Me and a friend at a rest stop (Mile 83)
Some Background; Or why this ride is so important to me.
This is my sixth year participating in a MS 150 bikeathon — my fifth year with the NW Ohio Bike to the Bay. I did one Great West MS 150 (Colorado Chapter) in July 2004 before I moved. When I started this ride in 2000, I only had a mountain bike — a Gary Fisher Gitchagumee my husband had bought me for my birthday the year we were engaged. All I had to encourage me was a dream. Sure, I thought, I could do 75 miles. I could do anything.
In those days, 75 miles was an excruciating venture. First off, my husband and I only toodled on trails. We were the typical 10-15 mile riders. Secondly, as many of you may know, a mountain bike is not built for those kind of miles. It didn’t take me long on that first MS 150 to notice that most of the other bikes were passing me quite readily, that every revolution of their pedals had twice the power as mine. Still, my brother and I completed the 75 miles of the first day of the 2000 MS 150 in about 10 hours. We bailed on the second day. I had never been so tired in my entire life.
But I was not daunted. My brother and I returned in 2001, even with the death of my husband still two months fresh, and completed the 50 mile route on both days. My husband had registered for that ride as well, so I suppose we felt we had to finish it for him. I then took a two year hiatus as my personal life went haywire for awhile and I ended up moving to Colorado in 2003.
Through it all, I continued cycling. And the obession grew. Once in Colorado, I purchased a hybrid and was readily impressed with its obviously superior speed to a mountain bike. I could now complete longer rides with more realistic expectations. I began riding my bike to work — 20 miles each way — three days a week. I completed a metric century (62 miles) at a popular ride called Elephant Rock, and then a month later participated in the GW MS 150 where I completed the entire first day’s ride of 75 and 45 miles of the second day. It was the hardest ride for me ever… but typical of Colorado with long climbs and harrowing descents. I was proud to have just completed the first day.
Still, at this point, I’d never completed both days of an MS 150 and it daunted me. When I moved back to Ohio in August 2004, I set my sights on the NW Ohio ride again. I knew I could do it this time since it was flat. I had to conquer this beast.
The 2005 MS 150 started off promising, despite the heat. I completed the first day’s 75 miles in about 6 hours and was, surprisingly, not as much pained as I thought I should be. I could have done the second day no problem had I not had a fight with my ex-boyfriend who had stayed at the overnight camp with me. I should have just let him go home the next day and done the ride, but I was so flaming mad at the time, I couldn’t muster the strength. Of course, now that would have given me more reason to ride, as I often channel my emotions into riding. I might have made record time!
2006 was my golden year. No boyfriend and, unfortunately, no friends to meet me at the Saturday finish line to go to Put-in-Bay with me. It was because I had no distractions, however, that I was able to channel my inner self and concentrate fully on the ride. At the 15 mile point in that ride, where the century route and the traditional route diverge, I was feeling great. And, even though I’d never done 100 miles before, I got in it in my head that I just had to try it out. So I went. And — may wonders never cease — I completed the ride in about 7.5 hours with a 14mph average. My knees were in more pain than I’d ever felt from a ride, but otherwise, I was surprisingly robust. I went to Put-in-Bay with some girls I met on the ride who were (ironically) from Colorado and hung out with them for awhile. On the Jet Express back to the main land later, I was alone, and I felt elated. That was the longest ride I’d ever done! And I didn’t feel dead!
I then proceeded to force myself on my bike the next morning. It was hard work, but since I knew I’d gotten myself up to ride that 45 miles the second day on the Colorado MS 150, I knew that I could do it. And I told myself as I painfully set my butt onto the saddle, I was NOT going to let myself quit this time. I had to complete this ride, to do or die. I would take my time, I told myself. If I had to, I’d stop at every rest stop until I could muster the strength to continue.
