To say that participating in my second West Elk Bicycling Classic is exciting would be an understatement. Being selected as the Pacific Northwest Ambassador for the 2016 race is a humbling and invigorating honor. I have always reveled in the sweat and burn of physical activity. It wasn’t until August 2014 when I decided to break my 26-year hiatus from riding (a lot of excuses were made between ages 16 and 43). I purchased a hardtail mountain bike and a whole new world opened up to me. By continuing to improve my stamina and technique by riding the local trails, my research led me to the sport of cyclocross and the slightly larger bike that seemed well suited for my riding needs. It was shortly after purchasing my first cyclocross bike that I came across a Facebook ad promoting the most awesome race: The 2015 West Elk Bicycle Classic. Just like the One Ring called to JRR Tolkien’s Gollum, the WEBC called to me, I check the website daily, even though I had decided to participate the moment I saw the Facebook ad, it was a month before I signed up. There are multiple cycling events in the Pacific Northwest region I could have chosen as my first event, such as the Seattle-to-Portland (STP), but they weren’t the WEBC. It’s the character and fun-nature that the WEBC celebrates that I knew would make me regret not joining in and so my own quest began.
The heavy-duty training for the 2015 WEBC resulted in my partaking of one of the best experiences of my life. It was a rocky start though, on my first serious training ride, I had a run in with a car and sadly the car won. As I rehabbed my injuries, for the next 3 months, my goal of participating never changed. I purchased a new cyclocross bike, modified my training route to avoid any 2-ton high-velocity missiles. One of my biggest concerns during training was preparing for high-elevation riding. I researched ways to minimize elevation sickness and accepted that my training range of sea level to 2000 feet would have to suffice. My journey to Crested Butte started the Thursday before the race, I headed out from my home in Covington Washington and drove to Salt Lake City, and then the next day I finished the drive arriving in Crested Butte in the afternoon. I allotted myself a day and a half to acclimate, Friday was a little rough, Saturday was a little better, but by Sunday my adrenaline kicked in and I didn’t consciously notice the elevation change.
I enjoy the peace and serenity I find when I am out riding. It is very easy for me to get lost in all the sounds of the ride, from tires on the road, the chain of the bike, the wind going past and of course the sounds of nature in the quieter moments. It is ironic how a sport can be physically exhausting yet provide some much mental peace. During the 2015 WEBC, there were times, after leaving the Paonia Park, where I was alone on the road, no traffic or other riders, just sun, blue sky, and nature at its finest, it brought a great sense of peace as I prepared for the climb ahead. What a climb it was! I’d pass (or get passed) by the occasional fellow cyclist, exchanging words of encouragement as we labored towards the finish line. Not having participated in the race before, the end of the race came up on me all of a sudden as I rounded a corner and up ahead was the time booth; I had intended to finish the race with a final burst of energy, but it was not to be. This year, with greater knowledge of the course, I will dig deep and give that final push all I have.
For the 2016 WEBC, I am shooting for a time of 7 hours 30 minutes. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the 2015 WEBC and Dave Wiens graciously took the time to answer the bonanza of questions I had on how he prepared for and approached the race. I am determined go faster and finish strong this go around. I have to admit I was a bit envious of all those that were fortunate enough to be riding in pairs or groups, as the WEBC is definitely made better by sharing it with other. If that sounds like an experience and pace you want shoot for as well, let me know. Perhaps, we can ride together.
I want to believe that there are other people like me in the Pacific Northwest that are looking for a unique challenge like the WEBC, if so please contact me at [email protected].