TABR Day 9: Colorful Colorado?

I saved a few eggrolls from last nights Thai dinner for breakfast this morning. I've been eating cold (actually, mostly room temperature) subway sandwiches for the past few days when I wake up. I'm not kidding- I would literally open my eyes and unwrap a foot long. It seemed perfectly normal when I was doing it, but yeah it's kinda of rough when you recall it. These eggrolls- such a nice treat.

Strava tells me I started this morning at 2:54 AM- must have been up at about 2:30 I suppose. Today is a fresh start, a moment to remove all the negative thoughts from yesterday's short distanced day. Today was an opportunity to make up ground.

Rolling out of Rawlins at 3:00 am was a breeze- very little traffic as the route meandered backroads towards Sinclair. After Sinclair there is a small stretch on the I-80 that we need to ride, which I felt would be best approached in the wee hours of the morning- less traffic and with two very bright rear lights, I would be very visible. Unfortunately what I had failed to realize was that there was construction on this stretch of I-80, and the shoulder was completely closed. In fact, there was only one small lane for each direction of traffic. This was not how I wanted to start the day, especially after the drain of yesterdays semi-hugging day. The speeds were lower in this construction zone, but still every truck was buzzing by extremely close. It was pitch black except for my headlight in front of me that helped me stay on the white line. I was able to tell when each vehicle was coming up on me, which was helpful but damn was this nerve rattling. It feels as though I have been complaining a bit about traffic in the past few posts. I just want to note that the majority of the route across the country was peaceful with limited traffic. A few of the bad parts just happened to be back to back. I also want to note that I do ride most of my training miles outside, so don't take me as a trainer baby who hasn't spent time cuddling up side mirrors. Later I came to find out that Nathan had sent out instructions to follow the closed section of I-80, which ran parallel to the section I was on, but I didn't see that message until later in the day, and in the dark it was difficult to tell where that actually was. Definitely one of the sketchiest moments of riding for me, but one that I likely could have avoided with some better attention to race information.

Luckily the stretch of I-80 is only a few miles and I was soon back on quiet country roads heading south towards Saratoga Springs. What I didn't expect was what happened in the next few miles. Muscle failure.. at least that's what it felt like. Coming out of nowhere, a large twinge screamed into my upper left leg. It came on so strong, to the point where I actually couldn't lift my leg in the pedal stroke- it was like someone was stabbing a screwdriver into my upper quad as I attempted to engage it through the upstroke, collapsing in it's effort to turn the crank up. What the hell... A deep vale of concern crept in. Did someone creep into my room last night and surgically snip the connective tissue and tendons in my leg? What the hell to do now?

I tried to think logically (which can be tough in a sleep deprived state): muscle imbalance and tightness were the first things that came to mind. I kept forward movement using one legged drills, using my knuckles to rub out the top of my quad. Over and over I raked deep into my quad. Painful, but tolerable. I could feel the shape of a large knot towards my lower quad, and begin suspecting this was the source of the issue. I focused my attention there. I pulled out a few Ibuprofen to add in the mix- it couldn't hurt. Over the next hour, the pain slowly started to go away. Soon I was able to regain some use of my left leg and get back to a somewhat rhythmic pedal stroke. Even though the pain was subsiding, I remained concerned. What if this keeps coming back? What if it gets worse? I needed to push those thoughts aside, and focus on what was happening now.

It's still rather early in the day- 6:30am or so, as I roll into the town of Saratoga Springs. Every restaurant seems to be opening in 30 mins, and I'm not in a position to wait that long if I want to make up for yesterday's disappointment. I relegate to a gas station stop, grab a large coffee and a jimmy dean sausage breakfast sandwich, likely which had been slowly heating under that lamp since yesterday's breakfast. The coffee warms my soul and gives me some motivation to keep the wheels turning. It's still pretty cold in the mornings at this high elevation; I have all my layers of clothes on still. Just keep moving is what I tell myself. Soon the warmth of the day will help motivate, and hopefully continue to loosen up my tight muscles. Town to Town... Riverside is next, and there we will veer east and catch a tailwind (fingers crossed). I stop again in Riverside for another small meal- chocolate milk and another Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich (this one I have to microwave myself). It's a little Mom & Pop country store with shelves sparsely stocked. I sit out side on the picnic table and contemplate the day's progress thus far... The mileage progression isn't bad but what the hell was that with my leg? My mind is a bit indecisive about how the day is going. A passerby chats me up for a few minutes about the race and upcoming roads. It feels good to actually converse with people, but at the same time I know I need to wrap up the conversation and keep moving.

The road from Riverside progressively gets worse- chip seal bumps every yard, creating this constant "thud" that shakes through your frame and into your bones. Every 10 seconds or so... THUD!.. it's really a hateful experience. I've come to the conclusion that the only fun part of Wyoming has been the Tetons, and outside of that it's been a state to forget.

The Colorado state sign can't come soon enough!

But oh wait, it's still rough roads and now, no shoulder AT ALL.

The stretch from the Colorado border to Rand essentially looks like the picture above- no shoulders, high winds, little climbing and very few resources. Good thing there is very little traffic out here- mostly motor cycles and passenger vehicles. This is also one of the few stretches where I ran out of water.

After Rand, we begin to enter the Arapaho National Forest, with some proper climbing. I love to climb, and after a light day yesterday the legs feel good. The temps are much milder up here at 9,000 ft, but still no jacket is needed. The scenery is phenomenal! Nathan and the media car catch up and we have a little time to chat at a vacant campsite over a BLT sandwich. Spirits are high right now, and the focus is on Silverthorne for the evening. I look for confirmation from Nathan- It's a push, but doable.

I continue on to Kremmling and pick up three footlongs at the Subway. Stares emerge from the teenagers hanging out there on a Friday night. One for now, one before bed, and one for breakfast. From Kremmling to Silverthorne is a slow climb- nothing steep but it's just slower miles. During this stretch, the route veers off State Route 9 and around Green Mountain Reservoir- it feels wrong in the moment, like an unnecessary detour off the most efficient path, but I trust the GPS. Its very dark; my light makes out shapes of steep rock faces right next to the road, and large drop offs on the other side. As I wind around the reservoir, temps are plummeting pretty fast up here- we are still at 7,500 ft- and I stop several times to add another layer. The route returns to State Route 9, now pitch black and easily in the low 30s. I'm starting to shiver as I push up the road, trying to generate more power to keep the body warm. Standing on the pedals constantly just to stay away. There's very little left in the tank for the day. Memories of Lolo Pass are returning, where the miles just seem to go forever and Silverthorne is nowhere closer to be found. Miles and miles of cold, dark into nowhere riding.

Street signs trickle in to view. Speed limits start to drop- 55mph, 45, 35.... Side streets that lead to neighborhoods on the outskirts of town. Civilization! Silverthorne! It's close to 10pm, and I've been at it today for about 20 hours. Let's find a hotel and crash out. A successful day, but I can't shake the thought of the leg issue coming back.