Friday, June 7, 2013

Last Minute Jitters


Ok, so this is it.

The last evening before the Death Ride Tour kicks off.  I just finished check in, dug through all my swag in the promo bag, and am about to head off for the pasta dinner and happy hour.  Tomorrow, we’ll take off starting at 8am.  To say my nerves are bothering me is an understatement.

Digging through the swag, tryin' it on and poppin' some tags.
I couldn’t sleep the last couple nights thinking about the ride.  I was questioning everything about my training and preparation.  Will my legs be strong enough to climb sixteen thousand feet for three days?  Will my lungs keep me from passing out and falling off a cliff at 11,000 feet?  Will my butt survive over 230 miles in the saddle without falling off?  What else can I do?

I don’t know.  But it would help if I could at least get some decent sleep.  My head was fuzzy and my stomach ached on the ride yesterday morning.  And (no offense Char) it was a ridiculously slow and easy ride.

I have done everything I could think of, and had time for, to prepare.

I’ve ridden in the mountains at high altitude.  I have ridden daily, sometimes twice daily, to get used to being in the saddle for endless hours on back-to-back days.  I’ve done hill repeats to strengthen my legs and lungs.  I’ve done long rides in the wind to increase my endurance.  I’ve been in Durango, CO, for 4 days acclimating and have ridden three times here. 

Riding around Durango has been a great boost to my overall confidence in preparation for this weekend.  Wednesday’s ride took me on a 30 mile loop up into the hills outside Durango.  I climbed out of the river valley into oak scrub brush, then into white aspen groves over rushing mountain rivers, and finally up into deep green pine forest, before descending very quickly back into town.  It was a rush, and the scenery alone made it worth riding.

The views of the mountains during my ride were incredible, especially when I realized that I was about to ride around them.
 Thursday’s ride was a rest day, in comparison, but was still taxing on my body.  My lungs were tired and my head swimming after finishing.  I drug Char with me, 16 miles out of town to Baker’s Bridge.  There was very little climbing, mostly gentle rollers along the side of the valley.  I was impressed with Char keeping up a decent pace while I fought with uncooperative gears and stomach cramps.  I blamed it on not sleeping well the night before, which in turn I blamed on having coffee before bedding down for the night, but I think it had more to do with nerves than caffeine.

Chillin' on the Baker's Bridge while Char catches her breath.
But today was the drive up to Ouray (and Orvis Hot Springs for a nice soak) which paralleled the route we’ll be using on the last day, and the start tomorrow.  The winding and fatally steep climbs took my breath away.  The technical descents along curves with thousand foot drop offs had Char nervous in the seat next to me.

It was a great opportunity to preview the route I’ll be on for the next three days, but it also left me nervous and stressed out, possibly even terrified.

I’ve run out of ideas and time to do anything to prepare but hope I survive the ride.

And why am I doing this?

Part of me is still trying to answer that question.  It seemed like a really good idea 7 months ago when I was bored and looking for a challenge.  In theory it seemed totally plausible to prepare myself while deployed and finish off what training was needed once I was stateside.  In practice, there were so many more demands on my time than I thought possible.

The most difficult dilemma faced, was how much other physical training to sacrifice so that I could focus on cycling?  That is a discussion that I will save for another time, maybe as Char and I prepare for the Iron Soldier Triathlon in the fall.

For now, I will just have to suck up my own fear, and remember the two main purposes of this ride.

The first was to take me out of my comfort zone in cycling, to push my limits to a new level.

The second was to commemorate lost loved ones of everyone that has supported both my fundraising and training for this ride.

Thank you.