We did it! About 750 riders made the trek from Tulsa to Oklahoma city. It’s hard to know where to begin this post – partly because there’s so much that happened, and partly because my brain is still a little fried from two days of riding. But I guess I’ll begin by saying thanks to all those that supported me and the cause, and to all those wonderful riders and volunteers who had the same goal this weekend – to fight MS!
Day 1: Crack of dawn, woke up at 5:15 AM and got ready to roll out. My wife Camille was nice enough to drive me to the hotel starting location so I wouldn’t have to leave my truck there, and my brother Ryan spent the night to stay with the kids. Driving through downtown Tulsa is far from enjoyable, but at least at that time of the morning on a Saturday there wasn’t any traffic. Cam dropped me off with my tent bag (larger than I am), my bike, and all my gear. From there, I went into the hotel, grabbed a small bite to eat from the breakfast buffet (surprisingly untasty), got my gear organized and stretched. There were hundreds of people registering that day for the ride, which I thought was amazing. And teams that seemed small on some of the
training rides suddenly had dozens of members. Team Superior was there in force, with about 50 riders. I think the only larger team riding was the Sam’s Club team, who was one of this year’s primary sponsors. Team American Airlines, Team Lawnchair, Team Crude, Team Ricardo’s, Bike Buddies, Tom’s Bicycles, and a slew of other teams were well represented.
Being the Great Wall of Superior, I eventually ran into some fellas I knew, including Bret, Tom, T.J. and Mike. The temperature was only about 62° out, and there wasn’t a lick of wind. Perfect for riding. After a few announcements and thanks to the support staff and volunteers, it was time to roll. Man, I wish I had a helmet cam at times. When everyone was heading South out of downtown Tulsa, the sun was shining from the East on the riders as they made their way up one of the overpasses, and it was a pretty cool sight. I caught up to Bret, and we held pace for a while. Mike and T.J. came up and joined us, and then we were really rolling. It was hard to fight back that first day excitement, and all the energy pouring out of the riders, so everyone was putting the hammer down.
Our little group of about 15 riders or so skipped the first rest stop and continued on to the second, where we took our first few-minute break. By this time we were averaging close to 20mph. I was a little worried that we’d all end up in the ditch due to a very unskilled
rider who was ahead of us in the pace-line. It was three riders from a team I didn’t recognize, followed by T.J., Mike, myself, Bret, Douglas, and I believe a couple of others. But this rider right in front of T.J. was entirely unpredictable, unsafe, and twitchy. He kept braking at random times, and would swerve out of the pace line, and then right back in. But he’d swerve out just long enough to make you think he was dropping back, and when T.J. would start closing the gap, he’d swerve back and nearly clipped his front tire on several occasions. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, and after our few minutes of rest, we rolled out again, this time mostly on our own with a few more Team Superior riders, a few independents, and a couple of other members from other teams.
I pulled for a good portion of the next leg (pulled means leading the drafting pace-line), as did Bret. By the time we hit the lunch stop at Bristow Middle School about 37 miles in, we had laid down a 19.3mph average. Lunch was a good respite, with made-to-order sandwiches, fruits, etc. Rested for about 20 minutes while we scarfed, and then got back on the road. The next section started getting hillier – long rollers, not too steep. Bret and Douglas took off, and T.J., Mike and I had pulled away from the other four or five Team Superior members. So for a while, it was just us three. When we hit Stroud, we all took a detour north to check Mike into his hotel room. Had I realized how much I’d come to loathe camping, I woulda checked into a room myself.
The last leg of Route 66 heading into Chandler had some pretty nasty rolling hills, the type where you’d just about crest the top and see there’s another hill right after this one. Or you’d get a nice downhill only to be confronted with an even bigger up-hill. But, we kept powering through. Once we got through those hills and past downtown Chandler, there was a beautiful downhill all the way into the overnight camp site. We rolled in, and the place was still pretty empty. Some people had started setting up tents, and teams were setting up their team tents. After I stood around for a minute, I went to find my massive duffel/tent bag and carried it over to a likely spot. After a 72 mile ride, you don’t really want to carry a huge bag but, such is camping, right? I setup the tent – which went up surprisingly easy, my folding chair, table, and stowed the rest of my gear. It was time to grub, because I saw them grilling up burgers when I rode in. 🙂
Grabbed myself three burgers, a bunch of bananas, and some snacks. Took a shower – which turned out to be worthless since it heated up to nearly 90° and I was sweating again – and pretty much just chilled the rest of the day. Kicked back, visited some of the people at the Team Superior tent and Team Crude bus. When evening came around, GenX radio pumped up the music, beer was flowing freely, and the dancing had begun. I didn’t partake, being mostly in a fall-over-and-sleep mood rather than a party mood. In hindsight I would’ve probably slept better with a few beers in me.
It wasn’t like I was lacking for space – the tent next to me barely fit the person who was inside. It was actually setup from parts of their bike! Whereas me, I’m laying in a 6-man tent, with enough room to wander around. But the afternoon heat combined with the lack of wind made the tent hot and stuffy, even with everything open. Around 10PM, the wind starting blowing hard, and the temperature dropped rapidly. And no matter what I did, I just couldn’t sleep. Slept maybe a total of 2-3 hours.
Tent was too cold, sleeping bag was too hot, body was sore and couldn’t find a good position to lay in; what a wreck. Thinking about the next day’s ride to come probably didn’t help the situation much either.
