Colorado Calling

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The new bikemobile full of vacation gear

I am in Colorado for the third time in 2016. No complaints here. This time I’m accompanied by my awesome wife for two weeks of cycling and beauty chasing. I’ll be doing the cycling, both of us together will find the moments of beauty: Colorado calling.

We woke up this morning to cool mountain air wafting in through wide open windows. This is our first morning in Winter Park, and as such, these kinds of first mornings are worth celebrating with a pot of stove top espresso. Which we did while listening to Nat King Cole tunes.

We’re paying attention to the transition to life at 9000 feet with our well worn routine of rest, hydration, visiting high and sleeping low. I’m tapering for the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour…so there’s plenty of time where I can justify taking things slow. I have easy spins this week, and one short ride out and back to Berthoud Pass. It’s the best of all situations while we decompress and visit with friends.

It’s also a perfect antidote to my yearly post Tour de France let down. Yes, I will find purpose and joy apart from speculation and trash talk from Le Tour.

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Among the lakes above Rollins Pass at 12,200′

 

 

 

Habitat  500: Century Day 

A man receives help after 100 miles

 It stopped raining long enough to squeeze in a century (100 mile) ride. In place of rain we had wind and clouds. We had LOTS of wind. Here in the Midwest we don’t have mountains to challenge us…we have wind. Stories are told of settlers (not those who settle for cable) who lost their minds from the endless howling of prairie winds. Hence, there are two seasons: cold and windy or less cold and windy.

If you want to train for mountain riding, ride into a stiff headwind until you lose your mind. It doesn’t take long. 

I decided to do just that, and pulled like a mad man for 22 miles after rest stop #2. In the process I used myself up with 25 miles to go. Call it a tactical mistake…or call it dumb, but that’s what I did. No amount of food can cure this. You just have to limit your losses and ride with empty legs, while simultaneously trying to think of something else. ANYTHING else.

The next best thing is to find a group and ride in their draft – way in the back, where you don’t have to do much.

This I did.

Habitat  500: Day 3

Good days often end with pizza

The bicycle is quite an amazing invention. It strings together moments of hard work, elation, tiredness and awe: and weaves them into a unique daily tapestry. There’s not much predictability in cycling…the road sees to that.

Pedaling indoors has great training value do to it’s  sameness. You can isolate one skill and work it until it becomes second nature. But the storyline is limited…the carpeting and pictures never change. For that, we have the undulating cadence of the open road. Stories are written; memories are made.

And so it was again today. I greeted several roads I’ve known on many other days, except it was TODAY. It was my one shot to enjoy the gift of the right now. Instead of trying to get it over with, I received 80.1 miles of impossibly blue northern  skies and following winds.

Today was a good day.

Habitat 500…a second day

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The party was just getting rolling at rest stop #1

We woke up this morning at 4:10. The lights came on in the gym and a Habitat volunteer said, Please move to a tornado shelter…the sirens have already gone off in town. Far be it that any of us would depart for the nether regions of McGregor high school [GO MERCS!] without our phones. Soon we had live radar. A line of thunderstorms with several angry red blotches stretched all the way from the North Dakota border.

IMG_00112 HOURS LATER…Anticipating a challenging day ahead, after pedaling 4 minutes I spied a blue neon sign that announced the words ESPRESSO and OPEN, and promptly dismounted to go get a double…with whippy. Fortified, I donned my helmet and got on the road – most likely the last rider to leave town. Most likely I was the most caffeinated rider to leave town.

Yesterday’s rain was a minor affair compared to what we faced this morning. Within minutes the squishy feeling returned to my just recently dried cycling shoes. As the intensity picked up, I couldn’t see through my prescription cycling glasses. So I stuffed them in my pocket and made do with squinting for the last 50 miles. I didn’t always recognize who I was talking to, but I could see well enough to stay on course.

Cool weather, rain, wind and a shoulder with a rumble strip and 18 inches of crumbly pavement made for an anxious 60 minutes before rest stop #2. If you don’t know what I mean, try walking 21 miles in an 18 inch wide path. If you step out of the box, you get run over by a pulp truck…or a 35 foot Winnebago towing a boat. Anyway, you get the picture.

Having once been hit by a pig truck, I am quite possibly a little sensitive in this matter. To this day I cannot tell which is more frightening: having PIG TRUCK on my headstone, or hugging another overweight bearded man with chewing tobacco tracks on his shirt. Concentration and precise bike handling were the order of the day.

68 miles. 19.4 mph average. Tomorrow may there be sun.

HAB 500: Day 1

Some people think of riding in the rain as character building at best, or screaming nasty awful at the worst. I’ve met no one neutral on the subject. So when the heavens opened on 118 riders this morning, the reactions varied from fatalistic shrugged shoulders to trudging off to the gallows. All this because we were going to get wet…on purpose.

I like to think of riding in the rain as an expression of my committment to my sport. When I train during inclement weather I always come back feeling  like I’ve done more – maybe even passed some kind of cosmic endurance athlete test. If there’s a down side, it’s the dirt and grit plastered all over my bike.

