Why We Ride

Team IRON EAGLES is a group of friends and family dedicated to fighting Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We join forces to raise money for the NATIONAL MS SOCIETY to support the great PROGRAMS they have available to help members of the community and to support the exciting RESEARCH being done in the field. We blog about why we ride, our experiences at fundraising events, our fundraisers and training tips. We also have links to information on MS and MS research. JOIN US!

Monday, June 27, 2011

MS150 Thoughts -- Michelle (2011)

Here are some pictures from the MS150 we just did in Logan.

Part I: Getting Started

This is us before the ride. 6:45ish. Do we look tired? Maybe a little :-) Some stayed up the night before to watch the movie I am Number Four :-) Bill and I opted to skip the movie but neither of us could sleep really well. We ended up getting up before the alarm -- and we still weren't first in the bathroom! LOL I guess we were all a little excited for the day. Marianne made us Cream of Wheat for breakfast. We were ready to go ride!

First though, the team pep talk :-) We had never done that before but a thought came to me in the wee morning hours as I listened to PenDog snoring ever so softly in her cage next to me. I knew it was inspiration and what Heavenly Father wanted the team to know. I told the team simply that I was thinking of the parable of the talents in the bible. Three servants were given talents. Two doubled their talents and one buried his talent. I truly feel like the team had been like the servants that had doubled their talents. They were using the gifts God had given them -- health, strength, ingenuity etc. -- to do a really really good thing. To give people HOPE. Riders ranging in ages from 12 to 46 got out of their comfort zones and did a wonderful job of fundraising to get the money necessary to ride. They had earned this day. It was time to have fun! And fun it was. A friend texted me on the way to Logan and wished me luck on my ride. I texted her back "Thanks! I love this ride. It's the best day of the year!" And it is. The people at the National MS Society and the great sponsors of the event make it really really fun.

Here we are unloading the bikes.

This is Jacob. He's our youngest rider. His shirt says "I'm wearing this until I reach my goal. Help Me! I stink at fundraising!" Isn't that a great fundraising idea? Aunt Marianne's idea :-) He wore this to our traditional team carbo-load dinner at Olive Garden the night before the ride and got two $5 bills from a couple of servers :-) Way to go Jacob!

Reid and the 17-and-younger crowd opted to skip the start line and off they went! Their goal was to do 50 miles so Jacob could get his cycling merit badge. They ended up going 75! Yahoo!

Here they are yelling Bonzai! Last year we were looking for a name for my bike. It's a Fuji. We decided we needed a Japanese name. We found out there is a bird called a Hyabusa that's kind of like the American Eagle. Since we are Team Iron Eagles we thought it would be appropriate to use the name Hyabusa. Marianne named her bike Senor Hyabusa. Kind of a Japanese/Brazilian twist. Her bike has brazilian stickers on it :-) Anyhow. With Japanese names for our bikes we started yelling Bonzai when we approached the hills and it soon became our team rallying cry :-)

So we went to the starting line and almost turned around and started a few blocks away (like Reid and the kids) instead. Lots and lots of riders! We waited through two waves just to get started. It was fun to be in the crowd though and listen to the music, see the others there waiting and realize that there were almost 3000 people there that had fundraised at least $250 for the NMSS! That's one of the neatest things about this ride. Meeting the people and hearing their stories. When we were registering I met a team that rode in memory of Marissa. She died Sept. 2010. She had MS. Marissa's sister was diagnosed with MS 2 years ago. She was there riding.

We were finally off and going around 7:30ish. We figured we could catch up to the kids. After all, they were young and on mountain bikes. We were triathletes. Women of Steel. Surely we could catch them. When a young boy (looked to be about 12) passed us on a mountain bike I had to laugh :-) Maybe we wouldn't catch them. We were however rewarded for starting at the officially start though. If we hadn't have done that we would never have met Mr Harmon himself! Yep. Thanks to the bingo card :-) We could earn extra raffle tickets by filling out the bingo card. One of the spots was for a member of the Harmon's team. The Harmon's team is the biggest team. They are the biggest sponsor. There were yellow Harmon's jerseys everywhere! I walked up to the first person I saw with a Harmon's jersey and asked for a signature. He didn't looked phased at all. In fact he looked quite natural taking the card and signing his name. Like some kind of celebrity and then it dawned on me -- this was THE Harmon guy. Mr. Harmon himself! So of course, we had to ask for a picture :-) Nice guy. Met his daughter too.

