First let me say thank you. Thank you for tuning in for what were occassional updates. Thank you for your great comments and encouragement. Thank you for your support, both financial and emotional, along the journey to another GREAT BikeMS event.

The 2010 Sam’s Club BikeMS ride was a success! I’m continually amazed at the hard working team and volunteers at the MS Society who make the actually riding the only thing to “worry” about. I love the event and have a great time catching up with old MS buddies, riding with my brother in law and his brother, and seeing parts of North Texas that I would otherwise miss. The weather held out and offered amazing ride conditions. I’m so glad I was able to participate in yet another wonderful, well supported BikeMS ride. I felt great as I crossed both finish lines and had a chance to exchange high 5’s and congrats to those I knew and met along the way.

So what’s next you ask? Well, a lot! About 1/2 way through my preparation for the 2010 ride we were made aware of an amazing opportunity for my wonderful wife’s MS. A long time family friend of my wife Sam Harrell contacted Andrea to fill her in on the latest in his battle with MS. After a conversation about what he’s doing and how he wants to pay it forward, we were on fire about exploring this opportunity further.

The “opportunity” is to head south to Central America to get adult stem cell therapy for Andrea’s MS. While this is not a “new” treatment for chronic conditions like MS, ALS, or Parkinsons, it is a relatively new weapon in the arsenal receiving more and more attention. Sam and many others have decided to take up arms against this frustrating disease by heading to San Jose, Costa Rica to one of a few well established and notable facilities, the Institute for Cellular Medicine.

Since learning about this treatment option, we have frantically done our fair amount of research and have found numerous accounts of MS patients coming back with various levels of success. One such patient is Preston Walker, Ft Worth police Sergent who went in the summer of 2008 and blogged all along the way and afterwards. His results are fairly typical of the accounts we’ve found and we were SOLD!

We quickly socialized our desire to raise the nearly $40,000 (treatment, travel, expenses for Andrea & I) and they rallied way beyond our expectations. Within weeks, we had a way to collect funds (through Andrea’s home church), at least three fundraisers planned, and an American Airlines employee offer to take care of our air travel. We are truly blessed to have a very supportive and loving support system who are willing to add one more thing to their lives to help us out.

So here’s what’s coming up:

1. Spaghetti supper at Andrea’s Preschool Heritage Christian Preschool where they raised $1,750! This blew our minds considering the cost to the attendees was a mere $3.50 which means many folks donated above and beyond the minimum. Thank you HCP and Heritage Church of Christ!

2. A hamburger supper in Brownwood, TX on May 19th through Andrea’s home church Austin Avenue Church of Christ

3. A variety/talent show at our church, Grapevine Church of Christ. The date is TBD but should be within the next month or so.

And many more are rumored. I’m considering the kids triathlon I mentioned in an earlier post. I’m targeting late summer once kids are back in school but the other details are TBD. Andrea’s girlfriends are discussing a 5k sometime soon and I think it’s a great idea.

Please stay tuned for more info in the coming days. I’m busy evaluating the easiest and most convenient platform for setting up an online hub (wordpress, posterous, etc) where we can share info, accept donations, etc as well as finalizing my research to get a better sense of exact costs associated with this adventure.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a few links that are worth checking out:

Website for facility in South America (2 locations)

Blog of Preston Walker (via

Video of WFAA (ch8 in DFW) news story

Blog/website for patient who went in 2004

One of many great articles describing the treatment and controversy


Seriously, it’s been a crazy month between training, work, life, and enjoying the awesome Spring weather. I am getting psyched about the ride this weekend and all the good times that come along with it. I’m excited about spending some quality time on the road catching up with long time friends, co-workers, my bro-in-law Eric and his brother, and many others that I’ll cross paths with during the long weekend.

I will disclose that with the busy month, especially the last two weeks, my training fell off what was a great path and I’m a bit worried. The timing of this ride gets me every year. On one hand it’s spares us from the oppressive Texas summer heat but the trade off is less time to train. Sure, in an ideal world I’d train the year round but it’s easier said than done. I do my best to stay in good shape but I really come alive in March & April. I worry every year and then it all works itself out. I’ll just look for some big strong dudes to tuck in behind who don’t mind pulling my skinny tail to the finish.

Here’s to another year and hoping for another great adventure.

Incredible breakthrough … Simple blood test to help MS patients understand what drugs will and will not work for them.

I found this advice on a wonderful site called Active MSers ( It was written by a cyclist with MS who wanted to share some of his tips for managing the heat, a very common element that cause a patients symptoms to magnify significantly, while riding during the spring and summer months.

