Thursday, November 15, 2018

Santa Fe Ride Recap - Part 2

The morning of November 3rd dawned cold. 38 degrees to be exact. We had been expecting frigid temperatures so we were prepared with cold weather cycling clothing. I was wearing a base layer, arm warmers, my JDRF jersey, a long sleeve jersey, and my wind/rain cycling jacket. Additionally, I had on shoe covers, two pairs of full fingered gloves, and a warm hat under my helmet. I don't think I've ever worn that much gear for a bike ride. We knew it was going to warm up during the day, so the plan was to drop excess clothing at the various rest stops.

Mary and Tom after their 14th Ride to Cure Diabetes
385 riders stood at the starting line, listening to the national anthem in the cold, as we prepared to head south out of Santa Fe. In the first 15 miles of the ride we descended 1,200 feet. At times I was going 20 mph without pedaling. That was an easy start to the ride, but since the route was a modified out-and-back, that meant we would have a 15 mile climb to end the day. Along that first descent there were a couple of small climbs. On the second one it felt like an elephant sat down on my chest. Between the elevation and the cold it was very hard to breathe. My plan had been to do the full 100 mile route, but on the second climb I rethought my plan. The group I was riding with was going to do the 67 mile route and I figured I would join them.

The first break point was 17 miles into the route. The sun was up and it was getting warmer, but not warm enough to drop any gear yet. My group was riding well but definitely noticing the effects of the altitude. Now we were on the jagged tooth part of the elevation map. Long climbs, followed by fast downhills, followed immediately by another climb. It went on like this all day. There was very little flat ground that we rode over. It seemed like we were always going up or down.

The second break point was at 33 miles and located at a brewery. Because it was still early in the morning it wasn't open yet. I was able to remove the long sleeve jersey and one pair of gloves. This was also the turnaround point for the group I was riding with. Mary was in our group and I had told her I would ride with her. She said I should try for the 100. I let her know that the century ride was off the table but I still wanted to try for the 87 mile route. She told me to go for it, so I hopped back on my bike and chased down a few of our west Michigan teammates that had left the rest stop just ahead of us.

I caught up with coach Mike first. He was helping along another rider. The three of us rode together for about 10 miles and then I pulled away, finding the people I was actually chasing at rest stop 3. From this point everyone turned around. In about 10 miles the 100 mile riders would turn left and the 87 milers would turn right and head back into Santa Fe. I ended up riding the 43 miles back with two of our new riders, Dennis and Timmie. They are both strong riders and we were making good time.

Dennis, Tom and Timmie getting ready to climb "The Hill".
Our pace started to slow as a headwind came up over the saw tooth sections. Each of us had some struggles. About five miles before the final break point my left leg started to tighten up. I had no power in the leg, which made climbing up all those hills very difficult. I kept falling behind my ride partners. Thankfully there was someone giving neck massages at the rest stop. I asked her to massage my leg instead. She did a great job of working out the tightness and I was able to continue.

The final 10 mile stretch was a long, slow, uphill slog. The elevation, wind, and long day in the saddle were starting to take their toll. The three of us took frequent breaks and vowed to just stay together. As the sun was starting to dip very low in the sky we rolled through the finish line. Our teammates were there cheering and volunteers hung medals around our necks. I've done 14 of these rides, and the finish line is always an amazing experience. Only minutes before it took everything I had just to make the pedals go around. Once I crossed that line I had a renewed energy. I stayed around and cheered for our teammates who still were finishing. As is the west Michigan custom, our whole team stayed around and cheered until the last rider finished.

The Santa Fe ride raised $2,000,000 for diabetes research. The west Michigan team was the number five team in terms of amount of money raised. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause this year. Because of you we are closer than ever to finding a cure for type one diabetes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Santa Fe Ride Recap - part 1

JDRF ride #14 is finished. Santa Fe was one of the hardest JDRF rides we've done yet. The city is 7,000 feet above sea level and there was over 4,000 feet of climbing on the route I did. Oh, and it was 38 degrees at the starting line. But more on all that later.

