I was so looking forward to rising early this morning and meeting my teammates, but due to serious thunderstorms in SE Texas, event organizers have cancelled the first day of the MS150. Fortunately, the weather will be clear but quite windy tomorrow, so Day 2 is still a ‘go’. YAY! Here is the post I was going to publish before I left this morning:
If you are reading this post on Saturday, April 18 or Sunday, April 19 yours truly can be found firmly seated on a bicycle pedaling, much of it uphill, about 175 miles between Houston and Austin. About 13,000 riders and I don colorful team jerseys, special biking shoes and helmets, and leave the flatlands of coastal Texas. We head for the rolling hills to the west with one cause in mind: to increase awareness of Multiple Sclerosis and to raise money for research and hopefully, its cure.
It’s expected to be quite stormy on Saturday which reminds me of a training ride a couple of years ago when I got thoroughly soaked in a light rain shower and could hear the squishing of water between my toes. I was a novice rider and so happy to be on my bike that I laughed and smiled like a total Bozo! Just ask my sister, she knows that smile. Soon afterward, the sun came out and by the end of the ride I was completely dry! A light shower is tolerable during a ride; a storm with high winds – no sir-ee!
Three Christmases ago, my generous Husbie coughed up several hundred dollars for my spiffy road bike. I proudly ride on Team PATE, a civil engineering firm where Husbie works. The company’s volunteers are amazing – they give up their weekend to cook, serve, drive, load, unload, photograph, spot, cheer and encourage. Team captains Suzie, Kevin and Jason were so patient with me and answered a million questions about equipment, technique and rules of the road. I have discovered that I ride more like an Ullrich than an Armstrong (my cadence is slower but I’m in a higher gear). I also learned to increase my momentum as I approach a hill and use it to carry me up most of the way.
Riding long distances demands special equipment for comfort. My bike seat is ergonomic – it has a gaping slit down the middle which helps relieve the ‘pressure points’! It helps to a point, ergo the padded cycling pants that feel like a diaper when I walk! And on top of that I slap Chamois Butt’r on my fanny and other areas too private to mention on a food blog. It took me a while to get used to it all and now it’s second nature!
In preparation for this two day affair, many of us train long hours beginning in January. ‘Recommended’ rides take place in many parts of southeast Texas and for a small donation to a charitable organization, a route is mapped out for you and SAG (support and gear) vehicles cruise in support of riders with technical or physical problems. Busy intersections are manned by police officers. There is a planned rest stop every 10 – 15 miles where a rider can stretch her legs, get a mini massage, and get nourishment such as fruit, cookies and fortified water. A couple of great memories: the Katy HS Ram Band waking everyone up with New York, New York at 7am before we set off, and seeing members of the Brookwood Community in the stands cheering for us as we began our ride. It was very touching and a ride I plan to participate in every year.
On MS150 morning, we leave at the crack of dawn after our team picture has been taken. The crisp sound of our shoes clipping into our pedals adds to the excitement and anticipation. We have miles to cover, new friends to meet and experiences to savor. It’s an event that fosters camaraderie like no other I know of.
A family send-off
During MS150 weekend, the country roads are lined with supporters and entertainers. Many who struggle with MS are in wheelchairs. They smile as they hold up their posters that say encouraging and thankful messages. They inspire me and I say a little prayer and am thankful that I can still ride.
I have seen the Scottish bagpiper, resplendent in his kilt, serenading us as we ride past him. A fiddler appears in a farm driveway in the middle of nowhere - a lone body, drawing his bow, making high-pitched energizing music that increases the speed of our pedaling. But the loudest supporters of all are the townspeople of Fayetteville (pop. 274 in 2007). Honky tonk music emanates from the saloon on the Square and spectators stomp their feet and shake cowbells as they clap and cheer. (When I am no longer able to ride, I’m going to join in the fun in Fayetteville!) Just around the corner, we are greeted by a cheerful sea of bubbles.
But the memory of my first MS150 that will forever be etched in my mind is of Husbie who was cheering riders on as they came in at the end of the first day. By the time I reached that last climb in La Grange, he had very little voice left. He spotted me and began jumping up and down, waving his arms and cap like a madman, proudly exclaiming, “That’s my wife, that’s my wife!” Thank you, Honey, for always encouraging me and being supportive *kiss* , *kiss*!
The last ten miles are the most difficult. My legs are tired. The sight of the Capitol dome and the University of Texas Tower has never been so welcomed and I choke with happiness, knowing that I’ve trained hard and succeeded. The Austin Pate office gifts me with a lovely tiara and life is great!
During our rides, we consume many calories, mostly in the form of fruit, fortified drinks, gooey substances-of-questionable-origin in small packages, and energy bars. I am a huge lover of dates, and the minute I tried a Larabar, I was hooked. The main ingredient is dates with flavors added for variety. They are organic and wholesome and devoid of ingredients with bizarre names. Undaunted, I experimented, and look!
I made two versions of these bars: Ginger Orange with Almonds, and Chocolate Chip with Walnuts. I’m going to share them with my teammates and let you know how they stand up to the original. The recipe will be posted soon!
I wish all of my fellow cyclists a great ride this year. Ride on!