Wherever it was... it was a better hiding place than I had. I was riding... not hiding... but that bit comes later....
I left Poncha Springs this morning having had a very nice cheese toastie (grilled cheese sandwich here) and some 'tater tots'. Very nice and not an egg in sight... which hopefully my intestines will be grateful for. I left knowing that it was going to be a long hellish morning with a climb up and over another 11000ft pass... only this time I was starting from 7500ft instead of 9000ft. Double the hell of last time.
Now I know from previous experience that the first 10 miles always hurts badly... but even accounting for that... my LLFF score was 8-9 this morning. Was it the bike?? I checked the chain... was shifting ok... brakes... could be rubbing a little bit... so I adjusted those. It made not a jot of difference... this was just going to be an almighty grind.
Frankly I didnt pay much attention to the scenery... I was in my own little world of pain and hurt... and I hadn't even got to the pass proper yet... this was just the prelimb... the softening up!! It was working... a summary of some of the thoughts going round my head may help you to understand...
Shit... only at 9000ft... how much further to go??... 8 miles to the top... 8 MILES!!! Shit... I'm never going to get there... god my legs hurt... oopphh... that truck was a bit close (fcuker) ... I'm a bit hot... just gotta get to that bend.. then I can stop... I'm at the bend.. go a little further.... shit they are painting the white line today.. maybe I will catch them up... stop for a break.. drink.. shall I eat yet... no not yet... oohhh deer... only 9300ft .. really?? Shit!!!
And so the narrative went on... pretty much the same as that over and over and over again. It was a neverending grind but whenever I did stop to look... the road stretched out both above and below me in a measure of how far I had come and how far I still had left to go... a life metaphor... totally lost on me in that moment.
There were a couple of other issues I had today...
Firstly... although it appears to have adequate padding... my arse felt as though the bones were directly grinding against the seat... even the two cheek shuffle could not save the day. I tried shuffling forward and backward but that tended to just transfer the pain. And when I stopped and lifted said cheeks up off the saddle... the pain when the blood flow returned was equivalent (I imagine) to having a white hot branding iron pressed against the same area (Cowboy theme going on! 😁)... those poor cattle!
The other issue was the hands which were struggling with hanging on tightly to the bars... cramp was setting in on a regular basis and a howl of pain emitted once as my finger straightened and wouldn't go back without some serious massaging....
But those two issues receded into the background when I saw a sign and it opened up my eyes (see what I did there) to the fact that I still had 6 miles to the summit of this pass. I felt like I had been climbing forever. On the plus side I was still in the big ring (just) my legs had warmed to the task and were now outputting LLFF 3-4 (terrain being taken into account) and I was kinda enjoying it in a very masochistic kinda way. Climbing passes ... if the gradient is reasonable (in this case a pretty constant 6%) allows you to get into a rythmn and its a bit like meditation with the breathing /wheezing in and out in time with the pedal strokes. If you continue at a steady pace you can climb for a lot longer than you think you can.
I was watching the clouds as I climbed... they were pretty grey but remained unburst for the moment. I felt a bit bad for Colorado in general as it was in the middle of a prolonged drout and here I am begging the cycling gods to stop the rain and bring out the sun... but yeah that is what I was doing. As I climbed the smell of pine wafted to me and awoke my senses ... how I missed that scent.. it will live in my memory along with that of open space and unspoilt nature... I breathed in deeply... aware that I may not get that again on this trip.
So I climbed... and I climbed... and
.. oh you get the gist! Fast forward a couple of hours and I reached first the sign for Monach and then the pass summit sign. As I had approached the summit.. I saw a bubble car going up the mountain to the left of the road and an idea formed in my mind... a bit cheeky maybe... but how cool would it be to see the road that I had left blood and sweat on (literally... the blood coming from the back of my leg where I had scraped my pedal studs!) from that vantage point. So I crawled up the 25% slope to the bubble car terminus... explained to the chap on duty what I was raising money for and that I had just cycled up the pass... any chance of a free trip up??? Bless him... he said yes and made my day... at least until I got into the swinging swaying piece of plastic held onto a cable by 2 small attachments... I could hear my mum's words echo in my ears.... "Don't worry... they've been going for years!" Precisely mum!! Precisely!!
Anyhow I got to the top without it tumbling down the mountainside and walked up the stairs (ouch my legs) to the viewing platform where the view literally took my breath away... partly because I was up at 12000ft but mainly because I could see the road stretching down towards the valley and now could fully appreciate why this pass had hurt!!
I also had the good fortune to meet Jim and Vivki who were on a trip to Denver to meet up with their daughter and grandchildren. I told them about Love Hope Strength Foundation and the ride and it was lovely to spend time chatting to them... we had first established that we had similar views on their new President. On that note... I have no TV tonight so the latest on Trump and the meeting with the Russian Lawyer and what he said to the French Presidents wife will be sadly missed... over and over and over again!
Jim and Vicki... it was indeed a pleasure to meet you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey!!
Whilst I was at the top... the cloud had burst... bigtime. So when I got back to the bottom I hurridly shoved on both my down gillet and my rainjacket with hood. It was a long way down... it was very wet and I was already a little cold. Plumnetting down a few thousand feet was not gonna help warm me up.
Now my worry turned from aching legs on the way up... to brakes not working on the way down... following the brake fluid leakage problem a few days ago .. my front brakes no longer work... yup... not at all. Leaving me to rely on very squeaky back brakes... in a downpour... going down a steep pass... where they have just painted the white line... hmmmmm. This is not going to be fun!! No it wasn't really... I held on to the brakes for much of the journey down the pass... sitting in the middle of the lame to ensure that I was seen by drivers... it was pretty nerve wracking. And where on the way up a pine scent filled my nostrils... on the way down that scent was exchanged for burning brake pads.
I didn't take many pictures on the way down as I was concentrating so hard but it flattened out a little and the valley opened up to reveal grassland... dotted with ranches.. horses and cattle ... flanked by greenish hills and light brown rocky outcrops. It was about this time that the thunder rumbled behind me... then I saw lightening flash to my right... the storm was coming ... and it was coming from all sides. Streaks of lightening hit the ground repeatedly in a display guarranteed to make you re affirm in your head the power of mother nature. It would have been mesmorising... if I hadn't been on a bike on a flattish road... totally exposed to the wrath. As it was I had 30 miles to go and a coridoor of sunshine was ahead of me whilst the malestrom gathering in increasing fury to all other sides. Time Trial time....
I put my head down... turned the music up... 'Whatever you Think you are today... you will be tomorrow' ... and peddled like FCUK!
Of course the cycling gods... seeing an opportunity for some mischief... turned up the wind ..(side-headwind for a change) making some bits of road disasterously dangerous. My left knee was starting to grumble about the extra effort to try and outrun the storm and almost put up a protest placard when the coridoor of sunshine shut firmly ... the slamming of the door demonstrated admirably by the ensuing clap of thunder. The rain came again... buckets of it. Feet soaked in seconds and the spray coming up from the road in torrents....
And I laughed....
And grinned out loud
Whooping with delight at running with the storm....
The lightening got close but that just spurred me on and those last 4 miles to Gunnison literally went by in a flash..
Hmmmm no where to stay
Apparently the rodeo is in town..
Pizza for dinner and then back on the bike in the pouring rain.... resigned to perhaps another 20 miles or more... perhaps bivvying out..
A campsite with space.
All is good...
All is forgiven of the cycling gods.
What a day.
Another pass... another test of the legs ... and yes ... another reminder that I am #sufferingforsponsorship
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