When I first registered for the MS150, I thought twice about getting involved. I don’t exactly have the road cyclist’s physique—in fact, I’ve never been on a road bike for more than two miles at one time. It felt strange and squirrelly… very top heavy and dangerous. But, what I came to realize is that I was going to be pedaling a road bike more than 130 miles, from Westminster, Colo. to Ft. Collins, Colo. and back in two days. Whoa.
So, what is the MS150?
Organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in locations around the U.S., the MS150 is a charity bicycle ride to help raise money for multiple sclerosis research and other services supported by the Society. Each MS150 ride takes place over a two-day period and is generally between 130 to 150 miles long. Each event takes more than 600 volunteers to provide supportive services to the cyclists as they trek the distance.
At first, I bragged that I was going to use my Haro mountain bike for the event. I was told that was a bad idea. So, it was suggested that I demo a road bike to make the whole experience more feasible. Awesome advice!
To help make my MS150 experience the best it could possibly be, I visited the Wheat Ridge Cyclery near Denver. I demoed a SPECIALIZED Roubaix SL3, upon the advice of my teammates. It was also suggested that I purchase the following supplies for my ride: padded bike shorts, a seat storage bag, extra bike tubes, chamois butter (to prevent chaffing… very important), padded fingerless gloves, an extra water bottle, CLIF SHOT BLOKS, and CLIF SHOT ENERGY GELs.
All advice was followed. And I never regretted following any of it. It was also recommended not to bring a backpack of any kind because it would get in the way. And I’m glad I didn’t. I stuffed the back pockets of my bike jersey with energy gels and CLIF SHOT BLOKS, and then filled my two water bottles with GU Electrolyte Brew.
On the first day, I had approximately one hour to get to know my new road bike before corralling with more than 2,000 people on the starting line at the Front Range Community College in Westminster. It was a bit wobbly—like a newborn colt—but I eventually got the hang of it. I quickly became “one” with my bike. There is no doubt that the SPECIALIZED Roubaix is an amazing bike—about $4,000 amazing.
Start time was 6:30 a.m. From the moment I arrived to prepare, I hydrated like it was my job. I was consuming energy gels galore and spreading out the six SHOT BLOKS (per package) throughout the day, as needed to further boost my energy.
Cutting through several Colorado Front Range towns—such as Lafayette, Gunbarrel, Niwot, Hygiene, Berthoud, and Loveland—the MS150 cyclist pack wound its way through country roads and main streets. In most places, traffic would come to a halt as road bikes sped through neighborhoods and busy frontage roads. Every 15 miles or so, the Bike MS community set up rest stops and one major lunch stop along the course. The day was beautiful and several hot air balloons soared above the Colorado skyline to greet the riders.
My energy came in waves—similar to the hilly landscape we trudged over. One moment, I would feel myself trying to uncover a suitable excuse to quit and go home. The next moment, my body would experience a surge of energy and my adrenaline would boost me through challenging terrain. The whole day was devoted to getting reacquainted with extreme aerobic conditions and getting to know the eccentricities of distance cycling.
The first day ended with a visit to the MS150 beer garden where Left Hand Brewing Company served its best: Milk Stout, Sawtooth Ale, and Stranger Pale Ale. Despite a sore ass, I felt the first day was an extreme success. However, I had very little time to recover for the second day—riding back to Westminster. So, I got plenty of sleep and was ready for a day of challenges, one of them being extreme heat. The news forecasted temperatures over 100 degrees by high noon.
But I was ready for more.
The second day’s route took us back south through Loveland, Berthoud, Longmont, and Erie. However, the course was easy-going in the beginning, which allowed me to pass the first two rest stops and then stop for lunch. It was at that point when a combination of a hillier course and the heat began to take their toll.
Hydration became my No. 1 priority, which paid off in the end—especially after discovering the last eight miles were generally uphill. My body and my wits were tested at the uphill point of Lowell Boulevard and Northwest Parkway.
Once I reached the apex of the hill, I refilled my water and hydrated as much as possible; the rest of the course was a simple ride to the end. It was another successful day on a bike that I loved and wished I could ride more often. It would be a nice gift for the holidays. For now, it’s just a bike I demoed and had to return. Nonetheless, I’m now a fan of distance cycling after experiencing the MS150. And I was able to raise money for a good cause along the way.
For more information about the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society, visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/chapters/bike-ms-colorado-wyoming/index.aspx. For more information about the Wheat Ridge Cyclery, visit http://www.ridewrc.com. For more information on the Left Hand Brewing Company, visit http://www.lefthandbrewing.com.
For more information on Inspirato, visit http://www.inspirato.com/ryan.