Sunday, August 28, 2011

Assaulted by Pikes Peak

I might have missed out on the pummelling Irene doled out, but not on the beating Pikes Peak gave me today. This was the second annul Assault on the Peak timed "fun ride." I did it last year too. I borrowed Tom Ramsey's super light cross bike last year. This year was a bit more logistically complicated travelling with family, so I used my full suspension MTB. I at least put some roadie tires on it, and the suspension locks out. It still weighed 7 lbs more than Tom's bike did. I also used a Camelback since my dualie has only one bottle cage mount. Fearing cramping like last year, I carried a good deal of my own mix with a strong electrolyte solution (Gu brand, which has about 8x more sodium than Endurolytes). This tallied up to carrying 12-15 lbs more weight up the mountain this year. Oh, the area is experiencing near record high temps for this time of year too. This was supposed to be a fun ride, right?

Pikes Peak at sunrise from our hotel.

The abomination I rode.

Cathy and Mom dropped me off in Manitou Springs at 7am. It was already over 70F. They headed off to the Garden of the Gods. I found Tom Ramsey, who was surprised to see me (new email, so he didn't get my message).  There were only 300 or so bicycle riders lining up. I expected many more. First wave went to E-bikes. Think motorcycles with quiet motors. Why they continue to have an electric bike division is beyond me. They should not be associated with a human powered event. I lined up about 200 back to avoid going out too hard on my MTB with roadies.

Staging with our destination ahead.

We had a strong headwind heading up our closed lane of US-24. I comfortably sat in behind others even though we were probably going less than 10mph. I forgot to put a wheel magnet on and had no feedback.  Funny how when you are on a MTB, roadies won't even look at you. And when you catch a guy on $6000 road bike, the pace automatically goes up. Kind of like getting girled I suppose.

All manner of human powered contraptions partake. The parapalegic
was back with his handcycle too.

I stopped for first water refill at the reservoir. No sport drink. Just water there. There was a foot race going on too, with different start and finish lines. They had sport drink at their stops.  WTF.  I believe the same organizer was running these races.

Only 1mi of dirt left on this 24.5mi climb.

I plugged along. About 2.2hrs into it, I started feeling twinges in my calves. This was not good. It was warm out, and despite climbing thousands of feet, the temperature was not dropping. It was supposedly 45 at the summit. I passed the runners finish line, asked where the water stop was, and was told just past the gate. It was not there! I was out. In fact, I would climb nearly to the summit before reaching another stop, and it was just water. There was nothing with electrolytes in it on the course. Many riders take over 4hrs to climb this beast, and it was hot out. How I was not into full-blown cramping at this point was beyond me. Perhaps it was the strong Gu electrolytes I added to my Camelbak to start things off.

Day started nice. Monoons are still in full swing though. We
drove through intense thunder and lightning to Salida later.

I thought I was near summit, round corner, then see this.
The dark clouds rapidly developed into thunder.

Shortly after leaving he last water stop, I round this corner, thinking the summit was near. Horrors! It still looked like I had a Mt Washington to climb. I had no idea what my pace dropped too. I was finishing without cramping. That was my goal.

The "W" section. At least it wasn't as windy up here as last year.

I crossed the timing map with about 3:33 hrs elapsed time (my computer at least gave me time of day). That was about 24 minutes slower than last year. How much of that can be attributed to doing it on a heavy MTB? The good thing is I never seized up. I did have easier gearing with the MTB than with Tom's CX bike last year. Maybe that helped. Who knows.

I managed to beat Cathy and mom up there. They took an 10:40 cog rail train to the summit. We could only talk briefly and get the obligatory summit sign photo. Black clouds were quickly building and sprinkles were felt.

I put on near winter clothes for the descent and high tailed it off the summit. Disk brakes sure are sweet on a summit like that. You can come so much faster into the switchbacks and have complete confidence in stopping power. I no more than started down than a big thunderboom echoed from not far away. I managed to stay dry. At about 10,000ft, the temperature was toasty, maybe 80's. It was 90F back in Manitou Springs.

Catching up with Tom at the bottom, I learned he was 10th overall! He's 59 and finished 40 minutes ahead of me. I'm waiting for Tom to come back to NH next year to crush the Mt Washington 60yr old age group record. Living at altitude has given him a barely legal hematocrit. I'm jealous. I had a pretty nasty altitude headache going on, even after I got back to the bottom.  To make my headache worse, I was not listed in the results when they were posted. How can this even happen with chip timing? I went over the timing mat, even heard my number verbally called out.  They did give me much assurance it would be worked out.  When I caught up with Cathy and mom, I learned Cathy did poorly at 14,100ft. My mom said her lips got a little blue and she wasn't making complete sense at times. Scary.

I won't bring a mountain bike to Pikes Peak again. It is hard enough. I certainly will share thoughts on hydration strategy on the climb for cyclists when the survey hits my inbox. For $200 registration fee, I expect better. Regardless of equipment and hydration challenges, Pikes peak is still a must do climb. Nothing else in the continental 48 really compares. I love that riding to the top of the world feeling you get as you round switchback after switchback above tree line.

Myself, Mom and Cathy at the summit.

Next up: Monarch Crest Trail. Hope I have it in me to add a lengthy extension. Hydration is the primary concern. I'll take Iodine with me. Never used it, but it reported makes nasty tasting, but safe to drink water.


Luke S said...

Complaints over the flavor of iodine are completely overblown. If you insist on your water coming out of a sealed bottle and would refuse to drink tap water, iodine will taste bad. If you aren't a spoiled brat, its great and really not a very intrusive or bothersome flavor.

DaveP said...

Perhaps you should stick to the D2R2 event, where you are overwhelmed by all the food choices. Not to mention the sweet tasting beer at the end!

Anonymous said...

Nice fanny pack.

Aaron said...

I seriously considered trying the event this year. Instead decided on Bridge to Bridge instead just because it will be easier logistically. Kudos to you for trying it on a mtb. That is sad about the support. I've found that I can never trust organizers to put the right fluids at stops so I always bring some lyte pills and usually a nuun bottle.

Nice write-up!

aspenmike said...

see any unicycles this year? i did(nt) miss it this year, still prepping for mauna kea. nice job on the ride.

Hill Junkie said...

Didn't see any uni's. Couple tandems, hand cycle, one of those stair stepper cycle things, but no uni's.

Anonymous said...

They did have water at Summit Cove where the runners finished.. there was a big tent thing over on the right. They had brownies, chips, peanut butter and bread and a tanker of water...... I think I spend 10 or 12 minutes sitting there watching the Yeti greet the runners. Was a great ride ! Nice pictures !