Today’s moisture inspired me to average 20.4 mph over 70 miles. The squishy feeling in my bike shoes  made me feel downright sporty. It was a solid effort, and proof positive that rain is better than we think.

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Rainy days and Sundays always get me down

2016 Habitat 500

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My backpack stuffed with 7 days of road treats

It’s become a comfortably familiar routine: pack, ride, unpack, eat, nap, eat, and sleep. Not that being a hobo sleeping on a plastic inflatable mattress for 7 days is bad…it’s actually something of an adventure. I get to share my days with people who have a passion for generous living and enjoying the open road at 17 miles per hour.

If you’re new to my blog, Habitat for Humanity assists families in building decent and affordable homes. The Habitat 500 is the signature fundraiser for Minnesota Habitat. 120 or more riders will pedal all or part of 500 miles and raise $350, 000 for new home starts. It’s an undeniably cool way to tell people that Jesus loves them.

Our route this year starts just south of Duluth in Proctor, MN. It travels clockwise, making a circle through the Iron Range and the north shore of Lake Superior.I think this is the prettiest part of MN, but I’m biased: I LIVE HERE.

 

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The Goose on an interesting training ride in May

Aside from the above mentioned 30 lb sack of road goodies, I’ll be traveling with the Grey Goose. She is in her second season and has close to 10,000 miles on her. She’s been fit to me down to the last millimeter, and the ride experience is like a second skin. We go fast together. We see what’s around the next bend and over the next hill together. If I treat Mother Goose right, she does right by me.

So, while the pros toil away at this year’s Tour de France, I’ll be toiling in my own way on the quiet roads of Minnesota.

I’ll be posting each day’s ride with pictures and a wee bit of commentary. I’ll peck away at my itty-bitty tablet, hope for an internet connection, and include you in the unfolding story. THANK YOU for your support and prayers…I couldn’t do this without you!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,  So get on your way!”  

Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go

 

 

What I did in Colorado for a Week

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Elizabeth CO is a foothills ranching town. It’s about half way between Denver and Colorado Springs, and sits at 6200′ of elevation. Tucked into a forested fold, it’s a 400 foot climb to leave town in any direction. Warming up is pedaling 200 yards to the base of a 9 percent grade. The ranching vibe was immediately evident on my first ride: four of five vehicles passing me were Cummings diesel pick-em-up trucks. Each belched a black cloud of exhaust at face level as they went by.

Once exploring outside of Elizabeth you’ll find yourself on a long ridge with several descents leading past gated communities to the valley floor. Signs abound, advertising new construction from the low 900’s. FOUNDER’S POINTE. As the prices increase, I guess you get to add an e to point. I was passed by Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, the odd Porsche and a lone DeLorean – all driven by people who smiled and waved. And so it went. Climb up the next valley and do it all again, with views of the Rampart Range and upscale subdivisions brought to you by the letter e.

I spent three days on monstrous rollers, CAT 4 and 5 climbs, and an occasional CAT 3 with 800 feet or more of ascent. Perfect pavement, blue skies, no humidity. It was time to up my game.

But before I go there, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my hosts cook a drop-dead awesome coconut curry…

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I can be a reluctant cyclist. When it comes to a bit of suffering, I’ve been known to waver in my resolve. Once I get going, I’m fine…but getting to that first pedal stroke can be a doozie. I effectively sabotage any lack of motivation by methodically pre-packing the evening before, and laying out my kit neatly. Food is chosen with care, and bottles rinsed and ready. The result? No excuses the next morning. Organizational momentum 1, sloth 0.
Picture1The HC climb up to Echo Lake in the Mount Evans wilderness leads to both Juniper and Squaw passes. The grade is a moderate 5-7%, but climbs steadily at nearly 300 feet per mile.

I knew it was a going to be a special day minutes after getting on the road. Staring at me from the edge of the forest was a fox with a striking red coat and fresh kill in its mouth. She watched me without fear as I passed by. Minutes later, a hummingbird saw my red jersey and took me to be a very large flower.

I locked into my climbing cadence without consciously thinking about it: 82-88 rpm, smooth, no mashing. Powering through the switchbacks, I felt strong and composed as the views began to open up. As my altimeter marked 3000′ of climbing, pure elation took over, and I found an extra gear. It’s always like this, and my favorite experience in cycling: getting to the top. This year getting there has been sweeter, since I’m 10 pounds lighter.

After a quick out and back to Juniper and Squaw, I stopped for a bottle of orange juice and persuaded a reluctant tourist from North Carolina to take my picture. I get the reluctant part. How many times does a 6-4 guy in dark glasses and skin tight spandex ask YOU for stuff?

I ripped the 13 mile descent, hitting 75 Kph [45 mph] in the straightaways, and laughing at the vertigo feeling of hairpin turns. And just like that, Chicago Creek reappeared at the roadside. As my ears popped from the rapid descent, I touched the brakes one last time, shrugged the tension out of my shoulders,  and turned into the forest service parking lot.

I don’t know where else I’d go for this.

What a sport.

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Less fat = more fun