Firecracker 5k

My name is Ingrid Muller, and I’m a freelance graphic and web designer living in Boulder, CO. This will be my eighth Ride The Rockies tour; I’ve also been blogging and reporting from the tour for my former employer, The Denver Post, for the past five of them.

At the top of Wolf Creek Pass during Ride The Rockies in 2010. The previous year had been one full of challenges, and the 25th anniversary tour was a way to celebrate coming through it in one piece

At the top of Wolf Creek Pass during Ride The Rockies in 2010. The previous year had been one full of challenges, and the 25th anniversary tour was a way to celebrate coming through it in one piece

I began road cycling back in 2004, just a year after moving to Colorado. At the time, it was a desperate attempt to get healthy. I’d been struggling to get sober for more than 15 years, and found cycling was a way to heal a body and mind ravaged by years of alcohol abuse. I started with indoor cycling at my local gym; within three months, I had bought myself a road bike — my current, slightly battered 2004 Jamis Quest — and started getting lost on the roads around Boulder. At six months, I rode my first century, the Buffalo Classic. And the next summer, I did my first Ride The Rockies tour.

At first, cycling filled the void left by alcohol. All of my free time used to center around my addiction, and when the substance is gone, that time becomes frightening, overwhelming and depressing. Inevitably, I would start back up again just to make that emptiness go away. But it was different with a bike. I’d just jump on and start pedaling when my head got the best of me, which was often. There were days when I’d ride 60 or 70 miles in the morning and then go to work in Denver, exhausted but safe; when I got home at night, I was too tired to do anything but collapse and sleep. And that made all the difference in the world.

As the years ticked by, cycling became a way to see my new world in its best light. Colorado is such a magnificent state of contrasts — in Boulder, you can go from high desert to snow-capped mountains within the space of 20 miles, and seeing it all from the seat of a bike is the best of all worlds for me. I am somewhat infamous among my cycling buddies for being an unapologetic shutterbug on the bike, whipping out my little point-and-shoot while riding along, snapping photos of eagles and deer, winding canyon roads and off-road oddities. I’m afraid I’m going to miss something, and I want to make sure I have reminders of just how lucky I am to live and bike here — sober, healthy, alive.

Ride The Rockies offers the best opportunity to do all of these things. Yes, it’s tough, occasionally painful, sometimes scary — but always, ALWAYS worth the ride. The strong, friendly and resilient people; the jaw-dropping scenery; the unmatched challenges of the route — all of those things bring me back, year after year.

At this point, I’ve seen more of Colorado by bike than by car. I’ve put about 30,000 miles on my little Jamis, which is dinged up but still going strong. Cycling has become my go-to therapy for the rough roads we all hit in life — a layoff in 2009, health issues, financial stress — even the death of a close friend and mentor in a 2009 bicycling accident. And what helped me through all of that, especially my friend’s death, was getting on my bike, seeing the world.

Which may seem odd, considering how my friend died. But I know the road he was on, literally and figuratively. And what comforts me the most is knowing that when he was on that last, slight downhill stretch at the end of the ride — that gentle slope at the end of the US 36 coming back into town — he was feeling that same sense of exhilaration, accomplishment and peace that I feel on my bike when I ride that route back into town.

Life is short, and it’s all about the ride.