Monday, July 14, 2014

Pickle Juice

(This is the fourth in a series of posts about our Colorado vacation)

Sunday, June 29th - Day 2 of Bike MS. The alarm was set for 3:30 am, but I woke just before it went off. Though completely exhausted at the end of Day 1's ride, ibuprofen and sleep worked their overnight magic and I felt pretty decent the next morning. My knees were making their presence known, but they weren't actually hurting - just grumbling a bit.

I was halfway into my cycling clothes when I realised that the doubts of the night before (about my ability to ride a second day) had already been unconsciously resolved. Of course I would ride - but not the entire 66-mile course. My hope was to reach the lunch stop (40.3 miles), and, if things were going well, to continue to the next rest stop (53.2 miles). These limited expectations really relieved the mental pressure of getting back on the bike.

(Fair disclosure: if you're hoping for a surprise ending - a Mrs. M-triumphs-over-the-odds-and-completes-66-miles-after-all ending - I will tell you up front that it didn't happen. I had pushed myself too far on Day 1; there would be no heroics on Day 2.)

~ ~ ~

We meet Snowcatcher and the Lizard downstairs for a quick breakfast of hardboiled eggs, yoghurt, and fruit. A hot-water urn and teabags are available, so I suck down a precious cuppa and feel as though the day is getting off to a good start.

We arrive at the staging area bright and early, take a few moments to slather on sunscreen, then fetch our bikes from the bike corral, while hundreds of cyclists mill around eating breakfast and making last-minute pit stops.

We check that our water bottles are full. I kiss Mr. M, and he says "Ride careful!" Then we're off.

Photo courtesy of Mr. M

We pass the sculpture at the campus entrance, which for some reason reminds me of War of the Worlds:

Then it's across town and out into open country. The morning is beautifully clear, and the sun is casting sharp shadows:

The mountains are, if possible, even more beautiful than they were yesterday:

At the first rest stop, Snowcatcher and I try something new: pickle juice.

We've seen pickles on offer at rest stops before, though I, being a confirmed pickle-hater, have always ignored them. But over the weekend we've been hearing from other riders that pickle juice makes a great sports drink. No one seems to have any hard scientific data as to why the greenish liquid works - though salt, vinegar, and antioxidants have all been cited - but wherever the pickles are on offer, cyclists are lining up and asking for shots of pickle juice.

We move tentatively towards the pickle table, and Snowcatcher (brave soul) is the first to taste the juice.

I watch her carefully as she sips; as she neither grimaces nor breaks out in green spots, I conclude it can't be all that bad. I remember yesterday's salt depletion, and think, what the heck - if there's a chance it might help my electrolyte levels, I'll give it a try.

I get a cup for myself, and down the hatch it goes.

Photo courtesy of Snowcatcher

Much to my surprise, it's absolutely delicious - salty and satisfying and wonderful. (How can this be? I detest pickles.) Though there's simply no accounting for it, we agree that pickle juice really hits the spot, and we hope there will be some at the next rest stop. (There is - sweet pickle juice - which turns out to be more ambrosial still.)

We set off on the second stage. Riders are strung like bright beads along the road, the mountains smiling down on us all:

I pass Cloverton the Deaf Dog - a local celebrity and top Bike MS fundraiser:

At the next rest stop, we make Cloverton's acquaintance, and find that despite his celebrity status, he is polite, friendly, and happy to pose for photos (click here to see him posing with Snowcatcher).

We also see the Lizard, who beat us here, though he's already ridden 11 miles farther than we have this morning. Lizard hangs around just long enough to hug his wife, before speeding away on the next stage.

Don't they make a great couple?

Soon we too are back on the road, heading for the lunch stop about 16 miles away.

Can't seem to stop taking photos of these mountains....

By the time we reach the lunch stop I'm feeling pretty beat. Sore shoulders and painful hands are making it hard to ride, and a saddle sore is beginning to form, despite frequent and copious applications of Vaseline to the undercarriage. I should probably quit here, but I really want to beat my total mileage from last year. The next rest stop is 12.9 miles away, which will give me just the miles I need. I think I can make it, and decide to try for it.

