A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ride the Rockies 2009: One for the Thumb!

Ride the Rockies 2009 has ended. My fifth straight year to complete the weeklong bike ride through the Colorado Rockies (hence the reference to the Pittsburgh Steelers goal to win a fifth Super Bowl ring...one for the thumb). I think this was my favorite of the five. As usual, it's a bittersweet time. I'm glad the ride is over but wish it didn't have to end!

[At left: me in my BEEF jersey at the start of day one]

This year's ride took us from Glenwood Springs 80 miles over McClure Pass (elev. 8,755) to Hotchkiss; from Hotchkiss 80 miles around the rim of the Black Canyon and Blue Mesa Reservoir to Gunnison; from Gunnison 66 miles over Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312 ft.) to Salida; from Salida (elev. 7,100 ft.) 59 miles up to Leadville (elev. 10,152 ft.); from Leadville past the Twin Lakes 55 miles over Independence Pass (elev. 12,095 ft. to Aspen; and finally, from Aspen 40 miles down to Glenwood Springs.

The ride was officially 380 miles in six days, but several of us added 20 miles onto the last day with an excursion from Aspen to the Maroon Bells (at left), one of the most scenic rides in Colorado, if not the entire United States. After climbing to the Maroon Bells we had a 50-mile downhill cruise to the finish line, with a stop at the Woody Creek Tavern for lunch (a must stop on any visit to the Roaring Fork River Valley).

The final day of Ride the Rockies 2009 was perhaps my favorite of the 33 days of riding RTR over the past five years. The ride up to Maroon Bells was worth every extra mile and the company of my old friends Chris from KC, Todd from Tulsa and new friend Gillian from New Jersey made it extra special.

I met Chris in 2002 on an MS150 ride in Kansas City and we later rode self-supported from KC to St. Louis on a personal fundraiser for breast cancer research we called "Ride MO for the Cure."

[Above: Chris and I broke out our old "Ride MO" jerseys on day two of Ride the Rockies]

I met Todd last year on Ride the Rockies and met Gillian by chance Friday morning on this year's ride after we ended up camping next to each other at Aspen High School (the Ritz Carlton of High Schools!).

[Above: (from left) me, Gillian, Chris and Todd at the New Belgium Beer Garden at the finish line]

Chris, Todd, Gillian and I finished the final 34 miles of Ride the Rockies 2009 (after leaving Woody Creek Tavern with a rockin' four-person paceline along the Rio Grande bicycle trail, averaging 19.8 mph into a stiff headwind! Still, between the diversion to Maroon Bells and lunch at Woody Creek Tavern, we were among the last (possibly DFL!) riders into the finish. But Ride the Rockies is not a race. It's a bike tour of Colorado. It's a vacation (and you don't gain weight!). It's a time to spend with old friends and meet some new ones. It's easy to make the mistake of hurrying to finish the ride and get home to a hot shower, clean clothes and a cozy bed. I have made that mistake in years past. Never again!

Ride the Rockies a great way to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Mountains, one of God's great creations. Living in Colorado it's easy to forget that we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I plan to bring my family back up to this area later this summer to visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, drive up the Roaring Fork river valley to the Maroon Bells and then over Independence Pass to historic Leadville/Lake County. What a wonderful weekend trip -- all within a few hours of Denver!

I wish I could share every moment, but below are a few from my photo journal of the trip. Of course, the pictures NEVER tell the whole story or do the scenery justice. You'l just have to come visit and experience for yourself!

My Ride the Rockies 2009 Photo Journal

Saturday, June 13: Chris and I head out from Castle Rock to Glenwood Springs for the start of Ride the Rockies 2009.

Sunday, June 14: Chris and I passed our first scenic "photo op" -- a waterfall along the ride from Glenwood SPrings to Hotchkiss.

Sunday, June 14: Chris sets a new PAR (personal altitude record) at the top of McClure Pass (elev. 8,755 ft.) -- a record he would shatter in the next several days.

Monday, June 15: Riding along the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Monday, June 15: I won an Old Chicago Ride the Rockies T-shirt singing the first verse of Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" at the lunch stop -- for the third time in five years!

Monday, June 15: Our camp site at the Gunnison Community School (that's my blue/white/grey tent on the left and Chris' red/grey tent on the right).

Tuesday, June 16: Chris reached a new PAR at the summit of Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312 ft.).

Tuesday, June 16: Team DFL friends Tim and Patty celebrate crossing Monarch Pass at The Vic in Salida.

Tuesday, June 16: Team Bar2Bar faithful Lora, Woody and Paul (the pilot) kick back at The Vic.

Wednesday, June 17: Chris' triumphant return to the ER to pick up his X-rays and have his wrist taped for the ride to Leadville. So, as the story goes, Chris was screaming down Monarch Pass at 45 miles per hour when, suddenly, he arrived in Salida and hit a pothole riding five miles per hour two blocks from The Vic, sprained his wrist and and tore up his hand/knee.

Thursday, June 18: Tearing down our campsite in Leadville as we prepare to climb Independence Pass.

Thursday, June 18: It was in the low 30s at the Summit of Independence Pass (elev. 12,095 ft.) .

Thursday, June 18: Patty winds (and weaves!) her way to the top of Independence Pass.

Thursday, June 18: Chillin' at the New Belgium Beer Garden in Aspen with (from left) Chris, Todd from Tulsa, Jenny (aka "flip flop girl") and the Hankster.

Friday, June 19: Me, Todd and Chris on the ride up to the Maroon Bells (the snow-capped peaks in the distance).

Friday, June 19: Me, beef and the Maroon Bells.

Friday, June 19: Chris watches as workers load up the porta-potties at the final rest stop in Carbondale (food, water and Gatorade were already gone!). We were DFL!

Thus ends Ride the Rockies 2009. Along the way I eclipsed 2,000 miles to date for the year, a personal record of my own. All that training paid off. I felt stronger, rode harder and had more fun that any of my previous four RTRs.

So what's next? The Boilermaker 15K is three weeks away. Stay tuned for details on my next adventure in fitness!

Ride on!