Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mt. Evans Epic Ride

Yesterday was the day I've been waiting for all summer. The crazy "epic" ride planned by Joe to see who was tough enough to summit Mt. Evans from his house in Denver (Englewood to be specific). It was 60+ miles from his house to the summit...and that would mean about 10,000 feet of elevation gain. To finish the ride - to get back to his house via Idaho Springs - would add another 2000 or so feet of climbing. And over 130 miles in the saddle. Who would attempt this? The Magnificent Seven!
Matt, Joe, Bryan, Nicole, Chris, Todd, Alan (L to R)
My day began at 3:30am to get dressed and leave the house shortly after 4am. The meeting time was 5am and the scheduled departure time 5:30, but it was closer to 5:45 by the time we had everything ready to go. It was before sunrise but just enough light to see. The seven of us headed out to pick up the Bear Creek Trail.
This was our warm-up as it was pretty flat and we wanted to stay together as a group. These trails can be croweded, but not this early! Occaisionally I turned my head and saw a beautiful orange and pink sunrise. A great day was ahead! My legs were feeling good and this was a comfortable pace for a warm-up.
We got off the trail and picked up Morrison Rd and had the first hills. Hill warm-up! Getting those legs prepped for what was to come. Just under an hour after leaving Joe's we made a water/pit stop at the Conoco in Morrison/C-470.
getting mentally prepared for the climbing after our warm-up
Then the climbing started! Joe and Todd took off and the rest of us thought it would be prudent to use each other and ride in a pace line up the mountain. It was 7am and a bit windy! I was probably going a bit harder than I should have been (power meters don't like) but the legs were willing and able. After we came out of the hills and were going through Kittredge, we came across Todd and Joe. Todd's chain had broken and they were fixing it. What a way to start the day!  But these guys are experienced cyclists and told us to go on ahead. But not before some of the guys took the opportunity for another pit stop.
pit stop on hwy 74
Back on the road I take a good pull, keeping an eye on my power. When in front, I have control! We rotated through again and the five of us make it to Evergreen. But first we have to climb this mega steep hill. At this point my power spikes to 250+watts and I won't have too much of that as there was a lot of climbing to do. So instead of climbing with the guys, I back off some, but my wattage still is high for that hill!  Alan stays back with me as well (he's riding a time trial bike so not the best bike for climbing!) We fly down the hill and pull off and make another stop. Last chance for water before Echo Lake.
refueling before we get to Squaw Pass
We wait here for a while, (we are 13 miles past Morrison and 1800ft higher). I take the opportunity to use the bathroom and eat a little something. Sticking to a good nutrition plan is critical on a ride like this! We kept our eye out for Joe and Todd, but didn't see them. Again, they are strong cyclists so we pressed on. A couple more rollers and 15 minutes later we were at the base of Squaw Pass Rd. At this point I was familiar with the ride, as I did it from here two weeks ago. And I was really glad I did. I knew about where my pacing should be and what to expect from the road. The group split up at this point, as everyone needed to climb within their ability. Bryan, Chris and Matt pulled ahead, and Alan and I were in the back. Still no Joe or Todd.
I felt like I was working a bit hard today. It was a little more difficult to keep my breathing under control here, and my heart rate was in the upper 160s. Would prefer it to be in the lower 160s, but I was going to chalk it up to "event day nerves." I pass several people going up this hill (not in our group) but it's always fun to pass folks. I hung on to the wheel of a guy for a couple minutes before continuing on. They were cool about that. About two thirds of the way up, Joe comes screaming past me. He's doing great, Alan's back there a bit and Todd's coming but hurting. As I'm climbing, I'm forcing myself to eat and drink. At a heart rate of 167 or so, breathing is a tad labored, so eating and drinking is not the easiest. But I take my Perpetuem, swallow my endurolytes and drink my HEED. This 18 mile stretch (well, 17.35 by my GPS) took 1:52 riding time and had 3500 feet of elevation gain.

We regrouped at Echo Lake. Our SAG support vehicle (Julie, Liz and Radar) were up there with all sorts of food and drink. We waiting for everyone to show up, rehydrate, refuel. Todd didn't have the best climb (some stomach trouble) so the stop was critical to him.
The Magnificent Seven (and Radar) at Echo Lake
After a 45 minute rest for me at Echo Lake, I was ready. My legs were aching, but mentally I was feeling good and I might as well give it a shot! If I needed to turn around, it would be an all downhill cruise back to Echo Lake. Off we went through the guard gate and the 14+ mile climb began!
I headed off first (any guy to get "chicked" would be my servant at the after party) so I could use any head start I could get! Soon after Todd and Joe come flying by. They really wanted to win the first to summit prize. Personally, I just wanted to summit. By mile 4 I passed Todd (he was walking) as his knee was causing him serious grief. He was going to summit no matter what!
This is a steady grind climb. I kept an eye on my heart rate and power, and wanted to feel good (as good as one can feel after 47ish miles and 5000+ feet of climbing already in the legs! I remembered the climb from a couple weeks ago, and it was actually mentally easier this time. I felt probably as good as I could and just kept riding. I made a quick pit stop at Summit Lake (mile 9) and the closer and closer I got to the top, the more I knew I was going to make it. It was slow going, but I was going. here are some pictures that Julie and Liz took as they drove the support vehicle to the summit:
not quite yet to treeline
still going
it's not as flat as it looks
still many more miles to climb
Made it! At the support car at the summit!
dressed for the descent
So the whole group made it to the summit. Todd got back on the bike by mile five and pushed through the pain. Joe got there first and won the "speedo jaune" or as close to a yellow speedo as he could find...and he took his prize with pride and celebrated during the 14 mile descent.
Joe riding with honor
We regroup at Echo Lake and make the descent to Idaho Springs. 25 minutes down averaging 30mph. Sweet! It was BeauJo's pizza time. It was packed so instead of waiting for a table we ordered it to go and ate in the parking lot.
Joe, Julie, Liz, and Alan behind BeauJo's in Idaho Springs

Todd and Alan called it a day, Bryan is calling for motivation to climb Floyd Hill
After eating pizza, a welcome treat (but don't eat too much - still 40+ miles to get home) Todd and Alan decide to ride in the support car back to Denver. The rest of us pedal on. One more hill to climb, about 2000 feet total climbing on the return. My legs were tired, but since it'd been 3 hours since I summited, they had some rest in them. So the five of us made the trek back. Being lighter of the bunch, I descend a bit slower than the guys. But I still move pretty quickly so they don't have to wait long at the turns. I had no idea how to get back so it was a good thing they did wait for me! Floyd Hill was tough, but since it was a lot shorter than the other climbs of the day, we survived it! It was a nice cruise back from Evergreen to Morrison. One last pitstop at the Conoco and then up the road to the trail. Cruising as a group on the trail, I was feeling really good about what we all had just done and that my legs hung in there. Joe got some interesting looks (he was still wearing the speedo, but at least had a shirt on). A little before 7pm we made it back to his house! A 13 hour day!
Then the after-party began! Joe's mom had helped Liz and Julie get everything set up for us. Great mexican food, drinks, oh, and shower! I got served drinks by Alan and Todd, as I "chicked" them to the summit. Really an Epic Ride that we won't forget any time soon!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday's Sights

Today was my last big training ride before next weekend's Mt. Evans Epic Ride. It was a fantatic Colorado summer day (a bit hot, not much wind) and great blue skies, so I stopped a few times during the ride to get some pictures for my bike blog.

I left the house over an hour after I had planned on leaving, but that's because I got a little extra sleep. My legs were feeling OK (yesterday they were hurtin' on my ride) but I didn't know how they'd feel on some hills. My plan was to ride down to the Garden of the Gods and back and pretty much that's what I did.

