193 kms….I still can’t believe it.
I finished the MS bike tour yesterday at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, after 2 long days biking on the highway between Nisku and Camrose. What a ride!
It started at about 5:30 on Saturday morning when the alarm went off. The ride was scheduled to start at 7:30 and was about a half an hour drive away. We had this crazy idea of stopping at Superstore to pick up a geocache that’s in the parking lot on the way out of Edmonton. So we got up a bit earlier to do that. Yeah, that didn’t happen! lol We, instead, smartly, took the extra time to get everything ready. Joce was my support and my rock the whole weekend. I couldn’t have done it without her. She got the bike rack on the car and then the bike. There was a little bike repair kit too that she had gotten me and attached under the seat. I got my gear on that I was wearing, and the small back pack I would carry all together…..I filled it with my phone, an energy bar, and a whole bunch of pads!! lol Yeah, TMI….but TOM was scheduled to arrive this weekend. How’s that for a downer…..193 kms….I mean, extra padding yes, but pain, pain, pain in the crotch!! Thankfully that whole business held off til the afternoon of the second day. Whew!!
We managed to get all the gear ready and were off on the half hour drive to Nisku. I was nervous. NERVOUS! I still had it in my head that I was not going to finish this….one day, maybe, but 2 days…..well, I would just do the best that I could and that was it. We arrived at the start between 6:30 and 7. I was going to meet my team beforehand but that was a bit of a write off. There were tons of people there!
See?...and that's just a small bit of it. My helmet is in the bottom left corner! :)
Trying to find 2 guys in the sea of all these people was impossible. Yep there were 3 of us all together on our team from work, me, Chris and Andrew. Those guys were pretty hard core….especially Chris. I only saw him as he passed me going the OTHER way just after the lunch stop on the first day! Andrew I only saw on the second day lunch stop.
Anyways, first day….waiting in the crowd, waiting to start….It was cold that morning. I was scared but I was doing it. My start time was approximately 8:15.
The first leg went really well. I remember passing a whole lot of people whose bikes had broken down, wheels gone flat. I wondered at that….just being about 15 mins or so out of the gate and they were already having problems. I was pretty sure my bike was up for the challenge. I didn’t get her tuned up this year but I felt confident….we had filled up the tires really well….she was ready! And so was I!
On the road!!
There were 2 rest stops before lunch. I remember stopping at the first one and phoning Joce…..she was going to join me at lunch time. I had just done 19km and was feeling good. There had been a HUGE hill to climb just before the rest stop….I had made it up part way and then happily walked the rest of the way. Each rest stop had water, Gatorade, and lots of fruit nibblies….it was awesome! I did some stretches and didn’t rest long. There were so many people at each rest station, which was great. I never felt alone along the route at all….
I continued on to the next station….another 15km. Another good rest, watermelon, bathroom break….still feeling fairly good…..and I was on to the lunch stop. I was now going to be riding further than I’d ever ridden before. Yeah, so my training didn’t involve any long, long rides……The most I had done at one stretch was about 35 kms. I did lots of different rides at 30-35 but none longer than that. My nerves started kicking in a bit….was I going to be able to finish?
I made it to the lunch stop and actually felt pretty good. I had finished another 12kms. I think my odometer on my bike was reading about 50kms in total at that point. The lunch was probably the most yummy lunch I’d ever had. lol A yummy sandwich wrap, lots of fruit and cookies. At every rest stop I loaded up, believe me! Joce was there with the sunscreen, bug spray, hugs, and this on the back of her car!
Stands for Way to Go Missus! That was a welcome sight on the road many times. :)
She was such a great support! I had quite the break at lunch time, which was nice. And then I just kept right on going. Oh, and btw….TMI….but I was still extremely happy and relieved at this point that TOM hadn’t started! Here's me at the lunch stop....looking good!
Heading out after lunch!
There were 2 more rest stops and then the finish line for the first day. I don’t remember anything really worth highlighting along the way. I did have to walk up another hill. I pretty much decided at every one that I wasn’t going to kill myself trying to get up them. This wasn’t a race….and even if it was, I didn’t care. My goal was to finish the route. Joce snapped a few more pics of me along the way....
