17 February 2015

Let the Training Begin

The 2015 30th Anniversary RtR Route

473 miles, one century, one nearly century, and 9,069 feet in elevation gain the second day of the seven-day tour, same day as the 98-mile ride. Overall 41,875 feet in elevation gain over seven days.

My heart skipped a beat or two, and I gasped for air. Sitting down. In a theater. Completely safe and unchallenged.

And yet, my adrenaline was surging. The newly announced 30th anniversary Ride the Rockies route appeared at the time the longest and perhaps most difficult in the history of the tour.

This year's route is not the longest; the longest planned route was the 25th anniversary tour in 2010, with 532 miles. The 2013 reroute caused by forest fires added 33 miles to the planned 513-mile route, making 546 the mileage to beat.

Ride the Rockies hasn't rebuilt its history page yet (it's pretty funny to see all 29 completed routes described as "lorem ipsum..."), and the biggest weeklong elevation gain I can find elsewhere is 2014's 33,000 feet. If that's true, last year's crown goes to this year's route by quite a bit!

My knees shuddered. But that didn't stop me from ceremoniously throwing our hats in the lottery the very next day! For the first time in about 20 years, we didn't have to get up in the middle of the night to see the new route. We registered during daylight!

RtR Route Party

Tour director Chandler Smith noted at the route announcement party how funny it is so many hopeful riders log on to ridetherockies.com at midnight on Route Announcement Day to check the route and register. He insisted registering the instant the route is announced does NOT increase a rider's chances of being drawn. Had we not attended the route party, we certainly would have been on the internet at 12:01 a.m. to see the new route!!!

Can I do 9,069 feet in elevation gain and a near century in the same day just four and half months from now?!?

My 2015 cycling goals were set in stone, or perhaps more appropriately, electronically etched, last month during my annual not-quite-new-year's-resolutions. I'm certainly not about to give up on the goals I've set, but self-confidence isn't quite what it could be these days. I'm a tiny bit apprehensive of Day 2.

And yet, I want to do this. I am determined. I will train the best I can to be able to make it all 98 miles on June 15. I've done all the miles in this day's route before, some of them more than once, but never all in one day. I think Pikes Peak is the biggest elevation gain I've ever achieved in a day, missing the summit by about half a mile and about 50 feet for a grand total of about 6,150 feet. The second biggest gain was the 25th anniversary Ride the Rockies, when I climbed (and descended) 6,030 feet between Ouray and Durango, which ranks as one of the top three most difficult climbs I've ever done. (Pikes Peak is champion, Grand Mesa second, and the triple climb of Red Mountain Pass, Molas Divide and Coal Bank Pass third, easing out of the top two spots because the route offers three really nice descents and my two biggest climbs have virtually NO downhill during the actual climbs. I think 2 and 3 rotate, depending upon my mood, but that's because I'm a woman.)

The killer for me during Ouray to Durango is the two-mile climb from Durango proper up to Fort Lewis College high on a hilltop after 70 hard, windy miles. Oh, yeah, during rush hour traffic, too!

Ouray to Durango

I have to think positive, though, if I want to make it. I have to believe I can make it if I want to make it.

I climbed Mount Evans on my mountain bike the week before my second attempt on Pikes Peak, thinking the climb would make the road bike feel much easier on a tougher peak. (Not sure it helped, though. I missed the Pikes halfway cutoff by three minutes on my second try.)

King for the Day!!!

I not only climbed Independence Pass from Carbondale during the 2012 Ride the Rockies, but was willing to sing the National Anthem at the top, given the chance. And then, I made it almost all the way to the top of the nasty little surprise climb at the base of Independence Pass en route to Leadville, and on a gravel road, even though my wrist had been uncasted for only about six weeks. That was my longest day ever in the saddle, 14 hours, and I've set the goal to never be in the saddle that long again. Ever.

Riders in the Sky

Two days later, I climbed Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the country, all the way, for the first time ever, and I did it in the time limit with 15 minutes to spare. I did it not knowing the bike wreck that had fractured my wrist in March had also crushed a disc in my back. This day's ride left me unable to do the MS-150 a week later, but I climbed Trail Ridge, and I did it in grand style.

