The Waffle House Chronicles...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wednesday and Thursday in Colorado

Wednesday Jess and I got up early with my parents and went up to the top of the Vail Pass. There is 14 miles of bike path that you can ride that’s almost all downhill and super scenic. My dad dropped us off and cruised it. Finished it off with some donuts from Daylight Donuts in Breck which rules! We then got ready to drive to Aspen to hike to the base of the Maroon Bells mountains. We drove some crazy pass up past the treeline which was fun and the rode to Aspen was insane. Of course the rode down was crazy. We got to Aspen and had a picnic, which was fun but then the weather came. We still drove the 10 miles back to the trailhead and once we got there we were stuck in a hail storm. A good half-hour went by where we watched hail. We then got a small clearing where it only rained a bit and took some photos before it rained again. It started to clear up a little but no one was interested in hiking back. Of course the rain and traffic turned it into a 3 hour drive back to Breck. Jess and I hit a place called Empire Burger. One of the best burgers I’ve ever had and Jess said the Nachos are her favorite ever (I’d tend to agree.) So as disappointing as the Aspen trip was we got some good eats.

Thursday was to be insane. We went back to Daylight Donuts for breakfast and it was packed, which means it was great! The rest of the family went to Denver to golf or do other things but Jess and I stayed behind to ride at Keystone. We bought bike lift tickets so we could do some gravity riding. The beginning was hard, Jess crashed hard and lost confidence. She stuck with it though and we found some sweet trails. It took between 5-8 miles to get down the hill so we only got three runs in. The third run was insane. I got down doing all black and double black diamond trails. One trail had 22 tabletop jumps. I rode some of the moderate stunts, basically every stunt I saw that didn’t end with a drop. Some of the rock gardens were just insane and there were some spots that I just had to get off and walk around. But I rode a lot of things and was excited to rock some sweet trails. We then headed to Denver to get some Rockies baseball action. We got there in time to get some free t-shirt that had #26 Francis on the back. Whomever that is, he didn’t even play. Seats were most excellent. In the 4th it started to rain but it was just a sprinkle so the game continued and finished. The Rockies lost by 1 though so that was a bummer. Got home after midnight and it was a tiring day!

Mt Elbert

Photos to follow...

So Tuesday was the other big day of the trip, the day we climbed to the highest point in Colorado, Mt Elbert. 14433 feet of massive rock awaited us. My brother Eric (Larkin) was the only one who signed up for this. We left Breckenridge about 5:30 in the morning and headed towards Leadville. The trip there was uneventful. We took some photos of the mountain from Leadville. We then headed on a 5 mile gravel road until we reached the trailhead. Fortunately the trailhead started out at 10050 feet so we only had just over 4000 feet of vertical in about 4.5 miles, so an average grade over 20% and many around 25-30%. We started off just before 6am and it was 42F. We hiked about a mile of the Colorado Trail before we turned right and went up. And up. And up. It didn’t take long to clear the tree line at 12000 feet. We even met some idiots walking up with skis. There was basically no snow on the mountain except for this.We picked this route because it was the shortest, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest. We climbed and climbed and climbed and saw the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. We stopped a lot to take pictures and to rest. I had packed a 70oz camelback, a water bottle and a Gatorade in addition to tons of snacks. The climb to the first false summit (the one most visible to people) was the hardest part as the rocks were big and the trail was steep. From there it continued to be hard until just before the second false summit, were it started to level off. The accent to the high point was pretty easy and at this point it was beautiful out and we wanted to be on top. And then we were on top. Only 4 people were on top with us at the start and they all left and were replaced with 3 others. I can’t even describe the views from up there. Although Elbert itself isn’t the most attractive of mountains it is right in the middle of all that is beautiful and you could see forever (we could see Pikes Peak which is probably about 150 miles away.) Alas you can’t stay on top forever. The decent scared me, but descending wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. The trail was very firm so not having poles wasn’t too bad. We hauled ass down to the treeline but then I was starting to die. The altitude finally took it’s toll yet again. I had a terrible headache and felt a bit nauseous. It also was super hot (90’s with no shelter) and I ran out of water (crazy since I conserved water the whole way.) But what can you do, we kept chugging. Eric is like a machine and this didn’t affect him at all. We finally got back on the Colorado Trail and down to the parking lot. What a rush. I squeezed out just enough water from Eric’s camelback to put down a Goody’s Headache Powder. Just being done was nice but then having some Taco Bell and tons of water and a Coke and then going swimming in the pool was just the ticket…I felt great after that. What a rush that was, it was the most extreme thing I’ve done not on a bike. Jerry might even be proud although we didn’t need any ropes.

