Those that have read previous blogs and my books, know I’m a fan of large training weeks to boost fitness. These are often called “crash training blocks” because you increase volume significantly more than your curren tnormal.
Before heading into daily specifics and how to structure your own crash training week, or use a bike tour to your advantage, first I’ll give you a summary of my last week of bike riding. A group of us did the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. Because I live in a city near the 2012 start, a couple of us rode from my doorstep to begin the tour, which is why my mileage is different than that shown on the website.
Ride time – The time spent moving on the bicycle (pedaling and coasting). This includes rolling easily and waiting for others, warm up, cool down and toodling along at an easy pace just because.
Elapsed time – Total time accumulated in the activities associated with cycling on a tour. (Stopping at aid stations, clothing removal time, sunscreen application, changing flat tires, inspecting broken seats, popping into a bike shop, etc…) This time begins when cycling starts for the day and stops when the bike gets racked.
Average speed – Distance divided by ride time.
For six days of riding, the totals are:
26,528 feet of climbing
28:51:32 ride time (near 29 hours)
15.9 mph average speed (you'll see big swings in daily averages)
36:53:00 elapsed time (near 37 hours)
I’ve done plenty of week-long bike tours, around a dozen or so. This tour wasn’t the biggest mileage tour I’ve done, but the ride and elapsed times were both more than I’ve done in the past. The reason for that is a single word – wind.
Tomorrow’s blog will include goals for the ride and some specific file details.
We are now nearing the end of the bike tour. After a rest day for most yesterday, it seems riders are eager to get pedaling again.
Day 6: Due to the bike path being washed out, we went by car to Dotsero. Those without personal sags along went via bus back to Gypsum. Everyone headed toward Vail, Vail Pass and then into Frisco. (80.3 miles, 4095 ft. of climbing)
Meeka and Del, the best sag team ever.
Vail Pass is a tough and rewarding climb. For whatever reason, I like it. I felt good climbing too. Finally.
Scott Ellis, Gale and Bruce Runnels - looking like it should be Rabbit Ears Pass - but no, it's Vail Pass.
I did think about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge riders that will be doing a time trial on part of Vail Pass in a few weeks. We plan to go up and watch some of the stages. Want to see Tour de France riders without traveling to France? Come to Colorado!
After the climb, there’s a descent into Copper Mountain and then Frisco. A few weeks ago, I noted that there was an avalanche covering the bike path between Copper Mountain and Frisco. The bike path was open when we went through, but…it seems there was some extra debris in the avalanche…
Ron Kennedy and Scott Ellis looking happy to be in the avalanche...
Walking the bike path in Frisco, near Dillon Reservoir, I caught a shot of some wild Iris (I think that’s what they are) with Grays and Torreys Peaks in the background. Summer in the mountains is fantastic.
Day 7: From Frisco we headed back toward Central City. (61.3 miles, 2633 ft of climbing) Because a running race was using the bike path between Loveland Basin (after the Loveland Pass climb) and Georgetown, tour organizers worked with Colorado Department of Transportation personnel to allow us to ride on Interstate 70 rather than bussing for about 13 miles. The State Patrol broke us into groups of about 50 riders and sent us on the highway in small groups. For the most part, this went well. There are always a few knuckleheads in every crowd.
Bicycle Tour of Colorado ended in Central City. A great way to spend a week. (383 miles, 17,834 feet of climbing)
If you read my last blog, you’ll know I was heading out on a bicycle tour of Colorado last week. My goals for the tour were:
Ride as much as the tour as possible, while staying healthy.
This year has included a good bit of travel, stress and illness for me. It happens to nearly everyone at some point and this was my year.
I wanted the bike tour to boost my fitness and not send me into another illness setback. With those basic goals in mind, I set out on the tour.
