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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Finish Line–Ultimate Challenge 2015- Part 4

NOTE:  As I mentioned in my first post, we did not get many pics of our own, and because I blog with pictures, as a result I have borrowed pics from many other sources, which is noted with each one.

Now, back to my tale. . . 

Picking up where I left off last.

For the entire story click here for Part 1,  then here for part 2, and finally Part 3 here. . .

We found the road already closed to all vehicle traffic. . .

. . . but they were still letting bikes go!

picture from http://healthcare.utah.edu/

We quickly jumped into action and re-mounted our bikes and pedaled up the canyon . . .

toward the finish line, with the wind at our backs. . .

Finally, a tail wind!

. . . just in time for a HUGE ascent, and our final ascent.

and as I stated previously, it made it hot

but at least we were done with the head winds.

Little Cottonwood Canyon –
      • 7.1 Miles
      • 2634 foot elevation gain
      • Average Grade 7.8%
      • Max Grade 11.9%

At this point in the ride, Little Cottonwood is an element all of its own.

It is up-hill the ENTIRE way with no rest

but the last how many miles have been uphill with no relief?

Marsac, Empire, Guardsman

Ultimate Challenge is never ending with hills with no reprieve, it had become a way of life that we had no choice, but to accept.

                                                                   this canyon was like hitting a wall. . .

We were 2 miles up the 7 mile canyon when race officials came by and pulled us over

. . . The Pro’s were on their way

With not many options but to wait for the pros to come through, we found a shady spot and did nothing. . .

for about 5 minutes.

  2014-08-09 15.27.03

It was our observation that we couldn’t hear the helicopter yet and determined that the pro’s were a little bit out, and we were going to freeze up if we didn’t keep moving.


An officer standing nearby told us as long as we walked we could keep moving, with the understanding that we would get completely off the road when the pros came riding past.

We agreed and up we went.

I put on my cleat covers, Superman took off his shoes and socks, Becca had her shoes off so she didn’t ruin her cleats and up the mountain we went.

2014-08-09 14.47.19

We went around a bend and there were people riding bikes!

We instantly re-evaluated and decided as long as the pros were nowhere in sight, there was no evidence of the helicopter, so there was no logical reason we couldn’t ride.

Shoes and socks were put back on and we enjoyed having the road basically to ourselves as we rode up on the WRONG side. . .

As spectators watched and cheered us on

another cool moment of the day

This effort was short lived however, as a different officer was coming down the mountain and promptly told us we could not ride.

. . . Grudgingly, we complied,

2014-08-09 15.27.55
and began walking again, then we would ride until we heard a car/motorcycle approach. It was painfully slow, but we probably gained a precious ¼ mile in our ascent up Little Cottonwood.

In all we lost 42 minutes of non-moving time waiting.

2014-08-09 15.49.44

The Pros passed us, with seemingly ease. . .

UGH, how do they do that was my question of the day

When the sweeper van came passed we were given the thumbs up
and continued our ride up the mountain. . .

At registration we were told that after the Pro’s went through we would NOT be able to continue.  We were too close, it had been too long of a grueling, painful day.  At this point, we were not listening to what they said

. . . we were finishing this ride!

As we approached Little Cottonwood Canyon Superman chased us down on his bike. The original plan was to have Superman and Dion park up at Snowbird after we descended Guardsman, then Superman would ride DOWN the canyon and come back up with us

. . . He WANTED to do it because it SOUNDED like fun to him. 

From Charcie. . . Milestone Photography

While I’m grateful he was there I am still, today undecided if it made a difference, in fact I wonder if

his presence made me slower. . .

While that statement may sound odd,

allow me to explain.

I was miserable, it was hot, I was tired and thirsty, I was hungry, ornery, cranky, and now the only thing that was keeping me going was the excitement that was growing inside me that we were almost done,

the bigger part of me didn’t care

. . . I wanted to quit. 

With Superman there encouraging us,

okay . . . correction:

Charcie and Becca were doing great, and were ahead of me now, so Superman was encouraging ME onward, and I WANTED his permission to quit.

so, there you have it, I still don’t know if he helped or not, he was fresh, legs firing the way he told them too, I found that depressing and annoying, he was also very patient, encouraging, and supportive, which I found wonderful and motivating.

