MS 150 - Cokering for Charity

Dear Fellow Unicyclists,

On September 9 and 10, I’ll be riding in the National MS Society’s annual “MS 150 Bike Tour”, a two-day ride to raise funds for the MS Society’s research and local programs. This is my second year riding, and like last year, it looks like I’ll again be the sole unicyclist in the Washington ride. When I decided to ride last year, it was initially for selfish reasons…get in better shape, get deeper into distance unicycling, have a fun weekend. I didn’t have a personal connection with MS. Then through my involvement in the event, I started to meet people afflicted with MS, and to get a first hand view of its devastating effects. Through my fundraising efforts, I discovered friends and colleagues with family members that have MS. That changed my perspective, and this year–in addition to riding again on my uni–I joined the event planning committee to try to help raise awareness and participation.

The more I’ve learned about MS, the more passionate I’ve become about doing this ride. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system affecting the brain and spinal cord. It is also an unpredictable disease that can attack anyone in the prime of life. One day you’re on top of your game, and the next you’re hit with the diagnosis of a debilitating, incurable disease. I feel blessed to be in relatively good shape for my age, and hope my ride can help those less fortunate.

I’m hesitant to send out anything that could be seen as “spam”, but these fora and many members remain important elements of my riding life, so I wanted to share this and at least give those that want to—and are able to—the opportunity to join me in supporting the National MS Society’s mission.

Sponsoring my ride is easy to do and every dollar helps. One way is to just click the “sponsor me” link below and make a secure online e-pledge. If you’re averse to online transactions but still want to help, just PM me and let me know how much you’d like to pledge. I’ll add it to my total then send you a note in September when it’s time to write the check. Last year, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, fellow unicyclists, co-workers, and a match from my employer, I was able to raise over $3,000 on my ride—the 11th highest fundraiser out of more than 700 bicycle riders. I’ll pedal my tail off this year to make the Top 10, and hope you can help me get there with a donation to my ride.

The training is going well so far. I’ve logged about 350 miles, and will log another 300 by end of August. I’ve also dropped 15 pounds, which is feeling pretty good. One key learning from last year’s event is to focus more training time on hills, so I’ve been targeting rides of 15-20 miles (a 30 miler today) with 1,500 to 2,500 feet of elevation gain, which I’ll start ratcheting up to the 3,000 to 4,000 foot range in August. Hopefully all the extra climbing–along with the energy and contributions of my supporters–will help get me through the ride.

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE TO ANYONE THAT CAN HELP! Together we can make a difference…

Tom B

To sponsor me, click here.

To visit my personal web page for the ride, click here. You can also sponsor from this page.

To learn more about this year’s MS 150 Bike Tour or to get involved, click here.

Here’s a shot from last year’s ride, relatively fresh on the morning of Day 2:

ms150 smaller.jpg

Training miles

Tom: Sounds like a great event to be involved in. Good luck with the distance training. . . I see why you are wanting the longer distance ride at Bridge Pedal.

good luck. i don’t know if you’re planning to go the full 150 in 2 days, but it would be quite an accomplishment. i heard there were a number of unicyclists in the houston-austin MS 150 this year, but the ride is actually about 180 miles so i doubt they were able to finish. like you said though, it’s really about charity and awareness.

That’s a question I’m still mulling, because it’s a time issue. The ride starts at 8am, and ends firm at 5 (4pm on Day 2). If you’re still on the course, they sweep you into a SAG wagon. With hills factored in, my average riding speed is 10mph, which means I need 7.5 of the total 9 hours just for pedaling, leaving 1.5 hours for all rest stops, standing breaks, and lunch (1/2 hour on Day 2). The course has 5 formal rest stops plus a lunch stop, which leaves about 10 minutes per break and a half hour for lunch. The route has both 50 mile and 75 mile options, and last year I went for (and missed) the 75 option both days. What I found was the “10 minute limit” per rest stop evaporated really quickly, and often it was 10 minutes just answering questions about the unicycle from all the bikers before I could even get to the snack table for some water, gator, and powerbar. For me, it became a choice between being an ambassador for unicycling, or being the guy that was too focused on his time to stop and talk. I chose the former, and as a result made it 61 miles the first day, and 59 miles the second day…the MS 120.

