This weekend, I participated in the MS150 in Columbia MO — here’s my take on the whole weekend.

Friday — Travel to Columbia

My drive from Weldon to Columbia didn’t start out very promising. I got stuck in a traffic jam on I-70, and spent about 75 minutes going about 12 miles on the road. Not an auspicious start! Add to that the realization that I took the busier (and therefore slower) route from Weldon to I-70, and I started questioning my decision making entirely! 🙂

There were loads of bike-laden vehicles headed toward Columbia, presumably for the ‘150. There were also loads of vehicles sporting tags from Mississippi. Why? Well, also in Columbia this weekend was the Ole Miss-Mizzou football game on Saturday. The roads were busy with weekend travellers, that much was certain!

I got to my hotel about 90 minutes later than what I was thinking I would. I got checked in, and headed toward the fairgrounds to see if I could find any of my team. What I discovered was that there was almost nobody around at the fairgrounds. Our team captain showed up, and told me that Friday night is usually lightly attended, as folks coming in from St. Louis and other parts of the state would travel after work (like I did), and usually not get in until later in the night. Oh well! I said my goodbyes, and headed to the hotel room for some rest before Saturday’s fun began.

Saturday — Hills, Hills, Hills

I woke just before my alarm, and started getting ready, donning my less-than-flattering jersey, and loading up the gear I would need for the day. Once again, I headed off to the fairgrounds, this time to begin my MS150 journey. I elected not to carry my camera on the ride, as I figured I wouldn’t have much opportunity to take it out and shoot — we were travelling on roads, and competing with cars for space on the road. I’ve not ridden like that since I was a kid, and I knew I didn’t need any distractions while I was trying to get through the distance ahead of me. This was probably a smart, smart move.

Click on the image to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Bulaga

I met up with the team at the team tent, got my breakfast — tiny breakfast burrito, cheesy hash browns, fruit and Rice Krispies — and headed up the hill for the team photo. As it ends up, this is probably the only photo of me in my jersey and ready to ride (more on that later).

The good news was that the weather was holding cool, with plenty of clouds to block the sun. I doubt the temperature rose above 75 the whole day, and we never did see the sun. Perfect weather for me.

I walked my bike back down the tall hill to the start/finish line, waited my turn, and then headed out on the course. There were gaggles of folks together at that time, clusters of 10-20 cyclists, most of whom were in passing mode around me. Me and my little hybrid simply couldn’t keep the pace that the “big kid” cycles could hold to. No matter, I pedaled hard and even passed a few folks on that first leg.

This first leg had hills, but nothing too steep, and I got past those pretty easily. I arrived at the first rest stop, and was thrilled with how I felt. My legs were still strong, my arms and neck felt good, and I felt confident that I would make this ride easily.

I had filled my water bottles and CamelBak with water at the hotel, only to find out during the first segment that they had the skunkiest water I’d ever drunk — it tasted very chemical, and I didn’t like it. At this stop, I poured out all my water, and re-filled my reservoir, along with my water bottles. That was a nice improvement in conditions for me! I hit the road, heading toward the next rest stop.

When I got to the second rest stop, I was tired, having climbed some more hills, but was pretty well convinced that I’d be able to make the ride, but it was definitely getting tougher. At the second stop, there was little food left, although plenty of water. This was the only stop where there was a challenge with food, and that was good, as I would find the food to be key to finishing the course. Fortunately, I’d packed a bunch of fruit cups, so after scarfing one down, I plowed on.

Between the second and third stops was the toughest part of the course for me. The hills were absolutely brutal… but fun, too. On the backsides of the hills, I’d get The Bandit up to 38mph — blazingly fast, exhiliarating and scary in retrospect — only to face the frontside of the next hill. Those climbs were at 5mph and hard. It was in this segment that I first had to push my bike up a hill.

All along the way to the third rest stop, I was convincing myself that I was gonna SAG back to camp from the rest stop, and that I didn’t have the legs to get through this. I cursed the man that created bikes. I swore at anything that had wheels. I even swore at Hot Wheels. This was hard, and I was definitely unprepared for this kind of riding. It didn’t help that I was being passed by cyclists that were climbing these hills at more than three times my best cycling speed. And, it was mentally unnerving to me that I hadn’t even bested my longest ride to date, and was already feeling spent.

