Summer is here. That isn’t news to anybody. If you live in Colorado you know we’ve had temperatures in the 80s, 90s, and even 100s for months. Aside from lamenting the early death of my crispy brown lawn, the warm temps have been great. Having come from the oft-soggy Northwest I still don’t get tired of waking up every single day to beautiful blue skies and near-guaranteed nice riding conditions. The DS and the kiddos agree with me as well: They spend nearly every waking moment outside making up for their previous sunshine deficiencies.
Hot temps have forced me to adjust my riding habits a bit though. Coming from the Northwest also means I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to riding in the heat of the afternoon sun. I’ve adjusted by shifting the bulk of my riding to 6am group rides or trips up Lookout Mountain. This sort of riding schedule isn’t as plush as the 2pm departure, but it does clear up my work day nicely and it’s nice to button up the ride early and not worry about missing out on a spin because of a last minute meeting.
One great group ride I hit sometimes on Saturday mornings is the Airport Ride. The Airport Ride is also known as the FDR (Frustrated Dads Ride). The demographic of the ride is made up in large part of fast, angst ridden dads setting out to crush each other after a week of glorious work and demanding family life. The FDR ride starts at Cycleton (in Stapleton) at 7am on Saturday mornings. It heads out on a seemingly flat 40 mile loop out to the airport and back. I say “seemingly” because the route involves a good number of small rollers which are attacked vigorously and used by the most frustrated dad in the group to beat all of the other frustrated dads into a pulp. I’ve never done the FDR ride and not finished it pretty much exhausted. The flurry of attacks is entertaining, motivating, and somewhat demoralizing depending on my present level of fitness. The FDR ride does split into a B group mostly consisting of less frustrated riders who are at peace with themselves and a slightly slower pace.
I haven’t been racing as much over the last months as I did earlier in the season. Between trying to get my fitness back and a general lack of interesting races to do, I just haven’t been very motivated. On the road, the Table Mountain weeknight series has been a small exception to the rule. The Table Mountain, or CSP races as they are also known are always a great challenge and I appreciate racing on a safe, wide, closed course. I haven’t been fast enough to cause much trouble at these races, but I’ve been able to use them to race myself back into a bit of shape.
On the MTB side, things have been more fun. I’ve been getting out with buddies on my vintage blue machine about once a week. This last week I took my maiden voyage up Mt. Falcon, which continues the Colorado MTB tradition of putting the trailhead in a parking lot at the base of a stupid-hard climb. Colorado mountain bike riding makes me feel slow and fat. There is much much more climbing on any given ride than I was accustomed to in Oregon and Washington. Back west rides seemed to roll more, here they go either up or down, with very little in-between. My 180lb weight does not mesh well with climbing, so I’m learning to suffer more here, and I’m learning to get used to my status as an average mountain biker here as opposed to a fairly competitive mountain biker back home. I don’t begrudge my place on the totem pole though, constantly getting beaten by better riders is a great way to stay humble and get motivated to somehow do better.
To further test my theories of MTB mediocrity, I headed up to Winter Park for the Epic Loop race. The one MTB race I did last year was the Epic point to point, so I wanted to come back this year and see how I stacked up. As it turns out, I “stack” quite well if “stack” means “crash”. As usual I dropped off the pace going up the first climb and entered the first descent into the trees all alone. I wanted to try to claw back some time and rode more aggressively than I otherwise might. Unfortunately the initial two minute climb up the first descent left me pretty anerobic and thus sloppy on the bike. While descending a very simple straightaway with no rocks or dangerous features to speak of, my front wheel literally locked up and pitched me over the bars and into the ground with such force and speed that I didn’t even have time to unclip or take my hands off the bars. BAM! The impact was violent and shocking. I hit face first and was knocked pretty much senseless. My adrenaline kicked in and told me to get back up and keep going, but as I tried to sit up my mind went blank and I flopped right back to the ground. What a surreal feeling! None of my muscles responded correctly. I tried sitting up a number of other times with the same result. A good number of friendly racers stopped to help and offered to call for medical help, but I tried to wave them on. I didn’t want to ruin their races. After a couple of minutes I was able to get back on my feet and I gingerly continued the race, albeit in a diminished capacity. My lips and cheeks were swollen, my knee deeply gouged, my shoulders shredded, and arms equally scratched up. Regardless, I was frustrated and driven by anger and adrenaline to keep going. I’m not sure if it was smart to continue or not, but I didn’t want to quit. The rest of the race was a pretty big suffer fest, but I made it to the finish line. After I finished and the adrenaline wore off, I started to feel worse. I had a my friend Peder handle the driving duties on the way home and sat in a chair doing pretty much nothing for the rest of the weekend. Even though I had a pretty good blow to the head, I was examined at the race and nobody saw signs of a serious concussion. Silver lining: I still managed 8th on the day.
