Sunday, December 31, 2017

So long to 2017

The last post of the year on the last day of the year. This appears to becoming a tradition. (Mostly because I've now done it twice in a row.) 2017 was a good year for me and my bicycle. I rode 1,221 miles and had no crashes. I did the full century ride at the JDRF Ride in Colorado and managed to get in a few metric and half centuries along the way.

JDRF Ride to a Cure in Loveland, Colorado.
Looking ahead to 2018, I'd like to up my mileage and my fitness level. Maybe it's because of the major birthday I had this past October, but I don't feel like I'm in as good of shape as I've been in the past. So I'm going to ride more this coming year, with a goal of at least 1,500 miles split between road and mountain biking. Mary and I have been doing some hiking, but we are going to do more frequent hikes and for longer distances. I also need to be more regular in my workouts. I've been working out three times one week and then not at all for three weeks. 2018 will see some changes there.

I hope that the new year brings joy and health to all my readers, and everyone else for that matter. I'm looking forward to a healthy and happy 2018. Peace.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Last ride of the year

Maybe I should say, probably the last ride of the year. Road cycling in Michigan in December is always a season ending bonus. Most years there would be snow on the roads and temperatures near freezing. This fall has been quite mild and yesterday was no exception. It was sunny, not windy, and about 50 degrees. So Mary and I saddled up our road bikes and headed to Rockford on the White Pine Trail. It was a leisurely ride since we haven't done any kind of riding in over a month. Still, it felt good to be out since the forecast calls for more seasonable conditions later this week. Plus, with the sun going down at 5:12 in the afternoon it's difficult to get a post-work ride in anymore. Soon I'll will be riding the nowhere bike, waiting for the snow to melt, and thinking about which JDRF ride we'll be doing in 2018.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mountain bike fun

By the shores of Crystal Lake.
Last weekend Mary and I celebrated our birthdays. We rented a secluded cabin on the southern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and spent the time doing fun outdoor activities. Our cabin was on Long Lake, just north of Crystal Lake near Frankfort. One morning we decided to ride our mountain bikes around Long Lake. That sounds simple but, like many smaller lakes in the north country, there is no single road that circumnavigates the lake.

We started by riding along M-22 on the northwest edge of the lake. We then followed the north side of Crystal Lake for several miles east. Even though we were technically going around Long Lake we couldn't see it during this part of the ride. We finally turned north and then had to head back to the west to get back to the edge of the lake. Then we found Cooper Road. Up to this point most of the ride had been on paved roads. Cooper was hard packed dirt that got softer as we rode along. I'm glad we were on the mountain bikes. The road kept getting more narrow and started looking more like someones driveway than a street. And then we saw the sign.

Believe it or not this is an official county road.
"Unimproved Road. The County does not plow this road." Since it was a warm October day with no chance of snow we didn't pay any attention to the sign. We should have. Hot only doesn't the County plow the road, they don't do any other type of maintenance either. We kept climbing uphill on a sandy rutted two track until we came upon "the downhill". This downhill would be the hardest piece of any mountain bike trail in the Grand Rapids area. Very steep, rutted, sandy, rocky, and filled with downed tree branches. About a third of the way down three fallen trees completely blocked the road. We had to get off our bikes and crawl under to continue. I was hard on my brakes the whole way down. Mary ended up walking her bike on the worst section. When we were almost to the bottom another tree had fallen across the road and we had to dismount again and walk around it.

After that however, the road was flat and wide and hooked us back up with M-22 which we road back west to the cabin. In all it as and 13.5 mile ride that was an absolute blast. Later in the day we did a 3.5 mile hike in the dunes. The next day we kayaked on Long lake. Late October is a great time to be Up North.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A beautiful fall ride

On the new elevated boardwalk in Millennium Park.
We have been having an unseasonably warm autumn. Yesterday was a glorious day. Sunny with temperatures in the mid 70's. Mary and I decided to ride through Millennium Park in Grand Rapids. But we started from our house. That meant we rode the White Pine Trail south to the ball park, crosses the river and rode along Riverside Park. Then we crossed the river again and rode the west side connector to Kent Trails and took that to Millennium Park. The complete route was either trail or well marked city streets.

On the way back we discovered the Oxford Trail. It connects the trail along Wealthy Street with the Black Hills neighborhood south of Market Street. We then rode Market through downtown where it turned into Monroe and went past lots of people enjoying the last day of ArtPrize. We decided we were hungry so we stopped at The Mitten for a pizza and a pint before heading home though Riverside Park and then the WPT.

