Each year our friend Erik puts together a group ride up Evans on the 4th. Last year Chris rode and I drove up as sag -- I hauled up everyone's cold weather clothes, water, played photographer, and even ended hauling a couple of people down. It's a hard ride to commit to, since the Firecracker 50 also lands on the 4th of July every year. We even pondered doing the Firecracker as a duo, which would've been a lot of fun. This year Chris and I struggled with which ride to do, since we both wanted to do both, but ultimately chose to do the Evans ride... mostly because of the fun social aspect of doing the ride with friends and then enjoying some delicious Beau Jos pizza after. Rather than riding the 26 miles from Idaho Springs as is par for this ride, I was going to start part way up at Echo Lake instead. This made the ride sound more doable for me, and would give me a good 15 mile climb, but still be able to have fun. Sounded like a perfect plan!
Originally two friends/teammates were supposed to join me from Echo Lake -- Scott and Melissa. However, Thursday brought news that they had decided to bail. A few other teammates were supposed to join but also backed out on Thursday. This put me on the fence whether to ride or not, as I would now be riding basically alone until Chris and Erik (who are much faster than me) caught and passed me. In the end I decided it didn't matter, and that I still wanted to ride to the top of a 14er -- now was as good of a time as any.
After hiking Evans on Wednesday, Chris and I were both sore (walking up and down stairs was a joke for me), so getting up on Friday morning to ride up Evans was daunting. However, we were both really excited and rationalized that the soreness would go away with riding, so we packed up early and got to Idaho Springs at 7:15 am (but not until after our weekly Starbucks date of course!).
We got to the parking lot and were surprised not to see Erik there yet, so we stopped at the bathrooms and Chris started getting ready. At around 7:20, Erik called and told us the surprising news that he had decided to bail on the ride as well. He and his wife had gotten home late from traveling and weren't up for the trek.
So, that left Chris and I to ride.
Unexpected, and a bit aggravating at first since we could've been at the Firecracker with a bunch of other friends instead, but after a few minutes, we both were pumped up again and ready to ride. Afterall, what can be better than standing at the summit of a 14,000 ft peak for the second time in 48 hours with your best friend in the entire world? AND having done it by foot and by bike would feel pretty cool.
So, at 7:30, Chris did another sweep of the parking lots for any unexpected friends, and then headed up the road. I drove up to Echo Lake and started around 8:20. I was the second person to make it to the pay station and the lady had yet to get her register in order, so I waited with the guy in front of me (on a mountain bike) for about 5 minutes. Once we finally got through I quickly passed him and basically had the first hour all to myself. It was so quiet and peaceful and absolutely stunningly gorgeous that within ten minutes my aggravation and soreness diminished and I thoroughly enjoyed every pedal stroke.
I made a point to drink as often as I could, but at least every five minutes, and I made myself stop and eat every 30 minutes. The first eating try was on the move, and at 11,000 ft, the whole chewing and breathing thing didn't work so good. From there on out, I made myself actually stop. It worked wonderfully and I'm proud of my improving self-maintenance on rides.
Around an hour into my ride a few people passed and then Chris. He passed me on a flattish part and I was surprised to see him. He looked to be climbing well. He asked me how I was doing (if I was struggling he would ride to the top with me), but I told him I was having a blast and he should keep going. He pointed out a curve up ahead that would be roughly 13,000 ft in elevation, and from there I was almost there. It was good to keep that spot in my sights and I was surprised at how quickly it came. When I hit the part near Summit Lake that always has road damage, I rode through slowly so as not to launch myself off the bike. Another pitch upwards and around a corner and I could see the top of the Summit house poking up on the peak above me. I knew I was almost there.
A bunch of switchbacks later and I could really see the end in sight. People were passing me, of course, but they were breathing really really hard while I wasn't out of breath in the least. I suppose our trip up 48 hours earlier put me on a better acclimatization curve than most people riding that day. My legs may have felt a touch heavier near the top, but otherwise my body
didn't notice the altitude at all.
Pretty soon I saw my mountain goat friends from our climb and they passed on the road right in front of me. I stopped the bike so as not to scare the babies passing behind the adults and I was able to get some pictures. Pretty soon some Harleys came roaring up behind me and I pointed to the goat about to cross the road so they would not hit it or scare it off, but it didn't seem to phase them. They blasted right through and the poor last goat had to turn around. Hopefully he found his family shortly after :(
A few switchbacks later and Chris came down to meet me. He was surprised to see me so close to the top. He turned around and rode the final 3/4 of a mile with me. I made it to the top in 2 hours -- including eating and photo stops. I was surprised that I went that fast -- at least fast for really sore me. Chris made it from Idaho Springs, twice my distance, in 2.5 hours -- WAY faster than me and a full half hour faster than his time last year.
Once at the top, we took the obligatory picture by the sign and then sat and had some snacks.
I put on my winter tights, warm jacket, wool cap, and an extra pair of gloves for the trip down and Chris put my knee warmers over his knickers as well as his wind shirt and winter hat. Despite the warm weather down below, descending at 14,000 ft is always chilly. Earlier, when I'd learned we were alone and would definitely have no sag, I considered leaving my warm gear behind -- afterall, I did not bring a good pack to carry the extra gear along with me. But, thinking about to my trips up and down Lookout Mountain, I remembered how freaking cold I always get on long descents and how it turns a fun ride miserable. So, I found a way to cram all of that into my tiny camelback and now at the top, I was quite glad I had.
The descent was fun. As always I went WAY slower than necessary. I still don't have the confidence that my road bike won't just explode into a million pieces past 30 mph, so that's about my max. Many people passed us, and poor Chris rode down at a much slower pace than usual. Slowly I learned to let go of the brakes, and I had a nice time. The few pitches up on the descent were painful as my legs had a chance to get cold and relaxed and then had to pedal again, but luckily those are few and far between.
I stopped at my car at Echo Lake and Chris ditched the warm weather gear and headed down to his original starting point in Idaho Springs. He, on the bike, just barely beat me down in the car, but beat me none-the-less. Needless to say, he was happy to pick back up his descending pace and enjoyed himself! We packed up the car and headed home sharing stories of our adventure.
For those who think a ride like this would kill an entire day, we were home, made food and fed, showered and relaxing on the couch by 2:00. It was an awesome day, with absolutely perfect weather (meaning no storms and very little wind). It would've been a lot of fun to have the camaraderie of our friends along to celebrate such an amazing day. It's not the first time we've been alone on a ride like this, and it surely won't be the last, but I couldn't ask for a better partner to share it with.
Chris is probably headed back to do the ride again with a now rested Erik, only this time he will probably be riding from home. I had so much fun that I'm incredibly tempted to repeat my ride from Echo Lake, but will resist and enjoy the opportunity for rest.
Next up for us? We've got a Mount Massive/Mount Elbert trip planned this week as well as an ascent up Pikes within the next few weeks. I have two weeks until a Winter Park weekend with a point-to-point race on the Saturday and then a downhill race on Sunday. In between all of that, we are still working on painting our basement and keeping the house in one piece.
On the ride I realized something very important. We may not be able to have kids on *our* schedule, but if I had gotten pregnant when we wanted to, I would not have experienced so many of these wonderful moments and adventures. We still, obviously, can't wait to have kids, but while we're waiting, we are enjoying every moment together.
Happy INDEPENDENCE day :D