Thursday, July 17, 2008
All the planning is now in place for my biggest Colorado cycling trip yet. Dave Penney and I will spend eight days there. Cities we'll ride near are Idaho Springs, Salida, Taos, Durango, Aztec, Fruita, and Boulder. Quite the tour. Just hope the legs hold up. We aren't the shuttling types. We earn our vertical.
First up, less than 24hrs after we arrive, is the Mt Evans hillclimb race on Saturday. There has been debate whether Mt Evans is "harder" than Mt Washington. Many say because Mt Evans is not steep at all, it is easier. Others point to starting at 7000ft and going to 14,000ft makes it much more difficult. Personally, I don't think either of these climbs are that hard. I have leisurely biked Evans once on a mountain bike. I think Mt Ascutney in Vermont is harder than either of these, because it is at the magic duration that places you deeply in the anaerobic realm for a long time. This maximizes suffer-factor. Washington is climbed right at threshold for the strongest riders, and Evans is more of an endurance ride at 2+ hours. Steepness has nothing to do with it, assuming you adequately gear your bike. Not being acclimated to altitude may actually reduce the suffering in a wacky way, such that we'll get dizzy if we push anywhere near what our legs are capable of. This will preserve the legs for planned 54 mile trail epic then next day.
The trip is about riding in the mountains, and the race is more of a curiosity filler to kick things off. Dave has never been to the summit. We got snowed out on our trip two years ago. Mountain bikes have been shipped out. We're renting older, steel Bianchi road bikes with triple cranks. They'll weigh at least 5 lbs more than my carbon hillclimb bike. It is all that is available in the greater Denver area, and I called a lot of places. This will be a net 3 minute hit on finishing time. I suspect not being from Colorado will be a 5-8 minute hit for me. All of the top finishers in my category were from CO last year. Shipping two bikes out, one hillclimb, one MTB, just isn't worth the 3 minute difference when we'll be at a 5-8 minute handicap to begin with.
Philosophies on acclimating to altitude are all over the place, but many opinions are based on here say. It is generally supported that arriving 2-3 days before an event at altitude is worst case. Many things go downhill as soon as you arrive at altitude. You either need to do your event right away, or wait several days to a week. After a week, your blood (things like pH, etc) settles back into equilibrium, altitude headaches go away and normal sleep patterns resume. But this doesn't mean you are fully acclimated. That takes months. Increasing your blood's oxygen carrying capacity is a slow process. Since I don't want to race Evans on legs put through the grinder, it's best to do it right away on fresh legs before effects of altitude sink all the way in.
I'll be travelling with laptop and hope to get reports up each night. The first few days entail a lot of driving though. If it comes down to getting a good night's sleep for riding the next day versus blogging, well, riding is going to win over writing about riding. I just hope Dave doesn't ride me into the ground with his rigid Niner like he did two years ago.