Yesterday I rode 45 miles in the National MS Society City to Shore Ride 2008, which everyone helped me raise $825 and I trained my ass off for. I woke up at about 4:44am to the sound of rain, which I knew would be here this weekend. Knowing I didn’t have to get up until 6, I tried to fall back asleep, which I wasn’t real successful at. Just after 6 I rolled out of bed, put Oatmeal in the microwave that I got ready the night before and started to get dressed. After eating the oatmeal, I managed to also eat a whole wheat tortilla, peanut butter and granola all wrapped up as one. For someone who rarely eats in the morning, this was a chore. I then loaded my bike into my car along with most everything else I was taking, including a clear cycling rain jacket I ran all around town Thursday trying to find, and woke up Bella. Yes seriously, she was still under the covers in bed sleeping and not happy that I woke her up. Took her for a quick walk and reviewed everything I needed to take with me in my head once more.

At 6:30ish John showed up, a friend who was doing the ride with me, and we started to unload the bike form his car and pile it into mine. Shortly there after we hit WaWa so John could grab a bagel and we got on the road, at which point John tells me he is recovering from being sick. Great, it’s going to be wet and gross out all day and he’s already sick. This can’t be good.

Directions said it would take about 2 hours to get there, we did it a little faster and didn’t hit any traffic I was expecting to, arriving at the start location just after 8:30, there were already a fair amount of people there but parking was not an issue. John had some last minute money he needed to turn in, we both went to the bathroom again and got out bikes ready. Then we stood around, chatted with some random people and stood around more. The information I had was arrive at 9:30, on the road by 10:30, but they announced that they were trying to put us on the road by 10am, which we were thankful for.

They had called for rain but it didn’t rain our whole drive down and upon arriving, the sun even came out for a while. John had a bit of a choice to make at this point. It wasn’t raining, but he brought a jacket with him since they called for it, and he wasn’t coming back to the car with me, his family was meeting him at the finish so they could enjoy the beach for a while. Leaving the jacket in my car wasn’t an issue, but he had it packed full of snacks, car keys and a bunch of random stuff he needed to ride with and couldn’t find his jersey that had pockets in it that morning. 20 minutes later, 2 minutes before the start, he said screw it and wore the jacket.

The start was kind of uneventful, there were honestly not a lot of people at the 45 mile start, maybe 100-150, but within 1 mile we meshed into an intersection with thousands of others who had started 30 miles earlier at the 75 mile start and we were deep in the packs now. It was kind of crazy, on certain roads packs of cyclists were 50-75 yards long and taking up both lanes of traffic. We had been warned to follow NJ traffic laws, clearly no one cared. Police were at nearly every intersection to block traffic for us so we didn’t have to stop and everyone was really happy. The roads were wet, but no rain. We were both amazed at how flat the roads were, seriously no hills, maintaining 20 mph was no chore at all and we hopped into a few pace lines here and there, but John’s throat didn’t allow him to breath easily and his jacket was acting a bit like a kite, so we didn’t stick in any for too long. We did pass people, a lot of people, some of which I’m sure were in over their heads when they signed up for the ride and thought – hey it’s only a bicycle, I used to ride one when I was a kid, this can’t be too hard.

Looking at the cue sheets before the ride, we noted 3 rest stops. The cue sheets themselves, which I took, were not needed as you just needed to follow the convey, but we both felt that 3 stops in a 45 mile flat ride weren’t all needed. John did want to stop at the first one, about 12 miles in, so he could get some food to take with cold medicine before rolling on, planning on skipping the second and hitting the third. Upon entering the first stop we were greeted with rows of people cheering us on but it was a packed rest stop, partly because it was the first stop in 20 miles for the 75 mile riders. We both looked at each other and said, lets turn around and hit the second stop. A loud, familiar pop sound and I got off my bike, it sounded like a broke a spoke. Checking the bike, all appeared OK though, we started off riding Within 30 feet I knew things weren’t right, hollered up to John and hopped off, spinning my rear wheel. It was out of true by more than a half inch, catching on the brakes. I flipped the lever for the quick release on my brakes and double checked the spokes, broke a drive-side spoke, sure as shit. Luckily it was at a rest stop, they do free bike repairs there. Problem was, there was a line.

After waiting for about an hour, the nice guys at the repair tent fixed my spoke and got the wheel true enough to ride, all for free. Off we go, time to warm up to riding again. As luck would have it, the temperature hung between 68 and 72 the whole ride, so while John sweated his cold out a bit, I enjoyed a pretty good ride in just a jersey, the rain jacket was left behind in the car.

The ride continued on smoothly, we passed people, racers passed us, the roads were wet and dry and some felt like cobblestones, but all in all I felt really good when we pulled into the second rest stop at about mile 24. Grabbed a mini Clif bar, a half a banana, flushed it down with some water and let a little water go at a porta-potty. Everyone was in such a great mood, enjoying the weather and the fact it hadn’t rained, some were taking their time and really laying out on the parking lot of whatever business this was setup in, clearly having a tougher physical time doing it than others. John made a few quick calls, we stretched and headed off.

