The Colorado High Country 1200K was my last planned long ride for the year. After DNF'ing the Texas Rando Stampede and DNS'ing RAW because of my crash I needed a good ride to get my mind-set back into the ultra.
Preride training: Two weeks before the start of the CHC I rode the Antlers 400K in Texas which included the Talamena Parkway and 14000' climb. I finished in 16 1/2 hours with a better than 15 mph ride average. During that week I put in a couple more century rides. Then the weekend before the start I rode back to back 200 milers with pretty good climbing, about 14000', for the two days. After that I had 8 days of small rides with the longest being a two 30 milers the Saturday and Sunday before the start.
Prerace Drive: The drive to Colorado was mostly a nice one if you consider 110 degrees crossing KS nice. We drove up to Hays, KS the day before the event and Sara Kay recommended a nice restaurant and a good route for a morning ride on Sunday. The morning ride took me by the Cathedral on the plains which is an impressive building in the middle of Victoria, KS otherwise known as nowhere. After the morning ride we continued on toward Louisville. The Sprinter started acting funny and threw a check engine light. We read the book and kept driving since it seemed to be an emissions problem and we weren't going to be able to get it looked at in the middle of KS on a Sunday. But the light meant that I wouldn't have my support crew for Monday morning because Trish would be at a dealership.
Prerace Festivities: We got to the hotel at around 2:00, checked in and got moved into the hotel just as a big storm cell moved thru with 60mph winds and hail. These storms, and avoiding them, would be a recurring theme for the 1200K. After the storm passed I called Larry Ide to get his current location. Just as I was telling him about the storm - he drove into it and had to drop his phone just to drive thru it. Larry got to the hotel about 15 minutes later and we went to registration together. Then Larry, Trish and I went off for a nice dinner at Outback and early turn-in to get ready for the 4:00am start.
Ride start: What happens when ultra racers have tapered for a week? You get a hammerfest. The ride started out at 4:00am with a front pack of between 12 and 15 riders and we took off at a pretty good clip. This may have been my fault since I was out front alot and would go off the front if the person pulling at the time wasn't keeping a 20+ pace. The pace was fast enough that if JLE hadn't thrown in a secret checkpoint on the ride to the first checkpoint, we would have gotten to the store before it opened.
The climb up Poudre Canyon: I left out from the store first and began my assault on the canyon. I was immediately caught up by the Nebraska Kid and shortly by the Colorado Climber. I give everyone nicknames because I can't remember names too well. Vernon (CC) and Ashton (NK) decide that they want to ride the climb at a more relaxed pace so I continue on alone up the climb. About 5 miles later my friend Larry Ide comes climbing up the canyon with two other riders in tow: The Young Canadian who spoke no English and Wet Warrior who was from Seattle and sported fenders. As we continued up the climb we dropped Wet Warrior so that left Larry and I to chat back and forth all the way to the 2nd stop at Rustic.
We made pretty quick work of the stop at Rustic and I began spinning up the mountain waiting for Larry and Michel Tardiff. After about a mile we were all together and started the harder part of the climb. At the bottom the climb was mostly < 3% with 2000' in 35 miles. From Rustic on we had 3000' to climb in under 26 miles. Larry had been riding real strong up the climb, even sprinting ahead to take a picture of us as we crossed under the tunnel, but after the stop he went into full tourist mode so that left me to follow a very skinny climber to the top. This was good because it made me work to keep him in sight.
Once we reached the top I stopped to put clothing on because it was chilly and the descent was going to be long and fast. Michel didn't stop at the top so away he went. He didn't stay gone for long though. Less than two miles down the descent he was on the side of the road putting on more clothes. That was the last time I rode with anyone for the rest of the 1200k. I was pretty much off the front to Walden which was very uneventful after the descent. As I was checking in at Walden my Sprinter drove up and I had my Trish Bear back as support crew. She said that the Check Engine light went off before she made it to the dealership so they couldn't tell her anything. Just as I was leaving Walden for Saratoga, Michel and Vernon were pulling in.
The next section from Walden to Saratoga was all in the high plains. When crossing the high plains you see mountains all around you and see the road unfold for miles and miles in front of you. Sometimes this can be good and sometimes it can be a little disheartening - especially when you see a descent into a valley followed by a long steep climb back out. The other thing you notice about the high plains is that roads are in pretty bad shape from freeze cracks. Most of the way to Saratoga wasn't bad, but when we turned due west and headed downhill into Riverside I could only muster 15mph. The headwind made me feel like I was suffering from some rare disease that zapped my strength. Once we turned north for the last 20 or so into Saratago, life was better.