So why do Bingo? The bike. Yep. Each year a Specialized Bike is raffled off. Each year we hold out hope that this is indeed the year that the heavens will smile down upon us and let us win the much coveted bike. We dream of it as we ride. It keeps me pedaling! Must make it to the finish by 6pm! In fact, we gave up doing the 100 miles this year just to make it back in time to listen to them call those magic numbers. I held my tickets so tight that they had a permanent thumb crease in them. My daughter kept asking to look at them. These precious things. What made them so special that mommy couldn't let them out of her sight? The bike. Must win the bike. As you have probably already guessed, we didn't win the bike. If we had it would have been all over Facebook! :-)

On our bingo quest we met Team Heidi and Team Kirstin. We got our bikes checked. Thanked a lot of volunteers and sponsors. It was a lot of fun.

We met up with Papa Bird (Reid) and his little flock at rest stop two. Not because we were so much faster than them. I'm sure it was because they must have taken longer at the rest stops! Here is a picture on the way to rest stop three. A guy wanted to ride through the picture so we took a second picture just for him :-)

And now it is time to go finish the laundry and make sure the kids aren't killing each other. Not that the tale ends here. Oh no. There is more to come -- including Earth's Edge, dead gps running watches, Alien Cows, Neighborhood watch, the candyman, the deserted lunch stop and the abandoned water hole. The fun has just begun!! :-) The 100 mile route is full of adventure (as I dreamed it would be :-). I will be back to blog about it soon. Meanwhile read the other team members' blogs about the event.

Part II: Earth's Edge and Beyond

Marianne, my sister with MS, and I have a dream. That dream is to do the Ironman in Kona. Yep. Pretty crazy. I know. I can't even run a full 5k without walking! Anyhow. Slowly but surely, eh? To do an Ironman you have to be able to bike 112 miles and afterwards run a marathon. You do that after swimming for a couple miles in the ocean. So we decided we wanted to do the 100 mile route at the MS150 in preparation for eventually doing the Ironman someday. I was excited to go on the elusive 100 mile route. Bill and Reid did it two years ago. This year was Bill's third year doing the 100 mile route. Go Bill! I had heard of the mysterious sounding "loop" that only the 100 milers go on. The water stop at the top of the last big hill. It was something I wanted to conquer! And it didn't disappoint!

Just after rest stop three (a great rest stop btw -- complete with cheering volunteers, mists of water and a great bike mechanic!). We reached the cross-roads. The 75/100 split. Turn left and get to lunch at a decent hour. Go straight and head for.... "the loop." Reid and the kids considered going on the 100 route and then finally ended up heading for lunch. One of our team members, Beth, had taken the SAG vehicle to lunch from rest stop two. She wasn't feeling well. I love all the SAG support at the MS150 ride. Reid decided they better head to lunch to be with Beth. We said our goodbyes and off we went. Unchartered territory for me and Marianne. We did the 75 mile route last year.

Soon we were in Weston at the rest stop. I was confused. I thought there was only a water stop and then I realized that we hadn't yet even begun the loop. We had a choice. We could turn around there at the rest stop and be to lunch in 10 miles or we could do the 15 mile loop and *then* do the 10 miles to lunch. Very tempting to turn around. 85 miles is a very respectable little ride. Hmmmmm. Very tempting indeed.

We loved the Weston rest stop. It was sponsored by Bad Ass Coffee. The theme was tropical/Hawaiian. It was great. They cleaned our sunglasses, gave us little plastic leis and even had a place for tattoos :-) Here's a picture of us in Paradise. It's Bill and my 10th wedding anniversary this year. We originally honeymooned in Hawaii. At the beginning of the year I had grand dreams of returning to Hawaii for our 10th anniversary. As the year has progressed though I've been starting to brace myself for the inevitable reality of my practical self. We aren't going to go to Hawaii anytime soon. So it was wonderful to find Paradise in Weston :-)

Tempting as it was to turn around we decided to head for the loop. Of course we did. How could we not? A few miles into the ride Marianne's GPS running watch died. Out of batteries. We had been riding since 7am and it was about 2pm when it died. RIP. Shortly after that her bike computer died. Doo do do do do do do do (twilight zone theme music -- sing it with me!). Very strange indeed. Bill didn't have a bike computer and mine was dead at the start line. No more calling out the mileage every once in a while or tracking our speed (I use that term loosely. we were very slow! :-) We had to start estimating when we reached our 10 mile markers so we could cheer (One Hyabusa! for 10 miles, 2 for 20 and so on :-) and then we saw it. The last big hill. Ironically it was on this hill that we were passed by a couple of bikers. We didn't know it then but we were now officially the last riders on the road. Yea us! :-) At the top of the hill we stopped in the shade of a big tree in someone's front yard. When we looked at the mailbox I had to laugh. It read "Earth's Edge." How appropriate! We had made to the edge of the earth. I love it! The loop did not disappoint :-)

Here's a picture. If you look really close you can read the sign. Ok. Maybe you can't. Trust me. It's there. I think Bill has a close-up of it. I'll try and post that later.