I was simply ready for this ride to be over with

the final 5 more miles took me what felt like an eternity to ride
and I wonder how much ambition the 42 minute down time actually cost me

We were now battling traffic going up, coming down and thousands of spectators clearing out off the sides of the road, it was certainly not the safest choice, but WE WERE SO CLOSE. . . we NEEDED to finish and claim our medals, we NEEDED to complete this as a requirement of the Triple Crank Award!

at this point of the day,
it was worth the risk to finish

2014-08-09 15.27.46
The grades hit a consistent non-stop 9%-10%.

I have ridden this road 3 times previously,
and could not remember where it flattens to a 5%-6%. . .

I KNEW it was up there, somewhere
but the road just kept climbing up.

Again I found my self asking people how much farther to the top, again, no one had a satisfactory answer.  I was low on water and let the “thirsty thought” get into my head and it further shut me down.  The debate of how much do I conserve what I do have left vs the need to drink water to keep me going.

This looks noble!  I took this pic in 2014

always a dilemma, never a good one.

we were offered water, twice, from spectators/support peeps still in the canyon.

More angels earned their wings today.

I got to a point where I mentally collapsed, got off my bike and walked. . .

yes, regretfully, the walk of shame
there was no pride left
have I mentioned how I simply wanted this over with?

. . . I would rather call it the walk of wisdom,

you may call it what you want.
you may call it what you want.

from velonews.com
I walked for a short while a very short while, in reality it was less than a block. This is why I call it mentally collapsing, not physically, for I was able to get back on my bike after about 7-8 min of walking and finish the ride.

A spectator, who may I add, was drunker than a skunk, offered to push start me.  Seriously, the guy could barely stand himself!  I declined, he insisted, I declined, fortunately Superman was there to intervene. . . have you ever tried to reason with an excited drunk man???

it doesn't go so well

I actually did most of the getting going on my own, 

but mister drunk spectator dude still got his way. . . 

sort of. . . 

apparently he almost tipped over as I accelerated forward.
but I assume he felt noble in assisting me, and he was happy

I finally reached Tanner Flat, where it levels out to 5%-6% FINALLY, a recovery period I desperately needed and relished being at that spot, it felt delightfully wonderful and I rode strong.  While the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd were dwindling as they were packing up their things, but there were still plenty of spectators cheering us on which was nice and I loved feeling their encouragement as we slowly made our way to the finish line.

from a previous ride. . . our skies WERE NOT blue!

Then, FINALLY, there is was!

That beautiful blue sign that said "Snowbird here"

. . . one more sign and it was all done.

we had made it.

in fact, according to Strava I actually PR’d on this tiny section.

with how I was feeling, and how tired I was, I'm not sure how I pulled that one off 

. . . Could Strava possibly be off?

I choose to believe they are right, and I managed something amazing

I was so excited that I found it in me somewhere to pedal faster, stronger just to have over,
. . . and to claim the ride a success only added to the elation I was feeling at this moment

from Charcie's photo collection - Milestone Photography

We crossed the finish line as they were dismantling everything as quickly as they could.  It's absolutely amazing how quickly they had the finish line loaded up and ready to move to the next location.

No one was there to greet us, with the exception of our support 
who cheered us in but it didn’t matter, 
2014-08-09 16.56.04

we did it,

and felt like we did it well.

We missed lunch,

We didn't care,

We found food when we got down the mountain.


The finishers medals were all put away and so we didn't get those either

yet we confidently, happily claim success without all of these things,
it is ours,
we have the tales,
the suffering,
the experience of doing something

Three days later, Superman and I were talking about doing this ride together. . .

                                                                                               Because . . . 

we want to
and. . .

yes, I love riding my bike

yup, I think most would call that demented.

2014-08-09 15.27.30

Was it fun?

. . . No, I wouldn’t say that,
but it was achievable, and I want to do better, be stronger, be faster.

it was rewarding, satisfying, compelling

Charcie put this illustration together that is too perfect for words
and sums up this ride beautifully

With Superman’s surgery this past December, we will wait and will have our second go at epic ride next year as in 2017, We will beg, plead, and grovel with family to spend the day with us as we tackle this endeavor together. 

