Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hello Rockies

Sunday, July 15. Mile Marker 53 just south of Timpas, CO To Trinidad, CO. 62 miles of riding in 5:04 hrs.

Four AM came awfully early. Made coffee, packed the van and we were GONE! Did the 1.5 hr drive back to where I left off yesterday. And I was greeted with a gnarly headwind out of the southwest – exactly the direction I was riding. Funny what a difference a day makes. I’d thought based on yesterday’s ride that I’d get back there today and crank out that 62 miles in under 4 hours. Stupid of me to have forgotten the one truism of long distance cycling: Always expect the unexpected. The wind shifted nearly 180 degrees and I was in deep doo doo for the day.
         Hell, we could see the weeds on the side of the road being blown horizontal as we drove the final 6 miles to my starting spot. And when I got out and got on the bike, it was just night and day between yesterday and today. This was a wind that is just in your head from the get-go, and what I mean by in your head, it’s literally blowing so hard that you need ear plugs in your ears to deaden the sound. It’s kind of like sticking your head out of a car window – it’s in your head!! Hey, that’s the way it goes, and I just got on the bike, shifted out of yesterday’s big ring gear, down to the middle ring and tried to get into a rhythm. And it was damned hard indeed. Not only was the wind a factor, but the road was a super false flat leading to Trinidad, with me eventually gaining about 2000 vertical feet in 62 miles or cycling. You could just see the road ramping up ever so gradually across the horizon.
         Now even with my new tread and all the fancy crap inside of my tires, I had zero gravel to ride today. This was it with respect to anything going east to west. So I just struggled for the first 30 min trying to get some kind of rhythm going. But it did come due to just spinning higher cadence/easier gear rather than mashing and just blowing my legs out. Rode through Comanche National Grasslands in the first hour to meet up with Judy for my first support stop – and on this stretch of road, it’s a solid 70 miles of nothing for services so I felt pretty damned lucky to have my support girl out there for me. Put down a couple sandwiches and a coke and got back on asap to fight the headwind again.
         Rode out of the grasslands and started stepping it up higher and higher to where there were more mesas and vertical tree life. Also began to see more cactus and desert southwest plant life. Traffic was minimal and the air temp was climbing by the minute. Forecast for the area was supposed to be around 100, and though I wasn’t visibly sweating, I could still see that salt was forming on my jersey’s shoulder and neck areas, so the heat was definitely on.  Did the second ten mile stretch in right around 10-11 miles per hour  just as I had the first 10 mile stretch – freaking pitiful compared to yesterday, and I was working way harder today! Guzzled a Powerade and water and back to the bike. Now something crazy happened in this third our of riding – the wind just suddenly stopped, and then began to blow ever so slightly out of the southeast. It was crazy. All of a sudden I was able to go 15. Wow, what a bloody difference. And suddenly I’m doing new math to compensate for my increase in speed. Funny, woke up this morning thinking it was a cake walk day where I could do 60 miles in 4 hours. Then I get hammered by a headwind and I have to accept the fact that the ride would go 6 hours. Then the wind shifts and I’m thinking I can go 5 hours.
         It was a breeze, and I did the third hour at about 15 mph. Downed more water and coke and back to the bike, and within 5 minutes of getting back on the bike it was if I’d ridden straight into a wind tunnel. This giant gust of headwind hit me and I was nearly knocked off the bike. And that quickly the wind was blowing again at a steady state right smack into my face. Maddening! So there I was again doing the freaking math on my ETA. This time the wind was even tougher, maybe like 5 mph. Couple that with the road just ramping up even more in altitude and I was just working it. These are the moments that you just really remember when you think back on trips. It’s the stuff that you revel in when the clock has ticked many days, months and years later. But when you’re in the moment, when your tired, when you’d expected something much different for the day, when you struggling, it’s just a massive pain in the ass to keep it rolling. The minutes feel like hours and the hours feel like days. It’s slow and painstaking, tedious and mindnumbing at times – and you do NOT revel in it! You just want to get the miles and have the day come to an end so you do not have to fight any more. That’s where I was in the 4th hour of riding today.
         Made it to our final support stop and my legs were feeling like concrete pillars. Downed a final Powerade and water and jumped back on the bike asap. Just wanted the get the hell out of the headwind. And the whole time I was silently laughing at myself for having the gall to think that this was going to be a recovery day of riding. What a dumbshit!! Recovery my ass! My legs were sore, my ass was sore, my low back was sore, and I was doing these out of the saddle sessions of like a mile at a crack just to stretch my legs out and get some bite on the pedal strokes with the headwind crushing me so bad. By that time I’d felt I’d earned the right to do the “countdown,” which is looking at each and every mile marker when you’re within 10 miles of your destination. Each mile covered spells relief. Each mile closer spells a mile closer to an end to the fight. And man was I looking for each and every mile marker.
         Nine miles out hurts a lot. Five miles out feels much better. Two miles out feeling like you’re just about over the hurdle. One mile out – that’s the homestretch baby! Met up with Jude just outside of town and then she drove and I rode up to the jcn with I-25. Done for the day. Got a motel and we’re good to go. Man I’m tired, with just a piddly little 62-mile ride. We’re now 12 miles north of the New Mexico border. I think with head south and then west towards Taos and Santa Fe. Feels nice to be here in Trinidad, right at the foot of the front range. We’re out of the nasty heat on the plains, and I’ve just ridden across the Great Plains for the 4th time in 4 years. And I tell people: “I’d rather ride the mountains than across the Great Plains.” The Great Plains can just beat you down like a rag doll – and the last week had been a perfect example. Goodbye Great Plains………Pete

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