Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Holland Hundred 2017

Saturday was the most perfect cycling day in a long time. The temperatures were cool. The wind was non-existent. The riding partners were fun. It was a great day.

Our happy little pace line.
The Holland Hundred is a decades long cycling tradition in West Michigan. I've ridden it several times, usually with our JDRF team mates. This year we had a couple dozen folks who started out at various times with various distances in mind. Our group of eight decided on the metric century. A metric century is 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. The posted distance at HH was 67 miles. The actual distance was closer to 71 miles. That was my longest ride of the year by almost 30 miles. I felt pretty good all day. I did have one hill that gave me trouble, and my knees were pretty sore by the end, but i think I could have done 100 miles if I had to.

Part of proper training is knowing just how much to push yourself. While I think I could have done the full century I didn't want to push for that many miles and risk overextending myself and setting back my training. 71 miles was just right and I had something left at the finish. This lets me know that in five weeks I'll be ready to go for the full 100 in Colorado.

39 days until JDRF Ride #13.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A nice ride and a minor injury

First the nice ride. Mary and I both had the day off today. So we took advantage of the beautiful late Spring day and rode the White Pine Trail north to Sand Lake. Apparently it was "Retiree Cycling Day" on the WPT. Practically every cyclist we saw on the trail was older than we are. Admittedly we were out riding in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, so most of the younger folks were probably working. It was kind of cool to see dozens of older folks on their bikes.

As rides go it was pretty uneventful. 36 mile round trip with a stop for lunch at Rockford Brewing Company. We did climb the Childsdale Hill on the way home, because we need to get more hill work to be ready for Colorado.

Now on to the minor injury. On Thursday night I was going to do a quick 15-20 mile solo ride. I was about two miles from my house on Belmont Avenue when something kicked up from under my front wheel and hit me in the left shin. In the brief flash that I saw, it I thought it looked like a lens from a pair of eyeglasses. I was concerned that it might have damaged my front tire. So I pulled over and examined the tire. It was fine. I happened to glance down at my left shoe and saw that my sock had turned red with blood. The cut was only about an inch wide, but bleeding like crazy. Luckily there was a nice woman (Thanks Deb) at the house I stopped in front of. She helped me put a bandage on it. We both thought it looked like it might need some stitches, so I decided to ride home.

My shin and the 4 stitches.
When I got home I noticed the the edges of the bandage were starting to turn red, so it was time to head to Urgent Care. As I was sitting in triage the blood started pouring out from under the bandage. They changed that, but it bled out again in the patient room. Apparently I had nicked an artery and no amount of pressure or bandages were going to stop the bleeding. The doctor put four stitches in my shin and that did the trick. It was amazing that a tiny cut could bleed that much. Luckily it doesn't bother me to ride, but I can't submerge it for 10 days which means no swimming. So it's not my worst cycling injury, but it may be the silliest.

"My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of the times that life tried to break me, but failed."  
- Steve Maraboli

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hot rides

Even though summer is still officially a week away, the temperatures have been quite summer-like recently. Being this hot before the body has acclimated can make for some strenuous riding. No complaints though, I love hot weather.

On Friday I rode out to my parent's farm, north of Lowell. I take Cannonsburg/5 Mile Road when I go out there. It can be a busy street, but it has a wide shoulder and gets lots of cycling traffic. However, on Friday there was lots of vehicular traffic, more than you'd expect in the middle of a workday afternoon. It was a 32 mile round trip with over 1,100 feet of climbing. It doesn't seem like that much elevation gain when you're driving in a car, but we've learned that cars and bikes see the road differently.

Yesterday we had a JDRF team ride that left from Wahfield Park at 8 Mile and Alpine. It was very hot (90+ degrees) and windy (15 mph steady with gusts). But we had a good turnout and rode past the apple orchards of Alpine Township on our way to the Musketawa Trail and the city of Ravenna. The weather was not our friend, but we had a nice pace line and kept up a pretty good clip through most of the ride. We rode through three different counties, Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon. In all, 44 mile with just over 800 feet of climbing.

