There's a moment in every century ride where you really, truly hate your life and want nothing more than to be off the bike.
During this ride, the last annual rendition of the Elephant Rock tour down by Castle Rock, Colorado, it came courtesy of a last-minute introduction of a gravel road, trending up hill for 10 miles beginning around mile 55.
All the euphoria of mile 50 was gone - yes, you're halfway done but you're still chewing over the realization that you still have to double the effort you just put in. You start paying more attention to your MPH on the Garmin, calculating and recalculating how many more hours in the saddle you have left. Feet start to hurt. Hands start to get numb. The temperature starts to climb. Everything becomes that much harder mentally, and when the surface and pitch change, bringing your MPH down more toward a crawl and turning each decent into a game of avoiding the washboard parts of the road, suddenly the ride starts to seem impossibly long.
After a six-day tour through scorching hot southwestern Colorado last year, my takeaway was that I wanted to have a healthier relationship with biking. I'm nowhere near good enough to ever be competitive, even within my age group. But unless a ride feels like a gauntlet, it somehow doesn't feel as valid in my head.
I have two more this week, planned as part of this year's rendition of Ride the Rockies. I'm not sure what I'm trying to prove or who I'm trying to impress, but for some reason, I keep signing up.