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My first mountain bike race, and first stage race, was August 31 of 1997. It is easy for me to remember the exact date because I recall lying on the floor of a hotel room wishing my legs felt better. I was having another slice of humble pie, when the television broadcast was interrupted to let us know that Princess Diana had been in a horrible accident. The race was the King of the Rockies stage race in Winter Park, Colorado.

 

I remember I wanted to do a multi-day race and when I looked through the available races, the Winter Park event was the one that fit best. I had raced several triathlons that season and had solid tri fitness. I was riding a hard tail mountain bike with cantilever brakes. I had prepared for the race by riding local trails near my house. On home turf, I could average about 13 miles per hour when I was pushing pretty hard. I figured the Tipperary Creek point-to-point stage, stage one, would take me a couple of hours to complete.

 

I remember starting on a two-track road with a good amount of climbing right at the start of the race. Racing with beginner women, I was picking off rabbits and feeling pretty full of it. It seemed that my threshold training from triathlon was serving me well.

 

Once at the top of the climb, I remember a long descent through what seemed like a river of loose shale. Looking down the hill was a garage sale load of pumps, bottles, jackets, arm warmers and other miscellaneous items that the riders before me lost. While I was busy death-gripping my handlebars and trying to keep my teeth from chattering out of my mouth, all the people I passed on the climb were flying by me with ease. Dang.

 

After that descent, I remember a lot of really sweet singletrack. I decided not to worry about where I was in the field (I was pretty sure I was close to last, if not last) and just focus on keeping the rubber side down.

 

I didn’t have a cyclometer on that bike, but I was watching the ride time on my watch. I was just under two hours and figured I had around 15 or 20 minutes to go before crossing the finish line (averaging that magical 13 mph). I checked my water bottle and it was close to empty. Not to worry, I'm almost finished.

 

Rounding the corner I saw a woman at what appeared to be an aid station. I was riding fast though there when I shouted, “How much further to the finish?”

 

“Oh honey, you’re only half way.”

 

Wooooaaaaaaaah…as I grabbed a lot of brake. Guess I should fill that water bottle or hydration pack, eh? And, I’ll take a slice of that humble pie.

 

I immediately released any notion of finishing around two hours. Good thing, because I finally finished in 3:30. When I crossed the finish line, my husband was there and the first thing he said was, “Are you alright? Where have you been?”

 

I knew that translated to, “You told me you’d be here an hour-and-a-half ago and you look wrecked, what happened?”

 

After I got cleaned up, we went to dinner. I tried to eat, but could barely get anything down. My legs were beginning to seize up. We went back to the hotel room and I tried to do some self-massage to get my legs to recover more quickly, but I really couldn’t touch them they were so sore. I’ll have more humble pie, thanks.

 

I remember lying in bed thinking that I couldn’t have anything, including a sheet, touch my legs because they hurt so bad.

 

After not sleeping the entire night, I told Del that I might not be able to race stage two; mostly because I wasn’t sure I could get on the bike. Secondly, I wasn’t sure I could pedal. Seriously, my legs hurt that bad.

 

I decided to just ride a bit of the race and if I felt bad after 20 or 30 minutes, I’d just turn around and descend when the course was clear. By this time, I’m packing several slices of humble pie with me. They were heavy.

 

Once I started riding, I felt okay. Not great, but okay. The longer I rode, the better I felt. Wow, that’s weird. I never did feel great, but I felt good enough to finish the stage. I felt better at the end of the stage than I did at the beginning. Interesting…

 

That race was the beginning of my addiction for mountain bike riding. 

 

It has been 12 years since that event and I have kept the Tipperary Creek race on my radar all this time, hoping one day to go back. The route is no longer part of a weekend stage race, but it remains the last race of their summer series. 

 

In the past, one thing or another kept me from racing again. This year, after some encouragement from Bill Frielingsdorf, a pre-ride with Scott Ellis and an available calendar, I decided to do that event again.

 

The only expectation I have this time is to enjoy the course, the mountain bike fitness, and skills I’ve accumulated since 1997. A bit of that humble pie remains in my pocket, likely never to be fully removed.

 

That's a good thing.

1,391 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: colorado, mountain_bike_race, tipperary_creek, winter_park, king_of_the_rockies

Today’s blog was sparked by a combination of reading several blogs over the past week, having several conversations with racers (triathletes, cyclists and runners), volunteering at the 50-mile point of the Leadville 100 running race, watching Pb-ville 100 runners four miles from the finish line at 7:00am yesterday morning (after they had been running for 27 hours) and add a dash of personal reflection.

 

In my Leadville debrief, I didn’t make much mention of pain and suffering. I’m not sure why I tend to gloss over it, perhaps it’s my way of remembering only the positives and moving on to the next adventure. It was the Dave Wiens blog, part II, recounting how the race really went down in the pro field, which reminded me of how hard that race is without weather and then how hard this year’s race was due to rain and cold. (If you haven’t read Dave’s blog, it is worth a look.)

 

      1.     Everyone suffers - from the leaders to the last soul in a race. If you are going to race, and quite frankly make it through life, you WILL suffer. You can see by Dave’s recount of the race, he battled pain and cold – just like every other rider in the event.

 

Yes, there were times I was cold during the race. I had to stop and put a jacket on. I did a constant monitoring process on my cold fingers – how numb is okay? Can I still use the brakes? Yes. Okay, go for awhile longer and see how it goes.

 

There were times I battled leg cramps. It has happened each year and it occurs at a different point in the race each time. To deal with it, I would change positions on the bike, change gears, grab the cramping muscle and pinch/massage it while still riding. I’d take another electrolyte tab. I’d drink more. I did everything I could think of to lessen the pain and make it go away – all while still trying to keep rolling.

 

The first time I had vicious leg cramps was during my night ride of a 24-hour relay mountain bike race. The pain was so fierce, I had to get off the bike and walk. It’s dark; it’s raining; it’s cold; there aren’t many people around; surely there are lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) in the woods; and I had to figure out a way to get off the mountain and back to the safety of my team camper. After awhile I figured out that I could change my position some on the bike and make the cramps go away. I also figured out that there were some sections of the course that triggered the cramps (short, steep, technical climbs) so I got off and walked/ran those sections. It was simply the best/fastest race strategy for me.

 

In that relay race, I rode another lap the next day in the daylight, still pouring rain, and still managing the cramps – though they weren’t as bad as in the night lap. I didn’t really know how that day lap would go, but I decided I could simply walk/hike/jog any section that caused me problems. Yes, I wanted to ride the entire course, but that was no longer an option for me.

 

      2.     When things don’t go to original plan, be willing to modify the plan.

 

      3.     Is it more important to you to reach a particular time or finish place, than it is to simply finish the event? Each person, at each event, needs to answer this question head-on. If you change your goal to just finishing the event, you may be pleasantly surprised at your time. If you are so invested in a time goal (Ironman athletes in particular) that any deviation puts your head in the tank, you will quit. Quitting gives no opportunity for pleasant surprises.

 

During this Leadville race, the left side of my lower back hurt. I’m not sure why. It hadn’t hurt anytime before or after the race. Like my leg cramps, I managed it by moving around on the bike, trying to see what I could do to make the pain go away. I was able to get it to a tolerable point of discomfort.

 

I rode all the descents as fast as I could, however that meant some aggressive braking at various moments to control speed and avoid other racers. Pushing this limit for hours made my triceps ache. Pretty much after the Columbine descent, they reminded me of their exact anatomical location with every hard or long braking action. At least they took my attention away from my back for those moments.

 

      4.     Every racer that pushes his or her own personal limit suffers physical pain, deals with pain and somewhat enjoys managing pain. Pushing the edge hurts. If you are entirely comfortable for an entire race, you aren’t racing – you’re on a comfortable group ride. Being comfortable is a different goal than racing your limit and risking physical failure. Know that I’m not judging the goals as “good” or “bad” – simply different.

 

      5.     The more opportunities you have to “fail,” learn something and try again, the more tools you have in your tool chest of options. I’ve raced a lot. I started competitive swimming when I was 10 and had weekly opportunities to risk my ego. When I had bad races, I lived through them. People that swam slower than me in practice kicked my hiney in races. I found it curious and inspiring.

 

      6.     Race more. There is no other way to get racing experience, other than to race. Sure, you can read books to help you; but you have to get out there and risk physical, mental and emotional pain in order to become a better racer. Fast group rides do help, but they do not carry the mental and emotional risk of a race.

