For the last few years, I have participated in the BP MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin, Texas. It is about a 180-mile journey. Why they call it the 150, I have no clue.
Regardless, the ride is an adventure. You find yourself in a meditative state quite often. Your mind is clear, and you are just thinking about your breath. An occasional look to the computer to check your heart rate and pedal cadence helps keep you in the prime area of power.
I try to go more by how I feel than by what my computer says. It is a tool to help training and maintaining maximum power output. However, it is a tool. As with tools, you can rely on it far too much. If I relied on what others said and what these tools tell me, then I would not know that my max heart rate is actually higher than they say it is for my age. I know how hard I can push myself and I know what feels right and what does not. I do not need a tool to help me there. So, yeah, I do not rely on those tools all the time.
Now that I jumped off the beaten path, I shall jump back on. The ride is a challenge for most people. Some decide to wait until a month or so before to start training for it. Not me! Normally I start training back in October or November. This year is different. I was not planning on riding in the event. I was going to take a break because of life. 2012 was one tough cookie for myself and my family. However, now the new year has started, I feel differently. I feel I should be out there and I should ride it for my 4th time in a row. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to ride in it.
So, as of yesterday, I am officially signed up for it once again.
Of course, there are dangers involved. I have clocked myself at 44-mph on one section of the ride. That can be dangerous because others would be riding the brakes on the same downhill, only going maybe 15-20-mph. People who do not ride in groups, nor know cycling etiquette, often react to things rather harshly. That is where the real danger comes in. I trust my bike. I know my limits, and I am willing to bet the bike can perform perfectly fine beyond my limits. I have to admit, I push it, but I always leave a little left just in case I need to react to something. However, many other people think the limit of a bike is far less than what it is. Maybe it is that skinny 700c tire. Sure it looks small, but most people would not guess that it grips better than those big knobby mountain bike tires ever could.
It is a ride that keeps you on your toes. You must constantly pay attention to make sure someone does not swerve out in front of you, brake suddenly, drop a water bottle in you path, move to where your front wheel overlaps their rear wheel, or anything else. You also must have common sense. If you join up in a pace line, sit back a bit to see how they are running things. I got in once pace line where it kept surging. You would accelerate some, then you were on the brakes. At one point I had to yell at the top of my lungs “STOPPING!!!!!!!!!!!!” and do a hardcore act of emergency braking. It was at that time that I dropped out of that pace line. Which I must admit was shortly after I hopped on the back of the pace line. Less than 5-minutes later, I was in the middle; that many people tagged on. I am for certain someone was going to crash in that line. My friend dropped out about 10-seconds before me. I dropped out shortly after, then I witnessed several people dropping out after that. It was just too dangerous.
Common sense is a wonderful tool when riding a bicycle. I must say, some people lack it. Those that routinely ride in the oncoming traffic lane because they did not want to hop into a slightly slower pace line for a short period of time to pass people. The two people who must always ride by each other so they can talk. Of course, they tend to not ride close together either. No, they ride far enough apart where I could easily squeeze my cargo bike in between them.
This is why it is dangerous. Experienced cyclists see these hazards and react instinctively. However, many are not racers or real riders. They ride for the experience, to say they did this ride. I have zero issues with that mindset. I simply ask for them to talk to experienced riders and to do a group ride or two in advance. That way they get an idea about how to conduct themselves.
Anyway, even though I am surrounded by people who want to show off, not pay attention, blast their MP3 player, or to chat their way to Austin, I still want to ride it.
You see, in the past I viewed it as a minor achievement. Now I see things differently for this years ride. I have done it 3 times, this will be my 4th. I view it in the eyes of those who would give everything to be able to ride a bicycle. Those who have a disease like MS, that prevents them from participating in such activities. I am truly blessed in that I am able to do things like this. That is a big part of my new mindset. To not take anything for granted. I am blessed because I am able to ride my bike.
I suppose that is why I feel many people should get back on a bike. It is a true gift. It is a wonderful joy to a persons life. Who would have thought that riding a bicycle has changed me as a person. Even though I have not done a serious ride in over 3-months, I still love to be out on the bike. Signing up for this ride will help me get back on the bike with a goal in mind. I have gained about 15 pounds since the last MS 150. I hope to just lose about 7-8 before the next one. With the training plan I have in mind, that should be no problem. That will make powering up those hills just a bit easier.
So get out and ride your bike. Get out and have fun, enjoying what a child enjoys. We never really outgrow the bicycle, we just think it is beneath us at some point in our lives. Normally that is when we hit the age to get a drivers license and a car. I was there too. Thank goodness my wife suggested the MS 150 to me 4 years ago. I have accomplished more than I ever thought I could. Back when 20-miles was torture, I now can ride 180-miles over two days and still feel great. It will be great to finish the ride this year.
A true gift indeed.