a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
Gretchen the athlete - sport/exercise of choice - bicycling.
Every cycling season I look for organized rides which here in Oregon are not only plentiful but usually well organized. The Petal to Pedal is my second large ride of the season. I signed up for 60 miles that included some modest hills (modest: limited or moderate in amount) and a trip past Silver Falls.
The night before the ride I took some time to figure out where I was going, when I needed to be there and what I had actually signed up for. Much to my surprise the detailed description of the ride was 68 miles with the first 25 miles including some wicked climbing! I panicked! Being a bottom heavy girl, climbing is just not for me. After falling apart I decided to take the challenge. What’s the worst that could happen? I have never not finished and after the summit it is all downhill and flat - right?
I arrived just after 8:00 and found my weekend riding team gathering ready to hit the road. The strongest gal had already taken off to tackle the 100 mile route, she was out of the park before any of us even arrived. We all rolled out together but I had no plans in trying to keep pace with these strong climbers. I knew I needed to ride my own ride or risk injury, mental defeat, or just plain misery.
After winding our way out of town the fist thing I noticed was a old house that had a 1903 sign on it. This was not the address rather the year it was built. I love this era in Oregon and am planning to take some Oregon history classes. Most of the farms proudly displayed old farm equipment near the road. It was very interesting and I even snapped a picture. The farms were all working farms and the crops seemed to be doing well despite the rain and lack of sunshine. The wheat fields were plush and looking at them made me think of America the Beautiful lyrics “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain” The gardens near the houses were another story. They did not look much better then the city gardens.
Then it was time to climb! I didn’t attack the hill since a 25 mile hill seemed to be more then I could attack rather I snuck up on it. I kept my head down and tried to find a comfortable pace. My eyes watched my speed reduce slower and slower and while I tried to keep a pace that would get me to the end before sundown I found my breathing became violent! This is the only way to describe trying to force air in at the same time as you are forcing air out. My muscles were tense from head to toe and I was starting to get hot. After coming to terms with a 6 mph pace I started to relax and my breathing adjusted to sucking in through the nose with the suction of a carwash vacuum and blowing out through the mouth with the force of a fire hose.
I knew I was in my last 10 miles of the climb when I looked to the right to see the most beautiful valley. So green and deep, I am not sure if there was a river at the bottom but I had heard fast running water in the distance during the climb. The trees were so tall they appeared to be large Christmas trees atop the longest bare stilts you have ever seen. I took my camera out to take a picture only to find that my battery must had fallen out the bottom while shooting an alpaca while riding past. I was shook up and didn’t think to use my iPhone but I did imprint the scene in memory though I really did want to share it.
Near the summit there was a rest stop where I met an interesting gal. She was sitting in a chair talking to a group about how she rides RAGBRAI in Iowa. That it was much harder then this due to the sweltering heat and humidity. I wondered if she had just rode the last 15+ miles of hills that I had. I mentioned enthusiastically that I LOVED RAGBRAI and that I had ridden in 2008. I asked her what her tie to Iowa was and she looked at me with a straight face and said “I grew up in Idaho”. She then did not say another word. I was waiting for her to say “…and that’s my final answer” to which I would have responded “BZZZZZ I am sorry but the only tie to Iowa and Idaho is that people get them confused.” I know my Iowa friends are laughing right now!
There were a couple more view points before I reached the summit. I arrived without much left. A little wobbly getting off the bike, no camera and if you have ever tried to take your own pic with an iPhone drunk then you can imagine what I looked like up there. I was soaked with sweat but I was happy that I had made it to the summit! Now the fun begins! Screaming down the hills after climbing them is like a sweet dessert after dinner. I expected to encounter nothing but down and flat but there were still quite a few hills. They looks so insignificant on the map next to that killer climb but these small hills were taxing.
I arrived back at the Oregon Gardens to find most of the crew has already come in. I grabbed my wild salmon dinner and we swapped stories. I ended up riding 62.5 miles at an average of 12 mph. My fastest speed was 36 mph, 5 hours and 15 minutes on the bike with another hour off the bike. Someone clocked 27000 ft in gained elevation with the greatest grade of 14%.
I wonder if looking at life through rose colored glasses is as wonderful as looking at it through polarized lenses.