I was very excited about the ride I had planned, but I knew that it was going to be physically exhausting. So, I made sure to get to bed early, Friday night, and made myself a nice breakfast when I got up.
I know it looks a bit strange, but shell pasta with two sunny-side-up Jumbo eggs mixed in was actually quite tasty. Carbs, protein and good flavor, all rolled into one!
At 7:00 AM I was ready to roll. I took this picture in the front yard, just before heading out. Temps were in the low 60s, and the sun was shining. Except for the breeziness in the front yard, it seemed like the perfect day for a ride.
I stopped off at Kaladi Brothers for a cuppa Joe on the way out. I'm such a caffeine addict, I know better than to start a long ride without a bit of coffee.
As I left the coffee shop, I should have taken heed of the wind and just turned around to go home. Forty miles per hour, out of the South (straight into my face), with gusts over 50 mph are not conditions that lead to good century rides. Check out the whitecaps on the little pond alongside the Platte River Greenway trail.
Eight miles per hour was about my average speed along the trail. I sometimes was able to punch it up to 11 or 12 mph. Other times, I was actually below five. The gusts of wind would hit like a hammer, and nearly halt me, at times.
Chatfield Lake looked like the North Atlantic. Notice the incline of the road. Once I got on it, I was having so much trouble riding down the hill, that I decided to try an experiment. I turned around, pushed off with my foot, and coasted up the hill at 12.5 mph!
I should have just coasted on home, but I really wanted to go on this ride. Not only was this the first time I had put the fat tires and clipless pedals on the ti bike, but I haven't over the hill to the South Platte since last year.
I finally got to the Waterton Canyon gate after two and a half hours, a ride which usually takes me about an hour and 20 minutes (21 miles). I was already tired, and hadn't even gotten to the first climb of the day. Still, I soldiered on. I stopped here, about 26 miles into the ride, to eat a peanutbutter and raisin sandwich.
I had caught up to a guy, in Chatfield Park, who was turning around to go home. I told him I was attempting a 100-mile ride, so he pulled this sandwich out of his bag and gave it to me. That was the sandwich I was eating as this runner went by.
Thanks, Bob, wherever you are. It was delicious.
I love riding the canyon. This is another view from the picnic shelter where I ate Bob's sandwich.
My water bottle and I continued up the canyon. From the entrance, you follow a dirt road along an old railroad grade for 6.2 miles, then...
...you reach Strontia Springs Dam. I stopped for the photo-op and then continued on. Time was slipping away, and I was about to start the first climb of the day. From this point, the road turns sharply upward and, after about 3/8 of a mile, you turn off on another (steeper) little road which dead-ends at the actual trailhead to the Colorado Trail. Then, you are on singletrack hiking/biking trail.
The angle on this picture makes it look like the bike is pointing downhill. In reality, that is about a 25% slope uphill, covered with loose rock. This was but one of the many sections that I hike-a-biked up.
The weather forecast called for mostly cloudy skies. This was about as cloudy as it got. My arms feel like burned-out matchsticks, today.
I don't know what the significance of this marker is. It is way into the woods, across a creek from the trail. I wonder if the bones (Elk?) are associated with it, or if they were added by someone, later.
I stopped for lunch, around noon, about halfway between the canyon and the river. I had hoped to eat lunch at the river. Again, this would have been a good opportunity to turn around, but I was on a mission.
I love the section of trail where you are on the ridge above the river (but still 5 miles away from it), and you start getting views like this through the trees.
Another of my favorite scenic spots. The brown section across the valley is a burn scar from the Hayman Fire in 2002. When we have fires, out here, we have fires
Finally at the river, at 1:45, I took this picture of the elevation profile of the trail I had just ridden. If you enlarge this, you can see that I started at about 5500 ft., climbed to 7800 ft., then dropped down to 6100ft. in the last 3.25 miles. I was at the approximately 15 mile mark on the profile.
At this point, I realized that my original plan to continue west on the Colorado Trail was out of the question. At the speed I was able to average on the singletrack, I would not be back to the river before 7:30 if I rode the 13 miles I needed to reach 50 miles out.
So, after some thought, I headed south (again, against that evil, evil wind
), toward Deckers where I knew there was a restaurant at which I could get a Coke. For some reason, at this point, all I could think of was an icy cold Coca Cola ( a drink I generally despise, due to all the sugar), and I just had to have one.
Deckers was 15.5 miles from where I was, which meant that my ride was increasing by 5 miles on the round trip. Seemed worth it to get a Coke, so I pushed out against the wind. Again, I was only able to manage 8 or 9 mph.
At least the scenery is pretty good, around the river. I've ridden through here on my motorcycle a few times, and I've driven though on occasion, but this was my first occasion to ride a bicycle down the gravel road.
Looking back behind me, I could see the hill I would be climbing in order to get home. A mile, or so, south of this point the road was paved. I slogged along against the gale-force winds for over two hours and, finally, reached my Coca Cola (and, incidentally, Deckers).
I filled my CamelBak with water from the bathroom faucet, drank my big icy Coke, and filled my empty water bottle with Gatorade Thirst Quencher, then headed north.
The trip back to the trail took 42 minutes, with the wind behind me.
I sat on the rail at the trailhead parking lot, took my shoes off, and drank some of my Gatorade. I had eaten half of my ham sandwich in Deckers and, when I went to get the other half out of my bag it wasn't there. I had a pb&j sandwich, trail mix, some Clif bars and an apple, but I was crushed that my ham was gone. Looking back, I can see that I was beginning to lose some mental acuity due to the dreaded condition we refer to as "bonk".
I talked with a young guy who was trying to get cell service to call for a ride. He had ridden over from Waterton, and didn't have it in him to even start back up that 3-mile-plus climb to get home. I put my shoes on, and headed uphill, wondering if I was going to make it, myself.
The next 10 miles of singletrack were something of a blur. I climbed that first huge hill, and my legs were done. My stomach was rebelling, and I couldn't eat anything I had with me, so I began pushing the bike up even the small inclines, and only riding the "flats" and descents.
At 7:00 pm, 12 hours after leaving the house, I was at the top of the hill which leads down into the canyon. I was so relieved to be back in the Denver area, I almost cried. I started down the hill, and rode a nice steady pace down the switchbacks, until I hit the road through the canyon.
I passed the dam at about 25 mph (downhill, with the wind at my back), and they were releasing water through the pipes. That cools the air in the immediate area by about 25 degrees, and the cool moist air cleared my head a little bit. I think I might have actually smiled.
About 4 miles down the canyon, I caught up to an emaciated little fox who was trotting down the road. Oddly, he didn't run away when he saw me, but ran in circles until I was beside him, then turned toward me. I was still moving at about 20 mph, and I didn't slow down until I reached a guy and gal hiking toward me. I warned them of the fox's odd behavior (we just had two people bitten by a rabid fox in Denver, this week), and they decided to turn around.
I finally reached the parking lot at the end of the canyon at 7:25 pm. I still had 21 miles to go, but, at tleast, the wind would be with me.
I called Carol, to tell her I was still alive. She worries when I am out of cellphone range all day, on these rides. As I talked to her, she asked if I wanted her to pick me up. She was only about 5 miles away, leaving the field where Colin had just played ball. I assured her that I was able to get home, on my own.
As I spoke with her, my stomach hurt more and more. Finally, I realized that I would not make it home if I tried to ride it out, tailwind or no tailwind. So, at mile 84, 12 and ahalf hours in, I did the unimaginable and pulled the plug on the ride.
Carol drove down to the canyon to pick me up, and took this picture of me when she got there:
I believe the expression on my face tells the rest of the story. We went to Outback Steakhouse and met Leigh and Colin for dinner, where I ate a big chunk of meat and a baked potato. Then, Carol drove me home and I finally let the dogs in at 10:15.
This morning, I rode over to the coffee shop for a cuppa and a scone. The first tenth of a mile was excruciating, but the legs loosened up on the way.
Yesterday's failed 100-miler was, without a doubt, the hardest ride I have done in at least 15 years, if not ever. So, even though I didn't reach the 100-mile mark, I can't be totally disappointed. I gave it my all and, under the conditions, I'm almost proud of the ride.
Next time, hopefully, the wind won't be so evil and I will actually complete the 100 miles.