Just Because I’m Smiling Doesn’t Mean I Didn’t Suffer

Cycling isn’t just physically challenging, it’s a totally mental ride too. You need to train your mind as hard as your body because when it comes to rides like the Double Triple Bypass, your mind will want to give up before your legs.

The first day of the Triple Bypass is 120 miles (it ended up just being 118, but who’s counting?), 10,000 feet of elevation gain, over three mountain passes (Squaw, Loveland, and Vail). Not for the timid or easily defeated.

Because I successfully completed the Triple Bypass last year, I knew what to expect. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I expected my ass to rub raw, my legs to wince in exhaustion and pain, and my knees to scream. I assumed that’s how my body would react after the first day because that’s what it did last year.

I expected to be mentally fatigued by Vail Pass: when you’re so close to the finish, yet knowing you still had 27 miles to the finish. It’s a fucked up game we cyclists like to play.

Day 2, riding back the way we came the day before had me anxious. This was the one cycling event that made me nervous. All kinds of self-doubt trickled into my head as if these thoughts were lubing my chain. Link by link, drop by drop, lube for wet rides, lube for dry rides, doubt throughout. I’m too prideful to ever give up. Unless there is a mechanical failure I’m unable to fix and my only option is walking my bike or taking the SAG wagon, I refuse to hop off my pedals. I don’t care how steep the grade, how much faster others are, or how sore my body is, I’m pedaling my ass to the finish line, smiles and tears and all.

Day 2 started off a little late due to my bike whistling the day before. I went to the mechanic at the start line, everything checked out okay. We were on the road after a quick detour to the porta potties. No whistling from my bike, but there was a fierce headwind that initiated our climb over Vail Pass.

I dreaded Vail Pass the most; probably because I’d done it before and it sucked. I never rode Loveland Pass or Squaw Pass the posited way, so I wasn’t worried. That is, until I heard other cyclists claiming it’ll be the worst two hours of our lives. I didn’t believe them. I assumed I was stronger than them; that it’d be a piece of cake.

With Vail Pass behind us, we enjoyed a lovely descent through Copper into Breck, then there was Swan Mountain. And then the stretch from Swan Mountain to A-Basin and boy, was it a stretch. It felt like it was never going to end. The road continued on and on. By the time we finally reached A-Basin, my ass was raw. I wasn’t thrilled about the next mile to the top of Loveland Pass. My hashtag for the day became “grinandgrindit.”

I was also nervous that the aid station we passed before the A-Basin climb had lunch and our tote bangs. We failed to check the map so it was anybody’s guess if I’d be without my starch drink and chamois cream when we arrived at the base of Loveland. We quickly descended Loveland and lo and behold, there was lunch and our tote bags.

I lathered up, filled my stomach with a sandwich and trail mix, filled up my water bottle with the starch drink, and we were soon on our way. It was another descent from Loveland through Georgetown into Idaho Springs. We opted to stop at the last Aid Station before our ascent up Squaw Pass. By this time, I was over the ride. I wanted to be done. I wanted to get out of my chamois and take a bath. My helmet strap had a light white and dusty coat of my dried sunscreeny-sweat. I looked at my Garmin and we still had 30-something miles to go, half of which I knew was climbing.  We grinned and grinded.

We set a good pace. That’s all you really can do when climbing. Put your head down and pedal. The road felt twice as long as A-Basin. I seriously considered we were climbing Mount Everest at one point, like jesus, is this ever going to end? I passed people. I was also passed. The only sounds you heard besides all the passing cards, was bicycle gears grinding and heavy breathing; like the mouth breathing with the tongue hanging out and the lungs clawing for any bit of oxygen they can find. I lost my grin at this point.

And when I get to that point, I always remind myself of Superwoman. I repeat back to myself until the defeating thoughts are silent: I am strong. I can do this. I am strong. I can do this. On and on and on until I finally believe it.

Many people don’t realize the strength and stamina it takes to complete these rides. Just because I’m smiling in my photos, does not mean I suffered greatly.

And you will know your strength when you get to the point that you want to quit. And then you don’t. You go. You keep going.


I talk to myself out loud.

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