Chilled, bonked, and cramping. As I left the aid station to complete the second half of the Elephant Rock ride on Sunday, I couldn’t hold back a semi-delirious chuckle at myself. I was laughing at the irony that I so carefully packed my mobile phone in a water-proof baggie and set up my ride-tracking app, yet I must have left my brain at home.

Sunday was a beautiful Colorado day and I planned for the 62 mile loop of Elephant Rock to be a perfect warm up for next week’s Ride The Rockies. I’ve done many bike events in my life, so I arrived at the start line full of confidence and excitement. After all, I teach group riding clinics so I should know what I am doing. I had just started the course when it started going wrong.

I read recently that success is a terrible teacher and that we only really learn from mistakes. I am sharing my mistakes in hope that you don’t make the same ones and have a great Ride The Rockies experience.

Where's the draft?

Where’s the draft?

LESSON #1 Don’t believe a Colorado forecast. It is always wrong.
I did a good job packing my gear at home, but made a poor decision at the start. The forecast was for a hot day, almost in the 90s with no chance of rain, so I left my arm-warmers and jacket behind. Once out of the protection of town, the winds picked up and pushed the cool morning air into a shiver-inducing headwind. On Ride The Rockies, I will carry the clothes to be ready for whatever the mountains throw at us.

LESSON #2 Aid Stations are your friends, but rely on yourself.
I started the day with two water bottles and one energy bar, figuring that the well-stocked aid stations would carry me through the day. Of course my selective memory kicked in, allowing me to forget that some foods and energy drinks don’t agree with my stomach on long rides. Normally I carry food that works for me and flavored electrolyte tablets that make any well-water taste good. The headwinds increased my time between aid stations so I was out of drink and starving when I arrived at the aid station.

LESSON #3 Save culinary adventures for after the ride (or don’t pig-out on aid-station foods you have never tried while riding).
I like to cook and try new foods. That adventuresome trait came roaring out as I pulled into the second aid station with an empty stomach and bonk-induced tunnel vision. I bee-lined for the food and treated it like an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. Everything tasted good as I did my best Homer Simpson buffet line impersonation. Who knew green grapes went so well with bananas dunked in tangerine and cappuccino energy gel?

LESSON #4 Accept mistakes and still enjoy the ride.
Departing the aid station, I remounted my steed and brushed some cookie crumbs from my jersey. Finally there was a tailwind, and my fuel tank was full. I hit the first little climb and stood on my pedals feeling like Pro Challenge racer. As I crested the hill, stomach cramps ensued. My body was screaming at me to reduce my effort. No matter how hard I tried to maintain speed, my body wouldn’t listen.

So I throttled back, and that’s when my laughter began. For all my teaching on fun and safe bicycling, I had ignored my own advice. Now I had to relax and just do only what my body could do. The cramps eventually subsided. I coasted through the finish line with a better awareness of using my mind to listen to my body.

I am glad that it happened now so that I can remember to pack my brain and make sure my Ride The Rockies week is as good as I tell people it will be.