Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. (Reference)
Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world. This weekend I joined the MS Bike in Prince Edward County to raise money for research. There were two distances: 40 km or 75 km. I signed up for the 75 km and I wanted to let you know about my experience!
Location: Prince Edward County (Ontario, Canada)
Date: July 9, 2018
Time: Start at 8 AM Sunday morning
Distance: 75 km (just over 4 hours)
Overall, the organization of the event was amazing. You have to raise at least $300 in order to participate in the ride and the MS Society provides lots of tips and information on how to meet your fundraising goals. Prior to the event I received a draft map of the route in an information package for the event day – the map changed slightly but the route was very well signed during the ride for both distances.
I regret not doing very much training in preparation for the day. It’s not a race so it’s just about finishing the ride and enjoying yourself for a great cause. The summer in Ontario has been rainy and not ideal for outdoor cycling conditions so I haven’t felt like getting out for long rides. I also hurt my knee during soccer about a month and a half ago so long rides or biking to soccer was out of the question until recently. That being said, I did manage to get a few 10 to 20 km rides in during the weeks leading up to the event as well as a 40 km ride three weeks before the event.
The atmosphere was lively and everyone was so supportive. My 15 year old bike decided to have its first flat tire two days before the event so I brought my tire pump and gear grease to prep my bike the morning of. What I didn’t know was that there was a tune up station put together by the MS Bike organizers so I would’ve been taken care of if I wasn’t prepared! Here’s a narrative about how the ride went:
At approximately 8 AM, everyone gathered at the starting line and the event organizer gave a few rules such as: everyone had to wear a helmet; no headphones allowed (too much distraction); the roads weren’t closed to traffic so cyclists were to obey the rules of the road (which they proceeded to name); there were rest stations along the route; tour leaders would be circling along the route to check up on riders; and, finally, the green arrows were for the 75 km ride and the pink arrows were for the 40 km ride.
I started with 4 coworkers and off we went! My team went their separate ways about 5 km into the ride. I skipped the first two rest stations (I thought if I stopped I wouldn’t get going again) and was riding at my regular pace. The weather was perfect: a little overcast, a little windy with random sun breaks. The route itself was fairly flat with a few hills (as is to be expected in Ontario) and Prince Edward County was stunning. (If you get a chance to do a winery tour in the area I highly recommend it!). Somewhere between the second and third rest station I got a cramp (first time ever while cycling) so I got off my bike to stretch a bit and try to work it out. Other riders passing me were concerned (which was so nice) but I let them know I was fine. I finally made it to the third rest station, started stretching and one of the volunteers approached me asking if I was okay. I let her know I had a cramp and immediately she got me some power drink (Nuun* Performance), a banana and made sure my water bottle was full. After a bit of stretching I hopped back on my bike. I have to say I’ve never had a protein shake, pre-workout, post-workout, performance enhancers, etc. but this Nuun stuff was amazing! I felt energized and my cramps were gone almost immediately. I’m going to have to look into these BCAA’s my friend keeps telling me to try.
About halfway between rest stations 3 and 4, I really could’ve used more Nuun. My energy was down and I was ready to give up. My body just didn’t want to go any longer! My legs were exhausted, my arms were getting tired, my butt bones were sore BUT I powered through and made it to rest station 4. I immediately got some more Nuun and water, grabbed a banana and protein bar and stretched. It was the last station before the end of the ride! 20 km was all that remained between me and the finish line.
I powered through the first 10 km (65 down, 10 to go) and hit another wall. The breeze that was so nice at the beginning of the ride was now slowing me down. I think I cursed at every hill I saw in the horizon and put my head down so I didn’t have to see how much farther I had. I walked my bike up one hill – I think I was walking faster than I was biking up that hill! I got off my bike and checked how much farther to the finish line – 7 km! The end was in sight! I hopped back on my bike and powered through the rest of the hills, through the head-on wind and finally turned the last corner for the home stretch. With a huge smile on my face, I’d done it! Biking through that finish line was exhilarating and people were giving finishers a standing ovation. That made it all worth it.
I finished the day off with some food from the BBQ, grabbing my t-shirt and downing a final bottle of water. When I got home I made sure to stretch every. single. muscle. in my body that I could and then foam rolled. I’m still feeling it today!
What I Learned
- I understand how people can put themselves through marathons and triathlons and other endurance races – the end makes it all worth it. Crossing that finish line was sensational.
- I need a better bike. My old SuperCycle makes biking distances so much harder! If you have any suggestions for a good bike (that aren’t $$$ and for a recreational cyclist) please send them to me!
- Hydration is required. If I didn’t have a water bottle on me it would’ve been much harder.
- Electrolytes actually work. I’ve never been one for Gatorade or Powerade (or whatever is used these days) but they made a HUGE difference. I’m definitely going to invest in some BCAA’s for more endurance rides.
- I need the rest stations.
- Some training makes the distance easier.
So that’s it! I will definitely be doing it again next year with more preparation.
Have you done any endurance rides/races? How’d it go? Any suggestions for my ride next year?!
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