July 13, 2014: A Biking Rerun (where it all began)

(A rerun post from 7/7/11...my first try at an organized run)
My biking escapades continue with me feeling like a newly minted cycling enthusiast. I now have the cool spandex bike shorts, zip jersey, and fingerless gloves. My shoes are the specialized ones that clip to my pedals. AND this weekend I participated in my first ever organized biking event; which was a true adventure in many ways.

But before I dive into the details of the Tour de Sandy; let me digress a bit as to how this idea was hatched. As I have indicated in past blogs, Garrett (my man from Denver) is very much a cycling enthusiast. Although I'm a bike novice, Garrett invited me to join him on an organized bike ride called the Mike Horgan Climb.
For those who don’t know me, I will let you in on a little personality flaw; I don’t like to miss out on anything. I tend to say “yes” to every event before completely thinking through the logistics of the commitment.

“Awesome,” was my response. “Just send me an invite with the details.” I was an official rider. Ready to take on the packs of riders like those I saw riding across the Alps on TV. 
My training plan was to just focus on getting in miles on my bike. I was signed up and committed. I convinced myself not to over think it. Logging in decent miles in the weeks prior to the ride, I felt confident. And then I pulled up the Mike Horgan Climb website to research the course.

The ride was only 21 miles and they used the word “beginner” on their website. The colorful elevation map looked steep, but it was Greek to me as we don’t track things like elevation in Omaha. The detailed description indicated 4,100 ft of climbing. Since this stat held no relevance to me, I decided to keep focusing on putting in miles.
Mike Horgan Climb Elevation Map

Garrett and I followed all of the pre-ride preparation rules. We carbed up Friday night, and then up early for breakfast and stretching. Good to go. Garrett's friend, Brit, joined us as well.

Although I was just a third wheel in my hot pink jersey, I was feeling official. Then as we pulled into the ride parking lot, the high caliber of riders participating became apparent to me. Most were warming up on stationary stands. I convinced myself that the stationary bike riders were the serious riders. The beginners like me would show up later.

I soon noticed I was the only cyclist not wearing a jersey endorsing a product or a team. Wearing my hot pink number with no words had me feeling like a fish out of water. As I perused the female competition, I noted that all the women, including the 60 and over crowd, had bodies like Jillian Michaels. By this time I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

Brit and Garrett before their start
With an impending start, I quickly learned that the entire group did not start at the same time. After sending Garrett and Brit off, I scoped out the crowd looking for the friendliest female face who appeared closest to my age. After choosing a random woman, I asked when the “senior” groups were done so they could start releasing our groups. The nice lady explained that I was a senior.

Anyone who was not a junior (18 and under) was a senior, which made me a senior. Since I didn’t sign up to compete, I would be with my age group, but grouped with the Level 4 competing group. Clear as mud? No, but I did understand that I was next in line and stayed by the nice fit lady in a team bike jersey.

Priding my self on adapting on the fly, I developed a strategy. I would follow my designated group closely, but pull up the end. I didn't want to cross the yellow line. The ride organizers repeated a minimum of three times that this would be grounds for disqualification per the Boulder Police Department.

Waiting with my fellow seniors, my fears grew from yellow line violations to knocking over another rider at the packed start. My lack of biking prowess seemed as bright as my hot pink jersey.    
My group did take off without incident. I didn't cross the center line nor did I knock anyone over. It actually went quite smoothly. Not so bad, I thought. And I was keeping up with the pack. About three miles into the race, I was feeling pretty confident; a bit cocky, in fact.

Ahead of me were three women (two with matching team jerseys). I was having no problem staying with them. Out of nowhere the woman in the third position turned to me and spoke.

"If you're going to ride with us, you are going to have to take a turn in our pace line," was her order.

I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. What was obvious was my lack of understanding cycling etiquette. Since I hadn't the faintest idea on their rules, I accepted defeat.

"I have no clue what I am doing. Just tell me what you need from me and I'll do my best," was my response.

"That works for us," the woman yelled back. "I'm Darcy and this is Amy and Linda. Stay on my wheel and follow me while we take the lead". So I followed Darcy's instructions and I took turns leading our foursome in the pace line.

I was a natural at this ("look, Mom...no hands"). Why was I second guessing myself? Feeling golden again, I roared along Boulder Creek in a pace line; carrying my weight as part of a cycling team. My cockiness overtook as I dreamed of offers of a coveted new team jersey of my own.

Things were going great with my new friends as we began our steady climb up the mountain. Until we hit the mile four marker. Turning the corner, Darcy commented that she was a "slow climber" and not to wait for her. Sounds reasonable, I thought. And then I looked up.

What I saw took my breath away. The winding road that laid ahead of me was at an incline that I had never rode before. The best analogy I can give would be of skiing and being stranded on top of a double black diamond mogul. But instead of looking down this treacherous mountain, I was looking up it. And on a bike.

Determination took over, so I pushed forward behind Darcy. The next two miles were grueling with the incline increasing, sweat pouring off of me, and my legs feeling like rubber. My pace line friends were now a distant memory and my only company; a young German man who explained to me that he signed up for his first "climbing" race. With a thick accent, he let me know that choosing this race was clearly a mistake. So noted, I thought.

I started asking the roadside volunteers if the incline would get better. Yes, I was told. But not until after six more miles of the same steep winding hills. It soon became apparent that other than my German friend, I was the trail-ender in this endeavor.

The Boulder policeman pulled up the back and kept checking on me.

"How are you doing?" he would shout out his window.

"Great," I kept telling him. "A beautiful day in Colorado!"

I was now following an inaccurate belief that a positive attitude would pull me through. The policeman just smiled.

By this point in the ride, I was doing the math on my average miles per hour. With the mileage remaining, and assuming I did survived, it would be mid-afternoon before I would make it back to Garrett's vehicle. I was in agony. I concluded that the girl from the flatlands would need to venture back down this monster of a mountain before making it to the top.

I was good with this decision. The Mike Horgan Climb had now turned into the Sandy Lane Climb (seriously, who is Mike Horgan anyway?). My new goal was to push myself as far as I could before turning around and heading back down. So that is what I did. I pushed myself until near the Mile 8 mark and then I turned around.

With white knuckles gripping my brakes, I held on for dear life while racing down the wicked inclines. Safely making it to the parking lot, I waited for Garrett and Brit. They were actually relieved that I headed down early; worrying about me as they struggled up the grueling course. Giving me a little reinforcement that I wasn't a complete disappointment. 

After giving our legs a day off from biking, Garrett and I took on another climb the morning of the 4th of July.  The benefits of taking on Mike Horgan were apparent on this first post-race ride. A once difficult climb now felt like a cinch.

Maybe there was some psychology to Garrett's signing me up for this race.  The picture at the top of this post was taken at the end of a recent climb. What will the next stage of my biking adventures involve? I really don't know. There is nothing on my Outlook calendar yet, but just give it some time...


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