2013 RIDE THE ROCKIES
This year, from June 8-15, I participated in the Denver Post Ride The Rockies cycling event, as part of a 20 person team supporting the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Our group, including several courageous and determined individuals with Parkinson's, pedaled across 550 miles of the Colorado Rockies during the weeklong event. It truly was an inspiring and humbling experience, sharing the week's adventures with this group.
While you may be more familiar with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, whose emphasis is on finding a clinical cure, the Davis Phinney Foundation, working alongside, takes a different yet complimentary approach: improving the Quality of life for those living with Parkinson's. One of last year's riders, himself living with Parkinson's, said it nicely during the event,
"Medicine addresses the symptoms, but it does not address ways to improve a patient's attitude and ability to live a happy, healthy life style. That is what the Davis Phinney Foundation is all about. Trust me when I tell you I have met way too many folks with PD who believe their best years are behind them. Many of them are depressed. We need to help these people. That is my mission and the mission of the Davis Phinney Foundation." --Steve Hovey
Although relatively young, the Davis Phinney Foundation is having a significant impact on those being diagnosed with Parkinson's, their families, friends and caregivers. The hope and determination being fostered thru the organization is showing those with Parkinson's that they still have plenty to live for and that their quality of life is not over. And the realization of what can be accomplished, even without a true cure is giving these people the hope they need.
April was National Parkinson's Awareness Month. It came and went all too quietly. While I have been supporting the Davis Phinney Foundation for a few years now, my involvement has grown beyond mere fundraising and is personal, as not only have Davis and his family become close friends, but I'm surprised by the number of associates, friends and even family members that have been touched by this progressive disease. With the help of everyone that is donating, the Davis Phinney Foundation is getting some much needed support. And, even though this one event is over, for this year, the fundraising is not. With that in mind I am reaching out to individuals and businesses alike to help me support this much needed foundation.
I hope you can take a moment to learn more about Parkinson's, the affect it has on so many lives and consider joining me in supporting the Davis Phinney Foundation. I can assure you that any donation will be greatly appreciated!
As for the 2013 Ride The Rockies event itself:
Following a week on the bike, 550 miles and more than 22,000 feet of elevation gain, I'm back in Boulder, CO and taking some time to reflect on a very successful and satisfying event. I want to update everyone who has been so generous in their support of both me and the Davis Phinney Foundation for the 2013 Ride The Rockies event.
First and foremost, thank you again so much for the support, personal and financial. The event was a huge success for the Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF) for Parkinson's, as well as other charities. We had a great group of riders representing the DPF, with very diverse backgrounds and personal stories and the fundraising efforts have so far resulted in more than 150% of the target for this event and still counting!
The route was both challenging and fun and the organization of the event couldn't have been better. I've taken part in many similar events, here and in Europe, and I have to say that this was one of the most professionally run. For the most part, the weather cooperated (with consistent temps and no rain), taking some of the guesswork out of daily preparation - so that was good. But, all was not perfect by any means, with southern Colorado temps rising to near record highs.
Coming from NC and expecting CO to be quite a bit cooler, I found myself with a lot of clothes that never left my bag and basically bathing in sunscreen on a daily basis. The radiant heat and intensity of the sun at 7-10,000' is amazing and along with dehydration can sap your energy in a hurry. I was actually more focused on this aspect than the apparent lack of oxygen. But, park yourself in the shade for a moment and even a near 100 degree day feels quite comfortable with the lower humidity. Fortunately for the Davis Phinney group, we had great support staff looking after our every need, both on and off the bikes.
If that wasn't enough to make a challenging event a little more fun, several fires ignited in Royal Gorge and Colorado Springs, escalating and forcing the organizers to do some on-the-fly re-routing to maintain commitments in cities and keep everyone safe at the same time. With Royal Gorge taking a big hit, putting most of the park and the legendary Royal Gorge Bridge in jeopardy, we had to re-route and come in from the south, adding some 45 miles and 3500 ft. of climbing to an already long day. While disappointing to miss the park and bridge, the resulting route was spectacular and the welcome from Cañon City (home of Royal Gorge) was fantastic.
Not 24 hours before, Cañon City was in danger of being bypassed by the tour in lieu of another safer location for the participants, but the combined efforts of the firefighters, local law enforcement and the event organizers managed to keep the city on the route. With over 6000 people accompanying the ride, from an economic standpoint, this was huge for Cañon City and other stops along the tour.
After 7 beautiful days the Ride The Rockies tour had to come to an end in Colorado Springs. The finish represented different things to each of the participants, with the common thread being the successful achievement of one's goals. For 5 riders in the Davis Phinney Victory Crew just finishing was an incredible feat and sent quite a message. You see, these 5 riders completed the Ride The Rockies while having to deal with various stages of Parkinson's. The 'never quit' attitude and approach to everything they are faced with daily was truly inspirational and amazing to witness.
The message that Parkinson's does not have to be the end to a meaningful life was delivered and heard loud and clear. For someone who has been fortunate to have had good health for their entire life, I found myself thinking how trivial many of the things we consider to be obstacles are and how much we take for granted every day. Extreme heat, altitude, soreness, physical exhaustion, whatever are nothing compared to what these individuals overcome when battling a disease like Parkinson's. After a week together, it really changes one's perspective.
I am both proud and honored to be a part of the Davis Phinney Victory Crew. The efforts the Foundation is making to address ways to improve the 'quality of life' are having a profound impact on the attitude and happiness of those faced with Parkinson's. While a cure may still be many years away, there is no need for those facing Parkinson's to relinquish their right to a happy life. This is what the Davis Phinney Foundation is all about and it's efforts are seen in the camaraderie and determination of everyone in the group.
So, the Ride may be complete, the support that everyone has shown has been fantastic and will surely make a positive impact for those with Parkinson's, but this is really just the beginning. The work that the Davis Phinney Foundation is doing needs to continue and grow. My experience with this group, their families, friends and concerned supporters has shown what is possible for those facing Parkinson's outside of an ultimate cure. While I'm looking forward to the 2014 Ride The Rockies, my participation with the Foundation won't be limited to one event a year. My goal hasn't been met for this year so I'm going to keep drumming up support.
Thanks again for helping me support the Davis Phinney Foundation. It's a very worth while organization making a real impact on the lives of those with Parkinson's. I hope I can count on your support in the future and if you know of someone who may be interested in supporting the Davis Phinney Foundation or who may have a family member who can benefit from the services available thru DPF please feel free to share this note, the DPF site and you can copy the link below and paste into your web browser for my personal web page:
Davis Phinney Foundation: http://www.davisphinneyfoundation.org
Randy Ruhlman's personal Ride The Rockies donation page