It took three attempts but last Saturday I conquered the Peak to Peak Highway between Estes Park and Nederland. I rode 42 miles, cruising past Longs Peak and reaching a max altitude of 9,400’ in a tiny town called Ward. To a girl who has spent most of her life near sea level, it’s quite spectacular up there.
My two previous attempts were for altitude conditioning and to get a real feel for the 1,700’ climb out of Estes.
The air is so different and a lot of focus needs to be placed on effective breathing. The thing I like best about climbing on a bike is you have to be right there in the moment. It’s a break for your brain because the physical effort is so intense it requires all of your attention. Adding in the altitude factor makes it even more of a concentration builder.
I absolutely love it when I have no choice but to get out of my own head.
In Nederland I dipped my feet in the icy Middle Boulder Creek as it ran down to Barker Reservoir. I met my sister at Salto for lunch then hopped on my bike and rode 42 miles back to my car.
Overall I completed 84 miles with close to 4,000’ in elevation gain.
I really underestimated how hard it would be to get back in the heat of the day. At one point after a huge climb up to Allenspark, somewhere around mile 65, I unconsciously stopped on the side of the road and sat in the shade of a parked pick-up truck. It was a minute or two before I realized I wasn’t cycling.
Sitting in my car after returning to the Estes Park Visitors Center I had a very mild asthma attack for about an hour. My breathing is always hard to get back on track when I finish an extended period of exertion. That happens regardless of altitude but at 8,000’ it was even harder. Even so, my adrenaline stayed high and my smile was huge as I enthusiastically texted friends and family.
I can say this for sure: Colorado is starting to click for me.
So yesterday I rode to Ward a different way. I parked in Lyons, rode the 36 to Left Hand Canyon, took a right and started climbing —> 24 miles all uphill = 3,980’ elevation gain.
When I got to Ward I turned onto a sand and gravel road that twisted up a hill to the Post Office, which is kind of a cyclist’s landmark. I took a picture to send to Coach C and as I was coasting back down the hill to the little general store for some much needed sustenance, this happened:
My front wheel twisted left in the gravel and I fell right onto my knee. For a split second I thought I was fine. Couldn’t I just coast down the canyon to my car? But the blood pooling in my sock and shoe made me think twice and I’m glad I did. I got super dizzy and ended up taking a trip to the ER with my sister who swooped in for the save from Nederland. Lucky for me she was drinking coffee at Happy Trails when I called.
Even though I’m off my bike for two weeks with five stitches and a knee I can’t bend, I think this kind of injury is the best – deep and bloody enough to impress the other riders as they arrived at the general store and sat down next to me on the picnic table to check out my gash, yet superficial enough to not cause permanent damage.
And the frustration and restlessness I feel for being stuck at my house today, for having to force myself to keep my leg elevated and not hike Greyrock like I planned – this is the best frustration of them all. This one means I’m alive and happy with a very long To Experience list I can’t wait to check things off of. It means I’m jonseing to get back out there to try all the other canyons – Boulder, St. Vrain, Golden Gate – even the ones that don’t end up at landmark post offices and general stores stocked with treats and hot cyclists.
Here’s hoping there’s a guy out there who digs scars.