This is going to sound crazy, but I had a feeling that this ride wasn’t gonna go well. Sometimes I have feelings about these things, like way deep down in my gut, and on my drive to Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon, something felt off about this weekend.
I tried to put it out of my mind because the weather was beautiful, the drive was pretty easy minus the holiday weekend traffic, and I was really excited to ride new roads with my friends…but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt weird about it.
I arrived in Steamboat around 5 p.m. and the weather was absolutely perfect. Beautiful blue skies, an orange sun getting ready to set behind the mountains, a light breeze, cooler temps than in Boulder…it was everything I remembered from my trip last summer for SBT GRVL.
Steamboat is definitely a town I could live in; it’s a little smaller and slower, which is what I really love about it. The only downside is there’s no airport nearby.
I strolled the main street, stopped into a bike shop for some CO2 and tubes (which turned out to be a lifesaver the next day) then headed to my hotel to get some sleep before an early wakeup.
On Saturday morning, I met my friends in Hayden, CO, which is about 25 miles west of Steamboat. It’s an even smaller town with a population of about 2,000 people.
It’s one of those towns that you sort of just pass through on your way to major cities. It has a couple restaurants, some coffee shops, two gas stations, and a post office from the ‘70s. I love that towns like this still exist and that its residents don’t rush to update it.
The three of us girls planned on getting on the road by 8 a.m., but after coffee, talking, playing with my friend’s dog, and a stop for pastries down the road, we didn’t get started until 9 a.m.
By then, the sun was shining big and bright in a cloudless sky, and the temps were rising quickly. There isn’t much shade out on those county roads, so I just pedaled and hoped for the best.
The first 10-15 miles of the ride were probably the best of the whole day. We rolled along the dirt roads chatting and enjoying the day, and stopping when we needed a drink or a snack. In the first 18 miles I think we climbed over 2,000 feet, which didn’t feel that bad because we kept the pace pretty chill.
But after mile twenty, things started to unravel. We hit more climbs and exposed dirt roads that offered no relief from the sun. Our water bottles were scorching hot—if there was anything left in them at all. And the breezes just felt like hot air being blown around us.
That was when one of my friends got her first flat of the day.
And then when my other friend started getting sick.
From that point, everything went downhill. And we were barely halfway into our planned route. Due to the circumstances, we decided to cut down the ride and get back to town as quickly as we could…
But after another few miles, my friend got her second flat, which she fixed with the tube I bought in Steamboat the day before. My other friend still couldn’t keep anything down and was struggling with the heat and the elevation gain.
We found some shade at the top of a brutal climb, regrouped, and slowly headed back down the other side.
I was still feeling pretty OK and hoping that it stayed that way for the sake of my group! I think the heat didn’t get to me that badly because Boulder is a bit hotter in the summer and I’ve been training in really hot weather all season. Maybe I was just more used to it than my friends?
Around mile 30 or so, my friends had nearly run out of all their water and were desperate for a drink. We found a pond one of the descents so my friends filled their bottles there and used a SteriPEN to sanitize the water.
Luckily, I was taking small sips from my bottles all morning so I still had enough to get me back home. Plus, I wasn’t about to drink stagnant pond water no matter how well that pen worked!
One of my friends and I decided that since our other friend was really sick and could barely pedal her bike, we would head back to her house as quickly as we could to get her truck, then head back out onto the road to pick her up.
BUT a few miles from her house, she got A THIRD FLAT and was out of tubes to fix it. I mean, who carries around three tubes anyway? No one! I was the last man standing in our group, so I pedaled my ass off back to the house, threw my bike in the back of the truck, then drove to my friend so we could rescue the other.
I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from the whole day. Our ride was only about three hours, but we were out on the road and in the sun for over six just trying to manage our situation.
When I finally got back in the car and on the road to Boulder, with a bag of salty chips in hand, I just had to laugh because I TOTALLY KNEW the ride would be cursed. That feeling! I knew it. But, my god, I didn’t know it was going to be that bad. All I could think was that it could have been so much worse, so I thanked the universe that it wasn’t.
We all decided to meet up in Boulder in the fall for a redemption ride together in cooler weather, and I’m so looking forward to it!
Do you have a crazy riding or running story?