Tour de Cure

My First Charity Bike Ride


Me with a genuine, big smile at the finish.

Hey, remember how I told you that I was going to go 50 miles in a charity bike ride to raise money for the American Diabetes Association?

Well, the last four months happened, and needless to say I didn’t train at the level that I needed to make the 55-mile route possible. Twice a week at cycle class doesn’t even begin to cut it. And so, I dropped my mileage to the 12-mile Tour de Cure route.

This was, without a doubt, the smartest thing I’ve done for myself all year.

I’ve never done any sort of organized bike ride before, so it wasn’t until the day before the race that it dawned on me: I was actually nervous. Evidently all of my running race preparation doesn’t translate to rides.

The route started at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area, a lake in Pleasanton, California, and rode along trails into Livermore, California. Before we began, they gave us a little pep talk which included the guidance that this is a ride, not a race, so go out there and enjoy yourself. This was good advice for me, as we’ll see later.

To get out of the park, you have to ride up a fairly steep driveway. Maybe it’s because I went out with the more recreational 12-milers, but most of them got to the hill, dismounted and walked up. I wasn’t having any parts of that. There would be no walking to start my ride. So at the risk of coming across as aggressive, I stood up and powered my way up the hill.

Once I got to the top, I fell into pace with the rest of the pack, which was considerably slower than my normal pace, but I tried to remember the “it’s a ride, not a race” advice and didn’t pass anyone. And so we puttered along through the trails of Livermore until we hit a branch in the trail where you could go over or under a wooden bridge. I came upon a group that was checking the map. Cross Holmes at the light: check. Next item was cross over wooden bridge, stay right, bear left at the fork. Ok. So a dozen of us crossed the bridge, followed the instructions and ended up in a neighborhood. This didn’t seem right, so we turned around and went back.

On the Strava map, the wrong turn at the wooden bridge is completely obvious. It was less so at the time.

On the Strava map, the wrong turn at the wooden bridge is completely obvious. It was less so at the time.

We got back to the decision point and discovered a group of eight more riders reading the map. “It says go across the bridge,” one of them said. We explained that we thought we’d gone the wrong way. “No, it definitely says across the bridge.” So now 20 of us crossed the bridge, kept right, left at the fork, and circled around the neighborhood again, laughing.

It was at that moment that we ran into one of the course marshals who gave us the most hilarious “WTF are you doing out here?” look. We showed him the map: over the wooden bridge. “It’s not THAT wooden bridge!” he said, exasperated. Well how were we to know that there was another wooden bridge in half a mile?

The rest of the ride was uneventful. The rest stop was more of a social event than in a running race. People stopped, chatted, called home, took selfies. I didn’t have anyone in particular to socialize with, so I just turned around and headed home at about twice the speed of my outbound journey.

On the last leg of the ride, I fell into pace with a woman who wasn’t affiliated with the race, but we got talking about bike riding. Her son had lived in Amsterdam for six months for work, with nothing but a bike for transportation. He came back to California and within a week had two near-misses with drivers who weren’t paying attention. He’s not riding anymore, and she’s so disappointed by our lack of interest in cycling infrastructure in the U.S. I have to say, I agree.

Overall, the ride was lovely: the cycling equivalent of a leisurely 5k. I’d gladly do it again next year. Better still, I raised more than $1,300 for diabetes research and programs. I hope it makes a difference to the lives of my friends and people like them.

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