Monday, July 27, 2009

MS150 Keystone Country Ride - Victory!!


Wow, what an amazing experience this was!

There were almost 500 cyclists pedaling over the ‘rolling hills’ of PA this past weekend, and over $470,000 was raised for Multiple Sclerosis research and assistance for MS patients. I’m sure that number will rise, because all of the fundraising has not been tallied yet.

This is the fourth year that Link Computer Corporation has sponsored a team, and this year ‘Team Link’ had 14 cyclists, including six Link employees …

Alex – our awesome team captain and 6th time MS150 rider
Art – 3rd time rider
Chris – 3rd time rider
Thomas – 1st time rider
Elizabeth – 1st time rider
Julie (that's Me!) – 1st time rider

We also had two family members … Elizabeth’s brother, John, and my sister, Christina, both first time riders. Other team members were John, Steve, Donna, Jack, Galen, and Barb. All but one of our team members finished the ride, some much faster than others.

The guy in the wheelchair? That's Cris, my brother-in-law, who was in an unfortunate motorcycle accident on Mother's Day. He was training to ride with us and really excited about the event. He is planning to be back on his feet soon and hopes to ride next year! My sister could have easily backed out of the event after his accident, but she stuck with it. Although she found it difficult to juggle work, care for Cris, handle all of her other responsibilities at home, and train for this ride, she did it! I'm very proud of her!

I’m sure I can speak for all of us … the 3 things we needed the most at the end of each day were a shower, a good meal, and a nap!

As a first-time participant in this event, and a brand-new cyclist (I took my first bike ride in early April), I can tell you that I could not have done this without the support of our team, especially Alex and Art. You guys deserve a round of applause! And I definitely could not have done this without my sister! She is my rock! I am so proud of our entire team and honored to have been a part of it. Thank you to everyone within the Link organization for supporting us and donating to our fundraising efforts. And thank you to my family and friends who supported my efforts with encouraging words and donations. I'm proud to say that I raised over $1200! And thank you, Elizabeth! This was your brainy idea, and I thought you were crazy. But if it wasn’t for you, I would have never done this.

I started off Saturday excited but nervous. I was apprehensive about having so many bikes around me, and I was concerned about some of the hills that were to come. I’m happy to say that I made it up every hill but one … when we turned off
of Rt. 22 onto Rt. 453 at Water Street on Saturday, and I looked up, I knew there was no way I would make it up that hill! I pushed my pedals about halfway until I was moving so slowly that I thought I would tip over. At that point, I had no choice but to get off the bike and walk. I looked ahead of me and behind me, and there were other people walking too, so I didn’t feel so bad. (That's me in the distance walking my bike up this kiss-ass hill!)

On Sunday, I was pretty worried about one descent that I had ridden a few weeks earlier with my sister and Alex, and it scared me to death … Eden Hill Road in Spruce Creek. It is long, steep, very windy, with no berm, and a guardrail with a very steep drop off on the other side. When we hit that road, I wasn’t paying attention to the signs and didn’t even realize what road we were on. Art said at the top that this road was a little hairy, so be careful, and I just remember thinking “wow, this road is really windy”. I kept pumping my brakes and looking in my rear view mirror hoping that no cars came up behind me, because I didn’t want to get too close to that guardrail. When we got to the bottom and I saw the Spruce Creek Tavern and realized what road we just came down, I thought, “Oh my gosh, we were on Eden Hill Road and I didn’t have a panic attack!” One of the road marshals and a Link employee, Dale (aka "Cork") was at the bottom directing us through the intersection and I yelled to him “That was scary!” At another point in the day, I yelled to Cork “I’m dying here!”

Speaking of Cork, he was a great road marshal. He and Connie, another Link employee who volunteered, both put in long days helping to make this event run smoothly. Cork would marshal an intersection until the last cyclist came through, then he would have to really hustle to get to his next station before the cyclists got there. Therefore, he would drive past us on his Harley multiple times throughout the day, and every time he would wave and yell “Go Julie!” “You Rock!” “You guys are amazing!” or some other words of encouragement. Not only did the road marshals allow us to keep rolling through the intersections without losing our momentum, they kept us safe. Connie was manning the registration tables all day both days and checking in cyclists as they came through to make sure everyone was accounted for, and she was so excited to see us roll into the final destination each day (maybe because she wasn’t sure some of us would make it?)!

The weekend consisted of so many emotions, some that I can’t even describe. There were moments of exhaustion and doubt that I would finish (usually when we would start to climb another steep hill), and there were moments of excitement and sheer joy (usually after I made it to the top of that steep hill, and when a rest stop was within sight).

