Ride the Rockies

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We intend to use this page primarily as a way to communicate to friends and family during our adventure around the world.  However, we did begin this summer with an exciting cycling adventure in Colorado.  We had a great time and I think that this adventure deserves to make it into the beginnings of our blog.

Independence Pass

In February, we were invited to apply for the Air Force team in the annual Ride the Rockies in Colorado.  Ride the Rockies is a 400+ mile event that takes 2,500 cyclists through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  They choose a different route every year, but it always includes many mountain passes and is at least 400 miles long.  At the time of our application to this event I had logged an incredible fifty miles on the Specialized Vita (women’s specific road bike) that I had bought the July before.  I had been doing a fair amount of mountain biking, but the road biking skills were nearly ziltch.  For one thing, it was hard for me to get used to riding on such a rigid bike, and then the handlebars were an intirely different issue.  Doing much downhill just became pure torture for my hands because I had such a death grip on the bars.  I would be exhausted after a short ride just because of the hands.  The legs were fine.  Anyways, Adam was far ahead of me by this point because of his bike commuting and also his natural ability:)  Our first longer ride was not until the beginning of April.  We chose to ride up in the east mountains, 20 miles out and 20 miles back.  This wasn’t so bad and after this ride I immediately began adding a lot more miles on the road.  My mileage really began to increase when I began to bike commute to my teaching job in Corrales.  The ride to work was about 22 miles, a lot of that being downhill.  It wasn’t until the afternoon that I was challenged with climbing back up onto Tramway.  Very quickly, I was logging 150-200 miles a week, and on June 1st Adam and I completed our first century (Albuquerque Century- 100 miles).  After the century we recovered very quickly and felt that we were more than ready for Ride the Rockies, as we were riding even more than the training schedule recomended.

Friday, June 15th, 2007

We left Albuquerque at about 3:00.  The plan was to ride with Doc and Kathy (other Air Force team members) and stay in their vacation home in Salida, CO.  We stopped in Alamosa for dinner at a mexican resteraunt and then continued to Salida, soaking in the beautiful Colorado scenery the whole way.  We noticed that all of the rivers were really high and there was a lot of greenery and wildflowers to be seen.  As we got closer to Doc and Kathy’s house they pointed out the Collegiate range to us and noted that their house was at the foothills of the range, the closest fourteener being Mt. Princeton.  That evening we were able to relax in their beautiful home and discuss the logistics of the ride. 

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

This was a fairly relaxing morning.  Doc needed to go to the hardware store in the morning to get supplies to stake the aspen tree that they were trying to get established, but kept blowing over.  Adam and I slowly went through our things and took a couple items out that we didn’t think we would need for the trip.  We decided before we drove to Frisco for registration that we would do some exploring of the Collegiate Range with Doc’s truck.  We headed out at about 11:00 and went straight for the dirt roads in the foothills.  Once we passed a hot springs resort, a children’s camp, and a horse corral we were onvery primitive roads that were very windey and rough.  Some spots were a bit unnerving if you were brave enough to look over the edge of the cliff that was right next to the cliff.  After we passed a few of the hairpin turns, Kathy asked to get out of the truck and walk.  We continued climbing up the road, Doc’s goal being the emergency ranger station that was at about 12,000 feet.  We crawled pretty slowly up the rough road waiting at certain points for the obese marmots to get out of the road so we could continue.  When we got to the top and got out we noticed that there were iceballs coming from the sky.  We spent some time exploring around the area, including paying a visit to the emergency ranger station.  Inside there was food and sleeping pads.  Doc told us a story from the winter before when he was snow camping in the area and the wind shredded his tent so he and some friends dug through the snow into the shelter to sleep for the night. 

