Yeah, I didn’t get around to updating yesterday. I was in a sleepy haze all morning, and then had work to do all afternoon. But better late than never, right? So here it is, my recap of the MS150.
SATURDAY – Houston to La Grange – 83.8 miles
I didn’t sleep very well Friday night due to noisy neighbors and being generally nervous and anxious about the ride, and sort of tossed and turned all night until the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Yes, 4:30 a.m. For those keeping score, that is really freaking early. Anyway, I had packed everything Friday evening, so I just put on my biking clothes (including spiffy/ugly Dow team jersey; I felt like a race car driver covered with sponsor logos), at a bowl of cereal, threw my backpack and sleeping bag into the car, and put my bike in the back seat. I have to take the front wheel off to fit it in there, but it’s better than using my sketchy bike rack on the highway at 70 mph. Ah, in two weeks when I have a new car I’ll never have to worry about transporting my bike again!
Anyway. I was on the road by 5:10 and got to the stadium right at 6:00. The ride actually had two starting points: Tully Stadium in west Houston, and Rhodes Stadium in Katy. The ride from Tully was about 15 miles farther on the first day; in fact, I drove past Tully on my way to Rhodes. The Dow team had a team start arranged at Rhodes though, and I wanted to start with the team (and saving 15 miles didn’t hurt)! In any case, I got to the stadium, unloaded my bike, dropped my backpack and sleeping bag in the big pile of luggage to be trucked to the overnight stop in La Grange, and headed to the start line.
From what I can tell, doing the ride with a team is definitely the way to go. The Dow team made sure everything was taken care of, from start to finish. We got to start right after the BP team, at 7:05 a.m., while people in the back of the line probably didn’t even get out of the stadium until after 8:00 (they start people in waves to control the flow of bike traffic). I was on my way!
Lunch in Bellville was about 35 miles away. I made good time there, averaging over 18 miles an hour and stopping at only one of the break points to suck on some orange slices (which quickly became my favorite break point item) and drink some Gatorade. I was at the lunch stop at 9:15–early for lunch, but I ate it anyway. Turkey sandwich, yogurt, pasta, potato salad. Mmm. By 9:45 I was back on the road.
The second half of the first day was the hardest part of the entire ride for me. The weather was nice (sunny and about 75 degrees), but it was really windy. The last 30 miles of the first day were pretty much all into a headwind, and up and over one rolling hill after another, which made for some tough biking. I didn’t mind the hills as much as the wind. It was brutal! The last 4 miles into La Grange were the worst of all–directly into the wind and up progressively steeper hills. Ugh! I was so happy to roll into the fairgrounds and across the first day’s finish line. I arrived just before 2:00 having averaged 15.2 mph for the day. You can do the math–I averaged over 18 mph before lunch, so I had to have average below 12 mph after! I was totally worn out and wondering how in the world I’d ever be able to get back on my bike on Sunday.
After hanging out in the Dow tent for a couple hours though, I was feeling better. No sooner had I walked under the tent than I was greeted with a clean t-shirt, a dozen different drink choices, a full meal, and best of all, a free massage! With some food in my stomach and a masseuse working on my back and neck, I was a happy camper. I sat down with a couple guys who’d finished around 12:30 (speedy!) and talked to them for a while, and at 4:00, I finally saw Angela (a coworker of mine) and her friend Andy come into the tent. We hopped on a bus to a nearby middle school and took showers (ahh). We got back to the tent around 5:30, at which point I was already hungry again, so I ate a second dinner to go with the meal I’d eaten three hours earlier. After that I wandered around the fairgrounds for a while, taking pictures and seeing what was going on. The place was like a carnival–there were games, a climbing wall, a stage, live music, funnel cakes, etc. I walked over to the finish line around 7:00 and people were still steadily coming in, including some guy on a unicycle. Wow.
As the sun started to go down, I started getting really tired, so I headed back to the team tent. Dow provided air mattresses for everyone, which was awesome, so I got mine and found a nice spot at the edge of the tent to set up my bed. I laid around for a while and was just about to fall asleep when the 9:15 fireworks started. Boom! That woke me up again, so I went outside to watch them. They were over by 9:30 and I tumbled onto my air mattress once again and was conked out within minutes.
