I’ll be honest that before participating, I was warned about the convoluted logistics of putting this type of event together. From what others told me, my expectation was that it would be a major hassle and constant inconvenience. It sounds like there have been issues in previous years, but I found nothing of the sort. The opposite was true. For an event of this scale, I was surprised at how invisible the logistical arms moved. The only thing really inconvenient was the wake-up time on Day 2, but frankly, getting up that early was probably for the best. It made me more prepared to ride when everything started.
The MS Ride was a blast. I had an amazing time and cannot wait to do it again. Here are some my favorite things.
Lunch. I love the fact that they had designated lunch spots with wholesome meals. I firmly believe that an endurance athlete requires something substantial to eat sometime during the day. Gel packets and Clif bars do not cut it for eight hours. On most rides I will make do with rest stop fare. That is usually PBJ sandwiches, fig newtons or cookies. At the MS Ride, they had actual sandwiches with pasta salad, chips, etc. and a place to sit down and take a break. Even though I didn’t take advantage of the resting time on the second day, it was great for the first day when we rode casually as a team.
Showers. This is something usually overlooked after a long ride. After 50, 75 or 100 miles, a cyclist is going to be uncomfortable, not to mention smelly. If there are any sort of festivities without a shower, they will likely get very little attention. Usually I’ll grab a bite to eat and get going. Since the MS Ride is both a social and fitness event, it makes sense that we have a chance to clean up before engaging with each other.
Amenities. Getting a massage after a hard ride is sublime. BikeMS did a great job at hiring good people and making them accessible to the riders for a nominal fee. Other frills were also great, like the Pepsi trucks, the Ice Cream bars, good food, etc.
Beer. I can’t think of many cyclists who don’t like beer. It was nice to have it available in decent quantity at the Francis Marion event. They even had Fat Tire, a favorite of cyclists. It is no surprise that it didn’t last nearly as long as Budweiser or Mich Ultra. There was a four drink maximum. I took advantage of three on Saturday because I was riding Sunday. You know, responsibility.
The Beach. The coolest thing is that we actually ride to a fun destination. A number of people combined the ride with their own vacations. My only regret is I didn’t realize that I could ride to the beach after finishing. I gave my bike to the volunteers almost immediately after finishing. That wasn’t going to keep me from the beach, so me and a friend ended up walking. When we were there, we walked the pier and saw other cyclists had taken their bikes and jumped on with jerseys and bib numbers intact. They probably didn’t have the most comfortable ride home, but I totally get it. Next year I’m riding the rest of the way.
The Crowd and Volunteers. I always make it a habit to thank volunteers at every rest stop. Having recently done it myself, I understand that they volunteers give a lot of themselves. This was the only ride where the volunteers enthusiastically thanked me. I think that was just because of the charitable nature of the ride, that we were doing this for such a great cause. They were thrilled to help and it showed. Many of them applauded and they made us feel constantly welcome.
The Stories. The guy who owns the bike pictured below attempted a double century. There was another rider who completed a double century on a mountain bike with massive tires. I met some great people along the way. I met another couple who had never ridden more than 25 miles at a time, and that was only on the Swamp Rabbit Trail outside of Greenville, yet they completed all 125 miles of the MS Ride. Now that is some dedication. On the second day when riding fast, I passed a lot of the 50-mile riders en route to the finish line. Many of these people were not athletes and did not have the top of the line road bike. They were just regular people riding casually for charity. When passing, I always tried to acknowledge them and give encouragement. There were a lot of returned, appreciative smiles.
Thanks to all involved for putting up this event. Here are some more photos: