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Thread: So very, very proud...

  1. #1
    One who wanders Singlespeedster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Golden, CO

    So very, very proud...

    ...Of my wife! The day before our 7th anniversary we rode the Ironhorse. Here is her report. I think hers is an awesome acheivment.

    We have just gotten back from Durango, CO for the memorial day weekend and it was a weekend to memorialize for sure, at least for me!

    Anthony and I rode in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, ride from Durango
    to Silverton. This ride got its start originally 32 years ago when some
    bright person got the idea to race the train from Durango to Silverton
    on bikes. This is a 50 mile distance, which in road biking terms, is a
    walk in the park. However, the two mountain passes that you have to
    climb to make this is quite a different matter... but I digress....

    As I said, the origins of the race/ride were to race the train. The
    train makes the distance in about 3 hours. Once upon a time, this was a
    challenge for road bikers... not so much anymore. Bicycle technology and rider fitness have improved by leaps and bounds. The Durango Silverton Narrow Guage Railway is a relic from another century. It is one of the few remaining narrow guage railways left in the country. Its route is one of the most beautiful in the country as it winds its way through the San Juan mountains and skirts the Animas River. Quite breathtaking, I recommend it if you are ever in Durango.

    So, now, the Iron Horse is a annual favorite event in Durango.. and, I
    don't know how many years it has been since the bicycles have routinely "spanked" the train. This year's race winner completed the course in 2 hours.

    We did not do the race. We did the "fun" ride that started one hour
    after the racers took off. Putting "fun" in quotations is no exaggeration. I include a link to the course and the website so you can
    peruse just what exactly I'm talking about.

    This is a 50 mile ride that climbs two mountain passes, Coal Bank Pass (10,660 ft) and Molas Pass (10,900 ft). You start in Durango at 6600 ft.
    Silverton is at 9300 ft. So, you get the picture, this is a
    heckuva lot of climbing....

    I decided about a month ago to do this ride with Anthony. I did not do
    any particular training. In fact, I tried not to think about it very much for fear of losing my nerve. I have been riding this spring, mostly mountain biking with a few road rides thrown in there for good measure. About the hardest thing I have climbed on a road bike here in Austin is Mt. Bonnell, which at a 12% grade is pretty darn tough, but it is a quite short distance, at maybe 200 yards. Climbing the two passes meant a steady climb of 4 miles each, not counting the more minor "hills" preceding them.

    The day was beautiful, sunny, dry, nice temps... a cheerful crowd. We
    have me and Anthony, our friend Key Jobson, who lives there and who we
    stay with whenever we go, Chuck from Austin, Gerald, also from Austin, Chris and Eileen from Colorado Springs, but recently from Austin.... We take off, the boys, of course, head to the front of the pack. Me and Eileen already agreed we would do this at our own pace and set off at a more moderate pace, chatting and catching up. Soon, Eileen and I hook onto a train of girls that are riding a quicker tempo and we take advantage of their draft for as long as we can. We come to one of the first steep hills, Eileen drops off (unbeknownst to me) - I hang on.. the second more considerable hill comes up and I get shelled too.. I have a loooonnnggg way to go yet and don't want to kill myself keeping up with a bunch of girls that are faster than me.

    So, at this point, I'm riding by myself but still surrounded by happy
    cyclists all just out to have fun. We haven't come yet come to the "mother of all "hills" - Coal Bank Pass. If you are looking at the map at
    the site, things start to get interesting headed towards Hermosa Creek..

    When we get to Purgatory, we are about half way. I'm pretty happy, I'm
    at 24 miles, I'm halfway, I've done some climbing and I'm feeling pretty
    confident ("I can do this!!!!") HAH!!!! I haven't seen NOTHING yet!

    At the point we get to Purgatory, they have closed the road to vehicular
    traffic. Which is great, now I can really concentrate on the scenary,
    which is spectacular. At this point, the road is still relatively wide
    but quickly narrows down to a two lane highway on windy mountain roads, i.e., no shoulder to ride on - so its great they've closed the highway.

    You will see on the map a sharp turn at Cascade/Lime Creek, this is when
    the serious climibing started - 4 miles to the top of Coal Bank pass and I have now entered the hallucinatory stage of the ride - well, soon to be hallucinatory. At times, I was only pedalling 3-4 miles per hour, the going was so steep and so relentless. With a four mile climb, that means it takes an hour to do... I stopped often to rest. Others would stop and walk their bikes. I was determined not to do that. I would stop and rest but then would get back on and pedal some more. Making deals with myself to not stop until I got to that next plateau, that next mile marker. With no traffic on the road, I could ride in the middle of the road which had the illusion of being the shortest route. Most of the time I had my head down, watching the double yellow line to make sure I was steering straight. I got to know that yellow line really well. This was about the time I started to feel, a little dizzy, a little
    lightheaded/hallucinatory and wondered if I was going to be able to make it. I hadn't felt this way on a ride before (nay, any sort of physical
    endeavor, for that matter). That's when I knew the altitude was having
    its effect.

