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!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Recap Part III: The Lost Day

As the days get shorter and the weather turns colder in Colorado, the memories of Ride the Rockies 2013 are fading. Apparently so much so that after taking the summer off from blogging between part 1 and part 2 of my recap of the ride, I seem to have forgotten an entire day! The funny thing is that it was probably my best day ever on a bike and my favorite day of the ride

The Lost Day (day 5) was a long, flat, straight ride north out of Alamosa through the San Luis Valley with a modest climb over Poncha Pass before dropping into Salida. With the possibility of headwinds being the only real challenge, Woody, The Hankster and I decided this would be a good day to ride together as Team BEEF. And we were right.

Woody (left), Hankster (right) and the REAL BEEFMAN
I began the day feeling strong. I seem to do best on the flats and was feeling it this morning, pulling the first 21 miles with Woody, Hank and various other riders who hopped on for a ride along the way. We rolled into the first aid station in Hooper, Colorado, averaging 23 miles per hour!

Feeling cocky, we just had to get a Team BEEF photo op with the giant rooster at Miss Deb's Sand Castle Café in Hooper :)
Team BEEF kept up this pace over the next 30 or so miles until we started the climb over Poncha Pass. Although this little bump in the road (about a 1,000 ft. climb to just over 9,000 ft. elevation) slowed us down a little, we still managed to average just over 20 mph for the day. I'm fairly certain that's the only time I've ever averaged 20+ on an 80+ mile ride!

A number of riders chose to stop at Elevation Beer Co. in Poncha Springs, about 10 miles from the day's end.
It didn't hurt that the final 15 miles were all downhill, dropping nearly 2,000 ft. That also made it an easy decision to stop at the Elevation Beer Co. for a refreshing 8 Second Kolsch (or 2!) before the official Team Bar2Bar rendezvous stop at The Vic (for the rest of that story read last week's post).

But one of the best stories of the entire week happened when we got to the campsite in Salida and every available inch was taken. Or so it seemed. After circling the school and seeing few chances of finding a spot where we could camp together, I noticed 2 young kids selling popsicles right across the street from the luggage and shower trucks.

When I went over to buy a popsicle I (half-jokingly) asked their father, who was working in the yard, "How much to camp in your yard?"

"No charge," he said, "You are welcome to camp here." When I protested and cautioned that we had four tents, he insisted. "No charge. I would love for you to camp here!"

Tune back in next week for the final day of the epic adventure that was Ride the Rockies 2013.

Ride on!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Recap Part II: The Adventure Gets Epic

It's been more than 4 months since Ride the Rockies and my last post, in which I promised an exciting conclusion to my recap of the 2013 ride. I'm not sure what happened but I suddenly lost the motivation to finish the story. But I'm happy to see that a lot of you have been tuning in to read some of my old posts.

If you have been waiting patiently for the end of the cliffhanger, I hope my "season premier" post doesn't disappoint! In any event, welcome back :)

When I left off at the end of last season we had arrived on day five in Salida, Colorado. The next day was to be one of the shortest and easiest of the ride, a 60-mile mostly downhill cruise to Canon City (with one nasty little 2-mile, 10-15% grade climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge). But forest fires near Canon City were threatening to end the ride prematurely. The thing about riding in the mountains is there are often a limited number of options to get from point A to point B. But the ride organizers were diligently working on options to reroute the ride.

It was a beautiful evening in Salida and the band Afrolicious rocked the party in Riverside Park.
I was sitting at The Vic enjoying some frosty recovery beverages when the news came in. Sure enough, the ride had been rerouted! But instead of a short downhill day the new route was a circuitous 95-mile detour that featured more then 6,000 feet of climbing! For those who chose to ride, Ride the Rockies 2013 would become the longest RTR in history!

"No way," was my initial response. "I'm out," said a lot of riders (I heard estimates that as many as half the 2,000 riders either ended in Salida or took the alternate bus ride to Canon City). But the more we talked it over (and the more beer we consumed), the more the prospect of making history grew in appeal. "It will be epic," became the mantra for the rest of the night as Woody and I decided we would indeed do the ride.

I decided to ride "Woody style" on the epic 95-mile Day 6!
At this point, you might think we'd have foregone the planned late night celebration at The Vic (a Ride the Rockies tradition). But nooooo. We are Team Bar2Bar. We play hard and we ride hard. That's the way we roll! So, once again, we watched the rider crowd slowly fade away and kept right on partying with the locals until sometime around midnight.

