Monday, March 26, 2018

First Overnighter

Stepping up TDR preparation to the next level requires getting out on some overnighters to test physical and mental fitness as well as equipment. This weekend was the first of hopefully several overnight bike-packing trips. Perfect for learning what works and what doesn’t. I chose a 160-mile route of rugged canyons and climbs that I could do straight from the house.

Heading Out for an Overnighter
 My plan was to leave at 7:00 am and make it to Canon City by 5:00 PM then find a place to camp along Shelf Road heading toward Cripple Creek. As I was packing up and getting ready to leave, Max the dog, gave me his “you’re not going without me, are you?” look. I couldn’t bear it so I took him for a ~5-mile run/hike. Also had a work thing to follow up on, so my 7:00 turned into a 9:00 start.
Couldn't Leave without Taking Max on Run/Hike
I began with the steepest climbs I could find to test my gear choice. My bike came with a 32-tooth front chain ring, but I thought that was too easy so changed it to a 34. With the extra weight of all the equipment, I wasn’t sure this was the smartest decision. So right off the bat I headed up Rossmere Street, which is a street I often use for steep hill repeats on my road bike. Slow going, but no problem. Next – High Drive. Felt great, even passed two other mountain bikers. On both climbs I never used my easiest gear. I think I’m good.

Climbing High Drive

Once up High Drive, I started the long grind up Gold Camp to Victor. Although I’ve ridden Gold Camp more times than I can remember, the scenery still blows me away. I can’t help but appreciate this amazing place right outside my door, every time I’m up here. After about four hours of mostly climbing I stopped for lunch at a scenic spot overlooking Colorado Springs. Peanut butter sandwiches are so good during long rides. I have my riding buddy Kevin Cahn to thank for that revelation.
Stopping for Lunch Overlooking Colorado Springs

No Matter How Many Times I Ride Gold Camp I'm awed by the scenery
After seven hours I reached the final climb into Victor. It’s a steep pitch that tops out at 10,200 feet. I thought that the climb was pretty hard and at first, I attributed it to seven hours of mostly climbing and all the extra weight. Then I realized, “Well duh, I’m at 10,000 feet. It’s supposed be hard”.
The Air is a bit Thin up here
After a quick stop in Victor, headed down Phantom Canyon. An approximately 25-mile descent through incredible scenery. Pictures or video cannot even come close to doing it justice. You just have to see it. The feeling of cruising down the canyon on a bike surrounded by such wonder just cannot be adequately described. It’s incredible. I wanted to make Canon City before dark, but I couldn’t help but stop and take pictures. But there is so much to photograph, I’d still be there trying to capture it all. I got a few, but it was getting dark, so had to keep moving.
Heading Down the Canyon at High Speed is Exhilarating!

One of Several Tunnels along the way

Some Rough Country
Pulled into Canon City around 7 PM just as it was getting dark. Stopped at a gas station and bought a couple apples and orange juice. About the only things they had that I consider edible. With that I took a break, ate a little bit, then started up Shelf Road toward Cripple Creek in the dark.

I was still feeling pretty good at this point and felt I could ride for at least a couple more hours. My lights have not come in yet, so I was using my low powered commuting light which only has a battery life of two hours. As much as I felt like continuing to ride, I decided to look for a place to camp, for two reasons; one, the limited life and light of my headlight, and two, I didn’t want to get too high up the climb, because the higher I got the colder the night would be. Actually, there are three reasons. I didn’t want to miss out on all the amazing scenery.

After a few miles I found a place alongside a creek that seemed plenty isolated. The rush of the creek was soothing and view of the stars incredible. I’ve always loved camping in the mountains or desert. The view of the stars without the light pollution of civilization should be experienced by everyone at least once.
In the morning, I found it a bit tough to get out of my bevy and get started. With the temp around 28 degrees F, it was a tad cool. I also need to re-think this bevy thing. At least in a tent one can get dressed inside. In a bevy there is no room to maneuver, so you have to get out to get dressed. On the divide there will be mornings (and nights) that it will be raining or snowing. Gonna have to think about this a bit.