I keep mentioning the amount of elevation gain, because our JDRF Ride in August will be in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and we'll have over 5,000 feet of climbing to do on that one. So hill training is critical right now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

Tom and Mary enjoying the beach in South Haven at the ride halfway point.
For the past three decades we have been getting together with the Hayes family on Memorial Day weekend. We had big group camp-outs, hung out at their cottage, gone hiking and boating, and played volleyball and many other sports. Susan and Elvin are also very into cycling, so when we visit their cottage we like to brings our bikes. On Sunday we did a ride with them that was absolutely glorious.

The Hayes cottage is on Paw Paw Lake in southwestern Michigan. We rode the backroads from the cottage to the beach in South Haven. It was sunny and cool, with fairly light winds. It was the perfect day to ride. It was one of those times where cycling felt absolutely effortless. We rode 36 miles in all and could have done more.

The Lake Michigan beach was also beautiful. Lots of boats cutting across the water. Not very many swimmers however, since the water temperature was only 58 degrees. After some time admiring the scenery we headed back, making part of the trip along a new trail that runs from South Haven to Van Buren State Park. We even chatted with a couple of park rangers about the trail when we got to the park.

In addition to the ride we also played a fair amount of volleyball and ate some very good food. All in all it was a fantastic holiday weekend.
The channel at South Haven State Park.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sunday, Sunday

The Spring has been a bit bi-polar. 70 degrees and sunny one day, snow storm the next. Luckily the last two weekends have given us the 70 degree part. Perfect for riding bikes. Mary and I got out and did a little riding on the local rail trails.

Last week we did the Heartland Trail up in Greenville. We rode it once last year and really enjoyed it. The trail runs from Greenville to Alma, but we haven't ridden the whole thing yet. Last Sunday we just rode 20 miles. It's still early in the season and we are trying to ramp up slowly and smoothly. The exciting part was coming across a farmer that was burning the wild grass in his field right along the trail.

Two days ago we rode the White Pine Trail from our house up to 13 Mile Road. We then took Summit Road back into Rockford. We rode along the rain swollen Rogue River and buzzed into town on a nice curvy downhill. It was a beautiful day, which meant the trail was very busy with other cyclists, rollerbladers, and runners. We've done all flat rides so far, so I'm thinking our next ride will need to incorporate some hills.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Riding outside in February?

The unseasonably warm weather in Michigan the last few days allowed us to get outside on our road bikes. Mid 50's and sunny in February is fantastic riding weather.We actually got out for two rides this weekend.

On Saturday Mary and I met up with Pam and her son Chad from our JDRF team. We rode an easy 15 miles north on the White Pine Trail to Rockford. It was my second time riding this year and Mary's first so we just wanted something simple to start to slowly get back into cycling shape.

On Sunday Mary and I rode south on the White Pine Trail to Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. There were a lot of people out on the trail. Quite a few cyclists, some families out walking, and a roller-blader or two. We rode a total of 17 miles. I don't remember ever riding two days in February before, much less two consecutive days. Nice to get the season off to an early start.

Two days riding on the WPT also makes me ask this question. Am I the only one that didn't get a fat bike for Christmas?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Welcome to 2017

We have signed up for another new JDRF ride this year. A large portion of the West Michigan team, including Mary and me, will be heading to Loveland, Colorado on August 24-27. This will be our 13th consecutive year of riding to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

According to the JDRF web site: "Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado just 45 minutes north of Denver, Loveland is the perfect base camp for all your Northern Colorado adventures. Hailed as the Gateway to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Loveland is an ideal location that appeals to all types of cyclists. This Ride will offer multiple route options ranging from 32 to 100 miles of rolling hills and scenic views!" We were also told by our coaches that the ride will feature 5,000 feet of climbing. So it looks like we'll be doing a lot of hill training this summer.

Speaking of training, I got out for my first ride of the year today. This was an atypical January day for Michigan. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 50's. Great riding weather, especially since I was wearing the new cold weather gear I got for Christmas. I put in 15 miles on the White Pine Trail. There were lots of other people out on the trail. When I got back into our neighborhood there were several kids out riding very shiny bikes. Christmas presents being taken out for the first time I would guess.

