Monday, April 19, 2010

MS 168.7 - completed!

Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, was killed by a well-guided arrow to his heel (hence the prhase Achilles Heel). I thought about Achilles a lot yesterday and again this morning – after completing my first entire MS 150 - my Achilles tendon is killing me! (last year's ride was shortened due to weather)

For the record I completed an MS 168.7 – that’s what my odometer read. There was a moment yesterday when I recognized I had ridden exactly 150 miles – I could have stopped then – but there was still another 18.7 miles to Austin.

Saturday was the longer day – 98 miles with a few tough stretches of long rolling hills. But we had the wind at our back, overcast skies and cool temps – a perfect day for riding.

Sunday the hills got tougher – I did the “challenge route” through the state park and after lunch the wind seemed to be in our face every direction we turned - - but I finished.

I’m actually a little proud of the accomplishment.

A few things I learned along the way:

Some people simply should not wear bike wear. There are very good reasons for skin tight cycling jerseys and shorts – wind resistance and padding most importantly. They actually do make a difference – but only one person in about every 2,000 looks good in bike wear and some people simply should say "no." I’ve decided either they have an incredible healthy self body image or are completely fashion clueless. But they do serve an important purpose. Every time I start to think there too much of me to squeeze into my bike gear I see someone that makes me think – “If they can do it, I certainly can.”

People love being part of a community. The MS 150 is in a sense a two day ride with 12,000 friends. People stop to help one another along the way – fall down and or have a flat tire (gratefully I had zero flats or falls this year) and you are instantly surrounded with assistance. Spot someone squeezed into the same Clemson cycling jersey you are wearing (Ken from The Woodlands) and the next thing you know you are taking pictures together. Conversations come easily.

Part of what makes community easy is the sense that we were all accomplishing something together – raising support to create a world without MS. Communities form around common purposes.

Encouragement is essential. Part of what makes the ride from Houston to Austin possible is the constant encouragement you get along the way. I rode with a friend, Hardie, and riding with friends is the only way to go.

All along the route are people on the side of the rode – waving and cheering and blowing horns and shouting words of thanks and encouragement. Some are battling MS, others are their family members, some are friends and family of riders and sometimes its an entire community.

A highlight of this year’s ride was through downtown Fayetteville, Texas. Fayetteville is an amazing little community with 340 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The town has a population of just around 300 and they must have invited friends because every street was lined with people shouting encouragement to the riders. I especially loved the number of bubble machines next to white picket fences. We entered Fayetteville after an especially challenging part of the ride – it was just what was needed to spur us on to La Grange.

In both a smaller and larger way I had a similar experience along the challenge route on Sunday. The “challenge” is the hills in the Bastrop and Buescher State Parks – 3 very steep hills in particular. As I neared the top of the second another rider started encouraging us all with shouts of “Keep pedaling! We can do this!” I’m convinced that got me to the top.

Both in Fayetteville and along the challenge route the encouragement came from “strangers.” It was a reminder that anyone (and therefore everyone) can encourage someone.

Accomplishments need to be celebrated. As you approach the finish line in Austin (and at the halfway point in La Grange) the streets are again lined with shouts of encouragement. The last turn of the ride finds the finish line a hundred yards ahead with the state capital as backdrop and cheering crowds on either side. At that moment you know you’ve accomplished something significant and are ready to ride another 150 (well maybe not at that exact moment).

This week I’m going to focus on:

  • Celebrating accomplishments
  • Offering encouragement and
  • Living in community

And I won’t be wearing my cycling clothes – at least not for a few weeks. Then I’ll start thinking again about next year’s MS 168.7.

Anybody want to join me?

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