Ride Report: Southwest Loop

This weekend I learned a LOT about bike riding:

1. Always carry a patch kit
2. If I don’t bike, I get annoyed with life
3. Down and out for better descent turns

Ok. First, the ride:

Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 32.6 miles/ 768 feet elevation gain
Average speed: 12.4 MPH
Weather: low 70s, windy with smoke/haze
Ride Rating: 4.5/5

We rode from our favorite parking spot out onto the Mary Carter Greenway trail, south to the WB C-470 trail, going through Chatfield State Park, then under C-470 and Wadsworth, and riding up along the side of C-470 to Bear Creek Lake State Park, then across the Bear Creek Trail, and back to the Mary Carter Greenway.

This ride had a good set of ascents to climb, and they were never brutal, but they did involve a bit of work to get up them for a beginning cyclist. As you can see by the map, the Chatfield hill is a class 5, at 1.9% grade for about 3/4 of a mile. There were other hills that were steeper, but shorter, so they don’t show up on the charts.

The weather was good, clear and cool. It was much cooler than it had been the last few days (which had hit the record for this time of year on Friday) and that helped our performance. Since we went out later, there was less traffic on the trails, too. The air was a bit hazy and smoky, thanks to the High Park fire near Fort Collins. It can sometimes be surprising to note just how far the smoke carries on the wind. Oh, and the wind. That was fun. A head wind the whole way today! It was a good day to get back in saddle, after a week off. Well, almost a week off. You see, I headed out yesterday morning, then, with boyfriend and another friend, for what was supposed to be a nice 20 mile ride with a few hill drills at Chatfield in the middle. This is where lesson #1 comes in…

Always Carry A Patch Kit

Yeah. You would think, having been on Elephant Rock last week and seeing my kick ass BFF fixing her own pedal mid-ride that I’d be totally on board with tools and needed gear. This would seem even more likely, considering that on my first long bike ride in Denver (10 years ago, on my then-husband’s heavy, large mountain bike), I got a flat tire on the side of the road, with almost no battery power left in my cell, as it was getting dark. Yeah. You would think all these things, but of course, seeing as I am telling this story…you’d be wrong.

At the top of the Chatfield hill yesterday, I heard the sound no one ever wants to hear in the middle of a bike ride: the tell-tale rhythm of a thorn stuck in my tire. I could see it too, as I was climbing, right there in the front tire, going around and around. When I got to the top of the hill, I flicked it, and everyone around me also deflated as my tire hissed itself flat. Of course…no spare tube, no patch kit, 8.9 miles in.

I ended up just hanging out, watching the scenery, and waited about an hour for the guys to finish their ride, then come back and get me in the car. Not the worst way to fail out of a ride, but still – disappointing. Which brings on lesson 2…

Biking Makes Me Happy

After a week of rides that didn’t happen…I was starting to get super snappy and irritable. Sorry to all my friends who had to endure that this weekend. πŸ™‚ I had planned on doing the Idaho Springs to Georgetown ride with a local bike club (25 miles round trip, 1000 ft of elevation gain) but instead, we slept in. I probably needed the slow start I got this morning. A little coffee, a protein bar, and off for a ride… I’m doing much better now. πŸ™‚

On to lesson 3:

Down and Out

This is something we both read in a cycling magazine over the weekend. Apparently, if you push down on your outer foot/pedal, while descending, through a turn (ie, turning right, push left; turning left, push right) it gives you more stability. I tried it today, since we had several sweeping, curving downhills coming into Bear Creek State Park. I wasn’t really comfortable with a high rate of speed today, which is reflected in our average, but it did help to keep the bike stable in the turns, something I’d been feeling a little uncertain about through this point.

