High Country 200k Brevet

I was in Denver on Thursday and Friday before the High Country 200k in ShowLow.  My flight back was supposed to land at 7:35 pm, which, optimistically, would put me in ShowLow around 11pm.  Unfortunately, thunderstorms were moving through the Phoenix area and we wound up circling the airport for about an hour waiting for a storm cell to pass.  All planes were delayed, so there was also traffic congestion trying to get out of the airport.  Dang.  So I didn’t get to ShowLow until a bit after midnight.  The ride was scheduled to start at 6am, so I’d have to be up just after 5am.  Less than 5 hours of sleep before a 129 mile ride with over 7,000 feet of cumulative ascent!  Not Good.

I arrived at the start at the Safeway parking lot with time to check-in and finish getting ready.  Paul Layton was acting as our Brevet Administrator and provided last minute instructions while we waited for 6am to arrive.  Just as he was finishing I realized I forgot to put sunscreen on, so I went back to my car for a quick application.  Roger Peskett and Judy Jenkins had already left, but the rest of the folks were just starting to leave when I finished and was ready myself.

I could see Roger and Judy off in the distance as we made our way through town on the way to Vernon and Springerville.  They were both riding at a pretty good clip.  I still don’t have 100% confidence in my left knee, so I my plan was to take it easy on the climbs, dropping into my lower granny gears for any long or steep climb.  So, it seemed like I’d start to catch them on a flat section or descent, but they pulled away on the climbs.  Several miles out of town Roger pulled away from Judy on a long climb.  A few miles later I passed Judy, but Roger was so far out front I only caught brief glimpses of him.

As I crested the hill before the checkpoint stop in Vernon, I saw Roger pulling out.  So I was a couple minutes behind him at that point.  Paul was there signing brevet cards, but we were only 21 miles into the ride and I didn’t need anything, so I didn’t stay and thought I’d try catching Roger.  THAT wasn’t going to happen!  I wouldn’t see Roger again until the out and back to Greer!

It had been pretty calm in terms of wind, but that really translates into a 15-20 mph headwind (one that you create with your own speed!).  A cross wind started to develop on the way to Springerville, but it really wasn’t too bad.  Just kind of tedious at times.  In Springerville I stopped at a gas station to re-fill my water bottles and have a snack.  I probably spent 5-10 minutes there before slowly making my way through town.

The wind was blowing at a cross/head wind as I started my approach to the mountain.  In the distance I could see a cyclist (Judy had passed me while I was at that gas station).  It’s a LONG 7 mile climb to the turn to Greer.  I pretty much just stayed in my granny gears and spun my way up.  Heart rate was hovering around 160 with a cadence in the low to mid 90s, but I was averaging less than 200 watts.  High cadence = higher heart rage, but low power saved my knees and legs. 🙂

There are rolling hills to the post office in Greer and I made pretty good time through there.  Roger passed me on his way back a couple miles before I got to the post office.  Judy was just finishing up when I pulled in.  I ate a protein bar, filled my bottles and chatted with Paul for a minute or two about the clouds that were developing around us.  Looked like we were all going to get doused.

There was a pretty strong tail wind on the way back to the main road from Greer and I made great time.  I was surprised at how fast I got back.  Then there was another LONG climb to the top of the mountain.  For this route, we also had an out and back to Sunrise Ski resort.  From the main road, you can see the ski slopes for quite a while as you make your way around the peak.  I could see that it was raining at the resort and hoped that would pass by the time I got there.  The temperature had also been steadily dropping as I got to higher altitudes.

That rain cell just seemed to be hovering along the mountain ridge near the ski resort.  As I got closer, the road turned and I rode parallel to it for  a while.  I could see that it was raining maybe 500 feet to my right, but it was dry where I was riding… until I made the turn towards the resort.  It started with a light sprinkle that lasted long enough for me to think “This isn’t so bad.”  Immediately after that it started to rain, then downpour.  Roger came by on his way back.  That was a COLD rain.  Where was my rain jacket and arm/leg warmer?  Back in my car in Show Low.  Crap.  I was hoping the lodge would be open so I could by a sweatshirt or light jacket when I got there.

It was still really coming down when I pulled up.  There were a bunch of mountain bikers huddled under the entry way, so I walked over to the stairs leading up to the lodge and got out of the wind and rain.  I sat for a minute trying to warm up a bit, then went to check the doors.  Locked.  Crap.  I sat for a few more minutes then heard someone say they were headed over to the locker room to get out of the rain.  Hmmm…  I walked around the building and sure enough, the locker rooms were open, but that was all that was open.  Judy walked in and mentioned they were selling food at a booth near the entrance.  The rain was starting to let up, so I walked over and bought a Green Chili Burrito.  I wanted a cup of coffee to go with that, but they were out.  The guy in the booth also said his receipt machine wasn’t working, so I asked him to sign my brevet card.

I took my burrito back to those steps that were out of the wind and rain and sat down to eat.  Wow, that was good!  Nothing like a hot burrito to get your core warmed up. I saw Judy making her way out of the parking lot while I was eating my burrito.  When I finished, I went back over to the burrito booth and asked if they had a trash bag I could have.  They didn’t.  Dang, it was going to be one COLD descent!  I didn’t hang around and started back down the hill.  A couple miles down, there’s a little country store, so I pulled in there and bought a small cup of coffee and they also gave me a plastic bag that I put under my jersey to keep my chest warm.  It’s amazing how much difference that makes!  My hands were still a bit cold, but I started to warm back up and made good time back to the main road.

Paul pulled up shortly after I got back on that road and asked if I needed a jacket.  With that plastic bag, I was actually warming up nicely, so I said I was fine.  The rain had stopped and I was dropping in elevation, so the temperature was coming up.  About 5 miles later I had my first and only flat for the ride.  A quick tube change and I was on my way again.  Now I was on the generally descending part of the course and was making fantastic time.  It didn’t take too long to get to McNary and past the Hon Dah Casino.  Before I knew it I was in Pinetop making really good time to ShowLow, staying above 30mph much of the way.

Riding my granny gears on the climbs, my legs felt great so I was able to maintain power down the descents and along the flats towards the finish.  When I got there I expected to see Roger and Judy, but Judy hadn’t pulled in yet.  Apparently I was supposed to stop at the Hon Dah Casino for a receipt and I passed Judy there.  Oops.  Guess I should have actually looked at my brevet card to see where the stops were.  I figured the Sunrise checkpoint would be the last one since there’s really no faster way back to ShowLow.  Not sure how that impacts my finishing time.  I’ll probably get an official DQ or a time penalty for not stopping at a mandatory checkpoint.  Oh well, still a good ride overall.

This was my last “prep” ride before the Son of Death Ride on September 5th.  This ride had 129 miles with just over 7,000 feet of cumulative ascent.  The Son of Death Ride is also 129 miles, but with 17,000 feet of cumulative ascent.  My legs felt good at the end of this ride, so I think I’m ready for it.  But I still don’t fully trust my knee and will take the same approach … use my lower granny gears for the long or steep climbs and power across the top.  That’ll make for a longer ride, but the goal is to finish comfortably, not get a fast time. 🙂

    1 comment to High Country 200k Brevet

    • Dan Trued

      good luck with your spinning, I am kind of on the same track as I have a bad left knee also. Got a new (heavy) bike with a small triple crank, and I’m being forced to spin. Spinning is the way to go, like you said it’s a higher heart rate, but for damage control it’s essential. Now if I only could spin while not thinking about it, well that’s what I’m working on.