Tales from the Brink!

The Colorado 1000k, July, 2010

Rod Geisert

Having a month to take in the accomplishment of completing my second 1000k has given me time to reflect on what I would classify as an epic ride, at least by my standards.I signed up for the Colorado 1000K brevet because I was attending a conference in Denver prior to the ride and my good friend Dale Brigham wanted to do the 1000k since he missed longer brevets in Missouri when he was in Europe.Since I had a couple days before the start, I got to do some riding with Chad Wilson who lives in Louisville.Chad took me on a nice ride to Niwot (would see this town over and over) and then we climbed Lefthand Canyon to Jamestown.It was good to get a gauge of how the climb was going to go and how I would respond to the altitude.The climbing at this grade is what I really like compared to the endless up and downs of countless steep hills on the Missouri brevets.Dale arrived on Friday and we did another short ride to get the legs going for the task ahead.This report is really written for all those who are trying to get into riding brevets and who like me are still working through how to get through the tough times that can accompany any brevet.

Day 1.Saturday at 3:30 am riders were getting checked for their reflective gear and bikes surveyed for lights.I was surprised that even the angle of the rear lights was closely evaluated.It is clear that safety was a high priority which I greatly appreciated.A large number of cyclists eagerly waited to undertake the 400K, 600K or the long 1000K.

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Gathering of cyclists at Louisville

I am glad that we had a chance to meet Todd LeBlanc at the Friday night dinner.He filled us in on how this group likes to fly down the road to the first check point in Platteville.Holy Cow, once the group hit Baseline road we started hammering (remember this is by my low standards).We made the turn onto Highway 85 and after avoiding trucks merging onto the highway, a really nice paceline formed. I was working hard to hang on to the back and with the few glances at the cateye was seeing 25 to 30 mph at times.Felt I was doing really well until Todd dropped back and informed me the group was taking it easy today.That did wonders for my ego; however it was exciting while it lasted.When we pulled into Platteville, Dale and I agreed that we would get back to a more normal pace.The temperature was pleasant and ride to Niwot was flat which was quite beautiful with the mountain backdrop and even had hot air balloons to greet us on the ride into Niwot.

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Hot Air Balloons on the approach to Niwot

As we arrived at the Niwot checkpoint riders were getting their food and drink to prepare for the climb up Lefthand Canyon.

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Niwot Checkpoint

We joined up with several other riders.I really enjoy meeting other riders and getting to know them as much as possible.Mark Gunther from San Francisco was part of our party and his humor really helped me through the tough three days of riding.When we turned onto Lefthand Canyon we were accompanied by Merle and Ted which gave us a nice group to push up the long, long leg of 6% grade.

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Climb up Lefthand canyon

I felt pretty good at the start but over time I lowered my pace and got dropped by the group.One thing that I learned about doing brevets is to go at my pace rather than others when my body tells me it is too fast.The task is to keep my mind focused and just keep the crank turning over.I have never seen so many other cyclists on the road.Riding a consistent pace I passed some but was passed by a lot more.As I approach the steeper climb into Ward, I noticed the water hydrant at milepost 16 which was indicated on cue sheet.Following my rule of never missing an opportunity to fill water bottles I stopped.It was a nice break but then I had to get on the bike and get started on the increasing grade again.It is hard to lose momentum as well as the legs let you know they donít appreciate a steep grade to rewarm-up.After reaching Ward, I realized that there was still climbing to be completed to reach the peak.The switch backs were steep but short.At the top, Sue and Jo were there to give us some food and water at the information control check point.We were lucky that they were there as the store was closed and would not open for a few more hours.Sue and Jo helped others that arrived if they wanted something to eat or drink.Mark took off a little bit ahead of us so Dale and I descended on our own.

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Information Control on Peak of Lefthand Canyon

There was still some climbing on Peak to Peak Highway but took a lot less work.The descent down St. Vrain Canyon was fantastic.However, I never thought one could get a little tired of descending but 27 miles did test my ability to stay focused with traffic, scenery and curves to Lyons.It was a nice thrill after having climbed for so many hours.We continued on from Lyons to Carter Lake which involved a bit more climbing than I was expecting.Compared to Dale and the others, it took me more time to get up the climb to Lake.Even though it appeared we were descending, my legs indicated we were actually climbing at the base of the lake.Once there, the view was wonderful despite the heat kicking in and starting to wear on ones attitude.