Campsite turned out pretty nice despite finding it in the dark
Filter Water for refills and Oatmeal
After refilling water bottles and making cold oatmeal with the filtered creek water I was on my bike at 7:30 ready to take on the 19-mile climb to Cripple Creek. I am so glad I decided to wait until daylight to ride this climb. The scenery is stunning! Again, pictures cannot do it justice. I could have stopped every 100 feet to take pictures but needed to keep moving. After a day of riding and all the extra weight, this climb was both beautiful and brutal. I love to climb, but I have to admit, after about three hours my fun meter was pretty much pegged. It seemed the last 5 miles were particularly steep, but again, I’m sure the altitude, approaching 10,000 feet had something to do with that.
Starting the Climb up Shelf

One of Many Awesome Rock Formations

3 Hours and still Climbing

Are We There Yet?

View from the Top

An Old Mine - First Sign Cripple Creek is Near
Finally Cripple Creek
Finally, after just under four hours I came upon Cripple Creek. I planned to stop and eat lunch there but decided to keep going. It was a pretty good climb out of Cripple Creek on pavement to Victor, where I stopped for lunch. I couldn’t find a good spot out of the wind, and at just under 10,000 feet the wind is cold. So, I kept going. After a few miles on Gold Camp, I found an old abandon cabin that provided good shelter from the wind and an awesome view. Perfect spot. Another peanut butter and Jelly sandwich, the rest of my orange juice, an energy bar, and I was set for the final push home.

Heading to Victor

Lunch Break
The rest of the ride was pretty easy, once I hit the high point of Gold Camp it was pretty much all downhill into Colorado Springs. A bit of a wake up coming into the Cheyenne Canon/High Drive trailhead where there were literally hordes of people and cars. Riding through Colorado Springs among the traffic and noise after two days of peace and quiet reminded me that I was back.

To my amazement I was feeling really good on the climbs going toward my house. I decided to take a hillier route home, and when I got home, I was feeling so strong, I did a couple ½ mile hill repeats for extra credit. Granted they were slow, but they felt good. Must be the lower altitude!

So, I consider my first overnighter a success. I enjoyed it beyond description. I felt like I could have ridden for hours more each day. However, this was also a learning experience. Some lessons learned:
  • My water bottle setup needs improvement. One of them started to come loose, so I’ll have to do a little more fiddling to get it to last multiple weeks. 
  • My Garmin doesn’t seem to work well in “battery save” mode. I got about three miles into the start and it showed zero miles, as the Garmin was still trying to “acquire satellites”.  This happened several times, so I left in in normal mode. 
  • Backpack is not a good idea. Although, it wasn’t terrible, it was heavy and started to wear on my shoulders the second day. I still have bike packs on order. This will alleviate the backpack issue.
  • Need to re-position Garmin and bring the right size hex key. Couldn’t disconnect the spare battery for re-charging. Didn’t have the right size hex key to take off the holder. Luckily the battery lasted the entire ride. 
  • Keep baby wipes in their own plastic bag. Otherwise they dry out. 
  • Saddle still not broken in. This was the only source of serious pain during the entire ride. If this thing doesn’t get comfortable soon, will need to consider a different saddle. 
  • Freeze dried camp food is pretty good, even with cold water. Just have to let it soak a little bit. Didn’t have a stove. It’s also pretty filling.

Ride Stats: 161 miles, 13.645 feet climbing, Total Time: 31hrs 57 min, Actual Moving Time: 16hrs 54 min, Avg normalized power 143 watts.

Completing a ride like this makes me feel a deep sense of gratitude. Grateful that at my age I can still do stuff like this, grateful that I live in Colorado with this giant playground right outside my door, and grateful that I can follow my passion and use it to help support a good cause. And finally, one does not do this alone. There are so many people and organizations that are helping and supporting this adventure. First and foremost, my employer Plus3 IT Systems for their support and promotion of Children's National, ProCycling, SRM, friends and family. I could not do this without you.

Weeks Training Log 19 - 25 March:

Monday: Rest Day
   AM: Trainer Ride with Sprint Intervals - 56 Miles
   PM: Commute from Work - 6.5 Miles
   AM: Commute to Work - 7.5 Miles
   PM: Commute from Work (Long Loop) - 23.5 Miles
   AM: Commute to Work - 25.5 Miles
   PM: Commute from Worm - 15 Miles
   AM: Commute to Work - 7.2 Miles
   AM: Run/Hike  - 4.7 Miles, Overnight Bike Pack - 161 Miles

Week Total: 287 Miles, 19,245 feet of climbing, 31 Hrs 22 min

Thanks for Reading - larry

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