Over the weekend, I set out on my longest distance endurance ride. Bike MS. I chose the 75 mile distance... because well, its a challenge!
The rolling start began at 7:00 am. I had planned to let the first wave of riders head out before I did. I assumed that the first group would end up being the largest. I didn’t want to be caught with a pack of way more experienced riders and also anyone that was “racing” or riding for speed would want to get an early jump on the road without me in their way, so I waited until 7:45 to start my ride. I’m not sure why I decided to wait so long, but that’s how it happened. I reminded myself that for me, it was a ride and not a race. I deliberately went out at my comfortable pace and enjoyed the first few miles. I had to stop within the first mile because my right shoe wouldn’t clip-in--turns out I would end up doing my whole ride not being able to clip one shoe in. My legs were fresh, my mind was ready, the hardest part was trying to maintain a relaxed pace. My legs just kept saying “Go, Go, Go.”
The first twenty miles were a bit of a blur, I was out enjoying my ride, relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Each person or pack I passed, I hoped I wasn’t being too ambitious with my speed; after all, these people looked experienced, I was just pretending to know what I was doing. I climbed to the top of the hill passing each person, I glided to the top and stood up on my bike to catch my breath and stretch out my legs. As I cruised down the other side, I had a new found confidence.
I made it to the rest-stop that was around mile 27 and was feeling pretty great! I got off my bike for a few
minutes to shake my legs and I sent a couple of text messages to a few people that were following along at home. I was right about on pace for where I wanted to be. The natural fears of group riding and passing remained throughout the event but at one point there was a shift inside me where I felt at ease, which was directly related to the level of support, friendliness and sense of community I felt that day. The beauty of cycling is you don’t need a cycling background to become strong. enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and train hard have brought me the support I have needed to get to this point.
I felt pretty good through about mile 43. The morning sun had peaked along with the humidity and we were In the middle of farm-land, which meant wide open roads with NO shade. The idea from here was to stop at every sanctioned rest-stop to make sure my fueling & hydration were in check, bike was in order and give my body a moment to rest. The hills and heat were taking a toll on me. My body began to feel tired. I creeped into the rest-stop around mile 51 happy to get off the bike for a few minutes. At some point I had a conversation with someone and my response was concerning. Long story short, I ended up spending some time with the EMT for a while. I was fine, but my body was overheated and that put me at risk for heat exhaustion/stroke. It was so humid out that tho I was sweating, my body couldn’t cool itself. I was able to get back on the road and just kept focusing on getting to the next rest stop. Focusing on shorter distances made the remaining 24 miles seem like less. The EAS risk was bordering red, riders were dropping and the SAG crew was out in full force making sure everyone was ok. I am always thankful for volunteers, but I was especially thankful this day.
The last rest stop. Only 13 miles to go. There’s a point where you’re not sure if you are going to make it. The doubt sets in. It was at this point that I just wanted to be done. “My legs feel so tired. I want to throw up. Did I start too fast? Did I push too hard up those hills? I want to throw up. Crap. I hate this. I suck at this cycling thing. It’s going to take me sooo long to get through the last 13 miles at a pace like this. I want to throw up. Why is it so hot? I’m going to sit right here and wait for the support van and call it a day.”
I convinced myself to just keep pedaling. The smallest hills felt like the biggest climb. I caught up to another rider and for the first time all day, I didn’t feel like passing. I’m not sure my legs would have responded even if I had tried. I was so nauseous that focusing on pedaling became hard. The next six miles were mostly flat. It would have been a really fun and fast ride with fresh legs, but I coasted as much as possible, I HATE coasting, but I was trying to give myself a break before the homestretch. With less than 5 miles to go, I was happy with a slow and steady pace to finish up the ride. I counted down the miles, now oblivious to the heat. My speed didn’t matter. My form didn’t matter. I was just trying to push through the last five miles… four… three…. two miles. The finish! I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a finish, mostly because I had started to doubt that I would even see it at all. I threw my hands in the air in relief and coasted past the volunteers handing out medals. There are no words to describe finishing the ride. I’ve been seeking them out for two days now and they just haven’t made themselves known to me other than riding for 75 miles/five hours is mentally and physically draining. Would I do it again? Probably! Much to my surprise, after a good night’s sleep, I woke up with zero effects of riding 75 miles/5hours… Whoo!
More importantly, there was something bigger than my journey on the road that day. The ride itself was to raise funds for the people and families living with MS. Bike MS raised some 1.5 million in funds over the two days of riders…. That makes my heart happy! #EndMS
Dream Big. Work Hard.