MS 150 2008: A lesson in wind and disappointment

Mars Girl, donned in the new ABC attire, at starting line on first day.

It’s been a week since my fateful ride on the Northwest Ohio’s MS 150 aka Bike to the Bay, and I’m still a little ticked about the experience. I suppose I should accept the fact that of the 6 or so years I’ve been doing this ride, this was the worst weather we’ve had, and, even still, it wasn’t that bad comparatively to some of the other slogs I’ve ridden in. In fact, it was actually pretty pleasant for an on/off rainy with mean-looking-angry skies sort of weekend. What pisses me off about the experience, however, is the fact that on Saturday, the ride organizers closed the ride around 2pm due to the threat of thunderstorms that never came. They apparently came in Toledo, but they never happened to the east. We simply got a hard downpour for about fifteen minutes which transitioned into a slow drizzle and eventually broke with sunny skies and a beautiful evening. Which is why I’m so blasted angry about the ride organizer’s bad decision to close the ride down.

I was at the rest stop in Gibsonburg–the first rest stop past the lunch stop–with 64 miles and a kick-ass average of 16.7, which is not an average I have ever maintained by myself under any circumstance. Only on the tandem have I managed, with the help of Michael’s powerful legs, to achieve anything in the range of 16mph. There must have been a mighty tailwind in some of the directions that Saturday because there were roads on which I maintained an easy 20-21mph for several miles and I wasn’t pace-lining with anyone. Tailwind or not, I was on fire, feeling great and just pushing myself. I was sure to complete the 100 miles I’d signed up for.

Well, while in Gibsonburg, the rest stop coordinators started telling people they couldn’t leave. Mind you, it had been sunny when I left the lunch stop about forty-five minutes earlier and that had no given away to clouds, but I was in no way alarmed until I started listening to the mumblings of the volunteers.

Along Portage River outside of Pemberville (lunch stop) first day.

“Storms are coming! Storms are coming!” they chicken-littled all over the place. Which, of course, made me a bit nervous. I don’t like getting caught in thunderstorms and I’m deathly afraid of lightening (yes, still convinced ole Zeus has it out for me). Now, the skies weren’t really looking that threatening. And as I stood there looking forlornly at the road and some riders who were blowing this rest stop, I contemplated just getting up and leaving. The only thing keeping me back was the fear that I would be out in the middle of that vast Northwest Ohio flat countryside with no place to duck should a storm actually come up. Back home when I’m planning a ride in somewhat iffy conditions, I usually plot a route that I know has lots of possibilities for shelter if I need to seek some quickly. I can wait out a storm no problem–I’ve done it on several occasions, especially in my bike commuting days in Colorado. Thunderstorms usually don’t last that long and once they pass, you can trudge off in the rain if you have to and finish your ride out. I’m not saying it’s fun, but you do it because you have to. The extra bonus of toughing it out in unfavorable conditions makes you realize how strong and capable you are of dealing with discomfort to achieve a goal.

I was a wuss. I stayed an hour at that rest stop, as requested, behaving like a rule abiding good citizen. After that time, the overweight house-frau running the stop informed everyone that they would be bussing us all to Port Clinton (the overnight ending point). (Okay, I admit it was mean calling this woman an “house frau” but she acted like the kind of mother who wouldn’t let Johnny play in the snow without fifty layers of clothes and a chain to his ankle so that he didn’t wander far from the house–you know, the type of overprotective mother who worries about every sniffle and every possibility of something bad that can happen to her child by him simply walking out the door.)

I was livid. That is to say, I was so upset, tears were coming out of my eyes (slowly, not in a rush of panicked girly crying). Which I realize, in retrospect, is a bit over-reactive. But I think it shows just how passionately I feel about not completing a goal I set out to accomplish, especially since I was in such an “on” moment where I felt all the energy of the world and was sure I would have completed the 100 miles without much pain.