In all we logged 37 miles on one of the best days of riding we had all year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Post JDRF Ride riding

It's always a bit odd to me when we do our JDRF ride in August. We train and plan all year for that ride, then, in the middle of summer, it's over. There's still a lot of great riding weather left, but my motivation to train is not quite the same. However, I have gotten out for some pretty fun rides since we got back from Colorado.

Kaat and Mike with their special certificates.
A couple of weeks ago was the Century of Centuries ride. Our coaches Mike and Kaat, have been riding a century every month for the past eight year. This month was their 100th month in a row. So lots of people joined them for all or part of the ride. Personally I got in 45 miles. We then had a big party at Riverside Park to celebrate their accomplishment. This is also the end of the streak since later this month Kaat will be having kidney replacement surgery. She has done an amazing job riding and coaching while also dealing with kidney failure.

Last Saturday I did a solo solidarity ride. A number of our team mates were in Saratoga Springs, New York participating in their JDRF ride. While they were riding 100 miles in the east, I rode 35 miles out to my parents house in Lowell. It was nice to get a ride in and visit my parents.

Tonight I jumped on the mountain bike and rode the Rouge River Nature Trail. It's not a especially challenging ride, but it's close and gave me a chance to get on the fatter tires for only the second time this summer. I have to do more of that now that we're getting into the fall.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ride #13 is in the books

What a great weekend. 31 riders from West Michigan traveled to Loveland, Colorado to take part in the first JDRF Ride there. There were 450 riders from across the U.S.A. and from several other countries. All together we raised $1.8 million dollars for diabetes research. For Mary and I this would be our 13th JDRF ride.

JDRF West Michigan Loveland Team
On Thursday we had an opportunity to take in some of the local flavor. This whole area lies at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Looking to the east you see flat prairie lands. Looking to the west you see 14,000 foot high peaks. A bunch of us visited New Belgium Brewing in nearby Fort Collins. We tried some of their beers and had a rousing match of Rolle Bolle - a very strange game involving large rubber pucks and a concrete trough.

Friday morning started with the Rules of the Road meeting. That's where we get all the particulars of the route and things to watch for. We also took our bikes out for a little spin. There was a mile long loop near the hotel and we went around twice. It's basically just a chance to make sure your bike is okay before the big ride on Saturday. A bunch of us then went out to a spot called The Devil's Backbone and took a 3 mile hike. The area was beautiful with large, jagged pieces of rock sticking up out of the hillside like a long exposed spine. After the hike it was back to the hotel for the pre-ride dinner and an early bedtime.

Mary crossing a bridge before a big climb up to a very large reservoir.
Saturday dawned cool and sunny, but it wouldn't stay that way. It got hot, topping out at 93 degrees. Although it stayed sunny most of the day, we did get caught in a few light rain showers. Those felt great. We started the ride strong, heading west toward the mountains. Our West Michigan group broke into several smaller groups based on speed of the riders and desired distance. Mary and I were in a group of about a dozen that planned on doing the entire 101 miles. About 20 miles into the ride we made a 90 degree left turn and headed south. We now had the mountains on our right and the views were fantastic. The terrain was starting to roll. There were several extended gradual climbs. The grade wasn't very steep, but the climbs were two to three miles long. Because the route was basically T-shaped, everyone one of those long climbs on the way out became a great downhill on the way back. We turned around at the south end of the T, rode north past the base of the T, and out to a 12 mile loop on the northern most end of the route.

Safe, sound, and smiling. Ride #13 is done.
All the climbing and the altitude (5,000 feet above sea level) started to take their toll on Mary at about the 50 mile mark. She bonked pretty hard and fell off the back of our group. I stayed with her and we rode easy until she recovered and we eventually caught up with our group about 80 miles in. That enabled us to all finish together.

The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Then again, that could have been the altitude. We rode by large reservoirs, through stone encrusted valleys, and past dozens of ranches. All the hill training this year definitely paid off. I was tired at the end of the ride, but not completely exhausted. The Loveland ride was well organized and one of the prettiest JDRF rides we've done.

Thanks once again to all our supporters. Because to all of you we are closer than ever to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thank you to our donors

Tomorrow morning we leave on a jet plane for Colorado. On Saturday we'll ride 100 miles in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Every pedal stroke we take will bring us a little closer to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. But we wouldn't be going if it wasn't for the people and companies that donated to the cause. Here then, in no particular order, are the people we would like to thank for making a monetary donation this year.

X-Cel Chemical Company
Tom & Florence Scheidel
Leo & Joyce Isaguirre
Marc & Jane Longstreet
Roy Dodman
Kim Summers
Patrick Scheidel
Randall Carlon
Bill & Norma Hayes
David Pasciak
Dennis & Kim Moline
Paul & Lisa Brown
Paul & Brenda Schab
Mary Ellen Kozoil
Jake's Music Festival attendees
Chris & Paula Briggs
Mike & Jean Oele
Christine Behrens

If we missed anyone it was not intentional, just poor record keeping.

We are only $251 from our goal of $10,000. If you've already given, thank you once again. If you'd like to help put us over the top, please use the "Donate to..." links on the top right of this page.

100 miles closer to a cure.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Always send the letter

When we have new riders join the team they are usually concerned about two things - the cycling and the fundraising. We have a great coaching staff that really helps get people to where they need to be in order to complete their desired mileage. The fundraising can be a bit trickier.

Our team has become very creative over the years when it comes to raising money for the cause. We host golf outing, music festivals, garage sales, bake sales, and plant sales. We run a stand at VanAndel Arena, man a food booth at the Grand Rapids Festival for the Arts, and organize the ODRAM and Holland Hundred. All those efforts have added up to over two million dollars raised since we started in 2005.

One of the staples of our fundraising is the donation request letter. This is one area that new riders are sometime reluctant to pursue. "I don't want to ask people for money," is a common refrain. "I know it's a good cause, but I feel weird asking people to send me a check," is another. The thing is, you never know who that letter is going to touch. You don't know what someone else may be going through and what that letter, and a donation, might mean to them.

The other day we received a sizable check in the mail from a long time donor. When she first sent us a donation it was because we had put something about the ride in our church bulletin. We didn't know her that well but we appreciated the donation. We sometimes question whether we should still send her a donation letter since  we don't attend the same church any more. But every year we send the letter. Her donation this year came in a card with a short note.

Mary Ellen's card
"30 years ago today that I lost my 34 year old sister to diabetes. So impressed by your fund raising and bike ride to find a cure for diabetes. Best of luck on your ride. God Bless. Mary Ellen." It's humbling to think that riding our bikes can have such an impact on people's lives.

When we sent her the first letter over a decade ago we had no idea about her personal connection to the devastating affects of Type 1 diabetes. We send her a letter every year and she sends a donation every year. Some day we won't have to send her a letter, because a cure for T1D will have been found. Until that day we'll send out that donation letter. We'll work at various fundraising events. We'll collect cans. We'll do whatever it takes to raise the money that's needed to find a cure. Thank you Mary Ellen and all our donors.

We ride in Loveland, Colorado in 12 days.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The countdown has begun

Another great day to ride.
We ride in 20 days. That statement is a bit misleading. We've been riding all along, but in 20 days we participate in the JDRF Ride in Loveland, Colorado. This will be my 13th ride with JDRF. Our West Michigan team got started in 2005 and we've ridden a lot of miles in that time. Like today for example. We rode 40 very hilly miles from the Ada area, north to Wabasis Lake, then back south on some of the route we rode last Tuesday. It was a fair amount of hills, a little over 1,400 feet of elevation gain. When we get to Loveland, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, we'll have about 5,000 feet of elevation gain over the 100 mile route.

I also rode on Saturday. Just a quick 20 mile solo ride in the morning. I took the White Pine Trail south of the ballpark, crossed the river and then rode Riverside Park to Ann Street before turning around and heading home. My goal has been to get 1,000 miles in before we left for Colorado. Because of work and travel I don't think I'm going to make it. As of tonight I have 817 miles. We still have a week and a half until our bikes leave, so it's not inconceivable that I could meet my goal, but I'll have to ride a lot in the next 10 days.

There's still time to donate to the ride. Click on the links on the left of this page.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ride and rest

I haven't been very consistent in my riding this summer. After that great stretch a couple of weeks ago, I then went six days without riding. I followed that with riding Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and yesterday. I don't think riding a lot and then not at all is a very good training regime.

A small portion of our team rolling through West Michigan.
The best ride was Sunday at the annual Tour de Taco in Holland. We ride from Coach Mike Clark's house and then have a massive taco feast afterwards. We had 30 riders turn out this year, as well as a handful more who came later just for the food. The group I rode with put in 56 miles in just about 4 hours. Not a blistering pace, but one that will serve us well when we get to Colorado.

Speaking of Colorado we lave for the JDRF ride three weeks from tomorrow. I'm looking forward to riding in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and maybe even seeing where they make Fat Tire.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

That's more like it

I was in Texas in early July for eight days to attend a convention. That meant I had eight days where I did not ride my bike. I did get a lot of steps in, but that's not the same as riding. I got back to Michigan 10 days ago and since then have ridden six times.

July 14 - 15 miles on the White Pine Trail
July 15 - 71 miles at the Holland Hundred
July 18 - 18 miles on the White Pine Trail
July 19 - Wine Wednesday, 16 miles
July 21 - 21 miles on one of my favorite loops north of Rockford
July 23 - 5 miles of mountain biking on the Rouge River Trail

That 146 miles over that 10 day period. That also gives me 650 miles for the year. I'd like to be close to 1,000 miles by the time we go to Colorado for the JDRF ride. I think that's doable. We have three team rides before we leave and those will all have 50+ mile options.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Holland Hundred 2017

Saturday was the most perfect cycling day in a long time. The temperatures were cool. The wind was non-existent. The riding partners were fun. It was a great day.

Our happy little pace line.
The Holland Hundred is a decades long cycling tradition in West Michigan. I've ridden it several times, usually with our JDRF team mates. This year we had a couple dozen folks who started out at various times with various distances in mind. Our group of eight decided on the metric century. A metric century is 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. The posted distance at HH was 67 miles. The actual distance was closer to 71 miles. That was my longest ride of the year by almost 30 miles. I felt pretty good all day. I did have one hill that gave me trouble, and my knees were pretty sore by the end, but i think I could have done 100 miles if I had to.

Part of proper training is knowing just how much to push yourself. While I think I could have done the full century I didn't want to push for that many miles and risk overextending myself and setting back my training. 71 miles was just right and I had something left at the finish. This lets me know that in five weeks I'll be ready to go for the full 100 in Colorado.

39 days until JDRF Ride #13.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A nice ride and a minor injury

First the nice ride. Mary and I both had the day off today. So we took advantage of the beautiful late Spring day and rode the White Pine Trail north to Sand Lake. Apparently it was "Retiree Cycling Day" on the WPT. Practically every cyclist we saw on the trail was older than we are. Admittedly we were out riding in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, so most of the younger folks were probably working. It was kind of cool to see dozens of older folks on their bikes.

As rides go it was pretty uneventful. 36 mile round trip with a stop for lunch at Rockford Brewing Company. We did climb the Childsdale Hill on the way home, because we need to get more hill work to be ready for Colorado.

Now on to the minor injury. On Thursday night I was going to do a quick 15-20 mile solo ride. I was about two miles from my house on Belmont Avenue when something kicked up from under my front wheel and hit me in the left shin. In the brief flash that I saw, it I thought it looked like a lens from a pair of eyeglasses. I was concerned that it might have damaged my front tire. So I pulled over and examined the tire. It was fine. I happened to glance down at my left shoe and saw that my sock had turned red with blood. The cut was only about an inch wide, but bleeding like crazy. Luckily there was a nice woman (Thanks Deb) at the house I stopped in front of. She helped me put a bandage on it. We both thought it looked like it might need some stitches, so I decided to ride home.

My shin and the 4 stitches.
When I got home I noticed the the edges of the bandage were starting to turn red, so it was time to head to Urgent Care. As I was sitting in triage the blood started pouring out from under the bandage. They changed that, but it bled out again in the patient room. Apparently I had nicked an artery and no amount of pressure or bandages were going to stop the bleeding. The doctor put four stitches in my shin and that did the trick. It was amazing that a tiny cut could bleed that much. Luckily it doesn't bother me to ride, but I can't submerge it for 10 days which means no swimming. So it's not my worst cycling injury, but it may be the silliest.

"My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of the times that life tried to break me, but failed."  
- Steve Maraboli

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hot rides

Even though summer is still officially a week away, the temperatures have been quite summer-like recently. Being this hot before the body has acclimated can make for some strenuous riding. No complaints though, I love hot weather.

On Friday I rode out to my parent's farm, north of Lowell. I take Cannonsburg/5 Mile Road when I go out there. It can be a busy street, but it has a wide shoulder and gets lots of cycling traffic. However, on Friday there was lots of vehicular traffic, more than you'd expect in the middle of a workday afternoon. It was a 32 mile round trip with over 1,100 feet of climbing. It doesn't seem like that much elevation gain when you're driving in a car, but we've learned that cars and bikes see the road differently.

Yesterday we had a JDRF team ride that left from Wahfield Park at 8 Mile and Alpine. It was very hot (90+ degrees) and windy (15 mph steady with gusts). But we had a good turnout and rode past the apple orchards of Alpine Township on our way to the Musketawa Trail and the city of Ravenna. The weather was not our friend, but we had a nice pace line and kept up a pretty good clip through most of the ride. We rode through three different counties, Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon. In all, 44 mile with just over 800 feet of climbing.

