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Training wheels to competitive cycling

My journey from the back of the pack

Note: I wrote this entry about two months ago and just re-read it the day after completing the hardest ride/race I’ve ever done, The Silver Rush 50. All of it remains true, un-edited and brings me encouragement after gutting myself over 50 grueling miles. (More about that in the following post.)  Enjoy. 

As my biggest season of bike riding approaches I have spent some time asking myself this simple question: “why?” Why do I sign up to ride 100 miles on my road bike? Why do I want to ride 50 miles in Leadville, CO that includes 7900 feet of elevation gain? Why do I run a 5k every week? Why do I weigh myself every morning?

Here’s what I’ve concluded:

1. Healthy, long-term weight loss. Today, I’m more healthy than I have ever been in my life. At 32, pushing 33, and that’s awesome. As I get older I want to get stronger – physically, mentally and spiritually. And yes I think that’s the exact order that it happens. Strength comes from discipline. Early morning workouts, sore muscles, riding through injury, juggling work and life, focusing for 8 hours at work so I don’t have to work 10, learning new things daily, challenging my friends thinking, trusting God more, seeing His plan in my life, seeing His plan in my family’s life and my friend’s life, etc. Excellence is not perfection, excellence is giving more than you think you can, and if you push your body to that point you are more able to comprehend and appropriately take action when you are challenged mentally and spiritually in your life.

2. I’m competitive. I am my biggest competitor. I want to beat my previous time every time I get on the bike. If I’m last place in every race I ever enter, I don’t care, I want to beat myself where I was last week, last month and last year. In my 3rd season of biking I’m already beating myself and as a benefit, I’m beating a few others too.

3. Be an example. Hard-work, diligence, perseverance and suffering can never be bought, it’s earned. And when I tell my family and friends I think they can do something, I want to actually believe they can. In order to believe that, I have to believe that I can do seemingly impossible things myself and succeed doing them. I haven’t found a way to attain this mindset by sitting on the couch.

So as I suffer and celebrate through another season I know why I upped the ante. It’s why I will continue to up the ante.

2013 Race/Ride Schedule
Road: Elephant Rock 100 miler – first century ride
MTB: Ascent Cycling Series – June 5, June 26, July 10 and July 31
MTB: KMC Classic
MTB: Leadville 50
Road: Courage Classic – 155 miles over 3 days in Copper Mountain, CO

When you sign up for a race that is quoted as “not for the faint-hearted” you know it will be difficult but you tell yourself, “it’s 6 months away, I have time to be ready.” Right. I’m not sure anyone (who doesn’t get paid to ride a bike) could ever be ready for the grueling, nasty 50 miles of the Silver Rush 50. 

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The start is an nice brisk 9 minute walk up the side of ski hill with 800 of your closest bike-carrying friends around you. This was the easiest hike-a-bike of the day, and there was plenty of pushing my bike throughout the day. 

The first climb is about 10 miles and is the largest elevation gain of the ride at 2000 feet of climbing, but not the most difficult part of the ride. I felt strong the whole climb and found some great riders to chat with as we climbed into the clouds. The descent was a blast topping 35 mph passing and hopping rocks that could have easily ended your day. It was nice to see the first aid station and better to see my wife and still feel strong and ready for the next climb. 

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As we left the aid station I knew the next section was a super fast downhill and I was pumped because I knew I could pass many riders here. With only a couple near-body checks to other riders, the next and worst climb would begin. One of the riders I caught said it best “You know you’re in Leadville when you climb for an hour and only get 10 minutes of downhill”. The course profile online made this section look easier than the first climb but the intensity plus exhaustion started to set in quickly. Most of this climb ended up being hike-a-bike and by the time I reached the top I was at the lowest point physically and mentally I had been at during the whole ride, or so I thought. There was a small bright spot when I found a zebra on the trail, it reminded me of Briggs and so it stayed with me rest of the ride.

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The descent into the 2nd aid station and turnaround point was a struggle for me, my heart rate stayed at 92 – 94% and I couldn’t get it to drop even if I coasted and didn’t pedal. 

Making it to the halfway point before the 4.5 hour cut-off was a huge accomplishment for us, we came in at 3 hours and 50 mins. We left the aid station feeling encouraged and ready to finish but also knew that there was some of the most painful riding and hiking was ahead of us. And we were right. One of the riders we were hiking with called this section “The Walking Dead”. You feel dead. Mentally and physically. I just kept thinking of the next and last aid station where I would see my wife, eat some salt covered watermelon, reload with fresh water and only have 14 or so miles left. IMG_6259

As Chris and I rode away from the last aid station we knew we could easily finish this under the 8 hour cut-off and this gave a great amount of encouragement to tackle the last 3.8 mile climb. We rode about half of it and had to hike the rest. My legs could not push my pedals but were still able to walk so we knocked it out and knew most of the last 10 miles was downhill. The easy downhill I was looking forward to turned into the longest two hours of the ride for me. 

