I can sum up today’s training in 2 phrases. Late start and badass bike ride.
Our 5 a.m. start ended up being 10:30. Our bodies told us we needed more sleep so we did. I had a bad headache from the altitude and knew I wouldn’t get in a quality session without resting more. We also felt we didn’t need our morning run and that a long bike ride would be more beneficial. So we geared up for a ride from Keystone to Vail and back.
Today’s ride was without exception the best in my life. We took a route that led us over 4 mountain passes. In Colorado they take care of the cyclists by building and maintaining a bike path system that is really nice. The first climb wasn’t too bad. We did have to add and remove clothing as the temps are colder at higher elevations. It can get very cold going dowhill at 50 m.p.h. at altitudes around 12,000′. The scenery was stunning and that is something we don’t have in Chicago. Going down the first mountain pass was pretty scary. The signs told us to take the entire car lane since we would be going at least as fast as traffic. Since I was using Kamil’s bike I started to wonder if he had it serviced lately… A flat at those speeds could easily kill us. Anyhow, it was really exciting to do what the pros at The Tour de France experience. Our second climb was Vail pass and was tougher. We stayed together on this climb and were looking forward to lunch in Vail. Going down Vail pass was safer since the bike path was a 2 lane road closed to traffic. Kamil’s extra weight (20 lbs ?) got him down the mountain almost a mile ahead of me. It was about an 8 mile descent. Then we cruised through the very upscale Vail and stopped at a German Restaurant to eat. We probably ate more than we should’ve but managed to get back on our bikes to head back. Going back up to Vail pass from this side was a real killer of a climb. After a steady 7 mile climb to the bottom of the mountain, we went up that 8 mile beast one pedal stroke at a time. On the road was graffiti that encouraged the pros like “go big George (Hincapie)” and others like Levi Leipheimer. One named “Cookie” and I couldn’t figure out who that was. We figured it was from the Tour of Colorado. Anyhow, I started to pull away from Kamil when I spotted a guy ahead of me and tried to catch him. I eventually did and then about a mile later I caught another rider from the corner of my eye coming up from behind me. I wasn’t sure if it was the guy I had passed earlier since I didn’t want to completely turn around. For the next few miles up the mountain I could hear his gears change about 50′ behind me which pushed me to go really hard to stay in front. On the last steep section before our turn off I could hear him really close to me so I upshifted 4 gears and jumped on the pedals. I pulled away from him and stopped at the turn off to wait for Kamil. We continued on to the top of the pass where we put our jackets on and went down a steep and technical descent. Down, down we went and our fingers became stiff from gripping the brakes at tight corners and the cold wind seeping through our gloves. We made it to the base of our last climb in record time. We probably averaged 30+ mph for about an hour and a half. But then we had the last climb. This was a few miles long which was mentally tough to get through at the end of our ride. I started to bonk at the bottom of the hill and also had too many layers on from our long descent of the previous mountain. I unzipped as much as I could and pushed on. I started to come unglued about halfway up and started laughing uncontrollably. I’m not sure what else I was shouting out – I have blocked it from my memory. I pushed through my laughing spasm and then I noticed something wet in the corner of my mouth. I was drooling! At the top I told Kamil I needed to eat something, which I did, and then continued down to Keystone. Total miles were 82 in 6.5 hours. I have a new respect for the riders that race in the mountains, like dealing with low oxygen, changing temps, the brutal climbs and harrowing descents. It was challenging to get motivated to do our next session in the pool. When one of us says we’re going it forces the other to go too. That is a huge advantage to training with Kamil out here.
Swimming after our other sessions really helps with recovery so once we do it, we are glad we did. I did 2000 meters and Kamil knocked out 3000. We measured the pool to make sure since its only a 15 meter pool as opposed to 25 meters. Its also a challenge to turn in the shallow end which is 3′. It can be done without scraping the bottom if you curl yourself in a ball. That, however, causes some really nice cramping, which I’ve learned to swim through. I jumped in the hot tub after, while Kamil jumped in the lake. We don’t do everything the same. I felt much better today with some good rest and better acclimatized. I’m hoping tomorrow we can get a little crazy with some long sessions!