Sunday, June 16, 2013

Death Ride Tour Stage 3

Death Ride Tour V
Stage Three – Durango to Silverton (48 miles)

Today was the final day, the day we were to ride the IronHorse Bicycle Classic route in to Silverton.  Two incredible climbs to passes over the mountains followed by a 7-mile descent to town.

After almost 200 miles I was feeling much better than I had expected.  Sure, every muscle in my body was fatigued and sore, my legs were already rubbery and I had trouble walking out of the hotel room, I couldn’t laugh too loud for fear of a wracking cough I was getting, my ribs ached and were sore to touch, my Man-Bike-Interface was raw and I had some pretty good sunburns developing from the long miles in the sun. 

But really, I felt just fine and ready for the final ride of the Death Ride Tour.
Getting warmed up and settled in before the start.
Everything started outside the historic Strater Hotel in downtown Durango.  We waited for the first train of the day to roll by before taking off through town.  Our route would take us along highway 250 to Bakers Bridge (same ride Char and I had done the previous week).  From there we’d jump on highway 550 for a solid 20 mile climb to Coal Bank Pass.
Here comes the first Durango to Silverton train of the day.

The passing of the train.

Time to go.

I thought I should take it easy and took off with a slower group of riders today.  Big mistake.  They were just too slow for me and I spent the 16 mile ride to Bakers Bridge hopping from one group to another, before finally pulling a small group the last 3 miles in to the bridge.  I wasn’t even breaking a sweat and felt really confident about the upcoming climb.

After a decent break to load up on water, Gatorade and snacks, I tried jumping in with a more serious group as they left the bridge.  Soon they all fell apart and I was left climbing alone.  This was becoming very familiar territory.

Apparently, everyone else was just as fatigued as me, as all I did for the next 20 miles was leave a trail of broken hearts and tears as I slowly pulled in one rider after another.  I know it wasn’t a race, and most of the really good riders had taken off with faster groups right from the start, but it still felt great.
Another group falling off behind me.
 The climb up to Coal Bank Pass was just as intense as I’d thought it would be.  I passed two riders, both of which had passed me earlier while they were trying to speed down some light descents, that were trying to figure out just how far it was to the top.
Not exactly smiling right now.
 I began to experience a sensation that had become familiar over that previous two days.  I thought I would be more afraid of climbing so far, or facing such steep grades and worried that the pain and fatigue in my legs and lungs would overwhelm me and cause me to fail.  I had planned for and expected to face those moments of doubt when you’re just not sure you can make it or keep going.  But something else happens in those moments.  Just when you should be afraid of failure, of feeling like you can’t quite keep going, instead, there is a moment when a door opens inside your mind.  Through that door is another world, another paradigm of thinking.  It’s a world of pain and suffering unlike and quite beyond what you are currently used to feeling.  And in that moment there is a choice, to go through the door, to step into a world of intensified agony and keep climbing, or to shy away and falter just long enough to fail.  There is no fear, only a choice between agony and relief.

It’s the moment when you learn that your body is capable of taking more than you ever thought possible of dishing out upon it.

Char calls me a masochist.  Oh well.
Totally faking that smile.
Rolling in to the water point.
I topped out at Coal Bank Pass with Charla waiting for me.  The view was nice, but the real joy was in knowing that the hardest and longest climb of the whole Death Ride was behind me.
Peanut butter on oatmeal cookies?  Don't mind if I do.  Watermelon slices, too?  Why not?
I wolfed down some more carbs, reloaded my fluids and booked for the short descent and climb up to Molas Pass.  Charla actually followed me in the Jeep for part of the descent, watching as I got stuck behind a slow moving RV that waited until almost at the bottom of the valley before pulling over and letting me blow past.
Description of the San Juan Skyway, of which we were almost finished biking the entirety.
The climb up to Molas was challenging, but less emotional.  The views at the top breath-taking.  Most of the riders rode right past the water point, but I felt the need to stop and appreciate both the scenery and the fact that all my climbing was done.
View from Molas Pass.
Gorgeous weather for a nice ride through the mountains.
The ride down into Silverton was a welcome reward for all my efforts over the previous three days.  
Yes, I actually stopped and took this photo with my phone before continuing into town.
My Strava App may not have recorded the final few miles of the descent, but I will never forget flying downhill into town and the final ride up main street to the Death Ride finish.
Finally finished!
Exhausted, but still goofy.
Barry Sopinsky, the Death Ride event organizer, and Charla were waiting for me at the finish. 
Toasting the finish with a nice beer!
And the weirdest thing was…

After over 232 miles of some of the hardest riding the state of Colorado and the San Juan mountains could offer, I felt like I wanted to keep going.
Just a little cool down after 232 miles.
Yup, still smiling.
I had learned some important things about myself during the Death Ride.  Most are intangibles and hard to explain, but I could feel the sense of accomplishment and confidence that I had achieved.

This was a journey that I had begun last November, while downrange and looking for anything to take my mind off my situation.  Between the fundraising and training, I had definitely been pushed beyond my comfort zone, which I consider necessary for personal growth.

I enjoyed pushing my body beyond my perceived physical limits through depths of pain heretofore unknown to me.  The immediate sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching a summit or finishing a ride, provides rewards that are worth any effort in training or struggle.

I am no longer the same person that I was before I began this whole enterprise, but look forward to the challenges that the new me will find.

Lessons learned from Stage Three:

1.     Don’t be afraid to start a little faster than you think you should, you can always back off right away if it’s too much.  If you don’t dare greatly from the beginning, it will be too late in the end.
2.     Don’t spend all your energy flying downhill, if you’re going to be too exhausted to keep me from passing you on the climb.
3.     A fancy kit or jersey doesn’t mean you’re elite or pro, it just means you go shopping.  When I drop you on the climb, or in a wicked descent, you won’t look nearly as cool.