This is a first hand account of my experience riding in BikeMS Colorado for the first time in 2009. It was a fantastic experience, and I am excited (even while sore) to have not only finished, but to be even better next year in fundraising and riding. The following is pure opinion, and in general I was thrilled with the organization, planning, and overall atmosphere of the entire event… thank you Bike MS Colorado staff, volunteers, and sponsors!
I raised over $400 individually, and the SurveyGizmo team raised over $1400 together (4 riders total).
In preparation, I went to bed at 10 PM the night before after checking tire pressure, freezing some water in my bottle, stocking up my Camelbak hydration pack with Clif Bars, and spreading some Assos Chamois Cream on my bike shorts chamois (this stuff was fantastic, highly recommended).
Saturday, June 27, 2009
- 5 AM – Wake up with both alarms… you know, just in case.
- Have a little food, get dressed, double-check I have everything, fill out my emergency info (almost walked out the door without it), fill up the Camelbak and head out for a 3 mile bike ride to the start around 5:45am.
- Climb slowly, staying limber on a fantastically cool morning in Broomfield/Westminster, heading up the hill from 120th and Federal to 112th, a climb I would see again 150 miles later with less excitement.
- Cars pass by me, bikes strapped to the back. I’m getting excited. Even better, I get excited as I pass the line of cars waiting to park at Front Range Community College. Passing cars gives me a happy feeling. Actually, passing anything makes me feel that way, and it didn’t happen often!
- Follow the crowds to the port-a-potty line, breakfast tent, and make-shift bike corral where I park for a bit, send a text message to my teammates who were arriving together, grab a donut and some fruit, and get in line for the bathroom.
It’s currently about 6:15am and I’m realizing a few things: Hydration packs were the exception, most people weren’t sure what to do with the number tag and twisty ties for your bike, let alone the stickers which I realized that morning were luggage tags. Next, wearing a plain red cycling jersey (2 months old, bike is 4 months old) I was once again the exception; amazing jerseys were all around. I also started noticing all the costumes, from dinosaurs on helmets to dog ears and tails, there was no shortage of creativity and fun in this bunch. I also got my first glimpse of the riders on single-speed beach cruisers (more on them later). One of the best was a member of MegaSaurAss on a tandem with an inflatable 4′ dinosaur on the back seat. Awesome.
Team shows up, all looking at the best way to affix the bike number tags (instructions on this in the welcome packet would be great). For reference, it folds over your top tube near the front, with the front-bottom corner having the two holes punched (one on each side). A single twisty-tie through the holes, around your head tube, and tied off so it is held close in the front and doesn’t slide back to annoy your legs. Image courtesy of the Touring Dane.
It Begins (sort of)
- 6:45 AM – We head up to the START to get into line to leave as we were leaving in ‘waves’, I was told. Yeah, no line, just some cheering, so we just go. Nobody seems to mind. Apparently waves are for 6:00-6:15am.
- We stop about 100 yards down the road because an adjustment needs to be made on my teammates’ personal numbers which were attached with only 2 safety pins on the top, and the incessant flapping was already too much. We acquired a few more safety pins and everyone was set to
- Weather is perfect, everyone is in good spirits, and the route is clearly marked by red arrows at intersections and volunteers (you guys and gals were so encouraging, thank you). Downhill for 15 miles, life was good.
- Get a look at my favorite jersey of the entire ride: The Medic jerseys. I was happy they were around, but seriously, I really dug their jersey designs. Kinda jealous.
- First rest-stop appears quickly as we were making good time downhill. One teammate stops for a bathroom break and the rest of us ride on. Lots of people on the ride, chatter and conversation is light but present. Picking up a conversation with a stranger is exceptionally easy and rewarding.
A quick note about saying more than ‘on your left’ when pulling up next to someone. When the opportunity arose and I wasn’t interfering with the safe flow of traffic (car and bike), I took the opportunity to just say hello to a stranger. Even if we only exchange a few words about the weather, seeing that person again later in the ride was always accompanied with a few words, as if the barrier was down, we were friends. Seriously, just one sentence back and forth and you had a new friend to share your ride with, uphill or down. Totally worth it. I even had the pleasure to run into (both days!) friends I had made during ‘Ride with Phil’ in Denver months earlier because I simply said hello. Something insulation was their company who sponsored their jersey, though they were a team of 2 + 1 virtual. I wish I remembered their names, I’d love to ride with them again. These moments made minutes seem like seconds, and miles seem like inches.
