Last spring, my then 11-year-old son, Theo, and I went to the local bike shop for a quick bike repair. He saw a sign for the MS 150 and said, “Hey Mom, can we do that?” I pointed out that the ride was a week away, 150 miles long, and we were, hiding my relief, too late to sign up. He asked if we could do it next year and I thought in a moment of folly that with a year of preparation, we could probably do it.
Our initial eight months of training included getting road bikes and letting them sit in the garage for a good long stretch. We also, on occasion, said to ourselves, “Can you believe it? We’re going to bike 150 miles!”
Luckily, the Palmer Holy Spokes team was there to get us to the next step (getting on the bikes, for one). The group had been riding the MS 150 for decades together. At the end of January 2018, Theo and I hosted the first team meeting. The group was friendly, warm, and seemingly very fit. We talked about what happened on the two days and one night of the ride from Houston to Austin, which was helpful. Then there was a pause, and I quietly said, “So what happens between now and April 28?”
The generosity of the team over these past few months of training has so touched us and kept us going, week after week. Their encouragement, insight, and teaching have helped us, from our first team-led training ride in the chilly Fulshear mists, through many flats (and new tires) with kindness from Barry and Elisa Donovan, to a bike fit by (super) Mario Macia, jersey-borrowing from Margie Dieter, stretching tips from Melanie Fahey, and perspective, cheer and thoughtfulness from Jenn Macia, Deb Giannoni, Ellee de Groot, Aaron Reese, Lynsey Slavonic, Nick Fulford, and others as we slowly got faster, fitter, and, importantly, mentally prepared.
We have learned so much, much of it the hard way, and yet, each week we have celebrated the sparkle of small victories (No flats! Baby donkeys! We finished this time! We like hills!). These glimmering moments have been the joys of riding, and I’m so grateful I have been able to share them with Theo and with the team.
We are in the final few weeks of training. Last weekend's ride was 68.3 miles of hills in Chappell Hill, and for the next few weekends, we're adding to that an additional day of riding. It's insanity levels, but as we say each week, what are we going to do, not try?
As hard as the training has been, as early as we have had to get up for weekend rides, as achy as our shoulders have been, and as frustrating as it can be to sidelined by the 5th flat, these hiccups are nothing in comparison to living with multiple sclerosis.
The MS 150 is a fundraising ride to support research for this disease.
If you are able to donate, please do. If you see any of the Holy Spokes, current or former, give them a hug and a high-five, because they are amazing people who give to the Palmer community in a meaningful, life-changing way. They have been a grace in our lives and have given me an opportunity to share something special with my son: the bond of preparing together for a far-reaching goal. We will remember these past months forever. And, if you feel like joining the team, just think like I did -- you’ve got a whole year to get ready.
If you would like to support the Holy Spokes in the fight against multiple sclerosis you can make a donation here: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?fr_id=29316&pg=team&team_id=537954