Monday, June 27, 2016

My First Bike MS: Tour de Farms in Dekalb | Arthur Holmer

Family and fitness are both very important to me and when I can bundle them together to serve a good cause, I jump at the opportunity.  Recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited by my father-in-law to participate in the Bike MS: Tour de Farms charity ride in Dekalb, Illinois, which this year raised over $1.5 million dollars for Multiple Sclerosis research.  The two-day event draws more that 1,500 cyclists to the campus of Northern Illinois University where volunteers have the opportunity to bike up to 125 miles a day for this worthy cause.  Having been off a bike for over 15 years, I was a bit nervous about doing a “century” ride, but my father-in-law put the challenge to me and there was no way I was not going to accept.

My wife brought many incredible things to my life that I’m thankful for and one of those is my father-in-law who is kind, generous, caring and in really good shape! For the past several years he and a group of his physician colleagues, most of whom are in their 50’s, have participated in this biking event, completing 100 miles in a single day.

All smiles after my first training ride!
So as not to embarrass myself, or my sponsors, I began to train in earnest four weeks before the event.  I grant you that 100 miles around Dekalb County is not the same as climbing the Alpe d'Huez, but seven hours in the saddle in the summer heat still takes a bit of preparation!

As some may know, I’m a runner but I didn’t really know if running five or ten miles on a regular basis would translate into the ability to stay in the saddle for so many hours.  I started by choosing my mount, a Trek Domane which is known for both it’s ability to navigate well over rough roads, and as a bike that’s stiff and light enough to pull up some serious hills.  Nearly as important, it’s a good looking machine that I think can continue to inspire me to ride.

Most of my early training was done locally here in Chicago, but the lakefront can be very crowded and getting in distance work sometimes difficult.  About a week before the event I traveled up to Wisconsin where I was able to put in a 29 mile ride, which took about an hour and 45 minutes.

This past Saturday, June 26th 2016, was the day of the event.  The weather was very hot, as predicted, and I was a little nervous about staying hydrated.  Fortunately, the event sponsor's preparation and my father-in-law’s experience paid off and we were ready for the 100-mile event.  Now in its 35th year, Bike MS cares for riders at all skill levels with rest stops every 10 to 20 miles stocked with juices, snacks and comfort facilities, bicycle mechanics along the route, a SAG (support and gear) wagon that travels the route and pre-race training, if needed.  It really is an event in which everyone can participate whether they want to travel 10, 20 or 100 miles.

Our starting point was the NIU Convocation Center, located on the West side of campus. As you can see from the route map captured on my phone, the 100 mile path is similar to a figure-8 that loops its way back to the NIU campus.  One of the surprises on the route was that there actually was 2,300 feet of elevation change which was, for the most part was gentle, rolling hills.  However, at the 58 mile mark, there was a 100 foot incline that covered three miles.  After four hours in the saddle, it felt like it was much more than 100 feet in elevation and it’s when I appreciated the lightness of my Trek bike.

After seven hours and a few stops, we made it back to the NIU campus and the finish line.  I felt exhilarated at having accomplished my first century and proud that I had been able to do it with my father-in-law.  Next year’s event should be even more fun and we’re looking to top our donation pledges by eclipsing $1,000 in 2017.

If you’d like to participate in next year’s event, please feel free to email me or follow the planning for the event at

After 100 miles with my father-in-law. Arthur Holmer is a lucky guy to have married into this family!