Made it into the first rest stop to find some fruit, snacks, port-a-potty lines (I really need to get High Roller status for VIP access), and supplies of water, ice (this became more desirable as the day went on), and Gatorade. Here’s the thing, out of all the rest stops in which I enjoyed some Gatorade, only 1 stop (that I visited let me reiterate) had enough powder for the water content so it would be more than lightly flavored water with a dash of electrolytes. I don’t want to be negative, I was grateful for the support and the volunteers, but it left me wanting. Got what we needed and headed off again.
A phone call rings as the team is split into 2 and 2, and myself and a coworker backtrack 0.5 miles as a teammate nicked some glass and popped her tube. Her husband was already at work on the tube. Turns out that as she blew-out, she motioned forward and asked if any rider passing her could tell Scott she needed the spare tube and pump. A gentleman riding past had no idea which ‘Scott’ she was referring to, so he must have asked every person he passed, “Are you Scott?” till he found him and let him know what happened. Incredible character.
While changing the tire, 10+ people asked if we had everything we needed and if we were okay, from riders to cycling ride marshals (fantastic bunch as well). I don’t think I can say it enough that the riders, organizers, and volunteers were tremendous. We even got a view of skydivers falling from the sky as we waited for the bike tire to be repaired. After 10 minutes, we were on the road again, ready to start a little climbing.
A Bee Buzzing in my Ear
Between the 3rd rest stop and the 4th (lunch!), Team Sugarbee, who was hosting rest stop #4, had signs along the road with poetry that was no more than 4 signs, each sign 3-4 words long. Some rhymed, some was silly, and all of it made the trip towards lunch a pleasant ride. The stop was the largest (I learned that lunch existed on the ride and was a mini-city) for the day and had covered areas for you to sit and digest for a little bit. Music was playing (always welcome) and overall it was a great recharge before starting into the climb on the day. Oh yeah… climbing, after 50 miles… owe.
I’m proud to say that I never stopped pedaling or dismounted during any of my climbs. Maybe at the top if waiting for teammates (or catching up with those faster), but never on a climb. I was most proud of this, considering I was practically standing still compared to most who passed me on the climbs. At the rest stop near the top of the climbing sections was rest stop #5 where a volunteer announced, “Sno-Cones are mandatory, turn right to get your Sno-Cones.” Though resistant at first, I couldn’t argue with a mandatory requirement, and I’m glad I didn’t, because this was a fantastic treat at the high point of the day in the middle of climbing. Whoever thought of this needs a medal, a message, and a group, “Hell yeah!”
Oh, I almost forgot. One of the best volunteer actions at rest stops was to step from behind the table with jugs of water and bags of ice and fill containers of those waiting, as there were more volunteers and people than there were coolers to dispense the water. Made everything more efficient.
Finish Time and BBQ
Cruising into Ft. Collins was a fun experience, and once again the level of organization was clear. Dropping off the bike in the bike corral was easy and safe, with plastic bags provided for your seat. The next day, you needed to have your wristband checked against your bike tag’s number. Anyway, after 5:14 (H:MM) riding in the saddle, I was quite happy to get off the bike and into the Halliburton BBQ (the only food available till 4pm dinner). While strolling past people eating a burger or a few brats, some teammates went for beer as I went for food. I got 1 brat and bun, some onions, 2 slices of tomato, and a smile. This did not last long. By 2:30pm, teammates returned from 1 beer at the beer garden to get food and Halliburton had run out, packed up, and even moved their semi as if to say, “BBQ, what BBQ?” To say this was…. frustrating for the hungry and exhausted teammates would be an understatement. So much so that we skipped team photos to leave and get food, never to be seen till the next morning.
A few other notes. While I didn’t experience the CU dorms, transportation between hotels/dorms and the start, or the free massages and the Cigna tent (I had a personal massage therapist luckily), I never heard anything bad from those who did use those services and the massages were appreciated. However, next year, I’m going and filling up my bike tires that afternoon/evening (which were surprisingly low).
Sunday, June 28th, 2009
The line for the mechanics was 5-8 riders deep. The line for the 2 available bike pumps was 12+. The delay as we waited our turn was a good 20-25 minutes. I’d happily donate a pump to Day 2 next year to alleviate this strange bottleneck. However, the mechanics services were very welcome and helpful with all that they offered. Speaking of offers, I found more reasons to like FedEx, as their vehicles served as SAG Vehicles. For those wondering as I did why it was called SAG, here is what Wikipedia has to say:
“SAG” (most commonly written in all uppercase in the United States but without capitals elsewhere) comes from a 1930s British expression about riders “sagging” off the back of a group. It was adopted in the 1940s when road-racing restarted in Great Britain to mean a following vehicle into which riders sagged when the effort became too much and they dropped out a race. SAG is sometimes described as an acronym for ‘support and gear’, ‘gear’ meaning in this context mechanical support.
