Another Death Valley ride to cure diabetes is over. I’ve had a week to recover (both physically and emotionally) and to reflect on another inspirational weekend in the desert.
The ride this year was much like last year. I’ll save you the retelling of that detailed story – you can read it here if you want: October 2009 blog entry.
A few things were different, though. First was the number of riders… more than 300 total compared with 160 last year. We had 19 riders from Indiana, 15 of whom were from our central Indiana team. So there were a lot more people around all weekend and on the ride itself.
There were also more riders who underestimated the challenges of riding 100 miles in the desert and needed to catch a ride in a SAG wagon or visit the medical tent at the end. No shame in that; the real goal was raising money for diabetes research.
And there was the ride itself. I didn’t ride it alone this year, which made a huge difference in how quickly the time passed even though I slowed my pace, and allowed me the opportunity to ride along and offer encouragement to other riders experiencing the desert for the first time. It also made the ride much more enjoyable – especially with Mark and Kevin singing desert and sun songs while we pedaled. And I’d like to give a special shout out to Sam for riding along with me for many, many miles.
Turns out, though, that a number of things stayed the same: similar flight schedules, routes, bus rides and stops, warm-up rides and safety talks.
What stayed the same was the 100+ mile route, with a 7-mile climb in the middle, for a very long and hot ride on Saturday.
What stayed the same were the inspirational stories of epic challenges on the road in 100+ degree heat. My bike thermometer showed 108 on the road on Saturday.
What stayed the same was the sheer joy of crossing the finish line – and watching the friends I trained with cross. Congratulations to Danny, Lisa, Tony, Michael, Bob, Mark, Kevin, Sam, Kate W., Scott, Kate E., Kelly, and Joel. And especially to coach Alex, who prepared us well and rode nearly 40 miles herself while 20 weeks pregnant.
What stayed the same were the camaraderie, nicknames, laughter, hugs, sweat and tears shared with a great group of cycling friends.
What stayed the same were the inspiring people I met, including Mary Brown, widow of legendary football coach Paul Brown, who rode 80 miles in this, her 80th year.
What stayed the same were the tragic stories… one of a rider and mother who lost her teenaged son to complications of diabetes earlier this year. It was very emotional to see the huge team of supporters she brought with her, in memory of him.
What stayed the same were the huge amounts of money raised ($1.3M from this ride alone with some individuals raising more than $25,000 themselves) and the riders recruited. One of the youngest riders won the yellow jersey for bringing 16 new riders this year. Wow!
What stayed absolutely the same were the magnificence of the desert, the spectacular views, and the unbelievable experience of being with a large group of people focused on the same set of goals: raise money, bike as far and long as your body will allow, and ultimately find a cure for diabetes.
And like last year, the tears are never far below the surface – my friends Bob and Danny tell me that is a normal part of the recovery process.
Will I go back next year? God-willing and as long as I am able. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.