Took it easy on the first part to warm up and made sure I was drinking since it was going to be warm. I cut through the Air Force Academy to avoid traffic and went over to Woodmen Rd. Decided to climb Woodmen all the way to the top. Up I went. Pretty long climb that gets a little steep at the top. Fun coming down Centennial though! Saw Carley from Team In Training and gave her a shout out. When I turned on 30th this cyclist with the most amazing calves I have ever seen passed me. I couldn't help staring at his legs. Wow. A few minutes later I was in the Garden and stopped to take a picture.
Kissing Camels is the rock formatino above 'Gods'
Continuing on my climb, passed what looked like a father-daughter climbing up on a tandem mountain bike. Cool! Made my way to Balanced Rock, where a guy offered to take my picture with the bike. Wish he'd gotten more rock than road, but it was nice of him anyway!
at balanced rock.
Next stop, the Trading Post to use the facilities and refill my water bottles. And another bike photo op with the cactus!
outside the Garden of the Gods Trading Post
After leaving I did one extra "little loop" for a fun 'S' curve descent and then back up to balanced rock and out into Manitou Springs. when I cruised over there I realized today was the Pikes Peak Marathon and people were lining up at the finish line. I hung out, ran into Brian McCarrie of Pikes Peak Sports and waved at Tim Bergsten, also of PPS, as he was also covering the race. Then I watched the top 3 runners finish (yes, Matt Carpenter wins AGAIN). What is it about watching a race finish making you think, "I could do that!"
Matt Carpenter wins 2010 Pikes Peak Marathon in under 3:52
I eventually need to get home so I didn't stay long. Turned around and headed back into the Garden to finish the loop and head back home the way I came. My legs were feeling good so I opted to climb back up Centennial all the way. Saw Carley again as she was coming down! This road is mostly a reasonable climb until you get near the top. Add in no wind and it was a tough climb! I enjoyed the descent back down Woodmen and swung by my friend Sarah's place. I didn't see her car parked out front so I continued on, back into the Air Force Academy.

When I stopped at the thunderbird plane to take a pic, I ran into Dan from the Pikes Peak Tri Club. He's training for Ironman Florida and was doing laps of Stadium Drive. I found him around mile 68 so he was a little tired.
Dan of the PPTC
Got my photo of my bike...
If only I could ride as fast as this can fly!
After this brief stop, I decided to do the climb around to the Visitor Center for one more climb of the day and to get more water. This was a hot climb! Usually the wind is strong up here but since I think I had a slight tailwind (no complaining) it got warm. I was a little low on calories and took a gel and washed it down with warm water. Not ideal but better than nothing. I didn't push too hard on the climb but was glad to get to the Visitor Center (air conditioning, cold water!) Once I filled my bottles I sat outside in the shade near the entrance. A nice breeze cooled me off while I hydrated some. Chatted with a woman who did the Ascent yesterday. With 60 miles under my belt here, it was time to go home. One more climb past the soccer fields and then fly down North Gate Blvd. Except there was a big kids soccer tourney so traffic was thick! Kids were running across the street so I had to yell at one to be careful since I didn't know if he was going to run in front of me. Pushed up this last hill then enjoyed the descent again (mostly - it's better with fewer cars). Just a few more miles until home. Made it! Now I'm really looking forward to a week of recovery so I can rock Mt. Evans!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mt. Evans is conquered

In two weeks I'm planning on joining a group of "crazy people" to ride from Englewood, CO (SE Denver) to the top of one of Colorado's 14,000ft peaks, Mt Evans. As the air is pretty darn thin at 14,000ft above sea level, it was recommened that we try the summit ahead of time. Today was that day for me. A group of 3 (turned 4) started at Bergen Park/Evergreen, CO and headed "upwards."

I've heard some accounts of the climb prior to this day, seen garmin data (today's data here), and read a recent blog post by someone who just rode up this "thing" earlier in the week. So I think I was prepared. Really I was prepared to stay in my easiest gear (36x27) for about 4 hours to the summit. And that's pretty much what happened!

