Sunday, April 25, 2010

Guest Post (Part 2): 2010 BP MS 150 Ride from Houston to Austin

Greetings EKAAH hugs followers! This is WB, and this post is a continuation of the story of my participation in the 2010 BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. In two days, I rode approximately 160 miles along with 13,000 others as part of a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The first part of my story can be found here.

Like most people, I thought I knew how to ride a bike and how to ride safely (wear a helmet, ride on the right hand side, adhere to traffic laws, etc.). However, I had not participated in a large group ride before, so I still had lots to learn. Fortunately, the MS Society had published some very good information about ride safety. As we embarked from Rhodes Stadium in Katy, I learned very quickly from the experienced bikers in the group that good communication was the key to preventing accidents. In the ride, bikes were clustered within a few feet of each other, travelling at speeds of 20 mph or more. If a rider does happen to fall, then often others will not be able to stop in time, and a pile-up results. I got used to calling out, "Passing on your left!" Bikes don't have brake lights, so verbal cues of "Slowing!" or "Stopping!" are necessary when riding in a group. Dropped water bottles and other road hazards are identified to other riders along the route as well. I only witnessed one wreck during the ride, and because of the good communication it wasn't very serious; no one was hurt.

My strategy for the day was to take it easy on Saturday. I didn't want to wear myself out since I knew that I had a deadline on Sunday. I planned on stopping and taking pictures along the way to document the experience, too.

As the ride progressed, we came to rest stops that were located about every 10 miles along the way. Snacks and drinks were available at the stops. Port-a-potties were lined up for bikers' relief as well.

Here Reza is snacking during one break. At the start, I told him that he wouldn't need that rain jacket any longer, but he didn't listen to me. That's probably why he looks so grumpy.

In my previous post, I mentioned the spectators that were lined up along the way to cheer on the riders. This family provided some musical entertainment as well. Yes, that is a washtub bass. These guys were good!

Since they are a John Deere family, I had to get a picture with them :)

For the most part, the geography around the Houston area is coastal plains, which is relatively flat. On Saturday, we enjoyed a slight tailwind, which along with the 70 deg. F temperature and overcast skies made for some pleasant riding.

About mid-morning, we stopped in Bellville for lunch. Although we didn't ride past it, Bellville has its own castle, complete with moat and drawbridge.

Reza finally removed his rain jacket, so that's probably why he looks happier now. Team Total provided a nice pavilion with sandwiches for lunch. It was nice to have a break from the fray, but the clouds were dissipating, so we didn't stay long at lunch.

As we continued to ride inland towards the center of the state, we began to encounter gentle rolling hills. Here I'm riding in to Fayette County, of which La Grange is the county seat.

Spring in central and southeast Texas was unusually wet in 2010, so the wildflowers were abundant. I kept wanting to stop and get pictures along the way, but for the most part I resisted the temptation in the interest of making progress. However, I couldn't resist stopping and getting a picture in front of this field.

At about 63 miles into the ride, the citizens of Fayetteville turned out to cheer us on. We all appreciated the encouragement! I was starting to run out of steam at this point, and needed all the support I could get.

I didn't know it after leaving Fayetteville, but the hills would get steeper and more frequent. Finally, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, I made it into La Grange.

According to my trip computer, I completed 84 miles. According to my legs, I was very very tired. Although I had tried to take it easy, I was still pretty worn out. This was the longest ride I had ever done in one day, and I was glad to have it behind me. We had great weather, and I had no wrecks, no flats, and no mechanical problems with the bike. Reza and I had lost track of each other between Belleville and La Grange, but it turns out that we arrived in La Grange within minutes of each other.

This post has gone a bit longer than I expected, so the next post I will tell about the adventures of camping in La Grange, and the multiple challenges of Sunday's ride into Austin.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guest Post: 2010 BP MS150 Ride From Houston to Austin (Part 1)

Greetings, EKAAH blog followers! This is WB, and I'm going to take this opportunity to post an update on Kara's blog. She's been encouraging me to compose a post for a while now, and so I'd like to share the story of a bike ride I completed this past weekend.

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.

Stay tuned for the continuation of the story of the ride, and hear what happens when over 13,000 bicyclists and their support crews converge on a town with a population of just over 4,600!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

While I'm Away...

I've been out and about and around and around the last couple of weeks. This time of year gets a little crazy! I just wanted to let everyone know I am still alive and kicking.

WB is working on a guest post for me about his 150 mile bike ride he took this last weekend. He continues to be an inspiration for me and I can't wait for him to share some of his thoughts with you.

I promise to be back soon and I can't wait to catch up with all of you!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Turning 3

My Little One turned 3 on Good Friday. She was so very excited to finally be three! I wish I could have bottled her excitement for turning another year older and unleashed it on my next birthday. She was truly a joy to watch.

We had a party for her the week before with some of her Kindermusik friends. This is a neat class we go to each week to sing, dance, and play instruments. Ms. Celeste, her teacher, hosted the party in the church's basement where we have our classes.
"Reading" her card to her sisters.

The sweet alligator cupcake cake she asked her big sis Em to make for her!

We celebrated again on her actual birthday. In fact, she woke up early that morning to run into her sisters room to wake them up and let them know "I am finally three!".

That night as she cuddled with me before bedtime she whispered into my ear, "I hope my next birthday comes soon!" I smiled as I kissed her goodnight reminding myself to treasure the next 365 days because no doubt her birthday will come sooner than I am ready for!