Posted by: Budger | October 18, 2009

Bike MS: Ride to (or THROUGH) the River – Whatever Floats your Boat

The Lone Star Chapter of the National MS Society has had a tough year for their bike events. Each one has been affected by rain. Unfortunately the San Antonio to New Braunfels Bike MS: Valero Ride to the River did not break the trend.

So after spending most of the year training for this event, and hoping I would be able to do a century over the two days, I ended at 33 miles after a seat issue, gear issue and a flat tire. BUT – the most important thing about the ride is that 2,500 riders rode to support the MS Society, and in the process have raised over $1.2 million to find a cure for MS. Our team of 20 riders have so far raised almost $16,000 towards this cause. We thank you for your support!

It all started with a beautiful day on Friday. The sun was out; it was warm, and we loaded up bikes and cars and convoyed to meetup with the San Antonio and Denver contingent of the P2 Pace Makers. We met at the packet pick up and ride Expo which was being held at the ride start in the Alamodome. After making it through some computer glitches, I picked up my packet. I was rider #43. This means that I was the 43rd highest fundraiser from last year, and was issues that as my rider number. It is an honor. We stayed through the Expo jersey fashion show where the two hits were Calvin from our San Antonio office who had dyed his hair pink as a fundraising stunt, and the lady with MS who was modeling the jersey that signified a rider with MS. Her service dog wowed the crowd doing tricks. This is why we were riding. After the expo, we went to the Spaghetti Warehouse for the annual team pasta dinner, and then off to New Braunfels where we were staying for the night.

We were staying in an apartment at the Schlitterbahn (water park that was the Day 1 finish) with our friends Ed (a rider on our team) and his wife Mitzi. Saturday morning came early, and we were up and at ’em with 3 TVs all tuned into various weather. It was cool, but the popular forecast was that there would be intermittent light rain with the heavy showers coming in the late evening. Great! I can do light rain, and the course closed at 6, so it looked like we were going to miss it. Dressed and loaded we head over to the Party House where the team members – that don’t value sleep – were staying and we convoyed back to San Antonio. At the start it was chaos, as everyone finished putting their rider numbers on their bikes, aired tires, took team pictures and waited for the start. As we’re taking the final round of team pictures, here comes the rain. Not too bad. We’re getting wet, but it’s survivable. Off to the start we go.

We immediately lose one rider when his tire – not tube, tire – blows as soon as he gets on his bike. Richard is not ready for the ride anyway and takes this as his sign. He throws his bike in the back of his bus, and declares himself support. As we get at the start it is the usual hurry up and wait, as they do a staggered start of about a hundred riders for safety. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that we were in the very last wave. More rain, more pictures, a run to the porta potty, and then finally we’re told our wave is up. I’m wet, but I’m psyched. I’m feeling really good, and I want a good ride. They start the wave, and I’m on my seat. These starts you have to keep one foot unclipped at the ready in case of an issue around you. It’s hard to do that and hold a line. I always feel like I’m riding like a drunk. And then just as we pass the start line, I hear it – CRACK! – and there goes my seat. My heart sunk! I immediately thought of Leilani’s fate, and yelled to Shannon to go without me. I found a hole on the wall, and pulled to the side. My seat cap had slid down to the very bottom, but appeared to be in one piece. I had already decided that if it had suffered the same fate as Leilani, the entire bike was going under the front tire of Richard’s bus. I looked at it, and it looked fine so I decided I would ride to the first rest stop, and get it adjusted by the mechanic there. So off I went, and the rain became heavy rain, and then it started to pour.

The idea of starting downtown was that the riders would go by some of the sights of San Antonio. I was just trying to hold the line of the riders in front of me. Going through puddles is dangerous on a bike, and so my thought was if the rider in front of me made it through I would just follow them. For three miles, we dodged debris, a car accident in the middle of the road and intersection that was so deep in water, it came up over my feet on the pedals. Halfway through my seat had further aggravated me by tipping nose down. So I was riding with my knees in my chest and my hiney in the air. I just kept thinking – make it to the first break point. Instead at 3 miles I made it to my first hill, and quickly realized there was no way I was getting up it in my current rider position. I got off the bike, took out my multi-tool and adjusted the seat, but I couldn’t get it to untip. Just then Brian, my favorite ride marshall and a friend, rode up, and called a SAG wagon to get me to rest stop 1. Brian is a survivor of a heart attack, and he always looks out for me. So into the SAG I go…totally discouraged. I’m cold, wet, and aggravated, and I want to quit. But then I see a Freedom Rider – riding a hand bike – and another rider wearing an I Ride with MS jersey. I’m determined. If they can do it, so can I.

