Life. Cycle.
Karin, pictured right, riding the STP. Photo courtesty of MarathonFoto. 

Cascade Training Series rider Karin Swanson shares her heartfelt experience of how CTS helped her through a difficult time. Thanks for sharing your story, Karin. 

By Karin Swanson

The me-shaped divot in the sofa grew wider and deeper. A daily choice of not moving was turning into a lifestyle of not moving. I set a goal of riding the STP. My husband, a ride leader, suggested Cascade Training Series. From the sofa, I nodded. It was February, and I had a plan. For that moment, it was enough.

The pace trial in March showed me I was slow and weak. Tiny hills nearly undid me. Pollen didn't help. "It's hard to meet people," I whined to my husband. "All anyone wants to talk about is riding."

As CTS began, I pegged myself somewhere in the middle of the yellows. I began an up-and-down relationship with that S-shaped hill by the arboretum, and I learned to curse. 

I'd miss a week here and there. My father, who had celebrated his 79th birthday two months earlier in February with his favorite cherry pie, wasn't eating much these days, and I should come visit, Mom said. My sisters and I converged on the house in Ohio for a week. "He's just having trouble shaking a bug," we all agreed. Buoyed by our visit, Dad felt better, and I returned to Seattle.

The night before a 60 miler, I got the call. The CAT scan was bad; there was a massive tumor. It was Friday the 13th when I entered what a friend dubbed “The Time of One-Way Tickets.”

When I was in Seattle, riding became an island of escape. I had found my CTS home with Yellow 2. The group was small and cohesive, and I matched well. The thing that had bugged me the most about CTS became my life raft. We didn't talk about family. We didn't talk about aging parents. The only thing was the ride. The wheel kept spinning, the spokes pulled and pushed, forces balancing, tension propelling me forward.

I was still slow, but people were kind. I whined less. The hills got easier. I made another quick trip to Ohio. "We missed you last week," someone in the group said when I returned to CTS. 

"Yeah, I was visiting my parents," I explained. "I'm a little worried about today's ride. It's my longest ever." We got on our bikes. 

The sky echoed my heart. On days when CTS rides got rained out, I wrote poems. One Saturday I found a later group ride to join when CTS had been cancelled by early morning rain. The air was cool and the pollen was low, and I wasn't the last one up the hills that day.

I returned to Ohio. In Dad's last hours, I just kept talking. I told him about my riding, about the goal of STP. He nodded and his eyes smiled. He was a prairie man who carried a deep love for the home I'd found in the Pacific Northwest. "Maybe next year I'll ride across Washington Pass," I mused. Dad's eyes grew bright and wide. Two days later, I flew back to Seattle on the last of my one-way tickets. 

Saturday rolled around. "I’m nervous," I mumbled. "I missed the 90-miler." "You'll be fine," Deb assured me. The ride was nearly 100 miles, up the steaming Issaquah Plateau. As I crested the top of the hill, a bee got caught in my glove. Panicked, it stung my pinky, dropped off, and died. I pulled the stinger out and flew down the hill, my pudgy finger throbbing, sweat and tears caking my face with salt. 

Bruce gathered the group at the end of the ride. "If you can do this, you can do STP," he told us. 

Three weeks later, the road unfurled like a ribbon before me, all the way to Portland. This was the thing. The only thing we needed to do today was ride. 

Learn more about how to get involved with the Cascade Training Series.