CRMBT Days 3 and 4

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Cooked but not overdone

Though I try to avoid cliches, I am compelled to say, What a difference a day makes. After forgetting my GPS and going back to the hotel to find it, I was an hour late getting started on a day in the Gore Range with four significant climbs. It was one of those little mistakes you feel all day long.

I chased back onto the group and got to our first rest stop 10 minutes before closing time to grab some much needed water. By then the temps had warmed into the high 70’s with bright sun, and I lost the early morning advantage of shade. The south facing slopes became the oven; I became the main course. Nothing to do but soldier on and hope that your wonderful wife will pass by with an ice-cold coconut water. Thankfully she did.

I persisted to Gore Pass – doing all the climbing for the day, but passed on the rest of the miles. Instead I enjoyed the best breakfast burrito of my life in Kremmling, CO. 53 miles, 6000 feet climbed. Kremmling also has horse parking.

The next day was oh so different…

After sleeping on a solid recovery meal and breakfasting on my secret weapon [Naked Juice Blue Machine and oatmeal], we made the 7 am deadline to the park entrance.

tr2Last year my experience on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park included sleet, wind and a touch of hypothermia. Today was one of those days where you almost need to pinch yourself because it’s so good. You want to take each moment and freeze it in time. As we climbed through the many ramps and switchbacks to treeline we were swallowed by an immense deep blue sky. We rode across that sky to Iceberg Pass, and there began our descent 17 miles down to Estes Park. Nothing stood in our way except a large heard of elk, and we were only too happy to let them pass.

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CRMBT Day 1 and 2

I didn’t post yesterday because I was pretty wrecked. My bride described me as spacey – not referring to Kevin Spacey, in case you wondered – more of the speaking in three word sentence with long pauses in between kind of spacey.

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This must’ve been the start of the spacey thing

At the start I was nervous with pre-event jitters, and my legs felt like frozen lumps of man flesh as we rolled out on the way to Loveland pass. The first 28 miles was all climbing with no breaks for recovery, gaining 4400 feet in that distance. What’s a guy to do? KEEP PEDALING. It works every time.

 

I arrived at the summit [11,990′] having eaten enough gluten free non GMO enduro snacky things to fuel a steady cadence through the two ramps that hit 9%. My coach warned me to expect a 20% drop in power output above 10, 500 feet.

He was right.

But the 40 mph descent afterward was my just reward for all this effort. Rolling at the speed limit we were able to move out into the traffic lane and use the whole road surface to set up for the hairpin turns. Wowie, Zowie, Yupi, Woot, Woo Hoo.

One picture was all I thought to get. It was that kind of day. I spent the afternoon and evening working my recovery routine, whining and getting a lot of sleep: hoping for a more pleasant day to follow.

45 miles, 5802 elevation gained.

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You can bet the seat on the porta-potty was cold

The more pleasant day came to pass.

We did nearly 70 miles over Fremont, Tennessee and Engineer passes. The descents were stupendous, albeit a little sporty due to a grabby, constantly shifting wind. At times like this, grab the top tube of your bike between your knees and hold firmly.

The rhythm was back, and I was climbing with a hint of aggression, but I still had a nagging tightness in my legs. At rest stop three it came to me that I should try a bit of stretching. Which I did. It’s always the little things that hold the key that opens the door. Yep, it was a really, really good stretch, and a really, really good last 20 miles. Down in the thick air around 7500 feet, I hummed along at 21-24 mph.

I got the kind of day I needed to carry on tomorrow.

68 miles, 4395 feet ascended.

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What’s This All About, Then?

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The entire focus of my training during the last 3564 miles has been the CRMBT – short for the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour. It begins on Sunday morning: 438 miles and 40K of climbing. They advertise the tour for advanced riders. Fact is, I get butterflies if I stop and think about this ride for more than a few seconds. To call this ride ambitious is an understatement.

Without realizing what I was getting myself into I signed up the first time three years ago, and have been delighted ever after to say I lived to tell about it. It was overwhelmingly THE MOST intense week of riding in my life. There was a marked attrition of riders as the week unfolded – not to mention a close call I had with another rider who rolled out into the middle of a of a fast descent  without looking uphill. Three years later I have a lot of respect for what’s coming my way.

My preparation began in February with my coach Jordan [a pretty darn successful time trial specialist]. I started three months of power-building intervals on the indoor bike. [a euphemism for many hours of really unpleasant workouts] I  gained close to 50 watts by the time we could start riding outside, and continued building with another four one week self-imposed training camps. I finished the Habitat 500 charity ride with some highly appreciated feedback from  riders whom I respect as athletes. Bottom line: if I’m not ready now, I never will be.

So I’m going into this ride feeling strong and relaxed. On a ride two days ago I PR’d [personal record] all the Strava segments without really trying. I’m enjoying the taper: its been a good time of rest and regrouping. But what comes next will be a new story of adventure and adversity…very little of it within my control.

I have believed for quite some time that I find out more about God and myself during these kinds of rides. There’s nothing like discomfort and suffering to make me open to surrendering a bit of control. It’s a faith lesson that causes me to look outside myself for strength and inspiration. I often take strength for granted, but what about inspiration?  For me its not just about watts, but also the soul of riding.

Riding in faith, hope and love brings soul. Soul makes the miles breathe – taking them beyond just physical effort or the mechanics of riding. Soulfulness comes as I do what I do: mindful that this is God’s special gift to me. Nothing random…all very personal. No one ever explained this to me, but its been revealed by my Heavenly Father as the miles go by.

That’s all I’m going to say for now. I’ll continue the conversation in daily blog posts as the ride unfolds.

 

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.