A year ago (on my thirteenth diaversary), I signed up for my first JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. It seemed like a fun challenge to take on for the year.
It’s easy to find a reason not to exercise, but still I certainly did not anticipate the difficulties of starting from scratch and training for a long distance ride with a (more than) full time job and the tough summer temperatures in the desert. Meanwhile I found a course from my mom’s place in California that ended right at the beach.
I knew when I got to ride weekend in November that I couldn’t finish the full 106-mile course. I had completed some rides around 50 miles, so I figured the 76 mile route might be in my range. The day before the ride, all the JDRF riders had an information meeting with coaches and support team. We had been watching the weather, and it was going to be very windy the next morning, and so we were told that it was going to require about 20% more effort to defeat the wind. I wasn’t confident in my ability to ride 76 miles, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride the equivalent of the full course. I switched my ride distance (and where my bike would be dropped off in the morning) to 55 miles.
A few hours later we had a safety meeting with the Tour de Tucson crew. During that meeting, the official was talking through the course mile-by-mile and hill-by-hill. It seemed like every turn on the course was followed by a downhill. I can ride downhill all day long, and I didn’t want to finish the day feeling like I could have done more, so I started to have
second third? thoughts about my distance. The rest of my local team was planning to ride the 76 miles. We made a deal that I would ride that distance too as long as we all rode it together.
Famous last words.
I’m not a very fast rider and I didn’t train much on hills (because they hurt, and who needs that?) so the rest of the team quickly got ahead of me. I told them not to worry and that I’d catch them at the rest stop. It was only a few miles down the road when I “caught” them out of the corner of my eye as I passed them on the side of the road. I knew that they could catch me so I yelled to them I’d still meet them at the next rest stop. It turns out that one of our riders had a blown sidewall and our teen rider had broken his derailleur. That part was particularly sad because it isn’t fixable during a race. I tried to give him my bike, but we couldn’t make it work.
Because of all the trouble including a bunch of flat tires (and my slow but steady pace), the team hardly ended up riding together. The bright side was that I got to meet a lot of other JDRF riders from other chapters across the country. I got to talk to one as we both gave up on a particularly hard hill and got off our bikes to walk. When I found out later one of the coaches from another chapter walked up that hill too, I didn’t feel as bad. Pushing our bikes through the sand of the dry lake bed was another great place to meet people.
I reached the last JDRF rest stop at 68 miles. By that point we had picked up all the different ride lengths – the ride had different starting points so we could all have the same finish line. I was really, really (really!) struggling at that point. One problem with being gluten free on long distance rides is that it limits the choices of fuels at the rest stops. I can still live a long time without having another cup full of trail mix.
Although Team Schnak focuses mostly on type 1 diabetes in kids, Mr. Schnak himself was the only reason I made it from that rest stop to the finish line. He rode right next to me for those final miles, keeping me entertained and distracted. My favorite moment riding with Kent was about a mile from the finish line when he asked me if I wanted to stop for a second to get put back together for the finish line photos.
Oh, the finish line.
I should mention that my mom had joined me in Tucson and had volunteered all day while keeping an eye on her phone to track my progress. In fact, we had only enabled “Find Your Friend” the night before just so she would know when I was getting close to the finish line.
So I am within about twenty yards of the finish line and I spot my mom, but she is looking down at her phone – apparently trying to figure out where I was.
Rumor is that there were some not so nice words said as she finally heard me just as I passed her.
It wasn’t all her fault though. I had been to the same ride the year before, so as we got closer to the finish line, I had a good sense of where we were. That’s why it was so heartbreaking when the route sent us back out again (check out the route by the “T” of Tucson). The friends and family at the finish line were confused because we kept getting closer and further away again. The second problem was that our team had told our loved ones we were all riding together, but their phones were not matching. Every time they looked we were in different spots and different distances away.
So I rode 76.6 miles the week before Thanksgiving.
I’m a little ashamed to admit I’ve only been on my bike one time since then. My bike “lives” inside my apartment with me so it’s never far from my mind. The problem is that I just haven’t quite had the desire to get back on yet. I also had back to back medical appointments yesterday to check into some non-diabetes issues that are making it extra challenging to ride.
I need to get back on the bike soon because the Nevada team is riding again. We’re headed for Colorado, so it’s time to conquer some hills.