The last 10kms or so were actually through the city of Camrose which felt quite awkward. There were lots of traffic and red lights to contend with…this after enjoying the freedom of highway riding. Those last 10kms felt like they took forever but I managed to finish just after 3 in the afternoon (3:15 so a total of 7 hours on the bike including the rest stops). I just remember this old lady screaming at me to slow down as I rounded the corner to cross the finish line. Lol I mean, it was good that she did cuz the ground was all gravelly but it just looks funny in my mind when I think about it.
Coming into the finish line (before the old lady!)
I had a few tears at the finish line but I think in the back of my mind I knew that I had to do this again in the morning the next day so I didn’t get too emotional. Joce and I walked into the grounds and looked right away for the place to store the bike. That was a bonus! There was an option to stay overnight in Camrose, which I didn’t take, but I did use the option of storing the bike there until the next day. There was a huge barn there (it smelled like manure too) but it was like a sea of bikes in there! We didn’t get a really good picture of it unfortunately.
I lined up my bike….thankfully against a wall (it helps to be a little slower than everyone else!). So it was easy to remember where it was. The walking around the grounds felt good. I seemed to be walking all right and my body was feeling ok…..my crotch, however, was on fire!! Those bike seats are just not comfortable at all. I even was wearing the padded biking shorts! Let me tell you, every downhill moment on that route is a chance to air out and relieve the crotch! lol
Total kilometers that day was 97.60....with pictoral evidence!....
Taken the morning of the second day....see the rain? :(
On to home, about an hour drive…..I had a nice bath in Epsom Salts, a little nap, a yummy pizza supper, and was in bed early! I was thinking about the next day and how I would get through it. My whole body was just anticipating it….but I was also exhausted so was able to fall asleep quite quickly after reading for a bit.
Next morning….same routine for us. We were up at 5:30 and on the road between 6 and 6:30. My body felt ok, not too sore. I had a bit too much sun on my face and a few spots where the sunscreen missed covering on my legs and arms….but I felt ready to go. The weather, on the other hand, was brutal! While the first day had been a nice sunny day with a few clouds to keep it cool in the afternoon the second day was rainy and wet and miserable. I was terrified.
We got to the grounds at about 7:15, which was earlier than a lot of people. On the way we saw busses at various Camrose hotels just arriving to pick people up to go to the grounds. I was glad about that. Whatever the weather, I knew I wanted to get started earlier today. It was going to take longer today just because I was more tired than the day before….so the earlier the start the earlier the finish! I got my rain poncho on and all fixed up to go. I was so nervous that I had a bit of a cry before I took off. The rain was coming down at this point. I thought for sure that I was not going to make it today. I decided to go as far as I could. If I could make it to the yummy lunch I would be extremely happy and consider my job well done. We could start our second day whenever we were ready. I left on the route between 7:30 and quarter to 8.
Joce takes over to ride the bike to the starting line. :)
The first two legs were brutal (23kms in total). I was tired, cold and exhausted….the wind and rain were blowing and pouring right in my face. While I had been able to keep my speed around 20 to 22kms/hr the day before….today my speed was between 12 to 16kms/hr. I had another little cry at a spot where Joce pulled off at the side of the road. She said, just make it to the next rest stop. She was my rock, I tell you….she followed me the whole way that day. This was on her car the second day....
I couldn’t really use the bathroom at all until the lunch stop when Joce was there to help me with all the clothes I was wearing. lol Yeah, to go to the bathroom I had to take off my shirt cuz I was wearing those bib shorts! (basically shorts with suspenders) So with the poncho on and feeling wet and miserable I didn’t use the bathrooms at the rest stops til lunch time. TMI? Whatever! lol
Riding in to the lunch stop!
I realized at lunch time that I hadn’t had much to eat that morning. I felt dizzy and weak so I had a good break. I had actually felt dizzy at the 2 rest stops before this as well…..lots of that came from just staring at the concrete road just ahead of me as I rode. It was here at lunch that I saw Andrew, my fellow teammate who gave me a huge high five. He was on his way out as I was arriving so we just sort of said hi and that was it. I sat and filled myself up with soup, a bagel and cream cheese and lots of fruit and cookies. I was thinking of stopping but my body still felt good….in terms of my legs and back. My crotch was a write off at this point. TOM had arrived but I’ll be damned if I was putting anything on for protection at this point!….lol
Once I had eaten I felt a lot better and decided to go on to the next stop. Somehow I knew my body could keep going. I tell you, this part of the route, the morning and at lunch, and a bit after lunch I was praying a lot! I also was thinking of my friend Marie in the choir who has MS, a lot. I knew I was wet and miserable, sore and exhausted but that it wouldn’t last forever and that she lives with MS every day…..so I could do this for this one day. The lunch stop had me at about 35kms. There were 3 more rest stops and then the finish to go. I was just planning to fight to get to each one.