After we got off the mountain and made a brief stop at the house to load up our stuff for the week and of course our bikes, we made a bee line for Frisco.  As we drove into Frisco we were pretty amazed with the beauty of the place.  Not only did they have the gorgeous Rocky mountains surrounding them, but they also had an enormous lake that people were sailing in.  At registration we picked up our packets, were issued our wristbands and jerseys and met some of the people on the Air Force team from Colorado Springs.  This was it, it was the beginnings of the Ride the Rockies experience.  We went and got our bags from Doc’s truck and went and looked for our camping spot on the grounds of the school, trying to find a place close to the porta-potties but not so close that we would hear the doors slamming all night.  Everyone seemed pretty focused and serious this evening, making sure that everything was ready for the next day which was  an 100 mile day.   We found an amazing dinner that night with Doc and Kathy.  Adam had grilled trout and I had a southwest plate with chile rellenos and enchiladas.  I can never have too mauch of that stuff.  They also brought us green chile and cheese biscuits and scones with raspberry butter, yum!  We definetly ate all we could knowing that we were going to be burning about a million calories (really not quite that many, but a lot) the very next day.  After we ate we had Doc and Kathy drive us back to our “tent city” at the high school and they went to thier more luxerious hotel accomodation.  I was a bit anxious that evening, wanting to get a good night sleep but also wanting to make sure we got up at around a quarter till five to have a good breakfast and get out on the route for our very long bike ride.  I think that there were also a lot of anxious campers around us because I was hearing many zippers all night.  It definelty was not a relaxed atmosphere.

Sunday, June 17th, 2007- Riding Day #1

 I should not have worried about waking up that early because most of the other people were doing the same.  After we got up we went to get a community breakfast in the cafeteria.  For five bucks each we got three small pancakes, two sausages, a cup of coffee, and a glass of orange juice.  On a normal morning, when I was not planning on riding 100 miles this breakfast would be more than adequate.  When we pulled out of the parking lot of the high school that morning there was definetly excitement in the air, this was the beginning of our week long 422 mile adventure.  Almost immediately we began climbing up Swan Mountain Road.  I had dressed really warm that morning, with a helmet liner, arm warmers, leg warmers, and my wind breaker.  Not very far up the hill I was shedding all of this, the helmet liner definetly went first.  As I was shedding all of this gear, Adam caught up with me.  He had stayed back to take pictures, and was really enjoying this stretch of road.  Once we hit the crest of Swan Mountain we began on a gradual desent all the way to mile 47 in Kremmling.  Going  down was great, the air was still cool, and the sun was out.  I hit 35 mph several times in this section, which is really pretty fast for me.  In Kremming, Adam and I hooked up with Doc and Kathy and had a great sit down lunch in a local eatery.  I was feeling famished by this point.  The pancakes and sausage was not enough in the morning and left me with a sugary stomach that I could not shake.  I ate a ton at this place, but still was feeling hungary.  We rolled out onto the course and started a gradual accent to where we would climb Rabbit Ears Pass.  It was pretty warm and exposed on this stretch and after a few miles we had a headwind to face.  We stopped at the rest station at mile 56 and tried to get in some liquids, those dry headwinds suck everything out of me- energy and hydration.  At the rest stop I could feel a bit of a headache come on so I tried to find some Tylenol, but NO- no one has Tylenol because most athletes take Advil.  The problem was is that because of doctor’s orders I can’t have asprin or ibprofen.  So I had to hydrate myself the best that I could and just keep breaking through that hot, dry headwind. 

The hydrating worked fairly well and pretty soon I was at aid station #5 which was at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass.  Here I wanted to make sure that I had enough fuel for the climb.  I went and bought a Gherradeli brownie and then took the free almond butter packets and smothered the brownie.  It tasted really good after 80 miles of peddaling.  Adam left up the pass before me since he got to the aid station first.  After the brownie, I hydrated, went pee, got my Clif Shot Bloks out and put one in my cheek for the climb up.  I have found that if I put one of these in my cheek before a climb it will last for about 30 minutes and gives me constant energy up the hill, and also I have something else to focus on other than my burning legs and lungs.  This climb was not very hard other than the fact that it came at mile 80.  It came to an end after about five miles.  The wind really picked up at the top and I stopped for a minute to look at the elevation sign at the top of the pass (just over 9,500 ft.).  After this it was up and down for a few miles before we got to aid station #6.  At aid station #6 it was all down hill from here, a screaming down hill into Steamboat Springs.  The desending was really fast, but I was a bit freaked out because there was also a cross wind.  I hate that, it makes steering really hard.  After a couple of miles of this I stopped and took a little break.  When I did this about three other people stopped as well.  Lots of people were struggling down this hill, and thought that my idea was a good one.  After the break it was just a little more windy desending and then we were in Steamboat and riding into the high school.  I was more tired after this day than I really thought I would be or wanted to be.  When I rolled in I rode around the developing tent city and eventually saw Adam with our tent already put up.  That was a pretty comforting sight.  I then put my bike in the security lock up and went to stand in line at the shower truck.  In the shower line there was a lot of talking about the headwinds and the cross winds on the decent.  After the shower, Adam and I decided we were famished and needed to find some food.  We went ahead and found the bus to take us downtown.  We decided on a pizza place and ordered ham and pineapple pizza and split a big salad.  The salad came really quickly, but we ended up having to wait for the pizza for about 45 minutes.  This was torture!  During dinner I could feel my headache starting to come back, so after dinner we looked around town for somewhere that might have Tylenol.  Everywhere that would have Tylenol was closed or out of business.  All the gas stations in downtown Steamboat Springs were out of business, I guess the rent was probably too high for them.  So from here we went back to the high school, and I went to the medical tent and the massage tent, both of them had advil.  From here I hopped back on the bus (it was 9:30 pm by now) and asked the driver if she could take me somewhere to get Tylenol.  She ended up taking me to Safeway, dropped me off there and promised to come pick me up again.  By this time at night there was only myself, and a guy on the bus.  The guy had a hunger emergency and needed to go to Wendy’s, which he got to just seconds before they closed their doors.  Once I had my Tylenol I was relieved, and I knew I would be able to sleep through the night and wake up okay. 