So, here’s your chance, you have an entire 18 months to prepare for an epic ride of proportions indescribable until you do it. . .

Let me know you want in.


Looking back I realize the need to manage my nutrition differently on this specific ride.
As we watched the pros come in, WOW, I barely finished after 9.5 hours of ride time, they finished the same ride in about 4.5 hours!

. . . There is definite room for improvement.

I felt the weight. . . I’ve gained a bunch of it over the past 3 years, and undoubtedly noticed it holding me back. . . in 2012, my star year, I would have been able to keep up with Heidi.

. . . I am working on that.

Riding with Becca​ and Charcie​, as part of the Velocia team made all the difference and I have no doubt that we helped each other keep going up Marsac and on to the finish line. But it was cresting Marsac/Empire/Gaurdsaman that made me feel like I had accomplished something phenomenal. . .

Snowbird about killed me off!
Next time, I will train harder too.

A big Thank You for your support along the way. . .

A HUGE thanks to Superman​, my amazing husband, and Dion for supporting us along the way, They were a critical key element to our success, I honestly don't know if I would have pulled it off without him there.

Superman, you are the best. . .
LOVE you forever!

We e-mailed, the event organizer, our request and plight and distress of not getting to the tent in time to receive our medals.

With a long tale all of it's own we finally received them in the mail.

That sums up my Ultimate Challenge Experience. . . upon reflection, it was great, I learned some things about myself, and yes, I can do hard things.  But most importantly, this ride was amazing mostly for who was there with me.  

Charcie, Becca, thanks for putting this crazy endeavor on your bucket list

. . . having you there made all the difference to me

and then to our little actress, thanks for being so patient through all the training

Then, last but certainly not least. . . 

Thanks to Superman, who supports and encourages me in everything I dream up to do. . .

{trust me, there are plenty of things I dream up} . . .

You are truly my Knight in shining Armor, my Prince Charming, the Love Of My Life. . .

Life with you is nothing short of  AMAZING!

To everyone else, thank you for stopping in to share in my adventure,

I love having you here

. . . and in an odd sort of way, I ride for you too.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Plan . . . Ultimate Challenge–Part 3

Click here for Part 1 and for Part 2 here
UC 1

Leaving Park City,

                                   . . . we were on our own

narrow steep roads, grinding slow paces, cyclists 
everywhere, mingled with local traffic and 
spectators literally lining both sides of the road 
meant no extra support.

Once we reached Park City, the wind subsided, or
at least seemed to let up, it blew at only certain
spots going up Marsac, Empire, Gaurdsman,

 . . . but it never truly stopped.
Going up hills, with a slight breeze in your face is a 
                               welcome addition to the ride 

A tail wind has the opposite effect that you think it would, because the wind is at your back, there is no benefit of the cooling effects it has on the body, so a tail wind seems to always leave a cyclist overheating and sweaty. 

So today a slight headwind was welcome.

Unfortunately there were moments when the wind was a bit more than a slight breeze

okay. . . A LOT MORE

which made going up Empire even more of a challenge than it was destined to be without additional obstacles

ie. . . the wind.


As a group we were hating life, and seriously questioning our logic and enthusiasm for even considering this. . . what did they call it???

                                                            oh yeah,

                                                                                          an epic event. . .


. . . I still don’t have a logical answer to this question
and I suspect Charcie and Becca were wondering the same thing

except, I love torture,

                                                                       paying to have the experience,

                                                                  oh, and. . . yes, 

                                               I LOVE riding my bike

. . . some call it a demented state of mind

today, I think they nailed their assessment of my passion

Empire Pass –
      • 6.4 Miles
      • 2146 foot elevation gain
      • Average Grade 5.3%
      • Max Grade 14.4%


They say that this stretch is only 5.3% grade???

I think they are mistaken

in fact, I’m confident they mis-calculated completely

Empire Road boasts a consistent grade of 10%-14% and climbs 2100 ft in a short grinding 6.4 miles.

