08 May 2012


a long way to go

With two weeks left to train, I learned last year's Assault on the Peak had shrunk an hour.

I was so devastated, I couldn't stop crying. Work became a nightmare about the same time. To top everything else off, I was moody that day.

Round and round the moods go...And of course, the world was ending that day. Biggest stock market crash in history. Everyone was nervous. Everyone was trying not to listen to news.

For the next 28 hours, my moods swung but snagged as if I was stuck on a Ferris wheel, two to three hours in each seat position. Every emotion in the spectrum.

I fought depression with all my might. I knew the missing hour of ride time would mean an extra hour of sleep on ride day. I pulled weeds in the garden. I noticed grasshopper-chewed leaves that so effectively depicted my emotions. I went inside and designed a new snowflake. The Lizard said it looked like a turtle. How fitting. I ride a turtle pace.

The Lizard was wonderful. He kept telling me I could make it to the top of Pikes Peak.

I'd felt so good after the previous weekend's training. I was still nervous, but I believed I would make it.

Suddenly, the wind was taken from me. Not the Pikes Peak wind. The air that I breathe.

monsterJust as suddenly, within minutes of posting right here on my blog about my agony, a literal invisible army of thoughtful pedal pushers joined my fight. My blogging friends kept me from spilling over the edge of raging Pikes Peak salty tear falls.

The Lizard told me to take Pikes Peak by the horns and kick its rump. I tried really, really hard to stay positive. I even calculated what I had to average to make it. I had to average 4.5 mph. (I averaged 3.2 mph the previous year.) I had to stay on my bike. No walking.

I thought I could stay on the bike last August. I was stronger. I knew how to eat and drink properly. I'd been riding in the wind all year.

I just didn't know if I could be an hour faster. The weekend before, I felt 15 minutes faster. But would I have an hour of faster in me? Ever?

Ironically, I read just prior to receiving my cyclist packet that Fat Cyclist's protege IT Guy broke his collarbone a week before his first Leadville 100, and the 21-year-old was out for the rest of the year, not just the season. He, like me, had trained hard all year. Just like that, his dream was gone.

I kept trying to tell myself I didn't break anything. I could still ride.

I knew I couldn't give up. That would be a waste of everything I'd put into training. Initially, I felt I'd wasted all the sacrifices I'd made last year because I'd been so focused on that one event, that one ride. Initially, it felt as if I made wrong choices because the summit was never attainable anyway, and I had wasted my time pretending.

chewed upEver since February 2011, I wanted to write about why Pikes Peak was so important. Why was it such a big deal? Why was I so consumed with the summit? Why did I even care? Now I'm glad I waited. The words come together better now.

I've been through a lot of hard things. There were a lot of things I didn't think I could survive. Each time I made it through something difficult, I developed a little more faith in God, a little more faith in myself and a little more will to keep going. Each hard thing I made it through helped me make it through the next hard thing, and even though the steps sometimes seemed too steep or long, I was able to keep moving.

Friends suggested last year I would one day appreciate Pikes Peak even more because I didn't make it. Twice now. Fighting so hard the first year and not making it gave me what I needed to push through last year's effort to improve. If I hadn't failed the first year, I wouldn't have worked so hard last year. I wouldn't be as strong as I am now. I can ride in the wind without getting off my bike. I can ride up dirt roads on my skinny tires without getting off my bike. I can go up Deer Creek Canyon without stopping and without dropping into the granny gear. I can even be off my bike for a month because I broke my wrist and not be at ground zero when I finally get to ride again.

Mount Evans pain five months after surgeryI couldn't do any of that before emergency back surgery in 2004, when I was physically at my peak. That means I'm stronger now than I was before my life was changed by an undetermined injury. I'm living proof someone over 50 truly can improve. That's why I want to make it to the summit of Pikes Peak. That's why I don't give up.

Mostly, though, I want to silence that little voice inside me that wants to whine, "I can't," or "It's too hard."

That tiny voice got a lot louder the day I found the time limit had been shortened. In fact, the not-so-tiny voice yelled in my face. It made me cry. I went from believing I could make it to thinking I failed before I even got to the start line.

I want to take the strength I gain from unsuccessfully completing the most difficult ride I've ever done and translate it into other areas of my life so I don't ever think I can't or I'm not good enough or I'm strong enough. I want to prove to myself I can do what I put my mind to.

Full circle. I'm back where I started. I've trained hard, the Pikes Peak ride has changed yet again (cut back to three hours this year but just half the distance, the hardest half...), and I believe I can make it.

A good cry every once in a while is good for the soul. And it washes the gnats out of your eyes.

Once again, I'm signing up for Pikes Peak proclaiming I will not be swept. I'm going to give it my best shot. I hope this year I am able to announce to the world, "I made it!" Even if I don't make the summit, I am stronger because I never gave up.

Training on Vail Pass


  1. Your determination and dedication is a beacon, Deb. You're amazing!

  2. You are stronger, more determined than ever, highly conditioned and you're awesome.

    You've laid the groundwork, built a solid foundation and inspired a lot of folks in this endeavor. I've got faith in you, Deb. I've also got faith in the process that's brought you this far.

    Tag that summit, my friend!

  3. You go, girl!

    And it's true about the gnats. :)

  4. Please pass the Resolve. And I ain't talkin' about the carpet cleaner. :)

  5. Peace and Hope be with you

  6. I love your attitude. And, I believe that you'll make it, too. Have faith in yourself. I'm so glad that you're back on the bike!


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