Monday, August 07, 2006

Multiple Sclerosis Bike Ride

I got a call from my cousin last Tuesday, asking if I would join a bike ride on 8/5 & 8/6. One of her team members had already done all of the fundraising, but she couldn't ride due to some personal issues. The normal length of the ride is 150 miles over two days; starting at the Waukesha Expo Center, riding to Whitewater and spending the night, and then heading up to Madtown on Sunday. I had always wanted to do this ride, but never motivated myself to signup and raise the pledges. I decided that I'd clear my schedule for the weekend and ride.

I haven't trained for any long rides, but I have been riding my road bike about 3 times a week for at least an hour. I figured that I would experience some fatigue, but it was more about the cause and the experience. My grandmother has MS, an aunt has MS, and an uncle has MS. My uncle isn't even blood relation, which makes it all the more uncanny. For those of you who don't know about multiple sclerosis, here's a link to the WI chapter and it also has info about the ride:

The team that I was riding with is led by my father; my aunt Kathy and cousin Abby, Abby's friend Jeff, along with some family friends. There was only 8 people on the team, and they were able to raise over $20K for the ride - very impressive considering the size of the team.

We started riding around 7:30am on Saturday, and most of the morning was fairly comfortable riding. The sun was shining, the temp was about 75 degrees F, and everyone was in a good mood. I started riding with Abby & Jeff and after a while, they were no longer riding with me. I ended up taking a wrong turn, and on the way back I found Abby. At one of the rest stops, we met back up with Jeff. After filling Jeff's tires (he was riding on 60psi instead of 120psi!), we started off on the next leg of the trip. On the way to the lunch rest stop, we met 3 guys who were cycling together; Amil, Greg, and Jim. They hail from the south burbs of Chicago, and they're team is appropriately named Flatlanders. They were riding at the same pace as we were, so Abby & I decided to join them as they were also doing the century ride (100 miles).

We rode together for the remainder of the day, and got into Whitewater around 4:30. Thankfully I got a cyclometer from my dad for my birthday, so I now have stats! We rode 104 miles in 5:59:13 at at average speed of 17.4 mph. For my first long ride, I was extremely happy with the pace that we were able to keep up. Since the team had raised over $20K, we had our own team tent w/ tables, chairs, and good food (gardenburgers!). After relaxing for a while, we checked into the Whitewater dorms, took a shower, and headed down to the main tent for the award ceremony and a concert by Pat McCurdy.

Sunday morning came quick, but thankfully I had got about 6.5 hrs of sleep so I wasn't too tired. We filled up on breakfast and were getting ready to ride when it started raining. We weren't too worried at first, as it was only a bit of a drizzle. After about 50 minutes on the course, the rooster tail of road grime and water from Greg's bike was continuosly spraying my face. I had to remind myself that no matter how uncomfortable it was, we were riding for people who have lost much of their ability to control their legs. Some of these people (my grandma included) haven't been able to walk, let alone ride a bike for years. So we slogged on in the rain, until the organizers stopped everyone at the next rest stop. There were squall lines of thunderstorms on the radar, and some of the roads that we would be riding on were washed out. We waited underneath an awning for over an hour, and by the time they cleared everyone to leave, my hands and knees were blue. My body was nice & warm when we were pedaling, but no movement = no heat.

We rode the rest of the day in the rain; the last 1.5 hrs of the ride the rain had stopped, but I was still splashed by cars or other bikes as they speed over the wet road. The scariest moment of the day was when some asshole in a semi was riding the white line. There wasn't oncoming traffic, but for whatever reason he didn't move over. I was a couple feet away from the truck when he passed, but I was caught in the draft as the tractor passed, and I was almost sucked into the trailer as it passed. Thank god that didn't happen - I would have been run over.

We had decided to ride the 75 mile route on Sunday, and the end didn't come soon enough. My quads were fatigued. I no longer sat down while riding up hills - I was standing on my pedals, using some of my weight to move the pedals. When we arrived at the Alliant Energy Center, it was a great feeling to be welcomed by the crowd; most importantly the people that were in wheelchairs. That made all of the hours of burning legs and eating road grime worth it. Stats for Sunday: 74 miles, 4 hrs, 17.6 mph. (Don't ask me how we went faster on Sunday - I felt like we were going much slower.)

I'll add photos as soon as I get them - there isn't much room to carry a camera when you're wearing spandex.

Map of Saturday route:

Map of Sunday route: