Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Last thoughts on Death Valley...

More than a week removed from one of the most difficult days of my year…the range of feelings and pictures and emotions that has rolled through my head is almost comical. Last year was my first Death Valley visit and my first century ride and when I left, I knew I would never experience anything like it. I was wrong. Once again the tears flowed often, and were more likely a result of joy, triumph, and love as they were sadness and struggle.

As our bus rolled into DV on Thursday, the sense of dread that had been building all week felt like it would paralyze me. The warmth of having been with teammates from the moment I left my house was gone (thanks again for the ride Steve, it meant a lot to start this journey with you, your wife, and Lynn). I couldn’t see the beauty of the terrain. All I saw was desolation and rock. I didn’t feel like I had prepared enough…I couldn’t stop thinking of last years ride back to the ranch and how much I hurt at dinner afterwards. Once we arrived at Furnace Creek though, the ranch became a physical and emotional oasis. The shelter helped me forget the pain, and the camaraderie of our team, both new teammates and old, rekindled my spirit. Introductions and hugs abounded as I was greeted and as I welcomed others. Seeing Sarah, Ted, and Sophie warmed me to the core, and once I saw Joe and thought of Adam, or saw Tom and Mary and thought of Jake, and Steve and Katie and Ellie, I was reminded why I was here. This ride isn’t about me and how fast or far I go…it’s bigger than every one of us. Then, claiming my bike, with its picture of Sophie and my father, Bill, and helping the “Spirit Squad” decorate everyone’s door finished restoring my strength and fortitude. My real work was already done; I had raised my money and gotten to Death Valley (note to others who may want to try this in the future: everything I just mentioned is, sadly, easily forgotten when you’re out on that road…it might be tougher mentally than it is physically). Of course, hanging out with the team, learning how to make balloon animals (who would have thought that inflating the balloon was the most difficult part of the operation?!), and listening to Sean make fun of Katie Clark’s little toes didn’t hurt either (have you seen them…they’re really little!).

Friday morning brought a picturesque day, the type we would hope for on Saturday. Breakfast with the family and Sean…the meeting, our team introductions (yep, I shed a tear or two) the warm-up ride to Zabriskie Point, another lazy afternoon at the pool, and the inspirational Friday night dinner...all so simple, but so unforgettable. For starters, the scenery at the Point is astounding. I was as awestruck this year as I was last year. (side note: Why is it that in Grand Rapids I never notice Sophie’s pump, hanging from her waist in some ornate and beautiful bag, but while she was directing the team for our photo at Zabriskie Point, that’s all I could see?) And if you believed the afternoon at the pool was lazy, you obviously weren’t there to watch Sophie wear out rider after rider in the pool (she’s really become quite a fish!). Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention Kevin’s underwater photography. Consider this a warning, because once you see the footage you will want to run out and get your own waterproof camera. Also, be sure you get the name of the organic chocolate/blueberry delights that Carmen was handing out Friday night. Remember though, you suck on them, don’t chew ‘em!

