It was hard. Really, really hard, but I DID IT. I rode 117.8 miles over 3 mountain passes, climbed 10,217 feet and I DID NOT DIE. I thought I might at one point, but I didn’t. So anyway, I made it and now you know that, so let’s start at the beginning.
The Triple Bypass ride goes from Evergreen to Avon on Saturday, 120 miles, 3 passes. It returns from Avon to Evergreen on Sunday, via the same route. Some people (like my husband and my friends Ligi, Bryan and Terry) do both directions, which is known as the Double Triple Bypass. My friend Jill did the Saturday (westbound) ride and I did Sunday (eastbound). On Saturday I drove the car and offered support. Jill did that on Sunday.
Saturday started early and in a panic. The car was fortunately loaded with both bikes, the coolers, the food bags and everything we needed for the weekend because the alarm that was supposed to go off at 3 a.m. did not. Greg awoke at 3:38! Not a good start when we had to get to Evergreen a half-hour away for the 5 a.m. start. We made it (barely) and Jill, Ligi, Bryan and Greg were on the road in the dark by very shortly after 5.
Juniper Pass (11,140 feet) is the first obstacle, leading to Idaho Springs. The road over the pass was closed to cars, so I had to go around on I-70, but it’s 16 miles up and 16 miles down for the riders so I had plenty of time for breakfast in Idaho Springs. After eating I found a spot on the main street where they would come through. I saw Terry whisk by me at 7:20, but couldn’t call out in time for him to see me. About 20 minutes later my crew of 4 came along. I refilled their water bottles and handed out snacks and then they were off on the grind of 30 miles to the base of Loveland ski area where the lunch stop was.
There was a rest stop about halfway to Loveland, but I made our own rest stop outside Georgetown at a little lake. I had my cowbell and cheered madly for everyone going by. I was climbing the walls wishing I was riding, but I knew my turn would come the next day!
Greg was getting a flat tire as they pulled in, so he had a very timely tire change with the floor pump I was carrying. Snacks and drinks all around and then they were off for the Trail of Pain as Greg calls it. It’s a beautiful bike trail up to Loveland but the hill goes on forever and has a number of 14-16 percent pitches in it. It’s the worst part of the westbound Loveland Pass.
I went on to the lunch stop at Loveland basin and found a place. It was a circus! There are a lot more riders on Saturday than there are on Sunday, and the rest stop was chaos. We have found that the lunch they serve is pretty mediocre and doesn’t sit well on sensitive stomachs, so I had bread and lunch meat and cheese, chips, fruit, M&Ms, power cookies, cokes, Gatorade, you name it and I probably had it in the back of the car.
I waited quite awhile for them to come, having seriously misjudged the time necessary to travel the Trail of Pain. They looked pretty bedraggled when they came in!
Lunch and recovery before the pass. Bryan really likes my power cookies.
The road was closed over the pass, so I went on to the next rest stop at Frisco via the highway. In addition to the 4 miles up Loveland pass (11,990 and the Continental Divide) they had to do Swan Mountain out of Keystone, so I knew it would take them awhile. I browsed the Epic Mountain Supply store (beautiful Prana clothes, but SO expensive!) and then got a coffee and sat in a cool Starbucks for awhile. I was getting sunburned by this time, having stupidly forgotten to put sunscreen on myself.
I got to the rest stop just in time. By now it was hot, and the riders were well into the ice cold watermelon I had. They had the worst behind them though, with only Vail Pass left.
Once again I had to go around on the highway to get to the top of Vail Pass. The riders go on a beautiful bike trail to the 10,560 foot summit. There’s a nice rest area and information center at the top and I found a parking place right where the bike trail comes out. I was able to open the hatchback and sit in the trunk to ring my cowbell and cheer. Once the riders hit this point it’s exciting, because they know they can make it. It’s still 30 miles to go, but it’s all downhill from here!
After refreshments I scurried on to Avon to check into the condo and get to a place at the finish line.
NICE condo! Ro was joining Ligi and Janine was joining Bryan so there were 7 of us to stay there, so we had just the right amount of beds. It would have been a great place for a party! I rushed to check in and then dashed to the finish line in time to see them come in.
Food and beer at the finish line and then showers for all while I dashed to the store (I think I’ve been dashing all day!) and got more ice and some food for breakfast. Terry came over to the condo with Kristin, and our friends Phil and John also joined us. We found a place for dinner and had a great evening, retiring early for the big day tomorrow – MY TURN!!!!
Sunday morning, 4 a.m. This time the alarm went off. Why am I awake? It’s dark? Why is this a good idea? Bed is calling! Then I remember – this is the day I am going to complete the Triple Bypass. I am going to ride up Loveland and Juniper passes with my iPod blaring ABBA in my ears and I am going to make it! Okay, I’m awake now!
Jill and Janine made us pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I double-checked my tires, made sure my handlebar bag was loaded and rest-stop sheet was loaded. Feeling well-fueled we headed out in the dark and made our way to the start line.
