Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015: Day Seven - Hardscrabble Pass and Finish!

The finish line in Westcliffe framed by the Sangre de Cristo mountains
(photo shamelessly borrowed from Phil Cernanec)
Miles ridden today: 47.2
Elevation gain: 4,281 feet
Time in saddle: 4 hours, 35 mins

Final total of miles ridden: 474.42
Final total of elevation gain: 31,217 feet
Final total of time in saddle: 39 hours, 35 mins

I did it!!

On the seventh day, I am told, God rested.  On the seventh day of Ride the Rockies, cyclists pedaled to the 9,085 feet high summit of Hardscrabble Pass. 

As mountain passes go in Colorado, this one isn’t so bad. But it was still approximately a 4,000 feet climb from where we started in CaƱon City – which equates to a similar climb up Cottonwood Pass on Thursday, just with more oxygen!

Hardscrabble is an unusual climb because the steepest part with switchbacks is not at the top, but in the middle section of the road up.  It actually flattens out a bit as you near the top.  The biggest challenges today were sun and heat (temperatures in the 90s) and the simple fact that after six days of
Busy car and bike traffic on the way up Hardscrabble
riding, my legs were plain tired! Without an aid station halfway up, many riders found themselves rationing water intake which can be dangerous Many cyclists ‘sagged’ in one of the RTR support vehicles.  I was thankful to the Davis Phinney Foundation support people that offered water to any riders who passed by.

At the top of the pass, I was rewarded with spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, views that continued to improve during the quick descent down the pass and the ride to the finish line.

Farm for sale on Hardscrabble
I rode into the small town of Westcliffe, the Ride the Rockies final destination, shortly after 12:30 p.m.  What a great welcome the people of Westcliffe provided.  Main Street was lined with signs and decorations with townsfolk ringing cowbells and honking horns. I thought I was taking a video on my way in, but somehow I must have hit the ‘stop’ button in all my excitement!

There was a street fair with live music and outstanding food and drink awaiting all the riders, all with the sensational backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos. It was a festive and fitting way to end a fabulous week.

Things I learned from my week Riding the Rockies

1)    It’s all mental. As tired as my leg, back and shoulder muscles got at various points during the week, there was nothing on the ride I couldn’t accomplish physically.  Being out with my bike for up to 11 hours a day and climbing steep mountain passes is a challenge of mind over matter. If you think you can….

2)    Sunburn on the lips is no fun.  Use stronger SPF more often next time.

3)    Crested Butte wins the best, most fun, town award.

4)    Never let a bee get inside your cycling shirt.  One little guy can do great damage.

5)    Sleep was surprisingly elusive. There was one night I crashed hard (following the Grand Mesa ride). On other nights, I was surprised to find myself awake at odd hours thinking about the day ahead.

6)    More than rain or heat, the hardest element to deal with is wind.  A strong headwind sucks morale quicker than anything.

7)    It paid to have an expired driver’s license.  It won me a free RTR T-shirt in a corny contest.

8)    Emotions ran the full gamut during the week: laughter, tears, frustration, anger, elation, relief, fear.  It was without a doubt a roller coaster ride.

9)    No one, and I repeat, no one looks good in cycling shorts.

10) My lasting overall sense is one of gratitude:  gratitude to have a job where I can take a week to do this, gratitude to have a 48 year old mind and body that CAN do this, gratitude to have met all kinds of people from all kinds of places along the ride, gratitude for all the amazing support in calls, texts, Facebook comments, etc. all week long from so many, gratitude for James’ jovial company for much of the way, gratitude for the loving support of Emma and Leah, and overwhelming gratitude for Steph and all the support and love she gave me this week and gives me every minute of every day. 

The legendary flapjack man who serves all-you-can-eat
pancakes and sausage at the first rest stop of every day.
The last day was my only day to partake - yum!

The top of Hardscrabble Pass

Sangre de Cristos in the distance from the top of the pass

The final day's ride
My welcome sign from Emma when I got home!

1 comment:

Kathy N. said...

Good for you! It seems that you not only meet challenges willingly but also continue to seek them out - and you succeed. Proud to call you a friend, Steve! KN