Saturday, October 11, 2008

Biking to the Beach

Well, I am back from a few days of vacation. While I was gone, I accomplished some of my goals. For example I slept and ate a lot. I was able to play golf a few times and even got a glimpse of a professional golf tournament.

The big activity, however, was my bike ride 160 miles from San Antonio to Corpus Christi Texas. It was all part of the "Valero MS Bike to the Beach" to raise money for research for Multiple Sclerosis. The process of obtaining my ride number and participation packet was very easy. That was done the night before the ride began.

The day of the ride, my sister prepared a delicious breakfast and then she and her husband drove me to San Antonio to the ATT Center. I loaded my luggage on the truck that would take it to Beeville, the stop for the night. Then I got the bike out, made my pre-ride check and walked over to the starting area. Since it was not exactly a race (although everyone goes just about as fast as they can) starting order was based on fundraising. The biggest fundraisers got to go first, and all the others followed in waves. There were teams, usually based on fund raising, and individuals like me. The Valero team was large- hundreds of riders. I believe that they raised the most money.

It is interesting to see all the different jerseys of the riders. Some reveal their team affiliation, others simply the personal preference of the rider. There were police officers riding with special police jerseys, and EMT's with the EMS jerseys. Accompanying us were motorcycle escorts and police cruisers with bike racks on the back if someone were to get injured or be otherwise unable to continue on. Of course we were followed by the "Sag Wagons" which picked up those who determined that they needed a rest or were done for the day. I saw a police special event van and there were probably ambulances following us around too.

There were rest stops with food and drink and bathrooms every so many miles. I stopped at nearly every one of them to drink Powerade, eat an orange or other things, and refill my water bottles. I carried various kinds of energy foods. After the first hour, I ate a little something every ten minutes to keep my nutrition going.

I was impressed at the ride organization. Every town we passed through had law enforcement protecting us from cross traffic. The rest stops all had exit and entry lanes with traffic cones to assist our leaving and returning to the road. In some places, we had whole lanes to ourselves blocked off. There were motorcycle escorts and police cars going along next to us, lest any traffic get unruly. I did not hear any negative comments from people in cars or along the road. There was nothing but encouragement, even in Corpus Christi, where we had a whole lane to ourselves and the car traffic was backed up because of it. People stood by the side of the road and shouted encouragement and held up signs for the riders they were supporting.

The ride went down US 181. After lunch on Saturday, we began a climb toward Beeville. The climb would not have been all that bad, except for the headwind that seemed very strong to me. The ride Saturday was only 96 miles, so they had laid out an alternative 4 mile extra loop for those wanting to finish a century. I did the extra and for a bit, regretted it because the wind was so strong. One had to pedal in a low gear regardless of riding on the flatland or even going downhill. But after the turnaround, it was very nice riding with the wind for 2 miles.

After I finished, I went immediately to eat supper. I knew once that I had unrolled the sleeping gear, I would not be able to get up for anything. I was not really hungry, but in these cases, one must eat for the next day's activities. I was able to get a place to sleep in the gymnasium of Coastal Bend College in Beeville. I took my shower there and the water was cold. But I was so tired and in need of a shower that I did not care. After the shower and change of clothes, I found a plug to recharge my phone and spent an hour praying. Then I went to bed.

I guess I woke up about 5am on Sunday. I got dressed and packed and went to breakfast and then took about 30 minutes to go through Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Then I put my bags on the truck and reclaimed my bike from the security area. The bike was wet because it had rained. But by 7am, it had quit and we saw no more of it, except for the wet streets. I had to wait in line to use a pump to top off the tires, but I got in line to start in plenty of time.

I was determined not to ride so much by myself as I had done the day before. My first strategy was to start spinning immediately and move up as far toward the front of my group that I could. I actually was able to bridge the gap to the previous group. My reason was that I knew I would get tired later. I wanted to have plenty of people behind me. When they passed me later, I would still have a respite from the wind and a chance to latch on to a pace line. It worked great the first 20 miles, then the paceline I was following took a break at a rest stop. I decided that I felt really good and would not stop until the lunch break at 32 miles. But I suffered greatly until I came upon a soldier (or ex soldier) riding solo. He let me draft on him most of the way to lunch. I led briefly, but the wind was too much for me. I cannot remember his name, but God bless him.

I ate lunch at 9:40am, which pleased me greatly. I planned to stay about 50 minutes, which I did. At about 10:30am, I left and was able to find a group going about my speed in just a few miles. They were from the San Antonio Express News. God bless you all too! I rode in that train for the next 20 miles, including two rest stops. At Gladys Porter High School, the last stop, they were waiting for more of their team to show up (it was a very large team). So I did the last 10 miles solo. But the wind was not bad at all. The concrete barriers effectively blocked the wind for the most part.

The last adventure was crossing the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi. It is the steepest hill I have ever climbed. But I was able to pedal all the way up and did not get off an push. Of course, three people passed me like I was standing still. On the other hand, I passed several as well. I was looking forward to going very fast down the other side of the bridge. But the wind and my tired legs could not get into my highest gear. After the bridge, it was just a little jaunt over to the finish line.

My sister and her husband had arrived in time to see me on the bridge and cheer me across the finish line. It was a great ride.

Again I want to thank all the other riders I drafted on for two days. I especially want to thank my friends Bob and Angela, who talked me into the ride. They did it on a tandem, and crossed the bridge too!

Other memories that I like were that on Saturday, another rider drafted on me for about 6 to 10 miles. It was nice to be able to provide a similar service to another that I had received. Also, there were military vets there who were quite impressive. I mean the men with the prosthetic left arms attached to their handlebars, riding with one hand. And the rider with the prosthetic leg. I do not know what he rode, but his leg was painted crazy colors. And then there were the men with no legs and those with spinal injuries who hand cranked tricycles the whole way. And all that to raise money for other people who were suffering. They were inspirational.

1 comment:

st. m. parishioner said...

Father Joseph, it was quite interesting read of your recent experiences in the Valero MS 150 from San Antonio to Corpus Christi. This is my first visit to your blog.