My JDRF Ride Gear[/caption]On September 21st, I rode 103 miles on my bike through the hills of central Tennessee. This is the play by play (it’s long):
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Ride to Cure event was the entire weekend. I drove 10+ hours on Thursday from SE Georgia to Tennessee. It was late so I opted to skip the dinner Thursday night and get some rest.
Friday morning we had a safety meeting, followed by a short tune-up ride. I skipped the ride since my bike had been in one piece in the back of my car (not shipped in like so many others). It was great meeting up with the team from Alabama, some of whom I’d met on a training ride a few weeks ago (when I crashed). That afternoon was free, so I headed back to the place I was staying and did some work. It was the calm before the storm, but I was feeling pretty good. That evening we had a big dinner under a huge tent in the parking lot of one of the hotels near Vanderbilt stadium. Lots of fun and I really started to get an idea of what JDRF is all about.
I signed up for this ride to ride more than to support a cause. I have friends with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) or who have kids with T1D. I knew it was a good cause. I didn’t know the spirit of the people around it though. They told incredible stories, sometimes funny and sometimes heart-wrenching. They were there for the cause, but they never leave it. They are there for the cause every single day. That seems to make sense for those directly affected by it, but there are so many who are not until they participate in events like this.
There were 515 riders participating. More than $1.5 Million was raised. This was the biggest event in JDRF history, and also the most difficult course of the year (maybe of them all). The top fundraiser brought in more than $40K in donations. I felt bad for not doing more (I’m still working to get to $2K, and I wrote the checks for most of that). That shows the power of connecting to a cause with your whole heart. [Donations are still being accepted! Click here!]
Rain was a threat the entire week leading up to the ride. My friend and his daughter from Texas decided the forecast was too bad and opted not to come. It started raining Friday night and into Saturday morning. But the system moved through quickly, and by the time I got to the starting point there was only a one hour delay to the start.
It was wet, but it wasn’t raining when we lined up at 7:30 am. Our group left in the second wave, but it was still a ton of people. Just getting started in that big of a group was one of the most difficult things for me. I was also wearing a rain jacket for the first time. Weaving through town in a group of 150 or so riders was slow and it was very wet at times. It was a bit chilly as well, but I was focused and didn’t notice much.
There were six breakpoints on the course. I skipped the first one at about mile 12 because we had to get to the third one by 10:20 am or we wouldn’t be allowed to go for the entire course. A mile later I had to go to the bathroom (hydration’s fatal flaw!). Still, I held out for the second stop at about mile 20. Here I shed my rain jacket which was getting hot. We were now on the Natchez Trace and had a lot less car traffic.
There were some wicked hills in the beginning. I walked one and knew that I’d be walking some more. I can handle the shorter ones, but the long slow ones wear me out and I can’t stay on the bike much below 6 mph. Practice and training will make me better, but it’s flat as can be where I live and work!
I made it to the third breakpoint right around 10:20 am and wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue. It had been a hard push to get there before the cutoff. But once I got some water and a snack, they said it had been pushed back to 10:40 am and most people were relieved. I was as well, but part of me thought about turning back during the entire 33 mile ride out there. But I really wanted to do 100 miles (a 40 Before 40 goal), so I got back on the bike and kept going. By now the sun was out and the temps were up to the mid-60’s from the below 60 degree start.
Heading out to the turnaround offered some beautiful views and more wicked hills. I learned a lot about timing my shifts and seeing how far I could push myself. It was hard going up but fun going down! I hit almost 40 mph a few times! Scary when you look down and see that number (now I know why they don’t have speedometers in NASCAR!).
The sixth stop (which I skipped going to the turnaround) was high up on a hill and difficult to get to, but beautiful. I stayed there too long and felt it when I headed back out. My butt, arms, and neck were sore, and a headache was starting, but pressed forward now that I was 60+ miles in. The first few hills got me, but I bounced back and beat quite a few into the next breakpoint.
I only saw a few other people walking, but everyone was checking on everyone else and supporting them. It was really neat.
For the last 30 miles I just wanted to not quit. My butt didn’t even hurt anymore, I was just tired. Traffic was really bad coming back into town, but we made it. I was the last of our team to return (not all did 100) and as I crossed the finish line I pumped my arm in the air to the cheers of the crowd of strangers. I wish I had a picture from that moment!
I was sore, sweaty and probably didn’t smell so hot. I got my medal and had a friend take the picture of me holding my bike upside down over my head (much easier with carbon fiber!).
That night we had a celebration dinner that was a lot of fun, but I missed out on a lot not staying at the hotel. The 30 minute drive to where I was staying was fine though the tiredness really set in. I settled my things, got a great shower and then 9+ hours of sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I was sore and sunburned and tired, but overall okay.
On the same weekend a year before, I rode in my first event. I did 45 miles and was wiped out for the entire day, and pretty much for a week after. This time most of my soreness left after a few days, and I never really felt exhausted after the ride was over.
I’m getting better thanks to my fitness coaches Steve and Jody Berkey of 90Revolutions.com. I’ll never ride the Tour de France or compete with other athletes, but in competing with myself I’m winning. And that feels good.
Now I just need to pick my next physical challenge…