I can be just as prepared to do this year's climb. I can train, and I can make it over that Hotchkiss bump after 90-some miles. I will do it. I will not SAG. I'm going to make it. And I'm going to pedal two extra miles at the end to earn my century. Mark my words.

But I have my work cut out for me.

Before attending the Ride the Rockies route announcement party for the first time ever this year, we rode up Deer Creek Canyon. My first climb since my historic fastest time ever last November to commemorate the 10th anniversary of emergency back surgery. I didn't fare quite as well this time. I didn't make it to the top, and I had to stop to breathe three times. But I'll keep working on it, and I'll get a little better each time. My goal is to ride up Deer Creek Canyon twice, back to back, by the time we attempt the higher elevations of Independence Pass and Vail Pass. (After much mountain snow melts and weather is a tiny bit warmer.)

The following Tuesday, I rode my bike halfway to work for the first time since... Gosh, it's been so long, I had to look it up!!!

Holy cow! June 29, 2014! I had no clue! No wonder I couldn't remember!

commuting to work via bicycle

Much-needed bike path repairs clogged up seven sections of my 30-mile route to work the last time I rode the entire way. On June 19 of last year, I vowed not to ride the full 30 miles again until construction on two specific segments of the South Platte Bike Path is done because the detours are downright dangerous, especially in the dark and during rush hour. I instead rode to the train, then took my bike aboard the train for the remainder of the commute. I thought I had continued to do that up until October last year, but apparently, that was a fantasy. I have not commuted by bike for seven whole months!!! Yikes!

No wonder my fitness level went down. We still rode every weekend we could, but one or two days a week apparently is not enough for someone my age and in my physical condition. I've lost all my climbing prowess -- ALL of it -- and I'm starting over completely from scratch.

On the bright side, my half-commute wasn't that bad. I was a full 12 minutes slower than the last time I did it, but the entire ride was in complete darkness every inch of the way, and riding in the dark for the first time in seven months is kind of like riding in the dark for the first time ever. The ride was a bit spooky!

My headlight on the trees while I ride makes it look as if the greenway is alive and moving. Every seemingly jumping/running/attacking shadow made me fear I was being stalked! I was pretty darned jumpy!

Granted, I'm still nervous about unseen hazards along the bike path and may always be, but hopefully this ride worked out most of the deep heebie jeebies.

Pikes Peak Secret Weapon

I ride with my old, retired iPhone serving as cadence coach. (I try to keep up with the beat of the music.) The Lizard continually tells me he wishes I would learn to ride without music so I don't have to carry the extra weight of an iPhone and speakers. (I don't ever wear headphones or earbuds on the bike, and heck, the speakers don't weigh as much as the camera...) I keep telling him the music could act as an effective deterrent for hungry or curious wildlife, such as skunks, and besides, the extra body weight I'm toting along after three years of not training as much as I'd like would make a heck of a lot more difference if I shed it instead. (Weight loss IS my ultimate goal. Well, besides photos...)

For my first commute of the year, I think the stereo really did help. At one junction, I spooked a big something in the bushes right along the bike path. I didn't see the beast, but it sounded big. After the luscious spring-like bursts of warm weather we've enjoyed and having three of my hyacinth bulbs dug up and munched over the previous weekend, I wonder if a groggy bear or two might have emerged a little early. Whatever animal I scared along the bike path didn't sound like deer or elk prancing away. The frightened critter sounded heavy and big. And completely thrown off-guard in the quiet night until I pedaled along.

Thank you, music!!!

I have a few miles of four-lane highway to traverse in the dark during rush hour before I hit the South Platte. Highways on a bicycle are mind-numbing all on their own any time of day, but in the dark, headlights coming at me from the opposite direction completely overpower my own headlight (which is one of the best and brightest models available, thanks to The Lizard) and often temporarily blind me. That's just as scary as any wild animal, if not more so.

Yet, even though I had not commuted in too long, I guessed the right amount of clothing layers, and I was not chilled during my 36-degree ride. I was completely comfortable, and in fact pretty sweaty, by the time I reached the train.

