The Question: Am I Strong Enough?
As a stay-at-home dad – and someone who is constantly working on “projects” from home-made panniers to quilts to furniture building to cooking to making my son dragon wings – I am constantly finding ways to maximize my limited time in the saddle.
My first step was buying the Xtracycle Radish (and it’s predecessor, the Kona Ute) and strapping the kids on the back. We’re averaging 25+ miles/day hitting up playgrounds, playdates, grocery shopping and the like. And the extra 100Lbs. of hauling weight has been great for resistance training.
My most recent stroke of luck was getting to participate in the Community Classic Bike Tour…which my wife co-organized. She works for the McKee Foundation who puts the ride on and they demanded that I ride it. There may have even been threats made. I can neither confirm nor deny. One of her co-workers may have even called a babysitter for us so I could get out and ride at 6:30am.
Make Mine a Century
I figured since we had a babysitter crazy enough to come over at 6:30am on a Sunday (right after finishing her semester of grad school at CSU), I would take full advantage of it. If I’m going to spend 3+ hours doing a benefit ride, why not tack on a few commuting miles…like 38…and make it a full century. I already had to commute to the ride’s start (12.5 miles) since we only have the one car and my wife had to be at the start at 5am.
I woke up and got all of my excuses together of why I wouldn’t make it. It was pouring rain. Was that lighting/thunder? They were all empty, so I chugged my cup of coffee, stuffed by jersey’s pockets with snacks (Clif Bars, pretzels and bananas) and said goodbye to the kids. I hit the road by 6:40am, ten minutes behind the official start of the ride, and 12 miles out.
By the time I made it through Loveland at about 7:15am and on to the bike path just south of Eisenhower, I caught the tail end of the metric riders (there are shorter rides with different routes that kick off starting at 7:30am). I wasn’t the only one starting late.
The thing I love about rides versus races is the conversations. Being a young (ish) male with tattoos in a racing kit, I probably wouldn’t normally get to strike up a conversation with a 50+ year old mother about to do her first Iron Man competition. On a ride like the CCBT, we’re all on bikes for the love of the sport. We’re all on equal ground.
Once we wound our way off the bike paths and onto the plains south west of Loveland, that’s where the groups start splintering. I tagged on with a group of guys who obviously ride together often and the speed picked up to the mid-20s, with riders rotating off the front. I love this type of riding! There’d be time for chatting on the climb to Carter Lake, but for now, it’s head down and crank.
Carter Lake Ascent
After the turn off CO23 towards the foothill of Carter Lake, two new guys sprinted off the back and I chased them down. As the road began to rise, we pulled it back a bit and began chatting, telling huge lies about our start times and just enjoying the thrill of 1400 riders out riding the Front Range on a gorgeous day.
As the pitch changed from 1-2% and up past 8%, that’s when I got back to why I was really doing this ride: it was my first real test to see if I had the legs for Ride the Rockies. I had gone out for 40 miles of climbing on Saturday. I had averaged 30+ miles throughout the week (mostly with the kids on back). Was I going to be able to make it up Carter Lake? Up and over Horsetooth? Back to Fort Collins and more?
We leveled off at the mid-south shore of Carter Lake and I was pleasantly surprised. And a bit ashamed. I am – as my loving wife will quickly attest – a competitive person. Mostly, against myself. At least 90%. Seeing all those cyclists with calves like road maps, their legs going like pistons, cranking their pedals like horses, it made me want to beat them up the hill. It also pushed me harder than I had been riding. I passed a lot of them, and the shame came from me competing in a ride. But that was quickly put aside as I realized, yes, I do have the legs for Ride the Rockies!
The rest of the route wound down through Eden Valley, up to and over Horsetooth Park and Reservoir before looping its way around and down through south Fort Collins and returning to the bike paths around Boyd Lake. By mile 60 of the ride (mile 72 of my day), there was no more sprinting. There were no more points to be won, no polka dots to be claimed. There was just the thrill of riding the wheels of a stranger back through the neighborhoods around McKee and over the finish line.
After joining in the revelry (and telling the Foundation staff, particularly Dawn Paepke, what a great job they did organizing the rides) and eating my weight in pancakes, I decided it was time to finish what I had started. I had made it 74+ miles. I had at least 12.5 miles to go just to get home. Would I be able to make the loop around north Fort Collins and a full century?
At 1pm, nearly five and a half hours after I started out on a cool, clear morning, staring down the cloud covered eastern plains, I pulled my weary self into my garage where I was met with the best cheering crowd any man could wish to embrace upon crossing any finish line – be it Champs de Elysee after the final sprint of the punishment of Mont Ventoux: his adoring children.
I had made it home. I had done a decent ride full of climbs on Saturday, a full century filled with some climbs and a lot of great companions, and I wasn’t too bad for wear. There was only one final question: Could I do it again tomorrow*?
*The answer would be yes, albeit much, much slower and not nearly as far.