"Don't worry, you'll be fine", they said.
"Vail Pass is the worst part, the rest is no big deal", they said.
"If you can do 50 miles, then you can do 78", they said.
The Copper Triangle, touted as one of the classic Colorado rides complete with breathtaking scenery, was this past weekend. 78 miles, 3 passes (plus one small mountain everyone forgets to tell you about), 6,000+ feet of elevation gain, lowest elevation 7,500 feet, highest elevation, 11,300 feet.
I've been wanting to do this ride since last year, when S convinced me it would be too hard to get ready, and I should set a different goal instead. I trained for and rode a century, proving that I have what it takes to spend a solid 8-9 hours on two skinny tires. With that under my belt, I made the Copper Triangle one of my goals this year.
Training this year has not been consistent, and there's that whole altitude thing. I live a Mile High, yes...but I don't live TWO miles high. Big difference.
The day of the ride dawned, cloudy, cold and threatening to rain. Most of the day was cloudy, cold and threatening to rain (actually it did rain, but we managed to miss the actual rain showers and only dealt with drizzle and scary wet roads on descents). I spent most of the ride having to pee every half hour, plus alternating between hot and sweaty or freezing cold depending on if I was riding uphill or downhill. The altitude sapped my energy. The cold sapped my energy. At some point I stopped drinking enough liquids, so irritated by the constant need to pee. I didn't eat enough (altitude again).
During the ride I had two good moments. The first descent on dry roads that was relatively straight and wide open, where I was going fast enough that S didn't feel the need to pass me, and the last descent down Vail Pass when I knew all I had was 6 miles between me and the finish line. There was also one horrible moment: within the first hour and a half, near the top of the first pass, I passed an older man who had collapsed and was receiving CPR from fellow cyclists as sirens wailed in the distance rushing to aid. I saw his gray face, as I passed the only way we could get around the scene and wondered if he was going to make it. He didn't.
The following day, every single muscle in my body hurt from stress and dehydration. I hadn't realized I was so dehydrated and spent the entire day sipping water nonstop in an effort to replenish what I had lost. By dinner time, I felt better. At least my skin didn't hurt anymore. Acid reflux has flared something fierce, which is never fun. Especially after seeing someone who died from cardiac arrest and knowing that women typically have reflux-type symptoms during a heart attack and wondering if that's what's really happening despite the fact that I don't have any risk factors for heart disease, according to blood work done in the last year. I feel hypochondriac-like as I look up whether vigorous exercise can trigger reflux, and all the symptoms of heart attack for women. Rest assured, I have exactly one symptom. Acid reflux. Given my history of acid reflux, guess what? It's fucking acid reflux. But hey, at least I stressed out about it all day long.
I wish I could say it was a fun ride despite the weather and despite not being trained enough for it. I can't, though, I'm not that type of person. I need to be trained for these things, and as I found out, training with 2 kids and a full time job, plus a second job as a Jazzercise instructor is damn near impossible. When I'm not trained and I'm struggling with conditions and head trips, the whole event is marred for me. I literally can't stop and smell the roses under those conditions (or see the amazing scenery through the dense fog as it were). Maybe I'll change my mind by the time the spring rolls around again, but right now, I never want to do this ride again. That's an unusual place for me to be in, as with other rides I've done, even though I'm tired and spent and sore at the end, I immediately have looked forward to improving for the next year.
I accomplished something that not everyone can or wants to accomplish. I pushed myself hard to finish and mentally checked out several times ready to quit, only to rally enough to make it to the next aid station, then the next. In my training, I rode Vail Pass and knowing exactly what I was getting into at the end, helped me make the decision to push the last 8 miles up.
I finished, and it wasn't fun.