Bike MS: The Recap
After my first Bike MS ride last year in Sedona, we realized the dangers of cycling firsthand. We had learned that one of our fellow riders had tragically passed away in a vehicle collision.
The sadness of that day still loomed large one year later. The location of the ride changed to Wickenburg, AZ, seemingly in reaction to the event. The quaint, tourist-trap town, complete with it's anti-Obamacare billboards and white minimum wage employees sporting their FUBU jerseys, didn't exactly feel like a destination worth riding to. Fundraising numbers were down and the team numbers were dwindling. My wife, who formed Team K-Lar two years ago, several months after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, remained optimistic it would be a good ride.
We arrived at the Peoria Sports Complex early Saturday morning when I received notice I had reached my fundraising goal of $1000. As cliched as it seems, that boon of support of my friends and family, along with the smile on my love's face, removed any doubt that this ride would be anything but epic. Seeing people cheer riders on as the police escorted us safely through the suburban streets lifted my spirits. The frustrations I felt during training, which were well documented several weeks ago, were far away, even after I had a flat tire less than 20 miles in (on 3-week-old Gator Skin tires, no less).
Our route included a 5-mile spur to Lake Pleasant where we enjoyed a late morning lunch. We all remarked how scenic the ride had been as we gazed upon the bright blue lake eating our wraps. A volunteer asked us if we knew anyone we would want to nominate for the The Lynn Hartline Inspirational Rider Award, named for the cyclist who passed away last year. I knew who I wanted to nominate, but my wife's allergy to attention made me hesitant.
As I thought more about it, she was the perfect candidate. As I drafted my reasons for her worthiness, I remarked on her organizational and leadership skills, her cheery attitude that carried us through, and how she inspired me to hop on my Cannondale and ride. She never lets her diagnosis stand in the way of meeting her goals. I also made sure that people were aware of how biased I was.
The temperatures climbed near 100 degrees and I was certain that Al Gore was using our event as some sick way to say "I told you so" to those who still think An Inconvenient Truth is a work of fiction. My strength was dwindling as we continued to climb, but there was motivation all around. There was a woman who more than qualified for her AARP benefits from North Carolina cranking the Pointer Sisters as she rode. She has done hundreds of Bike MS events across the nation. When someone complimented her on her musical tastes, she responded, "You should ride with me!" I was amazed by the upper body strength of a woman with movement disabilities who hand-cranked her way to the finish line.
It seemed weird that an aid station would only be six miles from the finish, but with a 300 ft climb before us we needed all the strength we could muster. My wife, who is a certified triathlon coach, reminded me that I needed to increase my cadence as I struggled to find a gear that would get me up the hill. We were only two miles from the finish when I had to stop and regroup before the final push. I was disappointed and I felt like I gave up, but as the team shared our stories of the ride I knew I wasn't alone. I felt a little vindication and felt like I could still gently place the label of cyclist on my long list of interests.
The awards ceremony began and the Inspirational Rider Award was announced. My wife had won the award. I hadn't been so emotional since my wedding day. Afterwards, we spoke to the family of Lynn Hartline. Like my wife, they had turned their tragedy into something uplifting. They were now advocates of the 3 foot law. Anyone in that situation could've held a grudge, but the sadness of last year didn't stop them from coming back to support Bike MS.
As the night came to a close, I held my wife close and my attempts to hold back my emotions for the day had finally failed me. I was satisfied with myself and even prouder of her.
I truly married up.
While the ride is over, there's still time to donate to the cause. Please click here and thank you for giving anything that you can.
Also, a special thanks to all those who supported me and to all the members of Team K-Lar. I honestly couldn't have done it without you!