Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NS MS Bike Tour


Since I do a fair bit of photography myself, and this blog's name is a reference to that (if you're wondering) I should point out that none of these pictures are ones I took. They've all been stolen from elsewhere (mostly from Denise). :)

Shauna and I both rode in two Multiple Sclerosis Bike Tours this summer.

This is a summary of the NS tour.....

We're both on a team of outstanding individuals who refer to ourselves as the Cycledelics. This year we were the Cycle-dude-delics.....as our theme was surfing, and all other things Hawaiian.

Where to begin? Ahhh....that is really the question, because, you see, this year's bike tour really started about 2 hours after last year's ended. At least for us.

That's when we met at Denise's place to plan, scheme, and concoct our theme, for this year. And shortly after last year's tour, Shauna and I were on the trails and roads of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, riding, training, having fun, call it what you will (we don't call it training, because our team has a prohibition against that, we just like to ride bicycles).

But weeks before the bike tour, preparation begins in earnest. There are gizmos to be bought (I bought a couple Puka shell necklaces, one of which actually fit), shirts to be ordered, decals to be ironed on, and decorating to be done.

Last year, we went with a cow theme, and the year before we'd gone with a prison theme. This year, a surfing theme. We decided on a single shirt for this tour, the idea being that people would wear riding jerseys, and such like, on day two. On day two of the year before last, we wore bright orange shirts (with inmate stenciled on the back). We discovered that made people really easy to identify, imagine that. In recognition of that fact, this year, we went with a bright yellow, with blue text.

A couple weeks before the ride, we gathered to decorate the shirts. There were decals to be ironed on, and there was lots of fabric paint. Some people went nuts. I was restrained.

Shauna and Denise Iron on Decals
We had a little surfer dude on the upper left breast of the T-Shirt, so I put a palm tree in front of him, and a shark fin behind him. :-)
Between the Devil and The Big Palm Tree
It was a great afternoon, with excellent food, company, and of course a few beverages.

On the actual day of the tour, I got to the starting point (Kings Edgehill School in Windsor NS) at about 7:30, a full 30 minutes before registration was due to start. The volunteers were in place early so by 8:30 I felt I was in good shape. I had the bike unloaded from the car, bike shoes (with cleats) on, and then, as I reached for my brain bucket and gloves, I realized I'd left them behind.

Before I left to go back home, I spoke to our team captain to explain to the situation. I could have ridden without the helmet, but the gloves were essential (OK, you figure it out). :-)

I streaked back home, got the missing gear, and streaked back to Windsor. Officially the ride started at 8:45, but because there were 475 riders this year (yeah, that's a lot) they were starting in groups.....The route is not closed to traffic, we compete with cars for space on the road, but there are signs warning motorists that go up a couple days in advance.

Everyone wore their yellow T-Shirts the first day (as you can see above), and not seeing any such shirts upon my return, I surmised that most of my team were already en route, so I tried to sneak out.

I got caught. I had to wait in the pack to be released with the next group of riders.

Fortunately the wait wasn't long, and while I was waiting I saw two of my team mates behind me, so I wasn't last. I did miss out on the team's starting pic as a result of my stupidity however.

Once released upon the course I motored. Shauna, my other half (who has MS) was out there somewhere. She left early, before the official start, to maximize her exposure to the cool weather. If you don't know, heat is really hard on people with MS. In fact, an early diagnostic technique was the hot bath test: http://www.msrc.co.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=show&pageid=1708

I caught up to her just before the 3rd rest stop (the last one before Acadia University). At the third rest stop my average speed was 20.5 km/hr, which represented about a 3km/hr increase over the year before.

The rest stops are great, and the 3rd one won the best rest stop award. All the rest stops are staffed by volunteers, and this one included a Hawaiian theme, completely independent of us.

At this point most, but not all, of my team was behind me. We were strung out on the course, over 30 kilometers. That's what we do. Some of us ride in groups, some ride at their own pace. The main goal is to have fun, whatever that translates into for the individual. Improving my level of physical fitness is one of my motivations for doing this, so I like to push it. Plus I like to go really fast down the big hills.... :)

Last year, when several of the team members arrived at Acadia, there were no sandwiches left. People were tired, hungry, and cranky, and it was a long time until supper, so this year we decided in addition to the rest stops, we would run our very own team support vehicle, with food.

Cranky Sandra

One of our team members, Sandra, injured her knee this year. Badly. Surgery was required, and she's still in Physio. She couldn't ride this year, unfortunately, but instead she worked as a volunteer in the NB ride (more on that in another post) and in the NS ride, she fed the team by staffing the support vehicle with the other Shauna. She even fed a few members of other teams.... :)

Sandra Hand Feeds a Live Wire

Given how spread out our team was, Sandra's job was very challenging. I never saw her on Day 1, until I got to Acadia. I did get a sandwich though, and all I can say is it was well worth the wait. I had lots of snacks to eat at the rest stops, and I'd packed about a pound of beef jerky on the bike in case I got desperate. I didn't need it, but it was nice to know it was there. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, that is what was sticking out of the back of my pants..... :)

From the third rest stop to Acadia University, it is mostly uphill. My average speed dropped to 19.5 km/hr by the time I reached Acadia. I elected, this year, not to go out to Canning. I did that the previous year, and while it is a wonderful ride, I decided to quit while I still had a bit of energy. I grabbed a wrap from Sandra at Acadia (yum) and chilled.