 

I can’t tell you exactly where my physical limits lie. I can tell you that there are people out there willing to suffer and risk much more than I. I’ve seen racers completely wasted in the medical tent, unable to walk. I’ve not been there and I don’t want to go there.

 

I know of racers that have suffered long-term health damage after suffering through an event. I’ve not been there and I don’t want to go there.

 

      7.     Suffering physical pain in an event is somewhat like doing a risk-reward analysis on your investment portfolio. Big risk, big suffering can often bring big rewards – but not always. Low-risk or no-risk can bring limited rewards; but it depends on your personal definition of “reward”.

 

I can’t tell you when to keep racing or when to stop, due to extreme conditions or physical pain. You have to make that decision for yourself. Your suffering limits are likely different than mine, some of you have a much higher tolerance for pain than I do.

 

If you had a race where you don’t feel like you pushed your limits, learn from it and decide what you want to do differently, if anything, in the future.

 

There really are no easy steps to learning how to suffer or what your suffering limits are, you have to gather that experience for yourself.

1,622 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: leadville_100_mountain_bike_race, dave_wiens, suffering

Leadville debrief

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 21, 2009

I distinctly remember the first words that spilled out of my mouth when race director Merilee Maupin hugged me and put the finisher’s medal around my neck, “Man, that was harsh.” Additionally, there was a gigantic smile on my face, displayed in several photos.

 

Gale-Merilee-finish.jpg

 

 

Finish-smile.jpg

 

If I had written this debrief the morning after the race it would certainly have had a different tone that it does today, nearly a week post-race. My mind has a convenient way of twisting things all around to conclude, “It wasn’t that bad,” as I gaze into the rearview mirror.

 

I’ve written about the Leadville 100 mountain bike race for several years, five to be exact. My first race was in 2005 and the entry field has doubled since then. To say my finish was tight that year is an understatement. The cut-off time to be an official finisher is 12 hours, my time was 11:59:55. Last a$$ indeed.

 

The weather forecast for this year’s event was dry and a chance of rain at 5:00pm. The day before the race a fellow racer asked me if I thought it would rain on race day. I said, “Yes. Absolutely. This is Colorado, it always rains in the mountains in the afternoon.”

 

He inquired, “What about the morning?”

 

“Naw, I don’t think we’ll have rain in the morning.”

 

When I walked out of my hotel room at 5:00 am on race morning, the ground was wet, it was drizzling and the sky was heavy with clouds. Uh-huh. Go figure.

 

I was pretty warm at the start, wearing a vest, knee warmers, arm warmers, jersey, ear band, helmet cover and my top secret toe covers. I’ll let you in on the secret…

 

For a mountain bike ride that has a lot of hike-a-bike (like this race for me), conventional toe covers do not work well. What I do is cut the corners out of the bags used to cover your morning newspaper and slip those over just my socked toes, inside my shoe. This keeps the wind (and rain) off of my toes, but keeps most of my foot exposed so I don’t get too hot.

 

I remember looking toward the mountains before the race start and mentioning to my buddy Scott Ellis that it was going to rain. He nodded.

 

I don’t remember when it started raining steady, but I think it was somewhere on the first climb. It seems like there was rain off and on (more on than off) for the first three and a half hours of my race. By this time I was on the Columbine Mine climb. Then, it began pouring with no end of rain in sight. I stopped to put on a jacket before heading to near 13,000 feet of elevation where I knew each pedal stroke upward meant colder temperatures.

 

There were definitely times when negative thoughts crept into my mind. It happens to everyone. I just asked myself, “Would you rather quit? Stopping is always an option, always a choice.”

 

“No. I want to ride until the temperatures or the rain make me miserable or make it unsafe for me to finish. Just let me finish under 12 hours.”

 

At this point I had given up any pre-conceived time goals. I just wanted to ride my bike and finish the event. I knew my preparation was rock-solid, I just had to deliver – even if that meant a slower pace than I originally wanted.

 

It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes after I put on my jacket in a downpour that I rounded a corner of the climb to see not only treeline, but blue skies. Wow, what a welcome sight. It was still cold at that altitude so I kept my jacket on.