So we got onto the bus, and they drove us back, and all along the route people were still riding. And, of course, I was cursing myself for giving in so easily. We passed three weather zones in the forty miles to Port Clinton–driving rain to breaks of sun to drizzle and unpleasant skies. Yet, no lightening broke the sky. My mind berated myself with the single thought, I could have done this. It’s better weather than TOSRV. And it was. The day had started humid and I’d been dripping with sweat before I even started the ride. It seems to me a cold rain would have cooled me off some, despite the discomfort of being wet. Besides, I’d brought my rain coat and shoe covers, I’d have been fine.

We arrived in Port Clinton to a break of clouds. As I erected my tent, still fuming with disappointment and anger, the sun came out full blast and dried the world around me. A few of my century route comrades passed my tent, all smiles, informing me that they’d chosen to pass up all rest stops once they’d figured out that the ride organizers were calling riders off the road. They’d pushed through to the finish and completed the ride. My heart was broken.

After I had my tent up and I showered, I began to feel a little better. Over my spaghetti dinner, I chatted with some people from the Toledo Area Bicyclists (TAB) club and tried to calm my frustration down. I decided I would go Put-in-Bay and hang out for awhile on the free JetExpress pass provided with the ride. I ended up going to Heineman’s winery and having a few glasses of wine. I then spent the rest of my time at a margarita bar by the docks. My legs did feel a little stiff, so I consoled myself with the fact that I did at least get some workout from what I did complete of the ride. I tried not to let the sunny heat mock my failure.

The famous Perry’s Monument on Put-in-Bay.
It has occurred to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve gone to the top.

Of course, the next day, I was bound and determined to complete the century. The day before, at the last rest stop along the century route, I’d received my century patch. I felt like I had to earn this patch now.

As I was donning my bicycle gear in the tent, however, it started to rain. I groaned audibly. Starting in the rain was never fun. Packing my tent in the rain was even less fun. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it only seemed to rain long enough for me to pack my tent up and drag all of my things to the truck for transport. By the time I returned outside after breakfast, the rain had passed and the sun was again peeking through the clouds.

The first thing I noticed as I began my ride was that there as an awfully nasty wind coming from the west–the direction in which we were headed. It started out tolerable, but as the day wore on, it just seemed to get worse and worse. There were points at which I was pedaling away at a mere 11mph. Very depressing. I had no one with whom to draft off. I’d tried a few pacelines on Saturday, but realized I just couldn’t maintain the speeds these flatlanders were far more used to than me. The one time I’d taken my turn in the lead, I fear I greatly disappointed the crew with my slow pace and struggle with the wind. So, on Sunday, I turned down all invitations I received to join passing pacelines (I seem to get invited all the time into pacelines and have my suspicions it has something to do with being one of the rare female cyclists).

Hauntings of Davis Besse in the distance over fields of gold.
A horse munches on grass in the distance (left). Mars Girl prays for the day
when we find safer ways to bring electricity into our homes.

The ride wasn’t all horrible, though. There were some very lovely points that stand out in my head–riding along an old quiet road next to railroad tracks and watching as a train came up on me, passed, and moved along the tracks to curve out in front of me before the road I was on turned abruptly in the opposite direction. This was also a point where you could see the cooling tower for Port Clinton’s Davis Besse nuclear power plant. I, of course, took a picture. There was something eerie about seeing that cooling tower looming in the distance over fields of golden wheat. (Note: I also took a picture of the cooling tower for a nuclear power plant on the Marietta River Rendezvous–I have a sick fascination with the topic of nuclear power… bombs… etc.)

Train crossing in front of road (second day along century route).

Another scenic area was at the beginning of the ride when I crossed a road long some swamp land. We have an area like it along Old Mill Road in the Tinker’s Creek State Park. On the first day, I rode along the banks of the Portage River before the lunch stop in Pemberville. The river looked a little muddy and high, as did all of the rivers and streams I passed along the ride. Some farmer’s fields seemed to be a little flooded at some ends too where the last rows of corn were being drowned. It’s certainly been a soggy summer so far. I hope it breaks.

