Riding the 2012 MS 150: My Experience
Over the weekend of May 21-30 2012, I rode my bike from Houston to Austin as part of the annual MS 150 ride to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was an epic weekend, and I was glad to take part!
Why I Rode
My good friend Scott Rocher participated in the MS 150 in 2011 and had great things to say. I’d never done any cycling in Texas other than neighborhood bike rides growing up in Houston, plus riding around campus at the University of Texas at Austin. Nothing of the 100-mile magnitude!
Not only did I want to tour the Texas hill country on my bike, but I knew that the Multiple Sclerosis Society was a very worthwhile cause for which to raise money. With Scott already signed up to ride again, I decided to commit to the ride.
As I began to raise money, I was amazed at the cooperation and generosity of my friends and family. You can view my fundraising page here.
Thank you to everyone who donated to the MS Society support my ride! You are awesome!
Luckily, the cycling in Los Angeles is epic. My weekend rides up canyons with local groups prepared me fantastically for the gently rolling hills of Texas.
The biggest challenge going into the ride — bike travel! This was my first time traveling with my road bike. Luckily, someone in my local cycling club was generous enough to lend me his travel case for the weekend. Then there was the issue of dismantling the bike properly, protecting its parts, packing all the tiny screws and parts, and fitting everything snugly into the case. And of course, traveling to the airport with a massive bike case is neither a breeze nor cheap. Another good bit of luck: Southwest Airlines didn’t charge me their customary $50 fee on the way out.
Travel to Texas
Once in Houston, I took a training ride along the Bayou and into Hermann Park with Scott.
On the way home, we stopped at the incomparable Three Brothers Bakery and had a post-ride gingerbread man. That was amazing.
Okay, now for the big ride…
The Ride: Day 1 (Saturday May 21)
A mostly flat century (100 miles) from Houston to LaGrange.
What in most years is a not-too-hard route became a challenge as we fought 25mph winds all day! Veteran MS 150 riders said it was the toughest Day 1 they had ridden. It seemed like we just alternated between crosswind and headwind. The only boost we got was in the last 5 miles, when we finally had our backs to the wind and benefitted from tailwind.
For lunch we enjoyed turkey sandwiches, then Blue Bell ice cream sandwiches for dessert!
The rest of Saturday afternoon was rolling hills. Lots of up, then down, then up, then down… For about 50 miles!
After lots of wind and hills, we crossed the finish at LaGrange!
We rolled into LaGrange to find a massive complex of tents housing facilities for the 13,000 riders participating this year (yes, thirteen thousand). This was unbelieveable. I’d never seen so many bikes in my life. Dust kicked up all over the county fairgrounds as we enjoyed beers, massages, ice water, and Tex-Mex.
The rest of the day was pretty simple: hit the motel and sleep, with a bit of next-day prep.
The Ride: Day 2 (Sunday May 22)
The first day wasn’t my first day riding 100+ miles. But the second day was my first time doing any significant riding the day after.
Up before dawn, we hit the road just before sunrise. Still a bit worn from the day before, it felt good to get the legs moving again. With the cool and quiet of morning on our faces, a group of about 12 of us wove our way from the overnight motel to the main route for the MS 150’s day 2.
Sunday’s route had more rolling hills over its 75 miles than the previous day did over 100. But our group kicked off a nice pace from the start, and soon we found ourselves chugging along at 20mph heading toward Austin. We rotated pulls at the front of our paceline. I was impressed at the strength and resolve of our riding companions. Great folks.
We made it to lunch in Bastrop by 9:30am. Considering breakfast was at 5:45am and we rode almost 50 miles to lunch, it was the earliest well-deserved lunch I’d ever had!
By the end of Sunday’s lunch, we all started to get excited about getting to Austin. So much so that the next 25 miles are a blur. I remember getting to the Austin city limits sign thinking “wow, we’re almost there!”
The finish line of the MS 150 takes riders up Congress Ave toward the Texas State Capitol.
We entered the city from the east side, making our way past taco joints I’d enjoyed in college. A few final turns past the University and its football stadium, and we found ourselves with one final turn. A left onto Congress, and there it was: the Capitol right in front of us.
I remember savoring how fun it was to cross that finish, with thousands of supporters cheering us on. I will not forget that.
The rest of the day was more of a blur. It went something like this:
- Water and snacks at the finish line with friends who came out to see me and Scott
- Lunch in Austin (more TexMex food!)
- Drive home to Houston with the bikes (in traffic with lots of other riders returning to Houston)
- Meet my parents in Houston, and cleanup at home
- Dinner in Houston, at which I began to fall asleep from exhaustion
- Sleep. Ahhh…..
Travel back to California
This part is boring: more bike disassembly, packing, laundry, travel, and bike assembly. And sleeping.
Let’s just say I was super glad to finally be in one place for more than a few hours after the hectir weekend!
I can, and have, go on and on about the experience of the ride. This already long recap is only the tip of an iceberg of riding, travel, eating, meeting cool folks, and making memories.
I would like to thank everyone who supported me on this ride — whether through financial contributions to my fundraising page for MS, lending me equipment, giving me advice, helping me train, sending encouragement, showing up to visit me along the way, and more.
I continue to love cycling and keep riding. See you on the road!