This year I will do one of two things, and I haven’t decided yet. I’ll either get out on the course an hour and a half early and miss the big “group start”, or I’ll participate in the full event and just not stress about making 75 each day, knowing I’ll get back to back 50s at a minimum, and every mile above that will be bonus.

Many thanks to those who have already made a pledge. It’s a great ride for a great cause.


Hey everyone, I wanted to give this thread one final bump. With three days to go before the ride, my training is done and it’s time for rest, carbo loading, and fine tuning my unicycle in prep for Saturday. Since I began training in May, I’ve logged 680 miles on the GB4 36, with over 29,000 vertical feet of climbing. That’s the equivalent of riding from sea level to the top of Mount Everest. Good thing it’s all been at Seattle elevation, as I would never have been able to carry the supplemental oxygen in addition to all the water in my camelbak.

Thanks to the generosity of many people supporting my ride—I’ve been able to raise over $2,200 in donations for the National MS Society, which is great progress against my overall fundraising goal of $3,000. For those of you that have contributed to my ride, thank you very much! Your support makes a tremendous difference to people suffering from MS and their families. For everyone else, I hope you will consider joining me in supporting the National MS Society’s mission. Your contribution can help end the devastating effects of MS, sooner rather than later. It’s easy to do and every dollar helps!

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. To support my ride, just click here, then click the “Sponsor Me” link at the top right of my web page.



Those who don’t believe this have not seen Tom’s back move rapidly away from them as he trains. I can’t keep up with the guy anymore even on a geared unicycle and he’s only been riding a few years.

Good luck on your ride. May your goals arrive earlier than expected.

Oh yeah. Tom can cruise along at a good clip. I had the pleasure of riding a measely 27 miles with him last weekend, and at one point he had stopped to talk with a bike group at the top of a small hill. I didn’t notice and kept going on The Red Menace (geared at 1.4 w/ 175 cranks). At the top I didn’t see him ahead around the bend and assumed he had taken off. So I sprinted off for about 2 miles to catch the invisible Tom. At the next light I realized there was no way he could STILL be so far ahead as to be outta sight. So I stop, wait a few seconds, turn around and there he is. Man On A Mission.

Still opportunities to donate to the MS150 ride Tom will be doing this weekend. I remember his first long distance ride where a few of us joined him for the last part of his 44 or so mile ride. At the end, completely knackered, but before he sat down to rest, he posed in front of the sign that marks the beginning of the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle. That’s where I think this ride and his dedication to it began, when he took distance riding that seriously. Like many of these charitable rides, he deserves our support.

Thanks for the compliment Greg, even if not entirely accurate. The gunis still have the edge in top speed, at least with guni pros like you and Pete at the helm. I’m always scared to get up past my top run-out speed.

PS: Thanks to everyone who has helped out with a pledge these last couple days. Amazing support from this forum…it’s much appreciated!


Best of luck on the MS 150 Tom!

Can’t wait to hear your stories from the ride.


How about when that top speed is measured over 5 miles? That’s when this GUni rider is starting to see your back fade away. Rides like the MS-150 are all about endurance, baby. At the thirty mile point you’d be passing a heap laying next to a GUni with a flock of paramedics around him and you would still just be warming up.

By the way, your “donate” button is still working fine.

Is there any way to come out and watch as tomblackwood takes out unsuspecting two-wheelers? So many opportunities, so easy pickin’s.

There once was a guy named Tom Blackwood
Who with a uni told us “I Could”
So off on a Cause he rode
And in the distance Haiku composed
Seeing which we knew he had done Good!

A report is in order here. I know you’re not dead. You posted in one of the goofy threads in the “other” forum.

Let’s Hear It, Tom!


Right you are, Greg. The MS-150 this weekend was an incredible experience and great success. We had ideal riding temperatures and a large turnout of riders…supposedly over 1,000, but I lost track of the count while they were all passing me. We also had a great cause to benefit, fantastic ride support, and unbelievable encouragement from everyone that participated.

