I've read a few articles by both you, Joel Friel and a few others about training and racing at altitude. This year I'm racing Leadville and have access to a place in Frisco for training. My plan is to do all of my higher intensity workouts here in Fort Collins and do longer, steady training rides on the weekends in Breckenridge and up around Leadville. I've found discussions of benefits for >4 weeks and your suggestions for racing at >8500 ft:
Utilizing Altitude Training for Racing at Altitudes Above 8,500 Feet
Live at an altitude between 5,000 and 8,500 feet for three to four weeks.
Drive to higher altitudes for some training days and consider occasional overnight stays prior to training days. Keep recovery periods at lower altitudes.
Keep power output high by doing high-intensity work intervals at 5,000 to 8,500 feet or lower. Or, consider using supplemental oxygen during workouts.
But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter? I've even dug around on a few Everest web sites that seem to indicate that a couple of extra days at higher camps is enough to help while spending the majority of time at base camp (although that might be too extreme of an example to make sense).
Anyway - thanks and I hope to see you at somerides/races this summer,
Hi A.J. ~
First, congrats on your Leadville entry. I am entered in Leadville this year as well, so maybe I’ll see you there – or training on the great trails in Northern Colorado.
For your question, “But do you get the benefits of living at high altitude by spending weekends at ~9000 ft or is it just not a large enough percentage of time to matter? “
In my opinion, yes, you do get benefits from spending weekends or perhaps every three weekends at altitude. I live on the Front Range close to you, as you know from the group ride listing. Here is a blog that I wrote about intermittent altitude exposure.
I too have access to training around Frisco and I continue to collect one-person data on oxygen saturation. I do a mix of alpine and Nordic skiing through the winter and I’ve found the oxygen saturation data stays consistent. If I can get to Summit County roughly every three weeks, I can maintain higher oxygen saturation levels. Like you, I do most of my training at ~5,000 feet which I believe keeps power output high. I may know more about that (real data) this season.
Hope this helps. See you on the trails (or the road) ~
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and triathlon plans are found here.
We were mountain biking the Gold Dust Trail between Boreas Pass and Como, Colorado. Heading down the trail, I caught a glimpse of what looked like claw marks on a tree. Scott Ellis stopped in front of me and said, “Did you see the bear claw marks?”
I said I did and I needed to get a photo…
Front of tree
Back of tree
More marked trees on the other side of the trail
Doing some reading, apparently bears mark the trees in this manner for several reasons. They might be marking territory, eating portions of the tree or teaching young bears how to climb.
While it’s exciting to see the marks, no need to linger too long...
In a blog last week, I gave you detailed data for the first three days of a bike tour. At the end of the blog I told you I’d show you data from one of my heart rate files in a rested state and let you know how the tour ended. Additionally, I want to let triathletes know that you don’t have to be riding your bike 6 days a week and endless miles to be fit enough to do a bike tour.
Day 4 of the tour I did a “no pressure on the pedals” day. I needed a recovery day. Though it was still a pretty big day riding – out 4:45 and ride time atabout 3:40, average heart rate was low at 109 and max heart rate was only 137.
Day 5 I didn’t ride at all and did an easy hike. On day 6, my intention was to hit the climb, Rabbit Ears Pass, at threshold. I had to modify my desire as I couldn’t manage threshold intensity. I find that on bike tours the more days I ride, the more warm-up I need. There wasn’t enough warm-up before the climb to push it at threshold (151-164). Secondly, the accumulated fatigue in my legs was just too much. The best I could manage was a fairly steady Zone 3 effort (144-150), dipping into high Zone 2 when I lost focus.
Day 7 was a nice way to end a tour – the last half of the ride was downhill and a good chunk of the day had tailwind. To average 21.3 miles per hour over 67 miles with anaverage heart rate of 117 is pretty darn nice. There was even a generous amount of toodling on that day. (i.e. We didn't push average speeds at all.) You’ll see that heart rate was above 140 for just a couple of pops.
In the first blog of this series, I gave you summary data. What I find over the course of a big week like this, is that the ability for me to push threshold heart rate (and above) degrades as the week progresses. Even recovery days and one day off won’t be enough recovery for most people. I’ve written about race recovery time in a past column. Though this wasn’t a race, I expect it will take me some 14 to 21 days to fully recover.
What I mean by "fully recover" is that I could drive high heart rates for extended periods like seen on this file. (Ignore the elapsed time as I forgot to turn off the Garmin. This was a race where I slit a tire at mile 18.5 and limped my way back to the start after a tire change that could have been timed with a sun dial – notice the temperature spike when I started rolling again.)
For the triathletes out there, know that I still train like a triathlete though my key races this season are mountain bike events. I was fully capable of completing the bike tour of near 460 miles and 29 hours of ride time in spite of the fact that in the 12 weeks prior to the bike tour, my weekly training hours were typically between six and 13. Those hours typically included two hours of swimming and two hours of running. Some weeks the hours included 30 to 60 minutes of strength training.
Key points: Cross training helps your fitness for a bike tour and you don’t have to give up the other sports to prepare for the tour. I do recommend cutting those crosstraining sports during the tour so you can fully focus on cycling.
In summary, if you:
Properly prepare for a bike tour
Pick key days to ride fast
Use some days as aerobic-only ride days
Recover properly after the tour
…I guarantee your fitness will see a significant boost. Obviously your cycling will improve. Not as obvious, I’ve seen improvements in swimming and running (after full recovery) for triathletes and I believe this is due to the huge increase in aerobic training.
You can find bike tour preparation plans on ActiveTrainer and in my book “Training Plans for Cyclists." One of those plans may help you prepare for, enjoy and benefit from a bike tour.
In a previous blog I gave you summary data for my most recent bike tour. Because I want to get the most from a bike tour, I plan key days to ride fast. Other days will be recovery or aerobic. I suggest you do the same.
How many key days to plan as "key" depends on you as an individual. Some where between two and four days, of a seven day tour, can be fast.
On any mountainous area bike tour I suggest you select the best climbing days to be your key days. Make the big climb(s) your focus and the place where you plan to ride your best.
Basic strategy for most bike tours:
Take the first day of the tour easy and mostly aerobic. (I know it’s tough to do, but worth it later.)
Pick two or three days to ride your best – and often it’s the key climbs.
Be flexible and willing to modify the plan where necessary to optimize the tour experience.
Before beginning my most recent bike tour, I targeted the three days with the biggest climbs to ride as strong as possible. That was day two, day three and day six.
Day 1 of the tour ended up being much, much harder than I anticipated due to wind. We fought gusting crosswinds (I’m told up to 50 mph at times) most of the way to Laramie, Wyoming. Effort on this day was much higher than I planned it to be – but – if I would have kept the effort level low it meant extending the day much later than I wanted. We got a late start, the day was hot and I broke a saddle. All that put us on the road late into the afternoon. You can find the day 1 file here. Put all view settings on either distance or time to get a better idea of what was going on. If I would have stuck to original plan, I would have kept heart rate below 142. That didn’t happen. Notice the average speed of 13.5mph.
On day 2, the infamous Wyoming wind didn’t disappoint. We rolled out earlier to try to avoid some of the wind, but from the start line we had headwinds around 15mph. The winds steadily grew so that we had a mostly steady headwind at 24mph. There was still some gusty side winds, but not nearly as bad as day 1. If you put both elevation and heart rate settings on “time” you can see an elevated heart rate section that corresponds with the climb. Heart rate variability is associated with attempting to follow a strong wheel. Notice that heart rate plummets before the end of the climb and that is associated with a viscous leg cramp – I think Gracilis muscle. (I think a result of effort and lots of sideways leg motion to balance in the wind.) Average speed at 13.8mph.
Day 3 - I was whipped from the previous two days, but I still wanted to maximize the climb best I could. I decided to ride the climb at my own pace and try to peg a heart rate of 145 (Zone 3 for me). You can see from the file that I was pretty good at pegging a zone of 145, +/- 2. I knew this day would be tough at a predicted 115 miles (turned out to be 119+) and it delivered. Two flat (and ruined) tires, rising temperatures and three days of accumulated fatigue had me ragged at the edges. I needed an easy day.
