Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bike MS, Part 1 - A Long Ride (and a Very Long Post!)

Saturday, June 29. We leave Snowcatcher's house at 4 am for the hour-long drive to the Bike MS staging area. The sky is still dark, but streaks of light are beginning to appear behind the eastern hills. By the time we reach the staging area, clouds are stained pink with the flush of dawn, while the mountains wait in the distance.

I have a strained tendon which gave me some trouble on last week's ride to Madison. I've been off the bike all week, and am hoping that it won't be a problem today.


The parking lot is filling rapidly as thousands of riders gather. After picking up our registration packets, we head back to unload the bikes.

The Colorado State Patrol is on hand and ready to ride with us - a comforting sight.



Also on hand are other volunteers who will follow the route on motorcycle, keeping a helpful eye on both riders and traffic.


Lizard and Snowcatcher unload the bikes and begin applying numbers. Each rider will wear an identifying wristband and an assigned number on his/her back and bike.


Tallulah keeps an eye on things...


...and gets a little number of her own.


Ready to ride!


Cyclists gather at the start as the top fundraising teams are sent out first.


A shoo-in for the Most Interesting Bike award:


Some blogger takes my photo just as I'm snapping hers.... ;)


Beflagged recumbents on their way out of the gate:


Now it's our turn - and we're off!


We ride through town and out into open country, where the Colorado views are unbeatable.


This rider has MS - notice he's pedalling with his hands. He's a member of the Sugarbees team (hence the large bee decoration on his pack).


Still smiling with about 65 miles to go.


It's a stunningly beautiful day - fresh and cool and breezy.


A balloon race is taking place, and we ride right through it.


Photo break!

Smile, Snowcatcher!

Photo courtesy of Snowcatcher (thanks Deb!)

Bike MS is an extremely well-supported ride. There's a rest stop every 10-12 miles, and each one has plenty of food, drinks, bathrooms, sunscreen, a medical tent, and bike support.

The fruit at the first rest stop looks wonderful ... and I must say those plums taste divine.


In addition to the riders, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of volunteers who line the route to cheer on the riders with cowbells and flags and shouts of encouragement.

This is Yolanda, Snowcatcher's coworker, and one of the ride volunteers:


Yolanda (who has MS) thanks us. This is something we will hear all day long, from volunteers and other riders: "Thank you for riding!" It's very touching and extremely humbling.

I pass a rare barn (and of course have to snap it):


Now that we've found our pace, we tend to pass (and be passed by) the same riders all day. This recumbent is one of them:


I like the clear-cut shadows cast by the bikes.

We've been riding through gently rolling hills, and now pass a rocky outcrop which adds interest to the terrain:


A long white fence makes me think of horses:


At about 43 miles, we stop for lunch. Bikes are laid down wherever there's room...


...and we head into the tent for replenishment.


Each rest stop is sponsored and staffed by one of the top teams riding in the event. Today's excellent lunch is provided by the Sugarbees. On the table are couscous with fresh tomatoes and basil, sandwiches and wraps, chips, cookies, and drinks. (Yes, that's a lot of carbs - but we need them right now.)


The lunch tent is packed, and the noise level is deafening. A good time is being had by all. :)

Photo courtesy of Snowcatcher

After lunch, a short wait in the biffy line:


Then we're back on the road and headed into the hills as the real climbing begins.


The day is heating up nicely, and the sun beats down on riders and turtles alike. Tallulah is keeping cool and comfortable in her sheltered basket (while I do all the real work):

Can you spot the turtle?

Rugged red outcrops enliven the view as we climb further into the hills.



The road curves and winds through some beautiful country (oh how I wish Mr. M could see it). We turn a corner and find ourselves crossing a river which flows out of a stunning rocky gorge to our left...


...then away down the hill to our right.


The bridge is a good spot for another photo break:

Snowcatcher waits while I take photos


Sweaty but still smiling

A few miles on, a valley opens out with the refreshing view of water:


The steepest climbs are still ahead, but there's a breeze to keep us comfortable, and views that make it all worthwhile:


Rest stop #5 is famous for its sno-cones (which really hit the spot after the climbing we've been doing):


We've completed 57.7 miles, and have a few climbs yet to accomplish before we head back down the hill. An elevation map is posted at the entrance to the sno-cone tent:


I had no idea we'd be climbing this much (can't believe my little Wisconsin hills have gotten me ready for this, but somehow they have!). The altitude hasn't been a problem either - a great relief to me (and my lungs).


An accident has taken place somewhere down the road, so a huge group of riders is being held up at this rest stop. Cyclists line up to be released in small groups:


Team Coneheads

Our turn comes, and we head out once more on the final leg of our journey. The hardest climb is still ahead of us, but the scenery continues to be lovely and inspiring...


