One of the things I love about being a cyclist is that it shows you that you can do something which is difficult, you just have to keep pedaling. I hadn't owned a bike for more than 20 years when I bought a Trek hybrid to ride on the trails in the neighborhood. Each spring I would start out riding a few miles out, feeling exhausted, and heading home. Over time I would build up to rides of 20-30 miles, sometimes more than one ride on a nice day. Then one year I thought I should just keep riding even though I felt like I had nothing in my legs. To my amazement, riding further made me feel better, not worse! Of course, when I can ride, even a little, through the winter, it makes spring riding that much better.
Eventually I turned some of those 30 mile rides into 50 mile rides. It occurred to me that two of those rides would make a century. So for a few years I signed up for the MS150 out of Kansas City. September around here usually means cool mornings and hot afternoons. After a pancake breakfast hundreds of riders would head out for a hundred mile ride through the hills of west-central Missouri to the state fairgrounds at Sedalia. A spaghetti supper and a massage would leave me in a little less pain than when I got off the bike. The next morning I could really feel what I had done to myself, and made me grateful to "only" have 50 miles to ride that day. But I did it.
When my brother-in-law, Bruce suggested a week-long tour through the hills, and wind, of eastern South Dakota, with mileages of 50-100 miles each day for 6 days, I wasn't sure if I could do that. But I did it. And it felt great! It wasn't easy. There were times when Bruce would tell me to take a wheel and draft off him to fight through the wind, and I could only do that for so long. There were times that the wind, heat, rain, cold seemed like too much to deal with, but I kept going, enjoying the scenery, camaraderie, and even the challenge of what we were doing. As we rode into Mitchell on the last day, drivers were tapping their horns in encouragement for riders finishing a long week, and it was music to my ears.
The next year we headed for Colorado for CRMBT. Driving over Monarch Pass on the way to Gunnison seemed a challenge for the van. I wasn't sure it was something I could do on a bike! But, by the time I crossed Monarch Pass one week later, I had ridden though the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, climbed McClure Pass, the entire route of the Copper Triangle, and oh yeah, Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. That day included a broken spoke, waiting out a thunderstorm on the side of the road, and riding into Leadville in a cold rain to complete a century ride. Monarch Pass was no big deal.
I learned recently that Deb, a friend I met in Colorado, rode over Independence Pass that day too. And it was her first ever century ride! That is amazing!
I've done 6 week-long tours in Colorado, 3 in South Dakota, and 1 Biking Across Kansas. I've done several century rides in tours and on my own. I've climbed 20 of the 23 Colorado passes over 10,000 feet. I never knew I could do that! I'm not always fast, but riding a bike has taught me I can do hard things. Just keep pedaling.