each day as if it were our last.