Day 1: The tour went from Central City to Estes Park, Colorado. Since Estes is near my hometown, two of my riding buddies (Ed Shaw and Bruce Runnels) decided to start from the Front Range and ride to Estes as our day 1. With the storm already breathing down our necks, we left early and arrived at our favorite Notchtop Café literally 5 minutes before the rain began. (36 miles, 3443 ft. of climbing)
Day 2: We were all watching the weather, as big storm was moving into Colorado. Because riding over the highest paved road in the United States is such a big deal, everyone was hoping that the weather would allow officials to open the road. We rode from Estes Park to the parking lot for the now closed Hidden Valley (or Ski Estes Park) ski area and waited. Word was that it was snowing on the western slope and opening the road was a challenge.
After a good amount of watching and waiting, several of us (Ed, Bruce, Ron Kennedy, Linda Kennedy and I) all decided to ride back to Estes Park. We changed some clothes and headed off toward Central City. The goal was to ride as far as possible until the weather turned on us. (Keeping in mind the two primary goals.) We didn’t make it far before rain and cold put us into cars and shuttling around the Continental Divide to the town of Granby. (24 miles, 2411 ft. of climbing)
As it turns out, some riders made it across the divide in the really bad conditions. Every rider I spoke to that rode across said that if they knew how bad it was and how cold they would get, they would have declined the ride. Tour operators had to shuttle riders off of the mountains and around the high mountains from Estes to Granby.
Ron Kennedy, Scott Ellis, Linda Kennedy, Gale Bernhardt, Linda's friend (?) and Ed Shaw wait in the parking area for word about opening Trail Ridge Road. Behind us, snow is falling on the peaks and clouds cover the mountains.
The snow, rain and fog made visibilty low going over Berthoud Pass in a car. Trail Ridge Road had to be worse - and people confirmed it was bad. We made the right decision to be in a warm car.
Looking ahead, the predicted weather for the remainder of the tour looked great - hot weather. But, this meant high running rivers. We knew there were already problems with flooding and likely more problems waiting.
Today I’m heading into a week of cycling. I love week-long bike tours for lots of reasons including stress relief, seeing scenery otherwise missed in a car, a fitness boost, time spent with great people, and the list goes on.
I’ve done Bicycle Tour of Colorado (BTC) and some other events over the years. This year it is BTC again. It seems that each year Mother Nature dishes out a weather challenge and this year is no exception.
Three weeks ago the Sunday group ride that leaves from my doorstep did a ride from Loveland Colorado to Rock Cut on Trail Ridge Road. I was out of town and missed the ride, but below is a shot of Scott Ellis as he stands next to one of the snow drifts. Scott is about 5’10” so you can see the drift is around 20 feet.
BTC is scheduled to head over Trail Ridge Road on Monday and I’m not optimistic the ride will happen. The weather prediction this morning is 3 to 6 inches of snow on Monday for elevations above 9000 feet. A full 11 miles of the road is above treeline, with the highest elevation at 12,183 feet.
The road is exposed and dangerous in bad weather. It is normally some 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheight colder than the two closest cities of Estes Park and Grand Lake. I suspect the Parks Service will close the road and we’ll be shuttled to Granby by gas-power rather than leg power. Just last week a man was blown off of his bicycle on Trail Ridge Road and he required emergency help. I doubt they want to be rescuing some 1500 cyclists.
I’d rather miss a day of cycling than risk serious injury.
On day four of the tour we deserved an easy day after day three.
Before I launch into describing day four, I have to tell you that there are many options for lodging during the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. There is the outdoor camping option for hard cores. This means the tour company lugs your bags (limited size, number and weight) and you set up your tent at the end of each day’s ride.
There is an option where someone else sets up a tent for you. If you don’t want to risk sleeping in rain or wind, there is an indoor camping option. That means the tour home base each night is at a big facility (usually a school) and you get to sleep with about 400 of your closest friends on a gymnasium floor.
There is a tour-based hotel option. That means a tour company reserves rooms for you, moves your baggage from location to location and you get to sleep in a real bed each night.
