Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The MS 150 - Day 2

Getting a hotel instead of camping in the continuous rain overnight was the best thing we could have ever done. Awaking at 5:00 a.m. and seeing the huge puddles in the parking lot, but blue skies to the west and some much needed sunshine was a welcome experience. We gathered our stuff up and took the shuttle back to the starting line, hoping today's ride would be better than yesterday.

We got started about 6:30 and climbed up and out of Colorado Springs heading towards Canon City. The legs felt decent, but my shoulders and neck were pretty sore from the death grip I had on the bars trying to stay upright the day before. We breezed past the first rest stop and worked our way up to the 2nd rest stop in pretty good time. I had gapped Sarah out a bit on the climbs so I hopped off and took a quick pic of here speeding down the road.

We grouped back up and for the first time in two days, we were able to sit in the draft of each other. Working together we made good time heading towards lunch, and the weather continued to hold.

We hit the lunch stop around 10 a.m., which normally would be a really early lunch but we were quite ready for it. As we sat eating lunch we talked about what was ahead. We had knocked out 40 of the 50 miles before the optional Royal Gorge route, so in just another 10 miles we'd be in Canon City and we were in no risk of missing the 1 p.m. Royal Gorge route cutoff time. So after consuming some sandwiches, we did a quick tire check and headed off.

The 10 miles out of Florence into Canon City were a slog. The food was good going down, but combined with the amount we had just eaten and the steady climb out of Florence, it was sitting pretty heavy on us. We just turned the cranks at a steady, easy pace as we worked our way to Canon City. I jumped off the front and motored into Canon City a little ahead of Sarah, needing to find a rest stop in a hurry. I had forced myself to take in a lot of fluids at lunch, and my bladder was feeling the effects. We regrouped on the edge of Canon City, where we contemplated what we had left in the tank versus what was left of the course.

I felt good enough that I was sure that I wanted to try the Gorge loop, after all that was what I came to see. Sarah took a little time to regroup and then decided we'd continue on. As we were resting up, the volunteer group posted a warning that a T-Storm was being forecasted in the Gorge area around 1 p.m., which would be about the time we should arrive. I really, really didn't want to ride in the soaking rain again, but thought maybe we'd get lucky and beat the storm today. So I asked some people around about what the road ahead was like and got the following response:

"About 6 miles of flat, then some climbing"

Well that person was a huge liar. I'm not sure we had 6 miles of flat on the entire course, and especially not heading from Canon City to the Royal Gorge. We did a steady, grinding 4-5% grade climb out of Canon City. The climb went on and on with no end in sight. A steady stream of bikers in front and behind us kept us going, and it seemed everyone was suffering quite a bit.

Finally we reached the apex of the long grinder out of Canon City, and saw the Royal Gorge signage on the roadside. Perfect pic opportunity.

A huge downhill followed the picture taking, then another rest stop. Mumblings of "The Wall" climb were heard and I thought to myself "Finally, we get to climb this 'Wall' and get to the Gorge." but alas there was still more to ride before the infamous "Wall" section would present itself. After another 4% grinding climb for about 5 or 6 miles, we hit the last rest stop. I was assured at this rest stop that the final climb, The Wall (a 10% grade for 1.5 miles) was just ahead. Finally I would get to this notorious climb....

Sarah took off in front on the downhill as I called Jill to try and give her an update. Shortly after the road went from down to up, I realized I was finally at the penultimate climb of the ride. The Wall was certainly steep, and the initial section may be the steepest part of it all. I stood and turned the pedals and felt surprisingly good as I ascended. I was bound and determined to ride this climb without stopping or walking, even though the majority of the people I passed had resorted to pushing their bikes up.

One by one I would focus on the next person up the road and reel them in. I probably passed 50 people on this climb alone, but as I neared the top I could hear the volunteers cheering and ringing their cowbells. I had a fever and the only cure was more cowbell. I came around the corner and heard a spectator yell "its the top of The Wall". Those are the sweetest words I've ever heard in my life, and I jumped up out of the saddle and hammered the final 100 yards out in fine style. I even got a "now that's a strong finish" from someone in the crowd. Finally cresting the apex, I cruised down to the gates of the Royal Gorge where I waited for Sarah.

Sarah came down the road, seemingly very thankful to be done with The Wall for good. We took a bit of a breather, snapped a couple pics and then headed on to see what we'd ridden all this way to see. Finally the Royal Gorge was upon us.

Just before the bridge:

Sarah riding across the Royal Gorge:

Its a long way down...

Of course with the pleasure came more pain, as the climb out of the Royal Gorge wasn't easy. I took off on the climb, hoping to make it to Highway 50 where I could call Jill and get her headed our way. We were pushing our luck as a violent looking storm was chasing us down and making good time. We could heard the thunder and see the rain, so I pushed on leaving Sarah behind to ride her own pace.

My attempt to be the hero and have Jill & the dogs waiting for us at Highway 50 was ultimately foiled by a dead cellphone battery. I had just enough juice to get connected with Jill before my phone died. Well so much for that. Thankfully Sarah managed to make her way up to the Highway 50 intersection pretty quickly and her phone actually had charge. We called up Jill and told her to come get us. We still had 10 miles to go, almost all of which was downhill but the thought of being soaked in the rain just before the ride home was too much. So yeah I guess we did sag the final section, but considering it was all downhill in the rain I feel very good about that decision. We had ridden every mile up to that point, and had seen the big payout so I was very comfortable calling in the sag wagon and skipping a rainy downhill ride back into Canon City.

The hero of the day, Jill arrived just in time. The storm was right on top of us, but we got loaded up and on our way just in time. We actually took 3 other riders with us as they were worried about the storm as well, so 6 people, 2 dogs, and 5 bikes in my truck as we raced into Canon City as the rainstorm unleashed itself on us.

So Day 2 ended with 77 miles with over 5,200 feet in climbing. Another brutal day on the bike, but so much more manageable due to the good weather.

Totals for the 2 day ride:
158.15 miles
11,447 feet climbed

MotionBased.com GPS Analysis Link

The Elevation Graph (Where did that 15 mile downhill come from? It sure didn't feel like 15 miles of downhill)...

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