Bryan, Matt and I left the parking lot of this park and immediately you are in a climb. 9mph or so. That was it for the next 15ish miles. Topped out here about 11,200ft, then a nice 3mile or so descent to Echo Lake. The skies were blue and the scenery Colorado-tastic!
Matt and Bryan (and my bike) about 15 miles into the ride
It took us just under 2 hours to get to Echo Lake. We stopped here for a few minutes to get more water and make sure we were ready for the 14+ mile climb to the top.
refueling stop at Echo Lake (nice scenery, eh?)
Now we're on our way up to the top. Mt. Evans in through a national park, but today was a free day so we didn't have to pay!
Bryan, my bike, and Matt about to keep climbing!

So then we rode, rode and rode. Bryan went up ahead and Matt did as well. My goal was to keep my HR aerobic, as I didn't know how the thin air would affect me. Stories of cramps, wackiness, altitude sickness, and just plain not being able to catch your breath played in my mind a bit. I was going to go up this mountain smiling (not grimacing!). And luckily that's what happened! The miles are marked so I could gage my progress. It was going to take me about 2hrs to get to the top of this thing. I felt pretty good, though my legs still feel some of the last three weeks' hill repeats! Tight spot in my quad that needs to get worked out was there. But as far as nutrition (Hammer Perpetuem, HEED and endurolytes) I felt great.

A little over half-way to the top, someone comes by me and says 'Hey!' or 'Hey woman' or something like that. It was Joe! His car didn't start in the morning so he got a later start but still mananged to haul booty up the mountain and pass me (ok so I'm not that fast) and get to the summit not much past Bryan and Matt!

There were a few moments of headwind, well more than a few, on some of the switchbacks at the top. I'd go from 5.5mph to 7.0mph. woohoo! This climb is a mental challenge as well. You are above the treeline (12,140ish ft) for most of this climb so you can see forever. The road has no guardrail. It's easy for the little voices to tell you you can stop at the next turnout. But I wasn't going to stop - I could still breathe and my legs weren't aching (tired, yes, aching, no).
I tried to get a picture of the view while climbing but it didn't turn out so well...
at times the road did feel this steep!
And a little over 2 hours after we left Echo Lake, I made it to the summit, where Joe, Matt and Bryan were waiting.
cell phone camera, but that's me on the left with Bryan, Joe and Matt

and how cool is this...a 14er with a bike rack on the summit!
Bryan was getting a bit cold (it was WINDY and chilly up there!) the sign at the base when we started up at the gate read "wind chill 25.' brrrrrrr! So I quickly got on my jacket (those Girls Heart Rockets illumite jackets rock!), long fingered gloves and we headed down. The road is pretty rough so this was a slow descent for me. We stopped at Summit Lake as the lines to the bathrooms weren't as long.
Next we cruised down to Echo Lake, made another quick stop to take off some layers and get more water, then had one last climb to the top of that hill before a much more exciting descent due to the smoother roads. It still had some bumpy sections, but way better than the Mt. Evans road!
Six and a half hours later after we departed we arrived back at the cars! Successful trip! Now I know what to expect for the big day on the 28th....if I keep a steady pace and keep breathing, I won't have any trouble!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Copper Triangle Report

This past weekend I participated in the Copper Triangle, a 78 mile bike tour over three Colorado mountain passes - Fremont, Tennessee, and Vail. It was the first time I've done a bike tour like this and my longest bike ride to date. And I would like to offer a big THANKS to all who helped me raise $300 for the Davis Phinney Foundation!

Here's the GPS data of my ride.

Preparation started Thursday evening as I was leaving for the mountains straight from work. As I was cleaning and lubing my chain and making sure my bike was shifting smoothly, something bad happened. The shifter cable broke at the head of the cable, leaving the small metal cable head inside the shifter. Oy vey! Not a good thing when I'll be needing as many gears as possible to climb all those passes! So now I had to figure out where to take it to fix it (although at the time I didn't know what the exact issue was). Not likely to find a bike shop at 9pm on a Thursday so I'd have to take it some place over lunch at work, and hope to get it by 3:30 when I was going to head out of town. I didn't have time to drive across town to take it to my normal bike shop. But there is a reputable shop not too far from my work and on my way out of town so I tried them first. They were able to tell me what was wrong, but said it could take several hours to get the cable head out and they were booked solid through next week. Being in a bind, I asked for a suggestion and they pointed me towards Old Town. I'm familiar with that shop and it was just a couple miles away. So off I went, hoping for a walk-in miracle. And that is what I got! I was driving out of the parking lot 30 minutes after I drove in. I was a very happy camper! Plus with a new cable means essentially a quick tune up for smooth shifting!