 Us geeked out in our Air Force jerseys

Monday, June 18th, 2007- Riding Day #2-

We woke up slightly later today, knowing that this was a shorter day with far less climbing (only 700 ft. of elevation gain).  Today we were going to ride from Steamboat Springs into Craig.  We decided this  morning that we needed a decent breakfast and when we looked at what they were serving at the high school that morning and how much if it you got we decided we were going to need to resort to a restraunt downtown.  So on we rode into downtown to a cute little breakfast and lunch place.  It was really hopping here and we were afraid to know how long we would have to wait, but when the hostess told us fifteen minutes we were good with that.  Once we sat down, we ordered oatmeal blueberry pancakes and an omelette.  We like to take turns with our meals like this, so both of us can have some of each.  We were also pleased because they had great coffee, and the service was great.  The staff was a group of mostly attractive women between the ages of 22-27 and they were running that place like a well oiled machine.  They were crazy busy, but they were handeling it with grace and not getting flustered.  What a great place to enjoy breakfast!  After breakfast we were on our way to Craig.  Adam and I decided to try to stay together this day and the plan was for him to pull me (draft) for most of the day.  We knew after enjoying our yummy breakfast that we were getting a late start and were probably back at the tail end.  This became pretty apparent as we began passing people.  Adam joked that we were “kicking some straggler butt”!!  There were many rumble strips this day and it amazed us how people freak out with these.  I don’t like to ride in them for any length of time on purpose or anything, but it’s not the end of the world if you hit them.  I really think this is the kind of thing that divides the riders that mountain bike and the ones that don’t.  We know to bend the elbows and knees when you hit an obstacle while people who only ride on the road don’t always do that.  People even freak out when you hit a rumble strip next to them.  About ten miles into the ride this day we saw a boy of about fourteen years of age down.  His family was bandaging him up, and we were told that he hit a rumble strip and took a bunch of people down with him.  All the way into Craig Adam and I peddled, with people drafting off of us on and off (we would usually drop them on the hills).  As we came into the high school there was a really steep hill (why do all CO high schools have to be up on hills?).  We got our bags off the late start truck, found a place to call home for the night, took our showers, and had a mediocre dinner at the Village Inn.  We turned in early, knowing that the next day would be a 90 mile day into Rifle.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007- Riding Day #3-

