Well, another goal has come and gone. I heard about the Triple Bypass ride several years ago and have always had it in my mind as one I wanted to do. Like a moth to flame, I’m drawn to long and difficult rides. This one would be 120 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing over 3 Colorado mountain passes. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the last two years had taken their toll big-time on my body. I only managed to get in one ten mile ride all of last year! Combined with biggie-size everything food wise, and GALLONS of Pepsi to fuel the 100+ hour work weeks I was putting in – I was a long way from being in the type of shape I was used to in the past. Happily, things have changed. With tons of support from my family, encouragement from co-workers, and some other changes at work, I’ve been able to make a bit of a turnaround. I’ve been riding a lot this year (compared to the past anyway – always wanting more) and feeling great. No Pepsi (or soda of any kind) since Feb, and I’ve been able to reduce my work hours to something a little more reasonable (zero would be nice, though…haha). Anyway, I’m 34 pounds lighter now, feeling great, and riding strong. I’ve had the Triple Bypass in my sights for a few months now as my ‘comeback’ goal. Here’s how it went.
I woke up around 4:30 Saturday morning to a steady drizzle – great… Tempted to go back to bed. It rained the whole time on the drive to the starting area, but let up once I parked. Everything was very soggy from the night before – good thing it wasn’t a mountain bike ride!
I parked a little ways from the start since there were so many cars (3,000 riders!!). So I never did get to see the official start line. I rode down a bike path and intersected the course before it crossed Evergreen Parkway. Once we crossed the road it was time to climb – now 6:00 in the morning, ugh… The next 13 miles gained around 3,000 feet on the way up to Squaw Pass. During these kind of events, I have a tendency to start out too fast and get caught up in the excitement of the day, etc. This time, I rode pretty conservatively knowing there was a long way to go. Having a heart-rate monitor really helped with that because I was able to keep my effort very consistent and averaged 155bpm for the first climb. I started off wearing a jacket, but removed it after only about 5 minutes.
I stocked up on water and food at a rest station at the top of the pass, then for the next 15 miles bombed downhill. I was shivering HARD at times, the temperature was only in the 40’s. Throw in a little crosswind and it made for an exciting descent. We took a hard left at Idaho Springs, then the route would follow I-70 closely for the next several miles. There were quite a few people gathered in Idaho Springs ringing bells and cheering us on, it was pretty cool. This is when we met up with a pretty stiff headwind that would be our companion for most of the day. I wanted to push hard at least once to test myself and see how the legs were, so I started steadily increasing my pace. At one point I think I had 12 people in a line behind me catching a draft. I was feeling ok, but not great (definitely not an early morning rider). After a couple of miles of hard and steady riding, there was only one guy left with me. I swung off and he came through and we continued like that for a while longer. It was a good way to make up some ground and pass the time. Before I knew it, we were rolling into Georgetown for the next water stop. The course had been uphill, but only worked out to gain about a thousand feet over the last 10 miles. G-town is where the real climbing started. From here, it would be another 3,300 feet and 17 miles to the top of Loveland Pass. This is the section I was the most worried about because it was so long and I hadn’t ever ridden any of it like I had other parts of the route.
It was cool to see where the route actually went as we took a combination of bike paths and frontage roads that parallel I-70. I’d often caught glimpses of these when driving by, but never saw how to connect them into a continuous route until now. At about 5 miles from the tunnel, we actually merged onto the freeway and rode the shoulder from there to the turnoff for highway 6 at Loveland ski resort. Nothing like riding at bike at 10,000 feet gasping for air while breathing in diesel fumes from trucks that were passing a couple of feet away – that part was not the most fun… I was surprised to see the lunch stop at the ski resort (I was thinking it would be at the top of the pass). I’m definitely more in favor of stopping at the top of a climb, rather than the base of one – couldn’t pass up a sandwich, though… Up to this point my legs had been aching big-time. It didn’t seem to be slowing me down too much, but I was getting really tired of the feeling. I think they were sore from jumping on the trampoline with the kids a couple of days earlier. I walked over to the medical tent, and expecting them to be fully stocked with pain reliever-type products I asked where the candy dish full of Advil was. We don’t have Advil… Motrin? No, sorry. Tylenol?? Don’t have that, either… I walked away shaking my head. I guess it might be a liability thing – if they’re seen as ‘dispensing’ medication?? Anyway, the sore legs would have to stay that way for the time being.
The climb from the ski resort to the pass was a tougher one for me. It was very consistently graded (5.2% for 4 miles), and hard to get started on immediately after lunch. I tend to do better on climbs with more variety and changes in slope, but managed to slog this one out. It was pretty cool to ride over the Continental Divide, which was also the high point of the ride at 11,992’. The weather was broken clouds and had managed to stay fairly cool without raining which was nice. The wind was a constant factor, though. From the top, another 12 miles of fast descending awaited. I took it pretty easy on the downhill – I couldn’t believe how fast some people were going while riding with their hands on the hoods or otherwise nowhere near the brakes. I’m not a stranger to high speed on a bike (hit 64mph in my younger days), but some of these guys were scaring me! I must be getting old…
After the descent, we went around the back side of the reservoir at Dillon. This was a really neat section because they closed off the westbound lane of the road to cars for several miles around the lake. We were able to hog the road and have a good time. I think it inspired several people (including me) to ride harder and push the pace while not having to worry about traffic. Thankfully, my legs felt much better at this point (75 miles) and the soreness was finally gone. From here on out I felt more like my normal self on the bike. This section included several short hills which were fun to jam on.
At the southwest corner of the lake, we hopped on a bike path that we would remain on all the way to Vail. The section behind Breckenridge was the best path I have ever been on. It was plenty wide and painted with a center stripe, and veered away from the road to go through a really nice pine forest. Very cool riding. We got back to I-70 at the Frisco exit, then stayed on the path which parallels the freeway from there to Vail. Things were pretty strung out by this point, and I ended up riding alone for a few miles until we got to Copper Mountain. There were more riders bunched up on the climb to Vail Pass, but not too bad. A guy passed me at the bottom going at a good pace, so I hung back several yards and just matched his rate of speed. We ended up averaging 10mph for the climb and got it over with in 25 minutes. I felt better on that one than I had all day – never even needed my ‘granny’ gear. It felt REALLY good to get to the top of Vail Pass and know that it was all downhill to the finish from there (about 25 miles to go).
The headwind was still very strong going through Vail, and I pushed really hard on my own for several miles. Once I could smell the finish line, there was no holding back. A group of about 20 riders caught me with 5 miles to go. I sprinted on to the back of the line and WHOOSH, away we went. It was awesome to be cruising at 25mph at the end of such a long ride and not even have to work that hard. We made a sharp turn into a park and then had about a mile of path to ride to the finish line. There were tons of people lining the path and cheering us on to the finsh. It was a great way to end the ride.
8 hours 21 minutes
14.3 avg speed
147 avg heart rate (181 max)
4,500 calories burned
All in all it was a great ride. I rode pretty conservatively and still felt like I had quite a bit left in me at the end. I think I need to shoot for 7.5 hours next year, who’s in??