Training for the BP MS 150 Ride
By Kelly Howard
So, you want to ride the MS 150 from Houston to Austin to benefit multiple sclerosis but you have no idea when, where, what, why and most importantly — how to start preparing. Have no fear! MS 150 Team Bayou City Outdoors is here to tell you everything single little thing you need to know.
The BP MS 150 is a two-day fund raising bike ride organized by the National MS Society to raise funds and awareness. Although the MS 150 is a ride that takes place all over North America, we have the largest event of its kind right here in Houston with over 13,000 cyclists, 3,500 volunteers and hundreds of spectators all along the route and at the finish line in Austin. In 2014, the MS 150 went above and beyond by raising $20 million dollars for those living with multiple sclerosis.
Not only does the 160 mile trip from Houston to Austin get you in shape, but it’s for a tremendous cause. General Rider Registration is $100 and then each rider is required to raise at least $400 in pledges.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Joining a team takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Training rides, a jersey, tips and friends are the foundation of making the MS 150 a successful and fun ride. BCO Training Rides with a jersey.
- It’s very important to get practice riding with others, not just for safety but also to feel comfortable. Feeling comfortable and riding with a group can make all the difference in having a terrible or a terrific MS 150. Practicing and learning the etiquette is important (space between riders, hand gestures, using your voice, etc.) Moving through the pace line, keeping a steady pace while at the front, and learning how to safely draft in the middle of pack may sound pretty intense, but once you do it a couple times, it’ll be a piece of cake.
- There is no expected speed a rider is supposed to maintain. Remember, this is for fun! Some groups might average 25 MPH while others bop along with friends and family at 10 MPH. Slow and steady wins the race. You will be set up to take off at your desired pace.
- Riders line up according to the speeds they expect to ride with the fastest group at the font. Some folks ride to see how fast they can finish while others just try to finish or improve from last year. Remember to start at a pace that is comfortable for you, starting the ride too fast will result in regret.
- A safety helmet is required, no headphones or cellphones are allowed when riding. Riders must obey all traffic signs and rules.
- Eat carefully at rest stops. Power bars and fruit are popular MS 150 snacks that keep riders going. 2 water bottles are essential to have on the road, too.
- Make sure you have good biking shorts and a comfortable saddle. Wear and try them out while training, it helps get your hind parts ready for being on a bike for an extended period of time.
- Bring spares of everything if you can. Shoes, socks, helmets, tires, gloves, etc.
- SAG- Support And Gear- is a vehicle that provides support for riders. Not only will they carry supplies, gear, food and water for you, but they’ll even rescue you if you really want it. If you bonk and lie in the grass in a fetal position yelling for “mommy,” SAG will scoop you and your bike up off of the ground and take you somewhere safe. And by somewhere safe I mean hopefully a Dairy Queen.
ON TRAINING DAYS:
- Sign in 15 minutes before start (don’t forget to sign out at the end of the ride)
- Safety/Riding Tips: 5 minutes of biking/safety tips
- Route Review: 5 minutes review of map, distance options, water stop locations, ride marshals introduction, SAG support contact numbers
- Pace Groups: Pick the appropriate pace group for your ride: Beginner: 10–13 mph Intermediate: 14- 16 mph Sport: 17–19 mph Advanced: 20+ mph
Again, a helmet is required and no cellphones or headphones while riding!
Top reasons to ride with Team BCO:
1. You’ll always have friends to ride with — no matter what your speed or ability.
2. Our training series gets you seriously ready for the MS 150
3. It’s the nicest group of people you’ll ever ride with
4. And most importantly — we have non-stop FUN!
You must be a member to ride with Team BCO or a guest of a member.
Not sure if you can pull it off yet? Join us just for our training series. No pressure.
- Training Rides Only
Or, there’s also one of our favorite rides of all time happening around the same time as MS 150! GASP: the Great Austin to Shiner Pedal, a 100 mile bicycle ride starting in Austin and traveling to the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Satisfying desires of two favorite things: riding bikes and drinking beer. There is also a ½ GASP option of 50 miles.
For future reference, we have a MS 150 Kick Off Dinner every year in October, a week or two after MS 150 registration opens, to go through everything A-Z that has to do with the MS 150. Keep that in mind.
Want to help Bayou City Outdoors with MS 150, but don’t plan to ride? Email us for more details!
Questions, comments, concerns please don’t hesitate to email info@BayouCityOutdoors.com
Read a Personal Account from a BCO Member
Day 1: Departure Katy’s Rhodes Stadium.
In ominous warm, humid darkness, we depart Houston later than I had hoped. 5:45. Lots of traffic. Arriving in Katy at 6:15, it takes us another 15 minutes or more to reach the stadium. Now there are only another few until the riders who are lined up will roll out in batches. I stuff my back pouches, adjust my helmet, hoist on my hydrator pack, load my water bottle, fiddle with the Velcro on the bento box, switch on my front/back lights, and snap on my two new body blinkers. My partner checks my tires, and I bid him goodbye. “See you in La Grange,” I say.
“Who does this?” I declare, in urgent need of a port-o-potty. Thinking about the forecast for rain. Yes, it is a comical thought. 13,000 people do this, I am reminded as I scan the Rhodes lot. Seeking the path to the starting line on the opposite side of this overwhelming stadium.
