Monday, June 29, 2015

A Critical Mass Ride; How hard could it be...

Like "where's Waldo, can you find the pink frog??

          As you know, a week ago I rode 54.5 miles in the Bike To The Bay.  Well, after that brutal feat of triumph I thought I had topped out my "personal best".  How could anything ever compare to that...

     Then after I had a couple days to go back to normal I got an invitation from Tom (seen above) who is on team Leapfrog, to do a Critical Mass ride a week after the BTTB. He mentioned he had about three definites and several maybes. 

     Of course after committing, I hadn't the faintest idea what that was, but I told him I had planned on finding some new routes after the Bike To The Bay, so I was in; and then I went home and Googled what this actually was.

     I learned that it was an unorganized ride  made up of 500 to upwards of a thousand riders taking over the streets of a big city, in the attempt to raise awareness of cyclists' rights to share the streets with motorists.  This one happened to be in downtown Detroit; yikes!

     It's not in my nature to bail, but I decided to give Tom a chance to admit I might just be too high maintenance for this ride.  After all; I needed someone to keep on me like flies on fly paper; someone to make a path, warn me of any sudden stops and lend a shoulder if my crazy leg becomes worthless after hours of riding.  That didn't phase him, so this was really happening...

     I already had plans to ride on the Greenbelt parkway trail that morning but I could probably handle two rides with several hours in between;  I just can't say no.

     As it turned out, the only ones who weren't scared off were two of his staff members at the University of Toledo, Nanda who is from India and Xiaozhong from China, and me... What did I have to lose?  I knew no one would ever let anything happen to me.

       Being there were four of us in a sea of 5 million riders (give or take...)  we decided to do the buddy system; Nanda and Xiaozhong, and then Tom and I.  The young guys darted out ahead of us so I knew there was no way I could lose track of Tom or I would end up berried among an ocean of strangers; people who don't understand about  my high maintenance.

     I had never seen such a huge swarm of riders at one time.  I had no idea how I was supposed to keep with the flow.

     As you can see the crowd was very tightly packed and very little, or I should say "NO" room for error.  I had learned my lesson in the bike to the bay after not taking long enough brakes to allow my body and brain to reconnect, as well as staying hydrated; of course, I had the buddy system all set.

          But a few things I soon learned would put an interesting spin on my plan... This ride was more or less an anarchy; no one was in charge.  There were no rest stops with bathroom breaks and snacks, no wavers to fill out in case of an injury, and no sag drivers to haul you back if you got tired or worse, a flat tire; there was no backing out.  It was simply hundreds of random people out to make a stand for cyclists' rights. 

      I'm not generally an activist type of person; I never want to make waves, but this was my chance to conquer one more personal best, and appreciate seeing all walks of life helping one another.
     The only chance we had to take a drink of water was the occasional 20 seconds when we paused to close the gaps so motorists couldn't turn in front of us.  Though, if we did catch a rare light we had to haul butt at the speed of over 18 miles an hour just to catch back up with the pack.

     At one point it was so tight that I couldn't maneuver my bike and ran right in to a pot hole.  Now if I was young and spry I could have just popped a wheelie over it, but since that wasn't the case I hit the brakes, dropped my feet, and walked out of it.  Of course, this caused me to fall behind and I had to play some major catch up.
    I have to say the art work or "graffiti" on many of the buildings was amazing!

Is that a cell phone in her hand??

     Above you'll notice a tandem bike with a child attached to the back, as well as a toddler on the front; no one was excluded.

How in the heck was he going to get up there??

          There were bikes so tall that you could get a nose bleed from riding it... 

     And bikes that carted ginormous boom boxes that shook the entire street when they passed by. 

       I mentioned to Tom that my pink jacket definitely stood out in the crowd, and he told me it was perfect for keeping track of me; admitting next time we should put bells on my shoes...

          Notice here, there were times we rode next to busy traffic...

     And then others where we swarmed through neighborhoods with beautifully landscaped homes.

Rosedale Michigan

          By the time the ride was done we had ridden 23 miles and I'm not gonna lie; with no rest stops it felt like 100. 

     The Bike To The Bay was a challenge, however, the difference in this ride was I had no choice but to power on because it was survival of the fittest.  If I stopped because I needed a break I would be riding back all alone next to the uncontrolled traffic.

     When we finally made it safely  back to our cars, I felt such a sense of accomplishment; Tom even commented that I was a very strong rider... It's amazing how desperation will do that... But I was convinced all I need to complete even the toughest ride is an emergency buddy and a voice in my head telling me "you can do it" and "CRAZY GIRL, BE CAREFUL!"

Have a great day!!


Friday, June 26, 2015

I made it to the bay, but some of my friends also rode home the next day.

