Not Any Easier. Just…Faster.

Looking back, 2011 was a phenomenal year. Life was so much better, so much simpler.

There was no pandemic, kids (and all that’s involved with raising them properly entails) hadn’t yet entered the picture, and MS had not robbed Nicholle of the ability to walk; she, in fact was using her recently completed master’s degree to further her career, herself, and thereby us. We had also closed on our own house and were loving it. The most complicated it was had to do with finding time to train for the inaugural Ironman Texas. But, even then, that minor inconvenience all seemed to snap together.

Following the end of swim season, I & a co-worker rode our bikes up to Austin on a cold, rainy Saturday, and I ran the Austin Marathon cold (no focused marathon training) on Sunday, finishing a full minute faster than I had the year before. A few weeks later, the student teacher I had been assigned was ready for her solo stint in the classroom; if there were no classes for me to cover or “other duties as required” to tend to, I was able to hit the weight room or go for a run around the campus during the day and get in long bike rides or swims in the afternoon and evening. By the time IMTX rolled around, I was in some of the best shape of my life and had a heck of a strong finish: 11:16:09, almost a full hour faster than Ironman Coeur d’Alene two years prior.

The next day, Nicholle & I learned we were expecting our first kid, who would be born the following January. Another would be born in 2015, and then our entire world would be rocked in 2016 when a near-fatal infection began to exacerbate Nicholle’s MS diagnosis to take away her ability to run, to walk, to be independent in the sense that most “normal” people live their lives. More and more responsibilities transferred to me, including transitioning Nicholle in and out of bed at night and again in the morning. By the end of 2019, she would be in a wheelchair, unable to even hobble around with a rollator, manipulating physics to swing her hips side to side, forcing her legs into (relative) motion, as she had done the past two years.

Though I managed to finish another Ironman (Arizona) in 2016, my finishing time wasn’t to my liking, nor was how I felt pre- & post-race, to say nothing of actually during the race. After my return home in the wee hours of the morning the day after the race, I fell asleep on the sofa (Nicholle & I could no longer sleep in the same bed, as disease progression meant she needed more space and less heat in close proximity), crying myself to sleep. It was awful.

Things continued to decline the next few years.

But now it’s ten years later, 2021. The year after the year that we thought sucked more than any other year in the history of years.

By most accounts, this first month-and-a-half has been anything but stellar follow-up: Complications with MS management and the ongoing pandemic and the winter storm(s?) ravaging Texas, resulting in lots of snow & sub-freezing temperatures, bringing about intermittent power outages and other complications; yeah, it’s sucked.

But in a way, it’s actually been kind of OK, thanks again to The Sufferfest.

The annual Tour of Sufferlandria has been this week, and I was initially concerned, but, then, things just began to fall together.

I mean, there’s the 50-hour timeframe that is the Sufferlandrian day, but even that made some of the double-header stages seem more challenging or less likely to happen. Factor into that rolling blackouts brought about by Snowpocalypse 2021 (and ERCOT’s lack of foresight & planning for cold weather they knew was coming), and the 2021 ToS was proving to be nearly impossible. But then that same weather caused the cancellation of school (ergo work) one day, then another, then another, and then: The entire week.

In spite of the rolling blackouts, I was able to use my smartphone to run The Sufferfest and pause the workout if the power went out; once it came back up: Resume the workout and finish as usual. Double-headers were still a challenge, but that was only one day. By today (Thursday), everything was more or less back to normal with reliable electricity (keeping ours in moderation so as to not overwhelm the grid, natch), connectivity to the interwebs, and everything else to live a lifestyle accustomed to in these United States.

This is not to discount the enormous suffering so many have experienced in concert with my own semi-blissful state of life at home with the family (Probably our worst came with Nicholle getting stranded in her electric recliner for a few hours.); no doubt, others have been far less fortunate. With reliable power/connectivity, I’ve been able to check in on my students, ensuring they are OK, and offering assistance if needed. Fortunately, all who have checked in have been fairing about as well as I have with sufficient food, shelter, power, and running water to get by with minimal inconvenience. Some even worked on (non-mandated) assignments to stay busy.


Of course, 2021 hasn’t been even close to on par with the phenomenal year as 2011, but it’s been manageable. Life with the unpredictability MS ushers in has enabled me to be more accustomed to uncertainty, and even thriving where others might struggle. But that’s kind of what cycling does, too. To borrow from legendary cyclist Greg LeMond:

Life has been throwing a lot of stuff at us these past 13 or so months, but I guess life is always throwing a lot of stuff at us. Much like in cycling and The Sufferfest and so much more, what we do with what gets thrown at us determines our future: Sure, we can whine, we can complain. Or we can HTFU and do the best with what’s been handed to us. It’s likely to be uncomfortable. It’s likely to suck a little or a lot. But it’s also likely to make things better for the time(s) to come.

And, just like 2021 has taught us: If you thought 2020 was tough, just wait.

Thanks for reading.

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