Tom and Mary at the San Antonio Springs trail head.
Understanding that the New Mexico elevation may be an issue, Mary and I went out there a few days early. Our plan was to do some hiking and get acclimated to the conditions. Our first two nights we stayed in a bed and breakfast in Jemez Springs that was 6,300 feet above sea level. Figured that was a good start. We noticed right away how dry the air is. We immediately started using our Death Valley hydration protocol. We both had mild headaches the first two days, but those went away as we drank more water and took a little vitamin I.

On Wednesday we drove the rental car up into the mountains to the San Antonio Hot Springs Trail (8,000 feet above sea level). It was snowing as went up the mountain. We wanted to drive the access road and park at the trail head that is only a mile from the hot springs. However, the "road" was barely passable. When we found an abandoned car in a mud hole about two miles in, we decided to park and walk the remaining three miles to the springs. The hike was worth it. The view was great and the hot springs felt great, even though it started to snow on us as we were getting out of the water. We hiked for about a mile in the snow. Although it was cold out, it didn't feel as cold as a similar temperature in Michigan. The dry air and lack of wind are probably to account for that.

The canyon at Bandelier National Monument.
On Thursday we met up with some of our JDRF team mates and went hiking in Bandelier National Monument. It's interesting getting to the monument, as you have to drive past the national laboratory in Los Alamos. That's where the built the first atomic bomb. You still need to go through security checkpoints when entering or leaving the city. The hike was done in two parts. The first was through a canyon to a waterfall. According to the ranger at the information center we were in luck because the waterfall was actually running that day. It's been very dry in that part of New Mexico and for most of the summer there was no waterfall. We saw some amazing rock formations that looked like tents that have been eroded away. The second part of the hike was to a 500 year old cliff dwelling. We were able to climb up into a few of the dwellings. It's amazing that anyone could live in a space that small.

After Bandelier we headed to Santa Fe to check into the hotel and get ready for ride weekend. I'll go into more detail about the ride in Part Two. Did I mention that it was hard?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

One week to go

One week from today we will be participating in a JDRF ride for the 14th consecutive year. This year's adventure takes us to Santa Fe, New Mexico. For a variety of reasons this could be our toughest ride yet. To start with the elevation in Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level. That's more than the Lake Tahoe ride in 2012. The 100 mile route features a 1,300 foot climb over seven miles. Which is about the same as Jubilee Pass in Death Valley which we rode in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014. The temperature is predicted to be in the low to mid 40's, or the same as we had in Killington, Vermont is 2009.

Our bikes were shipped out last week and we are leaving Tuesday. We want to get out a few days early so that we can start to get acclimated to the elevation. According to the science types, at one mile in elevation there is 50% less oxygen than at sea level. That takes some getting used to. Hopefully it won't negatively impact our ride next Saturday. My plan is to ride the full century (100 miles) and Mary is planning on the metric century (100 kilometers).

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our ride this year. Mary and I have to raise $5,000 each. As I write this she is about $400 short of our goal and I'm about $700 short. If you'd like to help close the gap we'd greatly appreciate it. Donate to Mary here and donate to Tom here. Thanks again for helping fund the search for a cure to Type 1 diabetes.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Final Team Ride

The team heads out the final time before Santa Fe.
Yesterday was our last team ride of the year. The Santa Fe ride, on the first weekend of November, is the last of six JDRF ride events for 2018. So except for the 22 of us riding in Santa Fe, the rest of the team has completed their respective destination JDRF rides. Also, our bikes leave on Thursday, so the season is just about done.

We had a great fall day for the last ride. Sunny skies, light wind, and temperatures in the mid-50's. There were two loops of 30 and 40 miles. Mary did the 30 mile loop and I did the 40. We all started from the Taylor's house near Ada and rode north to Wabasis Lake. We returned thru Cannonsburg. One of the roads we were on was Honeycreek. Anyone who lives in this area knows how hilly that road is. We will be riding a lot of hills in Santa Fe, so it was good to ride a lot of hills on our team ride.

