Sunday, July 27, 2008

Colorado Trip Wrap-Up

This past week was my most enjoyable and succesful cycling trip to date, despite also being the most exhausting. Here's a run-down of the rides we did:
Fri17.0mi1.0hr400ftRental test ride on Denver bike paths
Sat60.0mi4.0hr7500ftMt Evans race with warmup
Sun53.4mi5.4hr8000ftMonarch Crest loop, Salida, CO
Mon50.0mi5.2hr7500ftSouth Boundary loop, Taos, NM
Tue31.5mi4.7hr8900ftColorado Trail/Corral Draw loop, Durango, CO
Wed32.5mi4.0hr5000ftHermosa Creek out and back, Durango, CO
8.90mi1.0hr900ftAlien Run loop, Aztec, NM
Thu24.2mi3.2hr4500ftLime Creek/Pass/Engineer Mtn loop, Durango, CO
Fri25.3mi2.9hr4500ftFlight of Icarus loop, Fruita, CO
12.6mi1.3hr1100ftZippety/Kessel loops, Fruita, CO
Sat13.2mi1.1hr2400ftFlagstaff Drive hillclimb out and back, Boulder, CO
Four consecutive long days had us logging over 20 hours in the saddle. The seven non-travel days had us riding over 30 hours with nearly 50,000ft of climbing. These are PR stats for me and pretty nearly killed me. Dave seemed to get stronger as the hours piled on, I began to whither. It was interesting to note that I ate about 20-30% more than Dave, yet we weigh roughly the same and logged the same miles. I have often thought I am not very efficient with the calories I eat, and this adds more evidence. I lost two pounds when I got back from the trip. I plan to dedicate a future post on Cycling Economy. The most efficient (calories to kilojoules) riders in the world are only about 25% efficient. I may be well under 20%. This could explain why I may not do so well in really long endurance events. My digestive tract simply cannot process enough calories to keep up with the excessive rate my body is consuming them. I'm not sure much can be done to train this. Genetics is a huge factor.

It is monsoon season in the southwestern part of the country. This means there is a shift in wind patterns that brings moisture into the area. Pop-up afternoon thunderstorms can be expected. These are strange. They start every day around noon, they don't move like a frontal system, but rather persist against mountain ranges until the sun sets. We finished virtually every ride with thunder rumbling but managed to stay dry. It never seemed to rain in the cities, but is sure did at higher elevations. The rushing torrents of water were evidence of this. We had to get up around 6am every morning to be off the ridge line by noon or shortly after. Getting caught without even as much as a rock to hide under when lightning starts is not an option.

Six of our rides topped 10,000ft elevation. Most of these rides were Hill Junkie style - huge paved, dirt, or ATV track climb with singletrack ridgeline riding and singletrack descent. Most other riders will shuttle these rides. This means they leave one vehicle where they drop out at, then haul bikes and bodies up as much of the vertical as possible expending fossile fuel. I can't say I have a strong moral opinion against such riding. Afterall, we drove around in a tank of a vehicle ourselves to hit all these cool riding destinations. But my philosophy is that one must earn their vertical. You feel so much better about yourself when you do. There may be a physiological basis in the difference between these two camps of riders. The shuttlers seek adrenaline highs, the climbers seek endorphine highs. Coming down Icarus, I experienced too much adrenaline. That descent was just plain scary. It was like a bad coffee buzz and detracted from the endorphine buzz I had going by climbing to the top.

Having ridden several Durango trails now, I'd still have to say the Monarch Crest loop near Salida is my all-time favorite loop. Most of the climb is paved road, about 4500ft worth. The ridgeline at 12,000ft offers killer views and is 100% rideable. Then the longest descent ensues, again virtually all rideable. The ride that comes close in Durango to this one is Blackhawk Pass. The deal with Blackhawk is we had to hike a few portions getting up to the pass. Dave was able to ride a little more of it than I did. It is possible that a loop in Durango could be put together that could surpass Monarch Crest in rideability, enjoyment, and scenery. It generally was more scenic around Durango, especially with wild flowers in full bloom.

Dave kicked my butt again riding 29" wheels with no suspension. Seeing him ride that thing has me believing the downsides to big wheels are neglible compared to the benefits. I couldn't imagine carrying the speed we did on some of the descents without my 3" travel Fox fork. Would I suck less if I started riding a 29er? Dave thinks swapping out the rider might make my bike faster.

We experienced no mechanicals or flats in about 500 combined trail miles. We both did hit the dirt a couple times. It's tough in epic scenery to keep your eyes and mind on the trail in front of you. Twice, Dave caught the edge of rutted single track and went for a tumble on descents. In my case, I just don't know how to descend loose stuff approaching 100% grade without the wheels sliding out from under me.

It turns out the long rides I was doing earlier this summer weren't really that dubious in training value after all. They were actually training for this trip. I suspect my road and hillclimb racing ability has suffered some, but there is so much more to cycling than racing. What I gave up in one form of fitness was gained in another, namely endurance. The rides Dave and I did out west weren't flat, sissy century rides. We surmised that due to altitude and steepness of these off-road rides, a trail hour in Colorado was more like two trail hours back home. Average speeds were quite humbling on a couple of the rides.

I plan to post a few more ride reports as time permits. I have some good shots from Monarch Crest and South Boundary. All of the trip blog posts will eventually get compiled into a trip report with many, many more photos. There are no Hill Junkie cycling trips in the works right now, but Hawaii is a good bet early next year.

1 comment:

solobreak said...

The cal/kj thing is interesting. There could be a lot of factors though. Maybe Dave secretly scarfs down Snickers when you aren't looking. Or maybe his rigid 29'er was just more efficient when climbing. Then he's fresher and more relaxed while descending. And you always say you don't like the heat. Those calories must go somewhere. Maybe you generate more heat for whatever reason (I suspect your gigantic brain runs hotter than an old PII). There was a puff piece on VeloNews about the Garmin team's focus on keeping cool. It's interesting.

One or both of you guys had better win your race at Bow Sunday...