Cycling Up Pike's Peak

Dennis & Terry Struck

•We decided to give the Pike's Peak ascent a third try, we drove to a point, with our tandem bike, just downhill from where we terminated our last adventure (at 10,000 ft / 3,048 m) and we started cycling up the peak from there.
•Neither one of us was having extraordinary breathing problems on this day. I was on allergy medication because it was in my late summer allergy season and Terry was in her normal, re-acclimated exercise routines (for normal living at 7,500 ft / 2,286 m above sea level).
•The air was thin and thinner as we pedaled uphill. The smoke from the Washington State and Montana forest fires was still breezing through Colorado and causing a little haze and was slightly effectual to breathing; it still affected Terry but not as bad as last week's smoke. Visibility was 7 miles where 100+ miles of visibility is typical (sometimes it's unlimited).
• At first we could pedal an average of 300 yards/meters without stopping or running out of breath. As we hit 12,000 ft / 3,650 m we were limited to about 100 yard/meter climbs. There were a couple of level runs at high altitude where we probably traveled a kilometer, twice, with no breathing problems (meaning that we did not have to stop pedaling at all).
•Once we were near 14,000 ft / 4,200 m and climbing, we had a difficult time moving 70 yards/meters without having to stop to catch our breath. The last little climbing segment is steep again.
•Around 10,500 ft / 3,200 m, a very kindly lady at a rest top saw us resting and asked if she could take some pictures of us (using our camera as well as her camera). We agreed and that was just a really nice gesture and we appreciated it. We thanked her for her generosity and kindness
•At about 11,000 ft / 3,350 m some cars going downhill had drivers and passengers shaking cowbells at us. They were yelling encouragements, like 'You can do it', 'You go girl' (hopefully directed to Terry), and my favorite 'What you're doing is awesome'!
•We probably had a total of 10 solo cyclists pass us by (we passed no one). All cyclists had a short greeting or word of encouragement, a few said 'See ya at the top'. After some of the cyclists summitted and were on their way back down and they saw us, still advancing, they would yell loudly "You're almost there" or words to that effect and they also Ching-Ching'ed their bike bells.
•At around 11,500 ft / 3,500 m we stopped to have a snack (dried mangos and some trail mix with M&Ms - mmmm good). We also put on our light weight jackets, the temperature was dropping. We needed to pedal in order to stay warm. Our pedaling body temperature with jackets on was perfect.
•At around 12,500 ft / 3800 m, we witness the only negative event. It wasn't anything directed toward us. We saw a cyclist passing cars going downhill. This is not permitted for any vehicle and it was the cyclist that was misbehaving, it was not a case of a car going too slow downhill. It was a Pike's Peak Road Patrol Truck going uphill with whom the cyclist got caught cheating - Cyclists just don't need people like that and I'd like to apologize for the Jerk's behavior.
•At around 13,000 ft / 3,900 m elevation, drivers of cars were shaking cow bells at us again. Meanwhile all of this encouragement is really making us feel good about ourselves. I could not help but think, Who drives around with cowbells in their car? I'm thinking that we probably just met everyone in the USA that drives around with cowbells in their car? It was really cool.
•We have got to get some cowbells!
•At around 13,500 ft / 4,100 m we see Woodchucks Sunning on the Rocks.
•At about 14,000 ft / 4,250 m, just short of the parking lot, another kindly lady ran toward us holding some sort of beverage. We waited. The lady gave us two bottles of Ensure; she said that what we were doing was really cool and that we would probably enjoy a nutritious energy supplement. We thanked her, we only had a few hundred feet to go, but it was a really awesome and appreciated experience. We were working too hard to drink the supplement right then and there, so we carried the little bottles in our jackets.
•When we arrived at the parking lot, we dismounted from the bike and we walked our tandem bike up the big Pike's Peak Elevation Sign. I felt a sudden wave of emotion, much similar to standing center Tiananmen Square. This was important to us; this was a Bucket List check; it was even a struggle for us to achieve this goal. I felt good about us. There was a group of people around the Pike's Peak Elevation sign. We learned that a few of them were just waiting to congratulate us, but what was really cool was that the little crowd there parted and they wanted us to cut to the front of the line for us to take pictures next to the sign. We were told to go to the sign, that we deserved it, we had earned the position. I felt very strange, the emotional feelings bubbled again. Later, Terry told me that she almost cried. I said, me too.

•Total Cycling Time: 4 Hr 38 Min.
•Total Vertical Elevation: 4,110 ft / 1,253 m.
BFC Winter 2012 - Vol 5, Issue 5, 1 December 2012

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