Last week was a blur of preparations for the MS150, which is my weak explanation for having not posted in seven days. But I really was busy, I swear. You have to plan quite a bit for a rainy weekend of cycling from Duluth to the Twin Cities, considering things like second, dry outfits for after each ride, warm sleeping gear for unseasonably cold June temperatures, and your water bottles. Oh, wait, I forgot that last part. I didn't bring any water bottles. Thankfully, Maria got her hands on a bottle for me, which I promptly lost on day two. I'm cool that way.
Day one started out miserably wet and muddy. Friends Scott and Katie generously shared their pop-up camper with Maria and me (and a few extra friends on Friday night due to the savage weather!) and we woke up to fog as thick as pea soup and a light drizzle. We slogged through the muddy parking lot of a Catholic church in Proctor, Minnesota, where we had set up camp for the night, and got to the start line. As we waited for the okay to take off, we were frightened by the sudden explosion of what we thought was a starter gun, but turned out to be a bike tire right next to us! Bummer of a way for someone to start out the day. While I was concerned about riding in the thick fog, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made it impossible to see when hills were coming up. Emotionally, I never dreaded a hill for the first hour or so, which was quite a relief. Not long into it, Katie got the first of two flats (the first is pictured above), but thankfully she actually knows how to fix one, unlike me. I carry the spare tube, the tools, and the like, but not the knowledge to do the work. I depend on the kindness of strangers, which may not be my best move.
Moving along throughout the day, it never really rained during the ride, but the combination of the early morning moisture and the sweat generated by my rain jacket, which I call my portable sweat lodge, kept my clothes wet and therefore me cold all day long. Teammate Kelly took a spill four miles out of Finlayson, saving harm to her bike by using her face to brake the fall. She's got quite the facial road rash for her effort. Ouch, I would have quit but she kept going! By the time we reached Hinckley, where it started pouring rain, I was frozen. A delicious hot dog and several brownies, provided by friends of 100 Monkeys, plus a warm shirt and a massage made everything considerably better. Still, I was ready for bed by 9:00pm, though sleep would elude me, replaced by a stupid obsession with having to pee, which meant maybe waking everyone in the camper up and going outside to either pee in the rain or in a well-lit RV park. Neither option was all that great. Why me?
Sunday came early and my quads were burning. But four Advil and a warm pancake can do wonders psychologically as well as physically, and off we went. I was definitely feeling my lack of training this year, feeling exhausted sooner than I should have but not having the cajones to give up. The day was a blur of long stretches of road, potholes, and a disappointing show in the grub department. We've always had hot pizza at about the halfway point on day two and this year not only was there not pizza, all they had left was tortilla wraps lightly filled with tomato, cucumber and spinach. I hate to complain because the volunteers work so hard on this event, but somebody really dropped the ball to run out of protein for lunch by 10:30am. Fortunately, one of our teammates' wives was riding along the route in her car and had a bunch of protein bars that she shared with everyone. With that we powered on to the finish line, with one slight glitch along the way. The final few miles had a few hills that didn't feel so hot after 150 miles, and as we turned the corner at the final half mile, I saw that hill again. Not since the first MS150 I did five years ago had we finished at Century College, and I had forgotten about the nasty hill right before the finish line. As we finished a set of hills, I was losing my will to live, and when I saw that final, giant hill, even though the end was near, I wasn't sure I could do it. Thank god one of my teammates' tires blew! While it would cost us some time, more importantly it would give my tired legs a chance to rest. When we mounted our bikes again, we didn't have much momentum and just for one second during the hill climb I was concerned that I'd have to stop and walk it, which would be terribly embarrassing, but I poured it on (definitely not in speed, but in muscle) and crossed the finish line, never more glad to be done. Well, probably just as glad to be done as each of the five years, actually. Doug was at the finish line, ready with towels in case I was wet, a blanket in case I was cold, and an ice cold can of Coca-Cola. Suddenly, everything was better.
I can't thank everyone enough who supported me, both financially and emotionally, sometimes it was just knowing that folks had been so generous that kept me going. Seriously, those were the sorts of thoughts I had to evoke in order to forge ahead at times. So thank you for supporting the MS Society. They are a great organization doing great things for great people. Like you.