     You've seen many of the photos documenting my long journey to Port Clinton. I shared with you all of the struggles, mishaps, along with the learning lessons for next year, and proof that team work is what it's all about.  But this is the only photo of me in all my sweat and glory after 7 hours of riding:) I think the camera self destructed shortly after...  Above you see one of my fellow frogs,Tom Garey; the one who lead our practice ride a few days before the Bike to the bay.  He also got me through my meltdown when I had the panic attack as I was stranded in the middle of the busy downtown intersection after my chain got suck.

     Some of us finished the ride early enough to take a shower and change into another frog shirt...  I wonder where he got that...

     And then some of us drove our car home and came to Perrysburg nice and fresh on day two to welcome the two day riders back.  I have to say the ride home was a heck of a lot easier for me.  Every time I drove over a hill in my car I thought to myself "dang lucky I'm in a car this time..."

     I loved seeing all of my team in the cute Team Leapfrog jerseys, but by day two most of the jerseys could stand in a corner by themselves; I was perfectly fine to see they were wearing clean ones.  Lucky for me I had the luxury of washing mine so I could wear it again.

     Below you'll see my teammate, Phil Carrol.  75 miles the first day and he's back doing 75 again with the Plus 5 team; all while still embracing his frog heritage.  I'm not sure how that jersey made it two days but I really didn't care.  I was just glad our frogs were hopping back over that finish line again.

     Young and old; the people who came out to support a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, as well as the thousands of others with this crazy disease, is very humbling.  
      The next time any of us think our day couldn't get any worse; We just need to tell ourselves it isn't "ours alone", and with all our great friends... "our day" can always get better!

Have a great weekend!!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I made it to the Bay; just barely!

          After a year of preparing for the Bike To The Bay I knew I had this in the bag.  We had a huge team and we were all raising a lot of money for a really good cause.  I knew I just had to ride for all of my friends who no longer could, and I really felt I was ready.

     However, the best laid plans don't always go off with out a hitch...
  Most importantly, without a doubt, I had to have riding buddies who would be with me through thick and thin and my BFFs Maryann and Dave planned to be with me from start to finish.  If I needed a break, they took a break.
Maryann is on the left and Dave is on the right with their lovely Meghan in the middle.

     Of course I couldn't ride with my brace and nerve zapper so I had to figure out how to get my bionic leg devices to the finish line, making it possible for me to walk freely when I was finished.  I knew I just had to walk very carefully at each rest stop with out them.

     My friend Kelly had her parents, who happen to be one of the team sponsors, take it with them to meet us at the end.  I had that problem solved.

Jim and Kelly Neville; team leapfrog

       Then, when we all showed up at 6:30 AM it was pouring down rain.  A little water wasn't going to stop me; I had to ride!  By 7:30 we were looking at clear skies, so we hit the trail.  

          When we first took off I was really cooking; in fact my friend and general manager of Bob Evans (another team sponsor) Matt, and I were sprinting out ahead of our group in the beginning... until Matt put his battery pack on and was flying like the wind... So Maryann, Dave and I soon became attached at the hips.  


     Those first twenty miles really weren't that bad.  My tunes were playing on my I phone and I was in my zone!  Though my poor riding buddies probably had the song Lean On Me playing in their head for the next three days...  Of course, all of the riders who passed me liked those thirty seconds of jams before they bolted past me. 

      It's true, I had gone twenty miles many times before. But as I rolled into the second rest stop and the clouds opened up again, I wasn't sure how this was all going to end.  There was a subtle fear of my tires slipping on the wet pavement, however, I was on a high and I knew nothing could stop me. 

      Incidentally, this was when I had discovered my cycling glasses were safe and sound in the bag with my bionic leg, waiting for me at the finish line... ugh!  This would have been a great time to wear them...  Later that evening I noticed my eyes looked a little like road maps from the wind in my face.  Next time glasses; a must:)

      By the third rest stop, which was the lunch stop, I began to feel the effects of the constant riding, with the brutal wind in my face taking a real toll on my body, but I didn't think I had room to complain; my friends from team sitting bull were going seventy five miles both days.

       Yes, it was raining and by this point I could feel my leg becoming week, but it wasn't enough to make me quit.

          With all of the crazy things that go on between my brain and my body I have to try my best to improvise; however, the sharp screws on my pedals, which are helpful in keeping my weak leg from falling off, are the same culprits that gauged the back of my calves, causing me to almost bleed out (well, that might be an exaggeration...) when I inadvertently used my pedals to brake... oops... 

     At the time it looked like one small puncture and a chain mark, but when I actually washed all the grease off, this is what I discovered...

