Climbing the Rocky Mountains in my Bright Green Helmet
This season hasn't exactly gone as planned. In a span of 5 weeks, I wiped out on the lovely downhill start on MacArthur Blvd., got a concussion, punctured three tires including a tubular, fell again crossing a damp, wooden bridge on W&OD, and my only tri thus far was in the low 50's and pouring rain - where I stood up, petrified of falling as my fearless peers zoomed by undeterred. I did manage to stay upright through the duration of the race which was a step in the right direction.
Also, unlike Tuan, I have retained both testicles. So there's that.
Regardless - I DON'T CARE.... I LOVE IT. I DON'T CARE....I LOVE IT. I DONT CARE...I LOVE IT. Stuck in your head now too? Thank me later.
My folks reside in Durango, Colorado home of the sufferefest known as the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. It's a 50 mile road race climbing the Rocky Mountains. When the gun goes off, the train let's out its roar saying, "Time to get moving, fat boys." Or maybe that was the dude driving the thing. Either way, good luck conductor, see ya at the finish.
Pops' plan was to start out together conservatively. The first 11 miles are flat and fast so no sense wasting energy before 30 miles of climbing. The actual 'category road race' starts three miles up the road...slackers.
Sticking to the plan in no way whatsoever, within the first 200 meters I latched onto some speedy 40 year old who was just giddy to pull me along. Poor fella, no matter how hard he tried to dislodge me I attached to him like a doctor fish. Me and my new resentful friend/bestee stuck in the back of the front pack, content to be pulled for as long as possible before the first climb (Shalona).
At the start of the ascent, I started humming the song, maaa, maaa, maaaaaa, mmmyyyyy Shalona. Or is is Sharona??? Eh, who gives a shit? That song's before my time and at 10,000 some odd feet altitude all minds quickly turn to mush. Specifically those that were mostly mush in the first place.
I stuck with a pack of about 6 other dudes during the initial climb. I have absolutely no clue how to pace for a ride like this, so I just let these guys set a decent clip and tried to hang on. We stuck together until the ski resort where it flattened out a bit and we splintered off.
I brought two full bottles, both half gatorade, half water. I also had a small pack of sport jelly beans and a Gu. I'm the kind of guy (dumbass) who goes for a 40-50 mile training ride with half a bottle of water typically, so I figured I'd be more than okay. Then again I also figured Potomac was pronounced Pot-Oh-Mac when I first moved here so you get the idea of who you're dealing with.
Feeling relatively solid, I pushed the pace a bit before reaching the second climb of the day (where I promptly dropped my chain shifting to the small sprocket), Coal Bank Pass. Your legs are fatiguing and your head follows suit about now. This climb's lovely appelation sounds like one of those obscure Kentucky Derby horses that finishes outside the top-10. You know one of those that you bet on 'with nothing to lose' as your best friend tells you when you place the bet and then subsequently lose a week's worth of wages...thoughts that change the world ladies and gents....
The thoughts get you through to the next climb at least.
By the third and final tough climb, my legs were shredded wheat. I started to get massive charley-horse type cramps with each pedal. I felt light-headed and incredibly nauseus. Kinda like a Friday night. Sans bad dancing.
I asked some dude I was pacing with what the final 5 mile climb was like: "Not bad dude. Not terribly steep, we'll be fine." Cool. Time to stand and mash the pedals a bit. But as soon as I shifted out of the seat my quads seized. Down ya go young lad. I returned seated and watched the mph drop on my Garmin to a paltry 7.5. You could probably run it faster. Shit you could probably skateboard faster. Shaun White probably does.
At the summit you're rewarded with a whopping 8 miles of blissful, lip smacking, delicious downhill. Pretty sure this took approximately 5 minutes. Sneaking a peak at the Garmin as I'm tucking low I'm approaching 50mph. It's not technical so you can just enjoy and lean ever so slightly if you feel like turning. Or you can just smack into the mountain. Nice to have options.
I avoided the mountain and cliffs thankfully and arrived in Silverton only to encounter one mile remaining, a gentle incline just to keep you honest.
My 22 y/o bro and Mom were out cheering - so that helped as I flashed them the green helmet gangster grin I've been working on. I tried to just soak it in as spectators lined the road shaking cow bells and screaming reminiscent of the Tour De France.
Cool shit. I easy pedalled into the chute, enjoying the final 200 meters like the last bite of cheesecake.
I felt awful as I dismounted. Was worried I was gonna need an IV for the cramps but after downing two of those nasty cocunut waters and half a banana I felt jacked enough to bike home.
Okay, not really. But I was pretty stoked not to have to run afterward (you 1/2 and full Ironmen are nutso).
Ride done, time to search the crowd for Pops and talk smack to the train (that chugged slowly in, much much later). Success.
Maybe I have something left for tonight's hill ride. We'll see.
Nice work Conartist, and CONgrats (see what I did there?) on your recent engagement.
-Andy Sovonick of Gaithersburg