Archive for the 'cycling' Category

MS150 2006 – Complete.

June 12, 2006

I did the Minnesota MS150 Bike Tour this weekend. Last year, I rode with a friend, Jason. This year I rode alone. I looked forward to the time alone to find a place to relax and read in peace and quiet. What I found, was there isn’t a single comfortable chair in all of Hinckley, MN. On any other day an average chair would’ve worked, but after a 75 mile bike ride, I needed more than a folding chair or a picnic table bench. But I digress…I arrived in Proctor, MN at about 6PM on Friday evening. It rained most of the way up and the road construction made the ride longer than it needed to be. I caught a short nap and upon arriving, staked out a place on the gym floor for my sleeping bag and such. I took a bus down to Canal Park in Duluth and ate at the Vietnamese place I always stop at. Good food, quick, and reasonable. It was cold, but I walked out to the end of the causeway and waited for the “American Mariner” to arrive. It did. I got some pictures and then hopped back on a bus up the hill to the high school. Sleep (or at least the thing that isn’t quite sleep that you experience on the gymnasium floor with 300 other people in various states of slumber) followed until about 4:45AM.

I awoke and started getting ready to go. I retrieved my bike from the “corral” and ventured back to see about breakfast. One thing about Ira is he’s not hip to long lines — this is especially true before 6AM. I retreated from the line back to my bike out front and waited with only the frost-covered grass and bikes to keep me company. At 6:25 I’d had all I could take, I could not take any more. People started leaving and that seemed the perfect cue to get the show on the road. I embarked and soon found out exactly how cold it was. Within a mile my fingers were numb. The rest of me was OK, but the fingers were really a bother. I got out of the shade of the trees and the warmth of the rising sun helped just enough to keep things manageable.

By the time I hit the second rest stop about 25 miles in, I was feeling pretty good. I got passed by a tall drink of water about 5 miles later and his tattoos on his calves made me catch him. Portraits of the folks. Nice guy too. I rode with him for a while and then left him behind for a stage. Later he skipped a rest stop and I didn’t catch him again. Hinckley came along about when I expected it would, but the layout this year was different/worse. Instead of staying at the City Park (only a few blocks from the high school), the MS Society decided that the casino was a better idea. I disagree — and here are my reasons:

  1. It was another 3 miles at the end of the first day of riding
  2. Casinos suck
  3. Instead of a walk to the high school and the unification of those at the events and those of us “indoor camping” it really seperated everyone
  4. The casino is no where near anything else, so walking was out of the question
  5. Those last three miles were the most treacherous of the entire ride, right through the busiest, narrowest part of town

I finished in just over 4 hours at about 11AM. I was the 14th person to finish (out of 2600). I felt pretty good.

Did I mention there isn’t a comfortable public seat in all of Hinckley?

Thanks to Sominex and some earplugs, I slept pretty well the Saturday night.

After getting dressed, loading up my stuff and hopping on another bus back to the casino at 5:45AM. I whipped through the breakfast tent and had some coffee. I was back on the bike at 6:25 and hit it pretty hard. My ass was sore, but my legs were ready to go. The Tylenol kicked in about the same time the caffeine did and I was off. I averaged over 20MPH for the first two segments (about 25 miles). This was significantly faster than the previous day. My only thought was getting done and getting home.

I made it to the “lunch” stop at 8:45AM. No lunch. No water. No fruit. No nothing, besides a bunch of volunteers waiting for stuff to set up. This was a HUGE disappointment. I rolled out of the stop after 10 fruitless minutes and proceeded. About 10 minutes later, I heard “4 ON YOUR LEFT!” and four guys blew past at about 19 or 20MPH. I was about spent at this point, at least as far as momentum goes, so I decided I needed to catch them. I did and hung with them, taking my turns in the wind for the next 40 miles until I flatted with 5 miles to go. I was having trouble keeping up at the end, and couldn’t figure out why. My rear tire was down to about 20 lbs — certainly not helping.

I bid them (team “Outer Limits”) adieu as I filled up the tube, hoping it’d hold up for the last 5 miles. This brings me to another issue I have with this year’s event — maybe the MS160 would be a better name? C’mon guys, I can see a couple extra miles for logistical reasons, but 9.75?

I already signed up for 2007 – Click here to Pledge!.

Did the Ironman Ride in the driving rain in wind

May 8, 2006

62 miles in nasty wet weather is not fun. It did teach me a few things though.

