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Paul Korkowski's Mishigami Challenge

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Contact Linda Lurie Mars
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On Saturday, July 23rd I am starting my first ultra-cycling endeavor since COVID in support for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).  SAVE’s mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide.

I will be participating in, and racing in the inaugural Mishigami Challenge.  The challenge is an 1100-mile self-supported race around Lake Michigan.

Ultra-cycling events are something I have found I am very, very good at, and have done in the past before COVID.  Some examples of my past rides/events include (but not limited to):

  • MN to Las Vegas, NV (1830 miles in 9 days) – 2015
  • Las Vegas, NV to Minneapolis (1500 miles in 6 days before tendon issues) – 2016
  • Race Across America - RAAM Solo in 2017 (DNF’d due to medical issues)
  • Numerous other 24-hour ultra-cycling events.

Based on that, I would like to set the stage for what is to come later in this message.  While many people find it hard to fathom what an ultra-cyclist rider can and will go through, I expect to experience some (if not most) of the following conditions based on previous personal experiences.  I am entering into this race with the full knowledge of these conditions/events:

  1. Tendon issues – in 2018 when doing a 500-mile race in Texas, I tore 50-60% of my right Achilles’ tendon.  The tendon is healed, but my body is permanently impaired from producing collagen normally due to treatment issues stemming from Prostate cancer.  The risk of another tendon issue is very high, and am in fact in a brace/protocol 30 days before the race for the same Achilles’ tendon (doctor approved of racing).
  2.  Continence issues – when I came back from Las Vegas 5 months after prostate cancer surgery, my body when it gets extremely fatigued cannot control my bladder very well.   I likely will be riding with damp/wet cycling shorts after the 3rd day or so due to this condition.
  3. Saddle sores – all cyclists experience some type of saddle sores, which have debilitated many riders.  In 2016 when coming back from Vegas, the continence issues and heavy rain caused me such severe issues, that after I quit my ride 1500 miles in, I had to put a #1 baby diaper inside my underwear covered in Neosporin to prevent my genitals from scarring to my clothing/underwear.  This can happen to all riders when things get wet and/or heavy rain for several days (male or females alike).
  4. Mouth sores – with the amount of eating that one has to do on the bike in order to maintain the ability to ride (every 30 minutes or so you are eating), one can develop sores inside your mouth and on your tongue that are so painful it hurts to swallow, speak, or much less do something like eat more. 
  5. Hand paralysis and numbness – currently, with all of the training for this type of event, my middle fingers are almost completely numbed, and will be 100% numb at the end of the race.  In addition, I will find it very difficult to do something like write with a pen/pencil, type on a keyboard, or even button my shirt.  My hands, when gripping something, will also not want to open at times.
  6. Sleep deprivation – hallucinations, falling asleep on a bike while riding, and being so tired that you don’t know where you will be normal a couple of days into the race.
  7. Shermer’s neck – I did not have the full effect of this in the past years, but Shermer’s neck is a condition where the neck muscles are so fatigued that they literally can’t hold a person’s neck up.  This is one of the most feared conditions next to saddle sores in RAAM or multi-day cycling events/races.

Now, why would I put myself through so much for a race?

What only a couple of people in the world know was that in July of 1988 I was suicidal and was talking about taking my own life after the loss of my best friend.  I had 2 people intervene and got me some help/assistance.   Without them, I don’t know if I would still be here today, much less racing for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.  To Shari and Duane, I will forever owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay.

All of the things that I will knowingly put myself through for this race (good and bad) are in order to help someone get help or help a grieving family.  There is no amount of suffering that I can put myself through on this bike that even comes close to what someone trying to commit the ultimate act feels, or their friends/family if they had taken that step.  I have recognized and prevented several suicides, of which those people are still thankfully with us today.

I am going to come forward and openly discuss my attempted suicide way back when.  I am over the stigma of it, and if I didn’t tell anyone, what good does it do to help someone who might be suffering from the stigma, loss, etc.?

If I am willing to do this on my bike and am willing to discuss with others, what would you be willing to do?


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