Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Experience of a Lifetime

The entire weekend, from the time we arrived in San Francisco, to the time we arrived back in Knoxville was truly a memory of a lifetime. When Jessica and I set out on this trek back in February we knew it would be tough but we didn't know truly how challenging, time consuming, yet rewarding that it would be. The entire journey was much like many diseases, including diabetes, in that you have good days, bad days, and from time to time, a learning experience.

We arrived in Sonoma County in a Chevy HHR rental car. It was a cross between a flintstone car, a Pontiac Aztec, and something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Quite the site. We didn't make it up to Santa Rosa until around 3:30pm PT. We immediately checked in with the hotel and with JDRF, took our bags to the room, and took a quick dip in the pool. At 6:30pm we had a welcome reception and dinner. However, our first day in wine country would not be complete without a wine tasting of course! After dinner we hit up the frosty freeze in Santa Rosa for two milk shakes and then our favorite grocery store, Safeway, for lots of bottled water and snacks for the weekend. We were in bed by 9:30pm that night....a long day of traveling.

Friday morning started with breakfast, a mandatory safety meeting with the entire Sonoma Ride team and then a tune-up ride. The tune-up ride was only about 2 miles but was crucial for us to work out the kinks with our bikes since they had been FedExed over 2500 miles in a cardboard box. I must say that the staff in the bike room from Velo Cycles was incredible! The rest of Friday was free to explore the area until dinner time. We went into Healdsburg, a great little town north of Santa Rosa. We had lunch at Zin and enjoyed the best fried green beans imaginable! We "pushed our lunch down" with a little organic yogurt from a place on the Healdsburg Square called Snowbunny. Excellent!

When we got back from being out for the afternoon, there was a motivating "thank you" package in front of our hotel room door from diabetic children in the local JDRF chapter. That package certainly helped put things in perspective. Friday closed out with a pre-ride celebration dinner full of carbs and a few awards. The main award of the night went to a woman who is the mother of a diabetic and is also an aerobics instructor. She was the top fundraiser for the event and personally raised over $120,000. Truly awesome. We tried to relax after dinner, continue to hydrate, and then quiet our nerves in preparation for the next day's ride.

Saturday morning came really early as we were up at 'em by 5:30am. Breakfast happened for us at 6:00am although we were not very hungry since we were so nervous for the day ahead. At 6:20am we headed back to the hotel room to gear up and then we were at the start line in time for the National Anthem at 6:50am. By 7:05am, we had crossed the start line and were on the road. The day ahead really could not be put into words. Every single person on the ride was there for one reason, to help the cause to find a cure for diabetes and its complications.

The ride was tough, really tough. It was full of blood, sweat, and tears, literally. There was the time at 50 miles when we didn't know if we could make it another mile and that is when we met two guys who carried us for the duration of the day. Thomas Anderson and David Nestvold are the reason that we were able to continue the ride. David is a JDRF Ride coach (diabetic himself) who works for Boeing in Seattle. Thomas is the father of a diabetic and is a bank executive in Cleveland, OH. From around the 50 mile mark that day, The Shafer Ten Year Team doubled in size.

The four of us pushed each other the rest of Saturday afternoon. The hills were steep, the temperatures reached over 100 degrees, and the terrain was desolate. We both drank gallons of water, Gatorade, and heed. We ate pounds of fruit, sandwiches, pretzels, and pickles. Finally, around 5:30pm, we crossed the finish line. It was a very trying day for both Jessica and me. Jessica unfortunately started to dehydrate around 95 miles but we were able to cross the finish line together. We had come a long way that day but more importantly, I hope that we made a difference in the fight for a cure.

Saturday night, I could not have been prouder as Jessica received one of the red polka dot (see pictures) ride jerseys as one of the "spirit award" winners. Our coach, David Nestvold, awarded Jessica with the jersey for her perseverance on ride day but also for her love that she showed over the last few months by training with me for this ride. However, the biggest note that David emphasized was that as a diabetic, he knows how much his wife puts into their relationship through care for him on a daily basis. I cannot think of a better winner for the red polka dot "spirit" jersey than Jessica because she is certainly the most supportive wife of a diabetic that I could imagine.

On February 12th, Jessica and I registered for a program that we knew very little about. In fact, Jessica didn't even have a bike! We have come a long way in 5 months with our cycling knowledge but the ride weekend in Sonoma will never be forgotten. I mentioned earlier that David and Thomas joined our Shafer Ten Year Team on Saturday and our team doubled. However, the truth is, everyone who donated, gave us words of encouragement, or even asked how diabetes is treating us is all part of our team. We are all in this together. In ten years, I am very hopeful that we will have a cure. When we do, we will all celebrate. You have all made a significant impact on this diabetic and the lives of all 171+ million diabetics worldwide. Thank you.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home Again. Home Again.

We made it back to Knoxville just a couple of hours ago. It was certainly a great weekend in Sonoma. I am preparing a full ride summary and hope to have pictures loaded from the event in the next day or two. Below are a couple of photos in the meantime.

