In 2007 I was asked to spend a Saturday in La Grange, Texas photographing cyclists doing some sort of two-day charity ride from Houston to Austin. That was my first exposure to the BP MS 150, and the energy and atmosphere was overwhelming. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was 12, but right then and there I pledged to ride in 2008.
I bought a bike, I trained, and I rode the 187 miles from Houston to Austin. That year I raised $660 for the National MS Society.
Despite swearing that I’d never put myself through that misery again, in 2009 I found myself back on the bike.
That year I raised $850 for the National MS Society.
In 2010 I’d had enough riding. I sold my bike, and I took over as Team Captain and organizer for the Technip MS 150 Team. For the past five years the BP MS 150 hasn’t just been a charity event, it’s been MY charity event.
I was content to organize for a couple years, but as you sit in the team tent and congratulate the riders for besting the challenge, you just want to be out there, so in 2013 insanity struck again. I bought another bike and made another ride, although this time my back and my legs weren’t holding up as well even though I did the shorter express route, which was only 167 miles.
I was supposed to ride again in 2014, but I was introduced to sailboat racing that year with the GBCA Icicle Series, which took place the same weekends I should have been training for the ride. Then I ended up in London for work the entire week of the event, so Mary and I just volunteered.
However, this year I was determined to ride again! I raised $1025 for the National MS Society this year, the best fund raising I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, that was offset by failing to train … at all … whatsoever. The week before the event I finally pulled my bike out of the garage and aired up the tires. I managed to squeeze in a total of three hour-long sessions on the stationary trainer before D-Day hit.
Sailing has some very good health benefits. The constant motion of the boat does strengthen your core and help your balance. Pulling lines and raising the anchor does work the arms, shoulders, back and legs. However, I can say with 100 percent certainty that sailing every weekend is not appropriate training for a 100+ mile bike ride.
When the thunderstorms hit and the La Grange fairgrounds flooded canceling Day 1 of the ride, I don’t think I was the only rider feeling relieved. Day 1 is the 100-mile portion, and while the logistics of getting my 90 riders to La Grange Sunday morning were daunting, it wasn’t as scary as that 100-mile ride.
I spent Saturday morning picking up trash at the spring Adopt-A-Beach Clean Up, and I spent Saturday evening carbo-loading. Sunday morning we were up at 4 a.m. and headed to the office to get the volunteers set up for rider check-in.
By 7:30 a.m. the riders and I were in La Grange and lining up for the start of the 67-mile ride from La Grange to Austin.
My group finally rolled out at ten till 9. By 9:30 I was really wishing I had done some training.
By noon I was ready to die, but I kept on pedaling. In previous years I had been able to skip rest stops to save time. Not this year. I made full use of every break point the volunteers provided.
Not until 6 p.m. did I finally roll into the Austin city limits, feeling terrible that I had told Mary I’d finish by 4 p.m. at the latest. It was almost 6:30 p.m. when I finally reached the finish line, but there was Mary, still waiting for me with the camera in hand.
I felt a vindication as I crossed the finish line. Something along the lines of, hey, you’ve still got the willpower to push through this kind of challenge. I’m also very proud that my team has now raised more than $63,000 for the National MS Society this year.
However, the experience was a wake up call. I can’t let myself fall out of shape again doing nothing but sitting on a boat drinking beer every weekend. There’s a new fitness program being implemented aboard Gimme Shelter.
I’m not sure if any of my co-workers and donors read the blog, but thank you to all the riders, our two riders that volunteered as ride marshals, all the volunteers who supported the riders, and all of our donors.
I think I’m through with cycling. I’m really tempted to sell the road bike and buy two folding bikes for the boat — but you never know. Whether riding or not, I’ll be there supporting the MS Society in 2016.