This weekend was the 2009 Copper Triangle Alpine Classic.
The Colorado Cyclist Copper Triangle course is an 80 mile loop cresting three Colorado Mountain passes - Fremont Pass (elevation 11,318’), Tennessee Pass (elevation 10,424’) and Vail Pass (elevation 10,666’). The total elevation gain for the course is 5,981 ft.
I realize that this is a long post people, but this was a long ride.
We drove up early on Friday so that we could get checked into a hotel and get to sleep at a decent time. Last year, we didn’t get checked into our hotel until around 9:30 and I think that we maybe got a whole 4 hours of sleep that night because the hotel smelled like shit and it was too noisy. This year, we were in bed by 8:30 and fell asleep listening to a thunderstorm….nice.
Saturday was a 4:30 wake up call so that we could get over to Copper Mountain for the early morning start. I was tired and not ready to ride, the thought of 80 miles over three mountain passes didn’t excite me in the least. I had taken a dose of extra bitchy that morning with my juice, so I told Rick that he better make sure that he goes slow, so that I could do a nice easy warm up. He knows extra bitchy when he sees it, so he nodded his ok and off we went. The first climb was slow going. The temperature at the start was near 39 degrees and I was freezing, even climbing a mountain. I was pedaling really slowly so that I could get my warm up in and Rick later told me that he thought that he was going to have to get off his bike and start pushing me or we would never finish. The first climb is about nine miles and I was glad to see the aid and rest stop. My stomach was a little nauseous and I struggled to take in a gel, but I knew that I needed fuel.
Copper Rest Stop...bathroom line.
The first descent is a long, winding road and last year I had a blast cruising down the mountain at around 50 mph. This year was COLD. My hands were numb after only a couple of miles and I was shaking and nervous. I would have paid good money for a pair of full fingered gloves. By the time the second climb came around, I no longer had feeling in my hands or feet and I was extremely tight because I was still scared from descending a mountain without feelings in my limbs. At the aid station at the top of the second climb, I was having serious doubts about whether I would be able to finish or not. I took a couple of puffs from my inhaler and sat down to regroup and let the blood flow back into my hands and feet. I was disappointed in myself, but I let Rick know that I was not feeling good. I told him that I was NOT a quitter. That I WOULD finish this ride, but I just needed to take my time and make it from one point to another. We had only gone 30 miles, there were still 50 miles to go and we still had the two steepest, toughest climbs, I knew what was ahead of me, but I vowed that I would push through. I stuffed my face full of grapes and filled my water bottle and we were off again.
The weather had warmed up a bit, so the next descent was extremely fun. There is nothing like going full throttle down a mountain road at your own top speed with the wind in your face and the mountains as your backdrop. I don’t know what it was (I still claim it was the grapes), but I was starting to feel good again. Rick noticed and seemed relieved that I was going faster. I told him that I apparently just needed a two hour warm up or maybe I just needed some grapes; I was fine now, which was a good since we were getting ready to do the climb up Battle Mountain. Battle Mountain is a very short climb, but it has a steeper grade then the previous two climbs.
Rick and I cruised up at a decent clip….I couldn’t believe how much better I felt…and then another descent. Beautiful.
Tara-Battle Mountain. Damn I have a fat face....maybe it's just bloated.
The last climb of the day, Vail Pass, is a fifteen mile climb and it killed us last year. I don’t ever remember being so miserable in my life, if there had been porta potties along the route, I would have gone in and cried like I did on my recent half marathon. There are certain points along the route that are so steep that you have to get out of your seat and stand on your pedals in order to make it up the incline. I knew it was tough, so at the last rest stop before the climb, I made sure to load up on grapes….lots and lots of grapes. I’m surprised that I didn’t have stomach issues and have to stop along the side of the road because of all the grapes. We started up the climb and right away I noticed how good I felt. The climb felt way too easy and pretty soon, I had passed Rick and made my way up the climb. I passed many, many people and still it felt too easy. I looked back to see if maybe someone had felt sorry for me and was pushing me up the mountain, but no one was there. I no longer felt the ache in my shoulders or the lactic acid in my legs. It was pure bliss to climb like this and I was able to quickly accelerate around people who were slowly trying to make it up the climb. I know how they felt; I remember that feeling from last year, the feeling of just trying to make it.
I reached the summit and felt like I could go on and on, but we were almost done, one more 8 mile descent into the Village at Copper and it was barbeque and beer thirty. Sweet!
Overall, I felt much stronger this year over last year....I think it was the grapes.