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Cater Lake Marina

At the Marina Store checkpoint, Sue and Jo were there to support us and give some relief from the heat.Several riders were trying to cool down from the midday sun and building heat.Mark demonstrated his ice socket for heat control.Not a bad idea I thought.I filled my hydro pack with ice and some water to cool down in weather like this.The technique is to suck the water into my mouth and then spray my legs and arms as I ride along.Also have extra cool water when needed.But this is not as cool as the ice sock!

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Mark and the ICE SOCK!!!!

The ride to Wellington went well.Horsetooth Reservoir was pretty cool and the descent into Fort Collins was a nice break for all the work we had done.We stopped at the Wellington checkpoint and ate at the McDonalds.Mark came in behind us after stopping in Fort Collins.††† We joined up and rode to Johnstown for the last checkpoint before heading into Louisville.The frontage road along I-25 was pretty good and we had a slight tailwind to support us.†† The ride was not very hilly so we made good time and the temperature was starting to drop.

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Mark on the Frontage road along I-25

The Johnstown checkpoint was a nice break as a few other riders were there and we had an opportunity to eat before the last leg of the day.

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Johnstown store

We joined up with other riders and headed back to the south with a nice evening wind and cool temperatures.Having a group to ride with at night really helps with the extra lights on the road and navigating the cue sheet.No one wants to feel alone in the dark especially when there is uncertainly of making the correct turns.We did manage to miss the turn off of Birch Road which was not well defined by the road marker which caused us to gain some extra miles correcting.Again, with a group we worked it out and got on the correct route.We arrived at 11:30 pm which after riding 250+ miles, climbing a mountain pass and putting up with 100 degree temps, I didnít feel all that bad.We agreed to start at 6 am to start the second leg.After a nice shower and eating, I got a good night sleep and felt good to start the next day.