After the ride, the team gathered at Denise's dorm for the after ride party. There was lots of beer, wine, chips, and various other food groups.

Denise and I
Party Time
After the team festivities, we went down to the banquet. Doug had THE MOST AWESOME SHIRT! It had drink recipes on it. WAY COOL! Even cooler, was the fact that he'd bought two of them at a yard sale for the princely sum of $1.50. :) Doug is a character! He's on 24x7, fun to be around, and a wonderful person.
The Walk To Dinner
I WANT that shirt, if only for the recipes......come on man, you've got two of them..... :)

Denise had been down there to decorate our table. I'd walked down (and hiked back up) a couple of times, but managed to miss her. I wanted to help, but my timing was off.....no matter, she got it done, and our table rocked!
Our Table With Trohpy

One of our new teammates, Alex, was feeling a little warm. It was warm in banquet hall, which is even worse when you've jolted your metabolism into high gear by peddling all day. At one point, during the banquet, she started fanning herself, and said 'I'm hot'. I told her to stop bragging..... :-)


Shauna and Cranky Baby were there, of course, along with Les, who got lost later (see below)....
Shauna, Les and CB
After the banquet I got a ride back (uphill) with Woody and his wife. It took me a long time to go to sleep, almost 0.003 microseconds........

Woody is a little bit older than I am, and this may be the last tour he rides in.

He and his wife went to Scotland this year (hence the mixing of themes, though thankfully not Scotch in the above image) and I expect to see him as a volunteer in the future. Regardless, this man's indomitable will is an inspiration. If I can do that at the tender age of 37, like him, I'll be set for life! :-) OK, Woody might be a little older than 37 (I am) but DON'T TELL ANYONE! He and Imhotep guard their real age CLOSELY.....:)

The next morning, I got up at 6am. I was pleased to see it was foggy and cool. I was hopeful it would rain the second day, like it did last year. I went into breakfast around 6:40 with that wish firmly in mind, but when I came out at 7:10 the fog was gone, and there was a mostly clear blue sky overhead. I knew then it was going to be a hot day.

I went back to my room, packed, and went to get my bike at the bike storage area. I was on the road by 7:45. Despite being low on caffeine, I caught up to Shauna at the top of the hill coming out of Acadia. I rode with her for a bit, and then streaked down the hill that I'd climbed the day before, hitting 53.7 km/hr. Someone really should repave that hill.....OK, OK, and/or I probably should slow down......but....WHEEEEEEE :)

At the bottom of the hill was the Gaspereau river. This is where Shauna and several other cyclists refreshed themselves the day before.....I waited, and waited, and waited for her to arrive., several other cyclists came down, but none of them were her.

When she finally arrived I learned that Cranky Baby had fallen off, and may have suffered a back injury, so she'd been strapped to a backboard for the duration, until she could receive proper medical attention.

We passed a neurologist en route, but he was performing surgery on a mountain bike that I think he'd borrowed from one his great great grandsons.....he was, to say the least, preoccupied...I think it was Cranky Baby's first introduction to waiting times......probably not her last.

The neurologist we passed is one of Shauna's doctors. He deserves every accolade in the book for even attempting the tour on that bike (especially since he's at least over 40 years of age). My only advice for next year would be a non-mountain bike..... :) Dude, you rock!

At Hantsport I stopped at the local Tim Horton's coffee shop, a tradition with us Cycledelics (at least after last year). After about 30 minutes, Shauna showed up and we sat and enjoyed our coffee. Shauna got a ride from our support vehicle to the top of Mount Denson from there, and I arrived shortly after they stopped and had a bit of the food that was left over from the day before.... :)

After my brief snack, I hit the road again. Shauna had indicated she thought the remainder of the ride was 'fairly flat', but a couple of the hills I encountered made me wonder if she would hitch a ride. She didn't, she persisted to the final rest stop before Windsor.

The last rest stop on the tour on day two is also the first one on day one. This is about 14 kms out of Kings Edgehill School, at the Sainte Famille winery: http://www.st-famille.com/main.htm.

Doug was talking up a wine there. He insisted that they were doing tastings inside. Eventually, a group of us followed him in.

Doug is the same individual who promised us all a piece of Key Lime pie on my first tour, just over the next hill...repeatedly.... :) I'm still waiting...in fact, I'm no longer sure he knows, exactly, what Key Lime Pie is..... :)

I was, as I said, cautious, but optimistic.....It turned out that they were sampling the wine that Doug was bragging about. And better than that, it was EVERY bit as good as he said it was...plus the room was air conditioned, which after 34 kms made everything taste better!

When Shauna arrived I waved her up, and forced her to try some wine. I really had to insist, she.....OK....truth here, she didn't put up much of a fuss. After tasting it, she suggested that I return later to acquire some, so I did....

