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Realizing a dream is sweet, sacred work. It’s not easy or even simple, but the reward is remarkable, unforgettable. Here’s a photo of my mobility assistance dog Luke and me, just after crossing the Finish Line on Day 2 of the Bike MS Coastal Challenge in Southern California. Do I look happy or what?

I can remember only a few other times when I’ve felt as if I’ve accomplished so much: receiving my undergrad degree after 20 years of off-and-on study, defending my thesis to complete my MFA in creative writing, finishing the New York City Marathon as the 1st and only person to complete the race via recumbent trike. I can still feel the brush of the blue ribbon as it slipped over my head, the weight of the medal – cool and solid – falling right over my fast-pounding heart.

On the night before Day 1 of the Bike MS Coastal Challenge ride, I met Phil Keoghan and Regina Lyalls, some women from the NOW/Novartis Pro Cycling team and some other great folks involved with Together In MS. Meeting Phil, especially since he played such a role in motivating me to do the Bike MS Coastal Challenge sooner rather than later (or never!), was a tremendous experience.

We visited for a while – he was more than generous with his time and attention – and when he realized that riding alongside him for a piece of the MS150 was actually a part of my goal/dream/wish on my Life List, he invited me to meet up at the Starting Line the next morning. He and Regina were riding together on a tandem bicycle, for the last time this year, as part of the program of Together In MS, which partners Phil and other pro riders with people who have MS together to ride in Bike MS events raising funds and awareness across the country.

I couldn’t have been more excited about the opportunity to ride with Phil! But, as luck would have it, the volunteer who was supposed to meet me on Saturday morning didn’t show up as planned. So when the Bike MS Coastal Challenge officially began, I was not in the seat of my recumbent trike positioned next to Phil and Regina on their tandem bike. I was still back in the expo tent area, desperately searching for someone to watch over my mobility assistance dog Luke while I rode that day.

I was disappointed in a way I haven’t experienced in a very long time, to have missed out on the opportunity to manifest my dream in precisely the way I had imagined it. I’d envisioned riding next to Phil, and I brought that imagine to mind over and over on the rough days, when training was more challenging than usual. During the times pain and fatigue seemed determined to out-do one another in some kind of twisted, sadistic competition. But once I got going on the ride Saturday, the sheer joy of being there in Southern California and the gratitude for having the opportunity to manifest my dream-ride at all – regardless of one element not being as I’d hoped and imagined – filled me up, supercharged my physical efforts, and the initial disappointment faded, shrunk exponentially, until it was so far diminished behind me that I couldn’t see it anymore even if I had looked back. Which I didn’t.

I’ll tell you more about the ride – both days of it – in another post, but first I have to tell you that on the morning of Day 2 I chanced across Phil and some other riders with the NOW/Novartis Together In MS Team readying their bikes near the Starting Line. Phil was focused intently on one of his wheels and nothing about the situation or his demeanor invited interruption, much less conversation. But I’ve been practicing asking for what I want, which is to say, I’ve been practicing courage. You know, the art of feeling the fear but following through anyway, in spite of the looming specter of that fear that grows larger and thornier the more you want something. I almost turned and left, but instead I walked up to Phil and heard my voice saying, Hey, I’m sorry I missed starting the ride with you and Regina yesterday – I couldn’t find the volunteer who was supposed to watch after Luke – would you be willing to let me start off today riding alongside you for a little ways? And he said, Sure, of course! Then he said, But come on, we’re about to take off.

Never have I moved so quickly. I think poor Luke was startled at the speed with which I maneuvered him through the crowd of people and wheels and white tents back to my recumbent trike. I grabbed onto Glenn Frank, another recumbent trike rider, who was the photographer and videographer for Team Chain Gang. I explained the situation in fragmented sentences, all of which ended in exclamation points, and begged him to come with me Right now! to please get pictures or video of me at the Starting Line alongside Phil Keoghan. I didn’t have to tell Glenn it was important or that riding with Phil was a part of the Big Dream as I’d envisioned it; he knew the story, and he jumped right in.

I’m one of those people who believes things happen the way they happen for a reason. Wanna know why starting the Bike MS Coastal Challenge on Day 2 with Phil was even better than if I’d gotten to ride with him on Day 1 as planned? Because the way it happened, I had Phil – his bike, my trike, the first mile or two of the road – all to myself. I mean, there were other people there – I saw them before and after, I spoke to them before and after – but for a ways, a short but perfect while, it was just Phil and me, the two of us, riding and talking. It was exactly the way I’d imagined and envisioned it, and I could not have been more in the moment or more happy.

Dear Phil Keoghan,

Your kindness and generosity will always be remembered. You took the time, you made the effort, you chose to take the opportunity to make a difference in my life. I’m full-up with gratitude for the experience of having crossed the Starting Line of Day 2 with you and getting to share your company for a couple miles during the manifesting of my Bike MS Coastal Challenge Dream. Because of you, I was motivated to take action to make my dream happen N(o) O(pportunity) W(asted) and it was glorious in the making.

Love,

Denise

I didn’t do a good job fundraising. In fact I’ve done a dismal job, if you must know the truth. I feel guilty about that – ashamed – because I wanted to do my part for the cause; raising funds, making that kind of a difference, was part of my dream. That part, my part of the dream, I failed. If you’re able to donate or spread the word of my dream story, I very much need your help! I have until the end of October to raise funds for my Bike MS Coastal Challenge Ride. Thank you, for any dollars or promoting you may be able to help with.

Support my Bike MS Coastal Challenge ride here.

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