Almost exactly 24 hours ago, I was descending Green Mountain, Disturbed's "Indestructible" blaring on my iPod with the winter sun warm and bright. I was around Mile 35 of my solo Tour de Front Range. This ride connects nine different Jeffco Open Space Parks into one helluva day spent on dirt. Each park is totally different as far as its individual trail system goes, and combined there is over 8000 feet of climbing in 57 miles.
I began thinking of something epic to do on New Years Day and I remembered hearing of a ride that connected a bunch of trail systems. I have ridden the Chimney Gulch/Apex combo and the Falcon/Lair combo a ton of times, but never all on the same day....Hmmmmmm....I wondered what it would be like to connect them all?
I had to do it. I had to throw a challenge out to myself, take it directly on, and well, kick its ass. After some weather forecast investigation, I decided to do it yesterday in high 50 degree weather rather than on Saturday which was looking pretty chilly and snowy.
I Googled the route information and found out a lot more about the ride. I liked the informal nature of it and as I began learning more about it and reading blogs, I had no doubt in my mind what I would be doing the next day.
No one I knew was able to join, so I readied my gear and bike for the next morning. I was dropped off at the White Ranch lower parking lot at 7:30AM and treated to a gorgeous sunrise over Denver.
To the stem of my bike, I attached a post-it note of the parks and trails that made up the ride. Here's the next few hours of my day was going to be:
The camera I was going to use to grab a few pictures throughout my ride was completely dead when I turned it on, so I regret to inform you there will be no photojournalistic evidence of my tour :-( All I have is my GPS and heart rate info that will most likely bore you.
So here are some thoughts on my ride and some things I learned:
1) Water bars will hurt you. They are slick and obnoxious on the downhill and caused a few soil samples to be taken descending Mustang Trail. Give me nasty rocks any day over these beasts.
2) Mustang Trail is the best trail in White Ranch. It has some intimidating, gnarly drops and some insanely fun downhill challenges. It was my first time riding it and I was a bit conservative, but, even as my sheer hatred for all the water bars grew while on it, I can't wait to ride it again. If you have a bike, go experience this trail. Really. Go. Do it.
3) My legs felt fresh and strong for 6 solid hours..at about 6:05 I found myself halfway up Mt. Falcon, hungry, searching for granny, and a bit fatigued. This was my fault and could have been avoided if I had stopped and eaten when I first started to feel hungry at the trailhead. Listen to your body, Jill. It knows. Give it what it needs when it needs it and don’t try to push through for another mile or two. You will pay for it.
6) This ride was not a sufferfest at all. In fact, I couldn’t stop the adrenaline high that rushed through my veins as I completed each park and headed for the next.
7) Pick an even day to do this ride due to the directionality of Apex. I was craving the Enchanted Forest downhill only to realize that I would be climbing Sluice Box instead and adding three more miles onto the ride. I have to admit, the devil horns appeared momentarily as I considered sneaking down EF….I said momentarily J
8) Laughing at the fact that, in the blink of an eye, I was down over the bank and in the creek descending Apex helped salvage my pride. I was riding a little recklessly due to some thrash metal that came on my iPod and the very last rock garden decided to teach me a lesson. I am finding some resulting bruises and cuts a day later.
9) Matthews Winters was a whole new experience. I had my only tiny mechanical issue here as I had to stop and adjust my brakes. The switchbacks on Morrison Slide are the tightest, steepest and rockiest I have seen on the Front Range. I have a few years (decades) of riding to do before I will make those…can you say “Hike-a-Bike?”
10) The paved roads I had to ride to get from park to park provided a TON of recovery time. I was very happy with the fact that I wasn’t needing nearly that much.
11) In 2007, 21 people started and only 9 finished. Not once did the thought of quitting ever enter my consciousness.
12) The last three miles are a wicked FAST descent on the road back into Morrison. When I passed the city limits sign, tears flooded my eyes. The feeling of setting a goal, planning for it and then absolutely conquering it was so intense that emotion overwhelmed me. I was so happy and had such a great day, my heart was full of inspiration, confidence and motivation to continue the pursuit of my dream of racing.