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!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ride the Rockies 2014 Day One: Thunder, Lightning, Hail and Snow

I woke up this morning to see blue sky out the window on the third floor of the Viking Lodge in Winter Park. It was a welcome site after yesterday's day one debacle! One of the strangest days I have experienced on Ride the Rockies (although every day is an adventure!).

We started with beautiful weather in Boulder as we climbed Boulder Canyon. The beautiful scenery of the canyon makes the steep (8-10% grade) in the middle worth it! Rolling into Nederland I ran into my RTR friend and yoga instructor Gillian. Always good to see her.

From Nederland turned south to see ominous dark clouds in the direction we were heading. Grinding through a series of sharp, steep climbs and descents we neared Aid Station Two at Gilpin School when a lighting strike lit up the sky. I didn't even get to one second before the thunder crack shook me. It was close!

I picked up the pace with no where to shelter except the aid station ahead. Just as I arrived at Gilpin School the hail started pelting us. I made it under an eave and shelters in place for about 30 mins as the storm passed. Whew. Thinking the worst was over I got back on the bike and headed down the short, steep descent to Black Hawk. The wet roads made for a cold, tense ride.

I ran into Flip Flop Jenny in Black Hawk. She didn't look happy. Jenny rides in dime store rubber flip flops on flat pedals. I kid you not. Woody told me later that he rode that stretch with her and she was shaking.

And that's when it got crazy.

It never looks as steep in a picture but this climb was sick.
After a nasty climb out of Black Hawk/Central City we had a mostly downhill ride to Aid Station Three in Idaho Springs. I desperately needed real food and the lines were long (that's a complaint for another day) so Woody and I headed in town for lunch at Two Brothers Deli (which I HIGHLY recommend!). While there we started hearing rumors of snow on Berthoud Pass. I checked weatherundergound.com and it was showing 32F and light snow on Berthoud. At this point we were 23 miles from the summit so decided to head on to Aid Station Four in Empire and assess from there.
Arriving in Empire (after grinding 10 miles uphill into the wind) we checked again and the weather was now showing 30F and heavy thundersnow at the summit. It was then we were told by staff that we could ride to the summit but they had closed the downhill into Winter Park. Regardless, we decided to press on.

It was sleeting/snowing in Winter Park as we headed to dinner last night.
Now climbing the steep pass into a cloud of white mist and snow I began to question my sanity. But I refused to stop until there was no possible alternative. I have never had to ride in a support and gear (SAG) vehicle on Ride the Rockies and wasn't keen on the idea now. That's when a Colorado State Trooper pulled up alongside me and told me they had closed the summit and all riders had to turn back to Empire and wait for a bus ride over the pass. When we were in Empire the bus line was already an estimated two hour wait.

Woody had ridden ahead of me so when the Trooper went ahead to turn other riders back I waited for Woody. That's when, like manna from heaven, I saw a SAG vehicle coming up the pass with two empty spots on the rack. Unheard of at this point. So I loaded up and as we headed up the pass I kept a close eye out for Wordy coming down. Sure enough we spotted him and were able to give him a lift over the mountain, too. Hailing that van had saved us hours of waiting and a bus ride. We were happy, to say the least.

At dinner last night a Beefman Blodgett reader stopped me and said, "Beefman?" We had never met each other but he recognized my from these pages. Thanks, Tom from New York, for introducing yourself. Good to know somebody actual reads my blog!
Arriving in Winter Park we picked up our gear and rode to the Viking Lodge. As we got cleaned up for dinner the skies opened up and dumped a combination of rain, sleet and snow, soaking the luggage of all the riders who were waiting on busses. I can't imagine trying to camp last night. Temps dropped into the teens. There have to be a lot of cold, wet, unhappy campers this morning as I it in the Morning Grind sipping my latte after a great breakfast of biscuits and gravy :)

Today is a 95-mile ride to Steamboat Springs. The weather forecast is for sunshine all day. Hallelujah.

Ride on!


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