     Note to self... stop braking with my calf... :)

     By the last ten miles, my body felt like cement; I have plenty of muscles in my legs, but when my body gets overheated my brain stops telling my nerves to move them, and it feels like riding 54 miles having never trained at all.  

     I began making my own rest stops in between the designated ones.  I was pulling over every two miles to shake the feeling back into my arms and legs.  Before long, each mile took every ounce of strength I had, and I dreaded the next mile ahead of me.  

     But the one thing I feared more than anything, was the huge hill crossing the expressway at the end; I had no idea how I would ever get up it.  All of the strength in my legs was gone, so even walking my bike up was out of the question.

     At one point I began praying for a flat tire so the sag drivers had to haul me in and I wouldn't be a quitter; but no such luck.  

     After I had been riding all day, I could finally see that monstrous hill in the horizon.  I began to feel the fear within me.  But as I took that first half of a turn of the pedal, making my way up, the Police officer standing there directing traffic must have seen the fear in my eyes, because he put his hand on my back and ran with me half way up that hill; and then my buddy Dave pushed me the rest of the way; all while riding his own bike.  See... I knew it would somehow work out:)

     I made it over that finish line, but the only feeling I had left in my body was pain.  Laying flat on my back on the ground was all I could do until my brain and body became friends again.  At that point if you were to ask me about riding next year I would say "ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!"

          But two days later, knowing my crazy body can go back to normal in time... as long as I can, and have a riding buddy who totally gets it, you better believe... I will be back!!

Have a great day!!


Monday, June 22, 2015

We ride with MS.

     For the second year, Team leapfrog leaped across the finish line, and that 54.5 miles I rode took everything I had.  I'm sure I can vouch for the two other team leapfrog riders, Kelly and Robert who also ride with MS.  But we have to prove that anything is possible!
     This is part of team leapfrog.  Last year we had about five pictures of around 7 or 8 team members because we just couldn't round everyone up.  This year we tried extremely hard to get a huge team photo for once.  We all planned to meet at the starting point  at 6:30 and for the most part we were all there.  

     However, we just couldn't get everyone together to take the photo.  Of course, we are frogs, and it was just like trying to get thirty five frogs in a bucket without some of them getting out; so this was the largest group we managed to wrangle up at one time.

      I have a lot of stories of my crazy day, but you'll have to wait until I write it.  For now I'll just say I couldn't have made it without all of my amazing friends who rode for team leap frog; some of them I didn't even know until the ride but I'll never forget them.

     Rob Burkett had his own team in the past.  He was the one who transported our bikes so we could get to a closer starting point, making it possible for us cross the finish line when we only did the 35 mile ride. But unfortunately, he wasn't able to be a team captain this year.  I asked him to join my team, and he must really like us because now he's a leapfrog. 

     I met Mary through Robert and she and her husband Kent joined our team.  Now we're BFFs:)

     My friends Gil and Rene volunteer every year, running  around like chickens with their heads cut off to help things go smoothly.  One day I'll convince them to ride:)
     This is my new BFF Arlene; we met in Dick's sporting goods last summer.  Ironically, we were both looking for pink sox (imagine that!) and I talked her ear off; now she's on my team.  She was also a godsend when my crazy leg was totally dead at the end.

     Then of course, there's Fred; first he lets me monopolize his show, and then he put me in my place every time I whined about being dead and dreading the ten miles until the next rest stop.  I believe his exact words were "quit your whining and ride"... and I did...

     And who could forget my twin bro Reeves, from team Sitting Bull, who rode 75 miles both days and would do it a million times over just because he really cares.

     I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have so many amazing friends to help me on my mission.  And to think it all started with that one simple question... "Why can't you ride??"

Oh... I was also interviewed by Kelly Heidbreder from ABC news the morning of the ride:)

Click Interview to see it!

Have a great day!!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Time to start begging:) The Bike To The Bay is tomorrow! Please help me!

     I don't want to sound like I'm begging...but with the Bike to the bay being tomorrow, I guess I am... If you read my post from my blog on Wednesday about my bike breaking down in the busy downtown intersection, leaving me feeling stranded; that was my aha moment that this ride isn't about riding, but busting my butt to raise money to make this monster I've been living with for 30 years, finally go away.  If I have to ride 54 miles to do it then I will!!

      Many of my friends have it so much worse than me, so I don't feel like I have a lot of room to complain.  However, what I do have room for is using my words to raise money to reverse the damage in the hopes that one day we'll all get our old lives back. 

     Right now, with all the research done from donations, not only have they slowed MS down immensely, but they are so close to finding a way to actually repair the myelin that was damaged, which robbed so many people of the life they used to have.

     I am fully aware that I can do anything I put my mind to; the only difference is I may have to find an alternate way to do it. 


     But giving up is one thing I refuse to do; and with the help of my over 35 teammates and all of my great family and friends I know there is a way.

