6 months ago I wouldn't have gotten off the bike after any workout feeling good. Yesterday I got off the mountain bike after over 7 hours in the saddle and I felt great. Jim and I started out from my house in Westminster at just after 7am. We cruised up the climb at Sims and up highway 128 to the Marshall Mesa trail. It was chilly out but supposed to be a great day. The wind was almost non-existent and the climbing had us warmed up even before we got to the trailhead.
We didn't stop at the beginning of the trail, planning to get to Boulder with plenty of time to stop for some bagels. Marshall Mesa cruises up and down a predominately double track trail with a few small technical sections. It didn't take long for Jim and me to ride back down to the road below and from there we cruised down Marshall Rd into Boulder. A quick jaunt through the city streets and bike paths brought us to Einstein's bagel at the corner of Baseline and Broadway. Here we stopped and grabbed some second breakfast and I also got a turkey and cheese bagel sandwich while we waited for Erik and Doug. Erik and Doug rode in from Doug's house in Gunbarrel and once they arrived we began our ride up Flagstaff mountain in Boulder.
The first 5.3 miles of Flagstaff takes you up the climb with beautiful scenery of the city and the surrounding mountain side. There are a few steep switchbacks and also some longer more gradual sections through the trees. We regrouped at the turnoff for some food and then continued on up the second section of the climb. From here the climbing gets particularly steep, averages 10% grade, and the group strung out a bit. Jim led up the climb with me following and Doug and Erik not far behind. Once at the summit we made a quick regroup and bombed down the short descent to the trailhead of Walker Ranch.
Walker Ranch burned from a wildfire in 2000 and the aftermath is still visible. New growth was all around but the remnants of the charred forest were evident in many areas as we began riding. The trail was mostly dry due to the warm weather and winds Colorado has been experiencing. I lead out on the loose rocky climbs at the start and all was well until I stuck the front wheel of the Fuel into a rock it wouldn't roll over. I had my weight too far forward and in an instant I went over the bars. Luckily I put my hands out and rolled over onto my Camelback and side. Other than a minor scrape on my left hip and a couple small new scratches on the swingarm of the Fuel all was well and we continued on. We flew down the switchbacks and singletrack and before we knew it we popped out at Boulder creek. Up the hike-a-bike stairs section and back on the bike for the rolling climbs up to the next parking lot we strung out again with Jim leading and the rest of us following. Up until that point I'd been eating right on schedule, every 45 minutes. As I rolled up to the parking lot behind Jim, I had missed my last scheduled food stop by a few minutes. I had another bar and also a gel to get back on schedule while we waited a couple minutes for Doug and Erik. Erik was starting to feel it by this point but for as few miles as he has put in for the year he was doing great. It didn't take long from leaving this stop to descend the final technical section and the quick cruise along the creek. With less than 1 mile of trail to go we climbed out of the valley up to the start with me taking the lead for once. We ate again at the trailhead and climbed back up the road again to the top of Flagstaff.
While browsing the for sale flyer of a million dollar house at the top of Flagstaff I pulled out my sandwich. Man it tasted so good and I couldn't eat it all myself. I gave some to Jim and Erik before we put our jackets back on and dropped down the mountain. After watching Jim almost stack on some sand in a corner, the rest of the trip down was uneventful. I pulled some wheelies after Erik, Doug and I got caught up behind a couple cars. Believe it or not, it's actually much faster going down the mountain on a bike than in a car. We regrouped at the bagel place again and said our good byes to Doug and Erik as they headed back to Gunbarrel. Jim and I called our wives to give them an ETA and headed out of Boulder and back to Marshall Mesa. At this point I was feeling really great despite the long day in the saddle. I led Jim up the climbs and back down to highway 128. Here my long rides really paid off as Jim's longest ride this year was half as long as we'd already been riding. Onto highway 128 we turned and climbed the final few climbs in our big rings thanks to the tailwind at our backs. When we finally rolled up to the house it was great to get off our bikes but aside from being a little hungry and having a touch of pain in my right knee I felt awesome. I was ecstatic to get off my bike and still feel so good after over 60 miles on the mountain bike and lots of climbing. If I can do this the same at Leadville in August it will be quite a difference from my DNF of last year.
Today Marni and I went on a 1 hour recovery ride on the road bikes before we had lunch with Marni's teacher friends. Now I'm recovering and resting up for the big week coming up. This week was over 240 miles on the bike and I've got 2 more weeks of the same before another rest week. It's also time to start thinking about speedwork so I may jump into the Stazio crit series starting next Sunday. Until tomorrow, the couch has my name on it.