Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 5: Prineville, OR, to John Day, OR

Today's Mileage: 117
Average Speed: 13.3 mph
Max Speed: 39.5 mph
Average BPM: 136
Max BPM: 164
Calories Burned: 3487
Actual Time in the Saddle: 8:36

See that red speck ahead of me? Me, being the person who took this photo. That's Ellen after she passed me going over 30 miles per hour at the bottom of a 7-mile descent from Ochoco Pass. Ellen is the oldest woman on this trip. This is a photo I took while I was trying to catch up with her.

Ever met an old soul in a younger body? Ellen is a young soul in an older body. If you aren't immediately drawn in by her free spirit and witty personality, you'll at least notice her cool accent. Ellen is from Maine and she's 62.

Today Ellen cycled 117 miles from Prineville to John Day.

We all did. For some of us, including me, it was our very first century. For some of those who have ridden a century before, it was the furthest they had cycled beyond a 100-mile marker.

There's an acronym of which most cyclists are familiar: EFI.

Newcomers to extreme cycling learn what it means pretty quickly. Ellen taught me on Day 3.

"You've heard of EFI, right?" she asked me and Alison while we were admiring a mountain stream between Welches and Kah-Nee-Tah, "You know ... Every Fuckin' Inch?"

She paused and then said, "Or ... Every Friggin' Inch, depending on how polite you want to be."

"I think I like it better the other way," I said. Alison agreed.

A huge smile spread across Ellen's face, "Me too! You know, when you're way out here, that's exactly how you feel."

Today was one of those days. Navigation-wise, it was easy. Take a left out of the hotel parking lot, cycle 117 miles, take a right into the next hotel parking lot. The distance alone seemed daunting, but it was the elevation that was far more intimidating. We had a slow 30-mile climb straight out of Prineville, cycling nearly 2000 vertical feet to Ochoco Pass at 4720 feet above sea level. After a quick stop at the first SAG, it was a thrilling 7-mile descent with breathtaking views overlooking The Cascades. However, from the valley floor, it was up again, another 2000 vertical feet of climbing to Keyes Summit at 4369 feet above sea level, at which point we were only 53.2 miles into the day's ride.

As I inched along up both mountains at rates between 6-8 miles per hour, I stared obsessively at the odometer on my bicycle computer. The miles were barely passing. My leg muscles were burning. My neck and back were stiff. The sun was hot. I wanted to dump my jacket, but I couldn't drop it until the next SAG. I stopped and zipped off my sleeves and shoved them in my back pocket. Cycling gear is so efficient. I looked back down at my cycling computer and switched over to the ride timer and focused on drinking water or Gatorade every 15 minutes. When that tactic wore thin, I switched over to the calorie counter. Those numbers were moving much quicker than the miles and the timer and were far more motivational. But when the pedaling wasn't so difficult that I could consciously observe my surroundings, I soaked in as much as I could.

With terrain like that which we faced today, it's easy for the group to become spread out over dozens of miles. I cycled a good portion of the morning and early-afternoon alone and became acutely aware of the smallest things, like a chipmunk scurrying for cover or the swishing of a horse's tail. And for the first time in my life - aside from what I've watched on Animal Planet - I heard the lone, noble cry of a hawk circling overhead. It was magnificent.

I passed through groves of pine trees, I cycled through gorges and canyons, I followed lazy streams and gushing rivers, I looked out over valleys and fields. But the most emotional part of today's ride came when I reached the top of the second summit at mile 53. Along the slow climb, ABB had spray-painted a few inspirational messages on the shoulders of the road, like: You're almost to the top! That was nice. I pedaled a little harder and even passed a few cyclists on the climb to the Keyes Summit. But when I reached the top I was alone. I looked down and saw this:

Instinctively, I began to swallow the lump rising in my throat as I pulled over to the side of the road to look back at how far I had climbed. I can usually contain mild emotions with fairly minimal effort. But as I straddled my bike and turned my torso to take in the view behind me, I remembered part of my goal. Be in the moment.

I burst into tears as I glanced around me, trying to take it all in.

I didn't cry out of frustration over the climb or the miles still ahead or because I had reached a physical breaking point. I cried because it was the first time on this tour that I truly felt like I could make it to New Hampshire. Every f____ inch [insert your preference].

More images from Prineville to John Day:

Click here to see my entire photo album of Day 5.

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:
John Day Photos


Anonymous said...

how amazing Katie - you are seeing and learning SO much. i'm enjoying the blogs and yes of course the pictures!! thanks so much. -J-

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Ronni said...

All I can keep thinking is that you are awesome for taking on this challenege. i read your blog and it made me smile. just being able to visualize what you were seeing and hearing, it's almost like you take us on the ride with you. I support you ALL the way and you are gonna motivate SO many people with this!! Keep up the good work and I'll be praying for you during your journey! :)

Monique D. said...

THIS IS AWESOME!! :) So proud of you...sorry for sounding like a broken record but i just am!! You're seeing so much...

citywendy said...

Beautiful photos, Katie! I can only imagine how much more breath-taking the scenery must be in person.

Living In The Moment said...

Katie...What an amazing adventure. Keep riding!


Zena said...

YOU GO KATIE!!! Hope you're enjoying the ride, taking it in and cherishing every min :)