Last year a consultant that I work with invited me to be on his team for the BP MS 150. The BP MS 150 is an annual bike ride from Houston to Austin held to raise funds to help those with multiple sclerosis lead better lives. Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative nerve disease that has no known cause or cure. However, with the support of fundraising from the National MS Society, advances in research give hope to those who live the the disease.
The National MS Society conducts bike rides throughout the country, but the BP MS 150 is one of the oldest and currently one of the largest events. The first ride was held 1985, and 237 cyclists participated. This year, it is expected that over 13,000 riders made the 2-day trek from Houston to Austin. In 2009, over $17 million was raised in the event.
My first exposure to the event was a few years ago when Kara's sister participated. I was inspired by the challenge of riding over 150 miles in two days, and the fact that Kara's sister completed it while she was still in high school. In the last few years, I have been becoming increasingly involved in triathlons, but I have been seeking new challenges. When Reza invited me to be on his team for the BP MS 150, I readily accepted.
Day 1: Saturday
The ride is split into 2 days. The first day has three different starting locations around Houston, and all three routes converge on the way to La Grange, TX.
Reza and I started with several thousand other cyclists at Rhodes Stadium in Katy. There was a slight drizzle Saturday morning, and we were all hoping it would clear up. Here I am with Reza and Cheryl (one of Reza's friends). Cheryl is on the Mattress Firm team (this will become important later).
Although technically I was on Reza's team, we needed to secure lodging overnight in La Grange. Reza had friends on the Team Total, so we temporarily joined their team and got their jerseys.
The rain seemed to clear up as we lined up for the start. I would like to mention that I have never participated in a ride this large. Despite the dreary weather, there was anticipation and excitement in the air.
Daylight broke, the rain abated, and we were off! I crossed the start line right at 7:00 am.
Before too long we settled down into a comfortable pace. Police, state troopers, and sheriff's deputies were positioned at intersections along the route to block traffic and ensure safe riding. Pockets of spectators waved as we rode by. At one point as we were riding out of Katy, I heard the surreal sound of bagpipes in the distance. As I got closer, I saw a gentleman through the fog playing a Great Highland bagpipe and wearing the full traditional dress (more on him later).
The miles started to tick off, but I knew it was going to be a long day.