Key points to take away:
As you build fatigue in your legs it is very typicalto see low heart rates and high rating of perceived effort.
Some people will see very high and erratic heartrates coupled with low speeds, but I find this is less common.
If you are in a state of fatigue, you will not be capable of producing sustained high speeds.
In the next blog I’ll show you files of a rested state and let you know how the tour ended.
Sunday at 7:00 am I decided to check the wind forecast for our traditional Memorial Day weekend ride. See it for yourself below. What direction ARE those arrows pointing? Variable? Miscellaneous? Undecided? Probably in our face for the entire loop?
Twenty people were in my driveway, ready for a 90.2 mile ride that included around 6000 feet of climbing. The climb, as you can seebelow is around 50 miles, with the bulk of the climb between miles 26 and 51.This is the climb out of Lyons, Colorado towards Allenspark and then towards Estes Park.
(Click on the image for a larger view. The grade near 20 percent was where I picked up my bike and turned it around at a stop.)
My strategy for the climb was to average the highest sustainable speed for the entire climb, which meant pegging Zone 4-5a heart rate and trying to hold that intensity for roughly an hour. Unfortuneatly, my heart rate monitor strap slipped down about 10 minutes into the climb and I couldn't go by heart rate as a guide. Since I was unwilling to stop and adjust it, because I was riding with a good group of people, I didn't get accurate heart rate data. You can see from the two files (one from 2010 and one from 2012) that barometric pressure influences the total elevation gained for the ride. - I'm pretty sure none of the climbs were flatter this year. ;-)
Though we had some gusty winds heading to Lyons andheadwinds most of the way on the climb, we were rewarded with a nice tailwindheading from Estes Park to Loveland. The temperatures were reasonable and we didn’t get rain or snow (which has happened in past years).
I decided at the end of last season that I wanted to do more early season racing in 2012. To meet that goal, I signed up for the Voodoo Fire race in Pueblo, Colorado, the marathon (66 miles) distance. It is a three-lap course, with each lap (you guessed it) being around 22 miles. My Garmin shows the first lap at 23.3 miles, but lap 1 includes a mile or so of start that isn’t included in the other laps.
Colorado has been unseasonably hot. Athletes that did the race last year said it was a full 25 degrees hotter this year. The start temperatures were around 47 degrees and by 2:00 pm, my car thermometer read 83 degrees.
The course is nearly all single track, which is both a joy and a curse. Though the race had a wave start, it wasn’t long before the various categories were battling for positions on the single track. Passing people meant selecting one of three options including burning up the legs by powering through the powdery talc-like soil and dodging cactus and low brush; waiting for a loose shale section; or really biding your time and waiting for the very, very limited double track. Though some places were much better for passing than others, some impatient riders made risky moves that cost them a fall, or worse yet took out another rider.
There isn’t a lot of climbing in the course, compared to some of the high mountain courses in Colorado. The limited climbing makes the race a great way to start the mountain bike season, because most riders have limited fitness in the spring.
For me, shale attacked my rear tire on a benign section of nearly flat trail about two thirds of the way through lap one. The shale put an inch-long slit in my tire as if it were sliced by a knife. I booted the tire and limped my way back to the finish line where I ended my day.
Riders with flats were all along the course and collecting at the finish line. It’s hard to say how many riders scored a dnf due to flats because not all of them are shown on the finish list – but suffice it to say a lot.
Other riders, like Bill Frielingsdorf, didn’t have any tire problems and went on to score a podium finish. Congratulations to Bill for a strong ride and finish.
Left to right, BillFrielingsdorf (Peloton-Specialized Fort Collins), Nathan Collier (Pedal Pushers Cyclery), Taylor Thomas (E2 Cycling Team Fort Collins)
I’d definitely consider doing this race again because there is plenty about it to like. Though people that ran beefier tires than I did still had tires slit by the shale, I think a heavier tire reduces the likelihood of problems. In addition to a heavier tire, I’ll consider running three to five pounds more pressure in both tires.
To achieve 12 consecutive months of riding from Loveland, Colorado to the mountain town of Estes Park is not an easy accomplishment. There is often wind, rain, snow,more snow, rain mixed with snow and a shortage of time due to life that can get in your way.
Left to right: Lou Keen, Mike Keen, Bruce Runnels, Lee Rhodes, Scott Ellis, Sherri Goering, Pam Leamons, Brandy Staves, Darcy Tigis, Ron Kennedy, Peter Stackhouse (event host) and Jerry Nichols. MIA: Dennis Andersen, Kathy Forbes, Kirk Leamons, Todd Singiser and me.
For this year’s awards, 17 people achieved the goal by December of 2011 and one person will score a solid 12 in April. This year Jerry Nichols made the awards and they were stunning – a big, big improvement from year one when my artistic talent with poo proved to be lame.
As with every year the dried, lacquered and glued elk poo was part of the coveted Turd Trophy. Jerry took that theme, added cycling chain and a collage photo of all the riders to make the great awards. He cleverly included a box of Elk Duds with each award, stating that extra poo was collected. (He was kidding and the caramel duds could be consumed by humans.)
Anyone living near Loveland is welcome to participate. Below are the basic rules.
Estes or Bust
Rules to achieve the world famousTurd Trophy Award
Ride toEstes Park once per month for 12 consecutive months.
The starting point can be from anywhere in Loveland, Ft. Collins or Windsor and no further west than the Big Thompson Elementary School.
Either route, Highway 34 or via Devil's Gulch Road (Larimer County Road 43 known as the Glen Haven route), is acceptable. If you ride via Highway 34, you must ride west to at least the Estes Park city limit sign near the Olympus Lodge. If you ride via Glen Haven you must ride west to at least the top of the switchbacks where you can see Longs Peak.
A return trip sans car and via bike back to Loveland is not mandatory, but encouraged when conditions are safe and fitness allows. (This means you only have to rideup (one way) to have the trip count towards your trophy goal.)
Riding from Loveland to Lyons to Estes Park via either Highway 7 or 36 counts. This ride can be one way just to Estes or round trip back to Loveland.
The honor system is strictly enforced - ride with or without the group, with a buddy or solo.
You can start any month of the year and go for 12 consecutive months or begin in January and go for a calendar year.
Rule clarification questions or rule change requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Rules Committee will review change requests.
Myth #1: Coyotes live in the country or rural areas. (They thrive in cities as large as Chicago.)
Myth #2: Coyotes are shy creatures and won’t approach humans. (There were six reported cases of coyotes approaching and biting humans and 11 reports of human-coyote encounters through September of 2011 in Colorado.)
Myth #3: Coyotes are not pack hunters. (If you read the Chicago link above, you’ll know that coyotes do indeed exhibit pack behaviors.I’ll tell you about a dog getting killed by a pack of coyotes in Aspen later in the blog.)
In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that my six-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback tangled with a coyote about three weeks ago. The incident happened in an open field that’s close to my house. The field is owned by a developer that has not put houses on the land yet. The field is bordered by houses and city features on three sides, open foothills on the fourth side.
I have visited this field a few times, taking the dogs there for a walk or a romp. I go there because I don’t have to deal with the goose poop that litters my local park. When the dogs eat goose poo, they can get a bacterial infection that causes extreme diarrhea.
Additionally, dogs are not allowed off-leash in city parks, even to chase balls, Frisbees or romp with each other. I let my dogs run off-leash in this field to burn off energy on the days I can’t take them for a run.
You might wonder why I don’t take them to a dog park. The closest dog park is a 30- to 40-minute round trip drive and I’d have more time invested in driving than exercising the dogs. Sometimes just 20 minutes of romping is all they need.
When I arrived at the field, I noticed there were no other people walking their dogs in the big rectangular area. Generally, I don’t let the dogs off-leash when there are other dogs or people around. With the coast clear, I let Meeka off leash. Before I had time to let Addie off, Meeka tensed up and took off running like a bullet. I looked up and saw a coyote about 200 to 250 yards away.
Screaming my lungs out for her to “come!” did no good. She responds to the command correctly about 99.5 percent of the time. This was a bad time not to respond.
As I was running toward the pair, still yelling, I saw them touch noses and then a dog brawl broke out. Seeing your dog in an all-out battle is horrible. After only a few rounds, they broke it up and the coyote headed north, Meeka headed back to me.
