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73 miles and 7.5 hours to Think a Little


Since I built my monstercross rig up it's begged the question of how far and where could I ride. It's become the true all around bike my mountain bike used to be. My first 10 years of mtbing was done on 1.9 to 2.1 tires with 2.1 seemingly "way big" at the time. But then again, I was riding it everywhere. To the trails, on the road, gravel roads, and wherever. But with small tires, steeper angles, bigger gears...you could. Now though my mtb has a 150mm fork up front, 39/26 gearing up front, 2.4 tubless tires that beg to be kept at 35-40psi, short stem, riser bar, and really the best "mountain bike" I've owned to date....


But it lost it's "all around" functionality.


My 1993 Specialized S-Works Steel was an awesome all around rig. 46/34/24 with an 11-30 rear. Flat bars, l-bend barends, and 1.95 rubber front and rear. The gravel of SE MN and NE Iowa as well as man a trail explored on such a rig. Over the years though I lost that desire as my bike became more specific. Hell I used to take all my road bikes offorad without a thought....but I wouldn't dare take my 17lb carbon machine done singletrack today. Not because I can't, but because my wallet will hurt more than me if I crash.


So my bastard Surly Cross Check has become my new allaround bike more than I thought it would be. Set up with dirt drops (Ragley Luxy currently), singlespeed (42x19), and Panaracer 45c FireCross kept around 50-55psi....I can ride anything. Rolls great on the crushed limestone of the Sante Fe/Greenland/Front Range Trail that runs along I-25 from Palmer Lake to Colorado Springs to Security. Little dicey in singletrack but in a fun way. And great for the open rolling double track/singletrack of places like the Greenland Open Space at the end of the Sante Fe Trail.


All of this has been done, in sections, on my beloved monstercross rig. I dig it. But I always wondered....what if I did everything? 30+ miles up the Sante Fe Trail from home to Palmer Lake, then the 3-4 mile doubletrack to the Greenland Open Space's 9.5 mile loop....then home? Could I do it all without bonking? How much food? How much water? And biggest question....how long would it take?


Life has gotten in the way of answering these and many other similar questions. There was a time i was a fairly fit and fast kid on a bike. Lean mean riding machine. But I've let the day to day world of work get in the way of the kind of riding I used to do. Stressed out from work a bit I don't have the time or energy to do the rides I used to. I'm lucky if I can get in 4-5 hour long rides sometimes and find yoga 2-3 days a week to be easier to fit in when the sun goes down or the weather turns against me. Am I fit? Yeah I suppose I am. But am I some sort of super human like many of my friends?




However last Monday i awoke and realized that the last thing I wanted to do was answer the phone or turn on my computer. I was completely fried from the pace i had taken upon myself to do it all. I did it w/o fail, but I was done. Didn't want to talk to anyone. Didn't want to plan out the next big project, think about the next project, or think about work or life in general. I just needed to conquer something that I had been wanting to do since last August. Answer the questions I had asked myself many a time on many a shorter rides. And I was going to give myself all day to do it.


First order of business was to shut off the phone. Leave the computer off. I wanted to power it up and just check email quick but I finally made myself stay out of the home office to avoid such. No. Can't do it. Instead I filled my hydration pack with food and water. Packed my armwarmers and Outlier Pocket heat jacket. Put all the Cliff bars and Gu packets in the bag as well that I had in the cupboard. Picked out riding gear, pumped up the tires, got together the tools, and was out the door by 9:30am with a little Morphine playing in my ears on my ipod. 


Pedaling away I felt a sense of excitement as I hunkered down in the hooks, spinning easy on my way to the trailhead for the trail that would take me 30+ miles North to the Greenland Open Space. Stay loose I reminded myself. It's not a race i reminded myself. It's no competition I reminded myself. It's a personal goal, a fact finding mission, and a day away from it all. That's it.


