Mission Complete - MS-150
It was a smaller team than we had in 2007, but Thermo Fisher Scientific's representation at the Bike to the Bay in Delaware was successful in accomplishing our task. Paul Neralich and I headed down to Dover on Friday night and stayed at the Hampton Inn near the starting line, but not before purchasing rain gear at Bike Line in Wilmington. The weather was questionable and we didn't want to be caught unprepared. We had ridden in two previous MS-150 events in the rain and knew it could be miserable without the proper equipment.
It was a humid, overcast morning when we woke up on Saturday. The threat of rain had apparently decreased the turnout at the event. Unlike previous years when there was bumper-to-bumper traffic waiting to enter the campus, we drove right into the Del Tech entrance without delay. When we arrived at the registration area at a little after 8am, there was lots of activity, but not what we had seen in previous years. We picked up our registration packets, pinned our rider numbers on our jerseys, stowed our newly-acquired tour t-shirts in the car, and made our way to the starting line.
It was about 8:20 by the time we got under way. We made good progress to the first rest area. We were fresh and our legs didn't mind the first 12 miles. We enjoyed some apple cider poured by Delaware's Auditor, R. Thomas Wagner Jr. We also indulged on bananas and cookies, and topped off our water bottles before proceeding on.
It wasn't long after the first rest stop that we felt the first drops of rain for the day. We pulled off to the shoulder and put on our rain gear. The Trek rain coats did a great job of keeping out the rain, but it was sort of like wearing a thick clear plastic trash bag. I could see my matted arm hair clinging to the inside of the sleeves. A recurring drop of water on the front rim of my helmet rocked back and forth as a pedaled, mimicking the visual action of KITT from Knight Rider.
We arrived at the lunch rest stop, which was around the 40-mile mark, at around 12:40. Lunch was about the same as previous years with the exception of live musical entertainment. Previously it was a low-key affair with people resting and quietly eating in small groups. I know the singer meant well, but hearing "Zip-a-dee-do-dah" in a high vibrato did not do wonders for my appetite. We didn't spend much time at lunch -- just about 20 minutes to eat and rest up and we were back on the road.
In past years the rest stop at Ellenville was as plain as it got. It previously consisted of a flat-bed trailer with jugs of water, orange slices, and bananas. This year, one of the MS-150's named sponsors, NRG Indian River, took over the rest stop. They offered a luau theme with most of the volunteers wearing grass skirts. The chicken skewers with pineapple and peppers were much tastier than lunch. We all regretted we weren't very hungry since lunch was only 10 miles behind us.
Uncle Ted's rest stop offers some of the most unique bike tour food out there. Sausage and scrapple sandwiches are available for the asking. Still feeling a tiny bit full from lunch, I just couldn't bring myself to eat a sausage sandwich, though if memory serves me, it was tasty in the past when I tried it. And there was no way scrapple was going to touch my lips. Instead I had a few orange slices and some assorted baked goods and moved on.
Right after Uncle Ted's at around 60 miles into the tour, the skies opened up. We donned our rain gear (again) and kept pedaling. The previous rains of the day had been minimal compared to this one. Pedaling was hard and we slowed to about 10 mph. When the rain stopped our socks were soaked and we could feel water sloshing around in our shoes. We had fresh socks with us, but it wasn't worth putting them on since they would have just gotten wet from the soaked shoes.
The last rest stop was only 10 miles later. Our bodies were beginning to really hurt (especially my gluts and Paul's quads). We didn't hang around long since it was already 4:30 and we just wanted to get to the finish line, which was only 6 miles away.
We crossed the finish line at around 5:15pm, which was about 35 minutes earlier than the previous year. According to the numbers I had burned about 2000 calories and put 76 miles on my odometer. This year Paul and I actually had time to sit down and enjoy dinner as opposed to last year when I had to throw food on a plate and bring it on the bus since we were running so late.
You can see the entire route on MapMyRide. My favorite thing about the day was the feeling of accomplishment as Paul and I crossed the finish line. My least favorite aspect was the heavy rain that really slowed us down and made part of the ride miserable. But when you put things in perspective, riding 7 miles in pouring rain still isn't as challenging as facing the symptoms of MS on a daily basis.
The bus ride back to the starting line was about 90 minutes, and included a stop in Milford where we had lunch earlier in the day. We got back at around 8pm and were happy to see our bikes had already arrived and were unloaded from the truck and waiting for us.
Paul and I loaded up the car and headed towards Center City Philadelphia. I dropped him off at his place and continued on to Allentown. Traffic was light and despite some light rain I made decent time getting home. I climbed into the hot tub and sat for about 40 minutes, letting the 96-degree water soothe my aching muscles.
I'd like to give a hearty "thank you" to my friends, family, and colleagues who supported and encouraged me. I know that not everybody who wanted to donate found the time before the event. My fund raising goal this year is a lofty $1700. Every dollar helps to fund research and support services for MS. Donations (tax-deductible) are being accepted through the end of October by visiting: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/ssavett .