In 2005 there we just 14 of us from West Michigan who rode in Death Valley. We had 12 other teammates who rode in Asheville, North Carolina. We really didn't know what to expect. We had trained all summer so we were physically ready, but we were not prepared for the overwhelming emotions of Death Valley. For many of us it was our first century ride. For all of us it was a bonding experience unlike any other.
In 2006 our team more than doubled in size. And we discovered an important team dynamic. When you are riding across a barren landscape and can see clearly for over 20 miles, it's easy to spot your fellow cyclists on the route. However, when everyone is wearing the same jersey and black shorts it's hard to tell your teammates from the other 300 riders. So that year we came up with the helmet decorations. Kitty ears for the ladies, devil horns for the men (except Rob, who had a special decoration). I'm not sure who gets the credit/blame, but the helmet baubles have really helped us find each other out on the course.
2007 was the year of the wind. Friday had been a beautiful day. Sunny skies, mid 90's temperatures and no wind. When we woke up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday to go to breakfast we knew we were in trouble. It was already quite warm and the trees were swaying in the wind. On the way out the winds were swirling so it was difficult to establish a consistent pace. After the climb up Jubilee we were dealing with a full on head wind for the 50 mile trip back. Wind speeds were a sustained 30 mph with gusts hitting 40. Several of us got into a pace line in order to struggle along at 9 mph. During that pace line we had a crash which left an imprint of my chain ring on my left, um, hip. We literally finished in a dust storm. Many riders ended up in the med tent that night. But we all survived and decided to come back to Death Valley with even more people.
We had a group of 25 riders who attended the Asheville Ride to a Cure in 2008. We also sent almost 40 people back to the Valley. 2008 was the year I produced the documentary about the Ride, "More Than 100 Miles: Riding to Cure Diabetes". The weather was great that year. Moderate temps for DV (mid 90's), very light winds and even a little cloud cover. Our team rode strong. You can see more about that ride be clicking on the documentary trailer link to the left.
For me personally 2009 was the worst year ever. We rode in Killington, Vermont and it rained all day. Not just a light drizzle, but full on, multiple storm rain. And cold. Even though the ride was in August the high temperature never got above 53 degrees. I was cold and wet all day and I didn't like it one bit. I even said to our coach, Mike Clark, that I would rather ride in 120 degree heat than cold rain. As the old Chinese proverb says, "Be careful what you wish for". But the good news of Killington is that it was our 5th year together as a team and in that time we had raised one million dollars for diabetes research.
Which brings us to this year. 2010 - back to the desert. Back to the heat. This was the biggest JDRF ride ever. We had the biggest West Michigan team here ever. This one ride raised over $1.3 million for diabetes research. It is incredible to be part of something that is so much bigger than each of us individually. We have made lifelong friendships while raising money that will help to someday cure our son Jake of diabetes. Thanks to everyone who has been part of this journey.