In closing, the JDRF Ride is a fundraiser and we'd appreciate your support. You can donate to Tom by clicking here, or donate to Mary by clicking here. Thank you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bye-bye 2016

The last day of the year seems like a good time to look back and reflect on what the past ride season has brought us. Personally I rode over 1,200 miles. In looking at past years, that's about my non-injury average. This year many of those miles came in one of the three tours I participated in; the Holland Hundred, the Grand Rapids ADA Tour de Cure, and the JDRF Ride for a Cure at Amelia Island. Three tours is the most I've done in several years, so I feel good about that.

Crossing the finish line at Amelia Island.
Participating in the JDRF Amelia Island was great because we set a couple of records. It was the largest JDRF ride ever with 750 riders. It was also the largest peer-to-peer fundraiser JDRF has ever done, raising $3,000,000. That's a chunk of change that will help the doctors and scientists find a cure to Type 1 diabetes even sooner.

This was our 12th year taking part in the JDRF Ride program. When we started Mary was riding a comfort bike and I was on an old (which I still ride) mountain bike. We thought we could do 100 miles on those bikes, even though a 12 mile training ride wiped us out. But a summer of training, an upgrade to road bikes, and the support of Coach Mike Clark and our other teammates helped us accomplish our initial goal. We both completed our first century ride on our first JDRF ride in Death Valley. That was 2005. Where we have come since then is amazing.

We've both ridden thousands and thousands of miles. We taken part in rides all over the country, in places like Lake Tahoe, Vermont, Nashville, and Florida, not to mention seven trips to Death Valley. We've met great people and forged bonds that will last a lifetime. Most importantly we've raised a heck of a lot of money for JDRF. Since we started doing the ride, our family has raised approximately $115,000. Our West Michigan team has raised close to two million dollars.

We sincerely thank everyone who has supported us over the years. We aren't done yet, but one day soon we will take part in the last JDRF Ride for a Cure, because a cure will have been found. And what a finish line celebration that will be.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ride to Cure Diabetes - Amelia Island

We've now done this for 12 years in a row. By this, I mean participating in a destination ride with the purpose of raising money to help fund research into a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Last weekend this adventure took us to Amelia Island in Florida. It was a great location, a great route, and even greater people.

The West Michigan Ride Team - Amelia Island Squad
There were 700 riders from across the country at the Amelia Island ride. Our West Michigan team was represented by 46 riders and about a dozen additional volunteers. Mary and I and a few of our team mates arrived about noon on Thursday. This gave us an opportunity to check out the hotel, which was situated right on the beach and featured a very nice pool area with hot tubs and a restaurant with a gorgeous view. As other people arrived we talked, swam, and caught up with JDRF friends we hadn't seen since last year. Thursday night dinner was good and big. With all the riders, staff and volunteers, there were 1,000 people in the ballroom.

Friday started with breakfast and a research update. It is amazing to see the advances that are being made because of the money raised by JDRF. Next was the "rule of the road" meeting and a quick tune up ride. It was quick for two reasons. First, we are just testing the bikes to make sure everything worked okay after the transport from Michigan to Florida. We'll get plenty of miles in on Saturday. Second, half the team was heading out for a guided kayak tour on the ocean and we needed to be to the put-in by noon.

At every JDRF ride they give us Friday afternoon off to explore the area. We've taken advantage of that on various trips by hiking in Death Valley, kayaking in Tennessee, and scrambling up the side of a mountain in Lake Tahoe. This kayak trip took us across the Intercoastal Waterway to Cumberland Island in Georgia. That's right, before we did a 100 mile bike ride we kayaked to another state. Sea kayaking is very different that the rivers we've been on in the past. While we didn't see any dolphins or manatees or sharks in the water, we did see wild horses, starfish, sand dollars, and all kinds of sea shells. Cumberland Island was beautiful and well worth the trip.

At dinner on Friday night they award jerseys to the top recruiter and fundraisers. Out of the 64 chapters represented at this ride, the West Michigan chapter was the #5 fund raiser. The ride in total brought in $3,000,000 - making this the largest ride ever, both in terms of number of riders and money raised.

