Monday, August 8, 2011

The Fight Against MS: Motion Without Limits

Back from cheering on cyclist Chris Crawford and his sister Bonnie at the annual Bike MS Fundraiser in Portland, Oregon. Continued from last week, Chris would like to share his 2010 write-up after completing a 100 mile ride. Bishop-Wisecarver is proud to be his corporate sponsor this year in the 2011 event. To learn more about him, his sister Bonnie and their fight against MS, check out our latest webisode series "Motion Without Limits" on our YouTube channel. To read his 2009 letter, click here. Photographs and video coverage of this last weekend's event to follow this week!

One of Our Happiest Moments by Chris Crawford
MS Bike Ride: Written in 2010

"This year’s ride was a great experience – inspiring, challenging, fun and funny. I was inspired by Bonnie’s progress this past year. Bonnie was at a low point one short year ago, probably one of the lowest points I have seen. Her knee was shot. The bone-on-bone pain was to the point where she really couldn’t walk. But it was more than her knee – it was the culmination of a period of high stress, other family health issues and dealing with MS every day. The bad knee topped it all off.

At that time, the only real solution was a knee replacement – a tough option for someone with MS. Especially at Bonnie’s advanced age. But more than anything, Bonnie just wasn’t herself, she was just down. So, Bonnie had made the decision to have the knee surgery but first had to commit to a knee-strengthening program. Otherwise she would not have been able to handle the rehab. At the August 2009 MS event, she was a month into the strength training and she was frustrated by the lack of visible results. We talked about how the impact of exercise is felt little by little, but as long as long as she was committed to it, she will feel and eventually see results.

Sure enough, by October 2009, Bonnie said she did feel stronger. She had the surgery in February 2010, and was done with post-surgery rehab and was exercising again since June. But, Bonnie couldn’t ride this year. She still doesn’t feel strong enough. So now, at this year’s MS event, Bonnie was again frustrated with how she felt and the lack of progress. Once again, she left the event knowing that if she commits to the exercise program, in 6-8 weeks she will feel and see the difference. And she realized actually how far she has come since her surgery, and how much better she actually feels since last year. Our conversations included talk of hope and realizing she is not alone in this fight. She knows that now (again), and is mentally and spiritually stronger too. To see her come around over this weekend was very inspiring, and I know Bonnie is committed to doing what she has to do. Next year, Bonnie will ride.

I was challenged by the ride itself. I trained this year. I actually trained. I’ve been riding pretty much every other day for over two months. I had gotten to the point of regularly riding 20 mile rides. Then my friend Jason pushed me to go more – so my last three sessions were 38 miles, 28 miles and 40 miles. I was training so I could try to ride “The Century” – that’s 100 miles in one day! I did it last year, but had not planned on doing it. I just did it because the opportunity was there and it was a relatively easy course.

This year, I was motivated to actually train and planned on trying to do it again. Why you ask? I feel it is important to challenge myself to show my commitment to the fight against MS. I don’t want to just show up, even though I could. So, I trained. And it is a good thing I did! This year was the toughest course in years and the hilliest course I’ve ever been on – 102 miles long and it was basically one hill after another, after another, after another. People were walking up hills in just the first five miles and people were walking up hills during the last five miles. And at least four other times in between too.

Two hills were so steep that I was going less than four miles per hour up the hill – that is hard to do on a bike. One hill was so long and so steep that by the time I got to the top I almost passed out from breathing so hard. But I made it. And I never could have made it this year with Bonnie on the tandem – it was just too hard and too many hills. In the end, Bonnie did not miss out.

Next year they are going to have rides more suitable for people with MS like they did the last couple years. But I learned a lesson – training actually works! I know. I know. The fun part was unexpected. Normally Bonnie and I go to these rides with a bunch of people in our entourage – people we love and love to have with us. But this year, for a number of reasons, no one else could come the first day/night. Our wingman, Barbara (sister), could not be there. Trini (Bonnie’s husband) couldn’t make it until Saturday. And others too. So, Bonnie and I hung out together, just the two of us, for the first day.