     It's true, there are so many very worthy causes out there and I totally understand if you have others to support, but if you want to donate even 5 dollars to help us it would mean the world to me, as well as all of our friends and family who desperately need a cure.

To donate you can scroll up to the top of this blog and click on "Bike to the bay". (Team Leapfrog)

Thank you so much!!

Oh, this morning (Friday) I'll be back  (or was) on Fred Lefevbre's radio show(1370 WSPD)  at 7:15 AM; Take a listen:)

Click here for Fred's radio show pod cast.

See you after the ride!!



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If you think you don't need help; your wrong!

          Last Sunday we had a fundraiser in the parking lot of the Black Kite Coffee shop, in the Old West End.  They were calling for super high temps, humidity and rain showers on and off all day.  

     Robert, my riding buddy who is also on Team Leapfrog, set up a couple of bike rides for anyone who wanted to get a good practice ride in before the fundraiser. 

     Of course, Robert was planning on leading the long route, which was about 28 miles, and Tom (another Leapfrog rider) would lead the 12 mile ride.  Being it started in the Old West End I had to figure that meant a ride through downtown Toledo to the Green Belt Parkway trail.  The people doing the long route would ride to Maumee Bay State Park.  Being as hot and humid as it was, and then the threat of rain... I chose the "safe" 12 mile route.

     Downtown Toledo isn't my favorite place to ride; if you remember, I had my first melt down when I rode my new road bike through those crazy busy streets and almost had a run in with a truck.  But I've since learned to make safe choices so I wouldn't find myself pinned under an eighteen wheeler.
       Now I always insist we start on the other side of downtown and away from the heavy traffic.  And of course I always have a spotter so I can prepare to down shift if we have to come to a stop; so my weak leg would be able to turn the pedals when we took off again.

     Remember when I rode the Green Belt last year and I had to turn this sharp corner going up hill?  Before I knew about the shifting gears thing... and in the highest gear my right leg couldn't turn the pedal anymore, so rather than wipe out, I bailed...

     Some might say I chickened out, but in my mind I knew it was the grass or the pavement and I chose the safer of the two.

      Tom was great at guiding us through downtown, reminding us it was just a ride, not a race (where have I heard that before...).  Mind you, I had never met some of these riders before, and the rest I had't known for very long; at least not long enough for them to know all of my hidden challenges. Only those who know me best really do. 

     At that point I had to let the other riders know that I have to do the buddy system when I ride.  I don't just start and stop;  I need a spotter and I also need to stay right on top of them, so when they say clear I don't happen to be a block away and barrel through a red light.

          The Green belt is a cool trail; going under the freeway, then across as well as along the river and of course riding through International park is amazing.  

         When we finally made it to international park unscathed I knew I was home free.  However I still had to make my way back through down town again; ugh...

     We had finally gone ten miles and I knew the hard part was over. Though I could feel the fatigue in my body from the humidity and ten miles of riding, but I could surely make it two more miles and then I could cool off inside and be back to normal (at least, my normal).

     However, I was in the middle of the pack and crossing a busy intersection (Jackson and Speilbush to be exact) when my chain popped off and wedged its self between the small ring and the bike frame. I had no choice but to stop dead in my tracks; right in the middle of the intersection.  Now, for an average person you would jump off the bike and run to the other side while dragging the bike along side of you.

     Being I'm not the average person, I had a body that wasn't moving and a bike that wasn't either. I think the other riders were puzzled by my lack of urgency to get my foolish little self out of the intersection. But I had sunglasses on, and what they couldn't see was the absolute look of terror in my eyes.  A couple of them rushed out and grabbed my bike as one of the ladies asked me if I wanted to lean on her as she noticed my leg was almost worthless.  I couldn't even answer her because I couldn't breathe. I was actually experiencing my first time ever, panic attack.  I had heard about people having them, but I had no idea what they felt like... now I know...

     One of the riders fixed my chain and we all rode the last two miles, though I was trembling in silence.  Of course I survived this ordeal, but not without experiencing my now second meltdown.  Interesting that they both happened after a ride through downtown Toledo... maybe I need to quit doing that; but you know they say you have to face fear head on... or not...

     We finally got to the Black Kite where they had a few musicians entertaining the crowd.  I asked one of the young men playing if he could play the song "Lean On Me" because it's a song that holds very special meaning to me; to which of course he did:)  

     I might be very strong willed and refuse to give up for anything, but this ride confirmed two things... the first being: people can't help you if you don't let them know your weaknesses... and second... if you think you can do it all alone... You're wrong:)

*Listen to me on Fred Lefevbre's radio show this Friday morning at 7:15 AM, 1370 WSPD AM radio :)

Have a great day!!