It was great to wake-up in a nice bed and be able to take a hot shower. We packed the vans as quickly as we could (with everything spread out amongst everyone’s rooms). Draper and I ventured outside to take in the mountains surrounding the lodge.
We had breakfast, checked our bikes, and gathered out front for our dedication circle. Today’s was extra special. Today was Trail Ridge Road day – the most talked about ride of the San Francisco route. Alumni had warned us of the infamous climb (about 7,000 feet) in just 21 miles, but also told us how beautiful and worth it it would be. Everyone was focused on the challenge of the day. Today, I dedicated to my teammates, their loved ones that they are riding for, and for my mom.
We also did our team cheer outside the dining hall, calling much attention to ourselves. People gathered around, some asking about our ride. This was just foreshadowing for the rest of the day.
Instead of random teams, we picked climbing partners, people that cycle up mountains at similar speeds as you. Sluder and I chose each other, and we rode with Emily and Casey.
We left around 8 am, beginning climbing at mile 3. The inclines were intense, but once we found a rhythm, our team killed it. Our highest elevation was 12,181 feet.
We stopped at the visitor center for lunch. The entire way up just got colder and colder. We enjoyed a little shopping at the store and hot chocolate to warm us up. It rained a bit, but once it stopped, our team rolled out and began our descent, which was crazy. We probably did 4,000 feet down in 30 minutes, hitting speeds around 40 mph. The downhill was amazing, full of beautiful scenery and windy roads. By the time we got to the bottom, though, it started pouring. We sped on, trying to beat out the storm, but to no avail. We pedaled through the pouring rain for about 20 miles, drenched, cold, tired, and hungry. Everyone was so spread out that we really didn’t have organized water/snack stops.
With about 35 miles left, thunder boomed, and we quickly took shelter in a nice old lady’s convenience store. We waited for about 20 minutes, and while the thunder stopped, the rain did not. It took everything in us to get back on our bikes in the freezing cold rain.
Some teams got caught in the storm, getting called off the road by park rangers. But we continued on. I was so cold, uncomfortable, and miserable that I considered calling a van and shuttling, but thought of who I was riding for. I could not give up on my team or my mother. So our team rallied and pushed through. We stopped for food at a local burger joint in Sulphur Springs, where a guy Larry donated $25. He has five friends battling cancer, in addition to his father and grandfather dying of cancer many years ago.
From dinner, we sped to our host in Kremmling, Colorado. We probably averaged over 20 mph, eager to get to a warm shelter. When we arrived, we learned we were the only team to finish (aside from Sarah, who rode with her visiting cousin). How amazing it felt to have completed such a challenging day. I’m so glad and proud not to have given up. Today was certainly difficult, but one of the most rewarding days yet.