Focus Forward on the Grand Traverse
After a challenging summer on the bike (see entry from 08/21), I’m ready – physically and mentally – for one last challenge before the summer’s end: The Grand Traverse.
I have taken a few steps back, slowed down just a little bit, re-centered, and now I’m ready, physically and mentally, for my final challenge of the summer: The Grand Traverse. This Friday I’ll be driving to Aspen, pitching a tent in the White River National Forest, and getting ready for the race. The Grand Traverse is a 40-mile point-to-point mountain bike race that goes from Aspen to Crested Butte, Colorado, traversing the Elk Mountains with over 7,800 feet of elevation gain. It starts with a 3000 foot climb up Aspen Mountain before continuing deep into the Elk Mountains.
And this is a race: you need to get up this climb in 2 hours in order to be able to go on and continue in the race, The Aspen Mountain summit being the first time checkpoint. This mountain bike race is not for the feint of heart. They recommend you carry layers and a Mylar blanket in case there is inclement weather. And you have to have Colorado Search and Rescue (COSAR) coverage in order to race. But the thrill of riding a trail few even get to experience, of climbing mountain passes and enjoying thrilling descents, and racing again with Team PHenomenal Hope – well I’m ready for that.
Last Saturday was my last ride up at altitude in Breckenridge. I went 40 miles, enjoying an ascent up Baker’s Tank then up and over the Continental Divide at Boreas Pass (11,482 feet), and then down Gold Dust (amazingly gorgeous singletrack) and back over Boreas Pass again. I embraced the climbs, and just pounded out miles, and took a lot of photos as I rode amidst the aspens, which were just starting to turn. The ride went well. And at the end I discovered a mechanical issue with the my seat post (at the end, thankfully), now fixed and ready for the race.
Today I rode my last major workout in Golden at North Table Mountain. To simulate the initial grueling 3000-foot ascent up Aspen Mountain, I decided to do hill repeats up the road, with a 463 foot elevation gain over 0.6 miles per repeat. —
So I’m ready, and just as important as the physical preparation, I’m mentally ready, having searched my soul to remind myself of the WHY I do this (not just ride, but race). Why not just ride, instead of doing these ultra or backcountry races?
So many reasons:
At a simple level it’s about seeing how far or how fast one can go, putting yourself to the test, doing something that scares you, makes you step outside your comfort zone, and experiencing endorphins of striving and – when you cross that finish line – of accomplishment. You don’t know until you do. And… it’s fun. When everything clicks and you’re out there on the course, taking in amazing views and track, it’s fun.
At another level, it’s about going out there and doing something very few people do, you “embrace the crazy,” and are a part of a small group of individuals who do this stuff. At another level, it’s about devoting part of your life to your own health. It’s about practicing what I preach, devoting energy and time to taking care of oneself: movement, fuel, sleep, and downtime. When done properly, training for a goal and everything wrapped up in that, helps us care for ourselves so that we can better live in this world, realize our more complete selves.
At an even higher level, doing ultra – and now backcountry races – is about pushing the body and mind to experience this world on a higher plane, going beyond your perceived limitations. There is just something about pushing your pedals (and sometimes pushing the bike) over mountain passes and the Continental Divide.
And finally, when I race with Team PHenomenal Hope, it’s about doing these races not alone, but with a community and for a higher purpose. My sincere hope is that whatever our athletes do – whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, community bike ride or RAAM or the Grand Traverse – is that we carry in our hearts those with whom we race, that our PHriends and friends feel that vibe and extension of ourselves, and that together we race to make a difference.
So when it gets difficult, as it always does when you’re pushing yourself over mountains, I’ll remember that I’m prepared, and most of all I’ll keep riding, living in the present moment and riding with Team PHenomenal Hope and our purpose in mind. I’ll be riding for my Let Me Be Your Lungs partner, Ornah, and my patients and PHriends, and together we’ll climb mountains in The Grand Traverse and beyond in our race against PH.
For more on The Grand Traverse, check out https://thegrandtraverse.org/bike
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