I completely killed my legs on this second day of windy riding. For once, I realized how nice it is to actually ride with other people who go my own pace. I guess since I’ve started riding with other people regularly, I’ve longed for the old days of riding with myself when I didn’t have to slow down or speed up to keep pace with someone. I was hoping this weekend would give me a chance to let it all out, just push myself to my limits on my own terms. I accomplished this, but at the expense of pushing myself really hard against some difficult wind.

I really wished I had Michael with me for both the company (yes!) and the possibility of taking turns dealing head-on with the wind. I needed some relief that only a paceline can provide. Personally, I prefer a small paceline of a few friends I can trust. I’m not into those groups of twenty bikes all crunched together. When you’re in a group such as this, you only can look at the back of else’s tire because you’re trying very hard to ensure you don’t bump into them. You can’t relax as much and you certainly don’t get to enjoy the scenery any (not that Toledo has astounding scenery, but looking at my surroundings is part of the aesthetic experience of riding that I enjoy, not just pushing myself at high speeds to the finish line). If I’m with friends who ride my pace, and it’s just a couple of us, I can still divide my attention. Michael and I ride at a very similar pace so drafting with him doesn’t demand killing myself to stay at his wheel, and vise versa. Plus, Michael and I have a similar agenda as far as riding goes–we’re both in it for the total enjoyment of the experience, not just completion of the ride.

Anyway, I suppose I’m admitting that it would have been nice to have a friend with me (especially Michael). Instead, I totally wasted my muscles on an unconquerable battle with the wind. Towards the end of the ride, I met up with a guy I’d met the day before–a newbie to riding who had never before completed any ride over 22 miles and then went on to do both days’ centuries. We pulled each other back in for the last 20 miles of the ride, which worked out nice as by then my legs were shot.

Unfortunately, the century on the second day only seemed to be 91 miles. And I’m not even sure it was that, for as I sat at the last stop light before the finish line in Maumee, I noticed that my computer was still ticking off fractions of a mile and I wasn’t riding. Folks, do NOT by those wireless computers. I’ve had the most trouble ever with this thing. If you go under powerlines that buzz or something with a lot of apparent magnetic power, weird things happen, such as the speedometer reading 67mph when you know you can’t possibly be going that speed. It happened to me on TOSRV, too, though I didn’t notice when it happened, only found out later when I checked my max speed reading for the ride to find an unrealistic speed of 72mph. I’m about to go down to the bike shop and go back to the good old fashioned computer with wires…

Anyway, it only seemed to happen that one time and it gave me perhaps an extra quarter of a mile that I didn’t really ride (but was standing still at a light). So, regardless of how you look at it, the second day’s century was at least ten miles short of 100. Normally, I would have tried to get that ten miles, riding around the city or something, but my legs were just too sore at that point. I know, I’m a big disappointment. Probably had Michael been there, I would have found myself circling Maumee streets despite the pain (and I probably would have also completed the first day’s century because Michael wouldn’t have let the threat of thunderstorms stop him from completing something if there were no thunderstorms currently in sight). But, alone, I just simply wussed out, making my bitter disappointment complete.

It wasn’t all that bad, though, I suppose. I did ride both days and I guess I can say that I got some good miles in… I still did a proper MS 150 with 150 miles logged. And I did manage to raise about $815, even if I decided to be less aggressive this year with my bugging people about donating. So I might still hold the status of Golden Spoke for another year (Golden Spokes on this ride get to wear a number with a gold background and the number represents their position in order of donation amount). And I at least get to select a prize from the $500 level of fundraising prizes, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. It is a charity ride, after all, and the point of it is to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and the assistance of people living with MS in the community. My grandpa would still be proud. He was invalid with his MS and couldn’t ride a bike two miles if he wanted to. I need to keep my focus on the more important aspects of this ride. Also, the weather on my previous rides has been consistently great, so I guess we were due for a crummy set of days. I suppose there’s always next year….

A wind-beaten Mars Girl at the end of the second day. (Yes, I’m wearing the same shorts… seems I forgot to pack a second pair… so, yes, gross, two days in the same shorts. Be glad you weren’t with me afterall…)

NOTE: All of these photographs were taken with my cell phone camera, which has 2 megapixels.


