My friend David Oliver, Ph.D. took on a 71 mile bike ride from Sedalia to Jefferson City as part of the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride. The Breakthrough Ride began in San Francisco on July 17 and will end in Washington DC on World Alzheimer’s Day, September 21. More than 55 researchers plan to collect 100,000 signatures to present to Congress urging them to make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority.
David wrote about his experience and I’d like to share part of it with you.
David Oliver wrote:
On the eve of the big Alzheimer’s Breakthrough bike ride, I was sequestered with my fellow riders, John Cirrito and Jess Resvito from Washington University, and Ben Timson, from Missouri State University, at the Comfort Inn in Sedalia. Since I hang out at the University of Missouri (in Columbia), we had most of the state covered. I think all of us were excited and a bit nervous, at least I was.
Most likely the oldest and least experienced breakthrough rider, I wondered if my amateurish training had been sufficient to see me through the day. My longest attempts had been 42 and 35 mile outings on the KATY trail, a scenic but flat abandoned railroad path converted to one of the most magnificent Missouri State Parks stretching across the state for more than 200 miles from Clinton to St. Charles, Missouri. Little did I know that riding on the asphalt and concrete back roads of Missouri would in no way be similar to the hardened chat and rock floor of the KATY. Nevertheless, short rides on this and extended street routes to work and back constituted my preparation. My trusty TREK bike with hybrid wheels was going to be another factor that I had not put into the mix. Perhaps I should have trained with more experienced riders; no one this day had tires the size of mine. These were my thoughts as we were taken to the start point on the northern fringe of Sedalia on county road HH.
Within the first two miles, and for the rest of the day, John, Jess, and Ben, easily outdistanced me. Mel’s van became their support vehicle, and Glen’s mine. I caught up at all the rest stops and lunch so we did bond and I felt very much connected to them, but Glen was my companion and life line; having him following along with a yellow light circling atop his van was a buffer from traffic and allowed me to take in the countryside and enjoy the peaceful sojourn beside and along endless soybean and cornfields.
I was particularly good at “calling cows.” I think my mooing imitation turned them on as they raised their heads in anticipation that I might stop. Dogs were less predictable. Some would wag their tails, others would charge toward me until they felt thwarted by Glen’s “caboose” close behind me. I enjoyed speaking with farmers along the way, one who urged me to stop and help him with fence repair, and another who wanted to know our cause giving a thumbs up when I yelled, “All for Alzheimer’s research!” In Prairie Home we pedaled by a perfect replica of the “Field of Dreams” baseball field surrounded by cornstalks on all sides. At lunch we all talked about it, but none of us had stopped for a photo opportunity, a real loss. My first of two flat tires occurred soon after. Glen was outstanding repairing both in less than ten minutes, what a gift to know these cycling machines so well. I must admit that repairing the first flat gave me some needed rest as well as the strength to carry on to lunch in Jamestown, Missouri.
The last five miles, were however, grueling. Hill, hills, and more hills! One of my knees began to throb and I begin to worry about a blown knee, torn ligaments, and an emergency room. Glen and I had dropped pretty far behind at this point, and spent a good five minutes deciding which way to turn at Hwy 179 and County Road Z. The debate allowed my knee to sufficiently recover, but I asked Glen to drive me up three of the remaining four giant hills. I felt no guilt as I coasted down the other side of them and ultimately joined the others just short of reaching our destination. So while I didn’t complete the full 71-72 miles, I did go 68-69 of them; ironically numbers that match my age. Within view of the Fairfield Inn in Jefferson City, all four of us entered the parking lot side-by-side; the Four Musketeers. Like at the end of the three New York City marathons that I have run, I felt a few tears slide down my face. No one saw me, but I was not ashamed.
Follow the progress of Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride at www.alz.org.
Copyright © September 2010 L. S. Fisher/David Oliver