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Monday, May 7, 2007

My MS 150 (Mike)

The 2007 Sam's Club MS 150 is now history, and I've taken a day off from work to relax and to share my thoughts on the experience with all of you who have so generously supported me and the rest of the Wheeler Dealers.

Day 1

My lovely bride and I rolled out of bed at 4:15, finished loading the car, and headed over to the starting point, in Frisco. As usual, I was all keyed up and driving Cheryl crazy, but she took it all in stride and kept reminding me that we had plenty of time. We met up with the rest of the team, who were waiting nearby with the rental truck they'd used to transport their bikes over from the other side of the metroplex.

The sky started to lighten, and it became obvious that the weatherman had blown it again. Instead of hot and sunny, we were going to have overcast and windy. The good news was that for the first two thirds of the route, we were going to enjoy a 15-25 mph southeasterly tailwind.

One of the advantages of being part of one of the large teams is that you get to line up at the front of the pack when it's time to start. As a very small (but enthusiastic) team, we were in the very last group to be turned loose on the course. That was fine, because it gave us plenty of time for pictures, good wishes from our families, and last-minute baby feedings. We finally headed out around 7:30.


Sarah and I started out together, as we had planned. I felt good, and despite suffering a bit from allergies, Sarah was feeling strong as well. We began working our way through the pack, passing slower riders to find some open space so that we could relax and concentrate on our pace. Our original plan was to ride at around 15-16 mph, but with the weather looking rather threatening, we picked it up a bit to take advantage of the tailwind while we could.

With roughly a third of the first day's ride under our wheels (~40 miles), we approached the long ride across the Lake Ray Roberts dam. About half way across, it began to drizzle; by the end, a light, steady rain was falling. At around 45 miles, Sarah hit an oily patch on the wet road and went down. I heard, "AuuuUUMPH!!" and the clatter of metal on pavement that every cyclist dreads. Fortunately, by the time I got stopped and turned around, Sarah had already hopped back up and was standing by the side of the road, checking to see if all her parts and here bike's were still intact. She was shaken, but fortunately got off with a little scrape and what would probably turn into a rather uncomfortable bruise.


One of the hard-working volunteers with more jelly on her than on the sammiches.
Another mile or so down the road, our friends and family were waiting for us at the lunch stop. It was a good chance to regroup and eat the biggest peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I'd ever seen. The rain stopped for a bit, but started again as Bob (who had caught up with us at the lunch break), Sarah, and I started out again. I stayed with them for a while, but eventually felt like I needed to pick up my pace a bit and went ahead, trailing a trio of riders from the Feisty Devils team.

We rode in the rain for most of the rest of the first day—I've never seen my poor bike so filthy—but it had stopped by the time I rolled in to Texas Motor Speedway around 2:00. I rolled across the finish line to find my lovely bride cheering and waving at the finish. Cliff, who had finished quite some time earlier, was snapping pictures. I hopped off the bike to wait and cheer in the rest of the team as they arrived.

Once we were all in, we headed off toward the team and sponsor tents in search of liquid carbohydrates, which we enjoyed while swapping stories of the day's events.

Day 2


Those of us who had spent the night at Bob and Gerry's rolled out of bed at around 4:15. Some showered. Others ate oatmeal and drank Gatorade. Most watched the Weather Channel, which painted a grim scenario filled with rain, more rain, and (oh by the way) violent thunderstorms beginning around noon. Patrick (a.k.a., "The Prognosticator") rolled his eyes.

"It's not gonna rain," he announced confidently. "It was supposed to be pretty yesterday, and it rained on us. Today, they're predicting storms. It's not gonna rain."

When I took a couple bags out to the car at around 5:15, Elizabeth was standing on the front porch, and had been for a while. She hadn't wanted to ring the doorbell and risk waking Gerry earlier than was necessary.

Finally, we all piled in the cars, running late, and raced to the Texas Motor Speedway. We needed to be there, get our bikes and gear together, and gather inside the speedway if we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to ride a lap around the track. We made it in time, rode our lap, and headed out the gate toward the starting line.

And then, instead of continuing on, we had to wait in a tightly-packed group to be sent off in groups again. Half an hour later, we finally got on our way. The wind was out of the southeast, which meant that we'd have a tailwind at times—but mostly we'd be bucking 15-20 mph headwinds, since we would be traveling west and south for most of the day. And this was the hilly day. With our muscles stiff from the previous day's 78 miles, we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Cliff, Sarah, and I started out together. With the threat of bad weather hanging over us, we decided we'd try to keep up a brisk pace until the lunch stop, taking advantage of the brief stretches when the wind was in our favor. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed like we had a much harder time working through the pack than we did the day before.

