Thursday, November 15, 2018

Santa Fe Ride Recap - Part 2

The morning of November 3rd dawned cold. 38 degrees to be exact. We had been expecting frigid temperatures so we were prepared with cold weather cycling clothing. I was wearing a base layer, arm warmers, my JDRF jersey, a long sleeve jersey, and my wind/rain cycling jacket. Additionally, I had on shoe covers, two pairs of full fingered gloves, and a warm hat under my helmet. I don't think I've ever worn that much gear for a bike ride. We knew it was going to warm up during the day, so the plan was to drop excess clothing at the various rest stops.

Mary and Tom after their 14th Ride to Cure Diabetes
385 riders stood at the starting line, listening to the national anthem in the cold, as we prepared to head south out of Santa Fe. In the first 15 miles of the ride we descended 1,200 feet. At times I was going 20 mph without pedaling. That was an easy start to the ride, but since the route was a modified out-and-back, that meant we would have a 15 mile climb to end the day. Along that first descent there were a couple of small climbs. On the second one it felt like an elephant sat down on my chest. Between the elevation and the cold it was very hard to breathe. My plan had been to do the full 100 mile route, but on the second climb I rethought my plan. The group I was riding with was going to do the 67 mile route and I figured I would join them.

The first break point was 17 miles into the route. The sun was up and it was getting warmer, but not warm enough to drop any gear yet. My group was riding well but definitely noticing the effects of the altitude. Now we were on the jagged tooth part of the elevation map. Long climbs, followed by fast downhills, followed immediately by another climb. It went on like this all day. There was very little flat ground that we rode over. It seemed like we were always going up or down.

The second break point was at 33 miles and located at a brewery. Because it was still early in the morning it wasn't open yet. I was able to remove the long sleeve jersey and one pair of gloves. This was also the turnaround point for the group I was riding with. Mary was in our group and I had told her I would ride with her. She said I should try for the 100. I let her know that the century ride was off the table but I still wanted to try for the 87 mile route. She told me to go for it, so I hopped back on my bike and chased down a few of our west Michigan teammates that had left the rest stop just ahead of us.

I caught up with coach Mike first. He was helping along another rider. The three of us rode together for about 10 miles and then I pulled away, finding the people I was actually chasing at rest stop 3. From this point everyone turned around. In about 10 miles the 100 mile riders would turn left and the 87 milers would turn right and head back into Santa Fe. I ended up riding the 43 miles back with two of our new riders, Dennis and Timmie. They are both strong riders and we were making good time.

Dennis, Tom and Timmie getting ready to climb "The Hill".
Our pace started to slow as a headwind came up over the saw tooth sections. Each of us had some struggles. About five miles before the final break point my left leg started to tighten up. I had no power in the leg, which made climbing up all those hills very difficult. I kept falling behind my ride partners. Thankfully there was someone giving neck massages at the rest stop. I asked her to massage my leg instead. She did a great job of working out the tightness and I was able to continue.

The final 10 mile stretch was a long, slow, uphill slog. The elevation, wind, and long day in the saddle were starting to take their toll. The three of us took frequent breaks and vowed to just stay together. As the sun was starting to dip very low in the sky we rolled through the finish line. Our teammates were there cheering and volunteers hung medals around our necks. I've done 14 of these rides, and the finish line is always an amazing experience. Only minutes before it took everything I had just to make the pedals go around. Once I crossed that line I had a renewed energy. I stayed around and cheered for our teammates who still were finishing. As is the west Michigan custom, our whole team stayed around and cheered until the last rider finished.

The Santa Fe ride raised $2,000,000 for diabetes research. The west Michigan team was the number five team in terms of amount of money raised. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause this year. Because of you we are closer than ever to finding a cure for type one diabetes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Santa Fe Ride Recap - part 1

JDRF ride #14 is finished. Santa Fe was one of the hardest JDRF rides we've done yet. The city is 7,000 feet above sea level and there was over 4,000 feet of climbing on the route I did. Oh, and it was 38 degrees at the starting line. But more on all that later.

Tom and Mary at the San Antonio Springs trail head.
Understanding that the New Mexico elevation may be an issue, Mary and I went out there a few days early. Our plan was to do some hiking and get acclimated to the conditions. Our first two nights we stayed in a bed and breakfast in Jemez Springs that was 6,300 feet above sea level. Figured that was a good start. We noticed right away how dry the air is. We immediately started using our Death Valley hydration protocol. We both had mild headaches the first two days, but those went away as we drank more water and took a little vitamin I.

On Wednesday we drove the rental car up into the mountains to the San Antonio Hot Springs Trail (8,000 feet above sea level). It was snowing as went up the mountain. We wanted to drive the access road and park at the trail head that is only a mile from the hot springs. However, the "road" was barely passable. When we found an abandoned car in a mud hole about two miles in, we decided to park and walk the remaining three miles to the springs. The hike was worth it. The view was great and the hot springs felt great, even though it started to snow on us as we were getting out of the water. We hiked for about a mile in the snow. Although it was cold out, it didn't feel as cold as a similar temperature in Michigan. The dry air and lack of wind are probably to account for that.

The canyon at Bandelier National Monument.
On Thursday we met up with some of our JDRF team mates and went hiking in Bandelier National Monument. It's interesting getting to the monument, as you have to drive past the national laboratory in Los Alamos. That's where the built the first atomic bomb. You still need to go through security checkpoints when entering or leaving the city. The hike was done in two parts. The first was through a canyon to a waterfall. According to the ranger at the information center we were in luck because the waterfall was actually running that day. It's been very dry in that part of New Mexico and for most of the summer there was no waterfall. We saw some amazing rock formations that looked like tents that have been eroded away. The second part of the hike was to a 500 year old cliff dwelling. We were able to climb up into a few of the dwellings. It's amazing that anyone could live in a space that small.

After Bandelier we headed to Santa Fe to check into the hotel and get ready for ride weekend. I'll go into more detail about the ride in Part Two. Did I mention that it was hard?