Sunday, July 12, 2015

Witness to A Whole Lot of Tough

There is a sort of sweet madness that accompanies Colorado's Triple Bypass bike ride. It is billed as "Those Who Dare," but the organizers never let outsiders know what the dare actually represents. Watching three friends yesterday complete the course illuminates it quite sufficiently.

I awoke at 5 AM, having committed to a day of providing "SAG." As previously discussed, this is not a fashion statement. It involves driving a support vehicle, making sure the riders have what they need and planning the next stop's location (usually somewhere obvious). One of the riders I was supporting, long-time and dear friend Jeromy, was already unloading his gear next to my truck.

By that time two other riders (Shawna and Jen), both coworkers who are often riding partners, were preparing to begin the course - 120 bicycle miles traversing three of Colorado's most demanding mountain passes. Typically, the journey begins at first light in bitter cold. Afternoon temperatures soar in the thin mountain air and elevation 10,000 feet sun. There is almost always a rain shower - alpine downpour usually a more apt description. Several times sleet has fallen.

"Can you feel your toes yet?" was a common question heard among riders who had just finished the high-speed descent into Idaho Springs. So far, so good. Later, I stood in line next to an exceedingly fit cyclist of about 40. Haggard, looking spent, he was waiting for the porta-potty at the Loveland Ski area rest stop. He'd just endured an uphill grind that lasted an unremitting three hours. "This fucking blows, man," he muttered. The guy was not yet halfway done, with Loveland Pass staring him in the face. Vail pass awaited, but not before a sharp, nasty climb up Swan Mountain just to prevent riders from becoming complacent.

Controlling a Frisco intersection was a former coworker, now a deputy sheriff in Summit County. He and I chatted about old times, our rider friends appearing out of the crowd. Storm clouds gathered overhead. "I don't think the heavy stuff is going to come down for quite a while," I suggested. No one laughed. Okay, it's a movie line and fit the situation perfectly. Of course it rained on them.

Finally, they made Avon and the finishing line twelve hours after starting, about ten of it actively pedaling. "I need a chiropractor," one of them declared.

One does not prepare for such an adventure by resting. Along the way they had trained in four-season weather, beginning the process of reminding their bodies how to climb. while passes were still choked with snow. Hours upon hours of turning the cranks took them along bike paths washed out with late spring rains - shoes caked with mud, faces splattered with road grime. The finishing line that seemed unattainable those first few yards in Bergen Park is earned in the months before. Triple Day plays out successfully because a cyclist puts in the time and then, when the tight back, knee pain and overall "This fucking blows, man" arrive they power through.

Congratulations to my friends. I enjoyed being a small part of your big day.

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