I thought I knew what I was getting in to. I mean I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. I’ve hiked Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, etc. I’ve snowshoed five miles, while carrying a 15 lb. backpack, up to a remote Colorado 10th Mountain Division hut for a weekend trip. I’ve biked Vail Pass cul-de-sac–2300 feet steady elevation at an 8-10% grade…
…BUT all of these things paled in comparison to the 2012 Bike MS 150 Colorado/Wyoming ride!
Two days of biking about 70 miles each of the consecutive days in nearly 100 degree heat.
Two days of thinking my heart would pound out of my chest as I continued to climb elevations wondering when they would stop, so I could have a reprievem breathe, maybe coast, but only to see another incline.
Two days of making sure I was ultra hydrated and eating continuously to maintain energy.
Two days of burning thousands of calories.
Two days of commiserating with 3000 other pedalers all dedicated to one cause–finding a cure for MS.
Two days of being part of an event so well-organized and orchestrated with thousands of volunteers that you felt like a rock star.
Our first day, Saturday, started early…we were up around 4:30a.m…I had bought new high-tech biking shorts complete with cushy foam that molded to my own butt—now that impressed me! My gloves had massage points in them—definitely needed for hours and hours on those handle bars. The camel back was full of fresh water and ice—with temps well in the 90s and inching towards 100, this would feel great drinking and squirting on my neck and face. Then I had my ‘frog tog’—oh, wow, now this was a lifesaver—recommended to me by my daughter, Amy, it’s like a chamois—held moisture and stayed cool—what an invention!
At 6 a.m. I was on my bike with that deer in headlights look on my face, just following our team, the Eagle Spinners, pretty much clueless, but seeming to present myself as a real experienced rider! Oh, the smoke and mirrors! Thank goodness for the cool temps, I was thinking, hey, this is a breeze. Riders were abuzz, thousands of them. There was an enthusiasm in the air that I knew would probably be dimmed in the next few hours. What stuck in my mind was the song by The Animals that was being played as the ride began—‘House of the Rising Sun’—how did this have significance for me, I thought? I mean it’s a song about a life gone wrong in New Orleans. I’m thinkin’ ‘oh, crap!’ I shifted my thinking—no, the sun’s rising, it’s early—let’s get this ride on the road!
Our first rest stop, about 12-15 miles into the ride, was at 7:15 am, our second rest stop, another 12-15 miles at 8:30 am. You know there’s a lot of truth to the fact that after a certain amount of time of vigorous exercise that endorphins and dopamine starts kicking in because it did—I started feeling like ‘Rocky,’ like I could conquer the ‘Tour de France.’ And I couldn’t wait to eat—I was burning calories like mad. Lunch stop! It’s only about 9:45 a.m., and I’m famished. That tuna sandwich, chips, cookies, pickles, couscous salad, and then seconds of all, never tasted so great!
Then the real work started—temperatures began escalating, the road pavement was hot to almost melt my tires I thought, and the air was thick, dry and hot! Two more rest stops, another 35 miles, and before I knew it I was in Ft. Collins pedaling through the Colorado State University campus and the first finish line. Greeting me was my teammates and my hubby, Ben, all whom had arrived before me soon enough to cool down. There was no need at all for any blush because my face was so amazingly flushed from the heat, well over 95 degrees, that I had the pregnancy glow going full steam! Dinner at 4:30 pm, and then we struggled on Saturday night to stay awake until around 7:30 pm! At around 8:15 pm I stumbled into the dark bathroom, for some reason awaking and remember I hadn’t brushed my teeth. Picking up the tube of toothpaste I pushed and squeezed. Dang, nothing would come out. What the heck. Time to turn on the light. Thank goodness it didn’t come out—I was squeezing on the A&D Ointment tube not the Crest! Geeze peeze, now that would have been a nasty taste in my mouth!!
Our second day was the same pretty much like the first. Of course, my numb brain thought it would be easier. I mean the ride from Ft. Collins to Denver was north to south—I’m thinking a lot of downhill. Wrong! Rather than start at 6:30 a.m. amongst the throng of riders, we opted to linger in the breakfast tent, have one more bagel or donut, carbs are needed, and head out after most of the crowd had dispersed. Temperatures began to ratchet up quickly—I pulled out the ‘frog tog’ by 8:15 a.m. The most arduous part of this entire ride was the last 15 minutes heading back into Denver. The pavement was so hot you could see heat radiate from it. The air was thick and heavy as if I were in an oven. And, there was hill after hill after hill. None really steep mind you, but all a steady 3-5 percent grade that made me almost want to barf!
As I turned into the place I’d started a little more than 24 hours ago, everything had changed. I heard music. I heard lots of voices. The route was strewn with well-wishers, cow bell ringers, people cheering, clapping. All of a sudden the oppressive heat dissipated. There was an exhilaration. There was a chill of the thrill of the finish that came all over me. And, there was the blaring sound of the popular 1965 song by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, ‘Wooly Bully,’ as I glided effortlessly through the finish line banner.
I must say, it would have been so simple to take the easy way out. When it got really tough, I could have pulled off the roadside, dismounted, taken off my helmet and waited for the sag wagon to pick me up and cart me back to the finish line. But, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I didn’t. Why? Because I’d made a commitment to my donors, to myself…but, most importantly, to ride the distance for MS. I put all the names of my donors on a 3×5 index card and carried these in my pouch. When I stopped and thought about having a ‘pity party’ I pulled out the cards, would flip through them, see the faces of those who believed in me, and hear their encouraging words. ‘You can do it, Ally!’ ‘Get your butt back on the bike!’
Because of the generous collective effort my donors, I was >2k, which puts me in the ‘high roller’ status for next year’s ride…this means, I get a ‘high roller’ jersey, luggage shuttling preferences, and I get to use private toilets along the ride without standing in the
long lines! Believe me, while this may sound silly, it’s huge!!
The only thing I can say about this is—I am. I can. I will. At nearly 63, I’ve notched another brilliant triumph on my ladder of life—and, it wasn’t for me—it’s for the ride to find the cure, something bigger than ‘me’. That’s the best elixir for eternal youth.