This year's ride was very difficult. It was the second highest temperature ever recorded for October 16th. During the climb up Jubilee the thermometer hit 111 degrees. The near record heat sapped the strength of many a rider. As the day went on it became more and more painful to ride. But through it all we had the opportunity to ride with some great people and to meet old and new friends.
The west Michigan team numbered 42 riders. We also had about a half dozen volunteers out on the course. These people come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are parents of diabetics, some have diabetes themselves and some have no personal connection. Although one could argue that, after all the training and riding we have done together, everyone now has a personal connection. We have people who were doing their sixth ride in Death Valley and those who were doing their first. Our entire team, in fact all 350 JDRF riders, did themselves proud on Saturday.
The Ride gave me the chance to see old friends like Trish Patterson and Aly Levine from the JDRF national office and Ian Joyce, the coach from one of the North Carolina teams. I also finally got to meet Andrew Shafer from Tennessee. Andrew has Type 1 diabetes and rode for the first time last year in Sonoma. He found this blog and reached out to us for fund raising ideas and support. We have been conversing on email ever since. Somewhere around mile 30 Andrew and I ended up riding next to each other for a few miles. It was great to finally talk face to face. Andrew is a strong rider and a wonderful advocate for JDRF.
Paul and Kathy McBride are long time members of the West Michigan team. They ride for their son Graham who has Type 1 diabetes. Even though they live over two hours away, on the east side of the state, they have become great friends. We see them every year at the ride and it's just like old times. They are an asset to the team and we love having them represent "eastern" west Michigan.
There are many people who make incredible contributions to our team and JDRF. But there is one group I want to call special attention to. There are only a handful people who have been with the West Michigan team since we started in 2005. Mary and I want to say thanks to Mike and Teresa Howard, Sarah Andro, Derek Dykstra and Mike Clark for their dedication to the cause. Because of people like them, this year the Death Valley Ride raised over $1.3 million for diabetes research.