A shameless act of self-promotion (but not really)

Derrick Knutson
Derrick Knutson

I was 23 years old, wearing six pairs of underwear and some brand-new biking gloves when I crossed the finish line the last (and only) time I biked in the MS 150.
People who live in the North Branch and Stacy areas are likely familiar with the annual race, which comes right through town on the Sunrise Prairie Trail in early June. It’s a huge fundraiser to better the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis, a truly debilitating central nervous system disease with no known cure that affects about 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people around the world, according to information from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
When I biked in the event, a 150-mile, two-day trek from Proctor High School near Duluth to the Twin Cities area, I did it simply because I felt like helping some people, and it sounded like a challenge.
I was a little more into biking back then — I’d go for 20-or 30-mile trips on a fairly regular basis — so I figured, “Well, if I can do that, 150 over the course of two days shouldn’t be that hard.”
After some friends dropped me and my bike off at Proctor High School, I remember mulling about for a while after I picked up my registration materials and noticing that nearly everyone except for me was decked out in biking gear: fancy helmets, gloves, bright-colored jackets, shoes that clipped into their pedals and bike shorts, the one item of clothing that no person, no matter their physique, looks good in. At that moment, I decided I would never, under any circumstances, wear those paint-on shorts.
The first 30 miles or so of the ride felt pretty good. We passed through a beautiful area on the Williard Munger State Trail, and the brisk morning temperatures eventually fell away the further I got from the starting point.
When I hit about mile 40, I started to notice my discomfort increasing. I kept having to reposition my hands on my handlebars because they’d rub, ever so slightly, as I was biking, and it was beginning to cause blisters on my palms. Then my knees began to hurt; I didn’t have those clip-in shoes like the other bikers, which help to keep one’s feet in line, thus reducing knee stress. But perhaps the most uncomfortable thing was the bike seat — sitting on a hard seat for a couple of hours while biking makes one’s rear end pretty sore. I found myself standing up a lot the last 15 miles or so before I got to Hinckley.
Before I got to the halfway point, I called my dad on my cellphone and asked if he’d buy me some biking gloves so I’d get some relief from the rubbing. I didn’t request he bring a pair of padded bike shorts, though; I was still too stubborn about that. I stayed at my parents’ house that night, and before my dad drove me back up to Hinckley the next day to start with the second leg of the ride, I decided I needed to do something to alleviate the uncomfortableness of the bike seat. My last-second solution: put on as many pairs of underwear as I could so I’d have a padded barrier between me and the brick-like seat. It kind of looked like I was wearing a diaper, but I didn’t care; the second day of the race was more comfortable.
I was fairly sore when finished the race, but that was overridden by a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that I had done something to help people I didn’t even know.
Since that ride, which is beginning to feel like a long time ago now, I’ve had co-workers who were diagnosed with MS, and I’ve interviewed people with the disease. So I’ll be biking for them, in addition to the people I don’t know who are afflicted with MS.
When I was 23, I was kind of sheepish about the fundraising aspect of the ride. I’ve always felt weird about asking people for money, and I still kind of do, but this money isn’t for me — it’s for people battling a malady that takes away pieces of who they are, bit by bit.
So, as the headline of this column implies, I’m engaging in a shameless act of self-promotion (but not really). If you know me, like me or just enjoy this paper, and you want to sponsor me on this ride, I’d be elated with any sort of a donation you’d like to give. If you dislike me and would like to put me through more than 12 hours of physical discomfort, sponsoring me would get that accomplished.
Anyone who would like to donate directly to me online can click here.
If you have trouble with that link on your computer, just do a Google search for “Minnesota Bike MS 150 2016” to find the Twin Cities Ride 2016 website, click on the “donate” tab on the far right and search “Derrick Knutson.”
If you just see me out in the community one day and you’re like, “Hey, Derrick, here’s some money!” I’ll make sure it gets to the Bike MS people.
In the years since my first MS 150, I’ve procured a nicer-looking helmet, a gel bike seat, more bike gloves and those clip-in shoes and pedals that pair with them. And I know I made myself a promise that I’d never own bike shorts, but I now have a pair. However, I acknowledge I look terrible in them, so I wear gym shorts overtop those padded, spandex-like garments anytime I’m biking and have even an inkling I might come within 300 yards or so of another person.

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