Some things are beyond your control. Like your genetics. While I can acclimatize with time, I am sensitive to altitude and prone to altitude sickness. That’s unfortunate when your favorite places are mountains. It’s downright annoying when you train like crazy for half the year to ride some ridiculous bike ride, show actual improvements in fitness, only to find out it was for nothing.
Alright, it’s not for nothing, but as handy as my new found cardio-vascular fitness will be in reducing future insurance premiums it won’t help me with my primary goal: finishing the triple bypass in time for the barbecue. How do I know this? Team Stupid, the team of three guys who I’m riding the Triple Bypass with this year, went out for a trial run. We rode Squaw Pass, the first leg of the bypass, to Idaho Springs and back. It’s a pretty big ride. Only 62 miles, but over 7000 feet of vertical. That’s about half the distance and two thirds of the actual ride itself.
And we were all doing great over the pass too. We were reminded how cold it can be, even with good weather, at 11,000+ feet, but at the bottom of the first pass, I think we all were surprised by how big a deal that wasn’t. But even the helpful tail-wind pushing me back over the pass couldn’t help push out the building headache. I was drinking enough, and had eaten enough, although, perhaps a bit more in both cases wouldn’t have hurt, but the headache and general malaise was slowing me down much more than my legs which, for the most part, still felt strong.
I watched my friends pass me and slowly pull away as I slogged up the mountain, head down, breathing unusually hard. They were waiting for me a few miles from the top near a campground toilet. I visited the facilities and, feeling pretty crappy and gray, I wondered if maybe I needed to throw up. Just facing the business end of a chemical toilet was probably enough to close the deal.
Of course, after tossing my cookies, it made me feel a bit better for a while and I kept up with team stupid till the next stop. There I felt even worse and started shivering and clacking my teeth. Back on the bike for two more miles of climbing, and once again, I actually started feeling a bit better. I didn’t push it and made it over the pass without too much trouble, but certainly not very fast. As we sped down toward thicker air I felt better and better, until I was fine by the time we reached the starting point in Bergen, Colorado.
And that’s when I realized that it’s not the climbing that will kill me (I could have turned around and climbed right back up, now that I felt fine) but just the exerting myself at 11,000 feet. Maybe I’ll take the week off before the ride and rent a hotel in Leadville. It’s the only way I’ll be in good shape for the ride.
Riding summary since last time (notice the increasing average speeds…)
3 June: Time Trial, 17. 7 miles, 19.06 mph average
5 June: Almost a century, 95.5 miles, 16.4 average
6 June: Flats and rollers, 30.7 miles, 16.1 average (ok, don’t look at that one for speed)
9 June: Lunch ride, 13.7 miles, 20.6 average (see, that’s getting somewhere!)
10 June: Lunch ride, 15.7, 19.14 average
11 June: Lunch ride, 18.43, 18.08 average (which isn’t so bad, considering I got lost and it was raining at the end)
13 June: Time Trial, 17.76, 19.36 average
14 June: Ward, Colorado, (9,450 ft), 80,7, 15.5 average (not bad for all that climbing)
16 June, Time Trial, 9, 19.7 average
19 June, Squaw Pass, 62.3, 12.2 average
Whew, that’s a lot of riding.