I got to Saratoga at 5:45. Trish had everything ready: recovery drink, shower, and beer. She said that my request for pizza had been denied because both of the local pizza places in town were closed on Monday. We walked over to the store and I bought a 12 inches pastrami sub to supplement the soup and sandwiches that the support people had at the hotel. The people at the hotel did a wonderful job. My roommate for the night, the imfamous Larry Ide, rolled in at about 7:00 just as I was getting ready to sleep, so we chatted a little before I could finally rest.
Day 1 Totals: Miles 222.49 Climb: 10,865 On Bike: 13:06 or 17mph Ave.
Day 2 Started out around 1:45 with a great breakfast burrito and some coffee as I made my bike preparations. I left from Saratogo headed toward the Snowy Mountains and the pass 36 miles away. Three other riders had left earlier, a Recumbent and two REAL bikes :-). I caught the real bikes before we made the turn to the Snowy Range, but never could catch up to the recumbent ridden by Chris Kaiser. The climb up the mountains was hard, slow, and cold. At about the 3 hour/30 mile point I was ready to pack it in. I was thinking that as soon as I got to Laramie I was done. Another hour of riding with the sun coming up and the beautiful peaks and lakes at the top of the mountain as well as a great descent down the mountain and I was in a much better mood and ready to ride.
After the major descent you have a long gradual descent all the way to Laramie across the high plains again. I made a stop about 20 miles from Laramie to take off a layer of clothing and discovered why Tim "Foon" Feldman had recommended that you carry bug spray. I was swarmed with mosquitoes and had bites all up and down my legs. Now I was itchy and unhappy but I kept riding and the itching finally went away.
Laramie was a great stop. Trish had setup at McDonalds and had me some breakfast biscuits and coffee and there weren't any bugs. I told her that I felt slow today and asked her when Larry left. She said that she was going to wait for Larry at the stop and see if I was slow or if it was the terrain. Off I went for Walden again.
The ride from Laramie to Walden starts off as an extremely flat 20 where you are riding straight at the mountains. The only thing that broke up my riding southwest was an 8 penny nail that when through the tire and the tube, and then stuck in the rim strip. After a quick tube and tire change I was back on my way toward Woods Landing. They have an historical marker for a Dance Hall at Woods Landing, but it was the wrong time of day to stop off to have a beer and checkout the dancing girls so I began my climb up to Mountain Home. The was the 2nd of 4 climbs for the day. The climb just sort of kept going and going but eventually I popped out on top. The descent to Walden wasn't steep but was long and sweet.
I made Walden at 12:20 and Trish had everything ready to go. We had to grab another tire, tube and inflator for the stash and I was able to grab some left-over pizza from the control. Trish said that Larry took about as long as I did to climb the mountains so I wasn't slow it was just hard. I never did catch Chris on the Recumbent. He had made a wrong turn out of the hotel in the morning :(. I left out of the control headed for Steamboat Springs at about 12:30 and I told Trish that if I could get there before 5:00 we would go on to Kremmling and skip the overnight.
The ride to Steamboat was mostly uneventful for the first 2 hours, but then I got caught in my first rain of the day. It was time to pull out my brand new Showers Pass rain jacket and give it a try. The problem was that it would rain on and off so I would stop, put on the jacket, then it would stop raining. I could never seem to tell where the weather was coming from. By the time I got to the junction with US40 and the climb to the Rabbit Ears passes the rain was behind me and I had a nice climb or two. After the morning's climbs this one was a piece of cake and the ride between the two passes was fast rollers so I was making great time. Then came the 7 mile, 7%, drop to Steamboat. FAST and FASTER.
I got into the hotel at Steamboat at 4:15 and found my friend Kay manning the station. They slapped me together a pannini and out the door I went for my 4th climb pf the day up to Kremmling. Kay gave Trish a briefing on Kremmling about hotels and the like. I DZ'd up and was back on the road headed west toward Oak Creek.
I was a little confused when I looked at the direction on my GPS - it said I was headed west. I was pretty sure that Kremmling was south-east, but I was on the right road. In CO sometimes you have to go 10 miles west to get south east. The first 10 miles toward Oak Creek were relatively flat, which was okay, but I knew that Steamboat Springs was in a hole and that I would be climbing at least another 2500' to get over Gore Pass.
After the first 10 miles the road narrows and the pitch starts to kick up and so did the thunderstorms. The climb up to Oak Creek was very cool because you overlook the railroad as it climbs out but, unlike the railroad, you climb and drop and climb and drop while it just takes this nice gentle climb. All the while it was climbing and dropping it was pouring rain with lightning to make the ride just a little more exciting. As I was entering Oak Creek, I was thinking that I should look for shelter. Then I hit a blue hole. Perfectly clear skies and no rain. So on I went. The rest of the ride down to Topenas was pretty fast, because the strom had brought in a pretty strong wind from the northwest. Along the way is a Giant Domino stuck in the ground, at least thats what it looked like to me as I road by.
