Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Death Valley 2010 - Part 3

The JDRF Ride is the hardest and best thing I've ever done in my life. I've now participated in five rides in Death Valley; in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, and one in Killington, Vermont in 2009. Each ride has been unique, with it's own personality and own stories to tell.

West Michigan Ride Team - Death Valley start line - 2005

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.

Part of the team at Jubilee Pass in 2006

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.

Team photo on Friday morning - Death Valley 2007

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.

Part of the team posing at the Sea Level sign in 2008. One mile to go.

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.

Killington team photo - before the rains came - 2009

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.

Mary, Ian and Tom out on the course in Death Valley in 2010.

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.

Jake Scheidel - the reason we do this. Diagnosed September 17, 1997.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Death Valley 2010 - Part 2

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 before the Friday training ride.

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.

Ian Joyce, North Carolina Coach and 2007 West Michigan Team adoptee.

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.

Kathy and Paul McBride at Zabriske Point, on the training ride.

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.

Team Scheidel; safe, sound and smiling at the finish line.

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.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Death Valley 2010 - Part 1

So much happened during this year's JDRF ride that this will be a multi-part post. There were more riders than ever in Death Valley; 350 riders in total, 42 of them from West Michigan. The temperatures were very hot, but the winds were much lighter than most years.

Ian, Mary and Tom Scheidel at Zabriski Point on the Friday morning training ride.

It was great to have Ian in Death Valley with Mary and I. Over the years we have told the kids a lot about our rides out there. So when Ian said he wanted to do the ride this year we were pleased but cautious. This is quite the endeavor for a trained athlete. A 15 year old soccer player who had never ridden more than 18 miles could have been trouble. But Ian trained hard all spring and summer and he absolutely rocked Death Valley. Despite the 111 degree heat, Ian (and Tom) completed 88 miles in the desert.

Ian riding between Ashford Mills and Mormon Point.

Ian led our group on many occasions. He impressed the more veteran riders with his ability and his toughness. He even made friends with a nationally ranked mountain bike rider. She rode up to him and the two of them rode together up a hill just chatting away for several miles. The rest of us were working to hard to talk. The kid can definitely ride a bike.

Mary, Ian and Tom with Don Milanowski's bike on top of Jubilee Pass.

The highlight of the ride had to be at the top of Jubilee Pass. This is a six mile climb up a 6% grade. Very similar to some of the climbs on the Tour De France, except that this one is in a desert. The three of us made it to the top, at almost the same time. We wanted to get a group picture holding the bike Ian has been riding. That bike is very special. It belonged to Don Milanowski, a good friend of ours who had ridden with the JDRF team in Whitefish, Montana in 2007 and Death Valley in 2008. Don passed away due to a heart attack in 2009. When we were looking for a bike for Ian this past spring Don's wife Linda suggested Ian use Don's bike. To say we were honored would be an understatement. Ian trained on that bike all summer and on October 16, 2010 Don Milanowski's bike was once again on top of Jubilee Pass, this time powered by the youthful legs of Ian Scheidel. Thanks Linda and Don for helping Ian reach the top.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We are back

Back from the Valley, that is. It was a great ride, but it is very late and there is much to tell. There are also many photos. So check back here tomorrow for stories and pictures of the the 2010 Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Leavin' on a jet plane...

In just about two hours we will be boarding a plane in Grand Rapids and heading to Las Vegas. From there we catch a shuttle bus out to Death Valley. The training and fund raising is done. Now is time. This is what we have worked for. My next report will have details of this amazing trip.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us financially and emotionally through our journey.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Thank you to everyone who has contributed top our ride this year. With Ian joining us this time around we were looking at raising a minimum of $12,000. Each JDRF rider is responsible for raising $4,000. So adding Ian to Team Scheidel meant upping our fund raising numbers by a third. But thanks to some very generous friends, family members and even strangers, we have achieved our goal. We have raised over $12,000 for diabetes research! It is a great feeling knowing we can go to Death Valley this weekend and just concentrate on riding.

Team Scheidel.
Jake, our reason for doing this; Mary, 6 time rider; Ian, first time rider; Tom, 6 time rider; Colleen, big sister.

Thank you once again to all our donors. Because of you we are closer than ever to finding a cure for diabetes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One week to go

Seven days from today we will be riding in Death Valley. It's almost hard to believe that the months of training and fundraising are nearly over and we're headed for the desert. Next Saturday morning will start early. Breakfast is at 5:00 a.m. Then we get our bikes and assemble at the starting line. Roll out is at sunrise at 6:45 a.m. Our first stop is Badwater Basin, 17 miles away. Badwater is the lowest spot in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. On the way to the next break at Mormon Point the sun will finally make it over the Funeral Mountains and we'll have no more shade until nightfall. Ashford Mills is the last break before the climb up Jubilee Pass. The climb is six miles long at a 6% grade. It takes about an hour to go up, we turn around at the top and take ten minutes to come back down. Now we have 47 miles left to ride in the afternoon heat and sun. The predicted high for Saturday is 98 degrees. The afternoon is also when the wind kicks up and it's usually a head wind. But if all goes well we should finish before sun down. The finish line is a great scene as we greet our fellow riders as they finish. There's lots of smiles, lots of hugs, and more than a few tears. There's beer and ice cream, sometimes together. But most of all there's the satisfaction of knowing that you've done something difficult and important that will help the millions of people who suffer with diabetes.

We received word last week that the Death Valley ride has already raised over $1,000,000 for diabetes research. Thanks to everyone who has contributed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Death Valley?

Lots of people have asked me this over the years. Usually I get a big grin on my face and say it's because I'm more than a little crazy. Death Valley is unlike any other place I've ever been. And to try and ride a century there is definitely pushing the sanity envelope.

This year we have several team mates who will be making their inaugural trip to the desert. A few of us veterans put together a primer to tell the newbies what to expect. I thought it would be interesting to share it here so you can get an idea of how those of us that are riding approach this event. Click here for the full story.

If you want to hear my interview about the ride on the WGVU Morning Show click here or on the link to the left.

Monday, October 4, 2010

JDRF Ride on the Radio

Tune in Tuesday morning to the WGVU-FM Morning Show with Shelly Irwin. I will be talking about the JDRF ride in Death Valley. Air time in 10:04 a.m., right after the news. 88.5 on your FM dial. If you happen to live near Lake Michigan you can pick up WGVU on 95.3 FM.

10 days until we leave for Death Valley!