Archive for June, 2011

What Rabbit Ears? – Day 5

As each day progresses it’s a bit harder to get out of bed & climb on the bike knowing what lays ahead. I was a little anxious last night knowing the climb over Rabbit Ears pass awaited plus a full day in the saddle.
We were pleasantly greeted with temperatures in the mid 40’s. Unlike yesterday where very few rolled out early, I would say most folks left way early today. It was a fairly neutral 5 miles before heading into the pass. I know I’m fatigued because I can no longer read a map properly. I was under the assumption that the first rest stop was at mile 8 atop the first pass. Well it turns out the 2,500+ climb went until mile 14! Although it dragged on, I felt pretty solid upon reaching the top, but I was soaked with sweat. I was hopeful to beat my wife & kids to the top, but they had already passed on their way home.
So I headed out for the second part of Rabbit Ears Pass. And this is where it gets funny. I know the local Colorado readers will laugh heartily. See I assumed the two passes were the “rabbit ears.” So I texted my mother in law when I made the first ear. She responded what ear? Little did I know there was a rock formation at the top which were indeed the ears. When approaching it, I thought it looked like a great photo opp. Another rider asked if I wanted him to take my picture with the ears. I said “what do you mean? I thought the two passes were the ears?” It was the source of good chuckles from nearby riders.
All week we have enjoyed the climbs because of the amazing views and unreal descents. However today things were different. We started into a headwind on the descent off rabbit ears which didn’t end till mile 52 rest stop. I was in a serious pain cave during those 30 miles like most riders. About mile 45 someone had spray painted on the road “Live STRONG.” Wow. I had neglected to think about those who I was riding for. This was enough to lush me to the next rest stop.
We had logged over 300 miles and my body was really pissed at me. I began to really question my motives & driving force to be out here with the wind we were facing. I grabbed a snack & more water while overhearing other riders mention we were about to turn & get some relief from the wind. Ok I thought, if the wind isn’t in our face I can do this.
Not only was it not in out face, but we were blessed with a strong tailwind for a while. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I pushed it. I was holding 25mph for quite a while & quasi enjoying life again.
We finished out the last stretches into Granby through a beautiful canyon & some rolling hills. But not before one last nasty little climb heading up to the school.
It was a relief to get in, and be done with the final long day. Now to mentally prepare for the final day of the tour with one last mountain climb. So here’s me & my angry body checking out, going to get some recovery food. Seeya in Georgetown tomorrow afternoon.


Bring the Pain: Day 3

From the stories I’ve heard of years past, we’ve been extremely fortunate with the weather this year for the ride. The early morning riders today were surprised with a light rain shower leaving Edwards. I decided to wait till the small cloud past and rolled out just after 7 a.m.
We had looked at the weather the night before, and once we rolled out our fears were confirmed. We would have a headwind for most of the 80 mile day. Moods were a little grime as we began our first climb of the day. But getting to do a fun descent is always a just reward for climbing. Things only got tougher as we headed into the second & longer climb. Having a headwind while climbing can just be demoralizing. We finally finished with another awesome descent, but not before a few more short climbs into the next rest stop.
Lots of riders were pleased with the food offerings at the halfway rest stop (especially the homemade pie), but I decided to press on to the next stop. I had to spend some extra time so the bike mechanic angels could adjust my deraillur & fix my left cleat which wasn’t clipping in. Mile 52 was a pinnacle point in the ride for me today. I was tired, my body fatigued by multiple days of tough riding, and my spirit was just generally low and knew there were almost 30 miles left. Fortunately I was in cell range and texted my wife my status. She responded with “dig deep, finish strong, finish for us.” My bike was ready so I ate a banana & headed out.
It was challenging for the first few miles finding the strength to press through the wind. I caught a pace-line for a few miles which eased the pressure. Then the drive hit me. Thinking about my wife’s text & the fact my family was waiting in Steamboat Springs my inner competitor & triathlete nature came out. I got in my drops, hit the big ring and started laying out bodies on the route. I have no idea how many riders I passed the last 20 miles but it was a lot.
Looking at the route profile, you would have expected the last part of the day to be a nice gradual downhill ride into town. Not so much. It was filled with more than plenty rolling hills to push everyone to the brink. About 10 miles left and still mashing the gears I angrily slammed one final Gu. Normally I take my time rolling the package to make sure I get all the gel out, not this time, one big squeeze & the package was back in the bento box. I could feel the presence of a rider on my back wheel but didn’t know who it was. At the top of one roller he pulled aside and said “man your pulling really strong, I’m just a 52 year old hanging on for dear life!” I replied that I was tired and anxious to see my family.
We finally made the approach into Steamboat & over to the high school. I rounded the corner & saw my wife & daughter waving. At last. Well, almost. Once you arrived at the school, you still had to climb the hill & ride to the back lot where the bike corral was. After leaving my bike & grabbing my bag, I found my girls. There was a cute sign at Meadow Gardens & I told my daughter to sit in front so I could take her picture. Wanting to seize the opportunity I went beside her so my wife could take the picture. Before I walked up, my 5 year old daughter said “well just don’t touch me in the picture, you’re all dirty daddy.” Classic. She’s so much like her mother. 🙂
So here’s to a powerful and demanding third day. Excuse me while I go replace my calories at Beau Jo’s Mountain Bistro.

Reality Check: Day 2

As I suspected, sleeping in the gym was a little better last night. But still not great. Let’s just say I’m really looking forward to arriving in Steamboat for two reasons tomorrow. One, I get to see the wife & kids for a couple of days, an two I get to sleep in a hotel.
Today was a big reality check. Lots of adrenalin & endorphins carried most folks through a killer day one. So what did we get to do? Wake up & do it again. I awoke with a severe crick in my neck, so bad in fact I thought about not riding. But then I thought about my friend Jon Binsted who has battled cancer and decided to get on my bike. The weather was a better start at 41 degrees today, but a headwind for the 34 mile sustained climb to Leadville was not. Finding a good pace-line was definitely the name of the game this morning. I noticed a significant amount of bikes on the SAG vehicles today.
Of all the route destinations I was most excited about passing through Leadville. The endurance sport geek in me really played to that. Leadville is home to not only an epic endurance run, but also the fabled mountain bike race. Once I finally arrive I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Leadville, really just enough time to fill my water & buy a shot glass. Then we were off to Tennessee Pass. Honestly it came & went without much fanfare. The decent however was pretty spectacular. Day two really belong to Battle Mountain. This climb was fairly easy to overlook on the map, but not in person. I kept thinking I was climbing something out of the Tour de France. Steep grade with absolutely amazing views. Fortunately for all, it was shorter in comparison to our other climbs. We were treated with our third high speed descent of the day.
The day stretched long as we passed through Minturn & Avon as we approached Edwards. It’s amazing what a headwind all day long can do to your spirits. Well I’m off to sleep on my little piece of the gym floor at Battle Mountain High School. Till tomorrow…

Bump, Set, Spike: A Recap of Day 1

Well, that was interesting. There is a lot of hype & lore surrounding the Ride the Rockies, and day one lived up to all of it. It was a challenge the night before to get some solid sleep in the inside gym, I was truly amazed at how many riders were up at 4 a.m. to get an early start. Especially considering we were greeted (albeit unwelcome) with sub-freezing temperatures. I waited around a bit until the sub came out & began my ride at 7 a.m. It was a very chilly downhill ride for the first 45 minutes or so until we reached the first rest stop. Much ado had been made about the breakfast that greeted riders each morning at the first rest stop. There were delicious breakfast tacos & coffee from a guy & his son all the way from Texas! Then the industrial pancake line. They were turning more flapjacks than IHOP.
We began a gradual ascent after the stop for about 20 miles. Not too painful & some beautiful scenery along the Taylor river & reservoir. One we hit the rest stop at mile 40, I knew it was game on. And by game on, I mean a legit Cat 1 climb up 14 miles of dirt road to the top of Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet). I felt great for the first 10 miles. Some of my friends like to give me crap about my triple chain-ring on my bike. But it was made for days like today. I rocked that little ring happily all the way up. Which brings me to my only gripes of the day. There was a LOT of vehicular traffic on the dirt road. Apparently there are a lot of riders who thought themselves too important for their “personal sag wagons” to take an alternate route like instructed. The scariest part of the day was on a steep climb, and I came up to a group that was riding 4 abreast. I called out on the left, but not before the final rider almost forced me off the cliff. I gently scolded their riding 4 in the interest of safety, but they could care less. Another rider behind me saw it all & was amazed.
The final 6 miles up the mountain were a grueling ascent. There were a few times when I stopped to regroup my heart rate & questioned my sanity. The dirt on the last couple of miles was loose & the winds had started to pick up. I finally made it! I was ecstatic & relieved. I completed the hardest, longest & highest climb of my life. We were greeted with much fanfare, music & awesome food at the top. Being a Texan I gladly partook of a fajita taco. I took a few obligatory pictures at the conte rental divide sign & headed out for the 20 mile descent. Wow. Let’s just say I’ve never done anything quite like that either. What a rush coming down the mountain to locals cheering us on as we made our way downtown Buena Vista. So far I have been very impressed with the local & state support for the ride. Kudos Colorado, a job well done. I’ll see you in Edwards tomorrow.

