LAP TWO – THE COMIC BEAUTY AND THE TRAIL PLUG
Second lap took me down Main Street then left down Townsend and through the Telluride Public Works Department. From here we took the dirt path along the mighty San Miguel River to the bottom of Boomerang Trail. Noteworthy here is that up to this point I could feel someone riding close behind me. I started up the loose road and settled into a pace that was slower than I preferred but I wanted to keep my heart rate from spiking too high knowing I had another 60 miles to go. Not long after the start of the climb, the gentleman that was stalking me pulled up next to me, made the courteous remarks customary to the sport and proceeded on at a much faster clip. I watched this rider in a white kit go and stayed focused on my own survival cadence and the lines I needed to pick on this technical and steep climb as my historical percentage of clearing this pitch without dismounting is quite low. On I rode focusing my attention about 24 inches in front of my wheel when I realized that the rider that had earlier passed me, had now dismounted and was hike-a-biking. Whether he was fighting cramps or his engine light came on, I don’t know, but I did catch White Kit and rode on past. I crested the top and turned left on the pavement rounding The Peaks Resort when a well-groomed family on bikes came out of the parking lot right as I was passing through. They saw me coming and whether the unzipped jersey and mud combination or my open mouth with drool made them question my sanity, I am not qualified to say. The family members were dressed in similar attire of white tennis shoes, white socks and polo shirts and went to extreme lengths to avoid making any eye contact with me. With great discipline and strength of mind they focused their attention straight ahead as I passed by. As I pulled up next to them, I said “hi” and took inventory of this domestic group. They never replied to my greeting but I did notice that all were sporting Telluride Brewery hats which made me realize that they were true locals. My mistake folks… How could I have been so foolish…
I went on from the “local” family and continued on up San Joachim road in search of the next trail section. This stretch of asphalt was nice and as I reveled in the moment, everything became very still and quiet. No cars passed by. No humans in sight. I rode on somewhat bewildered as though some great finger pressed the pause button on life around me or the raptured just happened. The feeling was quite eerie and I couldn’t help but wonder if I took a wrong turn somewhere and went off course. I debated whether I should turn around and go down or keep going. Well, when you are racing, it’s better to keep the gains you made so with this thought I kept on. This proved to be the right decision because soon after I noticed a red arrow up ahead. Like a lighthouse in a storm I knew I was saved or on the right track. Turning left on the said track, I found myself on another beautiful trail that I had not yet ridden; the Village Trail. This smooth single track would be a blast going the other way, but ascending it was not bad either. And so I went up the switchbacks encountering a few other recreational riders who were very nice and moved out of the way. The trail eventually broke into an opening and as I emerged, I heard cheers up above. My family was up there watching me ride towards the top. Self-conscious, I rode towards them focusing very hard on keeping good form and clean lines. Not two switchbacks from the top I encountered a lone hiker coming down, and my attention being diverted, I briefly lost my balance. In attempt to avoid the crash, I went to unclip but the pedals I use are old Shimano 747 that I still love even though they are well past their prime. Like model Heidi Klum, they had raw beauty once, but their beauty adapted well with age and whatever was lost in the youth department was made up by confidence and a good sense of humor.
Like the aforementioned dame, my pedals have also gained a good sense of humor over time and in the situation at hand they decided to play a joke on me. Try as I might to unclip but no go. The damn pedals had me locked in and refused to compromise. Well it was pretty funny to see me tip over fully clipped in at the exact moment when the unassuming hiker was precisely located at the best vantage point of observing the fall. I got up as quickly as possible, laughed as though the fall didn’t affect me and looked up at the hiker coming down. Whether out of sympathy for my unravelling pride or something far more interesting grabbing their attention, the hiker stood there looking into the distance beyond me as though they never noticed the uncomfortable situation that unfolded before their very eyes and at my expense.
Like a good sport, I got back on and made the top and the junction to Prospect Trail. This trail is well known and very deserving. A fast roller through the woods, with a couple of creek crossings makes this a fun ride. The trail hugs the hillside and meanders across the ski runs and through moss covered forest before reaching the top of Chair 10 and the start of the downhill. With some experience and the trail being familiar, things unfolded with no incident worth mentioning.
This next section is one of the most fun descents in town and I hit it with the appropriate attitude. Smiling and carving through the banked corners took any thought of suffering out of my mind.
Such went the first switchbacks when lo! I found myself grabbing both breaks and bringing the entire show close to a halt. The site before me not only obstructed my path but derailed my mental faculties as well.
Our minds are familiar with examples of mountains and pyramids that employ a wide base at the bottom and peak as they ascend skyward into the air. Well, displayed before me was the exact opposite of the aforementioned imagery. Looking like an upside down pyramid suspended in slow motion was a gentleman of generous proportions balanced on the 2 inches of a mountain bike tire. Pedaling in high cadence and with great purpose, the gentleman proceeded on with far more bounce than required. Whether the spandex outfit being stretched to levels far beyond what that garment ever signed up for, or the overall mass in motion hosted by someone more qualified for heftier activities, I was left transfixed and somewhat charmed. I rode behind the rider calling out “on your left” but to no avail. Upon further investigation of the trail width and the proximity of the adjacent trees, it was clear that there was no place to pass, so I resigned myself to my place in line simply listening to the soundtrack of heavy breathing which was fully displayed before me in the form of high pressure air exchanges concluding their cycles with a high pitch whistle. My bewilderment and fascination were eventually concluded as an alternate path came into view giving me the opportunity to pass. I did pass and in that transition I was exposed to the propulsion’s exhaust bi-product of cold-cuts, garlic and onions.
THE BONK - DREAMS, DELIRIUM AND TRANSCENDENCE
Next up was the ride up to Alta Lakes. For those not familiar with this area, it’s one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world, with various outdoor gear manufacturer’s using it for their marketing back drop. The road up was mostly in the shade and I enjoyed the coolness of the air eventually pulling up to a nice looking aspen tree where I stopped and rearranged the food in my pockets. Out I took a bar with some sugar, an appropriate treat for the time in the race I found myself in; A time where the dreaded bonk started looking for me, its claws crawling up my calves with my only defense being more water and more food. I took these in hope of countering general lack of training, but deep down inside I knew that from here on the time may come to pay the piper.
I started again, brushing these thoughts from my memory and so I reached the top where the folks at the aid station made their display available to me. Content with my earlier stop, I passed through and started the dirt road descend. There were a few vehicles on this road, so I took my time behind them, but having their windows down, I thought “What the hey?” let’s give these folks something to be entertained about on their road to the highway. Heroic thoughts prevailed and so I peeled out from my place in line and lit up my pace in the process of passing the spectating passengers. Fast I went, and no doubt they were left impressed by that simple display of cycling prowess, which was good. Good enough to get me out of their sight, and as soon as I reached that place, I began the violent art of braking. My speed went from hero to zero and with that crawling pace I turned right unto Highway 145 and rode on to the speed limit sign which marked the next leg of single track; T35. I was informed by longtime local Fritz, that the name of that single track was based on the aforementioned speed limit sign which used to be 35 (it is now 40).
Castrating one of the most beautiful curving mountain roads to 35 miles per hour is one of the gravest disruptions of nature’s harmony. I was riding my motorcycle a few years back along this stretch of highway. The trees along the road were a deep shade of green as typical to the middle of summer and I was basking in the experience with the excitement and drive of mating rabbits. But my enraptured bliss was stomped out by flashing lights bearing down on me. Out of civil obedience, I pulled over, as a young highway patrol got out and cordially informed me that I was drastically exceeding the speed limit. Funny, but the speed limit had never crossed my mind on that beautiful morning, so I sat there somewhat bewildered as though the young officer woke me up from the vividness of my dreaming. Eventually, the gravity of the situation brought me back to earth, so I began my diatribe on the harmony between speed and wind, sun and beauty, participating in the experience versus spectating from behind a windshield. “Good Sir, who is qualified on putting a limit on such an experience?” I asked. The lawman said nothing but taking my license and registration, walked over to his cruiser no doubt in attempt to sit down and marinate in the description of my experience. Surprisingly it seemed to me that the young officer did buy my argument, or at least it looked like he did. But regardless of any influence I had on his personal sensibilities, sworn duty prevailed and the ticket was written; Darn! 45 minutes and $145 later I picked up the shards of that experience and glued them back in tact right as I crested Lizardhead Pass. Ohh how speed and beauty heal the soul.
