Mile High Metric

This past week I was back in the beautiful state of Colorado for a family vacation with my husband and kids. While most of my time I was schlepping my kids to their friends’ house, I did rent a bike from Bicycle Village, a local chain shop, so I could get out as much as possible.

My rental was a Scott CR1, 54cm, Shimano 105s, and switched from the default dude’s saddle to a WTB Leisure She saddle after 70 miles. I definitely need a women’s specific saddle to keep my booty happy.

I ended up riding four days for a total of about 180 miles, more than I’ve ever done in a single week. Hooray for new milestones! I rode mostly with my friend James and did one ride with my mom. I love riding with my mom because she is a strong cyclist in her own right. She rides for fun and fitness and I get a true recovery ride.

The main event so to speak was a metric century designed to be challenging but still achievable as well as being 100% multi-use trail. The first 25 miles are uphill, including a 2.5 mi 2-3% grade grind up the side of Green Mountain. Sadly, my girl Rachel wasn’t able to join us due to her crash last week but she was with James and I in spirit.

We headed out at 8:30am from the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown hotel, heading up the Cherry Creek Trail before rounding the corner onto the Platte River Trail. Quick stop at the intersection of the Platte River and Bear Creek Trails for water, as the temps were starting to climb. We then headed west through beautiful Englewood and into Lakewood and Morrison. A longer stop at Bear Creek Lake for bathrooms, sunscreen, and refilling water bottles before tackling the Green Mountain Grind.

A Note: The last time I did the Green Mountain Grind I was on my hybrid and barely cranked out 10 mph. It hurt, I stopped often, and while I felt accomplished at the end, I couldn’t figure out how people did more than that in terms of grade and length. But back then I was also trying desperately to crack 12 mph on rides and watching lean, mean cycling machines zip by at double my pace.

Now I get it … Road bikes are lighter, more nimble, and literally the right gear for going fast and far. I also credit my Shimano SPDs and learning to use clipless pedals for being able to fully leverage my energy stores.

So this time up the side of the mountain (it’s a mountain bike ride to go over it) it was much easier, averaging 11-12mph up the incline. Another water and energy break at the “top”, which is actually a short descent to the trail change-over at I70 and C470.

This is truly the turning point from uphill to downhill on the ride. A short ascent to get back to the C470 trail and then a wonderful, delicious and well-deserved descent back to Bear Creek Lake Park. Uphill through the park, but at a gentle pace to enjoy the scenery. At one point I thought we were about to cross a deep grassy crack in the trail before a vibrant green snake slithered away.

Another stop at the gas station on the south side of the park for bathrooms, water refills, and more energy bars. The gas station was air conditioned and felt amazing after riding in the treeless west side of the Denver metro area.

The ride flattens out until you get to the next major intersection, then it descends again in a glorious, sweeping trail. At this point I’ve given up on trying to beat my friend James downhill … He said his excuse is his mass and I’ll be darned if he didn’t kick my butt down every single descent. And the ride goes downhill from this point until you get back to the Platte River Trail down in Chatfield Resevoir.

Final major water break before the gentle downhill from the south metro area to downtown Denver. More sunscreen and energy gels. We are fantasizing about showers and lunch at this point. Minor water bottle refill at the Jimmy John’s at Belleview and Santa Fe for me (thanks guys and many apologies for not waiting in the long line to ask if I could refill!).

Another short water break around mile 55 and then we roll back into downtown. It’s around 2:15pm at this point and the trail is clogged with tons of people out enjoying the beautiful Colorado day. We rode respectfully and slowly and eventually got through the trail interchange and rolled up to the hotel lobby.

63.29 miles in 4 hours 46 minutes for a 13.2 mph average.

Not too shabby for a first-time metric. A lot of the ride was about conserving energy to make sure we weren’t totally wrecked by the effort. The back-to-back climbs were definitely challenging and had there been more uphills further into the ride, I may not have had so much energy left at the end.

So what’s next?

I’m still building my miles for the century this September. I need to put a couple 60-65 mile rides under my belt before tackling a 70-75 mile ride in the weeks leading up to the event. I plan to also hit the Sunday morning shop ride as often as possible to build speed on shorter distances and elevation gains.

For now, I have The Lemon Ride (50 miles, 3k+’ elevation gain) this Sunday … Please consider making a donation to help fight childhood cancer. I will be accepting donations through August 6!

Until then, see you on the road.

So much happening, so little time to blog

I have a couple topics in my head … Time to let them out!

First: I just finished reading “Heft on Wheels” by Mike Magnuson. The premise is that he used to be a Fatty McFatterson because he spent all his time drinking and smoking and generally partying all night and every day … But then he bought a bike, rekindled a love affair with bicycling in general, did some pretty awesome stuff, dropped a ton of weight and got much healthier in the process. Written in a very conversational style, it is an easy read. I read Mike’s work in Bicycling Magazine regularly and I like his outlook but was getting pretty pissed off at him by the end of the book.

You might ask why. The reason being – he’s out riding all the time but his wife is home raising the kids while he’s doing this. As a wife and mother, I fully support allowing your spouse time to indulge in their hobbies. Heck, I ask my husband to indulge me a couple times a week while I head out on two wheels at breakfast and don’t get back home until dinner time. But I felt annoyed that he wasn’t recognizing his wife’s sacrifice in his pursuit of health and happiness.

Then I read the last chapter and all was forgiven. He gets it. Being able to spent inordinate amounts of time on a hobby – whatever it is – requires the consent and support of the other partner in the relationship.

His book also prompted me to rethink my own approach to cycling. He picked up a bike and went for it. None of this easing into faster rides. He straight up was dropped in the beginning but now is a force to be reckoned with.

Second: So I signed up for the slower ride at the local bike shop. It was advertised as 15-17 mph average but with a slower option if necessary. I showed up and there was only four of us. So the ride leader asked if I ought I could do a 14mph pace. I said I’d try and he said to just let them know if I was having issues and they’d slow down.

36 miles and 750′ of elevation gain later, the ride leader slows enough for me to pull up beside him and he shared that we had actually gone a 15.5 mph pace and I was more than welcome to join them on the faster shop ride any Sunday I’m around.

This was a huge point of pride for me. I hung with the big boys and was actually able to hang. Awesome. I am faster than I think I am … And the extra bonus was I wasn’t wrecked by the effort.

Third: More on traveling and biking. I rented a bike while I am on vacation in beautiful Colorado. The bike is ok, it’s a Scott CR1. I have been tweaking the fit all week because I rented from a local chain store so their idea of a fit was making sure my legs were fully extended in the saddle. The saddle is a men’s saddle too, which is less than comfortable but I’m making it work. The rental cost including damage waiver is comparable to what I would pay in airline fees and assembly fees.

I’m not sure which was better. Riding an unfamiliar bike isn’t the best for sure. I miss my bike at home and wish I would have brought her. But the convenience of not having to schlep my ride through the airport or rent a huge SUV just to cart it around has been nice.

My goal was to ride daily but so far I’m at every other day. I did 46 miles with a very good friend yesterday and we are planning to ride again on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday when we tackle a metric century together. Should be wicked fun.

My husband says if I don’t stop talking about bikes and cycling he’s going to go crazy. So I’m working very hard to not talk about how amazing it is to be in the Land of Bike Lanes and Trails. But seriously … Everywhere I look, people are on bikes. Bikes on the front of buses. Bikes on the road, bikes on the path, bikes everywhere. I feel like I’m part of the Cool Kids now.

I’ll write about our metric century experience but until then, see you on the road.