Just maybe a tenth of a mile down from Earth's Edge we saw it. The water stop. THE water stop. The one only the 100 milers go to. We made it! We were part of the club. The 100 miler exclusive get to see the water stop club! So cool. As we got closer though I sensed something was not right. It was awfully quiet. Where were the cheering volunteers? Glasses cleaners? Leis? Picture a western movie. The hero rides into the deserted town. So quiet (except for the eery whistling :-). I half-expected to see a tumbleweed roll across the road. I saw signs taped to the doors of the port-a-potties. I thought for sure they must read "Out of order." Ok. I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised. We were a little later than most. We weren't the fastest riders on the course. That's ok. We had made it and they even left us a big pile of ice :-)

The abandoned water stop.

Marianne and I made good use of the ice :-)

At this point Marianne's head was pounding. Earlier in the week she had had some MS-related problems with the right-side of her head. It was really starting to hurt at this point. We tried to decide which way would be faster to the rest stop. Should we turn around or keep going. Were we truly in the middle of the loop? Not sure. We decided to keep going. We turned left and there was another hill! Hey wait a minute! I thought we were done with hills. I guess not. Welcome to Dayton. We regrouped at the top of the hill and as we did a wonderful thing happened. A guy from the Weston rest stop, the Bad Ass Coffee rest stop, came riding up on his motorcycle. He asked if we were ok. We immediately asked for drugs. He didn't have any but told us he would find some and bring it back. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Sing it with me! His name was Tim. We nicknamed him the Candyman :-) BAC really bent over backwards for us and this was only part of it.

It was here at Dayton that I saw the alien cows. Three black cows that just stared at us in a really eery way LOL I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Wish I had taken a picture. There were so many pictures I wish I had taken. I think next year we need to rig a camera for the helmet so we can take pictures without stopping. We saw this really fun slide at a grade school in Dayton. It was huge! It looked like a spider with several slides coming off this enormous hill. Ok. It was maybe 3 or 4 slides but it was still really cool and definitely higher than your normal park slide. I wanted to try it! We couldn't stop though. Had to keep going. It was getting later. We needed to get to the lunch stop before they ran out of food! The only thing we stopped for was sprinklers (thank you to the person in Dayton who was watering their front lawn in the heat of the afternoon sun! I love you!).

Back in Weston! Yahoo! That's a picture I had to stop and take :-)

When we finally got back to Weston we were received with welcome arms. The rest stop was completely taken down but they again bent over backwards to get us food and water. They even insisted on cleaning our glasses one more time :-) One of the workers told us we were the last ones on the course but not to worry we were still well within the time frame of the ride. Take our time they told us. They even assigned a car to drive behind us on the way to lunch. That's another picture I wish I had taken. An older couple in a white truck. They would drive about a quarter mile ahead of us and then stop on the side of the road and wait. We would pass them and then they would pass us and stop again about a quarter mile up the road. Slowly but surely we made it the 10 miles to lunch.

When we got to lunch, again I was a bit surprised. I expected at least a couple of volunteers. There were always volunteers to cheer us on even when we were the very last riders (which we quite often were :-). This was the scene we found when we got there.

Nada. Nuttin. Nobody. Seriously. Of course what did we expect? It was 4:30pm! LOL I guess lunch was over :-) That's ok. We weren't necessarily hungry. The rest stops along the way had some great food. Marianne really was looking forward to a cookie though! And I was hoping that somehow magically that there would still be a few people milling around eating, talking etc. The first year I rode there was a massage table at the lunch stop. Free massage. yep. Love this ride! That's what enticed Bill to ride the following year. Now the massage table is at the fairgrounds. Still a great massage though :-)

