We drove up early from Golden and got into town at 8am. We unpacked and ate breakfast, then I rode up to downtown to meet Doug, a fellow cyclo-blogger, for a ride. My intent was to ride up to the lake to where I DNFed and continue from there along the course back to the finish. I felt like I needed to go back and do the ride I didn't think I could do a year ago. While it wouldn't count I needed to finish it.
Doug rode with me out of town down 4, across Turquoise Lake dam and almost up to Hagerman Pass Road. Doug is following a much more regimented training plan for this year's race than me, and I didn't want to thwart his race week plans. We were going to ride together for a bit and then split up.
As he turned back he said: "Good luck with your demon."
Then I was alone on the road. It was a little further down the paved road from Hagerman Pass Road to the spot. I picked the place that looked like where Mandy, her mom, and Lily met me last year, and I pulled over.
I saved my Strava record to that point. I stretched a little. I ate something and chugged some water. Then I fired up a new Strava record and swung onto the bike.
It was still a long descent before the climb up to Carter Summit began. As the grade increased I geared down to my middle chainring. I hadn't necessarily intended to avoid my climbing gears, but once I realized I was getting far along without them I decided I was definitely going to see if I could. All the way to Carter Summit I stayed in the middle.
On that long climb I did some soul searching. I decided if nothing else I had to finish this year for the "team." I owe it to everyone to finish. I owe it to everyone back home waiting to hear if I finish and am safe. I owe it to everyone who has been so supportive. I owe it to my family; particularly Tom and Laurie who came out last year to help run SAG and make the scene. And I owe it to my wife and kids. They've given up so much for me to be able to do this. So if I don't do this for myself I have to do it for all of them.
The further up the Carter Summit climb I got the more I was certain that what went wrong last year was my perception became skewed. That climb, the dirt climb beyond to the top of St Kevin's, and the climb up the Boulevard are not as bad as I had anticipated. I know now that my perception must be that there are no insurmountable obstacles, that nothing can stop me, that God and the universe will not hold me to my limit indefinitely. On the other side of the climb there's rest and recovery.
I will do this.
After reaching the high point of St Kevin's I started down. And down. And down. From the ridge above Carter Summit you descend all the way to the start of the Boulevard. It's amazing...and reassuring.
The Boulevard wasn't as tough as I imagined it would be, but it was a long grind up into town. The last hump on the pavement was the hardest, and I'm sure will be the hardest come Saturday.
When I rolled up to Harrison on 6th I worried I would break down. I'd had my emotional moments coming around the lake. I'd suppressed the tears, held back the flood of emotion...at the DNF point I told myself there would be no tears and it was a struggle. When I rolled up to Harrison though...I was cool and collected. I passed through that space like nothing was going on. Still waters run deep, man.
I didn't realize it when I composed my "the thirteen miles I did not ride" piece. I DNFed at mile 87, but the race is actually 104 miles, not just 100. This morning I rode those seventeen miles I should have ridden a year ago. I finally finished that race. I finally put that bugaboo to bed. I slayed that demon and closed the door on the past.
I'm ready to finish. I'm ready to wrap up this three year long saga and put it behind me. In about 92 hours I will.