SUNDAY – La Grange to Austin – 69.7 miles
I woke up when someone in the tent next to us started crowing like a rooster. I figured it must be 5:30 or so…imagine my surprise when I looked at my watch and it was only 4:30 a.m.!! No way I was getting up that early again! I rolled over and dozed for another 45 minutes. At 5:15 I finally got up and hit the breakfast table in the back of the tent. Cereal, eggs, bacon, a big muffin and…coffee! Score. As my food digested, I put on another day’s cycling clothes and packed up all my stuff. Dropped off my luggage at the trucks again to be taken to Austin, topped off the water in my camelback, and headed over to the start line with Angela and Andy. Trying to get 13,000 cyclists out of one gate is no small feat, and many people had been in line for an hour or more by the time we got there at 6:40. The official start was at 7, but we didn’t get out until almost 8:00.
It was a bit chilly, and for the first few miles I wished I’d worn my windbreaker. By the first break point, though, I was warmed up. I didn’t skip any break points on Sunday, as my poor butt needed the rest! I took the “easy” route out of La Grange; just like on Saturday morning, there were two routes to get to lunch. One was about 12 miles longer and went through a very hilly state park, while the other followed highway 71 into Bastrop. I chose the shorter route (the “FedEx Express Route” for those of you craving product placement), which was still pretty hilly, though not as scenic. It wasn’t quite as windy early in the morning, and at some places we even had a tailwind, so the going was easier. I reached more than 36 miles per hour coasting down one long hill! That was exciting.
Lunch was in Bastrop at the high school there, Subway sandwiches, chips, and free ice cream sandwiches. By 10:30 I was on the road again with only about 40 miles to go! The break points were pretty evenly spaced out from lunch on, which my butt really appreciated. 🙂 The road flattened out a lot, which was both good and bad–good to not have to climb many hills, but bad because there were no downhills to coast and give my legs a break! At the second-to-last break point there were three goats–very random–and the last break point had Girl Scout cookies and was blaring country music. I was in a great mood by this point, as I wasn’t feeling as bad as I had Saturday afternoon, and I knew that I only had 10 more miles to go!
The miles into Austin were pretty slow since it seemed like more and more cyclists were being crammed into a smaller and smaller lane of traffic, but the last mile or so was awesome. It was really windy (I mean, really windy, like blowing trash cans over windy), but mostly downhill. I coasted happily down into the UT campus and past the Longhorn football stadium (just like how the Austin half marathon ended!), then it was just one last quick climb up a hill and around a corner, and there was the Capitol and the finish line! There were lines of people cheering on each side, and I was really excited to be there. Woohoo!
From there I put my bike on a truck back to Houston, and enjoyed a meal at the Hooters tent. That chicken sandwich really hit the spot! I checked in at the Dow tent, took some pictures, found my luggage, and found Angela and Andy (we’d gotten separated early in the day) at the shower trailers. After a lovely shower, I gathered my stuff and hopped on a bus back to Houston. I fell asleep for the first hour, but ended up talking to my seatmate for the rest of the trip back to the stadium in Katy. After talking about our experiences on the ride for a while, I discovered that he was a baseball fan, so we talked baseball for probably half an hour. Fun.
Next thing I knew, I was back at my car. All the bikes were trucked back to Tully Stadium, and since I’d left from Rhodes, I had to drive to Tully to get my bike. I expected my bike to be there, seeing as how the truck I’d put it on had left Austin at 2:05, I hadn’t left Austin till 3:45, and it was now 6:45…but no luck. Each of the trucks were named after a baseball team so you could keep track of which truck your bike was on; I had put my bike on the Yankees truck (despite saying in Austin “I can’t put my bike on the Yankees truck, I hate the Yankees!”). Stupid Yankees. I should have actually paid attention to what I was joking about! I don’t know what the driver did on his way from Austin to Houston, but it took him a whole five hours to get to Tully, finally arriving at about 7:15. I only had to wait for half an hour but still–five hours?? Crazy.
Bike in hand, I finally headed home.
TOTAL – Houston to Austin – 153.5 miles
All in all, the MS150 was a cool experience, and I’ll probably do it again next year. The one thing that would have made it better is if I’d been able to convince any of my friends to do it with me. I had a good time and raised more than $500 for the MS Society (speaking of which, if you would still like to donate, and in turn receive a really cool thank you card hand-made by yours truly, you can do so here).