None-the-less, the ride began with a 5 minute cruise out of town to barely warm-up and then climb 900′ over 10 miles. Apparently this is standard for most BikeMS courses, and everyone else seemed to like facing this early. After doing it, I can’t say it was a bad idea, but I wasn’t thrilled at the time. But, what comes up must come down, and that’s always the reward of a hill. Near the top, about 1 mile shy of the first rest stop, I met most of my team at a beautiful overlook on the lake. It was at this time that I paid closer attention to one of the riders on a single-speed beach cruiser, merrily playing Jimmy Buffet from speakers and I can only assume MP3 player around his waist in a storage belt. It was Batman, in California, with a margarita (if you want a visual representation). Many of those riders were looping up and down, encouraging others (there were other teams doing this as well), while on a single-speed beach cruiser, in sandals. Impressed I was.
A Chain Gang and Teamwork
Throughout the ride, teams or groups of individuals will form a paceline, a group in a line taking turns at the front and drafting each other. The riders starting at the 2nd rider are all doing less work as you get farther back while maintaining the same speed as the lead rider. When well organized, it’s a powerful way to cover greater distance in a faster time and with less effort. I picked up the back wheel of a group of 4 members of the Chain Gang team, “Breaking the Chain of MS.” I was welcomed along with the group, even though I was not there long enough to ‘earn my keep’ at the front. This group was very good, and I had to announce I was dropping off the back before I pushed myself too hard for too long. I was sorry to see them go, but happy to share the experience.
A few miles later, after catching up to a teammate, we were 10 miles or so from Lunch on day 2 (rest stop #4 again), and cruising on relatively flat roads. There were more riders around, but nobody to pace with, so I was setting the lead between myself and my teammate. After 2 miles, a group moving a bit faster than us passed on the left. This wasn’t unusual, but since their pace was relatively close, I grabbed a back wheel hoping to hold on for a little while. That line lasted till lunch and was my best moment on the bike of the entire ride. I think the part I enjoyed the most was that, with the exception of myself and my teammate (7 and 8 in the paceline), and two others on a team together (2 and 3), everyone was strangers it seemed. When reaching lunch, I rejoiced how great it was, and thanked the gentleman at the front who rode there the entire time I was on the paceline. He motioned to a female rider (number 2 in the line), “She started it.” I thanked her as well, and the gentleman soon followed up with, “I get energy from pulling a line like that. It was great.” I’m smiling right now typing that story.
Lunch and the Accident
About lunch… Jamaican Lemonade is not good. My opinion, but I don’t recommend it.
After lunch, we headed off to the last rest stop before the finish, where the team regrouped again. While standing there, an echo of, “Medic! We need a medic down the road,” came through the rest area. Two ambulances, a fire truck, some rider Medics, and a volunteer “Goldwing” motorcycle rider all answered the call. I don’t know the facts, I just know that a woman went down hard enough that she was loaded into an ambulance. The entire peloton (at this point) was held for 20+ minutes as they took care of the downed rider. I hope she’s okay, it’s definitely not what anyone wants to see happen. If anyone has information, please post it in the comments below.
Just a little farther…
Remember that climb early in the morning on Saturday from my home to the start? I met it again, but this time feeling very different. Thanks to the marshal who hung with me chatting as I climbed. I would have been fine without her presence or words, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate it any less.
Our team gathered just outside the finish, so we could cross together. While waiting for the last teammate, a group of riders came down the hill, one about 30 yards ahead of the others. As he came within 20 yards of the turn into the college and the finish line, the worst sound possible rings off the brick wall behind us: pzzzttttssshhhhhhh…. “Noooooooo!!!!” he exclaimed, as his front tire goes flat 5 yards from the turn. Without skipping a beat, he hops off the bike while it is still rolling, pops up his front wheel while holding onto the handlebars and commences to run it in, front wheel in the air. I clapped proudly amused and impressed with his dedication. A teammate commented, “It would have been funnier if he would have stopped right here and changed out the tube.”
The team gathers back together, and we cross the line as a group, grabbing our gear w/bike chain medals for finishing the Colorado Bike MS150. Successful, excited, and inundated with cheering riders, friends, family, and volunteers. A great finish to a great ride. Thank you Colorado, and hopefully Multiple Sclerosis research will find a cure for everyone affected, especially for those riding with the jersey, “I Ride with MS.” Cheers.