Last Saturday and Sunday I rode in the Buckeye Breakaway bike ride fundraiser. It supports the National MS Society and also the folks in Ohio who have MS. Multiple Sclerosis is not well understood. They don’t know what causes it. Sometimes it will go into remission and go away… only to return years later. And they don’t know how to cure it. My sister was diagnosed with it about 13 or 14 years ago, so I have a personal connection to this disease.
Perhaps you have someone who has had trouble with MS, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, mental illness or any number of other diseases and have thought about doing a walk, run, ride or other physical fundraiser to help combat the disease. Personally, I like these kinds of fundraisers much more than a fancy dinner or a silent auction.
I think being involved in something that is challenging, something you have to train for, plan for, and raise money for gives it more meaning.
Here is my bike ride recap of the 2018 Buckeye Breakaway:
Organization: The MS150 ride is extremely organized. They have been doing this for years. I mean, they even brought extension plugs so there would be plenty of plugs to charge our phones in the gym. It was easy to know where to go with all the signs and they outdid themselves once again with the Start and Finish blow up signs at the beginning and end of each day. When you create an account you can make your own personal page to explain your reason for fundraising. And our team website was updated instantly when someone made an online donation. Checks take them a lot longer to post. We had lots of emails from the organization with instructions to what to bring, what the schedule was and options for doing different routes. One person on my team did the extra 25 miles loop before lunch for a full 100 miles on Saturday. By the way, he is 76 years old and the strongest rider of our team. He says its all in the training. It was his third “century ride” this summer.
Price: It was $20 for me to register for this fundraiser, which is significantly less than many of the races. However, before you are allowed to ride, you have to agree to raise $300 for the fundraiser. There is one team that is sponsored by a brewing company that will pay the registration for you. Of course that was the largest team! While it may seem difficult to raise $300, it is amazing how many people are affected by MS and willing to give a donation.
Location: We started early morning (arriving at 5:30 am) at a high school that is about 1 hour from my house. I was very glad everything was packed the night before. By the time we loaded our luggage on the truck, made a trip to the bathroom, and unloaded the bikes, it was time for a team photo. We got off to an early start with the first riders at about 6:35am.
Course: The course was extremely well marked with white spray paint at the intersections before and after turns, as well as green signs. Rest stops had large signs. The ride had lots of hills, however for the most part they were rolling. It would be really tough running, but most hills would allow you to get some speed up going down and on the flat before they went back up again. This is where I was thrilled to have what’s known as a “granny” gear… a third gear in the front of my sprocket. It allows me to pedal up a hill at 3 to 4 miles an hour. The trick is changing gears at the right moment so you don’t lose momentum, but it’s not too hard to pedal. There were potholes on the route – after all, this is Ohio! But most of them were well marked. The best thing about the course this year is that it was almost all back roads and neighborhoods – not 50-55 mph highways or congested roads. While I was always on my guard, it felt much safer and I don’t think that there were any accidents.
Rest Stop Food: Throughout the day there are 5 rest stops with fresh fruit (bananas, oranges, peaches, grapes) and junk food (peanut butter crackers, potato chips, fritos, peanuts, candy) as well as huge coolers of water and Gaterade. It was the ice that made me the happiest during the hot afternoons!
Lunch Food: The lunch stop was at a school and had more food than I can list. At least seven types of sandwiches, five types of salads, four choices of fruits, six types of beverages. It’s a bit of a blur. Many people say, “This is the only 150 mile bike ride where you will gain weight!” And they are not kidding! Although throughout the year I make it a point to never eat potato chips, I did make an exception for this ride and had a bag each day for the salt.
