Sunday, June 22, 2008

Starlight Spectacular

Last night I did the coolest thing ever. Once year Colorado Springs does a yearly group bike ride around the Garden of the Gods at midnight called the Starlight Spectacular. The point of it is that Colorado Springs is laced with this amazing network of trails that everyone uses to hike, bike, run, etc. They are fabulous. Most of the way it is paved and you can go for miles without hardly ever touching a city street. They do the Starlight Spectacular to raise money to maintain the trails. The cost per person is $35, and for that you get a supported ride (meaning the roads are all blocked off for you, there are rest stops along the way for snacks, bike maintenance that may be needed, etc). I started a bike to work program at my office this month (more info on that can be found below), and a group of my fellow bike commuters really wanted to do this ride, so a we went. There were 4 of us: Patrick, David, Mark and myself. David brought a couple of his buddies, we were a group of 6 people. David worked out all the details by setting up a time and place to meet, and the route we would ride (there were a few different options). I carpooled with Patrick since we come from the same part of town more or less. I was glad it worked out that way, because he knew a back way into the park so we had an awesome parking spot. I was really nervous because I have never done a ride like this before. When I go out it is always just me (or Chris comes with me) and I just do my own thing. Being a part of 1,500 other cyclists was a little daunting! Of course, when I left, I saw that I had a flat tire. When I got there, I changed it out, which was tricky in the dark. I thought I had it pumped up enough but quickly saw that I didn't quite get enough air in there. AND I accidentally snapped off the little tip on my presta valve on my new tube so I couldn't add or remove any air from the tire. Then, I went to put my little bag on the back of my bike (I have a rear rack) and the part on the bag that snaps onto the rack broke off. Nice. I managed to get everything on and good enough to make it up to the start point at the Garden of the Gods Visitor's Center. Fortunately there were bike mechanics on hand (woo hoo for the $35 I paid in an entry fee to have access to THAT!!) and had one of the nice gentlemen get it all fixed for me. So I was race ready...FINALLY! We hung out for a few more minutes until it was time to line up and go. They let us go in waves to try to spread all 1,500 of us out so it would be safer. We had an option of going a long way or a short way right off the bat. Patrick and I were all for going the long way, but David insisted we start off on the shorter route. We were bummed at first, but headed on out following our group, and immediately hit a pretty good uphill. After cranking for a while on the uphill, we turned onto Garden of the Gods Road (usually a very busy street, but was blocked off for us which was really cool!) We FLEW down Garden of the Gods Road. That was everyone's favorite part! We turned down Chestnut and then on to make a loop through downtown. When we got downtown, it was probably 12:30 or 1:00am, and all the people hanging out at the bars were curious about what the heck we were doing. Then we turned down Colorado Ave and headed to Old Colorado City, Mark was going so fast, his rear light fell off, so we swerved off to help him retrieve it. When we got to Old Colorado City, we were ready to pull off for a rest stop. We had done a good job of keeping up with one another. David was great to keep track of us all and make sure we stayed together. We were starting to lose one or two of us here and there, so it felt like a good time to stop, catch our breaths and partake in the snacks. One of David's friends was riding a bike he had had since 1971. It was a single speed Dawes (it was so cool!!) and he was having some cable issues and was in need of a bike mechanic anyways. This rest stop was neat because it had an "Under the Sea" theme. They had a pirate ship, and the volunteers were dressed up as pirates, and mermaids and stuff. They had music playing and had watermelon, oranges, peanut M&M's, energy drinks and water. Once we had had our fill, we headed out again. We were feeling good and wanted the extra miles, so David helped us do the longer loop back that took us through Garden of the Gods. Ok, so coming back to the beginning of the race - Patrick and I wanted to go the long way where you started with a loop through the Garden of the Gods Park, and then finish going through the Garden of the Gods Park again. I am SO GLAD David told us not to take the long way straight off, because going through the park was SO HARD!! There were some pretty brutal hills. I am not the fastest rider, but I am pretty strong. I can make it up most hills without stopping (which we have some good ones out here in Colorado, so that is saying something!) Oh my goodness, my legs were burning so bad, I did have to stop a few times last night to catch my breath while making it up some of those!! My road bike is geared really well, and I have a lot of options, but man, I kept pulling the trigger trying to get to an easier gear, only to discover, I was already in the easiest gear I have!! Oh no!! I did eventually get behind this one guy who was going at a great pace, just slow and steady up these monstrous hills, so I just followed him and we made it through. It was such a great feeling when we finally rounded the corner, and there was the Garden of the Gods Visitor's Center...I had made it!! I raced on up to the Visitor’s Center, where they had a huge pancake breakfast waiting for us. It was about 2:30 in the morning at that point and after our miles (about 16 we had guessed) we were ready for the food. They had pancakes, muffins, eggs with green chili sauce and orange juice. They had chairs set out so you could sit with your group, and relax after all our hard work. After we had eaten, it was really starting to get cold out there, so we split up and headed home. I got home at about 3am...whew! It was such a fun night. I can't wait to do it again next year. I wish I had a picture of our group to share, but 1) it was dark, 2) Chris had our camera (he is off backpacking with the guys this weekend), and 3) I had hoped to use Chris's helmet camera, but was so nerved up before the ride, and had other technical issues I was dealing with so I decided to just keep it simple. We all looked so good. We had matching T-Shirts from work that we wore (which make it easy to keep track of one another as well). Overall, a good time was had by all. My legs are sore today, but I feel great after having done my first official supported ride. Many more to come I hope!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bike to Work Month

I was on the news yesterday evening! Here's the story: Chris guilt tripped me into saying that I would ride my bike to work at least once a week during the month of June. June is Colorado's official bike month. I did it for the first time last week and LOVED it. Some other folks in my office are riding more this month as well because of bike month. My company is always looking for unique benefits to offer us, so I emailed our HR manager to ask if we could do an incentive program around bike month/bike commuting. The person who commutes the most miles in June gets a free day off. He was really excited about the idea and said that we could absolutely do it. It has sparked a surge of activity with people competing for the free day.

My boss called one of our local news stations and told them about the story. They had been looking for good bike month stories, so they were excited to interview us! Fortunately I rode in that day, and was wearing a super cool t-shirt I got at a bike shop this weekend that says "Bike Commuter" so that was even better. My hair on the other hand looked like crap because I had a helmet on, but oh well!!

If you have problems viewing the embedded video below, you can use the following link in stead: