Kevin Byrne: The Never Ending Battle
In the summer of 2011, I had been living with MS for 12 years. Wow, how time flies! Quite a lot had happened in my life since my diagnosis. Ups, downs, and just plain sideways at times. But in 2011 I was strong; probably the healthiest I have been since diagnosis. I climbed Mt. Rainier and ran a tough 10k ‘mud run’ obstacle course before my MS reared its ugly head with a subtle, yet significant, signal: my balance. I fell and broke my leg while roller skating. Yes, I said roller skating…
Daily life really starts to take its toll when MS becomes such a burden. For me, the loss of all that physical progress was crushing. I spent every last ounce of energy to get through all the doctors, medications, pain, frustration, and trying to start some rehabilitation. Through all this I tried desperately to reduce the impact my disease had on my family, friends and my job. For Brie, MS turned her from a mom raising a 1-year along old with her supportive husband to a overwhelmed working mother and caregiver.
The funniest part (funny?) is that all of these MS related issues (balance, medication and reactions, appointments and testing) made for one horrendous year without even one noticeable MS attack! Every day my body is fighting the damage MS has already done and the attempts to hold off further disease progression. Someday soon there will be better, safer and more reliable treatment options. Today, this is the best available.
Riding and training were the keys to my physical recovery. Support and motivation from my family and friends were the keys to hanging in there emotionally. The only way I was going to recover and rebuild was by living my mantra: Never Stop…Never Quit… Sporting my snazzy bright yellow trike, my goal was to do that in style! My target was, of course, to ride the full 153-mile event this year. The hills would be the deciding factor; or should I say my legs on the hills would be the deciding factor!
I was slowly getting healthy again with just a few months left to train. Training was intense for a while. Hills on a recumbent are the equivalent of towing a sea anchor!
My first true test was July 14th and 15th. My brother, Tyson, and I rode STP (Seattle-to-Portland). That’s a 205-mile ride, but a little less grueling due to a pretty flat route. 113 miles in Day 1 was a success! I made it to our overnight rest-stop in one piece, albeit a little sore. Rest, recovery, and just a little bit of celebrating our success gave me enough energy to roll back into Portland on Day 2.
That was good but I needed more, so I kept training. After a year of broken bones, surgeries, infections, and the never-ending onslaught of new medications and treatments I had just one question as BikeMS neared. How far can my body go? My training had been focused on just that, rebuilding the strength and endurance in my legs. That new titanium rod may make my leg stronger but my muscles weren’t quite the same as they were as when I climbed Mt. Rainier a year earlier. So building the strength, speed and endurance needed had been my goal. Weakened muscles from lack of use were compounded by the need to train a whole new set of muscle groups; riding a recumbent trike is way different than any other experience riding.
Pushing Limits in BikeMS
How far could my body go? Well, on a recumbent trike in 103⁰ heat my body went exactly 81.4 miles before it said “no more”. My left thigh and my right knee finally wore out. Both are victims of MS related surgeries and muscle/nerve damage over the years. I stayed hydrated and fully lathered in suntan lotion, but my legs were just not strong enough. That day all I could muster was 81.4 miles. After being picked up I sat on the SAG Wagon (support and gear) with other riders and pondered how I was going to do more next time!
By the way, yes. I did say 103⁰ heat. Brutal heat is an understatement. The last thing that any rider ever wants is a strong headwind but there were a few times I would have paid good money for cool air blowing across me. Any air, for that matter. I’m not sure how hot it reached down low to the asphalt on my trike but at one point I looked over and watched my odometer screen crack as it warped in the sun! It was hot. I was happy to make it back, kiss my wife and daughter and get some ice on my knee!
BikeMS 2012 ended on August 5th. By the end of the month I was in physical therapy, working on building the strength, flexibility, mobility and balance that I have lost after years of MS. I almost forgot how much rehab hurts, but less than a month into it and I already notice improvement. As I start to think about 2013 all of my targets are Further, Stronger and Faster!
This is now….
It will never stop…nor will we
Please visit Kevin’s website at www.brieandkevin.com
Date posted: September 2012