And hey, that's one of the best things about riding in winter. You burn twice as many calories in cold weather, and mileage takes me longer in the dark, thereby further extending my fat-burning.

Lizard, I promise to shed a few pounds, but it won't be the stereo. Bears, skunks, deer, elk, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, racoons, beavers, squirrels and giant snapper turtles... Sorry. It can't be helped. Just listen for me coming, and then post-haste disappear.

After I get an award-winning shot of you, that is!


VERY EXCITING UPDATE: My first attempt on Deer Creek Canyon this year was 13.5 miles with three stops. My second attempt a week later, I climbed 15 miles without stopping. This was WAY better than I expected! Next time, I'll try to make it up 17 miles, and the next time, 19, then the next ride I'll be trying to make it all the way to the top. Then I start all over again trying to make it up section by section a second time until I can do two complete climbs of Deer Creek Canyon in a day.

Deer Creek Canyon, first climb of 2015
1st Deer Creek Canyon Climb of 2015 (See the times I had to stop on the way up?)

Deer Creek Canyon, 2nd climb of 2015, with a few extra climbs at the end
2nd Deer Creek Canyon Climb of 2015 (This time I had to stop on the way down to put on my coat and then warm up my hands!)

VERY FUN UPDATE: Most of my blog posts are published an average of three weeks in advance due to internet access issues. I didn't know when I wrote this post (and The Denver Post didn't know) the advertised elevation gain for this year's ride are... a little off. Current suspicion is that metric measurements were used instead of feet, so I will NOT have to climb 9,000 feet in a 98-mile day! The actual elevation gain will be closer to 4,000 feet. I CAN DO THAT!!! And because I bought a route T-shirt before anyone realized the mistake, I've already got a wonderful souvenir, even though we haven't even been drawn yet!!!

Priceless Souvenir

15 comments :

  1. Seems like fun times are sure ahead indeed. You'll make it too all the way through I bet. Always will be hazards to look out for no matter where you go, as you snap pics too and fro.

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    1. It will be a GREAT ride if we get drawn, Pat!

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  2. Gooooooooooooooooooo, Snowcatcher!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Marigold!!! Fingers and toes crossed...

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  3. In time, bruins will get accustomed to your music. One way to tell when they are musically inclined is that their scat, which is usually all over the bike path, will have little fragments of blue, plastic speaker mixed in. You know, kind of like Alaskan bear scat containing small fragments of bells.

    You'll do fine in Ride the Rockies. I think I'll throw on tires a bit wider than we normally use to help us on the rock strewn "dirty-thirty" (Ohio Pass) and Cottonwood Pass.

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    1. Oh, you crack me up, Lizard! I'll keep changing my music so the bears will never get used to me. :) And I'm looking forward to the Dirty Thirty! I hope we get drawn! I hope we get drawn!! I hope we get drawn!!!

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  4. I am Inspired......... what an amazing event. I'm ready to pack my bags and come out to volunteer!

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    1. That would be SO COOL, Patty! I hear there's a wait list on volunteering, though...

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  5. Oh wow. Tired just reading that. Good luck to you guys on getting drawn. I admire you for your determination.

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    1. Thank you, Di! I'm literally sitting on pins and needles this month while we await the drawing! Quilting and waiting, quilting and waiting, quilting and waiting...

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  6. Phew! That's a relief on the elevation gain. Although I had every faith in your determination and ability to do it.... :)

    Good luck in the draw, and congrats on your ride to work. You are a brave soul to tackle traffic in the dark.

    Here's to a good - make that GREAT - cycling year!

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    1. It is super scary to ride in the dark, Sue, but I can get back into the habit if I can get more dark days in the saddle. Winter finally decided to make an appearance now, so I'm not sure when I'll get to ride to work again. (I won't ride on ice in the dark. That's pushing my luck a little too far...)

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    2. I won't ride on ice ever. It's a phobia. Heck, I can barely walk on the stuff!

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  7. You're right - you CAN do that!!! I love your attitude. "Training" is so much fun, and you're going to have a great summer of riding!

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    1. Thanks, KB! You are an inspiration to me, so you can take stock in whatever I accomplish! You've had a hand in it all along the way!

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