Santa Fe will be the 14th consecutive year that Mary and I have participated in a JDRF ride. Because of the elevation (7,000 feet above sea level) and all the climbing (6,000 feet) this could be the toughest ride we've ever done. I feel pretty good, but I'm concerned about how my body is going to deal with the elevation. This is higher than either Lake Tahoe or Loveland, Colorado. Plus it's probably going to be cold at the start and I don't really like cold weather. But my goal is 100 miles and I will do everything I can to achieve it.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far. You can still donate by clicking on this link.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Great Night for a Ride

Mary and I just got back from a little 20 mile ride on the White Pine Trail. We rode north up to Russel Road and then back. The trees along the trail are turning golden and some light rain earlier in the day put a shiny slick on the pavement and the already fallen leaves. There were many cyclists out on the trail tonight - more than I've seen on that stretch in a long time. Everyone probably wanted to get out an enjoy the 80 degree temps and relatively non-rainy conditions.

I also did a 20 mile ride on Saturday, going south on the WPT and then thru Riverside Park before heading back almost along the same route. Last Thursday I was on the northbound leg of the WPT again, riding to 15 Mile Road before turning around. A 22 mile round trip. That gives 62 miles in the last five days and 1,096 for the year, so far.

We leave for our ride in Santa Fe three weeks from tomorrow. Mary and I are going out a couple of days early to get acclimated to the altitude (7,199 feet above sea level) and do a little hiking. The ride takes place on November 3 and I'm getting close to my $5,000 goal. If you'd like to make a donation to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, please follow this link.

26 days until we ride in Santa Fe.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

1,000 day

Today I rolled over 1,000 miles of cycling for this year. My goal is 1,500 miles. With the big JDRF ride still ahead, if the weather holds I may make my goal. Looking back over the last few years I usually roll over 1,000 sometime in mid-September to early October. So I am on my usual pace, which is good. I rolled over the thousand with a 22 mile solo ride tonight. Took the White Pine Trail into northern Grand Rapids and then home.

Cedar Springs Brewing was our first rest stop.
On Sunday Mary and I did a pretty big ride. We started by heading north on the WPT until the pavement ended at Sand Lake. (18 miles) We then rode south, stopping at Cedar Springs Brewing to have a giant pretzel and a beer. (22 miles) All rest stops should be stocked thusly. We continued south into Grand Rapids and eventually to Connie's Cakes. (48 miles) Mary's ride ended there as she needed to pick up her van to drive home. I continued on riding north along mostly city streets and circumnavigating Dean Lake. I rode down the new Jupiter Avenue bike trail before crossing the Grand River and returning home. (62 miles) I ended up with a metric century, my longest ride of the year. It felt good, if tiring, to get that many miles in. That 1,000 I mentioned at the start of this post has been done with a lot of 20-30 mile rides. So while I've got the miles I was concerned about my stamina. Sunday did a lot to help me feel ready for Santa Fe.

44 days until we ride 100 miles in Santa Fe to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The days grow short

It's getting to be that time of the year where it is difficult to get a ride in after work. The autumnal equinox is almost upon us, so the sun is setting a couple hours earlier than it did in the middle of summer. In June and July it's actually possible to get home from work, have dinner, and then go for a bike ride. Now, if you want to ride you have to plan a late dinner, and also hope that you don't hit a traffic jam on the way home.

I did manage to get out three times this week, for a total of 62 miles. On Sunday we had a team ride from Ada Park. Our small but mighty group took on the hills of Snow Avenue and several other rolling roadways on our way to Saranac and back. 35 miles in total.

