Our official cycling season has begun. Following completion of the official BikeMS High Roller training ride and Elephant Rock, one might think our training is over.
Not so, Grasshopper!
It's taking me a wee bit longer to work back up to being in shape than I anticipated. The weather has not helped much, but another obstacle I've been encountering this year is inability to sleep through the night. I think that will improve with time as I am able to ride more. Hopefully being more physically exhausted more often will keep those eyes shut through the night!
May offered a few more good weather riding days than I was able to take advantage of due to the sleeplessness. I had planned to be riding to work, a 60-mile round trip, at least three days a week by now.
I've been so embarrassed by my inability to meet my own challenges, I hadn't even updated my 2014 training journal since January 4!!!
We always get to watch a very long coal train roll by at Palmer Lake. Always.
Now that I have my first 100-mile-plus weekend since June 2013 beneath my belt, the training calender has been updated, and on goes the goal to work back up to riding to work at least three days per week. I hope to have this challenge mastered by BikeMS at the end of this month. Publicly announcing this goal hopefully will keep me motivated to rebuild the "good base" The Lizard says I have.
He says I'll get back in shape easier than I did following my 2004 emergency back surgery because I have a good base now. Even though the last two years have not been powerful for me, I did not lose everything I built up the previous several years, according to The Lizard.
Although I have not yet reached the mileage goal I had set for myself, there have been some great training accomplishments this year. During my first few attempts to build back up to 30 miles so I could ride to work, I was running out of energy by mile 26. My first 60-mile training ride of the year also was my first full work commute since June of last year. During that ride, I did not poop out before hitting the 30-mile mark.
During my very next work half commute, I shaved nearly a half hour from my morning ride time. Granted, that was due in part to less darkness. I can ride a little faster when I can see the bike path ahead of me! Absence of snow and ice on the bike path factored, as well. Nevertheless, the time improvement made me feel as if I'm not stagnating.
During my very next work half commute, I shaved another three minutes from my morning ride time. Talk about exciting! I'd left earlier in the morning so I could catch the sunrise at a desired point, so lack of darkness was not the reason I rode faster for this particular ride!
During my first ride up Deer Creek Canyon since last year, I set a goal to reach 13 miles of climb before turning back. At mile 13, I felt strong enough to go a little further, and I made it another full mile! That was the only real climbing I'd done so far this year, other than mountain bike rides up Waterton Canyon, which is not difficult climbing, in my opinion. So I was fairly unprepared for the free High Roller training ride I earned by raising $2,000 for the fight against multiple sclerosis last year. (Thank you, donors!!!)
I'm small fry compared to these folks.
The best part of the High Roller ride was riding nearly the entire 47-mile route with The Lizard. I typically send him on ahead so he can ride at his own pace and increase his own endurance. Both of us have been struggling to find consecutive days in the saddle this year, however, and he felt he could take it easy during the High Roller ride so he would still have strength for Elephant Rock the next day.
The MS-150 provides lunch for all riders both days of the tour. The High Roller ride was no different. I enjoyed a wonderful veggie wrap with avocado and spinach while The Lizard had a ham sandwich on whole grain bread. The menu included all-you-can-eat pickle wedges, vinegar and salt potato chips and chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies.
Following the ride, volunteers passed out our choice of cookies or chips. Believe it or not, most riders, including us, chose salt over sugar! Long rides tend to drain the body's salt supply.
My neighbor grows his own hops and brews his own beer, so I thought he might enjoy photos of ride host venue Left Hand Brewery.
When I lived north of the Denver metro area, Longmont was affectionately known as Fogmont because of the tendency for thick clouds to settle on the ground there for long periods of time. The High Roller training ride began with a very low cloud ceiling and very high humidity. That made for a pleasant ride for me, as I don't really like to ride in super hot weather. The lower temperature also prevented thundershowers from building until long after we finished riding.
Elephant Rock, the largest bicycle ride in the state with an estimated 7,000 riders of varied abilities and including all ages, from tiny kids to grandparents and great grandparents, began completely the opposite with nearly clear skies, high winds and temperatures to match. The wind was brutal most of the day, and a couple of times, it was a blessing.
Elephant Rock is what they call a "roller" because it is filled with ups and downs. Although it never reaches severe altitude, the ride traverses terrain such as appropriately named Roller Coaster Road. Riders spend their entire ride climbing and descending.
Check out those hills!
During a few of the steepest climbs, I felt as if wind gusts were slapping me in the face or outright body-slamming me. As the temperature climbed to 84 degrees, which feels a lot hotter on black pavement than when not riding, my clammy, sweaty back would get hit by a huge blast of ultra cooling wind, and all I could think was, "Please, do that again!!!"
As I approached the stiffest and longest climb of the day, I heard this extremely audible "POP!" Followed by a rapid and loud "pppsssssssssssssssssst." My heart sank. I knew I would not be able to finish the ride in time for the final church service of the day at 1 p.m. if it took me an hour to put a new tube on my bike. (I'm not just slow riding the bike...) My bike didn't begin veering, though. Instead, the bike in front of me began veering wildly, and the rider was able to pull off the side of the road without crashing, which my uncoordinated self probably would not have been able to master.
I would never wish a flat tire on anyone else ever. But I was so thankful it was not my tire! Some riders don't use Kevlar in their tires because it's extra weight.
There's a reason I run Kevlar in both my bikes!
most humorous jersey of the E-Rock day
I felt very slow the entire ride, but on the climbs, I could stay on my bike, even though I was pretty darned slow. On every climb, there was at least one rider who had to dismount and walk up the hill. I remember all too well when that was me, 13 or 14 years ago, and I fought the temptation with all my might this year not to walk up the steepest climbs.
I felt as if I got passed about 6,000 times throughout the day. I would spend only a couple of moments at each of the three rest stops in order to make it to the finish line in time to get to church, while faster riders would take longer breaks. So I pretty much rode with the same group of cyclists throughout the day. They would pass me, I'd see them at rest stops and get back out on the road quickly, and then they'd pass me again...
By the third and final rest stop of my 62-mile route, I wasn't feeling strong or well. I was running out of energy. I was worried I would miss church. And very little of the rest stop food appealed to me.
What I would have given to have High Roller food options at E-Rock!
At the third rest stop, I tossed around the urge to call The Lizard, who likely had already finished his ride, and ask him to come get me. I fought the urge so I could claim a 109-mile weekend and got back out on the road. There, I was passed by a man with one leg.
I thought, "If he can do it, I can, too!"
Photographers at the photo point always have a big clock so riders can try to find their pictures organized online by helmet color a little easier by narrowing choices down to 20-minute intervals. I had not looked at a clock since getting out of the car before starting the ride. I assumed it was well past noon. Fighting headwinds for 45 miles can do that to you. The clock read 10:20 a.m. I had only 17 miles to go. I would make it back in time for church!
At the end of the ride, we parallel the interstate on a frontage road for a few miles, then double back into Castle Rock in the opposite direction on another frontage road. The first leg of this final stretch (and most of the day) had been filled with outrageous headwinds or crosswinds strong enough to knock a tired rider off his or her bike.
That means the last few miles were powered by the most wonderful tailwinds in the world! I'd been averaging about 3 or 4 miles per hour on climbs and perhaps 13 miles per hour on rare flats. I can ride comfortably at about 28 miles per hour on a descent but have gotten as high as 38 (on straight roads with no potholes) before chickening out and applying breaks to keep my speed manageable.
On the home stretch into Castle Rock, I was pushing 22 miles per hour on flat road!!! That was not my legs. That was the wind.
Sometimes, the wind can be my friend. I sailed into church on time!