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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Climbing Alamagre

Many years back I had probably done one of my hardest rides ever. We were living in Colorado Springs at the time. We started out the day with close to twenty riders. The talk was that we were going to climb to the top of Alamagre Mountain. That's the peak between the famous Pike's Peak and Cheyenne Mountain with Norad in it. Our starting point was my house which was at about 6300 feet in Cheyenne Canyon to the top of Alamagre or as the locals called it Mt. Baldy which rests at 12300 feet. It was a beautiful day, sun was high in the sky with not one cloud visible. Everybody was talking about the ride and how it was gonna be fun and all that.

We head out climbing on a fire road called Lower Gold Camp Road, than Upper Gold Camp. Upper Gold Camp is an old narrow guage railroad bed that used to carry miners up into the mountain gold rush towns back in the day. Its kinda cool thinkin about the fact that your climbing this road for a total leisure hobby and back in the day these gold rush miners were taking this road to an uncertain future. They might have been striking their fortune in gold or coming down sick with something or meeting any number of untimely ends. The talk about how much fun the ride's gonna be starts to dissapate a little bit as the heavy breathing kills conversation and the sweat starts stingin the eyes.

The smoothness of gold camp gives off as we jump onto Old Stage Road. This road goes from Colorado Springs all the way into the mountains to one of these cheesy little towns that turned itself into a tiny little Las Vegas to sustain itself. Old men and women drag oxygen bottles with one hand cause they're above ten thousand feet of elevation while smokin cigarettes with the other hand. They sit and gamble the day away oblivious to our suffering or the suffering of a bunch of rough and tumble gold miners from a couple hundred years past.

After a few hours we get to the top of Captain Jack's. It's a pretty famous local mountain bike trail. It's about 14 miles long, and starts at about 10,ooo feet of elevation. Mostly downhill, this trail is still really hard for the few climbs that are in it, all of them above 9000 feet.

While we sit there and eat our power bars and other energy food, a couple of guys start to talk about things they have to do at home. Everybody knows what we came here to do yet here we go...excuses. A few of the guys actually man up and say it's to much for them and they're gonna bail at right here and ride down Captain Jack's. The others talk about honey-do lists or some other such nonsense cause they won't admit it's kickin their ass.

When it all comes down to it, Craig , Tony and I go on from there. From just shy of 20 riders down to 3. From here it's gettin steeper and the elevation is makin our forward progress feel like pedaling through mud the whole rest of the way. The last stretch of the climb breaks the three of us up pretty bad, everyone struggling at their own pace. The trees disappear at about 11,500 feet. So does the oxygen for that matter. Gettin off and pushing the bike doesn't really do a whole lot of good. It just makes your feet hurt more and pushes you back on the bike.

I think I was behind Tony and Craig that day to the top. It's hard to remember cause the top is probably what I remember the most about the whole climb. And the fact that I made it and got to see that view. I powered myself up this whole mountain on my bike. I didn't come up with some excuse about stuff to do around the house or some other nonsense - though at times before we got to the peak I wished I had. No, what I remember the most about that climb is the fact that when the three of us were sitting there, we talked about how much fun we had. Getting up that climb was really anything but fun. Sitting at 12,300 feet of elevation and checking out the view kinda made you forget about what you had gone through to get there.

We sat there and joked for about half an hour, then headed downhill. It was freakin amazing how fast you went down what took so much work to get up a little while ago. No pedaling and you're flying at above thirty miles an hour off road downhill. It takes us barely any time at all to get back to Captain Jack's. Down Cap Jack's and walking all the technical sections cause I'm to tired to crash. I'd just lay there and cry if I did crash at this point. I'm gettin real tired. With no incidents we make it to the bottom and get to my front porch. Seven and half hours, 47 miles and over 6000 feet of climbing, and we're on my front porch drinkin beer.

Now the talk turns to how all those other guys wussed out and missed an awesome ride. Deep down inside I'm sure each one of us doesn't really think it was an awesome ride. We just did it and they didn't and thats what it comes down to. It was an accomplishment. I've been more physically taxed on rides before or since but I still don't think I have ever felt that same sense of accomplishment that I had that day.

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