Thirteen years and counting.....join us as we share our journey toward a cure for type 1 diabetes!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Different Ride

It’s been about a month since the JDRF ride in Death Valley. The journey this year started the night before the trip, with a tickle in my throat and a churn in my stomach. I looked at Sandy – “I think I’m getting sick.”

“That’ll be different,” she replied, “you’ve never done this ride while you were sick.”


Last year’s ride was about similarities (see that blog post: The Amazing Sameness of the Second Year) – this year was about differences.

It started about the same – up at 4:30 AM to catch a flight – but this time to Chicago, not to Denver like the last two years. This time without Kevin, my roommate for the last three years and the one who got me involved in this crazy annual ride to raise money for a great cause. And also this time without Mark, who was our riding companion during training and was our honorary third roommate last year. Different – and I missed those guys.

The flights to Chicago and Vegas were smooth and on time. As we boarded the bus to Death Valley, we saw some familiar faces and made some new friends. Michael and Danny were carrying what looked like violin cases but turned out to be ukuleles – they had the whole bus rockin’ all the way to the Valley. Different.

When we got to the ranch, many of our rooms weren’t ready for us – another first. So we stood in the heat and chatted and waited. We found our bikes and bike bags and waited. We drank water, told jokes and waited. We made new friends, greeted old ones, and showed people where their bikes were.

And waited.

Finally, after a couple of hours in the hot sun, we got our room keys, got changed out of our sweaty clothes and into our bike gear, and headed out for our annual first venture into the desert.

From the start, two great guys joined us. Joel, from Champagne, IL, who was Michael’s roommate – and who is likely now a permanent member of the central Indiana team – and John, from northern California. Turns out that John is 76 and was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a year ago – the oldest known person to be diagnosed with Type 1. Despite that, he proved himself to be a heck of a rider and a great guy to ride with.

With these two energetic guys, we stretched our first ride into a few extra miles past our usual stops at the Borax mine and ranger residences. Then we rode in a brisk pace line back to the ranch – exhilarating!

After dinner, it was off to bed early… tired from the long day and the heat and still not feeling healthy.

I awoke on Friday morning with a pretty sore and froggy throat. Tony (my roommate this year, and a pretty decent sub for Kevin) and I decided to get breakfast early and then ride up to Zabriskie Point before the mandatory safety meeting. This turned out to be a great decision for several reasons. First, there were virtually no cars on the road. Second, we got to watch the sunrise and the moon set as we climbed up the road. And third, the only inhabitants at Zabriskie were a small herd of photographers. They stood silently alongside their tripods in the cool morning air. In the pre-dawn hours the desert was cool and extremely peaceful. What a great time to be there!

We rode back down (5 miles – all down hill) and stopped to pick up the Jeep we’d rented to for the rest of the day. Then to the safety meeting…

The safety meeting took a particular focus this year – hydration. While it’s always a problem in the desert, it was especially so this year. They were expecting record high temps and nearly half of the 350 riders were new to Death Valley. Last year they pulled more than 100 riders from the course who were either too hot or too tired to finish. So the message of the day was “Make a B-line to the pee line.” Meaning, if you weren’t peeing frequently on the ride, you weren’t hydrating enough.

They also dropped hints that if the temps stayed high, it was possible they would change the course.

That would be different.

We heard from the national coaches, the ride organizer, the ride doctor and the National Park Service. All had similar messages – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – along with the usual instructions to ride single file and to be safe on the roads. And as usual, they managed to scare us.

Most of the group then went on the scheduled tune up ride (this year ONLY to Golden Canyon, no riders were allowed to go to Zabriskie – different again – and one more reason Tony and I were happy to have gone earlier). Tony, Danny and I headed out in the Jeep.

When I picked up the Jeep, I talked to the rental guy about where we should go. His first question was: “Do you want to go see the rocks?” This question referred to the rocks of Racetrack Playa. These strange rocks seem to move themselves across the hard-packed desert floor, leaving an unlikely trail behind. Seemed pretty cool, and was the destination I’d had in mind when I reserved the Jeep a few weeks earlier.

Richard (the rental dude) told me Racetrack Playa was about 80 miles away… the first 50+ on paved road, the last 27 on “gravel.” The rental dude indicated it would take about an hour on the paved portion and then about 1½ hours on the “gravel” portion. Tony, Danny and I agreed this would be our target destination, but we’d see how we felt once we found the road.

We covered the first 50 miles in about an hour with only one stop at a roadside pit toilet. After a short, pungent visit here, Tony vowed to never enter such a place again. Then we found the road to the Racetrack.

“Gravel” would be a generous description of the road. It was very, very rough – dirt and gravel and much of it washboard. Rental Richard told me that they grade the road occasionally, pushing the loose rock to the edges. He warned that if another vehicle approached, not to try passing on the loose stuff, but to stop and wait for the other car to pass. On the way out, we saw only two other vehicles, so we didn’t have to exercise this procedure much.

We reached the Playa after an hour and a half of bouncing and shaking our way down the rough, rough road. The Playa itself was fascinating, with dozens of rocks with trails that left us scratching our heads about how they could possibly move. Also this was the most desert looking of places I’ve been in Death Valley.

We made the drive back (long, bumpy, dusty, rough road again) and stopped at Ubehebe crater, formed by an explosion of steam from a volcano. Pretty cool sight, and very, very windy there. We also stopped briefly at Scotty’s Castle (maybe a story for next year) and then made our way back to the ranch. Good day… but a very different experience.

Like Mark and Kevin not being with us this year, Lisa also had to stay behind. The upside of this was that it opened a spot for Mike, Sam’s husband, to join us for the ride. Their daughter, Bailey, is Type 1 and it was cool that they both could do the ride for her.

We learned that while we bouncing down a bumpy road, Mike and Sam drove Michael and Joel up to Dante’s view so they could ride their bikes back down. Dante’s view is about 25 miles uphill from the ranch and about a mile above sea level. So they got to see a spectacular view and then coast down the 25 miles back to the ranch. Very cool… and different.

We also learned that a surprise awaited Bob. He was doing his tenth ride in Death Valley and had also raised more than $100,000 himself over those years. Bob’s wife, Annette, also joined him this year. In celebration, his two sons, Chris and Patrick, made arrangements to come to Death Valley to surprise Bob and to volunteer during the ride. I have rarely seen Bob as happy as when his sons arrived. And after spending some time with these two fine men, it’s no wonder why. You have a great family, Bob! To top that, if that’s actually possible, Bob got a podium finish for his fundraising total for this year. Wow – great job!

After dinner and the usual talks and awards, the announcement came – they would be altering the ride course for Saturday.

Instead of 50 miles out, with a seven-mile climb to the mid-point, the course would be 25 miles out and back. For those that wished to do 100 miles, we could do the course twice. This made a lot of sense logistically – if someone was tired after 50 miles, it would be easy to stop because they would be back at the starting point. And no one would be more than 25 miles from the start, making a return trip much easier if you had to be driven in. While this made a lot of sense, it was still a bit of a disappointment for those of us who had trained to ride the big hill.

This was going to be very different.

At our team meeting that night, we reminded ourselves why we were there– it wasn’t about the miles or the climb, but about finding a cure – and began preparations for an early start for ride day.

The alarm went off at 4:30 AM, my throat still froggy but no other symptoms. After filling up on food and fluids at breakfast, we made our way to the start line. The day started clear and cool with a beautiful sunrise.

Our team started in the second-fastest group and headed up the hill out of the ranch. We stayed basically together until the stop at Badwater, 19 miles from the start. This section of road is built over the hills formed by the erosion of the sides of the mountain, so there are a lot of ups and downs. At the low points, it actually felt cold in the early morning air.

After a long stop at Badwater for a bathroom break, a little food and water refills we headed out. The group split up a bit, as different ride strategies started to emerge. Some wanted to get as many miles in as possible while it was still cool, with the opportunity to stop early if it got too hot. My strategy was to set a steady pace and finish all 100 miles.

We made the turnaround at mile 25, noting the California Highway Patrol car parked just beyond the rest stop to discourage any riders from venturing further up the road. We headed back to Badwater and re-grouped for the 18 miles of ups and downs back to the start. Again, we spread out as some set a faster pace than others. We arrived as a group back at the start, checked-in with the ride crew, got food and water and headed back out.

For much of the first 50 miles, we had the benefit of the shade of the mountain on the east side of the valley. Shade was a luxury we aren’t used to on this ride. The second trip out to Badwater didn’t have that advantage, though, and was in full sun. Normally, this is the first section we ride while fresh and excited in the early morning. We were now facing it for a second time and at midday. To make matters worse, we were also riding into a headwind. This meant that there was no relief to be found in the downhills – they had to be pedaled and there was no cool morning air at the bottom.

The road to Badwater has mile makers starting with mile 1, making it easy to monitor progress and to know exactly how far it is to the next stop. In the full sun, with a headwind and 50 miles in my legs, and no relief from the downhills, I looked for a mile marker, hopeful that I was getting close to the stop. Mile 6. Rats… Badwater was at mile 18. I realized I needed to stop looking at the signs and just focus on the riding.

Breathing hot, dry air through my mouth was like sand paper on my sore throat. Drinking Gatorade and water from my bottles was both for hydration and to relieve my throat.

John and I got a bit ahead of the group by the time we reached Badwater. John was worried that he might start cramping, and so asked if I would go with him to keep him moving. We headed out for the turnaround once more. When we got there, the volunteers said we were riders 67 and 68 that made it there a second time. We got cold towels around our necks and a nice misting of water to cool us off. Joel caught up to us at this stop and the three of us headed out together.

We returned to Badwater for a short break where I begged a Diet Pepsi from one of the volunteers. Coke/Pepsi is a great recovery drink and this can was fished from the bottom of an ice-filled cooler – sooo marvelously cold.

We headed out for the last 18 miles with a small group. A short distance up the road, one of the riders started cramping badly. We stopped for a short time with him, but he urged us to go on as he worked out the cramps in his legs. Joel, John and I continued on.

A coach joined us for this last section of the ride – more ups and downs and now with more than 80 miles in our legs. It was no-kiddin’ hot, too – my bike thermometer showed 111 F, the hottest I’ve seen during a Death Valley ride. We stopped at Golden Canyon briefly to re-group and then headed out for the last two miles.

We re-grouped one last time at the top of the last mile and then coasted in together. This last mile is always emotional for me. It represents the culmination of thousands of training miles, thousands of dollars raised, the effort of the ride itself and the myriad emotions of the weekend. Ultimately, it’s a huge sense of accomplishment and relief. I’ve done it. Another 100-mile Death Valley ride completed. More funds raised for a great cause.

When we got back to the ranch, Mike, Bob and Danny were already there. They had decided to end their rides early, given the heat. Sam, Michael and Tony rode in shortly after us – all managing to ride 100 miles.

At dinner that night we heard a ride re-cap and more awards were given. The course changes seemed to have helped, with fewer riders needing to be pulled from the course and no serious medical issues. Most of the riders liked the change, not only because it allowed more mileage options, but also because we were able to see a lot more riders throughout the day.

I had mixed emotions about the change. While it was probably safer for new riders and better logistically for the ride crew, riding the same stretch of road four times gets monotonous. Also, the section of road that we rode had lots of points of interest – Artist’s Palette, Golden Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater. This meant there were lots of cars and cyclists going both ways on the road, which made it very busy. Given the success, though, this may be a difference we continue to see in future rides.

After dinner it was off to bed… this time tired from the ride in the heat. Sunday morning emerged and I still had a frog in my throat, but now it was much more sore, too. I sought out Advil from my teammates, not for pain from the ride but for my throat. Once I got back into a more humid environment, my sinuses erupted with a full-on infection. Glad I didn’t have all that while I was riding…

As always, thank you for your donations, encouragement, prayers and support – those echoed in my mind as I pedaled all those miles. I couldn’t have done it without you!

While this year was one of differences, like prior years the tears are never far below the surface – my friends Bob and Danny tell me that is a normal part of the recovery process.

And so, another unforgettable ride in the desert. Will I go back next year? Well, differences and similarities aside, there are still more sights to see and we still haven’t found a cure…

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lost art of the group ride

The following is a link to a recent post from JDRF national coach, Tim St. Clair, on Facebook. It is well worth the few minutes that it takes to read.


General Stuff

Thanks Sam for the reminder about the Blog. I had completely forgotten about this particualr forum. We sure have a lot of different methods to communicate and it is difficult for some of us old people to keep track of everything.

Congratulations to the LaCrosse riders. From all that I've heard it was a great ride from all aspects. Sarah has participated in a few rides over the years but never as a rider. She now knows what we have all experienced as riders. Welcome Sarah to an elite group.

Is there anyone interested in riding on the East side on Sat? I'm planning to leave 7:30 ish and riding at least 50 miles. Let me know.

Take care all and remember to ride often and safely.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Indiana Cure Chasers are in La Crosse, Wisconsin...

Our La Crosse riders are preparing for their bike ride on Saturday. They are ready even though it appears that they are exhausted just after registration...
But it looks like they recovered. It likely took just a couple beers Thursday night to get them back on their feet and ready for the tune up ride on Friday...Good luck Indiana Cure Chasers!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while...

Sam, Penny, Tony, Bill and I met at Southwestway (SWW) Park today for our usual Tuesday ride. The weather looked great... blue skies, with puffy white clouds and a bit of a breeze blowing from the west.

We worked to stay together in the headwind and made it to Brooklyn and Observatory Hill. When we got to Brooklyn I mentioned to Sam that I didn't like the look of the big cloud back toward our starting point to the north. Penny, Sam and I climbed Observatory Hill, contemplated making a second ascent while Penny played in traffic, but decided to head back to get Sam home on time and avoid the weather. As we pedaled out of Brooklyn and looked at the big storm cloud, Tony opined that our cars were likely getting wet in the parking lot back at SWW.