It started to rain and some serious lighting was flashing all around me. As the trail got muddy I was pushing my speeds more and more knowing I needed to get down to the finish line. I rolled a tire on an off-camber section and knew that I got a pinch flat but didn’t think much about it. I stopped to get my rain jacket on and that’s when I saw Chris pass me, he had his head down ducking rain and missed me. I didn’t have enough breath to yell and he was going mach-one trying to catch me. I also noticed my tire losing some air but I pushed on. In a rocky section the bead finally let loose and I lost all air. At this point, it was DOWN POURING as I changed the first tube. I started back down the trail and made it about 2 more miles when the second tube lost air. I tried to get it pumped back up but it wouldn’t take any air. I was 6 miles from the finish and wasn’t going to quit now. So I started running.

Luckily I had been running as part of my training so I was able to run all of the downhills and hike the uphills. Periodically I lost hope and wanted to quit, but I didn’t. Instead I got emotional and started thinking about how I worked as hard as I could all day and I was STILL not going to make it under the 8 hour cut-off. I thought about how I should have bought tubeless tires instead of saving money by buying tubed tires. I thought about how I always come in last place. I thought about how all my training came down to running. I thought about the time I spent training and not with my family. This was the low point of my day and I was only miles from the finish in the easiest part of the ride but still working just as hard as I did all day. 

As I looked up I saw Merick, a runner I met right after I lost my last tire. He’s a Silver Rush 50 cyclists who finished in 5.5 hours earlier in the day and was out for a jog to loosen up his legs. He knew my situation so he ran to the finish line, found me a tube and ran back to me so I could ride, not run the last mile. I changed the tube and was on my way to the finish line.IMG_6313IMG_6323

And so I finished. Exhausted, bummed, disappointed and not without shedding a few tears. 

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On September 23, 2012 I set out with the goal to ride my bike up the Pikes Peak Highway and down Barr Trail. I quickly realized I had gotten myself in over my head.

The Pikes Peak Highway has never been open to cyclists, except for one over-priced event each year, so when they opened it up for the month of September I knew I should take advantage of the opportunity. And $12 later I was headed to Crystal Creek Reservoir to start my 13.25 miles ascent. I had plenty of nervousness running through my blood and was thankful there was a port-a-potty nearby as the nervousness ran through another part of my body. I set out with a back pack containing shoe covers, a hoodie, warmer gloves, face mask, lot’s of energy food, lunch and a bottle of Laughing Lab for the mountain top celebration, all in all it weighed about 12 lbs.

My target heart rate for the climb was going to be a 170 with a few spikes to 180 while I stood to give my backside a break during the steeper climbs. I had enough fuel to eat about every 30 minutes and enough water to drink every 15-20 minutes. My snacks included Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffles, Honey Stinger Vanilla Gel, Honey Stinger Organic Fruit Chews and Jelly Belly Sport Beans. I mixed two water bottles with half Sobe Coconut water and another bottle of 100% water. And so I was off.

After about 3 miles my heart rate locked in, I started fueling on a schedule and felt great which made the following 5 miles go very smooth. As a few roadies passed me they would all comment on the Laughing Lab brew hanging on to the side of my back pack usually saying “I knew I forgot something!” and I would say “It’s a reward for making it to the top”.  About 8 miles in I took my first short break to refill my pockets with energy and to put on the shoe covers, hoodie, face mask and warmer gloves. One of my friends, Chris Baker encouraged me to stop and I’m glad he did, although he was headed down at this point with a bloody nose and freezing hands. He told me the next set of switchbacks are tough but there’s a break after that before the last push to the top. He was right. The next 2 miles were tough with some of the steepest sections of the climb and highest wind speeds I had experienced, but nothing like the last 2 miles of the climb.

The last two miles were the hardest miles I’ve ever put in on a bike and 2 miles I WILL NEVER FORGET. I was cold. My legs were on fire. I was seeing stars. I was out of breath. And there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to ride 11 miles up and quit now. It took me 45 minutes to finish these 2 miles. I stopped twice and almost passed out once. But I made it. And when I got to the top I was greeted with a few other cyclists and train full of tourists who were looking for donuts, Pikes Peak magnets and a bathroom. None of whom looked like they wanted a high-five from me. I stumbled into the restaurant, found a table and put my head down and when I picked it up my friend Chris who had gone down and driven back up and was sitting at my table asking if I was alright. I wasn’t sure. I really wasn’t sure if I was okay. He asked me if I wanted a ride down and I did, but I knew I would be mad at myself for doing so. So I told him I’ll make it back to my truck in Manitou one way or another. A statement I immediately regretted.

