Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 1: The long and windy road

Frisco to Steamboat Springs
Distance: 99 miles
Feet of climbing: 4,700
Weather conditions: Sunny with gusting winds

If you were looking for this post on Sunday evening, my apologies. After 7 hours on the road followed by a pasta dinner and a bottle of Fat Tire, I needed to sleep. You cyclists are probably doing the math right now. If it took Keri and Lisa 7 hours to ride 99 miles, their average speed must have been…..SLOW!

The course was challenging, but not beyond our abilities. There were two significant climbs. The first was right out of the chute – 500 feet or so at an average grade of 6%. The grade was OK. The cold was unbearable, since the side of the mountain we climbed was in the shade. The second came at mile 73 when we climbed for 4 miles toward the Continental Divide and Rabbit Ears Pass. Our legs handled the climb beautifully.

No, the terrain didn’t define yesterday’s ride. It was defined by two things out of our control: health and wind.

Keri’s been fighting a bad cold since we arrived in Colorado last Thursday (I had the cold the previous week and got antibiotics, nasal spray and an expectorant from the doctor the day before we left). She started on an over-the-counter expectorant and megadoses of vitamin C. But by Saturday night she was in bad shape. I wondered silently if she was going to be able to ride the next day. She wondered out loud was understandably upset at the prospect of sagging on the first day because of a cold. I felt so bad for her.

Of course, anyone who knows Keri also knows that she’s not going to give up a ride that easily. So, armed with a packet of Kleenex, we set out in 40-degree temperatures for Swan Mountain. She wheezed and gasped for air for the remaining 90-plus miles. We pulled over every couple of miles so she could catch her breath. At the stop before Rabbit Ears Pass, she decided to sag in so she’d be able to ride the remaining 6 days. That lasted all of 5 minutes. She was back on the bike, determined to huff and puff her way to the Continental Divide. By this time, it was about 4 p.m. We had a little more than 20 miles to go, with the promise of an incredible descent into Steamboat Springs. After a quick stop at Starbucks, we pulled into the high school at about 6 p.m.

The other thing that made today so difficult was the wind. You think we'd be used to be, having battled unusually windy conditions in Florida this spring. But on this ride, we were travelling through barren terrain. The rocky hillsides, prairie grass and shrubs provided no protection from the 30-plus mph winds. A couple of times the gusts were so strong that we could barely control the bikes, taking a little bit of the thrill out of the best part of Riding the Rockies: descending.

Still, when we pulled into the high school, sunburned and wind burned, we felt a huge sense of accomplishment -- both for persevering and for having trained so much this winter. All those 100-mile rides into headwinds this spring paid off.