Today we’re rereading some amazing blogs from this past summer’s rides and runs. Sophia Garber, a member of Team San Francisco 2017 highlights one of the most memorable days of their trip. Trail Ridge Road – the highest paved road in the U.S.- that winds its way up the Rocky Mountains is one of the most anticipated challenges of the San Fran route. Read along as Sophia recounts that day with her team.
We woke up early, but this time no one was slow. We were up and ready and motivated because this day was what so many of us had been waiting and preparing for all summer. It felt like we were preparing for battle. People were serious and determined. I could feel the intention in the air. We were about to take on what for many of us was the hardest physical challenge of our lives. Outside of the church, we could see the sun peeking out from behind the Rocky Mountains. It was a view I will never forget. The colors exploded as the light hit our cheeks. Many of us stopped pumping tires and lubing chains to look out at the mountains we were about to take on.
A few of us sat on the pavement (not the off-limits part) and quietly took in the moment. I took my phone and played the song “All My Days”. It was one of those moments when the song, the air, the view, the people were all exactly what I wanted near me at that time. I felt so happy my heart beat fast…hummingbird heart.
We got together for the dedication circle and it just felt so heavy in the best way. I could feel the weight of my teammates’ dedications on my shoulders. Today I was riding for every one of their loved ones as well as my own. I was riding for Sophie’s friend, Henry and for Nate’s brother and for Auty’s grandmother and for Chelsea’s parents and for Sara’s Aunt. Today just meant so much to so many it was hard not to tear up as we went around and said the names.
Joey read a dedication story that came from Ulman about a little girl named Sandy. She was goofy and spunky and the story of her life, diagnosis and eventual passing hit me really hard. The story was submitted by a girl who even though was much older than Sandy, had become a friend, an older sister, a confidant. I wish I could have saved that dedication because there was something very different about it. We had been hearing dedications for weeks now, but none had hit me as hard as this one did. I felt such a connection to the story and her spirit. The dedication read that we should look out for yellow butterflies because that was Sandy’s favorite thing and it would mean she was with us as we rode. Everyone was crying as we heard her story and I remember squeezing them a little extra hard before we let go of each other’s hands.
I decided to dedicate my day to my Mom and Dad. The who people who inspire me most. They are goofy and wise and fill me with confidence and love every second of my life. I called them and burst into tears. I felt almost as if I was giving this ride to them as a gift. Taking them with me on this climb. A small thank you for everything they have and continue to do for me. I sent them a picture of my legs and the sunrise. My mom is the one who had instilled this incredible love for nature and so many times when I see something so beautiful, I can feel her with me even when she is hundreds of miles away.
I also dedicated today to Sandy and to Jeremy Pope, a 4K alum who passed away while biking recently. Greta, our coordinator was on his team and she rode with us today in his honor. He loved the challenging climbing days, so today was also for him.
Sara and I headed off. Sara and I are very different, but I have always felt completely understood by her. She is such an incredible leader and friend and I have had some of the most meaningful conversations with her next to me. I felt so connected to her and her dedication to her aunt that day and we looked down at our matching bracelets and headed off the climb the highest mountain yet.
As we entered Rocky Mountain National Park we spoke with a fellow cyclist and chatted about what we were headed into. He wasn’t going up Trail Ridge Road (possibly because he wasn’t as crazy as we were).
As we started our climb it was gradual, but got more steep as we went on. It is so crazy to me that my body even allows me to do this type of thing, but I am forever grateful that it does. I just kept thinking “one foot in front of the other” “pedal by pedal”. Sara and I alternated between chatting and pushing ourselves in silence. I always feel so lucky to be climbing with her. She is incredibly strong mentally and physically and I always feel like I have support when she is next to me.
