In preparation for our upcoming 447 mile, one-week Ride the Rockies, we’ve been seeking local opportunities to chalk up training miles. Recently, we had a lot of fun participating in the Rose Hill Rally, a local 62 mile benefit ride. The ride itself was nice but what really made the day fun was the wind… or, to be more exact, the wind and the group we rode with.
I’ve written about wind before and you know I’m as big a fan of a strong tail wind as the next cyclist. But, what I’m calling “fun” here is an experienced group and a strong head wind.
The leaders of our group,
, is planning a fall cycling trip to Spain. These leaders are very experienced at drafting, probably even had some racing experience in their background. Their experience, coupled with some commanding leadership skills, forced Eric and me to get on the “train” so to speak, and do our fair share as part of the group. Our fair share included leading the train, falling back when another cyclist took the lead, maintaining a pace in the train, and then working ourselves again to the front to share the burden of the wind.
Although I’m not a big fan of group cycling and drafting because I have to concentrate and can’t enjoy the scenery, the speed of this recent ride along familiar terrain was thrilling . One of my favorite parts of the drafting experience was when our “train” caught the draft of a tandem group. We felt like we were flying along the road until a downhill where the tandems took off and we were not able to catch them again.
After a great week road cycling in training for Ride the Rockies logging close to 200 miles, Eric and I took advantage of a beautiful, sunny Monday to cross train with the mountain bikes on the Western Rim Trail near Rabbit Valley.
Feeling strong, confident and probably a little cocky (embarrassing but I am being honest) we started cycling the 4-wheel drive road towards the trailhead. Let than a mile out, I had two options for climbing a short section of the road – a sandy, rutted tire track, or a rock ledge. I’ve been climbing little ledges more and more frequently and this innocent-looking 6-inch ledge appeared to be the perfect place to challenge myself.
The reality is, this ledge stopped my dead in my tracks. But all that forward motion had to go somewhere. In slow motion I flew elegantly over my handlebars, arms out at my sides like a 747 just after take-off. I soared for what seemed like hours until I hard-landed with my right knee taking the brunt of the impact like a jetliner hitting the runway on one back wheel.
At the time, the most pain I felt was the embarrassment of being on the ground. My knee a felt little banged but my pride suffered the most damage. I carefully extricated myself, from the bike resting on my hamstring, dusted myself off and hopped back on.
Several miles further down the road I realized my knee was really started to swell, so I used my favorite purple bandana to stabilize my knee and create compression to slow the swelling, and finished the 14 mile ride.
By the end of the day I could barely walk.
I waited several days and I finally got X-rays to confirm what I felt, that it was just a really bad bruise (“contusion” to quote the doctor.)
I’m feeling very thankful that the fall wasn’t worse. My awareness of the numbers of people who have had mountain biking accidents – just this week I’ve seen a broken arm and a broken femur – has humbled me and made me more cautious.
In the meantime, I’ll be back on the road bike saddle today for some limited training.
Spring has sprung with bright blue skies, the scent of lilacs in the air, and just-right temperatures of low to mid 70s. And if that’s not enough motivation to ride, then the winning of the lottery into the 32nd annual Ride the Rockies, a 7 day, 433 mile with 32,337 feet in elevation is just the motivation we needed to get back on the saddle.
1.We won’t be schlepping our own gear on our bikes. And, because there is a 70 pound per person limit per bag, we don’t really have to think much about what we bring. We already know how to live with less than that.
2. This tour will Eric’s first time to cycle in the Rocky Mountains. I’m excited to share the majesty and beauty of my “home” state as well as the thrill of some long downhills, not to mention the challenge of the long uphills (without panniers – mind you.)
3. This distances and elevation will be our most challenging – 7 days of back-to-back, 70-100 mile days with long climbs each day. I have to admit that I’m a little nervous. We were very comfortable with 50 miles or less per day on our touring bikes with tons of stops for food, pictures, naps, sight-seeing, etc. And, we didn’t have deadlines or defined destinations – if we didn’t want to push on, we didn’t have to. Ride the Rockies will push us to a different sort of limit.
Training officially began last weekend during gale force spring winds.
Saturday’s 65 mile round-trip ride from Fruita to Palisade included head winds, cross winds on the downhills, and one small gift of a tail wind on a steep uphill.
Sunday’s 40 mile ride from Palisade to Whitewater included winds in all directions but also the gift of a Front Range (Denver, Boulder, Colo. Springs, etc.) women’s cycling team who generously invited us to “hop on the train” and gave us the benefit of a draft until we couldn’t keep up any longer.
By the way, this “supported tour” is a warm-up for our planned self-supported cycle tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton in July. Stay tuned…
This morning, while sitting on my favorite chair, reading the Sunday paper, sipping my coffee and thinking about bundling up for a day of cross-country skiing, I came across a short article about the history of cycling.
Austin writes, “The idea of women on bicycles enraged certain conservative elements of society. Cycling was said to make women oversexed, ill-behaved or infertile. “Have you ever seen anything more off-putting, uglier, meaner than a wench on a bike?” asked the German magazine Youth in 1897.”
Austin’s paragraph reminded me of a time I was admonished by a father of a colleague of mine in Eastern Turkey. “You will be the first and last women to ride a bicycle in this town,” he said.
I remember wondering if his comments were 1) a threat, 2) a joke, or 3) translated incorrectly. However, after he made those comments, I made sure I covered head-to-toe including wearing dark glasses and gloves and always cycled in heavily populated areas.
Several months later, while sipping a cup of Turkish coffee and sampling fresh Turkish delight at a lovely apartment, a woman in her mid-fifties told me that she watched me ride my bicycle every morning on my way to the school where I taught English.
She said, “That bicycle represents a LOT of freedom.”
Winter weather has put our long-distance cycling temporarily on hold. Sure, we continue to bundle up and cycle to the local tap room or yoga class, but the proximity of deep snow and excellent cross country skiing trails just an hour from our home has forced us to dig through trunks and plastic storage containers in search of warm layers and “called us” to the cold, snowy mountains to play.
There have been some changes since our first nordic days over 35 years ago. The equipment has gotten more specialized: nordic, back-country, alpine touring, telemark, and skate-skiing to name a few types of skis.
The clothes have gotten more specific and colorful. Gone are the days of throwing on a pair of Levis and and pulling a pair of gators over our boots to keep the snow out. Today, skiers are sporting everything from cycling-type spandex to bright orange snow pants and everything in between.
Equipment and clothing aside, the biggest change we’ve noticed in the number of skate-skiers racing along the smooth corduroy-like packed snow adjacent to the traditional nordic tracks.
Eric, plodding along on his 32 year old nordic skis, looked longingly at the “freeway” of skiers racing along side us and said,
“I want to try that!”
As from the fact that his pride might have been hurt when one skier stared at us on our near-antique nordic skis and boots as if we were a living museum modeling as soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, Eric really was pumped up about this “new-to-us” sport.
“We’ll rent equipment tomorrow and if we like it, let’s buy a set!”
I wasn’t 100 % sure that I wanted to try skate skiing. After all, my 32 year old nordic skis had been steadfast in providing what I had considered to be the perfect dose of nature and fun for over three decades. And, like cycle touring, I like nordic skiing for the slower pace and solitude that it provides.
Skate-skiing seems more like road cycling where cardio, competition, and equipment are the focus. But, in the effort of being a good sport and trying new things in retirement, I agreed to be open-minded and rent skate-skis for the day.
Lucky for us, the weather and snow for our first attempt on skate-skis was picture perfect – temperatures near 30 degrees, no wind, soft-packed snow, and bright blue skies. Clicking boots into the bindings was simple and familiar. Getting our gloves into the pole straps was another story. The straps are designed to fit so snugly that our puffy downhill ski gloves and mitts barely fit. After five minutes of struggling we decided it was easier to remove our hands from the mitts and leave the mitts in the pole straps.
Once our gear was secure we watched a few skate-skiers glide by watching their technique and saving the $68 each for a lesson. After several wobbly attempts to start moving forward we discovered one very hard truth.
Skate-skiing is HARD work.
I mean really HARD work. To make the skis work their absolute best they must always be moving. And, to keep them moving with with the least amount of wobble, they must be pushed in a skating motion. And, because there are lots of hills on Grand Mesa, they skis must be skated UPHILL which takes a boat-load of energy. And, because Grand Mesa is situated at 10,000 ft., skate skiing takes a lot of energy with limited oxygen.
After about 50 yards of what I felt what pretty good technique, I came to an abrupt stop, bent over and held my sides all while trying to suck in air and catch my breath.
We practiced skate-skiing for several hours which was about a long as we could physically handle it. As we improved we found pleasure in the rhythm and glide of the skis. Going faster was also kind of fun. The downside was not being able to look at the scenery except when we stopped because whenever I took my sights off the trail in front of me I would fall.
we justified the purchase of skate-skiing equipment with the idea that learning something new was good for our brain and working so hard was good for cycle training.
And, yes, I kept my nordic skis for those days when, like cycle touring, I just need a slow, peaceful day in nature.