While written primarily for MS patients, it’s actually really good fundamental advice for anyone training or racing in the south, especially beginners or those coming back after a long layoff.

So, check out the great advice below and please share with our fellow riders in the Bike MS events.

“A number of people have asked me how I handle the heat on a bike. As a person with MS, there is no doubt that I am considerably more sensitive to heat than most cyclists out there, but there are a couple of things I have found that help.

Keep moving. There is such a thing as “resting on the bike”, lower the intensity of the effort but keep pedaling to maintain airflow and its cooling effect. It took a while to condition myself to do this but maintaining airflow is key to staying cool for me.

Stop in the shade. I try not to stop any longer than necessary to grab a breath, a pee, a bite or a drink. The longer I stop, the harder it is to get going again. Even the ambient warm air temp in the shade sucks nerve function out of me.

Dress. I tend to under dress. I dress more for the expected high temperature than the starting temperature. If it’s really cold when I start, I wear removable arm and leg warmers. I use proper cycling clothes that are generally designed for comfort and cooling.

Helmet. I got a new helmet late last year, it has about twice the number of air vents as my old helmet but they are smaller vents and they seem to have made the helmet noticeably warmer. I will get another helmet with larger vents before the weather heats up this year and I hope that will be a cooler solution.

Water. I carry two slightly oversize water bottles. When it really gets hot and I can’t generate enough airflow to cool or have to stop for a breath on a hill in the sun, I pour water on myself. On hot days I soak myself whenever I stop to refill my bottles. Also, the hotter it is, the more I drink. It makes me pee a lot but the cyclists’ adage is, “if you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough” and it’s all the truer for an MSer.

Conditioning. I have found that by not avoiding rising temperatures during training I am able to condition myself somewhat to tolerate a slightly higher range. I’d put this somewhere around being able to tolerate up to mid 70’s in the early season to being able to tolerate up to high 80’s in the later season. It can get pretty uncomfortable and if I really overheat, it is still devastating.

Special cooling stuff. I don’t own any special cooling stuff but I did try a freebie that was provided on the MS ride last year. It was a special water absorbent cloth tube about 2 ft. long and 2-in. in diameter that you wore around your neck. It felt pretty good, really good actually but it needed a snap or a tie to keep it from falling off. I caught mine several times before it finally did manage to fall. When it fell, it wrapped itself around my pedal and left a tail dragging dangerously close to my rolling rear wheel. You should have seen the cyclists around me scatter when they saw what happened. They were obviously expecting the worst. If the thing had fallen on the chain ring side, I would have been stuffed, but fortunately it fell on the left side which is also my strongest side. You can’t just slam on a panic stop when you’re in the middle of a lot of bikers like that either so, I stopped pedaling but kept rolling along. I proceeded to unclip my left foot and manipulate the pedal crank until the cooling strap was only loosely draped over the pedal. Then, with a couple of uncoordinated but gingerly placed steps on the tail, I managed to drag it off the crank and leave it on the ground behind me. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than 20 or 30 seconds but man, did I ever get accolades from the bikers around me! I’m sure they were ecstatic when they didn’t have to rescue my happy ass from a nasty crash just as much as I’m sure they appreciated my lucky skills at getting out of a dangerous situation. The real kicker of course, was that unless they noticed me at the last rest stop and happened to be at least a little familiar with MS, they probably didn’t have a clue that I suffered from it. Sometimes, when I’m on the bike, even I don’t notice the MS so much.”


I wanted to make sure you were aware of a very handy tool in the fundraising toolbox, compliments of the BikeMS crew. It’s a Facebook app/widget that you can add to your personal profile that shows folks your fundraising goal and progress toward that goal. It also has a convenient “Support Me” button that links directly to your fundraising page. If you have not already set up a fundraising page for your efforts, read my last post as to why then go to the My Participant Center on the National MS Society page to get started.

The tool is perfect for Facebook b/c it does not just sit back and wait for others to notice it. No sir-ee bob! It will do some heavy lifting for you. With any new donation or change in your overall fundraising goal, it provides a nice reminder to your Facebook friends that updates your progress via the Newsfeed. Very well done and help you consistently and gently remind your friends and family that your busting your hump for a great cause!


It’s go time and I’ve been so focused on kicking off “Operation Fundraising” that I’ve inadvertantly ignored my Top Fundraiser duties. My apologies. Let me catch you up and vow to keep all (six) of you informed.

1. I officially kicked off my fundraising efforts about 2 weeks ago when I updated my Facebook Group page and announced that I was once again participating in the Sam’s Club BikeMS and open for business. I posted an update to the group wall which shows up in the Feed of all the members AND sent a private message to the members that goes to their Facebook inbox.

I then turned my attention to the awesome tools provided by the MS Society via the “Participant Center.” This is an awesome fundraising suite packed with all kinds of goodies to help you break through your fundraising goals. I made sure to update the information on My Participant Center as well as my personal direct link ( This link is so handy b/c it allows you to share via emails and social media updates and is easy to remember.  I then imported my various address books to the email tool and sent out a mass email describing why I ride, what I’m asking, and how to donate. You can find the copy of my email on the Facebook Group wall post. Now I’m planning to gently remind folks via all my channels (Facebook, Twitter, email, blog, posters at office, etc) every couple of weeks. We all need to be reminded to do most things, especially if it’s something you want to do but not right this second.

2. I also got my first “long” ride in this past weekend. If you weren’t inspired by the absolute wonderful weather we had last weekend then there’s something wrong with you.

red wolf being released into the wildI felt like a caged animal being released into the wild and took advantage of kiddo nap time on Sunday to get in a nice 2-hour ride around Texas Motor Speedway. You can find me there most Sunday’s around 2pm so let me know if  you’re going to be there and I’ll make sure to be on the lookout. It can be boring so I welcome the company and conversation.

That’s all for now. I hope your riding and fundraising efforts are going well and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions about the tools listed above or ideas you may have.


First let me apologize for my relative silence lately. We’re all busy so I’m going to list any excuses here. Just know that I’m officially firing up the training regimen, and fundraising campaign(s) which should lead to many more blog-worthy activity. Thanks for hanging in there during the slow winter months.

As promised in Part 1, I’ve reached out to my fellow Top Fundraisers to get their secrets and insight on what allows them to raise the most from their respective networks.

Q1: What’s the most important thing to remember when fundraising for BikeMS events?

Be persistent.  Many times, people just do not remember to get around to what they intend to do (e.g. donate to the worthy cause you emailed them about).  Give people an opportunity to say that it is not a good time or that they have already earmarked charitable funds to other causes or other riders.  However, do not put yourself in the position of hearing, “I forgot … is it too late to donate,” or, ” I wish you would have asked.” ~Mike Cook

I think of it as just an invitation to give, so people always have the option to say no, and this way I don’t feel uncomfortable asking anyone. I have also learned that many people often want to give (to good causes), and I provide them the opportunity. I am not asking for money, I am providing the opportunity for people to give/contribute to a good cause. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and ask again! ~Russell & Galit Birk

Q2: What is the most successful fundraising tactic you use or have used in the past?

Letters and emails to everyone that I know.  Follow up with “tales from the road” which can be short stories of what is going on while you train or fundraise … keep it humorous if possible, but stitch in the seriousness of MS and what “we” can do together to rid the world of this disease. ~Mike Cook

Fundraising Party – we do the “I Cured it Through the Grapevine” MS 150 fundraising Event – we ask for a fee at the door and sell raffle tickets. ~Russell & Galit Birk

Q3: What fundraising methods do you use?

Letters, emails and Facebook … may even incorporate Twitter this year … and tell everyone that you are doing it … and that they can donate if they would like to. ~Mike Cook

Fundraising letters and emails to everyone we know, post link in email signature, post on facebook, remind people that anyone can give just $10 (which usually generates several donations of more than $10 too), keep people posted on fundrsaising goal and current status (i.e. Thanks for helping us raise $xxxx, we’re only $xxxx away from our goal, can you help us get there?), offer a personal connection to the cause (share about our friends who have MS and what a difference this makes for them), resend letters and emails, be persistent and even borderline annoying, ask ask ask! ~Russell & Galit Birk

Q4: Any fundraising myths you want to debunk?

Times are tough, so it is good to empathize with that.  However, some folks still have $10 – $50 that they can contribute.  It all adds up and there will be a couple of bigger donors to help you clear certain levels.  By the way, for the long term, building the donor list is beneficial.  The individual that contributes $10 today and sees how committed you are to the cause, may contribute much more in a couple of years because of better times or because of the commitment they see in you. ~Mike Cook

Time – it doesn’t have to take a lot of time – send a mass email

Wealth – you don’t need wealthy friends – just a lot of friends, or a few generous friends, or both!

Economy – people can still give $10 or $25. People want to give and all you’re doing is asking anyway!

~Russell & Galit Birk

Q5: What’s more successful for you: Several big donations or many smaller donations?

All of it.  Big, small … I am a leach for donors to help me end this disease. ~Mike Cook

Many small(er) ones. ~Russell & Galit Birk

Q6: Any other advice, info, resources, steps to successful fundraising, etc?

