At 29 degrees, the start of the Durango Fall Blaze was already different from years past. I believe this is my sixth year riding to benefit Fort Lewis College’s cycling team and it had never been so cold. Leg warmers, layers of fleece and coffee didn’t even touch the frozen fingers and toes for 20 miles. Under sunny skies, World Champion Tom Danielson lead us out of the “Campus in the Sky”, down the mountain, out the valley lined with red cliffs and around some of Durango’s most beautiful scenery. Plans were made months ago as our riding group decided to ride the Century (100 miles) together. The bad news is that one by one, each rider had to cancel for very good reasons. Surgery, moving, vying for tenure and illness sidelined the best of plans. I missed riding with one of my friends after a flat changed her start location and I lost my neighbor in the pack after dropping my phone on the first speed bump! The good news is that I got to ride some of the first 35 miles with my 14 year-old son. I caught up with my friends on the second big climb and had company until mile 46. The next 30 miles were all alone. I started to do the negative self-talk and think about all the places I could stop and have my husband pick me up. Why did I have to ride 100 miles? Who would care except me? I had almost convinced myself to quit! Fortunately, just in time, I was joined by two riders from the Los Alamos Nuclear Plant. Rocket scientists, Jian and YiMiang, were on their third century in three consecutive weekends. They were welcome company for the last 35 miles and helped me save some energy for our last few steep climbs. The language barrier was almost non-existent as we rode hard to the finish and I only hope I was able to convey how much I appreciated their camaraderie. The aid stations had plenty of peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches (which tasted like gourmet fare) Fig Newtons and potato chips. After 5,433 feet of elevation gain and 5,479 of loss, 2,910 calories and 102 miles, junk food has never tasted so good! As I have said before, training with teammates is the reason I sign up for these rides/races in the first place. Even though it didn’t go as planned, I was still very proud of finishing and I felt great the next day. It may have been my first century, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.