Catching up and looking forward: MS 150, Iron Horse Challenge, 1000 miles

29 08 2010

Lets start by showing off some of the photos from the Pedal to the Point : MS 150 – ride to fight MS and recount some of Team Pedal Quickly’s adventure.  There were around 2000 riders at this years Pedal to the Point and I was teamed up with Mike Lacey II, Donte Morrisette, and Chris Tapia

Mike was the social glue, his sense of humor and his energy is infectious and he was generous to not only invite me to join Team Pedal Quickly but he also picked me up and let me join him in his drive north to the start of the MS 150.  Also he managed to get his buddy Chris, a guy with little cycling experience, to come up from Texas, ride a bike he had never ridden before, across 150 miles of unseen road, all in the name of friendship and a good cause; if that isn’t a measure of character I don’t know what it – on both of their parts. (Of course additional mention must to to Mike’s mother who kindly put us all up at her home and let us even drop back through and shower on the way back; talk about a generous host. ) Donte was my wing man for the event.  He is a strong rider and a local of Cleveland who rides all the time and his shirt says it all: – 1 car.  We all arrived at an amazingly busy event, full of expectant riders and we, like the 2000 others that were about to embark on this ride, we had to register, get ready, and get rolling.  In our efforts to try to stay together and in making sure everything was just right, we didn’t even roll out till we were nearly the last people to leave the starting parking lot.  The blow-up-rainbow arch was already deflated and the support trucks were packing up when we set out on a day that looked to be a scorcher; with predictions of 95+ degrees and looming with the potential of a late day storm. 

It was clear from the start that Donte and I were going to be the pointmen for the team; Mike was supporting and encouraging Chris who was totally new to events like this.  The roads were rough and dotted with holes and cracks and the route passed through some awkward town streets, but everything was well posted and arrows were easy to follow; not to mention the route had 2000 riders traveling at various speeds that created a bead-work of jerseys to follow. 

With a couple of rest stops under the belt, we were all starting to warm up, when the turn off for the 100 mile route popped up.  Now, I’m here to ride.  The MS 150 actually has a longer challenge with a 1 day 100 mile ride the first day, and a 75 mile 2nd day return (so MS 150 turns into Pedal to the Point 175).  I have never ridden this route before , nor had I a chance to be in this part of Ohio on a bike, so  wasn’t going to miss out on any milage and I was going to make the most of it and so I turned off without hesitation.  I didn’t want to leave the group.  Mike had already done so much to include me and get me on board.  I hesitated for the sake of teamwork, but I was also struggling with the desire to get as many miles in as I could and a lurking aspect of my nature that loves pushing my limits, was competing for dominance.  Mike made it clear he was cool with the departure and Donte waited only a moment and then turned off with me; as it was to turn out, it was Donte’s first 100 mile/day ride! 

Donte and I quickly learned that if you are one of the last groups and you take on the additional mile challenge, you don’t get to see anyone but a handful of the most determined or self-motivated.  One guy in particular was riding shirtless and on a beast of a low rider and we passed him only to constantly run into him again and again.  In some ways the route started to resemble a couple of guys on a long training ride, except of course, Donte and I were just starting to know each other and we were just beginning to develop a partnership of teamwork.  The extra mileage had a few more hills and a couple of spots where we wondered “where are we”, including a sign for a rest stop that never manifested.  Also, unlike the other 75 mile riders who got lunch around mile 40 we had to wait till nearly mile 60 and Donte, having just turned off at the last-minute and having not necessarily planned to ride 100 miles today, was starving and hitting a sugar wall.  When we pulled into lunch, we were both ready to eat and the space was nearly vacant and filled with eating volunteers and casual groups taking their time and enjoying the air conditioning.  Oh…did I mention, it was very, very hot and the heat was dropping people like flies. The road was vibrating with the heat and as you crested the hills, you could see the rising waves.

Donte and I set out with the hope we might catch up to the rear of the larger group and tried to set out with a quick pace, but lunch and the heat slowed us initially and Donte was struggling to find his rhythm.  The rest of the day was a search to find a balance of hydration, pace, and a determination to forging ahead towards the finish.  Donte was clearly fighting heat exhaustion and his desire to persevere heralds the cause we are fighting for and perhaps is the best representation of literally fighting for others.  He wouldn’t quit and I wasn’t going to let him down; we were going to do this together!  

