Bike MS, aka "MS-150"
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| On June 4-5, 2011, I participated in my first "Bike MS" event, often referred to as the "MS-150." The 150 mile Bike MS Ocean to Bay Ride is a fundraising event which consists of two consecutive 75 mile days to benefit the NATIONAL MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SOCIETY (MSS). Riders have the option to add 25 miles to each day to complete a double-century. The ride takes place between Cape Charles and Exmore, VA. "Why the MS-150?" To my knowledge, I don't know anyone with MS. Therefore, this isn't as personal for me as it is for others. I'm sure I'm not alone. I have long sought a way to help others, but I had not been motivated enough to make a move. To be honest, I must credit TEAM KILLER BEES for my participation in the ride. I started riding with them in 2010 after a rather long hiatus from cycling. Bike MS is the team's big ride, focusing more on the fundraising aspect of the ride rather than the ride itself. So away I went and began training to make the ride on my 1987 Cannondale racing bike! To complicate my ride, I had been assigned to work in Washington DC the week preceding the event. Carrying luggage and uniforms for a week's work as well as a bicycle and weekend gear to a crowded hotel with valet-only parking was loads of fun! (not really) The work week redefined boredom as expected, particularly the daily commute on the DC Metrorail. Unfortunately, I awoke with a cold the Friday morning before the event. I spent my commute from DC to Exmore, VA trying to stay hydrated and prevent my cold from getting worse. I stayed in a nearby hotel Friday evening. The next morning, my cell phone/alarm clock decided not to work. I thought I was perhaps overmedicated and slept through it. However, I later learned the phone was likely protesting my recent decision to buy a new phone which was awaiting my return from this ride. ;-) I was 35 minutes late getting up. I got out the door, packed up, and on the road fairly quickly. But I still couldn’t get to Cape Charles and unpack in time for the 7:00am ride departure with Team Killer Bees. It was 7:30 by the time I had offloaded my bike and luggage and then played “musical parking” due to an error with the parking volunteers. I was not pleased with the way my ride was starting. Of course, everything would’ve been better had I woke up on time (my fault).
Luckily, I ran into a friend and fellow rider from Team Killer Bees, Susan Burke. She was being a non-conformist Bee and had opted to ride with friends from FAT FROGS rather than don Killer Bee attire and ride with the Bees. ;-) They were running late. I joined their group of 15-20 riders. We enjoyed a nice, long warm-up, something I wouldn’t have done had I left alone and felt compelled to catch the Bees. Eventually, we got into a groove riding at 18-19 mph and stopped at every other rest stop. There were new riders in the group. So we kept the pace tame for a while. I’m not sure what was in the water at Rest Stop #4 (our second stop). But we picked up the pace at that point. We were cruising between 20 and 21 mph depending on who was in front. The informal group leader had us regroup once since we had split up. We eventually split into two groups and stayed that way. I was in the front group and riding at 22 mph. I think we got up to 23-24 a few times. I was definitely glad to see the next rest stop. I had had enough of that! ;-) I recall working our way past a lot of other groups. We were passed as well. Sometimes two groups would work together for a bit before splitting up again. One fun recollection I have is with one of the other teams we encountered, MONKEY BIZNESS. Like many riders, I get songs playing in my head to help drive me along, especially on hard grinds. While following someone in a Monkey Bizness jersey (with a monkey staring back at me), I couldn't help but find myself playing Skid Row's 1991 hit, MONKEY BUSINESS. I shared that with Monkey Bizness riders and some of them said they "play" the same song as well. :-)
| While at our third rest stop, Susan tried to talk the group into completing the century (100 miles) with her. Most were not going for that offer. We were about 60 miles into the ride. I was feeling fairly well despite my cold. So I agreed. Four of us turned off the main route at 67 miles. Sure enough, I started feeling tired around the 75 mile mark and was thinking, “Gee, I could be stopped right now and enjoying the cookout hosted by Chili’s.” But I was with good company and pressed on. Those last 25 miles were pretty tough. They always are. The rider population was certainly thin along the century route. We were just about the only riders at the 80-mile rest stop. During the last 10 miles, my rear end was too sore for sitting and my knees were too sore for standing. Our group of four had split into two groups of two (I was behind with Susan). All I could do was alternate between sitting and standing to divide the pain. The century actually turned out to be 102 miles. I had done the math around the 90 mile mark and saw it coming. But I didn’t have the heart to share that info with Susan since she was quickly running out of steam. The last rest stop was around 99.5 miles. She thought that was the end. "POP!" went that bubble when she learned we had another three miles to go. The last three miles were slow and painful. But we had plenty of encouragement from SAG vehicles, including one motorcycle passenger with green pom-poms. We were greeted at Camp Silver Beach (finish) by a cheering crowd. The Boy Scouts were also handing out ice-cold, wet towels. I was feeling a bit nauseous; so I headed to my cottage for a shower and a bit of rest before a spaghetti dinner.