I thank God for my good health and the ability to have taken on this challenge. There are so many people less fortunate than we are, and I was thrilled to be part of something that will help change peoples lives.

I also thank God for my awesome family. My husband, Wade, has been so supportive through all of this ... even when I was spending lots of money on gear, and spending lots of time away from home to ride. I love you, honbun!

I encourage anyone who has thought about cycling and participating in this event to give it a try. If I can do it, YOU can do it!! Yes, it was hard work preparing for the event and even harder to actually do it, but it was worth every minute. If you don’t want to ride 150 miles, just get on a bike and ride somewhere. It’s great exercise and it’s FUN.

To sum it up …

MS150 Registration fee – $25 …

New bicycles – More than my husband would have liked me to spend (the first bike just didn’t cut it, so I ended up buying two!) …

Helmet, cyclometer, mirror, under-the-saddle pouch, spare tubes, tire repair kit, padded shorts, jerseys, jacket, shoes, gloves, sunglasses, spinning classes, sunscreen, Gatorade, energy bars, etc., etc. – More than I want to know …

2 days, 150 miles, 12 hours in the saddle, crossing the finish line, and receiving a medal from a volunteer suffering from MS …

Friday, July 24, 2009

Last Ditch Training Effort

July 18 - 39.85 miles (gee, I should have ridden up and down the driveway to get to 40!) - Chrissy, Jody, and me. "Horse & Buggy Ride" according to Martinsburg to Williamsburg & back. First half was fun ... second half was really tough thanks to extreme head winds and lots of hills! Did not see ANY horse and buggy's. Horses ... but no buggy's.

July 21 - 20.48 miles - Chrissy, Jody, and me. East Freedom to Queen & back. Picnic Road was no picnic to climb and descend! Ominous skies, and we pedaled our asses off at the end to beat the storm. The moment we got off the bikes, we were hit with a pretty intense thunder storm.

July 22 - Spinning - Just me and the Nazi. Where the heck was everyone?

July 23 - Spinning again

July 24 - Rest day ... did some stretching ... got a pedicure ... got my bike ready ... packed. Now heading to bed. Morning will be here before I know it ... and I just know I'm not going to sleep worth a darn!

Two things that scare me ... 500 other bicycles within very close proximity of me ... steep curvy descents. Other than that, I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Night, night ...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ready or Not

Well, the MS Keystone Country Ride is less than two days away! I have ridden almost 700 miles on my bike, taken almost 50 spinning classes, and lost 30 pounds to prepare for this event. I have also raised over $1,000 for the MS Society, which I'm very happy about. I am so grateful to everyone who donated!

Am I ready? Hell, I don't know. I guess I'll find out soon enough. Tomorrow is a rest day ... and I love it that I can have spaghetti for dinner without feeling guilty!

What I've learned along this journey ...

* Becoming a new cyclist is very expensive!
* Cycling is fun!
* Cycling is sometimes scary (picture steep windy descents)!
* Cycling is not easy (picture all the rolling hills of PA)!
* Cycling is a time commitment.
* I don't like to ride alone (thank God for my sister).
* Spandex isn't that bad after all.
* Bruises and road rash are inevitable.
* I'm tougher than I thought I was.

I look forward to writing about my experience this weekend. I'm praying for no rain, no wind, and no mishaps. And I'm praying that I don't have to take a ride in the SAG wagon!

Peace ...


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Catching Up Again

June 27 - 41.2 miles w/Chrissy and Alex (our 'Team Link' Leader). Covered some of the MS route. Rode down the scariest hill ever ... Eden Hill Road in Spruce Creek. Very narrow and curvy. OMG!

June 28 - 30.1 miles solo (first time riding in the rain ... argh!)

July 3 - 40.4 miles w/Chrissy, Art (from work and part of 'Team Link'), and Mike, Nancy, and John from the Blair Bicycle Club (Nancy took the photo so she's not in it, but that's her bike)

July 4 - 19.2 miles w/Chrissy. Evening ride.

July 11 - 12.5 miles (Rails to Trails) - Took our trail bikes for the annual 'possum' ride, but we were the lone possums. Everyone bailed because of the unpredictable weather. We took our chances. Started in the daylight. Ended in the dark, which was a little spooky. We had some good laughs along the way!

July 12 - 51 miles - Rode with Blair Bicycle Club. Longest ride to date! Rode part of the MS route. Stopped in State College at the American Ale House & Grill for lunch (see photo). Fun time, but lunch killed us. Getting back on the bike was sooooo hard!! But we made it.

July 13 - Spinning

July 17 - 15.62 miles w/Chrissy. Nice evening ride to stretch our legs and loosen up. Good pace. My average mph was 14.0, which is really good for me!