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Rider Reflects On How LOWVELO Changed Her Life

group of cyclists riding over the ravenel bridge

MaryNell Goolsby’s favorite part of LOWVELO was the group camaraderie during the last 60 miles.

It was only two months after her last chemotherapy treatment when MaryNell Goolsby arrived for LOWVELO on the morning of November 2 to begin the Boeing 50-mile ride. But mid-ride, she decided to bypass the turn for her original route and push toward the Jerry Zucker 100-mile finish line. She did it as a gift of hope to her family and to anyone touched by cancer. Here in this Q&A, Goolsby explains her thought process during the ride and how the year 2019, cancer and LOWVELO have changed her.

Describe your feelings as you crossed the finish line?

As we approached that final climb before Shipyard Park, I felt like I may need to walk my bike up the hill. However, I had this fantastic group of people with me who told me to move to the front, and they encouraged me. I made it to the top and began to cry going down, and then as I approached the turn to the finish line, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and happiness washed over me. It is hard to put into words how I felt. I thought of how proud my children must be and how encouraging this must be for my entire family — a sense of relief for them to help them stop worrying about me. I am going to be OK, and if this doesn’t show that to them, then nothing will.

Why did you decide to bump up from 50 to 100 miles? Was it the right choice?

As I rode through Sullivan’s Island, a friend of mine who lives there saw me, and by the time I was over the IOP connector, he had caught up with me and rode with me until the 50/100-mile routes split. It was very touching to me that this friend, whom I haven’t known for very long, would decide to spend his afternoon riding with me, and as we rode, probably around mile 20, I told him, “I think I’m going to go for it and ride the full 100.” He asked why I would do that and told me perhaps I should make that next year’s goal. I told him that I felt like it would be a great way to inspire others who may be battling cancer, or who may someday begin that battle, and I felt compelled to do it. We arrived at mile 39, where the 50 and 100-mile-ride split, and he asked again if I was sure I wanted to ride 100 miles — and I said I was positive, and we went our separate ways. I can say without hesitation that it was the right choice for me, and I would do it all over again to help motivate someone else. I feel like if someone had to get this cancer, I was the right girl for it — I am a survivor and stronger than I could have ever imagined. Now I believe my purpose on this Earth, for however long I am given the privilege of waking up each day, is to make a positive difference in the lives of others — specifically, those whose lives are touched by cancer.

What was your favorite part of the ride, and did anything surprise you along the way?

My favorite part of the ride was the last 60 miles. Of course, going over the Ravenel bridge, riding through Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms was beautiful. Still, it was that last 60 miles, riding with a group, having fun along the way, enjoying the company as we rode through Francis Marion Forest is what I found most peaceful and enjoyable. As you may know, Dr. Leone, his brother, and his brother-in-law rode with my son Turner and me for the last 60 miles. Before this ride, the longest distance I had been on a road bike was 13 miles, and the longest distance I had been on a stationary bike was 20 miles. I share this to say I did not know how to draft. Dr. Leone and his family taught me how to draft and entertained me along the way. I thought about how incredible it was that 640 riders had come together, all of these volunteers, all of these families and friends and enjoyed this event together, making new friends and memories, all for a cause that I am passionate about: raising money for cancer research, curing cancer.

How did the experience change you?

This experience has shown me that I am stronger than I ever realized. I went to the gym today, and on several pieces of equipment where I would typically lift 45 pounds, I bumped myself up to 85 pounds. I worked harder and I feel stronger, and I believe that completing the 100-mile ride has caused me to want to push myself harder and further in everything I do. Because I had Whipple surgery ten months ago, which involved a six-inch vertical incision through my abdominal muscles, I am working on increasing my abdominal muscle tone and strength, and this ride has shown me that I can push myself. I believe I can do anything I set my mind to now. Perhaps I still have an adrenaline rush, but I don’t think so. I think it has changed my view on my strength and ability, and I love that. It’s going to be hard to beat riding 100 miles, but I’m already looking for my next big outdoor adventure.

Many riders were surprised by how much they bonded with others. What was your experience?

The bonds that were formed from this ride is what I will remember most forever. The relationships that I have created since I registered for LOWVELO are relationships that I wouldn’t trade for anything. LOWVELO has changed my life for the better in countless ways and given me a purpose and motivated me in ways that I could have never imagined before. Through my journey and by being a part of LOWVELO these past six months, my life is better now than it has ever been, and I wouldn’t ever want to change that. I’m happier. I make myself a priority more. I appreciate life, family, and friends more than ever, and LOWVELO has played an enormous role in my positive outlook on life and my recovery this year.

Why did you ride?

I rode to make a difference. I rode to give people hope. I rode to inspire others. I rode because I have beat cancer, and I know that many people have not been as fortunate as me, so I rode to honor them. I rode to show my appreciation to MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. I rode to fully enjoy this beautiful life that I have been blessed with and make a difference in the lives of others in the process.

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