Finally, there is the VIP option. This means someone you know transports your stuff from hotel to hotel and is usually within 10 miles of you on any given day. This person takes your warm clothing before a climb and gives it back to you at the top of the climb. They have cold drinks, including Coke, whenever you please. There is food in the cooler, a dog that greets you at each stop and critically important – a French press in the car for good, really good, coffee each morning.
Three of us selected the VIP option.
We had the luxury of Del (my husband) and support dog (Meeka) taking care of us. This is a huge benefit.
(Todd, Bruce, me, Del, Meeka)
During the tour week, we tried to optimize our benefits by selecting days to ride fast, and some to ride easy. Today was an easy day for three of us. Three other people that we often rode with during the tour had their heads down, riding fast, foaming at the mouth and they completely missed the “Welcome to Colorado” sign. They argued there was no sign. Hmmmmmm….
We enjoyed the ride at a toodle (easy) pace. At the end of the day, several of us went to dinner to celebrate my birthday. The dinner fun was a nice addition to the tour.
No, I get by with a little help from my friends Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Joe Cocker – “With a Little Help from My Friends
We stayed at the Fireside Inn Cabins in Pagosa Springs. This was our favorite lodging for the entire trip. The cabins are set next to the San Juan River and offer quality, comfortable lodging for humans, dogs and livestock.
Today’s stats: Ride time 2:50, Out time 4:00, 51.33 miles, 2241 ft ascending, 17.1 mph
Looking forward to a day off tomorrow; but we did ride some.
On day three of the tour, we rode from Alamosa, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. It was a steady climb out of Alamosa for about 30 miles before we got into some rollers. From there it was a combination of rollers and climbing over two passes I hadn’t done before – La Manga (10,320 ft.) and Cumbres (10,022 ft.).
(Gale happily climbing LaManga. The ribs are tolerating eight pedal strokes out of the saddle today. Progress!)
While we had some tailwinds yesterday, today began and ended with unfavorable wind. Not just a little wind. It was relentless, strong wind that was blowing in our face most of the day. Downhill sections required pedaling. Ugh.
When we first rolled out of Alamosa, we got intermingled in a big group. I hate being in a big group of riders that I don’t know and are not categorized by riding ability. I’ve seen too many accidents happen when inexperienced riders get mixed into a group of experienced riders.
While I hated the situation, I hated the constant headwind worse. I worked my way toward the front of the group and looked for wheels of those I trust.
After the first aid station, a core group of people I know, and ride with often, were able to begin a rolling paceline were no rider stayed on the front for very long. We disallowed people to enter the paceline. We were fine if they wanted to sit on the back of the group and draft, but no one was allowed into the rotation.
No matter how the race is run it always ends the same Another room without a view awaits downtown You can shake me for a while Live it up in style No matter what you do I'm gonna take you down
CHORUS: Shakedown Breakdown Takedown Everybody wants into the crowded line
Bob Seger – “Shakedown”
I offered several riders the explanation of why we rode this way:
- We ride together often and can predict what the other rider will do.
- The formation is tight to shelter people from the wind.
- Please take no offense to your personal skill level, you are likely a great rider. Unfortunately, we’ve encountered people that did not have the group riding skills to keep all of us safe.
Most riders do understand, but I know some take offense. Sorry.
I will say it is a ton of fun to ride in a group like ours. We shelter each other from the wind and do our best to work together for the good of all.
Well…with a couple of notable exceptions:
- There are some city limit sign sprints.
- State border signs count double points.
(Left to right: Bruce Runnels, Scott Ellis, Bill Frielingsdorf, me, Ron Kennedy, Todd Singiser)
Though there was plenty of good fun ramping up the speed, I don’t think anyone can tell you the sprint or king of the mountain scores.
The reward for a hard, hard day in the saddle was the best Spanish rice I’ve ever had and killer green chili. I think it was called the Fireside Inn restaurant, next door to our cabins. We walked there for linner (late lunch, early dinner) and evening pie or ice cream.
