Saturday, May 2, 2009

It was just a little rainy, that's all.

Well the 2009 Sam's MS 150 from Frisco to Fort Worth was last weekend. It did not turn out as anybody had really planned. Between the fears concerning the Swine Flu (H1N1), and the weather, the planners and the participants had to be very flexible.

I was able to obtain sufficient priests to substitute for me over the weekend, so that I did not have to strive to get back in town to celebrate any of the Masses. My training went okay, and I was confident that I could finish the whole ride.

Anyway, the first wrench in the works was the H1N1 virus. Or I should say the fear of the virus. Out of concern for public safety, the finish line at Sundance Square in Fort Worth was cancelled. But it was decided that the second day would be a loop starting and ending at the Texas Motor Speedway.

I almost did not even go Saturday morning. Friday night, I drove to Frisco and checked out the parking and starting area. The weather that day was so cloudy and gloomy that it was hard to get excited about anything. The internet weather sites were predicting a 40% chance of rain on Saturday and a higher chance on Sunday. I was decided that I was not going to ride in the rain, if at all possible. Sunday was probably not going to happen for me. Still, I packed up my tent and sleeping bag and everything that I would need to spend the night. As of Friday, because of the rain earlier in the week, it was decided not to have camping at the Motor Speedway. This decision was very wise.

When I returned home on Friday night, the chance of rain for Saturday had increased to 50%. I was hoping that it would either just start to rain, or miraculously clear up, so I would not have to worry about it one way or another. At 4am Saturday morning, the chance of rain had been increased to 60%. I sat around for an hour trying to decide what to do. Finally, I concluded that I would ride until I could ride no more and left the house. It was easy getting to the parking area and leaving my bags on the bag truck. The sky was dark grey, but I had made up my mind. To be prepared, I brought a lightweight rain jacket, suitable for backpacking. It was a little too bulky for the rear pocket of my jersey, so I opted for the hydration pack. I put the jacket, the matching rain pants, and a vest in the pack. I don't generally prefer to ride on the road with a hydration pack, but I was not going to be caught in the rain suffering.

Because of my early morning waffling, I was near the tail end of the starters. If I was not in the last group starting, it was next to last. But as they say, it is not a race. It is also said that whenever there are two or more bicyclists, there is always a race. It may or may not have been wise, but I started to go almost as fast as I could. I was not sprinting, but trying to move up in the mass of people and find a group going my speed. Riding in a large group of cyclists is great in that you can go much faster with the same energy than you can riding alone.

I stopped briefly at the first rest stop and skipped the second one entirely. The group was already stretched out and I was trying to stay with people who were riding about my speed. For about the first 40 miles, that was about 18.5mph. At one point we were on a road that went along the south end of Lake Ray Roberts. The roadway was high up from the lakeshore, like a bridge. At that point, it began to mist a bit. Halfway across the bridge, the temperature suddenly dropped about 10 degrees it seemed. I was very grateful when we finished crossing and the trees provided somewhat of a wind break. (I say we, but in truth, by this time I was riding alone.) I still felt strong, and my legs were nice and warm, but the upper body began to be a little uncomfortable.

Lunch was in Sanger at mile 48. I put on my vest before I ate. We had turkey sandwiches which were very tasty. But I could not sit down. The wind was so bad that the seating area was too cold. I huddled with some like minded people on the leeward side of the concession stand where the food was being served. Along the way I met a parishioner who was a Ride Marshall. At lunch, his wife approached me to give me encouragement and to express hope that her husband would start coming to church more often.

After lunch, I put my raincoat on and opened up the pit zips. Riding with rainwear is a challenge. Most of the time, you sweat so much that you are just as wet as if the rain is on you. But at least its warm. My jacket is fairly breathable, and the pit zips helped. Still, I had to open and close the zippers to adjust the temperature the rest of the ride. I got hot and at a later stop took off the vest. That was a mistake, because it got soaked by the rain as it was in my hydration pack.

Around mile 60, my legs began to refuse to function like before. I was no longer able to keep the 87-95 cadence. My saddle began to feel uncomfortable also. Occasionally I would eat a package of energy gel, which helped my legs. Maybe I was lacking in salt, I do not know.

The last rest stop was at mile 71. My plan was to rest there about 15 minutes, then finish the ride, which had 15 miles left. I can always do 15 miles, so I knew I had it. But then at the rest stop there in Ponder, the authorities announced that due to severe weather, the rest of the ride was cancelled. We were to lay our bikes down on the grass and board vans to be transported to the Texas Motor Speedway. They would send a crew to bring our bikes. I was able to enter the third van. As soon as I got in an situated (uncomfortably) the skies opened up and the rain began to pour.

When we arrived at the TMS, the other passengers on the van begged the driver to let us out at the bike storage lot. It was raining very hard and there were these two little booths under which many people were crowded. I went there to put on the rain pants and assess my situation. The nearest bathrooms were at least a half mile away, so there was nothing to do but walk. Thank God for the rain suit!

Halfway across the parking lot, the water was already about 2 inches deep and too wide to jump. So I had to slosh through and get wet feet. The luggage crew had the bags underneath plastic sheeting. I reclaimed my bags and walked across a homemade boardwalk across the grass toward the dining tent. Most of the tent had 3 inches of water on the ground, but I found a "dry" spot. It was tempting just to stay in the portable toilet out of the rain, but I went back to the dining tent and proceeded to check the contents of my bags. For some reason, the clothes were still dry. I put another long sleeve shirt over what I had and changed jackets to another rain coat with more coverage.

My sister was coming to pick me up to take me back to Frisco. She was waiting at the gate next to the bike storage lot. As I walked back, there was much more water. The homemade boardwalk had floated away or sunk, so there was about 4 inches of water to wade through. The volunteer in charge of the bike lot had no idea when the bikes would be delivered, since not all the riders were accounted for as of yet.

It had mostly stopped raining, so there was a little less standing water to trudge through in the parking lot. I walked out and across the road and got into my sisters car. We waited about an hour for the trucks with the bikes to arrive. I was impressed that those who had reclaimed our bikes had wrapped each one up in heavy duty brown paper, so that the bikes would not get damaged. I helped unload and store the bikes until mine came off the second truck.

Later in the day, it was announced that the second day was cancelled. It was disappointing not to be able to finish the full distance, but it was a memorable ride. The volunteers were well organized, helpful and friendly. The rest stops were well stocked with goodies to eat and drink. My average speed for the 71 miles was 16.6mph. There is room for improvement, but I am fairly satisfied. I am glad that I rode.

No comments: