BP MS 150 and the ER
Monday, April 20, 2015
The BP MS150 is one of the major charity cycling events in the country, and Texas hosts one of the largest. It's roughly 170 miles from Houston to Austin in 2 days, and, this year, there were some 14K riders scheduled. The vast majority camp overnight somewhere around the Houston area near the starting line, then around La Grange for the second day start. I've been wanting to do this ride for years and finally decided to take time off from off-season running and my triathlon season to train for this epic bike ride.
Disaster struck when pouring April rains flooded both camp sites and made roads inaccessible, forcing the event organizers to cancel Day 1. This has happened before, actually. When it was announced that Day 2 was still on, my team, Team Mighty Fine Cycling (Mighty Fine Burgers) worked quickly to rearrange transportation to la Grange so that we could still ride an adjusted route. Great organization by the MS 150 folks to accommodate the thousands of cyclists still committed to ride and by TMFC to take care of us.
Sunday started off beautifully, overcast , a little breezy and cool enough to wear our arm warmers. On the way to La Grange, we saw groups of cyclists who had already started the ride and passed a few of the rest stops on the route. We converged onto a planned start from a huge store parking lot (thank goodness for restrooms after 1 1/2 hours on the bus), took our group peloton photo and headed out to merge with other teams already starting on the route from different spots near the original starting line.
My daughter was riding the event with me. We had both met the minimum fundraising amount, and then some, packed, re-packed, done what training rides we could (they started right when we were doing the Austin marathon), and were so excited to be riding this huge event. Off we went without a hitch and a plan to stop at every rest stop (spaced approximately 10 miles apart). If you don't know the Austin area, it's hilly!
Mile 10/Stop 1 - the field laid out with tents for the food and hydration areas and lines of porta potties were somewhat muddy, but, to be there with throngs of other cyclists was exciting. We took in some fruit and snacks, hydrated and then went off toward the next stop.
Mile 20/Stop 2 - The sun had come out and temperatures were rising quickly. We removed our arm warmers, refueled, hydrated, stretched and headed out to the next stop. This segment is the worst on the route until the finish in downtown Austin, as it's the hilliest. Although not goat-climbing hilly, it's a stretch of long, rolling hills that challenge your gears and legs. By now, my daughter and I had separated from the rest of the team who were scattered either ahead (the stronger, more seasoned riders) or behind (slower or newbies like us). We yo-yo'd with other riders, powering downhill to gain some momentum on the upside, over 4 progressively tough rolls.
About mile 30, there was a shaded corner at the end of one of the area parks, and where we would turn into the city of Bastrop for the next stop just a couple of miles further. We were all being slowed down and told to walk our bikes around the corner because of an accident. I told my daughter that I was going to stop to take a break in the shade because I was feeling a bit overheated and dizzy.
Before you know it, I was in an ambulance headed for the Bastrop ER suffering from heat exhaustion. When the medics and sag driver learned that she's my daughter, they told her she was going with me. Our ride was officially over.
Heat exhaustion is not new to me; I had suffered a heat stroke about 10 years ago on a 20-mile training run for a long distance event, which led to subsequent years of heat exhaustion when training or running in the TX heat. I am constantly dehydrated, don't sweat or not efficiently enough, and have yet to figure out how to deal with it. While my GI surgeon said to stop running in the heat, others are trying to help me find a way to do the things I love and manage the heat issue.
It's vastly disappointing to not be able to finish an event. I was feeling so good about being able to tackle the hills, although the last, and notorious, one did force me off my bike to walk about 30 yards to the crest (I wasn't alone and felt better about it when some brawny dude was walking his bike past me). I wanted so much to finish, and was already halfway there!
Turned out, later that afternoon, we met the man who was in the accident near that shady corner, when trying to find our bikes. He's probably in his late 70's/early 80's, was riding with his 40-something son, crashed and suffered a concussion. Fortunately, he didn't break any bones, but, was sent by ambulance to ER, as well. The police and EMT radios had been busy with reports of cyclists down, and I was apparently one of the big stories on their airwaves. Our sag driver who picked us up at the ER said she had heard it on her ham radio.
Well, so, the 2015 BP MS150 was not to be for me this year. I tried, I was enjoying it, my legs felt pretty good all things considered.
All the same, the ride is for a great cause and I was riding in honor of friends who have MS. Being a long-time Lupus patient, I know what it's like to battle a mysterious illness that's trying to debilitate you. I'm one of the lucky ones, because I have forced myself into such an active lifestyle in an effort to avoid succumbing to my condition for which there is no cure.
It was the darned heat that stopped me...