Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ride number 11 is in the books

Eleven years ago I was serving on the board of the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Our Executive Director came into a board meeting that spring and said "I'm riding for a cure in Death Valley in October. Who's going to do it with me?" And with that the West Michigan Team started. Last Saturday I did my eleventh ride for JDRF, this time in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

The official West Michigan team photo

West Michigan was well represented at the LaCrosse ride. There were 430 total riders and 43 of them were from our team. Most of us arrived on Thursday evening and got acclimated to the area. Our hotel was right along the Mississippi River and on Thursday night we were treated to a huge paddle wheel riverboat docked right outside our window.

The American Queen docked right outside our hotel.
Friday morning was the Rules of the Road meeting. This was much less intense than the meetings in Death Valley. I don't think they mentioned that you could die even once. After the meeting we did a little tune-up ride on a very nice bike path in downtown LaCrosse. A few of us also decided to ride across the bridge over the Mississippi that we would take on the official route Saturday morning. After the ride we changed and went up to the top of Granddad Bluff. This park offers a great view of the city and the surrounding valley. The Mississippi is not only an extremely long river, it's also very wide. In this part of Wisconsin the valley walls are studded with rock outcropping, very unlike you're typical upper Midwest topography. By the way, it was in the 90's on Friday afternoon. We took note of that in our planning for Saturday.

The view from Granddad Bluff of the bridge over the Mississippi.
Friday night we have the big pasta "carb-up" dinner and then the  West Michigan Team gets together to decorate our helmets. We discovered during our first JDRF ride in 2005 that when hundreds of cyclists are wearing the same jersey, black shorts and sunglasses its kind of hard to pick out your teammates on the road. So we starting adding matching sparkly decorations to our helmets to make ourselves more visible to each other. After we decorate we spend some time talking about why we do the ride. The stories are always inspiring, from the brand new cyclists on their first JDRF ride to the veterans that have been here since the beginning. We joke, we laugh, and even shed a few tears. Then it's to bed, because sunrise comes early.

Coach Kaat and Mary with their well decorated helmets.
As the sun came up Saturday morning over 400 JDRF riders were assembled along the banks of the Mississippi River. We rolled out in waves and headed for the bridge across the river. Once we crossed the Missisippi we were in Minnesota heading south toward Iowa. The irony of the Wisconsin ride is that the only part of the route that is in that state is the start and finish line. The route itself was relatively flat for a JDRF ride, with one notable exception. As you ride, the Mississippi is on your left and the hills and bluffs are to your right. Shortly after getting into Iowa we prepare for the "loop". This is a 20 mile stretch of road that serves to turn the riders back north. It starts with a three mile climb. It's not as steep or as long as the Jubilee Pass climb in Death Valley, but temperatures were getting to be Death Valley like. When we started climbing it was in the low 90's and the humidity was about six times what it is in DV. At times it felt like you were breathing hot soup. After the climb there was a series of rollers that got progressively higher. Then we made a right turn and were suddenly heading downhill at almost 40 miles per hour. All that elevation we gained was going away quickly and it was a blast.

Ian riding somewhere in Minnesota.
We had a plan when we started the ride. Go out quickly while it was cool, spend minimal time at the break points and get to the climb before the cut off time. We did all of that and then put the second half of the plan into place for the ride back. Slow down in the heat, use a pace line and cool down at the break points. This all went according to plan as well and we rolled back into LaCrosse with 16 members of the West Michigan Team. Mary and I both completed a full century. Ian wasn't feeling well but still rode 60 miles. Crossing the finish line and hearing all the cheers of the families, volunteers and our fellow riders was exhilarating.

Part of our paceline that eventually numbered 16 riders.
I also felt quite honored this year. The JDRF organization created a special jersey for everyone that had ridden in 10 rides or more. Mary and I, along with six of our teammates, received these jerseys. I don't know for sure, but I think we had more 10 ride jerseys than any other team at LaCrosse. We did some other amazing things as a team. Seven of our members completed their first century rides. We had five junior (under 18 years old) riders. Most importantly, we were part of a ride that raised $1,430,000 towards diabetes research.

10 ride jersey winners. Steve Clark, Mike Clark, Katie Clark, Derek Dykstra, Mary Scheidel, John Jasker, Tom Scheidel. Inset; Cindy Aley.
Thank you to everyone that has contributed and supported us, not just this year, but for the past 11 years. Our commitment is to keep riding until there is a cure for Type 1 diabetes. After a weekend like this we know the cure will be here soon.

Team Scheidel, Tom, Ian and Mary, riding to cure diabetes.

No comments: