For me, the SBFL was probably the best ride I've put together in 5 years. Since 2008, I have put every ounce of my effort and focus on the Colorado Trail Race and it has avoided me each time. Every year I say that I am going to approach things differently but I never do. My goal for yesterday was pretty simple. I wanted to ride how I know I have to ride in order to finish a big ride. This means riding my pace, drinking when I know I have to, eating what I know works for me, etc. The strangest calm feeling came over me when Tom was giving last minute instructions. Finally, at 6:32 we started pedaling out of Salida and up towards the Mount Shavano traihead for the Colorado Trail. As we pedaled I was immediately hitting 159 beats per minute with my heart rate and knew I had to back off. This has always been the start of bad things to come for me. The singlespeed was actually a good thing yesterday because I simply couldn't spin fast enough and long enough to maintain the groups speed on the paved roads out of town. I took this picture before we ever even got out of town. I am the Red Lantern here...bringing up the rear. Normally this is a huge shot to my precious ego but I was fine with it.
We probably had 10 or so miles to get to the trail and I wasn't really feeling all that great and had not been feeling that well since coming back from Mexico but I hoped I could ride through it. By the time we had climbed up tot he trail, I had brought back a dozen riders while still staying in my comfort zone. Maybe a mile and a half after getting on the trail, I lost the front end on a loose downhill and crashed and cut open my elbow and forearm. I spent a few minutes picking rocks out of the deeper cuts and then got moving again. Soon I was at the Princeton Hot Springs. I had planned on getting some ice cream but I felt great and decided to keep going. The climb to get back to the trail is kind of a nasty mix of pavement and then fire road. I told myself I'd ride as much of it as possible but walk when I started seeing a heart rate of 163ish. At one point as I was walking, I looked behind me to see two guys riding and slowly working their way up to me. They both rode for Honey Stinger but I didn't recognize the first one. The second guy was wearing his leaders jersey from the Breck Epic stage race. It was Dax Massey. I have no clue why, at mile 30, they were just passing me as I had not seen them since leaving Salida. I got back on and climbed the rest of the way with them and a few miles of the trail (with much higher heart rate numbers than I should have) before letting them go.
The next stop was Buena Vista and I hit it right at noon. The 3 guys I had mostly been riding with had other ideas for lunch and I knew what I needed so I headed for Subway. I got a 5 dollar foot long and then I grabbed another one with veggies to go and took off. The next section was in the rocks and open area just east of Buena Vista. It was like riding in an oven as temps were in the upper 80's. The trail we road back there was the Midland Trail. This is an old railroad grade that was mostly flat. This house was in one of the clearings and highway 24 is just past this house. I love adobe houses.
There were times where I suffered but, up to that point, I never thought that I would not be able to finish at least the shorter, 88 mile loop.
This is a view of some of the Collegiate Peaks just west of BV.
More of the Collegiate Peaks. Not long after this, I had to make the decision about whether to do the longer loop or stick to the short one. I decided to stick with the short one. I was really happy with how I was riding and wanted this day to be all positive. My other concern was that the area we were about to head into (for both loops) was very dry and I did not want to worry about running out of water and having things unravel.
Nearing the end, we climbed up Bassam Park which is not a terrible climb other than being exposed to the sun the whole time and the fact that the climb just never lets up. The gradient is low but you're always having to stay on top of the gear. After making it to the top, you lose all that elevation gained on the downhill but then have a much more challenging climb to the top of Aspen Ridge. That climb is probably 5 miles and it's much rockier and steeper. Coming down off Bassam Park was the first time that I actually mumbled, "I'm gonna make it." I started to laugh and then got middle school female emotional. Since 2008, this was the first big ride I was going to make. Then I realized I still had a ways to go and a tough climb to deal with so I better keep my wits about me.
I finally made it to the top of Aspen Ridge and started the long downhill finish back into Salida. I was ecstatic. The road was littered with big rocks and I wasn't even a mile into the downhill when I hit one bigger rock just the right way and sliced the rear tire wide open while doing 25mph. I got stopped and went to work putting a tube in but I counted about 13 other riders going by while I was fiddling around. I can't remember the last time I flatted. The new tube was sticking out of the hole in the tire just a bit but a boot wouldn't hold with all that sealant still in there so the downhill back to town was slow but, luckily no one else passed me.
I drank 17 bottles of water and burned just over 9,000 calories. This ride was a huge a confidence booster for me. I cannot wait for the July 30 mass start for the Colorado Trail Race.