Saturday, July 18, 2015

Triple Bypass - 2015

OK; first off, we're not talking about the cardiac type of triple bypass - well, maybe we are; but at least in a good way.

The Triple Bypass is a bike ride in the mountains of Colorado from Evergreen to Vail (actually now Avon) in it's 27th year. It consists of riding 120 miles over three (and a quarter) mountain passes for just under 11,000 ft of climbing. And it's all 'at altitude' - you start and never really dip below 7500ft; and if you don't think altitude plays a factor, especially when cresting Loveland Pass at just under 12,000 ft, then here - let me see how well you run around the block sucking through a straw.

A Bit 'O History:
I had actually ridden this ride 4 times prior. Originally the ride ended in Vail at an even century. But that was extended (I think around the second or third time I rode it) by 20 miles with a change in route, bumping over Swan Mountain Pass (not really a pass IMHO) and moving the finish line to Minturn (if I recall right) and then Avon. I have a ton of great memories and stories of that ride - but that's for another time.

I hadn't done this ride though in 12 years. In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I've ridden a hundred miles since then. This thought occurred to me when I signed up by the way. But I had wanted to ride 'The Triple' (as we call it here) for just about as long now, and with the digger my shoulder injury took on my triathlon season, this seemed like just the mid-season motivation I needed.

To be honest, I wasn't that worried about the distance for a number of reasons:

1. I've ridden lots of 60-70 mile rides over the last decade, and done lots and lots of climbing... lots of climbing. And I *like* climbing.

2. I've been riding something like 25 years now. That kind of history pays dividends and you can rest on those laurels a bit.

3. I've learned that 'The Triple' has a lot to do with *how* you ride it. You have to ride it smart and knowing the course, how to mentally break it up, and knowing how you should (and generally do) feel at each point goes a long way. Experience counts.

So after I clicked the registration submit button, I knew I had to just start logging some longish climbing rides under me and I'd be just fine.

Starting Out and Squaw Pass:
Yes, I'm aware I put it on upside down..
well... at least now I am.
As the morning approached I was pretty jazzed. I hadn't been able to convince Q-Man to join (who I've been riding with as long as I've been riding and has accompanied me on 3 of the 4 other Triples), and I hadn't really worked too hard to find another partner for the ride. To be honest, I was actually looking forward to spending some alone time in the saddle. There's a lot of cobwebs you can blow out over 120 miles and I've never had an issue riding solo.

So the morning of I loaded up and drove up to Evergreen all by myself. I knew quite a few folks I was hoping to see on the route, but not having a time I had to meet anyone was pretty chill.

I rolled away from the car around 5:40 AM or so (it's best to leave early to beat potential afternoon thunder showers) and spun a couple miles to the start of the ride. Got my wrist band checked and was on my way.

Heading up Squaw Pass. Beautiful, quiet morning.
The first climb is about 15 miles up Squaw Pass. It's a respectable climb and very scenic. And with a bit of taper you feel like a million dollars. I knew this and purposefully rode it conservatively, checking the power meeting every once in a while and reeling things back in when I got too spunky. Going too hard here will come back to haunt you later in the ride.

Saw some teammates and friends up the ride. Rode with them for a bit to chat. Then we'd wish each other luck and be on our separate ways. I'm not anti-social by any means (ask around), but I was really digging the quiet and riding in and out of stranger's conversations - hearing the excited chatter that comes with fresh legs.

Squaw is a great pass. It's a steady climb with a false summit; which if you know is there is a nice respite from the grind. If you don't know it's a false summit, then it can be a bit of a cruel joke to realize you still have quite a bit more to the top.

I've never stopped at the aid station at the top. You're only about 90 minutes into a long day at that point and it's also a bit of a melee. So as usual I cautiously rolled on by and started the chilly descent to Idaho Springs.

In retrospect I would have enjoyed the descent more if I had stopped to put on my wind jacket. I think I partly was just a bit nervous about that descent and wanted to get it behind me. It's pretty twisty with some whoop-dee-doos in the pavement here and there through some of the corners. But mostly it's just a bit crowded because the miles haven't yet strung the throngs out. And you get all sorts on that descent. Some can hold their line, others? Not so much.

But it all went fine. My shoulders were stiff as it flattened for the last miles into Idaho Springs and I was pretty chilled almost to shuddering, but a few out of the saddle stretch sprints combined with a sunny day that broke through the trees and I was fine.

Rolling through Idaho Springs was awesome. To my surprise the streets were packed with people that had come out to cheer the riders on. It was like I was in a race and the people were awesome. Stopped briefly at the 40 mile aid station and was quickly rolling again. Next stop, Loveland Basin Ski Area for lunch at mile 60 - the *halfway* point.

The Road to Loveland Basin and Feeling 'Good':
The climb from Georgetown to Loveland Basin is (from past experiences and this one) the *hardest* part of the ride. In 14 miles you climb about 2000 vertical feet. It's long and grueling and just wears on you. I don't know why and have never figured it out, but it's been that way every year I've ever ridden it, and this year was no exception.

The ride used to go onto the freeway from Silverplume to the basin for about 8 miles of harrowing, smog inhaling fun. Now there is a beautiful path through the forest that you take instead. But the constant rolling and twisting of the path had me wondering if maybe the steady climb up on the freeway shoulder wasn't better. But eventually the trees broke and I popped out on the final frontage road to the base of Loveland Pass - and lunch.

I'm happy.
Sun is just in my eyes.
Loveland Basin Ski Area is technically the 'halfway' point at 60 miles, but from an effort perspective, I know that 2/3 of the hard work is behind you. That's because there is actually only a 4 mile 'kicker' over the top of Loveland pass. It's a little steep in sections, but I know how fast it goes by if you just put your head down.

I also knew from experience how I generally feel at this point - crappy. And that helps you roll on. I texted Paige (who was trailing in the car with Luke, stopping at a bunch of fun adventures along the way to pass the time - on stand-by if I had a mechanical or my shoulder started really hurting). She asked if I was feeling 'good'. I texted back that I felt about how I expected I would feel, and while I wouldn't call it 'good', I felt strong about the rest of the ride going well.

I was also a bit bonky, but I knew some food would quickly fix that. Especially food of the simple carbs variety. I had planned on carb-ing my way through the ride. It works for me - although I do get a tad of a sugar hangover by the end of the day. No GI issues, but it's just not food I enjoy eating.

Rolling out for the last kick over the pass I felt happy with just a bit of cramping in my left calf that I knew would subside once it realized we had a ways to go still. "Shut up Legs".

Rolling up Loveland Pass - the 4 mile kick in the pants.

Top of Loveland Pass
12,000 feet. Time to put on the jacket.
Descent of Loveland Pass, Swan 'Mountain' and Frisco:
The descent down Loveland Pass to Dillon is actually very scenic and pleasant. They had shut down traffic for the most part and the pack had strung out enough that it took some nerves out of the equation. 

After about 12 miles of fast descent, you hang a hard left to bump over Swan Mountain (which is not really a mountain by any stretch of the imagination). It actually felt good to stretch the legs out on the climb and wind back up again. And the road down to Frisco was nicely paved and fast with little to no car traffic (and few bonehead riders). So I opened it up a bit through the corners.

The Frisco aid station is one I just usually want to get through. In the past we've actually just found a restaurant with a patio, sat down and had a nice lunch. But today it was just me and I wanted to get on with it.

The Road to Vail Pass and the Final Climb:
I'm not a huge fan of this part of the ride. It's scenic, but it's mostly bike path, and there is a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic. Not just Triple riders, but also tourists out having a nice day and wondering why there are so many bikes. Everyone is really nice, but it can get a bit congested with families walking bikes up little hills and people talking on cell phones wandering aimlessly on the path. Time to chill and enjoy the views. But not being able to zone out makes the ride to Copper a bit of a slog.

When you get to the base of Vail, you actually only have about 6 more miles of climbing to go to the summit. The westbound climb is gradual and really beautiful and scenic. And it's all on bike path far away from the freeway that winds on elevated posts far overhead. I always think it's futuristic looking, the freeway high above - I don't know why.

Last part of the Vail Pass climb.
Happy, happy, happy.
My power had dropped a bit at this point. Climbing muscles were saying they were done. C'mon legs, just a bit more and we can descend to Vail. Then it's the 40K 'time trial' to Avon. It's at this point that I know it's all going to be good and I'm going to be at the finish before I know it.

Tiki bar at Vail Summit.

Nobody to chat to - time to descend and wrap this up.
Vail Pass Descent and the Time Trial to the Finish:
The Descent down the east side of Vail pass is fast, fast, fast. They had paved the road that you pop out onto from the path that takes you to East Vail and it was awesome. Trees, no cars, no cross streets, just descending as fast as you want to go - and I wanted to go fast. I did scrub the brakes when I started seeing over 40 mph. I've descended at 50+ mph in my past, but I'm just past that point in my life. I'm not saying bad things can't happen if you go down at 40 mph, but it doesn't get better as you go faster - so there.

The final 40K or so is slightly downhill to flat from East Vail to Avon. The bike lane is wide and in good shape. The traffic is light. It's always been a favorite part of the ride for me:
1. At this point you know you're going to make it.
2. You start using different muscles so you feel fresher and your power comes back up.
3. It's fast, fast fast. I was soloing at 22 - 26 mph the whole way.

Which brings me the point that I solo'd the whole ride. No drafting. Drafting can make a big difference in time if you have the right crew, but there were two kinds of pace-lines I saw:

The first was the people that while well-intentioned, had no clue as to how to pace-line. I'm not being a snob, and I'm not going to get into specifics. But when folks can't keep an even 'effort' over small rollers and descents, it can be more distracting than it's worth to try and work with them. Shifting constantly, sitting up, pulling too hard when they roll to the front and then not being able to hold a wheel when they roll off, tapping brakes instead of wind braking..... OK, I guess I did get into specifics.

The second type of pace lines I saw were guys that were strong and seemed to know what they were doing. But they were being unsafe. In a ride (this isn't a race) the intent of a pace line is to shelter the wind and create a fast but flowing train. A well run pace line in a ride like this should pass you like a flock of silent birds. It should look effortless. Instead, these second groups looked like someone had injected a bunch of yahoos with meth and turned them loose on bikes. All brute force, no finesse. Choppy, cutting back over and fragmenting when they almost took out oncoming traffic on the path. Causing cars to slam the brakes in round-abouts (which tourists already have enough trouble navigating). No thanks. I want my last 40K to be a strong, but calming effort. For fun, I'd let these guys string out for a half mile or so, then work to bridge to just a couple bike lengths away. Could have easily jumped on and done my share there fella's. Satisfied that I still 'had it' - I let them go and went back to my steady effort.

The Finish and Recovery:

On the last corner of the finish I heard someone call out my name. A friend of ours had recognized me as I was rolling by her. That's pretty good, I don't know that I was paying much attention to anything than just rolling on through.

We stopped after the finish line and chatted for a bit. It was fortuitous because my phone had died, so she was able to text Paige to let her know that I was there.

Was pretty happy to see that I had actually PR'd both my ride time (7:54) and total time (9:05) from the last time I had done this ride - 12 years younger!

Luke actually spotted me first, recognizing the Kompetitive Edge kit. I joke that with the arm and leg warmers I look like a Smurf. But I really do like this year's team kit a lot. The Peal Izumi fits great, it's super functional and as a bonus - very visible to a 7 year old. Solid in my book.

It was so great to see Paige and Luke at the finish after being alone for the whole day. Yeah, alone with a few thousand other riders, but alone in my thoughts just the same. It's nice to accomplish something like that and have your loved ones there waiting for you. I continue to feel #sodamnlucky every day of my life.

Grabbed some real food and my free Colorado Native beer. I just sat on the grass and kind of zoned out while I ate. Felt good to get something substantive in my stomach.

The clouds were rolling in so I took off the shoes and we walked (me barefoot) back to the car. Threw on some dry warm clothes and we did the uneventful drive back home.

That evening I sat around having a well deserved adult beverage in my compression boots. I felt surprisingly good - probably better than in all past Triples. In the coming days I would continue feeling good and recover well.

At Nationals last year
I really am grateful for everyone and everything that makes rides like this so easy. Paige taking the day and shuttling a toolkit and tubes just in case I need support or a rescue, and then meeting me at the finish line like that to drive me home. She is the most awesome chick I know - which is cool - 'cuz we're hitched.

A week post Triple
All that work soaking in and paying off on the climbs.

And the support I get from Ryan and Drew at KE - getting my bike perfectly tuned up and helping me with my sports addiction overall is awesome. 

But also the support and friends on the Kompetitive Edge team. I've met so many great friends over the past couple of years with the team. It's always great to see a familiar KE kit and high five each other at race venues or hang out in a chair in the team tent after a race and just chat. And the group rides push me to work hard and be a little competitive than I would riding alone. #kompete #live2thrive