2011 Citrus Tour - A Race to Fight MS

One day, while finishing up my regular employee fitness class, a participant and co-worker approached me with an innocent question, "Do you ride bikes?"  Without much thought, I replied, "Sure I do," meaning that I go on leisurely rides with my wife on most weekends.  He then asked if I would like to participate in this years Bike MS Citrus Tour, which, he assured me, would be "a lot of fun".   I really had no idea what I was signing up for, but as a personal trainer I had an image to uphold and I noticed my mouth forming the words, "Sign me up."

A few days later, I received the first in a series of emails which began to make clear what exactly I was signing up for. According to the official website, the MS Citrus Tour, whose purpose is to raise funds for the fight against Multiple Sclerosis, takes place along "some of the most challenging and pastoral terrain in the state," and although they make assurances to "support you every mile", the ride itself is, at minimum, a 100 mile affair.

Helpless to divert the hand of fate, I plunged into the task at hand.  The first item on my checklist was based on feedback from veteran riders who advised that I "really shouldn't" use my mountain bike for this type of event.  So off I went to find a suitable road bike.  

A few minutes online and a trip to the bike shop later and purchasing a new or used ride was immediately struck from my list of options.  Around the same time, my usual four-wheeled mode of conveyance, my car, broke down and was in need of substantial repairs.  A road bike's worth of car parts and labor ensured that our family budget was no longer able to accommodate such a purchase. Luckily (unluckily?) I recalled faint memories of a "bike" sitting in my parent's garage.

A relic from my childhood (I vaguely remember falling off of it as a youngster), the bike, heretofore referred to as the Federico 4000 (F4000 for short), was built by a friend of my Dad back in the 80's.  A cycling Dr. Frankenstein, this mysterious inventor had conceived of a serious drawback to your standard bicycle.  I can almost imagine the moment of inspiration.  

It was a clear sunny day and Mike (a fictitious name) was riding his normal boring bicycle.  He was pedaling furiously, but was simply not going fast enough.  At once he gazed down at his hands gripping the handle-bar and a light went off.  "By Jove I think I've got it!" Mike exclaimed.  "Two pedals are better than one!"  

He was back to his workshop lickety-split where he ordained the unholy marriage of a fixie bike and an old Schwinn 12-speed roadie.  Thus the F4000 was born, and my Dad, the early-adopter that he is, simply had to have one.  

Twenty-odd years later and it is clear that the concept didn't take off, but nevertheless, I became the benefactor of Mike's handiwork.  The T4000 seemed to be in decent enough shape save for a bald rear tire, so one trip to the local bike shop and one new tire later (insert shout out to Kyle's Bikes in Orlando Fl) I had my chariot.

The next challenge was related to finances as well, but rather than it being a question of whether or not to spend my own money, I was tasked with asking others to part with their hard-earned greenbacks.  My employer paid for my race registration, but each participant in our company team was required to raise a minimum of $250 otherwise they would be personally ponying up on race-day.

Although I was initially intimidated by this fundraising goal, I quickly decided that action would be the only antidote to anxiety and quickly devised a plan.  People seem to like seeing symbolic thermometers fill when donating money so I found a manilla envelope, carefully drew a large thermometer marked with various "temperatures" (correlated of course with specific sums of money), and pulled up my Gmail contacts list.  A flurry of emails soon went out to friends, family, co-workers, associates, and near-strangers and I began the waiting game.

My expectations were low, but I was open to being surprised.  And surprised I was, as donations quickly came in from all directions. The generosity of my social network was a reminder that given the opportunity, people are more than willing to help support a good cause.  The temperature quickly began rising as I received cash, checks, and online donations through my personal fundraising site.  $100, $200, $250, $300, and finally $326 dollars.  Needless to say, the thermometer exploded in a wave of red marker.

