Last week was an adventure. For some reason this year seems to be progressing in much more of a hiccup fashion. Traction, derailed, traction....derailed. Repeat. Hiccup! Luckily last Thursday and Friday were as flawless of a two days as I've ever had. My body was strong like bull, the company was some of the best I've ever had, and we worked together better than any group I've ever been with. Poor Jeremy was our lone dude, but I think even he would admit that it was A-OK. Okay! So what did we do that was so radtastic? On Thursday we met up with Jocelyn and Jeremy in Vail at the parking garage at 8:30am. The plan was to ride our bikes to Aspen going through Copper, Leadville, Twin Lakes, and up and over Independence Pass (103 miles). Then we had reserved a hotel room in Aspen and we had shipped a box with spare clothes and flip flops so that on Friday we could ride back to Vail via Glenwood Springs and the famous Glenwood Canyon bike path (108 miles). That was the plan, and honestly, I'm delighted with how smoothly the whole trip went.
Here we are looking fresh as daisies. I must admit, when you are heading out for 2 days, and 211 miles with just your bikes and your friends, the start of the trip is the most stressful. It's easy to think about what might happen, what might go wrong. Once you get knee deep into it all, you realize that you can handle what's dished out to you, it's just taking things one pedal stroke at a time.
Riding up Vail pass from Vail never gets old. It's amazing scenery and I don't know how many times I thanked whoever built that bike path. It's such a gem...a classic really. The Pro Cycling Tour did a TT up Vail pass last year so there were all sorts of spray painted names on the path that we yelled out and laughed about. We were positively giddy.
At the top of Vail pass we cajoled some nice girl into taking our photos. She look like 20, it was hilarious. Already, I could tell our little gaggle of girls was going to mesh so well. Jeremy was long gone off the front, which left the three of us to 200 miles of girl talk!
Fremont pass was on a bit of a busier freeway but the shoulder was nice and wide for the most past. The climbing is steady and consistent, one of those climbs that you just have to make your way up in your own time. Luckily all three of us are darn near the same ability so it made for fun times. It was such a treat to be surrounded with supportive women who love what they do on a daily basis. They inspire me, and make me feel stronger just being in their presence.
For some reason, as nick names seem to go, every time I thought about Jocelyn on this trip I would call her "DJ Jazzy Jocelyn." Who knows why my brain came up with this, but in my mind, she will now be DJ jazzy J for some time. PIC...well, she's PIC. Man was I happy to have her on this trip. Having PIC with me makes me feel like we can do anything, go anywhere, conquer any problem. Without her, I might just sit down and cry during adversity, but with her, we just laugh, and deal with it. Luckily, this trip didn't require either.
Leadville is a quirky little town. For some reason I always feel a little uneasy being here, like something just isn't right. We filled up our bottles, bought candy, and headed out of town.
Downtown Leadville is old-timey, and cute. But in a weird way. Get me outa here...
After Leadville we had this 15 mile section to Twin Lakes that Jen had told me there was often a head wind. I was a little apprehensive about this section because I had never been on the road (there aren't a lot of roads in Colorado I haven't driven at one time or another) and we needed to make a turn to Twin Lakes (there is always the chance I will miss something). Despite my slight nerves, we were treated to an extreme tailwind, it literally took us 25 minutes to go 15 miles on that road. AND, the turn was super obvious. Before we knew it we were at Twin Lakes.
We pulled into the Twin Lakes general store and Jeremy was sitting there waiting for us. This was awesome. We got to catch up, hear about the dirt detour he happened to take (oops) and refuel. They had jerkey and PIC and I inhaled some of that. PIC was also about to have a roast beef sandwich before we cautioned her. Independence Pass was next up, we didn't want her puking roast beef, but clearly the girl needed some salt!
BFF Love this girl.
Well, here it was, the pass we had all been secretly dreading the entire ride. Independence pass. We all knew we would be proud when we got to the top but we were all a little scared of the process. We had about 60 miles in our legs and it was time to CLIMB for 23 straight miles.
None of these pictures even do it justice. It's one of those climbs that is just awe inspiring. There came a point where our little threesome broke up and we all climbed at our own rates. We each had some alone time, and some peace. I treasure times like this in my life. Where I have a task, but within that task my mind can wander and ponder. This year has been more of a fight than years past, but I have learned more this year about myself too. I thought about why I do this sport, why IMs, why Kona, why not just adopt a shopping habit (the mall is air conditioned). At times like this, I realize this is in my blood, it's what makes my insides smile. It's where I loose myself and find myself all in a matter of miles. I feel like I belong when I am riding up these hills. Like I am right where I should be.
Major probs to Jocelyn and Jeremy who are from Pittsburgh and yet they took down Independence Pass like mountain goats. It was 23 miles of pure awesome, I can't wait to get back to it!
At the top we hung out for a bit, chatted, took pictures, and refueled for the 20+ mile descent down into Aspen. We had a headwind on the descent (fine by me) and we girls all stuck together and took things conservatively. Jeremy did the opposite and passed cars and stuff, but we figured that as the sweep crew we could pick him up off the pavement if needed. Boys will be boys!
We rolled into Aspen and quickly found our hotel. 103 miles for the day, about 6.5 hours of ride time, and lots of vertical. Our box had arrived, and even though we had parted with it a mere 2 days prior, we were so excited to see it!!
We all showered, had a leisurely dinner, and then crawled into bed for a night of chatting. You would think we got it all out on the ride, but no, 4 Kona qualified athletes in a hotel room for the night together equals WICKED FUN CHATTER! I slept blissfully that night, trying not to spoon Michelle...mostly because she complained that I didn't shave my legs.
The next morning we headed out. The hardest part of the day was getting out of Aspen. Where do we go? We had heard that part of the bike path was gravel so we were trying to skip that part which we did. We stopped at the airport when DJ Jazzy J dropped her vest and then we stood there for awhile with our jaws on the ground as we surveyed all the private jets. HOLY PRIVATE JETS BATMAN!
From Aspen all the way to Glenwood Springs (44 miles) there is a wonderful bike path. We rode about 34 miles of it and it rocked the house. It's downhill and we averaged a pretty good pace even though there wasn't a lot of power behind the pedals. Jocelyn lead most of the way and I just sat back and took in everything. It was really peaceful, and I was just really happy.
In Glenwood Springs there was Jeremy waiting for us and we all stopped at the quickie mart together to refuel. The miles were starting to add up at this point, but we were all looking forward to the 16 mile Glenwood Canyon, which has a bike path through it and is probably one of the prettiest stretches of path in Colorado.
Entering the Canyon. I love these two shots. PIC is in the first one, I remember being SO excited!
Again, the pictures don't do it justice, but sufice it to say that our necks hurt after these 16 miles. We just sat up for most of it and enjoyed the scenery. You couldn't hammer (Jeremy could), we just had to take it all in. Steep cliff like canyon walls, and the colors were awesome.
The Colorado river runs through this canyon and it's neat to think that the water you see will eventually go through the Grand Canyon. The water was really brown and I'm not sure why. I'm used to it being clearer.
The bike path in itself is an engineering marvel. It snakes through the canyon with the freeway going overhead repeatedly. It was clearly in the master design of the freeway to have this path included. Just such a special place, as you can tell by Michelle's smile.
Once we were done with the path we had about 40 miles of frontage road until Vail. We looked behind us and low and behold, the "weather" was a-comin'. Jeremy threw out the "we need to average like 25-30mph to keep from getting dumped on." CHALLENGE! haha! Just kidding. But, again, we were so lucky and we were blessed with a TAILWIND! The whole way back we flew. We had a nice pace line going with Jeremy at the helm. PIC and I were in heaven since we love to ride "man-wheel" (in training...not racing...that's a no-no). DJ Jazzy J doesn't like man-wheel as much, but she was strong like bull and fought the whole way home. Nails!
Finally we let the man-wheel go so that the girly-gaggle could focus (and didn't have to ride at 200 watts up all the hills). Then the skies opened and rained on us. It wasn't cold, just wet. We stopped and put on the gear and took care of ourselves, and then put our noses down and RODE.
I led most the way to set tempo, and PIC and DJ Jazzy J ended up with mud and grit ALL OVER their faces. This is Michelle trying to get the mud out of her teeth, and J is cracking up. This photo makes me laugh and smile.
Finally on the Vail bike path. We had parked in East vail which meant the longest miles of the entire trip were the last 5 thought Vail where your brain is on an infinite loop of "Are we there yet?" Finally we were there, back home, safe and sound, unscathed, and happy as Jay Birds!
Day 2 was 108 miles, making for a total two day mileage of 211 miles. I'm just so impressed with how well the 4 of us meshed. This trip was flawless, it was fun, we laughed so much and saw some amazing sights. I did something I haven't done before and now it has me thinking about all these new "two day" rides I could do.
Thank you PIC, and Jeremy, and Jocelyn for agreeing to go on my crazy adventures. You all are top notch and no matter what happens in October, we will always have this week. You are each winners in my eyes, not as just athletes, but as humans, as people, and as friends.