Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Final Shakeout before the Grand Depart

Down to a week before flying out and 10 days until the Grand Depart. Had the most awesome final test ride this weekend. I’m ready, physically and mentally. Bike and equipment are tested and ready. Now comes the hard part; waiting. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jameson this weekend. I posted a piece a few weeks ago written by his mother on endurance and decided to dedicate this ride and fund-raising efforts to Jameson. Jameson just graduated kindergarten and he will be going in for heart surgery shortly after the Tour Divide start. He is an incredible kid and he came out to see me off on my last big training ride. Just a super awesome kid, I’m so glad I got to meet him.
What a Pleasure to Meet Jameson
 This weekend was a full test of fitness and resolve. An overnighter with huge climbs, bike pushing, altitude, and heat. Left the house just before 7:00 am with full Tour Divide load and met Jameson at Garden of the Gods. He and his dad were on their way to Pikes Peak, then horse rides at a friend and co-workers place. I continued on to the Ute Pipeline Trail, to tackle some steep climbs that required getting off and pushing. Followed it West until it came out at Highway 24. My intent was to continue to Cascade then follow the “Ring the Peak” trail around the perimeter of Pikes Peak. 
Nearing the top of first Climb on Ute Trail
Memorial Day traffic was crazy, so I came back down the pass into Colorado Springs, then climbed Rampart to Woodland Park. 

North of Pikes Peak on Rampart
Once there, continued to climb Edlow to the North Slope Recreation area where I jumped onto the Ring the Peak Trail.

Back on Ring the Peak Trail
Ring the Peak is an awesome 60+ mile trail that, as its name implies, circles Pikes Peak. A mixture of flowing single track, double track, dirt roads, rocky technical sections, steep climbs, and steep descents. It is not 100% complete so there are two places that drop down to busy highways; Highway 24 out of Colorado Springs and Highway 67 going to the gambling town of Cripple Creek.

Once on the trail, I just enjoyed being on my bike and riding the remote parts of the Pikes National Forest. Fast flowing single and double track through mountain meadows, long climbs and descents through heavily wooded trails, creek crossings, and beauty beyond description. At times I felt like I was in a post card.

And Loving it!

At about 6:30 PM I came to a steep descent that dumps out on Highway 67. Although I wanted to ride for another three to four hours, I didn’t want to chance riding the highway with no shoulder and the Saturday evening gambling traffic. Found a place next to a creek and proceeded to make camp. I think this is the first of these trips that I wasn’t looking for a camp spot after dark. As the sun descended so did the temperature. At just over 10,000 feet the temp gets pretty cool at night. There is still traces of snow up here. 
Even though temps in the 90s down in the Springs there is still snow at 10,000 feet
I laid in my sleeping bag thinking about mountain lions and wondered if I made the right decision to stop here for the night. 

Making Camp
Eventually, I fell into a deep sleep and woke up the next morning still alive. Packed up my bike, descended to the road at 6:00 am and there was no traffic. I made the right decision.

Lunch Break at a Familiar Place
Eventually, I came to the climb I was really looking forward to. It’s long and steep. Barely climbable with an unloaded bike. Somehow, I managed to climb the whole thing in just under an hour and only had to get off and push once. The thing about this climb, is the top is not the top. At the “top” is a right turn that just slaps you in the face. Steep, loose, rocky, and not ridable, even on an unloaded bike. This was the part I was looking forward to. Climbing this section with a loaded bike goes like this: Fully extend arms, squeeze the brakes, take two steps, let go of brakes, fully extend arms, take two steps, repeat. Sometimes, after letting go of the brakes, I slid down several steps. Every couple of minutes, I had to stop, lay my head on the saddle, regain control of breathing, allow heart rate to settle, then continue. At 11,000 feet the air is thin. After 45 minutes of bench pressing while climbing a steep hill at 11,000 feet, the trail became moderate enough to ride. I chose this route specifically for that climb. I read that there are similar climbs on the Tour Divide. As hard as it was, I actually enjoyed it!
It's Steeper than it Looks

Pikes Peak from the South
 From that point, it was predominately downhill to Colorado Springs. As with other rides, after spending two days in the solitude of the mountains, coming back into town is a wake-up. The traffic, the noise, the political bumper stickers; back to reality. I was feeling strong and energetic, even though the temperature was somewhere near 90. I added an extra hill on my way home and really felt like I could ride for hours more. Needed to get to a birthday party so I didn’t. 
All Down Hill back to the Springs
In the end I covered over 120 miles and 13,400 feet of climbing, with ride time of just over 15 hours. I’m happy with that. Looking forward to this great adventure.

Thanks for reading, and again thanks so much for your support of Children’s National. As I stated in the past, my employer, Plus3 IT is matching donations up to $2,500. Last I heard, we are nearing that mark, and my employer may raise the ceiling on matches. 



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