Still standing  – which is more than some can say – after today’s crash-crazy Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race.  47 miles and 6,700′ of climbing including two passes over 10,500′.  for ilg – and my WF Master Student Julie (Padme) Mueller – it was only the first of three days of Sacred Sweat in the high hills of my h(om)etown…here is how Day One went down…(Pic by Ananda).  The Iron Horse Classic is one of my three WF Sacred Sweat Pilgrimages.
Start Line; 7:20 am
the Start Line is located, and ilg is not kidding,  a 2 minute bike ride from my casa.  At the Staging Area,  the 40-degree temperature is warmed by the swarm of my friends amassing for the race.  we appear as ridiculously colored bumble bees huddling within an invisible hive about burst into a frenetic parade of pain into the high Peaks.   though i haven’t even RIDEN the high passes yet this spring, let alone train for them,  no nervous energy registers in my cells.  Since my Dad passed away two years ago days before this Sacred Sweat Pilgrimage,  the race really falls quixotic upon my spirit.  Not so much into it these years, yet, as a Sacred Pilgrimage,  i’m taking all three days (the OMnium) as a spiritual purification and reConnection with my Dad’s atman.   in my age group (50-59), there are about 50 of us, yet all the B’s are racing together, there are well over 100 of us racing side by side…
Crash #1;  minute 3

on the first downhill – not even out of the City Limit – our massive beehive was flying down an 11% hill at about 40mph when that most sickening combo of road racing sounds occurred – a screech of brakes and then the symphony of skin,metal, speed, and asphalt all meeting each other at once…the domino take-down effect spread like human body wildfire just on my right.  out of my periphery i saw a body and bike skidding toward my own bike. i lurched my bike like i do in a sprint finish and just barely escaped the violent spill which sent dozens of racers down.  thank you WF Deities.   that’s why i ride on the left side of a peleton, up near the front.  outta the gutter and hopefully, outta trouble.

Crash #2; minute 9

i counsel all my cyclists who do Iron Horse to “just get through the Valley safely and with a speedy, safe group.”   the Valley is a 7-mile stretch of flat (our only flat road in Durango) before the foothill climbs and then, into the High Passes.   sure enough,  the Race Staff screwed up big time and placed these huge pylons on the inside of the yellow line too far, all the way through the Valley, plus they placed some on the White Line of the Shoulder….this caused a chronic squeezing of the entire peleton, most of us blinded by being elbow to elbow with the others at 27 mph…one of these constrictions caused yet another crash and just like the previous one, the WF Deities answered my Mindfulness by just barely escaping the crash…our massive beehive had already been reduced by Valley attrition and the climbs had not yet begun.

Shalona Hill:  minutes 25-30

“commit to my Game Plan,” i told myself, as i watched the Leaders bust up the 12%, mile-long first significant obstacle enroute to Silverton.  my Game Plan being; “Dose my effort,”  i really needed NOT to go red-line early on Shalona…i knew that i was strong in the Club Rides,  yet i had done zero climbing on the High Passes.  i wanted to feel strong going into Coal Bank and then on the final pass;  Molas…to do that,  i had to dole my effort out to Purgatory at mile 28, whereupon the road is closed to cars (the BEST PART of this Sacred Pilgrimage) and the real suffering begins.  and, i did just that.  i dove in the Blessed Mantra, and averaged 8mph up the steep  hill,  staying well within my breath.  felt great…love when i can slide into the spirit of Mantra Repetition with a high heart rate yet low perceived exertion…in the Zen Zone…

Shalona to Purgatory:  minutes 30 to 1:27

“c’mon guys! rotating pace line!” i shouted to 4 riders who had followed my wheel up to Haviland Lake…after Haviland, the terrain kicks back just a bit before the Irma J climb.  before i took voice command of our group,  i had flicked my elbow to encourage the riders on my wheel to come up to the front and help me set the pace…the second chase group was not that far in front of us.  once we hit the top of Haviland climb,  my friend and great climber, Jeffery pulled through, “Ilg!  You were AMAZING up that!  Here, let me pull for a while…” sure!  after Jeffery and i pulled,  2 more riders hopped on our train and i was like, screw this!  That’s when i sat up and shouted and organized a paceline, where EVERYONE in the group goes to the front, breaks the wind for several seconds then pulls over as the next rider comes through.  the moment we did this, our speed jumped by over 3-5 mph…Harmony and Unity, right.

Approaching Irma J climb,  i was feeling the pressure of the paceline a bit too much in my legs, and fell of the pace at the bottom of this sneaky, inconspicuous hill so i let Jeffery and ‘my’ group go which had blossomed into over 8 riders.  i defaulted mentally to the Mantra and did not beat up on myself for losing this group…i knew i had a Game Plan to commit.   funny thing?  after i settled into an alone pace for me?  3/4 up the Irma J,  the Chi revisited ilg and Deities awarded my Game Plan discipline…still in my Big Chainring,  i reeled in everyone of those in my Group…young Jeffery at the lead.  he did a double take at old man ilg as i stood and delivered a pretty solid pace and pulled all the way to the top of the climb.  Flicking my elbow, it was Jeffery followed by a whole bunch of riders that now jumped onto our train as we soared down a hill, and across a rising flat past Purgatory…

