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!


Christi said...

I remember the brownies at the last aid station. They were absolute heaven!

I am glad that you had a great time!

Terry Odell said...

Sounds good (for someone who likes doing that stuff) but next time leave out the "almost got clobbered" reference.

Nicole said...

Yep, Christi, those brownies sure did rock! Several people who have done the ride before have all said great things about the brownies! :)

And Mom, I really just added that "clobbered" part for extra effect... ;)

Brian said...

Great report Nicole. I like the way you write.

Nicole said...

Thanks Brian! Glad you enjoyed it! You should totally do the ride next year. Maybe a Team?

Ray said...

Thank you for that wonderful dissertation. I learned a lot for this my first year event. What gearing did you use? Does anyone ever use a CX bike?

Nicole said...

Hey Ray - glad you enjoyed the report. I used compact gearing - 50/36 with a 12-27 cassette. I'm sure there were a few people on CX bikes.

Darby Teander said...

Hi Nicole, Thanks for this story. I'm a cyclist from Western North Carolina doing a year of service in Denver Colorado and I head back to NC mid August. I JUST heard about the Copper Triangle, and I'm trying to decide if I'm crazy enough to try to survive it. I've had only 10 rides, 319 Miles total in 2018 and the longest was 45. My longest ever was 56 miles with 3000k of climbing; last July. I live in Denver and have done Lookout a few times and I feel like its fairly easy; going to try to do a few repeats of lookout in the next two weeks. I stay in shape doing other things like running, hiking, power yoga, some weights...

I don't know, I know this sounds abysmal, but I'm very stubborn and motivated and I'd train hard these next 9 weeks. As a coach, do you think this is possible, do you think I could survive this ride?