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Ride the Rockies Summary

My days this past week all started the same - wake up no later than 5:30 am, pack up my bags to

move to the next hotel, eat breakfast and get on the bike. Day 1 of Ride the Rockies included a long climb up to the Colorado National Monument, but my legs were fresh and I felt strong. I chatted with a fellow rider from Wisconsin who entertained me with stories from his adventures by bike. We skipped the first rest stop and before I knew it, we were at the top. The descent was fast and fun and breathtakingly beautiful. I was feeling great when we left the aid station for the last 16 miles of the day. It was then that I realized how lucky I was to have a riding buddy who was willing to let me draft as it was fairly windy and there were quite a few rolling hills that took the wind out of my sails. I managed to roll in at 10am (after a little confusion of where exactly the finish was as there was no indication). John and the pups were there to greet me. I was sad when they had to leave to get back to the real world, but excited for the rest of my adventure.

Day 2 was definitely the most difficult of the seven with 98 miles, at least 20 of which were climbing up the Grand Mesa. By the time I rolled back down the other side and into the last rest stop, it was 90 degrees and I was feeling spent. I stayed too long at the rest stop and the couple of steep climbs right after the aid station burnt me out. I started singing songs to myself to get me through to the finish. I didn't roll in until almost 5:30 pm, so all I did was get on a shuttle to my hotel, which was an hour away. After grabbing some dinner, I went straight to bed with the alarm set for 4:30.

Day 3 was another tough day of 79 miles with lots of climbing. It was raining, thundering and lightening in the beginning, but it started to clear up just as I was riding through the beautiful Aspen groves on my way up to the Curecanti National Recreation Area. The sun was shining at the top and I enjoyed the spectacular views. Then it was a long descent in the wind to get down to Blue Mesa Reservoir. It was when riding along the reservoir that I had to start playing games in my head to get me through the rest of the day. I was excited to find that my hotel in Gunnison was luxurious and I enjoyed the pool for a while before having dinner with some new friends.

When I got on the bike on Day 4, the soreness was kicking in and I was thankful for a short day (27 miles to Crested Butte). It was the perfect point in the week for a rest day. I hung out in town, had a nice massage at my hotel, and went out to dinner. Then I settled in for a good night's rest before the big day.

All the worrying that I did the day before was unnecessary because I woke up on Day 5 and set to readying myself to get back on the bike just like every other day. The downhill back to Almont was chilly, but the route along the river for the next portion of the ride was relaxing and enjoyable. Then the climb to Cottonwood Pass on dirt road began, and believe it or not, I loved every minute of it! The climb itself was manageable and so breathtakingly beautiful that I hardly noticed how hard I was working. I met another new friend along the way and was glad that he stuck with me once we descended and got to a stretch with some headwind (which is my arch nemesis on the bike). It was primarily downhill after the last rest stop thankfully, but the crosswinds picked up and blew me into the road a couple of times. All in all, it was the coolest century ride and one of my favorite days on the bike. I even managed to drag myself out to the entertainment along the river for a bit.

Day 6 started with a bunch of downhill, which was refreshing since the next portion of the ride up to Royal Gorge Bridge was on horrible chip seal pavement and included a "wall" that was much longer and steeper than expected. The views at the top and from the bridge were worth the effort, and the 66 miles seemed to pass relatively quickly that day. The park on the Arkansas River where the entertainment was set up was the perfect place to relax in the grass after the hours spent on the bike.

It was with mixed emotions that I set out yesterday for the final 47 miles. The climb up Hardscrabble Pass was more difficult than I expected, but I stayed focused on the beauty of my surroundings and made it to the top. Then it was all downhill to town, so I reflected on the major take aways from my week on the bike - that I'm much stronger than I think I am; that I need to stop expecting perfection because making mistakes is human, allows me to learn and grow, and are not reasons to beat myself up; that I have what it takes to make my vision a reality, and my unique life experience will allow me to build an environment where people can gain an appreciation for nature and also find their ability to shine; and how fortunate I am to live in such a stunning place like Colorado.

As I rolled into Westcliffe where most of the town's people were waiting to greet us with bells and congratulations, I held back my tears, but my heart was full of pride for my accomplishment and love for all of the beauty of this world - in nature and in the hearts of people. I am lucky to be alive after my brush with heart disease, and I plan to enjoy every moment of my life! This week was a spectacular reminder of what it means to be alive and present. I won't soon forget the beautiful places that I experienced and the people who I met along the way. What a journey. What an honor. I am blessed.

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