I took a little ride on a bike, wrote an anonymous article about it, and the paper published it! Here's the story before the paper edited it a bit.
-1st Time Riders Perspective on the Stonewall Century 100 Mile Bike Ride-
Early on Saturday morning my alarm clock startled me out of my slumbers. The sun had not risen yet, and as always when my alarm goes off before twilight, I asked myself, “Am I really doing this” before hauling myself out of bed.
Never in my life had I ever considered riding 100 miles on a bike in one day. Biking had never been my thing. Many of my past climbing, skiing, and mountaineering partners had moved on to biking; and never come back. I somewhat viewed bicycling as the “Black Hole”. Once someone goes in, they can never come back. Then this spring Covid hit, and like most of all of our plans for the spring and summer; my mountaineering goals and plans succumbed to the Covid quarantine. It felt somewhat irresponsible of me to go out on heavily trafficked trails in the mountains when social distancing was what I was supposed to be doing. I found myself aimless in my physical pursuits, and I added a few pounds. I knew I needed a pursuit to motivate me. Then I learned of a 100 mile group bicycle ride right here in Huerfano County. Perfect! A good goal to motivate me forward.
I dusted off the consumer quality bike I have had for a few years, aired up the tires, and took to the dirt roads right around my home in Gardner. At first, a 5 mile ride was feeling like a long ride. I kept telling myself that starting something new is the hardest part, and that it only gets easier as time goes on. Week by week I was getting closer and closer to the reality of riding 100 miles, but I knew I was going to need a temporary equipment upgrade to get it done. This is where I resorted to my list of friends who had previously experienced what I now describe as the bicycle epiphany. I knew I’d be able to recruit one of them to lend me a bike and show up as companionship for the ride.
This is the part where I admit that once I learned that there is a particular hill along the Stonewall Century 100 mile bike ride that has earned the name “The Soul Crusher”, I was captivated. The Soul Crusher sounded like the challenge I needed to motivate me forward. I was also hoping that its existence would help me convince one particular friend to come down and join in the fun. It did, and he had the perfect bike he would be willing to let me borrow. I’ll just interject here that after this past Saturday the friend I invited to come accompany me on my pursuit now has the fastest recorded time ever for climbing The Soul Crusher. He did what I was hoping, he crushed the Soul Crusher.
So, after about 6 weeks of spending any free time I had riding a bike, recruiting a friend who owned a bike I could borrow, and convincing myself that riding 100 miles on a road bike on my first day on a road bike wasn’t a ludicrous idea; I was waking up before twilight to do just that.
The sun rose during our drive from Gardner to La Veta. We raised a dust plume behind us driving south on CR 520 while captivated by the pink hue cast upon the Spanish Peaks directly in front of us. I distinctly remember the moment when I knew it was going to be a great day. Two and a half hours later the wind whistled in my ears as I rocketed down the south side of Cuchara Pass at 58 mph on a bike that weighs about the same as two gallons of water. I’m pretty sure my grin was starting at one earlobe and ending at the other. The climb along Highway 12 from La Veta to the top of Cuchara hadn’t zapped all my energy, and I was starting to feel like 100 miles was a real reality. As if they were on que by a director, the moment the heat of the sun started to become slightly uncomfortable, clouds filled the sky and a few rain drops came down to cool the ground. The blessing was palpable, and appreciated.
As we approached the turn around and lunch spot at the volunteer fire station in Segundo the reality that the ride was only half over and the real steep hill climbs were on the way back weighed on my mind. The first 50 miles certainly had taken a toll, and I wasn’t 100 percent certain that the next 50 wouldn’t crush me. I still had to climb back up that hill I had rocketed down at 58 mph. The Soul Crusher loomed in my immediate future. At lunch I made sure to eat more than my body wanted and drink more water than my body wanted because I was about to ask my body to do more than it wanted.
After the quick lunch we turned our bikes back west and started climbing back up the Picketwire Valley toward the pass. At this point in the ride I had finally gained a bit of familiarity with the bike I was borrowing. I had confidence in it, and I knew that I would get myself back up over the pass to La Veta one way or another. My ride was going great and it was time for my friend and I to briefly part ways as we set ourselves towards The Soul Crusher. I smiled as I watched him easily gain speed and quickly pull away from me on the first hill above North Lake. I knew The Soul Crusher intrigued him as well. My goal was ride up the whole hill, without a single stop to rest, and without letting the bike I was riding weave from side to side in vein attempts to lessen the slope I was climbing. At moments I was going so slow that I felt I should put my feet down and walk. Doing so may have been faster and would have easier, but my goal was to ride up the hill, and that’s what I was going to do.
As I pulled into the Aid Station at the top of Cuchara Pass the cramps in my calf muscles screamed and my heart soared. I took a shot of Pickle Juice from the available supply (yes it tastes like Pickle Juice and it does alleviate cramps), the pain in my calf muscles subsided and I quickly got ready for the downhill bomb to La Veta. My buddy had been waiting for me on the top of the pass for a solid 20 minutes and he wanted me to finish my first century ride in less than 8 hours. It was time to get back to La Veta and have a post ride beer. Down the pass we went….
At that point in the day I felt very comfortable on the bike. I had learned how to distribute my weight between the two tires too make them feel like they were very stable. I had learned how to position my pedals and legs during the turn to feel the most secure while leaning. I had learned how the bike would react to breaking. As we started down the pass a few of the riders that had been paced similar too us during the day all appeared on the road. Everyone’s energy surged, and we started to race down the pass together. At first we were all spaced out over a half mile, but as we descended the hill below Cuchara and passed through the Gap our group of riders coalesced.
Packed together into a group we covered the 10.4 miles from Cuchara to La Veta in 20 minutes 34 seconds. It felt amazing to make the final turn toward the east into La Veta and coast over the Cuchara River before turning into the Grandote Golf Course. My goal had been met. I had ridden the 102 miles miles and climbed the over 7500’. The satisfaction of success lightened my heart.
We spent the following 3 hours drinking Crafty Cannary beer and snacking while watching all the riders return from a great day on the road. I made a whole new group of friends, got a whole new life experience, and saw the Highway of Legends from a whole new perspective. It was the 40th day before my 40th Birthday and it was Great!
Thank You to Spanish Peaks Cycling for organizing this great event. Thank You to all of the event sponsors and participants. Thank You to Grandote Golf Course for hosting the registration and after party. And Thank You to @theonlystevedenny for bringing the bike. Now what’s next??? – Amos Mace