All the needs and comforts that I have for an entire day of riding? Whatever is on me and my bicycle. This is THE moment, and I am abnormally calm.
The mass of riders has already left. I do not wait long before the crowd around me is summoned to ride out. At 7. I go slow, allowing myself to truly warm up. Soon, however, I am ready to outpace the majority and gain a bit of open space.
This is a ride, not a race. But I have decided to ride for longer periods than in past years. To take only short breaks.
— At nearly 20 miles, I merge with traffic from Houston.
— At 27, I take my first rest stop. Grab a banana, go.
— At 35, I lunch briefly in Bellville.
— At 64, I hit a moderate headwind, but I take it in stride.
I ride the entire day without seeing a single Team BCO member. Until mile 84, when I pass the Fayette County Fairgrounds in La Grange. Reaching the junction of the freeways, I jump off my bike to examine our Team Angels’ instructions to the Dairy Queen for pick up. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a BCO jersey pass. And several more follow.
“I’m with you,” I say.
Back on the bike, and two downhill miles later, I am drinking an iced cold Shiner while ordering fries and a strawberry malt. In 45 mins, we’re at the B&B and I rejoin my ride partner. Feeling pretty good. Schmoozing with the team. And awaiting my massage.
Call it a day.
Day 2: Departure La Grange.
Up at 4:30. Ready at 5:30. With breakfast and team social time in between departure. The prep is rote, at this stage. I had rehearsed this moment over the past few days while packing. After a 30–40 min drive, our team angels drop us just outside the Fayette County Fairgrounds at dawn. And we roll out as a team, until the second-to-last rider passes me. A single team member remains at my pace and waits patiently at the first tent for me to get my bike meter readjusted, load up on ice, and use the potty. I lose track of him upon departure.
Day 2 evolves slowly. In 7.3–14.6 mile increments. With the placement of the rest stops. I decide to stop only every 20–30 mi, as on Day 1. My pace would surely be encoded by the parameters of my training.
At the entrance to the Bastrop “Lost Pines” State Park, there is a tiny collective boost of optimistic adrenaline. We are off our bikes to take the requisite power breath to initiate the Challenge Route. I agree reluctantly to take a photo and likewise oblige the stranger to pose. A mellow, reluctant smile is all I can offer.
Entering the route, it feels like a fire blanket has been thrown on top of me and someone yelled, “Ride!”
I had been so ready to push from my new core strength. To conquer the concrete. Instead, I am plagued by GI problems from the onset. Quiet resolve overcomes me. I pedal at a sub-burn pace. Only revolving up the hills at 4–5 mph. Just enough to stay respectably upright.
Near crashes transpire like ghosts in an old black & white movie. I fade on and off my top-mount brake grips. Riders spin out of gear directly in front of me. Riders jump out of the saddle mid-hill, before pulling over. I ease away from the shoulder and into the middle “lane.” Unperturbed. Stopping only to blow my nose.
My ride is marked by absence…
…of niggling worries.
…of outspoken wind.
…of vicious sun.
…of friendly, excited conversation.
…of the distressed urgency for breaks.
And…of my riding partner.
I skip the lunch break in Bastrop. I pedal through the packs of riders as if experiencing a noiseless hallucination. I do not fear. I am resigned to continue. To ignore my discomfort up until the finish. Begged GI remedies are of no use. The preventive simethicone pills have not taken effect. I slowly sip water. I limit my food and electrolyte gummy intake. I seek relief in Tums at a medic tent. No improvement.
The meter malfunction adds to the quality of endless, enigmatic miles. I do not know exactly how far I have gone. Or how much further I have to go. Each rest stop is a marker of progress. But I mostly pass them by.
“Oh,” I thought, reaching Rest Stop 5 at minus 10.7 mi. “This is it.” I move within the bottleneck. There are the dramatic speed peaks of 32 mph, matched with steep climbs. Oddly, consistency rules my mood.
On this last 2–3 mile stretch, we reach the first of the cheering patches. Emotion begins to kick in. I soar down the final hills, dodging other riders at narrow margins.
As I approach the Capitol, the finish line is a blur of people. I can feel my heart beating nervously and my eyes filling with tears. I cover the length of the barrier and turn left to reach my partner, waiting to greet me. I remove my helmet, hugging him, and I burst out crying.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“It just wasn’t the same without you,” I say.
If there was any victory in this experience, my fourth MS 150, it was not the time of arrival in either La Grange or Austin. Rather, it was the time of recovery.
And the idea that I could, indeed, ride solo.
Thank you to Kelly Howard (all that is BCO), Joe Khalaf and Mike Kiefer (Team Captains), all the Team BCO Angels, Wooch Graff (our Timberline Fitness spin class instructor), my cycling guru (you know who you are). And finally, a huge gold star goes out to Tristan LeGrande (my personal trainer) for helping me to achieve my first pain-free riding season.
Big thank you, likewise, to all those who read my blog, showed interest in my training, and donated to the cause.
To my life and riding partner, Carl Alexander. For suggesting — 4 years ago — that we ride the MS 150…and doing all that it takes for us to train. Registering us for training rides, maintaining my gear and bike, printing directions and ride maps, pumping our tires, loading our bikes, and driving us to our training destinations throughout Texas.
It is truly a hell of a ride.