 

I think the combination of the volume of people, the weather and the altitude crushed people’s spirits. This translated into a single-file hike-a-bike line longer than I’ve experienced in any of the past races. I definitely walked more of Columbine this year than any other year.

 

When you look at the photos for the pros, especially the front guys, you cans see them picking the best line as they make the climb up Columbine. As soon as the top riders begin descending on this out-and-back course, everyone on the mountain is pretty much confined to the right lane (going up and down). This makes riding past hiking riders nearly impossible.

 

When the grade flattened some, we began riding again. What a relief.

 

I had a reasonable descent. Through all of the descents I was held up by some slower people and there were people that had to wait to get around me. I believe part of having a successful race at Leadville is managing each situation safely. I saw a few people take some risky moves into sharp rocks to get around slower riders, but that comes with risk. One rider’s tire bled Stan’s goo all over the trail after his tire popped off the rim in a gnarly, rocky section.

 

At my second pass through Twin Lakes, my pit crew (husband Del) got me set for the next segment of the ride and I was out of there in no time. I would see him one more time at Pipeline, before heading toward the finish line.

 

Twin-Lakes-Del.jpg

 

By the time I reached Pipeline, the skies were finished torturing us and I was feeling reasonably good. In fact, I had the fastest time for this segment of the event (Pipeline to finish) than I’ve ever had before. Maybe that torturous hike-a-bike up Columbine saved my legs for the last leg of the event?

 

In the last roughly three hours of the event, I passed people that were spent. I felt bad for them and tried to be encouraging.

 

I can’t say enough about the volunteers and the spectators on the course. The volunteers are top-shelf and the spectators were so encouraging. Though Lance and Dave Wiens got them to the event, I felt like they were there cheering as eagerly for me as they did the top dogs.

 

I ended up crossing the finish line in just over 10:08, a PR time for me and enough to put me in tenth place overall for the women. It was kinda cool to see my name listed in Forbes Magazine, along with the other top riders in the event. I don’t want to go all squishy on you, but I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be healthy and fit enough to do this event.

 

Admittedly, I’m a mountain girl. I love the mountains, the mining history and the western-cowboy-attitude. In fact, after posting this blog I’m heading back to Leadville to volunteer for the run.

 

Running 100 miles? Now that’s nuts.

 

Below is a shot with Dave Wiens post-race. What a great guy. Was it that special karma hug pre-race that gave me extra power? Also got a pre-race hug from Ricky McDonald (who has finished every single Leadville 100 mountain bike race.) Maybe the special Leadville karma those guys have was sprinkled on me? I'll take it.

 

Gale and Dave Wiens.jpg

 

PS…There is no way this event can be successfully completed without great equipment and great support. I had zero mechanical issues (thanks LOOK and Peloton Cycles), I was comfortable all day (a relative thing – thanks[Pearl Izumi|http://www.pearlizumi.com/]) and my training went well (thanks Del, my family and all of my cycling buddies).

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If you follow sports whatsoever, by now you know that Lance Armstrong won the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race in a time of 6:28. He beat the course record and dethroned six-time champion Dave Wiens (6:57). You can do a search for the event and find all the details and videos you please of these two great athletes and the top five or so men in the event.

 

What is tough to find in print or video media, is coverage of the real tough-gals and tough-guys of the event. I want to tell you about these superhumans.

 

The overall female winner, Rebecca Rusch from Ketchum Idaho, placed 30 OVERALL. Yes, overall and with a time of 8:14. (She is in the photo below, left to right, Ken Chlouber, Rebecca, spectator in the background, Dave Wiens and Lance Armstrong). Second female, Amanda Carey from Victor Idaho was second female and 66th overall with a time of 8:40. KC Holley from Spanish Fork, Utah was third female, 126 overall with a time of 8:59.

 

 

Two women rode the event on single-speed bikes. That is da/mn tough. Kara Durland from Colorado Springs, Colorado was the first singly with a time of 11:19. Second was Amy Owens from Denver, Colorado with a time of 11:28.

 

The men’s single-speed division was tough as well. The top single-speed male was Charlie Hayes from Boulder, Colorado with a time of 8:11. David Bott from Buena Vista, Colorado was second with a time of 8:43. Third place was Kenny Jones of Provo, Utah with a time of 8:49.

