Brandon already blogged about our ride yesterday, but I said I'd be back with pictures, so back with pictures I am!
As he said, we rode up Maroon Creek Road up to some of the most famous/most photographed peaks IN THE WORLD, the Maroon Bells. I'm too lazy to check, but I'm actually pretty sure I posted a picture of them here on this blog last summer.
Regardless, we decided to cycle it yesterday. We were thinking from the hotel ... and then from Aspen Highlands ... and ended up parking at some point on the road right about a mile before the Ranger station (free to get in on a bike; otherwise ... $10 by car). As he said, the ride to the actual park/forest/what-have-you entrance wasn't bad. It was the next 4.75ish miles that sucked. Hard.
Okay, the first mile or so after the gate wasn't that bad, either. I tried a tactic I read in some book Brandon checked out from the library regarding the Carmichael Training System (lance armstrong's coach ... or former coach ... whatever) - "spinning" my pedals rather than "mashing" them.
In other words, try for a higher cadence at a lower gear rather than the opposite way around.
This helped for a while - I was making it up the road at a fairly decent clip with my cadence somewhere in the mid- to high-90s.
But then the ride started getting tougher. And tougher. And tougher. At about the 3.25ish point on the ol' cyclometer, I stopped to take some pictures.
You can kind of see the angle of the road. Yeah, I stopped at the top(ish) part of a hill. Or at the very least, a plateau in the road.
The road ahead. It's KIND OF flat.
I kept plugging. Every now and then I'd stop for Brandon to see how he was doing (and to make sure he didn't crash or die along the way) ... and then I'd keep going. My asthma was also giving me major shit - serves me right for forgetting my damned inhaler back in Denver. Oops.
Sneak peek of Maroon Bells through the trees. You also can see how the road keeps going up ... and up ... and up ...
Brandon making his way up the road, slowly but surely.
I forget exactly where we were at mileage at this point ... 4 miles in? Maybe? ... but the ride was starting to hurt. At one stop, I kept my right calf stretched out. Yeah, that cramped it up. Smart, I know. I was in my lowest possible gear setting and still somehow stomaching out a cadence somewhere in the 60s ... though my mph went to total shit in the mid-single digits. Like 6.0mph, I kid you not. I tried to keep it at 8ish if I could, but even that hurt.
Another preview of the Bells.
Still, we kept on plugging. We stopped to sit down at one point at the five mile point and contemplating turning around, especially given that we were starting to get a tad short on time, but I saw a sign up the road that kept me going - the entrance to the actual Maroon Bells Recreation Area. Yeah, I wasn't quitting at that point.
I never really wanted to, though. I knew Brandon was struggling more than I was (and i was struggling quite a bit; not gonna lie), but I tried to help him through it. I told him to keep taking it a tenth of a mile, a quarter of a mile at a time. His running/motivational playlist wasn't working, so I told him to switch to his "Ballin'" playlist. Because really, he was a baller for making it up that road. Maroon Creek Road wasn't making us its bitches - we were making it our bitch.
And we did ... about 5.75 miles after we started and around 40 minutes later, we made it.
Brandon at the top!
Our bikes. They helped us power up that bitch of a road.
I kind of regret not resetting the cyclometer after we made it to the top - I would have liked to have known my average speed on the way up. I'm sure it was sad and pathetic, but eh. I made it ... I made it up almost 6 miles climbing about 1000 feet in elevation. And the view was worth it from the top.
The rewarding view from the top.
Exhausted, but smiling.
Seeing as we had to turn it around in time to get lunch, showered and either on the road (me) or back to the airport (brandon), we didn't wander around as much as we normally would have and went on down the hill.
See, that's the great part of the ride - not only are the views rewarding, but so is the ride down. For the first two miles or so, you're going the actual speed limit (35) or faster; I topped out at 42.2mph. Going up, I was in the easiest of gears. Going down, I cranked it up to the hardest gear I have and was still easily pedaling away (but i made sure to keep pedaling!). I was pretty sure I was going to get some bruises on my face from the bugs smacking into me, but alas, none. Which is probably good.
11.58 mi in 59:02; 11.77 mph
Average cadence: 75
Top speed: 42.2mph
Lowest speed: don't want to know
Elevation gained: An ass-ton, but around 1000
Ultimately, I would have to say this was a validating ride. Hard, but worth the pain. I struggled (oh lawd did i struggle), but I'm still impressed with how well I (comparatively) powered through it.