The happy ending here is that, as painful as it was, I completed the ride. It was a glorious moment for me crossing the finish line to the cheers of the MS 150 volunteers. They didn’t know it, but I was more proud of myself at that moment than I’d ever been. I’d finally conquered a two-day ride, the MS 150, my pet cause. At that moment, the ride became my favorite ride of the year.
This was also the last long run for my hybrid. This ride and many attempted rides with the Akron Bicycle Club convinced me that I’d outgrown the old hybrid. It was now time for me to graduate to a full-fledged road bike. I’d found my passion, my drug. I had to indulge.
A few weeks later, I purchased my first road bike (excluding the 12-speed I owned when I was 12), a Giant OCR 1. I loved this bike the moment I tried it. It fit me like — to beat a dead metaphor to death — a glove. The Giant and I became great friends instantly. I was able to keep up with the ABC on their Thursday evening rides. My whole world changed. In October, I completed my second-ever two day ride — the first annual PVG tour sponsored by Hubbub Custom Bicycles (see the Upcoming Rides link list at side of this page).
Truthfully, my love of cycling can really be traced back to my childhood… But that’s another story all together…. maybe another time… The point is, my obsession has been slowly building over the last 6 years. And it all began with the MS 150.
The greatest thing about cycling is that its my own. When my husband was alive, he got me into hiking and backpacking. Together, we were members of the US Highpointers Club — a club where its members strive to climb the summit of all 50 US states. Dont get me wrong — I still love this hobby as well. And I will always love hiking, camping, and backpacking (especially “roughing it” in the woods). But these were things my husband brought to me. Cycling was always my idea. Cycling was something I built into an obsession in the aftermath of his death. It gave me focus, it helped me deal with the pain. I am sure had my husband not died, cycling would have still consumed my life… and he may have joined me, or he may have supported me (as he always did). But cycling is, and always has been, mine. It feels good to have something you know is uniquely yours, something that you discovered yourself. Especially in the aftermath of loss where it’s sometimes really hard to seperate the individual from the duality that was yours… (I’ve always described losing a spouse like trying to learn to walk again after a leg has been amputated.)
Enough about the history… Now to the MS 150 2007…
This year, I officially signed up for the century route. Technically, I am signed up for both days of the century, but I told myself I only needed to repeat what I did last year, especially since that had been done on the hybrid. The little cocky road cyclist within me sniffed indignantly that there was no way I’d let a hybrid outshine my road bike. So I knew that I had to at least repeat the effort of 2006.
Saturday started off a little chilly, but this was welcome because the last two years had been pretty hot and sunny. I felt excited as I stood at the starting line for the mass start. There was energy in the air. I’m going to kick this hard, I thought, ignoring any warnings friends had given me earlier in the week about moderating my speed. After all, this is Toledo — flatland. I’d already ridden about 650 miles of my 850 this year in the hilly terrain of the Cuyahoga Valley. I was in better shape for this ride than I’d ever been previously. I was salivating. I could really do this. I was aiming for a 16mph average (since last year I completed it with 14 on my hybrid — surely my road bike would make that much of a difference.)
Of course, I always seem to forget about how windy it is in Toledo. But I obviously needed the sobering up. =)
At the 15 mile mark, I took the century divergence without hesitation. A group of cyclists made me feel a part of the century club by talking me into riding with them in their paceline. Ha. That lasted about 20 miles. They were averaging “only” (quoted) 18mph. I could keep up with them, but I realized quickly that I would not last 100 miles doing so. I’m not quite yet ready for pacelines. Riding really close to other riders like that kind of makes me nervous. I still haven’t quite figured out where I need to ride in order to ride in their “draft” either. Perhaps I need to read this article by Fred Matheny How to Ride in a Paceline. They need classes on this stuff!
(I got invited into a paceline that seemed to be moving my speed on Sunday as well, but I shied out. They told me I could keep up with them, but I didn’t believe them after my experience on Saturday.)
Well, what fun is it anyway, if I am not doing all the work? I won’t be able to eat as much when I finish! =) I bike to burn calories, too!