The turn at Topenas changed my speed drastically. The gentle climb with a tailwind morphed into a steeper climb with a head to cross wind. Pretty much as soon as you make the turn you start a very significant climb for 5 miles but then it dumps you down in to a very beautiful valley so you get to do most of the climbing again when you actually get to Gore Pass. It was great climbing the pass just before dusk, there were dozens of big deer along the road and almost no traffic. The nice end to my long day was about to change. As I reached the top of Gore Pass at around 8:30 or so the rain started again. All I could think was I did all that climbing and now I have to go slow down the other side. Slow was a realative term. I did get a 9 mile almost unbroken descent at about 30. It was dark and raining so I held way back on the speed. By the time that I hit US40 it was full dark and the rain started to come down hard. So the last 7 miles into town was a killer - I was shaking and chattering and riding as hard as I could to get to town and the hotel.
Trish was on her way out of town to find me so she could show me the route to the motel and caught me about 1 mile before the city. I followed the taillights to a really old 1800's maybe hotel. The main hotel in town was booked up due to some biker event. We got the bike put in the van because the staircases in the hotel were too narrow for me to carry the bike up and then I was up into the room and a hot shower. I think I was under the hot water for 15 minutes. When I came out I crawled under the sheets and just sort of shook for another 15 minutes. Trish had found me some pizza from the bar next door so it was pizza, recovery drink and I don't even think I had a beer I was so cold and tired. Pretty sure I got in around 19:45 and was asleep by 10:30
Day 2 Totals Miles: 264.94 Climb: 15257 On Bike: 17:54
Day 3 - The last day started with a run up to Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I hit the road around 4:20 in the morning with a cool but dry start to the day. The ride through the gorge with the Colorado River was neat and we kept following the river all the way up to the turn for Hwy 34 and Grand Lake. The road to Grand Lake has a couple of good climbs and is rather picturesque with the Lakes and the sun peeking thru the clouds. Again the ride in the morning felt pretty slow, but I'm guessing it's because it was just one continuous climb. When I got to the Citgo, TBear had some breakfast burritos from a local bakery and I tried them, but my stomach wasn't quite right. Trish said she thought it might have been the pizza since it didn't agree with her either.
Then it was back on the road and headed back to US-40 again around 7:15. The trip back to 40 was much faster, but once I made the turn onto 125 the climbing began again. This was also a very pretty climb all the way to the top. Just windy and not all that steep. I got passed by a girl about 5 miles into the climb and was going to try to chase her, but I had to take off my jacket because it was getting warm. By the time I changed she was too far ahead to catch. Then I saw her again coming back toward me about 5 miles later. About 2 miles before the summit another rider passed me. We rode together for a bit and talked, but I let him go. He was a little fresher that me since he had only been on his bike for about 10 miles. I stopped at the top and talked with him and another guy coming up the other way. They were asking questions about the 1200K and about the storms.
The descent down from the pass was not a continuous decent like some but had lots of oops - you need to climb this ridge so you can go down some more - points. It was kinda pretty until we dumped out onto the high plain and had to deal with broken pavement for the last 20 miles to my 3rd and final Walden stop. The only thing that broke up the monotony of that 20 was another flat. This time I think it was all the thumpa-thumpa of the road. I decided to pull out a new tire and make a complete switch out. Again, in the High Plains the mosquitos are thirsty and if you stop you will be their new watering hole.
I made it into Walden at about 12:15 and talked with Tim Foon Feldman for a moment about his mosquitoes and everything else to do with the brevet as I mentally began calculating how long it would take me to climb back up to the top of Cameron Pass and get my reward of a 60 mile descent. I told Trish that I should be to the top in less than 3 hours and to meet me there, (not for illegal support, just as a meeting place where I should be). So at 12:30 I headed out for the last climb of the brevet.
I made good speed on the way to the base of the mountains, keeping an average of about 16. Once I got past the base of the climb my speed reduced to less than 10 mph. I was beset by a new challenge. Biting Flies. They were really big enough to be called horse flies, but they dogged me all the way up the climb. I would be riding with one hand and swatting flies with the other. The climb went by rather quickly, but I couldn't stop to take in the view with the flies all around. I reached the top around 3:00 where I met Trish and said I should be able to cover the 26 miles to Rustic in an hour - it would be a fast downhill.
