Sometimes you have an idea and you act on it and it lives a short life and then dies. And sometimes you have an idea and you act on it, and it takes on a life of its own and becomes a thing.
In mid-July 2016, Chris had an idea.
He had read an article in Bicycling magazine about a century ride in Emmaus, PA called 2-5-10 Century. It was a looped course where you ride the same 10 miles over and over again climbing 1,400 feet each time. It’s an extreme test of endurance, strength and perseverance.
Chris wondered if he could do something similar (-ly insane) here.
The 2-5-10 Century is always held on the second rest day of the Tour de France. He realized that it fell on July 19 which was the following week and we lived in the 719 area code and he wondered if he could come up with a similar type of course that would equal 71.9 miles and 7,190 feet of climbing.
He mapped out a course and sent a quick text out to some friends, inviting them to join him. Five people rode with him that year.
He did it again the next year with ten riders. Each year it grew by a few people and last year, 25 people participated.
Then 2020 happened.
With July 19 finally falling on a weekend for the first time this year, Chris knew there would be more riders than past years. He couldn’t have predicted a pandemic, of course, but turns out, it also made a difference.
He stayed in touch with the El Paso County Health Department, the CSPD, District 11 and, it soon became clear that the 719 Ride was the perfect pandemic event.
Socially distanced? ✔
Large group event with no/little face to face contact? ✔
Affordable at the last minute? ✔
So as COVID-19 wreaked havoc and organized events started to cancel, the 719 Ride started gaining some buzz.
It is a self-supported ride, which means there is very little formal infrastructure. Everyone is responsible for their own ride support. No staff. No aid stations. No volunteers.
In other words, nothing to cancel.
And so it began to grow.
As the number of registered riders grew, so did the need for some event coordination.
Chris registered the ride as an official event with USA Cycling, who insured riders. We knew parking on the street would be an issue, so Chris reached out to Chipeta Elementary School to ask if we could use their parking lot. (The principal was super supportive. )
He contacted the Colorado Springs Police Department, El Paso County Health Department. He reached out to the neighborhood HOA’s and, since it was on a Sunday this year, St. Francis Catholic Church (on the route) to let them know about the ride.
We borrowed tents, tables, chairs, coolers and hand sanitizer stations from our church.
We sent the kids to spend the night with their grandparents.
The evening before the ride, as we were out driving the course and marking it with route arrows, a guy asked us what was going on. As Chris was telling him about the ride, I was suddenly struck by the realization that we’re “producing” an event with nearly two hundred riders. By ourselves.
Holy crap. What are we doing?!
Rides like this normally have staff. Or at least large volunteer crews. Chris had me and a few friends.
So after marking the course, we went out to dinner, toasted our margaritas in the middle of Tejon street, said a prayer and hoped for the best.
Sunday, July 19, 2020 dawned with a beautiful sunrise.
The weather forecast was a high of 87 with some cloud cover. Great riding weather.
There were 193 registered riders, who began arriving as early as 5 AM.
Because of COVID restrictions, instead of a mass start, riders just rolled out whenever they were ready to go. This brought a more laid back, easy-going feeling to the day. Because it’s a loop, riders would see each other as they passed out on the course, creating a sense of riding “together,” while still maintaining the distance necessary for everyone to stay safe.
A few months prior to the ride, a local mobile bike mechanic had reached out to Chris about helping out. JT Brlansky volunteered his time and skills to support riders who needed their bikes adjusted or worked on during the ride.
Also a few months ago, I was talking with the mom of my kids friends on the playground after school one day (you know … back when school was a thing) and she mentioned that she’d just started working for a local energy bar company who makes products for endurance athletes.
Um, hello? Local business? Endurance event? Energy bars? How could we not? So she hooked us up with a box of Enduro Bites to hand out.
A friend from our small group who is an ER nurse volunteered to hang out with us for the day, just in case. (Thankfully, she had nothing to do.) Some physical therapists also volunteered time to help.
Killik’s Kitchen food truck served up some Hawaiian food for a couple hours.
But by far the best part was the riders. Here’s a quick list of highlights…
- A Paralympian
- 78 year old rider
- A couple teams came out to ride together … COS Racing, Tierra Plan
- A few fat tire bikes (if you’ve ridden this course, you know how impressive this is)
- A guy riding front seat of an old tandem
- 2 riders who came down from Wyoming
- several recumbent bikes and a recumbent tandem
One of the most amazing things that happened for the first time this year was the spontaneous on course support.
Throughout the course, people set up camp chairs or stood on the curb or stood on their deck or sat in the back of their truck bed to cheer on riders.
A lady handed out ice pops, complete with signs and trash cans she had set up further up the course.
Someone set up a bike stand out on their curb, hanging with a Coleman cooler of water.
A small group of people set up at another elementary school, which is a part of the course you pass twice, once in each direction, and cheered every single rider who passed.
You guys, none of this was planned.
It was like the neighborhood was saying, “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.”
As Chris and I were sitting at Trinity Brewing Company later that evening, we were talking about how this ride is so much bigger than a bike event.
It’s a catalyst of change, both personally and as a couple. It’s a chance for us to learn to work together as a team and celebrate each other’s differences. It’s a big part of a years-long journey to peace with life in Colorado Springs.
It’s a thing that could, if we let it, be a shared journey to the beauty of partnership in our marriage.
Want to join us for the ride next year? 719ride.com will have all the info on next year’s ride soon…