                                The wind was blowing . . . still

not as strong as it had been,

but, nonetheless, it was still blowing.

I kept asking spectators that were lining the streets, waiting for the pros and who were there watching us crazy cyclists like me suffer,

"How much farther to the top of this death trap"?,

 There were all kinds of estimates and not one of them were the same

. . . not one soul was able to give me a convincing answer.

I kept going,

                                                      slowly forward.

                                                                                                     grinding upward

After a great debate within myself, I stopped for a short rest and the wind was blowing so hard I could not get going again, not even paperboy style. . .

but honestly, paperboy style is about the only way
to get back on your bike and pedaling on a 14% grade.


stopping turned out to be a very bad idea.

I had to wait for the gusts to calm down,

my legs didn't complain much though.

But then, Becca and Charcie were together and passed me, while I was attempting to get on my bike and pedaling once again

spectators line the streets
(I'm not sure where this photo is from)

. . . I was embarrassed,

my pride was being challenged

because I stopped, they passed me
and saw I was stuck, stranded, unable to get going

oh, the humiliation of it all

I questioned myself. . . was it necessary to stop?

Even today, I still wonder.

unfortunately, there wasn’t room for mourning lost pride

finally it happened. . . I got going again

                                                  Yes, I succeeded, but barely

I was able to catch up with Charcie and Becca, and presented my plan to Charcie, as Becca quietly listened, I assume with curiosity, to how Charcie would feel. 

This section, was taking longer than we anticipated. . . It was now a reality that we were not going to arrive at the finish line before the pros came through.  I knew from my training rides that Little Cottonwood takes an hour on fresh strong legs. . . I was guessing on tired, beat up legs it would be at least 90 minutes.

Our fear was that in the ride guidelines, ANYONE not finished when the pro’s came through would NOT BE ALLOWED to finish. . .  period.

There was good logical reasoning for this. . . After the Pro’s come in, the canyon becomes dangerous, at best.  dozens of Cyclists, riding down, Cars, people, thousands of them all trying to get back down the canyon.  The reason they were up there, and for many of them it was a whole day affair, were now ready to go home.  It was a sketchy proposition for a cyclist going up.

But, with a very strong BUT,

we could not afford to fail

Setting aside the expense of this accomplishment, it requires 1000’s of miles on the bike, which equates to hundreds of hours of training involved to earn the Triple Crank Award.  It quickly becomes a family affair.  Everyone sacrifices so we can train and be successful in our endeavor.

Rockwell is difficult logistically. Becca and Charcie probably wouldn’t be able to repeat the ride again any time soon.   It requires 4 days away from Family, Work, Home. . . difficult for both of them.  LOTOJA, we all knew we could do that, we’ve done it several times before.  Ultimate Challenge was taxing.    Emotionally ~ ~ ~  Physically ~ ~ ~  Mentally.

This is the ride that NO ONE wanted to repeat. . .

Thus it was imperative that we finish THIS YEAR for our Triple Crank,we had come too far to be unsuccessful and for us, it was a one time attempt.


We would ride to the bottom of Big Cottonwood canyon, 14 miles of downhill then once we turned the corner headed to Little Cottonwood Canyon we would load up in the Green Goblin (ie: our truck) . . drive to the top, claim our medals, watch the pros come in, drive back down the canyon where we were picked up and FINISH the ride officially.  This way we would be able to say we did it, every linear foot of pavement and feel good about our accomplishments of the day.  In addition, by the time we got back down to begin our ride UP to Snowbird, the majority of spectator traffic would be gone, making it safer for us.

Charcie didn’t hesitate

with only three of us remaining of our group, it was a majority vote
we were in this together, and Becca reluctantly agreed.

It was a fabulous plan and it was a win-win.

The three of us continued slowly, and painfully forward,

. . . or rather upward.

(This is a file photo from a previous training ride)

                                      then a few moments later,

         I spotted the summit . . .

                                                                              we were almost there.

