What is the MS 365 Project?

The MS 365 Project is a celebration of my 20th year with Multiple Sclerosis and the active lifestyle that I have used in my fight against MS. This year long project will hopefully raise money for the Can Do MS organization and raise awareness of how strenuous activity can help in the fight against MS.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's like this every July

Owen gets rad on his new mountain bike at the OVT Trail.
Wilkesboro, NC
Every July since I was 14 or 15 has been devoted to the Tour de France. I enjoy the luxury of being able to watch every day's stage as it happens unlike the days of my youth where 1 hour long programs would show scenes and give summaries of an entire week's worth of racing. I still find myself mesmerized by the effort and the action. It is drama like no other and it plays out over the course of 3 weeks like no other sporting event.

This year's Tour de France has seen a large number of devastating crashes that have left many riders too injured to continue racing, but some riders are continuing despite devastating injuries. Johnny Hoogerland was struck by a TV car while at the head of the race, sending him cartwheeling off of his bike and into a barbed wire fence in what I have to say is the worst wreck I have ever seen. Several deep gashes on his legs (which later required 30 stitches) did not stop him from getting back on the bike and finishing that day's stage (after putting on a new pair of shorts since his had been so shredded they no longer were functional). He is still racing each day, his legs bandaged thoroughly. Lars Ten Dam flipped over his bars and landed face first in some rocks after taking a turn in a descent too wide and losing control after leaving the road. He broke his nose, put a large gash across the bridge of his nose and has a heavily swollen face. He races each day with a bandage wrapped around his head covering his nose. When I saw a picture of him, he looked like something from a horror movie, and still he goes on each day.

Cycling in my formative years instilled in me this idea of getting up and continuing no matter what. Professional cyclists race through injuries that would end the season of athletes in other sports. I think it is my involvement in cycling that has led to my stubbornness to not let MS stop me from doing the things I love with the people I love.

I've gotten comments and messages from people reading this blog or seeing the facebook page. You have shared stories with me, you have shared your struggles with MS with me, and you have paid me the ultimate honor of telling me that I have inspired you to get out and move. Thank you for that and please feel free to continue talking with me.

Owen insists on going first on the trail.
Wilkesboro, NC
This year, I have gotten to see my son progress from riding his bike on hard surfaces only, to riding off road with me pulling the tag-a-long, to him riding his own small mountain bike on some of the awesome mountain bike trails we have in this area. He has gotten a few comments from people seeing him on the trails, all of them encouraging. The ranger took his picture saying he was the youngest rider he had ever seen on the trails. My pride is immeasurable.

While I love to fly through the woods pushing myself to my limits, the best riding times that I have ever had have been following my son's wheel down the trail, offering advice and encouragement and watching him push his limits. I hope to be able to do this until he is too fast for me to keep up, but I know he'll wait for me every now and then and offer me few words of encouragement to go with it.     

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The longest day has come and gone...

Beech Mountain XC Race 6/19/11
I've made it through the end of school and standardized testing, survived the end of my graduate school semester and I've moved into the leisurely pace of summer vacation and all the down time that that entails. And with all of my new found free time comes the chance to catch up this blog with all of the things that have gone on in my life for the past 2 1/2 months.

When I last mentioned anything in my life here, it was the downbeat news that I had suffered my first exacerbation in 6 years just 5 days after my wife Golden and I finished 3rd in the Coed Duo category at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek mountain bike race. I managed to maintain my 1 mile a day of outdoor riding through the worst of the exacerbation, which fortunately only took about 3 days and began to feel some semblance of normalcy after just a week. To be honest, the Prednisone was actually worse than the exacerbation. 

