30 June 2011


Ponder Point
Coming up just short of goal, but June's mileage is still a great fete for me.

After 150 weekend miles, I woke Monday morning to discover I felt pretty darned good. I could ride again. If I commuted to work three days before the end of the month, I'd have my 1,000 miles, plus four. I'd previously planned to take Tuesday off to (a) recover from the weekend or (b) attempt Mount Evans again. (As it turned out, I was unable to ride any of the other final days of the month, due to other commitments and responsibilities... oh, well...)

Monday SunriseI opted not to ride Monday to give my body a break so I could hit Mount Evans fresh. It meant likely sacrificing my 1,000-mile month, but being ready for Pikes Peak seems more important than the number of miles I ride in June.

That choice enabled me to shoot a phenomenal sunrise Monday morning without worrying about being late to work. Shooting a dramatic sunrise not only starts my day with a rich burst of adrenaline, it also renews and refreshes my soul.

Tuesday morning I shot yet another wonderful sunrise atop Mount Evans (via my car) before finding a trio of mountain goats who willingly posed for portraits. I also reconned road conditions and came within an inch or two of chickening out and doing Vail Pass instead. The Mount Evans road gets worse every year. Every year, I tell myself I'm not going to do it unless I have someone to shuttle me down from the summit, yet every year, I have to be reminded why I keep telling myself that.

Tuesday I would be riding alone, or, well, as alone as one can get at a popular tourist destination. I wouldn't have support if something went awry, and up to 28 miles is a long, long way to walk.

After a carb-loaded breakfast, I decided to go ahead and give Mount Evans one more try. I felt strong. I rode strong. Even though I hate the road, I still have this uncontrollable itch to make it to the summit from Idaho Springs, and that's where I began the day's ride.

Echo LakeBefore reaching Echo Lake, my normal start in a successful summit attempt, I ran out of water. I stopped at the Lodge to refill my bottles and contemplate continuing. I didn't know the Lodge refills cyclist bottles for free, so I used the change I'd planned to spend on water for an herbal tea to enjoy while I literally pondered going up or going down. The tea turned out to be a real motivator. After draining the bottle, I felt refreshed and continued riding up without a second thought.

I knew from before the start I might not make it all the way up, so I set substitute goals I felt comfortable seeking. The first, of course, would be Summit Lake, where the road is the absolute worst. I would have no remorse whatsoever turning back just before the highest lake and skipping the lumpy, bumpy, broken and gnarly pavement.

My second goal was double the mileage I'd attained the last attempt, which seemed awful easy, as I made it only seven miles the previous try. I could easily go 14. Just getting to Echo Lake was 13 miles.

Echo Lake was my third goal, for if I wasn't doing well. And I'd made that. Reaching the Lodge empowered me not only with tea, but confidence as well.

I couldn't have picked a more beautiful morning. If the road didn't make me so squeamish and if I could pedal faster, I'd have had no problem on this gorgeous day reaching the summit before potential afternoon storms hit.

thunder in the makingUnfortunately, I'm a turtle, and the wind picked up by the time I hit the first curve above Echo Lake. It wasn't as bad as my last attempt or Pikes Peak last year, but a headwind nonetheless. Yet I was riding strong, and the sky was still fairly clear. I thought I could push on for the next mile, which would get me to a switchback leading to a mile of tailwind, and I knew I could finish that section.

After the tailwind, I would have maybe a quarter mile of wind protection, then a crosswind leading onto the tundra, above treeline, and into the full blast of the wind. I pedaled as far as the Mount Goliath nature center and took a rest to watch the clouds and consider the freeze cracks I'd be up against if I continued on.

The cloud directly above Goliath was black and growing. Clouds were consolidating much too fast for my comfort. Ultimately, though, the freeze cracks were the decision-maker. I'd just endured three miles at a very slow speed, and it was tortuous. Going back down, I'd be hitting them hard enough to damage my wheels. Or me! Some road damage could throw a inattentive cyclist over the edge, and it's a long, long way down.

Initially, I was disappointed I didn't go further, but after the first three freeze cracks on the rapid but brakes-applied descent, I knew I'd made the right decision for me. The weather could have held, and I may have been strong enough to keep going. But I wasn't willing to subject my bike or my joints to the jolts of the buckled pavement.

At the end of the ride, I had successfully climbed 17 of the 28 miles (for a round trip of 34, more than half my regular work commute), and I reached a higher elevation than Vail Pass would have afforded. I can't help but feel happy about Tuesday's training ride.

Marmot CuriosityWhile I was still climbing, and doing so in seemingly slow motion, I realized this trip would not be enough to get me up Pikes. I would have to continue to do this at least once a week, and the prospect was frightening. I dreaded the training.

That's where sanity finally began to sink in, I think. I know I must do long and high altitude climbs frequently for the next two months in order to maintain current abilities and to make it successfully up Pikes Peak. Vail Pass isn't as high, but it is good training, and the bike path makes for protected and smooth riding. Some of the mountain bike rides The Lizard and I discussed last winter would be good training, too, even though they don't approach 14,000 feet.

Before I ever decided to turn back, I'd already made up my mind I wouldn't attempt Mount Evans again without someone to shuttle me back down after the climb. I want to live to see another day. I don't want to have to replace my bike or even just a wheel or two.

If I can keep the fitness level I have right now for two more months, I think I can make it up Pikes Peak, even if I don't climb any 14ers between now and then. I wasn't this strong last year, and I made it to within half a mile of the summit. My attitude is much healthier this year, too. I'm fueling better, and I'm hydrating properly. I think I can do it. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

I wish I had one more day in June so I could grab that 1,000-mile month notch in my belt again. But 858 is still pretty darned good, and I did it without the help of Ride the Rockies this year.

Sometimes, sacrifices are necessary. And sometimes, joy is still within reach even when sacrifices are made.

May I please brush your hair???


  1. You are doing great! ...amazing, and what could be better a great ride...and all those beautiful shots along the way! You can come back and create more lovely snowflakes with all that artwork etched in your soul from the road....

  2. You are a FORCE Deb! 858 is nothing to sneeze at.

  3. Thank you, Karen and Patty! I do feel okay with the accomplishment now, and I'm glad I did my best.

    I will indeed try to keep coming up with new designs based on all the beauty I see. Now if I can just think of a way to make freeze cracks look attractive... :)

  4. So impressive. YOU GO GIRL!!!

  5. 858 is AMAZING. And stay off the dangerous roads! It's not worth it. So glad you have other options for your training. Just reading about those freeze cracks gave me the willies.

    I think it's a good choice to go for the training climbs instead of just heaping up miles. You'll probably get more benefit out of it, plus you'll have some built-in recovery time between climbs, so your body can make the most of what you've done.

    I know you can, I know you can, I know you can. :)

    P.S. I love that mountain goat shot!

  6. WOW You are one busy woman. I love the goat. Hope you have a safe and fun weekend. Take care.

  7. when Wisdom speaks it is best to listen as in giving yourself a Monday off and not risking danger coming down mountains. Keep listening. Keep experiencing joy.


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

All spam is promptly and cheerfully deleted without ever appearing in print.

If you are unable to leave a comment and need to contact me, please use the email address in the sidebar. Thank you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails