Where should I begin the tale of Scripps Poway Pkwy and Hwy 67? Perhaps, we’ll begin with a summary of obstacles.
• Mornings that Come TOO Early
• 7% Grade
• Did I mention the hills?
• Loose cages
• Bleeding finger
• Slipping Gears
• Inability to utilize the four easiest gears
• BENT bike frame
• Crooked Seat
• Knee issues
• And the hills? STILL THERE.
• Flat Tire
Clearly, I had an abundance of obstacles. In fact, at one point, the following conversation took place:
Coach: “What would Yoda say?”
Me: “Do or do not.”
Me: “There is not ‘try.’”
(Jess, you’re so proud. Be honest.)
Now, let’s back track to the beginning of the story. Today, we began our ride at Dingeman Elementary School in Scripps Ranch. It’s right off I-15 at Scripps Poway Pkwy. I arrived at the bright, early hour of 7:30am. After discussing fundraising, dates, workouts, “pits,” and Penny’s Mission Moment our ride began (so, just before 9am).
As soon as you turn back onto Scripps Poway Pkwy, the hills start. The first hill? Quick. Gradual. Whew! I can do this! My confidence was up and I felt strong and fast going up the hill, even though I was still tired. Now, if only that could have lasted…
The second hill is much longer and also steeper. John, who works for LLS (he’s our coordinator’s boss), gave me some tips about pushing myself and experimenting gears. He felt that I was in too easy of a gear and it was making it more difficult because I wasn’t getting propelled forward as quickly as I could have been. I played and found a gear that gave me more forward without giving my legs too much grief. I mean, they weren’t so happy at this point anyway, so it worked out.
I reached a nice flat stretch where I was able to bust out the big chain ring and just go and go. Then, I reached it: the hill… no, the MOUNTAIN, the 7% grade that takes you up to Hwy 67. Egads. I remembered hearing stories about this one. So many teammates had previously shared stories of walking too the top of this really steep hill on Scripps Poway Pkwy. There it was. Well, let’s go.
I got up about 1/3 or maybe 1/2 of the way up before I hit a brick wall. No, not literally… mentally. I had to stop. Alum rider Ryan stopped with me and then kept me going through stories and tips. I did stop a couple more times though. I never walked though. Quick breaks and then back at it. Coach caught up to us and suggested that I focus on pulling up instead of pushing down, but my cages were too loose so Coach taught me how to tighten them. What a difference! As I tried to tighten the second strap while riding, I missed the strap and caught the metal. Oops! Hence the bleeding finger obstacle. We reached the top and reached the aid station. THANK GOODNESS.
Then, we got going on the second leg of our journey… Hwy 67 out to Ramona. Is it flatter? No. That would be too simple. Penny reminded me that it’s 90% mental in endurance sports… which is SO true. I just needed to keep my mantra, “Push, two, three, four, Pull, two, three, four…” and I needed to not look too far ahead. I succeeded in reaching the top of the first hill! Yes! Obstacle overcome! I eventually passed my teammate Diane and nearly caught up with Carol, Brian, and Melinda, but the second hill was too much and I needed to stop and pour water on my head (keeping cool is ESSENTIAL). As I got going again, I couldn’t get my foot in the cage and fell. Yup, just tipped right on over. Sweet. Only not. Gravel on my hands, but thankfully not IN my hands… seemed okay overall. The bike looked alright, even though it fell down gear side. Penny caught up and checked in on me.
We continued on to where Highland Valley Rd meets the 67. SAG offered us refills and we got going again. This is when I realized that my gears were slipping. I tried to shift into an easier gear for the incline and the chain kept jerking and slipping off the gear. I stopped with Mentors Brian and Penny. We (read BRIAN) tried to fix it, but we had to call in the expert. Coach was still at the aid station 8 miles away, so we decided to keep riding and I decided that I would just do my best until we met up with Coach on the path. Brian and I took it slow, or rather Brian took it slow for my sake, and made frequent stops. The tough gears really wore on my knee and I did not want to hurt it even more by pushing myself too hard. Our three miles from the turn around point took the same amount of time as Coach’s much more difficult five miles from the aid station. It was a pathetic 45 minutes, that’s for sure.
As it turned out, my fall hurt the bike. My seat was crooked. My bike frame was bent. The covering to some cable or something-or-other on the derailer was ripped. Oops. I felt awful because it’s Coach’s bike. I guess he’s used to such things as he does rent his bikes out to beginners every season. In good spirits, Coach took off my back tire and detached the derailer from the frame. He then proceeded to hammer out the frame with a large rock. Brian and I proceeded to laugh and take pictures. Without the proper tools and setting, Coach was able to give me three of my four easiest gears back and we rode on to the aid station. My knee was really bothering me at this point and everything felt like a lot of work. We made it back to the aid station though and that is when the previously mentioned conversation took place.
I’d received an offer to be SAGed off the course. They’d throw my bike into the truck and drive me back down the mountain. It was a tempting offer, particularly for my knee. The conversation continued:
Coach: “So, you’ve got to make a decision.”
Heather: “You can still call, if you go and can’t make it… We’ll come get you.”
Me: “Aha! So there is a try. I’ll do it. I think I can do it.”
And so we went. Down the mountain at 40mph on our bikes… so awesome! The flats were nice, but the uphills were brutal on the knee. I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t with mentors Brian and Emily, Coach Gurujan, and Alum Ryan all riding with me. I just kept reminding myself, “It’s 90% mental. You CAN do this.” The flat was great and at one of the stop lights Coach gave me a quick shoulder massage.
As we climbed the last hill, I hit a bolt in the bike lane and got a flat tire. Shoot! Seriously? It was about 15 feet or so past the point where Penny was stopped changing her flat tire. I hadn’t changed a tire since the beginning of June, but it came back rather quickly and I had Coach there to remind me of the little tricks and tips to make it easier. I got dirty and grimey, but I changed that tire and filled it with my CO2. Proud moment! Flat tire? Obstacle overcome!
Coach biked ahead as we’d received calls that Melinda and Diane had both crashed (but not together). Emily and I finished climbing that last hill and rejoiced at our return to the school. It may have taken me a LONG 4 ½ hours today to ride that 31 miles, but they were tough miles and I had many obstacles trying to get in the way of my finishing. I didn’t go as far as I planned. I was originally going to go with the second option that Coach offered… a second loop of the second leg (which would have brought my total miles to 47), but with gear problems, the time it took to semi-repair the problems, the fact that the bike WAS having problems in general, and the knee issues it just wasn’t going to happen. As it turned out, no one did the second loop.
So, today, I feel accomplished. It was a hard ride and I overcame many obstacles. It taught me so much and was great training. I learned that it really is 90% mental and if I tell myself to finish, I’m going to finish… nothing will get in the way. I may have to stop. I may fall. I may get tired. I may encounter other obstacles along the way, but I will finish. It might take a little longer, but I will finish.
And today, I ask you to consider what your own goals and the road blocks you’ve encountered. Are you stopping yourself from reaching the finish?