 

As if going for the Leadman distinction isn’t hard enough, Corey Hanson and John Odle did the mountain bike race on single speeds. (Leadman is completing five Leadville events – the marathon, 50-mile Silver Rush mountain bike race, the 100-mile mountain bike race, the 10k running race done the morning after the 100-mile mountain bike race and capped off with a 100-mile run done a week after the 100-mile mountain bike race.)

 

You think descending on a mountain bike is scary? How about grinding it up a steep, loose section? Try it on a tandem. Serena and Mark Warner did it in 10:48, followed by Mark and Jon Hirsch in 11:14. Charles Schuster and Karla Wagner round out the top three with a time of 11:19.

 

I’d tell you about the oldest female and male finishers, but I can’t tell from the results page who those people might be.

 

It was a tough race day with rain and cold temperatures. (I’ll give you my personal race debrief later in the week. I’ll also finish the France trip series.) Here are a few stats I compiled from the results page:

 

1504 entrants

1307 people started the race

896 official finishers (I gave the last racer the two-minute timing chip leeway that the race directors gave at the awards ceremony)

40% of the entry field did not finish the race

33% of the starting field did not finish

 

The stats tell you that it was obviously a tough race, made more difficult by the conditions that day. Hats off to everyone that trained, took the challenge and did the best they could on that day.

You can find full results at this link.

4,739 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: lance_armstrong, leadville_100_mountain_bike_race, dave_wiens, superhuman, superhumans, rebecca_rusch

Ahhhh, a much needed recovery day for us after yesterday and the Tour riders are visiting Lake Annecy for an individual time trial stage.

 

There are so many good photos from today, it is tough to select just a few. Sometime later, I’ll post an entire album.

 

To begin the day, we went for a ride up Col de la Forclaz. It was a beautiful ride on roads similar to the one below featuring Scott Ellis, Ron Kennedy and Todd Singiser.

 

 

At the top of the col was a nifty shop and I think food was available as well. There were several antique bikes, chainsaws, butter churns and other interesting relics. In the shot below, you can see an old bike sitting against the railing, overlooking Lake Annecy. The small green platform that is barely visible on the right is a launch pad for hang-gliders. Yeow, what a leap.

 

After the ride,  we cleaned up and Julie had arranged a boat ride across Lake Annecy to the start/finish area for the time trial. Below is a shot from the boat, looking back toward the valley where our chateau was located. 

 

The time trial stage is nice because you have several chances to see the riders. There is a large grassy area, fenced off, where the team buses are lined up. Riders warm-up next to the bus, then roll out for their TT start. The first photo is the warm-up area and the second shot is Christian Vande Velde heading out for his ride. 

 

The group ended up splitting up today. Four of us enjoyed watching some of the early riders on course, had some lunch at an excellent café and then spent most of the rest of the day at the entrance/exit to the team bus area. Others did something very similar, just in different locations along the course. A few folks hung in a pub and watched the live TV coverage of the event.

 

After a great day, it was back to the chateau via boat to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the innkeeper – complete with dessert to celebrate Sandy Singiser’s birthday. Todd will have a tough time topping a trip to France birthday present…

 

Today’s stats:  13.76 miles, ride time 1:18, out-time was 1:41, 2,783 ft of ascending this day.

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As promised, advance copy to loyal blog subscribers:

 

An Interview With Dave Wiens: How to Win the Leadville 100 - Part II

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This was the toughest day of the week with lots of climbing – 12,393 ft. - and rain.

 

After riding L’Alpe d’Huez yesterday, we ended the day in Allemont. We grabbed lunch at a deli and got into the vans bound for Lake Annecy. One of the things that made this trip so enjoyable was staying at chateaus. I’ll include a few chateau photos in the next blog. I should have taken even more chateau photos, but hindsight…

 

The group split up today with some of us riding bikes to the train station and boarding a train to begin our ride in, I believe, La Roche-sur-Foron. Others got in a van and drove to Grand-Bornand to drop the van for the drive home. That was the plan anyway. This group had a short climb up the back side of the Columbiere (opposite direction from the race) and they intended to meet us at the top.