After fifteen or so miles of trying to stay together with Cliff and Sarah, I finally got stripped off by one too many careless riders and rode on ahead. I figured I'd pull up at the second rest stop (~21 miles) and regroup with Cliff and Sarah, but when they arrived, they blew right past. I hopped back on my bike and sprinted after them, aided by a fortuitous direction change to the north. It was during this brief stretch, with the wind directly at my back and a rare bit of downhill, I caught and blew by the paceline Cliff and Sarah were riding with, doing around 26 mph and accelerating. I believe it was around that time that I spun out my top gear and clocked my high speed for the weekend: 37.5 mph. But I didn't discover this until I'd finished for the day, because I was far too busy whooping and hanging on, at the time.

At 30 miles, I stopped to grab some lunch and to regroup with Cliff and Sarah. The route turned south into the wind from there, and the big hills were still to come. I wanted to be with friends for moral support, but also because I was afraid it might be my last chance to find them so that we could ride across the finish line together. I'd been having some shifting problems all morning, so after eating a chicken wrap and taking a bathroom break, I swung by the Plano Cycling & Fitness tent to see if Jesse could smooth things out for me. He said it was probably a case of the derailleurs being filthy from the previous day's rainy ride, but he did what he could.

We were just finishing up when Cliff and Sarah rolled in. I expected to have a bit of a wait while they got lunch, but it turned out that it was just a bit of good luck for me that they pulled in at all. They weren't going to stop for lunch, but the course volunteers were directing all the riders through the lunch stop, whether they were going to stop for lunch or not. I just hopped on my bike, and off we went.

The next few hours are a blur of wind, hills, and pain—for Sarah and me, at least. If Cliff was under any stress (aside from having to wait for us) he never showed it. Sarah had started out a little stiff, and the brisk pace of the first 30 miles had been hard on her. By the time we headed south into the wind and hills, she was suffering, but her competitive spirit never failed. Every time we hit another big hill and I thought she might not have enough left for the next one, she found a reserve of strength and was right back with us.

I think that watching her tough it out gave me the will to continue on through the seemingly-endless climbs (except the half of the climb at Eagle Mountain Lake, when both of us threw up the white flag and walked). I remember one hill in particular, as we came through the little town of Dido, just before the fifth rest stop (~60 miles). At the top of a long, steep grider of a hill was a sign that read "Dido Cemetery".

Tempting as it was, by that point, we didn't stop.

Finally, at 10 miles from the finish, the three of us stopped at the last break point. The Wheeler Dealers had agreed that we'd all gather at the last stop so that we could all ride across the finish together, so I called Cheryl to let her and the rest of our support crew know that we were the first to arrive. Then we settled in to wait.

After about 15 antsy minutes of sitting on the concrete in the now rather hot sun, we noticed a mass of black clouds rolling up from the south. After some discussion, we called again to let the support crew know that we had decided to continue on. We had come too far to risk not finishing because of weather, and we were already starting to stiffen up.

The long, steep grade on the final approach to Ft. Worth was one of those You've Got To Be Kidding moments, but we made it and regrouped so that we could ride across the finish line together. I can't wait to see the photograph of that moment. If the event photographer didn't blink, it ought to be a good one.

And Patrick ("The Prognosticator") was right: It never did rain on us.

Epilogue

Our whole gang was there to greet us with kisses and (despite our stinky selves) hugs. Brad whisked us over to the beer carbohydrate replenishment tent, after which we returned to wait with our group to cheer for the rest of the Wheeler Dealers as they came across the finish line.

Thanks again to all of you who sponsored me, and especially to Cheryl, my wife, who wholeheartedly supported me through this effort. I'd also like to thank the makers of Lodine, Clif Shots, Accelerade, and Fat Tire ale. Finally, I thank God for good health and the ability to participate in this event, as well as for His protection during two days and 150+ miles of riding.

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4 Comments:

Blogger That Janie Girl said...

Woot! Congratulations to all of y'all. Sounds like a great ride, and I hope Sarah is feeling well today. I bet y'all are tired, but exultant. Bless y'all for doing this for MS.

May 7, 2007 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Gwynne said...

Great job all of you! God bless you all.

May 7, 2007 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Eric Siegmund said...

I worried about how the weather might affect your ride -- I'm relieved to hear that it ended up in the category of "annoying inconvenience" instead of "event-ruining disaster."

Congratulations on a good well done, and a report well writ! Let's do it again next year! ;-)

May 7, 2007 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger yellojkt said...

Sounds like a great ride.

May 7, 2007 at 9:08 PM  

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