Saturday started early, and it didn’t take long before my nerves took over. I was about to ride 105 miles through Death Valley! Last year I felt under prepared and only finished because of Derek Dykstra and the team from Appleton, Wisconsin. Yet here I was, feeling stronger but less prepared than last year, wearing bunny ears on my helmet, doing it all over again. Tom Schiedel told me after the ride that he used the inspirational quotes on our bike cards as motivation to finish the ride…I laughed when I heard that because I used them to start. I read each and every one, hoping that the athlete in me would take over once we got out there, and before I knew it, Sarah, Ted, and I were rolling into Badwater. Once Sarah turned back, Ted and I joined a big group of teammates and started, what may be…to this point, the longest and greatest pace line in West Michigan ride team history. I’m not sure if the calls of “POOP!” and “BA’LZ!” tarnished the experience for the others, but I know “DRINKING!” was a very helpful reminder for everyone (In case anyone is interested, Ted, Sean, or I are available for any of your non-JDRF training rides…for a nominal fee). As for the rest of the ride, what can I say…44 miles to Ashford Mill, boring (to all you returning riders, how cool was it to see the Herron’s out on the route volunteering!?)…Jubilee Pass and its 8 miles and 8 degrees incline, been there, done that (though, it was the first time I made it without resting)…52.5 miles back into an accelerating headwind and climbing temperatures, o.k, now you’ve got my attention! My ride “started” at Mormon Point (only 33.5 miles left!) and ended at Badwater. When Sean, Pete, Ted, and I pulled into Badwater, I really needed the break. I felt so good and strong for the first 72 miles, I was stunned at what the last 16 did to me. I couldn’t eat (everything was making me nauseous) and I couldn’t cool down. After 10 minutes off the bike, I felt hotter than when we arrived. Once I finally pushed my pride aside (not an easy job, trust me!) it took Bikin’ Mike about 5 seconds to convince me to get a ride in. I may have shed a tear or two Friday, (one tear at our team introductions and a second at dinner, while being reminded why we were in Death Valley). That was nothing compared to Saturday. When I threw in the towel and said good-bye to Ted, Sean, and Pete, (can you believe Ted wanted to ride in with me? He wasn’t “finished” he just wanted to finish with me!) I felt sadness for leaving my friends to endure what would assuredly be a horrific final 17 miles. I felt like I failed my Dad and Sophie. All I could think about was the dozens of times I could have trained, but instead procrastinated, always thinking there would be another time to train. The tears came easily. Mike dropped me off at the turn to Badwater so I could roll over the finish line under my own power (side note: I got a ride in with the fixed gear guy…during the drive, Mike asked him why “in the hell” he was riding that bike on this course…his answer, “’cause this is the bike I ride..” It was good enough for Mike so it’s good enough for me. Maybe someday I’ll get it.) When I rolled across the finish line and was greeted by Sarah, I was uncontrollable. I wanted to apologize…I wanted to explain, but I couldn’t talk. Sarah just let me get it out and then reminded me of everything I already knew…that just being there meant I had already done my job…each mile I rode was just a bonus. Thankfully, my tears would soon change from sadness to joy. I received the doctor’s clearance, went to check on the teams’ progress, and heard about Amy. I stopped at the medical “tent” to see her, and she turned my attitude around. There she lied; having spent every ounce she could on the ride, and hooked up to her second i.v. bag. As soon as she saw me her first question was about how her best friend Melanie was doing. Unbelievable! She’s the one lying in bed suffering, and all she can think about is her teammate. The tears didn’t stop there though. Sarah meeting Ted when he and Sean were driven in because of Sean’s “effin’” chain…Mary greeting Tom… Pete looking like a salt lick…Carmen’s joy…one Schmeider after another… Nicole’s relief…Katie greeting Steve, who was being escorted by the greatest coach in the world, (yep, it’s true) MC…it was unforgettable! How about the finish line late in the day? Did West Michigan rule or what? Not even the ever growing wind storm, and flickering power could stop us. Sure the dinner awards presentation was cancelled, but we already knew who the real winners were…us! Best coach…Mike Clark, again! Best team…West Michigan! Of course, it was nice to hear from Coach Mike that Tim St.Clair also thinks that we were the best. That’s all we needed to celebrate our many victories on Saturday. Thanks again to Kevin’s sister Belinda for the early evidence of our accomplishments, and for going to get us more beer!

Sunday morning brought some good-byes (it always seems so sudden…like we just got there)… Jasker (you should have shaved the body, dude!), the Schmeider clan in their van, and Sarah and Ted off to their honeymoon. Many of us continued the team building and brought Vegas to its knees Sunday night. For those of you who weren’t there, you didn’t miss much, but I can tell you several things…one, if you ever travel with Carmen, let her check you into the hotel…two, Mike Howard and Kevin Owens aren’t as nice as they appear (no matter what Carmen says, you guys rock)…three, if Tom tells you “you should see this scar I have…”, look away because he’s about to drop his pants, again…four, the educational seminar in front of the pirate ship is Kevin’s fault…five, let Steve Clark gamble with your money, he’s better at it than you…and six, if you want to get a tattoo, call ahead!