Official JDRF Ride photo of the author.
Saturday was Ride Day. We've been training for this since April and now it's here. Even though I've done this 12 times, it's always a bit surreal to finally be at the starting line. The adrenaline is pumping. Everyone is taking photos. There's talking and laughing and crying. We're all waiting for the sun to come up so we can get started on a ride that is going to consume us for the next eight hours.

The course was interesting. One of the coaches said the challenge was creating a 100 mile long route on a 15 mile long island. We started by heading north to Clinch State Park. (Side note: that's where our kayak trip left from on Friday.) We worked our way over to the town of Fernandina Beach, where we were stopped by a train. That was a JDRF first. After some quick thinking by the coaches, we rerouted around the train and got back on the course.

Next we went over a big, busy bridge. It was the biggest climb of the day. We were in Florida after all. At first we thought a flat route would be easy. The problem with that type of route is you always have to be pedaling. With no downhills you never have the opportunity to just coast. However, we rode in a pace line of 8 to 15 people all day. If you weren't on the front you could soft pedal a little from time to time. But generally, we were always pedaling.

Speaking of pace lines, we rode with a great group. With 46 people on our team there is a wide variety of talent levels. After training together all year we kind of know who rides the same speed. So quickly after the start of the ride our team breaks up into six to eight smaller groups. Our group kept a pretty good pace all day. At one point before the second rest stop I was on thr front and someone behind me mentioned there were a lot of people behind us. I figured she meant the dozen or so of our team. When we rolled into the rest stop I found out our line had 50 riders in it.

The half way point rest stop was back at the start/finish line. This made it easy for people who were doing a 50 mile route. To get the full century we needed to ride south along the coast for about 13 miles, turn around at the rest stop and ride back to the start/finish/rest stop. Now we had 75 miles in and quite a few folks decided that their day was done. The rest of us headed back out on the same southern route to the same rest stop and then turned around and rode to the finish. So the entire route consisted of a 50 mile loop followed by two out and back legs on the same road. Like I said earlier - interesting.

Tom and Mary. Safe, sound and smiling for 12 years in a row.
We rolled across the finish line with our group of a dozen West Michigan riders. The scene was incredible. All of our team mates who had already finished were there, along with dozens of riders of other teams. They were yelling and applauding, giving high fives and hugs. Volunteers put medals around our necks and we had a celebratory beer. It was a great ending to a great day. And, most importantly, we helped raise millions of dollars to fund a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Thank to everyone who contributed to the cause. Because of you we are closer to the cure.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Last Team Ride before Amelia Island

It was a little soggy yesterday. All right, it was down right wet outside. It rained hard most of the night and morning, but by 10:00 a.m. the rain seemed to have stopped. We were hosting the final team ride before the JDRF Amelia Island Ride at our house. We had a 11:00 roll out time and things were looking good. 15 people showed up and we decided to do the sorter loop of 34 miles. (There was also a 45 mile option that get nixed because of the weather.) This is a really fun loop. We head out over the Rouge River, do a few short climbs before heading up Post Drive and then taking 9 Mile Road out to the apple orchards in Alpine Township. All was going according to plan. There was a little spray coming off the wet pavement, but the temperature was in the mid-60's, so we were good. And then...

Riding in northwestern Kent County on a sloppy day.
Then it started to rain, lightly at first, but getting harder as we rode. When we got to Sparta, the halfway point in the ride, we were drenched. Since we were as far north and west as the route was taking us there was also no way to shorten it. We were in for the whole 34 wet miles. We worked our way east on 12 Mile Road and hooked up with the White Pine Trail to travel home. About three miles from the finish the rain let up (of course). As we got into the house people were peeling off layers of soaked riding clothes. It was like a big locker room for awhile as we all put on dry clothes and then ate many snacks. Being the last ride of the season we were tasked with emptying the team snack box.

I also rode on Saturday. Just a quick 22 mile solo ride south on the WPT to Grand Rapids and back. I was concerned that we might get rained out on Sunday and I wanted to be sure I got another ride in. Our bikes leave for Amelia Island on Thursday and our bodies leave the following Thursday. Then on October 29, we mount up with 750 other cyclists for the largest JDRF ride ever. I'm really looking forward to it.