(Death Valley) California Dreaming: part 2

Part 1

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
We rolled just as the sun arose (6:45). As soon as I took off I noticed a weird noise...for a minute I thought something was wrong with my bike, but it quickly became clear as others on the West MI team also expressed puzzlement that the noise was not coming from our bikes, but from the doo-dads on our helmets. These pinwheels eliminated the need for anyone on our team to alert other riders to our presence as we passed, as they could hear us approaching like tiny freight trains! Our two manly-men coaches also had pretty, sparkly butterflies on their helmets. Apparently these butterflies were repeatedly "rescued" by other riders on the course.

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
At Badwater a buzz went through the West MI team.  Cliff was to propose to Nicole at the turn-around.  Suddenly it was imperative that we all get there (about 8 miles south of the Badwater break-point) in time to see the event unfold.  Cliff and Nicole had left Badwater a bit ahead of me, so I latched onto a steady couple of riders from Cincinnati and arrived in time to see the proposal unfold.  Not a dry eye was in the house desert!

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.
At the 10 mile stop I discovered a bunch of people from our team, so we all headed back to Furnace Creek Ranch together, with an extra stop at Golden Canyon (3ish miles from the finish and the turn-around point from our tune-up ride the previous day) to let everyone catch up.

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
Even without Jubilee Pass the ride was not as flat as one might assume.  My Garmin recorded some pretty substantial rollers.  Several of the climbs were a mile or two in length...not steep, but noticeable, especially in the heat and sun.

Mobile Inspiration
After finishing, our team stays at the finish (I quickly popped up to our room to change out of my swampy shorts and jersey).  We stay until the bitter end, when the last rider(s) return to the start.  This has become a West MI tradition.  While much of the field is eating dessert we are lining up for dinner with our hair still wet from quick showers.  Our team coaches are also 2 riders who do not leave the course until everyone is safely off of the course (my hubby is the big guy in the white arm sleeves).  It's just how we roll.  And it's one of the reasons that our team has developed such a positive, supportive reputation.  A rider from another team described us as "spirited."  That's about right.

Jason, Walt, me, Sarah
Michigan Great Lakes West: Home of "BikeFace"
At Dinner we learned that our team was #2 in fundraising at the Death Valley ride...out of ~20 teams, many of which had more members (we're kind of a big deal!).  As a whole this ride raised a whopping 1.2 MILLION dollars to go towards research in the fight against type 1 diabetes.  Our very own newly-engaged Cliff was also bestowed with the spirit award and a red polka-dotted jersey, as his proposal mid-ride represented what the JDRF Ride to Cure program is all about: embracing life and supporting families.

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.

Part 3...

No comments:

Post a Comment