|Conserving energy during lunch break on day two.|
I remember the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions of many of those climbs like they were yesterday. Day one climbing Bolam Pass with the two Mikes, day two riding KillPacker flats with Kirk and Jim, and day four riding up toward Geyser Pass with Sebastian and Dave. During these long climbs, small groups of 2-3 riders seemed to cling together for moral support (it certainly wasn't drafting at 3 mph).
There were few words exchanged. The laughter and light-hearted banter had died long ago. All energy was devoted to turning the pedals, grinding away thousands of feet of altitude one crank turn at a time. Each crank turn an effort. All I heard was the labored breathing of the riders right next to me. Occasionally one of us might get in an extra crank turn and inch slightly ahead. The group would respond, drawing their energy from the lead rider. Or we might sense one rider was fading and the group would ease up slightly allowing the struggling rider to recover. This dance would naturally switch off as individual energy levels ebbed and flowed. Long periods of concentrated silence, each rider tuned in to those around him.
And so it went for mile after mile. All the while surrounded by mind-boggling scenery, brilliant sunshine, and fresh smells of Colorado high country.
It may seem odd to hear this suffering described as a beautiful experience. But it was beautiful, I think for three reasons. First we were each on a personal journey discovering abilities we never knew we had (physical, mental, and emotional). But it was the camaraderie of the shared experience took it to a whole new level. For me it was almost euphoric.
"Suffering has a luminous beauty, and cleanses the mind in much the same way a wildfire clears an overgrown forest."
-- Mike Ferrentino