Crystal Noack has always enjoyed riding her bike, but she had never been interested in riding more than a few miles at a time. When she was diagnosed with MS in 2009, she began receiving Bike MS: Tour de Farms emails from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and although she overlooked them at first, there was something about the event that she couldn’t ignore.
“I dismissed it and didn’t think it was for me,” says Noack, a resident of Warrenville. “Weeks went by and I had this nagging feeling that I was missing out. I contacted the Bike MS staff and voiced my concerns about how much experience I had with cycling and distance, and they assured me that I could do it.”
Noack admits that having MS terrifies her at times, and she has experienced enough symptoms from the disease to more than justify that feeling. Even more terrifying are the unknowns that come with having MS. Noack was worried that her diagnosis would mean that she could never do the things she had always wanted to and that she couldn’t plan for her future. Questions like, “What if I can’t walk one day?” and “What if I lose my vision?” consumed her, but she didn’t want to let the “what Ifs” control her.
“I took a stand,” Noack explains. “I said, ‘What if I decide I’m not giving into this disease? What if I take on the challenge and ride my bike to raise money and awareness?’ I was determined to show this disease who was boss.”
Noack decided to join Bike MS, the largest charity bike ride in Illinois, and she hasn’t looked back. On Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22, she will be leading her team in what will be her fourth Bike MS, and she plans on biking 110 miles during the two-day event, her longest distance yet.
Bike MS starts and finishes at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center in DeKalb and takes riders through the rolling countryside of northern Illinois. The routes, which are fully supported, range from 15 to 200 miles over the two days. More than 2,200 cyclists are expected to participate in 2014, with all proceeds going directly toward MS research, programs and services throughout Illinois. The event raised more than $1.6 million in 2013.
“Once you participate, you’re in,” says Noack. “There’s no way you wouldn’t want this to become part of your life. Since being diagnosed, I’ve participated in three Bike MS events, several other charity bike rides, a few 5Ks, hiked up mountains and taken on challenges that I would have only dreamed of before.”
After learning about Bike MS, Noack was quick to recruit her best friend, Melissa, whose husband is also living with the disease. That’s when team “Whose Idea Was This Anyway?” was formed. Since its inception, the team has continued to grow, and Noack hopes it will keep getting bigger and bigger.
“I love each and every one of my teammates,” says Noack. “Being a smaller group, we go on training rides together, support each other and challenge each other. We motivate each other with epic bacon cheeseburgers and gas station burritos.”
Noack believes that her team will surpass its fundraising total from last year, and she hopes to help them achieve this goal by raising over $3,000 herself.
“I open up to people — to coworkers, family and friends — and talk to them about MS,” says Noack on how she fundraises. “I ask for their support, and they are happy to help me.”
After a successful year of fundraising in 2013, Noack was named to The 2014 Gold Spoke Club, a privileged group of cyclists comprised of the top 150 fundraisers from the ride. With the amount of support she receives and her dedication to fundraising, she should have no trouble surpassing this year’s goals to become a Gold Spoke again next year.
“Through Bike MS, I have gained strength, confidence and some of the most amazing friendships anyone could ever hope for,” she says. “This community of riders and volunteers is like nothing else, and I cherish them all.”
Noack rides because she doesn’t want MS to stop anyone from living out their dreams, including her.
“I made a promise to myself to never stop trying, to never let this disease stop me from moving,” says Noack. “I intend to keep that promise. Bike MS has taught me that I’m not alone in this. There is love and support all around me, and nothing compares to that — nothing.”
About “I Ride with MS”
Again this year, Genzyme, a Sanofi Company, is sponsoring I Ride with MS, a mission-based program that celebrates participating cyclists who are living with MS through MS One to One. Through the program, cyclists who are living with MS are provided a special “I Ride with MS” jersey. By providing visibility to riders living with MS, the program personalizes the disease and more strongly connects all cyclists, inspiring and empowering them to pedal a bit harder along their journeys. Bike MS consists of 100 cycling events across the country that aim to raise money for MS research and other services supported by the Society.
Registration for Bike MS is open to individual riders, teams, volunteers and virtual riders. To register, visit bikeMSillinois.org. For more information, contact Melissa Foley, Manager of Bike MS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that interrupts the flow of information in the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. The Greater Illinois Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois and 2.3 million worldwide affected by MS.
To find out more or to register or donate online, visit msillinois.org.