Those words rallied off one of the most exciting moments when myself and 100 plus cyclists of the 2014 JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes national team along with 2,000 cyclists from all over pushed down the first pedal stroke off the start line of the 32nd annual El Tour de Tucson which took place in Tucson, AZ, this past Saturday (Nov 22, 2014).
nat’l JDRF coach John Dallman
This early morn start-up gathering of wheels persons added in with three other starting line-ups during the day for shorter courses made up 9,000 total participating in El Tour. We the early birds were beginning our journey on a 104 mile course that would loop around city/suburban/rural Tucson. The enthusiastic war cry was yelled by national JDRF coach John Dallman rallying unity of those riding the event for the cause of making a statement for the quest of finding a cure and improving the lives of those living with Type 1 diabetes, the mission statement of JDRF.
The day began with a waking at 4:30am, getting ready, having a spirited breakfast at 5 and boarding a 5:45 shuttle bus to go meet our already transported bikes (by the tirelessly Mike Clark and team bike room crew) and ride from the Tucson Convention Center to the event start on South 6th Avenue at 13th street.
Trying to breadth the balance of dressing to prepare for both the early morning 40’s and later day temperature 70’s still left some shivering moments in our pre-start and later starting position.
pre-start in the chill, w/ Lindsay Grubiak JDRF Ride dev mgr, NY chapter Tucson ride team :)
Our bikes greeted us in the chilly predawn air upon our arrival to the Convention Center which I should mention our JDRF hosts did a beautiful job of arranging transportation to/from the event as well other needs throughout the weekend.
We got off the bus, found our bikes, did final preparations and lined up in fast/faster/fasted pacing groups to depart for the El Tour official start a few blocks away.
The starting line energy and enthusiasm was growing excitement feeling on the edge but about to break through as soon as the countdown to the official 7am would arrive. Precursor announcements came over the public address with the last being it was time for the National Anthem which was wonderfully heartfelt sung by a local middle schooler, full of passion that was quite touching.
Then the countdown… I recall the announcer disclaimed 6:58, then 6:59, then 15 then 10 and we were shortly off! With 2,000 riders packed together as we were I thought we would be losing time slowly moving out and finding position but in the end we were up to pedal speed, finding positions within 10 minutes.
With this my first JDRF ride I was overly anxious about the unknown consisting of things like the volume, last year’s horrific tragedy, getting lost (prone to do :) just ask anyone in our local group on the River Road), edict to finish before dark or be pulled off the course without finishing. There had been some encouragement from El Tour organizers to scale down to the 75 mile route if there was personal doubt about finishing by 5pm. Though the argument was understood in the end I’d pedaled over 2,000 miles since May, ridden a Century two months before so the last thing I wanted to do was back off the goal I came for albeit the decision weighed heavy most of the day before. In the end 104, come hell or high water!
But we were off and as we turned right off South 6th Ave. on to 22nd street heading out to a service road that would lead us to open country of surrounding Tucson country side I held on to thoughts about the 170 of us riding as a national team, welcoming JDRF jerseys scattering through the thicket of riders as the day would go on, my Cal (my child with type 1 diabetes), looking fear in the eye keeping my mantra of ‘Safe, Clear, Finish’ visible, how I had trained to get here and just how big as life it felt pedaling across a place I had never been before and trusting the road and those ahead of me for where we were going – I felt much pride and occasionally tears of happiness actually.
So many memories of this experience as I’m trying to relive and build a thread in this post. One of the first early was just unusual and neat was first of two off-road crossings. This one came early about 8 miles in to the route where we had to dismount and carry or walk our bikes through the dried out Santa Cruz river bed which last year this time I suspect had water as the event had its first rain in years. But thankfully this year it was clear skies and dry so carried bikes through the rock and sandy riverbed and on the other side, were greeted by a Mariachi band!
Given the time constraint and determination to finish the 104 mile trek I knew I had to keep my rest stops to a minimum. JDRF provided stops at 27, 59 and 81 miles with good energy food support ala pb&j sandwiches, Oreo cookies (yey!), pretzels and even pancakes I think at mile 59! El Tour provided a stop approximately every 8 miles that ranged from water/porta-potty to fruits and one time actually the NY style slushy treats in a cup (oh home in the park in August!). I had mentally mapped out to stop at the JDRF stops and whistle stop some of the El Tour stops if needed. I stopped a couple of times briefly for a whistling rubbing noise emitting from my front wheel that I never quite figured out. Kudos to national coach/JDRF bike room/road manager Mike Clark, national coaches Lorne Shiff and John Dallman for giving this a few looks along the way.
Then there was another story of an unplanned stop that was inspiring in the end. This was on the Old Spanish Trail road about mile 35 and I’ll pick up there in the next post continuing the 2014 JDRF Tucson Ride to Cure Diabetes/El Tour de Tucson, stay tuned!
$5,020 raised to date in my fund raiser as part of the Ride to Cure Diabetes program for JDRF, improving the lives of those living with type 1 diabetes and seeking a cure. If you would like to support this cause please do so by accessing http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR/Ride/JDRFNationalRides?px=4654534&pg=personal&fr_id=3432 and donating. Thank you!