So just 3 short weeks after the exacerbation, I found myself back at a mountain bike race. This time it was my first 24 Hour race, the Burn 24 at Dark Mountain. I got to compete with an all male team that consisted of myself, my business partner, and three other gentlemen. We competed in the 3-5 Man Team 40+ age group category. It was not only my first race since the exacerbation, but was also my first race on a single speed mountain bike (a bike with just one gear).  We rotated the riding from noon on Saturday, through the night and on to noon on Sunday. It was a great experience riding through the day and night in a battle to ride more miles as a team than any other team.By 10 o'clock in the morning, we had a comfortable lead of 4 laps over the team in second place, so we decided to stop early and relax until noon, comfortable that it was impossible for anyone to catch us. I ended up riding 6 laps for the team or a total of about 45 miles over the 24 hour period. Needless to say, I was a little less than raring to go at school come Monday morning...

With the end of school came the achievement of a personal goal: to commute by bike every day of the 2010-2011 school year. Through heat, humidity, rain, wind (I hate wind), snow, sleet, bitter cold and every other possible thing that Mother Nature could throw at me, I was on the bike back and forth, from home to school, school to bike shop, and bike shop to home for the 190 days of the 2010-2011 school year. So far in 2011, I have commuted (replaced a trip by car with a trip by bike) a total of 1064 miles.

Owen (my son) and I have taken many little trips around town. We ride to the bike shop together. We ride to the greenway from our house together to do rides away from cars. He's even started to do some mountain biking on local trails. I've never felt happier than riding behind him, his gangly 4 year old body all knees and elbows bouncing around as he bombs down the trail chattering constantly in his stream of consciousness happiness.

This past weekend, my Father's Day present was to go do a mountain bike race at Beech Mountain, NC (the highest town on the East Coast at about 5300 feet of elevation). We got up to the course and I made the decision to register for the regular race for my category and age group rather than the singlespeed race. The skies opened up and rain began dumping, the wind whipped and lightning began to crash. The race official postponed the start for an hour. The rain died down just before the hour delay was up and we toed the line, ready to go.

The race official said "Go!" and off we went. The start was up a dirt road climb that started out gradually and steepened before we turned on to the singletrack trail that went into the woods. I quickly spun the gear to the maximum pedaling speed and thought, "If these guys pick up the speed from here, I won't be able to stay with them." But remarkably, just at that moment the climb got much steeper and the other racers immediately shifted into easier gears. I rode past them, trying to stay on top of the only gear I had and pulled away from the rest of the racers. By the top of the climb, I was completely cross-eyed from redlining aerobically at the altitude. I got into the singletrack, just hoping to recover a little bit and amazed that I was leading the race. To be honest, I've tried to approach each of my races with the idea of having fun first and getting results as a bonus, so the idea that I was any where near the front of the race, let alone in the lead, was truly cool.

I bobbled on a particularly wet, muddy, root-infested section of trail and the rider in second place passed me. We stayed together a bit, but we separated from each other after a mile or so. I got into the mode of riding against myself, seeking every possible moment of speed, every fast line through the roots. The trail was incredibly muddy with a deep, black, loamy froth that resembled chocolate icing. My tires packed with mud, the knobs invisible. Steering became an exercise in controlled sliding. The short, steep climbs were impossible to ride up and it became faster to just dismount and run while pushing the bike. I ended the first lap still in second place.

There is a spooky thing that happens to you in mountain bike races. Because there are so many classes racing together, you begin to see and hear other racers on the course in front of and behind you. The ones behind you are the biggest worry because you don't know if they are in your particular race or not, so you have to ride like you're being chased. I just kept pushing, trying to minimize mistakes and maximize speed all the while running the cascade of biological system checks that a racer goes through to maintain their performance. It began to rain during that last lap and I found that I was having an absolute blast of a time. I cruised through the last miles and across the finish line, absolutely stoked to finish in second place.

I've come to realize something over the course of this year: I am exulting in the pure function of my body. I have MS, but that just isn't in the forefront of my mind. I'm not in denial, but I am trying to deeply experience every movement and effort. When my pulse pounds in my ears, my lungs strain to take in more air, I am reveling in the moment without any thought of anything beyond that.

