I seem to tagging a high number of this new year’s posts as “mishap”, a fact that has not been lost on me out in woods or on the roads. I AM learning from them. But each one is a bit painful.
This last round happened on Saturday.
We had the idea to bike up to Ward (at about 9K ft) via a new route (route 7, to be exact). The steepness was a little gentler than our other two routes, and we could do it as a loop ride. We’d start with 12 gently rolling miles out to Lyons, then head up on route 7, turn onto the Peak-to-Peak highway, hit Ward, and zoom down Lefthand Canyon. ~60 miles and roughly 5.1K of elevation gain.
We looked at weather ahead of time. Cold. Very cold in Ward, with highs just barely in the 20s. Windy too, with gusts over 20mph. Okay, we reasoned, we’ll dress warm. No problem.
It all started… well, it started okay. In fact, the first time we left the house Paul called it .5mi in to go back for more layers. I decided to grab a buff while we were there. We left. Again, about .5mi in I realized I had forgotten my water bottles. Deal breaker. Back again. Finally, we were off again. Third time’s the charm?
Well, I was almost instantly too warm in the full sun, and spent the first few miles stripping down and bundling back up. I just couldn’t get my layering right.
When we hit Lyons my toes were already going numb, so I decided to add hand warmers into my socks (first time for everything). Unfortunately for Paul, he lacked artificial warmth for his feet, and his toe unhappiness was just beginning. Those hand warmers probably saved my toes.
But that’s also where some of my other issues were just beginning. I’m used to managing food and water mountaineering, keeping it warm so it stays edible and doesn’t freeze. But I’m not used to biking in conditions where I need to really worry about that. Alas, my most accessible bar had already frozen 12mi in, and since it took me 2x as long to eat it, I only got down about 100 calories. Not ideal.
Still in fairly good spirits, we started up route 7, heading directly into a head wind. It wasn’t the worst wind, but it was persistent. Happily, the scenery was gorgeous. Unhappily, I was feeling sluggish, and my quads were super sore. But slow and steady would win the race, right? The grade wasn’t that steep.
Paul and I traded lead, allowing me to do some drafting (when I was keeping up). I don’t provide a great draft, (being 70lbs and 11″ smaller), but I did my best. After an hour of this, I knew I was in real desperate need for more food. We wanted to stop in a patch of sun (which we’d be going in and out of) but I was too anxious to eat. After abruptly pulling over on the side of the road and scarfing a bar, Paul shared that we were 2/3 of the way to the Peak-to-Peak turn off.
That was a blow. We both knew we’d be climbing on route 7 for a while, but with the relentless wind, knowing we probably had at least 90 more minutes of climbing was disheartening. I even casually suggested turning around, and actually asked, “Is this a bad idea?!” as the wind whipped at our face.
But it really felt like more of a mental game, so we pushed on. As we climbed higher the sun started to go behind the clouds. Out in front of us, the sky got grayer and darker. There were some hunters out, and so every now and again we’d hear “pop… pop pop pop”. It was disconcerting to say the least.
We finally hit the turn off, with the promise of a short downhill section (finally) before another climb and 7mi to Ward. By this time the sky had gotten quite dark. We paused to regroup, Paul dancing about trying to rewarm his feet. We added heavier gloves. We pressed on. Ward was only 7mi, we reasoned, better to go forward at this point.
We traveled about 2mi over rolling hills before the snow started. And that was the final straw. With fear that the road was about to ice up, and no blue skies in sight, we swung around and headed back. We had about 18mi to get back to Lyons, and another 12mi to get home.
By this point, I was cold. COLD. Back at the turnoff we stopped to add every warm layer. My back was doing that terrible seizing thing happens when you can’t stop shivering. Paul’s feet were painful. We were actually pretty miserable. The elevation (somewhere around 8,500ft) likely wasn’t helping anything.
And then we were off. Fifteen straight miles of DOWN. Thankfully, I had my heavy weight mittens (I had learned from THIS earlier mishap). My hands were chilly, but bearable. Unfortunately, with a tailwind, the back of head felt like ice. About 8mi in we hit sunshine again, incredibly welcome.
By the time we hit Lyons, Paul’s feet were really hurting, and I felt queasy, shivery, and miserable. The incredibly nice folks at Barking Dog Cafe let us bring in our bikes. Hot chai was ordered, and a slice of banana bread. Despite still having all my layers on and drinking hot liquid, I could NOT stop shivering.
Likely well under calories and dehydrated. Because, oh right, our water in our non-insulated bottles had frozen. (Thankfully we had insulated bottles too).
About 30min later, I finally felt ready to bike down. Dusk was coming, and while we were prepared for the dark, we didn’t want it to get any colder. Happily, there’s a gradual climb right out of Lyons, which warmed us both up. In fact, I actually got TOO hot on the way home. But not to let us be, the wind had picked up even more. It hit us as a crosswind, occasionally threatening to knock us into traffic.
Finally getting home felt amazing. We weren’t so cold anymore, but we were exhausted, thirsty, and hungry. The evening was spent watching Netflix, drinking tea, and snacking.
We abandoned our Sunday plans to go climbing as we both felt a bit…off. And by Sunday afternoon my stomach had become VERY unhappy with me again. My guess? All that work of trying balance my temperature and putting my body under such stress really did a number on it. It was not a great night.
Thankfully, things seem to be going better now. And, I suppose, another lesson learned.
Still, much of the scenery was phenomenal AND we saw a coyote. So that was cool 😄