Day 34 Friday, August 12 Loveland to Estes Park, CO 40 miles
First things first…HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHIL! My son turned 25 today and it is the first birthday of his that I have missed. He was on my mind as I rode through my old stomping grounds and training routes.
The road from Loveland to Estes Park was a special delight today. It was a route my racing partner and I regularly trained on when we were cycling in the early 80’s. It was fun to recall the hills that we would anticipate and push each other by seeing who could outgun the other. Keith tended to win on the longer steeper climbs. I tended to outrace him on the shorter hills that required more strength and less endurance. I digress…that was a long time ago!
I left Loveland with a good deal of nervousness this morning. Something about turning the corner and heading west left me reflecting on the totality of the pilgrimage remaining. On prior days I was able to focus more on the day before me and not worry about how many miles were left. I also know that I have to be mentally ready for the climb up Trail Ridge Road. It is one of those places that you don’t say, “Well, I’ll just see how far I get and then stop for the night.” You either make the commitment to get over the top or you turn around and make another attempt the next day.
Tonight I had a little lesson in the discipline of keeping my diet and fluids monitored. Halfway into the ride I was having problems catching my breath. Granted, I climbed about 3500 feet before descending into Estes Park. But, I have been at this elevation now since entering Montana almost three weeks ago. It didn’t make sense to me that I would suddenly be suffering from altitude sickness.
I arrived in Estes not feeling quite right. I was in a bit of a hazy zone in my head and I simply was not able to get a full breath. I felt like I was short 10-20% on each breath. Knowing what faced me tomorrow I was a little concerned. If I was feeling this way at 7000 feet how would I be feeling at 12,000 feet?
I needed to be eating, but I just wasn’t hungry. I did continue to drink water, but with little effect. I decided that the best thing I could do was to listen to the subtle cues from my body and not worry about how much I should be eating prior to the climb tomorrow. I started with a large fruit smoothie and continued to drink water. I laid down in the park and felt weak enough that I could sleep right there. After resting for awhile I still couldn’t fathom putting a full meal in my stomach. I wandered around town trying to decide if and where I could eat. It wasn’t until I spotted a sushi bar that I found something I could digest. There I discovered why I wasn’t feeling quite right. The rich miso soup was hitting the spot. Then I quickly gobbled the small salad that came with the sushi. I kept having to ask the waitress to bring more water in addition to the Sapporo beer.
I had become dehydrated and low on electrolytes. My appetite for fruits and vegetables told me that. I had taken two days off and allowed myself to return to a less disciplined diet. I had so many things to do and people I wanted to see that food and drink took a back seat. Bad decision! In this altitude, in this heat, and with the amount of climbing that I will be doing I will need to be more disciplined. Lesson learned. I am recovering well tonight and we’ll see if there are any lingering effects from letting down my guard for a couple of days.
That aside I am in one of the most stunning places not only in the state of Colorado, but on this planet, as far as I am concerned. Estes Park is a recreational magnet as it sits at the entrance to Rocky Mountain Park. People come here to hike, backpack, kayak, fish, bike, camp, rock climb and experience the awesome granite mountains. It is special place even if you didn’t grow up here.
P.S. The sniffles and sinus pressure just started while I was posting this. Could my diagnosis be wrong?