Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ride the Rockies - Prep Days

This is the first installment of a four part series about my adventure riding the Rockies while supporting the Davis Phinney Foundation. The ride was a grueling 500 miles over the course of 6 days in Colorado. I was participating in Ride the Rockies to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation, the legendary American cyclist with Parkinson’s disease, who started his Foundation to focus on living well with the disease. My dad has Parkinson's disease and the Davis Phinney Foundation is a perfect fit for us. My dad always says he feels a lot better on the bike so it is only fitting that support a Foundation that combines my two passions: my dad and cycling. By the start of the ride I raised over $2,600 for the foundation.
Prep Day 1

This was my second year participating in the ride, so I kind of knew the pain and fatigue I was going to experience throughout the week. The ride started on Sunday, June 8, so I flew in the Thursday before to get acclimated to the altitude. My dad was tagging along this year to see what the ride was all about. 

This year, Ride the Rockies covered roughly 475 miles and 35,000 feet of climbing, all above 5,000 feet in altitude. This ride has kind of become my crazy training camp to get ready to smash the races through the summer. But this year I was unsure of my fitness having only been on the bike a couple of weeks after taking 3 weeks off for final exams at school and working the Amgen Tour of California. To say the least I was a bit worried.

After my flight landed, I picked up my luggage and bike, my dad got the rental car, and it was full speed ahead to our hotel in Louisville. The ride started in Boulder, but for some reason the travel company put all of the Rockies riders in Louisville. As soon as I started walking around I could feel the altitude. Boy was this going to be a tough week. I built my bike in the hotel parking lot and got ready for a ride. 

My dad and I drove into Boulder and stopped by a bike shop so I could pick up some Co2 cartridges. I like using the Co2 better than a hand pump when fixing a flat on the road. The problem is, you’re not allowed to bring the Co2 cartridges on the plane because they would explode when decompressed. So, the past two years I have bought a bunch of them when I have gotten to Colorado and ended up giving them to people at the end of the ride, unable to bring them home. After our bike shop visit we went over to see the folks at the Davis Phinney Foundation. They are a great group of people and as with everything were very helpful in giving me a nice easy route to ride on my first day at altitude. It felt weird riding though, my heart rate was super high, but my watts were normal. After my ride my dad and I just chilled for the rest of the day. 

Walking around downtown Boulder

That night we saw Nelson Vails documentary, "Cheetah - The Nelson Vails Story." Nelly, as he’s called, is a pretty cool character who began his cycling career as a bike messenger. I was looking forward to riding with him a little bit later in the week. At the documentary I ran into my riding buddy for the week, Wayne Stetina. Wayne is an American cycling legend and last year he pushed me to my limits. I was looking forward to the same treatment—there is no one else I love suffering with more.

Prep Day 2

On Saturday, the day before Ride the Rockies started, instead of taking another easy day to acclimate to the altitude, I chose to hit the ground pedaling. I woke up early so I could tackle one of the most iconic climbs in Boulder, Flagstaff Mountain. I was pretty fired up. I had wanted to climb Flagstaff ever since I watched the riders in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge tackle it. My Dad dropped me off on the outskirts of Boulder so that I could get a little bit of a warm-up before the climb. Flagstaff is a 5-mile climb with two sections. The first section is 3 miles and climbs up to the amphitheater. The second section is 2 miles and this is where you climb into the pain cave. Cycling up to the amphitheater, I pushed the pace quite a bit since the grade was not that steep. Little did I know, the road was about to pitch up towards the heavens. The last 2 miles were brutal. I came across pitches of up to 17%. I ended up imploding and towards the top was pedaling squares. The altitude and climb had defeated me. I finished the climb in about 38 minutes. I was disappointed to say the least.

Pushing the pace early up Flagstaff.
Also, representing JMU...Go Dukes!

On the descent, I bumped into the Ride the Rockies prologue. (I don’t sign up for the prologue because it’s an additional expense that is hard to justify given the investment in getting to and from Colorado and the hotel fees.) The group had just ridden up to a scenic overlook. I was fortunate to see all the celebs who were participating in Ride the Rockies—Nelson, Wayne, and even Timmy Duggan showed up for the day. George Hincapie was with the group, and to my dismay asked me what's up. I guess he remembered me from last year, which was pretty cool. I rode back to the hotel, chilled for a couple of hours, picked up my ride packet and route guide, and then chilled some more. Tomorrow was going to be a brutal day—90 miles and roughly 11,000 feet of climbing, all above 5,000 feet in altitude. 

I do not care what anyone says, Boulder is paradise! #Livin'theDream

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