I took a few bites of a PB&J, a couple sips of water and laid my head down again. I wanted to drink the Laughing Lab I carried all the way up but was still very dizzy and low on energy. Once I recovered a little I went to the bathroom and headed outside to get the famous picture in front of the Pikes Peak sign. Don’t let the smile fool you.

As I was walking out I saw two guys who looked different than the recreation cyclist like myself and the bikes they just got off were some of the nicest I had ever seen – I later found out it was Russell Finsterwald and Kalan_Beiseltwo premier professional mountain bikers. Opportunity missed.

Still not feeling great I went and sat on a rock wall and realized that I did NOT want to ride down the road, I wanted to go down Barr Trail. And as a group of hikers walked by me and headed down and I said to myself, “this is it, you have to go know. Follow them down”.  I had been told the first 2-3 miles down was hike-a-bike style, I thought “no problem, I got this”. Well I was lied to. I carried my bike for 5 miles. Every so often you can ride for 20-30 yards and during one of those sections I dropped down a set of rocks and went over the bars, HARD and in front of a group of hikers. I was too tired to be embarrassed but later found out I broke my Garmin watch when I face planted. Bummer. After 6 miles the trail smoothed out and I was able to find a nice groove rest of the way down.

When I got to my truck I set my bike next to my truck and sat in a chair outside a Manitou store and thought about what just happened.

Wow. Just wow.

Here are the stats:

Pikes Peak Ascent:
13.1 miles
Time: 3:22:35
Max Speed: 27.6 mph
Average Speed: 4.1 mph
Average Heart Rate: 168 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 180 bpm

Pikes Peak Descent:
12.8 miles
Time: 2:55:40
Max Speed: 31.9 mph
Average Speed: 5.5 mph
Average Heart Rate: 144 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 165 bpm

Fuel:
945 calories
80 oz of water

I took a quick mental trip back to grade school and played the popular game, Which One of These is Not Like the Other.

Differences:
Race face – Clearly rider A is in THE zone. Rider B is in the KISS zone.
Protective Eye Wear – Rider A is has carefully selected his lenses for the terrain, Rider B can quickly transition from mountain bike to general contractor without missing a beat. Thanks to Dewalt.
Jersey – Rider A looks like a mountain biker, rider B looks like zebra who dipped his head in chrome.
Bicycle – Rider A is on a decent bike, Rider B is on a kick-ass, giveaway bike from Peak Region Cyclist!

What differences do you see?

Thanks to Tim with PikesPeakSports.us snapping this pic. The only high moment from the day.

“Whew, I’m glad that’s over.”

That was my first thought as soon as I crossed the finish line. My frustration was deep and with mostly no one or thing to blame.

I had ridden over 60 miles in two weeks prior.
I lost 18 lbs.
I was tracking my meals and eating better  leading up to the race including race day.
I rested before the race.

All that lead to this: 10 minutes into the first lap my throat was ON FIRE. My chest was ON FIRE. I completed the lap and started the second lap hoping I could work it out. I got half way through the second lap and stopped. I thought I was going to die. I rode backwards on the track to the starting area and rested for 10 minutes. Once the pain had mostly gone away I hit it again. Now 2 laps down it was more of a pride thing than anything. I finished. In last place.

Eager to know what-the-freakin-heck happened I started Googling my symptoms. The results? Over-breathing, panic attack or exercise induced asthma. Awesome.

I honestly think I got too excited racing off the line, stopped breathing and strained my throat.

My answer to this problem. Chill out and enjoy myself.

Seriously, this is the most difficult process I have ever put myself through. Lucky for me, I get to try again July 25 at Palmer Park.

Thanks to Tim with PikesPeakSports.us snapping this pic.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

So this is what happens.

But now I’m mostly done.

And I can go back to friends, family and riding my bike again.

In my previous post I introduced you to my friend Ray who had his bike stolen, here’s the latest.

Ray’s insurance company valued Ray’s bike at about $900, he originally purchased it for about $600. Sounds good right? Well, insurance paid his $500 deductible from the $900 leaving him about $200 to buy a new bike. It’s not enough for Ray to replace his bike, so I thought we should help.

To help Ray out I’d like to start a dollar drive. Give what you can. You can donate through paypal and 100% will go to Ray’s bike fund, you can meet me at my office at 19 S. Tejon or I can meet you wherever you’d like.

I want to be clear I’m not helping Ray because he can’t afford a new bike, I want to help Ray because he treasured his  bike and the freedom it allowed him. We all need some outlet to disconnect and focus, for Ray and myself, it happens on a bike.

Money is starting to come in!!!

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