Yes, this is how I am remembering the weekend. Yes, it is more word-y than a long MC e-mail, and yes, I’ve left out a million fantastic, little things. I’m sure my personal copy will get longer as things keep coming back to me. The one thing that I know won’t change is the overwhelming feeling I brought home with me. From the outside, we appear very normal; different people from different places with a shared distinction and goal. We all love someone with diabetes and we want to find a cure. The reason we are great is that our love and selflessness doesn’t stop there. The very same soul and charisma that brought us together isn’t limited to the cause or the team. Each and every one of us looks out for each other, our fellow riders, and our fellow man...that makes us original, and great! My dad asked me this week, in the wake of my Saturday mental and physical rollercoaster, if I would go back and do it again. My answer: absolutely.

Why, you ask? Why would I submit myself to the mental and physical abuse of 105 miles through Death Valley? Well, there are two answers to that question. The first, easy and obvious answer: so that Sophie and Adam and Jake and Ellie and every other child with type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to endure what my parents have. I promise you…after seeing what this disease has done to my Mother and Father, the thought of Sophie growing old with diabetes just destroys me. I’ve spent my life hoping, and working, to avoid being diagnosed with diabetes. The day Sophie was diagnosed, I ran my 5 mile loop in 30 minutes (that’s a 6 minute pace, 2.5 minutes faster than my norm)…I was pissed. I spent the night begging and pleading with God that it be me instead of her…but I’m sure you have all been there once. The second, more difficult and selfish answer: I like the way it makes me feel. By that I mean it’s more than just doing something good. I can do something good anytime I want. Instead, I relate this experience to Christmas. Each December everyone gets nicer, more polite, more patient, and more loving. Whatever your religion, the holiday season is ripe with the sense of fellowship and family. You exude it, you feel it in others, everyone is better for it, and every year you probably wish that you could feel that way all year. Doing this ride is doing something really great with really great people! Last year, Mike Clark and I talked in length after the ride about surrounding ourselves with significant moments…moments that stay with you and really mean something. My daily life is mostly void of those moments…but in Death Valley, on the JDRF rides…those moments are everywhere. So if I know how to get it, and where to find it, I would be crazy not to go.

So, I’ll see you in Death Valley, for as long as I’m able…

Looking for photos

I'm trying to put something together for the wrap up party at New Holland. I'd like a group photo of both the August and September Whitefish groups. Does anyone have that or can you direct me to where it's already been uploaded?

Monday, October 29, 2007

JDRF Promo Video

I came across this video promoting the JDRF and TuDiabetes.com, a site where I occasionally hang out. The point of the video is that 6 million people every year are diagnosed with diabetes, and it shows folks running around with a little number hovering over their heads. When I finished watching it, the first thing that I thought of was my son Ben running around and seeing his BG number hovering over his head. It would be wild to watch his BG in real time. I guess those with the continuous glucose monitor can already do this.

On a related note, I was watching Ben at a soccer game this weekend and he was playing really poorly. He just wasn't into it. At halftime I ran over to where he was and checked him. I thought sure he was low because he was just dragging big time. The meter counts down... 5, 4, 3, 2, ...1. 400 mg/dl. 400! Funny how I was almost hoping he was low so there'd be some excuse for his performance. I've thought the same thing when he's behaving badly. "There must be a reason for this behavior." Yeah, I guess the reason is, he's a kid. He's seven. He's going to have bad days completely unrelated to being a diabetic.

Anyway, take a look at the vid. Anyone can grab the embed code and throw it on their site. Might be useful for those still trying to raise money. I think they have other vids over at TuDiabetes.com as well.