Day 6 was painful. One of the toughest I've experienced in my 7 RTRs. At the same time, it was one of the most scenic rides I've done in Colorado with breathtaking views of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range. As much as I was hurting that day I never regretted the decision we made. And the margaritas at lunch in Westcliffe helped ease the pain! :)

While sitting at lunch we decided we should reward ourselves with a hotel room in Canon City, if there was one to be found. We guessed there might be rooms available with last minute cancellations from the riders who dropped out, and we were right. My travel agent (wife Leslie) was able to find us a cheap room at the American Inn motel right on the main drag near the school and the street party.

It was perfect. After celebrating our accomplishment with a few cold ones at the beer tent we hit the sack relatively early. The motel didn't have many amenities but beds have ever felt more comfortable!

In next week's final, climactic, conclusion to Ride the Rockies 2013: Cruising to Colorado Springs!
Ride on!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Recap: The Epic Adventure

 Epic. That's the word that keeps coming to mind when people ask me, "How was it?" Epic. Seven days, 545 miles and 22,067 vertical feet of climbing. The Longest Ride the Rockies in history!

Congratulations, on your really weird tan lines!
After a great Day Zero celebration in Telluride, we began Day One with a nasty little climb up past Mountain Village that leveled into a nice, steady climb up Lizard Head Pass. After descending the pass my buddy Woody and I made the first in-route beer stop at the Enterprise Bar and Grill in Rico, Colorado.

Woody dismounts at the Enterprise Bar and Grill in Rico
Although we were only 28 miles into a 75 mile day, it was essentially all downhill from Rico into Cortez. Besides, how many people who completed the longest RTR in history can say they stopped for beers in Rico?!

At the Enterprise Bar and Grill (photo taken by cute young Ukranian girl working as a bartender in Rico for the summer).
Day Two was a not-very-memorable 64-mile roundabout ride from Cortez to Durango with a moderate climb over Mancos and Hesperus Hill. But for some reason it was a bit of a struggle. Perhaps it was the last couple of beers we managed to finagle from the Odells beer truck guys long after they had shut down the night before!

The beer tent and overnight campground in Cortez.
Day Three took us 84 miles from Durango to Pagosa Springs, past Chimney Rock National Monument. I started off a little slow on the initial climb toward Lemon and Vallecito but my legs recovered nicely and I was able to push it pretty hard up the final climb into Pagosa Springs, where we stopped at the new Riff Raff Brewing Company for post-ride recovery. This was my favorite brewpub stop on the route. The owner/brewmaster was pouring beers on the shady patio where we enjoyed lamb nachos and beef burgers.

Unfortunately, while setting up camp in Pagosa Springs, I blew out my flip flop (fortunately, I didn't step on a pop top). Literally, my flip had no more flop. By the way, these were my only non-cycling shoes. And every store in town was closed (never understand why some towns just don't seem to get the word out to store owners that there will be 2,000 hungry, thirsty, flip-flop needing consumers in town!). So, I just rode to the beer tent in my cycling shoes and waded in the river barefoot. I'd just have to secure new shoes in Alamosa the next day.

Day Four began with the climb out of Pagosa Springs up Wolf Creek Pass. This was the climb I was looking forward to. I've done most of the major passes in Colorado on Ride the Rockies but this was my first time up legendary Wolf Creek Pass. To be honest, I was a little worried. Not about the climb, but the descent down the other side. A good friend of mine had a nasty fall descending Wolf Creek on RTR several years ago and spent more than a month in the hospital. That is my worst nightmare!
Fortunately, the crosswinds weren't too heavy on our descent and I didn't hear of any major wipe-outs. Even more fortunately, the crosswinds became primarily tailwinds for the final 40 miles into Alamosa. So, once again, Team Bar2Bar stepped up and added beers to the mix at the famous baked potato rest stop in Monte Vista (hosted by the local Colorado potato growers).

After arriving in Alamosa we hung out at San Luis Brewing Co. for a while before heading back to the campsite and closing out the night at the beer tent. Let's face it. There ain't much else to do in Alamosa! Besides, the adventure was just about to get epic.
After Four days we had ridden 315 of 513 miles, with the easiest 3 days to come. Or so we thought. By this time, news of the Royal Gorge fire had spread like, well, wildfire, through the RTR ranks. It was obvious that the planned route that took us across the Royal Gorge Bridge would be changed. Rumors circulated that perhaps the ride would end the next day in Salida (2 days early) and we'd all be bussed back to Colorado Springs. All we knew for certain was that we'd ride the next day to The Vic in Salida and wait to see what happens. Of course, The Vic always delivers a good story!
But that story will have to wait until Ride the Rockies 2013 Recap Part II: The Adventure Gets Epic.
Ride on!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day Zero is in the Books

The opening day of Ride the Rockies 2013, what we refer to as Day Zero, is done. Telluride was a great host for the start and well worth the long drive to get here. Here are my photo highlights of the day:

Our old friend Stewart drove us up the road to Bridal Veil Falls
Overlooking Telluride from an old gold and silver mine near Bridal Veil Falls
The town closed the main street all afternoon and evening for the RTR street party and the weather was absolutely gorgeous

We met up with old friends like The Hankster and Flip Flop Jenny at the street party

The sun set over Telluride as the street party wound down.

Ride on!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Preview: Days Six and Seven

We have arrived in Telluride for the start of Ride the Rockies 2013! After a 6-1/2 hour drive we started off Day -1 with a good dinner at Flavor. I had the Snake River Farms Kobe Beef (Wagyu) Eye of Ribeye (the round center portion of the ribeye steak without a cap -- the tender, tasty portion around the edge). Then we headed over to the New Sheridan Hotel and met up with old friends to down a few pints of Telluride Brewing Company Face Down Brown. Day 0 kicks off with the street party in downtown Telluride from 1:00-9:30 p.m. Then, at long last, the ride begins tomorrow!

Leslie and I met up with our old friend Stewart from our days in D.C. (in the late '80s/early '90s), who now lives in Telluride.

Over the past month or so I have been previewing each day's ride but I fell a litle behind, so here are my previews of Day 6 and Day 7.

Day 6 begins in Salida and travels alongside the Arkansas River toward Canon City. The first 45 miles is a gradual descent from about 7,100 to 5,763 ft. Then the ride takes a nasty turn and climbs 1,000 ft. over the next 6 miles to the South Rim of the Royal Gorge. For a two mile stretch the grade bounces between 10-15%. We rode this same stretch in 2006 and, as I recall, it was the toughest 2 miles I have ever ridden.

At the Royal Gorge on RTR 2006
The payoff after the climb is an amazing photo opportunity overlooking the Royal Gorge, then riding across the wooden plank suspension bridge 1,250 above the Arkansas River. After a stopping for a beer at the visitor's center on the North Rim we'll ride on into Canon City for one last night on the town at the Royal Gorge Brewing Company.

Day 7 is a 46.5 mile ride to the finish line in Colorado Springs. I have never ridden this route so have little to offer in the way of a description but my friend Woody from Colorado Springs says we'll hear mortar fire from Fort Carson as ride ride along the western boundary of the masive military base for most of the day.

The finish line in Colorado Springs is at Cheyenne Mountain Resort. The beer will be flowing as they announce the winners of the bike giveaway and other door prizes. But the highlight of the finish line party for me is the parade of State Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Support and Gear vehicles, and other volunteers who have assisted riders along the route during the week. Riders line up to cheer the folks for helping keep us safe from motorists, repair our bikes and occasionally bandage up our wounds.

Here's hoping for a safe and fun ride for everyone. It's about time to head over to get registered. Stay tuned for updates and pictures throughout the week.

Ride on!


P.S. In case you missed them, here are my previews of Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, and Day Five.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ride the Rockies Forecast

Here's the Weather.com forecast for Ride the Rockies 2013: average high 86 and low 48 with mostly sunny skies and winds in the teens. Hot days and cool nights with very little chance of rain. Sounds about perfect.

Sat Jun 8 (Telluride)

Partly Cloudy76°/46° Partly Cloudy

Wind: WNW at 13 mph

Sun Jun 9 (Cortez)

Mostly Sunny 96°/48° Mostly Sunny

Wind: NW at 10 mph

Mon Jun 10 (Durango)

Mostly Sunny  91°/47° Mostly Sunny

Wind: WSW at 12 mph

Tue Jun 11 (Pagosa Springs)

Mostly Sunny 85°/43° Mostly Sunny

Wind: SW at 15 mph

Wed Jun 12 (Alamosa)

Sunny 89°/42° Sunny

Thu Jun 13 (Salida)

Sunny 84°/50° Sunny

Fri Jun 14 (Canon City)

Mostly Sunny 88°/58° Mostly Sunny

Sat Jun 15 (Colorado Springs)

Cloudy 78°/53° Cloudy

Ride on!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Preview Day Five: Alamosa to Salida

I'm looking forward to a return visit to The Victoria Bar for the fifth time on Ride the Rockies!
Day 5 of Ride the Rockies 2013 (June 13) ends in my favorite RTR city of all time, Salida, home of The Victoria Bar (known simply as The Vic). We have stopped in Salida on 4 of the 6 Ride the Rockies I've completed. In fact, it was in Salida on my first RTR, after a late night at The Vic, that I learned one of the most important lessons I have learned about riding at altitude: staying hydrated is one of the keys to avoiding altitude sickness!