 

There was a sense of urgency for the train group to catch an early train and get riding. Because we rode some of the actual race route, we needed to be sure that we were well ahead of road closures. As you would imagine, the roads close to all non-credentialed vehicle traffic well before the riders come though. If my memory serves me correctly, this means we needed to be at our race viewing location some two to three hours before the riders would roll though.

 

Early in the ride we were not on the actual race course. As we got closer to the Romme, there were more and more spectators making the same nomadic journey we were making. I don’t recall exactly when the rain began, but it was somewhere on the Romme climb. Perhaps the wet conditions were the perfect compliments to riding in a river of people.

 

Riding up any major Tour climb is hard to describe. I will describe it for you here, but you can’t know what it is really like unless you experience the madness. At that, it is a madness of order, yet no order. I am still in wonder how more people are not injured. Somehow it seems to work.

 

Imagine navigating a narrow mountain road on your bike. The climb is tough, so you have to lend concentration to keeping your pace. Now put that ride within a river of pedestrians walking up the climb, carrying coolers, chairs and cheering equipment. Make half of those spectators cyclists with varying cycling skills and fitness levels.

 

Line the sides of the road with campers and trailers that, in some cases, secured their particular location a week ago. They are barbequing, some are watching the Tour on satellite television and many are having parties.

 

Add a few darting dogs, kids and the occasional chattering group of adults with arms waiving enthusiastically and you can begin to formulate an idea of the “normal” flow of the ride.

As the ride is progressing along normally, sprinkle in the occasional sponsor caravan that is tossing out free shirts, which causes everyone around you to swarm the caravan vehicle. I got very good at shouting out “attention”! (Click on the little speaker at this link to hear the correct pronunciation.)

 

Finally, to complete your vision of the ride, imagine paint and chalk artists standing, sitting, and lying in the road, creating their personal message to the riders. The river of pedestrians and cyclists parts around each artist like a river parts for a giant boulder.

 

Wow, what a surreal experience.

 

It poured rain for the climb to the top of the Romme, and once at the top we huddled under a picnic shelter for awhile. David Cooper, one of our guides, finally made the call that we needed to keep riding to summit the Colombiere to meet up with the others in our group. There was only one way to get to our destination before the road closed down, pinning us on the Romme, and that was to ride in the rain.

 

After a descent that took us past a downed tree that had been struck by lightning, we began climbing again. It is a long and sweeping climb from the valley up the Colombiere. (Photo later).

 

Once on top of the Colombiere we found the others in our group. The shelter at the top was limited and Peter was the first one I saw when I reached the top. He told me where the others were and gave me a Coke from the pack he carried from Grand-Bornand. I was in sore need of sugar and the caffeine was good too.

 

After some recovery we settled into our “spot”. Below is a shot of the end of the rain and our location to watch the riders, preceded by the sponsor caravan.

 

 

The next photo shows the road up the Col de Columbiere lined with spectators for as far as the eye can see. Click to enlarge the photo to see the road wind deep into the right side of the photo about ¾ of the way across. 

 

 

Below is a shot of a few of the sponsor caravan vehicles. People atop the vehicles throw out schwag to eager spectators. One of the vehicles throws out the publication specific to the caravan, telling the length of the parade is 200 vehicles. 

 

 

The fourth shot show some of the helicopters that are following the race. These are not the television camera copters, those followed later. We suspected these were some sort of VIP choppers. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

 

 

The final shot shows how close we were to the racers, and more, it is a good illustration of the fatigue they cannot hide. It was a hard day in the saddle. 

 

 

After the sweep vehicle came past us, it was time to ride toward the finish line and our van. That river of pedestrians and cyclists I previously described is now more crowed, heading downhill and it now includes exiting vehicles. Constant vigilance is essential.

 

Once at our van, Julie realized that we would get back to the chateau faster if we just rode our bikes. A long, hard day; but still nowhere near what the riders have experience.

 

 

Today’s stats for the crew that rode long:  62.88 miles, ride time 5:15, out-time was 11:55, 12,393 ft of ascending this day.

 

When I get back to the chateau, the airline has finally delivered my second bag. Woo-hoo!

Tomorrow’s ride is a much needed recovery ride near Lake Annecy.