July 2nd will mark the half way point of year, the 183rd day. My goal for the year has been to ride outdoors at least 1 mile everyday for 365 days and to ride 3,650 miles total in the year. As it stands today, I have indeed ridden at least 1 mile every day and I have ridden 2153.17 miles (an average of about 12.4 miles a day). I continue to believe that I will meet and exceed this goal and I promise to keep you along for every mile.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An unexpected visit

flare up
I rode my bike to work yesterday, as always, started class and started to realize that something was up. I was irritable, my head felt fuzzy and I was feeling numb on the left side of my body. I haven't had an exacerbation in 6 years, but I realized pretty quickly that I was having one.

It seems like I start to wonder if I will ever see another exacerbation; that maybe I am "over" MS, but the exacerbation serves to remind me of my mortality and my need to keep an eye on the enemy at all times.

I left school, administrators helping me get my classes covered and driving me home (they didn't want me riding home. It would have been slow, but I would have made it!).  I got in to see my doctor pretty quickly, my friend Chris driving me to his office in the next town. He agreed with me that there didn't seem to be any specific trigger. He's checking for some kind of infection, but it doesn't seem likely.

So now it's 10 days of prednisone. I'm already feeling better. Feeling is coming back, nausea is gone and the fuzzy head is clear again. My equilibrium is still a little shaky, but not so anyone would notice but me.

I know this will pass. I know I am incredibly lucky and fortunate to not have had an exacerbation in 6 years. I will remain positive. I will keep pushing forward with all of my might.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

National MS Awareness Week

I'm a single parent  for a few days this week since Golden is at a 3 day workshop in Raleigh. For the first time in almost two years, I drove to work today after dropping Owen off at daycare. It was a weird experience and made me feel way more anxious than riding to work ever does. There is a certain feedback loop involved in running late as a bike commuter. You can stress and pummel yourself into going faster, or you can relax and realize you'll get there sooner than you think.

This situation also means that getting my mile a day in will be a little tricky, but doable. I'm well ahead of the 10 mile a day average I need to cover 3,650 miles this year. As of yesterday (day 73), I have completed 912 miles about 18 days ahead of schedule. It's funny how the one week that meshes perfectly with the goals of the MS 365 Project is the week that it will be the most difficult for me to meet the project's goals!

Jeff and I went for a long road ride on Sunday. In an effort to rediscover the climber I was as a kid, I suggested we ride from town to the top of Hwy. 181 at Jonas Ridge. 181 is about a 12 mile climb and is the most feared portion of the Bridge to Bridge Incredible Challenge that is held here every year. We rolled out of town in to a stiff headwind, trying to keep the pace moderately interesting while not totally burning all of our matches in the headwind. We made the turn on to 181 and both of us were immediately aware of how long it had been since we had made the climb. As we discussed it, we figured out it had been well over a year and possibly two since we had climbed Hwy. 181.

As we climbed, I felt good, really good. The first time I ever rode up Hwy. 181 I was 17 and had travelled to Hickory with some friends to do some climbing rides since all we had in Fayetteville that qualified as a climb were the highway overpasses. I rode up Hwy 181 in 1987 on a 6 speed, steel road bike with a low gear of 42 x 18. I was 17 and weighed 94 lbs. Now, I am working hard to get up with a low gear of 39 x 26. Oh, to be young again. But my mission this year is to rediscover that inner climber and ride strong in the mountains. I want to break the 6 hour mark for the Bridge to Bridge (my previous best time is 6:27).

I started to bonk a little and fell off the pace. When you have MS, sometimes you think that your problems are MS related instead of just being human related. I'm discovering that I'm not incapable of climbing long, sustained climbs due to MS, but that I'm not eating enough and bonking during the climb. Thanks to Jeff and my wife, I'm starting to recognize the difference.