Day 2.Dale, Mark and I started out from the hotel about 6:45 am.I was looking forward to this leg being just rolling hills and thought this would be an easier day (LOL).You could feel the heat building each hour but the ride through the rolling hills to Milliken was pretty uneventful.Quick stop to eat and get water and we were back on the road.Several riders were in the store working to complete their 600K.Several looked like the heat was affecting them as I was also having a bad feeling how I was responding to the heat.For the first time I started thinking that doing the 600K might have been a better option with the heat continuing to increase.As we head on to Kersey, I started feeling the effects of the heat which was made even worst with the east wind in our face.As we came into Kersey, the effects of the heat were becoming evident on my face, speed and attitude.I drank as much cold Gatorade as I could and filled the water bottles and my hydro pack with ice.Leaving Kersey I tried to stay up with Dale and Mark.However, Mark was feeling it (New nickname Spartacus) and Dale was trying to lower his pace to help me.I felt bad for Dale as I know he could stay with Mark but he was trying to get me through this rough stretch.There were endless long rollers for the next 16 miles on US 34.I had my hydro pack with ice and used the spit cooling method but could feel the slow deterioration in my cadence.On the turn onto HWY 144 Dale was waiting for me.I was struggling with the heat and wind which was really affecting my mind.All thoughts of the heat and wind were going through my head at this point.I wanted some shade, cold water (hydro pack was empty), wind to stop and finding anything to end this stress.My legs are turning over the crank but the energy was just getting sucked out my body.The road was totally flat but it make-up for it with heat and wind.I had hopes for a store in Orchard but that was dashed when we got there.Saw a hydrant along the road but we passed it looking ahead to a house up ahead.Dale pull into a farm yard that had a hydrant, I went to the house and asked a very nice lady if we could use it.She said sure and also indicated that a store was open just two miles down the road.We went on for two miles and sure enough there was a little bar open.It was good to take a break from the heat and drink a cold Gatorade.A couple of very nice bikers and the bar owner were in the bar.They were very interested in what we were doing and amazed the distance we had ridden.The word crazy came up more than once.The next 15 miles defined my ability to suffer and handle the lows of a very tough time to reach the next checkpoint.Dale was riding quite well and I was falling apart.I slowly kept dropping of his wheel and decided it was time to go into survival mode.This not unusual for me on rides with Dale so he knows normally I just come in later when I need adjust my pace.However, this was not a normal day for me.The heat and wind were draining the life out of me.I been having trouble with head congestion and needed to breathe through my mouth which only increased my heart rate and breathing.With about 7 miles to Fort Morgan, Dale was out of sight with the curving road and I knew that I needed to stop.All thoughts now focused on whether I could gut it out to Fort Morgan?I saw a tree across the river crossing bridge and stopped and laid down to get my breathing and heart down.I was becoming hyperthermic and knew that I was bordering on collapsing. Finally got myself together and started a slow push to Fort Morgan.As I headed down the road, Sue and Jo came by as they were concerned that with Daleís arrival I was clearly more than late.The car came alongside and Sue asked the question (strongly), ďyou need to stopĒ!I can stay the word almost passed my lips when out of my own stubbornness I indicated I just want to get to Fort Morgan and then I would shut it down.I did not want to get into the Meat Wagon on the road.Sue was not happy but they drove on back to Fort Morgan.When I reached Fort Morgan I was so fried that I was not sure I could make it to the McDonalds two blocks away.I was so glad to ride into the drive.Jo took my bike and I walked into the building.The McDonalds didnít feel all that cool which indicated something about my condition.I couldnít and didnít want to eat as my mouth was totally dry.I forced down some fries but bread was impossible to eat with no salvia in my mouth.We talked a little and I was trying to get my breathing back to normal and head cooled down.I indicated that I thought I could go on with just a little break.Sue was clearly not happy with me and indicated the concern she had with what was happening.At this point my mind was not clear and I had become a very unpleasant person.I am glad my wife recognizes the condition as she didnít deserve my very stupid and rude statements.I am forever thankful for her support and concerns and can never apologize enough.How many husbands have a wife who would first SAG for you, wait endless hours for you to ride 60 miles just to feed you and put you back on the bike.Sue knew I needed to eat and just kept asking what I needed.Then it struck me to get a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen.Within minutes Sue had a malt in my hands which I consumed like there was no tomorrow.That and time brought me back to life.Senior randonneurís in Missouri schooled me that when you want to quit just wait until the next morning or in my case take time to get a long rest and get a second wind.There is plenty of time so just wait and see how you feel in a couple of hours.Dale was ready to go long before I was ready and I appreciate that he took a chance and waited so I could go with him.Without his support I am not sure I would have continued on my own.We headed out of Fort Morgan and I did feel better with the decreasing heat as late afternoon set in.As we headed to the west towards Hudson a prayer was answered.One of the quick rain showers that Todd LeBlanc told us can form in a momentís notice came over us.Not only did the rain cool us down but we had a really nice tailwind that pushed us up the road.It was manna from heaven.The ride to Roggen was good with the sun setting behind the mountains although the buzzing traffic on I-76 was a little troubling.We made it to Hudson and although tired, I was thankful that I felt good enough to continue on for the evening ride in.I enjoy night riding because for one the heat is down and cool air revives me and two I cannot see the hills in front of us so it just seems easier.When we made the checkpoint in Hudson, Sue and Jo were waiting to get us back on the road again.Chairs were setup in the parking lot and they had food and cold drinks to get us on our way.The lady in the store was even humorous when she asked why we were so late compared to the others.I told her we were actually a day ahead but she didnít buy it.I was exhausted but still had life in my legs to make it in.We arrived in Louisville after 1 am.I had survived the low of lows and now needed to sleep and hope the next day was not hot as this one.

Day 3.The alarm rang at 6 am and I was surprised to be able to just get out of bed.Sue asked me how I felt.My legs were good but I was feeling the effects of the prior day.I went to get breakfast and Mark was already eating.I never said anything about my almost collapse at Fort Morgan.We set out with a welcomed cloudy morning which reduced the temperature tremendously.The ride to the base of Thompson Canyon was really nice and certainly made the morning a lot easier to ride.

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Scenery on approach to Thompson Canyon

When we turned on to US-34 you could feel the headwind.We stopped at the store on the base of the climb to top off water bottles.The cashier told us the forecast was for 20-25 mph winds in the canyon.We indicated we had no choice but to climb.She just gave that look of you got to be crazy.As we came around the first curve the wind just about took me over the guardrail.I had to lean and pushback to keep from crashing which then caused me to over correct and end up in the highway.I was certainly glad no cars were passing at the time.My thoughts were how will I make it up 22 miles of this?Luckily, as we continue to climb the wind was not as strong making the ride at least achievable.Again the grade was not that bad so it was just back to turning over the crank and not focusing on the distance.