Shauna and Woody decided to call it quits at the last rest stop. Their bikes were loaded onto a car, and driven back to Wolfville.

There is absolutely no shame in this. Shauna has MS, and it is remarkable that she can do 20 km, let alone the 80 over 2 days that she actually did do....Woody is, uh, over 40 as well.... :) He was going to be a volunteer this year, but decided to ride instead. He stopped because he knee was bothering him. Kudos to both of them for knowing their limits and riding within them.

Just outside Kings Edgehill School, we all stopped, in ones and twos, until the whole team was gathered, or most of it. Missing was one person, whose plight I will get to shortly.

When 'everyone' had arrived, we took off for the finish line. Alex suffered a chain derailment, which prompted 'someone' to point out that hills should be taken in 'low' gear not 'no' gear..... :)

After we had all crossed the finish line, Les' wife asked the pivotal question.....

Where is Les?

Les lives in the area. He had to go to the airport that morning, but was supposed to ride out to meet us at the last rest stop. We couldn't figure out how he missed us (or we missed him),at least until we heard the story.

Les knew a short cut to the rest stop that involved fewer hills and was faster, so Les took that route. The other route, the one that none of us was on. We were on the official route. Based on the fact that we arrived at the last rest stop last year, Les thought he had lots of time. He actually had 'Les' time than he realized! :-)

After reaching the rest stop he engaged the volunteers in conversation, and eventually learned that there were only 'a couple of stragglers' left on the course. About this time, as it turned out, the team was sitting in Windsor wondering:

'Where is Les?'
'How did we miss him?'
'How did he miss us?'

Les biked home, and took the car back to the King's Edgehill, where, posterity will record, his wife called him a twit.......:)

Been there, done that, all I can say is 'Dude, sucks to be you!'.

And no, you will probably never live that one down.... :)

The team gathered at Denise's place after the ride for BBQ, swimming and tales of the invisible ghost bike ridden by Les.... :) And of course to start planning for next year... :)

Important stats from the weekend:

My average speed: 19.5 km/hr over two days
My Top Speed: 53.7 km/hr
Total Monies Raised: 478,945.33
Team Total: > 26709.30 and counting
Team Top Fundraiser: Shauna @ $5233.86 and counting
My Fundraising: $1679.00 and counting
Riders Registered: 475
Cycledelics Awards Won:
Team Spirit
3rd Runner Up (Team Fundraising)
Team Cheer (Keep it simple, and you won't be MOOOOO'd)

A special thanks to our sponsors. This year we wore only one team shirt, as opposed to the customary two, as everyone dressed 'tropically' for the banquet. Both Lawton's Drugs and Ocean Nutrition were recognized team sponsors. Ocean Nutrition covered the cost of our bright yellow T-Shirts, which everyone wore on day 1.

My personal sponsors also deserve a special round of applause. First and foremost is Felcor Lodging Trust. This company, headquartered in Texas, has been a big sponsor over the last three years, and deserves special recognition for their consistent support. If you're ever in Halifax just call me. We'll find the time, we'll find the leaves, or the pools of fish, or the deer...moose are harder to find, but I know people, I'm sure we can work it out. Seriously, room and board covered for hunting, fishing or photography. If you want to go Salmon fishing on the Margaree River, let me know. I know people, we can work something out..... :) Just remember, Cranky Baby might want to help you land that fish.... :)

The Brewing Centres (now known as Noble Grape) have also been big supporters of my efforts in the bike tour over each of the last three years. Hats off to all for that!

Another big supporter has been the Sylvan Learning Centres of HRM. Sylvan has been a strong contributor for the last three years.

My employer, Syntact Consulting, deserves a lot of credit! Not only did they give me the time off, but several people contributed to my fund raising efforts.

Last but by no means least, I have to mention a 'rival' team. An individual named Larry Creaser (whom it was my pleasure to meet this weekend) was diagnosed with primary progressive MS about 8 years ago. Last year, they had 50 riders, and caused quite a stir. This year they were over 100 riders, and by themselves raised over $175,000, with one single rider raising over $30,000 by cycling from Toronto to Lunnenburg.

When I started riding in 2006, I took 3rd runner up in fund raising with $5500. This year the bar was raised, and 3rd runner up was was over $8000. It is hard to be disappointed with my own shortcomings when I realize that I've helped raise the bar. This year the Atlantic Division started recognizing their top 50 fundraisers.....kinda scary to realize that I was #47 last year, and yet, this year I'll be lucky to place in the top 100 in the Atlantic Division.

Planning for next year has already begun. Trails are being ridden (its NOT training, we just like it) and ideas are being floated. As always, next year's possible themes are a closely guarded secret...I could tell you, but then, well, I'd have to keep you on ice in an undisclosed location for the rest of the year......:-)


Blogger Shauna said...

Hey Wookie,

Last year we were the Cy-Cow-Delics. The year before we were the Inmates, In It For Life.
Welcome to the world of blogging!


August 12, 2008 at 5:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home