  1. I hate the wind
  2. I need to work on my climbing
  3. Your feet can go numb even when it is in the upper 40’s
  4. I need to do something to keep my feet dry in the rain
  5. I love my bike
  6. The MS150 is going to be a piece of cake comparatively (very flat and warmer)
  7. I got really, really dirty
  8. I CAN do it

BTW, I need someone to ride with in the MS150. My riding partner, Jason, did two things that will preclude him from riding this year — he moved to San Francisco (which wasn’t going to keep wim away), and he broke his collarbone in two places riding last week (which WILL keep him away).

Any takers?

I like me a deal…

March 26, 2006

And I got one with this baby. I needed (or at least wanted) a new bike. It’s a 2005 Schwinn Fastback Comp. My oldie wouldn’t have been a fun ride in the MS150 again this year. I thought I’d need a wrist transplant after the last one. It’ll be nice to have a bike that fits — and it’s a nice bike. All Shimano 105, which is fine for a guy who weighs 196. A few extra ounces of weight is certainly not going to matter. I saved $550 off the price of this bike last year or the 2006 version.

Can’t wait to get out late this week. I’m riding the Ironman ride out of Lakeville to Northfield at the end of April (either the 62 or the century — not sure yet).

biking, biking, biking…

July 15, 2005

I’ve been biking a lot lately. Did a couple of longer (25-30 milers) on the road bike last week and have started hauling my mountain bike (thanks to the kick in the pants “Bobke II” gave me)around on the roof rack of my car wherever I go. I’ve been biking at lunch every day this week.Mountain bike riding is significantly less efficient and as such my 7, 10 and 16 mile rides have felt much more difficult than the rides on the road bike. I love these ancient bikes– nice, and old, components. That said, I stopped by the bike store last week and took out a full-Ultegra ride. Wow. I’m definitely saving my pennies for one of these bad boys. Maybe a mix of Ultegra and 105 and I can get into it a bit sooner.

I hit the Lebanon Hills trails in Eagan the other afternoon and did the easy loop a couple of times and the middle-difficulty loop once. It’s really beautiful in there and challenging enough for a 35-year-old. I’ll probably hit the more-technical trail in a few weeks after a bit more practice and with a phone that works and a buddy.

ms150 (#1) – completed!

June 13, 2005

I rode my first MS150 this past weekend and it was really an amazing event. The organization and the ability for them to accommodate 2700 riders was, in a word, astounding. From the moment I pulled my bike off the roof rack at Century College in White Bear Lake I was impressed. The registration area was packed but the number of volunteers made for a wait time of less than a minute in my case. Once I got my luggage and bike tags and handed them my pledge folder and signed waiver, I was back at my bike getting everything ready for the trip Northward.My partner in the event, Jason White arrived shortly afterwards and we had our bikes loaded onto the semi-trailer and bags in the motor coach within ten minutes. After a two and a half hour ride to Spirit Mountain, we pulled our gear off and made camp — on the ski run. Not ideal and not even remotely dry, everything went to together as well as can be expected. Jason, checking his bags realized he had no shoes, so we hopped one of the shuttles to Canal Park, found some shoes, ate some good Vietnamese, bought a six-pack of Summit and boarded a return shuttle — open beer in hand.

After finishing the six-pack, and spending a few minutes listening to one of the worst bands on the planet, it was time to try to sleep. No luck. Tossed and turned, looked out of the tent at the lights of Duluth/Superior, counted sheep… Nothing worked. At 6AM I realized that I’d only gotten about three hours of sleep. To say the least, I was worried what that might mean to my day.

After a quick breakfast, we tossed our bags onto a big truck and went off in search of our bikes.

The first mile or two are spent getting to the Munger Trail down one of the roads most in need of paving I have ever seen. Thirty miles an hour in a crowd dodging potholes is a difficult task and will wake up even the most groggy of cyclists. At the entrance to the trail laid a woman, face covered in blood being attended to by medical staff. She looked shaken but not too bad apart from the face. My guess was she hit gravel — and that she was inexperienced. Still, another jolt to the system. It was crowded to begin with, but Jason and I began to move forward passing ten or more for every one that went by us all the while in some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.

The MS150 is such a value, $35 registration gets you an amazingly well supported ride. Breakdown? Toss the bike on the trailer and they’ll get you fixed and back on the road. Hungry? Thirsty? Sunburned? Hangover? The rest stops every 10 miles or so are fully staffed and stocked with anything anyone riding a bike could need.

The first 30 miles or so on Saturday were uneventful. It rained for fifteen minutes or so, but not that badly. Lunch, thanks to Papa John’s was pizza and it really hit the spot. At about 50 miles, my hands, wrists and shoulders were getting really sore. I was in agony, but a stop at the next rest area, some stretching and Tylenol got me through the last 20 miles — barely. The legs, lungs and ass were still in tip-top shape, which surprised me. I knew my hands would hurt, but not like this.

