Monday, April 16, 2018

Winter Won't Leave

The last time I posted was in January. That's mostly because I haven't ridden my bike since then. It's April 16 and there is snow on the ground.

My goal for this year was to ride 1,500 miles. When I got out for a ride late in January I thought I was going to easily make my goal. There was no riding in February, but that wasn't unexpected. It was winter in Michigan after all.  Usually in March we can get out a few times. There were a couple of nice days, but by the time I got home it was either getting dark or cold. Now it's April. We ALWAYS ride in April. We start team rides in early April. On April 15 the last two years I rode 20 and 32 miles respectively. But so far no rides in March or April.

There are some of my team mates that ride no matter what the weather. Although none of them were out in the ice, freezing rain, snow and sleet we had yesterday. I just want it to be over 50 and sunny. Is that so much to ask? Apparently it is this year.

Friday, January 26, 2018

First ride of the year

It was sunny and 51 degrees today so I got out for my first outdoor ride of 2018. It wasn't a long ride, just 12.5 miles on the White Pine Trail, but it was hard. I haven't been on the bike in a couple of months, either outside or on the trainer (I hate the trainer). After about three miles I was considering looping back home for a five mile ride. But that's seemed a little silly. So I pushed on, adjusting my route to head south instead of north. The wind had kicked up and it from the south west, so I wanted to ride into the wind while I was fresh. We'll fresh may not be the right word. As good as it felt mentally to be out in January, physically I'm not quite there yet.

We also signed up for our 14th JDRF Ride for a Cure. This year we will be riding in Santa Fe, New Mexico the first weekend in November. Baseline elevation is 7,000 feet and there is 7,000 feet of climbing. Looks like we are going to need to do hill training again this year. If you would like to support our ride you can make a donation to Mary by clicking here or Tom by clicking here. Or you can use the links over on the left side of this page. Thanks.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

So long to 2017

The last post of the year on the last day of the year. This appears to becoming a tradition. (Mostly because I've now done it twice in a row.) 2017 was a good year for me and my bicycle. I rode 1,221 miles and had no crashes. I did the full century ride at the JDRF Ride in Colorado and managed to get in a few metric and half centuries along the way.

JDRF Ride to a Cure in Loveland, Colorado.
Looking ahead to 2018, I'd like to up my mileage and my fitness level. Maybe it's because of the major birthday I had this past October, but I don't feel like I'm in as good of shape as I've been in the past. So I'm going to ride more this coming year, with a goal of at least 1,500 miles split between road and mountain biking. Mary and I have been doing some hiking, but we are going to do more frequent hikes and for longer distances. I also need to be more regular in my workouts. I've been working out three times one week and then not at all for three weeks. 2018 will see some changes there.

I hope that the new year brings joy and health to all my readers, and everyone else for that matter. I'm looking forward to a healthy and happy 2018. Peace.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Last ride of the year

Maybe I should say, probably the last ride of the year. Road cycling in Michigan in December is always a season ending bonus. Most years there would be snow on the roads and temperatures near freezing. This fall has been quite mild and yesterday was no exception. It was sunny, not windy, and about 50 degrees. So Mary and I saddled up our road bikes and headed to Rockford on the White Pine Trail. It was a leisurely ride since we haven't done any kind of riding in over a month. Still, it felt good to be out since the forecast calls for more seasonable conditions later this week. Plus, with the sun going down at 5:12 in the afternoon it's difficult to get a post-work ride in anymore. Soon I'll will be riding the nowhere bike, waiting for the snow to melt, and thinking about which JDRF ride we'll be doing in 2018.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mountain bike fun

By the shores of Crystal Lake.
Last weekend Mary and I celebrated our birthdays. We rented a secluded cabin on the southern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and spent the time doing fun outdoor activities. Our cabin was on Long Lake, just north of Crystal Lake near Frankfort. One morning we decided to ride our mountain bikes around Long Lake. That sounds simple but, like many smaller lakes in the north country, there is no single road that circumnavigates the lake.

We started by riding along M-22 on the northwest edge of the lake. We then followed the north side of Crystal Lake for several miles east. Even though we were technically going around Long Lake we couldn't see it during this part of the ride. We finally turned north and then had to head back to the west to get back to the edge of the lake. Then we found Cooper Road. Up to this point most of the ride had been on paved roads. Cooper was hard packed dirt that got softer as we rode along. I'm glad we were on the mountain bikes. The road kept getting more narrow and started looking more like someones driveway than a street. And then we saw the sign.

