Odyssey, quest, journey, jaunt
While we all took nearly the same route, the personal journeys were quite varied . We all froze in the early am 28 degree start and we all battled a viscous wind, but some elected to take a shorter path (100 mile route), some added a bit extra to stop and resupply food/water (+3 to Deer Trail), some wrestled their flat tire demons (at least one guy had 7 flats), and I'm sure there were also plenty of inner demons battled in the gravel arena.
After a 4am wake up, 15 minutes to get in the car, and a quick stop in Boulder to pick up Adam, we were on the road to begin our journey. The temps dropped from 40 at my house to 28 at the race start. I wore what I had and it was thankfully just enough. While the sun was supposed to shine bright all day, I checked on Larkspur, Kiowa and Deer Trail and the weather prophets predicted it would not get much above 60 for the high. This was just within range to wear my leg warmers and long sleeve jersey all day. I had purchased a Jandd seat bag which gave me room (2-3 L) to store extra food then later stuff my jacket in there. While I didn't overheat, I did freeze a bit in the morning. With my warmer gloves on and lighter pair in a pocket I had numb fingers for the first hour or two. Long after my fingers returned I began to feel my right toes. My left ones were slow to catch up - it took about 60 miles for them to reappear.
I lugged a camera around for 161 miles and took only 1 fuzzy photo at the start.
The route began by heading East and then curving North to a high point where we turned back due East to head towards Deer Trail. The due North segment flew by. The road was in near perfect hardpack condition and a slight tailwind made it easy to push well over 20mph without much effort. As soon as we turned East, however, the casual ride was over and the battle begun. The rest of the day was spent fighting a solid headwind or cross wind. This added tremendously to the effort involved to push through this route. The wind can be incredibly demoralizing. I'm honestly not sure whether the headwind is harder than the cross winds. I had done the pre-ride with Ben a month before and two other rides out here solo, all of which avoided any serious wind. There is only a very small segment of the entire route that has trees to abate the gusts, but I was thankful for their brief respite.
The hardest decision I made to prep for the route was whether to stop in Deer Trail. This would allow me to just bring three bottles and carry less weight, but added three more miles and one more hill climb. I figured about 20 minutes to be added. I really didn't want to lug an extra gallon of water and don't enjoy riding with a pack, so I elected to stop. It was a good call - I would have needed the break and the facilities regardless.
Since Deer Trail is at about the 80 mile mark, I planned to reapply my chamois cream here. Sadly it was nowhere to be found. (I did find it on the dashboard of my car at the finish.) Let's just say I did A LOT of standing for the last 60-70 miles and sitting back down on the saddle was really starting to hurt. My legs were certainly tired from pedaling, but in the end (pun fully intended) the AntiEpic really chapped my hide.
We did have some news that the snow earlier in the week had left the three-mile B road in "VERY" muddy conditions. Luckily the wind and sun of the last few days had dried it up nicely. The surface was soft and a little sandy so it was a little slower, but honestly it was pretty tame.
Difficult to swallow
Food was an evolving interesting thing on this ride. I went with my normal rice bars and waffles on the hour and gummies every 15 min between. This worked well for ~125 miles. Then for some reason it just got harder to eat. The gummies, which really only take 3-4 chews and 10 seconds to eat, began to taste awful. I'd endure about 5 minutes of them somewhat dissolving in my mouth before swallowing. Chewing the rice bars or waffles seemed like energy I could't spare from the pedals. I knew I needed to keep eating though and I did - up until the last 45 minutes. At that point it just became en effort to get to the end. Another rider I was near or with from mile 60-about 115 mentioned being in "survival mode" beginning at Deer Trail. I wasn't quite there (probably a few hours from that) but I didn't feel too far off.
There was brief tease near the finish. The technical route ended about two miles from where we parked. The last 1.17 miles headed to this line are due North (ergo the only tailwind in the last 100 miles of the route). So I'm not sure how fast the wind was blowing but that list mile - at a slight uphill - went something like this: Pedal twice, stand and cruse for 1/4 mile, pedal twice, stand and cruise, look down at computer (27.4 mph!). Then I rolled up to an empty lot :( I know what happened. They're at the parking area. I could swear I heard weeping and a violin at that moment. It's only two miles and it's mostly downhill but it couldn't go fast enough. I had been out for 12 hours, and the heat of the day was fading fast making that wind colder and colder.
Back at the car I found Adam who had elected to do a slightly shorter 100 mile version of the course. Fortunately he hadn't been waiting too long for me and had been able to take refuge with others (I had the only keys to the car). All my energy was gone at that point and I got out of my kit and into dry clean clothes pretty immediately. I had on a heavy fleece, fleece beanie, and a windproof insulated jacket with the hood up but I couldn't stop shivering. I should have been plenty warm enough, but my body just didn't seem to be generating any heat. I said a quick hello to Ben and some other folks waiting around (Ben's wife Amy and Eric whom I met on the B road). Adam and I made a quick exit to get some calories and headed to Larkspur where we had spotted a pizza joint. A Greek-ish pizza with olives, artichokes, feta and pepperoni was probably the worst recovery meal I've had yet. We ordered the 18" but just eating the first slice felt like work. I made it through a second, but had to stop there till I made it home (by which point I began to feel slightly human again). Somewhere around 5 minutes after sitting on the couch I passed out. Then woke at ?am and stumbled into bed.
Previously my longest ride was 106 miles in the High Cascades 100. This was 161. I'm fairly amazed at how well I feel less than two days later. It may not have been the best idea to plan a multi-pitch climb that involves and uphill hike in, for the day after an event like this, but some how that's what I did. I was fine, and had a fantastic day. I really felt exhausted after the ride and pretty beat when I first woke up, but it didn't last long. My current training seems to be working great, and while my muscles feel tired and won't be fully recovered for a week, the only pain I feel is in my face. You see, I neglected to put sunscreen on my face, so now I have this lovely raccoon tan/burn.