Relaxing at Riverside Park in Salida is the reward for the long slog from Alamosa!
There's just something about Salida that brings out the party in a lot of riders. The beer tent location in Riverside Park is just a great place to hang out, drink beer and listen to music. After the sun goes down the party at the The Vic will pick up quickly. After all, it's just across the street! Just remember: beer, water, beer, water, beer...!

The ride from Alamosa to Salida begins with a long, flat, straight shot due North before the climb to Poncha Pass begins. Other than the views of the surrounding mountain peaks there's not much to get excited about along this stretch. The elevation stays between 7,500 and 7,600 the first 43 miles! We do ride past the Great San Dunes National Park but we don't really get a good view of it from Colorado Highway 17.

Team DFL President Kris Cambria and her friend Karen made a new friend at The Vic on the 2006 ride.
From mile 43 to 70 we climb steadily from 7,600 to 9,019 ft. at the summit of Poncha Pass. Then it's all downhill the final 13 miles to Salida and a cold beer and good friends at The Vic. It just doesn't get any better!

Ride on!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Preview Day Four: Pagosa Springs to Alamosa

Day Four of Ride the Rockies (June 12) is longest mileage day on the 2013 ride and features a climb over Wolf Creek Pass, one of the major mountain passes in Colorado I have not ridden. Leaving Pagosa Springs we will climb the first 24 miles from 7,126 ft. to 10,850 ft. at the summit. Although the elevation profile makes it appear as though it is all downhill from there I know better.

At a rest stop somewhere in the San Luis Valley on RTR 2006 with Patti and Mr. Potato Head. The rest stop featured locally-grown baked potatoes with all the fixins. I hope they are back this year!
After truckin' on down the other side of Wolf Creek Pass the terrain flattens out into San Luis Valley, the largest intermountain valley in the world, covering more than 8,000 square miles at an elevation of just over 7,500 ft. above sea level. The final 50 miles into Alamosa will be mostly flat riding through potato and barley fields with no protection from the sun or wind. However, the views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the eastern border of the valley should provide some distraction (if we remember to look up!).

Crossing the New Mexico
state line in 2006
We rode up the valley from the south on the 2006 ride after an overnight in charming Chama, New Mexico (the only time Ride the Rockies route has strayed from the State of Colorado). By all accounts it one also one of the best stops in the history of the ride. I admit I was a little disappointed when the day three route was announced and it didn't include Chama. I would have welcomed a return visit to the charming town of 1,200 people, most of which showed up to welcome us, including the mayor.

Kris (with a K) adorns the mayor of Chama with a Team DFL tattoo
Riding north into Alamosa that year we spent most of that day battling a stiff headwind. And it was hot. I got into a small pace line for the final 30 miles or so which helped, until I had a flat with just under 10 miles to go and had to stop to change my tube. When I finally rolled into the overnight are a the fairgrounds I was sweaty, tired and unhappy. I don't have the fondest memories of Alamosa. It is my least favorite stop on the six RTRs I've completed. But there will be beer, so life will go on!

And so will the ride. Day Five we will head north out of Alamosa to Salida, my absolute favorite overnight stop on RTR :)

Ride on!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Training Update: Ramping Up the Mileage

With only four weeks left until the start of Ride the Rockies 2013, it's time to ramp up the mileage on the road. Fortunately, spring has finally sprung in Colorado and the snow is (hopefully) gone in Denver. My goal is to ride 775 miles in the month of May, averaging 175 per week, or 25 per day. That's about an hour and half of riding per day (an average) so it is a major time commitment!

My Bike to Work route takes includes parts of the Cherry Creek and E-470 Trails in south Denver.
Finding the time to ride can be tough, especially when you are balancing travel for both your job and family events this time of year (like graduations this month in Kansas and Portland!). One of the ways I have made it work in past years is riding to and from my office, a 50-mile round trip, during National Bike Month in May. Riding 25 miles 2x per day is great training for Ride the Rockies.

Click to Enlarge
I hit my goal this week, riding 175.6 miles. However, next week is going to be tough since I am traveling 5 of the next 7 days! In fact, it is not possible. My goal is to get in 75 miles, so I will need to do some serious catching up in the weeks ahead to make my goal.

So how is your training going? Are you Ready to Rock?!

Ride on!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Do Motorists Hate Cyclists?

