24 August 2010

1,000 feet short

What's that big black thing you're pointing at me?My final training ride to prepare for the first ever bicycle Pikes Peak Ascent was last weekend. I thought a ride up Mount Evans might be the perfect way to find out if I'm ready.

Shawl ModelI've been to the summit of Mount Evans from Echo Lake seven times on my road bike, but I've never been able to reach the top when I start in Evergreen or Idaho Springs. To start in Idaho Springs would be shorter mileage than Pikes Peak, but almost the same 7,000 feet in elevation gain.

I'd decided a few weeks earlier to take the mountain bike instead of the road bike because the freeze cracks and sinkholes high on Mount Evans are so treacherous. I didn't want to ruin a rim on my road bike, especially after all the mechanical bike failures I've already experienced this year.

I began to feel the effect of fat tires on pavement at about mile five into my final training ride. By the time I reached Echo Lake, the halfway point, I was tired. But I knew I couldn't make it to the top if I wasn't sure I could make it, so I kept telling myself I could make it. I WOULD make it.

The first five miles after Echo Lake have always seemed to be the hardest, perhaps because it takes me that long to get accustomed to less air, but also because I can pedal 7 miles per hour at mile 7 and 8 miles per hour at mile 8 as the incline eases just a tad. I typically ride about 4.8 mph when climbing a mountain or mountain pass on my bike. Yes, I'm slow. Chipmunks and rabbits on the side of the road can fly uphill faster than me. But some people can't ride uphill at all. Some people can't ride. So I am not discouraged by my snail's pace.

Smile! You're on Snowcatcher Camera!At mile 18, I thought I had a chance to really make it because I'd made it past what feels like the steepest part. The higher I went, the more frequently I had to stop to breathe, however, and one particular bank of clouds was beginning to turn too dark for comfort.

Near Summit Lake, I could see a ton of vehicles pulled over, and I knew that meant mountain goats must be within camera range. By the time I reached that point, I was too tired to pull my camera out of my pack, and that dark cloud was now black and heavy. I decided I should end my climb. The mountain will always be there. I didn't want to go home lightning dead. I did not make it to the top. Again.

I also didn't get pictures of the mountain goats, even though I got to hear one very talkative baby letting his mom know tourists were on the loose. So mountain goat pictures from my last photo trip up Mount Evans will have to suffice for now.

family portraitI didn't take any pictures along the way this trip, so I've decided not to carry my camera on Pikes Peak, as much as that stinks. I've also decided to ride the road bike instead of the mountain bike because it will be easier, even if the road is bad. I want to go as light as I can to increase my chance of being able to make it to the summit. I've been up Mount Evans 10 times without a car. I've been up Pikes Peak once — inside a car. I may not get another chance to bike up it. I want the miles I've paid for. I want to reach the top. This climb is so important to me.

Because I nearly ran out of water on my last ride up Mount Evans, last weekend I carried a full bladder in my pack in addition to the two water bottles I always carry. There is no water (or food) on Mount Evans if you aren't carrying a purifier. I also carried all my own food. Fully self-supported, Mr. Tough Guy. Take that!

There will be four official aid stations on Pikes Peak, plenty of opportunities to refill my water bottles. So I may leave the bladder at home. I'll probably still carry some of my own food, just to make sure I will have food I can eat. Not all supported rides stock nutrition for diabetic riders.

I'm disappointed I didn't make the summit of Mount Evans, and I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to the top of Pikes Peak in the amount of time allowed or before storms set in, if they do. But I will give it my best shot. As long as I can still ride, I won't give up. I'll never stop trying to get up those hills!
Dirty Girl


  1. You are a tough slow snail :D.

  2. “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

    From last year or not, those photos are stunning. The last one is 1 part luck and 1 part amazing! I'm really glad you shared them. I always learn so much from others' great photos.

  3. I admire your ambition, in both your journey and your photography. Bravo!

  4. Pike's Peak awaits you ... I have no doubt you'll make it! Wonderful woolly photos of the mountain goats.

  5. You can do it! Chipmunks and rabbits may fly past but that's totally ok! I am in love with that last shot!!!

  6. You are one tough woman. I didn't know that you were diabetic. That must make these endurance events even trickier for you. Way to go, girl!

    I love the mountain goat photos. They're spectacular. Last year, we camped at Georgia Pass on the very first day that the snow allowed anyone up there. We awakened to a herd of goats all around us. Somehow, the dogs slept through it, and I captured that moment with my camera. Amazing.

    7000' is a long way. I'm pulling for you!


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