Find more videos like this on Tu Diabetes - A Community for People Touched by Diabetes

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Place to put photos

See the "Ride Team site w/ Pictures" link on the right to see all of our team members pictures of the Ride to Cure Diabetes. Historical links are there as well too.

If you've been a rider with us in the past, please Join the group and add links to your online photos (Kodak, Flickr, Picasa, whatever!).

If you need help, contact Katie, Nicole, or Tom.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

t-shirt ideas

I will re-post my ideas in tribute to Katie's wise Vegas strategies, and because I apparent know nothing...

For motivation: POOP! or BA'LZ!

For safe desert riding: DRINKING!

And of course, for gambling in Vegas, when you are up a whole $2 when you started with $10 (that's right, I put in $10, got it up to $12 and before I knew what hit me, Katie was growling this in my ear...)


Announcing an end to fund-raising!

How's that gonna work you ask? Read on....................

I think that if we can bring to market merely a fraction of the t-shirts and other products that were inspired by our trip to DV we can "share the wealth" and never hafta do a garage sale or bake pretzels @ Van Andel again! I won't bore you w/ a recitation of the approx 347 t-shirt slogan ideas but a few other hot sellers come to mind........

A "Boob-Proof" cage to protect bike computers from inadverdant re-setting.

A 'Bike Bra Bra" to protect moving bicycle parts from unwanted lingerie intrusion.

(Hmm...is there a trend to spot here?)

The "Santa Ana Edition" tow rope and full fairing set.

The "Damn it's Hot out here!" conversion filter. This handy device snaps over the read-out screen of GPS units and cyclometers equipped w/ tempurature functions and changes the number from "104" to "78" for moral support.

The 'Wait for us John!" airhorn for when your riding partner rides off into the desert w/out noticing that you're no longer on his wheel.

The "Words w/ 4 Letters" Dictionary. Inspired by Rob, Sean and Ted. Laminated plastic pages so that it can be carried in a jersey pocket.

I'm sure that I missed a few................what else?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ride photos part 1

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's the equivalent of 3000 words, or about the same as a short Mike Clark message.

A West Michigan pace line heading up to Zabriski Point on Friday morning.

The long road heading toward Jubilee Pass.

Carmen, Mary, Melanie and Patti taking a break from fighting the wind.

I know we, as a team, have taken thousands of pictures. Let's figure out what site we can post them all to as a group. Use the comment section to discuss options.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Woooh..............mind buzzing............sleep deprived..............image overload................must concentrate!

Wow! How to describe last weekend? There's the obvious approach.... I could blather on about the 40mph wind gusts, the virtual ground-level sandstorm we rode through to get back to Furnance Creek just before (okay......a little after, mebbe) sundown, the constant mentions that I got from other coaches and Ride staff about what a great Team we have, the stars I saw w/ Patti B before dawn on Sunday, how great it was for me that Lin was there, what a drag it was that the post-Ride bash got kinda shut down by mean ol' Ma Nature (whatta bitch!), or any of a bazillion other images running around my boggled brain.

And I will... at some point...no doubt.

But for now I wanna say this: I was just on the Adventure Corps site, lookin' at pix and searchin' for glittery stars and my face hurts from grinning and my eyes are red. Every pic I saw of one of us made my day, y' know? This thing is SO BIG and SO COOL and has become SO MUCH a part of my life that I swear I dunno whatinthehell I'm gonna do w/ myself now that the '07 Rides are over. I want to thank everyone of you guys (again and again!) for lettin' be be a small part of this Team..............it's an honor and a privilage that I'm not sure I deserve so............thanks a TON!

Remember.......the Next Big Team Deal is the Post-Season Celebration / Next Season Kick Off Bash on 11/13! Details will be forthcoming as soon as Mary and I can get together but mark your calendars now so you can be there! Be sure to invite potential Team Riders, family and anyone else affected by diabetes that you think oughta be exposed to what we have goin' on!