The climb started to really get challenging and it was a little disheartening when I would look at my odometer and see that we had only gone 5 miles. I felt my brain start to lose to motivation that I had started with and just as I felt myself slipping, a yellow butterfly flew right up next to my bike. It rode with me for about 100 feet. I burst into tears and screamed to Sara. I thought of Sandy and pushing my feet down and down until the trees opened up and we got the first real view of the Rocky Mountains we were climbing. It took my breath away. (Also because we were climbing to pretty high altitudes). As we continued riding up and up and up and up AND UP, every time we curved a corner to see the view, I would think to myself that the world just looks so much more beautiful from two wheels and I couldn’t help but feel so grateful that I was getting to do this climb and that I was on this journey with these amazing people. Not everyone gets to see this kind of beauty.
We were joined by Izzy because her climbing buddy, Emma couldn’t finish the ride due to some medical issues. We decided to write Emma’s name on our face so that we could “take” her up the mountain with us. This also made me emotional (a common theme of the day) because I knew how much Emma wanted to complete today. Emma is a cancer survivor and one of the kindest, most lovable people I have ever met. She is the master of the “compliment slap” meaning she will come up to you out of nowhere and give you a compliment so genuine and so thought out that even the worst day can be brightened. With her name on my face (and probably a bit of sharpie poisoning if that is a thing) we continued up and up …and up some more.
Our twosome and now threesome kept pushing our bodies and bikes up and up. We stopped at the views and took in everything around us. There was one point where we were climbing up a particularly steep part and just as the view unfolded in front of us “Down in The Valley” by the Head and the Heart randomly started playing from my phone which had previously been out of service for the past 5 hours. If you don’t know the song, go listen right now. There are so many lines in that song that I felt so close to on this ride. “I’m in love with all of the places I ain’t never been to” was one that I always sung going down hills. It had been the soundtrack to so many important moments of my life and that song playing at that moment was something I will remember forever. The three of us cried and hugged each other and looked like crazy people compared to the very clean and calm tourists who were driving up the road.
The climb got really tough after climbing for so long our bodies and minds were withered. The wind was blowing pretty hard and it felt like every pedal forward was met with a gust of wind that blew us back. I honestly just wanted to be at the summit already and was having a hard time. Just as we climbed our last hill I remember saying “I don’t think I can do this”. I have noticed that at the beginning of the ride I would say those words and actually mean it. I didn’t have the confidence that I would actually be able to finish, but now I said them out of habit, but the words didn’t feel genuine because I DID know that I could do this. I knew with 100% certainty that I could keep going simply because stopping just wasn’t an option. And this next part is why I love riding with Sara. She is not one to give encouragement all the time, but when she does it is exactly what you need. I think that moment is one of my very favorites with Sara. She started screaming through the wind and cold as we climbed. She screamed the names of the people we were riding for and the people who inspired us. I started sobbing on my bike and she repeated their names as we ascended our last part of the climb. As we rounded the corner and saw a downhill to the visitor center I felt something so powerful that I don’t think words will ever do it justice. It was the strongest I have ever felt. All three of us cried as we rode into the visitor center to find our team cheering and crying along with us.
The next part of the ride was a long downhill which I took a bit slowly because it was wet and steep and I was NOT going to wipeout after all of that. The hard part about the Trail Ridge day was obviously the climb, but I think the most challenging was the fact that after this emotionally and physically draining 40 miles where we put everything we had on the road, we still had 40 more miles of riding. I have never been so tired in my entire life and the last 26 miles I could feel my body hating me. We got veeeery silly/crazy at a gas station, but somehow we made it to the host and had a team meeting. I couldn’t wait to hear all about everyone’s rides. WE DID IT!!!!! That was the moment when Team San Fragile became Team San Fresilient. (Wise words of Joey).
**LESS SERIOUS PART OF THIS POST
after the emotionally charged first 40 miles of the day, we then had 60 MORE MILES. dead i tell you. we were all dead. I was genuinely concerned I would fall asleep on my bike. We stopped at a gas station and I fell asleep on the ground. Somewhere there is an incredible picture of our group laying on the ground with the caption “did we ride Trail Ridge or did trail ridge ride us” Truest thing I’ve ever heard.
Getting back to the host and hearing about everyone’s days made me the happiest. This day had changed everyone in some small way. I loved hearing what everyone had been through and how impactful this road had been for all of us. We had a team meeting and got to share our goals for rest of the trip. So proud of our little team that could.