Speed was called upon for the T35 leg of the race as the singletrack snaked through the underbrush pushing me to ride a bit over my comfort level. I tried to lead with my head, turn my shoulders and surf the bike, but no matter what head images I was trying to sell myself to go faster, the body was following the master of disobedience and I was at its mercy. So I went, a little scared but in general peace and counting on my brakes, when without warning a tornado of activity seem to crash upon me. Like a banshee savage on a bastard motor scooter, Mr. White Kit was descending at such a blistering pace that I jumped out of his way and into the deadwood foliage to avoid getting steamrolled. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Ohh yeah” was my cavalier reply as though I was in full control, just wanted to rest a bit among the dead branches. Goodness gracious… I picked myself up, mounted and continued on even slower than before. By the time I hit Illium Road, I was still death gripping the handlebars and for the life of me, I couldn’t even get myself to let go and grab my water bottle. So I rode this section of (pave) dirt floating in that rheumy feeling of escaping by the skin of my teeth.
And so, the events of the day and the emotional roller coaster I experienced eventually took their toll on me and my lack of attention allowed that dreadful beast of bonk to come off its chain and start gnawing through my power chord. Typical to such episodes, when I come to this realization it's far too late in the game for me to do anything and so I need to accept the hand that's been dealt. Mine was a losing one and the thought that the monster of misery would eventually sink its teeth into my soul and drag me across into that other dimension of dreams and delirium, broke my confidence. But such is fate.
As species of the human race we are not outside the reach of the depression tentacles, so we all have good days and bad days. Such things are normal. We do however cross the line when we stop being offended by the temperature and smell of the shit we're sitting in. Once there, it's clear that we have experienced an unlawful episode of carnal knowledge with the deceitful seductress of self-pity.
Twice in my life I have been smitten by the said mistress. Once, as a college student, in attempt to explore the greater philosophical questions on the spectrum of life, I lit my own fuse with a cocktail of acid and cheap whiskey. That episode brought me to the edge of the abyss where self-pity met me with open arms and on her shoulder I released one of the manliest rivers of tears I ever recall.
The other time I undertook the vain task of riding my 52x15 single speed road bike over the three mountain passes, from Durango to Ouray. About half way up Red Mountain Pass I was turning millstones with a searing pain crawling from my neck down my spine and out my rectum.
Both times I allowed myself the sweet embrace of self-pity and both times I broke down crying out of sympathy for myself.
I have bonked a lot since and the frequency of such events would give the impression that I ride a lot. I don't. But I do find myself smitten by the quixotic dreams of glory enough to recklessly fling myself into undertakings that I have no business meddling in. Each time, self-pity was always close by, playing the sweet song of the sirens and drawing me closer and closer towards that great fog I know to be my own demise.
So onward I pedaled along the river trail without much recollection at all. I believe I was pedaling in somewhat of a slow motion because a certain gentleman sporting a grey kit rode past me at a brisk pace, when suddenly he slowed down for me to catch up and asked “Are you doing ok?” I smiled a morphine smile and confirmed that I could not have been better.
Mr. Grey Kit nodded and accelerated with the liquidity of the silver surfer leaving me mesmerized by his effortless pedaling and symmetry of stroke. In no time he was completely out of sight leaving me to wonder if he was real or a figment of my piss temperature dream world through which I was floating.
WATERBOARDING BY MINION TO BOB SEGER SOUNDTRACK
The next few miles rolled on and eventually I came to the turn off to crossing highway 145 and towards the last climb of the day. Where the road starts up the mesa, there was hustle and bustle as support vehicles were coming and going. Noah and Tina were coming down from supporting Chris, just as my support pulled up. My wife got out replaced my bottles, the girls were asking me if I needed anything when all of the sudden, Jesse pulls in drops his bike and goes for his secret stash in the bushes. This was a bitter sweet encounter, because naturally, I wanted to beat the man, but it was good to see him at the same time. His smile and cheery attitude contrasted what I was going through but I tried not to show the darkness that was closing in from my peripheral vision. I mounted quickly to get a head start knowing that this climb was a long one and would prove to be my leper road with parts of me falling off at each corner. The girls drove the truck alongside and offered support along the way. Justus poured water on my back, while her younger sister, Lawlis was suspiciously handling a large-super soaker water gun. “Dad, you want some water?” she would ask. Upon my affirmative response she would release a powerful jet of luke warm water directly into my left ear drum. Then, each time her older sister would pour water on my back, the younger, living up to her name would accept that to be a green light for her assault on my left side and she would let the super- soaker rip with all of her little might. I knew I couldn’t handle many more of these waterboarding episodes and hoping to not break the little girl’s heart, I told my wife that I should be good from there on and I would see them at the finish line.
With final cheers and goodbyes, they headed back and I was once again left alone with the paranoid feeling that riders were starting to close the gap. And how true the premonition, as Jesse pulled up next to me and we started chatting. He told me that he was doing good time and was tracking to beat his previous year’s time. Through the discourse I realized that this fine gentleman was riding with me to keep me company. Not only had he let me borrow one of his bikes to train for this, but now was risking his goal of a P.R. simply to ride along with me. Finally I realized the level of generosity he was extending and I told him to go ahead and not worry about me. Right as I was driving the point home, another rider pulled up and this was none other than Liz, the gal I passed at the beginning of the race at the Black Bear Pass steps. She was riding with good form and we exchanged short stories about Durango and other superficial cycling pleasantries. Eventually she replaced my company with Jesse’s up ahead and together they rode on. I yoyo’d behind them until the string broke and I went backwards.
From there, the climb up Last Dollar Road was spent between reality and transcendence to the faint tune of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page
"But your thoughts will soon be wandering, the way they always do
When you're riding sixteen hours and there's nothing there to do
And you don't feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through..."
and stuck on the
“Here I am… on the road again” stanza. on repeat… for over an hour…
Pedal cadence, song and dream together brought me to the top of Last Dollar Road and the bottom of Whipple Mountain. The folks at the aid station saw me coming and whether it was the hollow look in my eyes or the dishevelness of my attire they stayed quiet until they realized that I was not going to stop at their establishment. Upon this realization they cheered me on with great passion no doubt to make sure I kept going.
I crested the top and my consciousness came back into the focus of reality as an overwhelming feeling of blissful joy came over me. I felt the breeze and smiled; the world was beautiful once more. Revived and with renewed strength I turned it on and pushed with what was left in my legs. Jesse was about a mile ahead and I could see him approaching Airport Road.
Not long after, I approached the same spot to perhaps the most breathtaking views of Wilson and Sunshine Peaks. Here I stopped to zip up my jersey, (as though for the sponsors) wiped my face, buckled my helmet and realized that this was it. Courtesy of David Gilmour, I had finally “reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed-of world”. The euphoria gave me some deep reserves of super strength and I rode valiantly down Airport Road, unto the highway and merged towards the bike path.
I couldn’t believe that the race was almost over and with no one riding up my ass, I slowed down to savor the moment and truly bask in the experience. Funny but for some strange reason I was reluctant to approach the end. Like a comrade in adventure, I created a certain bond, if with no one else it was with a different part of myself. Had I the power to extend time and make it to last just a bit longer, I would have.
But this was only a faint thought because to stop, dismount and look heavenwards while spinning with outstretched arms would be a bit weird, so I continued on through the roundabout, over Kids Hill and across the finish line. The crowd cheers made me smile and something inside that I couldn’t contain welled up and displayed itself into the biggest cheek-hurting grin I could muster. Some looked at me and didn’t believe I just rode 100 miles.
I guess the joy I felt at that time eclipsed all of the suffering I went through bringing me to the realization that this was one of the greatest experiences of my life through what I consider to me the most beautiful place in the world.
The Telluride 100!