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Muscle Memory, Ride the Rockies 2012 Recap: Part 2 by Alissa

March 7, 2014
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Mustering a smile in the late morning.

Miserable, that is how I felt when I began riding on day two. I had hardly recovered from the exhaustion of riding the previous day and my knees ached fiercely. Approaching my twelfth week of pregnancy, mornings were sometimes “rocky” anyway.  Being overly tired and unsure of the logistics at the campsite I failed to shower the evening before. I considered the sunscreen and dirt build-up to be advantageous in protecting my skin against the bright rays.

I pushed on. I wanted to at least give McClure pass my best try. It was the lowest pass of the five passes for the week. If I couldn’t do it I may as well have gone home. The summit of McClure pass is 44 miles from Hotchkiss with a 3,894 ft gain in elevation. As the elevation graph shows, the last five miles before the summit are the steepest.

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Hotchkiss to Carbondale elevation and mileage graph

I spent the morning impatiently wishing away the miles. I simply wanted to arrive at the steep portion and get it over with. But something happened around 20 miles into the ride. I began to enjoy myself. An amazingly beautiful mountain scene opened before me. I didn’t take a picture! I didn’t want to stop pedaling.

My entire mindset changed. I no longer wished away the miles. Instead I began to savor the opportunity I had to be out there on my bike.

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A shot when I finally took a break

The summit of McClure pass is 8,755 feet. As I mentioned, it was the lowest pass on the ride but I found out later that it is one of the steepest mountain passes in Colorado with a maximum grade of 8%.

Doug and I rode to the top together by making frequent stops during the last five miles. I proved to myself that I have the physical capacity to ride my bike to the summit of a Colorado mountain pass. That was important to me because before that day and even that morning I wasn’t sure.

Doug encouraged and inspired me along the way. The ride was challenging for him too but I knew he was as determined as me, if not more so to reach the top.

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Doug at the summit

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A break at the top

It was all downhill to Carbondale from there. “All downhill” isn’t as easy as it sounds. Riding down a mountain, at least for me, is scary. I literally hold on for dear life to my brakes with an entirely tense body. The downhill portion was beautiful but I was moving way too fast to stop and take pictures. Once the route leveled off I snapped a few of the Crystal river. The scenery never failed on this ride.

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Crystal River on the descent

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Crystal River on the descent

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