Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bike MS, Part II: No Pain, No Rain

My teammates and I got another late start Sunday morning; again we started our ride at about 7:20am. I'd like to blame it on the fact that I was riding with a bunch of women, but I am not for sure a bunch of guys in 3 different cars coming from 2 different sites, both about 35 minutes away, could do any better. In the end it really didn't matter.
A few of my teammates were going to ride the 35 mile route; Cathy, Natalie, and I were going to tackle the 75 mile loop. Cathy would have to leave early because of another committment, but she wanted to ride with the big dogs as long as possible.
The ride was relatively uneventful. The weather was just about perfect; approximately 70 degrees and overcast, and we rode through some beautiful woodlands around the Kishwaukee river. Obviously, I do not know what Saturday's route look like in its entirety, but I don't think it was quite as picturesque as Sunday's. My teammates and I enjoyed each others company and conversations. When we got to the lunch rest stop, we were all feeling pretty good, and we took a nice long break to enjoy our sandwiches, fruit and cookies.
Sadly, Cathy would have to leave us and take a SAG vehicle back to the Convocation Center, but I am holding her to next year's ride in its entirety. Natalie and I got back on our horses and rode out for the remainder of the trip.
Back at the Convocation Center, Katie and the kids had shown up to cheer on the riders as they arrived.
They were there when our friends Rachael, Molly, and Alicia finished their 35 mile ride.
Elsewhere, Natalie and I were riding along, talking a lot about our fitness goals and home lives. We stopped at one rest stop that was inside an airplane hangar solely for the use of the local residents (and of course, on that day, a bunch of bike riders). And slowly the miles kept ticking by. Eventually the NIU campus came into view and we knew we were close to the finish line. Which was great, except that we got word that some bad weather was moving in again. We made a turn to the south and the wind was really hitting us in the face. That particular leg was only about 3 miles long, but it was a tough 3 miles. I tucked into my aero bars and hammered it out as much as I could. In the process, I got a little ahead of Natalie. So when I turned back towards the finish, I stopped and waited for her to catch up. I had ridden all day with her, there was no way I was going to race ahead of her at the finish.
We finally turned onto the driveway for the Convo Center and there were quite a few people cheering us on for that last hundred yards. Most importantly, Katie and the kids had their signs and homemade noise makers waving in the air to welcome me home. It was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

Natalie and I snapped a quick finisher photo before she headed off for a free massage.

The medals (the ones with the orange ribbons) were being handed out by a gentleman who would say "As a man suffering with MS, I want to give you this medal and say 'Thank you!'" It really struck a chord with me.

Katie and I grabbed a quick lunch, changed clothes, and started to pack the kids up when another downpour ensued. With the help of some volunteers and an extra change of clothes we finally got back on the rode to home.

The Wrap-Up: There are a few things I need to say before I finish this post out.

1. I am extremely disappointed that I did not get to ride the full 175 miles. Over the weekend I still road about 110 miles, which is a great accomplishment. However, because of the rain-shortened Saturday, I never road over 75 miles in a stretch. Considering that I had a training ride of 80 miles, I did not have the chance to set a new personal record. And considering the time committment that a ride of this length requires, I have no idea when I will be able to do it again before next year.

2. This whole thing started out as a personal fitness challenge to myself, but somewhere along the way it became bigger than that. I really began to consider the charity that I was riding for, and it gave me a tremendous amount of pride to be contributing to the fight against multiple sclerosis. I achieved my fundraising goal for this year (thank you so much to those of you who contributed to my efforts), but I think I will challenge myself with a greater goal next year. And given the time, I may consider more charity rides.

3. I have said this many times before, but I will say it again. I have the most amazing, loving and supportive wife I could ever ask for. Katie did so much for me this weekend that I could never thank her enough. She volunteered to cheer on the riders in the "Spirit line", she and the children made personal signs and noisemakers, and they made homemade chocolate chip cookies for the snacks a the tent. She also brought games and a pool for the tent. She entertained, fed, and enriched our children, while I spent hours out on the road. I truly beleive no one does anything all by themselves, and I could never have achieved what I did without the love and support of my family. That is why this blog is called Racing Home. Thank you so much! I love you with all of my heart!

