Elephant Rock 2009

Wow, what a ride. This year’s Elephant Rock Century Ride was this past Sunday, and it was a blast. Here’s a link to last year’s write-up, and here’s a GPS plot of this year’s course, all 100 miles of it (the course runs clockwise):

In the many months following last year’s debacle, I forgot about how miserable I was, and figured that my increased milage on a bike would make this a lot easier and more fun, especially riding the whole thing with Nate this time. I was sort of right. After I took over seven hours of moving time and eight total last year, we set our sights on a total time (including stops) of under 6:30. No official goal for moving time was set, but I had six hours flat in my head.

Saturday night, I had a good dinner, double checked all my gear, did some minor maintenance to the bike, and loaded everything up in the car. I did this because I knew that 3:15 the next morning would come all too soon. After the alarm went off, I got dressed, had breakfast, and triple checked that I had everything I needed. Nate slept through his alarm, so I picked him up and shortly after four in the morning, we were off to Castle Rock.

It was still dark and quiet when we arrived around five. It was time to slather on sunscreen, load up jersey pockets, and otherwise get ready. 5:30 rolled around, we reset computers, and we were off.

Right at the base of the first real hill, a sizable load of manure had been dumped in the middle of the road the night before, and tracked all the way up the hill by the cars that had driven it through the night. It was horrible, but over soon enough. We hit a nice section with gentle rollers and a solid tailwind as the sun came up, which made for a pretty good photo op:

Pikes was stunning in the clear morning with the snow of the past days, though it seemed to melt off even as the cool morning went on.

The rest of the ride went mostly well. The organizers rethought their aid station layout, which was far better than before. Last year, the first aid station was around mile eight, which was completely absurd. This time around, the first was at 14 (though we skipped it, as it’s still too early to be useful for anyone prepared to ride 100 miles). We stopped at a station at mile 25, where the restroom facilities were a solid 1/4 mile off the road. A little far away, but still welcome.

The course wound its way to Black Forest, and then back to the north where the eventual rejoining of the 62 and 100 mile courses took place. The next while from here out was a complete disaster. I’m generalizing here, but if there’s an event with 62 and 100 mile options, most people on the shorter course are going to be newer to the sport, and less familiar with proper riding technique and etiquette. This proved accurate in this case, as a relatively small number of people who know how to ride met up with hordes who don’t, and who had 40 fewer miles on their legs; to top it off, the courses combined right before a long hilly stretch. Groups were riding 5-6 wide, taking up the entire lane (and sometimes part of the oncoming lane), with no one passing and moving back over to the right. The crowd broke slightly on a long downhill, and we were able to move past some of the mess.

Last year, there was a section that was under construction and in desperate need of repaving; this that section year was even rougher, despite the construction being complete. I’m not exactly sure how that worked out. There was an aid station at the end of it we planned on stopping at, but it was overflowing with 62 milers. We skipped it, and that was the end of the crowds. The final stop was somewhere around 83 miles, right before the final big hill. Last year this hill almost killed me. This year, I just cranked all the way up without missing a beat. Nate got dropped here, and I took off for the final stretch (which was rerouted since last year to a far better finish) trying to get my sub-6 hour rolling time.

To my great surprise, Nate caught up a few miles from the end. I don’t know how, as I was cruising at over 25mph, but we put the hammer down for the end of the ride. There were two forced stoppings, one due to an RV blocking the road, the second a block from the end, as cops were running traffic control. When we got the OK to go, I sprinted to the end, with my bike computer rolling onto 6:00:00. Thanks to starting my GPS timer exactly on the start line, I had one second on the clock of my bike computer, meaning my final rolling time was 5:59:59. Yes!
So, what happens to your hair after a six-hour hammerfest? That depends. Some people get a cool row of mowhawks:

While others just look disheveled:
We made it back to Denver just as the rain and hail started. I was beat, and had a rough Monday as a result. Good times, and I’m sure I’ll forget about the pain and sign up for the 2010 ride when that rolls around.

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