At one point Donte and I passed by a kid and his father and in noting them as we passed, I realized something.  Now I am not the kind of cyclist who is impressed by the guys with the great gear and the powerful physiques; impressive sure, expensive definitely.  I have always been humbled by the average joe who doesn’t even look like he can do the event, who basically proves that with a strength of will and bit of determination the miles can be conquered.  More often than not it is also easy to spot the people who are driven by a personal commitment to represent/remember/or support a loved one and with that in thier minds, it gives them the power to get the job done.  As we were passing the kid and his father I couldn’t help but wonder what their story was and marvel at how a young kid was out her doing it; I came to find out that this kid was 12.  Now as a practice of respect, as Donte and I were passing other riders, we always made a point to be courteous and note our approach and call our passing, but we also took the time to shout out encouragement to those we passed and acknowledged them with thumbs up and ‘have a great ride!”.   As we passed this kid and his father, I said what I felt, “you sir are my hero!”  and indeed that is what he was.  Imagine yourself at 12.  Did you have the ability to ride 75 miles?  Would you have ridden it with your father?  For a charity event?  I wish I had.  Later that night, at the sleep over at the school/finish line for the MS 150, it just so happened 2 things occurred.  First a bunch of people gave me their raffle tickets that they were not going to use, as a lot of people were done/leaving/or had a hotel with AC.  At the raffle I won a piece of bike art and I was wondering what I could do with it that could benefit the upcoming Iron Horse Challenge or could be a reward, like give it to someone as a thank you.  The second coincidence was that this guy and his father were bunking right next to my little plot on the gym floor.  The answer seemed obvious. 

I am very grateful for people like this, who add a powerful humanistic dimension to charitable events, whose personal connection is not only to the cause and the fight, but whose love and commitment to each other can make hope a language and actions into powerful memories.  I did my best to honor both of their actions and in particular the boy’s, as his determination and willingness to fight alongside his father in memory of their uncle is amazing and worthy of recognition.  I hope he never puts down the fight, that his bond with his family is made dearer and stronger for it, and that he realizes that he is very special for going the distance on behalf of others.  Such compassionate action is much-needed and I hope that the bike can symbolize and seal such a memory with pride, humility, and hope. 

The second day was similar to the first, in that our group started out a bit later and we had a chance to pull up the rear.  It was a day where we passed many riders and were given a chance to meet them, share with them, and celebrate with them the nature of this event.  I was once again fighting my need to push my physical boundaries and it only took one rider with a lack of consideration to set it free.  I have a personal demon when it comes to cyclists who fail to offer basic riders the courtesy of ‘passing’ and who don’t seem to consider others when they ride – particularly on charity rides.  So many of these people are trying to honor loved ones, they personal narratives and connections, they are out doing what they can, and some don’t have the money or benefit of great gear or time to train or a lifestyle that they can devote to riding.  They are riding and that is enough; they deserve respect and consideration.  When a rider can’t seem to acknowledge this and makes the ride a ‘speed’ event and fails to offer the ‘passing courtesy’ , it bites at me.  So my beast unleashed, I sink up behind them, get into their draft, wear them out, and then clearly pass them with ‘courtesy’, and proceed to make a special note to all those I pass, in a very visible manner, and show that this is an easy thing to do.  If that person gets into your draft, let them, pull them along, and set a hard pace and still show at every juncture that if you can ride this fast and this hard, you can honor and recognize all around you; this is for charity, not ego and we can be respectful. 

So I lost my group again, my average from the first day went from 15mph to 19mph and I did my best to acknowledge all around me.  I got lucky and ran into another strong rider, who came out from California and was riding with his girlfriends parents.  He was a powerful rider who was used to CA’s hills and challenging roads and we rapidly eat up the road and had a great time playing hopscotch with his group and mine at the rest stops; letting them catch up and then shooting ahead to the next with all due energy.  Here is my 2nd day wing man and his crew:

I have to say this was an enjoyable event for a number of reasons, but the best of all was the fellowship. The size of the event made it easy to feel like you were part of a community, the route was very easy so it allowed for many types of riders with various strengths/experience, and it was well supported.  It may have been hot, it may have had some strange moments, but it was a great group and full of wonderful actions.  It makes me appreciate the size of the TST and the amazing event that it is, with the organization, support, and challenging route.  But it also makes me aware of what happens and what is required as an event grows.  With the Iron Horse Challenge (IHC) a mere baby in the grand scheme of events, it helps me gain some insight as to what can happen and what needs to happen and also value what it is : simple, intimate, and very local.  I get to know each rider, I’m in the middle of the solution and the problems, and I hope always for more insight.

Special thanks to all I rode with on the Pedal to the Point.  To Mike Lacey, Donte Morrisette, and Chris Tapia. Thank you Pedal to the Point: MS 150 – keep up the fight!  We will find a cure!

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