Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MS 150 Drama

I finished the 2008 BP MS 150 this past weekend. It was a long saga, though.

I was in Hartford, CT last week for a trip to Travelers. I was to fly home Thursday night, with plenty of time to board the 4:30 PM MS150 Houston to Austin bus (they also transport your luggage and bike). When I got to Hartford Bradley to fly home, it seemed that my return (on Delta) through Cincinnati was delayed. The problem: all of the AA cancellations had resulted in all available slots being filled, so there was nothing left to rebook me on for a later Cincinnati->Austin flight.

Delta initially told me they couldn't get me home before Saturday night. This was a problem, as I'd totally miss the Friday bus, and the ride itself was starting early Saturday morning, in Houston. After a long time on the phone with Delta rebooking, they found a solution: stay the night in Hartford, then leave on a 6 AM to Cincinnati, then to Salt Lake City, then directly to Houston. Jen was able to come to my house and pack up my gear and get my bike, getting it in Amar's hands at the bus departure point on Friday.

It was a bit worse than this: I had picked up my ride packet on the way to the airport, so my packet (a required item) was in my car...at the Austin Fast Park location at the airport. Jen didn't have a way of checking her mail to see where I was parked (she was at my place, sans computer), so she ended up having to drive the rows at Fast Park until she found my car.

She managed to do all of this (I owe her big) and get it on the bus. My flights were miraculously not delayed at all, and I made it to Houston. I was able to grab a SuperShuttle over to the Rouse's (where my group was staying; Andy Rouse's parents' house...conveniently near Tully Stadium).

Here is what the start looked like at Tully Stadium (one of three possible starting locations):

Here is Chocolate Thunder, fired up to get going:

The riding on day 1 was pretty brutual. A front had come through, and as a result, we were riding into heavy (probably 20-30 mph) sustained headwinds...all day long. My lips are still so cracked and chapped from the wind that I'm bleeding every time I eat!

We did have a bad turn early in day 1: very shortly after the 25 mile stop (within sight of it, even), Amar wiped out. I was riding immediately behind him, and couldn't get left or right quickly enough, so I went down too. Andy was immediately behind me...and crashed as well.

I ended up with just a few scrapes, and (as far as I can tell) no damage to my bike. Andy may have very slightly knocked one wheel out of true, but it seems they fixed that at the 25 mile stop that the SAG wagon took them to afterward. Amar, though, had it rough: not only did he have to replace both of his wheels, but he also broke his collarbone! They didn't know this right away, and it wasn't until he rode to the next stop (about 10 miles) on his new wheels that he went to another medical tent and had EMS come. They took him to the hospital, where the broken collarbone was confirmed in x-rays. His right arm is in a sling for the next 4-6 weeks! Might be kind of hard to drive (both Amar and Kim drive sticks)...

We didn't know a bunch of this until much later in the day. We hung out at lunch for a good while while some of this was being sorted out. Being on a team has its pluses: see my team lunch spot (a 4-H pavilion):

Blue Bell was even giving out mini ice cream sandwiches there:

I had three.

The ride itself was pretty picturesque in places, like this field of wildflowers:

We even have Texas pride in our windmills:

Day 1 ends in La Grange, Texas. It was a madhouse: whereas the three starting points (and plenty of people leaving from hotel parking lots and such) earlier in the day resulted in a few thousand at each spot, the entire ~13,000 assembly of riders were present in La Grange. They brought giant temporary shower equipment in, and were even busing people to the nearest middle school to shower as well (the route I took). They had dinner for everyone at night, and breakfast in the morning. Various bike shops set up little covered mini-shops to sell tons of energy gels, tubes, and that sort of thing...as well as more than a bit of clothing. Later in the day, we heard that it was going to be in the low-mid 40s at the start of the next day, and most people just had regular short and jerseys. I think I was a bit behind the curve here: by the time I went to try to find a long sleeve jersey or base layer, pretty much everything of that sort in a men's large was sold out. I finally lucked out and got the very last men's large of an overpriced (but warmer than expected) Sugoi Helium windbreaker in red (err, sorry, 'Matador'). People were even cutting up garbage bags and taping segments of the plastic around their legs to stay warm early in the ride.

I wore a sleeveless jersey underneath my St. David's team jersey, with the new jacket over it all. I was pretty cold, but it was tolerable. Best of all, the wind was way down at the start of day 2: it was probably 5 mph tops. Around lunch, it picked up, and we were riding in pretty steady (10-15 mph?) winds the rest of the day. It was hugely better than Saturday though. We rode smarter on Sunday as well: Drew, Andy, Nate, and myself kept a tight pace line from lunch onward, and we were hauling ass (at least as compared to earlier in the day, and especially compared to Saturday). My knees were hurting a good bit by the end, and anything above about 3 hours in the saddle causes my lovely pair of torn discs to make their presence known, but it ended up not too bad. I expect we'll be back next year -- hopefully with our suave Indian mascot along for the entire ride this time.

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