So this past weekend was the BP MS150; the largest fund raiser for the MS Society in Texas, and one of the biggest cycling events in the country. It was an amazing and ass-numbing experience. Riding with over 13,000 other riders in part of such a prestigious event was definitely a great feeling. We’re already thinking about next year’s ride.
This was our first huge ride. I’ve done a few smaller sponsored rides in the past few months, but this was the first really large event. I was
pretty sure I was ready, but I know my wife was not. Between moving to Houston and starting her full time job, and finishing her masters thesis, she had little to no time to train like I did. But she’s stubborn and was going to give it her best; and she did. Aside from not being able to train, she has IT band issues which basically incapacitates her knees when they finally go bad. In the past she hasn’t been able to ride past 30 miles. So we were worried her day would turn bad fast, but we were going to give it a try.
There are three starting points: one in western Houston, one in Katy, and one in Waller, TX. Each start point has different distances to the end of Day 1 in La Grange – giving people a chance to ride a comfortable distance for themselves and to spread out the 13,000+ people all trying to start. The distance from the Houston start is 100 miles; Katy is 84; and from Waller its 76 miles. We started at Waller Stadium since it was our first ride and we needed to go easy on my wife’s knees (well, and me too, lol).
We got stuck in traffic trying to get to the stadium and even though it was an informal rolling start we didn’t get going until around 8:45am. But there were plenty of people around us and behind us so I wasn’t worried. The ride down from Waller put us more into the southerly wind for the first part of the day, which was annoying. But all the routes met up at the lunch rest stop and continued to La Grange from there all together. Many folks say that Day 1 is flat and easy, but I’d have to disagree and say the hills on Day 1 were far more challenging than on Day 2. Thankfully the weather cooperated and Day 1 was beautiful. The sun was out and the breeze was nice – even if it did work against you. The sun did get a little beating hot towards the afternoon, though.
Sometime around the 20-30 mile marker my wife’s knee went, but she made it to the lunch stop and we rested. She began putting Bio-Freeze on
her knees at every rest stop, and that helped a lot. She was able to make it 56 miles before the pain really got the best of her. I was super proud of her for sticking it out and she was really happy about it too. The great thing was she stayed in good spirits despite the crippling pain. At the second to last rest stop she caught the SAG bus to La Grange and it dropped her off one mile from the finish line so she could ride across it to end Day 1. After I left her at that rest stop I blasted out the remaining 20 miles and arrived in La Grange about 5:15pm. I was the last person on the team to arrive since my wife beat me with the bus, and we were riding at a moderate pace all day. But it didn’t matter – I was just happy to have made it 76 miles and finished Day 1.
Some guys on our team have friends who run their own BBQ business so they came out and set up shop just for us and fed us delicious BBQ all
night. We had our own tent to sit under and relax, and the team’s volunteers set up all our personal tents at the campground and had all our gear ready for us. We had a great evening. Next year hopefully we’ll arrive earlier and spend more time enjoying the festivities and things going on because they put on quite a show for all the riders. This event is so huge.
We woke up at 5:45am for Day 2, and even though that seems early, there were already
thousands of people lining up at the starting line to begin the day’s leg before we even packed up our tents! We didn’t get started until around 7:45am. The weather was better in that it was cooler and the wind was favorable, but it was overcast and rain threatened all day. We did get some sprinkles and a very light rain as we approached Austin, but thankfully it didn’t amount to more than that.
Everything about Day 2 was better than Day 1. The hills were much more manageable and our pace was much better than the previous day’s. There were lots of good down-hills whereas Day 1 just seemed to go up and never down! And the best part was Annie made it the whole day! She hurt, but it wasn’t as bad and she still put Bio-Freeze on her legs at every stop. Hopefully we’re training her IT bands to behave. It was shorter, only 66 miles, but it was a great day. There were some much steeper hills right as you near Austin, but on the whole they didn’t ruin the day.
Coming into Austin was a great feeling, especially once we saw the skyline. Of course that also put us back in city traffic and there were a couple yahoos who didn’t understand the whole coned-off lane for bikers thing. It also meant we stopped at a lot more traffic lights. But that’s OK because the ride support from the Austin PD and the Houston PD and all the county sheriffs and police in between was fantastic. So a huge thanks to every single one of them.
Crossing the finish line was a great feeling. We rolled over the line around 4:15pm, and even though that’s probably the back 3rd of the entire pack, there were still tons and tons of people there cheering on every rider crossing the line. It was awesome. There are groups of bubble-blowers and a whole sectioned off group of those people cheering are people with MS, and we’re doing it for them!
We didn’t stick around to enjoy the festivities and the tents and the foods because most of our team was already on their way back to Houston, and we were tuckered out and wanted to start back ourselves. Next year hopefully we’ll arrive earlier and can check out the fanfare for a while. So we put out bikes on the truck heading back to Waller Stadium, and we hopped on the bus and enjoyed a relaxing ride back to the car. Unfortunately the bus beat the truck back, so we had to wait about an hour for our bikes to arrive – and we just wanted to go home!
All-in-all, it was an amazing experience – the whole thing – and we’re looking forward to next year.
Special shout-outs and thanks to all the volunteers, bike shops, first aid people, SAG drivers, ride marshals, who kept the entire event rolling so smoothly. And to Jason’s Deli for providing an awesome lunch on Day 2. We did hear of several accidents and two bikers had to be airlifted our by helicopter in separate incidents. I hope they’re OK. We also heard someone got hit by a car, and many other falls, so let’s hope everyone made out alright!
Thanks to everyone who donated to support our ride and the MS Society!