If you know anything about living in the mountains of Colorado, then you appreciate the strain on breathing at high altitudes. I mean some stores even sell oxygen to go. Just in case you get super winded hiking, biking, skiing and sometimes just climbing steps.
After living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado part-time for the past almost twenty-five years, I suppose my body has acclimated somewhat to the altitude. Only once have I had altitude sickness (from not hydrating enough), and, believe me, I never want to have it again. It makes the flu seem like a holiday sickness!
The Video Version
Hey, feel free to skip down to the video of this challenge. Just scroll down! But, I’d love for you to read on, my friends….
The First Challenge
For my first week’s challenge (and having been in Colorado only about six days), I decided to do something that would not only tax my breathing but also my heart, stamina, persistence and mind. And, when I say mind, this challenge I knew would be mind over matter. It would be a battle with all the gnarly little monkey thoughts in my brain telling me that I couldn’t do it, why work so hard, it’s too hot to be doing this, and every other reason to throw in the towel.
I decided to ride my bicycle up Arrowhead Mountain via Cresta Drive to the very top. While it’s a paved road (yay, and not a narrow dirt bike trail), this mountain incline starts at about 7500 feet elevation. It steadily climbs to the top to about 8000+ feet. The climb is a constant grind up with ‘switchbacks’. For me, I was totally in the granny gear almost the entire time. I’d estimate the grade percentage to be between 10% and 20%+.
I’ve tried to give as correct information as I can on this ride. Some of what I’m saying in the video and what you’ll see after I researched more the ride details (elevation, distance, grade gain) don’t jive, but you’ll get the idea. Bottom line, this ride was a big challenge for me. I didn’t think I could do it. But, I did!
I’m not sure of the distance, but I’d estimate at least two plus miles. After searching on the website, Map My Ride, I found one ‘close’ ride to mine. This one started at the base of Arrowhead Mountain/Cresta Drive (where I started clocking time) and only went about half way to the service road. The distance was 1.1 miles with about a 300 feet elevation.
Monkeys in my Brain
Only thing I really know is that this ride, for me, was a super challenge. It was hot, at least 85 degrees. The sun was blazing, and I was in the midday heat. I know, not real smart. I’d hydrated prior to starting really well. And, I had forty ounces of water with me. The first about mile of the challenge was the toughest. Oh, man, I wanted to stop. I wanted to find an excuse to stop peddling uphill and uphill. But, I decided to tame this mountain by breaking it into small manageable chunks. There was no race. I was competing against myself to get to the top. So, I stopped and rested a few minutes every time I thought my heart was going to pound out of my my chest, literally, and when the salty sweat on my face was dripping into my eyes. At times, I didn’t want to stop because, believe me, it was harder getting back on the bike because of the steep incline and regaining the momentum of pedaling. Again, thank goodness for granny gear ‘cuz this granny was huffing and puffing and trying to be like the littl’ red train, I think I can, I think I can.
At nearly the top, but not really sure to me, I had stopped and was guzzling water. A white truck, Arrowhead Mountain Maintenance, stopped that was heading down the mountain. The fella started talking to me. Watch the video and see what happens during our brief conversational exchange. I think it was precisely what I needed to meet the challenge, and the big guy upstairs knew that!
Little Things Create Challenge
One more thing, if you think going up is tough, think about coming down. You have to constantly be vigilant not to get going too fast. I believe my maximum speeds were around 35 miles per hour, and that was with constantly feathering my front/rear brakes. You have to be careful not to hit something in the road that might cause you to wreck. So, you have to keep your eyes peeled on the road. And, your hands, arms and back are in continual pressure mode making sure the ride is safe. The trek up took me at least an hour and a half, maybe a little more. And, the ride down, well, about 15 to 18 minutes.
The Exhilaration of Doing It
My final words here are that when you think you can’t, you can. It’s all a simple formula of mind over matter. And, what was that ‘matter’ for me? Throbbing shaking legs, burning thighs, complete aerobic exhaustion, super thirst from the heat and demands on my body, and clenched hands, back and neck from leaning into my bike. When these thoughts would creep into my head and start playing mind games with me, I’d banish them with positive thoughts, the brief gust of air that cooled me, the breathtaking views that lay before and all around me, and the knowing that challenging myself is the only way to stay vibrant, growing and getting the most out of life.
When I got home and shared with Ben what I’d done, he was blown away. He knows the challenge. We’ve both hiked that mountain during the winter on snowshoes and it’s no less daunting. I will admit that the next day, my entire body was wasted. I did a yoga class then rested the ol’ body knowing that it deserved the break. My back had some strained muscles from the tenseness of riding, but it’s a good muscle strain. Here’s to week one’s challenge and on to week two.
We are Gladiators
My wish for you is to join me in this adventure. Find something that challenges you every week. Share your world with me. Leave me a comment below! None of our challenges will be even remotely alike, but each will inspire and make us better because we are gladiators! xoxo ~ally