7 thoughts on “MS 150 2008: A lesson in wind and disappointment

  1. Okay, I admit, I wanted to add the grotesque details of my trip without doing it so overtly as to describe my trauma within the text. You can imagine my disappointment, frustration, and disgust when I searched my bag on Sunday morning only to realize that I’d forgotten to pack a second pair of shorts, despite the fact that I’d specifically done a load of wash of only bike clothes to clean my shorts (they were all dirty except the new ones). Somehow, though I had taken the load of clothes upstairs, the clean shorts never made it into my bag. I always forget SOMETHING when I overnight somewhere. ALWAYS. It’s frustrating!!Believe me, I did not want to wear the same shorts two days in a row. Gross. I like to start the day fresh… Oh well… :(

  2. I understand the frustration of not being able to finish what you started. The first time I tried the century on the Sweet Corn ride and quit at 94 miles because of the heat was a disappointing experience for me. The next year I was determined to finish it and succeeded, although I was close to comatose at the end.In your situation, it seems you really have the hausfrau to blame for not finishing, not yourself, so that should be of some consolation. In any event, as you say, there’s alway’s next year.It seems that you often run into that overprotection problem when non-riders start making decisions about running organized rides. Paula Adams tells a funny story about a time she was on the Norton Ciderfest ride and a sag driver yelled at her abusively for “getting off the route” when she turned in a driveway to use a porta-potty.

  3. Bob, you make a good point. Most of the people running the MS 150 are non-riders. The guy I ended up finishing the second day with told me about how he was riding in the middle of an empty street (no traffic, that is) to avoid some pot-holes, and one of the hausfraus drove by him in a SAG and told him to get to the side of the road. He said she was smoking a cigarette as she barked at him for riding in the center of the road. (In fact, at one of the rest stops, one of the volunteers was smoking a cigarette and I found myself actually irritated about this, and I have been an occasional smoker…)Now, you know, granted, the guy should have had a mirror to see a car was coming. But, as you know, we riders do ride more towards the center to avoid bad potholes (which can make us go down or pop a tire if we hit a big enough one) along the side of a road.It reminds me of the time I was in Colorado riding along one of the busier streets near my house in the wide berm on the side of the road. Some hausfrau shouted in this annoyingly nagging and screeching voice, “This isnt Boulder! Get off the road!”I just was overwhelmed by the urge to shout, “If you got off your lazy butt and exercised like this maybe you wouldnt be so bitchy!” But, of course, I didnt. But I sure wanted to.Add to that the time I was riding in a marked BIKE LANE in my hometown in Colorado and some guy shouted at me to get off the road. Dar.Rides run by bike clubs are a little less overprotective. Michael always relates to me the story of when he was riding on HHH and a storm was brewing. He asked one of the ride organizers, “Will you cancel the ride if it thunderstorms?” The guy laughed and said, “Hey, it’s not me who’s sitting on a metal lightening rod!”I think the best anyone can do is advise someone not to ride. But, you know, I am not sure anyone should keep them from riding…

  4. I kinda like the feel of clothes that I have worn all week. They don’t really smell as much as you think they would, all the bacteria gets in them and they just neutralize each other. Besides, you’re saving the environment by double-wearing.

  5. Frank,I generally agree with you… when it comes to NORMAL clothes that I wear around (I usually get a few wears out of them before washing them, especially jeans and shorts).However, the case is very different for clothes I’ve sweated 64 miles of bike riding in with oppressive humidity. Like I said, I was sweating that first day before I started riding, the humidity was clinging to my body. I have to say that though I only did 64 miles that day, I had put in quite a work out. When I removed my bike clothes that day, they were wet with sweat.Not to mention the fact that in bike shorts, riders typically do not wear underwear. (It causes chafing to do so.) So, again, I say gross. For I would never wear a pair of underwear two days in a row if I could help it!

  6. Wow, I never thought about chafing, but you’re so right: the only logical solution is no undies.Your cell phone takes great pics – I love this pic of you especially!!I inherited my brother’s Palm Pilot over the break, and while it has a camera, I’m certain it’s nowhere near 2 megapixels!

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