"How was your ride?"
Cold. Wet. Long.
The above question/answer refrain has been a pretty common exchange over the last couple of weeks. The Tucson JDRF ride was just about two weeks ago and it was the first time in the 31-year history of El Tour de Tucson that it rained - surprising most everyone.
The Death Valley JDRF ride was canceled due to the government shutdown and five of us from central Indiana (Danny, Dave, Kevin, Sam and I) decided to do the Tucson JDRF ride instead. Although it was raining in Indy when we left, we were anticipating warm sunshine in the desert southwest, despite a rainy weather forecast. We arrived in Tucson on Thursday afternoon and, with temps in the high 60s, were able to take a short ride around the resort in just our riding jerseys and shorts for the first time in more than a month.
Then the rain started on Thursday evening and continued through Friday and most of ride day on Saturday.
Along with the rain, the temperature never got much above 50.
The cold temps challenged many and some riders were even pulled from the course with hypothermia. Some rest stops had space heaters or buses with heaters to help people get warm.
The ride was originally 111 miles, but got adjusted to 107 a few days before the ride. Four of us planned to do the full mileage.
The ride course was designed with two portages across “dry” riverbeds. They weren't so dry in the heavy rains. Some riders made it across, but the water was too high when we got there so they re-routed us – adding 8 miles to the ride for a total of 115 miles.
The Tour is a major event for Tucson as one of the premiere riding venues in the country -- and is a timed event (e.g. a race). There were about 9,000 riders in total, completing routes of various mileage.
Most of the day was spent splashing through rain covered roads, many of which were designed with dips to manage rain water run-off.
As it turned out, doing the Hilly Hundred in October was great training for this ride. It was also very cold and rainy for the start of that ride. Then the month between that and Tucson was unusually cool which helped prepare us to dress for the cold weather.
Flat tires were a common sight – Kevin got two in the first 12 miles and Dave got one around mile 50. We were so cold standing in the rain changing the tire that a JDRF coach who stopped to help was asking questions to test our cognition – and gave us impromptu back rubs to try to get us warm
All five of us finished the distances we set out to do. And all of us were very happy to get in out of the cold and be out of our wet riding clothes.
Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day and we had a little time to enjoy the warm sunshine before heading back to Indy.
Tucson was new experience for all of us. Being a part of a larger, timed event made for an interesting ride. The JDRF coaches, volunteers and staff were wonderful and the accommodations were fantastic. Although this wasn't the ride we set out to do, it was still for a great cause with great people raising a significant amount of money in search of a cure -- to turn Type 1 into Type none.
I may have been the one pedaling over all those cold, wet miles, but I carried your thoughts, prayers and support with me on each mile, and I would not have made it without you. Thank you!
Now we're ready for spring since we already have our sights set on Death Valley for next year!
P.S. The ride photos were from the Arizona Daily Star