Alaska Adventure Machine!

Alaska Adventure Machine!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Recovery Ride

The next morning we both awoke, quite fried from our long ride the day before. It was raining outside and the weather channel promised more of that to come. The low pressure system up North, in western Idaho, was sliding South into Utah. It looked like we we going to be chased by it, at least to the New Mexico border, for the next two days

We climbed the seemingly small Trout Creek Pass and began a rapid loss of elevation into Buena Vista, CO. Skies began to brighten up a bit and snowy peaks showed their faces.
Dan was feeling better and having an 'easy day' seemed to be working for him. We continued southwards to Poncha Springs, CO. We ran into three Denver cyclists training for a trans-America ride (Washington to Maine). They were due to start in a month. Our main advise was to take less of whatever they thought they needed. They could buy something later if they really decided they needed it. Every pound counts in distance touring!
Our cozy 'Mom and Pop' motel greeted us at the end of our 'easy day' of 57 miles. We had climbed only 1,500' today, so that was nice.
We gave our cycling muscles some much needed therapy in the motel hot tub. Well-deserved!

New Mexico or "Bust"!

May 14th arrived and so had Dan, except he was nearly on death's doorstep. Fatigued from a stressful week in Indiana due to an unexpected funeral, and all clogged up by allergies and bronchitis, he had trekked up from NM half-doubting whether he should even ride. I hardly expected him to show up, but he gamely did, so our ride was still on. At 8:30am, we took last photos at Lake Granby and started South facing a real test of his health. Day 1 would entail 114 miles, 5,700' climbing and a high point of 11,538' at mile 100 no less!! Rain and snow were in the forecast, a low pressure system headed our way...
A least we are riding I thought, trying to repress doubts about Dan's health. I looked back and he was nowhere to be  seen. I stopped, peered back, yet still couldn't spot him. He'd been on my wheel about three miles back, gee we were only seven miles from our start. Where was he? I got off my bike stretched a bit. After 10 minutes I started cycling back. A couple miles later he appeared... a flat tire already! We had three spare tubes to start with and now were down to just two. I was sure we'd need all three tubes for the goathead thorns of New Mexico. This was not promising!

By Kremmling CO, only 40 miles into our day, it was apparent that Dan was really suffering. There was no way he could stay on my rear wheel and draft, and I wasn't pushing it at all. At the gas station bathroom break he looked pretty grim. I gamely encouraged him, but this was going to be the mother-of-all suffer-fest days for him. The upcoming 5 mile stretch of road construction didn't help. While he privately suffered, I wondered about getting the likely-hood more flats on this gravel section with our skinny 25mm road tires?

We stopped, sipped from our water bottles, and talked. Dan needed help. He was just too sick to push it. The only solution that I could offer was to take some of his gear. So I strapped his extra-large 'bike packing' rear seat bag onto my bike and started off. It wasn't too heavy, but it at least gave Dan some moral support. He struggled onwards to Lake Dillion and Frisco. (In the photo, the large seat bag on the white bike is Dan's. He used that and a day pack. I used only a day pack))
We turned a short break into a long one at the Frisco Safeway store. We lounged in the sun, refueled our bodies. Dan was despondent, but I keep encouraging him. He had done 60 miles so far. After an  hour we cycled to Breckenridge. The ski runs were still ski-able and the white-capped mountain views amazing.
As we climbed past 10,200', I was feeling the altitude and needed to shed Dan's gear. At least I had helped carry it for 30 miles and 2,000' of climbing. Dan would need carry it over the Pass, another 1,300' higher. Dan seemed stronger now, perhaps getting his second wind. He pushed the pace up the Pass, I drafted for the first time all day.
Near the summit of Hoosier Pass a storm blew in; so bad in fact a motorist stopped to see if we need a ride. Sleet blew sideways, and the altitude taxed our lungs. but no way were were going to stop now! Victory was a few pedal strokes away. Finally at mile 100 exactly, we to reached the summit. In stormy weather we took photos and enjoyed a fast (48 mph) 14 mile decent into Fairplay CO. An epic ride of 114 miles 5,700' of climbing up to 11,538' had been accomplished. A day for the personal record book that's for sure. Dan had suffered greatly, but he had done it!
Chow time ;)

Speed Touring

Soon after last Autumn's grueling but rewarding Alaska bike tour, I wondered what would be next on my biking agenda? The thought of another epic gravel road, self-supported tour was not so attractive yet to me. The ideal place for that would be Alaska again, or Canada. Lots of woods to camp in, mountains and rivers to enjoy. But this option would require another major commitment of time and resources to fly to and from suitable start and finish points. Perhaps something less ambitious logistically and lighter weight could be the solution?

Mid-winter I received a wedding invitation from an old high school friend down in New Mexico. He and I had done many epic backpacking trips together in New Mexico and Alaska. Going to his daughter's wedding would give us a chance to reconnect. Logistically it would be easy for me to bike down (455 miles) and have my wife drive down for the wedding a few days later, then we'd both return by car to Colorado. So now I had a date and a method to haul my tired butt and bike back home. All I needed was a speedy partner to draft all the way South!
Dan was definitely the "Man"! A former collegiate triathlete and still a training machine at age 31, he'd be the spur to my side to keep me training all winter. There's nothing like the ego of an aging ex-bike racer, like myself, to bite off more than one should. Dan and I had enjoyed friendly sparing over the years, battling it out on big mountain rides. I knew he'd be the right guy for this ride. Easy going, enthusiastic and fit, he'd be a great companion for the many days we'd spend together.

The winter passed with Dan training away in New Mexico and myself in Colorado. Frequent text message training reports were passed back and forth. Lots of friendly cagoling on each other's progress went on.  Dan's Strava online reports were getting out of hand; his 100 mile rides and big vertical days (over 5,000') were getting me concerned. Was he going to burn out prematurely or just plainly leave me in his dust?! I did my normal weekend nordic skiing workouts but added 2-3 days cycling midweek. That was a real challenge during a seemingly wetter Winter and Spring than normal in Colorado. I had many unpleasant training days that's for sure. The dream of warm cycling in the New Mexico sun kept me spinning those gears winter-long. As we wheeled off, my longest training ride to date had only been 65 miles long...I was definitely counting on my nordic skiing fitness to save me!