Back from the Santa Fe (Century) Trail

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By the time we’d pedaled past the Penitentiary of New Mexico for the third time, I was tired. Or maybe just bored. The Santa Fe Century route was modified this year due to road construction, and what the re-route lacked in scenery, it made up for in headwinds and tumbleweed.

We weren’t the only cyclists battling the breeze. More than 2,200 riders signed up for the ride, and since about 800 – nearly one third – were from Colorado, we definitely felt right at home. And hey, when your home base is Boulder, you get used to a little wind, right?

Still, at sixty miles in, we were happy to leave the traffic, noise and wind on NM14 and head down NM42 to Galistea, Eldorado, and beyond. The final 40 miles were a fine consolation to the uninspired start of the ride. We rode through rolling New Mexico countryside, an arid landscape dotted with pinon and ponderosa pines and cactus.

We could easily have skipped the second loop past the penitentiary, but my friends and I were on a mission to ride EFM of the century. Why? Because one brisk March morning while out for a hike, we decided we needed a challenge, and the Santa Fe Century became that crazy challenge. Not that our decision to ride a century was crazy; we’ve all done that before. The crazy part is that May 20 is awfully early to actually be in shape to ride 100 miles! Especially when you live in Colorado.

Needless to say, to be in the best shape possible, bike season started early this year. It collided with ski season in mid-March and by April Fool’s Day, the stinking mound of Lycra in my laundry hamper was evidence that bike season had begun in earnest.

Over the many miles we logged during our aggressive spring training campaign, we learned a few things that kept us motivated and engaged during our training rides and the actual century.

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  1. The journey is the adventure. We kept our training rides fun and interesting and we wanted our road trip to Santa Fe to be fun and interesting, too. Rather than zipping down I-25, we took the scenic route and stopped at roadside attractions along the way. Top picks: Uptop, a ghost town on top of the old LaVeta Pass, Cano’s Castle in Antonito, a quirky castle constructed of scrap metal, beer cans and hubcaps, and Ojo Caliente, a resort north of Taos known for it’s healing mineral waters.
  2. Knowledge is power. My goal was to ride 800 miles before the century, and Strava made it easy to track my training miles. Strava also helped with ride planning. We could pull up past rides to see how long they’d taken, and select rides based on the amount of time we had.
  3. Don’t mind the weather. Early season training meant we had to toughen up and brave the elements. We learned that 26 degrees and sunny is much more pleasant than 41 degrees and overcast. That 7:00 AM start times in April can be downright chilly. And that spring gales can crush your moral. Still, we got up, got out, and got it done. Training in inclement conditions meant we were ready for those pesky headwinds along NM-14 which otherwise might have psyched us out.
  4. It’s OK to succumb to peer pressure. Contrary to popular opinion, peer pressure is a good thing, because it can be a powerful motivator. Knowing friends were waiting got me up and out the door on mornings that I wanted to sleep in! Peer pressure kept me moving forward when ferocious winds were blowing me backward. And, it kept me slogging up canyons and flying through the farmlands when I was ready to call it a day.
  5. Remember, it’s just a ride. As planned, we made it to the start line fashionably late so we could hit the road behind the timed Gran Fondo riders. Our late start was further delayed, however, when a tire that flatted out before we even left the venue, which by this time was nearly deserted. A second flat, accompanied by a mechanical, slowed us down 22 miles in. By then, we were clearly off the back. No worries. We were out to finish the ride, not win it. And finish we did!

Our Santa Fe experience was exactly what we were looking for, a challenge that pushed us out of our comfort zone, provided the perfect excuse for a girl’s trip, and got us in darned good biking shape early in the season. The journey really was the adventure; the fact that we got to ride the Santa Fe Century was a bonus.

Now that we’ve done the modified course, we hope to return to ride the traditional route. It’s supposed to be a beautiful, and we want to know if “Heartbreak Hill” is worthy of its name.

We had a great time. Who knows, maybe it will become an annual event!



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