It’s also helpful to pay attention to how you are feeling on any given day while riding. Last week, I was pounding up hills, mashing through the worst of the ascents, and flying down through the descents, including the big turns. Today, a little more cautious. That’s fine. It’s easy to take on the idea that you have to perform to a certain level, wear a certain sort of gear, get your nutrition and hydration a certain way, and so on. As someone who tends to be pretty competitive, this sort of pressure is good for me….to a point. By acknowledging what I am really ok with, and stopping at the point that I’m not ok, my ride ends up being about me, not about this blog, not about stats, not about competing with others, or meeting a certain expectation. It’s a good lesson to learn.



7 thoughts on “Ride Report: Southwest Loop

  1. Chatfield west is GREAT for hills – wonderful, rolling hills. The hill out from under the interstate is particularly fun – short and steep!

    Also, big ups to riding for YOU. It’s so easy to get caught up in stats, especially when we have access to so much data! But the most important thing is for it to be fun – otherwise we’ll never get out and ride! πŸ™‚

  2. You know, I also was thinking today that a bit of mountain biking would be fun. The tunnel under 470 was a mess, and the trail was pretty sloppy in some areas, thanks to the rains earlier this week…the work of navigating the messy turns and spots like that seemed like a bit of mountain climbing would be fun…but I am so chicken about high speed descents. So maybe that’s not the best thing. Haha!

    Gawd, I can get so caught up in data, but you’re right, it’s gotta be just gravy.

    I had enough energy that I could have easily done green mountain today too, but J had homework to do, so we got home at a decent time. We’re adding 5-7 miles each weekend ride (and 25 2x weeknights) to be ready for the metric when you’re here. SO EXCITED.

    • You guys will be fine as long as you can do about 2/3 of the total mileage (35-40 miles) comfortably. And because it’s mostly downhill, it will be mostly delicious. πŸ™‚

      • Psh. I can do 40 no problem. We cruised through the 32 yesterday. The only thing I’d worry about is actually eating breakfast beforehand, rather than just nibbling a power bar and some coffee.

        ALSO – the little gas station before Bear Creek? So, we stopped in there, as I was out of water. I bought a Sobe Life Water Coconut Water thing? IT WAS LIKE PINA COLADA IN MY BOTTLE. Uh huh. So yummy. Also, super sweet, and I had to cut it with my remaining water, but it was good. Sugary, but also 1/2 sodium/potassium ratio. Very refreshing.

      • I know you can – you’ve done 50 before! Whole foods are great before a ride – something carb-y and some protein. I think you mentioned a bagel with peanut butter – yum! I try to eat a bowl of oatmeal and have a cup of coffee before morning rides and always stash an energy bar/gel and plenty of electrolyte-enhanced water (for anything over an hour on the bike).

        Good to know about the Sobe! I had straight coconut water once and it tasted like vomit. So I’m not surprised this has a bazillion grams of sugar. That being said, I’m always down for new awesome electrolyte beverages. πŸ˜€

  3. Before E-rock, I had a bagel with salmon and cream cheese. J had the peanut butter/honey/banana on whole wheat bagel.

    Yesterday, I just had one of the Advocare breakfast bars my friend Rob sells, and I had the electrolyte water in one bottle. Before starting, I had one of those clif shots energy gels (which I hate, really), then the clif bloks at the first stop (after getting through Chatfield and past Wadsworth) and then the Sobe water at the gas station. Last night’s dinner was stuffed peppers and tilapia.

    I was feeling a bit hungry and run down today – which seems to be the case after these longer rides. I don’t know how to power up enough in advance, and eat enough after to recover. I don’t get that hungry, so I need something else to tell me that day what I should be eating.

    • I totally don’t get hungry while riding either – but I force myself to nibble energy bars and drink. Post-ride I wait a little bit before having a protein-based snack like cheese and crackers.

      I’ve read the goos and gels and bars are good on-bike snacks but (as usual) whole foods are best. I’m not usually stashing whole foods either. What about a nut-butter and jelly sandwich? I see a lot of people stash those too. Protein, fiber, and sugar! πŸ™‚ Some women I ride with stash dried fruit and nuts, which when I thought about it makes sense (but only if you can have nuts). Bananas, if you like them, turned out to be really good for me on long rides too.

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