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Thompson Canyon Climb with 20 mph headwind

Riding is much easier if you break-down the distance into shorter goals.The first goal was to get to Drake.After Drake, I watched the river and the people fishing.This all helps to make the riding shorter.More than once I thought of getting off the bike and putting my legs in the river.However, thought I would not get back on the bike again.The climb was relentless but there were sections that leveled off to get some relief.Once I turn into Estes Park the search for the Safeway checkpoint was on.Not knowing the location while riding through the first miles of the city made me uneasy.I was already behind Dale and Mark and once isolated felt that very uncomfortable feeling of being lost.I stop at a hotel to get some directions.I was relieved to know it was still up the road.However, when I got to the location could not see the store.Little did I know it was hidden up on the hill above the mini-mall.Finally took a chance to ride up the hill and there it was.Sue and Jo were there and it was great to get some real food at the Safeway.A rain shower came through so we stayed under the cover of the building before heading on to Devilís Gulch.As we started out of the parking lot Mark had the first flat of our group.Nice we could be under shade and make a quick tire change.There was still a little climb to the top of Devilís Gulch.†† This was a pretty little climb but the heat was starting to show its presence for the first time of the day.†† As we just reached the top I heard a sharp ping from my rear wheel.I just could only hope it was a stone hitting off my spoke.The switch backs down the pass were nice and it was good to be descending.When I got to Drake, Mark and Dale were waiting for me.As I rode ahead, Mark indicated that my rear wheel was wobbling.We agreed that we would take a closer look at it when we reached Masonville.As we descended, I was working way too hard to stay with Dale and Mark.I was actually starting to feel hot with the heat and had to stop at the store at the base of Thompson Canyon again.Mark and Dale were ahead of me and didnít see me stop.It took forever to get a Gatorade with all the tourists buying tee-shirts, etc.I knew that Mark and Dale would not like to be waiting for me this long.When I moved my bike to get on the rear wheel would not turn.Oh man, a spoke had snapped.No wonder I had to work so hard on the descent.I opened the brake up (should have done this at Drake!!!) and at least could ride.When I arrived to turn onto Rd 29 to Masonville I was so thankful Mark and Dale were waiting.After a quick thank you and explanation of the problem we headed on.The heat was horrible and the work I had done on the descent started to take its toll again.When we arrived in Masonville I was feeling totally trashed.Sue got me into a chair and I tried to eat but my mouth was dry and it was a struggle to put anything down.Cold watermelon really hit the spot and the cold towel helped start to revive my body.

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During this time, Dale did the impossible.He had a spare rear wheel and the tools to switch the cog sets.Unbelievable!Mark and Dale worked to get the wheel back on my bike while I could only watch while trying to get the will to continue on.The ice that we had remaining help cool me down and some life came back into my body.

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With the rear wheel repaired, we took the many turns to Campion.They were actually doing work along an early section of the road so we rode a stretch of rocks.Wasnít all that bad but it was like riding the cobbles.Spartacus (Mark) was feeling strong again and pushed ahead. I spotted a store at the I-25 crossing and asked Dale to stop.We got a nice break with cold drinks and some snacks.Back on the road we pushed to Platteville.Dale was doing well and I was able to stay close although I could not match his pace.We arrived in Platteville before dark and Sue had a surprise for us.She had found a little cafť and bribed the cooks to made eggs and hash browns for us.She used the picture that now is displayed on the on the opening Rocky Mountain Cyclists blog 1000K ride website.It was a welcome treat which allowed me to get some solid food into my stomach.We headed out into the dark towards Niwot.The leg into Niwot should have been easy but there was a mistake in the cue sheet.Adding another 4 miles to correct the mistake doesnít make one very happy at this point of the ride.Dale felt something was wrong with the direction but I said there is a clear R on the sheet so that has to be right.However, although there was an R on the cue sheet, the angle on the sheet was left and written directions indicated south.We rode to the north and found ourselves on a major road which we knew was not correct.It was good that between Dale and me we could talk it out and get back on the correct route again.Even riding back to the intersection and then going south still gave us some uncertainty as 3 miles seems a lot longer in the night.We stopped and again talked about whether we were going the right direction.I suggested that the turn has to be the next intersection which thankfully it was.Again, having someone to talk through the directions and distance is priceless.When we hit Niwot the store was closed.Sue and Jo were there to get us set up again.When you are tired and just trying to survive it was great to have support when nothing is open to get water, etc.They told us Mark had come through and was feeling a little worn as well.Although my ability to hear with my congested head or carry on a conversation was gone at this point, I could feel the end in sight.The last miles to Louisville passed quicker than I thought.Even the last hills didnít feel all that bad at this point.We rode into Louisville and were greeted by Sue and Jo.It was nice to have a cold beer and take in what had been accomplished.A brutal ride had been completed and will be one that I will always remember for the friends and support I have on the bike.

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Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club.This was one heck of an Epic Ride!