After a long, hot, determination-testing climb, we fly down a tooth-clenching descent (I am scared of going downhill fast). Then a shorter climb, and we reach the outlook over Horsetooth Reservoir - a good time to stop and catch our breath before the final exciting descent into Fort Collins.

Snowcatcher with Horsetooth Reservoir in the background

Somewhere on that last descent, Tallulah has lost her helmet. But she doesn't seem to mind, and enjoys the view with the rest of us.


Having caught our breath, we get back into the saddle for the fast downhill run to Fort Collins and the end of our first day's riding. Just as we set off, a butterfly flies across the road and lands on my jersey, but I'm going too fast to do anything about it.

We blaze past Horsetooth Reservoir...


...and are soon at the base of the hills and riding across the town of Fort Collins towards the finish line.

My hitchhiker is still holding on tightly to my jersey:


We pass the Dog Tire-d team, whose tails are still waving proudly:


Soon we're caught up in a large, straggling group of cyclists who have slowed down for the final few miles. Tired of getting stuck at every red light, Deb and I kick it up a gear and pass the entire group, finishing the last two miles at a very good pace indeed.

We enter the grounds of Colorado State University (Fort Collins), and soon the finish line is in sight:


We've done it! 73 miles of lovely Colorado riding, and my longest ride ever.

Our bikes, with thousands of others, are parked and left to spend the night on campus. (Saddles are covered with plastic bags for protection from the rain which is forecast later.)
 

We take a shuttle to our hotel. After checking-in and showering, we head out on foot to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner.

What do you eat after riding 73 miles?


Pasta, of course. :)

I think we earned it.


A very good ride for a very good cause.

~ ~ ~

My strained tendon has been uncomfortable, but not unbearable - lots of stretching and plenty of fluids have kept me going. I have a horribly raw spot from contact with the saddle - it rasps against my clothing whenever I move and is amazingly tender. These two things, when combined with the thought of the descents we'll face on the morrow's ride, make me wonder if I should opt for the shorter 60-mile route on Sunday the 30th. The weather forecast is also questionable.

We finish our excellent dinner and stagger back to the hotel, yawning with fatigue. (At least I'm yawning.) We're keeping our options open for the morning.

~ ~ ~

Many thanks for all the sweet comments and good wishes left on my last post. They seem to have worked. :)

A Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

49 comments:

  1. Oh well done, that is an amazing effort! I speak as someone who has followed many a long bike race and knows what it takes to sustain the pressure.

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    1. Thanks so much, T-a. I'd love to hear about your bike race experiences sometime.... :)

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  2. Well done indeed! It is lovely to hear from you. I am amazed at your strength and determination. Sending good thoughts your way.

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    1. Thanks, e! I'm home again now, but having great fun reliving the ride through this post. Stay tuned for Part 2. :)

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  3. Congratulations, what an effort, you are one gritty gal!! I hope for you that tendon and tender spot will ease up until race end. I look forward to next race installment.

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    1. Thanks Sue - you'll hear all about it in the next post. :)

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  4. WOw What a post ,what an accomplishment. Fireman has ridden many many rides including RIde the Rockies and the RAGBRI, and Round the Manure bicycle tour. HE and I both thoroughly enjoyed your post today ! Great job and great cause

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    1. Thanks so much Kathy - it was great fun to write this post and re-ride the course in my mind! More in the next post. :)

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  5. Thank you SO much for coming out to ride with me and for all the training and focus you had to endure to be ready! This was one of the best rides ever, thanks in part to you! (Those plums and nectarines sure helped, too!)

    Your photos capture so many of the precious memories.

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    1. Thanks Deb - you already know how grateful I am. But thanks again. :)

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  6. PS: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your new header!!!

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    1. That's you right in the center, you know.... :)

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  7. WOW, what a very very very exciting bike ride you and Tullulah experienced.. and in such a beautiful state.. Fantastic scenery indeed.. YOU did it..73 miles is an incredible accomplishment.. Congratulation... Thanks for sharing your story and all your absolutely beautiful photos with us.. Hugs Judy

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    1. Thanks Judy! I was pretty happy with the way it all worked out. More in the next post! :)

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  8. Great job! And the photos were outstanding, as usual. Wish we could have seen your ride like the broadcast of the Tour de France. My hub says he has heard that the Tour de France guys have "saddle pain" too. So you are not alone.

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    1. It's nice to know I have something in common with those gods of the open road.... ;)

      Thanks Linda!

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  9. I can't imagine riding that far, especially with a sore tendon. You Rule!!!
    Great pictures. Great ride.

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    1. Thanks Beth! More in the next post. :)

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  10. What a remarkable ride. I love the pictures. Thank you for sharing and for riding. My brother has MS and my late niece did as well. You're resilience is inspiring.