Anyway, at the lunch stop — which was 55 miles for century riders and 35 for the traditional route — I felt phenomenal. I remembered that last year I’d come into lunch feeling a bit downtrodden because I was starving and physically exhausted (maybe in part to due to the heat). The adreniline was soring through my veins… Finally, I’d done enough riding prior to the MS 150 that I felt good and not exhausted at 55 miles. I was so excited that I texted my friend, Diane, who was meeting me later for wine at Put-in-Bay (as part of the ride, I get a free Jet Express ticket to Put-in-Bay).
I stayed at the lunch stop long enough to eat and get a picture. Then, I was back on my bike. A few roads with a nasty headwind later, I was starting to feel a little bit of the burn of cycling. By the time I hit the rest stop near mile 83, I was about ready to be done riding. Of course, because suffering is a part of this sport I love so much, I was not about to quit. It was just noteworthy because I realized that my level of tolerance has significantly risen (it used to be around mile 50 where I was ready to be done).
The last road to the Port Clinton High School finish line follows Route 2. It’s about 3-4 miles of what had to be the windiest part of the entire day, which is universal justice when you’re on your last drop of energy. I was taking this road at a depressing 13-14mph… But I knew I was almost done.
When I crossed the finish line at the high school, I checked my computer to find that — low of all lows — my mileage was only 99.71.
“Hey!” I exclaimed in my silly voice to the volunteers who cheer you at both days’ finish lines. “The century is only 99.71.”
The announcer volunteer laughed and mocking repeated my statement into the megaphone. I briefly contemplated riding around the building to make up that .29. But the spaghetti dinner was calling me from the cafeteria. And a shower. And I was going to have to put up my tent. Since the check-in table is right at the beginning of the finish line, I dismounted my bike to check-in. But that 99.71 kept flashing glaringly in my mind’s eye.
So I rode up to the lawn where everyone assembles their tents and then down to the bike coral on the baseball field. 99.84.
My stomach growled. I left my bike at the baseball field (the designated bike coral) and proceeded to the cafeteria where I munched heartily on my meal. I mixed the brownie dessert with vanilla ice cream… after 99.84 miles, you deserve a brownie sundae.
I assembled my tent and was laying on the floor inside it, contemplating a shower, when my friend Michael called. “Don’t tell me you just left that at 99 miles,” he taunted me. “You can’t do that.”
This from the guy who once suggested we ride around an extra 2 miles at the end of a 60 mile informal ride to make it a metric century. Of course, I had agreed to that game too. I mean, you can’t have an uneven number, right?
Damn it. So, of course, once I showered and my friend Diane arrived to man my camera and commemorate the moment, I got my bike out of the coral and road around the entire high school once and back to the coral, making it 100.44 miles.
You know… it’s my ego and guys egging me on that always has gotten me into trouble… it’s the same thing that always causes me to do shots of tequila… Ugh! I’m so suseptible to peer pressure. Especially when the peer pressure involves me proving myself to — not my peers — but myself. Because it really did urk me that the century was not a full 100 miles. There has to be other riders who did the same thing as me… right?! C’mon, someone out there, admit it!
My stats for Saturday were: 100.44 miles, 6 hours 23 minutes, and 15.6mph. Although, I’m holding my average in question because the Max stat read 60mph, which is impossible going down the sharpest hill in the Cuyahoga Valley; therefore, definitely impossible in Toledo where going down one of their bumps, I can barely get up to 25mph. I don’t know where that weird max speed came from, but if anyone knows of weird things that affect wireless bike computers, please let me know!
Well, anyway, Diane and I went to Put-in-Bay to enjoy some wine at Heineman’s winery. We enjoyed a bottle of Riesling and a cheese plate. Some drunk people who could not get any more wine down gave us the last 1/5 of their bottle of Pink Catawba (which I would not, in proper wine company, be caught dead drinking) which amounted to a glass for each of us. Then, the Heineman’s kicked everyone out because they were closing.
