Completed Challenges

Tom Harte - Bike Challenge

Due to debilitating pain originating from stenosis in my lower back, on February 1, 2016 I went into Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston to have a laminectomy performed on the L3, L4, and L5 vertebrae. Within a few short hours of waking up, I realized that the risks outlined in my preoperative visit had come to life. I was faced with significant nerve damage that resulted in little to no feeling in my lower legs, which caused my inability to balance and other basic motor skills.

At the time, I was advised from my physicians that the damage would go away with the regrowth of the nerves that originated in my lower back; however, at the very least, I knew that this damage would persist for the next three years. 

For someone that has always enjoyed active sports, including playing competitive basketball with Joe Sharron and long distance bicycling, I decided to try and get back on my racing bike in the fall of 2016.    Shortly after getting on the road and within a few miles, I learned that this decision was a mistake. 

I came upon a red light and unclipped my shoes from my pedals, I waited on the edge of the road for the light to turn green.  As the light turns green, I gave a push with my stronger left leg and attempted to clip in with my right foot; however, I was unaware that my clip missed the cleat and resulted in my bike falling to the left and directly into traffic.

While laying there on the ground, I lifted my arms above my head to find that the tire of the oncoming car was less than 1 inch from my head.  After a struggle to unclip my only shoe, I stood up to thank the young lady that saved my life by swerving out of harm’s way. I will never forget this young lady who I declared an angel following that life-threatening fall.

As you can imagine, my fear of getting back on the bike anytime soon was overwhelming, until I went to see Joe Sharron on February 8th, 2017. 

I walked into Joe’s hospital room at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, I asked Joe, how he was doing.  Joe exclaimed, “I am luckiest guy in the world”. He followed up his response by proclaiming that he was lucky to be alive, has an amazing wife, and that he has such incredible family and friends. 

During that visit, Joe shared with me his dream to launch the “Joe Sharron Challenge“ and asked me if I would participate.  At that time, I was uncertain of what monumental goal I could set for myself that would possibly compare to the goals that Joe had set for himself. 

A few weeks later, I visited with Joe again and shared my decision to overcome my fears of getting back on the bike and committed to riding 100 miles for charity at some point in the near future. 

On April 14th, 2018, I took my first ride since my fall and went out on the roads of Windham, New Hampshire at a “not-so-blistering” pace of 9.8 mph for distance of 19.6 miles.  At least I took the first step to be successful in my challenge. 

I trained all Summer with training rides exceeding 75 miles and a pace of 17 to 18 mph. 

On September 8th, 2018 I jumped on the saddle for my 100 mile ride with a starting and finish location of Old Orchard Beach in Maine.  This ride was in support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. With Joe Sharron on my mind from the start to finish, we crossed the line after 6 hours and 2 minutes with an average pace of 16.7 mph. 

 One things for certain, I would not have jumped back on the saddle without Joe’s inspiration and motivation.  I will forever be grateful for his relentless encouragement and support.

 

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