Minutes after rolling into the lunch stop (should we still call it that? The abandoned lunch spot :-) guess who rolled in. Yep. Bad Ass Coffee Candyman. Mr. Tim. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty. He told us he would even go get a Subway sandwich for us while we waited for a SAG vehicle that had room for both of us. Our white truck SAG vehicle, the one with the really nice elderly couple that shadowed/stalked us for the 10 miles to lunch didn't have room to take us back to the fairgrounds but they got on the radio and got another vehicle there for us. We had decided 75 miles was plenty and besides we needed to get back by 6pm to win the bike, right?! Food did not sound so good at that point. I wish I had thought to send him for a cookie for Marianne though. Oh well. He chatted with us for a while and then we said goodbye. Almost thou persuadest me to be a coffee drinker, BAC! If I was I would be a loyal BAC customer forever more. They really went out of their way to make sure we had a great ride! Thank you!

Bill made sure we were ok and then he took off. He still had time to finish the 100 and get back by 6pm. My new nickname for him -- Speedy Gonzales! He did the last 25 miles in an hour and a half. That's after crawling behind us in the heat of the day for 75 miles in almost 10 hours! He is a very patient and loving guy! Thank you Bill! We love you! :-) It was fun to listen to the support people talk about him on the radio. The lone rider. He indeed was the last one to cross the finish line :-) Way to go Bill!

Here's a picture of the SAG wagon guy.

Ok. We are soooo close to the end now. It's almost midnight though and I really really need to sleep so..... I'll continue this later. In Part III look for the triumphal entry (a.k.a. Where's Bill?), Frank the 25-year VIP man (very inspirational), the fairgrounds/raffle drawing, the tent etc.

Part III: Graduation

Ok. I'm back. The SAG wagon dropped us off about 1/2 mile from the finish line. We were ready for our triumphal arrival. Two blocks away the phone rings. Where are you?! my sister Betsy demands. I'm riding my bike! I reply. Let me ride! She had been calling on and off for about 20 minutes. Later, as we waited for Bill I began to understand her impatience :-) Earlier when she called I was careful not to let on that I was in the comfort of the SAG vehicle. I still wanted to keep up appearances :-) Now though I could honestly tell her I was riding my bike. We would almost be there. I could see the finish line. Both Marianne and I agreed that it would be strange not to have mom and dad at the finish line. They had been there for every year that I remembered. This year they had made other plans. Next year we won't let them off that easily. As we neared the finish line I raised both hands in victory and rode my bike in whooping and hollering! Betsy was there with her camera. The family crowded around us. Where's Bill? At that point we had to admit that we had taken the SAG wagon. Bill was still biking. He refused to SAG :-) Bill rode in about 30 minutes later.

We had just enough time to scarf down some food (dinner provided for riders) and get comfortable for the program. Each year they do a program where, among other things, they raffle off a bike. A very cool bike. A light bike. Speedy bike. Someday... sigh. One of the highlights of the program was the introduction of a man that had ridden in every MS150 since it started 25 years ago. What impressed me most was that he not only rode in each ride he also rode as a VIP. yep. To be a VIP you have to be one of the top 150 fundraisers. Since I've been riding (7 years now) that has meant he needed to raise at least $1200. That's not an easy feat. I was very impressed. He still had each of his t-shirts from all 25 rides. He brought them and displayed them. Next in the program was Jacob. Remember Jacob? At 12 years old he's our youngest team member. They highlighted his cool fundraising shirt and challenged him to keep riding. Way to go Jacob! A guy from the crowd even came up and handed Jacob $50 for his ride next year. Right now he has the most money of any Iron Eagles team member for his ride next year! I think about how daunting it is to raise $250 as an adult. I can't imagine doing it as a kid. Next year he plans to go door-to-door offering his services to raise money to ride. Pretty cool.

Final Thoughts

I am thinking of something Bill told me after the ride. We were talking about drafting. I told him that I just couldn't get the hang of drafting. It never seemed to work. Occasionally it would but mostly it didn't seem to make a difference. He simply said, "You have to be going at least a certain speed for drafting to be effective." Ahhhhhhh. The speed thing again. Must. Work. On. Speed. Of course there is something to be said about slow and steady or taking time to smell the roses. If we had been rolling through at 20 miles per would we have seen the alien cows? Or the monster slide? Or taken the time to run through the sprinklers? Would we have seen Earth's Edge? A lot of 100 milers skip the first rest stop. If we had done that we would have missed Mr. Harmon and his daughter. Yep. I'm glad we were able to enjoy the roses. That's what makes this the best day of the year! Of course there is also something to be said for getting back to the Team Village in time to enjoy it! :-) Next year we will do it better (said every year, btw :-). We will have a helmet camera. We will go fast enough to work the whole drafting thing. We will get our 100 miler patch! And we will get a cookie at lunch. No bread. Just cookie. Pure sugar. We will be there when they call our name for the money grab. Oh yeah. One more thing. We will win that darn bike!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Marianne's Thoughts on 2011 Ride

