Riding Through The Portal

11 Jul

A stretch of 20-Mile Road just outside of Steamboat city limits.

Remember in my last post, when I wrote that we wouldn’t do the 20Mile-Oak Creek-Stagecoach loop until the end of the summer? Guess what? We did it on Sunday!

Another stretch, early in the ride.

I was only scheduled to do a 2:45 minute slow distance ride on Sunday. On a rolling course in zones 1-2. I was also supposed to do a 15 minute transition run directly after the bike. Unfortunately, there is only one course I would call “rolling” within riding distance of where I am and it’s not long enough for that time goal. We (the members of Team Red, White and Pink) decided to tackle 20-Mile Road for an out and back. 1:22:30 out, 1:22:30 back. Easy. That would mean going over the first big hill along that road, a 1.83 mile climb at 3.7% grade, and then turning around and doing it again on the way back.

I mentioned this plan to a couple of guys I know who are local cyclists and they both said the same thing:

Once you go over that first hill, you’re not gonna want to turn around and go back. Better to just press on and do the whole loop. That first hill is really the worst part of the ride.

OK, so they may not have actually said that last part. Maybe that’s what I heard. The first hill is a doozy. I have never biked a hill like that before so I got into my lowest gear possible and spun up, seated, cursing my lack of triple crank the whole way.

We got to the top–or I should said say, Red and Pink got to the top first and then I caught up–and paused a minute to take it all in. The view was just spectacular and well worth the spectacular effort. Then we got to go down the other side. And that was just…nope, words won’t do it. I will admit to leaning a little too hard on the breaks at certain points but I’m pretty sure I got up to 35mph coasting. Too much of a chicken-shit to actually pedal in a gear that would make a lick of difference. Red got up to 45mph. Pink was probably going 60, the bastard.

Pink staring at the downhill he’s about to conquer.

The downhill felt so good, and the thought of going back up the other side felt SO BAD, that I recalled what our local friends had told us and made the ballsy suggestion of just pushing forward. My reasoning: we were only about 52 minutes in. We had another half an hour before the turn around. At that point, we’d be well into the ride and might as well just push on. My teammates were like, “that isn’t actually logical.” And I was like, “It doesn’t matter. It’s mental.” The thought of going back over that first hill seemed worse than going forward over new hills.

I don’t know about you but out and backs are my least favorite courses. I always feel like I’m moving backward when I’d rather be moving forward. Even if moving forward means moving in a circle. It’s the absurdist in me; just how my mind works. Sometimes, I guess, out and backs are OK because you focus on the half-way point instead of the full distance and then the workout doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Anyway, for this ride, moving forward seemed more manageable than going back the way we’d come.

So what if we went a little long? My 2:45 ride would probably only be a 3:45 ride. We were all enjoying each other’s company and the scenery. This is the biggest snake I’ve ever seen up close and personal. Too bad about his guts.

We also got to see real live cowboys (and girls) drive misbehaving cattle across the road. Several stretches of this course are in open range territory so there are cows everywhere. You have to be careful coming off the downhills in spots or risk ending up ass over hamburger.

We had plenty of water and knew we’d be able to stop to refuel in Oak Creek, around mile 30, so we kept going. Red was dubious but game. Pink is a crazy-man and always up for anything. He’s also grew up riding hills in Georgia and New Hampshire so he was all about the climbs. In fact, during one of them, he opted to go hands-free, which apparently irritated Red. Didn’t bother me none because I was a decent minute behind them at all times so I couldn’t see what was happening in their world. In my world, I could see a lot of pavement and hear a lot of screaming coming from my own face.

As it turns out, the first hill is not the worst part of this ride. Surprise. There are three more before the half-way point and they just get worse and worse and worse you hit the last one at mile 27. It’s 2.25 miles long and gains over 500 feet. The downhill was pretty special: twisty in spots, straight and fast in others. Maybe one day I’ll actually let myself do it at top speed. It spits you right out into Oak Creek–a dusty “one-horse” on the way to Yampa (an even dustier one-horse), Stagecoach and the Flat Tops.

Oak Creek used to have a great Chinese place, if you can believe it, but the owners closed it up a few years back and the space is still sitting empty. There’s a great roadhouse in town called The Colorado and a cantina that serves to-go Mexican. We stopped at a little market and bought a gallon of water to split between all of our bottles. We also got some Stinger bars and chews, and a Big Bopper (basically a massive Chipwich) for Red who needs ice cream to survive.

Pink got verbally abused by a five year old boy whose older sister was pushing him around the store in a stroller made for a much smaller child. The kid took one look at Pink who, ya know, has an air of the eccentric about him, and said, “Hey Stupid head, get outta here! You’ve got a big Stupid Head. You can’t shop here!” Or some such nonsense. Then the kid turned to the cashier and said, “What a lovely store you have here.”  Kids say the darndest things.

It’s pretty much smooth sailing from Oak Creek to home. Twenty miles of smooth sailing but smooth sailing none-the-less. At least in comparison to what comes before those twenty miles. I wish I’d taken more pictures but I was kind occupied with just making it back home in one piece. The road back to Steamboat (CR 14) was pretty torn up in spots and we had to contend with the most traffic on that stretch. I got to pee in a ditch on the side of the road though and that was exciting.

We really wanted to get back to camp in time for lunch but time was not on our side. We sorta made it. Not really. Actually not at all. We didn’t get back until 1:30. So my 2hr:45min ride turned into a 5 hour door to door with 4hr:17min of actual riding time. We raided the walk-in, piled plates with whatever leftovers we could find, stuffed our faces and then parted company. I took a two and a half hour nap and woke up sweaty and confused. Like I didn’t know where I was or what I’d done that day. Felt a little like we’d gone through some kind of time warp. So I’m renaming this route The Portal. Suffice to say, I did not do my transition run.

This is definitely a challenging ride–maybe more mentally than physically, although I dunno, those hills are ass kickers–but I felt pretty much OK by Monday morning. Training-wise, it was scheduled as a recovery day, so all I had to do was 30 minutes on the bike and 30 minutes easy on my feet. I cut the bike down to 15 and did my run on the middle school track to avoid any and all hills. Yesterday was a swim/weights day and today I had a time trial ride. I am happy to report that Pink and I managed to knock off 8.78 miles in 29 minutes for an average speed of 18.1mph on the same rolling roads that were super hard four weeks ago. So things are looking up.

As for The Portal, I don’t know when we’ll go through it again this summer but I’m glad we went for it on Sunday. Sometimes you just have to screw the training plan and ride or run for the love of it, for the challenge and for the adventure.

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3 Responses to “Riding Through The Portal”

  1. willtriforbeer July 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    I get on the brakes too much too! My mind just doesn’t want to do 45 mph on two skinny ass wheels. And I agree about the out and back. I’d much rather do a big loop!

    • mymultipersonality July 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

      I hear you. Going that fast on my bike just brings on awful thoughts of front wheels popping out unexpectedly or epic road rash. But some folks seem to enjoy the thrill. 35 is enough fun for me.

      • willtriforbeer July 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

        Funny but just yesterday I set a PR in speed for me…34.4 mph! Not that I was trying to 😉

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