The downhill started out fast near the top. As I went to start braking, I found that I had forgotten to the tighten the rear brake after making the tire change. So I was sort of out of control on the descent. I used the front brake and the back brake all the way to the bars to stop, made the adjustment and down the hill I went again. Something was wrong though. I wasn't going as fast as I should be. This is when I discovered, to my dismay, that my 60 mile downhill was into a 15mph headwind. :(.
I got to Rustic in about an hour and 5 minutes and Trish had me a sandwich and gardettos and iced coffee and we even shared an ice cream cone. That was a very relaxing and pleasant stop. Then it was down the mountain into the headwind and on to Vern's. As I descended I watched the kayakers and fishermen and mostly just floated down the mountain with only a little effort to keep the speed up. Sometimes I would look up to see how high the canyon walls were. It was mostly a relaxing trip down the canyon.
When I got to Vern's at around 6:15 I went into the store to buy a chocolate milk and get my card stamped. The guy at the counter before me was talking about the T-Storms that were coming again tonight. I thought, no way - it's perfect blue skies, but in the back of my mind I was like - Okay, time to ride like hell to beat the storms.
I headed out south with a goal of being done by 10 o'clock. As I head south I passed by a Fire truck on the other side of the road that was stopped with a downed biker. It looked like a recreational biker had crashed and there were other bikers around him on comfort bikes. I tried not to think about crashing and kept riding south. Two miles down the road there was a car on the other side of the road with someone just sitting in it. I looked around and saw a herd of big deer and I kept pedaling south. I could see the thunderheads developing as I neared Loveland. I could see what appeared to be two distinct storms cells. I wanted to split them and make it thru so I was cruising at 20+ all the way to Loveland.
Just as I got to the turn on First Street in Loveland the storm really started to get strong so I made a quick u-turn and headed back two blocks to a firehouse that I had seen as I was coming to the corner. There were two people outside as I pulled up. I asked if I could hang around under the overhang while the storm went thru, they said sure and invited me into the firehouse and gave me a bottle of water. They pulled up weather on the computer and we watched the storms for about 20 minutes. Then I got back on the road again and headed south and west and south and west. South was fast, but the turns west were into the wind and slow.
As nightfall approached I could see a storm that seemed to be parked over Louisville. I was 30 miles out, then 20 miles out, and the storm didn't seem to move off to the east. After making the turn onto 95th street you climb up to the top of a hill and have a good view. The lightning was flashing, but still no rain, so I kept pressing on to Louisville. About 1 mile before Louisville the wind direction changed and started blowing into my face. I knew that wasn't good. Just as I got into town around 10:10 the rain started so I made a quick exit to the left and got under cover at the 7-11. Less than 2 minutes later the storm let go with a wicked amount of hail and lightning. I was glad I had made it under cover. To get hailed out less than 5 miles before the end would have sucked hard.
After leaving the 7-11 I crossed Base-Line Road and entered the construction zone. Next you make the turn onto South Boulder and you think - I'm home now. Then I get stopped by a freight train running thru the middle of town at 10:20 at night. So now I'm at the train crossing with all the cars backed up. There is no bike lane and the curb is full of running water. Oh well, the cars will just have to go around me. I hope.
I make it up South Boulder with a turn on A-V way and think now I'm done, right - wrong. The storm has dropped a bunch of tree debris in the bike lane and there is a car right beside me. Well, since I'm writing this, you know that I cleared the debris and kept riding to the finish where Trish met me at the front door and ushered in one very wet and tired puppy.
Day 3 Totals: Miles: 259.07 Climb 10319 On Bike: 16:30
Totals Miles 746.50 Climb: 36,441 On Bike: 47:30 Total 66:40 Riding Average 15.7
Post Ride: To show how much Trish knows me better than I know myselft, the van had a recall on it so she scheduled an appointment for 10:00am on Thrudsay. She knew I was riding this in 3 days before I knew I was riding this in 3 days. After we got the recall on the van fixed, Trish and I had some Mexican food for dinner and we went out to find Larry so I could ride in with him. We caught up with Larry's group about 10 miles outside of the finish and I got a nice easy ride in with Julie, Carl, and Ann. Then Larry and I took off for a loop of the Baseline Reservoir in Boulder.
After the Post Ride ride it was time for the after party. Since, when I ride I generally ride solo, it was nice to get to talk to so many people at the hotel. I talked with George Hiscox from Jackson, TN which is probably the closest rider to where I live and to James Solanick who knows good wheels and tires. Also Micheal, Mark, The Petty's, Ken, Vincent, Hamid, Chris, and many others and some whose name I can't remember. Please find me on FB if you want to chat or keep up - I'm the only Kurt Searvogel on Facebook because my son goes by Allen :-)
I hope everyone that rode has interesting stories to tell even if the event didn't end like you wanted. Enjoy Life and Ride On.