My hand is still numb and I'm sore...everywhere...but feeling pretty good! Part of our team rode the 75 mile route and part of us rode the 100 mile route. I was one of the ones who went on the 100 mile route and I'm glad we made the attempt, even though we ended up riding 75 miles instead of 100 (well, Bill ended up riding the full 100!). I couldn't help but compare it to last year, when we accomplished the Super Human Feat of riding 75 miles. As I recall, when we hit the lunch stop we were ready to fall down (and never get back up) but after a 2 hour lunch we crawled back on our bikes and rode the last 25. I viscerally remember those last 11 miles when I literally wasn't sure I could pedal for even one minute longer (but did).

That was not my experience this year! It was tough, but not nearly as tough as last year. I think all of the marathon training I have been doing has strengthened my legs a ton. We were riding faster and able to ride much longer (without a 2 hour yoga/lunch/nap break!). We were still pretty slow, though, especially when we got to the 75 mile/100 mile split. I'd never have made it without Michelle & Bill being kind enough to ride slow with me. Michelle even switched bikes with me so I could ride a bike with gears that worked on a regular basis.

The great thing about the ride, too, is that we knew we could quit at any time (and take a SAG wagon back) so we really could push ourselves. On training rides you always have to make sure you turn around when you know for sure you have enough juice to make it back. On this ride you can just go and go until you can't go anymore! That's part of what makes this so fun (since I've always been able to ride longer than I thought I could).

The volunteers make the ride too. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. They really want to do all they can to help you have a great ride. We felt that especially when we were out on the 100 mile loop. We were the last riders out there and the last rest stop before the loop (Bad Ass Coffee's rest stop) sent a volunteer out on his motorcycle to see if there was anything we needed. I had a pounding headache and, bless him, he rode back to the rest stop to bring some ibuprofen back for me on the route. I limped on back to the rest stop and had just about decided to quit at mile 64 when I rode in to the almost-broken-down-entirely rest stop. The volunteers started cheering wildly and immediately pulled out all the stops to give us what we needed to keep on riding. One volunteer cleaned my sunglasses, one pulled out food for us, one got some ice, and they all very kindly listened to me yammer on about I-don't-remember-what and they even laughed at what I'm sure were not very funny jokes. I honestly was ready to quit before I hit that rest stop but I left truly refreshed. We would have voted for them as the best rest stop if we had gotten back in time. They won the Best Rest Stop Award from us for sure!

We started our MS Ride weekend on Friday night with the traditional Carboload Dinner as a team (delicious!) and then prepared our bikes for the morning (which came very early). After some breakfast and a team photo we headed out to the fairgrounds, arriving about 7 am. Reid and the younglings took off right away (skipping the start line!) but Michelle, Bill and I waited at the start for a couple of waves and caught up with them at the 2nd rest stop. At the first rest stop, though, we got to meet Randy Harmon, one of the title sponsors! We didn't actually know it was him. We were just trying to get another initial on our bingo cards (one spot was for getting the initial of a Team Harmon's member and he was, indeed, wearing the Team Harmon's jersey). What a nice guy! We hoped to also meet Bob Harmon but he was much faster than we were :) We had a blast at those first rest stops with our bingo card. We met Heidi's son from Team Heidi and we enjoyed chatting with a few of the ladies from Team Kirstin too. We met another rider named Angel who was on the same mission (Bingo Blackout) and shared a pen. As usual, we spent the majority of those first miles dreaming up new fundraising techniques and planning our future team jersey. We tried to explain to our new young teammates why we yell "Bonsai!" and "Hyabusa!"

This year we tried to commemorate the passing of each 10 mile marker with a team yell. This worked out pretty well until the battery on my running watch died (just before we reached a spot on the 100 mile loop called "Earth's Edge"...coincidence?). Our younglings did pretty well this year and it was fun to cheer them on. I especially liked getting my more reserved niece to yell out "I'm fabulous!" and "I'm amazing!" as positive thoughts affirmations on a particularly difficult hill. A big thank you to Reid for being the Papa Bird for our flock of under-18s while we attempted the longer, harder route. I can hardly wait for next year!!!!!