Shooting Beyond the Goal Into New Territory

I could hardly move my legs forward while walking, but yet I could go round and around on the pedals of the bicycle. Sometimes what you can and cannot do at any particular moment because of MS makes little sense.

Last month, I took a big plunge and purchased a hybrid bicycle. I had not owned a bike since I moved from Indiana to Virginia 18 years ago. And the last bike I had was an inexpensive one purchased at Target, if I remember correctly. I think I gave it away to another music student at Indiana University before I left school.

I literally had not been on an actual bike in 18 years and me ‘testing’ bikes was likely entertaining to observe. Fortunately my husband was on hand to help me out and also give the bikes a spin. What I ended up with was a bike that has bigger wheels (better for balance, I think), front suspension shock absorber (easier on the joints), 24 speeds (plenty of low gears to help with the hilly terrain of Northern Virginia), and a bell.

I’ve outfitted myself with a pretty blue helmet, gel padded gloves, blinky lights, and a bike lock mounted on the bike. I also got some bike shorts with padding in the rump that helps to cushion the saddle area nicely. I’m probably too cute when I’m finally geared up and ready to go.

At first I just rode around the neighborhood and quickly learned that I live in a hilly area. Then my husband took me out onto the W&OD (Washington and Old Dominion) bike path which is one of many rails-to-trails bike paths in the country. That first ride was about 5 miles roundtrip and we stopped a few times to rest. The next day I went out by myself and rode for 7.5 miles.

This past Saturday I passed a huge milestone. I flew past 100 miles on my new bike to put a total of 110 miles on it since I bought it last month. Each significant trip out seems to be a little longer than the last. But on Saturday we went much farther than my husband and I had planned. I was having so much fun that I wasn’t thinking about what it would take to get home. All told, we traveled 22.5 miles on Saturday by bike over the course of the day.

Fortunately, I am married to a patient man who was willing to wait for me to catch my breath and rest my legs when need be. Coming home there were a number of steep climbs (which were a blast to coast down on the trip outbound) that required I get off my bike and walk.

As we slowly got closer and closer to home, those hills felt steeper and steeper. And walking up them emphasized that my legs were practically done for. Thwap, thwap, thwap went the flatfooted duck feet and is my version of impending foot drop. My husband, who waited at the top of every steep climb, came quickly down to take my bike from me. Funny though, holding onto the bike and walking it was helping me to concentrate on lifting my legs enough to clear the grass alongside the path.

We stopped to rest at several points to allow ‘some’ feeling to return to my legs. Full sensation didn’t return until hours later. We even made a very long stop at the frozen yogurt place to treat ourselves and cool off. At each stop, I kept thinking to myself, “If I aim for such-and-such location, I know I can make it that far.”

The final resting stop was at a local elementary school. It was there that I decided that I couldn’t make it all the way home although we were probably only a half mile away. Rob continued home, got the car, and came back to the school. I drove the car home while he rode my bike home. He brought everything into the house while I slowly climbed the stairs, carefully, one at a time.

I was exhausted, but not outrageously so. I even managed a quick shower. I slept 12-13 hours that night and felt sore the next day. But I’m amazed that I was able to continue on the bike when my walking legs were obviously beyond fatigued. So odd how MS can affect one set of muscles more than another. Apparently my biking muscles are stronger than my walking muscles.

Two weeks ago if someone had said, “you will ride more than 20 miles in one day soon,” I would have said they were crazy. No way. I’d never ridden that far in my life. Ever. Not even on the indoor exercise bike.

But there I did it!! And I’m already planning how to work up to 30 miles before the end of the summer. Hopefully the weather will stay cool enough for that to happen. I’m tracking my adventures on Facebook with #lisalearnstoride and you are welcome to follow along.

So never count yourself out and think that you “can’t” do something. You will often surprise yourself if you just try.

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