Riding along

Budger Riding Along

After 30 minutes at the break point with the mechanic, he finally gets my seat adjusted, and I call Mike – my support dude – to find out where Shannon is. He tells me that they are way ahead of me, and to SAG to Break Point 2 to catch up with them. So back in the SAG I go, and off to Break Point 2 to find my group. I am used to riding alone, but I like to at least stay close to my group, so we can catch up with each other at the breaks and at lunch. I get to BP2 and meet Shannon, and off we go. Shannon is riding with her 12 year old niece who has the benefits of youth on her side, and before we’re even 2 miles down the road, Shannon and Hannah have dropped me faster than Lance in the Tour de France. OK maybe not that fast, but it seemed that way. But I’m feeling good, and I’m going strong on the flats, and even doing well on the hills. As a matter of fact I’m surprising myself at how good I’m feeling. And then I try to shift to my large chain ring, and nothing. By this time, I am really frustrated, but I remember the sinking feeling I had when the mountain bike fell over on my bike in the SAG wagon, and I figure the derailleur just needs adjusted. So at Break Point 3 I visit the mechanic again, and in 5 minutes I’m back on my way. Next thing I know I’m at BP 4 with 23 miles ridden, and it’s starting to rain again. I get in the P2 support bus with Mike, and we head to lunch. And this is where the fun begins. Mike’s support bus, which belongs to good buddy Pete, is equipped with a fire engine air horn. Pete likes to torture people, and especially me with this horn. And it is always good for a jump start for the ticker. But this time, I’m in the bus, and get to watch the reactions to the air horn. Now we don’t do it from behind for safety reasons. But between Mike, Marcia, DJ and Joel, the P2 Support bus is definitely the fun place to be. At lunch it is pouring again, and the lunch stop has run out of food, so we head to Sonic. After lunch, it’s raining lightly and we head out and do another 10. We roll into BP5 – 32 miles ridden and only 12 miles to the finish – I can do this. I would end up with 40 miles. We start out and 1 1/2 miles down the road, my front tire starts wobbling. I stop and look, and sure enough it’s flat. I AM MAD. The last thing I want to do is mess with a flat. I’m by myself. The side of the road is all mud; the sky is BLACK, and you can see lightning in the distance. I had promised Eric I wouldn’t ride in lightning. I call for a SAG, and decide this is MY sign. We get the bike loaded up, and right as we pull away from the side of the road, the sky opens. Thunder, lightning and one of those Texas floater storms that all Texans are familiar with. 10 minutes into the ride, and the MS Society starts calling for the SAGs to clear the course. We drive by Shannon and Hannah riding in the storm. They will ride to the end – all 72 miles.

At the end of the day - it pours

At the end of the day - it pours

Saturday evening after dinner and visiting at the party house, Eric and Ed fix my flat, and we get ready for Day 2. I wake up at 4:00 AM to thunder and lightning. As I lay there listening to the storm I wonder if they will cancel the ride. At 5 I hear Ed and Mitzi out in the living area of the apartment, and I go out and watch the weather trying to decide what to do. I finally decide that I’m not going to ride, and 10 minutes later we get the text from Shannon that the Day 2 ride has been cancelled. Discouraged, but knowing I did my best, we pack up and head home.

Lessons learned – I don’t melt. I am now a lot more mechanically knowledgeable. I am riding stronger than I have ever ridden. And not even the weather can beat good times with good friends for a good cause. And now I’m training for next year. I figure this kind of thing happens in threes, and this was the 3rd Texas MS ride affected by rain, so that’s a good sign for next year.

Thank you to all for the constant words of encouragement and support. Here’s to Bike MS 2010.  I Ride for Mo!

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  1. What a great recap of our little soggy adventure. As usual you should be proud of yourself. Thanks for being such a great friend.
    Love You!

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