Saturday, August 13, 2005

Colorado Training Camp – by Cam Kirkpatrick

This trip is always one of the highlights of the year for me. A change of scenery, climate and riding schedule is always very refreshing. The drive was pretty uneventful until I got into the beautiful mountains of Colorado. It usually takes about 7 or 8 hours to get from Denver to Durango, but the time goes by very quickly because I love the drive. My Dad drove up from Austin, TX, it’s kind of fitting that he join me on this epic trip every year as he is the one that got me into mountain biking.

Day 1 – July 14

I arrived in good ole Durango, CO around 2:30pm. I looked at my Dad and said hi, then I suited up for a ride at the Telegraph Trails. My Dad opted to chill in the room while I rode. I think he was probably pretty tired from his long drive from Austin, TX. The Telegraph Trails include the areas first wagon road in addition to some old communication lines that are still in place, a lot of history there. There is over 30 miles of wooded, hilly singletrack. You are either going up or down so you better have a set of good lungs otherwise the altitude will kick the crap out of you.
About 30 minutes into my ride I heard a rattling sound that I’ve only ever heard on TV. My first instinct was to look around to see where it was coming from. As I was rounding a corner, I saw out of the corner of my eye a brown rattlesnake coiled up and ready to whoop some ass. I thought about stopping to say hi, but he looked pretty pissed off so I kept riding. I hate snakes anyway, slimy, sneaky, shifty, @$^&!%$ little reptiles.
I got about three hours in at a fairly moderate effort and never rode the same trail twice, sweet! I was suffering a little from the altitude, but I always adjust pretty quickly.

Day 2 – July 15

I woke up at about 7:30, ate a box of cereal, drank a pot of coffee (from The Steaming Bean of course), shot the shit with my Dad and then suited up for my first epic of the camp. I did one of my all time favorite rides, on or off road. The road ride from Durango to Silverton is a tick over 50 miles and goes over two mountain passes. I do this ride out and back for a little over 100 miles of riding. The views are absolutely unreal, the roads can be pretty narrow, the climbs are epic with a seven mile climb (7% average gradient) out of Silverton, and the descents are screaming fast.
I could still feel the effects of the thin air a little, but it was better than yesterday. I was also a little dehydrated and didn’t feel that great during the latter half of the ride. I suffered throughout the ride but it was still a blast. I ended up climbing a total of 8200 feet, with a peak elevation of 11,000 feet. I did the ride in 5:40 at about a 17.7 mph average, my fastest on this ride so far. I guess that means that I am more fit than last year. Cool...

Day 3 – July 16

Woke up and went through the same routine as yesterday morning, as I will pretty much everyday while I’m out here. I did another one of my all-time favorite rides, this time on the dirt. One of the great things about Durango is that I never have to actually drive to any of the rides that I do. I left from the hotel and rode about 18 miles on pavement until the road turned to gravel and eventually into jeep road. The gravel/jeep road portion of the ride is about 12 miles. Portions of this road are incredibly steep reducing me to my ‘granniest’ of granny gears. Normally you wouldn’t think of a gravel road as being technical, however some of the steeper portions of this road are very technical due to large, loose rocks that are strewn about. The first 30 miles of the ride is pretty much a constant climb up to Kennebec Pass, which sits at about 11,600 feet. One of the fun parts about this climb is that I usually encounter a couple of ‘cattle cars’ full of tourists. They always look at me with about the same expression as a bunch of cows in a ….. cattle car. Apparently they’ve never seen a cyclist ride uphill. It took me about 2 ½ hours to get to Kennebec Pass, pretty much all climbing, only in Colorado…
Next is where the real fun begins, 21 miles of some of the most amazing singletrack in existence known as the Colorado Trail. There is a ton of bench cut track, if you happen to wonder off the trail you will end up at the bottom of Junction Creek canyon. That would pretty much suck so I would recommend keeping your tread on the trail. I could write for hours describing various parts if the Colorado Trail, I’ll spare you the boredom and instead refer you to a link on the web that contains a bunch of pictures. I didn’t take the pictures nor do I know who the knuckleheads are in the pictures.
Total ride time for the day was about 6:30, including some diversions up near Kennebec Pass.