I did finally get to the third stop, under my own power, and rested for what seemed like forever — it was probably 30-45 minutes. This stop saved the run for me. It was a party-like atmosphere, with abundant food and drink. I ate bananas, PB&J sandwiches, and drank a ton of Gatorade. After sitting for a while, I pulled myself together, and started feeling better, and better about the ride. At this point, I was not quite halfway through the course, and began to feel again like I could make it.

It was here that I first crossed paths with some of my team. They were encouraging, and stayed with me from stop to stop throughout the rest of the course. Without their encouragement, I’m not convinced I could’ve made it through the rest of the ride.

I headed out once again, and fortunately for me, this segment was mostly flat. That was more like it — this was just like riding on the Katy, and was refreshing for me. A flat segment, with just miles to grind out was just what I needed…. mindless pedaling, not too challenging, and an opportunity for my poor body and mind to recouperate.

The ride through this section was pretty unremarkable, and I continued on toward lunch at rest stop five. This was being catered by Lion’s Choice, and was terrific. Again, good food, and a party-like atmosphere. By now, I had over 50mi under my belt, and was feeling pretty confident. I knew I was getting awfully tired, but I figured I could make it from here — after all, the distance left was a pretty normal distance for me to ride.

I started out toward rest areas six and seven. Somewhere in there was another brutal hill that had me pushing my bike along the course, and added to my list of curses was the caveman that invented the wheel. I was determined to make it to rest area seven though — this one was manned by my co-workers, and was another really well-needed rest. I had myself a blueberry snowcone, and rested on a blanket beneath an awning. I laid there for what felt like half an hour before finally dragging myself up to make it to the final rest stop.

The eighth and final stop was great. The folks there were serving Culver’s ice cream! One of my teammates said she couldn’t stomach that with all this cycling. I had been training for this rest stop all summer — most Wednesdays, my little cycling group rides up to St. Charles for ice cream before making the seven mile trek back to the trailhead. Finally, my haphazard training was paying off! 🙂 I finished my ice cream, and headed down the final stretch to the start/finish line.

For this segment, we were covering ground we’d cycled on earlier in the day. For some reason though, the hills were tougher going in this direction. Maybe that was because I had 60-odd miles on my legs this time through?

I got onto the main drag headed toward the line, and when I saw the structure that marked the end, I got a little gasp in my throat, realizing that I’d finished this challenge. My teammates were waiting for me, and cheered as I came across the line. I couldn’t have had a better reception!

Remember the long hill leading to the start/finish line from the beginning of the morning? Well, the reward at the end was to get to push my bike one last time up a big hill. Ugh. However, there was dinner waiting — lasagna, salad, bread, and free beer. That seemed like the best meal in the world!

I went back to the hotel, and followed my teammates advice, ordering a big pizza, scarfing it, and getting some sleep before Sunday’s escapades.

Sunday — What’s with all this pain?

I finally woke up quite late on Sunday — really too late to get started on even the short ride. Bummer, but probably for the best: I could hardly move. Yes, the 75mi course sapped everything I had to give for this weekend. I ate breakfast at the hotel, and headed back to Ellisville — thrilled about what I’d accomplshed, but wishing I’d had something left for today.

Once home, I relaxed, and slept, and relaxed some more. I definitely needed it!

There was a photographer on the course, shooting shots of everyone as they went by. Unfortunately, the photo of me is waaaay underexposed, and is blurred significantly. You can see it here. That’s unfortunate, as I really was wanting a photo to immortalize my journey on the ‘150. Oh well.

Lessons Learned

CamelBak — The CamelBak was great, but there were enough liquid supplies along the route that I could’ve easily just made it on two water bottles between each stop. And, I think having the air moving over my back, and having less weight on the bike would’ve been a good move.

Bike Trunk — Again, more weight on the bike. However, this is where I keep my spare tube and where my fruit cups were being stored. Surprisingly, the trunk kept the fruit cold through the whole trip.

Fruit — Man, the fruit cups are a lifesaver! I’ve been doing those on the Katy, and as I found out this weekend, they were absolutely the right answer.

Tires — Next time, I’ll put on another set of rims with slick road tires. Everyone I talked with said I would be having an easier time if I had road slicks on the bike instead of hybrid tires. I’m gonna take that to heart, and see about getting some on the bike for the next road event I ride…. whenever that is!

Hills, hills, hills