While I don't really mind getting up early for a race, I prefer that it not be quite as early as this one. But with over an hour of driving, a need to pick up my packet, and a 6:00 a.m. start, there really wasn't much choice. There was some lodging in the area, but I was trying to make this a less expensive event (registration cost me about $30 bucks!). Fortunately, the drive was quiet at this hour and I made excellent time, arriving a little before 5:30. I even had time to get some gas for the car (something I figured would be more physically taxing after the ride).
|The Grange Hall just prior to the start at 6:00 a.m.|
The first thing that I noticed when I stepped out of the car was that it was cold. Not just chilly, but cold (at least for my Pueblo standards). The temperature reading on my Cateye was registering at about 33 degrees. I wasn't really planning on cold weather apart from having my arm warmers with me. I dug around in my gear and found a plain white t-shirt (Hey there Delilah!) and put it on under my kit. That extra layer helped a lot. Shortly before six a.m., all of the riders gathered in front of The Grange Hall for a few announcements, and the national anthem. There was a long list of sponsors and several directions given. As I stood there, I began to shiver involuntarily. I was dying to get on the bike and get the blood flowing a little. When we were finally underway, I noticed that I felt fairly warm, with the exception of my finger tips, which had gone completely numb. I mean completely numb. At one point I pressed my index finger to my thumb, and I couldn't feel a thing!
Much like a running race, the first few miles went by quickly and easily. Everyone is fresh and there's a little more adrenaline that helps with the perceived exertion. Initially, I was tempted to "go" with a few of the more experienced riders, but I decided to hang back in the end. There wasn't really any pace line to join and I didn't want to exhaust myself trying to stay with any riders that were faster. Ride my own ride was the plan. After about 35 minutes of riding, we reached the first aid station at 9.5 miles. I felt just fine at this point, so I decided that there was no reason to stop. Ahead lay the first significant climb of the day that would take us up about 1500 feet over the next 7 miles.
|Looking back down at the road up to Cripple Creek (about 15 miles into the ride)|
The next landmark on the route was the town of Victor, Colorado which is about 10 miles south of Cripple Creek. These are often described as "old mining towns," and while that's true, there is still plenty of modern, active mining in the area.
|Mining Operations near Victor, CO|
|Jawas not included!|
Still, even around some of the newer mining endeavors, you could see the remnants of the old mines here and there.
In the town of Victor, I decided to take a break at Rest Stop #3. Much like aid stations during a race, the rest stops included a mix of gatorade, water, gels, fruit, and other snacks. I was still feeling fairly energized, so I opted for just half a banana, and some water before moving on. I lingered a little longer at this aid station before it dawned on me that I'd only ridden about 23 miles, and I still had another 83 to go! Time to get moving.
The ride out of Victor was quite steep and brought us to the high point of the ride after two significant climbs. One of the things that I came to understand on this ride was that there would be a lot of "give and take" in elevation. It was common to spend several minutes riding up to the top of a steep hill, only to descend in less than a minute or two. At the bottom of these descents another hill would be there waiting to be climbed. As much as possible, I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to coast on the downhill portions so that I could rest my legs for the next hill. Coasting was fairly easy considering that the pitch on some of these hills was well over 7% meaning that my speed would be in the upper to mid thirties (mph) on the way down. Contrast that with climbing somewhere between 5-7 mph!
|Old Mine on the way up and out of Victor|
|The West Fork Fire Complex, a group of several Fires, is clouding much of Southern Colorado|
About a mile out of the rest stop, I noticed a BLM fire vehicle and a couple of pickups parked on the side of the road. Peeking over the shoulder, it appeared that a small fire had burned a couple of acres at some point. I imagined that the fire personnel were doing some checking to make sure that it was completely out. It was a reminder about the fire danger that is present during these hot, dry months.
For the next several miles, I climbed and climbed. I would reach the top of one hill, only to find another waiting just ahead. A couple of other riders came past me at one point, and made me feel like I was standing still. They quickly faded in front of me. Finally, I reached the top of the climb and a fairly long downhill stretch led to the next rest stop, just a few minutes east of Highway 9. I stopped to take off my t-shirt and to refill my water bottle, but I chose to make it a quick stop as I worried that stopping too frequently would allow my body to move into rest mode, and make the rest of the ride more difficult. On to Guffey.
|Theme for this ride: Climbing hills!|
Standing under the trees at the next rest stop, one of the other riders noted that it was "all kinds of hot" out on the road, and this was a perfect way to describe it. I drank a half bottle of Gatorade, and refilled my water bottles. There was an empty camp chair sitting right next to my bike, beckoning me. I resisted, and finally a fellow rider sat down in it. I regarded this with an equal mixture of jealousy and relief. After a slightly longer break, I got back on the bike and faced what was probably the worst climb of the day for me. It was very steep, and while only a couple of miles long, it took me a good twenty agonizing minutes to reach the top. At several points, it was all I could do to keep even a 3 mph pace, while standing up out of the saddle. There was also no shade at all, and the unrelenting sun beat down on my back and caused the sweat to pour down from my head. I couldn't even get a drink of water, as that would have caused me to slow even further, which was pretty much impossible to do. I pressed on but it was demoralizing and I wondered how on earth I was going to cover another 25 miles this way. The time on my bike computer said I'd been riding for about six and a half hours. I guessed it would be at least nine hours before I finished given the pace I was going.
The last part of the ride passed quickly even though some of the uphill had returned. I found a groove and just pushed through each of these hills. I had energy, speed, and felt like I could ride another 50 miles (not saying that I wanted to, just that I could). I crossed the 100 mile mark after about seven and a half hours of riding time. I thought the last six miles would pass slowly and tortuously , but before I knew it, I was on the final hill down into Florissant, and as I rode to the finish, I was greeted with cheers and applause from the other riders and volunteers.
At the Grange Hall, everyone was in good spirits. There was a BBQ lunch and I greedily enjoyed a cheeseburger, chips, and a drink. I would have loved a beer, but it wasn't one of the available options, and in reality I don't think it would have been wise with a good 90 mile drive back home. That said, one of the sponsors for this event was the Paradox Brewery in Woodland Park. Paradox ages all of their beer in wine casks, and they specialize in adding a modern twist to traditional beer styles. On the way home, I stopped in and picked up a 750 ml of their Trippel Double, a Belgian style double IPA to enjoy once I was safely back at the house. It was excellent, and not overdone with the typical coriander and orange that a lot of Belgian Whites seem to have. Let's just say that bottle didn't make it through the night.