Last month (about 2 weeks ago) the hubby and I drove down to Andover, MA for the Run for Our Troops 5K. Participating in the 5K was part of the “package” of receiving my handcycle.  Through a series of snafu’s and miscommunication, I actually didn’t receive my handcycle until about 36 hours before the race when I met Suzanne Nobile at Schneider Electric.  It was through the generosity of Schneider Electric and their sponsorship that made it possible for me to get the Lasher ATH.  I’ll tell ya what, it was quite the experience!  But let’s back up and start at the beginning… The lunch at Schneider Electric.

Lunch at Schneider Electric

There were two awardees of hand cycles this year – myself and a male Veteran.  That other Veteran was CSM Kevin Bittenbender (who oddly enough knew my sister Andrea Mayo from her biathlon days!  He coaches the para-biathlon team!!) I met Kevin at the lunch hosted by Schneider Electric.  We both had the opportunity to say our thanks and tour the facility (which was pretty freakin amazing). The Top End hand cycle is Kevin’s and blue one is my Lasher.  The difference between the two is that Kevin’s is made for racing and mine is for trail rides. (A big THANK YOU to Marty at Fit Werx for being the go between with Lasher and putting my bike together!)

At the lunch is the first time that I’ve seen my bike. It was pretty awesome. Suzanne was so welcoming and incredibly gracious.  As I mentioned earlier, part of the experience was participating in the Run for our Troops 5K.  Both Kevin and I raced under the Schneider Electric team.  There were about 60 folks that participated. In total however, there were more than 4,000 people who ran/walked in the 5K to help raise money for Homes for Our Troops.

After the lunch there wasn’t much time to break in the bike or make any adjustments needed. Later that evening (20 April 2018) was the gala to raise money for Homes for our Troops. I had enough time between the lunch and the dinner to go back to the hotel and take a nap to make sure I could make it through the gala.

Meeting Suzanne Nobile and seeing my bike for the first time
Saying my thanks during the lunch at Schneider Electric
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Sitting in my handcycle for the very first time
Part of the Schneider Electric team participating in the 5K

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The brochure/pamphlet at the gala

The Gala & Breaking in my Bike

The fundraising dinner/gala was a huge success. It was an honor to be a part of the proceedings.  There was a silent auction, some amazing live music, a delicious buffet dinner, testimonials from previous recipients of adaptive homes built by Homes for our Troops…and a special tribute to the race’s organizer Bill Pennington whose mother had passed away just days prior to the event.  It was definitely an emotional evening to say the least. I was able to let people know that when they donate to organizations like The Homeland Heroes Foundation or Homes for our Troops, that there are real people on the receiving end of their kindness.  And while it may not seem like much to them, for someone like me, who has gained the ability to be active again despite my Myasthenia Gravis, it means the world.

On Saturday, I was finally able to get some “road” time on the bike and make the adjustments I needed.  I did a trial course run with Kevin as well.  It was then we discovered that I was going to need a bit of support from the hubby to make it up some of those crazy hills.

Me with CSM Bittenbender and Julie Weymouth of The Homeland Heroes Foundation

Tribute to Bill’s mom on the big screen during the gala

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Race day

And then it was Sunday, 22 April 2018.  Race day. I was excited, nervous, paranoid that my health would tank.  I was trying to make sure to conserve my energy while talking to everyone I wanted to say hi to and thank. Trying to keep my excitement at bay so that I didn’t go too fast at the start.  Well, I failed at that last part.  My paranoia with not wanting to be in anyone’s way made me start off too fast.  One of the things that I’ve learned about exercising with my MG is that I need to keep my heart rate under 100. If it gets elevated more than that for a prolonged period of time, my bulbar symptoms start acting up and my ability to take deep breaths is affected.  Despite this set back, I managed to finish the race, in no small part thanks to my amazing husband.  Before the race, we attached one of my forearm crutches to the back of my bike and put an orange cone on the top (I didn’t have a flag for the back of the bike.. remember I’d only gotten it 36 hours prior to the race!  I had to borrow a helmet from Kevin too!)  We used my crutch as a fulcrum.  When there was an incline that I was struggling to go up, my hubby would use that to help push me up the hill while he was running beside me.  Suzanne also helped give me that little nudge during some of the smaller inclines so that hubby could get a little respite.  When I say it was a joint effort that allowed me to finish the truly was a TEAM effort.

At the end of the race I was having trouble talking and catching my breath (thanks MG). And in the picture below you can see my droopy eye and half smile – believe it or not, I was trying really hard to smile BIG…that was the best I could muster. But ya know what?  I did it.

At the starting line with CSM Kevin Bittenbender
Crossing the finish line on my own power. I finished in just under 40 minutes
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My race bib and race completion medal
My husband, Justin, and I after the race.
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Post 5k, with my MG face

The 5k was one of the hardest things I’ve done since my medical retirement from the Army. I learned a lot about how far I can push myself. I learned that I CAN be active despite the disabilities that have kept me sedentary. And it was reaffirmed that my husband is freaking amazing.  I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without him and his support. As a result of all the things we learned from the 5K (and with the blessing of my neurologist) he is crafting a strength training program to help me be a healthier and better me.  He’s working towards pursuing his own dreams of being a personal trainer, and right now I’m the guinea pig.

Part of being an artist is following your heart, right?  I want to be around to continue to pursue my passion for a long, long time.  Part of that, is making sure I’m taking care of ME.  Whole body care and nurturing is just as important as feeding our creativity.  That’s why I talk about things other than art.  Whether we realize it or not, we cannot do one without the other.  They’re all related.  The strength training will help me have more good days than bad health wise which means more days in the studio. And that’s a good thing.

As a result of the generosity of Schneider Electric, I now have this amazing Lasher ATH. On May 28, 2018, I’ll be participating in the Miles for Mills 5K which raises money for the Travis Mills Foundation.  This is the foundation where I teach my art as therapy art tile classes.  If you’d like to help me raise money for this amazing organization, you can see my fundraising page HERE (UPDATE – this event is now complete. Thank you to everyone who supported me in this race!).  This handcycle is more than just a bike for me.  It is a tool that allows me to be more active, independent, and lead a healthier more engaged lifestyle. Thank you will never be enough.

Image showing an adult woman sitting on a handcyle with text overlay. Text overlay is the title of the blog.