Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Monday, May 30, 2011

224 mile Death ride in a day on the Road bike, Colorado's San Juan Skyway loop by bike

This is a one day road bike ride (aka the Death Ride version) on Colorado's San Juan Skyway loop. Starting in Dolores Colorado; Dolores > Mancos > Durango > Silverton > Ouray > Ridgeway > Telluride > Dolores.  224 miles and around 20,000 feet of elevation gain in over 19 hours
Every other day of the year I race and ride a singlespeed mountain bike. Two days prior to the ride a friend talked me into doing the Death Ride again instead of the KTR. I had done it in the past clockwise but this time we would go counterclockwise.  I hadn't ridden the road bike for over two years so I dusted it off, replaced the tires (Same ones from RAAM a few years earlier) and we started at the Dolores River Brewery at 4:30am. Brutal head winds which really slowed down my progress but overall a great route for a road bike ride.

Due to the high winds forecasted there was some debate whether we should postpone the ride but the following day was the only other option and it was going to be much colder so we started anyway.

Kiviok and I battled headwinds all the way to Durango but still made good time.  In the crowded metropolis of Durango it took as long to get food and stand in line for the restroom at McDonalds as it would have going to a higher quality establishment which burned a bunch of time.  Then some guy asked me how to get to the airport and then didn't believe me when I told him numerous times in several different explanations which cost more time.  I was happy to get out of town again climbing the popular Iron Horse route over Molas pass to Silverton.  The climb was good and there was some tailwind or headwind depending on which direction the switchbacks were facing.  Downhill was crazy with the wind swirling and switching directions.  I had to slow down because I felt like I might crash.  The views were spectacular.

Kiviok had to pull out at Silverton which I had never seen happen before.  He was obviously not feeling well on the climb and was totally bummed.  He had a tough week of hard training.  Obviously too much.  He waited there for his wife to pick him up.

I was feeling good so I resupplied with water and Gatorade ate a lunchable and pressed on over Red Mountain Pass and descended down to Ouray then to Ridgeway.  This section was beautiful and Ouray is a very picturesque town.  In Ridgeway I stopped at a Coffee shop and had a veggie breakfast burrito which was great.

Leaving Ridgeway I was making great time.  At the Dallas Divide climb things slowed down considerably.  The wind had dramatically picked up at noon just like the forecast predicted.  I was in my lowest gear standing during most of the climb.  Even though this wasn't one of the big mountain passes it worked out to be the toughest climb that day.  There were no trees to block any of the wind.  When I stopped to take a picture the wind was blowing me backwards down the hill.

There was no reward when I finally reached the crest and started to descend.  The wind was so bad that I had to still pedal with considerable effort down the hill.  I was looking at the elevation graph to make sure I was still going downhill and it showed I was descending but it didn't feel like it. There were broken limbs in the road and an aspen tree.  Looking at the trees getting rocked by the wind I started to worry about one landing on me.  Then it started to rain but there was not a cloud in the sky close to me.  Rough section that day!

After the turn and climbing toward Telluride the wind was still horrible but was more intermittent.  In Telluride I resupplied and grabbed a pizza slice at the Conoco station and immediately started the climb to Lizard Head pass in an effort to beat the sunset to the summit.  There were a lot of elk alongside the road in this section.  I never could figure out why the grass is so much tastier there as opposed to the millions of acres of nation forest nearby.  I arrived at the top of the pass just after dark.  It was brutally windy and cold.

After two elk ran directly in front of me in the dark on top of the pass I became skeptical that I had sufficient light to spot wildlife on the descent.  That became a non-issue on the descent since the wind was blowing so bad I couldn't get going a high speed anyway.  The descent was cold and it rained lightly until I hit Rico.

After Rico my wife Dani showed up to follow me to Dolores.  How cool is that?  The extra light was great.  I could see the numerous limbs on the road from the wind.  The last section required continued effort even though it was mostly downhill due to the constant wind.

I arrived in Dolores around midnight.  It was great to be done even though it was an awesome ride!  Just after finishing the rain really started coming down.  Glad I missed that!  Legs still felt pretty good at the end but the neck mussels and hamstrings were a bit sore and I was glad to get off the saddle.

I would definitely recommend this as a bucket list ride.  If not one day, take your credit card and do it in three or four days which would still be difficult.  It can be done faster than this but I took time to check some things out and was not riding at a race effort.  There is a race on this loop as well and a three day tour also called the Death Ride. http://www.deathridetour.com/about.php
Overall the ride is not as tough as a 24 hour mountain bike race solo effort in my opinion but it is still very difficult.

Check out the stats:


What I took:

On the bike:
3 water bottles
2 tubes
Adapter to fill tires at a gas station
Put on my mountain bike seat (since that's what I always use)
CO2 cartridges
Tire levers
Velcro straps
Light on my bike (Aye-up 6 hour)
Garmin 705
Rechargeable external Duracell USB battery for Garmin (Get at Wall Mart)
Feeder bag by stem for energy food
Feeder bag by seatpost for trash
Jando frame bag.  These are sweet!  Take the weight off your back!
Extra parts: Bolts, cleat and screws, zip ties, duct tape
Small bottle of chain lube
Blister pads
Phone in a waterproof bag
Driver’s license
Cash & credit card

For me:
Rain jacket (strapped to the bike stem)
Arm warmers
Knee warmers
Wool socks
Warm gloves
Summer gloves
Clear glasses
Head beanie

Fuel I started with and consumed throughout the ride:
3 bottles of HEED
1Tube of Hammer Gel
2 Honey Stinger chews
3 Honey Stinger waffles
6 Advil
3 Natural enzymes
12 Endurolytes

Fuel I purchased during the ride:
2 Egg McMuffins, water and some Powerade in Durango
1 Lunchable, water & Gatorade in Silverton
1 Veggie breakfast burrito, water & Powerade in Ridgeway
1 Slice of Pizza, water & Gatorade in Telluride

4:30 am start in Dolores

Sunrise just before Mancos
McDonald's in Durango

1st pass
2nd Pass
View toward Silverton from Molas pass

Lost of snow still
3rd pass, Red Mountain

Motorcycle went over the side on Red Mountain, they just winched it up on the trailer from down below
Cool shot of Ouray

Waterfall between Ouray and Ridgeway

Coffee shop in Ridgeway
Ralph Lauren's ranch outside of Ridgeway

Riding to the other side of those mountains

Not a pass but was tough with the wind that day
Telluride is in the distance

4th pass, in the dark