I left work at 3:30 as planned and headed up the pass. Tim was coming up for the night as well so I met him at a gas station outside of Woodland Park so we could drive out there together. A nice evening for a drive! We tried to stop in Breckenridge for dinner, but it didn't seem quick or convenient, so we pushed on to Frisco. Found a nice grill/bar (Ollies) for dinner and then made our way the few miles over to Silverthorne. Then it was chill time - I had to get up super early! Tim could sleep in since he was just driving back to town.
Saturday: 4:40am I'm up now, get dressed, eat a clif bar and fix up a couple bottles of HEED. I say goodbye to sleepy-head Tim and head out to Frisco. I decided to add a few extra miles to my ride by starting in Frisco and riding the 7ish miles along the bike path to Copper Mountain. So I found a nice parking spot near the marina (across from the cemetery) and ride off. Had to dodge a few people setting up the art show along main street, but managed to not get clobbered.
Found the bike path and headed south. And south is uphill. It was a nice, easy warm-up ride. I drank about one full bottle of HEED on this ride. It was going to be a long day so I needed to stay on top of hydration. I got to Copper and ran into the hundreds of cyclists starting the event. Made a quick stop to refill my bottle and use the bathroom, take in the scenery.
My starting point at Copper Mountain for the Copper Triangle

Cindy was volunteering at the event - she is a great announcer!
On the way out I ran into Cindy, a friend from TNT and fellow Florida State grad! Took a quick pic of her and then began the started with more climbing, so I think I was glad I had a climbing warm-up! This was a pretty steady climb and I felt like I was in a good groove. I didn't want to push too hard since it was going to be a long day, but I'm a decent climber so I was enjoying it. About an hour later I got to the top of Fremont Pass, the first aid station. This one is over 11,300 feet, the highest pass of the day. And that it was still pretty early, there was chill in the air. I was a comfortable temp on the climb with an underlayer, jersey, arm warmers, and a light wind jacket. I chose cycling pants that go just below the knee but aren't too thick and wore longer socks than normal. So I was actually pretty comfortable.
At the top we could just rest as long as we wanted. I ate half a banana and a mini-muffin, started on a mojo bar and grabbed some pb crackers for later, and filled my water bottle. Also took the opportunity to use the porto-o-potty. It was downhill from here and going to be chilly. I'm glad I opted to leave on all my layers at the top.
food at Fremont Pass. Thanks to the Search & Rescue team!
one of the views from the top of the Fremont Pass
So off I went on the descent, it wasn't too curvy so I enjoyed it, but I froze! This was the only time I got really cold on the ride. Brrrrr! My teeth were chattering. But it didn't take long until it wasn't as steep and the sun was hitting the road. It was at this point I also started to feel a little strange. Not sure what it was, but I didn't want it to get worse or it would be a long day! I was tired not getting the most amount of sleep all week, and I didn't have my oatmeal and PB/banana breakfast that I usually do. So I figured I would make sure I hydrated and nibbled on food. My legs were feeling fine so that was a good thing! About 15 minutes later after a few more bites of the mojo bar and some sips of water, I was feeling better. Could have also been the altitude. I was glad all was good and I kept riding and got in my groove.
Next up, Tennessee Pass. This one snuck up on me. I think I knew it was a shorter climb, but about an hour after leaving Fremont, there I was at Tennessee Pass. Which was a good thing since I was thinking it wouldn't hurt to pee soon. I turned off to the aid station (climbed a small hill to get there!) and hung out for about 15 minutes. Enough time to get more water, grab a bite of something (think I ate a few of the pb crackers) and use the bathroom. I met a couple from DC waiting in line. People were here from all 50 states!
the bike wanted to rest amongst the trees
view from the aid station at Tennessee Pass
Had to get a photo of the bike by the sign! 10,424 feet!