I keep mentioning the amount of elevation gain, because our JDRF Ride in August will be in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and we'll have over 5,000 feet of climbing to do on that one. So hill training is critical right now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

Tom and Mary enjoying the beach in South Haven at the ride halfway point.
For the past three decades we have been getting together with the Hayes family on Memorial Day weekend. We had big group camp-outs, hung out at their cottage, gone hiking and boating, and played volleyball and many other sports. Susan and Elvin are also very into cycling, so when we visit their cottage we like to brings our bikes. On Sunday we did a ride with them that was absolutely glorious.

The Hayes cottage is on Paw Paw Lake in southwestern Michigan. We rode the backroads from the cottage to the beach in South Haven. It was sunny and cool, with fairly light winds. It was the perfect day to ride. It was one of those times where cycling felt absolutely effortless. We rode 36 miles in all and could have done more.

The Lake Michigan beach was also beautiful. Lots of boats cutting across the water. Not very many swimmers however, since the water temperature was only 58 degrees. After some time admiring the scenery we headed back, making part of the trip along a new trail that runs from South Haven to Van Buren State Park. We even chatted with a couple of park rangers about the trail when we got to the park.

In addition to the ride we also played a fair amount of volleyball and ate some very good food. All in all it was a fantastic holiday weekend.
The channel at South Haven State Park.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sunday, Sunday

The Spring has been a bit bi-polar. 70 degrees and sunny one day, snow storm the next. Luckily the last two weekends have given us the 70 degree part. Perfect for riding bikes. Mary and I got out and did a little riding on the local rail trails.

Last week we did the Heartland Trail up in Greenville. We rode it once last year and really enjoyed it. The trail runs from Greenville to Alma, but we haven't ridden the whole thing yet. Last Sunday we just rode 20 miles. It's still early in the season and we are trying to ramp up slowly and smoothly. The exciting part was coming across a farmer that was burning the wild grass in his field right along the trail.

Two days ago we rode the White Pine Trail from our house up to 13 Mile Road. We then took Summit Road back into Rockford. We rode along the rain swollen Rogue River and buzzed into town on a nice curvy downhill. It was a beautiful day, which meant the trail was very busy with other cyclists, rollerbladers, and runners. We've done all flat rides so far, so I'm thinking our next ride will need to incorporate some hills.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Riding outside in February?

The unseasonably warm weather in Michigan the last few days allowed us to get outside on our road bikes. Mid 50's and sunny in February is fantastic riding weather.We actually got out for two rides this weekend.

On Saturday Mary and I met up with Pam and her son Chad from our JDRF team. We rode an easy 15 miles north on the White Pine Trail to Rockford. It was my second time riding this year and Mary's first so we just wanted something simple to start to slowly get back into cycling shape.

On Sunday Mary and I rode south on the White Pine Trail to Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. There were a lot of people out on the trail. Quite a few cyclists, some families out walking, and a roller-blader or two. We rode a total of 17 miles. I don't remember ever riding two days in February before, much less two consecutive days. Nice to get the season off to an early start.

Two days riding on the WPT also makes me ask this question. Am I the only one that didn't get a fat bike for Christmas?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Welcome to 2017

We have signed up for another new JDRF ride this year. A large portion of the West Michigan team, including Mary and me, will be heading to Loveland, Colorado on August 24-27. This will be our 13th consecutive year of riding to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

According to the JDRF web site: "Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado just 45 minutes north of Denver, Loveland is the perfect base camp for all your Northern Colorado adventures. Hailed as the Gateway to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Loveland is an ideal location that appeals to all types of cyclists. This Ride will offer multiple route options ranging from 32 to 100 miles of rolling hills and scenic views!" We were also told by our coaches that the ride will feature 5,000 feet of climbing. So it looks like we'll be doing a lot of hill training this summer.

Speaking of training, I got out for my first ride of the year today. This was an atypical January day for Michigan. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 50's. Great riding weather, especially since I was wearing the new cold weather gear I got for Christmas. I put in 15 miles on the White Pine Trail. There were lots of other people out on the trail. When I got back into our neighborhood there were several kids out riding very shiny bikes. Christmas presents being taken out for the first time I would guess.

In closing, the JDRF Ride is a fundraiser and we'd appreciate your support. You can donate to Tom by clicking here, or donate to Mary by clicking here. Thank you.