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Epic Day

On Saturday I took on what was planned to be a 98+ mile gravel bike adventure taking me over Cottonwood Pass twice and Cumberland Pass once.  I knew it would be an epic day and was pretty stoked the day before.  I rolled into Buena Vista an hour late on Saturday morning after getting stuck in traffic from the Copper Triangle.  Cyclists!!  As I readied to roll doubt settled in.  Did I sleep enough?  Did I eat enough in the previous days?  Did I take in enough calories this morning?  Could I do this?

I was planning to ride 98 miles and climb around 10,000 feet completely self supported.  No one to talk to.  No wheel to follow.  Me, my whit, the food I had on me, and what I found along the way in a remote part of the Saguache Range.

I rolled out of Buena Vista just before 9am.  I knew the immense challenge ahead of me.  On Cottonwood Pass I had to climb 4114 feet in the first 19 miles hitting gradients around 13.5%.  Needless to say self doubt kicked in.  What was I doing?  Was it too smokey from the wildfires?  I can still turn back can’t I?  Are you sure you slept enough?  A second breakfast sounds nice doesn’t it?

Somewhere around 10 miles my motor got going and I accepted climbing as what I was doing.  The first shot of excitement came at rounding the high altitude switchbacks and seeing the pass high above me.  Onward I climbed.  At the pass I stopped for a photo op, but knew I had a long day still ahead of me.  I descended into Taylor Park where I topped off my water.  Tarmac yielded to gravel and I pressed on into Tincup.  

In Tincup I listened to my body and got off my bike for a bit.  I devoured a giant hamburger and basket of fries.  I had already watched my calorie count pass 2500 on my headunit.  I knew I needed something more than bars and gels to survive the day.

Up next was a grueling nine mile gravel grind up Cumberland Pass.  I pedaled on.  I was almost at the halfway point.  I had come too far to turn back short of the pass, but my mind really wanted to.  What if I got back too late?  Would it be dark?  Did I have enough layers?  What if I had a mechanical?  What if I cut a tire?

Reveling on Cumberland Pass was short lived.  The smoke obscured the awesome views.  It was already mid afternoon.  I had nearly 50 miles to go and it included climbing Cottonwood Pass, again.  I knew I couldn’t dwell on that fact.  There was no point since there was no other way to get home. I cruised back into Taylor Park where I again topped off my water and sat for a few minutes.  I didn’t delay.  I knew I had to climb 13 miles heading east and I would be above 12,000 feet on Cottonwood Pass somewhere around 6pm.  Cold!

So started the last big climb of the day.  Deep into the mantra, I just kept moving.  Stopping only to eat.  I focused on calories every 30 minutes for fear bonking.  I was deep in the gray matter.  My legs were tired, but it was my mind that needed convincing.

At the top of Cottonwood Pass I chatted with a couple driving to Crested Butte to mountain bike.  On hearing that I had not only climbed Cottonwood Pass once, but twice, in addition to Cumberland Pass and was expecting a 98 mile day, he said, “That is bananas!”  I agreed.  At this point my thoughts were of being done with this adventure.

Most everyone I spoke with on this adventure acknowledged just how epic the ride plan was for one day.  Everyone but me.  In my mind it was what I was going to do.  It was an objective.  I forgot to have fun.  Descending the pass, heading back to Buena Vista, and thinking of a hot meal and warm clothes I hit the gas.  I found a whole new reserve of energy I didn’t know was there.  I finally relaxed and looked around.  I even smiled.

At the end of the ride I had logged 99.3 miles, 9347 feet of elevation gain, with a moving-time of 8:30:57.  I learned something deeply about what I can do.  I had a long time to think about fear and self doubt.  I just kept saying yes you can.  Keep going.  I just kept saying, “Never let yourself give in when you are trying to start again.”

Lesley post bike ride