On my way home from a beautiful trail run yesterday morning, I received some very sad news: Steamboat Gravel is cancelled for 2020.
After a quick cool down, I climbed into my car and checked my texts and emails before heading home from the trailhead. My heart sank a little when I opened up a message from a cycling friend; there were no words, just a handful of crying emojis. We were supposed to ride Dirty Kanza and Steamboat Gravel together this year, and I had a feeling there was bad news about one of those.
Before texting back, I opened up my email. The subject line in the first message at the top of my inbox read, “SBT GRVL unfortunate news of race cancellation…” My shoulders slumped, I closed my eyes and rubbed the dried salt from my temples—a byproduct of a dry, hot run.
I hung my head in sadness for a few seconds. I really didn’t want to be right. SBT GRVL was the best 100 miles of my life and some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike, and I was—and still am—so bummed we’ll have to wait another year and a half to ride those beautiful roads together again.
^^^ SBT GRVL, 2019. A race and a finish line I will remember forever.
The event was scheduled for August, 93 days from today. And for the last couple months I was hoping, praying, crossing my fingers and toes that the COVID-19 situation would improve enough that the race could go on. Unfortunately, the organizers felt there was no way to safely hold the event based on current Colorado laws, and CDC guidelines. Mark, Ken, and Amy of SBT GRVL definitely made the right decision even though it was difficult to hear. Dirty Kanza’s rescheduled race is just a month after Steamboat, and I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before we get a similar email from those guys…
Yes, I’m sad about my own postponed plans. But this is bigger than that. Races like SBT GRVL and Dirty Kanza are important. They’re important for the communities in which they are held because they benefit from increased tourism, they are important for the sport and spreading awareness and excitement around cycling, which only fosters more attention and more sponsors and funnels more dollars towards these events. These races are important because they bring people together in a bigger way that simply riding side by side on the dusty dirt roads in northwest Colorado or on the flint rock rollers in central Kansas. Times are tough and are tougher for other people, but I know we will emerge from this and these amazing events will resurface in 2021.
On Friday last week, before we got this news, I decided to do a big solo ride. (We had Friday off at work.) I’ve been slowly building my mileage and climbing capacity, so I decided to test things out with a big old loop into the mountains.
From Louisville, I cycled to North Boulder, up and over Olde Stage, then really began climbing when I hit James Canyon down the back side of Olde Stage Rd. James Canyon is a long long loooong climb up to Jamestown, Colorado (population: 274), then continues on to a section called Super James, which is a wind-y paved road that turns into dirt with sections of inclines upwards of 13%. It is B-R-U-T-A-L. I averaged about 3 miles per hour in some sections.
When I finally reached the dirt section of James Canyon (which turns into Overland Rd.), I was at around 8,000 ft. in elevation with still more than 1,000 feet to go.
But the dirt is a beautiful stretch of rollers that provides a bit of relief—plus unbelievable views. I stopped a handful to times to just take in the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Overland Rd. eventually hits Peak to Peak highway, which runs through several counties in the Front Range Mountains and offers beautiful views of the mountains and cities way off in the distance.
I hung a left on Peak to Peak and headed toward Ward, Colorado (population: maybe 200 ?). By then, my legs were screaming and I was nearly out of food. I finally rolled into Ward maybe 30 minutes later and was so thankful to see a big OPEN sign hanging in the window of the one and only general store on the main road.
I racked my bike, pulled my bandana over my nose and mouth, and headed in for a Clif bar, cookie, and a soda. I was surprised and happy to see they accepted credit cards after being a cash-only business for as long as I’ve known them.
The weather all day was pretty great, but even on a warmer day with temperatures in the 60s, it can feel freezing on the way down a mountain, especially when clouds roll in. That’s exactly what happened when I descended down Lefthand Canyon from Ward. I pulled on the extra jacket I had in my bag, but my thin gloves weren’t enough to keep my hands from going completely white and numb. I stopped a few times to try and get feeling back, but I really just had to wait it out.
Eventually, I made it back to Boulder and then to Louisville where I started to get some feeling back. I’ll tell you, though, that Clif Bar and cookie stop at Ward because they seriously brought me back to life for the last climb from Boulder back to Louisville.
^^^ I stopped quickly to hose down my bike at the self-serve car wash.
I ended up with 72 miles and 6,200 feet of climbing. I was so tired and so spent that it took me a couple hours to feel hungry again when I got home. I hate when that happens.
Now that I know I don’t technically need to be training big miles for races that are removed from the calendar, it feels really good to accomplish such a huge ride. I remember feeling last year how I feel now—on the edge of fitness, building back strength and endurance for all-day rides. Rides like these are very fulfilling, and I’m going to continue doing them even if my race calendar is wiped clean for the rest of the year.
Are you working toward a goal right now even if it’s just a personal one, not a public one?