From left to right: Coach Heather, Coach Brenda, Reporter Mariana Alvarado, Coach Scott Blanchard and Coach Tarah Dahl. Henry Wallace/Special for the Arizona Daily Star

Three months ago I didn't know how to ride a bike. Today I'm about to ride the 40-mile section of El Tour de Tucson! This is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in my life. But I must say, it's also been one of the scariest. 

I think I'm well prepared, thanks to all the training I did with the Jr. El Tour Program. We had a very useful review session on Tuesday that covered event information and on Thursday we signed a group photo and wrote some letters to the program sponsors. I picked up my El Tour de Tucson packet at the convention center downtown on Wednesday. It's been a busy week, but also very exciting.

One of the biggest challenges has been riding up hills and weaving through traffic, but now I feel confident. Especially because we've done a couple of good rides up some steep hills.

Last Saturday, we had our final ride in preparation for the race. We started on the Rillito path east of Alvernon Way, and headed east to Craycroft Road. From there we ducked and went across a narrow path that goes under the Craycroft bridge. Then we headed north up a couple steep climbs to East Sunrise Drive.

We headed back west on Sunrise and turned north on Campbell Avenue near La Encantada. From there we rode up and up - the last part of which was an excruciating climb  - to the top of Campbell. We came back down Campbell, east on Sunrise and down Swan for our return.

Going uphill wasn't that easy, especially when I was riding up Craycroft, one of the steepest hills ever! For the first time during my training, I felt like I wanted to just give up. Seriously, I was about to cry.

Then one of the volunteers came to me and explained how everything is in our mind: "If you have done it before," he said, "you can do it today."

He was right. I took a deep breath and kept going. I have no words to explain how awesome It felt going all the way uphill on Campbell Avenue, and being able to see our beautiful city from there.

After that I feel better than ever about going uphill and confident about long distances. I did a 27-mile ride two weeks ago, so I know I can do 40. My only concern now is the big crowd of cyclists we'll be encountering.  I guess I won't know until I face that challenge during today's ride, but for now, all I can say is that this cycling adventure has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And I plan to keep pedaling well into the future.