09 August 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

In some respects, my cycling this year may be classified as dismal.

I haven't been commuting to work because the bike path that keeps me off busy roads is still undergoing repairs from last year's flooding. The detours (where there are detours) are not as safe as they could be, and in some places, there are no detours. You get off the bike path where an overpass is closed due to trail damage and emerge on a busy four-lane road in the dark at rush hour with no traffic lights and no way to cross the intersection without just making a run for it. One particular section is supposed to be finished next month. We'll see.

My motto is live to ride another day. I'm not taking crazy risks to pick up extra miles this year. That wasn't the original plan in January, but I've evolved, and I'm actually very happy I did because...

In January, before this year's Ride the Rockies route was released, I was asked to shoot the wedding of my niece in California. That alone put Ride the Rockies in jeopardy because I wasn't sure I could do a big trip in April and then Ride the Rockies in June, from a financial standpoint as well as from a training standpoint. In years when we haven't been able to ride much in April, we have not been as ready as we would have liked to have been for Ride the Rockies. Ride the Rockies is more fun when you're properly trained.

Then in February, the week this year's route was released, my uncle died. Another unplanned trip. This one wasn't as far, but it hit the wallet enough that Ride the Rockies now was officially off the calendar for us. It was a tough and sometimes painful choice, but I needed to be with my family, so no regrets.

One of the benefits of not doing Elephant Rock, Ride the Rockies or the MS-150 in June or the Triple Bypass in July is not being forced to ride in bad weather to be ready for early season rides. We started out with another wet spring, which made early spring training next to non-existent. It didn't stay wet this year, and my beloved garden is paying the price. But we were able to ride more cheerfully, I think, because we could ride when we wanted and where we wanted instead of being required to ride 60 miles per day three times per week, no matter what the weather was like.

This almost makes us want to throw in the towel on organized rides altogether!!! What a joy training has been this year!!!

Now we're just about five weeks from our first MS-150 in another state. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm going to be able to ride 75 miles a day twice in a row, back to back, because I haven't done it yet this year. I haven't even done that many long rides this entire year. A 50-plus miler in frigid January, then another one in uncharacteristically HOT June. All the rest of my training rides this year have been 30 miles or less.

We'll have some big climbs in September, but we'll have oxygen, and I already know from experience I can climb when I can breathe. I may not be fast, but man, I can get up those low-elevation hills! When you've climbed Mount Evans, Trail Ridge Road, Lizard Head Pass and the Grand Mesa with two attempts on Pikes Peak, climbing up to 7,000 feet doesn't feel as difficult a chore, even when you're gaining 4,000 feet in altitude in a relatively short distance.

Thank heavens!

I hadn't been at altitude since last July, a full year, when we tried Vail Pass for the first time this year. I was glad no one I knew would see me climbing because I was so sure I would be mostly walking my bike. I thought I'd have to stop for air about 300 times, and I thought I wouldn't be able to ride more than a tenth of a mile at a time without a rest. I was so embarrassed.

Until I rode.

I had no idea riding six miles up Waterton Canyon on my mountain bike every chance I got this summer would be good training. Truly. I thought I would be the biggest wimp the cycling world has ever seen. I thought Vail Pass would "un-Vail" me again.

I pedaled eight miles up Vail Pass without stopping except to take pictures of an RV fire that blocked the interstate for miles and miles and miles. It felt as if I'd been training on Vail Pass all along. It was not a suffer-fest, and I wasn't miserable the next day.

Curious, I asked The Lizard how I was able to do that.

I had been trying my best to hold his pace for as far as I could in Waterton Canyon two or three times a week. Every single ride, I tried to do better than the previous ride. Sometimes my ride was only a few seconds faster than the previous ride.

I didn't think what I was doing amounted to anything significant. Especially riding only six miles uphill at a really slight grade. You don't even know you're going uphill until you turn around and pick up speed going back down. Or, if you're like me, you can't pedal uphill fast enough to keep the biting flies at bay. Which I still can't. I have the welts to prove it.

The Lizard said that's the best kind of training I could do if I can't be at actual altitude. He said my short sprints are better for me than long, flat commutes because I'm working harder and building power.

Who knew?!?

Next up we attempted to tackle yet another bucket list ride. Since long before I met The Lizard, I've wanted to ride up the Snowmass Road, up the Maroon Creek Road, and up the Castle Creek Road, all in a day. Ever since I met The Lizard, we've wanted to pull off that scenic near-Aspen fete together.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a much-needed day off from work so we could ride the roads without the weekend traffic.

Weather factored in and kept us off two of our climbing destinations, but I climbed 7.5 miles up Maroon Creek road without stopping except for two photos. It didn't feel as difficult as it felt the last time I'd tried. We had to beat the weather on the way down, but we did it. We pedaled up to the base of the most photographed mountains in the country with a single high altitude training ride beneath our jerseys this year. We did it!

We tested my stamina again the following weekend by pedaling up the dirt roads of Cimarron that typically enchant us every autumn.

Once again, I went uphill at altitude for 7.5 miles, not non-stop, but certainly not wimpy, either. I even pedaled up three short but very steep pitches without stopping until I got to the top of each. Completely out of breath and guzzling my herbal tea. But I pedaled about an eighth of a mile up a dusty, hungry biting fly-studded 15% grade without stopping! I couldn't do that when I was commuting four or five days a week and training on Deer Creek Canyon ever single weekend!

This leads The Lizard and I both to believe perhaps at this age it's okay to take a bit of a break and train for fun instead of being under pressure. I'm doing okay, and I feel confident for next month's challenge. My saddle may hurt a bit after the second day, but I think I'm going to be able to do this ride, and do it well!

Ride on, Team Snowcatcher! Ride on!


  1. The little ones can build stamina indeed, everything helps in the end, as long as one does something and pushes a bit more here and there not to become complacent.

  2. Yes, it was nice to take an event vacation. On the other hand, it was harder to discard winter fat. But that's okay. I've enjoyed riding whatever we want, when we want.


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