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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reflections of my life of cycling after eight years of riding

Reflections of my life of cycling after eight years of riding
By:  Michael Lander

The FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 bike ride was what got me
to start riding in 2007.  I have done eleven of these since
then and have found many more reasons to love riding
a bike from that time on.

After a 27-year hiatus, I returned to riding a bicycle once again a little over eight years ago.

I rode a lot as a child and, to a lesser degree, I continued to ride as a teenager, but after enlisting in the Air Force, I stopped and I did not return to it until I was within three years of retiring from an active duty military career that spanned a little over 28 years.

Eight years may not be a long time of riding, when compared to those who have spent a lifetime on a bicycle, but I have learned and experienced much in this very short period of time, and I have enjoyed reaching many of the goals that I have set for myself and sharing my journey and thoughts about cycling with others, and promoting something that I have really come to love.

I started back riding when I heard about a two-day, 150-mile bike ride for the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society in 2007.  My brother-in-law had done it the year before and the idea of doing such a ride seemed both exciting and challenging and I wanted to see if I could do it, too.

My brother-in-law, Steve Dodd (who is also known as Santa
Steve) is the one who got me interested in riding and doing
the MS-150 bike rides in 2007.  We have done many of
these rides together, both in Memphis and in Ohio.

Of course, the ride took on more significance for me when I actually met people who had MS and, after that, it was no longer just a bike ride, but it became a cause that I felt even more compelled to support by making others aware of it by riding.

Fast-forward to today, and on 12 and 13 September 2015, I completed my eleventh 150-mile bike ride for the MS Society.  I have done seven of these rides in Memphis and four in Ohio and, thus far, I’ve raised a total of $6,887.75.

From that first MS-150 bike ride until today, my motivation to ride has been to support charitable organizations that have included not only the MS Society, but also the
American Cancer Society, the Wounded Warriors, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
 
Along the way, I have also found many other reasons to ride, like just for the pure enjoyment of it, to remain physically fit, to get around, and to do something that can allow me some quiet time alone.  It can also be something that I can have fun doing with others.

Ascending "The Wall" may be one of the biggest challenges
for cyclists during the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.  The
volunteers who work the rest stops and who greet you at
the top of "The Wall" and at the finish lines are what
makes this ride as great as it is.

Throughout all this, I have learned more about myself and my body than almost anything else that I have ever done before.  I have also found out what my limitations are, I discovered just how much pain and discomfort that I can actually tolerate, and what works and what doesn’t work for me.

The biggest reward of all for me has been sharing with others what I’ve experienced and learned about cycling and helping to get others out and riding, themselves.

To stay at it, I have continually set new goals for myself.  My first one was to do
my first 150-mile bike ride and to climb “The Wall” for the MS Society, and I did that on 8-9 September 2007.
 
My second goal was to do a century (100 mile) ride, which I did during a MS-150 ride in Ohio on 14 August 2011.  I wanted to do even more than just a century and I did just that when I rode 140 miles in a 24-hour period during the 2014 St. Jude Bike Ride on 26-27 September 2014.

Charitable bike rides, like the MS-150's, are just one of many
reasons why I ride, but they are one of the most rewarding
since they raise awareness and much-need money for
causes that I care about most.

After that, I aimed for my biggest goal yet and on 23 August 2015 I officially reached it by riding 24,901.55 miles, which happens to be the same distance as the circumference of the earth (at the equator).  It only took me eight years and five months to accomplish that feat.

As happy as I have been with what I have been able to do, my cycling hasn’t necessarily always been an easy thing for me to do.  I have battled neck and back problems (bulging discs and all) and arthritis in my right knee, but I have never let this stop me and I never will.  The feeling that I get after a good, hard ride greatly exceeds any pain and discomfort that I might have throughout it.

On 15 September 2013,
I did suffer a serious injury when I fell from my bike, dislocating and shattering my left elbow.  I ended up having to have surgery and having my elbow replaced and tendons reattached, along with over three months of physical therapy.  But as bad as that was, it was the goal of returning to riding that got me through all this and, on 11 January 2014, I was back to riding again.  Since then (and as of 15 September 2015), I have ridden 6,406.34 miles.

Setting new goals, like finishing a long-distance bike ride, have
been a big part of my experience in cycling over the last
eight years.  Sharing everything that I learn from
bicycling, and promoting the benefits of it, is as
important to me as what I personally get out of it, myself.

Since I took up cycling eight years ago, I have created a
cycling website as a way to give back to the Memphis community, and I created a cycling blog to provide more in-depth stories and articles that I hope will both help and inspire others to ride.
 
In reflecting over the past eight years, I absolutely have no regrets about the road that I have traveled, and I can’t think of a better way to move forward toward the future than on my bicycle.

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