Smile and keep it humorous/light and remember that YOU are doing an amazing thing.  You can and will help make a tremendous difference for the thousands suffering from the effects of MS. ~Mike Cook

Don’t be afraid to ask! Worst case scanario, they will say no! People will surprise you – in both directions! ~Russell & Galit Birk


I was thrilled and relieved to see that our friends at the MS Society teamed up with the folks at TrainingPeaks to provide all riders access to professional coaching. During registration, you’re encouraged to sign up for daily emails detailing the recommended training to prepare you for a 160+ ride. This is so handy and worth the cost and effort involved in participating in the Sam’s Club BikeMS event.

Here’s an example of the training plan from today:

Hello Matt Noe,

    Your Workouts for Monday, February 08

    Type: Day Off
    Planned duration: 0:00
    Planned distance: 0.0 miles
    Take it easy today. The training starts tomorrow. (Nice way to start training, huh?)
    Hi and welcome to my Bike MS plan. My name is Joe Friel and I’ll be your coach for the next 12 weeks. If you’re wondering, I wrote the Cyclist’s Training Bible, the best selling book ever of training for biking, and have trained hundreds of people. I have also trained 20 Elite Coaches to use my principles. To find out more about my coaching principles please go to

    Your Workouts for Tuesday, February 09

    Type: Bike
    Planned duration: 1:30
    Planned distance: 0.0 miles
    Warm up for about 15 minutes. Then ride primarily at a moderate effort on a rolling course. Stay in the saddle on small hills to build and maintain hip strength. Use both small and big chain rings.
    Stretch following this ride.

So what are you waiting for?! Sign up for the ride today and get started on your training that will make you the hero and envy of all your friends!
Here’s to riding like hell for MS!

I ran across this blog post in reading up on MS across the interwebs. I shared the high-level idea below and encourage any questions and/or ideas that you have via the comments.

“Circle of Ten” – I read about this concept on the MS Blog on by Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D. It’s a fairly straightforward idea that looks both fun and realistic. Here’s some excerpts from her blog post:

“It is very simple: one person recruits ten people that they know (she wrote a touching letter to do this) to ask ten people from their circle of family and friends to give 10 dollars each. Viola! Pretty soon, you have a thousand dollars.

Unlike many other fundraising situations, this one can actually be graceful and fun – usually people like to give, but neither the asker or the person being asked enjoys that yucky moment where they are both doing mental calculations as to how much looks good, but doesn’t cause financial or emotional stress. With this strategy, mentioning a small amount allows everyone to feel great about the whole thing (and people often give more).”

Make sure you read the whole post as it’s got some additional info including several related posts with similar fundraising and giving back ideas.

While I’ve been asked to share my chronicles of fundraising, I want to do my part to represent all Top Fundraisers in Club 100. To do this I turned to my fellow Club 100 members to get some insight on what they do to raise INCREDIBLE amounts of money to further MS research and better the lives of MS patients across the US.

While I await their response to my informal survey, I wanted to share my answers and insight to several key questions. My hope is that I can get your fundraising juices flowing.

Q1: What’s the most important thing to remember when fundraising for BikeMS events?

A: To make a personal connection as to why you are participating and feel passionate about this cause. For me, it’s to raise funds that better the lives of MS patients like my wonderful mom Valorie and amazing wife Andrea.

Q2: What is the most successful fundraising tactic you use or have used in the past?

A: Through my company imc2 we hosted a charity golf tournament where we raised thousands to donate back to the MS Society. Some of the fundraising sources included player fees, sponsorship fees for every aspect of the tournament including goodie bags, meals, and raffle items.

Q3: What fundraising methods do you use?

A: Mail letters, emails to everyone, Facebook, and good old fashioned word of mouth. The MS Society offers some great tools to help you tackle almost all of these including form letter templates, email marketing tools, and tracking.

Q4: Any fundraising myths you want to debunk?

A: Your friends will avoid you at all costs. If you follow the advice in Q1, you will make it impossible for folks to ignore your passion for asking for $10+. Keep stressing that any amount is much appreciated and don’t be too pushy.

Q5: What’s more successful for you? Several big donations or many smaller donations?

A: My average donation is generally around $35 – $60 so the key is quantity with a few large donations. Many times you need to stress any size donation is the key and continually message this throughout your communications. Most people want to help but are prone to disqualify their target donation of $25 as being too little. One additional note is to remind folks to check into their company matching of personal donations to approved charities. This goes a very long way to reaching your fundraising goals.

I sincerely hope this helps you better understand how anyone can raise significant amounts of money without having rich friends or a few sugar daddy donors.

Top Fundraiser

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