I was diagnosed with RRMS in January of 1999 at the age of 48. I had noticed various symptoms for the previous 9 years ranging from foot drop, numbness, and vision changes, to balance issues, but the thing that drove me to find out what was going on was the paralyzing fatigue. I spent the next three years trying to get my mind wrapped around the diagnosis of MS, a disease which the wife of a very good friend of mine had passed away from just a few years earlier. Eventually, the worry wore me out and I decided to just get on with living.
Through out my life I had generally managed to stay active. Although I have never been a swimmer and now running was becoming more and more difficult, I eventually discovered that riding the spin cycles at the club was doable. That prompted me to dust off an old mountain bike I had and start riding outside. The bike took my mind off of the MS because there were so many other things to think about like where I was, where I was going, how far, how fast, the rain, the wind and the traffic and of course the scenery and whatever chaos might be going on around me. It was an exhilarating opportunity to experience life again and I fell in love with it almost immediately.
I attempted my first MS 150 in 2005. I was only marginally successful. I sagged and short cut my way to the end and still barely made it. I felt my effort was so miserable that I didn’t even attempt the ride in 2006 but I did step up my training on the bike. I successfully completed the MS 150 in 2007 and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life, but I decided then that I would do this ride every year until I couldn’t do it anymore.
In 2008 I noticed that my time on the first day of the MS 150 seemed to improve and by quite a bit and I began to see that the bike riding was actually helping me overcome some of the MS damage, so I started to pay more attention to that aspect of riding. I began to notice positive changes in fatigue levels and strength. I found things I had not been able to do at all in previous years that I could at least do to a moderate extent. I stepped up my training again in 2009 and again improved my first day saddle time in the MS 150. I decided to step out and try some longer, harder rides.
In 2010 in honor of our 60th birthdays, a friend and I did the “Ride the Rockies”, 7 straight days, 532 miles, 27,000 feet of ascent. Although I took one of the recovery days off to visit some old friends, I DID climb ALL 6 of the mountain passes the ride covered. The MS 150 that year was relatively easy for me and again I improved my first day saddle time.
At the end of 2010 I had a brief relapse that I felt was brought on by an MS drug that I tried. I spent the first part of 2011 getting through the damage from that relapse. In spite of it though, I signed up for the MS 150 including the 2nd day century. I also signed up for the “Triple Bypass”, a single day, 123-mile ride with 10,000 ft. of ascent. Again I improved my time on the first day of the 150 even if only by 7 minutes and I didn’t have any problems on the 2nd day century either, except maybe a little with the heat toward the very end. Unfortunately, I failed miserably on the “Triple Bypass” though. I did several other rides with varying degrees of success that year too and I took the liberty of blaming my failures on the relapse I’d had late in 2010 and my successes on my training. I decided to repeat most of the rides that I did that year again in 2012 to see if I could improve my success rate.
Although the “Triple” would only constitute a relatively hard training ride for a pro, there is a good chance that it might be more than I am capable of, but whether or not I complete it is not really the point any more. The real point of these rides is the training they encourage me to do. I know how lucky I am to be able to ride at all because I know so many who can’t.
Over the years I’ve seen how beneficial the training has been for my MS, I believe there is more at work here than simple strengthening of atrophied muscles. And, of course, the various rides with fabulous scenery and multiple opportunities to make new friends, provides more incentive for me to concentrate on that training. Sometimes it is a difficult concept to explain to a more competitive rider, but although I appreciate being able to complete the rides I sign up for and I thoroughly enjoy seeing the improvement in my riding abilities, it’s really all about the training and the tremendously beneficial effect it has on the MS.
Beth is from Albuquerque, NM and was just recently diagnosed with MS. She keeps up to date on a blog to document her journey: www.milesandtrials.com.
You can also find Beth on Twitter: @MilesAndTrials
I also want to say CONGRATS to my most recent Active MSer feature Jill Walsh, who recently finished Ironman Lake Placid; Jill, You Are An Ironman!
Here is Beth’s story, in her words.
I have been a fan of yours since I saw you do so well at Boulder 70.3 last summer as I was there to cheer my husband on. It was with great delight when I saw your personal interest in supporting the MS community, as I have been recently diagnosed.