Believe it or not this is an official county road.
"Unimproved Road. The County does not plow this road." Since it was a warm October day with no chance of snow we didn't pay any attention to the sign. We should have. Hot only doesn't the County plow the road, they don't do any other type of maintenance either. We kept climbing uphill on a sandy rutted two track until we came upon "the downhill". This downhill would be the hardest piece of any mountain bike trail in the Grand Rapids area. Very steep, rutted, sandy, rocky, and filled with downed tree branches. About a third of the way down three fallen trees completely blocked the road. We had to get off our bikes and crawl under to continue. I was hard on my brakes the whole way down. Mary ended up walking her bike on the worst section. When we were almost to the bottom another tree had fallen across the road and we had to dismount again and walk around it.

After that however, the road was flat and wide and hooked us back up with M-22 which we road back west to the cabin. In all it as and 13.5 mile ride that was an absolute blast. Later in the day we did a 3.5 mile hike in the dunes. The next day we kayaked on Long lake. Late October is a great time to be Up North.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A beautiful fall ride

On the new elevated boardwalk in Millennium Park.
We have been having an unseasonably warm autumn. Yesterday was a glorious day. Sunny with temperatures in the mid 70's. Mary and I decided to ride through Millennium Park in Grand Rapids. But we started from our house. That meant we rode the White Pine Trail south to the ball park, crosses the river and rode along Riverside Park. Then we crossed the river again and rode the west side connector to Kent Trails and took that to Millennium Park. The complete route was either trail or well marked city streets.

On the way back we discovered the Oxford Trail. It connects the trail along Wealthy Street with the Black Hills neighborhood south of Market Street. We then rode Market through downtown where it turned into Monroe and went past lots of people enjoying the last day of ArtPrize. We decided we were hungry so we stopped at The Mitten for a pizza and a pint before heading home though Riverside Park and then the WPT.

In all we logged 37 miles on one of the best days of riding we had all year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Post JDRF Ride riding

It's always a bit odd to me when we do our JDRF ride in August. We train and plan all year for that ride, then, in the middle of summer, it's over. There's still a lot of great riding weather left, but my motivation to train is not quite the same. However, I have gotten out for some pretty fun rides since we got back from Colorado.

Kaat and Mike with their special certificates.
A couple of weeks ago was the Century of Centuries ride. Our coaches Mike and Kaat, have been riding a century every month for the past eight year. This month was their 100th month in a row. So lots of people joined them for all or part of the ride. Personally I got in 45 miles. We then had a big party at Riverside Park to celebrate their accomplishment. This is also the end of the streak since later this month Kaat will be having kidney replacement surgery. She has done an amazing job riding and coaching while also dealing with kidney failure.

Last Saturday I did a solo solidarity ride. A number of our team mates were in Saratoga Springs, New York participating in their JDRF ride. While they were riding 100 miles in the east, I rode 35 miles out to my parents house in Lowell. It was nice to get a ride in and visit my parents.

Tonight I jumped on the mountain bike and rode the Rouge River Nature Trail. It's not a especially challenging ride, but it's close and gave me a chance to get on the fatter tires for only the second time this summer. I have to do more of that now that we're getting into the fall.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ride #13 is in the books

What a great weekend. 31 riders from West Michigan traveled to Loveland, Colorado to take part in the first JDRF Ride there. There were 450 riders from across the U.S.A. and from several other countries. All together we raised $1.8 million dollars for diabetes research. For Mary and I this would be our 13th JDRF ride.

JDRF West Michigan Loveland Team
On Thursday we had an opportunity to take in some of the local flavor. This whole area lies at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Looking to the east you see flat prairie lands. Looking to the west you see 14,000 foot high peaks. A bunch of us visited New Belgium Brewing in nearby Fort Collins. We tried some of their beers and had a rousing match of Rolle Bolle - a very strange game involving large rubber pucks and a concrete trough.

Friday morning started with the Rules of the Road meeting. That's where we get all the particulars of the route and things to watch for. We also took our bikes out for a little spin. There was a mile long loop near the hotel and we went around twice. It's basically just a chance to make sure your bike is okay before the big ride on Saturday. A bunch of us then went out to a spot called The Devil's Backbone and took a 3 mile hike. The area was beautiful with large, jagged pieces of rock sticking up out of the hillside like a long exposed spine. After the hike it was back to the hotel for the pre-ride dinner and an early bedtime.

