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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring! Keep at it!