05 June 2012

Deerly Trained

I owe you wildlife for using deer in the post title.

Weather has hampered nearly every weekend since my cast came off, but the saddles have been occupied nevertheless. Deer Creek Canyon has been one of my best teachers this year.

Training this time of year can seem monotonous because I often must ride the same path day after day. The goals to pre-hydrate, continually build mileage, develop callouses in all the right places to avoid contact pain, breathe efficiently in thinner and thinner air, fuel properly, hydrate, remember to frequently reapply sunscreen, and climb without tipping the bike over as a result of pedaling too slowly can seem fruitless and unending. Focusing too much on trying to be fit steals the joy of riding and inhibits the urge to stop and take pictures of the flowers.

Until finally, the moment arrives when I must accept that I've done the best I could. The object is to have fun. Not stress, worry, fret, sob, surrender and doubt.

I had not been to the top of Deer Creek Canyon this year. My partial ascents, however, had been non-stop. I had high hopes I'd conquer this 4,000-foot beast of a climb because I've worked hard. Yes, I lost five weeks, and yes, snow, ice, gravel and high winds have subtracted training opportunities. But I felt stronger.

Someone ramped up the road, though, and made it steeper on this, my final big climb training ride before the real things begin. Someone was playing games with me, treating me to an amusement park thrill, or is it a scare? Perhaps even a dare?

I couldn't keep going. I needed to stop. I needed to breathe. I needed to stretch. Others in training passed and voiced choruses of encouragement.

"Don't stop!" "You can do it!" "You're doing great!"

It's the cyclists' creed. Cyclists want other cyclists to succeed.

Less then a mile further, I had to stop again. I melted over the handlebars, partly to stretch my back, but also to rethink my goals. Why was I doing this? Wasn't it because I love my bike? I love the mountains? I love being able to silence that stupid little voice inside? The one currently whining, "You'll never make it up Pikes Peak. You're going to be last every day in Ride the Rockies. Elephant Rock is going to crush you. The MS-150 is going to melt you."

Yes, the MS-150 will melt me. Always does. Usually on Day 2, and usually in the last 20 miles. But I always make it across the finish line. Takes more than 90 degrees to turn me into an asphalt puddle of sweat.

I'm not giving up yet. And that's that.

I mounted the bike again and pushed off several times to enable my body weight to force the pedals down on the steep slope and get the bike moving again.


The Lizard typically finishes his ascent and meets me on the steepest portion of the climb during his descent. If he's having a good day, he turns around and rides up again with me, at my pace, cheering me, believing in me, willing me to succeed.

If he's having a bad day, I graciously offer to turn around and go down with him because, heck, I've worked hard, I don't need to get all the way to the top. I've done well. I convince myself a portion of the climb is as good as a whole climb, and I'm ultra relieved when he accepts my offer.

Today he is nowhere to be seen. I'd told him before we left home I have to get to the top today. This is my last chance before the official rides begin. I can't give up. I have to keep going. Today was summit day for me.

Lizard Cam

Today was summit day for The Lizard, too. We'd finally received our tax refund, and I'd promised him a helmet cam for his birthday nearly a month ago. Today was his first time using it on the road bike, with two mountain bike test rides under his belt to make sure everything was set properly. He likely had reached the summit of Mount Evans by now, and he was probably making his way toward Pikes Peak.

He knew I'd turn around when he met me, and he knew that was not an option. So he waited on top. Until worry got the best of him.

About a mile from Pleasant Park − The Goal − he met me on his descent to find out if I'd turned around and gone home.

"Are you going all the way up?" he asked, surprised but Pleasant Parkly pleased to find me.

"Darn tootin' right," I replied. "I want my cookie."

He smiled, then chuckled, then headed back up with an irresistable teaser: "They're fresh out of the oven. The chocolate chips are still melted. You're almost there!"

And that's all I needed to hear. I would make it. Didn't matter how long it took. Didn't even matter if the cookies cooled off by the time I got there. I would make it. Period.

Pleasant Park School

The one-room Pleasant Park School at the top of the climb was built in 1894, and kids attended school only during spring and summer because the snow was too deep in winter. The Pleasant Park Grange #156 bought the property in 1956 to preserve and protect it, and in 1996, the schoolhouse was added to the Colorado State Registry of Historic Places.

help yourself

The Grange, or residents of the Deer Creek and Pleasant Park area, maintains the school and property, as well as a Port-a-Potty, in part with optional charitable contributions on the honor system by grateful cyclists and sometimes even truckers who make use of the rest stop at Pleasant Park. Coolers filled with water, sports drink and even pain reliever offer comfort and refreshment for tired legs and weary muscles. Women of The Grange make homemade cookies throughout cycling season to further support cyclists training for all ranges of rides, including the rides in which The Lizard and I participate.

Thank you for everything you do!

Yes, I try to avoid sugar, but by golly, when I get to the top of Deer Creek or Mount Evans or Vail Pass, I deserve a cookie or a Rice Krispie Treat or a brownie!


During Ride the Rockies, one vendor who built his own grill and batter-squirting system offers fresh, butter-melting hotcakes and pure maple syrup at the first rest stop of each day. Yes, you betcha, I devour!

Riding up Deer Creek Canyon (or Mount Evans or Vail Pass) on the weekend isn't like trying to get to work on time during the week and trying to get home before dark and without getting squished during rush hour. I don't need to put more pressure on myself. What I was doing is exactly what I will be doing during Ride the Rockies, and I can stop as often as I need. It's not a race. It's a ride. And reaching the top CAN be fun.

Upward and onward I pedaled, trying to inhale the aroma of the fresh cookies surely awaiting me. I tried to feel and taste the ice cold water I'd be able to pour down my throat. And then I saw a sign offering something I craved even more.

Protein. That's what it's all about. That's what I need when I'm working hard.

I know I'm not the typical cyclist, and I know no one is going to make a fortune off the idea, but why doesn't anyone offer fresh scrambled eggs at the summit?

Mmmmmm... breakfast!!!


  1. of course you are worth a cockie. I an so impressed with what you are doing. Sometimes I wish I could too.

  2. Wow! Thanks for taking me along too! I really had an awesome ride and the places we saw and those cookies...yummy! :)

  3. I agree! Easily-digested, healthy protein would be an awesome summit gift. You certainly earned your cookie :)

    The training hours are all worth it, in the end.

  4. When you crest Vail Pass you deserve cookies, brownies, french fries and every other 'oh that's bad for me' delight! You go girl! :)

  5. Yup, you deserved those cookies and some eggs too! I marvel at how much you can do. The school house ... oh how it makes my mind wander. Wonder what it was like back then, the children coming, taking their seats. How wonderful they have preserved this.

  6. Keep it filled with joy and hope

  7. Way to go!!!!! It's a testament to your determination!

    I have to say that the thought of scrambled eggs on the summit make me want to gag :)

  8. Yes! I love eggs too. Along with cheese they're my favourite food, and nothing fuels me better for a long day than eggs at breakfast time.

    Scrambled eggs would be awesome at the end of a climb - throw in some cheese and salsa and we've entered the realm of the sublime. (I'm making myself hungry here.)

    But enjoy those cookies and pancakes too. With all your miles and hard work, your pancreas will just laugh off those occasional tiny bits of sugar.

    ("The Laughing Pancreas". What a great name for a ... diet book? Low-carb restaurant? Rock band? Hmmm.)

    Congrats on completing Deer Canyon. A fantastic achievement. So glad you're able to stop when you need to, and to go on when you're done. (Especially on a steep climb.)


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