After swimming we headed to the Breckenridge Microbrewery. I tasted a couple beers which were excellent and all I could stomach was an app, which dominated! Chilled out the rest of the night and played Cranium Conga. I played once before and hated it but this time it was awesome so I might have to bust that out at future game nights.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Colorado Update

So here’s another Colorado update. Saturday after Mt Evans we headed towards Breckenridge. We stopped at Silverthorne for lunch and it was there we learned my parents vehicle had overheated just west of Denver. They asked for me to drive to meet them, so we headed the hour back that way which was kind of a bummer. We ended up ditching a bunch of stuff with them and taking some of my family to Breck while the rest waited for the car to be fixed. But since it was overheating, Jess and Larkin drove back to get more stuff so the van wouldn’t have the huge load. It was a rough evening. We went home and had some supper at a cool bar and I even scored high score on Fast Ms. Pac Man. Riz would be proud.

I woke up early with tired legs to go check out the start of the Breckenridge 100 bike race. I missed the start of the 100 mile and I was too early for the start of the 100k. So I started out on the course to check it out. I got about 1/3 of the way up the mountain and said screw it, rode across the mountain and then down some bunk singletrack. I then stumbled across a rope thing for crossing a stream. Sweet! Then I found the Breckenridge Freeride park and rode my first teeter and then a black diamond wood structure. Pimp. I then found some random trail up to Peak 8 and then down a gravel road. Found a cool trail that looked doable. So I went for it. Rode 10 miles of decent singletrack. I guess the race was going the opposite way so I ran into the pros, including Tinker who I talked to on a climb. Got back home and we went for a long walk and I even found a slurpee! Riz would be proud.

Later that day we did some hanging out. Then Jess and I went out for some more mountain biking. We rode a pretty sweet trail south of town that was alright on the way out and awesome on the way back. Great times! We then went out to eat at the Motherloaded. Tots, Mac & Cheese and cheesesteak. Riz would be proud.

Monday we went white water rafting on the Arkansas River through the Royal Gorge. It was sweet! The guide sucked but everything else was great and we all got sunburned. After rafting, the family decided to visit Sonic. Riz would be proud.

We got back to town and everyone just kind of chilled and went shopping. Jess and I just hung out and ate some pasta. I had to get carbo-loaded for the premier event, the accent up to the highest point in Colorado, Mt Elbert!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to one of our favorite people!
I am not sure what your actual birthdate is but I know it is this week sometime! I am sorry we missed it. I hope you have/had a great birthday and we'll have to party together when we get back!!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mt Evans Race Report

As many of you know, I signed up for one race this year. It just so happens that race was the Bob Cook Memorial Mt Evans Hillclimb. Guh! It was something I wanted to do for a long time and we were going to be in Colorado anyways so I talked myself into it. I didn’t train much but I figured it’s just 28 miles…no sweat, plus I figured the ride down would be sweet! I even talked a co-worker of mine (Wolfgram) into racing as well.

We left Madison Thursday after work. We hit the Sonic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and took up in some hotel in Des Moines. We woke up early on Friday and headed west. We made awesome time and were in Denver before 3pm. We weren’t sure what to do so we checked into our hotel and headed up to Idaho Springs which is where the race starts. I see a guy training in a full Team Discovery kit. It was Tom Danielson. We drove up to the halfway point to check out some of the scenery. It was amazing and beautiful. Although all I could see was how long and steep it was. We chilled out at Echo Lake which was nice too. Went back down and picked up the free jersey (what a nice race perk) and ran into Wolfgram and talked for a bit. We parted our own ways and Jess and I headed to Golden for supper. Had some nice pizza slices outdoors, it was beautiful. Went to bed.