The first thing we did was go to the site of the ride where we see some really great people we haven’t seen in a year: Michael, Big John, and a bunch of SlugFish teammates. Then we went to the MS party to hang out with the people in charge of the ride. We saw Brie and Kevin, our new MS buds. We helped decorate the team tent, had a kami, ate good food and laughed. It was extra fun this year because it was a bonus to hang out with just Bonnie, just this once, for the entire time. Trini was there for day two, and we had a blast too.

In fact, one of the funniest things of the weekend was when I looked down at Bonnie’s knee and said, “Is that where you had your surgery?” Obvious, I know – you had to be there – but all of a sudden I saw this seven inch scar on her knee and thought, “Whoa!”

Well, of course Bonnie said, “Yes.” Well then my brain took over and all my thoughts came out of my mouth. I said “Whoa, that is gnarly. If you put a few cross zippers on that it would look like a Frankenstein scar.”

Trini looked at me in shock and says, “You just ruined four months of me telling Bonnie that it didn’t’ look that bad.” All three of us laughed our heads off, one of those gut laughs that make you still laugh the next day when you think about it.

Another really fun thing was hanging out with my brother-in-law Colin who swore he was only doing the 75 mile ride. At one point, I shook hands with him goodbye and said see you at the finish. Then we split up – he went left, I went right. Next thing you know, there he is coming up behind me, going with me all the way on the Century. It was great, even as hard as it was.

The second day at rest stop #1, Colin mentioned he wished they served coffee at the rest stops. As we got on our bikes to keep going, I saw a sign, “View Point Inn – ¼ mile.” I thought, ‘It’s off the bike route but they might have coffee’. So, I suggest we try it.

We rode up the hill and saw a light on. We went around back where a guy asks, “What can I help you with?” I said, “Do you think we can buy a couple of cups of coffee?” He said, “I’ll treat. What do you want? Latte, Mocha, cappuccino, what?”

We were stunned! I said, “Two lattes would be great.” He said, “Come on in.”

We took off our bike shoes and went inside. Next thing you know, we are sitting on couches, feet up, in front of a roaring fire, looking out through the veranda, down the Gorge of the Columbia River, on a beautiful sunny day, drinking scrumptious lattes. How that happened I’ll never know!

Finally, one of the most inspiring moments of all took place after the ride when I received this letter from Michael Braem: “In September of 1997, I was diagnosed with MS. At that time I became a volunteer and soon after an avid volunteer at events and conferences. The one event that impressed me the most was the MS Bike Ride. In this two day event, you get to know people on a more personable level and hear their story. Then I would tell them mine. I would start on Friday and go ‘til Sunday afternoon. I was drained by Sunday, but in a great way. As years go, you form bonds. Some still to this day after years I greet them with hugs and we would say how good it is to get together for another year, riding to find a cure to stop this chronic disease. The energy is like Christmas to me. We’re all fighting for the same cause. I had only wished I could ride. It was the part of the weekend I wasn't a part of. Like a young kid looking through a wrought iron gate at other kids playing and only can watch. Heartbreaking. Not in the beginning would I have been able to ride because my MS was so unstable, but later, feeling good and stable, I yearned to ride. After being introduced to my three wheel recumbent bike, I can now ride. I feel whole again.”

Michael made his decision to ride after watching Bonnie and me cross the finish line that first time, three years ago. I still remember Michael coming up to me and saying, “If Bonnie can ride, maybe I can ride too.”

Watching Michael ride these past three years is one of our happiest MS moments. Among all the experiences, I never take for granted how each of you helps Bonnie and me in our fight against MS. It is that support that creates hope. One of the most powerful emotions I can think of. Thank you again – and I’ll be back next year – a year when Bonnie and I, thanks to you, will have raised a cumulative total of more than one quarter of a million dollars! Unbelievable! Thanks again!"