I took a nice 35 mile ride this afternoon. This was the first weekend solo ride I’ve done in a month and a half. Kinda nice getting out alone, even in the 90°F+ heat. I couldn’t resist taking some shots. This is about 10 miles ESE from my house. The Indian Peaks are the jagged peaks left of center. They get their name because they look like feathers on the top of a group of Indian’s heads. Longs Peak is the tallest mountain in view, right of center. I wish I’d had a real camera with me, but this isn’t bad for an iPhone.
Another Courage Classic is in the books. This was the third year for me, and I don’t really understand why it doesn’t get any easier. I did actually ride a bit faster this year, but that’s nothing to write home about. Still slow. For completeness, here’s what I put up on Strava: Day One, Day Two, Day Three.
When I first rode two years ago, I did it as an excuse to ride my bike more. Knowing that I had a hard ride to do I would have to train a bit more seriously. I took a couple of weekends in the months before the tour and rode a few mountain passes (Cumbres, La Manga, Wolf Creek, Hoosier), around Summit County, and did more climbing on my local hills (to Ward, Jamestown, etc.).
I also liked the idea of giving some money and support to Children’s Hospital. I don’t have any direct ties to Children’s, but like most people, I have friends and relatives who have lost a child. It’s hard to imagine going through anything worse. I’m also glad to say that I know of others who’ve had their child saved by Children’s. It’s amazing that we rarely focus on that side of the picture.
This year was especially fun for me getting to spend some time with friends. I rather like sitting down to meals with strangers, and chatting briefly while passing people on the ride. (There are always a few people I play leapfrog with since I go fast downhill and slow uphill.) Sunday night was definitely fun sharing drinks with Evonne, Jay, and “the twins”. We won’t go into how much we drank (I don’t really remember). But I did manage to ride fine the next morning, so it can’t have been too much….
I didn’t take too many pictures this year. (Do I ever?) But here are the best of what I have.
This is the start of the tour in Leadville. I intentionally got a late start so that I wouldn’t be eating lunch at 10:30 like previous years. I was really surprised at how few people were at the start. Apparently, most people leave much earlier. (The parking lots were packed as always.) But it turns out that 8:45 wasn’t really late enough as I got to lunch only two hours later.
My plan was to meet Evonne and her group at lunch, so I figured I might as well push it. I didn’t stop at the rest stops except to take the next picture at the top of Tennessee Pass. I expected I’d either catch them on the ride or see them once I got to lunch. It turns out that I must have passed them while they were at one of the rest stops, as they arrived about 20 minutes after me.
We rode out from lunch with Marjorie leading us all the way through Vail. I was definitely impressed with pace – I certainly wouldn’t have gone any faster on my own. It didn’t help that I was reminded (by Margaret?) that the ride through Vail always sucks because of the heat. The heat was all I could think about during that section.
Finally, we began the real climb up Vail Pass. Below we have Evonne, Margaret, Walt, and Pat just after leaving the rest stop near the bottom. Notice the smiles!?
As the grade continued, we spread out along the road. I rode alongside Evonne for the first stretch. It was nice not pushing too hard, but that doesn’t mean it was easy climbing the 5% hill. We regrouped at the end of the road where the bike path starts. The sisters decided to do the last stretch together, so Pat and I headed out together.
We reached the top about 20 minutes ahead of the sisters. We had enough time to grab some drinks and download cowbell apps for our phones so that we could properly great them when they arrived. Here are Evonne and Marjorie arriving at the top.
The time was getting late, and I had a massage appointment to get to by 4, so I took off to climb the last few feet of the pass before coasting down into Copper Mountain. We had a nice dinner a few hours later but were all too tired to do much else.
I went back to my room and watched the Tour de France (nice job, Cadel!), before being treated to a fireworks show right outside my window. Most of them were exploding at eye level, and less then a 100 yards away. Very cool.
Unfortunately, it was really loud in the village even after the fireworks were done. I didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight, but had to get up at 6:30 to do the “century” ride.
This year’s “century” was just over 90 miles. There was another event going on in Keystone, so that leg of the ride was cut out. I made pretty good time, finishing in 7:22 (6:32 on the bike). That’s more than an hour quicker than last year, but the ride was 7 miles shorter. No rain this year either. (Last year I finished the ride from Breckenridge riding in a horrible downpour.) Still that last climb up from Frisco was a killer. I don’t remember it being so bad before.
After a long massage and a quick dinner, I met them all at the Incline for beer. Margaret was having fun getting me to match her drink for drink. She really should have taken our 80+ pound difference in body mass into consideration! It was great chatting with them all, and hanging out with Jay, my son’s band director.
The last day was a relatively easy ride 😉 over Fremont Pass and around Turquoise Lake. I managed to time my ride so that I met everyone again at the final BBQ in Leadville. Here’s Pat and Marjorie.
And here’s Evonne and her son Alex.
As ever, it was a fun weekend in Copper Mountain. I’m always reminded how lucky I have it. While I try to do some reasonable fundraising, this is still more of “just a” bike ride to me. For many people, the ride has much deeper meaning. They ride for friends and relatives who have been helped by Children’s. This is a chance for them to give back. I’m glad, at least, to ride along with them.
The triple was the focus of my training for the first part of the summer, and I was definitely worried about how hard it would be. But, in reality, it just wasn’t too bad. It took a long time: 11 hours and 20 minutes, of which 9:40 was on the bike. But none of the climbs are really all that steep. They’re just long. Here’s the data I put on Strava.
The hardest part is the stretch from Idaho Springs to the top of Loveland Pass. In the first 13 miles you gain only 800 ft, but it picks up after that. In the next 16 miles, you gain 3,400 feet. Since I did the last bit of that climb with Dan two weeks before, I wasn’t really worried about it. And actually, I’d scoped out all three climbs previously. I’m sure that’s a big part of why the ride wasn’t so bad.