This morning began early with breakfast at the Village Inn (they do much better breakfast than dinner).  The service was a little slow due to the fact that there were so many riders wanting an early breakfast, but the food delivery guy was willing to help bus the tables and that helped them get the tables turned around and people fed.  Once we started the ride I noticed that I was feeling a little sluggish, so Adam went ahead of me.  I saw him both at aid station #1 at mile 13 and at station #2 at mile 26.  It was getting to be a very warm day, so we were both doing what we could to get in as many fluids at the stations as possible.  Adam was beginning to complain about his knee at mile 26, but was going to see how it went and maybe he would ride with me after that.  After I left aid station #2 and began to make my way up Nine Mile Gap I began to hear a lot of hesitation about this leg of the ride, but then I heard another guy say “Yeah, but it’s nothing you will need your lowest gear for or anything”, and it turned our that he was right, this was a really easy climb.  On the way us I rode with a couple from Parker, CO.  We chatted about the ride, passed lots of people, and had a great time.  About 3/4 the way up Nine Mile Gap the husband of the couple and I looked back and the wife was not there.  The husband had mistaked me (I guess it could have been easy to do, she was about my size and had long blonde hair, too) for his wife and kept riding along without her.  I apologized and then went ahead and finished the climb.  When I got to the summit I saw Adam, pretty much right away, at our usual spot by the gatorade and water.  I was getting pretty hungary by this point, so right after Adam left I made the choice to get some food.  The line for the pasta salad was the shortest so that is what I decided to get.  The pasta salad was nice and cold so it tasted really refreshing and nourishing as well.  After scarfing down the pasta salad I was back on the road, all the way downhill until a little town called Meeker.  This was a really nice part of the ride, and I got into a paceline with a few guys about ten miles out of town.  We flew into town and upon arrival I felt energized, unfortunately Adam didn’t and from here he decided to ride with me.  Actually, he had me pull him for awhile to give his knee a break.  This worked really well for both of us as I had lots of energy and was feeling great.  We rode at a pretty good pace all the way to the final aid station at mile 74.  By this time it was getting pretty freaking hot (most likely at least 95), this was also a really exposed part of the ride, with no trees to shelter us.  We were encouraged at the final aid station to not spend too much time hanging out because there was soon going to be a lot of traffic due to a shift change at the power plant.  Apparently, these guys had been working a twelve hour shift and are not known to want to share the road on thier way home.  We pretty much bolted once we heard that, being from rural Washington state we know this attitude.  The decent into Rifle was twenty five miles of hot hairdrier temps, but I made it into town in about 45 min.  Adam even faster than that, as he had some perspective camp spots picked out once I got there.  We ended up camping in a space on the grass that was barely big enough for our small, two-person tent, but at least it was in the grass.  Our other perspective spot was in the dirt and rocks (we jokingly called that the ghetto tent city). 

It was really insanely hot this evening, and the lines at the shower trucks were crazy long.  Although, once I was able to get in to the shower it felt great and cooled me off as well.  After the shower it felt great to have my head wet for awhile, and we ventured into the big city of Rifle for our next meal.  After we walked for while we found a fairly attractive looking mexican restraunt and mexican food definelty sounded good!  Well, we went inside right behind some other riders and the hostess told us to go ahead and sit down where ever we wanted, so we did.  They saw where we sat, but after about 30-40 min., no menus or water.  It wasn’t that we didn’t ask either, they just kept saying that they were busy.  After 30-40 min. we had menus and water and then after another 30 min. we actually got chips and salsa.  We had the waitress take our order (not wanting her to go away again) and then feeling famished by this point scarfed down the chips and salsa.  We then waited some more, I was listening pretty intently to the service that others were being given and it seemed that we were not alone and most people were letting the situation be a humorous one.  I was so glad that I was listenting because I saw the table next to us get food and the response from the customers was pure confusion, but they went ahead and took the food anyways (because they were starving after their 90 mile ride in the heat!).  I tagged down the server on her way by and asked if what they got was what we ordered, and it was!  So she yanked the plates from under their noses (they hadn’t had a chance to start eating yet) and brought them to us.  Once we got our food, it was quite good.  I won’t even go into what it was like to pay at this place, but at least we were nourished.  It felt good.  On our way back to tent city we stopped at the beer garden that is constructed every night, had a beer and listened to the one man band that was playing.  He was one of those new solo artists that has embraced technology by creating music by recording parts of a song right in front of you and then putting it all together.  I think watching these people do this is quite entertaining and fascinating.  After watching this guy, it was pretty much bedtime because that comes very early on Ride the Rockies.

The rest of the ride

 Okay guys, I guess I got a little too detailed and then didn’t get around to finishing the post. 

The rest of the ride went great, the highlight being leaving Aspen and riding up Independence Pass.  We rode up past 12,000 feet so the air was a wee bit thin, and we noticed many folks getting a bit hypoxic (weird behavior like riding in the middle of the road, without even knowing it).  It was beautiful at the top of the pass and there was still a little snow.  After taking a nice rest at the top and getting refueled we had a screaming downhill all the way to the next aid station.  This decent was not for the faint hearted as there were no guard rails and the edge of the road was falling off.  Many people sagged this section, but I just decided to take it easy.  Once I finished the decent I was pretty tired and ready to be done with the ride for the day, but we still had 20+ miles to Leadville

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