    Finally, finally, I got to the top of Coal Bank pass (oh, by the way, towards the top, I was passing snow banks...). I was elated.. a guy told me that was the hardest part, the next pass wasn't as steep... I knew that I had conquered the beast and the rest would be, if not cake, then some sort of baked confection that I could handle.

    The early part of the day had been sunny and hot but at this point, as
    is wont to do in the mountains, it turned cloudy and cooler with a
    definate wind kicking up. After re-fueling at the rest stop at the top
    of the pass, I took off and bombed the three miles down the other side
    and prepared to take on the next challenge. The guy was right, at the
    bottom of the climb (Molas Pass Summit - 4 miles, the sign said), it
    didn't look as steep, but then, it started to rain, and thunder and
    lightning, and me without a rain jacket ("it was so sunny this morning- I won't need it!"). I rolled down my knicker length shorts and rolled down my arm warmers, which I had taken off during the heat of the
    morning, bowed my head and started grinding up the hill again. Later in
    the day, I learned that Eileen who was behind me still but close enough
    to encounter this same weather, decided to bail. She and another rider
    hitched a ride to the top of the pass, then got out and road the rest of
    the way (downhill) to Silverton. This was simply not an option for me.

    Yes, it was true that Molas Pass was not as hard as Coal Bank. That is
    *not* to say it wasn't hard. The last 3/4 of the last mile to the top
    had to be the hardest, probably due to weather, timing, my fatigue and
    feeling like the end was so near. I pedalled my pathetic little 4 miles
    an hour to the summit, raised my hand in victory and said "woo hoo!" to nobody (I was alone at that time) and prepared for the final descent
    into Silverton ( a blessed 7 miles away and all downhill).

    On the downhill from Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass, riders were braking,
    which bemused me. I was going hell for leather and passing people left
    and right. Oh, btw, they had opened up the road again at 12:00p - at
    that time I was still climbing Coal Bank.. So I was dealing with traffic
    too (but, CO motorists are very respectful of cyclists, I must say). At
    times I was going 40 mph down the last downhill. I was hunched over and
    gripping the handlebars like my life depended on it - which, I guess it
    did, really. But, it was thrilling. For the first time in my life, I had
    a glimpse into what those guys on the Tour de France must experience.

    I made it into Silverton in 5.5 hours. By comparison, Anthony made it in
    3 hours, 15 minutes. And, like I said, the guy who won the race, did it
    in 2 hours. I am slow, but persistent!!!!!! I was so happy to see Anthony at the end!

    I deliberately did not find out much about this ride beforehand. I knew
    enough about it to know that if I knew much more, I wouldn't do it. It
    was the hardest thing I've ever done.

    I often see myself as someone who takes the path of least resistance, if
    its hard I won't do it, I prefer the easiest way. Perhaps that is why I
    keep hurling myself at these impossible tasks, to change the construct I have of myself. I don't know when I'll have amassed enough evidence to change my mind about myself. But, in the meantime, I'm having some amazing experiences!!!!!

    Thanks for reading!
    Fear knocked on the door, Faith answered, No one was there.

    "This old bag of bones ain't really me; there's a lot more standing here than what you see." ~~Guy Clark

    Everything is closer than you think, yet, you've never seen everything.

    Confused? Intrigued? Outraged? Get help at:

    What if you took a picture every day?

  2. #2
    MoJo Mother Superior jodyams's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Bend, OR
    That's an awesome report!

    Tell her congratulations!!!
    Fall seven times, stand up eight.
    --Japanese Proverb

  3. #3
    Goddess of Shiny Silver Canisters Dawn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002

    Thanks for sharing!

    Mrs. Singlespeedster,

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful, inspiring experience! It definitely sounds like one of those epic, always to be remembered rides.

    The next time I'm challenged to do a ride that I don't really think I can, I'll remember this story.

    I hope you make it out to some of the Ride Like a Girl rides.

    Dawn Skinner
    Ride Like a Girl - best, damn women's biking group in Texas! Ordinary Women...Extraordinary Impact
    Meals on Wheels - a great way to spend an hour once a week!
    Mortgage Loans - I do that too! First American Mortgage, dskinner at famctx dot com

  4. #4
    El Boracho Lester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Wow. Cool story. Most people would have packed it in during the thunderstorm, but not Mrs. Singlespeedster.

    Hey, Mr. Singlespeedster. You going to share your ride report as well? For some reason, I had it in my head that you and G. were going up there to do a mountain bike race, but maybe I'm misremembering.

  5. #5
    MoJo Priest texsocks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Northeast Austin
    Great Report!! I felt like was I there.. Next year, I will be.

    Congratulations on the accomplishment!
    "Life is Good--massage makes it that much better!"

  6. #6
    MoJo Priest texsocks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Northeast Austin
    Oh and BTW---Happy Anniversary..
    "Life is Good--massage makes it that much better!"

  7. #7
    blah Anita Handle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    fat antonio
    nice report. you guys write so dang well.

  8. #8
    G- is offline
    Father Shitulker G-'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002

    Great report. I believe you learn more about yourself during tough times. Sometimes the mental aspect makes all the difference.

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