Now for a whole lot more descending and a nice ride on Highway 24. At some point here I got warm and decided the jacket could go. I pulled over to a side road and got a picture of some of the other cyclists.
Next up was the climb up Battle Mountain. Didn't stop for photos - this was a nice little climb and just simply amazing scenery. Right before this climb I figured it was time for a gel. Love my Hammer flask! We descended down and went through Minturn (where we had to stop for a UHaul maneuvering on the main street through town) it was almost time for the base of Vail. Rest stop #3 and some final fueling up before the big climb. Finished the PB crackers, got some trail mix, more water, and took some endurolytes. My legs were still feeling good at almost 60 miles!
Rest stop #3 - getting ready to climb Vail Pass
Though I was starting to feel my legs a little after the stop, they got back into the groove pretty quickly. Now we were climbing so it was all a matter of pacing. I'd occaisionally get behind some guys to draft then decide I wanted to go faster or they met up with faster people and took off. Part of this was on a bike path, some on road. We went through part of the Vail resort and then the path. And we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. And then aid station #4 was there but I didn't stop. I still had water and my Hammer flask with gels so I cranked on. Some of this stuff was a decent grade and I remember looking down and wondering if I had a flat tire! There was also encouranging things and names painted on the road, like a stage race had taken place there. It was older paint, so I'm not sure what that was from, or if it is just in fun for all the people who ride the road. At the top of one hill we turn back onto the path and get a little relief with a short descent. Take a corner and a volunteer tells us one more hill. It was a wall. Slog! Out of the saddle - power it! Phew! After one or more steep parts, we finally get to a more decent grade (3% maybe?) where I could actually spin and enjoy the rest of the climb to the top. And at the top the Brownies from Heaven were waiting. Nothing better than a delicious brownie after almost 20 miles of climbing! At the top @billkeller found me (I had passed him a few minutes earlier on the climb and wondered if it was him - a twitter follower I've never met in person). Chatted with him a bit, and then got ready to make the descent back to Copper.

Top of Vail Pass, about 10,600+ feet
It was a really fast descent down to Copper along the bike path - it was a little congested with some of the stronger descenders wanting to go faster, but the visibility wasn't great and people were coming up the other direction. But a few minutes later I was back at the resort! Time for lunch and to hang around a bit before heading over to Frisco.
found a nice rack for my bike
other bikes needed a nap
I had some lunch with a Pikes Peak Tri Club member. Saw the jersey and said hello. Hadn't met him before. Then I hung around for the check presentation to the Davis Phinney Foundation, as I had raised some extra money for them. DPF was given $125,000 from the Copper Triangle. And Govenor Ritter even showed up and there was exiciting talk about the UCIstage race being planned for 2011 here in Colorado.
Gov Ritter is on the left behind the table.

Time to head back down the path to Frisco.
same path, but took photo in the morning heading south towards Copper
Talked to a guy in a CTS jersey on my way to the path and it turns out he works with my husband and is a friend of a mutual friend. Small world! The ride to Frisco was fast and easy so it actually made for a nice recovery ride! I packed up my bike, found a 7-11 to change into real clothes and made my way to Boulder for the Boulder 70.3 on Sunday to support the tri club and my athletes. More scenic Colorado!

Monday, August 02, 2010

And the Winner Is....

....first thanks to everyone who donated to the Davis Phinney Foundation! It's still not too late to donate if you didn't get the chance before. Remember every $1 helps!

The winner will recieve a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card and a $10 Starbucks gift card!
I used to generate the winner randomly.

And the winner is....
Todd K.

Congratulations and THANK YOU so much for your support. Todd, I will be contacting you via email through the DPF site to get your mailing address.

Thanks again for helping those with Parkinson's lead more active lives!