Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear friends, family and colleagues.
I would like to begin this report of my MS 150 ride with a heartfelt thanks to all of you who supported my ride. Not only did I meet my fundraising goal, but I significantly exceeded it!! Your generosity is appreciated not only by me, but by everyone who is interested in research, prevention, treatment and support of people with Multiple Sclerosis.
Riding the MS 150 was a first for me. I have never done a bike ride for which I had to raise funds. I have done charity rides in the past where I paid my entry fee, some or all of which went to one or another charity, and rode my bike for some distance: 50, 65, 100, even 125 miles.
Over the past 5 years I have watched my dad, who was my inspiration for making cycling more than just an occasional pastime, raise funds for and ride the MS 150 in ever-increasing distances, with 2011 being his first year to complete the full day 1 century (aka 100 mile) ride. Go dad! The chance to combine one of my favorite hobbies with the opportunity to spend time with my dad and raise money for a great cause seemed too good to pass up and earlier this year I took on the responsibility of raising funds.
Flash forward to last week. The ride, 100 miles on day 1 and 50 miles on day 2(or maybe 75 miles if we were feeling good?), was upon me and my training had been, at best, sporadic over the prior month. Still, I hoped that my base of chasing after a toddler would make up for any lack of real fitness.
Our small party of 4 – my mom, my dad, my daughter and I – arrived in New Bern, NC late Friday afternoon. As I always do before a big event, I had been watching the weather forecast like a hawk for about 3 weeks. Weather for Saturday’s long ride promised to be warm, maybe a bit windy, and maybe a bit wet. Sunday was looking better with a predicted cold front moving in Saturday night dropping the forecasted temperatures from the high 80’s to the upper 70’s but the chance of getting wet was a bit higher.
After picking up our t-shirts and registration packages, my dad and I set up our bike stuff for the morning while my mom kept Brenna entertained. Then we all headed out for a good pre-ride meal of….crab cakes! Yum!
Saturday dawned, as promised, sunny and warm. Slathered with sunscreen and armed with enough gels and other nutritional supplements to feed a toothless army, my dad and I lined up with 2500 other cyclists and waited for our 8 am start.
The amazing thing about the MS 150 ride is the sheer variety of people who come out to participate. It is a testament to the diversity of people who care about improving the lives of people living with MS.
Shortly after 8 am we were off! Bolstered by cooler weather than this past Atlanta summer has offered me and the amazing sight of a road without a hill for 500 miles, I may have taken off a bit too quickly considering my ride companion. (Sorry dad!!)
We kept a brisk pace for the first 50 miles, arriving at the lunch stop in an impressive 2.5 hrs, for a 20 mph average. We each grabbed ½ a pbj, took a restroom break, refilled our bottles and headed out for the 2nd half of our ride.
Unfortunately, the post-lunch heat plus a headwind that seemed to shift direction in synch with every turn we made, proved to be a bit more than we bargained for, and by the time we hit the 65 mile rest stop, our brisk pace had attenuated and we were wishing for bikes made out of something a bit cooler than carbon…
Since no one seemed to know where we could go to trade carbon for ice we settled for cooling off in the shade and drinking copious amounts of ice water.
Back on our bikes, we headed out of the rest stop and found ourselves at an intersection with directional signs that probably would have made sense when our brains hadn’t been cooking in the sun for 70-odd miles. The sign said: “100 mile, 1st time” and had an arrow pointing to the right; “100 mile, 2nd time” and had an arrow pointing to the left. Despite having a cue sheet for reference, we opted to guess at what we were supposed to do and turned left. As we rode off we did have a short conversation where I asked my dad if we shouldn’t have turned right and he replied that we had already gone that way we just didn’t see the signs because we were coming from the other direction. Oh. I pondered this for a minute and responded, ‘Why would they put the directional sign for the first turn someplace where you can’t see it? That seems a little, well, counterproductive.’ Whatever the response was, I must have found it satisfactory because we continued down the road.
We both realized that we may have chosen wrong when we passed a road sign that said “New Bern – 6 miles” and our bike computers indicated that we had completed 83 miles. Oops. I guess we should have turned right rather than left. On the other hand, there were some impressive dark clouds ahead of us, and despite my father’s trust in the forecast that the rain was not going to start for another 3 hours, it seemed to me that getting done sooner was preferable to later.
Our weather luck ran out with 3 miles to go to the finish and our last 2.5 miles were accompanied by both wind and rain. The rain kindly let up as we crossed the finish line with approximately 90 miles for the day, and 2 riders who were happy to bid adieu to their bike seats for 18 or so hours.
Sunday dawned with inauspicious grey skies and a much stronger wind than Saturday. On the bright side, the temperatures were a good 20 degrees cooler.
Although I had fantasies of maybe doing the 75 mile option on Sunday, both my dad and my rear were relieved when I suggested that we stick with our original plan and do the 50 mile option.
Sunday’s ride brought an image that I think will stay with me despite not capturing it on film. As we were heading toward the half-way point of our ride, out in the middle of residential, semi-rural nowheresville in eastern NC, we came up on a man standing at the end of his driveway, wearing a dark blue uniform (perhaps a firefighter’s uniform?) and holding a sign that read, “Thank you MS riders. I have MS.” Something about this single individual holding a hand-written sign touched me and I understood why I did the ride.
In the end, my dad and I together covered approximately 138 miles for an important cause. It was a great way to spend time with my dad and give back to a community that needs all the support it can get. You can be certain I will be back to do it again in 2013.

1 comment:

  1. The National MS society is always happy to receive donations!

    If you would like to donate, go here:

    If this link doesn't work, try this:
    You can donate to my ride by entering my name:
    Rebecca Leeb
    My state: GA
    Click on Find Participant
    a grid will come up with my name and my team's name
    Click on my name.
    This should take you to the donation page. You can donate any amount.

    thank you so much for your support!!