On Saturday, when I said that “very soon” there’d be a Syllamo night ride, what I meant was that I’d be driving over that day and riding that night. I figured I’d ride the Orange Trail since it has a little bit of everything as far as terrain goes, and it’s one of my favorites. I packed as if I’d be out much longer, because I figured that if I were having a kickass time, I’d stay out longer and add the blue trail to the ride (that’d take it from a 1 hour ride to a 3+ hour adventure that would include some darkness hike-a-bike practice). However, Mother Nature threw a couple of wrenches into my plans.
When I arrived at the cabin, there was a thunderstorm approaching quickly. Looking at the radar, it looked like it’d be passing through and gone just before sunset, but the question remained of how much rain the trail would see. It did pass through, and the sunset was gorgeous.
I arrived at the trailhead right as the light as getting low
By the time I was geared up and getting on the trail, it was dark enough in the woods to have my lights on. I realized that the rain had dampened things just enough to warrant being aware of the slick, rocky spots- Strike 1 against a Blue Trail adventure. Also, by the time I’d gone down the first descent, I’d stopped and hauled my bike over at least 5 downed trees. It was tedious to say the least. Even though, when I was actually riding, I was having a good time, I decided against adding any tree-covered distance. I’m feeling pretty good about the night riding stuff.
That second one is the view of supermoon from the top of Cedar Scrappy (it looked a lot cooler in person). Aside from the immense amount of deadfall, the ride was a lot of fun.
Sunday morning, I was slated for 6 hours on the bike with some ~10min climb intervals thrown in. All of the gravel road climbs that take you from “creek” level up to “mountain top,” take 8-12ish minutes from the bottom until they begin to level off and roll. My plan was to make a large loop that’d take me through/past at least 3 hard climbs.
I started at the first trailhead on Green Mountain Road and headed up the hill. Along the way, I happened to cross paths with some guys from out of town. They were trying to ride the Yellow trail and wanted to see the Sylamore Creek overlook, but they were almost bushwhacking because of the overgrowth on the section they’d just ridden, so I told them to follow me and directed them to the trail entrance from the Red Trail trailhead, were they could access the long, less-overgrown part of the trail that’d take them to the nice scenery.
Soon after that, I arrived at my first climb- Sandy Flat Road. It’s one that, over the winter, I tried at least twice, and was thwarted by high water at the bottom. This time, it was nearly dry. I hit the lap button on my Garmin as I crossed the creek bed and hammered my way up. It went well, but I realized a few minutes after I’d passed the top that my effort had boiled my insides in the heat. I felt so bad that I almost cut my loop off to go back to the car. However, I remembered some of my own advice I’d given to any aspiring endurance racers- at some point, you will feel terrible, and you’ll want to quit, but you have to regroup, eat, drink, go easy, and accept the fact that you can feel better and go back to racing if you allow yourself to.
So, I decided to not cut my ride off. The heat was oppressive, though. It was so humid that even though the temperature was “only” in the low 90s, the heat index was over 100. My distance/timing to the point where I wanted to refill my water at a campground worked out so that I ran out of water in my pack and my two bottles right when I reached this point-
That’s my “I’m way too hot, and I’m about to have to hike-a-bike down this hill through waist-high blackberries” face.
OK, so I didn’t hike the entire hill, but it was a very slow roll- underneath the terrible prickly and thorny bushes, there’s hidden washouts that are top-tube deep as well as lots of deadfall… any of which could end you if hit at speeds greater than 5mph. I made it down to the Barkshed campground and sat in Sylamore Creek for a good 15 minutes to cool off.
Once I was feeling better (and I was getting a little tired of the little fish trying to gnaw on my blackberry scratches), I got on my bike and rolled around to look for a water spout, only to find that there wasn’t one. I was totally dry and about an hour’s ride (not an easy ride at all) from the car. I began to contemplate a “plan B” that involved rolling out to the highway and either hitchhiking back or trying to make it over to the next campground that actually had water (Gunner Pool).
As a last resort, I decided to ask the family that was picnicking near the campsite if there was a hose over where they were. I kinda knew there wasn’t, but I figured it was a good way to at least get a bottle of water that could get me to the next camp over for a full refill. Fortunately, they were really nice, and gave me enough water (and a big slice of watermelon!) to get me back to the car. They also had a really cute and sweet scruffy terrier.
The combination of cooling down by sitting in the creek and standing in the shade drinking cold water and eating watermelon revitalized me for the last push back to the car. It was also getting late enough in the day that the sun wasn’t straight overhead, so the shade on the road was an added bonus.
Even though the middle 4 hours of my ride was like my self-described “low point” of a race, it did eventually get better.
Once I was back at the cabin, I showered and made an early, 2-part dinner (enough food that I could have a full meal and another half-size 2nd dinner around 7:30 or 8). I inhaled half a ribeye steak, a bowl of veggie and rice stir-fry, and a sweet potato.
Right at sunset, a lightning storm came over the mountains towards the cabin. I managed to catch a strike with my camera phone.
The next morning, the clouds were hanging out in the White River Valley, and I sat around on the porch with some coffee until they were mostly gone.
With the oppressive heat and humidity in place, I’m really glad that Vapor Trail time is closing in fast. I am planning on leaving sometime around the 24th and going out to pre-ride some of the course in Salida before road-tripping to a couple of other places in Colorado before the race. For now, I’m prepping for the State Championship XC race this weekend. My fitness is reaching a nice peak, so it should be a good race.