dads (and how they can get you to do 80 miles)

I’ve known my dad was coming out to Leadville to visit for months, and he warned me that I’d better get good on the passes (on a bicycle). But alas, it was winter still until just a couple weeks ago and thus I’d only been on my bike a dozen times or fewer by the time he arrived to visit.

My father is the type of guy that can ride over 100 miles per day every day for weeks.

total badass

total badass

So we were making plans for what we’d do while he was here, and he asked if I wanted to do Independence Pass. I said yes immediately, because that’s just how I roll, but after the fact I had to think about it very seriously and I discovered I was nervous. He asked what the longest distance was I’d done in a day so far, and it was somewhere in the thirties [it is tragic how I rode 25+ every day in Denver and now I only do that once or twice a week!]. He told me Leadville to the top of Independence Pass and back was about 70 miles.

I did spend some time thinking it over and the reason I was nervous was because I was concerned I couldn’t do it, and kind of legitimately so. The thing about out-and-backs is that at the point you turn around, you’re going to have to do just as much distance back. What a mindfuck. If you can’t, you never get home. Let me tell you though, the premise that if you stop you’ll never get home is EXCELLENT motivation. The other thing is that 24 back to Leadville is miles and miles of brutal and relentless uphill.

So yeah, I was worried. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But what on earth was I going to tell my [totally badass] dad? Like I would puss out. No, I would do this thing.

My dad told me in the morning that it was more like 76 miles. We set out with tons of snacks and water. From Leadville to CO 82 is pretty much downhill (which explains the evil uphill) so we were cruising pretty good. We made good time to Twin Lakes.

la plata TH

la plata TH

The trail over Independence Pass has been in use possibly since prehistoric times, and most definitely by the Ute Native Americans that occupied the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s pretty much the only way through. Like most of the High Rockies, Roaring Fork and Aspen were rushed by miners in the 1870’s (slightly later in the decade than the mining towns to the East) and in 1880 one of the boomers paid a crew using hand tools to build a real road over the pass. At each bridge a toll was charged-$.25 for horses and $.50 for wagons. Also in 1880, a town developed around the ore mill three miles west of the pass. It was called Independence, and at its peak housed 1000 residents. The last resident of Independence left in 1912. The pass had previously been known as Hunter Pass, and was re-named in honor of its new neighboring town.

To say CO-82 is scenic is a wretched understatement. I’ve spent so much time on Fremont Pass (between Leadville and I-70/Copper Mountain) that I forgot how gorgeous passes can be. The road to Independence is winding, forest-lined, and right in the middle of a beautiful valley. Rushing rivers, canyons, and completely epic mountain views line the road. I wasn’t really that tired when we approached the first switchback, but my crotch HURT and the steepness of the switchbacks was terrifying. [I still don’t understand the steep/steepness deep/depth conundrum, despite how much time I spend thinking about it].

I’d never done a mountain pass on a bike before, and I’ve discovered it’s much like ascending a fourteener…you always think you’ve gone further than you have, you always think there’s less left to go than there is, and most of the time you can’t actually see where the route goes in the future (so you spend a lot of time thinking about it). At first I had a can’t stop-won’t stop mentality and I somehow thought I could bust ass up THE WHOLE PASS without slowing or stopping…but I think each time you turn into a new switchback, it’s like realizing you’re on a false summit, and I’m not going to lie my friends I slowed down and took two breaks during that ascent. It felt great though. Someone spray painted encouraging things along the road for cyclists…YOU CAN DO IT!.

Yeah it was a lot of work but trucking up the final ascent to the pass felt light and triumphant. At this point (much like on fourteeners also) I was thinking “the hardest part is over” but that was not at all the case.

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In most endurance sports, you can plan to race twice the mileage you’ve been training. The 80 miles (yes, 80) we ended up doing for the round trip was definitely more than twice my previous high mileage. I hadn’t written the last post yet, about the physiology of endurance, but I knew well enough to eat as much as I could before I got too hungry and drink more than I could stand [here’s a fun fact-if you drink solely to thirst you’ll be about 70% hydrated. Most studies agree that your body can still operate very well at 70%, and that at the end of the session you can catch back up]. I still had to take a few breaks though. By the time we got to 24 my vag hurt so much I could barely put it on the seat anymore, and now my shoulders felt like they could barely support my torso on the handlebars. I think we had about 15 miles to go at this point. Uphill.

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So here’s what I mean about another person helping you push past your limits. It would not have occurred to me to ride 80 miles on Monday, let alone in our mountains and up a pass, because 80 is so far beyond my comfort zone. But because my dad asked me to, I said yes and attempted it the best I could. And we made it. From Leadville to the top of Independence Pass and all the way back home (for pizza, fries, and Cokes). I don’t know if I even believed I could do it until we were ascending, but I went for it anyway. My dad literally rode circles around me. The whole thing was such an eye-opener; I surpassed what I believed to be my limits running and climbing in the mountains in the past year to such an extent that I stopped believing I have them. But now I can see that it’s not full circle-I still see limitations in myself when faced with different types of barriers. Friends, this is a new frontier.

Bicycle Commuting & Touring (loves, hates, fears)

LOVES:

Fresh air
Sunshine
Front row parking anywhere and everywhere
Elevating my fitness baseline
Human powerered
Downhills
Uphills too
Accomplishment
Alone time
No technology
Chatting with other cyclists and pedestrians
The views!
All the weird little things you get to see and hear

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HATES:

Cranky drivers
Stop lights
Being exhausted
Being hungry and still having to ride
Uphills 😉
Stopping
When people in cars or on street corners are smoking while I’m waiting at a light
People who don’t understand bike lanes
People who steal bikes or things off of your bike
That you have to carry everything with you
When all of my clothes and shoes are soaked because it rained for a few days

FEARS:

People who don’t understand bike lanes
People who steal bikes or things off of your bike
Cranky drivers
That I won’t make it home
That it’s going to hail
That my foot won’t catch the pedal when I take off
That my crankset will lock up when I’m on a steep uphill and I’ll go careening back down
Chain breaking
When you mess up fixing a flat and the new tube goes flat again

What are yours?

Training (and psychology or something, probably)

You guys know I’ve been up to a lot of business lately. And by business, I mean activities. As I’ve been planning my upcoming amazing trips, I’ve realized that there’s a couple doozies coming up fast and in addition to the things I’m already training for, I have some areas to step up. It’s got me to thinking about the difference between working out (for the sake of working out), training for competition, and training to do epic shit.

I’ve been involved in competitive sports for basically ever, with maybe a 2 year reprieve after I stopped racing (road running) after college and before I picked up roller derby. Training for competitive sports is a discipline and an obligation. Sometimes, it’s awesome. As long as I’ve had something to work for, I’m able to train (even if I don’t always like it). But, like I say all the time, I road run to support my trail racing habit. And it’s exactly that. Most of my training for running is on the road, and it sucks. I would never be like “I’m going to crush 10 miles on the ROAD!” it’s more like oh dear god, 10 miles. 10 monotonous, repetitive motion injury, joint shaking miles that make me question my commitment to long distance running in general (more on this later). But I still do it.

I’ve never been one for working out. When I’m at the height of intense training for something, I can really crush a work out. And yeah, I like it, and it feels good. I’m never going to question the amazing effects of endorphins, et al. But I can not bring myself to work out for the sake of working out. Plenty of people do, it’s awesome, because exercise is really important for your health and not every human is willing and able to commit their lives to physical endeavors. I teach a spin class once a week and the beautiful souls who attend that class, I tip my hat to them. No music in the world would make me work that hard just to be healthy.

What!?  So many miles!

What!? So many miles!

So I’ve been keeping track of my bicycle commuting mileage on a calendar all month, without doing anything with it (like adding it up) and when I realized the other day that I MUST start training for my bike tours, I added it up. I ride 70-100 miles a week, and that’s mainly getting to classes. I don’t think I entered in when I ride to a restaurant for dinner or something, and I usually walk to the store. I was pretty impressed. Although with the Mt Evans trip (50 miles by bicycle, from Denver to Echo Lake, then summit Mt. Evans, then ride the 50 back) looming, I need to increase mileage by a lot. Something about planning and committing to this training feels very different. I rode an extra 30 miles yesterday, and it felt amazing. I haven’t been riding much outside of commuting lately, so that was probably part of it. But it was more than that. It wasn’t an obligation. It was a commitment to become stronger so I could live a stronger life. There’s been a tone of falsity in my race training lately, and that’s what it is. I consider that training obligatory so I can race hard and obtain a good time and all the glory that comes with competition. Whereas, training to walk and ride mountains; that feels very authentic and like I’m working to be better.

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles...get better sunglasses, Sarah.  And wear a MF helmet!

Yeah, this is how I ride training miles…get better sunglasses, Sarah. And wear a MF helmet!

How do I bring this into my race training?

Updates and coming up:
Monday Long’s (this should be 3/20 and my last winter ascent of the season, I hear the conditions up there are actually still WINTER)
6/11 Mt. Evans
July 2-6 Wanderlust Festival in Aspen
July & August Nolan’s Fourteeners 100 miles backpacking, bicycle tour to Estes via Peak to Peak Highway
Breakdancing: still working on the same two moves but they’re getting better!
Ashtanga: finally getting back on track