I was worried about what I would see when she got to me.
When she got to me, I could see a bite on her rear leg. Luckily, the coyote didn’t “hamstring” her. It was a skin wound and not a tendon wound. I’m assuming this is where the term “hamstrung” came from and that is when an animal severs the hamstring of another animal in order to cripple it.
I also noticed a bite in her side, where the coyote got a piece of her skin sliced open and pulled away from the underlying tissue a bit. It was “V” shaped with each leg of the “V” at about ¾-of-an-inch long.
I loaded her into the car and took her to the vet, which was only a few blocks away. When I arrived at the vet, the tech that checked me in asked if I saw any other coyotes. I didn’t, but then I wasn’t looking around much and didn’t see the first one before Meeka saw it.
Just the day before, the vet tech had an experience in eastern Colorado where she lives. A lone coyote enticed her Doberman to chase. Her Dobie, normally good about returning on command, continued to chase the coyote and ignored her calls to “come.”
The tech looked up and realized that the coyote was leading her Dobie back to the pack. She jumped on her four-wheeler and raced to break up the pending disaster. Luckily, she arrived in time and her Dobie wasn’t attacked by the pack.
She told me should I decide to leave the dog off-leash that I needed to be aware that coyotes will lure domestic dogs into a chase. Sometimes the pack sends a playful female in heat to entice dogs to chase or play. Once lured back to the pack, the pack surrounds the dog and kills it. A dog was killed in Aspen last year prompting a statewide alert, which I somehow missed.
City-dwelling coyotes, like the ones in Bel-Air, California, find dogs in a backyard to be easy prey. One was killed on Christmas morning last year.
Meeka ended up with stitches in her hind leg, in three spots. She had stitches and a drain tube in her side. The tube came out in two days and the stitches were removed in two weeks. On the happy day her stitches were removed, she and Addie had a giant play-fest in the back yard.
Somehow, Addie ended up with a slit in her back leg so it was a trip back to the vet that day to get four staples in Addie’s leg. (Hence two dogs in neck donuts.) We inspected the yard for nails sticking out of the fence, sharp corners on the b-b-q grill, etc. We can’t find what caused Addie’s injury. There’s a chance it could have been a play accident caused by a tooth or foot nail.
Both dogs are happy and fine now. My long-term goal is no more vet visits due to injuries. The short-term goal is to make it one month. I’ll build from there.
Knowing what I know now about coyotes, I’m afraid to let the dogs off-leash. I don’t know how that will change, or if it will.
For awhile, I’ve tried to determine if repeated short-term exposure to altitude can help with the acclimatization process. This curiosity is geared primarily for people living in a Front Range situation and then doing fun activities, training or racing in the mountains.
To help me determine if short-term exposure to altitude might help acclimatize people so that they can enjoy fun activities, training and racing at altitude, I picked up a pulse oximeter. I mentioned the pulse oximeter in a 2010 blog. My personal interest in the numbers is for alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, trail running, road cycling, mountain biking and hiking.
A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive way to measure the amount of oxygen the blood is carrying. The number displayed is expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount the blood could carry at 100 percent. At sea level, typical saturation values are 97 to 99 percent in healthy people. At 5,000 feet it might drop to 95 percent and at around 10,000 feet it may dip to 90 percent. Somewhere around 10,000 feet there is a big change and oxygen saturation can drop to 80 percent or below.
Acclimatizing to various altitudes can help improve these numbers up to a point. Know there is individual variability in the acclimation process and there is even variability among native dwellers at any altitude, beginning at birth.
Children born at various altitudes have similar oxygen saturations during the first 24 to 48 hours of life and the values change within the first four months of life. For example, newborns in Denver, Colorado (5,280 feet, considered moderate altitude) have saturation levels of 85 to 97 percent while those born in Leadville, Colorado (10,152 feet, considered high altitude) are 85 to 93 percent.
Though the time periods noted in a medical column weren’t exactly the same, it is interesting to note that after four months, the Leadville infants were between 89 and 93 percent saturation during wakefulness. Healthy, awake infants under the age of two measured between 90 and 99 percent in Denver. So there was some shifting up, particularly on the low end.
