This ride has long been on my bucket list of rides I wanted to do when I started riding my bike again in 2002.
The premise of the ride is to race the Iron Horse train from Durango to Silverton. Train and cyclists start at the same time. Cyclists that beat the train in get bragging rights.
I would not be one of those cyclists.
I heard the whistle of the train at the start of the ride and then again about 15 miles into the ride.
That would be the last time I would hear or see the train during the ride.
At that point the road began to turn uphill and so began what felt like the longest and at times hardest climb of my life.
I normally like to climb, actually prefer that to descending.
I was woefully unprepared for this ride. I had done minimal training for a 50 mile bike ride with climbs over two mountain passes and 5,000 feet of climbing.
I had actually done no hill work in preparation for this ride. NONE, ZERO, ZIP.
I thought I could fake my way through this ride, rely on the muscle memory of climbs completed long ago.
I paid the price for the lack of respect I gave this ride. I really thought I could just show up and pull this off.
The climb up Coal Bank pass began around 31 miles into the ride. This was after a continual steady climb for the last 15 miles. Now the road became steep.
I suffered like I have never suffered before on the bike. I simply couldn't turn the pedals over. I couldn't get into any kind of rhythym during the climb.
My legs were burning, sweat pouring down my forehead into my eyes. I couldn't see.
I had to stop time and time again, wait for my heart rate to come down and then I would set off again only to repeat the cycle over and over again over the next 4 miles.
I didn't think I would ever make it to the summit.
When I finally did, I was met by a most unpleasant site. The state patrol car was blocking the road to Silverton. I was done. I had missed the cutoff time by two minutes.
There was nothing to do, but to sadly load my bike on the Ryder truck and wait for the road to Silverton to open at 1:00.
I got on the bus with the other forlorn cyclists and we exchanged rueful, embarrassed glances.
This was the first time this had ever happened to me. I had never missed a cut off time and been swept off the course.
The only other ride I have ever not finished was last summer, when I wrecked my bike in a freak accident 6 miles from the finish line...
Surpsingly, I was not at all upset by this turn of events.
I failed in a big way on Saturday, and I didn't make it mean anything about who I am. This didn't make me a failure as a person.
The failure was born out of a complete lack of preparation.
As I was riding the bus to Silverton, I thought what a great opportunity this was for me to have a conversation with the youth I am mentoring.
I didn't do my homework(hill work) skipped classes(training rides) , showed up and hoped to pass the final exam. I got the grade I earned.
I am not gifted enough athletically to be able to fake my way through a challenging ride in the mountains. I might have been able to fake my way through a 50 mile ride over flat terrain.
I never gave up on Saturday. I pedaled on until I was told I couldn't finish. That was important to me.
This experience was a great learning opportunity for me.
Whether it is work, school, cycling, running, showing up is the single most important thing one can do to increase your chances of succeeding.
I don't know if I will ever attempt the Iron Horse ride again, but if I do, I will be sure to do my homework before I take the final exam.