I took a little ride on my bike yesterday. Let me tell you about it.
It was the inaugural Gran Fondo Moab
. A Gran Fondo is an Italian-style bicycle race, open to all and with no official ratings, rankings or results to count in season standings. But full of hard core cyclists.
35 Degrees, Moab Utah, 10 Minutes to Start!
226 riders arrived at the 7:00 AM start in chilly 35 degree temps. Only to hear the race was postponed due to ice on the road. I had timed my carb/insulin plan for a 7:00 am start - turning my basal down to 75% at 6:00 AM and slamming down 60 grams of peanut butter and banana sandwich at 6:30. The announcement of a delay was met with my proclamation of (expletive deleted).
I never, never bolus in the 2-3 hours prior to a hard ride. And this promised to be kick-■■■ hard. The race
climbs from Moab, UT up through the La Sal mountains, gaining 5500 feet in elevation in 40 miles. With a long winter here in the west we climbed and descended past snow covered vistas for miles and miles. But an hour delay would send me to 300 or more, so I mini bolused two units, and crossed my fingers.
La Sal mountains - from the road back home
An hour later I started the race at 190, a little higher than I wanted, but still OK. A rolling romp through the Colorado River canyon on Utah Hiway 128, Utah state troopers front and back or the peloton, brought us to a turn into Castle Valley
, and the first climb. I regularly train on the Colorado National Monument, with longish grades of 5 and 6 percent. But when I looked at my cycling computer and saw 10%, and looked 20 miles up the valley to the snow covered peaks of the La Sal mountains
, I knew I was in for some pain.
At the start of the climb out of Castle Valley, I was in the back half of the peloton (OK, the riders were spread out for 10 miles, there was no peloton I could see, and I was about 30 riders from last!). But I was passing people! The road continuously changed from a 5% grade to 8% to 10% and back. Any my bike, set up for recreational cycling with all the right gears for Colorado (triple chain ring!) allowed me to sit and spin where other sweaty riders (yep - sweaty at 40 degrees F) were mashing big gears and teetering up the mountain.
A couple facts were firmly cemented in my brain on this climb. 1. You can rub out a cramp while spinning at 85 RPM. 2. You can check your CGM while climbing. Just do it on a 5% grade, not a 10% grade - you really need both hands on your handlebars at 10%. 3. Even if you are in the slowest 15% of the pack, it puts a smile on your face to pass someone!
There are no good word, no good terms to describe what your brain does when you realize a road like this gets steeper - and you have ten more miles of climb to go. When I looked down at my cycling computer, and saw 16% grade, I really didn't know what to think. My eyes were stinging from sweat, my sunglasses blurry from same. But I saw the 16% and considered turning the damn thing off. The steepest pitches, (yes I'm calling them pitches, as one does in mountain climbing) were not terribly long and I found myself smiling with relief when the road returned to a sane 6 or 7 percent grade.
But with 3 miles to go to the top, more steep pitches loomed. And I pulled something out of the old cyclist's book of tricks. It goes like this - when you're mountain biking on slick rock (google it, or look here
) you can make your own mini-switchbacks. This lessens the grade because you are going side-to-side across the road instead of straight ahead. A little tricky when the snow and ice extends onto the pavement at the sides, but manageable nonetheless. And as I passed a couple wheezers, I looked back over my shoulder - and they had adopted my strategy. (DISCLAIMER - I don't advocate whipping your road bike across the full width of any road - unless you're gonna die if you don't get to the top, and the road is closed, posted, flagged for a bicyle race).
Three and a half hours into the race I topped the climb and hit a support station. There were 20 other riders celebrating their success and snapping photos. As I grabbed my Dexcom CGM monitor a course official asked if I wanted my picture taken with my "camera". My reply was "No, this is a blood glucose monitor. I'm a diabetic." And just a little louder "and I'm the toughest 50 year old diabetic on the mountain!" And then I did a little promotional video
on my iPod for my upcoming ride in the Colorado Tour de Cure!.
After a cold sweep across 10 miles of mountain top the course dropped like a rock through tight turns and warming temps. The list of my aching body parts, screaming at me as I descended down pavement as rough as the cobblestones at Roubaix, is too long to list here. Leave it to say I sailed back into Moab, UT and had enough energy to sprint at the finish!
4 hours 38 minutes. 7 sports gels. 4 bottles of sports drink. 4 bottles of water. Ending BG level - 96!
(Note the Red Rider jersey!)