Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MS Bike Tour - Part One

I haven't written about the MS Bike Tour yet. I have been thinking about where to start. For the past nine years I have been going to the bike tour, 7 times as a volunteer flagger, rest stop attendant, support vehicle driver, or aide to the Halifax club HAM radio operators who do communications. One year I was only able to attend the finish line for a short period to cheer on the bikers. Never did I think I could do what these athletes do. And not because of having MS, but simply because I haven't been physically active for years. Last year my boyfriend (who I also have neglected to write about so far, but will) declared his intention to cycle. I had a 3 month trial at the local Nubody's Gym so offered to get myself in better shape, get a bike, and bike with him to help him train.

Little did I know that the simple purchase of a mountain bike would get me more active than I had ever been in my life. Pretty soon I was out on that bike as much as I could be, racing down rock strewn hills, splashing through every single puddle I could find, and eventually having a few falls. Ooooo! Battle scars!

So John did the Bike Tour as a participant, raising over 5 grand in 2006. I was already signed up for the event for 2007 also as a participant. Over the winter I bought a hybrid and had it set up in my room on a trainer so I could ride it. By March I was so anxious to get on the road, I braved the chilly weather and got outside. John and I trained together on weekends by riding some of the longer trails around the city(20-30 k) and during the week I did shorter jaunts within my neighbourhood, especially some pretty rough hills (10-15k).

A week before the Tour we did a 45 k ride. And I knew I could do the bike tour.

When the temperature hits 20 degrees, I start to slow down. I try to keep cool in order to function as a human being and not a land snail. I have a cool pack I wear in my helmet to keep my head cool, and a neck cooler as well, plus a well stocked camel back pack.

Day 1 of the Tour started at 6 AM for me. Up early to load the car and head to Windsor. Unload, sign up, say hi to folks I haven't seen for a year, and then on the road at 8. The official starts are between 9 and 10, but there was no way I'd be able to bike during the noon hour on what would be the hottest day of the summer.

I made a lot of stops along the way, at least half the 400 plus riders passing me, but that was what I had planned. I had 20 some other teammates who knew I was on the road early, as well as staff from the MS Society, and all the HAM radio folks looking out for me. I drank 3 litres of water between 8 and 12:15 when I finally rolled in to Acadia University.

I will continue this post at a later time and tell you about Day 2. But know that this event was probably one of the most uplifting of my life. The camraderie of the cyclists is wonderful, with folks cheering you on along the way, the support vehicles and rest stops manned by fantastic volunteers who will look after you no matter what - it is, quite simply, an amazing experience.

So when are you signing up for 2008?


1 comment:

Shadowfixer said...

OK, boyfriend comment time.

See, I'd heard about this bike tour thing. Interesting. Had a bike. Thought it might be fun.

And then I went to a team meeting. There were lots of people there, committed people. And, frankly, I wasn't.

I know myself. If I commit to something it WILL happen. If I don't, if I'm just 'interested' then it won't happen then. It might happen later, it might not.....sooooo I looked around, and I said, count me in.

This presented me with a problem. When I was 15 (before I learned to drive) a bike was my main and only means of transportation. Frankly, if my mother knew where I went on that bike, I probably would have been grounded....but, that was a LOOOOONG time ago. I was old. I was fat. I was weak. How could I bike that far?

But I decided I would. That is, I would at least try. Yoda says there is do, or do not, there is no try, but in my world try means do everything you can to succeed, but don't beat yourself up if you fail. If you fail knowing you did your best, then really, you didn't fail.

So, I signed up. Now I was committed to raise some money, and ride a, I did.

I started by contributing $1000 of my own money, and then reaching out to everyone I knew to match it. Most of them declined, but they declined in the most delightful way. They offered an alternative. I can give you $X. All donations were welcomed, and appreciated, irregardless of the amount. Only two people on my original list contributed nothing at all, and a couple not only met my contribution but exceeded it.

After the first day of riding I was pleasantly surprised. I was tired, make no mistake, but I wasn't as tired as I thought I would be. At the end of the second day the main thing I remember is I was HUNGRY....ok, that happens a lot, but I was really hungry, and there was lots of food.

In my first year I was fourth overall in fund raising (thanks to my sponsors) and more important to me, I completed the tour.

Last year, for a long list of reasons, I didn't do as well on the fund raising front, but I did better on the personal front. I did almost 90km the first day. For a professional couch potato this is huge accomplishment.

I've been to the gym. I've tried other things. Get outside. Ride a bike. There is nothing like it.