05 March 2010

Highway of the 14ers

Mount Princeton24 June 2005
Ride the Rockies, Day 6
Salida to Leadville
61.3 miles


I bonked. But I did complete the ride.

Today's ride was mostly uphill, 3,000 feet in elevation gain, mostly with a not-gruesome headwind, mostly gradual, with just a couple of short downhills.

I started out very strong. I was even passing some riders. I kept stopping because I wanted a photo (or two) (or three) of every 14er we passed with a rider in front (preferably in a RtR jersey). I hydrated every time I stopped.

I coasted the downhills to conserve energy. I had a craving for an egg salad sandwich in Buena Vista when I passed the 7-11, but I decided to stop at the community lunch instead because it supports local charities. I settled for a peanut butter and honey sandwich. At the next stop, I had a turkey wrap and a melted chocolate caramel Triple Threat. At mile 38 or so, I was getting tired. I didn't shoot a couple of peaks because power lines were in the way and I was afraid if I got off the bike, I wouldn't want to get back on.

At the bridge over the Arkansas River, I forced myself to stop and shoot. The background was breathtaking. The riders were thinning out. I needed to eat or drink. I swallowed a few sips and shot about 10 photos.

Sitting on the guardrail felt quite comfortable. I could have stayed there all day. I really didn't feel like riding anymore. I persevered and made it to within three miles of Leadville when I hit the wall.

I stopped and downed quite a bit of fluid. I stretched. I tried taking the pressure off my back. I stretched again. I did not want to go on.

A SAG wagon approached. I quickly got back on my and began chanting, "I'm not sagging. I'm not sagging. I'm not sagging."

That last three miles felt like the Leadville 100. I could almost swear it took an hour, even though I was going 8 mph. I hit the final left-hand turn, and the police officer holding traffic directed me to keep moving. I didn't want to keep moving. I wanted to stop and let the cars go. All of them. Until tomorrow. But he kept waving me on.

"Only one more hill," he optimistically declared.

"Assassin!" I muttered under my breath as I rounded the corner and began the ascent to Lake County High School, which overlooks the town from a bluff at least 10,000 feet higher than Leadville's 10,000 feet. The road was never-ending. I went up and around the football field, then up and around the school, and then up and around the back of the school, where I hit a pothole at 6 or 7 mph because who the heck was looking at the road! I felt like I'd been going in circles!

The pothole did me in. My back seized up and refused to bend over the handlebars anymore. I slowly wheeled the bike in standing position around the school until I could see the football field below. Way down below. At least 20,000 feet. Maybe more. I saw a familiar tent and sank into the pedals as the bike came to a halt. I was going to have to go down the stadium stairs to get to my tent. Oh, how I hate stairs when I'm this sore!

I decided to park my bike in the security lot instead of wheeling or carrying it down the stairs to the tent. I wasn't even sure I could get ME down to the tent.

After parking my bike, I began looking for the stadium entrance to begin the worst part of today's journey but must have been lost in a daze. Out of nowhere came a tug on my arm. The Lizard hugged me and congratulated me for making it, then noticed the glazed-over look in my eyes. He took me by the arm and led me straightaway to the tent at the front of the school, with no elevation gain and no stairs. He said something about an exquisite view of Mount Massive, the second tallest peak in Colorado, but I just collapsed on the tent floor, not even bothering to search out my sleeping bag. The Lizard massaged my back for a minute and made me drink some water before leading me to the school showers, which he assured me were roomy, toasty hot and clean. Plus, no lines!

Unfortunately, all the other riders had already used up all the hot water. I had goosebumps until I accidentally shaved them off.

The highlight of my day was being told by about 100 passing riders that I have the most awesome shorts they've ever seen. I wore my faux denim, which psyched out a lot of riders. One guy repeatedly told me I'm nuts for riding in tight jeans. (My faux denim bike shorts are lycra with chamois, just like everyone else, but they look SO real!)

About 20 people told me my roadrunner jersey is awesome. I love it because I grew up in New Mexico. And what says cyclist better than a roadrunner in shades?!? Four people told me my French-braided hair is awesome, and one complained that it covers up the roadrunner on the back of the jersey. One person said my Kokopelli socks are awesome.

Two years ago, I was depressed because the ride was almost over, and I didn't want it to end.

This year, I'm very glad I have only one more day. I'm going to take next week off from cycling, and then ride a couple more times before the MS-150. I may even skip the Mount Evans Hill Climb. I didn't know when I set that as a 2005 goal last year that I was going to have this stupid surgery that feels right now like it has robbed me of my livelihood.

I still love my bike, but I think we each need some time alone. Maybe we can pick up where we left off in August or September. Maybe.
Sunrise over Mount Massive and the RtR tent city

1 comment :

  1. your still biking?

    The image are great, all the tents suits the mountains. :)

    ReplyDelete


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