Why ride? Observations from the director
There are two questions here:
- Why am I directing this ride?
- Why should you be interested in participating?
I'm directing this ride because I love cycling and because I'm also a kidney transplant recipient, which allows me to enjoy cycling once again. I've been looking for an opportunity to both raise awareness on the importance of organ donation - something most folks don't care about until they have an urgent need in their family - and also raise funds for the UNC Kidney Center.
I've ridden many, many centuries. I've also organized many myself - probably over 60 - and in the process have developed some well-formed opinions about what constitutes a good cycling event.
Thus, I've chosen to organize a century ride, make it a first-class affair, and direct the proceeds to the UNC Kidney Center.
"Fine," you say, "but why should I ride?"
Because I think you'll really enjoy it. Remember those well-formed opinions I mentioned? Here's the top eleven (yes, eleven!) reasons why I think the Raven Rock Ramble will be a ride you'll want to do:
- The route. We've got a really good route, on roads that will be new to most area cyclists. The century and metric century routes run west of the Cape Fear River. The first half of both routes is hilly enough to be challenging, and the second half is flat enough to make for a strong finish. All routes are through scenic, rural countryside, and you'll visit such places as Bunn Level, Barbecue, and Broadway, NC. There are also 31-mile and 10-mile routes for folks who would prefer a shorter distance, and "shortcut" routes of 86 and 43 miles.
- The facilities. We've got a good start/finish point, with large covered shelters to meet with riders both before and after the ride, ample parking, restrooms, and plenty of entertainment opportunities should you have family with you.
- The t-shirt. What makes a good shirt? To me, one that has good graphic design, goes well with blue jeans (not white!), is a super high-quality shirt (we use Zorrel quick-dry in men's and women's cuts), and is clearly a cycling event shirt (so you can impress folks that you're an endurance athlete, of course). See the Artwork page for this year's and prior year's designs. I'm hoping it will be a shirt you'll enjoy wearing for years to come.
- The food. You don't have to ride for long to realize that a big part of a good event is good food. We'll have good food. We'll have ample Le Bleu water and sports drink at all sag stops and at Harris Park. We'll have bagels from Panera Bread, bananas, cookies, fig newtons, Little Debbie snacks, soft drinks, and more. And (drum roll...) we'll have burritos from Moe's Southwest Grill and chocolate milk from Maoloa Milk. This is a ride you can easily gain weight on.
- The date. I have purposely picked the first Sunday in May. It's when lots of riders are gearing up for the season and training for rides such as Mount Mitchell. The weather should be warm enough but not oppressively hot, and there are few other established rides on that date.
- Not a conventional fundraiser. I don't know about you, but I'm uncomfortable about asking folks to pay money for me to ride. It would be like my wife asking to be paid to eat chocolate. Instead, we'll simply charge a fair price and donate the proceeds. I welcome and encourage you to make an additional donation, but you don't need to ask others to donate.
- Not that expensive. OK, it's 40 bucks, but, you'll get a receipt for the charitable part of your entry fee (around $28) and you get the aforementioned awesome t-shirt, food, and perhaps other freebies. I like to think that you'll find the ride to be very worthwhile.
- Maps and cue sheets. Admittedly, not really a reason to ride but a spoiler if it's done poorly. The route will be marked so you can't possibly get lost. The cue sheet will be detailed with road names, numbers, and comments, and the location of sag stops and stores will be clearly marked. The maps and cue sheets are posted on the Routes page so you can ride the route again at a later time if you so choose.
- The mobile app. Yes, this ride has its own mobile app that you really want to install on your smarthphone. Perhaps most importantly, it allows you to notify the director of your location should you need help. It does lots of other cool stuff, too. Check it out.
- A worthy cause. 100% of the net proceeds from the Raven Rock Ramble goes to patients at the UNC Kidney Center who have urgent needs. Your participation and your donation make a huge difference to folks who, say, have to choose between paying their utility bill or paying for medications. Please see The Money page for details on how the funds are used and costs are controlled.
- A special offer. In order to increase awareness of the importance of organ donation (one of my objectives), I have a special offer for folks who have agreed to be an organ donor (indicated by a heart on your driver's license). Not a registered donor yet? You can register here.
My personal story
I started cycling in earnest 1987, shortly after a volleyball-induced knee injury took me out of running. I started riding in local group rides and centuries and developed decent strength and speed over time, such that by 1997 I set a new personal record in the Tour de Moore, finishing the 102.4 miles in under 4:30. Shortly thereafter a routine physical exam detected red blood cells and protein in my urine. One test led to another, and a kidney biopsy confirmed that I had a condition known as IgA nephropathy. From there began a slow physical decline, with the most immediate symptom being leg cramps. By the summer of 2000 it was clear that I would be needing a transplant, and by November 2000 I was sufficiently anemic that I got a prescription for EPO (the blood-doping drug of choice on the Tour de France - I can testify that it's really good stuff!).
My sister Laura agreed to be my donor, and we underwent surgery on March 7, 2001, just before I otherwise would have had to have started dialysis. I had some of the ups and downs associated with transplants (rejection, infection, etc), but by Memorial Day weekend I was back on my bike and managed an 8-mile ride.
I never expected I'd recover my speed and conditioning so quickly. I was riding metric centuries by July and full centuries by September, and without the first quiver of leg cramps. I began to remember why I enjoyed cycling so much, and would ride for the simple joy of feeling my body move and the bike respond. God, it's great!
The average transplant lasts only 10 years. I've already had 16 and am hoping for more, but I realize my time to enjoy cycling may be limited. My response is to make the most of it, ride when I can, and savor every moment. I encourage, indeed urge, you to do the same.
My sister and donor, Laura Long