We were a little late starting – 5:15 we rolled out. Within about 20 minutes it was getting pretty light, which was good because I hadn’t bothered with a headlight and I can’t see worth a darn in the dark. It was about 45 degrees.
Vail to Avon is a gentle uphill that wasn’t bad. Ligi, Bryan and Greg left me (which I wanted) and I rode my own (slow) pace, using my marathon-running experience to remind myself that it would be a very long day. Once we hit Vail it starts to be a little more uphill and then we get on the bike path and really start to climb. My odometer read 28 miles when I hit the top of Vail Pass, giving me a gift of 2 miles, as I was expecting 30. It’s a beautiful trail. I stopped once for a picture because it was just so incredibly beautiful with the sun coming up. It cooled down to about 40, but by the top of the pass had warmed up to about 50 and the sun was out for a beautiful day.
On the bike path there were several places with messages spray painted on the pavement – “Shut up legs – TeJay and Jens.” Oh yeah! The Pro Cycling Challenge did a time trial here last year. Good grief. A time trial on this hill? That’s just cruel!
Jill was waiting at the top of Vail Pass, which took more out of me than I was really hoping it would. I was feeling pretty decent though. I was plenty warm, but left my sleeves and coat on for the descent into Copper. Before the next rest stop we would descend the 4-mile bike trail into Copper and then climb over Swan Mountain.
Once I got down to Copper and was cruising along the bike trail to Frisco I got HOT and had to stop to strip off all my layers down to the sleeveless jersey before the Swan Mountain climb. Swan Mountain is intimidating. On the course profile it’s just a little bump in comparison to the 3 passes, but it’s definitely a hill!
Many years ago, when my 24-year-old son was about 4, we all stayed in Breckenridge and rented bikes and a trailer. Being the stubborn girl that I am I was determined that I should be the one to pull the trailer, so I hauled Garrett over Swan Mountain in a Burley on a rented bike. Believe me when I say that today was a LOT easier!
Swan Mountain really wasn’t that bad (it never is except when I was pulling Garrett), and when we descended into Keystone Jill was waiting. We had a break before starting up Loveland Pass, which is 8 miles. It’s 5 miles to the Arapahoe Basin ski area where there’s a water stop, and then 3 miles more on to the summit. It’s steep. And it was hot. At this point I got out my iPod. Something seemed to be wrong with my Bluetooth connection, and it was kind of crackly, but it worked okay and I started rocking out up that mountain. However, it was breaking up so bad by the time I got up near the top that I had to turn it off. Is Bluetooth affected by altitude?
I made a couple (planned) pauses in the shade to drink water and just keep myself fresh. Made it to A-Basin without too much issue, but the next 3 miles were long. I stopped several times, remembering that the same thing happened last year. Loveland is really a hard pass. I suppose part of it is the altitude. Of course the official photographer was on this stretch, where I’m sure I was looking my absolute worst!
I had one minor incident. I have a bit of a Morton’s neuroma in my right foot, and my toes decided to cramp up about a mile from the summit. It was a bad cramp and I pulled over pretty quickly, since nothing helps when this happens but to take off my shoe. In my haste to get off my bike I kind of fell over. Well, I definitely fell over. I only injured my dignity, but when I got to Loveland I realized I had smashed my iPod. DANG! And it was brand new!
Anyway, made it to the top (finally) and a nice lady took my picture at the sign. She was obviously accompanying a rider with a car, and she was just standing at the sign taking picture after picture for the riders. Very nice!
It’s only 4 miles down to lunch now, but I wasn’t feeling much like eating once I got there. Forced myself to down a sandwich. I had a tiny Coke (full sugar – no diet stuff today) and that tasted good. I was hoping to recover on the next 30 miles down to Idaho Springs – it’s the Trail of Pain in reverse, and it’s really fun going this direction!
We were worried that Jill would get stuck in traffic on her way around to Idaho Springs, as Sunday afternoons things get pretty clogged up on I-70, but she was waiting for us by the official rest stop. By now I really didn’t want to eat, but knew I had to. I was 90 miles in and ready to start Juniper Pass, 16 miles to the top, and the reason the eastbound day on the Triple is harder than the westbound.
Everyone else was pretty much ready to leave when I got there, so I took a rest sitting on the cooler in the shade and drank an icy Gatorade. Jill filled my bottles with ice water. Everyone else had taken a wet towel that had been soaking in the ice chest, but I decided to wait until 5 miles later at Chicago Creek to get mine. That was a strategic error that almost ruined my attempt.
It was super hot when I started out on the part that was mentally really hard for me. This is where I bombed out last year. It’s about 5 miles to Chicago Creek and then the climb starts for 8 more miles to Echo Lake and then 3 miles more to the summit. Except that the 5 miles to Chicago Creek is also a significant climb, getting to 4 and 5 percent over the last couple miles. The traffic was also really heavy on this part of the road. I was quickly miserable and having visions of sag wagons. At one point I was riding about 100 yards and then stopping in the shade, then riding to the next patch of shade and stopping and then going to the next patch, like a little frog hopping along. I drank a lot. In fact I drank ALL my water, which I remember happening last year too, only last year I didn’t have Jill waiting for me at Chicago Creek. Two sag wagons passed me, and the only thing that stopped me from flagging them down was knowing I had Jill waiting in a couple miles.