Snowcatcher finishes lunch before I do, and we agree that she should take off without me. She's doing the entire 66 miles, and as the day is getting hotter by the minute, she wants to finish the ride as quickly as possible. She waves goodbye and pedals off, while I finish my own lunch and try to work up the mental gumption to get back on the bike.

The next stage is very painful. My left hand (the accident-injured one) feels as though someone has stuck a knife into it, and I'm having trouble gripping the shift lever. The 91┬║ heat is also becoming a real problem. Finally I reach a sign that says "Next rest stop, 1 mile". The end of my ride is in sight - or it ought to be - but it's taking an awfully long time to reach it. Another rider passes me and says, "It's a pretty long mile, isn't it?" "Yep," I reply. "You okay?" he asks. "Yes, thanks," I say.

Even the longest mile comes to an end; eventually I reach the rest stop. Though I know that Mr. M is somewhere about, I pull into the first available shady spot, climb off the bike, and cry for a few minutes from pain and exhaustion. I'm very glad to be done, but I do feel (just a bit) as though I've failed. Then I get up, find Mr. M, and tell him I can't safely go any farther. I've ridden 53.2 miles, and it's time to stop.

At the water tent, I get a cupful of ice for my hand, and oh, the relief when I press it against my palm and wrist! Then Mr. M loads Iris into the car, and we drive away on the last stage. Relief struggles with guilt as we pass rider after rider (including Snowcatcher) toiling up the long hot climbs that mark the end of Day 2, while I sit in air-conditioned comfort, holding onto my cup of ice as to a lifeline.

The ice, in fact, works wonders on my hand - so much so, that I ask Mr. M to drop me off about a mile from the end of the course, so I can finish the ride on my bike. A slight climb, a corner or two to round, and I am riding through the finish, which is lined with people cheering and calling, "Good job! Great finish!" (This makes me feel very guilty indeed, having just skipped almost an entire stage.)

It's hotter than blazes at the finish. I find Mr. M, and we join the Lizard, who is sitting in comfort beneath a shady tree. In a little while I head back to the finish line to watch for Snowcatcher, and soon she comes rolling triumphantly in:

Way to go, Snowcatcher!

Not only has she completed the course, she's actually ridden a few blocks extra before crossing the finish line, edging her total weekend miles over the 150 mark, to honour this ride's original name of MS-150. (You are a real trooper, Deb, and I'm proud to have you for a friend.)

We load up our bikes, then head back to the dinner tent for the finish-line feast. Thoughts of cool showers begin to loom ever larger in our minds, so we eat quickly, then head to our cars for the drive back to Snowcatcher's house.

And Bike MS 2014 is over. (Whew!)

Thanks to Deb and Brett for their exceedingly generous and relaxing hospitality; to my dear Mr. M for his constant loving care and diligent bike maintenance; and a special thanks to all the bloggy friends who donated to Bike MS, and to those who have left encouraging comments on my cycling posts. Your support has gotten me up many a hill I would otherwise not have climbed. :)

~ ~ ~

Things I learned from this year’s Bike MS:
  • Bring your own electrolyte supplements, because rest stops can and do run out of Gatorade and bananas.
  • Pickle juice is delicious, even if you don't like pickles.
  • Pretzel sticks are a great source of salt; keep some in your rear pocket to suck on as needed.
  • When your husband/bike mechanic offers to swap out your Wisconsin rear cluster for a Colorado-mountain-worthy rear cluster, take him up on the offer.
  • It’s okay to stop halfway through a climb and rest if you need to.
  • Carry Vaseline or bag balm, and apply it often.
  • Don’t injure yourself just to finish a ride, and don’t feel bad if you have to SAG.
Because Bike MS is not about you - or me - or about any of the riders. It’s not about how many miles we complete - or don’t complete.

