Jul 12, 2010

"I thought you were like an Ironman"

My quadriceps screamed silently. My focus was sharp but my steering seemed to waver. I tried to keep the bike from crossing the white line. The road tilted upward and for the first time in a while, I was not sure if I possessed the power to muscle the machine home. I could barely see Doug in the distance… his red light flashing. I tried to close the gap, but my load was much too heavy. He was having a much easier time with the task at hand. I started to grin as I made the final push home.

“Oh my god… I thought you were like an Ironman? Can’t you go any faster?”

I quickly shot a mean look to the slightly overweight girl sitting on the bike rack behind me. Oh well. If I wasn’t pedaling her mountain bike home, I’d be walking. Who said you can’t get a workout done after midnight.

Thursday night was the perfect night for a beer and a few aggressive games of foosball. Usually, late nights are avoided during the triathlon season, but Doug just raced an Ironman and I just came off a 3 month injury. Note: our original goal was responsibility. We rode the bus downtown from North Boulder for two reasons; no drinking and driving and the last bus leaves at midnight. This left us with plenty of rest before our 95 mile tour of the Rockies. But in true AJ Baucco fashion, we missed the bus home and had to find an alternative route. Most people would have caught a cab… we met two girls willing to let us pedal them home. This would have been a great plan, if I would have been pedaling the 90lb girl home.

Fast forward to the next morning… my quads are sore. Seriously?

We rolled out of North Boulder at noon, which, in my opinion, is the absolute EARLIEST time that two single and motivated triathletes should start training. A cloudy morning had progressed into the most beautifully sunny and warm day that I have seen in weeks. I let my bike coast as I took in my surrounding. We were flying down the hill that tore off my legs the night before. Knowing what type of ride lay ahead of me, I let the hill do the work.

Downtown was buzzing as usual. We crossed Pearl Street and took a right into Boulder Canyon. Doug started his watch and we quickly powered ahead until our heart rates settles around 150 beats per minute. The climb through the Canyon to Ned was 19 miles into the sky. We knew it would take an hour, so we settled down and cranked away… one pedal stroke at a time.

My sweat poured from the climb, but the cold mountain air sent chills down my spine. We had been working for 55 minutes. In the distance, I could see the last turn before Nederland, a town that sits on top of the mountain at 8,300ft above sea level. After one last steep pitch, the road bends to the right and descends a few hundred feet into Ned. To your left sits one of the most beautiful lakes you’ve seen. Surrounding the lake is that small mountain town. Doug pushes the last climb hard and starts to descend into Ned like he was racing Mark Cavendish for a stage win. This could only mean one thing… we were racing to each city limit sign. It was a friendly competition that may kill us by the end of the day. I barely even considered this thought as I ripped into the mountain on Doug’s wheel. I could see the city limit sign 400 meters away. Doug was laying down too much power. My heart rate exploded. 170 bpm… 175 bpm…. I tried to sprint but he had already gapped me. Doug – 1, AJ – 0.

Climbing out of Ned onto the Peak to Peak Highway is a bitch. The road is technically considered rolling terrain, but all of these hills are several minute climbs, if not more. The Peak to Peak Highway is a road that literally sits on top of the mountain. It stretches for over 40 miles and undulates between 8,500ft and 9,300ft above sea level. The air is way to thin and the road is steep. For a reference, the first 4 times I made it up to the Peak to Peak Highway, I got sick from the high altitude… This included several migraines, general dizziness, and one lost lunch. Today, we would be spending the majority of the ride on the Peak to Peak. This road was no joke. It has beaten some of the world’s best athletes. We settled into a good rhythm and pedaled toward Ward.

As we got closer to Ward, I tried to remember where the city limit sign was located. I didn’t want to jump too early and blow up, but I couldn’t risk losing a second sprint to Doug. I thought the sign was at the top of a small climb… but which one. Halfway up the last small climb into Ward, I saw the sign in the distance, we both did. It was an instantaneous jump. We both flew toward Ward. I slipped into my drops and violently threw my bike back and forth. My jump must have been a half second before his because I was able to out lean Doug at the sign. I kissed my hands and threw them up towards the sky, thanking god for this little victory. Doug, obviously not approving of my victory dance, tried to startle me off my bike. Luckily, he didn’t succeed. We coasted and sucked every bit of oxygen available. There wasn’t much at 9,300ft above sea level. AJ – 1, Doug – 1.

