Hank Pantier

SmartWool Saddles Up

Hank Pantier
SmartWool Saddles Up

Annual SmartWool Ride to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer

Four days, 400 miles, 22,000 feet of climbing, and 1400 GU packets, that’s one way of looking at the #ridetoOR. This year 67 SmartWool employees, retailers, and friends hopped on their road bikes and peddled from Steamboat Springs CO, to Salt Lake City, UT, for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Trade Show.

Eight years ago the decision was made that “we could probably ride our bikes to Salt Lake City, UT, for summer OR” (Outdoor Retailer). With that decision made, we ditched the planes, the trains, and the automobiles and hit the road under human power. Fast-forward to this year and we had an even mix of first timers and veterans.

I was in the first timer camp and the numbers really intimidated me. Having never ridden more than 20-30 miles and never ridden a road bike, I had no concept of what those stats actually meant. My strategy was to get strong enough to finish and not be physically and mentally annihilated, so I dug deep into my old three-a-day college preseason training routine: ride, eat, gym, eat, ride, eat, sleep, and repeat.

Somewhere between knocking out my first 50 mile ride early in the summer and crashing my bike a few weeks before the big ride, I realized I was so focused on whether or not I could complete it that I overlooked the fact that all my friends that were doing it. Like a switch being flipped, my whole outlook changed. I stopped worrying about my skill level and started looking forward to riding with 66 friends. With a lot of challenges, people tend to focus on the struggle or stressors instead of the positive. I made the conscious decision that I would not do that to myself.

Four days of eddling with friends through the Colorado and Utah landscape is an awe-inspiring experience. You work together to get through the day, you laugh a lot, there is a fair amount of sweat, and you find yourself having so much fun that 50 miles goes by and you don’t even realize it. Four hundred miles went by in a blur. For every few moments that were mentally or physically taxing there were countless moments that were amazing.

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Elbow to elbow climbing some big climb in the middle of Utah, listening to the motivational cheering of CJ and Marla firing off jokes at the same time, I remembered why I decided to tackle this ride. I wanted to ride my bike for 4 days with my friends and coworkers and have a shared moment of conquering a physical goal. Just like coming out of summer soccer camp, you’re better friends, better players, and better teammates afterwards. We became a better team and helped everyone achieve their own goals and supported each other throughout the whole trip. And yes, I may have almost swerved off the road a few times because I was laughing so hard. In the end it was absolutely worth it and you bet your ass I am doing it again next year.