Mary crossing a bridge before a big climb up to a very large reservoir.
Saturday dawned cool and sunny, but it wouldn't stay that way. It got hot, topping out at 93 degrees. Although it stayed sunny most of the day, we did get caught in a few light rain showers. Those felt great. We started the ride strong, heading west toward the mountains. Our West Michigan group broke into several smaller groups based on speed of the riders and desired distance. Mary and I were in a group of about a dozen that planned on doing the entire 101 miles. About 20 miles into the ride we made a 90 degree left turn and headed south. We now had the mountains on our right and the views were fantastic. The terrain was starting to roll. There were several extended gradual climbs. The grade wasn't very steep, but the climbs were two to three miles long. Because the route was basically T-shaped, everyone one of those long climbs on the way out became a great downhill on the way back. We turned around at the south end of the T, rode north past the base of the T, and out to a 12 mile loop on the northern most end of the route.

Safe, sound, and smiling. Ride #13 is done.
All the climbing and the altitude (5,000 feet above sea level) started to take their toll on Mary at about the 50 mile mark. She bonked pretty hard and fell off the back of our group. I stayed with her and we rode easy until she recovered and we eventually caught up with our group about 80 miles in. That enabled us to all finish together.

The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Then again, that could have been the altitude. We rode by large reservoirs, through stone encrusted valleys, and past dozens of ranches. All the hill training this year definitely paid off. I was tired at the end of the ride, but not completely exhausted. The Loveland ride was well organized and one of the prettiest JDRF rides we've done.

Thanks once again to all our supporters. Because to all of you we are closer than ever to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thank you to our donors

Tomorrow morning we leave on a jet plane for Colorado. On Saturday we'll ride 100 miles in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Every pedal stroke we take will bring us a little closer to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. But we wouldn't be going if it wasn't for the people and companies that donated to the cause. Here then, in no particular order, are the people we would like to thank for making a monetary donation this year.

X-Cel Chemical Company
Tom & Florence Scheidel
Leo & Joyce Isaguirre
Marc & Jane Longstreet
Roy Dodman
Kim Summers
Patrick Scheidel
Randall Carlon
Bill & Norma Hayes
David Pasciak
Dennis & Kim Moline
Paul & Lisa Brown
Paul & Brenda Schab
Mary Ellen Kozoil
Jake's Music Festival attendees
Chris & Paula Briggs
Mike & Jean Oele
Christine Behrens

If we missed anyone it was not intentional, just poor record keeping.

We are only $251 from our goal of $10,000. If you've already given, thank you once again. If you'd like to help put us over the top, please use the "Donate to..." links on the top right of this page.

100 miles closer to a cure.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Always send the letter

When we have new riders join the team they are usually concerned about two things - the cycling and the fundraising. We have a great coaching staff that really helps get people to where they need to be in order to complete their desired mileage. The fundraising can be a bit trickier.

Our team has become very creative over the years when it comes to raising money for the cause. We host golf outing, music festivals, garage sales, bake sales, and plant sales. We run a stand at VanAndel Arena, man a food booth at the Grand Rapids Festival for the Arts, and organize the ODRAM and Holland Hundred. All those efforts have added up to over two million dollars raised since we started in 2005.

One of the staples of our fundraising is the donation request letter. This is one area that new riders are sometime reluctant to pursue. "I don't want to ask people for money," is a common refrain. "I know it's a good cause, but I feel weird asking people to send me a check," is another. The thing is, you never know who that letter is going to touch. You don't know what someone else may be going through and what that letter, and a donation, might mean to them.

The other day we received a sizable check in the mail from a long time donor. When she first sent us a donation it was because we had put something about the ride in our church bulletin. We didn't know her that well but we appreciated the donation. We sometimes question whether we should still send her a donation letter since  we don't attend the same church any more. But every year we send the letter. Her donation this year came in a card with a short note.

Mary Ellen's card
"30 years ago today that I lost my 34 year old sister to diabetes. So impressed by your fund raising and bike ride to find a cure for diabetes. Best of luck on your ride. God Bless. Mary Ellen." It's humbling to think that riding our bikes can have such an impact on people's lives.

When we sent her the first letter over a decade ago we had no idea about her personal connection to the devastating affects of Type 1 diabetes. We send her a letter every year and she sends a donation every year. Some day we won't have to send her a letter, because a cure for T1D will have been found. Until that day we'll send out that donation letter. We'll work at various fundraising events. We'll collect cans. We'll do whatever it takes to raise the money that's needed to find a cure. Thank you Mary Ellen and all our donors.

We ride in Loveland, Colorado in 12 days.