The two rides represented “personal bests” for me, although in different ways. Each day had both a 50 mile and 75 mile route to choose from. On Saturday, I chose to just ride the 50 mile route. I learned last year I can’t do the 75 miles within the official 8am-5pm time the course is open, if I want to stop and rest, have lunch, and talk to the people who come up and ask about the unicycle. I also didn’t want to miss the big Group Start on Day 1, because the lead fundraising team (MSFT, which I was on) goes first. On the uni, that means I get to start at the very front, using the pole that holds the start banner for balance. The first 100 yards of the ride is the only time I get to lead, and I didn’t want to miss that. Then the first bike passes me and I begin my gradual slide to last place… Anyway, the PB for me on Saturday was around fitness. Same route as last year, same big hills. But this year, instead of getting wiped out (or falling) on the climbs, I cleaned them all with energy to spare. I credit this year’s revised training plan (the Nathan Hoover Plan) which focused much more on climbing than on distance. When I hit the big ones, I just reminded myself how many times I climbed Fall City Road without stopping, and that gave me the mental edge. I finished 50 thinking I could have done 75.

Which brings me to Sunday’s personal best. Going in, my plan had been to do back-to-back 50s and just enjoy myself, but after Saturday, I thought “why can’t I do a 75 and still enjoy myself?”. Bad question to ask myself at bedtime, as I then tossed and turned the night thinking about it rather than getting the rest I needed. Mostly I was trying to talk myself into it. Why do it? The challenge, of course. And for my sponsors: they demand blood, and two 50s just doesn’t deliver! So, since I was not sleeping anyway at 5am, I got up, packed my gear, threw some extra food in my pack, and made it onto the course by 6:30. I figured with an hour and a half lead, I’d have time to finish the whole course. I set a goal of getting to Rest Stop 2 at 21 miles before the first bike, and started spinning. It was surreal being out there by myself, pedaling out through the tulip farms in the pre-dawn light and watching the sun come up to backlight the patches of fog and mist. I also got to see how early in the day farmers are up and at it…every farm had something going on. At mile 9, the setup van for Rest Stop 1 passed me. Good thing I packed those extra supplies! When I got to Rest Stop 2, they were setting up too and I was their first customer. About 15 minutes later the first bike arrived.

From there, I just focused on maintaining a solid spin, minimizing upper body movement, and remembering to keep fed and hydrated. The Day 2 course is actually quite flat if you choose the 50 mile option. In the map, the 50 mile route cuts west to Padilla Bay after the long straightaway, leaving out the whole climb up and around Chuckanut Mountain, and the narrow, hilly road along Samish Bay. This section, Miles 30 to 55, has to be the most scenic ride I’ve ever taken. I want to go back and do just that loop sometime as a 30-35 miler, when I can relax and enjoy the views.

But back on topic. By the time I reached lunch at Mile 50, I knew I had both time and the energy to finish. The main climbing was done, and I took a full 1/2 hour to eat, drink, sunscreen. But then—sitting with some Harley riders that were acting as ride patrol—I heard the course would close at 4pm instead of 5 as it did on Saturday (and in my timing calculations). Panic! I suddenly went from “I have all the time in the world” to “I’m going to have to spin the last 25 at the same pace I spun the first 25, with no rest stops.” Gulp.

Thanks Harley Guys…gotta fly. Fortunately, it was only 8 more miles of hilly road before the route hit sea level for good. Once I reached the flats, it would be pretty binary…if headwind like last year’s Day 2, I don’t make it. Less headwind than last year, I might. Well, the wind was there, but less intense, more varied than last year. Often it was a sidewind instead, which made for faster riding but also more tension in my lower back from adjusting, like too many miles on a sloped crown. I was starting to have some serious pain, and was also slipping some time and wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it in by the cutoff. When I reached Mile 62, I decided to stop worrying, as I had at least passed my longest ride and had a new personal best. There we go. Let the SAG Wagon come sweep me off the course…I don’t care. Wait, yes I do. They’ll never bring me in…not while there’s a breath of life left in me. Damn the rules! I’ll fight ‘em all and keep riding! It’s amazing the kinds of thoughts your brain starts to have when your body is well past its normal limits. Reality is I was on the organizing committee for the event, and if the car came for me, the occupants would be friends, colleagues, people I could never eat alive just to make a distance goal, and they’d be offering me comfort, sympathy, and a painless ride across the finish line drugged and gagged in the trunk of their car. NO…MUST RIDE FASTER!

I have to express my profound admiration for anyone that’s ever had a 100 mile day…Bruce_Dawson, Lars, Ken Looi, those speedy English boys, and all the others. It’s not just the prep and conditioning; it’s ride management. I was managing to 75, and when I was at Mile 70, I could actually “see” doing a 100. A nice flat 25, no wind or time constraints…sure, I could get there. But that can change quickly. With 2 miles to go, I spotted a bike up ahead, someone who hit the wall and was slowing their pace. Cool, I thought, I’m catching up. If I just turn it on a bit, maybe I can reach them and we can cross the finish line together and wouldn’t that be fun to not finish last. So instead of sticking to my pace, I turned it on and started making headway on the biker. With a half mile to go, he was only 300 yards ahead…which was when I hit my wall. There was no way I could catch him, and it was actually all I could do to get across the finish line without crashing in front of the spectators. It went that quickly, and I could no longer “see the 100”. I could barely see the finish. After 9 hours 38 minutes on the course, I got across the line at 4:11 pm to roars from the finished riders and MS folks. Riding up the ramp, someone handed me a “finisher’s medal” on a ribbon, which amazingly I grabbed without crashing. Almost as soon as I’d dismounted, a woman ran up with a video cam making a documentary of the event. She wanted to include the unicycle, and asked me if I could get on and ride since she missed me coming in. I hated to disappoint, but had to say No…I actually didn’t think I could successfully get back on the unicycle. My whole body seemed to be going into rigor mortis. I couldn’t bend over, and could barely sit down. But all was good…at 75.1 miles, I have a new personal best. It may also be a lifetime best, since if there’s a reason to ever ride farther in a day, I’m not seeing it right now.

Let me finish with some high points and stats.

High Points:

· Riding across the Deception Pass Bridge twice, both times with a Harley escort behind to protect me from cars.

· Achieving a Personal Best on Sunday by completing the full 75 mile loop.

· The amazing views of Samish Bay from everywhere on Chuckanut Drive. This has to be one of the most intense stretches of road in the state.

· Crossing the finish line both days in LaConner to shouts, yells, cowbells and applause from all the riders and volunteers.

· The countless variations of “Hey Unicycle Guy!” and “Go Man Go!” I received from passing riders.

· STOMPING THE HILLS. I am SO glad I changed my training. Very few bikers passed me on the climbs, but I passed many of them. It was great hearing comments like “Man, that guy is just hammering!”, or my favorite—after I had passed the same pair on three consecutive hills—“This is starting to get really depressing.” :smiley:

· And the biggest High Point: Raising $4,000 to support the MS Society’s work to provide benefits to the many people affected by the disease, and to one day find a cure. I can’t express my thanks enough. The support from the unicyclist community was just fantastic.

Ride Stats

· Saturday: 47.51 miles, 286 minutes pedaling time, 10 mph average, 4,439 vertical feet elevation gain.

· Sunday: 75.1 miles, 425 minutes pedaling time, 10.5 mph average, 5,147 vertical feet elevation gain.

· Training miles: 680 since May

· Vertical feet climbed in training: more than Everest

So a VERY BIG THANK YOU to all of you that supported my ride, either through direct financial contributions, or through advice, help, and encouragement. Your help brings us closer to a cure!

PS: It’s not too late to click the link in my sig line and make a contribution!



Congratulations on

1.) Your fundraising effort
2.) Your personal best rides
3.) Setting a rational plan and sticking to it
4.) Representing the unicycling community in this event
5.) Leading the entire pack at the beginning, regardless of how long.

You da man. And you da man again, now.

Great job, Tom. That’s absolutely stellar! Maybe Harper can join you next year…chuckle :wink:

Awesome, well done! And thanks for the inspirational writeup.

So will you not be going for the double 75 next year then?:slight_smile: