It’s 4:00am on May 21st, 2017. My alarm clock wakes me up. The big day is here. I wake up, shower, get dressed, go through my list of checks and balances, eat breakfast and time to go. The moment I have been waiting for 5 years is finally here. The one thing that always kept getting the better of me is finally here. No Bar-Mitzvah’s, no family functions, no rain, nothing stopping me from showing up to the starting line.
The first time I did this race. I did the 50 miler. It was a fantastic day. The second time I attempted to do this race it rained on me for 5 hours. I got lost and couldn’t manage to finish. Today called for perfect weather and that’s exactly what we got. I was thrilled to stand on the lower level of a bridge that I have driven over thousands of times in my life for work. It felt so surreal to be standing on the George Washington Bridge with a bicycle in my hand knowing the person I used to be. The old me in those days would never dream about doing a race like this. If you would have told me 6 years ago I would be completing my first century ride. I’d laugh in your face. I loved my motorcycle. I used to dream of long cross country rides on my hog, not crossing the GWB with a bicycle.
So, gun goes off and there’s nothing stopping me now. I shut off my phone and it’s nothing but me, my bike and the road. I cross the GWB and we head onto 9w. My heart still sinks into my stomach when you mention 9w. The relentless hills would not get the best of me today. It was time to sit back, spin my legs and enjoy every moment of this. After all… I trained for it. I trained hard and many long hours. Time to enjoy the views and take every moment in.
Mile 26 comes along. I remember climbing this hill in the rain once. I’ll never forget the lines on road as I stared down. Pushing down on the pedal with everything I had just to try and get my body up a wet road. It seemed like the harder I pushed, the more my wheels would spin. I remember having to get off my bike and walk that portion of the hill. Man, was I thankful to have good weather today.
Now we’re passing though West Nyack, Haverstraw and all these beautiful towns. I’m thanking every cop I see and thanking them for their service. I was surprised to see how many people smiled at me and said thank you. I was happy to show some appreciation for the hard work and time they were spending on making sure we were safe from cars.
Mile 32. My first pit stop. Filled up my water bottles and was on my way. I didn’t want to stop too long. After all I’ve heard. Gran Fondo doesn’t really being till after mile 50. I had no clue what I was riding into and no idea what to expect. I am not used to climbing hills like this.
Mile 45 bear mountain climb begins and I’m feeling great. I get to the top and I am so excited that I had beat my old 50-mile race time by over 30 minutes. Showing me how all my hard work over the years has made me stronger. I pass right through bear mountain and didn’t stop. As much as I wanted to take in the beautiful views. I knew I couldn’t stop. Time to take on the beast. Just go and get it over with. I fill up my water bottle and continued.
The decent on bear mountain was so much fun. 4 miles off all down hills. I booked down the mountain and made sure to keep mindful of my speed and turns. I get to mile 50 and man let me tell you about these hills. There’s just nothing that could prepare me for what I was about to face. Miles 50-70 was some of the hardest climbing I’ve ever done. I had to really dig deep here. I didn’t think I could continue. I was already 4 hours into my race and the finish line seemed so far away. Especially climbing these hills some of them with up to 18% grades 2 miles long.
At this point I was averaging 5 mile laps at around 30 minutes. I had thought about quitting, but that’s not me. I don’t give up. I had to push through it. Just one more hill. The next one isn’t so bad, at least you get to downhill from here. Anything I had to do to tell myself just to get through it. I thought about my kids and how I was setting an example for them never to give up. I told myself I must be strong for them. Mile 68 comes along this one last hill and most of it the hard work is over. I go to the rest stop at mile 68 and although the worst was over I still had 2+ more hours to go. I stopped here for a bit recollected my thoughts, stretched a bit and went back on my way. I felt fresh renewed and recovered. I felt I could continue.
Miles 70-86 were nice and smooth with small rolling hills. One nasty hill coming up and the worst is over. I get over the last big hill and I knew I was finishing. Miles 91 I saw the end near. I was already thrilled with what I had accomplished. I’m about to enter Palisades Park and I see my family waiting for me around mile 93. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so happy to see my family. What a sight. Over 7 hours into my ride I was exhausted and they were just the push I needed to finish strong. After all, there was one nasty hill at mile 97 that I had to get through and my legs were shot. At that point, I didn’t feel a thing. I was glowing. I just saw my wife and kids and I was the happiest man alive. I will never forget singing from miles 93-97 one lady commenting on how fresh I looked. I was rejuvenated. I conquered the last hill and it was over. I was glowing. No more climbing. Mile 99.6 I was watching my computer couldn’t wait to see my bike computer say 100.00 miles on it. There is was. 100 miles.
About a mile later I get to the finish line. Throwing my hands in the air. The announcer commenting on how happy I looked. All my hard work and training paid off. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to cross that finish line. I earned that metal and was proud to hang it up in my closet. It’s a reminder of all the hard work, dedication and training I had put in. It’s a reminder of who I am today and who I once was. It’s a reminder of the person I will never be again. It’s a reminder that I am red rider. Red rider meaning a diabetic rider. If it wasn’t for diabetes I would never ever be the person I am today and I am so thankful for everything this disease has brought me.
It gave me confidence, strength, happiness and so much more. It made me a better father to my children and a better business man. My ADHD is under control and no longer needed meds which I hated taking to being with. Crossing that finish line to me was more than just about completing 100 miles on a bike. Lots of people do that and more!
I may not be the fastest cyclist or runner out there and that’s okay. I’m not in it for the speed. What it gave me is something you cannot touch, or anything I ever could have imagined. All that was silicified a little bit more the moment I crossed that finish line and accomplished another dream. It’s remembering who I was once and how hard I worked to become the man I am today. David Sutton – type II diabetic who with the help of his loving wife and family, reversed his condition through diet and exercise alone. That’s what cycling means to me.