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting - I feel so blessed to be comparatively healthy and able to do a ride like this. Prayers for your brother.

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  11. It was interesting to read about this ride! And see all the pics. Glad you have done it finally after so many months of training. Take care now and take a good rest! many good wishes to you and belated happy 4th of July!

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    1. Thank you, Anna! I am taking a break from riding all this week. :)

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  12. What a wonderful event and all for such a fantastic cause. The atmosphere looks stupendous among all the fellow bikers. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Sandra - the atmosphere was amazing. So much encouragement and good cheer and politeness and fellow-feeling. It was a fantastic experience. :)

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  13. What an amazing ride and such beautiful views!! Looks like you had a marvelous day!

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    1. Thanks Barbara - it was truly marvelous. More in the next post! :)

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  14. Beautiful scenery. But you were hurting. I do hope you didn't try the really hard last part!!!!!!!!

    Gentle hugs,
    "Auntie"
    (Who is being a little silly, after the Holiday...)

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    1. Don't worry, Auntie - we did do the shorter ride the second day. All will be revealed in the next post.... :)

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  15. Beautiful pics of the countryside Sue.......can't get over the beautiful blue of the sky. Beautiful, old barn and the river looks so inviting..... Love he new header as well.
    Such a well organised event, what a mamoth task. I I was expecting to see tent city at the finish line but no, you're staying in Hotels, wonderful. Hot showers, no queues and real beds.......way to go.
    All the best for the rest of the event......

    CLaire x

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    1. Thanks Claire - there was a sort of tent city, but it was all for eating and drinking and selling things. Everyone stayed in hotels or on campus in dorm accommodations - pretty civilised and comfortable. :)

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  16. You are a super trooper Sue! You make a blogging friend proud. :-)

    Well deserved pasta for sure! We hiked yesterday and it was so grueling that I felt the just reward was sourdough pancakes ;-)

    Hey - APPLE BLOSSOMS on your shirt!!!!

    Isn't Fort Collins awesome! Stormed here too. Thinking of you and hoping your injury will be okay.

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    1. Thanks so much Astri - yes, Ft. Collins is a great town and much larger than I realised! So glad you like the blossom jersey - it was a gift from Snowcatcher and I received many compliments on it during the ride. (Also saw another gal with the same jersey - we kept passing each other and it was pretty funny.)

      Some great storms came through but thank God we didn't get thundered on during the ride.

      Sourdough pancakes sound really good - how about a recipe? :)

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  17. WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You and SnowCatcher ROCK!!!!! (And Tallulah, too, even if she did manage to lose her helmet. Now tell me, how in the world do you keep your ears from getting sunburned???

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    1. Frequent and copious applications of sunblock.... actually one application usually does the trick for the ears. I think the helmet casts a lot of shade. :)

      And thanks, Marigold! We thought of the Goatmother many times during our ride and kept reminding each other we needed to send her a photo. (Hope that happened!)

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  18. Wow, wow, wow....pat on the back for you, snow catcher and Tallulah too....so excited to see you pics and hear of your progress, fantastic!

    Soak up all those thankyous, you are all doing a fabulous job!

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  19. Yea!!! I can't believe after all that you had energy to put together a post. This looks like such a great time in so many ways. Congrats!

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    1. Actually the post was written about 5 days later ... believe me I did NOT have the energy that night! :)

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  20. Oh my Sue ... you rock girl! Can't wait to read part 2. I'm guessing you might need to recover from scribing this mega post first though ;)

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    1. I have to admit that between photo-editing and writing, the post took nearly as long as the ride.... :)

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    2. That was the best laugh I had all day!!! ;)

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  21. Wow.....YOU ARE AWESOME! what a great ride. Can't wait for part 2!

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    1. Thanks Shari! Hope you're keeping cool down South. :)

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  22. Incredible pictures, incredible energy! Way to go!

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    1. Thanks Mindy! I must say it was much drier in Colorado - none of that Midwestern humidity going on. :)

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  23. Thanks for the great travelogue, Sue!!! I have fond memories of living 17miles west of Boulder up in the incredible Rockies and your wonderful photos are helping me celebrate that time in my life as well as your great investment in a good cause.
    xx,
    Gracie

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    1. Wow, Gracie, that sounds amazing. Were you in Nederland? Lucky you to have lived in the mountains. :)

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  24. Excellent post! A little more cowbell, perhaps. Just kidding. Your photos recall and express a wonderful day. Maybe Tallulah was having an exceptional ride, decided to discard her helmet, and ride pre-80s retro into town. I did catch her stashing peanuts for Marigold.

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    1. Peanuts! That explains the extra weight....

      I think Tallulah finally got around to reading the article "Senseless" (in Bicycling Magazine) and figured the helmet wouldn't make much of a difference if we crashed. :)

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