We just walked around for awhile and had appetizer’s at Mossbacks. We were supposed to leave on the 11:00pm ferry — plenty of time to get back to the high school for sleep. However, we arrived to a huge line and a lot of angry, drunken Put-in-Bay partakers. Apparently, the 10:15 ferry hit another ferry that was docking… and the result was that now only one ferry was running… and our 11pm tickets now equaled 12:15!!
I calmly watched as my hours of sleep slipped away… like sands in the hour glass… Calmly is the only way to handle these situations, since there is nothing I can do to change it. Besides, the drunken people around me were making enough noise and harrassing the Jet Express employees and PIB cops enough for all of us. Since napping in the line seemed like a bad option, considering all the drunks (and the cops checking on drunks who might mistake my sleeping for drunkeness), I just tucked in and accepted my fate.
Fortunately, the Jet Express arrived as promised at 12:15 so we were back at the Port Clinton high school by 1. Yeah. I knew it was going to be a short night. 5:45am would come too soon and too harsh.
From what I heard the next morning, many other riders were put off schedule. The people with 12:15 tickets were forced to exchange them for 1:30 tickets. I can’t even imagine how any of us who went to PIB managed to ride the next day.
But we did. Because we’re all troopers.
Thankfully, I think the sleep I did get was pretty heavy. Probably in part due to the glasses of wine. I woke at 6am feeling just as sluggish as I did on the second day of any two-day ride I’d ever done, so I figured I was good enough to go. Of course, planting my butt on the seat hurt like hell.
Sidebar: During this ride, I concluded that some day I’m going to start my own bike team and call it “The Sore Butt Society.” Wouldn’t that be awesome? Please dont use my idea. That’s (c) Mars Girl Empire, Inc., 2007 — thank you!
The wind was not as bad Sunday as it was Saturday; at least, it didnt seem that way to me. We seemed to have spent more time on roads that did not have a headwind. There were some roads where I was maintaining a steady 18-20mph average. But I was pushing pretty hard. I knew I was just doing 75 (which actually turned out to be 70) and I wanted it to be over.
Around 40 miles, though, I started watching for the 50 mile mark because I’d calculated that — according to my last known stats on this website — to be where I’d officially hit the 1,000 mile mark for the 2007 riding year. The actual number count may be slightly off given to some errors in collecting the precise mileage in Europe as well as some rounding I did on some rides I did on other bicycles (ie, a few tandem rides I’ve done).
For the sake of “official celebration” of this momentuous occasion (because I’ve never done this much mileage in such a short span of time), I decided to call it a sealed deal when I hit 50 miles. As I crossed this mark, I gave out a little triumphant cheer to myself that no one heard because I was riding alone at the time. I pumped my fist in the air once in the fashion of Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line (which is appropriate as I chose to wear my new Livestrong jersey). I wanted to stop and take a picture of myself at the exact spot where this moment occurred; however, since no one was around, I decided to just push on. Fortunately, a mile and a half down this same road was a rest stop. So I had someone get a few pictures of me there. Hey, I’m always a sucker for ceremony! Besides, for me, this really was, if only in symbolic gesture, really a big moment.
The rest of the ride was, to say the least, painful. But I slogged threw at my pace. I did actually realize that I was feeling much better than I did on the same course last year. I’ve really come along way.
As I crossed the finish line of the MS 150 for my second time ever, the cheers of the volunteers really meant something to me. I did it again. And it was for a great cause. If my grandfather could see me now, I know he would be proud. If my husband could see me now, he would be proud too, as he witnessed my struggles with the MS 150 in 2000.
My stats for the second day are my all-time best: 70 miles, 4 hours 25 minutes, 16.0mph. I reiterate that this could only happen in the flatlands (I suck up hills, even though I enjoy doing them). However, I’m still proud. I’ve come a long way, indeed…