The Final Countdown

In about 48 hours I will be close to beginning my climb of Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 feet above sea level.

I love the week, the days, the hours before a race or event. Laying out all of my gear to make sure everything is in order; the final check of my bike and other equipment to make sure it’s in top shape; calculating the hours to make sure I have enough nutrition and fluids. nutrition checkAnd yes, the waiting game, taper madness begins to take over. It’s more of a love/hate relationship that I have with this time period really. I get antsy thinking about the challenges ahead. It’s an excited nervous energy. My wife usually thinks I’ve lost my mind when I begin laying out all of my nutrition and clothing, but hey to do endurance events aren’t we all a little crazy to begin with? As I prepare for Ride the Rockies my mind won’t rest. This will be the first time that I’ve ever completed an event like this, heck I haven’t done anything close to this in the past! For me this is a rare opportunity. My father-in-law from Wyoming  affectionately calls me a ‘land lover from Texas’ due to our extremely low elevation. Am I ready for this? I think so, at least as much as I’m going to be at this point. I’m in for the whole gamut of what this incredible bike tour has to offer. I look forward to making more blog posts along the way as we traverse over 400 miles of scenic Colorado. So for now as I head off to pre-pack all of my gear again I sign off with these final thoughts- you never know what you’re capable of until you try. And as my good cycling friends like to say may the wind be at our backs and the sun on our faces… and keeping two wheels down.

I’ve been selected to be a guest blogger for the Denver Post (title sponsor of Ride the Rockies) along the way. I’ll be posting over at so be sure to stop by each day and see what we’re up to.

Acclimation for Pain

So here I am at 7,200 feet above sea level in Laramie, Wyoming. This isn’t unusual for my family as we typically spend some time up here each summer with the in-laws. Not a bad escape from the Texas heat if you ask me. If you haven’t been this high up, well it’s a treat, especially since it’s much harder to breathe. I clearly remember years past up here getting winded walking upstairs at my in-laws house. This year it’s a little different however. Those of you close to me know I’ve been preparing for the Ride the Rockies tour. What’s this you may ask? Well this year it’s about 412 miles of cycling in 6 days over the scenic Colorado Rocky Mountains. Ouch. Yes.

Last summer my father-in-law started telling me about this event which some of his neighbors did. Being a glutton for punishment was very intrigued. He said I should look into doing the ride next year. When registration opened up I put my name in the hat for a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a lottery registration, so there was no guarantee of getting in, but I had a feeling I would. Sure enough I did, and began methodically adjusting my training schedule as much as I could to adapt for the mountain climbs at high elevation. This was particularly difficult during Q1 when I spent much of the time on the road for work. But as the weeks drew on, so did my climbing and long miles. I finished up some solid hours in the saddle before leaving Austin and making our trek north.

My wife and I decided it would be best to get to high elevation as soon as we could so that I could begin acclimating. Once we arrived in Laramie, I hopped on my bike and sought out a category 3 climb for a 2 hour training ride on Saturday. There’s not much to describe the feeling of high altitude where you’re unable to take a full, deep breath. I followed that ride up on Sunday afternoon with 3 hours out in the country. Knowing these were my last long rides before the tour, and adjusting to the altitude made for a long weekend. But it’s done, it’s in the books and now I wait. I begin… the taper.

The taper is a very interesting concept for me within endurance events. A lot of times I think it can be used by athletes as a crutch before events. However, the longer the event, the more applicable the taper becomes. Knowing this ride will most likely take me to places I’ve never been (both physical and mentally) I don’t want to leave anything for chance. So I had a quick lunch ride yesterday, and will tomorrow as well to keep my legs fresh. And that’s it. Then the real fun begins bright & early next Sunday in Crested Butte. It’s going to be an amazing experience and I’m full of anxiety heading into next week. I cannot change how much I trained or didn’t train, I cannot change the weather, but I can control my mental game even in a deprived oxygen state.

I wanted to leave this blog post with one final thought. I’m riding for those who can’t. Once again this year I will be participating in the LiveSTRONG Challenge Austin. I’m offering up to you a chance to donate to helping those with cancer and eradicate this enemy who knows no bounds. For any donation made, I will ride in honor or memory of who you choose. It can be any day on the tour or even one of the summit climbs we do. Just go here to donate then let me know who I’m riding for.

Ride the Rockies Map