It’s about the guy with MS at Rest Stop 7, trying to keep his wheelchair out of the sun so he won’t overheat as he offers goodies to cyclists, while swapping stories with a cancer survivor, both of them laughing ruefully about their crippling fatigue. It’s about the people with MS who sit or stand on the route, ringing cowbells and saying “Thank you” to the healthy riders who pass. It’s about the man with a cane, walking painfully to the lunch tent, wearing a jersey that reads “I Ride With MS.” It’s about Deb’s two coworkers, and Joan’s daughter, and Jean’s son-in-law, and Leslie’s cousin, and countless other friends and family members who suffer from a disease that knows no cure.

In just a few days or weeks, my body will recover from the stress of this ride, but there are thousands of people out there with MS, who have, as yet, no chance of recovery. Many will never ride a bike again; many of them struggle to perform just the basic activities of daily life.

They are what Bike MS is all about.

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


  1. You did wonderfully well Sue; great courage displayed for the benefit of others'! Your pics are beautiful, and those mountains are so majestic! xoJoy

  2. Best. MS-150. Post. Ever.

    You are such a trooper to set a goal and complete it even though you were not on top of your game. I admire your determination and stubborn streak more than you will ever know. You are an inspiration to me and to all those people with MS who were out there cheering us on.

    You were not a failure in any sense of the word. If anything, you are a hero because you came back from incredible odds, not just the accident, but Day 1, as well, to kick fatigue and pain in the gut and finish in a blaze of glory!

    YOU DID IT!!!

  3. Very much enjoyed following along on your ride.
    No matter all the aches and pains, your heart is in the right place!
    Thanks for sharing the adventure.

  4. You did an amazing ride. THank you for sharing, and reminding us about the reason for the ride. I hope you are starting to feel rested and recovered.

  5. Thanks for another wonderful post, Sue, and for highlighting a worthy cause and instilling hope for productive research that will bring healing. I'm praying your body is healed from the stress of your successful and beautiful ride! xx

  6. You made me cry with your words Sue and I thank you too for doing this ride you can be proud of what you achieved, my brother who has MS would love to do it too if only he could. Your photo's are beautiful. I hope you have fully recovered from your ride. :)

  7. Things I have learned about you Sue. You are gutsy and brave. You listened to your body and that is really important. You have nothing to prove to anyone, you did a great job and I am in awe of you. Considering you had that horrible crash you faced your fears and did a terrific job, well done my friend.

  8. I will tell Fireman about the pickle juice ….fascinating.
    Love the dog being pulled along
    Glad you had some vaseline….fireman likes chamois butter


    1. Blogger just ate my comment, sorry about that! *sigh* Let's try this again.

      You are amazing, Mrs. M. I think it's even more heroic to know when to stop and not sacrifice your well-being. To come back from an awful accident like yours is so brave and then you did Bike MS on top of it! I hope you've recovered from your ride, and I will try pickle juice if I ever get a chance in the future. :)

  10. Kuule Beanz! Nice post! Bike MS is not an easy ride. It's often hot, and the route has some elevation. You did quite well, Mrs. M!

  11. What a full and frank story of your Bike MS experience. It all sounds as if there was a wonderful atmosphere everywhere. You got some gorgeous shots of the mountains and area. Well done for your cycling exploit! It must have been encouraging to have your husband nearby too.

  12. Hi Sue, you have done an amazing ride and your story is great. Beautiful scenery, those mountains are amazing. Also I have never heard of drinking pickle juice! :)

  13. You are a champion! Truly. That you got back out there to ride on Day 2 at all is amazing. Cheers and hugs to you, Sue! :)

  14. Well done you for completing the MS ride! It looks like you had some stunning scenery to enjoy while you were biking, although I'm sure you were too tired to pay it much attention.

  15. What a wonderful experience! Not to worry that you didn't ride the whole second day--I mean! What a feat on that first one!!
    And I had to laugh at that War of the Worlds sculpture--so true.


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