Day 2: Lest the event sound entirely all too fun, here’s where I believe the event started to push back – at least for me. First of all, I’d been training in weather that was in the high 90’s, with heat indices pushing 110. When I got up – can’t say “woke up” because I wasn’t asleep – at 5:45AM, it was barely 50° out! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “That’s not cold at all!” But believe me, when you’ve been training in inferno weather, and go down to Autumn chill overnight, yeah, you feel it. Add to that my soreness from the first day’s ride, and the promise of a nasty head wind pushing at about 15mph, I was gonna be in for one helluva morning (and as most people know, I am NOT a morning person).
In any case, I ate breakfast (pancakes and country sausage, awesome!) and folded down the tent, shoving it into the bag any way I could. Usually it fits really nicely, but physics and geometric folding progressions don’t work the same way before 7AM as they do later in the day. Yeah, that’s right, I’ll blame physics. The tent stakes were firmly stuck in the ground, allowing me to demonstrate my thorough ability to fall on my ass repeatedly, and by the time I was all packed and ready to roll, there was this inadvertent grumbling coming from somewhere that sounded eerily like complaints about, well, everything. Musta’ just been my stomach, cause it couldn’t have been me. 🙂
Having finished wrapping up – and carrying the tent bag for what seemed like half-a-mile to the transport truck – I thought I’d run a full check on my bike. For those of you that don’t know, there’s two types of pedals: clips, which connect to plate-like devices on the bottom of special shoes. This is also known as the normal, everyday, what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you-for-not-using-these pedals design. The second type is a little plastic cage that you slip your sneakers into, praying that other bicyclists don’t look to closely and start laughing so hard they crash. I use the latter. I know all the amazing benefits of clips, but it’s not what I trained with all summer, and I thought I shouldn’t switch up right before the ride. Well, turns out the strap on my left pedal cage broke clean in half. So whatever little pressure I was able to apply on my up and forward arcs pretty much disappeared. Undeterred, I rolled out with the lead pack… at least, those who started at the official start time.
The wind was blowing at about 12-15mph from the NNE, which unfortunately is the way we had to ride for the start. That first leg up to the first rest stop was rough. Even riding across the wind East or West was still hard – it tossed us across the road like tumbleweeds. In an odd way, I was happy my bike is relatively heavy compared to some of the ultralights I saw on the road – kept me grounded more to where I was trying to ride. The wind wasn’t all bad though. After the first rest stop, we turned South on a beautifully paved road that went mostly down-hill, and was coasting doing 33mph for long stretches. On this day, the group I rolled out with – none of whom I knew – I left behind pretty early, and the groups that passed me were going too fast for me to tag along, so I did about 40-50 miles of this 70 miler solo.
Mike from Team Superior passed me at one point, hauling just like on Saturday. Next year, I’m sleeping at a hotel. :p Amazing what a good night’s rest will do for you. Not that he wouldn’t have put the hammer down anyway, he’s an outstandingly strong rider with a killer cadence that’s hard to match. I caught up to him and several other Team Superior members at the 40-mile mark rest stop, where they had these portable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These things were AWESOME! Okay, I admit, the fact that I wasn’t biking into a massive headwind for 10 minutes and was giving my aching knees and ankles a well-deserved break could have colored my perception of the taste. But regardless, they were great. 🙂 They looked like little pot pie sandwiches. I ate one, and pocketed another for the next stop. Glad I did, too, cause they didn’t have them at the next rest stop. While I was eating mine, another rider came up and said “Hey, they have those here too?” And I said “No, took it from the last rest stop.” He looked so dejected I almost offered him my last quarter of the sandwich.
The worst part I’d say was around mile 50. We had to head back North for several miles. Straight shot up a inclined road, with the wind battering you down the whole way. Much like that training ride from the week before, I was seriously questioning my ability to go another 20. But, you keep on keepin’ on. After the last rest stop, with about 10 miles to go, I grouped up with three guys from Team Ricardo’s: Thomas, James, and I forgot the other guy’s name. They were very funny, laid back, and didn’t push at all on the last 10 miles. I was very happy they didn’t, because had I pushed, I probably would’ve collapsed crossing the finish line.
About the last mile in, you turn South and head straight for the Oklahoma State Capitol building which – surprise, surprise – looks very much like every other state capitol building I’ve seen (i.e. rectangular with a domed center). But nevertheless, it was a great sight, and rolling in was a really good feeling with a whole slew of spectators and faster riders cheering us on. I parked the bike, scarfed several BBQ chicken sandwiches and sodas, and for a while just sat on the curb enjoying the finally-warming day.
It was an amazing experience. My right ankle was strained pretty badly, probably too much pressure from compensating for my left knee (which was hurting because of the bad pedal cage). I’m proud to have completed the ride, and at a pretty good pace for a rookie. And I’m mostly proud that I was able to support this great cause, and help raise awareness. I’ve already signed up for next year, and who knows, I might even join a team (Team Ricardo’s, Team Superior, and Team Crude are all great bunches of people). For now, I’m just going to let my ankle heal up, try to rest up and eat well (burned about 7,200 Calories over the two days), and start training for my next ride.
For all those who bike further than they know they can; to all those who have to fight the unpredictable effects of MS; to all who face adversity and won’t back down, just remember: keep rolling… you’ll get there.
Riding Stats Day 1:
Total Distance: 72.8 mi
Moving Time: 3:56:36
Average Moving Speed: 18.5 mi/h
Max Speed: 33.9 mi/h
Elevation Gain: 2,847 ft
Max Grade: 6 %
Min Grade: -11 %
Riding Stats Day 2:
Total Distance: 68.7 mi
Moving Time: 4:31:20
Average Moving Speed: 15.2 mi/h
Max Speed: 36.0 mi/h
Elevation Gain: 2,971 ft
Max Grade: 8 %
Min Grade: -7 %