Ride day dawned extra early (I think it was 3:45 AM), in part because my hubby somehow managed to set our room clock ahead an hour. When the alarm buzzed I was confused, as it was set to go off 5 minutes after my cell phone alarm, which had been set for 5 minutes earlier than the room clock. At this point we weren't sure which time to trust, since both of our cell phones were showing correct time, but we didn't know if it was correct, as the room clock time had been accurate prior to this. I turned on my Garmin and confirmed that our cells were correct, but by this point we were both pretty awake and only dozed for maybe another 45 minutes before the legitimate alarms chimed.
Upon the REAL wake-up calls we wandered to the breakfast buffet (biscuits/gravy and bacon AGAIN...YES!), ate, chugged coffee, then back to our room to don our cycling kits.
Our West MI team clustered together with 300+ riders from all over the US and removed our helmets for the national anthem.
|My hubby with |
his macho butterfly
The trip out to the course turn-around was relatively easy sailing, as it's mostly downhill to Badwater--lowest point in the US--and the sun has yet to break from behind the mountains, so it was cool and shady. The riders are also in groups pacelining.
|Nicole & Cliff|
The return trip to the ranch was uneventful. I rode much of it with one of my team-mates, Diana. By the time we arrived back at the ranch (51 miles on my Garmin, IIRC) the day was starting to really heat-up.
I went back out with the intent to go at least as far as the 10 mile break-point...perhaps as far as Badwater. With Jubilee Pass eliminated from the route I no longer felt any great need to complete the full century option, as I managed 3 of those plus a ride across the state this year. There wasn't any sort of "bucket list" incentive for me, plus I really didn't want to get that far out and then realize that the heat was more than I could tolerate. Most of our team ended up riding similar mileage that day, with a few finishing the entire route (Cliff completed his first century in Death Valley...on the same day he proposed. What a momentous day for a person!).
|1/3 of the West MI team + honorary team members Danny & Jerry|
That's me with the butterfly arm sleeves, which protected from the
sun and kept my arms cool, especially with a squirt of water.
A mile out from the ranch is the "Elevation: Sea Level" sign, so we all gathered-up to be photographed in front of the sign. Bonus was having one of our team coaches roll-up in time to join us.
It was so fabulous to roll back into Furnace Creek with my posse of fellow JDRF warriors. My Garmin showed me at almost exactly 71 miles ridden, though it tends to cut corners (generally at the rate of about a half mile short for ever 30 miles when I compare my mileage to others') and most of the riders who logged the same route I took claimed 72 miles. It was 72 miles of awesome! In some ways I didn't find the heat to bother me as much as I had anticipated, either. I handled hydration well and had a few swigs from my small bottle of pickle juice (yes, seriously!). In some ways I think I'd rather ride in 100+ dry degrees than 90+ humid ones. My sweat actually served its purpose and helped keep me cool. Perhaps oven > sauna...?
|Click for a larger version of the|
map and elevation profile
|Jason, Walt, me, Sarah|
Michigan Great Lakes West: Home of "BikeFace"
After dinner our team met back at the pool and floated around until pruney and ready for sleep. This pool time was a bit bittersweet, as it marked the end of our time together as an entire team in Death Valley for the 2011 ride. Many were making the return trip to MI in the early morning, while others were stopping off in Las Vegas for a night or two, and our team head coach and bike room guys (all from our very favorite bike shop right here in West Michigan, Velo-City Cycles) were preparing bikes for shipment back to their riders in far-flung parts of the country.