Between stops 2 and 3 we had small periods of mist, not even a drizzle, but it wasn’t bad and we didn’t really get wet. Some more crappy roads and finally some smooth ones, pulled into the 3rd rest stop at around mile 36, just wanted to get off the bike and walk around, John wanted to put a little more food in his stomach and we headed off for the last stretch.

The last stretch had the worst pavement of the trip, but still ridable, sand was starting to show in the roads, that’s how we knew we were getting closer and people were out cheering a bit more. It’s also the first real traffic we had to actually ride in. The coarse crossed a few major highways and the police couldn’t help us there, we jammed in 2 or 3 wide on the shoulder while cars were on our left and had to wait for green lights. This took a bit loner than I would have liked, but it’s a charity ride, not a race, so it wasn’t terrible.

Roughly five miles from the finish supporters started to really come out along the rodes, some had signs of how many more miles it was. I think at roughly the 3 or 3.5 miles to go mark someone was screaming “You’ve done it! It’s all downhill from here!” This made John happy, although again, this was all flat, but none the less, he took off and I followed. His eyes quickly opened up wide, very wide.

After a half mile of sprinting at speeds in excess of 25mph, a huge bridge into Ocean City, NJ was looking at us. I was ahead of John and looked back to see his reaction, his mouth gaping open, his eyes wide and clearly not thrilled. Anyone who has driven there knows these bridges. They go from sea level to maybe 75 feet tall, I could be wrong, I Google’d it and couldn’t get an answer so figure slightly higher or lower, but when looking head on, from a bicycle, it looked a bit intimidating. Clearly the person screaming out that it was all downhill wasn’t a NJ native and didn’t know about these bridges. All the training I had done I knew they wouldn’t be a problem and only had to drop one gear about half way up and another about 5/8th of the way up. Once at the top, I slowed down and waited for John so we could roll down the other side together. Things were going well, we were less than two miles from the end and my body felt great.

John saw the second bridge and I can’t tell you how many curse words came out of his mouth. Partly because we were looking at it from the side view now, and it looked long, really long, steeper than the one we just did too. John’s sickness and sore throat meant he couldn’t get all the air in and out of his lungs as fast as he’d like, but there was no way he was walking this. We kept a good pace at the base and I took off, counting on seeing him come down the other side. This bridge I went up much faster, sadly it was also much more dangerous. There were a lot more novice bikers on the ascend than the last, and that meant very slow speeds and wobbly front tires, causing them to do little unpredictable zig-zags back and forth, there were also a lot more cars, so passing in the lane of traffic wasn’t always an option and I lost some of my momentum waiting for other people to move right so I could pass left.

Flew down the back side and waited up for John near the base. Some zig zags through really nice beach houses and we started to hear the roar of people. Balloons and police lined the crowds at the finish where we were met with tons of people clapping and cheering, we had made it. We were funneled down some barriers, I joking said I felt like cattle, and then into the local football stadium. Neither of us knew where we were going so we just followed everyone else. Someone told us where we could park our bikes, but we found a spot and just stood by them, John called his wife to find out where they could meet and I started to ask where I could get a bus back to my car at. John and I both got our completion medals and a shirt at this point, and also decided that we didn’t need to really hang out until the 3pm dinner started, so we started to make our way out of the finish party.

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I found the intersection where the buses would take me back to my car, John and I shook hands and he went off a few blocks to meet up with his family, grab dinner and enjoy the beach.

There were supposed to be buses running every hour on the hour, it was now 2:40pm but the next one wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4pm. A late 40’s couple was at the check-in tent with me and scoffed at the idea having to wait nearly an hour and a half to catch a bus back, I joked and said they could ride back, apparently they didn’t appreciate my humor as they gave me dirty looks; seriously, it’s a charity ride, you donated your time, relax a little. They then went on to go to the check-in tent every 15 minutes until we left, on about time at 4pm, to see if there was a way to get this going faster.

While waiting I saw just about every kind of person who had completed this ride, all walking tall with their medals on, all sharing stories about how the ride went and smiling. Seriously great atmosphere. I also took notice to one man, maybe in his 50’s, who had just completed the ride and had an oxygen tank with him, another woman, perhaps in her late 30’s who had a prosthetic leg from the knee down who was proudly displaying her medal. If these two people can complete the ride, anyone can. I started this ride and knew no one with MS, doing it purely to get myself into better shape, complete something unselfish and help raise money for a good cause. It took a lot of hours of training to loose the 20 pounds I did and complete this ride and I regret no part of it. That, along with all the Thank-You’s I heard from so many people who I don’t know and will never see again at the finish is my reward for doing the ride.

The MS ride, along with thousands of other charity rides take place all over the world throughout the year, please look into doing one, not for yourself, but for those who will benefit from your participation. I will be doing this ride again next year and will start collecting donations for it shortly, please consider donating.