TABR Day 10: Rock beats scissors, wind beats gravity.
I needed a break from the early morning grind. Last night was a long, cold climb into Silverthorne which had drained a lot of energy from me, and capping off a 20 hour saddle day. With yesterday's surprise hip seizure, I also felt a little more sleep would be beneficial.
I've noticed a few things as I write up these daily recaps: First, you're never as fast as you think with your stops, especially as the days progress. I was finding my cognitive function slowly deteriorating as I deprived myself of sleep and pushed deeper into body reserves. By Day 10, I was probably functioning at a mid pubescent boy level of rational thought... and it was only getting worse. Secondly, when relying on hotels, it's critical to hit your location goals each day. If not, it will end up messing up your stops for days to come and could create shorter days than you'd like. It's not like hotels are available every 5-10 miles out here- sometimes it's 30-50 miles to the next hotel, which may or may not be an actual establishment (sometimes they would be closed, or a mistake on Google maps). When you're thrashed it's too easy to call it for the day instead of pushing for another few hours to where you wanted to go. I didn't plan on using hotels when I started the race, so this is making it even more interesting to adapt on the fly.
I slept in till about 6 and picked up the hotel breakfast before heading out. Checking trackleaders, I was starting to notice a trend out of Jason Oestreicher- he was beginning to do more night riding, showing up rather close in proximity as I was starting out my day. I was glad to see his progress, and I suspected his Achilles was on the mend... but it certainly was keeping me on my toes. Those in front were considerably ahead- I believe Stephen Haines (the next racer up) was about 150 miles ahead when I started the day.
Out of Silverthorne, you follow a set of bike paths over to Breckenridge (pronounced Bweckenwidge). It was a quiet morning through downtown, and I had a chance to stop at a boutique coffee shop for a double espresso, two large breakfast burritos and some oatmeal concoction with all types of superfoods that promised to cure my ails and give me night vision. Probably just made me fart more than I already was.
I remember two men sitting there discussing business. I think they were talking high-end office space development. It was nice not to be living in that world currently, rather being a quasi-vagrant on my bicycle with very few cares in the world. At times, the race could seem complex and stressful, but moments like this reminded me that there was much more to stress about in the world outside what I was trying to accomplish. Just eat, look at a map, eat some more and go back to pedaling.
I was looking forward to the climb up Hoosier Pass this morning- I had a full belly, weather was nice and... it’s climbing! I found the grade to be relaxing and allowed for a nice rhythm up. A quick picture at the top of the pass, and then it’s time to bomb!
Not only was gravity in my favor, but so were the winds. The next stretch into Alma and then into Fairplay was at lightning speed, with very little effort. I tucked in, put it in high gear and spooled a little to add even a touch more to the speed fest. It’s funny how your concepts of “what’s fast” change as you get into ultra cycling events. I came from the world of Ironman racing, rigged out with an ultralight TT bike, disc wheel and minimal gear. 24+ mph was the name of the game to be competitive. In the Transam, I was happy to hover between a 15-17 mph average for the day. In this stretch, I was easily hovering over 30 mph.
From Fairplay the easy miles continued into Hartsel. We turned south and the country rollers of Colorado began. This stretch up until the intersection with CR 102 was really enjoyable. The traffic was light and I still had a slight tailwind for the day. The scenery was also pleasant- rolling but rugged Colorado countryside with private property tucked back off the main roads.
All that changed as I got closer to Canon City. The traffic was beginning to pick up considerably with a small shoulder available. The winds were also shifting quickly, changing to an extremely unfavorable headwind. I recall an area around here where a semi tanker passed me on a windy 7+% descent. I was likely hitting 35 mph, working to keep the wheel flutter in check as the winds swirled. The semi ripped by and really kicked up the wind disturbance, making me sit up, put on the brakes slightly and get things back in check. A middle finger to that man, but he didn’t care. He was on his schedule, and I was on mine.
By the time I reached Canon City, the winds were laughably strong… to the point where it didn’t make sense to keep fighting them in the moment. I was pushing hard to ride 10 mph. I stopped for another meal and an opportunity to assess the day. Pueblo appeared to be a good goal, about 60 miles away. I pulled up trackleaders and noted Stephen Haines in the Pueblo area. I remember Canon City well due to those winds. I sat outside at a restaurant (just to keep an eye on my bike), and everything was blowing off the tables. I'm talking about full 20 oz glasses of soda, just getting sheered off the tables. My bike fell over at least 5 times. It was comical, the wind was howling so hard. The picture below doesn't do it justice, but you can pick out the ceiling fan in the background getting blown to the left.
High heat joined the wind for the day, and made for quite a remaining challenge there on out. One thing I was really happy having was my sunsleeves- they reduced the amount of time needed to lather up with sunscreen, and also could be used as a additional layer in cold weather. They were white though, and starting to get really dirty. These alone signaled to bystanders that I had been out on the bike for quite some time.
I refueled one last time in Florence, and I’m glad I did. The stretch from here to Pueblo is barren, which I hadn’t really calculated. Even with that fill up, only 30 miles down the road I was low on water. The town was Wetmore (which ironically is Wet-no-more) appeared to have some sort of corner market on a map, but it was long since shut down. There was a small church though, with one car in the gravel drive. I hopped off my bike, pulled out my water bladder and peeked my head inside the chapel, hollering for anyone so as not to startle. A gentlemen poked his head out of the front reception area, and I kindly noted my intentions and that I was looking for water. He graciously invited me in, and took my bladder from me to fill up from their water dispenser. He mentioned that the locals don’t drink the tap water in the area, only sourced. I was curious to understand why, but avoided that conversation and went on my way. I was very thankful for this church, in which I truly got lucky on, as it would have been a very dehydrating next stretch to Pueblo.
The remaining miles to Pueblo were very peaceful- the afternoon heat was finally starting to dissipate, the winds were subsiding and traffic was low. The scenery was trending towards high desert as we dropped elevation, and the casual glow of the late afternoon sun radiated off Lake Pueblo State Park. I noticed that Stephen Haines was still in Pueblo, and I was curious as to why- mechanical, injury? Possibly a broken tracker?
I remember rolling into the west side of Pueblo and having to navigate across a park. The park had a lot of one way roads and I couldn’t figure out how to get through it. I must have ridden my bike in circles for 10 minutes (seeing a pattern here?). Not sure why I was so hung up on trying to find the “right” road to take- it was just a city park- I could see the exit on the other side. Honestly, it shouldn’t have been that confusing but you’d be surprised at how complicated tasks were becoming.
I found a hotel room online, and stopped for some Subway sandwiches before arriving. I was getting sick of Subway, but it was cheap, readily available and packed pretty well. It was still light out when I checked in, but there wasn’t much past Pueblo and had committed to my new found hotel strategy. The hotel receptionist mentioned another gentlemen on bike had checked in earlier that day- tall, British. As I was finishing checking in, Stephen came into the front office, and we had a little time to talk. His knee was bothering him, and was taking some time to give it some rest and ice, hoping for improvement the next day. We chatted a little bit, but went our separate ways back to hotel rooms to rest. There was mutual appreciation for just how exhausted each was, and how valuable minutes of sleep were becoming. I tucked in quick and focused on a big day tomorrow.
I was starting to lose considerable weight, my beard was looking rough and the blank stare was creeping into my eyes. I took a few selfies along the way to document the changes.