I signed my boyfriend Tom and myself up for the 2014 Orlando Ride Ataxia. This year’s event raised over $130,000 on November 2nd (a chilly day for Floridians, indeed) for FARA, tripling last year’s total! Before this November’s ride, I had volunteered at the 2011 and 2012 Ride Ataxia Orlando, but this Ride was the first time I actually donned a helmet and pedaled for my life, literally.
On my first true ride I attempted the four-mile course. I say “attempted” because I did just that—I didn’t get a chance to finish the route for a variety of reasons, but I’m thankful for trying and failing than to have never tried in the first place. As with scientific research, it’s important to trust in the process. I will attempt more Ride Ataxia’s, and I will very likely fail to complete more courses; however, I will ride further every single time, and I will eventually finish. It’s not important to finish the race every time—it’s important to learn how to finish the race. When the race for a cure is finished, I know that the doctors affiliated with FARA will have learned to finish the race and that the cure or treatment developed will have so much fidelity due to the uncountable hours put into the pursuit, and that it will be worth the wait, just like it’s worth the struggle, pain, endurance, and sweat to learn how to finish my own race.
I was very excited to get in motion using a Catrike; I rented the recumbent trike from Wheel Works for the ride, and had been talking about it endlessly for weeks—to my students, to my parents, to my boyfriend, to my boyfriend’s parents, to name a few. I imagined that it would be fairly simple to lock in my fancy bike shoes and speed off around the lake, but upon getting strapped in and ready to go, I found out that I was terribly mistaken. My only other experience with a trike was riding one around the parking lot of the Winter Park factory last March, at the annual Catrike ride and factory tour in March. It turns out that my legs are a bit too short for the average Catrike, and my weak motor skills and poor coordination made it hard to keep my legs from banging the gears and handle bars. I was only on the path for about a mile when I realized that it shouldn’t be this hard and something was wrong, so Tom and I turned around and headed back to the finish line. Even though I did not ride all four miles, I still blushed with pride when members of the awesome FAmily clapped, congratulated me, and cheered me on as I crossed the finish line. I rode over to Dennis, the owner of Wheel Works, and he adjusted the pedals to fit my short legs. Now I was able to cruise the Lake, take in the beautiful scenery, and not be tethered to my walker! I was so thankful to be moving by pedaling, and although I did not travel far, I’m exhilarated that the distance gained was done so by my own power and determination. I understand why FAers love riding trikes, and the joy and pride of knowing that thousands of people are working, volunteering, and doing everything in their power to help me walk again is beyond humbling.
Each drug that FARA puts out for clinical trials might be a race that doesn’t finish, but it’s part of the process that will inevitably lead to a cure that does finish that race. Until then, count me in for future Ride Ataxias in Florida!