Coal Bank Pass;  1:30-2:08

CBP is the real meat of IHBC road race…6 miles up a gradient which kicks at several places to 12%+ and tops out Mountain Goat high at 10, 640′.   it was up these high, hard steeps where you are pretty much promised to see God, or your version of Her.   ilg, on this day,  just went Zen.   it was novel for ilg, since i had not been up among these high, melting snows now crashing in forms of waterfalls spilling like Divine Nectar beside me.   amazingly enough,  i averaged a solid 7-8mph up this beast.  sure, i got passed by a few riders, yet not as many as i would have thought.  i don’t ride that much, anyway.   so thank you; WF,  thank you HP Yoga (especially those PROP Workouts each week!), thank you MAP Aminos!   thank you ASEA Sacred Water (could REALLY tell the difference in my ability to go hard longer thanks to an elevated ventilatory threshold courtesy of ASEA!),  thank you SUNRIDER Herbs, and thank you TAILWIND Nutrition!    i did not eat any gels, bars, or blocks…just drank my Tailwind Liquid Nutrition drink (2 scoops into a small water bottle) and my energy was holding just fine up Coal Bank!   i tapped out a steady rhythm until the cheering crowd at the summit awakened me from my inner reverie!

as i flew down the serpentine descent with 3,000′ drop offs?  ilg felt like soaring Eagle…ooooh!   HOW BLESSED IS ILG?!?!  i felt to myself as i glanced down before one turn and saw the number;  50 mph…though i could not take my eyes off the road (for obvious reasons),  i could the immensity of the wild beauty around me spill with grace into my cells!

Molas Pass: 2:08 – 2:40

i carried my speed into the first riser before the 4-mile climb up to Molas Pass and stood up and charged up it in my big chainring like an enraged Bull.. two guys had caught my wheel on the descent and i wanted to test them.   they did not pass the ilg test on this occasion…suddenly, i was alone,  close to the first chase group which had splintered into a line of weary warriors, just across the Lime Creek Gulch from me….i could see them;  about 1k in front of me…i roared upon my pedals, charged around the hairpin which marks the real guts of Molas climbing, and…

got Bitch Slapped by a mofo of a headwind…outta the big chainring,  step #1.   into a low aero body position, step#2.  dive again, and again, and endlessly again into the Blessed Mantra and pray for Higher Help from the Higher One which Grace and Protect all who stick with our lofty Path toward Wholeness.

Molas was kind to ilg on this precious day…i passed several sport-specific cyclists whose meager physiques were perched upon $8-10,000 bikes.  my poor pony is but a bucket of bolts, in comparison.   so too, were my weekly hours spent on a bike.  yet, ilg has sOMething they don’t:  the Blessed Path of WF.  inwardly, i smiled as i stomped past them…and only wished all of them to someway, somehow find a Way to WF.   so strong i felt toward the summit, i stuck it back in the big chainring and danced across the summit with a heartspace as wide open as is the gorgeous vista from a top Molas…snow covered peaks shattered my inner prayers like an angelic choir of mountain gods and goddesses.

Molas Descent to Finish Line:  2:40-2:54

i was all alone on the 11-mile descent into Silverton rocketing down the famous  “Million Dollar Highway” at what felt like supersonic speeds…given the consequences if one crashes on this kundalini-tickling descent?  it’s best to apply all ones Meditation training…come into any one of this dozens of curves too hot?    it’s gonna be a violent way to enter the Bardo.  “This is what i paid for,” i recall saying to myself as i flew down and through the glorious curves, well swept of debris from the Highway Dept…(THANK YOU!).  i won’t admit ilg violated the Yellow Line rule in a spot or two…i’m just saying, that descent is sOMething that EVERY WARRIOR needs to experience at least once…no cars, clean road, and the most precious stretch of road on Turtle Island!

it’s a one mile uphill drag race to the Finish Line in Silverton’s beautiful Town Park. the crowds up Main Street with 2 rows deep in places…the roar of the crowd like astral jet fuel to my soul.

obviously ilg still has to figure out – after probably racing this race close to 20x – how to dose my efforts, cuz coming into mile #48 after 6,700′ of high altitude climbing?   felt strong, frisky, and unstressed.  hmmmm…what nice ‘problem’ to consider solving, right?   after a beer in Town Park and several hours chillin’ with my friends and playing with Dewa in the playground (active recovery, right?),  the car drive back to Durango over the passes i had just Zenned?   truly was an inner consummation devoutly to be assimilated.

Tomorrow: the CRAZY, UNTESTED, WAY EXTREME DOWNTOWN CRIT…you may be surprised at my Game Plan for this one!   stay tuned!

note;  GREAT JOB to WF Students;  Ellen Tomsic and Julie Mueller who BOTH stayed out of crashes and KILLED IT on the High Peaks!    there were dozens of local HP Yoga students on the Pilgrimage today as well…hey,  how ’bout YOU!    you gonna come crank this Sacred WF Pilgrimage next year?   it was voted as one of OUTSIDE MAGAZINE top bucket list for good reason…it’s soooooo beautiful!

Leave a Reply