As we made our way back north, most of the storm clouds stayed off to our east and we even saw a lovely rainbow at one point. But when we got about three miles from the parking lot, big drops started falling from the storm clouds overhead. At first the few drops felt pretty good and the temperature dropped noticeably. As we rode toward home, though, the skies got darker and the rain got heavier, and then the lightning and thunder started. As I passed the golf course, barely able to see the cars in the lot through the rain, I saw a lone golfer carrying his clubs and making his way to his car, reminding me of the Caddyshack quote in the title.

By the time we got back to the parking lot at SWW, I was completely soaked head to toe and it was still absolutely pouring down. We got our stuff loaded in our cars and headed home...

Thanks Sam, Penny, Tony and Bill for a great ride in spite of the weather... everyone's spirit at the end made it a lot of fun. And I'm sorry I jinxed us by mentioning the storm cloud back in Brooklyn...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Training schedule is now available on the blog

The training schedule link on the right hand side of the blog has been updated. If you click there it will take you to the recently revised schedule that Michael sent out. This document has schedules for each ride, page through to find the one you need.

We are still working on updating some of the other blog information, a change from Google has delayed our progress.

Alex & Sam

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fantastic Four!

Our first Team ride out of South West Way Park this morning and what a great day for it!

As promised by the weather channel the temperature was 55 as we saddled up and headed south on Mann Rd at 7 am on this foggy Mother's day morning!

The traffic was light, the company was great with Nathan, Kate E and Sam joining me (half of our riders were mothers!)

So we did something a little different this morning and may give it a go on future rides, as it got us off of Mann Rd and out of the traffic, but I am getting ahead of myself. We rode out through Booklyn, with a short stop at 44 to shed a layer as we were well warmed up by then.

A quick trip to the top of Observatory and we were headed back to SWW in short order. I commented that it seemed like the hill had gotten easier as Sam and Kate made it look that way. :) We followed Bottom Rd out of Brooklyn and were quite pleased to have another hill when we made our left off of Bottom to head back in the general dirction of home.

We zig zagged through the country, crossed Centenary Rd and then completed the ride staying north of Centenary on the roads less traveled. Nathan and I got a case of the droppsies, with me dropping the mirror off of my glasses (recovered) and Nathan loosing his glasses. (so if you find a pair of glasses laying beside the road (on Paddock Rd) they are Nathan's.

We sort of experienced some precipitation, enough to mess up our glasses, but it really felt more like condensation from the fog to me. We stopped briefly somewhere along the route and broke chomps, for our Sunday morning communion (I thought I videoed the event, but messed it up, next time).

We ended up with almost 32 miles and a 14.5 mph average, with an ending temperature of 59! All in all a great ride with great company!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Fantastic Youth Ambassador Event!

The JDRF Ride season is officially kicked off with a stellar Youth Ambassador event!!
We rode as a team about 17 miles to just sort of shake the kinks out before heading over to Woodland Bowl, where Tony, Danny, Kevin and myself grabbed a quick bite before the start of the kickoff.
I would like to start by saying, as great as the youth ambassadors have always been and as helpful and encouraging as all these great kids have been, I think that 2011 is going to be a year by which all of the following years will be measured. What a great group!! I believe that all of the Cure Chasers (with the notable exception of the Warpools who showed up with their custom vintage bowling ball bags) biked better than they bowled.
We are hoping to have several events like this through out the summer and all of the riders are looking forward to the cards and letters that we know will be coming.
A quick word about my new Youth Ambassador Garrett Smith. He is seven years old and was diagnosed just a little over a year ago.
He is an amazing young man and has decided to take this summer off from baseball so that he can put all of his attention into fighting for a cure. Really!!! Just and example of what this young man has already accomplished, he sold over 2000 of the JDRF paper sneakers,,,,, whoa.... that's right, over 2000!! It is not hard to believe after spending a very short time with him Saturday, his persuasive powers are amazing!!! Did I say amazing twice?
Garrett is already a real champion in the battle for the cure and I am very proud to have the opportunity to fight along side of him. It was a real pleasure to spend a few short hours with Garrett, his four brothers plus Tim and Kris his parents who I am sure are very proud of all their kids a great bunch!!
So I know that I have been long winded as usual, when Kimberly said that she was going to have me come up and say a few words, Danny was quick to remind me, "Just a few words please." :)
So I will cut this off here with the promise that we will be posting more regular with the weather finally starting to improve!
I also would like to encourage all the other Cure Chasers to post about your YA experiences this last Saturday as by all appearances a good time was had by all!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What a great weekend to ride!!!