Charles, a non-cycling friend, tagged me in a Facebook post this past weekend. The question he posed sparked an interesting exchange that has bugged be ever since:
What is it about a bicycle marathon past my home that rubs me the wrong way? Maybe Daren Williams has an idea. Wife says I am jealous. So that one is already taken. Lol
It's a great question. Why do motorists hate cyclists? A comment from Lisa, one of Charles' friends, shed some light on the answer:
Either you like cycling or you hate it. Cycling is big out here, and we've got behind races- they cause big headaches. And the last race they had through Colorado Springs, people went as far as spreading tacks and glass on the route.
I assume she is talking about the USA Pro Challenge, which rolled through Colorado Springs this past summer. But you know what they say happens when you assume, so I shouldn't. But that didn't stop her from assuming something about me in her next comment:
I think it has to do with the perception that cyclists see themselves as superior, part of the environmentalist liberal elite. And just the fact they cause traffic problems.
Well, I must say that is the first time I have ever been accused of being "part of the environmentalist liberal elite." And I don't take that as a compliment! Fortunately, another friend of Charles, Matt, came to my rescue:
I get annoyed when people talk about the Liberal environmentalist elite. There is a religion out there that shuns science and embraces ignorance. Unfortunately for them, their raft is sinking from all the people jumping on it and soon it will capsize from a changing climate and rising seas. I could go on, But that's the crux of what I was getting at. BP has estimated that we only have about 17 decades of recoverable natural gas left. I've studied scarcity of resources and what happened to former civilizations that overused their gifts from the commons, they disintegrate, and collapse, after taking everyone else's resources. Riding bikes isn't a terrible idea from the standpoint of sustainability.
Oh great, my only ally in this conversation is part of the Liberal environmentalist elite! Just what I needed. Riding bikes isn't a terrible idea from the standpoint of sustainability?! I assume (there I go again), that Matt is talking about replacing cars and trucks with bikes. But I'm sorry, as a cyclist I can tell you that bicycles are a terrible form of transportation.

I ride 25 miles to/from work every May in honor of National Bike Month but I don't do it to be "sustainable." I'd much rather be driving my car. It's faster, more comfortable, and much more efficient. I ride to/from work to train for Ride the Rockies. Riding 25 miles 2x daily is great exercise but it is impractical for commuting on a regular basis (especially during winter in Colorado!).

So why do motorists hate cyclists? Is it jealousy, as Charles' wife suggested? I doubt it. Why would anyone riding comfortably in a climate-controlled, audio-infused, petroleum-powered vehicle be jealous of some sweaty middle-aged man in Lycra?

Is it the terrible inconvenience of having to share the road with an occasional cyclist or that once-a-year cycling event? Seriously? Are you in that big a hurry to get to work? Thankfully, I think Lisa finally came up with the answer:
Okay, then, maybe it's the shorts!:)
Granted. Spandex shorts don't look good on very many people. Especially middle-aged men. So allow me to explain. The shorts are not a fashion statement. They are functional. Without getting too personal, suffice it to say that padding and spandex help prevent cycling saddle sores.

I tried to explain this to Charles in my response to his question: "What is it about a bicycle marathon past my home that rubs me the wrong way?"
Not getting rubbed the wrong way is why we wear spandex. You could try that.
Ride on!


P.S. An oldie but a goodie. Why bike shorts should be black...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ride the Rockies 2013 Preview Day Three: Durango to Pagosa Springs

Departing Durango on day three of Ride the Rockies 2013 we will climb from 6,512 ft. to 8,000 ft. in the first 15 miles, crossing briefly through the San Juan National Forest. The rugged peaks of the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado make them one of my favorite ranges in the Colorado Rockies. The contrast of the rocky outcroppings rising from the desert valleys is dramatic.
The high and rugged San Juan Mountains

Around mile 15 we will turn south and will come within a few miles of the New Mexico border, riding through Navajo State Park before turning north to Pagosa Springs, a popular destination for people seeking the healing powers of the hot springs ("Pagosah" is the Southwester Ute Indian word for healing waters). After riding 225 miles in three days I may just have to take a plunge myself.


Although the hot springs would not qualify as an official Team Bar2Bar "watering hole" the Bear Creek Saloon definitely does. We spent several hours liquid carbo-loading at this fine establishment on the 2006 ride, my first visit to Pagosa Springs.

Team Bar2Bar captain Paul the Pilot and a rider we have met several times on RTR (but whose name I can't remember! Ann, maybe?)

We may want to take it a little easy this year, though, as day four begins with THE CLIMB of the 2013 tour, Wolf Creek Pass. But I'll save that for next week's preview. Until then...

Ride on!