“One of the fitness standards that I set for myself a long time ago,” I said to Tori, “was that on any given day, I could bike 200 miles. I guess this would be a real test of that.”
Indeed, as a side effect of a high-mileage year for running, I’ve had the lowest-mileage year for biking ever since I started doing long-distance cycling events 17 years ago. I’ve actually run three times more than I’ve biked this year distance-wise. The number of times I have pedaled could be counted on my digits; my long ride in 2010 was a mere 40 miles.
But since the summer is winding down and the amount of daylight hours is decreasing, I figured I’d better squeeze in a 200-miler now to continue my annual double-century streak. Besides, I figured it would be a good way to whip me back into cycling shape. I call it the shock-and-awe approach.
Augmenting this new training regimen was that the ride I chose to do was not exactly flat for a simple pedal, coast and cruise. I decided to join the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club for its Peak-to-Peak 300km Brevet, which was only 187 miles but I figured I coiuld easily tack 13 miles onto it to achieve my desired distance. But I only realized a couple days before that this was a particularly hilly brevet, with almost 11,000 feet of climbing—most of which would occur within the first 90 miles.
At the 5:00am start, temperatures were tolerable and 18 of us rolled out of Louisville and headed towards the mountains. The first 18 miles had a few rollers, but after that we were steadily climbing through Coal Canyon towards the Peak-to-Peak Highway, the namesake of this brevet (time-certified tour).
My climbing legs were, frankly, AWOL because of my lack of training but also due to my left knee which somehow got tweaked around Mile 15. The “my knee joint is separating” feeling was uncomfortable enough to prevent me from pulling up and pulling back on the pedals. My ability to ascend was therefore about as great as a couch potato overfed with Doritos and overdosed on episodes of The Biggest Loser.
Fortunately, no stretch going through Coal Canyon, Nederland or the Peak-to-Peak highway was I-wanna-walk steep, but the climbs were long. About 80-90% of the distance between Miles 18 and 90 went skyward, meaning that the riding was a slow grind and patience was of utmost importance. Some of the downhills warranted a parachute, featuring 10 mph hairpins. At least the scenery was classic alpine and gorgeous enough for Amsel Adams to paint.
By Mile 70, my motto was “I really want to go down.” No, not to take a spill, but to start descending. By Mile 90 in Glen Haven, I finally got my wish.
At Glen Haven I stopped a little longer than usual—about 10 minutes in this case—but was able to refuel with ice cream and a Coke. I never resort to cola unless I am fatigued to the point of moaning, so this gives you an idea of how exhausted I was. But it worked its magic and I was able to hammer for the next 30 miles. Crouching into an aero tuck on Highway 34 just out of Estes Park, I whizzed by another rider and then kept tempo for the next 20 miles.
“Man, I couldn’t believe how fast you were going,” the rider, Brett, later told me.
“Yeah, I guess really wanted to get off that highway,” I replied. “I can go pretty well on the flats. Too bad I’m unable to climb anything today.”
Brett and I rode together towards the plains east of the Front Range, including areas where the route sheet was sketchy and error-filled with missing turns and incorrect distances. But we never got lost and we rolled into the checkpoint (a convenience store) in Platteville at Mile 142 together.
After lingering there for to chow down a tuna sandwich and imbibe a Pepsi, I was out on my own and heading southwest to the start/finish in Louisville. Twenty miles later, I caught up to riders Steve and John. I was leading them towards the last checkpoint when John shouted out, “Hey, where are you going? The checkpoint is here!”
I was pretty sure we still had another mile to go because of what the route sheet said. I started to protest but then realized that John knew what he was talking about. You see, he was the organizer of the ride and creator of the route.
Steve, John and I then rode in together, finishing at about 7:10pm. Eight people had turned in their time cards before us, so we finished about mid-pack. Considering the complete lack of cycling-specific training this year, I declared the ride a success.
But there was still the business of going an extra 13 miles. I managed to ride 3 extra before the start so I only had to tack on 10 miles after the brevet. I decided to do this in the safety of familiar surroundings after I drove home. Riding three laps around my neighborhood, I reflected upon how it still seems I am indeed am capable of riding 200 miles on any given day.
But now that my running season is basically over, I think I will try to bike more anyhow, thank you.
- 187 + 13 = 200 miles
- 5:00am start, 7:10pm finish -> 14.2 hours for the 300km brevet + 1 hour for the extra 13 miles = 15.2 hours
- Average speed: 13.8 mph rolling, 13.2 mph overall
- Map (PDF, 42 KB), Route (PDF, 246 KB)
(Scale of 1-5, 5 = best)
- Scenery: 4
- Support/Organization: self-supported
- Food: self-provided
- Weather: 4
- Relative Difficulty: 3
- Overall Rating: 4