Wednesday I got a quick after work ride in. I rode south on the White Pine Trail to the Whitecaps ballpark and then home. 16 miles on that one. Today I got out in the late afternoon and decided to do some more hill work. I rode up the 7 Mile hill and then to the end of 7 Mile, rolling over a few more hills. It was only an 11 mile route but had over 500 feet of elevation gain. That works out to 5,000 feet of climbing on a 100 mile route, which is what we have to look forward to in Santa Fe.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Three days in a row

I got some miles in over the weekend. On Friday morning I did a short mountain bike ride on the Rogue River Trail near our house. Only six miles, but the first time I've been on that bike in awhile.

Part of the team, somewhere near Saugatuck.
Mary and I traded cars for the weekend, so I needed to get her delivery van to the cake shop on Saturday. So in the morning I delivered the van and then rode home. In the afternoon I rode to the shop to pick up the van, stopping at the Grand Rapids Jazz Fest along the way. 24 miles in total for the two rides.

Sunday was the annual Tour de Taco team ride in Holland. We did two loops from Holland down through Saugatuck and back. The first loop was 31 miles. I felt pretty good, even pulling the group a few times. The second loop was 26 miles and I started to feel the accumulated effort of the weekend. I hit the wall about 45 miles into the ride. At 57 miles this was my longest ride of the year. I've been doing several 20-30 mile rides, but nothing much longer, so my stamina wasn't where I'd like it to be. Still I was able to finish strong and the next half-century ride will be much better.

11 weeks until we ride in Santa Fe. Have you made your donation yet?


Monday, July 23, 2018

A light week

It's been a light week for riding because it's been a busy week for the rest of life. I was in Anaheim, California for a conference for 8 days. Mary came in for the second half of my stay. Being away from home for that long meant we couldn't get a ride in on our road bikes, although we did ride about 5 miles on beach cruisers in Huntington Beach. It was fun but very crowded.

Part of our crew riding through Cannonsburg on Sunday.
We got back late Thursday night so on Saturday I went out for a quick 15 mile ride on the White Pine Trail, just to see if I remembered how to ride. We also had a team ride planned for Sunday and I wanted to loosen up the muscles a bit.

Sunday's team ride was 31 very hilly miles north of Ada and west of Rockford. Our route started out by heading north on Honey Creek. Those who ride in this area know that's one of the hilliest roads around. After that we had several more hills as we made our way north toward Wabasis Lake. We came back past Gavin Lake and south on Parnell. Afterwards we had a pool party at our hosts the Taylors. They keep the pool very warm and it felt great after the ride.

So I got in 46 miles in two days or 10 days, depending on when you start counting.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A wet ride

We hosted the JDRF West Michigan team ride on Sunday. I charted out 25 and 40 mile loops that went north from our house out to the park on 13 Mile and Algoma. A lot of climbing just to get to that point, which was only 13 miles into the ride. We also had quite a bit of rain. It was dry, but threatening, when we started. The rain came about 4 miles into the route. Luckily it only lasted for about half the ride.

Shortly after the park there was a short cut for those who wanted to take the 25 mile option. They headed south on the White Pine Trail, which is a net downhill. So that group missed the very hilly second half of the route. We took 13 Mile out to Myers Lake Road and started heading south. Then for the next several miles we went back east, then a little south, then west, then a little south, then east, then south, eventually winding up on Cannonsburg Road, right near the ski resort. The last major climb of the day was the one mile long slog up Blakley. The reward for all that climbing was a very zippy trip down 7 Mile hill. I logged my top speed of the year at 40.7 MPH. A couple of teammates topped 42.

The reason I mention all the climbing is we are trying to get prepared for the ride in Santa Fe this November. The baseline elevation there is 7,199 feet above level. The ride organizers tell us we'll have about 5,000 feet of climbing on the 100 mile route. Our 40 mile route on Sunday had just over 2,000 feet of climbing. That's on-par with what we'll be doing in Santa Fe, but at basically sea level. As someone once said, "The only way to get good at climbing hills, is to climb hills."