Monday, August 15, 2011

Back From Colorado

 Sugar Loaf summit

I ended up taking my first real vacation in two years last week and headed out for Leadville, CO. First off, no I didn't race. I had a couple friends that were racing (Don and Zach) and I was wanting to get out there this summer anyway so I figured I'd head out there the same week to get a little training and BS time in with them. Ended up being a good trip overall. Here's the breakdown, with a photo dump to follow within the next couple days.

Saturday (Aug. 6th):
Left the house around 7am and spent the whole day driving. Ended up making it all the way to Dillon, CO before stopping for the night. We could have kept on going until Leadville, which was another 45 minutes away, but our campsite reservation wasn't until the next day so it seemed like a good place to stop. We wandered around for a bit looking for a sushi place I had seen advertised, but ended up settling for a Chipotle. Good burrito, bad margarita.

Arrived in Leadville in time to catch a train ride through the mountains and some of Boom Days, which was going on that weekend. Hit the store, set up camp and then went out for my first ride around Turquoise Lake. I kept it short since I really didn't know how I was going to do with the altitude and the climbs. Other than a significant drop in power output and some gasping right at the base of the climbs, it actually wasn't that bad. The first real climb was pretty easy (450ft over 2 miles) while the second one was a bit tougher (800ft over 3 miles). Total ride was about 17 miles at a little over an hour. I find that I like longer climbs that let you get into a rhythm, unfortunately we don't have a lot of those in Iowa though.

Headed out with Don and his friend Bob for a short trip around Turquoise Lake, up Sugar Loaf and down Powerline.  Climbing was about the same as before for me, but with the added humility of having Don steadily ride away from me.  Bob hung with us until the turn to Sugar Loaf where he started having some pains and had to bail.  We sent some faster riders up the climb in the hopes they'd be able to get better phone reception and call a ride in for him, but when Don and I got to the top they said they'd only been able to leave a message on my girlfriends voice mail.  Don and I then made the frightening invigorating decent down Powerline and rode to the fish hatchery to meet our ride.  We drove back to pick up Bob, who had made it down to the base of Hagerman Pass by the time we got there.  With Bob and Don done for the day and me wanting some extra miles, I left them and headed off to climb Hagerman.  This was a personal goal of mine anyway since I tried to drive my old Saturn SC2 (The Saturn of Power) up it four years ago.  Back then I had to turn around a couple miles from the top when it got too rocky, but this time I was able to make the climb on the bike.    Most of the climb went well, but the last couple miles of it turn pretty steep and rocky and I had to take a few short breaks to catch my breath in the increasingly thinning air.  I got to the top, snapped a few pics and then headed back to camp to clean up for dinner with the boys.  The rest of the night was delicious fajitas, a Ride the Divide viewing and general BSing.

Monday night Bob and I had made plans to ride Columbine together but unfortunately those plans never materialized.  Instead, I decided to knock another big climb off my checklist and headed out to Twin Lakes to tackle Independence Pass.  Deb came with and rode her own ride while I headed off to the sufferfest.  I had no idea what to expect from myself here and figured I'd have to stop a few times to rest and catch my breath, just like the day before.  Instead, I was pretty happy that I only stopped once early on, and that was to take a picture of a mountain goat (ran off before I could).  I was tackling the eastern approach and found the first 10 miles or so to be easier than I was expecting.  There were a lot of 5-7% grades, but they were usually followed up by a relatively flat spot to allow for some recovery.  The last five miles...  Not so much.  As I came through mile nine I saw the road ahead of me that was cut into the near cliff and thought to myself "Damn...  I bet I have to climb that".  Sure enough, I hit the first switchback and it was 5-7% from there to the summit.  I dropped into my granny gear (thank you brand new 11-28 cassette) and spun my way up.  40ish minutes later I was at the top, cuz I'm slow and all, and I snapped off a couple pics before my butt clenching descent back down at scary speeds a few feet away from 300+ foot drops (guard rails... denied). 

I was going to tackle Columbine but opted for a day of shopping around Leadville instead.  Had a nice lazy day and our first campfire of the trip.

We rented a Jeep from a place that I won't name right now for reasons to be revealed later.  When I set up the reservation I wanted an automatic in case Deb wanted to drive, but apparently in the world of Jeep rentals this also gets you a shamefully underpowered 4 cylinder as well.  Whatever, it'd work for the novice trails that we were going to take it on.  After a quick description of the local trails by the owner and a run-through of our Jeep (in which he didn't start the motor) we were ready to go.  The first thing we notices was how friggin' loud the thing was.  I'm talking no muffler loud.  Again... Whatever.  I figured there was a reason for this and didn't go back inside to question it.  This would bite me later...