Arriving at the cottage was interesting. I was the last one to arrive. As a result, the only empty beds were top bunks. Aching all over, I looked and thought, “How am I supposed to get up THERE?” I focused on the shower. It was good! There were no chairs in the cottage and I wanted to get off my feet. So I decided to get into my bunk to rest for a bit. First, I had to MAKE IT. Ordinarily, making a bed is no big deal... even a top bunk. But I was still quite sore. I eventually got the bunk made and climbed in. As I rested and sent a text message home, I concluded that staying at Camp Silver Beach the night before next year’s ride might be a good idea for increasing my odds of getting a bottom bunk or, at the very least, enabling me to make my bed while I’m still able to function normally! I got up after about 30 minutes and headed over to the dining hall for dinner and team photos. By the way, CAMP SILVER BEACH is most frequently used for youth camps. I certainly felt that vibe as I walked about. The experience brought back memories of camps I attended as a kid. :-) After an hour or so of talking with fellow Bees, I opted to turn in early since I was still feeling the results of my cold and the side-effects of my medications. Note to future Bike MS riders: Don't forget to wear your Bike MS T-shirt for team photos!
| Sunday morning showed that my alarm clock had failed me for the last time. But that didn’t really matter. I’m sure the entire camp was awakened by the loud thunder at 5:10am. Rain followed the thunder. The rain was gone by the time I walked to breakfast at 5:45; and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to walk at all! After breakfast, everyone packed up their cottages and left their baggage on the porches for MSS volunteers to collect and deliver back to Cape Charles. I found a group of Killer Bees near the start and positioned myself to ride with them. The vast majority of riders left promptly at 7am on wet roads. The mass start was kind of cool, a scene I had completely missed the day before. I think there were about 10 Killer Bees in this group. We started at a fairly leisurely pace of 15 mph. We eventually picked up the pace to around 18 and then split into separate groups. We encountered light rain about 20 miles into the ride. The rain wasn’t terrible; but it lasted long enough to soak us through. Killer Bee co-captain Art Wolfson and fellow Bees Katherine Long, Paul Krieschen, Jim Mack, and I formed a group which cruised along steadily at 18-20 mph for most of the ride. We had a few riders join us for short stints. But, for the most part, it was just the five of us. We finished the ride at Bay Creek Marina and were welcomed by cheering spectators, volunteers, and the Boy Scouts were on hand passing out the towels again. After the ride, we had a relaxing picnic with good friends, old and new. Showers were available to those who wanted them. I was covered with plenty of road grime from tire spray. It was nice to drive home CLEAN.
Overall, my first experience with Bike MS was EXCELLENT. After hearing about last year's scorching heat, I think it's safe to say I had a great introduction to the ride. The temperature was around 79 degrees on Saturday and around 84 on Sunday, but only after spending most of the ride under thick clouds. :-) The volunteers made everything appear seamless to the riders. I regret not taking more time to thank them although I think I was fairly courteous to them despite my haze of fatigue and cold meds. The cyclists were friendly and cooperative. There were A LOT of riders with differing abilities on the road. Pacelines and abreast riding were "not permitted" by Bike MS organizers. However, many teams and groups took advantage of “single-file speed sustainment efforts” (yes, I just made that up). If you think you saw large groups riding two abreast, odds are what you really saw was one single-file group passing another. It really was a safer, more efficient way to organize such large groups of diverse riders, especially before time and distance had a chance to scatter us apart. I think seasoned riders could normally recognize a casual rider and gave proper respect and clearance for good safety. The groups I encountered, both as I passed and as I was passed, always communicated their location and/or intentions. Vehicles were quickly spotted and announced by the cyclists to minimize traffic jams and increase rider safety. Experienced riders instinctively ride that way. I’m sure there were exceptions, possibly caused by mixing rider capabilities (regrettably, one known crash with injuries). But, given the participation of over 600 riders, the ratio of incidents to total riders was very low. Hopefully, Bike MS organizers won't see the isolated crash as a reason to place restrictions on the other riders of future events.
| I focused more on completing the ride than raising funds (yes, I got it backwards). I raised $415 through rather meager fundraising efforts and some very generous contributors. Team Killer Bees raised over $26,000! I’m already signed up for next year's Bike MS ride. Doing so enabled me to lock-in accommodations in the nicer cottages. I’m told they’re nicer, anyway, with greener grass and colder water, too! ;-) Things I will do differently next year include spending Friday night at Camp Silver Beach (allowing me to leave my bike on or in the car), arriving at Cape Charles extra early on Saturday, departing for the Saturday ride on time, and riding only 75 miles per day (HAHA... "ONLY"). I’ll forego the century due to another regret I had that weekend: I was simply too exhausted, sore, and worn out to enjoy or participate in much of the socializing or presentations Saturday evening. Since many cyclists ride together regularly and can likely raise money for MSS without torturing themselves far from home, I tend to believe the social aspect of Bike MS is part of why so many riders continue to return each year... that and uniting for a common goal while participating in a very-well supported ride! Meeting so many other riders, spending off-saddle time with them, and meeting those with MS are just a few of the benefits of Bike MS, aside from the fundraising. I hope to be able to enjoy more aspects of next year’s Bike MS event. I’ll also start my fundraising a little earlier, too, and include my website in my efforts. I cannot believe I have a popular VW site which commands over 20,000 visits each month and did not think to use it to snare a few donations for MSS! A lot of really nice people visit my website who may be inclined to pitch in $5. :-) We'll see how this works next year.
See you in 2012!
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