As I stood up out of the saddle, I could feel the familiar dull ache of accumulated soreness in my legs from my recent reintroduction of running to my training last week. Maybe training is too strong of a word. I just missed running after a summer of injury and with the unusually warm weather Colorado was getting in October, I figured I should seize the day. So I managed to run before work most mornings and ride my bike at lunch. This attitude slash training regime tends to overwhelm the system at times, but I find that while it maximizes training load, it maximizes time outside. In my book, that’s a winning strategy.
While it’s a winning strategy, it also enables me to say yes to adventures, perhaps too many adventures. Which is where I found myself on that late October day, riding up a remote dirt road outside of my hometown of Fort Collins. The sun was hot and the conditions were perfect for a late season, high altitude dirt ride I’d always wanted to do. So despite my previously mentioned increase in running training post-injury and minimal time on a bike due to the craziness at work, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
The route was just shy of 90 miles and 6k of vert, so coming off no training, this seemed totally reasonable for a ride I was fit enough to do over the summer, but could end in a massive bonk 45 miles in with my current fitness status. There is a time when a reasonable person accepts that they haven’t been on the bike in a while, have been injured and should temper their enthusiasm. But to tell you the truth, I’ve never been a reasonable person. I had 24 hours remaining of my weekend and I was going to spend it outside, damn it. And the route did not disappoint.
The night before the ride, which was when a few friends and I decided to undertake this adventure, I researched the route so I knew what kind of trouble I was getting myself into. The Pennock Pass climb would begin 23 miles into the ride and steadily continue for 15 miles. After that, we would descend from 9100 feet to the Poudre Canyon where we would make our way back to town.
A few things went wrong before I even started the ride. First, because I hadn’t been on my bike in ages and decided to start running a few days before, my legs were left feeling like wet cement. Second, I made the mistake of bringing the amount of food I would need on a ride when I was trained, not the amount of food I would need when I was somewhat untrained, which as it turns out, you need more fuel when you aren’t as trained. I became well acquainted with both of these things shortly after our tires touched the dirt road and we began climbing. I had eaten most of my food and my legs were dead. I was cursing myself for my mistakes, for my decision to do this dumb ride. Wondering why I wasn’t someone who could enjoy nice weather from the seat of my couch?
But we all know how this is the crux of any good adventure story because it’s the reason I, like so many others, continue to live for the weekend. On cue, as I was huffing and puffing up the climb, wishing I had stayed home, we reached the top and the view was absolutely stunning. It wasn’t a view any camera could capture and maybe it was a view made even more remarkable because of the circumstances, but stepping off our bikes, we all stood there taking in the snow-capped mountains the comfort of 65-degree weather.
We sped down the descent and flew through the canyon to get back to town, each of us borderline bonking by this point. But once we got back to the edges of Fort Collins, we stopped for pie at a bakery, as if we had made it far enough and if we went any further and made it back home, that somehow the weekend was officially over. We were dragging out the weekend, squeezing as much life out of it as we possibly could, knowing that adventures like this would be few and far between with winter fast approaching. So while we sat on the porch of the cafe, soaking up the last bit of sun, we started talking about other routes we needed to do eventually, what other roads of Colorado would be explored as soon as the weather was good enough. Until then, I promised I’d do my best at training around my work schedule so I’d be prepared for the next weekend adventure.
Reese made her weekend an epic one using the ELEMNT BOLT GPS Bike Computer.
Reese is an avid trail runner and cyclist. When she isn’t out riding gravel roads or running up a mountain near her home in Colorado, she’s drinking hot tea and staring at her French Bulldog, Loaf.
Check out @reeseruland for proof.