Toward the end of the week I gave in. Howie Haber had been regularly going on these long rides and suggesting that I come along. The one I would have done for sure, I said (truthfully) was the one with the tasty reward at the end – to Pine Creek Cookhouse – but the one that had been planned was two days after I arrived, and I did not think it was a good idea for me to do it without having acclimatized to the altitude. You may recall that a few years ago I did do that 12 mile route on a ride led by Howie, and it was fantastic. See the post here. So he asked me a couple more times to join a few riding up to Maroon Lake, which he was doing every other day, remarkably. It was a similar distance (well, a bit shorter – 10 miles) with perhaps a more steady, relentless climb to make up the 1500 ft altitude gain. But I did not get my mind into gear on the whole idea for some time (maybe especially since there was no tasty meal as a reward at the top). Then on Wednesday I gave in and stopped by Howie’s office and said I’d join him on Friday.
So Friday morning we set off, joined by a few others (including Josh Frieman), for a lovely ride. Pretty quickly we separated out into our various paces and pointed ourselves up the valley (I warned my co-riders at the beginning not to wait for me as I have a slower pace on the Brompton – the beauty in the photo on the right). I eventually got into a good rhythm and made steady progress. While I was not as strong as I was in 2008 (or perhaps not as well-motivated?), I still enjoyed it, although there were times when I did ask myself out loud “why am I doing this?!”, but that was usually after the dashing of false hope when I thought I was almost there only to round a corner and see the road stretching off and up in front of me for more miles.
In any case, it all went well until the last mile or two. I was quite sure that I was going to make the whole thing without ever putting a foot down and then two things happened. The last stretch got steeper than anything before, and (1) Whatever those inner muscles are called (sort of between groin and gluteus maximus near the seat – upper part of gracilis?) were complaining… getting sort of close to a cramping sort of pain. I was already in my lowest gear, with my legs not at their peak after the last hour or more of riding and so I did not try to relieve the pain by standing in the pedals, so I began to struggle (2) I might still have pushed through it all and just focused… but then I began to be attacked by swarms of bugs -lots of them- and I just could not concentrate back into my rhythm. They were very annoying indeed, especially when one or two would get into my helmet! So I stopped and stretched things out a bit by walking (and swatting bugs)…. then riding a little, then walking… (I wonder if it is just a matter of building up tolerance for such a ride, or if I had the angle of my seat set poorly. (And yes, I did have padded shorts on…) On the other hand it’s definitely more of a city commuting seat than a mountain climbing seat, so maybe there’s a limit to what one can do on this seat. I can’t recall if this is the one I used three years ago…)
I eventually made it to the top and found Howie and Josh (the other two riders had already headed back down – I think I recall them waving at me as they went down) at the top. While there’s no nice restaurant at the top, the view of Maroon Lake and the Maroon Bells is always rewarding. (I’d been up there for a hike just the week before and it still looks all new and fresh.) Here is a picture of Howie and me at the top with Maroon Lake and the Maroon Bells in the background (the reflective bits on the third-folded bike are glowing since I used fill-in flash to compensate for the shadows on our faces):
For the ride down, I set about trying to find a way of locking my camera to the bike to do a video of the descent. I was not in the mood to do the slightly crazy camera work I did in 2008 (see the end of this post).
I’ll report on that in a later post.