The Beginning.

And The End.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We Made It

Details and pictures to come...

Thanks for everyone's support to help find a cure!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tomorrow is the day

Tomorrow is it. It is what we have worked towards. It is what you, our friends and family, have supported over the last several months. We have raised close to $9,000. Wow! That is far more than our $6,000 goal and you should be proud. I am thankful, unbelievably thankful. Diabetes is a bad thing. A bad, bad thing. Jessica and I are truly appreciative of your support. Your moral and financial support in addition to your thoughts and prayers have helped us make it to Sonoma.

We have met some great people over the last couple of days. We have had a little downtime to collect our thoughts and hydrate. Now, it is time. We are about to eat dinner with the whole team that is riding tomorrow and then try to relax, maybe take a dip in the pool, and get some sleep. 5:30am will come early and 102 miles will get long so we better take it easy while we can!

The temperature when we take off in the morning will be around 55 degrees and the climate will change dramatically during the ride. As we head west from Santa Rosa and hit the coast the temperature should stay moderate but then as we head back towards the hotel on the second half of the ride temperatures are likely going to hit the mid-90s.

Follow us tomorrow and for the remainder of the weekend on Facebook or on Twitter. Our first update after the ride will likely occur through a tweet at

Hopefully this will be the last time that a "Ride to Cure Diabetes" is needed. Maybe next week, next month, or next year will be when the time for a cure comes. Whenever the cure is found, please know that through your support, you have helped make it happen!

Monday, June 22, 2009

One More Thing....

This sums it all up. This is just proof that it isn't about me, it's about finding a cure for the over 171 million people worldwide with diabetes. Please take a minute to watch the video at the link below from a Dad in Jonesborough, TN.

Click Here

It's Time

Four days, 8 hours, 12 minutes, 34 seconds. Not long now until we start The Ride to Cure Diabetes on Saturday morning in Sonoma County. We are making final preparations before flying out on Thursday morning and are anxiously awaiting what has been a long time coming, 102 miles!

Jessica and I started talking about doing this event long ago but it wasn't until February of this year when we decided to take the plunge. Without the encouragement of Jessica to do this thing....we wouldn't be here today!

As JDRF often says "we're in the business of putting ourselves out of business." Hopefully we have been able to help JDRF meet their goal over the last 5 months as we have trained and fundraised for this important goal of finding a cure to diabetes.

It has not been an easy road as we have certainly encountered it all....rain, snow, extreme hot and extreme cold (sometimes in the same day!), snakes, owls, wild dogs, and cows, just to name a few. If it lives or happens in the wild of East Tennessee, we have probably encountered it.

We fly out on Thursday morning at 7am, connect in Memphis, and then arrive in San Fransisco around noon. We'll pickup our rental car, find a good spot to hit up for lunch, and then head 50 miles north of the city to Santa Rosa. JDRF has events planned for each day of the weekend and I will try to update the blog as often as possible throughout the weekend. I also hope to post a picture or two to help you share in our experience. In addition, I will "tweet" as much as possible and you can follow us on facebook or on Twitter (aashafer).

I can't say it enough....Thank You for supporting our journey! It has been a fun ride but the big one is now upon us. We hope to bring some great memories home and hopefully a cure will not be far behind. I do just want to mention one more time why we are doing what we are doing. When I was diagnosed almost 11 years ago now, I was told by the doctors that it was likely that we would have a cure within 10 years. Obviously a decade has passed since the 23rd day in October, 1998, and we do not have a cure. It's time for progress. We are...The Shafer Ten Year Team.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Done and Done

Well Sunday marked our last training ride, woo hoo! We completed 70 miles in just under 5 hours on Sunday morning/early afternoon and then happily loaded the bikes up in preparation for drop off at The Bike Zoo on Monday morning.

As I said last week, we have come a long way since February 12th when we first registered for the ride. At the time, we had absolutely no idea how trying, time consuming, and rewarding this experience would be. The hard work is over. We have done the training, worn the spandex, held a great event at the Square Room, and raised the important funds for diabetes research (closing in on $9,000!). Now, we just have to ride 102 miles in Sonoma County on June 27th, no problem, right?

We dropped the bikes off at the shop on Monday and they immediately went to work disassembling and boxing the bikes up for shipment. FedEx will pickup both bikes tomorrow and they'll be stop Sonoma!

Jessica and I head out next Thursday, the 25th and will then be ready for a full weekend at the Ride to Cure Diabetes! I will post details about our ride weekend because there are events Thursday through Saturday, culminating in the awards dinner Saturday evening, post ride. We were also excited to receive our ride jerseys on Monday, they look great and I will try to post a photo of the jerseys soon.

We've prepared physically, now it's time to get our minds ready for 102. Please remember us over the next two weeks and any words of encouragement are appreciated. Who knows, maybe this will be the last year of the Ride to Cure Diabetes. Maybe we will help put JDRF out of business. This would be great! We'd have a cure.