You know that smell that accompanies overheating engines on the Pikes Peaks Highway? If that's how an engine reacts to the grade and the altitude, just imagine how human quads feel. I no long need to use my imagination in this situation, because I experienced the real thing this morning.
I parked just before the gate onto the Pikes Peak Highway around 7:45am and got started with my ride around 8. I had no idea what to expect of this challenge; no idea how long I should expect to spend on the endeavor, what the endless climb would feel like, how drivers would react to cyclists, etc.
Now, I know that it takes a good two hours to reach Glen Cove Lodge (where they check brakes coming down). That 12 miles climb only takes 35 minutes to undo as you coast downhill losing thousands of feet of hard-won elevation.
I also know that I am made of tougher tuff than I often give myself credit for. The endless climb feels like nothing I've ever experienced on a run. It sears your legs and plays a repeating track of curse words in your mind. There is no reprieve, because if you stop there is no guarantee that you'll get started again on that damn hill. It's an exhausting ride, my legs were jittery with relief whenever there was a slight decrease in grade , let alone the 12 miles spent flying downhill. I'm proud of myself though - this is not my sport, but I pushed myself as far as I could go today and came out of it a better athlete. It's true: I don't give up on endurance sports. There is always another gear hiding in there somewhere that can be accessed if you want it badly enough.
As far as motorists go: I had a better experience on this ride than I do on shorter more inviting routes. It helps that speed limit is 20 to 25 miles per hour on the mountain. Beyond that though, there is a different mindset among the drivers heading to the Peak. People actually yelled encouragement out their windows, No one honked or made me feel like I was on the verge of being pushed off the road, instead people shouted that they were impressed that people bike that road.
No, I didn't make it to the summit and that's ok with me. So many positive training experiences came out of today: I turned up my mental game proving to myself that I can deal with discomfort; I spent some time working hard at altitude - my ride ended at tree line; and I spent another few hours on America's Mountain.
When I wasn't swearing to myself about the climb, I was assuring myself that my body will remember this ride on Ascent day and be grateful.