Over Memorial Day weekend, I was staying up in Allenspark, CO for a family wedding in the area. Of course, I jumped at the chance to pack my bike (and shoes, helmet, etc) and get in an early morning ride in an area that I had read about, but not had the chance to cycle yet: the Peak to Peak highway.
The weather was less than cooperative all weekend. In fact, we ended up in a massive hail storm waiting for the wedding ceremony to start on Sunday. Needless to say, they ended up getting married inside. I woke up on Saturday morning feeling ready to go, but a little nervous to biking alone in a place that I was unfamiliar with and that had limited cell phone reception. I gingerly stepped out of bed at 5:00 a.m. in the cabin, shivering under my sweatshirt. Of course it would be below 40 degrees on the morning I wanted to ride. . .
I layered up, cursing myself for not bringing my toe covers and hoping that an extra pair of socks would keep my feet warm (spoiler alert: they didn’t). A bagel and cream cheese later and I was out the door, wobbling through the gravel driveway of our cabin to the main road.
I’ve been riding a bike for a while now and it has become my favorite part of my triathlon training. I think some of it has to do with the fact that it is the discipline that I seem to have the most natural ability in. I also love that it gets me outside and lets me go further and explore places that I will generally never get while just running.
I knew the ride would be challenging as I was starting out at 8500′. The start of my ride was cold and harsh as I struggled to get my muscles warm on a few small climbs, only to find myself heading back downhill again (in the cold wind!) after just reaching the top and warming up. But then I settled into a rhythm and got comfortable in my surroundings: there was a nice wide shoulder on the road and very little traffic at that time of the morning. I cruised along highway 7 until finally making a right turn onto the Peak to Peak highway.
My plan was to ride all the way to Ward, but after a few miles on the highway, my toes were painfully cold and I could feel my legs begin to bog down from all the climbing. I started to head down a steep decline that I wasn’t sure I could turn around and come back up, so I pulled over, ate a snack, and headed back.
Back up into Allenspark I realized just how much descending I had done on the way out, because now I was heading up, up, up! While I couldn’t get Strava to work for me as I didn’t have any cell reception to start out, I later looked up the route to discover I climbed a segment titled, “l’Alpe de’Allen,” which felt about right.
It was a long, slow climb. I ride a full sized cassette and crank on my tri bike, so I was quickly out of gears, slogging along slow and steady, up the hill. I was hurting, but I wanted to push and make it to the top. I picked a spot about 50 yards ahead of me and said to myself, “ok, just get there.” I would make it to said spot and then pick another. And another. Up. Up. Up.
I wanted to think of some positive mantra to tell myself as I slowly pushed up the hill, but my brain was busy screaming at me about how my quads may soon explode. All I could think of was the beginning of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song “Can’t hold Us” and just kept saying, out load to myself between gasps, “alright, okay, alright-okay.”
I finally hit the top of the climb, red-faced, sweaty (at least my toes were finally warm!), out of breath, tired, and wildly happy. I looked around at the trees around me and the snowy mountain peak ahead, a beautiful view all to myself on this cold, crisp, and quiet morning. I felt a wonderful sense of freedom! Here I was in a place few people may have the opportunity to visit, let alone ride, and I was lucky enough to have this experience. I wasn’t concerned with my speed, or my mileage or my cadence. I was just happy to be out there riding for the pure joy of it. It’s so easy to lose sight of that in training sometimes.
Then I hopped back on my bike and hauled it home passing no less than one Elk and two coyotes crossing the road in front of me. #ColoradoLife