Off we went in our Jeep (the all-bark-no-bite-mobile) and hit the trails he suggested.  One of them included a  short hike up to a waterfall as well as a trip to an old mining site and ghost town.  Another took us up through Lost Canyon, which I believe might be part of the Columbine climb.  If so, I missed out by skipping it.  It was beautiful.  The third trip wasn't a planned route but I wanted to head back up Hagerman Pass, this time with a motor.  We made our way back down and headed back to Copper for dinner with the boys (and their ladies) again.  This time there was less BSing since everyone seemed more worn out, but we still got in a viewing of the latest Race Across The Sky movie.  Afterwords we returned the Jeep and headed back to camp.

We had reservations for a full day rafting trip through Browns Canyon, but before we went there I stopped by the Jeep rental place because I thought I had left my sunglasses behind.  When I went in to talk to the owner I was a bit shocked when he asked me what I did to the Jeep.  He was trying to tell me that it didn't sound like that when we had taken off with it the previous morning.  After a bit of arguing, nothing was resolved and now I'm waiting to hear back from him after his mechanic goes through it.  I'm going to leave it at that until I hear more.

So with my morning already off to a bad start we headed on the the rafting place.  Waivers, equipment rentals, safety checks, orientation, blah blah blah... And we were on our way.  Six hour trip with a steak and corn on the cob lunch in the middle of it, class 3 rapids, jumping off a rock into the river, Deb getting dunked...  It ended up being a lot of fun.  Our guide was great and even though I'm not much of a steak eater I thought lunch was excellent.  One of the other rafters was telling us that this was the only rafting company there who grilled steak for lunch.  If you're up in Buena Vista for some rafting, I'd definitely recommend Buffalo Joes for your trip.

Race day!  I was sore and tired from rafting and didn't feel like getting up early for the start of the LT100.  Unfortunately, I also didn't get up in time to stake out a spot on Powerline or Columbine like I had originally planned.  Instead I waited until about an hour before I thought the leaders would hit the top of Carter Summit and then rode up there.  I staked out a spot about 1/4 mile from the summit with the intention of watching the leaders come through, taking off for a while and then coming back to cheer on the fellas.  That plan evolved into me spending five hours running up and down the climb, dancing, hooting, hollering and generally making an ass out of myself for the amusement and encouragement of the racers.  Highlights of my day included:
- Making Tinker Juarez smile with my "Levers" dance
- Getting a fist bump from Ricky McDonald
- Probably annoying Rebecca Rusch with my sideline antics (I didn't cause problems or get in anyone's way, so no scolding)
- Getting numerous fist bumps and high fives from the racers
- Getting thanked by so many racers for the encouragement and laughs
- Having Deb stop by with some desperately needed water
- "Bringing the party" to Zach and my camping neighbor who's name I forgot.
- Finding out Zach earned his belt buckle on a rigid singlespeed
- Getting some help for an hour or so from another pair of "cheerleaders" (I was the only one there for a large portion of the day)
- Just making so many racers smile at the end of a grueling day

After Zach went by and we found out Don had pulled the plug, we made our way back to the campsite, finished packing and started back home.  Stayed overnight at a hotel in Nebraska.

Hit the road around 10am, got home around 7 or 8, cleaned up, vacation over.

Again, it was a good trip overall.  Got to see Zach and Don again, which is always good.  Got to meet more of their friends and family, which is also good.  Rides and rafting went well and I ended up having a lot of fun cheering at the race.  I'll try to get in next year, but if I don't you can count on me being in the same spot next year, trying to lift spirits and generally make an ass out of myself.

One final note:  I have a new found respect for competitive cheerleaders.  I was more sore the following day than I have been after any race I've done this year.


  1. Dud that sounds like an AWESOME trip! Colorado is place no 1 on my list of "when I can afford it" vacation spots. Some people go to Hawaii Mountain bikers go to Colorado.

  2. Sounds like you know how to have fun on or off the bike...Were you on Nature Valley last Wed, I rode to 6:30 p.m. but took a few detours so perhaps missed you.

  3. Yeah, we headed out from Hiawatha around 5:30 and went downtown. We stopped for dinner there and then came back up. When you hit the nature trail, where do you typically start from?

  4. Hi Craig, I have only been on the trail twice and I put in at County Home Road. Actually three times, now I must tell this short story, first time was in 2003, and I was dating a girl and she wanted to start biking with me. So we flew under the 380 tunnel and she became disoriented and smacked into the wall, and bounced down the pavement. Breaking her arm and tearing hide off of her, Youchhhhhhhhh!!
    Ok back to the trail 2011. First time this year, I followed Google maps detour and headed north off of the trail before the Cedar river, 2nd time I followed the detour signs and headed south from the trail and ended up in Vinton. Now I have a plan to ride to the rivers edge, and take a path north and cross the river and head into La Porte City and on to Waterloo. I'm thinking maybe tomorrow, Labor Day. The trail is in rough shape the closer you get to the river and lots of downed trees, makes for good biking. Dave