Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb up Mt Evans

The Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb is a 28 mile race that starts in Idaho Springs and finishes at the summit of Mt Evans — at 14,310′. There is close to 7,000′ of climbing and plenty of exposure to weather as a good portion of the race is above tree line on a narrow road that, at times, is crumbling at the edges with sheer drops in spots where you’d really rather have a nice wide shoulder!

This was only my second time up Mt Evans. I rode it last summer with Blue Sky Velo teammate Richard Chamberlain. This was the first time I’d raced up it. I almost didn’t compete today as my legs are still a little fatigued from last weeks Double Triple Bypass ride.  Now that it is over, I guess I’m glad I rode it. The weather was PERFECT and I survived to write about it — so all’s well that ends well.

I’m too pooped to compose a new blog entry from scratch — so, here is what I sent my coach, Alison Powers about today’s race:

Whew! What an interesting day of racing/riding. I felt OK when I got up at 4:30 a.m. and set out for Idaho Springs. Not great, and I do remember a couple of times en route when I thought of turning around and going back to bed! As we both know, I’ve been kinda tired all week and on top of that we have Beth’s brother & family staying with us for their ‘vacation’. But I did not turn around… my race day routine is pretty ironed out at this point. Once I got to the site, I got all my bike stuff taken care of and then went and picked up my timing chip. I decided that I would not ‘race’ but rather ‘ride’ and so I opted out of warming up on the trainer. I wasn’t too sure how much gas I had in my tank and I didn’t want to waste even an ounce of it on a trainer! 😉 But, after I picked up my chip I rode back through town and up and down a few of the streets just to let my legs know that we were about to go for a ‘ride’. They felt better than they had all week — probably about 60%. No where near 100%, but that was to be expected. I showed up to the start line with about 10 minutes to go. The ‘usual’ s were there — no Ellen Hart, but Ruth and Carla, and Maureen were all in attendance. Even Ceil Murphy who fractured her pelvis back in the Wheels of Thunder crit — THAT amazed me!!! There were also a bunch of riders who I did not know — probably 15-20 in all.

On the whistle, we all started off and I decided to try to stay with the group until either their pace forced me to ride sustained above 200 or the grade started to pick up (which would probably cause me to go over 200 anyway…) So, I guess it was really trying to stay in a reasonable power range. In my mind, I pictured trying to stay over 120 watts and under 160 watts. Not sure, but my gut told me that my legs would be able to handle that. And, I wanted to be careful not to drain my reserves too much since there was some serious above tree-line, ‘at altitude’ riding today too. Generally, I do well at altitude but I was coming into this ride much more tired than usual.

According to my criteria, I didn’t last very long with the peloton. I dropped back after only a couple of miles. Oh well. I’ve ridden so much by myself that I was perfectly fine watching them ride off up the hill. In my mind, I remember saying “Well, I’m going my pace, and if I’m gonna finish anything other than DFL, they’ll have to come back to me, because I’m not chasing them!” Funny. I just poked along and chit/chatted with some of the other racers. My legs were definitely my limiting factor today. Oh, and the ‘hot spot’ from the Double-Triple Bypass were also a nuisance. My right shoulder blade and almost immediately, my lower left back was complaining. Nothing I couldn’t ride through, but it caused me to not be quite as happy as I might otherwise have been.

I did try to pick up my pace a couple of times but quickly realized that was not a good idea. So, I’d settle back into my ‘endurance’ pace and plugged along. I ws pretty sure I was the caboose for the SW55+ and there wasn’t another SW55+ in sight. Multiple waves of riders passes me as the organizers released different race groups. That was actually kinda fun. Watching the bib numbers and figuring out who was who helped pass the time.

I hardly noticed when we turned at Echo Lake to head up to Mt Evans. I just kept pedaling along. I’d passed a few racers — citizen and BRAC — but no SW55+. Then, at about 24 miles in, I thought I saw Ruthann Polidori (strong 70 yr old!). I rode up along side and wished her well. She’d stopped to open a GU — too hard while riding she told me. Then, a mile or so later, I saw Lynn Babbit (WY). Her kit is pretty distinctive. She IS in my category. That woke up my competitive juices — which wasn’t what I really wanted to have happen today, by the way. Too late. I started to plot and scheme to figure out 1) could I catch her and 2) assuming ‘yes’, then when would be a good time and how should I go about it.

I decided that since I’d closed in on her with my ‘endurance’ pace, that I’d just keep doing that unless I started to lose ground to her. I gained steadily and with about 2.5 – 3 miles left, I caught her. I kept riding right by and I thought I detected some extra effort on her part to get on my wheel. So, I upped the effort and pulled away — almost a sprint. She had nothing. But, that effort put me 30-40 yards ahead of her and I was fully awake to the possibility of her trying to catch me. My steady effort was paying off. I had a little bit left in the tank that I could draw on during these last switchbacks to the top. I looked back on each one and it was clear that I was opening a larger time gap. Then I came upon Ceil Murphy and passed her — she was HURTING pretty bad — again, I was just AMAZED that she was on the bike and making forward progress! Doubly amazed at how strongly she had ridden. I didn’t slow down to ask how she was doing. I was on a mission. Now when I looked back, I checked for both of them. Neither had what it took to pick up their pace. All they could do was watch me ride away from them. Sweet revenge! 😉

The strongest part of my race was those 13 switchbacks after Summit Lake. I felt super good about that. I felt good when I crossed the line — but also totally spent.

I put on my descending clothes, got water and drank a recovery drink. Then grabbed a handful of potato chips and took off. Getting back down was at least as painful (in a different way) as the climb up. OMG — ouch, ouch, ouch !!! That road is just awful. My big ring was kinda screwed up (I got it adjusted in Boulder on my way home) so I didn’t worry about trying to generate any watts on the way down. Once back at the parking lot, I had a second recovery drink (something I don’t normally do…) and a couple bottles of water. Even though I drank and ate on the ’15-30′ minute schedule, I was needing to hydrate after I finished up.
When I uploaded my Strava data – someone had made a 2013 Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb segment. According to Strava, my time was 3:28:55. I’ll take it!!!  Now, it is time for a nap….maybe two!

At Echo Lake - by Wendy Durst