FINALLY I reached Chicago Creek and announced to Jill that I was completely spent. Well, she didn’t pay much attention to that, sitting my down on a cooler in the shade, giving me a cold Gatorade and an icy wet towel, which helped immediately. About 8 guys pulled up shortly after I did and asked for water. The ride really needs a water station at Chicago Creek, because the next one is 5 miles beyond that! This is where I quit last year, largely because I was out of water. The guys asked if we were the water stop, or just awesome, and we told them we were just awesome.
So I had to get back on my bike, and had absolutely no idea how I was going to keep going, but I figured I’d give it a try. I kept my ice cold towel on my neck, which felt great. The first thing you see when you start up from Chicago Creek is a sign that warns of steep grades and sharp turns for the next 8 miles. Lovely. I knew that sign was there and tried hard not to look at it.
I actually felt a little better as I started to grind my way up the hill. I took it slow and did my best to spin easy. Several people were going along at about my pace, and they all looked as miserable as I felt. My Garmin thermometer was reading in the high 90s. Someone pulled up beside me and said hello and I grunted hi without looking. The person stayed right next to me and eventually I looked over and it was my friend Ro! Wow, he rode Ligi to the top and then came back down for me!
So Ro pulled my sorry ass all the way up to Echo Lake! Jill would stop and wait for us about every mile and a half, refill water, force GU down me, or watermelon, and make sure we had water. She gave a lot of other people water too. Everyone was running out in the heat.
Ro was such a huge help. I frequently find it very hard to ride with people because I have to do my own pace. Ro got in front of me and matched my speed exactly. He’s a super strong rider, and he was on his mountain bike and in a pretty high gear, and he stood up the whole time. Riders around me debated the merits of grabbing onto his jersey for a pull! Just as an aside, next weekend Ro is doing this insane 100-mile mountain bike race in Breckenridge – It climbs over 13,000 feet. I told Ro I really like him – he makes me look sane!
By this time I was starting to think I was going to make it. I really wasn’t feeling too bad, considering. I stopped in the shade about every mile in order to drink, because I was getting pretty uncoordinated and was afraid I’d fall off if I drank while riding. I was about 45 minutes behind my projected time of day goal, but I had hoped for an average speed of 10 mph and I was achieving that for the whole day. As I got closer to Echo Lake Lodge I started to get a little excited. I got a fresh ice towel at one point, and finally the next hop for Jill to wait for me was at Echo Lake. I made it! And I knew it was only 3 miles to the top – a 3-mile ride I had done only the week before, so I totally knew what to expect.
At this point Ro turned around to go back to Idaho Springs and get his car. Jill headed on into Evergreen and I was on my own, but by this point I KNEW I could make it. The official rest stop was about a mile-and-a-half later and I didn’t stop there. I stopped once or twice to drink and then I was at the top!!!!!
The top of Juniper Pass is completely anticlimactic. There’s no sign, there’s no people. There’s only a wide spot in the road. I was kind of in a hurry by now so I didn’t stop – I just wanted to be done!
It was a very long 16 miles down. It had actually cooled off to about 70 by the top of the pass. My whole body ached. My arms were super tired from holding me up and my neck and shoulders were cramping pretty badly. Of course I probably could have helped that by not pulling on the brakes so much, but it’s pretty steep and I don’t like fast descents. When I’d hit 30 or 35 I was pulling back!
I actually had to stop once and stretch my arms and back because they hurt so bad. I could not WAIT to get off that downhill. But I did, finally, and there was the finish arch!!!! I made it!
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see anything in my life. I felt total disbelief that I had accomplished it. My stats ended up being 117.8 miles, 10,217 feet elevation gain, total ride time 10 hours 53 minutes and 10.8 mph. I was out there for a total of 13 hours and 47 minutes.
Greg and Jill and Ligi came running to meet me. We all had our finisher’s medals, Ligi and Greg for the Double. Bryan, silly boy that he is, had taken a detour from Echo Lake to attempt to add Mount Evans to the Triple Bypass! He ran out of time, but made it 5 miles up to Summit Lake! What an animal. He should get a different medal. Or maybe a padded room somewhere.
I like to take my picture with my bike over my head after a big accomplishment. Not happening this time….
There was dinner and beer for all. I don’t drink but I had the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted. I tried to eat but I just couldn’t. Nibbled on some roast beef, but the beans and rice I thought would go down ok were way too spicy for my sensitive tummy. I really didn’t eat all evening. I drank a lot though!
The Triple Bypass is an experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. Even running 14 marathons doesn’t compare. This year was especially exciting because I’m only 5 months out from my ACL repair and lost so much training time. If it wasn’t for the 18 pounds I’ve lost since December (Weight Watchers) I’m pretty sure I would’t have made it.