Monday, August 2, 2010

One Last Mountain Pass

Yesterday was supposed to be the day for The Epic Bike Ride on my trip. There were thoughts of pedaling to Aspen. There were things to be considered though. Mainly it was the weather. This year there has been a lot of rain in the afternoons. Not just a simple rain shower, but electrical storms.

So rather than risk getting caught out in a mess a decision was made to pedal up and over Vail Pass and into Vail, CO, 40 miles away and then check the weather before heading back up and over Vail Pass and back to Breckenridge. Sunday morning was overcast. Not good. This was the first morning where I did not see the sun shining on the mountain tops. The temps were a little cooler and I took measures to make sure I had enough warm gear on. It is always better to be over dressed and to have to peel a layer off than to be under dressed and shivering and wishing you had more layers.

8:00 am was the push-off time. Once hitting the bike path from Breckenridge, it is mainly downhill to Frisco. Strangely, I started crying on this section. I cannot explain why, I just had tears streaming back along the side of my face. I'm going to chalk it up to eye irritation due to the wind. There are some nasty little hills just before Frisco on the bike path where I swear the grade is at least 11% or more. I'm not sure what happened, but on one of these short nasty climbs I had an asthma episode. I got to the top of the hill and had to pull over and gasp for air pretty unsuccessfully. For all I know, it could have been just an altitude thing, or an effort thing. My chest did not feel tight or my airway constricted, but every time I tried to take a big breath of air, I felt like I got nothing in. I did not want panic to set in or to start seeing stars so I just had to hang my head in my handle bars and calm down and relax...and not cry more. WTF was going on???

After that, I felt like my mojo had been sucked out of me. I was not as fast as I would have liked to have been. Once past the hilly and winding section of the bike path I was greeted by a ton of cyclists coming in the other direction on the Courage Classic bike ride. The only bad thing about this was the fact that there are always some a-hole riders who ride into on coming traffic to get around slow or bunched up cyclists. I did my fair share of yelling to tell people to move back over. I was highly agitated. And I was still crying. Yeesh!!!

From Frisco up to Copper Mountain, the bike trail is mainly uphill and it will take about 45 minutes. I was not looking forward to all the cyclists barreling down the path on the other side and potentially taking me out if they swung wide. I made it to Copper Mountain in one piece and thankfully was able to take a nature break at a gas station before getting back on the trail and heading over Vail Pass.

I had to take things slower and I tried to settle in and find a good pedaling and breathing rhythm. I guess I got a little of my mojo back because the landmarks I remember on the path such as the crazy steep switchbacks, the wooden bridge, and the crawl to the scenic overlook came faster than I expected them to. I took a break at the top to fuel back up and to contemplate the weather. It was still overcast but it looked like there were darker clouds in the direction that I was going. No fun.

Once over Vail Pass, the bike path heads downhill past a lake and then rides just below I-70 with a few curves in and out of the trees. I had to pull over and put my long sleeve jersey and gloves back on because I was sweaty and now cold. The path then goes up along the highway and the only thing separating the cyclists from the cars is a long span of plastic orange safety netting. I am not a huge fan of rocketing the downhills on roads that I am not familiar with or roads that I know that have sharp twists and turns in them. This bike path is one of those twisty ones up near the top. I did pick up some good speed and got around 25 mph but I knew I had to be careful. There was sand and loose gravel in several places along the path where rain and snow melt had washed it from the road onto the path. I hit one of these patches of sand and my bike slid left out from under me. I quickly recovered and spat out some obscenities and slowed things down even more before a big swooping drop of the path to go under I-70 where there would be a sharp and blind corner. I did not want to run head first into another cyclist coming the other way. And I started crying again....whatever.

Once back up on the other side of I-70, the path widens out and it bombs for several miles almost straight down into Vail. There is a gate at the bottom but there is plenty of warning and you have a good enough view that you have time to slow it down. I laid off the breaks and let it loose. I saw 35 mph at one time. I was shivering and shaking all the way down. I clenched the top tube with my knees to help steady the bike but my feet were twitching around badly. There were plenty of people coming up the pass in the other direction who did not have on as much gear as I did. And I also saw people riding with no helmet! Again, WTF are you thinking???

Once past the gate it is still down hill into Vail but less aggressively steep. I had to keep an eye out on the cars parked along side of the road due to a kid's soccer tournament. I did not want some Soccer Mom opening her SUV door right in front of me. Once I pulled into Vail and put my bike on a rack, I found The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and got some calories back in me. Sitting on the grass I watched the clouds up over the peaks of the mountains. It was still overcast, but behind me to the west the blue sky was visible. I got to Vail around 10:45 and had to wait a bit for some of the restaurants to start serving lunch. After some food and a scan of the clouds again, the decision was made to scrap the ride back over Vail Pass because it was looking more and more like storms.

On the transport ride back there was rain and lightning at the top of Vail Pass. The rain really got going hard on the stretch from Frisco to Breckenridge. It thundered and rained most of the afternoon and evening. Yeah, you know it. More tears on the ride back to Breckenridge.

I have to pack my bike this morning and drop it off at FedEx and throw my gear in my luggage. The shuttle to the airport comes to pick me up at 11:45 am for a 4:50 pm flight. Again, no fun. That means I will be eating overpriced airport food for lunch. At least I have a good book to while away the hours. From what I hear, it has been HOT in Houston. I'm kinda not looking forward to that, but in some ways I am. Work starts again tomorrow morning at 5:30 am. Boooo!!! But at least it is a cycle class and my group is going to be happy to see me again after having last week off with no class and no sub. I will try not to hurt them with some crazy climbing profile.

Well, that is the long and short of it all. I had a wonderful time here in the mountains and I will have lots of great memories to think back on. I get back to regular coached workouts tomorrow and I get back to life as usual. I am going to chalk the crying up to hormones and the asthma episode up to high strung emotions. From the pic below you can see that I was not crying all the time.

Stay tuned for heat training...

Later Gators,



Christi said...

I am so sorry that my friends and I missed you. I would have loved to have ridden with you!

Spokane Al said...

Wow - what a great adventure and opportunity to get away from the Texas heat for a while. Good for you.