Life, The Universe and Cycling

The early morning yell of horror was the sound of yours truely waking up and suddenly remembering where I was. It wasn't just that the gym was hot, it wasn't just that it was damp and smelly. It was the fact that the gym was a rest stop in the middle of a 180 mile bicycle ride and there wasn't a bus due for another eighty miles.

One Day Earlier

Twenty Two hundred riders at the starting line
Saturday morning I started riding in the ludicrously named Bike MS: Cape Cod Getaway, a fundraiser to fight multiple sclerosis. Neither the cause nor the National MS Society are ludicrous. Quite the contrary. MS is a horrible disease and the National MS Society is doing great work to find treatments and a cure.

It is the name "Cape Cod Getaway" that I take issue with. "Getaway" sounds like a nice 2 day vacation, right? That's how they lure you in. Here's the description from the ride's website:
The Cape Cod Getaway is the largest MS ride in New England. Beginning on the morning of Saturday June 29, over 2000 riders will pedal from UMass Boston through the coastal towns of Massachusetts' South Shore to the beginning of Cape Cod. 
Some quick Google mapping will tell you that it's 150 miles at best, but that assumes you're not a crazy person like me and my teammates. We signed up for the long route. One hundred and eighty miles on a bike! That's not a "Getaway."

Signing up for the long route makes no difference in your fundraising capacity. It's the sort of thing that happens in a planning session at the pub when you've had one too many. In my case that turned out to be just one.

I was talked into the MS ride by my friend Arthur Dent (not his real name) who was in turn talked into it by one of his friends. There's a certain degree of history repeating itself as this is basically how I ended up doing my first century.

So there I was, standing in a brief but formidable monsoon on the campus of Umass Boston Bayside this past Saturday morning getting ready to head out on the first leg of the Bike MS: Cape Cod Getaway.

The first day was the long bit. 100 miles.

RunKeeper recording of my day 1 ride 

That's me
I got separated from my teammates about 20 miles in and spent the rest of the day following my training. Eat, drink, pedal, repeat. The biggest lesson from previous rides is not to spend more than 14 minutes at a rest stop. Get in and get out. At minute 15 your legs start to cool down and it makes starting back up much harder.

RunKeeper and my cycle computer differ slightly on the distance. The cycle computer had me at 103.26 miles and a 14.96 mph average pace. Not too shabby considering I was riding alone most of the day. Two thousand+ riders spread out very quickly over 100 miles.

Still a solid day of riding. I was thankful that a constant cloud cover managed to keep the cursed day moon away.

At the end of day one we lined up our 2200+ bikes in a field under a wind turbine and headed off to bed.

2200 bikes lined up for a night's rest

That night I slept in a gymnasium on a foam mattress. Maybe it was the exhaustion, but I have never been so pleased to see a mattress of any kind as I was that night.

Arguably the most comfortable mattress on the planet. 

Sunday morning I got a late start. I was woken at 4:30 am by the sounds of the person next to me packing up his sleeping bag. We were supposed to wake up at 4am, but either the wake up call we were promised didn't happen or we slept through it. My first paragraph homage to Douglas Adams aside, I actually felt very good Sunday morning. We were back on the road for our second day by 5:36am.

The second day was also the long bit.

RunKeeper recording of my day 2 ride 

My cycle computer had this ride at 81 miles with a 15.54 mph pace. I attribute the increase in speed to drafting off my teammates and something I heard at the 40 mile rest stop.

Warning: This next bit uses some terminology that may offend sensitive readers. 

There's something they don't tell you about the second day of a ride like this. You go in thinking your body will be exhausted and your legs won't work, but that's not really a problem. Proper training, eating and a few hours rest and I was eager to go. The real issue is with friction. My butt was killing me and I wasn't the only one.

Sitting on a bike seat for 100 miles is uncomfortable. Getting back on the bike seat the next day is downright painful. I know this from both experience and from the numerous people around me that developed cycling induced Tourettes on day two.

As I was riding out of the 40 mile rest stop and preparing for the jolt as I got back in the saddle I heard something that changed my perspective on the day. Perhaps an inspiring story about someone with MS powering through the ride? Nope. Something that hit home even more. A man stepped out of a porta potty and announced to everyone within 50 feet "Man do my balls hurt!"

Instantly my perspective on the day was improved. Sure my butt hurt in ways I'd not previously imagined it could, but my balls felt fine. Green lights across the board. My spirits went through the roof.   "At least my balls don't hurt!" I thought. "How lucky am I?!"

I shared the man's comments with other uncomfortable looking male cyclists and it consistently cheered them up. One minute they are swearing like a sailor and the next minute they're smiling, riding faster and rejoicing in the news that their balls didn't hurt either.  Men can disagree on just about anything: politics, beer, the right direction for installing toilet paper, but the one thing they all agree with is a day your balls don't hurt is a good day.

While Douglas Adams had it at 42, I'm keen to think that it's this sort of perspective that is probably the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything.

Warning Ends

The ride came to an end after a particularly long hill leading into P-Town. A quick shower and a bite to eat later we hopped on a bus back to Boston.

The bus ride home. Hills are so much easier this way.
Friends and family sponsored me to the tune of $755 and the team I joined, Dottie's Pettlers, raised a whopping $4,195! Thanks to everyone that contributed! You are all awesome!

Having had some time to reflect on this experience I've come to a few conclusions:

  1. I'm glad I did it. 180 miles feels like an accomplishment. Even better that we raised some money to fight MS. 
  2. Training, eating, rest and perspective are the secret to finishing a ride like this. 
  3. I think I'm going to stick to shorter rides in the future. 60 miles seems to be a good distance. Going further than that, the time commitment to training takes away from seeing my family too much.
  4. That said, the rush you get after a ride like that is amazing. I feel like a duck floating on a cloud. I wonder if I can get that out of a shorter ride?
  5. Spandex still isn't flattering.

Ride info links: