“How can the best bike ride of my life be proceeded by the worst bike ride of my life?” my husband asked Monday night. We knew Sunday would be hard as hell. We had serious concerns about the altitude and had no idea how we’d react. But we never, ever, EVER could have guessed it would be the day it was.
Everyone has a story about Sunday. I’ve never had my bike ride illuminated by bolts of lightning. And then the sleet/hail, the wind, the cold, the incessant rain. We took full advantage of the warming bus at Empire and fed off the rumor mill and hopes that Berthoud pass would be closed to riders. Meaning we could stop right there. But as the line to get in the bus grew longer we began to feel guilty so we gave up our seats and headed up the pass.
I read the riders manual and we bought new cold weather/rain gear. We don’t get temps under 65 in Hawaii. And even our rain is warm. So if there is one thing I could say to anyone thinking of doing this ride — prepare for the worst and that means BRING the gear with you. It doesn’t do you any good in your luggage.
Ultimately we were pulled/saved a short half mile from the pass. I’ve never been so happy to see a warm van pull up to me in blowing snow and yell “We are pulling you off the course!” Yes please and thank you. Everything on my body was frozen and numb. Despite the 4 jackets, 3 pairs of leggings, rain pants, toe shoe covers and double gloves.
In the end, we were out for 12 hours on Sunday. From hotel door to hotel door. It was the hardest, coldest, longest, most extreme day we’ve ever had. Compared to Ironman, Sunday was right up there. And unlike Ironman, I had to wake up 12 hours later and go it again.
Day 2 was epic. Long. But epic. We started late because it was EIGHTEEN degrees outside that morning and there was NO way I was riding in 18 degrees. We arrived at the bikes just after 7:15 and found them covered in frost. My chain was frozen solid (lots of firsts for me on this ride!)
I waited in line for 45 min to get the chain lubed and cleaned up. So we didn’t hit the road until past 8am. We were at the back of the pack this time and had shorter lines (but less food) at the aid stations.
The views were just stunning, the weather was fabulous and the downhill into Steamboat was the longest stretch of continuous downhill I’ve ever ridden! And despite putting sunscreen on that totally worked in Hawaii, the sun was so strong that we fried just a bit.
It seemed that around every corner we came across something that made my husband and I both say “It’s like Disneyland!”
— The sound of the chirping frogs at every marshy meadow.
— The smell of the trees and pine needles.
— The sound of the little stream that flowed along the road up Rabbit Ears Pass.
And then we were at the top…and what song was playing at Aid Station 5 as we rolled in? John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” And as cliche as that is, I laughed and nearly cried at how perfect the day was!