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.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Team Scheidel is ready to roll

We had our final pre-LaCrosse team ride yesterday. Mary, Ian and I rode 24 very pleasant miles in the Fruit Ridge area of Kent County with several members of the West Michigan team. According to Map My Ride our average speed was 15.3 mph. Considering that it was a group ride with some rolling hills that is a pretty peppy pace. While I'd like to have more miles in  by now (I'm only a little over 700) I do feel ready for the LaCrosse ride. Yesterday the group rode well together and I was feeling strong.

We leave Thursday morning for Wisconsin. We'll have dinner with the 400 other JDRF riders in attendance. On Friday morning there will be a Rules of the Road meeting and a short tune-up ride. Friday evening is the pre-ride dinner which is always very inspiring. Then at sun-up on Saturday morning we take the first pedal stroke of our 100 mile journey. Approximately 8 hours later we'll be done and a little bit closer to a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Ian, Mary and Tom are ready to ride in LaCrosse.
Thank you very much to everyone who has donated so far. We could still use a few more contributions before we head out. So if you are so inclined please click on one of the "Donate to..." links on the left side of this page. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Longest ride of the year

On Sunday evening a big storm blew across west Michigan knocking down trees and knocking out power. We didn't lose any tree but we did lose power for about 6 hours. Luckily we had done our team ride earlier in the day, so even though it was windy we didn't get caught in the storm. Did I say it was windy? That might be the understatement of the summer. 20 mph sustained winds from the west, and the south, and occasionally the north, with stronger gusts. It was also very warm Sunday, with the thermometer hitting 90 degrees. And we rode 71 miles with 2,300 feet of climbing. It was a day to test one's metal.

The route left from Spring Grove Park in Jamestown. The ride was split into two loops. The first 30 mile started at 8:00 a.m. and the second 40 mile loop started at 11:00 a.m. Since my longest ride to this point was only 45 miles I decided to do both loops. The wind was blowing as we started, but thankfully most of the route ran north and south. So you would think a cross wind wouldn't be as bad as a head wind. You would be wrong. It was very difficult to hold a line when fighting an intense cross wind. It felt like I was having mechanical problems with my bike. But it was just the wind.

After we finished the 30 mile loop Mary joined us for the second loop. This one was also mostly north and south but still pretty difficult. In fact the winds kept getting stronger all day. In the evening we would know why. Between the hills and the wind our 12 person group got pretty stretched out on the Ottawa and Allegan county roadways. But we managed to get back together at stop signs and finished at roughly the same time.

It is now only 11 days until we ride in LaCrosse. I rode 75 miles last week and 71 on Sunday alone. While I don't feel in my best cycling shape ever, I think I'm good for the LaCrosse ride.

Remember, this is a fundraiser to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Please click on one of the "Donate to" links on the left side of the page and follow the easy directions. Thank you.