24 September 2009 - 1:16SSWC – Being There – Part 1
What a crazy trip this has been, and this is going to take a few posts…
After waking up totally dehydrated, and with a slight tinge of a Belgian beer hangover, Dicky, Mandy and myself got our bearings and had some nice greasy breakfast. While I wasn’t sure I was going to keep it all down, I eventually won. Then we went down to Durango Cyclery to drop off our extra special SSWC beer coozies and register for the race.
The next step was to retrieve our bikes from Hermosa Tours, get them built and then go ride!
Hermosa was running a tour up to the Colorado Trail, which we got in on. About 14 of us crammed into the van, and we rolled up a long set of switchbacks way out into the mountains. Our ride was going to be about 20 or so miles, 18 or so all down hill, and all of it singletrack. Sounded like fun to us!
We were dropped off at 10400ft, to a cold and stiff breeze, and to the sound of rumbling thunder. I had forgotten just how quickly the weather can change up here, and felt rather stupid for not even bringing anything warm to wear. Fortunately, Mandy had a wind jacket and some arm warmers (that I immediately capitalized on) and we began the descent.
Well, not at first. There was this double track that was ever so slightly uphill that we had to take to get to the singletrack. It sucked. 10400 is legit, there is not much air up there!
Once we began to ride the singletrack, the group spread out. While the rumbles of thunder persisted, we were still in the sun, and we were moving. It was a little weird being out of breath descending, but once I settled into my groove I stared to feel a little better. Some of us regrouped about 5 miles downtrail, where things started to get really rocky. We had been riding next to a mountain stream for quite a while, and then the trail turned up. This must be the uphill part of the ride.
We were climbing for about 15 minutes when the thunderstorm was finally and suddenly upon us. It was raining, and it was cold. At this time, the camera went away in a plastic bag for the duration, and sadly there were no more pictures taken that day.
Ironically, it was at that point, that things got really interesting.
We were very far away from any sort of help. The numbers of our group was dwindling, as some succumbed to flat tires, or other such pestilential mechanicals. Being out in the wild, we made sure everyone was all set, made sure that person staying back had a buddy, and kept on keeping on. It was raining. And it was cold. And is was getting late in the day re:DARK. Ultimately, we were a very wet quintet.
Even our group had issues, we split up once but we finally regrouped again at the top of the “up” section of the downhill. By then, it had stopped raining, but the trails were a slurry of water clay mud that had to be experienced to be believed. My glasses were too dark, but not wearing then would result in about 1 lb of dirt being flung into my eye every 10 feet, so I kept on hosing the lenses off with my Camelbak every so often. Eventually, we got into a groove and started to haul some ass, my hands, frozen hooks on the handlebars barely able to check speed with my brake levers.
Imagine hurtling though unfamiliar mud drenched terrain (did I mention that I was running WWLTs?- worst possible tires for these conditions!). Mandy said I was throwing huge 20ft rooster tails of mud off the back of the bike, which must have been true, as my body and face were taking care of the 20ft roost from the front. I have NEVER been this muddy in my life.
Then imagine everyone freaking out and suddenly, spastically and uncontrollably sliding to a halt. I came up on the scene a little late as I had stopped to rinse my glasses, and saw the almost carnage of 4 riders slamming into a cow. Yes. A cow. And there was not just 1 cow, there were many. Well, at least it wasn’t raining anymore. Now it was just the cold, oncoming dark and cows we had to worry about.
After everyone calmed down enough to rationally ride again, we set off. We were about a 1/2 mile from the first en-cow-nter (sorry, I can’t heppit!), when we came across a young bull that wasn’t in the mood for any of our crap. It wasn’t about to let us pass, but we persisted in our harassment. While trying to get the stupid beast out of our way, it finally took off. The same way we were going.
So here we are, in the growing darkness, chasing a cow down some singletrack. We probably went another 1/2 mile before we got to a point where we could try and shoo the cow off the trail so we could pass. Well, all of us except Mandy got around the cow, and by now, that cow was PISSED OFF. Mooing and snorting it came after us, and we had no choice but to pedal on or deal with the consequences.
That cow could really move! I kept stopping to wait and see if the cow would stop chasing us, but it was ever so apparent that the cow was now running away from Mandy, who was trying to regroup with us. Well Mandy ran that stupid cow down for well over a mile. I kept them in sight for most of the time, but the cow was fianlly looking a bit haggard. We eventually found a good spot to try and run the cow off the trail, which we ultimately did, regrouped with Mandy and took off again, because now that cow was REALLY mad, but too tired to do anything about it. You could see it meant to harm us in it’s eyes.
The trails down low were a lot dryer, and now we were out of the big mountains and into the foothills. We made some good time, but it was now a race against dusk. Durango was in our sights but we still had a long way to go. After bashing my pedals into rocks and logs for 10 miles, my EBB had been knocked out of position, and my chain was beginning to slip. Oh, and I had forgotten to bring that extra long 6mm wrench I always bring for just such an occasion. DAMN! Any extertion on the pedals and POP! Oh, this was going to take a long time….
When we finally got to the trail egress it was as black, as, well, night. At this point I could only soft pedal, but this was OK, my superior coasting ability helped me get back to downtown Durango faster than anyone else in the group. Then I had a couple of blocks to walk uphill before I could softly pedal back to our place, where I was last in line for the shower.
I had mud in places I didn’t know mud could get to, like UNDER my eyelids. And yeah, I had a lot of mud “there” too… I never would have thought that I would have the wettest, muddiest epic ride this year in Colorado… Go figure… But I would do it again in a heartbeat!