You can pick up a pulse oximeter at many local pharmacies. A common use for these devices includes measuring oxygen saturation in people with compromised lung function. Pilots and mountain climbers also use the devices to determine when supplemental oxygen might be necessary to avoid fainting.
I’ve been playing with an oximeter to look at oxygen saturation at my house (roughly 5,000 ft. measured on my Garmin) and Frisco, Colorado (roughly 9,100 ft.) I did this because much of my fun, training and racing is done at altitudes of 7,500 ft. or more and I was curious if my oxygen saturation changed much between the Front Range and the Colorado mountains.
The next blog will be more about what I’ve noticed in my experiment of one.
Last Saturday I rode to Estes Park. I’ve written about this silly monthly ride to Estes goal in past blogs. We're still going at it.
Most of the time, this ride is no big deal – but – some days it’s tougher to pull off than other days.
One of the marker points for successful goal completion is to make it past the Estes Park city limit sign. Last week I couldn’t see the sign – without some digging.
I’m assuming that high winds earlier in the week blew the sign down. Some Colorado locations clocked wind speeds in excess of 115mph.Estes recorded 77mph on November 12th and several other days between the 12thand the 19th had gusty winds in the 50mph range.
Though we had an early morning snow in Loveland, the roads were mostly dry by about 1:00pm. Since my husband Del volunteered to drive upto Estes and pick me up (so I wouldn’t have to worry about staying warm on the 30-mile descent and darkness) I decided to bag my November Estes ride.
There was around four to six inches of snow on the ground for a good part of the ride - but the roads were mostly dry or just a little wet. Though the air temperature was 35 degrees, I was able to dress so I didn’t get cold. Having the right gear is essential for a ride like this one. Additionally, because it is basically a 30-mile climb I can stay pretty warm on the ride. My toes got a little chilly at the end, but not bad.
I have to say it’s one of the best rides I’ve done to Estes because I got to see two big horn sheep rams up close. I saw one on a rock ledge about 12 yards above the road. The second one broke away from his herd and came trotting towards me while we were both on the road side of a guard rail. I stopped, not knowing if he was angry or not.
He came trotting toward me and jumped across the rail about 4 yards in front of me. He proceeded to dance up the rocks next to the road. He stopped about 4 yards to my right, above the road. WOW!
A car watched the whole thing unfold. The driver rolled down the window and said, “Wow that was something!”
All I could manage was “WOW!” followed by a wide-open mouth and then a big smile on my face.
If it wasn’t for that seemingly insignificant goal, I wouldn’t have ridden at all that day. I just needed that goal to get me out the door and on one of the coolest rides I’ve had in awhile.
I am lucky to live in an area where open space is a priority for the two cities I frequent the most, Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado. Open space is also a priority in the county we share, Larimer. The two city governments partner with the county on several open space projects and make connectivity a priority. Additionally,connectivity with Colorado State Parks is a priority as well.
In fact, The Big Ride covered trails that were funded by all four organizations.
Yesterday’s mountain bike ride on the trails west of Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado is a good example of why I maintain a certain level of fitness. I stay fit so that with minimal notice I can go out and participate in an adventure.
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to ride with a new woman, Andrea Gregory. She’s been a great inspiration for me, her technical skills are much better than mine. Her favorite trail in the area is Mill Creek (Horsetooth Mountain Open Space in Larimer County). Locals know that descending this trail involves steep, rocky and loose sections. There are tight corners, exposed roots and of course several obligatory trees near the trail to catch your handlebars if you’re not paying attention. She descends the trail with ease and rides most of it.
Andrea had this idea to do a ride she called The Whole Enchilada. Unfortunately, our calendars wouldn’t mesh and she did the Whole Enchilada ride with her husband, Joe, last Thursday.
I wanted the Enchilada. I dropped a note to my Sunday ride list and asked if I could rally some interest in a route similar to The Whole Enchilada, and luckily there were takers! We did The Big Ride.