And now with this chapter complete, it is time to move on to my next challenge. I have already decided what it is: a half-marathon in August!! (Seriously, August! Do you know how hot it is going to be?) But with the love and support of my family and friends, I know I can do it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bike MS, Part I: Rain, Rain Go Away

Note: So I figured out how to get my logo onto the blog, and I customized some of the layout; doesn't it look awesome! Thank you again to my wife and her friend, Kathy, for such an amazing logo!

The day had finally arrived. After all my training (not as much as I should have), all my fundraising (again, not as much as I should have), and all of my carb loading (way more than I should have), the Bike MS: Tour de Farms had finally arrived. Some of my teammates and I had stayed at the Murray mansion in St. Charles, and we got started a little later than we had wanted to. I had checked the weather report before we left and it appeared as though we were clear of any rain until about noon or 1pm. When we arrived at the NIU Convocation Center, headquarters for the Bike MS ride, they announced the big start of the race at 7am while we were still in the parking lot. No worries, we had all day to get our 100 miles in.

We got started about 7:20am, and there were plenty of riders just taking off with us. I was riding with 2 teammates, Cathy and Nat. This was my first time riding in a group, and I have to admit it was really fun. Having conversations with others can really make the miles go by quickly. We started off at a good pace, and we passed a few riders and we got passed by some others. By the first rest stop we were moving right along. We snacked and refilled our bottles, and were off again.

At this point, we came across a rider that was obviously a more skilled and experienced rider, and being the competitive person that I am. I took the opportunity to pick up my pace and learn a little bit about cycling. The other rider tucked in behind me, to draft off of me for a while. He rode just off to the left of my back tire and benefited from me breaking the wind. A short time later he returned the favor by taking the lead. He pointed out where I should be riding and little hand signals to indicate when and where he was moving. It was a very cool learning experience, one I would like to do again. And while I was learning these little bits about riding in a group, the other rider and I were flying; just about 20mph for several miles. Eventually I did hang back to rejoin my teammates, but it was very cool nonetheless.

Throughout the ride, we travelled on roads that were open to regular traffic. Many of the intersections were monitored by volunteer staff, to ensure the safety of riders while out on the road with other vehicles. When we came up to one such intersection, I could have swore I heard the volunteer say that the course was being closed because of bad weather. I questioned a few other riders to see if they had heard the same, but no one really knew for sure. When we got to the next rest stop, a volunteer had held up the entire group and was announcing that the ride was being paused do to some severe weather coming in. the volunteer said that we would be transported by bus to the next rest stop, where there would be more shelter (this particular rest stop only had 3 pop-up tents). Cathy, Nat, and I waited patiently for our turn to load on the bus. But soon the rumor began to surface that the race was being cancelled for the day, and the buses would be taking us back to the start line. None of us wanted to do that, so we decided to ride for the next rest stop, 17 miles away.

Ten miles into that leg we came to another intersection. The rest stop was to our left, but the volunteer was stopping all riders and telling them to go right and go as fast as you can back to the Convocation Center. The storm was only a couple of miles away and it was BAD! As i looked up you could see the wall of black clouds that had descended on the farm land to my left. Later I would ask my teammates for their forgiveness, but I just leaned over my new aero bars and put the hammer down. I was riding well over 20 mph the whole time. To start the storm was at my back but when the temperature dropped suddenly, I knew it was very close. It started with a few drops of rain, then the winds really picked up. I when I say picked up, I mean they were blowing harder than I have ever felt in my life. I struggled mightily to keep Roxanne on the road. Riders were falling off their bikes all around me. Fortunately, safety vehicles were there to attend to them, and I kept pushing. Then the rain started to come down in buckets. Eventually it was more than I could take, and I came upon a townhouse development that had a privacy fence. I ducked into the ditch behind the fence to get out of the wind. I could see a shopping center a couple of blocks away, and I called Katie to let her know I was okay. After couple of minutes, I ran with my bike on my shoulder to the shopping center and found shelter in a Goodwill store (the name was especially fitting for me at that point). I hunkered down in the foyer of the store for about an hour while the storm passed and called Katie a few times to let her know I was okay and to find out where my teammates were (thankfully they were safe as well). Here is a picture of the rain from the safety of the Convocation Center.

After about a half and hour, the storm had cleared enough for me to ride the last 2 miles to the Convocation Center. My family was there to greet me, and the place was full of people with stories about where they were and what had happened.

