2012 Bike MS City to Shore Ride Recap: Lessons Learned from 158 Miles in the Saddle

My bro and I with 79 miles behind us after the first day!
One of the first and coolest events I heard about when I moved to Philadelphia in 2007 was the Bike MS City to Shore ride. It's one of more than 100 rides across the country and throughout the year to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The rides are both personal challenges and opportunities to help create a world free of MS, which is an awful chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. All riders are required to raise a minimum of $300 to participate, but the benefits of the ride far outweigh that minimum.

My first City to Shore experience in 2009 didn't go remotely as planned and thanks to encouragement from my brother, I made it my goal to give the ride another try this year, and to make it through all 150 miles of it.

The first day of the ride begins in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and follows an incredibly well marked route through Waterford, Hammonton, Egg Harbor City, May's Landing, and Egg Harbor Township before the finish line in Ocean City. After a night in Ocean City, the ride follows the same route back to Cherry Hill to finish line number two. And if you can't ride 150+ miles over the course of the weekend, there are a number of different options. Riders could opt for 25, 40, 75 and 100 mile routes on the first day with transportation back to Cherry Hill from the finish line.

Waiting at the starting line for our wave to go.
My brother, our teammates and I arrived at PATCO's Woodcrest Station in Cherry Hill via public transit to start the ride around 7am (City to Shore pro tip: take the PATCO in lieu of driving. It'll save you time and frustration.) We dropped our overnight bags off, which would be transported to Ocean City on a truck for us, and downed a few cups of Melitta coffee before heading to the start corral. Faster paced (17mph+) riders left by 6:40am and the rest of us went in waves until 8am. It was an incredible feeling to take off just after sunrise with thousands of other people who raised money for the National MS Society, and knowing we were all on this journey together.

My first lesson - when you're on a well-supported ride, plan out the rest stops you're going to visit carefully with your team. Our team opted to visit the first rest stop in Waterford just under 20 miles into the ride to regroup, but we skipped the second one in Hammonton to try and stick to a schedule. Unfortunately, the second rest stop was the lunch stop and in hindsight, I would've preferred skipping a later stop in favor of a real meal. We did hit the third (Hammonton), fifth (May's Landing), sixth (May's Landing) and seventh (Egg Harbor Twp.) stops, though. They were great opportunities to refill water bottles and refuel along the way. It was also a chance for our team to regroup. With thousands of other cyclists on the road and our own varying speeds, it was tough to stick together for the entire ride. 

Taking a much-needed break at one of the
rest stops on day two.
My second and possibly most important lesson - it's absolutely possible to ride 158 miles in one weekend with only 90 miles of training under your belt, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. I've been involved with CrossFit for the past year and a half, work out daily, and generally stay about as active as I can. I completely credit CrossFit with surviving the ride given my minimal training, and for the fact that my legs weren't sore at all afterward. But if you've cycled any great distance, you know that the best way to get your body prepared for cycling is to sit on the bike, if for no other reason than to get your rear end accustomed to being on in the saddle for that long. My Pearl Izumi padded shorts made a huge difference, but I didn't make sitting on the bike a priority and boy did I feel it by the end of the day.

Despite the pain in my behind, I really enjoyed the 79 mile route out to Ocean City. I got to see parts of the area I've never seen, which seems to be a theme on some of my longer rides. By the time I rolled into the finish line, I was very, very ready to not be sitting on my bike, but so happy to have made it. The last few miles wind through neighborhood streets along the shore lined with people cheering and clapping. That was one of my favorite parts of the ride and the source of my third lesson - boy does it feel good to do something physically challenging for a larger purpose. My first exposure to this particular lesson came in 2010 with my Summit for Someone climb, but it's nice to be reminded of it once in a while.

We collected our luggage from the luggage tent, collected our finisher medals, parked our bikes in the overnight storage area and walked over to our rented house for an evening of eating and relaxing. (City to Shore Pro Tip: a lot of shore houses that are typically weeklong-only rentals will open up to cyclists for this event. Vacationrentals.com is a great place to look.) I took a quick snapshot of my bike computer to verify that, in fact, the ride should be called the MS158, not the MS150. Our ride from Cherry Hill to Ocean City was just shy of 80 miles. Not bad. After a giant, delicious dinner, we were all asleep by 9:30pm.

Sunrise along the boardwalk in Ocean City. We feasted on bacon and more before heading out on the second day.

The 5:30am wake-up call came much too early, as expected. We grabbed breakfast on the Ocean City Boardwalk, which was part of our entry fee (bacon!), and were back on the road by 7:30am. Easing my butt on to the seat for the first time was almost unbearable. A few miles in, I noticed a tightness developing in my Achilles tendons. It was going to be a very long day. My fourth and most obvious lesson - make sure you've got the gear you need well in advance of your event. But it's just biking. Anyone can ride a bike, right? Yes, anyone can ride a bike, but there's a big difference between riding a bike a few miles and riding a bike 158 miles. I have gloves, shoes, padded shorts and a jersey. But I've never had my bike properly fitted, my seat adjusted, or my cleats looked at to make sure they're in the right position. A fitting at a bike shop may not have entirely prevented the aches and pains, but it certainly would've helped.