I got up a little before 4am and picked up Dan a bit after 4:30. We made it down to Bergen Park in pretty good time and started that ride at about 5:50. That’s certainly the earliest I’ve ever been on my bike. It was a bit harsh after less than 4 hours of sleep. (I think Dan got even less!)
Dan rides a bit faster than me, so the plan was to meet up at the rest stops. He likes to take long breaks, while I like to hustle through them a bit. After riding about two miles together, Dan took off. That was the last I saw of him until the evening!
That first climb up Squaw Pass Road was a little slow. I’d guess that for every person I passed, 50-100 people passed me. It would have been demoralizing, except that I knew that all I had to do was keep going. I did my best to ignore all those fast people and stuck to my pace. (It was a good 10% slower than when I did it a month earlier with Dan, but that’s OK.)
Here I am at the top of the climb. This is basically Juniper Pass, but that pass goes north-south, and we were heading west.
When I got to the first rest stop, I was overwhelmed. There were tons and tons of people there. The crowd was many times larger than I’d experienced at any other bike ride. I immediately gave up any real hope of finding Dan.
The next stretch was downhill into Idaho Springs. I’ve gotten reasonably good at descending (without pushing it much), and passed lots of people. The gradual uphill from Idaho Springs to Georgetown was kinda fun. There was a strong headwind, but I managed to sneak in behind a couple of different packs of folks, so I made good progress. I even took the pull from time to time.
After Georgetown, we rode along the road that goes under the Georgetown Loop Railroad. The name comes from the loop that the tracks make over itself in order to negotiate the steep grade up to Silver Plume.
Just after that bridge, the route turns onto a bike path that took us all the way to lunch at the Loveland Valley Ski Area. While on the path, I stopped to watch the train heading downhill from Silver Plume. (The engine goes downhill in reverse since it’s easier than turn it around. I expect there’s a wye in Georgetown, but I don’t think there is up in Silver Plume. Yes, my train nerdery is showing. Thanks, I know.)
After a quick ham sandwich for lunch, I headed out to do the final 4.5 miles to the top of Loveland Pass. By this point, all the fast riders must have been ahead of me. I climbed slow, but I don’t think more the 2 or 3 people passed me in the 45 minutes it took to reach the top. (And I probably only passed 2 or 3 people as well.)
After the short climb over Swan Mountain Road, I stopped a bit longer at the Summit County High School rest stop. This was the only point of the ride where there was any rain. The clouds to the west early in the day had me worried quite a bit (see that first pic above), but nothing really materialized (until later…). The rain lasted just long enough for most of the riders to get out their rain jackets and arm warmers. I just took off from the stop and was rewarded when the very light rain stopped about two minutes later.
The climb up Vail Pass is, by far, the easiest of the three big climbs. But it comes nearly 90 miles into the ride (and more than 9 hours into the day for me). Still, I was tired. My heart rate was low for the whole climb so it was my legs that were the limiting factor. I reached to top somewhere around 3:30 and took another relaxing break. (No pictures from up here. I must have been getting tired, and never even thought about it.)
The rest of the ride to Avon was fast. First, there was the steep descent off the pass. But from Vail on, it’s still all basically downhill. If I were alone, I probably would have barely managed 15 mph because there was, once again, a stiff head wind. But there were still plenty of people around me and I got into a group that pushed into the wind at 20-25 mph the whole way to the finish.
I arrived in Avon shortly after 5pm. I immediately texted Dan to see where he was waiting. He responded back right away. He was still on top of Vail Pass – 28 miles behind me! Now, I know Dan. He either got hurt, which I doubted, or he was doing the ride all wrong, and was enjoying himself too much. It was the latter. He’d hooked up with some folks early in the day and had spent, in his words, “about 45 minutes at each rest stop”. Sheesh! How could he do that!?
Anyhow, I wandered over to the BBQ and got myself a bunch of chicken and a hamburger (and a little salad to not look like a complete barbarian). I sat down to eat and the rain began. I ate faster. The rain came down harder. I wolfed down my last bites and grabbed my bike. And the downpour began. A regular gully-washer. I got on my bike and rode to the hotel about a mile away. That was the worst rain I’d been in in a long time. By the time I was in my room, the rain had stopped. Sigh… that’s weather in Colorado.
Dan showed up about an hour later. He had a great time, but had to ride in quite a bit more rain than me. A little later, some of our friends who had ridden McClure Pass that day stopped by to say hi. We walked to the nearby liquor store to get some drinks (mine was the only alcoholic one – I deserved a beer, dammit!), and chatted about the exploits of the day. They said I looked tired, but I felt pretty good.
In the end, I really enjoyed the ride. It wasn’t quite the social experience for me that it was for Dan, but still, I chatted with a bunch people along the way and at the rest stops. If I do it again, I may decide to do the ride back from west to east. Some people (~800!), did it both ways this year – east to west on Saturday, and west to east on Sunday. That’s just nuts. I’d never even consider doing that!… No, no, really,… I wouldn’t….
After Jeannette and her family went home, Teresa took the kids down to Hummingbird Music Camp. That gave me a long weekend in the mountains cycling with friends. We rode over Independence Pass to Aspen and back on Saturday. Sunday we rode Montezuma Road above Keystone. On Monday, Dan and I rode over Loveland Pass to the Loveland Ski Area and back. Definitely some good training for my ride of the Triple Bypass (in three days!). [Update: I forgot post this. I did the Triple a bit over a week ago. yeah!]
After dinner on Friday night we took a little walk around Frisco.
Update: I didn’t take any photos on Monday, but Dan did.