Ride time 5:00, “out” time 6:34, 80.56 miles, 16.1 mph avg., 3216 ft of climbing
In another blog, I’ll give you more information on intensity each day. In the mean time, scenery photos below.
(Most blog photos for the bike tour were taken by Del Bernhardt)
Continuing the story on the week-long bike tour, as I mentioned yesterday. Today’s route was officially from Creed to Alamosa. We rode from our cabin about eight miles outside of Creed to Alamosa. It was a chilly and stiff start. Our bodies had residual pains from the long, hard day yesterday.
The morning lyrics that popped into my head…
And that's Uncle Joe, he's a movin' kind of slow At the junction, Petticoat Junction
With a slow start, the day ended up being flying fast. The weather gods were mostly good mannered, giving us tailwinds for at least half of the day. There were only three of us riding together today, as the group got split up by our accommodations outside of Creed. The stats for the day (at the end of the column) were sweet.
One of the best parts of doing bike tours is you get to see sights that you don’t see on your normal riding routes. In fact, you see things you’ve never seen before. Below are a couple of shots of horse-drawn hay cutting operations. It was really fun to see it.
Stats for the day (all from my 705 Edge Garmin, as some have asked what system I used):
Ride time 3:26, “Out” time 4:05, 72.1 miles, 602 ft. of ascending, 21.0 mph average speed
When we reached the official stopping point for the day, we noticed the 21mph average – woo-hooooo – we were haulin’ the mail today!
I don’t think I have an unreasonable number of phobias; but, I do admit I have some fears. One of my major fears crept into my mind each day of last week. Some of my Facebook buddies shared that they too have the same fear. Before I get ahead of myself, let me begin at the beginning.
I spent all of last week riding my bike in a big loop around southern Colorado with the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. You can find the profiles for all days and ride descriptions at the previous hot link.
Every summer I try to do some type of week-long bicycle tour with friends. There are plenty of reasons to do a bike tour and a few include:
Time away from the office to decompress
Time spent riding with friends
A big boost in fitness post-tour
In small mountain towns and cabins, there is often no cell phone or internet access (resulting in quality time spent with real living and breathing humans and new ideas begin sprouting everywhere)
The list goes on and on…
Day 1 was tough this year, with over 100 miles, the toughest climb of the tour and near constant headwinds. The theme of the tour this year was wind. On the upside, this is the first bike tour I’ve done without getting drenched during at least one day.
After getting up Slumgullion Pass and then Spring Creek, we descended to an aid station where the photo below was taken:
(Left to right: Bruce Runnels, Ryan Lewandowski, Bill Frielingsdorf, Ron Kennedy, Scott Ellis, me, Todd Singiser)
One of the best parts of the tour is riding with people that I can trust and we ride well together. (“Together” … sometimes I’m hanging on the back by a thread (or not at all), but I digress…) All of these guys are regulars at the Sunday group rides that roll from my driveway. Yes, I’m a lucky dog.
Going up Slumgullion I was a suffering dog. I mentioned in a previous blog that I did an end-o on the mountain bike a couple of weeks ago and my ribs were still not happy. I couldn’t stand for three pedal strokes without stabbing pain in my ribcage. The ride started so nicely, but the climb was tough. A song popped into my head…
When it's good, then it's good, it's so good, 'till it goes bad Till you're trying to find the you that you once had
P!nk – “Sober”
I found it interesting that songs would pop into my head all week. Bruce suggested I include this tidbit in my blog, so I am.
The last couple of hours of Day 1 was relentless head wind with gusts. More suffering.
Well, everybody hurts sometimes, Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes. And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on.
REM – “Everybody Hurts”
At the last aid station I was reminded of one of my phobias – dropping something into a port-a-potty. Sunglasses, my phone, gloves, etc…
Each day I would be phobic at least once.
Day 1 in the bag:
Ride time 6:35, 102.7 miles from our hotel, 15.6 mph avg, “out time” 8:16, 7742 ft. of climbing