06 September 2012

Trail of Hope

summer's hangover
Rhododendrons and all things northwest botanical were going to be the focus of yesterday's Wordless Wednesday, and today I planned to write about our drive up Mount Rainier.

But let's face it. With 2,292 photos waiting to be retouched, and about 600 of them being anxiously awaited by a new bride and groom and their respective families, it just isn't going to happen this quick.

I have a stash of old trip reports ready to go for those days when I just don't have time to write anything fresh. In fact, I have a good month's worth of posts prepared and ready, just waiting for that orange "publish" button to be pressed. But so many exciting things are happening, I'm having a great difficulty resorting to the archives.

I had not planned to write about last week's unexpected mountain bike ride because, well, because it wasn't planned. The Lizard unexpectedly got the day off. I had previously scheduled the day off to pack for our redeye flight to Washington state that night. We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and the joyous few extra hours together by pedaling up Waterton Canyon once again.

I hadn't planned to write about it because it was just another ride up Waterton Canyon. Just like many before. Loaded with flowers, butterflies, bighorn and fresh signs of bear activity.

Sharp-eyed Mrs. Micawber noticed I'd plugged that tiny little plus into my list of amazing numerical milestones on Tuesday, and she hoped the ride was, "a good one."

I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

watering hole


Yet there was something truly special and miraculous about this ride. I mean, aside from The Lizard being able to join me (the best part of all).

When I first got back on my bike after this summer's latest back development, I had to work back up excruciatingly slowly. I'd wanted to jump from 1 mile to 5 miles to 10 miles to 15 miles to 20 miles to 30, and then begin commuting to work again. I secretly hoped I'd have my 60-mile days back after just a two-month break.

I quickly found out I cannot make 5-mile increment improvements. Sometimes, I can't even increase by 1 mile. It's going to be a long journey. But it's better than no journey at all.

I am back up to 20 miles now, but it has not been an easy ride. For the last couple of weeks, I ride 10 miles out, then 10 miles back. Because I know I can. Even if it hurts.

Typically, I begin hurting by about mile 8. I force those last 2 miles before turning around because I'm headstrong, stubborn and a glutton for punishment, I guess. Then I ride back home the next 10 miles in pain that sometimes causes me to wonder if it's worth it.

Last week, I got to mile 8, and I didn't hurt. I rode to the normal turnaround point, and I still didn't hurt.

So I rode further.

I went a half mile more, up the first steep incline at the end of the gravel road, prior to the start of the Colorado Trail, which eventually snakes its way all the way to Durango, skirting a few fourteeners along the way.

I haven't done the steep part in a long time. I get sidetracked by bighorn, and they are more fun than the bike, sometimes. I hadn't done the steep part at all this year. I didn't know if I ever would again. I didn't know if I'd be able to climb again. The grade before the steep part is barely 1%. And it hurt. How could I ever again expect to go up 10% or 12% grades?

I've had to do a few flights of stairs the last month, one or two flights at a time, of course. That's another thing I've immensely enjoyed in the past. Stairclimbing, particularly 60 flights at a time such as I used to do at work to try to stay in shape during winter, is another activity I thought I'd lost forever. But I've learned in the last few weeks that if I keep my back straight or arched when I go up stairs, it doesn't hurt as much.

Yes, I climbed stairs hunched over. Probably the worst thing in the world, but I didn't know that then. I just climbed, never giving my posture a second thought because, quite frankly, every ounce of energy went into maintaining a steady breathing pattern, which doesn't ever come easily for me.

So now I'm trying to develop the habit. I'm trying to reteach my body to go up stairs without stressing the bad disc. My body is trying to relearn how to ascend without wincing, without tears.

I wondered if I could apply the same principal on the mountain bike.


I made it to the start of the Colorado Trail. And I didn't hurt. I DIDN'T HURT!!!

I turned back. I shot photos of the bighorn in the river. I stretched. I shot more photos. I did not hurt. I shot the butterflies. I still did not hurt. The Lizard returned from his 30-mile loop of the Colorado Trail and nearby feeder routes. We pedaled down the canyon together, and I did not hurt.

I didn't hurt until 2 miles from home. I pedaled 19 miles with no pain! The most I'd been able to do before that since the onset in June was 8 miles. Last Wednesday, I did 19 miles pain free!

This instills so much hope I might be able to do it again. Maybe often.

Thanks, Sue, for asking. Yes, it was a GREAT ride!!!



  1. What a gorgeous photo of a rhododendron!

    I hope you enjoyed Mt. Rainier! I feel very fortunate to be able to look out my window and see that mountain on clear days.

  2. I believe in HOPE! Trust that you are well, and you shall be pain free, right?! My momma always told me...quick thinking about it! Those pains of childhood just growing pains right!!!and...! Enjoy your day....

  3. I am SO glad you felt like going up Ranier! You are an amazing, determined lady and you inspire me each and every day to trudge on no matter what lies ahead! Blessings on you, my friend. :)

  4. I'm so very glad to know the ride was a good one...and better than good.

    Whenever I catch myself straining my back by crossing my legs, I think of you as I uncross them. :)

    Keep up the good work! Look out, 60 miles, here she comes!


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