I’m sorry that you had to wait…this is a seriously delayed recap. I finished the ride last Sunday, but had to catch a flight to Amsterdam the next morning. Just now plugging back in.
Anyway, this year’s MS Bike Tour was fantastic. I look forward to this event every year, and prepping for it drives a big part of my summer riding. This was my third year doing the ride, and it was the best year yet in many ways. The weather was perfect, and the turnout was big with close to 2,000 riders. As in past years, I was the only unicyclist in the event.
Unlike the past years, this year was a very low-stress event for me. I was not plagued by insomnia, or by any nagging thoughts that I wouldn’t be able to make the hills or complete the course in time. I made the decision in advance–which I promised myself would not be subject to last minute revisions like last year–that I was going to do the 50 mile route both days. I knew the course both days, knew the hills and had trained for them, and knew from my ride around Lake Tahoe in June that short of a major fall and injury en route, there was nothing that would keep me from finishing the back-to-back 50s. It makes a difference going into an event like this with that level of knowledge, prep, and confidence. I’ve learned that from many on this forum, and most recently from Steveyo and his Whiteface successes.
I should step back briefly to say that I was also involved in the “Team MSFT Tent Design Committee”, and it turned out my sole duties as a committee member were packing a stepladder, cooler, 10 bags of ice, and a whole lot of beer, along with my uni and gear. Since my son Miles now has a N-36, I had the luxury of also bringing along an entire back-up uni in case anything went wrong. Now that’s piece of mind.
The Durango…two cokers, a ladder, and a whole lot of beer and ice
So the Day 1 ride is an interesting mix…mostly flat for the first 20 miles, then some big ups and downs for the final 30. I made two big changes to my setup this year, and this was really the big test. First, I swapped my GB4 36 frame for a Hunter 36 frame. Goal here was to eliminate the thigh strikes I was getting from the GB4 squared crown, and this was achieved. The only time I get any frame contact now is climbing with 170 cranks, and even then it isn’t significant. The second change was to get rid of my Magura brake. This was initially done out of sloth…when I swapped frames, I just never got around to putting it back on. But as the event got closer, I made a conscious decision to leave it off, and instead leverage the flexibility of my tri-tapped Kooka cranks, and just switch to 170s for the big, steep downhills. Results were great. I’ve never been super-comfortable using the brake, especially on steeps, and this year gave me direct ability to compare the brake vs. no brake strategy. Saturday, I made it down two different steeps with my 170s that I haven’t been able to make it down in years past with the brake. In fact, on all previous attempts, it had been mis-management of the brake which ultimately caused me to fall. I feel like I could go down almost anything with the 170s, so I may be selling that Magura soon. Now all I need is a decent saddle, and my setup is ready for Uninam next March.
Day 1, Rest Stop 2…down at sea level just before the big climbs begin
The Day 2 route, on paper, is much flatter than Day 1. But this year, the route had a secret weapon to create artificial hills: a killer headwind. I’m not sure how strong it was, but I’m guessing it varied between 15-20 mph. During the first 30 miles, amazingly, it came at one time or another from 3 of the 4 sides of the compass. During one section–a 5-mile flat straightaway, several bike riders were actually standing up to pedal, as if they were climbing a big hill. That was the worst section, and it was just exhausting. Fortunately, at the end of that straightaway came an espresso stand.
“The Beacon”, offering convenient drive-up service, a ray of hope, shining against the darkness of perpetual headwind.
Now, after coming off some pretty major espresso distance training with john_childs, I knew my best chance of success would be to take a quick break and re-fuel with a double espresso. Take a look at the picture below, and specifically at the flag across the street. I didn’t have to wait for the right moment…it was just pinned horizontal like that. Just once, I made the mistake–in desperation–of thinking that a couple of cyclists would offer a bit of a wind break. I worked hard to catch up to one couple that was making slow progress, just to find there was nothing there for shelter. Ugh.
By afternoon, it became more predictable although no less strong, and fortunately turned to a tailwind for the last 8 miles of the ride, where the route doubled back down the straighaway that led to The Beacon. Of course, this was an opportunity to stop again, a fresh double espresso providing another ray of hope for the final miles of the ride.
- Great weather
- Conditioning-: the back-to-back 50s felt great, and I crossed the line both days with legs to spare.
- The Climbs: on all the big hills I passed bikers, no bikers passed me. That is, until the very last one on Day 2, when one of my co-workers and her husband passed me on a tandem. The shame! Decided I better pledge $50 to her ride in penance.
- My new setup – frame and brake changes worked out great.
- Meeting the "Guy I Tired to Catch" from paragraph 7 of [this post](/t/ms-150-cokering-for-charity/81486/17) from last year's ride. As it turns out, that particular event became a story for both of us. I've told it several times from the aspect of "ride management", and how quickly I hit the wall once I stepped up the pace to try to catch him. Turns out he's told it too...about how all friggin' day long this damn unicyclist kept passing him on the hills, and just how annoying that was. Then, with just a few miles to go, he sees me chuggin' up behind in his rear view mirror. He swears "there is no way this ba$t*rd is finishing ahead of me", and picks up his pace. It was funny, swapping stories it turned out we each had the same experience with ride management...as soon as he turned it on, he hit the wall too, but since he already had the lead in front of me, managed to make it over before I could catch him. Small world to finally meet the guy...
- Fundraising for a great cause: My individual total is over $4,000, and I believe I’ll end up over $5,000. Team Microsoft just passed $100K, and the event overall should raise $1.4 million by the time all pledges are in next month. The power of pedaling...
- Great support from unicycling community...financial support, help and guidance on training, nutrition, setup; companionship on training rides. All good.
Lowlights: not a single thing…even the damn headwind led to an espresso stop. Nothing to complain about.
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!
For more photos, check out my smugmug gallery here.. It’s worth the trip…you will see a male cyclist doing the ride as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. Just to get his pledge count up…and he did a century too in that little frock.
PS: If you’re so inspired, it’s not to late to click here and make a contribution!