Finally, the Peak to Peak Highway was seeing more downhills than uphills. We had been generally climbing for the last two hours, and the hard downhills were a welcomed break. We had 28 more rolling miles to Estes Park. Again, we tried to lower our heart rates and settle into a pace… easier said than done at 9,000ft. Using every downhill to our advantage, we torn through the mountain. For every 3 minutes of descending, we had to climb for 10 minutes. It was starting to wear us down. Pushing me along was Doug’s promise that we had a long descent into Estes Park, a town that sits in the middle of the mountain at 7,400ft above sea level. Finally that descent came… it surely was a fast one.

The traffic into Estes was light but unavoidable. We descended with the cars. The descent starts at 9,000ft and descends about 1,500ft in a few miles. It is an incredibly fast descent with no need for the brakes. I tried to stay close to Doug because I knew we would be sprinting for the city limit sign at the edge of town. The first mile of downhill yields the most amazing view I have ever seen from a bicycle. Ripping down the mountain at 40mph, I am looking off the edge of the world. The town sitting below me is amazingly beautiful. It is nestled into the mountains with a large lake in the center of town. I try to concentrate on the road that is quickly disappearing beneath my wheel. The road twists and turns off the mountain. Doug, having more experience on this road, pushes the limits and takes every turn hard. I tried to take the last turn hard¸ but a heavy headwind stops me in my tracks. I try to sprint but it is much too late. I shake my head in disgust as Doug forms his hand into a pistol and shoots it into the sky. Doug – 2, AJ – 1.

The climb out of Estes Park was designed by the devil himself. I feel like I have been climbing all day, and this 2 mile, 6% grade sends me to a world of discomfort. Doug takes the lead and pedals hard into the climb. I sit a few inches off his wheel and try to keep my cadence high. I stare at my watch as I witness my heart rate sore. This climb was the last nail in my coffin. We were 4 hours into the ride and all I wanted was a quick descent off the mountain right into my bed (aka Doug’s futon). With 200 meters to go, I popped. Doug went forward, I went backward. There was no fight left in me. Done and done.

Riding back into Lyons was fast as ever. Sitting on 30mph and throwing the bike into each winding turn. My neck and back grew sore from my tucked position, but my legs thanked me. Again, I lost Doug’s wheel on the hard downhills. He only has 15lbs on me, but it really helps him fly down hills. I could see the city limit sign in the distance. It was his. Doug – 3, AJ – 1.

Once into Lyons, we had 11 miles of rolling hills back to Boulder. We were over 80 miles into the ride and neither of us had any urgency left. We knocked the pace back and pedaled back into town. Giving us an extra kick, was a strong tailwind. Once it started blowing, we regained a small amount of competitive edge. At this point, I could see Doug’s condo in the distance. Only two smaller hills before we were home. We hit the base of the first hill and immediately started to increase our power. At this point, the wind was pushing us with tremendous force. My GPS read 27mph. It was slowly increasing. With 100 meters to go, I glanced at Doug, he glanced back, and we started flying towards the top. Doug was low in his aero position cranking away at his pedals. I was a few inches to his right, standing on my pedals, throwing my bike around, and pushing with everything I had. The street sign at the top of the hill must be our finishing line. We both gave it one last push, but because of my standing position, I was able to throw my bike at the line first. I had won by 2 inches… later Doug said he didn’t know where the finish line was but we all know that is bullshit.

Doug had won more sprints, but I won the final climb. We both survived the ride on one of the most grueling roads I have ever been on. The Peak to Peak Highway is truly a road for tough MFers. Remember that! We ended up getting in about 95miles in a little over 5 hours. The route went up to 9,300ft and had a total amount of about 7,500ft of climbing. It was definitely an epic adventure in my book, but then again, what isn’t?



  1. 喜歡自己的另一層意義是「接納自己」。..................................................

  2. 一棵樹除非在春天開了花,否則難望在秋天結果。..................................................

  3. 人生有些波折,才能有些成長,所以不論順逆,凡是成長、成功的助緣,都應該心存感激。.................................................