Saturday, October 25, 2014

JDRF Ride #10 is in the books

One week ago today the sun came up over the Funeral Mountains in Death Valley and 300 cyclists headed out on the Ride to Cure Diabetes. 38 of those riders were affiliated with our West Michigan team. This was the tenth year for our team. Our first rides were in Death Valley and Ashville, North Carolina in 2005. With a few exceptions we were a fairly novice group of cyclists. But the experiences of that first year propelled us to grow as a team and as riders. When all the numbers are counted up at the end of this year the West Michigan team will have raised over $1,600,000 for diabetes research.

The official West Michigan team photo
Ride day was beautiful. In the seven times I've been to Death Valley it was the best weather we've ever had. The morning started cool and temperatures stayed below 90 until mid-afternoon. Temps did top out at around 100 out near Jubilee Pass. There was very little wind and that was a godsend. Normally we fight a strong headwind for the second half of the ride, but not this year.

Ian at Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level.

Our plan as a family was to do the entire 100 miles, including the climb up to the top of Jubilee Pass. Ian and I started out riding with a faster group and Mary was riding with a fast group so we got separated early on. Our group arrived at the Badwater Basin break point in a very good time. Just as we were getting ready to pull out for the next leg of the ride another group of our team mates rolled in and told us that Mary had been in a crash at the 8 mile mark. We got a hold of one of the volunteers (Thanks very much to all the volunteers.) and radioed back to where the crash had been. It seems that a teenage girl rider had stopped on the course and then turned right in front of Mary on a downhill. Mary couldn't avoid her and crashed into the girl. Luckily they both only suffered minor scraps and bruises. Although Mary cut her lip and bled for quite awhile. After she was bandaged up she got back on her bike (which was fine) and continued the ride. Since I knew she was coming but didn't know how bad she was injured I decided to wait at Badwater and told Ian to ride on. I knew this would mean I probably wouldn't complete the entire 100 miles, but I've gotten the century in Death Valley before. Ian still hadn't finished a century here and this was his third try. He took off with our original group and I waited for a hour for Mary to show up at Badwater.

Mary leading the pace line after her crash.
 Mary rolled into the break point banged up but determined to continue the ride. It turns out that a couple miles after the crash she also had a flat tire. This put us way behind schedule. There was no way we could make to cut-off time to do the whole 100 miles, so we decided to go for the metric century, which is 100 kilometers, or about 63 miles. We had a group of about a dozen riders that were all going the same distance. In a ride like this, with many different ability levels, the group would break up into smaller groups and then we would reconstitute at the next break point.

Our group on the way from Badwater to the finish line.

Our head coach, Mike Clark, calls the last mile of the Death Valley ride "the best mile in cycling". You've ridden many, many miles through the desert. It's very hot, you're very tired. The sea level sign is at the turn to head back down to Furnace Creek Ranch and the finish line. However, you have to ride about a two mile climb before you get to that point. Once you're at the sign, you take a photo with your riding partners and then coast the last mile into the ranch and cross the finish line to the cheers of the staff, volunteers and fellow riders. This was my seventh time riding that "best mile" and I teared up again as we crossed the finish line.

Megan, Jeremy, Tom, Linda, Mary and Sarah at the sea level sign. One mile to go.

By "only" riding a metric century we finished in the mid afternoon instead of close to sunset. For the first time ever I had a chance to quickly run back to the room and shower before returning to the finish line to cheer on our team mates who had ridden longer distances. One of the West Michigan traditions is that we stay at the finish line and cheer for all the riders as they come across. It's always one of the more emotional moments of the weekend. One of those riders was our son Ian. He completed his first century in Death Valley. He got a century in Nashville last year and had one other on a non-JDRF ride. But this was his first one in Death Valley and a great accomplishment

Ian crossing the finish line of his first Death valley century ride.

As powerful as riding in Death Valley is, the true purpose is to raise money to fund research into Type One diabetes. In that respect this ride was a huge success. The Death Valley Ride for a Cure raised over $900,000. The JDRF ride program for 2014 is on track to raise over five million dollars. Thank you once again to everyone who donated to the cause. Great strides are being made and soon we WILL have a cure, thanks in part to the dedication of the people I had the honor of riding with last weekend.

Team Scheidel - safe, sound and smiling

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