2003 MS150 Thank you Letter

Dear Sponsors, neighbors, family and friends:

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who supported me. Whether your support was financial, physical, spiritual or emotional, I want say thanks and let you know that I was able to raise $1055.00 that will be used to help make life better for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Next year my goal will be $2500, but I'll talk to everyone about that in January.

Those of you on my email list who received the training updates know that I rode in the MS150 as a part of Team Honeywell. My brother Jeff works for Honeywell and got me on his team for which I am extremely grateful. Having him, his wife Sandy and the rest of the Honeywell team supporting and encouraging me on this ride made it a much richer experience. Many of the team members including Jeff have ridden in a MS150 before and helped people new to the ride like me by giving advice about where things are, how they work and literally pointing us in the right direction (to the showers and port-o-pottys).

The first morning was cool and foggy and we started riding around 7:10 AM. Team Honeywell decided to start from near the home of our team captain, Phil. He lives along the route and we could get an earlier start by not having to wait in line with eleven or twelve thousand others who started from the two stadiums a few miles away. We had the wind at our backs which made for some really good riding. The roads were nice and flat. I rode with my brother for most of the day and we got to see some interesting people. There were people of all ages, races and genders. There were people on racing bikes, mountain bikes, tandem bikes, recumbent bikes, wheelchair bikes, roller blades and a unicycle. We even saw a cyclist that only had one leg (as he passed us). Jeff and I stayed together until we started on the hills. I had been hearing horror stories about "The Hills" since I decided to ride in the MS150 and was more than a little worried since all of my training has been on mostly flat ground with some gently sloping hills just north of the Woodlands. Jeff and I got separated after a few hills. I found that I could manage the hills but I needed to maintain a certain pace and found out that Jeff had injured his knee a few weeks before the ride and was not up to his usual strength. It took me 6 hours 17 minutes and 58 seconds to ride 92.36 miles before crossing the mid-point finish line in LaGrange. Team Honeywell had arranged for a large tent to be set up, my bags delivered and volunteers to cook barbeque. After getting cleaned up, eating my fill and drinking a few frosty adult beverages I was pretty much down for the night. I crawled in my sleeping bag around 9:00 PM and went to sleep quickly but after a few hours I was tossing and turning, still excited and nervous about day two. I must have dreamed I was still hungry because I woke up with grass in my mouth. Next year I'll look into a cot.

Day two started off with a pancake breakfast for several thousand. The volunteers were great and somehow managed to get us fed and ready to ride. The weather for day two was about the same as day one and after packing our bags and a quick bike check we were off, or so we thought. Some of us tried to sneak out the back way a little early so we wouldn't have to wait in a long line but apparently word got out and we ended up having to wait behind about a thousand people. There is a split route on day two. One route went through Buescher State Park and the other stayed on slightly flatter back roads. I had heard the State Park was beautiful and decided that I would try it even though the hills are supposed to be much tougher. The stories were not exaggerated, those are some killer hills. Going up the hills was tough but going down the other side was scary. The winding roads through the park are narrow with no shoulder and have trees right on the edge of the road. Going down one hill I was riding with one of the MS150 medics when he crashed after hitting some gravel at about 30 miles per hour. I was not able to stop and help since I was also going 30 mph with twenty or thirty people riding right behind me. I think he was ok and I could see him smiling after he went down so I think his pride was hurt more than his body. I am proud that I didn't have to walk my bike up any of the hills but I did have to make several unscheduled stops to rest. After the park I noticed quite a few riders that appeared to be having trouble with exhaustion, pulled muscles and the like. About a mile before the finish line I passed a guy who had hurt his leg. He was pedaling with the good leg and had swung his bad leg out of the way. He looked exhausted, his face was red and he would pedal a few times and then hang his head then look up and start pedaling again. I didn't see this guy finish but I know by the look on his face that he must have. When I got to the finish line I got goose bumps from all the people cheering and realized how lucky I am to have the health and strength to make it.

For those that are interested, over two days I completed 172.16 miles in 12 hours 15 minutes and 48 seconds of riding, which is an average speed of 13.95 MPH. My top speed during the ride was down a very steep hill at 39.1 MPH.

Sorry it has taken me so long to send out this update. I thought I would wait until I received the pictures taken of me on the ride by the professional ride photographers but it looks like it may be a while longer for those to show up if at all. I have included a picture of me that was taken on the second day of the ride. My color printer cheesed out on me so the picture is black and white.

If you would like to see the pictures I took on the ride you can see them online HERE and HERE. Feel free to email me at greg.gillis@sillig.com if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

Greg Gillis

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