Dark Recesses of the Mind
Written By: Brian Berthod
Feeling nostalgic from the beginning of the Tour De France this year. As some of you may know I used to be an avid cyclist. Growing up in Colorado there are hundreds of roads and off beaten trails to be explored. Recalling of the most grueling physical challenges I have ever faced. One of those physical challenges that ends long before the finish line, becoming a gut check. The Triple Bypass will be forever be etched into my mind.
The Triple Bypass ride is a Colorado group ride heading west through the Rocky Mountains from Evergreen and concluding in Avon. The ride is 120 miles from Evergreen (Bergen Park) over Juniper Pass (11,140 ft.), Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.), Swan Mountain and Vail Pass (10,560 ft.), concluding in Avon. The ride has over 10,000 ft. of challenging elevation gain.
I can recall only a few things from the first summit. The fog layer and rain were simultaneously eerie and enchanting. Capturing that moment of realization that I had just jumped into the deep end and I didn't know how deep the abyss would go. I went out fast and charged uphill with reckless abandon. Thinking to myself, “There is no reason not to put forth maximum effort.” The descent on the first summit was cold and quick, and before I knew it I was climbing again.
The second summit I remember vividly. I often reflect upon how dark of a place I visited. As soon as the climb started I felt heavy and slow. Willing my legs to keep churning as one by one, riders began to pass me. My ego quickly shifted from caring about the other riders to maintaining forward momentum. Shifting into the granny gear I knew I was in trouble. For the next, what seemed like hours, I was teetering the edge of quitting the race and collapsing on the road; I reached that dark corner where tunnel vision allows you only to react, no longer utilizing decision making skills. Before beginning the final ascent to the summit of Loveland Pass, an aid station appears, like a mirage slowly turning into focus. Collapsing on the side of the road in complete exhaustion, the fog slowly began to lift from my mind and I noticed there was life…life in every cell of my body. Air was moving in and out of my lungs and the numbness of my senses taking on life. Never before had I driven my body to the extent of euphoria…in exhaustion there is life.
Having stalled long enough at the aid station and feeling better after refueling, I made the decision to continue upward. Switchback after switchback I slowly and methodically made my way up. I have driven this road hundreds of times for snowboarding trips. I know the road well and anticipate the upcoming turns and steep sections. Feeling better than before, nowhere near great, I was only surviving. Making the final turn, I began to see the Loveland Pass summit sign, relieved to soon be descending. I remember thinking, “soon this climb will be behind me.” Stopping briefly at the top to reflect, I gazed down the long winding road that is Loveland Pass, which felt like a drunken stare to a far off place.
After the second descent there was about 10 miles of rolling terrain before another aid station. My heavy legs began to feel nimble. I was gaining energy. Not sure what to expect on the third climb, I set off. Pedal stroke after pedal stroke I gained energy. With this energy came confidence. I was no longer just surviving this ride. I shifted gears to go faster, then faster still. Using riders ahead of me as pacers, I began to pass them. The second wind had kicked in. Joy overwhelmed me. I held a fast pace all the way to the summit.
"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second." - William James
The 20 mile descent in Avon, I had time to soak in this roller coaster of a ride. Shared experiences of hardship and tenacity have the tendency to bond people together for life. This will be a vivid memory that will be forever etched into the dark recesses of my mind.
Brian Berthod is a competitive crossfit athlete and Co-Founder of Hold Fast the Iron