Riding Mt. Evans – and how the Peloton made it possible

The plan to ride Mt. Evans was nothing new – I’d ridden it a couple times before, once from Idaho Springs and once from Echo Lake – but wanting to ride it from home is something I’ve been trying to make happen for a few years. Even though the logistics are simple, the ride statistics are daunting at about 110 miles and over 11,000′ of climbing round-trip. My schedule, weather, and motivation finally aligned on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I settled on a 4am start to be early-enough to beat any afternoon thunderstorms, but not so early that the drunks would still be driving around.

I started by heading up and over Lookout Mountain, to the Genesee bike path, and on to Evergreen Parkway – a ride I’ve done countless times. Sunrise was just after 5:30, meaning it finally started getting light a bit after 5am. At about six a.m. I stopped to eat a bar, check in at home (where everyone was still asleep), switched my light from “see” to “be seen,” and started up Squaw Pass. Shortly after eight, I was on CO-5, the Mount Evans Highway.

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Conditions of the road were pretty similar to the last time I was up there years ago – nice and smooth lower on the mountain, but poor and choppy near Summit lake and above. I was happy to have thru-axles and hydraulic disk brakes heading down through this section.

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I topped out about a quarter past ten, just over six hours after heading out in the dark.

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At no point on the way up did I feel particularly tired or worn out, which surprised me given how little I’ve actually ridden outside since last year’s Leadville 100. After 15 or 20 minutes I started back down towards home, glad to be coasting but worrying about how my legs would feel on the several miles of uphill on the way out. I felt fine the entire way out though, and despite the heat and running out of water an hour from home, less than three hours after starting down I was hammering through my neighborhood to wrap up the ride.

During and after the ride (especially after), I couldn’t believe how good I felt through it all. It was, for me, an early-season ride. I think I’d only ridden outside five days before then, and nothing even half as big, both by mileage and elevation gain. It was hot and I had no water at the end, yet I was still riding hard. So what happened to make my sit-bones the only thing to take a beating on this 110 mile, 11,600′ ride? This thing:

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About a year ago Lauren got a Peloton spin bike. I was skeptical, figuring it would soon become a very expensive towel rack. We had bike trainers and great outdoor rides right out the front door, so why get another “bike?” I tried it a few times and enjoyed it, especially the ability to get a good workout without much prep. Then my work schedule went to hell, swinging back and forth between day and night work every few days all summer, along with the need to train for Leadman, plus fitting everything around the responsibilities of raising an infant meant planning outdoor rides became a challenge – and so I used it a couple times a week for some higher-intensity workouts.

And then the Leadville 100 Run happened. I knew I would have to back off on running once Leadman was finished, I cut back more than expected. Over the following few months I did five runs for a total of 31 miles, which is less than I’d have normally done in a week. At this point I haven’t run in over seven months, but I think my cardio fitness is even stronger than it was.

So how is a spin bike keeping me in-shape (and sane) when I was used to a 30-60 minute run before work every morning? Simple – intensity, variety, and consistency. I did 200 workouts in the first year on the Peloton, on top of adding back in 2-3 weight-lifting sessions a week once I was recovered from Leadville. One of the Peloton instructors – Matt Wilpers – is a legitimate cycling (and running) coach, and focuses on power/output-focused classes. I’ve enjoyed the workouts and the benefits so much that I even joined Lauren on one of her work trips to NYC and went to the studio for a workout and to meet the folks who’ve put together such a great product.

The need to incorporate intensity to a workout schedule is something I’ve always known but shied away from, choosing to pile on dozens of miles of easy running each week. This ultimately left me tired, overtrained, and injured. These days I only average 3-5 hours per week on the bike, but the intensity-focused Power Zone workouts have not only maintained but actually improved my cardio performance, while the reduced volume has allowed me to make sure I get enough sleep and recovery, leading to overall better health, mood, energy, and – as evidenced by my Evans ride – cycling fitness.

I’ve got quite a bit more on my mind to write along these lines, but I think this is enough for now. There’ll be more to come sooner than later.

And in case there were any question, I have absolutely no financial relationship with Peloton beyond being a satisfied customer.

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