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The legendary L’Alpe d’Huez has to be one of the most recognizable climbs included in the Tour de France. One source has the climb at 13.8 kilometers with an average grade of 7.9 percent. There are 21 hairpin corners on the climb, named after winners of the stages there. In 2001 when the 22nd race was held on the mountain, naming restarted at the bottom with Lance Armstrong’s added to Coppi’s.

 

A second source, Climbbybike.com, has the climb at 13.2 kilometers, an average grade of 8.1 percent with a maximum grade of 10.6 percent, when approached from Bourg d’Oisans. This is the approach we used on Day 2 of our trip, requesting that the legendary mountain be included in our bike tour package; even though it was not part of the actual Tour de France this year.

 

The first photo I have for you is a glance at some of the switchback corners. I can’t tell you what number corners are in the photo and I do apologize for some of the washed out colors in today’s photos as some of the shots were taken with my cell phone. 

 

 

The second shot is a cool church that sits at the inside of one of the swithbacks.

 

 

The third shot is another overview with switchbacks visible. 

 

 

The forth shot took a bit of a hike to get to the sign and I felt like I would slide off the slope, but it was too cool of a location to resist. This too came from my phone, so the color isn't great.

 

 

The final shot is somewhere along the Balcony Road of Auris-en-Oisans, the side route we took part way down from Alpe d’Huez. Left to right are Peter Stackhouse, Ed Shaw, Scott Ellis, me, Todd Singiser, Ron Kennedy and Bruce Runnels. 

 

The Balcony Road had stunning overlooks, three(?) dark tunnels and a fair amount of climbing. Ride Strong Bike Tours notes, “If you have vertigo or nothing left in your legs, it’s best to return directly to Bourg.” Noted.

 

 

Today’s stats:  41.59 miles, ride time 3:09, out-time (enjoying the scenery and photos) 4:31, 7,462 ft of ascending this day.

 

Find Day 1 information here.

 

I still do not have my luggage on this day, find out about that here.

 

Look forward to Day 3 of our tour, Col de Romme and Col de la Colombiere where we get to see the riders, the caravan and experience the Tour up close and personal. It was the toughest day of our bike tour for several reasons. I’ll fill you in on the next blog.

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Before launching into day one of riding, I’ll give you a summary of the week. Each rider could choose to ride all days or not. Those of us that rode all six days logged 22 hours of ride time, 40.5 hours of “out” time (ride time plus time spent on the mountain side waiting, hiking, etc., basically this is total chamois time),  293 miles of riding, 50,525 feet of climbing (see update on climbing footage here) and a ranking of 172.54 ft/mi of the tour. Just how did we get those miles? It all began one morning in Grenoble…

 

In the photo below, we are getting ready to leave Grenoble. Left to right are David Cooper (Ride Strong Bike Tours guide. This company provided two vans, sag support and a minimum of one riding guide each day.), Peter Stackhouse, Bruce Runnels, Ron Kennedy, Linda Kennedy, Ed Shaw, me, Todd Singiser, Allie Singiser, Craig Singiser and Scott Ellis. Todd’s wife Sandy is missing from the photo and could well be the one that took the photo with my camera.

 

 

Once out of Grenoble, we rode through stereotypical stunning French country side. Below is a shot of Todd. We couldn’t resist the backdrop and there were kids on ponies learning to jump in the valley below. The second photo shows a close up of the mailbox marker, assembled with incredible attention to detail and a replica of the house below. Clicking on the photo allows you to see the detail. 

 

 

 

The final shot is of a stone, one-way bridge that spanned the valley. Ed and Scott found it irresistible and had to ride across it. 

 

 

Day one stats: 69 miles, ride time 4:45, out-time (including a great picnic lunch) 7:16, 10,472 ft of ascending this day.

 

***Big thanks to Ron Kennedy to providing the lion's share of the data that will be logged in the blogs for this trip. I managed to mess up my Garmin most days, total operator error - having too much fun?

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Battle of a warrior

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 2, 2009

I wrote the note below to a fellow racer/friend that sent me a really tough race report. Thought some of you might find it useful:

 

 

 

The battle of a warrior is not always against a mental (or written) goal, rather against elements that cause discouragement. If you are discouraged because you battled elements and still finished, then I suppose you consider yourself a failure. If, however, you consider yourself successful because you waged a worthy battle, then, you are a winner.

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