Greenwood man pedals to better health, raise funds for MS Society

GREENWOOD — With 23 members on their team, Beyond Training Wheels quickly raised more than $10,640 for the National MS [Multiple Sclerosis] Society during the Bike to the Bay event at the close of the summer.

“When you first get started at the starters line, everyone in jerseys. It just reminds me of a NASCAR race, Team Captain Jason Troyer said. “When you come up to the first turn, it’s like the INDY 500 or something. It feels like something big. You know everybody is just looking at you. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Mr. Troyer, 35 of Greenwood, knows all too well how that money can be used locally to help those with a MS diagnosis.

“I was diagnosed in 2007, right after my second daughter was born. For my doctors, it was a pretty easy diagnosis. There isn’t really a test that specifically says you have MS. There’s a bunch of tests that rules out stuff and eventually you have MS. But luckily for me, everything pointed to it. And they basically said it was pretty textbook,” Mr. Troyer said of his own MS diagnosis.

Things became scary for the cyclist when his body went number from the neck down.

“It was like when your foot feels tingly, but all over,” he said. “Most of that has since come back, except some numbness in my hands and the bottoms of my feet.”

A contributing factor? His weight, according to Mr. Troyer.

“I was 315 lbs. I knew I needed to lose some weight; it would help with handling things. I lost a total of 135 lbs and that did help,” he added.

Becoming more active was another of Mr. Troyer’s tactics to beat the odds. Biking was his sport of choice.

“I started riding a bike to work which is about 7.5 miles each way,” he said. “Nobody has the promise of tomorrow. The big thing I guess about me is: don’t worry about it. Cross the path when it comes, but there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Doesn’t mean be stupid, but don’t let it take your life before it takes your life.”

Longer hikes, bike rides and camping shortly followed when someone gave Mr. Troyer an idea he wasn’t very interested in entertaining.

“I went to a party and someone said, ‘Why don’t you ride for something?’ I said sure, but I was actually always against it. I thought, ‘Why don’t I pick something different that is not all about me,’” he questioned.

Ultimately, he pulled up his brakes in 2009 and decided to Bike to the Bay to raise money and awareness for MS and never looked back.

“I went from my training wheels with doing a few miles to doing 40 miles to 150 miles. It seemed like Beyond Training Wheels fit for our team,” he added.

Not only has Mr. Troyer grown in his strengths and ability to bike longer distances, the team has grown in its fundraising efforts, as well.

Beyond Training Wheels raised $150 in its first year. Seven years later, the team surpassed $10,000.

Although Mr. Troyer said having MS himself hasn’t stopped him from “reclaiming his life,” it has taken a toll on his body over time.

“I would have an attack every time I rode for MS, so I had to go down from the 175 mile ride to 150 and it didn’t seem so bad. One attack, I lost 75 percent vision in my left eye. Most of it’s come back now. So now, I’ve only lost 25 percent in my left eye,” he said.

“Basically, you kind of start as what we call normal. You have an attack and whatever it attacks, you have something you lost. Then it will come back, but you don’t know how much. There’s lots of ups and downs, but when you look at it, it’s really like a decline over time.”

Training has helped “prolong” the better times, he added.

“Technically, the symptoms are there you just don’t know it until you’re fatigued.”

Riding 150-miles on a bicycle can fatigue even the most advanced rider, he said, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bikers dedicated to the cause paid a registration fee of around $35 each depending on their sign up date, according to Mr. Troyer. They then had to raise $300.

To help lessen the impact on individual riders, Mr. Troyer’s father-in-law, Jim Weller, had a plan.

“Jim put up a deal. He said he would pay $125 of their way for the first 20 people to sign up for our team by a certain deadline,” he said.

Bikers also received prizes based on how much money they raised for the organization.

“One of the guys I rode with, he actually raised a little over $1,300 himself and he actually got a free VIP jersey, massage and a parking pass so he could park closer to the starting line,” Mr. Troyer explained.

“One of the things I really liked about this event and something I thought was really near to me was where the money goes. Obviously some of the money goes to research, but some of it goes locally,” he said. “For example, one woman not able to cut her own grass so they actually came out to take care of her lawn. They built a ramp for her, too. I just thought that was neat that they use the money locally, too.”

The next Bike to the Bay race benefitting the National MS Society isn’t until next October, but Mr. Troyer said he can’t wait.

“Obviously, MS has taken a lot from me. But I’ve gained so much more than it’s taken. I hate saying that I like having MS, that’s not really what I mean. There’s things I’m doing that I’ve never done before and people I never would have met. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s totally made it worth it. It was a great weekend. I will admit that Monday I was depressed because it was all over. But, the next one will be here soon.”

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