I wanna say this too............(and those of you that have heard this once or twice or more can skip down!) I was talking to National Head Coach Tim St. Clair after dinner on Saturday night about an idea that I had. We had talked @ the coach's meeting about some potential different awards to hand out after the Ride and I was thinking that there oughta be a Team Award..........something to recognize the Team that just had it goin' on the most all weekend, y'know? My idea was that the staff and the volunteers and break point folk could get together and award the Team w/ the best attitude and coolest riders. He liked the idea and then told me (after making me promise that I'd "listen to him and believe every word that he said") "Your team would win that award". He said that we had been the talk of the weekend amongst staff and volunteers. Our spirit, our level of enthusiasm, our riding ability....you name it and we had it, as far as they were concerned. I knew that.........but it was cool that everyone else did as well.
He also said that it was too bad that the evening's presentation was shut down by the conditions 'cuz they would have made a big deal about you guys in front of everyone.

This goes out to all our MT teammies as well.............out in DV we knew that the bar had been set waaaayyyy up there by the riders from West Mich that had "led us out" @ the earlier Rides and that we all had a big pair of cycling shoes to fill.
I think we did it!

Congradulations to EVERY ONE of you guys................I couldn't be more proud of you all and I really hope that this season has (to cop a line from TSC) made your life bigger.

I can't wait to see everyone @ the Party, hear the tales and see the pix!

(Man.............I did a great job of keepin' this short, huh?)

Coach Mike

You guys ROCK, have I mentioned that lately?

Monday, October 22, 2007

DV Pictures!

Death Valley pictures, taken by the AdventureCORPS event crew, are online!

Here's our crew at Zabriskie Point, on the Friday tune-up ride:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ouch, that was fun!

2400 miles on a road bike is pretty much irrelevant to my abilities on a mountain bike. Over the handlebars once, walked up numerous hills (not 'cause I lack the strength, but because I lack the balance to stay on track and maneuver around roots and sticks while cranking hard), and I generally ache all over. By the end of this whoppin' eleven mile ride, my rear wheel was doing a convincing imitation of a Pringle, despite stopping to straighten it two times.

Totally fun.

It's pretty humbling to see a guy on a single-speed 29er (mountain bike tires on road bike size rims, roughly works out to 29" in diameter rather than 26 on a "normal" MTB) go hustling up a hill that I can't make it up in my lowest gear.

Oh, yeah. The ground is hard. When you suddenly find yourself staring at the gound as it approaches you at great speed, it is hard. The bike, when it lands on top of you, is also hard.

I shall refrain from complaining about the wind. It was windy, but it felt good. From what the nice folks at the NOAA say, Death Valley was, if anything, windier than it was last year.

Edited to add a link to some pictures!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anyone have room for me in their luggage?

Man, I SO want to be getting on that plane with you folks tomorrow morning - whatever the ride brought last year, the overall experience was over-the-top awesome. All you veterans know exactly what I'm talking about; if this is your first ride, just soak it all up!

I think Katie asked for things to do, so:

-Go on the hike.

-Get in the pool at least once.

-Go outside after dark, get away from the lights, give your eyes a few minutes to adjust, and look up.

I look forward to stories and pictures! Good luck, everyone -


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tune in Wednesday

On the WGVU Morning Show on 10/17 Death Valley rider Tom Scheidel will be interviewed by show host Shelly Irwin. The seven minute interview will start at about 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday and will cover the West Michigan Ride Team's upcoming ride in Death Valley. WGVU can be found at 88.5 FM in Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM on the lakeshore.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saturday in the Park

Death Valley National Park, that is.

Hard to believe we're about to board planes for this big adventure. I am SO ready to get out there. Our bikes are in the safe, capable hands of our pal Dennis from Gainey, and the weather is looking pretty awesome for Saturday (high of 89, sunny, and winds only at 12 mph).

