Sunday, August 30, 2009
Go ride the Canyon Creek Trail.
Two weeks from Vapor Trail. My coach (me) tells me that I should do some final large training efforts this weekend, then not more than 2-3 hours of medium effort starting Monday until it's time to line up at 10 PM on Saturday the 12th.
Plan was to climb to Old Monarch Pass via the (mostly) dirt route that roughly parallels Highway 50. Then ride the portion of the Vapor Trail 125 route that continues from there. The big test I had in mind was the confrontation of the climb from the bottom of the Starvation Creek Trail back up to Marshall via the Poncha Creek Road. I had never climbed that road in all the years I've been living and riding around here. It always seemed like a dumb idea. Why do that when the railroad grade-based Marshall Pass Road is right there?
Well, why this time was because I'll be dealing with it, while tired, in two weeks. And it has a reputation among last year's riders as being the worst obstacle to finishing. I have been dreading it and wondering if I'll have the stones to deal with it after more than 15 hours in the saddle.
I left the house at o'dark thirty. At sun-up I was climbing in the chill. Always nice to see dawn happen from the saddle. Took me a long time to warm up. But of course it was not warm... That does seem to be a theme with me this season--it takes often almost 2 hours before I feel ready to step up the pace.
At Old Monarch I got onto singletrack, heading south first to (new) Monarch Pass, then on down the Crest. It was crowded. We get spoiled living in Salida, most of us arrange to ride the Crest on weekdays or very early in order to avoid the crowds. But it's hard to pull that off when you climb from town. I was relieved to make Marshall, and unceremoniously headed down the upper Poncha Road to the fork over to Starvation Creek. I was passed by a train of lawn tractors and it was almost windless. The thick dust they raised hung in the air and I had to breath it for way too long.
I was tired, especially after staying on the throttle passing huge herds of Crest Riders when I saw them stopped. I made my way down Starvation slowly because I felt tired. When I hit the bottom I did the un-thinkable, I turned left to climb back up.
Ugh. It felt yucky. For the first 30 minutes or so, it felt endless and I really wondered. Would I be up to this? Ugh. Seemed unlikely.
Then I got to where it was OK. I got off and walked a few sections that either seemed especially steep, or when I just felt like walking. After a while, I got up to the intersection with Starvation, and then to the top. I was tired, but it was doable.
After that I felt much better. It is doable. It will not be fun, but it won't beat me unless I let it.
I got to Silver Creek and descended it again in the company of the herds of Saturday Crest riders. Then I got to the Rainbow, feeling good and ready to finish out the last couple hours of my self-inflicted trial.
Less than a mile down the Rainbow, in the first fast and flowy section, I came around a curve and saw a rider sitting on the ground below the trail. I asked him, "are you OK". He had his back to me and did not turn around, and he said in a shaky voice, "No, I'm hurt". Then I saw his bike, hung up in a small tree, back wheel up. I laid my bike down and made my way down off the trail to where he was. As I passed his bike I saw that the front wheel was heavily taco'd.
When I got close, I saw that he was holding his right arm with his left, and he said he thought it might be broken. I was the first one there, so I started asking him questions, and carefully feeling his arm, and asking him if it hurts here, or here, etc. Some other riders came along presently and they stopped and asked more questions. Then his buddy came back from up the trail. He came down to where the guys was (David?) and got involved. Then a group of riders that included two male nurses came along. The cavalry.
Then another of his friends came back, got truck keys and headed down to fetch a truck to pick up the down rider. Unfortuneatly it did not occur to me until after he was gone that he should have gone back and down the Silver Creek Road rather than continuing on the Rainbow.
We all hung with him getting the situation under control. When he tried to stand, his arm spasmed, and he yelled. We slinged the arm with a tube, then a rider came along who had a triangle bandage, so one of the nurses slinged it better. We got him on his feet, and then his thigh cramped hard.
It took a while, but we finally got him up onto the trail, shaky but under control. I jumped on his taco'd wheel to get it straight enough to at least rotate in the fork without binding up. Three riders walked out with him back to the Silver Creek trailhead, and I jetted back down the Silver Creek road to try to catch the guy going for the truck to confirm that he knew exactly where to go with the truck. I got down there 5 or 10 minutes before he did, made sure he knew the way back up, and then left to go back to town.
I didn't get to finish the whole 2nd half of the course, but big deal. I had the priveledge of being able to help a fellow rider who needed help. It's gratifying to see how the community of riders come together to help one of our own.
Good day. Today it's Canyon Creek!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Back toward where I came from, east toward the rising sun
Normally the coming of dawn gives me a kick in the ass when I've ridden all night. This time I just felt like my ass had been kicked.
Soft dawn light
I sat at the base of the hike-a-bike up to the divide in despair. The idea that I have a chance of finishing this year's Vapor Trail 125 sounded like a pipe dream. I ate some cold oatmeal and stared east down the glorious valley but my head was full of negative.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I had wrapped up some scrambled eggs and cheese in a tortilla the night before, and at about 6 I hauled it out and chowed it. I had just found the one key turn I needed to make to start heading back south toward Cotopaxi, CO. I was just leaving the wide open high prairie of the upper Badger Creek basin and entering mixed aspen and open space. The pink dawn made for a really nice breakfast mood.
The country up there north of Salida really has some pretty places. And you usually share them only with cows and people who work with cows. The morning was all mine.
This is the magic carpet that carried me on this ride. It's my adventure touring bike, but this is the most adventurous trip we've had together yet. The front rack is the real start of getting the Hunter ready to tour.
The sun slants through a stand of aspen as I crest one of a series of climbs on the way to the long descent into Cotopaxi on the Arkansas River.
In the shot above you can see that I've got some descending to do, but in the background you can see the Sangre de Cristo range to the right and a hint of the Wet Mountain Valley (where I'm headed) to the left. It was about 8 AM when I took this photo. Shortly after, I saw my first human of the day, a dude with cowboy hat passing me in his Dodge pickup.
The day was pretty much going (among normal people) once I passed over the Arkansas and through Cotopaxi and started climbing south toward Westcliffe. The sun was getting hot and people were out driving around. I had 8 or 10 pavement miles to the town of Hillside, to a turn-off that would get me off the highway onto ranch roads. The Sangre de Cristo rise pretty dramatically up from flat hayfields and pastures. Long, straight dirt roads.