First part of this ride is pretty tame. First few miles are cement on this trail but then you hit a long section of crushed limestone/dirt/whatever you call it as you go past downtown Colorado Springs. A popular spot for joggers and walkers. After that it goes to cement than pavement to cement a few times. Poorly maintained, but not a concern on this bike with the big tires and long steel stays. Right when you start to leave town to head towards the Air Force Academy, Monument, Palmer Lake, etc... is when it turns back to dirt/crushed rock. It also starts to get to be a bit more tricky. Hills get a little steeper and some places are washed out a little which would make it difficult on a road bike and even a challenge for some on a cross bike. I'm reminded how well my monstercross rig shines for such without feeling slow.


Weather was nice and a cool breeze kept my mind awake.  The ride to Monument was quite easy and I dare say cathartic for the mind/body/soul. But then as I left Monument to head towards Palmer Lake I snapped my chain and put my chest into my stem. I cursed the fact I never bothered to trim the steerer more, citing "adjustablity" to hide my simple laziness/lack of time to take care of it. I also cursed the fact I didn't have any extra links in my bag. Hell even a quick link would have been nice, as taking a link out moved the tire up just enough to rub the stays with hard efforts. Crap I thought, this is going to suck. But I quickly banished such thoughts and choose to accept that taking it easy or even walking a hill or two would be ok. It's not race. It's not a competition. Just go with it Jon. Go with it.


The end ride to Palmer Lake is pretty, with beautiful homes, the mountains, cool rock formations, and a lake/pond to pedal past help break up it all. At the end of the trail I'd just have to cross the road to get to the start of the Greenland Open Space trail, or at least the short 3-4 mile connecting trail to get out to the main 9.5 mile loop.


At this point I'm feeling pretty good. Taking it easy, but not too easy has paid off. I'm feeling pretty good and the sun is feeling good. I'm feeling good. Quick is the ride the start of the loop from this end. Quick is the first section of the loop and I'm enjoying the small rolling nature of it all. But as I make the turn out of this straight away I'm reminded the wind may have had something to do with that as it slaps me in the face. Of course it would happen right about when the trail starts to go up. And I'd have to go ahead and get off once or twice as the tire rub is getting to be a bit much mentally. To be quite honest, it was here too I'd start to realize this wasn't going to be easy. At all.


I'd finish out the last bit of the loop and head back to Palmer Lake and then down to Monument. I was starting to get hungry again but i was desiring some real food vs another Cliff Bar. Mentally I can tell I must have been out of it looking back, as "real food" would be getting two hotdog/corndog hybrid 7-11 Rollergrill grub as being my choice for such. Not sure anything was real about them, but they tasted good. I'd grab two Allsports as well to fill up my 3 bottles as well as wash down my cstore cuisine.


As I left Monument I realized that the tail wind probably just wasn't in Greenland Open Space. With the wind would be a bit of dust being kicked up as well. I rolled through the Air Force Academy and started to feel a bit of pain in my legs. And as I hit the cement trail again I was being reminded I was pushing it mentally and physically. I found having just one gear frustrating. I wanted to pedal harder after a few clicks of a shift lever but known was to be found. No, I'd have to relax. I'd have to just stay steady and endure.


About the time I hit the crushed gravel of the trail that signified coming into downtown, mentally I was not having it. I had now ran out of water. I had a full bottle of Allsport yet but it's orange flavor just wasn't hitting the spot anymore. I felt slow and was hating it, nevermind I was probably at mile 70 of it all and was supposed to feel so. Questioning everything in life in those last pedal strokes home. But alas, when I finally hit the steps leading to my apartment and I saw  it was 5pm on the dot....I felt something totally new.


Shaking a bit with each step towards the door, bike half rolling/half dragging behind me as I held on to it's stem with what little energy I had left. I felt something really good dispite the rest. I got in and laid on my couch after finishing the Allsport i was so dreading to finish just 40 minutes earlier. There....I smiled at the ceiling though really the smile was only for me. I did it. I frigging did it.

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Comment by Tim Bergsten on March 27, 2011 at 3:38pm
That amount of time in the saddle, out in Colorado's four-alarm springtime wind ... my hat's off.

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