They gave us the finisher medals in Ocean City,
but I earned mine by making it all the way home!
Our team hit all of the rest stops on the second day. Most of us were eager to get off the bike for a few minutes at any opportunity and we definitely didn't want to miss lunch again. Plus, with DJs and bike mechanics at each stop, it was a great chance to relax a little and get some air in our tires. (As it turned out, one of the friends I was riding with only had 16psi in one of his tires, which basically makes it feel like you're riding through mud.)

The last rest stop, which was the first rest stop from day one, was 20 miles from the finish line. We'd all separated a bit based on speed over the last stretch and stopped to regroup right before the finish. Crossing the finish line as a team was an amazing feeling.

Overall, despite my general lack of preparation, I had a blast on the ride. Huge thanks to all of the volunteers and everyone within the National MS Society - Greater Delaware Valley Chapter for making the ride possible. And there's still time to support my team and I! Visit our team fundraising page to donate through October 31st.

Have you ever done a ride like this? Would you? Any pro-tips for me for next time? Leave a comment!

Comments

Maija said…
Congratulations, Katie! I did a Century ride last year and thought that was painful - much less two days of riding, I just can't imagine. Wowza! I rode on my own but found a group of guys to ride with so we could take turns pulling and drafting, which made the ride SO much easier than doing it "on your own." It sounds like a really well organized event though, which makes it a lot more fun, especially with plenty of rest-stops to re-fuel at!
The Journey TV said…
Great Job! Cycling tours are a blast.. the MS cycling events are a great time and you meet some good folks.
Katie @advinspired said…
Thanks! It was fun and now that I've had a few days to recover, I'd consider doing it again :) I did meet some awesome people at the rest stops for sure, and got to spend quality time with friends the evening of the first day.
Katie @advinspired said…
Thanks, Maija! I don't know if I could've taken on another 20 miles on that first day, yikes. A Century just sounds so intimidating! Maybe that'll be my next goal...after my butt recovers :)

And yep, drafting definitely helped. We did a little bit of it as a team, and when we were all riding single file on some of the busier roads, we all got drafts by default. I relied on that a lot to get me through the second day.

The ride was amazingly well organized! They had volunteers or police cars at all of the intersections, which made it impossible to get lost. That was huge.
calipidder said…
I am impressed! I can't even sit on a stationary bike for 5 miles without getting a sore butt. And if I ever do decide to ride further, I'll keep your lessons in mind!
Heather Balogh said…
I am so proud of you, Ms. Levy!!! Now we can go ride bikes! :)
Haley D said…
Great job!!! 30 miles is about my limit right now, lol. I'd love to get some longer rides under my belt though. I'm hoping to do the Lotoja one of these years.
Katie @advinspired said…
thanks, Haley! holy moly, 200 miles in one day? that's pretty amazing. I'm sure you could do it with a little training!
Katie @advinspired said…
oh man, I totally understand! I really think conditioning your rear end to sit for that long is a key part of training, and one I clearly didn't pay enough attention to :)
Heidi Henry said…
Woot woot! Way to go Katie!!
@ginabegin said…
Congratulations on this, Katie. I have experienced that saddle pain and it never seems to get better, no matter how much I ride! I applaud you for sticking with it!
Katie said…
Thanks Hiedi :) I was channeling you and all of your running power the entire weekend!
Katie said…
It was so a matter of pride, Gina :) There's no way I was stopping! I know the saddle pain will never go away, but if I do this again, I'm definitely going to train a little more!
mommy said…
i'm so proud of you two - and so happy you road together!!!
mommy said…
whoops - that's rode- i think :)
Aaron Levy said…
I look so punchy in the picture.


Next year we're doing the century on day 1 :)
Katie said…
Thanks, Mom :) We should do it as a family one year!
Katie said…
I felt so punchy in that picture! I'm definitely taking the bike in for a fitting as soon as I can. And you're definitely getting the wheels turning...I'd love to have an expert cyclist do a guest post about pedaling technique and other beginner tips!
@ginabegin said…
You inspire me, Miss Katie! :D I can't wait to get back on the bike (as soon as I can find a place on my car to put it! ;)
Katie said…
Thanks Gina! You're a huge inspiration to me too :) I invested in a Yakima rack a few years ago and though it was a little pricey, it was a great investment.
@ginabegin said…
All my rack gear is in Utah... I have the crossbars up but that's about it. I just need to commit to going west, but I feel if I do, I'll stay. And I don't think I'm done exploring the east yet. ;)