Sunday, June 09, 2013

Mt. Thorodin Duathlon - The Hard Way

Gerry Roach is a huge peak bagger. He was the second person to do the seven summits and I think he might be the only person to climb the ten highest peaks in North America. He's taken that thirst for summits to the local counties and I think he's done every named summit in Boulder County and other nearby counties. Nowadays there are even more ambitious peak baggers - one woman has climbed all the Colorado 14ers, 13ers, and even 12ers. This is around 2000 peaks. Bill Briggs has taken that thinking it and extended it to duathlons - requiring a biking approach. He starts/finishes from his house in Boulder. One of the peaks he did was Mt. Thorodin in Gilpin County and I wanted to do it in this style as well.

This was motivated by Stefan wanting to do some peak in duathlon style. When I suggested the nice road-bike approach, he countered with the brutally technical White Ranch/Golden Gate Park mountain biking approach. We did the latter.

There are mountain bikers and there are mountain bikers. Stefan is the latter. He's the race director for the Colorado Trail Race and has done the 550-mile course in less than 5 days... I'm more of mountain biker do I put this? Prefers to ride roads. Or really easy trails. Really easy, wide trails. We are not a good match, even discounting Stefan's superior fitness.

We started at the lower parking lot of White Ranch State Park and climbed up Belcher and Mustang Trails. Stefan rode, of course, we were on bikes, right? I wasn't. At least that much of the time on the Mustang trail. I was off my bike pushing it. By the time I arrived at the top of the climb, having ridden/walked 4.5 miles in about 90 minutes I wasn't feeling too great about my fitness or skills. I felt like I had neither.

We descended down to the upper parking lot and got on the gloriously smooth and wide pavement of a street. At this point you might be wondering why I even own a mountain bike, if this is my attitude. I was wondering that as well.

We rode steeply uphill and then steeply downhill to the Mountain Lion trail in Golden Gate State Park. I think I rode a bit more of this trail, but it's all a blur of humiliation now and one's psyche tends to bury those memories. We popped out onto Gap Road and I was so happy once again, but already fearing the trip back. We found a good spot stash the bikes and happily, at least I was happy, dismounted and started hiking up through the woods, sans trail, roughly towards the summit of Mt. Thorodin.

Hiking along I was already plotting a safer way home. I'd ride Gap Road down to Coal Creek Canyon and out that to 93 and then south on that back to the parking lot - all roads! I knew Stefan would be having none of that, but I felt like such an anchor holding him back from just moving along. It wasn't like he was in a hurry, but having to stop so often and nursemaid his companion probably wasn't ideal either.

We chatted a lot on the ascent and I led us up to...the wrong summit. I checked my GPS and we figured out that the true summit was the rock outcropping further northeast. We descended to the saddle and up to the true summit. Another summit, Starr Peak, even further to the northeast, had a big building on top. I was glad we didn't have to go tag that summit, too.

The hiking through the woods wasn't too bad and we found an easier way back to the bikes, even finding a trail a bit before we arrived at the bikes. My topo maps had showed a trail leading partially up Mt. Thorodin, but it wasn't in the marked location. We wondered how far this trail would go, but left it for another time.

Back on the bikes we continued on, making a loop and entering Golden Gate Park again, at a different location. This time the trail was smooth and non-technical, lending itself to high-speed descending and for me, too-high-speed descending. In practically the only section that was very easy, I crashed. Hard. The trail was very smooth, but it was also very narrow and a somewhat deep trough. Going too fast, I made a mistake and went up the side of the trough. Heading for a couple of Aspen trees, I braked for all I was worth and eventually tumbled. Something, probably my bike, smacked my right shin hard, causing a rather nasty gash and some serious swelling. Beat up, humbled again, and now completely lacking any confidence that I could even ride a bike, I remounted and caught up to Stefan. He was on cloud nine about how beautiful that section was - how easy and smooth it was and how I must have surely, finally, enjoyed some mountain biking. Not so much.

We continued on, me at a much more cautious pace and eventually hit another road. We rode downhill for quite a bit before turning up the big climb that we had descended after White Ranch. It was grunt up this hill, but at least I was staying upright. When we entered White Ranch again, Stefan told me that he'd head down a more technical trail while I would take the Belcher Trail. Actually, he encouraged me to join him, but knew that wasn't going to happen. Even going down the amazingly rocky, baby-head strewn, but wide Belcher Trail, proved tiring, stressful, and challenging to me. That is just one nasty trail.

We finished back in the White Ranch parking lot after 7 hours. I was spent, bleeding, thirsty, and hungry. Stefan looked refreshed, and this was his third day of long rides in a row. I'm interested in doing Mt. Thorodin again, but I want to try it the easy way, via the roads, next time.

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