A few days after Winter Park my buddy Chris and I decided to try for a race day entry into the Firecracker 50 relay. Riding all 50 miles of the Firecracker solo violated my “keep it fun” rule, but a leisurely 25 mile leg of a relay sounded like a perfect distance on a day that is better spent eating watermelon and remembering when fireworks were legal. The race went off well despite only getting an entry 12 minutes before the start. Chris rode a rockin’ lap and tried to keep his frustration in check while stuck behind a solid line of 264 slow pokes on the downhills. I took the second lap and enjoyed relatively traffic-free cruising. I loved starting with smooth fire road climbs go get my rhythm then hitting the trickier stuff after I was warmed up. I felt unbelievable guilt whenever I passed all of the much studlier riders who were doing the 50 miles all by themselves, so I tried to shout “nice job!” whenever I passed someone. I also may have whispered “I’m a total fraud” a few times as the guilt of my lesser suffering increased with each rider passed. Miraculously, despite some risky descending, I did not crash again in this race. I did manage to severely burp my ghetto tubeless rear tire and lost some hefty time re inflating it. I had only passed a single other relay racer the entire lap, and my smile turned upside-down as he passed me back while I furiously tried to use a tiny hand pump to get going again. Note to self: Next time bring a Mega Air cartridge. When I finally rolled across the line our result was good enough for 11th place out of about 90 starters. Not too shabby of a result, and the course left a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
While downing beers in the FC50 aftermath, a newfound buddy Adam asked Chris and I if we wanted to do the Red Rocks Century on Sunday the 9th. The 100 mile course with 10k feet of climbing had the potential to violate my rules of fun, but we decided to all go for it. I swindled my teammates Greg and Adam #2 to join the ride as well. The Saturday night before the ride it absolutely dumped cats and dogs for the first time in at least two or three months. All night long I dreamt and hallucinated about everyone bailing on the ride because of the rain, but when 5am rolled around the rain had stopped and we all decided to test our luck against the Colorado thunderstorms. I’m glad we did because the Red Rocks Century was a total blast. The course was laid out wonderfully and covered roads that I’d 99% never ridden. The clouds threatened us all day long, but we weren’t assaulted by even a single rain drop.
We climbed for Morrison to Evergreen, then to Idaho Springs and Squaw Pass. After that we descended back to Evergreen and took a number of semi-obscure and awesome mountain roads over a few more climbs that, by the time we had climbed them all, had us begging for mercy. An easy 15 mile descent back down to Morrsion was a nice way to finish the loop. The makup of our little riding group was great. We kept it gentlemanly most of the time, and whored up it at all the aid stations. Usually on long rides I bring my own fuel and have to pack my jersey like a chipmunk’s cheeks, but on a plush supported ride like this you can bring only a water bottle to sustain you between feasts at each aid tent. It is amazing how fast the sight of an aid tent can reduce five “athletes” into a bunch of demotivated dudes content to kill 30 minutes by the side of the road.
In between all that eating and resting everyone in our group did take turns beating up on the other members. Chris slayed the climb up to Echo Lake, Greg rode us off his wheel on every single descent, Adam declared war climbing out of Evergreen, and I dipped deep into my stash of Oreo Cookie power on the little climbs near the end of the ride. It is a truly fun thing to ride with a group of guys where each person can hold their own the entire time and occasionally cause some trouble. For me finishing the 102 miles and all that climbing represented the longest ride I’ve ever done. It also made pushing a Costco shopping cart filled with the kids and a ton of groceries later that day nearly impossible.