Fortunately for us, we had a 20+ mph headwind as we climbed, which really made us earn every bit of the two or three thousand feet of elevation gain. Along the way though, you get to see stuff like this:

We got to the top, fueled up and then started down the ridge. Within moments, the now tailwind pushed us to ridiculously fast speeds. Jeff sat up on a straightaway saying, "We gotta watch it. I just hit 42 like it was nothing." We naturally starting pushing it to see how fast we could go down the curvy descent that is a favorite of sport bikes (but was being heavily patrolled by law enforcement, so they weren't really out in hordes like normal). The final high speed was 49 mph. The 1+ hour climb was a 20 minute balls out descent!

I'd like to accomplish a few things this MS Awareness Week. I want to encourage you to get out and do something, anything active no matter what the weather or your schedule is like. Share your experiences here or at the MS 365 Project facebook page. Help the Project hit 250 "likes" on facebook by the end of the week. Hopefully, more people will join the ride with me as I tackle the rest of the year's rides!

Next event on the race calendar: 6 Hours of Warrior Creek where Golden and I will try to better our Coed Duo 3rd place finish from last year. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The grind

I've been grinding away at work. It is getting harder and harder to turn my bike into the school's driveway, especially when it is warm and sunny. A lot of my friends who don't have cushy public school teaching jobs are meeting up several days a week at 8 am to do 4 and 5 hour training rides. Seeing the emails going back and forth on the listserv as they set up times and routes is just killing me. That just means that I have to take advantage of every opportunity I get to ride in this beautiful weather!

My wife, Golden, and I got to go do a long mountain bike ride (thanks Mom and Dad for watching Owen) as we start to prepare for the coming 6 hours of Warrior Creek mountain bike race. We got to go ride for 3 hours off road, something we haven't done in a very long time. It felt great. I felt great.

During the ride, I came to a realization: I'm not nearly as paranoid or racked with self-doubt about my physical capabilities as I used to be. I've been in good physical health for a long time, but there was always a little paranoia about riding for a long time; of being "out there" where if I had a problem I would be in a difficult situation to get back. My paranoia was really unfounded, but I couldn't help but comment to Golden about this new confidence (or lack of self-doubt). I'm wondering if this is another effect of the Apoqoeurin supplement that I have been taking. Now granted, I don't know if I'm on a placebo or not, but I'm noticing all kinds of positive cognitive changes since taking the trial supplement and I am really hoping that there is a reason for all of it. Golden thinks I'm giving too much credit to the supplement, but I know how my brain feels and it is definitely different (and much better!).

I hit mile 750 this week. Right now, I am about 14 days ahead of the 10 miles a day average needed to cover 3,650 miles this year. My friend Eric made a per mile pledge through the Facebook link and has been harassing me about not riding TOO many miles! His bet is that I'll do 6000 miles this year. We'll see...

Monday, February 28, 2011


This weekend, the crocuses bloomed.

The red wing blackbirds arrived.
These guys are regulars since the wetland restoration in our neighborhood was completed.

That can mean only one thing:
continue reading...

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Sunshine has been a much needed tonic for me. Through the winter, my morning and evening commutes have been dark, cold affairs that offered little comfort. The first glimmers of change came with fingers of pink and blue light streaking the sky on the morning commute and a slow realization that there was a golden glow not emanating from my headlight alone on my evening commute.

This week brought the fullness of Spring as the sun shone with an intent that it has not had this Winter as it barely dented the leaden skies, its warmth was felt by all of us out in it, and crocuses started stirring and raising themselves from long sleep underground. I've been kissed by the sun on several occasions this week, getting out to ride in shorts; my knees seeing daylight for the first time in months.

With the change in season I feel a change in mood. I want out. Out of school. Out of work. Out of life commitments. I want to live solely and exclusively for joy and wonder. I know this isn't realistic, but Spring is the time that reckless hopes and dreams can be put forth. Reality is a little less playful. I know that I will wake up and start the work week tomorrow, as sure as I know that the pre-Spring weather will snap back to the more seasonably appropriate chilly, windy and rainy that is sure to befall us this week. But the glimmer of change that the weather has brought to both my mind and my body will hopefully stick around long enough to make it to the full blossom of Spring in just a short time. I can last in the cold darkness just a little while longer knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is near and approaching fast.