The night before our first MS-150 volunteer stint, I got only an hour's sleep. Brutal. I typically have difficulty sleeping before any big ride. I was planning to ride from my post to my husband's at the end of my shift, but the "short" mileage shouldn't have adrenalized me.
We got to the start line in time, before all the traffic hit, but the volunteer guarding the VIP parking wouldn't even talk to us because I didn't have a VIP parking pass, which was in the High Roller packet I wanted to pick up inside the building.
We drove to the general parking area and explained the situation. I just needed to pick up my packet. We were volunteering and needed to get to our posts. We weren't staying. The parking volunteer saw my jersey and our bikes are in the back of the car and thought we were lying. He called over a manager. We explained the situation again, and the manager directed us to the long-term VIP parking area. Well, at least we were able to park and get back out of there fairly quickly.
When I went into the building to get my packet, the volunteers rang their cow bells for me because I had reached High Roller status last year. Awards are presented the year after the accomplishment. I was the only "rider" in the room picking up my packet at that moment, so the volunteers all rang their bells for me. Pretty darned awesome! Made up for the year they rang the bells for me and I broke down in tears because I couldn't ride because my back was so sore. This year's experience totally made up for that heartbreaker!
After leaving the community college, we set up at my stop, and The Lizard stayed with me for a while, both of us ringing bells for the early bird riders.
Soon Lizard had to leave for his post. I continued ringing bells until a little after 8, I think, which was about when I was supposed to be released. Except I didn't get released. I stood at my post for a while longer, until a volunteer in a SAG vehicle who had been watching me for a while approached to find out if I was waiting for another rider. I told him I was a volunteer and I hadn't been released. He said the riders had been done for ten minutes.
When planning this volunteer effort and learning I would be able to ride to my husband's post when I finished my own shift, I set a goal to stay ahead of the Sweep (the final SAG vehicle on every ride because it "sweeps" the route to make sure all riders are accounted for) just in case I had a problem, even though I wouldn't be an official rider this year.
By the time I finally was released, I was ten minutes behind the last official rider, possibly about two miles. Ouch.
I pedaled hard for the first 18 miles before finally catching the last two riders. I rode alone for 18 miles. Actually, I rode alone the whole day, but initially alone meaning way behind the pack. I'm not strong enough or powerful enough to actually catch and overtake many riders. They have to ride slower than me for me to catch them. That doesn't happen often.
However, I can skip rest stops, and I can do my rest stops in 2 to 5 minutes, while some riders take 20 to 30 minutes at each stop. I may have passed two riders taking a break at the first rest stop, but I wasn't sure. No one passed me before the second rest stop. The first rest stop was almost completely broken down, and all the volunteers were preparing to leave. They waved to me as I rode by.
I passed the next rest stop without stopping, too, and there may have been about 8 riders still there. All eight of them passed me in the next ten miles. The last rider to pass me told me she was the last rider. Not anymore!
I would have liked to have ridden with her, but at that point, I was doing about 10 mph, and she was doing about 12 or 13. I didn't want to slow her down, especially on her mission to not be last.
Before I passed the rest stop, I saw the official Sweep vehicle and pulled over to tell the volunteers I was with them but not with them because I didn't want them to pass me by again. They didn’t. That helped me feel a little more secure in riding alone the rest of the day.
Before I reached the third rest stop, which was in Hygiene, I realized Hygiene probably would be at about the 30-mile mark and that it was at least 20 miles more to reach The Lizard.
I'd gone into this ride thinking I would be riding 30 miles to where The Lizard was stationed in Loveland. I had carried enough food and water for 30 miles, and I didn't bring sun screen. My mouse elbow (from mousing too much at work) was really giving me a hard time. I didn't want to ride any further.
At Hygiene, I stopped, most discouraged to learn I still had 22 more miles to reach The Lizard. I'd pushed hard to that point, and I didn't know if I could eek out another 20 miles. My goal before I started riding was to pass 10 riders, which was not possible because I didn't get to leave in time.
I'd also planned to shoot photos of my co-workers who also were volunteering along the way, but most of them had been released before I could reach them. Disappointment was taking such a big bite out of me.
As a cow bell-ringing volunteer, I had been surprised at the strength of most of the last 50 or so riders. A lot of the last riders knew they could do the whole course in four hours or so, and they didn't mind leaving behind the pack. They apparently also don't mind heat. I'm a total heat wimp on my bike.
At least 20 riders were resting at the third stop. After I smeared on layers of sunscreen, drank two little cups of pineapple juice and swallowed two more little cups of pineapple chunks practically whole, I took off, doubling my goal of passing 10 riders. I was now 20th from being last and a happy camper, except that I still had 20 more miles to ride, and I wasn't sure I could pedal that much further. I hadn't done 50 miles on a bike since January, and that day, it was bitter cold, not nearing 90 degrees!
I was passed only three times or so before I hit 15 miles to my husband. At 15 miles, my attitude changed. I knew I could do 15 miles any time, any day. Even in heat. 15 miles don't scare me.
At the fourth rest stop, which was the fantastic lunch stop, I ate a big bowl of quinoa salad. The volunteers were out of bottles of cold water and had only pop, which I don't drink. About 50 riders were sitting around, trying to decide if they wanted to ride any more. I still had a handful of riders behind me.
The quinoa worked magic. Suddenly I knew I could do the last 12 miles, and I got back on my bike totally stoked.
My elbow still hurt, but I had energy, and I still had a bit of ice water in my second bottle, which I'd frozen the night before. I decided I would make it to Loveland no matter what. I passed six riders, I think. Actually passing other riders, even if they were tired, fed my enthusiasm even more.
I passed the next rest stop, keeping my eye glued on my odometer. Two more miles! A mile and a half more! Just a mile! BAM! There he is!!!
I was totally spent, but I had made it!
I sat down in the chair The Lizard had brought along and ate the mushy tuna sandwich I hadn't had the stomach to eat at the lunch stop and had carried in my jersey pocket, then downed a bottle of his water, which wasn't very cold, but I did not care at all.
After cooling down, I walked a block to McDonald's to use the restroom and get The Lizard a Coke and a cheeseburger. He downed the cheeseburger in no time, and I took four sips of his Coke, my first carbonated drink since 2002, because I was so thirsty for something icy cold. I sat down once again in the folding chair at The Lizard's station and was out like a light bulb in less than about 20 seconds!!! I don't know how long I slept, but a couple of good bolts of thunder and raindrops finally woke me.
The Lizard said about 200 cyclists had gone by since I'd arrived.
It was a long, hot day, but I made it, and I really surpassed my riding goal!
The two of us got to spend the night in one of the brand new engineering dorms at CSU because we would be volunteering again the next morning in Fort Collins. This time, together. We were done in time for me to go to church, and the ride home was uneventful, as far as I know. I slept almost the entire way!
I'm really glad I got to see the MS-150 I've ridden for about 15 years from a volunteer point of view, and I'm so thankful I got to ride a portion of the course, even though I wasn't an official rider, because it built my confidence, and I don't have to say I sat out this year's ride.