Ride distance: 42 miles
Out time (riding, hike-a-bike, mechanicals, refueling, regrouping, chatting with trail buds): 7:15
Moving time (I believe this includes ride time plus hike-a-bike, bike barely moving and stop time under 1 minute): 5:16
I would describe the pace, when we were rolling, as steady and mostly conversational. This was great. Garmin Connect link above doesn’t show grade percentages or heart rate summary data, so I'll add attachments. I’m attaching two pdf screen shots from Garmin Training Center that show just over four hours of the ride was aerobic (Zones 1and 2). Don’t take “aerobic” and “mostly conversational” to mean an easy ride. It wasn’t.
It’s the technical sections, steep climbs and steep descents that make the ride tough. It’s difficult to describe Devil’s Backbone, which is the first technical trail in the ride. I’ll have to get some photos or video – but as everyone knows, those never do justice to a trail. In short, a good percentage of it is rocky. Continuous rocks, off-camber rocks and rocks on climbs. Unrelenting rocks.
In addition to rocky sections, The Big Ride route has climbs. Tough climbs. In the first attachment, The Big Ride, you’ll see a 40% grade on one of the climbs. This anomaly is when I decided to conquer a section of trail with a do-over. I picked up the front end of the bike and swung it around to go backand try again. So, this isn't a real trail number. The Big Ride 2 attachment, shows second grade over 30% and is also false. It's from a hike-a-bike out of Coyote Ridge, again I picked up my bike.
The remaining 10 pieces of the ride data showing grades right around 20% or more on the climbs, are indeed riding sections. Locals that have climbed Devil’s Backbone, Indian Summer, Blue Sky to Coyote Ridge, the service road at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and the Towers Road can probably identify those sections right now in their noggin-memory-bank.
As for the hair-raising descents well over 20% and some over 30% - yes I believe those numbers to be true. These are scare-my-pants-off sections that many of the riders in the group descended skillfully. That doesn’t mean bombing downhill hell for leather; it means deftly dancing down the mountain.
I was nowhere close to deft. I walked some of the steepest, loosest descents. I will be deft on this trail. I will develop more skills. I dream of deftness.
Barb Schultz, absolutely a skillful rider, is someone I’ve seen often on the trails but have not ridden with until yesterday. She did the entire The Big Ride loop with me - and - did the loop last summer. She regularly does big, and bigger rides. She’s one of those endurance machines – and– has the technical skills to boot. She’s one more inspiration to bolster my technical skills.
In summary, I’m rich. I have tremendous fortune in great trails to ride, a buffet of excellent riders to learn from, a several excellent riders that love adventures, good health and decent fitness right now.
One of my buddies, Sledge Hanner (yes, he goes by that name – a pilot thing) is currently living in Kansas. He sent me a note that let me know Kansas has recently passed a couple of bills to help cyclists. The first is a 3-foot passing distance, similar to Colorado.
The second one I found more interesting and I haven’t seen it before – the “Dead Red” law. It helps both motorcycles and bicycles that aren’t heavy enough to trigger a stop light change. If the “cycles” stop and the light does not change (I’m not sure how long they’re supposed to wait) then they can proceed when it’s safe and no traffic is coming.
Below is a shot of the avalanche near Officer’s Gulch. (I was told by a local that the avalanche occurred in late April or May.)
Below, notice the tiny spec of a road cyclist beginning to do a hike-a-bike from the right side of the photo to the left.
Ah, easier to see the cyclist with zoom, which gives you some idea of the magnitude of the slide.
The Summit Daily, in their Summit Up section (June 4, 2011 “Where Monday can wait), wrote over the weekend that some random benevolent dude is beginning to shovel a path for cyclists. That will be a lot of shoveling.
Those of you hoping to mountain bike during the upcoming holiday weekend in Colorado’s high country just as well leave the bike home and bring skis or snowshoes. The snow this season has been unusual in the Colorado high country. A SNOTEL snowpack update map has us at 232% of normal as of May 25th. That is a lot of snow.
Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved highway in the United States, will remain closed for Memorial Day this year. The holiday weekend is the traditional opening of the road for the summer season. Just a week ago, the Estes Park Gazette reported that a snowstorm produced 17-foot drifts.
It doesn’t matter if you ski, ride, run or paddle – be safe and enjoy your holiday weekend.