20 miles later…
I’m sore this time. In preparation for the “mega ride” in less than two weeks, my lovely sister and I undertook a whopping 20 mile bike ride yesterday. Which is only 2/3 of the total distance the National MS Society, and all our supportive friends and family, are expecting us to cover in just over a week and a half, but it was daunting to us nonetheless. When she came to pick me up at the ungodly hour of 7 am (on a federal holiday no less), we kept commenting on our apprehension about the distance. Mostly jokingly, we developed a whole host of perfectly reasonable and only slightly ridiculous ways to get out of riding so far, to convince some poor young race official with a golf cart to give us a lift to the finish line in order to pose for victory pictures. Fake a stroke, pull a hamstring, imitate an epileptic seizure… anything but pedal our chubby behinds 20 miles, let alone 30! We created and laughed about our ridiculous ideas for the first 5 miles. Then we chatted about weighty life issues for the next 7. Then we laughed about trivial stories for the next 4. Then we suffered in almost silence through the last 3. We arrived, sore and out of breath but very, very proud, to the parking lot 19 miles later. We can do this.
We bike again Saturday. We know we can go at least 20 miles, and we think maybe more. We know we’ll be sore, my lower back and my calves were tender all day today, but we also know we won’t keel over. And, more importantly, we know we’ll be together. We know that when one of us needs a break, the other will hop off her bike and walk too. We know that when one of us is huffing too much to carry the conversation, the other will pipe up with a story. We know we’ll share water, share a sweat rag, share encouragement. Riding with my sister is a lot like living life with her- she’s in it with you. She’s never ahead of me, that annoying person who’s jogging backward, breathing lightly and coyly calling out bubbly encouragement from her perfectly fit lungs. She’s the girl who is huffing along next to you, telling you that you can’t stop, you have to get your chubby butt around the next bend, because she can’t stop either and it’s just as tough for her. There’s something really comforting about that. There’s something wonderful about the person who is struggling next to you, encouraging and supporting you. There’s something so nice about how hard it is for her as well, but how willing she is to help you nonetheless.
When it comes to MS, my sister doesn’t have all the answers. She doesn’t always know the perfect thing to say or the way to make it better. But she cares and she’s not quitting and she’s perfectly willing to live life with me, even a life with MS, even when life is messy. And she’s not the only one. I’m so blessed that my whole family will be at this ride- my parents riding the 100 miler, my other two sisters volunteering. They’re in it with me. My husband never blinks, not even a little, at the hand we’ve been dealt, what this could mean for our future. He’s in it for the long haul and he’s in it with me. My aunts, my uncles, my in-laws, my cousins- people have come out of the woodwork to support me, with donations, with emails, and I am so blessed.
I was commenting to my sister that part of what drives me to finish the 30 miles is the selfish hope that they use the funds raised and find a cure in my lifetime. It would be wonderful to see that. But another part of the motivation is simply because I have MS and I CAN ride 30 miles, and so many others can’t. I DO have a wonderful support system and do many others don’t. This will change my life, yes, but it doesn’t have to end my life and that is worth pedaling 30 miles for. Or at least 20- I know we can get at least that far!
By the way, our team name will be the “Fierce Fosters”. It only seemed appropriate.