I could see where cyclists were on the last and final switchback. . .

the end was near, and I was grateful,
We were going to make it.
in my mind, my heart, and soul I sang a beautiful rendition of Hallelujah

Arriving at the summit, I paused and saw that Becca and Charcie were right behind me.   We didn’t hesitate down the short descent in preparation for the next short, but not for the weak, climb of. . .

Guardsman Pass
      • 1.6 Miles
      • 796 foot elevation gain
      • Average Grade 8.1%
      • Max Grade 13.3%

The Park City side of Guardsman Pass is an AWFUL road!

In fact, it’s questionable to call it a road suitable for road bikes.


While, it’s only 1.6 miles long, it is equally steep, which isn’t the bigger problem.  The real challenge with this road is what it’s made of.

                                   it is a chunky,


                                                             pot-holed road

made of road base that makes riding a bike up this road difficult,

                                                         and may I add NO FUN,

No fun at all!

this road surface would be bad enough on a flat even surface let alone a hill that sports 10%-12% grade, that at the very summit as the road bends to the top showed 21% on my gps. . . (‘m not sure where they got the 13.3%) . . . I’m going with what I saw on my computer!

. . . Either way, my friends, it is a brutal 1.6 miles on any given day, but especially when you have 70+ miles and now close to 11,000 ft of climbing on the legs for the day.

excitedly, we were getting it done, and that thrill carried our legs

                                   slowly grinding our way up

                                   up. . .  

up. . . 


within a few feet of the top. . . my angel of mercy came to my aid. . .


A spectator offered to give me a push. . .

I had heard of this type of thing happening and I marveled 
that I was now a benefactor of such generosity.

There was no way I was turning that offer down!

and he definitely earned a spot in heaven . . .

The guy who gave me a push wasn’t dressed as eloquently as these two,

but you get the idea. . . right?

With gratitude I accepted his offer as his little shove helped me over the crest of this mountain, the longest and most challenging thing I have EVER done.


Cool temps when climbing are not much of a problem, in fact they are welcome and desirable,

. . . but at the top it gets cold. . . fast!

all that work with its generated salt and sweat turns to a flash freeze point,

even when it's +80° f  outside . . .  I dread these descents,

                                       today was no exception.

It was flat out cold.

The only time I remember being colder on a ride was when I was in SLC for a training ride. I had come unprepared for inclement weather and when reaching the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon (Brighton Ski Resort), it was cold, and raining. . .

                         allow me to correct myself. . .

it was POURING rain.

While this was a close second to that day, it was only sprinkling,

but then it turned to hail.

If you have never been in a hail storm as you are riding your bike at approx 30-35 mph. . .

I have a story to tell

                                                    it HURTS!

Those little pellets of ice hit and pierce at the body like stinging darts.

I slowed my speed slightly to ease the force those stupid little ice pellets were exerting on my body.  I was just seconds ahead Charcie and had completely lost track of Becca and hoped she was okay.

As we approached the bottom descent of Guardsman 


the Green Goblin, and Superman there waiting for us. . .

I had never been so grateful to see him!

Becca came in right behind us.

We were all cold,

                                                              VERY cold and wet from the rain and hail

. . . and we quickly bundled up.

The three of us were putting on arms, legs, and all the rain gear we had as we began the descent down Big Cottonwood Canyon. the warmth felt good, but as we descended out of the canyon the rain subsided and we began to warm up and knew I would have to shed everything. 

In fact, had I known that the rain was going to stay at the top of the mountain I would have just toughed it out, but often the decisions we make we get to live with for a while.

The wind for the descent out of Big Cottonwood Canyon was equally awful as it had been all day and dramatically slowed my descent,

there were a couple of spots that were flat out sketchy!

We made it to the bottom of Little Cottonwood at 2:15 pm.

We only had about 45 minutes to spare before we anticipated the pros to come flying through. By now, I was sweltering hot.

We shed our gear and the wind felt fantastic as I cooled down.

Superman was just up the road and as our plan was, we loaded up we were less than 1 mile up the road and found it closed to all motor vehicle traffic!

This section of my report ended up being longer than I anticipated, so I promise we will finish up next week.  I have it basically written and pictures for most of the post so it should be a quick one to finish up.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit and a story or two

oh, and Have a great weekend!