I told you yesterday that this was going to be a testing day. It did not disappoint. We did pretty well finishing the 83+ miles in six hours, climbing 7572 feet, but I feel like I spent the day inside a cement truck.
Everything is sore: legs from the climbing, shoulders from the descending, arms from the rough roads and neck from all of it. We spent several miles on dirt/sandy trail (which some people opted to walk) and another several miles on stupidly bumpy road. The trail was admittedly fantastically beautiful running along a river that led us to Aspen. As we came into town I asked a cyclist next to me “Where are we?” He laughed and looked at me like I was the village idiot. In the end, he never answered me. I asked another cyclist who did answer me and set me straight that we were in the special, rarefied air that is Aspen. Nice town. I wonder what a house costs?
From Aspen it was up, and up, and up; ultimately, to Independence Pass at 12,095 feet. Wow, does the air get thin above 10,000. The only thing you can do is pedal as fast and hard as your lungs and heart will let you. I did fine and generally felt good all the way to the top, but there is no avoiding falling into a little puddle of misery.
Given the training I’ve done over the years no one should feel too bad for me or impressed. You should be impressed by some of the people with impossible body shapes or ages who are completing this ride. There are people doing this ride that you would NEVER pick out in a line-up as participating in something like Ride the Rockies. There riders who weigh well over 220 pounds – loose pounds. There are riders who might weigh 90 pounds. There are people well (well) into their 60’s. To paraphrase the cycling announcer Paul Sherwin, these people brought a “suitcase of courage.” They simply start early and keep going. As I write this at 8:00pm, riders are still making their way to the finish. They are the definition of indefatigable.
The finish in Leadville – the highest city in country at around 10,000 feet – was torturous and certainly the most difficult of the day. After all the climbing we had done, we faced a steady 1,000 foot climb into town, needled by a headwind of course. We are all spent. My friend from Marin, Terry, stood next to a gentleman who had just finished and was now facing all the logistical requirements of RTR: park bike, find bags, perhaps set up tent, perhaps find bus, get food, find friends, etc. He centered himself, stood very still and exclaimed out load to no one but himself, “Concentrate.”
Today, we all find ourselves devoid of wit, find simple math difficult and even conversations taxing. It is has become somewhat primal where life centers around food, shelter and warmth. Speaking of warmth, it’s supposed to be below freezing tomorrow morning when we start our 93 mile sojourn. Brrrr.
P.S. For those playing the calorie game at home, it was 6500 burnt today. I haven’t eaten dinner yet and given the brain runs on glucose, I can’t take responsibility for making no sense.