so my husband and I took a trip to Colorado for about 6 days.
It was just as I remembered (we took the same trip/lodging last year at the same time), except this time, it seems the altitude was much harder to handle. Last year I did have a coach for my cycling, so maybe that was it? But then again, you can’t train for altitude really.
I mean, a 40 mile ride totally wiped me out. It’s just so crazy how much the elevation kills your fitness. I am not a newb to cycling, so it is not that I am not physically prepared.
2nd day there we finally got a bike ride in, we trekked to Breckenridge which is simply an adorable town. The altitude got to me around mile 40, I bonked from the lack of air. My eyes were drooping, I was sleepy, I just wanted to take a nap. I had to stop and rest and eat.
This was Swan Mountain, and trust that it was not just me that was heaving and gasping for air even on this smaller climb, my husband was struggling too.
but obviously I was in my happy place, no matter the lack of air….
so let me get to the point of this post, I really felt the need to write-up our attempt at Mount Evans.
In case you didn’t know, Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in the United States of America, so obviously, we had to climb this mountain. We had done Loveland Pass, which tops out at just nearly 12,000 ft.:
this is Mt Evans:
what we didn’t realize, is that it is 27 miles from Idaho Springs to the Summit of Evans.
I am a most horrible map reader and somehow via Strava I thought the climb from Echo Lake was only 5 miles…lol oh God was I wrong. So prior to us starting, I figured we should start at Echo Lake, but husband said lets just do the whole shebang and start from the bottom of Idaho Springs, so I was like, well, okay!
We start chugging along, from Idaho Springs, granted, let me add, much later than a usual bike start time, 11:00AM. Mistake #1…. It was fairly hot, I had to stop and take my wind vest off and zip the jersey down.
The road is wide, and lovely. Slow climbing, chugging along. Oh! We saw this mountain man descending with no fucks given: topless, skinny and scraggly, no helmet. I gasped and was amazed, he looked so at ease. Imagine this guy, but nearly naked and no helmet, and thin as hell from eating only berries:
We get to about 9,000 ft and we notice we start running low on water. Husband tells me to start rationing my water, but it’s hard when you’re at that altitude. In case you didn’t know, being higher up makes you much more thirsty. I even passed a half empty Dasani water bottle on the side of the road, and almost stopped to get it I was at that level of desperation. I also started envisioning waving down cars asking for water. We didn’t know where the entrance or gates or whatever to Mount Evans was, and I honestly was beginning to think one didn’t exist. I stopped because I heard a stream near by to fill my water bottle up, but then realized it was some inaccessible running water under a drainage thing, d’oh!
We pass 10,000 ft, and I still see no entrance or gate, but finally not soon after we found a park, and further up Echo Lake and a lodge where we got some water, and Yuriy got a snickers bar.
So again, from this point at our break, I thought we only had 5 miles from Mt Evans start to Summit. So we eat a snack (by the way it’s like 1:30PM), and enter Mt Evans. We stop to layer up, and realize, oh cool! Cyclists don’t even have to pay a park entrance fee, it use to be $3.00 but now its free for us bike peeps.
I glance at a sign that says “14 MILES TO SUMMIT“……I was mentally scratching my head, “that has to be wrong, or something else?? FOURTEEN MILES??????????? NO way..???” My husband shrugs his shoulders, unfazed. I ask the park ranger woman at the hut where you pay your fee, “how many miles to the top?” she responds “14 miles to the peak”……my heart starts pumping, a bit of oh for fucks sake……
Pretty sure I told my husband 5 times “dude— I don’t know about this….”
So backtracking, Loveland was 8 miles to summit, and again at nearly 12,000 ft. We were 14 miles in just to get to Mt Evans start, and only at 10,600 ft and I was already QUITE WHOOPED. So mentally, I was like, “yeahhhhh I don’t know man…” but we were there, this was our last day in Colorado, let’s do this shit.
We take off, and it’s just noticeably harder. Maybe because I knew I had 14 more miles to do versus 5…maybe because the avg % of this part was higher, maybe because we had already done a 14 mile climb… we get past Goliath Park, and things just start looking insanely SCARY. Barren, almost like we were on a different planet. I mean, its insanely beautiful looking out SO FAR above everything else, and other mountain peaks. But my mind started playing tricks on me (no shocker there). I kept seeing dead butterflies on the cement, and I thought to myself “oh God, not even butterflies can live at this altitude?!”…I then realize we had not had a good lunch to fuel this second climb, and that starts messing with me too. “Shit, what if I am bonking at the top, and I am so out of it from the altitude to the brain, and I crash descending??” Let me add, this was one of my biggest fears in reaching the top. Altitude messes with your brain, can make you tired, foggy headed, and just in general ‘not all there’…my big fear was crashing descending the mountain. Then Yuriy tells me we can’t really spend time stopping anymore because we are chasing the sun now (because we started so late!). I had to stop because everything was getting to me mentally. There wasn’t a great spot to stop really, basically right near the edge of the mountain. We stopped, I ate some of Yuriy’s Snickers, and the pummeling wind into us was even MORE terrifying. When we were descending Loveland Pass the couple days before, I have never ever been so terrified on my bike. The wind was pushing me and my bike as I was going down the mountain, trying to maneuver around all the spectators of the US Pro Challenge, cars, huge trucks, etc. I had to stop 2 times descending Loveland, I was shaking I was wrapped in such fear from the wind. I am not usually a wuss, but I mean this wind was awful…so back to Mt Evans and our stop, and the world crashing down on me mentally, that wind was pretty much the deciding factor. I felt awful, because I know Yuriy wanted to do it all. But the amount of “fuck THIS” omitting from me was enough for him to realize I was not happy anymore doing this.
I literally started crying descending, the wind was getting to my head again. I quickly snapped myself out of it and realized I, like Loveland, had to simply JUST DO IT. So I did. We had to stop once descending to take a break. Near the bottom and near Idaho Springs, a bee stung my neck so that was just a cherry on top of the “well that didn’t work” ride.
I felt really crappy afterwards, because this climb is freaking legendary. But as you can see, we were insanely unprepared. I had read a guys blog post about preparing for this ride, but nothing prepared me for this properly.
Let me add, the first 14 miles to Echo Lake, the pavement is AWESOME, just smooth and lovely. But Mt Evans has a bunch of deep crevices and bumps, and bad pavement. Just wanted to add that.
Until next time, when we crush that Evans.