After Ride Food: After the first day, there is a beer tent and you’re given 3 beer tickets. I am not much of a beer drinker and only had about a half a beer. Actually I was much more interested in the salty snacks. We had an incredible all-you-want-to-eat dinner at Ashland University’s award winning cafeteria which had a six food stations (main course, steamed vegetables, pasta bar, deli, grill and dessert) and a salad bar. Did I mention it was all you can eat?! By the time the day was over on Saturday, my FitBit said I burned 4,547 calories. Even still, I tried to make good choices. And I was feeling too tired to eat too much. Something about knowing I would be riding another 75 miles the next day made me feel very much like the food was fuel more so than just enjoying a meal.
Even with drinking one full water bottle between all five stops and at lunch, I still was feeling a bit dehydrated. I think also had parts of two water bottles with Gaterade in them. I make sure I have lots of liquid! I got some sun (my sunblock had sweated off) so I’m sure the sunburn contributed to my feeling dehydrated as well.
Massage: Several different massage therapists volunteer their time to provide massages to the riders. I always take advantage of this, especially after the first day. My shoulders tend to get tight from riding over bumpy roads and honestly, I don’t think about proper form often enough. (Shoulders down and relaxed while riding!) Most of the time I’m chatting with friends, not thinking about keeping my shoulders down. Anyway, a good 20 minute massage sure did feel good for getting my shoulders loosened up again!
Overnight accommodations: There are lots of choices. Some people take the bus home at the end of the first day to make it a one day experience. Others rent a hotel room and there are buses that shuttle the riders. On campus, there are three choices, camping, dorms or the rec center. I prefer to get a good nights sleep in air conditioning, so I selected the rec center. It’s almost brand new and has great showers. We set up in the gym and it was lights out at 9pm. Some folks were asleep already at 7:30, but I know I’d be awake at 3 am if I did that. I managed to keep my eyes open until 8:45! The AC was so cold that even thought I had a sleeping bag, I added an extra shirt in the middle of the night because I was cold. (Maybe the sunburn played a part in that!)
Weather: Our weekend weather was beautiful! Early morning had dew on the grass but no fog, which was great. Mid morning was in the 70’s which is perfect riding temperatures. After lunch it got quite hot, especially on Sunday. I ended up wrapping ice in my neckerchief and allowing it to melt down my back during the bike ride. With the hot sun and temps reaching into the low 90’s, I know that the ice kept me from getting to that overheating point.
Team: I believe I have the best team – we’re called Skiers On Bikes (SOB’s) and we have matching bike jerseys. It makes for good conversation as riders pass us or we pass others. It’s easy to spot your friends in the crowd of other riders as well. There is a lot of good-natured teasing, silly selfies, posing along the route, and especially encouragement to keep mental spirits high. So much of this long ride is a mental game, much more than physical. I think my team members are experts at keeping it light with jokes and silly stories.
Swag – Each one of the riders received a 2018 medal and a participant T-shirt. Top fund raisers get special t-shirts and a bike jersey depending on level of funds raised.
Recovery: After I got home, it sure felt good to sleep. I had iced my Achilles and rolled my legs with the foam roller, but sleep was the real key to my recovery. Deep-beautiful-sleep in my own bed. Monday evening I took a restorative yoga class (the kind of yoga where you lay around in a position for about 10 minutes until your muscles fully relax, then move into another position.) I’ve been drinking lots and lots of water, eating my vitamins, vegetables and making sure I get enough protein. I have done some walking, but today I will get back into my “normal” routine. And I even have another bike ride planned tomorrow morning!
Funny thing, after the bike ride on Monday morning, I had gained 6 pounds over the weekend! But now, I’m not only down to my pre-ride weight a week later, I’m down two whole pounds. I think it is the salt and water retention. And all the hard work my muscles do. I’m very blessed to be fit.
Lots of training throughout the year with spinning indoors and cycling outside when possible makes this a very satifying and fun experience.
This weekend is my hardest weekend of the year. I have that deep satisfaction of knowing I did something that a few years ago sounded impossible to me. At 61, I’m feeling really proud of myself.
If you’re interested in getting a team going for something like this, I would be glad to talk to you about it. It is deeply satisfying.