7:30 Saturday morning, it was foggy and maybe even a little misty, but Lisa and Kate E showed up for our first "unoffical" JDRF ride of the season. We were very happy to be riding on the Monon as the visability was sketchy at best. So we started from the parking lot at the Jordan YMCA and headed north. We got lots of practice negotiating intersections, plus runners and walkers blocking the entire path and forcing us to work on our slow speed handling skills! The temperature actually was quite nice and we had a very pleasant ride all the way to the end of the trail at 161rst street in Westfield, where it terminates into a gravel bed that we promptly dubbed "The Alex Highway" in honor of one of the routes that we did last year when Coach Alex was trying to stretch us in preparation for our DV ride :) We made it back to the Jordan just ahead of the rain, thunder and lightening at about 9:15. The next day was another YMCA start point, as we met at the Anthenaum YMCA at 1pm for a spin class and Kate W decided that a road ride would better serve us as the weather was spectacular! So with sunny skies and temperatures at least in the high 70's we once again tackled the Monon, negotiating the Cultural trail to get to the southern most point. Today's group consisted of Kate W, Scott, Gary, Mark and Myself. Mark and Gary had already ridden from the northside to the spin class, so we just pointed them back the way they came. We had a great time catching up on lost time and again negotiating the various rolling road blocks that are typical of the Monon. We stopped and grabbed a bite to eat at a DQ that was just off the trail in Fishers (at least that is where I think we were) then said good bye to Mark and Gary. Scott, Kate and I pointed our bikes back the way we came and faced the Heinous headwind that Mark and Gary had told us about on our way north. We did a modified echelon to make a little better time as Kate and Scott had places to be and I had to work a fundraiser at Conseco last night.

Kate and I also discussed team nicknames for this year with 2 great names already

Scott "The Power House" Warpool

Gary "The Machine Tool" Martindale - I am sure other great names are to come through out the season!

Scott and Kate peeled off shortly before 16th street and I finished the ride just in time to change my cloths and head to Conseco with my lovely wife Melissa (who immediately scolded me for not wearing sun screen) WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERYONE :) When we got to Conseco, Nathan, Andy and his friend Cheryl were already there and chomping at the bit to start raising funds. We had a good night working with Paul in Pacer Combo, raised some more money for JDRF and enjoyed each other's company. I really enjoyed spending some quality time with my team mates and am looking forward to many more enjoyable rides like this through out the Season!

See you on the road soon!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And So it Begins

Last night was my first Nebo Ridge training ride of the season and it did not disappoint.

There actually are 2 groups this year (an A and a B that is more Honey Bee at least right now) and I hope this great training program continues to expand like this to include less advanced/agressive riders!

I started out with the A group, but I am so fat and out of shape that they blew me out the back (along with a few others about 12 miles in) Rob from Ridley bikes (pictured right >) rode with me for a while after we got dropped and we shortcut the 30 mile route so that we could ride with the A group again after they were a little less fresh :) and we had a great relaxed middle portion of our ride, while Rob filled me in on all the cool things that Ridley is doing. He had brought a bunch of demo bikes, so a lot of the Nebo guys were riding Ridley last night.

Check them out if you are in the market. Also, Rob was already familiar with the JDRF rides as he also services Mike Clarks shop up in Holland, MI

All right so here is the shout out gang. another Nebo ride on Thursday and I will be there, no matter the weather! Come on out and join in the fun, I'm looking forward to seeing all of you on the road this summer!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

A New Year and a New Look

I Love the new look of the Blog!!!

I am very happy that I am getting to see my team mates during this off season at the various fund raisers.

I also am excited to get started training with them again as the month of January has been tough with work commitments and now a case of the creeping crud keeping me from participating in spin classes.

I was thrilled to send 2010 on it's way with a great New Year's Eve ride with Sam and Lisa, leaving out of SWW park. We had a beautiful day, a wonderful ride and great time together!

I talked to Tony last week at the Conseco Fund Raiser (he is the one who clued me into the fact that NYE might be a great day for a ride) and I understand that he was able to sneak away from his hectic work schedule and squeeze in a few miles that day as well.

See you all soon comrades and comradets!


I am looking forward to spending more time in training and on the road with the team over the coming months, Great Job in 2010 everyone!

Indiana Cure Chasers 2010

Indiana Cure Chasers 2010
Death Valley October 2010

For more information about JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes...

Contact the Indianapolis office at 317-469-9604

Go to Indiana Cure Chasers website OR JDRF website.