Arriving in Hinckley and having a celebratory beer, we were in the first three or four hundred riders to arrive, found us with plenty of time and space to get a good camping spot set up. Next up was a shower and some swimming at the high school. The swim was a great move. Jason talked me into it and I’m glad he did. Stretching out the muscles in the pool was just what the doctor ordered. After a quick nap, which again found me having trouble sleeping, we got some food, a couple of more beers and conversed with a few of the other riders. Next up, dinner.

We were a bit bored after dinner and walked around town a while. Still bored. Went back to the camp and walked around. Thankfully it was getting dark and time to go to sleep. Between the sound of the porta-potty doors slamming, drunk people talking and Jason snoring (I don’t hold this against you at all, my friend), I could not sleep — AGAIN! I’m not a religious guy, but I prayed for sleep. I’m even less religious after these prayers went unanswered. The last I looked at the clock on my phone it was 2AM and I wasn’t asleep for some time after that. I just rode 70 miles and I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried (which I’m sure didn’t help the situation).

At 5:30AM we got up and started getting ready for the day. On the road by 6:20AM or so, we skipped breakfast and figured we’d eat at the first rest stop, which we did. Everyone at these stops was amazing. I couldn’t stop thanking them, but they wouldn’t have it, one-upping mine by thanking me! The first 40 miles were on ill-paved county roads, but the additional space to pass was nice.

Right before lunch Jason blew a tire. While we tried to remove the tire, we were passed by a multitude of riders all asking if were alright. After we determined that my patch kit wasn’t going to do the trick – the tube was busted at the stem, I left for the next stop 11 miles away. As I rode off to flag down help, I saw the van pull over to assist Jason.

I didn’t want him to have to wait too long for me at the next stop, so I peddled hard, but it’s tough to ride alone. I was doing about 16MPH when a guy blew past at 20 or 21. I knew he was my answer. I cranked it up and caught him a half-mile later and was on his wheel for the next 10 miles into lunch. Invigorating. Jason wasn’t there yet, so I ate and watched for him. About a half-hour later he arrived on the van, bike fixed, ate lunch and we were off again.

With 32 miles left, Jason alerted me to the fact that my bike was “falling apart”. What? I looked down and saw that my bottom bracket was working it’s way to the right — which answered the question I was having as to why I couldn’t get on the big gear up front. The ring on the left was going for noisy ride on the left spindle. I heard, “Look out!” and looked up just in time to see me heading right for a street sign. I ducked just in time and hit it with my shoulder and lower back. Whew! That was close. I didn’t have the tools to fix my bike so we limped gently into the next rest stop 5 miles away at about 11 or 12MPH. The guys at Gateway Cycle, yanked the cranks, and fixed my issue as well as adjusted the derailleurs and lubed the whole mess in less than 10 minutes — gratis! These guys were rock stars and will get my business when the time comes for a new ride.

Twenty-five miles to go, Jason looks at me with a strange grin and asks, “how are you feeling?” I looked back and said, “great!” We were doing way BETTER than day one. We were kicking ass. The body felt good, the legs a bit more fatigued with the hills earlier in the day, but everything else in excellent shape. We were going to make it. With ten miles to go, Jason mentioned it was kind of a shame not to get a century ride in with 70 down and feeling so good. I agreed, maybe next year we can go the extra 20 and add that milestone under our belts.

The Finish

Rounding the last corner and hearing the crowd was one of the finest moments of my life. Seeing all the families affected by MS cheering and ringing bells, was… well, it was life-changing. My sunglasses hid the tears streaming from my eyes. I was totally overcome. I got to do this amazing ride with Jason which was great, but the real reason we were doing this was for these people. I am so thankful for being able to do this. I can’t imagine not being able to do it every year in the future.

Postscript

A woman died on the ride after missing a stop sign. It’s easy to do. We blew through many on our trip (albeit slowly and with as much of a view both ways as we could muster) as coming to a stop and restarting on those sore muscles is really difficult. I feel awful for her and her family and all involved in the MS150. It was bound to happen some time and I hope that it doesn’t tarnish an otherwise unbelievable event.

I’m going to be a fund-raising monster next year. This is a great cause — even more to me now after reading about MS and seeing those affected by it. Keep your checkbooks handy, because I’ll be asking.

Jason and I decided it would be easier and more fun to have 4 riders next year. Easier to distribute the load of pulling the other riders. Interested? You’ll need to be able to keep a pace of 16 to 17MPH for hours on end, but if we can do it, so can you. Let me know!