Texas 4000 – Halfway There, And So Much More

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Update on my fabulous niece Marlene – she and the other Sierra Route riders are just over halfway to Anchorage! (they’re riding 4000+ miles from Austin to Anchorage, raising $$ for cancer research and programs, see my last post.) I talked to her a few days ago, day 35 of riding around 100 miles per day. She sounds great, feeling good, and having fun. They were in Eureka, CA, heading into the redwoods that day.

These kids are so awesome – I’m so proud!!

But in this post, I want to share a different amazing story. Back to the start of their ride. Actually, months before the start of their ride.

Texas 4000 allowed friends and family to sign up to join the ride on the kick-off. Marlene’s mom, my sister Diane, wanted to ride 25 miles with her daughter. Sweet, right?

Only thing is, it’s not so easy or straightforward for my sister. She has young-onset Parkinson’s, which originally presented years ago as Dystonia. There are some significant differences between YO Parkinson’s and typical Parkinson’s. Usually, there’s a slower disease progression, lower rate of dementia, and more frequent rate of dystonia. But many of the same issues arise: strength and balance issues, loss of coordination, tremors. (for more information on Parkinson’s, and young-onset Parkinson’s, visit the American Parkinson’s Disease Assoc.) All this is to say, it’s not so easy for my sister to say, “Let’s hop on our bikes and go for a 25-mile ride.”

Diane is in good shape. She takes her fitness seriously. I’ve been to yoga and pilates classes with Di, and had a hard time keeping up with my older sister (and I’m the fitness professional). She knows it’s vital to management of her disease. A lot of research has shown that exercise helps Parkinson’s patients with management of symptoms – help with gait, balance, tremors, coordination, and strength. But it also can help slow progression of the disease. In particular, cycling has been shown to be particularly effective for Parkinson’s patients.

So Diane wanted to ride 25 miles with her daughter.

There were a couple issues to deal with. First, was building up the stamina and speed. Second, was balance. She had to get used to riding a different bike, which meant the balance was different. But over a period of 5 or 6 months, Diane worked on it. A little progress at a time, step by step, mile by mile. Consistent. Seeing temporary set-backs for what they are – temporary. Always, her eye on the goal.

And Texas 4000 kick-off day, my sister Diane rode 25 miles with her daughter Marlene.

That night Diane called me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard my sister so excited about anything. She was so high on endorphins, and just the attainment of a goal. It was a thrill for me to hear. The last thing she said: “Now I need a new goal!” In this challenge, my sister Diane exemplifies everything I try to impart to people, whatever their abilities, about fitness.

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So this post is all about my being extraordinarily proud. Proud sister of Diane, who struggled and succeeded. Proud aunt of Marlene, who is midway on an incredible journey with a bunch of other young folks who I’ve never met but am super proud of, too. And in awe of! All of you. You’re all pretty wonderful. Ride on!

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Julie

ps. Follow their progress at Texas4000.org.

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