My MS story started about a year ago, first with some leg tingling that I would feel after a long run (I was training for a marathon at the time), then an electric shock feeling in my rib cage, and fatigue is pretty much a constant in my life. The tingling and numbness in my feet and legs got gradually worse in the Fall of 2011 and finally got my attention enough to get it checked out. I thought it was simply a pinched nerve or something like that, but test after test later, I got the disturbing news that I have MS.
That was in March of this year. I am still adjusting to the news, but one of the first things I did was research athletes that have MS. I have been a runner for a few years and fallen in love with running marathons, so I was hopeful that I would not have to give this passion up. I was pleased to find many runners and triathletes who have MS that continue to train and even do amazing things like run marathons and do Ironmans! I plan on continuing to run marathons, do the New Mexico MS 150 bike ride this summer, and possibly even do some triathlons.
I decided to start a blog (www.milesandtrials.com) to document my journey of trying to stay in shape while dealing with what MS might throw my way. I hope that I can inspire others to not be deterred by this diagnosis and to keep moving, or start moving their bodies, because exercise is shown to be so helpful in dealing with MS. I just completed my fifth marathon, my first one post MS diagnosis (PMS, as I like to call it!). It was my fastest marathon so far, and I even qualified for the Boston Marathon. I hope and pray that I can stay healthy enough to have many more marathons and triathlons in my future. Thank you for your commitment to MS awareness and fundraising.
Keep it up Beth, and thank you for submitting your story!
And let’s keep the donations coming! Ironman Hawaii is in just 3 months, and we’re almost halfway to my goal of $10,000 via MS Can Do. Please consider a donation,
none is too small!
Thanks for reading,
Jill Walsh, Active MSer, is in the process of training for Ironman Lake Placid.
Here is her story, in her words.
Please consider a donation to my Can Do MS Fund, which culminates in my Ironman World Championship race on October 13, 2012. Help support all of those living, training, and competing with Multiple Sclerosis. My goal is $10,000 and we are almost halfway there! Every bit helps!
Best of luck to Jill on July 22nd; soon, you will hear “Jill, You Are an Ironman!”
As I started to write my story, I realized it was going in an unexpected direction.
Here it is.
I have been physically active my whole life. A year and a half ago I was 48 years old, still playing soccer twice a week, running most other days, and training for my first ½ Ironman. I started to suffer from vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues. I thought it was due to overtraining.
Fast forward to today, and I still have bouts with vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues, and have added foot drop and left arm weakness to my growing collection of issues I am learning to navigate with.
I have M.S., and am training for Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2012—just a few weeks from now. All I can think about is, “When is I all of this training going to be over? I’m tired”. But when I start to reflect on my M.S. Ironman journey, I realize it’s not really about me; it’s a lot more than that. Regardless of what reads after my name in the race results: a time or DNF (but hopefully not a DNF), my journey has taken a village—my village.
My husband should be sainted, and my three teen-aged kids should be rewarded for being abandoned for my training schedule. Hopefully, there will be, “Go Mom,” posters along the course.
My coach, Brandi (an Ironman, herself), who would say—no matter how much I whined, “It’s supposed to be hard. You will be an Ironman!”
My physician, John (also an Ironman), thinks it might have been foolish for me to have entered, said that if it is what I want to do, he will help me any way he can to get to the finish line. He did have to add, “But the run it won’t be pretty”. Ugh.
The brace maker Jim, he is my new BFF. He has been very patient and helpful through the many adjustments to my two braces. I now have a magic biking shoe and a magic running shoe! Both braces are working well to keep my foot where it was meant to be, regardless of M.S.’ opinion on the matter! He is looking forward to hearing about my Ironman experience with his artwork.
Jeremy, the bike shop guy: After I told him I didn’t have enough strength in my left hand to safely brake, he found and installed a part that allows me to now brake both wheels using only my right hand – it took a few patient adjustments.
My favorite running shoe store (Fleet Feet!): Can’t say enough good things about all those guys! This shoe, that shoe, mismatched sizes to fit my brace (Yes, you can buy mismatched pairs).
All my old friends and new training partners: Well, I will start to cry if I go into how that have helped, encouraged, and supported me along this journey.
Yup, it takes a village. We all belong to one, and I am glad. Now my hope is – after what I know will be a long day for me—to hear the voice of Mike Riley: “Jill, you are an Ironman!”