We waited around other riders to come in and we attempted to entertain our children. Eventually the organizers announced that riding was cancelled for Saturday, and lunch was being served in the atrium. A few minutes after that the beer tent opened up and my day of riding had officially come to a close. Here are a few of us sitting down for lunch.

I was disappointed that I did not get to ride the full course, but I was ecstatic that my teammates and family were safe; it was a truly harrowing experience. Riders had found shelter all over the place. My teammates found an open garage, others took shelter in a farmer's barn, and even others actually made it to that third rest stop. For those that remained out on the course, many of the volunteers continued to monitor their posts, so riders were able to get in a few more miles. But for me, making back to my family in one piece was victory enough for the day (and did I mention the beer was free), so I remained at the team tent for some camaraderie and got mentally prepared for the ride on Sunday.

Before closing, I must give a special thank you to the residents in and around DeKalb, who sheltered so many riders during the storm, and an extra special thank you to the staff at the Goodwill on S. Annie Glidden Road, http://goodwillnil.blogspot.com/, who gave me shelter, rags to dry off, and ziplocs to protect my gear for the last couple of miles; your care and assistance was invaluable to me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Wife is AMAZING!

I know its been awhile since I posted last. Things have gotten really busy between work (I found a new job; I start July 12), Alaric's t-ball (I help coach 11 four and five year olds once a week), Amara's second birthday (a 2nd birthday shouldn't be that big), and socializing (a wiffle ball tournament, a trip to the lake and 2 impromptu parties with the neighbors). I have hardly found time to train for the MS ride this weekend. I have however gotten in a 60 mile and 80 mile ride in preparation.

After the 80 mile ride my back was a little stiff and throughout the ride I found myself wanting to be a little more bent over the handle bars. I knew the perfect solution would be a set of aero bars, but I began to feel conflicted.

For those of you who know me, you know I try to live a relatively simple life. I try not to weigh myself down with material items (Roxanne, my bike, is the biggest personal purchase I think I have ever made, and she was pretty cheap in comparison to other bikes) and if I do make any purchases, I usually do them second hand. But this fitness kick has started to awaken the consumer in me, and in doing so I have become very conflicted. The more I ride and run, the more I think about new fitness toys and upgrades. Not just aero bars either; to enrich my riding experience I would love to have a GPS computer for Roxanne. I also need a sleeveless jersey for those summer months, and a new helmet wouldn't be so bad. I am seriously considering a half marathon in August, and I am going to need a new pair of running shoes and a couple of running shirts before then (my old ones are getting kinda smelly). The Nike+ sports kit is pretty darn cool, and would be great motivation and tracking for my run progress, and so on and so on. I have hardly taken a breath and I just racked up a thousand dollars in fantasy purchases. You can see how these fantasies may conflict with my desire to keep things simple. Truth be told, these are simple sports that I am participating in, they should really not conflict with my core beliefs. In order to run all you really need is shoes, and some folks do even believe in that (check out Born to Run by Christopher McDougall); to ride a bike all one really needs is a bike. But somewhere along the line, the thought creeps in that these things will somehow make me a faster runner or a better cyclist; maybe they can keep me more motivated over a lifetime of fitness, and the conflict grows...

I have expressed the desire for some of these items to my wife, and she is a great sounding board for my distress, especially when she opens the checkbook and shows me how little money we have left until payday, but she is also very supportive. She found a couple of running shirts at a garage sale and pick them up for me. They don't fit perfectly, but they're great for training, and better yet, they were cheap. Then she dropped a bomb on me last night.

My wonderful wife went out and bought me a brand new set of Bontanger Race Lite Aero Bars.

Don't they look like they were made for Roxanne. Katie went to the shop, talked with the sales staff, and found me the perfect set of aero bars for my long ride this weekend. Can I pick 'em or what?! And that is not all. With the help of some really good friends, Katie made personalized running shirts for the whole family; they come with a new Racing Home logo and everything.

They are awesome!!!! Her friend Kathy, who is a graphic designer, designed a logo for the website (as soon as I can figure it out, I'll have it permanently posted on the header to the site), and our other friend Lydia has a sister that works for Custom Ink, so she got them printed up.

Father's Day came early at our house yesterday, and I cannot be more thankful for my wife, our children, and the wonderful friends that we have. Thank you to everyone that helped out, and a special thank you to my wife. I love you so very much. Thank you for the incredibly thoughtful gifts!