What an epic ride!  My first Ride the Rockies is over but the memories, people I met, and sense of accomplishment this ride gave me will be a glorious part of my awe inspiring ride experiences.

I chose the handle, “Ride with Purpose,” as I felt I needed to make the most of what I attempted. That may be my age, almost 63, or my upbringing to do my best, or it may be my sense of privilege that I now have the time and opportunity to both do something for others and challenge myself.

Ride The Rockies was an epic experience from the day I committed to ride. I felt I needed to be ready to climb every climb and complete every day, and I wasn’t sure I could handle the altitude, the challenge, or the multiple days of hard riding. But I trained, and took the challenge seriously…. I rode with purpose. I joined a team to share my purpose and have a cause greater than my personal challenge, Team Christopher, of the Christopher T. Keller Foundation.  

Nothing disappointed me in this ride! I felt enveloped in a group of athletes who loved my sport, who loved challenges, and truly enjoyed sharing their experience with everyone they met.

My husband drove me to the start in Carbondale,and that beautiful car ride introduced me to Independence Pass.  As we drove over the pass I was scared, and nervous, and terrified of the narrow road with no shoulder or guard rails, the wind and snow and cold at the top of the pass, and the very long descent that awaited me. I psyched myself out thinking I wasn’t up for the climb. I worried. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t EVER want to sag. I didn’t think I had it in my legs to get “up and over” on this one.

But, on day two, I DID IT! I arrived at the top of Independence Pass to be greeted by my Albuquerque and New Jersey friends and shared smiles and high fives with people I pushed through the climb with! We parked our bikes in the snow and heard the national anthem, and felt at that moment we could climb any Colorado Rocky Mountain pass! 

The tiring and tough mountain passes on the Copper Mountain loop on day three introduced me to an 80 year old rider, who from years of riding knew the nuances of climbing Vail Pass. He made sure I was aware of a critical downshift after the bridge and before that short steep wall of a climb. He loved this ride and enjoyed talking with all the cyclists he rode alongside as he was “Riding with Purpose” and sharing his knowledge.

As day four and more passes came, my legs tired but not my will. Ute Pass could have been trouble for me. As I worked hard for each gain in altitude my legs slowed down their pedal stroke, and I have to admit I was exhausted and wondered if I should stop and rest, find a sag, or just keep pushing. Then, two men came up behind me and one of them put his hand on my back and glided me forward, telling me to spin my legs.  He pushed me uphill for a considerable time until he was sure my legs were flushed, and then he smiled and said, “You’ve got this!”  With his fun spirit, and help and encouragement, I DID have it!  My leg strength returned to propel me up. I just needed that moment of help and friendship. He was “Riding with Purpose,” to make sure others could!

Closing on the top of that pass, I met a rider who had a love and jovial spirit about him while climbing, it was infectious! Rick Barrett was Riding with Purpose to train his legs for an upcoming Challenge Roth Ironman in Germany. Cycling was his weakest link of his quest, so his focus was on cycling skills, and he seemed to enjoy every part of the ride and opportunity to be training with other cyclists. He too was 63, and his spirit of riding with purpose and sharing his joy is one I was thankful to be introduced to. I have no doubt he will finish and place well in his upcoming challenges, because he rides with a sense of personal and life purpose to give his best to all he does, whether riding, running, swimming, writing, protecting the safety of others, or supporting law enforcement, Rick Barrett  was living with purpose.

At the top of a climb I met a father and son from Denver and Mexico who were riding to share time and memories together. The dad was riding his 6th Ride The Rockies, and for his son’s 13th birthday, he gave him his first Ride The Rockies and the gift of cycling together! His son, Marcus, did well as I saw him keeping pace with his Dad and enjoying the adventure. They rode happily in each other’s company, “Riding with Purpose”.

On the hardest climb along Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park I took a rest from the tough intensity of the mountain, and three quarters from the top I met Victor and Tim. Victor is riding his sixth ride, but this year he must ride without his eyesight, blind, and for the first time ride on a tandem. Tim, Victor’s experienced riding partner, is riding his 11th Ride The Rockies, but his very first one on a tandem, so that he could share the adventure, challenge and personal accomplishment with Victor. What an inspiration! I got back on my bike and pushed up the rest of the mountain. Knowing what the ride meant to Victor and to Tim, and seeing them “Riding with Purpose”, I sensed the tremendous privilege I had to be able to ride this ride. They helped me give all I had.

I rode into Fort Collins, under the “Finish” banner with a huge smile on my face and was wrapped in my husbands arms, congratulating me for competing the challenge! He unexpectedly flew into Denver to be at the finish for me. It felt glorious to share the moment with him, knowing that his support and belief in me gave me the fitness, and the will to accomplish my goal! He gives me purpose to challenge myself as others do, and to strive to give my best.

I hope to return to Ride The Rockies. I will be trained. I will be ready for the wonderful climbs to come, and I will Ride with Purpose with all of you, again. Thank you for having me share my experience and thrill to Ride The Rockies 2016. I hope to see you next year!!!