If worrying about asking for money wasn't enough, during the months leading up to race day, I was regaled by horror stories told with great aplomb by the previous years' participants.  These stories inevitably involved backsides rubbed raw by unforgiving bicycle seats and the necessity of special padded shorts and a substance known as "butt butter".  There was also the matter of spontaneous flat tires and therefore the need to pack CO2 cartridges, spare tubes, and special shirts with pockets to hold the cartridges and tubes.  High-speed crashes and contusions as well as dangerously low blood glucose levels were also a distinct possibility, so I would also need a helmet and an ample stockpile of Clif bars.

Surveying the list of required items I disregarded them in turn. Bike shorts?  How about whatever is in my drawer.  And padding?  Inherited from my father.  CO2 and replacement tubes got the axe when I learned that on race day there would be numerous support vehicles filled with the necessary parts, and more importantly, filled with people who knew how to change a bike tire.  Helmet?  An old skateboard helmet that had been used during a family snowboarding trip would do.  And Clif bars?  My predilection for paleolithic foodstuffs would dictate that I refuel with more primitive fare.  (Insert foreshadowing and the definition of hubris: 1. Excessive pride or self-confidence. 2. (in Greek tragedy) Excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.)

With bike and funds in hand and the matter of clothing and other ancillary supplies settled, physical training now took center stage.  Our team captain had dutifully organized training rides that progressively increased mileage on local bike trails each and every weekend, but there always seemed to be something that seemed much more appealing that waking up at 6am to ride a bike for 50 miles.  I opted instead for a single training ride the week before the event.  (This near-disaster is detailed in the post in the post "Train for Life")

The last days leading up to the race went by quickly and before I knew it, I was frantically sorting, piling, and packing up items that I thought necessary.  Of course food was at the top of the list so I squandered a substantial amount of time that would have been better spent sleeping on baking sweet potatoes, packing up bags of protein powder, and deciding which books I would like to read while relaxing in my hotel room after the first days ride.  

I estimated that I would need to wake up around 4am to make it to Bok Tower, the race's starting point, by 6:30am.  I based this estimate on Google Maps and the fact that I would need to swing by our hotel to drop off my luggage and grab a bite to eat.  What Google Maps didn't estimate was how long it would take to unclog and clean up an overflowing toilet at 4:30am.  Thoughts of a last-minute bailout also flowed uncontrollably, but I was coaxed forward by the mechanical maiden lodged inside my wife's GPS ("Continue for an additional twelve-point-three miles").  

Soon, the gothic-structure known as Bok Tower came into view and delightful volunteers seamlessly transitioned me from citizen to cyclist.  With practiced hands they pinned my race number on my back and slapped a "First Year Rider Be Kind!" sticker on my helmet.  One lady, whose husband had apparently needed to be "spatula-ed off the pavement" during last years ride shared with me advice on how to avoid "going ass over tea-kettle."  

The bulk of the racing pack was long gone and the cheering crowd thinned to a handful of die-hard volunteers.  Nobody really noticed when I pulled across the starting line and soon I was riding into the mist and into adventure.

The Bike MS Citrus Tour 2011 had officially begun.

To find out how my ride went, subscribe to my feed and stay tuned for a full podcast of the two day event!

In the meantime, here are some pictures...

Orange is the color for danger in the animal kingdom.

The F4000

I love the smell of over-confidence in the morning.

A cycling elder lecturing his young ward on the importance of shifting gears.

The first of many glorious rest stops.

The only person at the race crazier than me.

A water tower rising up out of the ubiquitous citrus groves.

I just thought this tree looked really cool and loved how it had a "no trespassing " sign tacked onto it.

Hungry cyclists circling the snack table.

The announcement that Day 2 was a "go" after serious thunderstorms the previous morning and night.

The start on day 2.  You could cut the anticipation with a derailleur.

Some adult's unintentionally (?) terrifying idea of a "fun" water fountain.

The brake cable snapped clean off, right before the entire handle followed suit.

The best darn team in the whole wide world celebrating a great weekend.
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. A frankenbiker does not go down in flames

  2. Reminds me of my first Century Race. Different bike, no "Be kind" sticker thou...

    Fantastic story man... Excellent read on a Sat morning at 6am :) Thanks!

  3. The Frankenbiker abides! I'm glad you like the story Mike, thanks for the positive feedback!