This past weekend I spent 3 days at Death Valley, Ca. We were there for a 106 mile ride for JDRF. This is for Diabetes research. There were about 320 riders from all across the country. No one left unhappy or dissatisfied.
The Ride to Cure is an amazing event for an amazing cause. The staff and the volunteers do an outstanding job. They also remind us that this really wasn't about riding a Century (100 miles). It really wasn't about the personal feat of finishing the ride. It was about finding a cure for Diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that affects so many people. It follows no color lines, no ethnic groups or socioeconomic status. This disease doesn't care if you are 8 months, 8 years or 80 years. Once its strikes it's a life sentence. There is no cure. There is a life of finger pricks, counting carbs and watching your diet. Even with the greatest care you still are no longer in control. You can do everything right and still have issues. The best you can do is manage your readings.
The day before the race we went on a little tune up ride. It was only about 6 miles but it was already 103 degrees. We knew that the next day would be cooking. The race officials also knew that it would be tough. They were watching the weather forecast very closely. We knew that if it was too hot they would possibly have to modify the course. Which would cut out Jubilee Pass. But we also knew what kind of people we were. Most of the riders would have killed themselves riding up to the Pass and then would have been unable to make it all the way back without assistance and we just didn't have that many SAG vehicles even though there were about 10.
Anytime you go for a ride no matter where you are, you are concerned with drink plenty of water and having plenty of nutrition. Death Valley is no place for the faint of heart. It will test your ability to dictate to your body that even though right now you may not be thirst but you will be shortly. You have to drink and drink and drink and drink. I guess you get the point.
All day we were drinking plenty of water. I am sure that the staff went through more than a two thousand bottles of water. Even 30 minutes we were grabbing more water. And when you grabbed one for yourself you grabbed one for your team. We all made sure that we were completely hydrated. We spent the afternoon relaxing and enjoying what an awesome venue we had for this ride. Death Valley has some amazing scenery.
At dinner on Friday night they announced that there were in fact going to shorten the ride. They decided to make it a 25 out and back and for those who wanted to do 100, to do the course twice. There were some groans but all of us knew it was probably for the best. We all looked at each other an knew that we would go into the race with the plan to do the 100 miles.
Once we left dinner and went back to our rooms, we all decided to settle in. Get as much sleep as possible and be ready for a great ride. It was amazing how easily I was able to get to sleep. I am normally very anxious about any kind of race, ride or run. I get butterflies on a little 3 mile training run. But I was strangely at peace going into this ride.
We wake up bright and early and have breakfast at 5:30. Normal breakfast but more hydration. Even with the temps in the lower 70's were still were trying to stay ahead of the game. We start getting lined up at 6:30. There was a definite buzz in the air. Everyone was excited and ready for a great day. Then the elite riders took off. Then finally we started. We really took it easy for the first mile. Just getting into a single file line, finding riding partners and establishing a rhythm.
We keep the pace at about 17 - 18 mph for the first part of the ride. This was mostly downhill and shaded so we knew we needed to take advantage of that but still not going all out, saving that for later in the day. The group splintered a little bit on the way out. But it was going great.
The ride staff had a water only SAG stop at 10 miles and then a full service stop at Badwater, mile 17 and then a full stop at the turnaround at 25. These were perfectly spaced out. Except with the first stop not having bathrooms, we were really anxious to get to Badwater and then leaving Badwater getting back to the Ranch.
We made great time going out. Three of us stayed together. Jim C, Frederik and I. We formed a pretty good paceline and keep an eye out for each other. The cadence of drinking could be heard over and over again. We had others to join us and then fall off at the rest stops. Either they would leave before us or after us. We were really concerned with staying together.
Mile 23 was designated as a memorial mile. A mile of silence. We did this as a tribute all of the people who lost their battle with Diabetes. It was the only mile marker on the trail. It was a fitting memorial.
On the way back we picked up 2 sisters (Tara and Amy) riders from the Cincinnati Chapter. They had left just before us and decided to hook up with us.
We stayed together the rest of the day. Formed a nice pace line, encouraged each other to drink and just basically looking out for each other. At the end of day we all finished upright, under out own power and smiling. I am so thankful.
Today was an amazing day. We saw the full gambit of emotions. The excitement and joy at the start. The hurt and anguish of cramping. Then excitement again as we crossed the finish line. There were tears of joy that we were able to finish and there were tears of sorrow for the loved one who lost their lives to diabetes.
As my friends and readers of this blog know I didn't finish this ride last year. I fell coming down Jubilee Pass. I had to have stitches in my arm, fingers and a serious road rash on my left hip. I had many reminders this weekend of that. At the dinner on Friday night, one person said make sure you stay upright this year. At the 75 mile mark entering the turnaround one of the race officials, said "Hey, you were here last year weren't you?" "Yes", I said. Then he said, "I remember you fell and we had to pull you off the course.". My heart sank. What a way to be remembered.