Got up super early (4:30ish) and got ready. I wasn’t sure what to expect temperature wise for the race since it started early, had lots of shade and lots of exposure and ended above 14000 feet. I was one of the few who opted for leg warmers which paid dividends near the top.

We got to the race an hour early which ended up being an hour and a half early since I thought the race started at 7 but it started at 7:30. So Jess got an extra half hour to chill on the mountain. Wolfgram and I lined up right in the front. I told him we should drill it and get in the front group. The siren went off and I was the first person to the sketchy corner and then I gapped the field. Pretty soon there were five of us up front and soon after there were only four. Unfortunately I was dropped back to the 30 strong peloton and hung for about 4 miles before pack sliding back when the climb got steeper. I realized then that this ride was like no other. After 5 miles I could barely breathe, my legs were tight and I had a headache. Guh! I kept waiting for Wolfgram to catch me so we could struggle together. I kept chugging along. I saw Jess at Echo Lake and she said I was doing pretty well. At that point I was probably about 100th out of 300 people which I felt was pretty good for a fat, untrained flatlander.

Jess snapped some photos and then I headed on to the top half, which is much harder than the bottom half. At that point the pros, who started a half hour behind, were catching me. Tom Danielson did in 45 minutes which took me 1:15. Good thing I brought the camera to capture the moment he passed me:The next 14 miles were the toughest 14 miles (or 2 hours) I’ve ever had physically. The grade was constant and my speed was too (between 5.9-6.5mph.) With 12 miles left I cleared the tree line. The suffering on my body was so bad that I really wanted to quit. I was maxed out in my39X26 gear just chugging along. My heart rate hovered around 170bpm and that’s all I could do. As weird as this may sound, I really wanted to go to sleep. I really think if I lost some focus I could have fallen asleep while riding, which is just plain weird. Nausea set in as well as one of the worst headaches ever. I guess the altitude didn’t like me too much, or at least didn’t like me working so hard. I kept chugging along though and kept watching people pass me, first pros, then some cat 3s. But all was not lost. I got to Summit Lake at 12,800 feet and knew that I only had 1400 of vertical left. Switchback after switchback I kept trying to count them so I could count down how many I had to go. Just when I thought I had about a mile and a half to go I saw the 1k to go sign. That kilo just flew by and pretty soon I was rounding the last corner to an unceremonious 42nd place age group finish. 3:13 and change for the 28 mile climb.
Up top it was about 40 degrees and windy as hell. I took shelter behind a van while I tried to drink as much water as I could. I snapped a couple photos too. I wanted to climb to the geographic high point but it would’ve been difficult when I was cold and wet and in bike shoes. I also worried about Wolfgram. I know he wasn’t that confident about this race so I hoped he was ok. But maybe 10 minutes after I finished I see the familiar Team Schwinn garb coming up the final stretch. We both finished. Of course as fun as the decent could’ve been, it sucked almost as much as the race itself. With cyclists all over we had to be careful. Sheer faces with no guard rails. Crappy pavement with potholes and cracks everywhere. Oh yeah, and somehow on the climb there were two descents, well after my legs were tight from climbing, sitting around, freezing and then grabbing the bars, those two small climbs were horrid! And trying to clutch the bars with cold fingers and stiff shoulders was just about enough. It got better as we went on but when we neared Echo Lake I just wanted to quit cycling all together. Jess’ was rockin’ her ESP though and was waiting at Echo Lake to take photos of us descending. Little did she know how clutch she would be, we hopped in the car and that was it. Race over.

My final thoughts after the race were mostly negative. The euphoria of making it to the top was short lived as I was so cold and the descent was so hard. Am I glad I did this race? Kind of. I am glad I won’t have to do it again. I am glad I made it. Of course the writing should have been on the wall. Overweight untrained Wisconsin cyclist with not enough gearing taking on his first 14er by bike. But then again, no one has ever accused me of being too bright!