Tag-Archive for ◊ Personal ◊

Author: aaron
• Monday, September 14th, 2009

In May, when a few co-workers and I decided it would be a good idea to sign up for the High Pass Challenge, there was no way on the face of this planet I was ready for it. One hundred and fourteen miles accompanied with 7500 feet of climbing up to Windy Ridge? Are you kidding?!? I’ve described myself as an “avid” cyclist several times in past but not in recent history. Long gray Seattle winters, a regrettably sedentary day job and the day to day demands of supporting a family of two young boys had relegated any notion of personal fitness well onto the back burner.
 
Nevertheless, something clicked in me and I decided that I would accept this challenge.
 
I started biking to work. It’s a very manageable 3.5 mile commute (one way). To work is almost exclusively downhill and home from work is, well, not. Those first weeks of huffing back home with the family’s dinner strapped to my back were humbling. However, by mid June I was feeling stronger, and wasn’t completely out of breath when I arrived home after the 300 foot climb.
 
I also started eating better. I tracked my caloric intake using an iPhone app called “Lose It!” which many of my co-workers also use. The changes I made weren’t super drastic, just being aware of what I was putting into my body helped. I cut back on the starchy, carby stuff like bread, pasta, potatoes, etc… however beer stayed on the menu! (gotta have SOME carbs, right?)
 
We organized a few training rides on the weekends, and I would also occasionally ride up and around the Magnolia Loop on my way into work in the mornings. Fortunately for me (and my co-workers) our office has showers! My father-in-law convinced me to play hooky from work one Friday in August and ride day 1 of the RSVP with him as part of the preparation.
 
Finally, after months of prep, training, dieting, and anticipation, the weekend was upon us. I loaded up the Explorer and thanks to the generosity of my neighbor hitched up his tent-trailer and headed to Packwood. We camped out on Saturday night in a field by the start line. There was a spaghetti feed organized at a local restaurant and I have to say I probably ate more that night than I had in a single sitting for several months. Full and anxious we hit the sack, surrounded by the sounds of small-town Western Washington… coyotes, crickets, and the occasional 18 wheeler rolling by on highway 12.
 
Fueled by instant oatmeal and coffee prepared on our single-burner camp stove we stumbled to the start line at 7am. Within the first mile my front derailer cable snapped! A quick examination of the damage led me to only one conclusion… to remove it. Given the nature of the terrain I didn’t really even miss it. Crisis averted.
 
The sun rose higher in the clear sky and we pressed on, climb after climb, food stop after food stop. The weather gods saved all their mercies for us that day because it was unbelievably gorgeous! By 11:15 we were at the top which is quite an impressive time considering the mechanical issues that slowed us earlier. Cruising back down towards home was about the sweetest bit of riding I’ve ever done. The sun streamed though the pine trees and we sped along through the warm breeze. Amazing. The final leg of the ride is where we truly encountered the “Challenge” part of the High Pass Challenge. Winding roads strewn with loose gravel and sudden brief climbs coming in miles 90 thru 100 were not what we’d expected. I found myself several times talking myself back to sanity, “Keep pedaling, another mile-marker means another drink of water, just make it past the next corner and then make it past whatever is after that.”
 
I crossed the finish line just before 3pm.
 
The ride was every bit of what I’d hoped it would be. But perhaps even more than that, the journey of preparing for the ride reminded me of something. Seldom have I honestly set goals like this for myself, ones that are out there… that take more than a few moments worth of consideration. Living in a world where “if it takes more than 3 seconds to update my twitter status something must be broken”, it’s challenging not to feel the progress right away, that slow, steady, incremental movement towards a destination. And yet looking back at the last four months even I’m amazed. I dropped nearly 30 pounds and am in better shape physically (and emotionally) than I’ve been for many, many years.
 
A picture of me and my co-workers at the top

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