Day 4 – July 17

I did a 3 hour recovery ride with my Dad today and rode on some roads that I had never ridden before. I always enjoy the rides with my old man, it’s usually at a fairly easy pace for me. He’s got about 20 years on me and has consequently slowed down a little. However, he used to be an expert master racer back in the day. After about two hours of riding we stopped at the best bakery in the U.S. simply called ‘Bread’. If you ever get to Durango, look this place up and go. You will not regret it, just ask Nathan Bartels. He goes to college in Durango and Bread is responsible for the 30 extra pounds of body mass that he brings back to Des Moines every summer.

Day 5 – July 18

I did the Durango to Silverton ride again, I couldn’t resist. I usually never do the same ride twice when I’m out here, but this ride is way too much fun to pass up. I felt great the entire ride, I was adequately hydrated, acclimated and fed. I ran into some cat from Albuquerque, NM that goes by the name of Cliff. He’s a semi retired physician that frequents Durango often. It was nice to have someone to talk to on such a long ride. I finished the ride in 5:32 at about 18.2 mph for an average, my fastest time yet. Did I mention that the descents are screaming fast? I love passing cars…

Day 6 – July 19

The Hermosa Creek Trail is one of the more popular trails in the Durango area. The trailhead is located about 15 miles north of Durango. The trail itself is nearly 20 miles of ascending and descending smooth-running singletrack beside the beautiful Hermosa Creek. While not overly technical, there are some off-camber sections of trail that look precipitously down to the creek. Complicated with roots and rocks, these sections lend an element of technicality not otherwise encountered. There are a number of creek crossings and the water is cold enough that you definitely want to keep your nether regions out of it. Both trailheads see enough use from ATV’s and horses that they can be pretty rough at times and made me wish that I had my full suspension bike with me. I think the entire ride was about 5 ½ hours long, including the 20 miles of pavement and gravel I rode to get to the trailhead and back to town. I got about 20 miles of pavement in addition to 40 miles of out and back singletrack, another epic ride…

Day 7 – July 20

Today was my last day in Durango, always a sad moment. I would kill to live out here, however the average household income in La Plata County is around $40,000 and the average home costs about $300,000. You do the math. My plan was to do the Kennebec Pass loop again and get back to the hotel and shower up before check out time. It took some persuasion, but I talked the desk clerk into extending my check out to 2pm. I took off around 7:30 and did the same ride up to Kennebec Pass and rode the Colorado Trail back to Durango. Words cannot describe how amazing this ride is. The epic climb, the singletrack, the scenery and the fragrant scent of the pines of the high mountains…. Totally unreal.
I got back to the hotel about 5 ½ hours later and found that the maids has already cleaned the room. Oh well, I took a shower anyway. Whoever had the room reserved is going to have to deal with a dirt coated bathtub, a dirty towel on the floor and a tainted toilet seat.
I packed the rest of my crap, made a few stops in town and headed out for Aspen where I hooked up with Nooner. There is a NORBA National at Snowmass this coming weekend. I’m looking forward to watching some pro’s put the hurt on each other.

Day 8 – July 21

Got up in the morning and went down to the hotel restaurant for the complimentary continental breakfast with Nooner. The hotel we stayed at was the type of place that the rich folk frequent. The employees are bona-fide professional ass-kissers. They serve on you hand and foot, it can get a little over bearing at times. I’m thankful that Nooner, his brother (Chewbacca), and expecially his mom let me crash in their room for free.
Nooner was planning to do the NORBA marathon this morning so we packed up the car and headed for Snowmass. His race started at 9 so about 20 minutes after they started I headed out for an easy lap on the same course. As expected, the course was amazing. It was a 25 mile lap and the racers were doing two laps. The course had an epic climb, sweet singletrack, some technical rocky sections and some amazing views of the valley.
After I finished my ride I wandered around the expo area and checked out some of the pro’s bikes. I began to drool uncontrollably, so I went down the hill to Snowmass village to try and regain my composure and wait for Nooner to finish his race. About 4:45 after the start, I finally found Nooner wandering around the finish area. He had one shoe on and the other was still clipped into his pedal. This guy gets about as many bad breaks as WWJ. He reminded me of a character from the Peanuts comic, ‘Pigpen Pete’. He had dirt all up and down his sides, his shorts were halfway down his crack with dirt/mud stuffed down his pants as well as underneath his jersey. After I fed him some water and Fig Noonans, I took him to the bike wash area and hosed him down.

Day 9 – July 22

Nooner and I broke out the road bikes and took off from the hotel to ride up Independence Pass. It is about a 19 mile climb to the top with slopes that kick up to about 8% in some areas. Nooner and I swapped pulls all the way to the top. I paced him as much as I could because he was still a little cooked from yesterday’s race. We got to the top in about 105 minutes and went straight down the back side, passing cars left and right, how sweet is that! We stopped about 38 miles into the ride for water. Nooner wasn’t feeling up to doing 100 today so he turned back. I continued on and turned around at 50 miles and headed back. I got to the top of Independence once again and saw Nooner crawling out from behind a big rock. He got to the top and decided to take a nap until I caught back up to him. We headed back down into Aspen, passing cars once again. My maximum speed, while coasting, was a little over 50 mph. What a rush! I had to bunny hop over a chipmunk at about 45 mph. The little shit probably saw me coming and wanted to kamikaze me into an endo.

Day 10 – July 23 – An epic day in Aspen

Nooner and I woke and inhaled some breakfast and got back to the room in time to watch Lance crush everybody on the final time trial of his career. After the TT, we headed out on our mountain bikes to do some exploring of the area. We headed up a gravel road that led to the top of Aspen Mountain. It was a 5 1/5 mile ride that climbed a total of about 3200 feet. It averaged out to about an 11% gradient. A lot of spots were so steep that I was once again reduced to my ‘granniest’ of granny gears. It was a tough climb and took about 80 minutes to get to the summit. Once again we were treated to some amazing views at the top. It was among the most beautiful views that I had ever been privy to viewing. The ride back down was pretty crazy, I spent a lot time on my brakes and had to reduce my speed considerably. I was afraid that my rims would accumulate so much heat from the friction that my tires might blow. While riding down some of the road, I remember looking at the steepness of some parts in a state of disbelief. I couldn’t believe that I was able to ride my bike up some of them. Once we got to the bottom we tooled around town on some of the city trails. We ended up riding for about 3 ½ hours then hit the showers. The NORBA pro’s were racing at 3 bells and we didn’t want to miss any of it.
Nooner, myself and Chewbacca got to Snowmass with about 15 minutes to spare. We found a prime viewing spot about midway up the initial climb and watched the start of the pro men’s and women’s races. As they went by, it was pretty obvious that there was some major suffering going on due to the steepness of the climb and the altitude. We then started our long hike to the top of the hill and got about halfway up and realized that we had no idea where the hell we were going. We wandered over to an area where a bunch of other people were and found out that one of the ski lifts to the top of the course was free. Chewbacca about ripped our arms out of our sockets when he heard this. So we tumbled back down the mountain to the start of the lift. We got to the top of the mountain and had to backtrack downward a little to get to the course. On our way down Chewbacca had a little too much momentum going and did an endo onto one of the gravel roads (we were on foot). He got pissed off again. I remember hearing somewhere that it is never a good idea to piss off a wookie…
We finally found a portion of the race course and it happened to be one of the more technical portions. It was really cool watching the pros fly over some pretty gnarly stuff. One dude broke his chain and stopped to fix it. I helped him out because I felt pretty bad for him, he was having a good race.
As the race progressed, we followed along the trail with the intent of following it to the finish. It started to cloud up and sprinkle a little and we didn’t think much of it. At one point while we were walking along the trail, the race leader (Geoff Kabush) about ran over Chewbacca. Chewie wailed out a primal scream and scurried up a tree and out of harms way. We were about 3 miles from the finish and all hell broke loose with the weather. The temperature had dropped from about the upper 80’s to the lower 60’s in a matter of minutes. The rain was coming down in sheets and it was hailing marble size hail. Shortly thereafter lightning started striking everywhere. We found the nearest shelter, the underside of some rich dudes deck, to wait the storm out. We could see the course from where we were and the trail had become a river. As racers would go by we would yell encouragement to them. One dude stopped dead in his tracks when he heard us yelling and bee-lined it for our shelter. We ended up waiting underneath the deck for about 90 minutes before Nooner ran out to get the van. He hitched a ride to the bottom and came back to pick us up. He had the furnace blasting when we got into the van and it felt so good. We were cold and wet, but in retrospect it was still a lot of fun.
It was an epic day, the last of many epic days this time around. Then I drove home, so sad…

Thanks for reading my long winded account of my training camp. I know it was a little on the lengthy side, but those that have ever experienced cycling in Colorado can understand that you cannot adequately describe in words the amazing experience of riding out there.

Next up is round 3 of the Psycowpath series at Ponca State Park in Nebraska and the Iowa state RR.

I’m out


1 comment:

Snake said...

Wish I was able to walk up a 7% gradient without having a heart attack... I'll have to work on that. You're amazing!