The next rest stop after lunch came, surprisingly, quickly….after another 11kms. It was funny I had stopped at one point at the side of the road just to clean my glasses from the rain…..2 support vehicles slowed down to see if I was ok. The amount of support vehicles and support riders on the tour was so awesome. I was glad to be just fine and just cleaning my glasses! It was still raining a bit but there’s nothing like a lot of food to get you going again. I was actually starting to feel good again. Joce took my rain poncho at that point as the rain had decided to finally let up. I kept my long pants on though as it was still chilly.
The next 2 legs were actually 2 of my favorite legs on the route. I know hey? I’m going way slower than my pace of about 20kms/hr….but the terrain is smoother, the sun is shining again, the scenery is gorgeous. For much of these final legs as well I was more separated from the other cyclists. Pretty much all along the route I was passed almost constantly by cyclists. I came to love the ones that would sound their bells or say ‘on your left’ as they passed me and hate the ones that passed with no warning only inches away….especially on the second day when I was more tired. Anyways, the final legs had smaller shoulders on the road so fewer passers was nice…..I also didn’t pass anyone that day. Although did manage to pass a few the first day (speed demon).
Pretty much these final legs were just going from rolling hill to rolling hill, enjoying the downhills, not caring about my speed. I would see the support vehicles go by with bikes in the back and realize that I was still on the road I was still going…..and it looked like I was going to make it. I’m not sure if it’s wrong to be somewhat happy that I wasn’t one of those people with their bikes in the back of the truck….but I was.
at one of the final rest stops (the sun finally shining again!)
I finally made it to the final rest stop, only 14 more kms to go. Joce took my long pants, it was nice and warm again. I decided I would ride into the finish line showing off my full biking gear. We did a double fist bump and said ‘let’s get ‘er done’. lol She went on ahead and I started the final leg.
There were 2 big hills to conquer on the last leg…..I mean, how MEAN is that! Only 14kms to go and 2 big hills! I just walked them. I had come this far and I wasn’t going to kill myself now just trying to get up them. I remember seeing the 10kms to go sign and tearing up. I so wanted to cry but I told myself….you’ve still got 10 kms to go, now is not the time to fall on your face due to teary blurred vision! The 5kms to go sign came about half way up one of those big hills. It was a bit tortuous seeing that sign, having only 5kms to go, and having to walk slowly up the hill!
2kms to go made me tear up again…..but again the prospect of falling on my face in the final 2 kms kept me from crying. I was going pretty slowly at this point and following another cyclist just ahead of me…..we walked up that hill at around the same time and I kept pretty close to her right up to the end. As we came around the final corner, I was bawling. Even if you fall flat on your face, I told myself, you’re at the finish so who cares! I rode through and was crying. I hugged Joce and she was crying. A friend of ours came and was there at the finish line taking pictures, and gave me flowers. It was such an emotional moment, an incredible feeling to know I had made it that day. I finished at approx 3:30 pm (total of 8 hours biking including the rest stops).
Crossing the finish line!
And more hugs!
Bike safely at home....second day total distance of 95.1kms
I really can’t describe the feelings I have around it all…they’re just so big. I still tear up when I think that I actually did it. There were so many moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish…but I did. My quads are sore, which makes my knees a bit sore. My back is a bit sore but no more sore than if I had just done a typical 30 km ride. I’m awake and upright while Joce is still asleep. I think it’s just too much to think about that just over 2 years ago I would not have been able to do even 5kms on my bike and this weekend I did 193kms and am sitting here and actually able to walk. It’s so big and so huge it’s overwhelming. I’m so happy I did it, and so happy that I didn’t quit….I’m already planning to do it next year. And tomorrow I will start to work on my next challenge….the duathlon in August!!