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Hartselle Enquirer

Cycling for the Soul

Lauren Estes-Velez, staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle, most of us have gears we never use.” -Charles Schulz

Three years ago I jumped on board the road cycling venture.

With no depth in my experience (other than teaching Spinning classes), I opted to quickly learn how to road cycle. A friend got me a Specialized bike at a low cost, and just like that I began training.

I loved it! I loved everything about the control, speed, and strength I gained through cycling. I decided to sign up for the Wet Dog Triathlon with only a few rides under my belt, but enough to trust myself on the bike. Afterward, I was hooked to tri’s, and more specifically road races. I was already a runner and enjoyed it, but cycling was different and a completely different type of challenge. I decided to do another triathlon a month later in Cullman. That race confirmed the decision I made just a month before, I wanted to complete a bigger, more challenging race.

In August of 2015, I signed up for the MS-150, Tour De Beach. It was a 150-mile bike ride over two days that stretched through Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and into Florida and back. Keep in mind, to this point my furthest distance was about 12-15 miles. I wasn’t experienced. I wasn’t properly trained. I had completed two bodybuilding shows during the summer and didn’t have nor make time for that type of training because truthfully, my body would not allow it as depleted as I was.

Fast forward to September of 2015, I had only raised a few hundred dollars for the race. (The registration cost for riders is low, but each rider is required to fundraise at least $200 for the MS-Society.)

I decided to learn a little about what I was riding and fundraising for and with that I talked with a few people who actually have multiple sclerosis locally.

I learned that MS differs with every person that have the disease. It can affect the spinal cord, vision and brain. It plays a huge roll in balance and muscle control and basic body functions. While some sufferers have mild symptoms and don’t need treatment, others may have trouble getting around and doing daily tasks.

Just before that first Ms-150 race, I contacted someone I know from the community, Dree Miller who had been diagnosed with MS. I grew up listening to her sing at then Fairview-Church of God and other memories include doing my hair for senior prom and putting a perm in my hair when I was in college. She was always active, well-liked and personable, so when I saw on social media that she had been diagnosed with a disease that would mess with your daily routines, I was more than surprised. I asked her simply if I could “ride for her” and that I did.

The whole first day I pushed through each mile and it wasn’t a miserable process. I rode with two friends from Cullman who made the day fun and memorable. The second day sadly, one friend stayed behind due to an old injury flaring upon and the other friend didn’t feel up to two days of pain and stayed behind as well.

Me being me, my overwhelming (annoying) will power wouldn’t let me quit the race. I rode the second day and found a pack of riders that I could hang with to finish the 150-mile with, and are still friends now.

This story isn’t completed, by far. The one detail that I find both emotional and unrelenting is what I discovered on day two in the last 10-mile stretch of the Tour De Beach. When you apply to be a rider and register, there’s a form you can fill out and submit that includes the name of someone with MS that you want to ride for. I submitted Dree’s name and had one of my friends write “Team Dree” on my calves so it could be seen as I pedaled.

The names that were submitted were all placed on individual signs throughout two two-day 150 mile course and we would see the names as we biked. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was so emotional. Every time I read a name, I found myself being more thankful and also more selfish. Tons of thousands of names lined these streets and here I am mentally complaining about being a little sore and sunburnt, when all of these people fight daily things I could never imagine.

Each mile got a little easier and I continued to thank God for my health, and smile at the MS-Society workers and sponsors who supported us and cheered for us every step of the way. The moment that was a true drop kick to the face was what I mentioned earlier, the last time miles. I can’t be sure exactly where, but I know God had so much purpose in the placement of her sign. I was hurting (my knee was swollen) and my mental toughness was out the window. I wasn’t experienced, the training was there. I was all heart on day two. When I saw the sign that had “Dree Miller” written across it that followed the “I’m riding for” quote above it, I had tears streaming. Real life was put in front of me. We see people from far away lose loved ones, battle disease and life’s hurdles, but rarely do you can to experience first hand. Now, in no comparison was my leg (and booty) pain that of MS symptoms, but for that moment my selfishness, cares and all other things went out the window. I was there to serve. I was there to give. And none of it was ever about me.

I finished the race with new friends, a sore backside, and a new found emotional understanding. I gained something from the 2015 MS-150 that gave me a mental toughness and bit of compassion I had never known before that moment. I try to hold onto that feeling every time I battle pain or struggle.

I pledged in 2016 to ride again, and that time, elected to spend as much time fundraising as I was able and raised a little more than my goal, which was $2,500. I biked the two days (a lot easier this time because I prepared for it.) I was able to beat my 2015 by around 2 hours each day, which was a blessing for both my mind and my quads (haha.)

As I wrap this up, I just want to share with you how impacting this event was for me and that I registered to do it again for this September. My plan is to get better, and work hard to raise the $2,500, or even more again for this awesome cause. I encourage all people to find something you are passionate about and pour your whole heart into it. I’ll be fundraising and finding ways to get and make money for MS this summer, but it’s a different kind of satisfaction doing it for the good of someone else. Find something you can do to help someone in, whether big or small. You never know who might impact along the way, because no act of kindness is ever wasted. #MS-150Rider



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