Funny actually, the song from Chicago with the same title as this post, if you remove all the references to the 4th of July, is actually fitting for this weekend.... a few excerpts:

Saturday in the park... People dancing, people laughing... And I've been waiting such a long time for Saturday... People talking, really smiling, A man playing guitar (Coach Mike, perhaps??) singing for us all ... Will you help him change the world ... Can you dig it... And I've been waiting such a long time for today... A real celebration waiting for us all...

Safe travels to all. Looking forward to lots of laughs, food, drink, and amazing feats as we hammer down across Death Valley.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ready to go!

So...........I'm sitting here in the JDRF office. Mary and I have spent the better part of the last 2 days gettin' 30-some Death Valley bound bicycles all wrapped in foam and ready to go on the truck.(Which oughta be here any second now)

Exactly one week from today we'll either be en route or already there.

It's pretty dang cool to sit here surrounded by all these bikes and duffles and plastic bins.......and think about how far we've come in 3 short years! It really says something about the power of the Rides....that despite all the turmoil and turnover here @ the office we've grown the way we have! It says something about the folks that have been working here at the office and it says something about the staff that's here now. And......it says a ton about you guys. The riders on this Team are so cool and so passionate and so dedicated and I'm pretty frickin' proud of what we have going here in West Mich!

So.........a week from now 33 riders w/ support from Linda and Sophie will be Death Valley bound You guys all know how much sweat and work that represents so I know that those of you that have done your Ride already will be sending good thoughts out west for your Teammates and for those of you that'll be in DV........it's time to Ride so let's go do it, eh?

Watch for details on the upcoming Team End-O'-Season / 2008 Recruitment Party coming up next month! You're gonna wanna be there!


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fat Tire, anyone?

And, no, I'm not actually talking about the beer - I'm talking about some knobby-tire trail riding! Montana vet Dawn is interested in having a mountain bike ride at the Owasippe boy scout reservation. Normally the trails there are closed to the non-scouty public, but weekends in October they do open up to us folks, for a $5 trail fee, and for limited hours (10 am-4 pm). There are two trails, both about 11 miles long, with about a thousand feet of climbing.

Anyone game? Sounds fun to me!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

JDRF in the news again

Check out this link. Although not technically a JDRF story, check out the jerseys the two Apple Cider Century Bicyclists are wearing. :)

Monday, October 8, 2007

And all is quiet...

Possibly still recovering from the hell that was 90 degrees, 95% humidity and hills all the way team ride on Saturday? A chance they've realized there are only 12 days until Death Valley and they are stunned? They may be loading their bikes on their cars to take to JDRF office (or to Ted at VeloCity) tomorrow!?

Who knows where everyone is at... I just couldn't leave this site sitting.

Lets hear some advice from our teammates who've done the ride in Whitefish this year - any words of advice or encouragement? How about you past Death Valley riders - any last minute things to scare the newbies?

the valley awaits....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Team Ride! Team Ride!

Hey Ya'll!

Don't forget that we have a Team Ride planned for this Saturday. The place is @ Pete & Sue Dow's in Ada, the time is 3:00pm and we'll have details comin' at'cha very soon! I hope to see lotsa you Death Valley types...(we only have a couple more weeks to fine tune our fitness y'know!) and it's always way cool to be blessed w/ the presence of our various Whitefish team mates!

Stay tuned.....................MC

Monday, October 1, 2007

Apple Cider Century

Here we are at the New Buffalo SAG stop, almost halfway to the hundred. The weather was perfect for the ACC this year, if a bit windy. There were some hills that weren't included in previous year's routes. Hills, wind and hot sun in the afternoon. Sound like any place we might be at in three weeks?
We saw Whitefish alumni Rick Blackmar and DV alum Lynn Elker on the ride. Lynn said the Schmeider brothers were there as well. Did anybody else make it to Three Oaks yesterday?