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Why Tri Now? – Cross-training at 10,000 Feet.

August 22, 2012

Joyce has just a couple weeks left before her first-ever triathlon. So of course she hit the road for a vacation. Workouts aside, she’s back and refreshed and ready to make the final push in her training. It’s ok. She got some great riding in!

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Cross-training at 10,000 feet.

by: Joyce Nugent

I am now exactly two weeks away from the TriRock triathlon. Depending on the day or hour, I am feeling either fairly confident (trust the training!) or outright petrified. I already have butterflies in my stomach and I’ve got thirteen days to go.

At week nine of training, which was four weeks out from the event, I did what all serious athletes in training do. I went on vacation. This wasn’t due to feeling overconfident or because I’m not taking my training seriously. It was because it was simply the only week that both my husband and I were available to take a week off work together. My rationale was that we would be taking our bikes with us and that I would continue to swim, bike, and run on the trip. At least one third of that plan came to fruition.

What does any aspiring triathlete do a couple weeks before their first race? Hit the road for some MTB time in Colorado!

The first stop of our trip was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we were greeted by a spectacularly brilliant rainbow as we rolled into town. We got a couple great mountain bike rides in the next day, a brief pedal in the aspens at 10,300 feet and then a loop at the Dale Ball Trail, which was at 7,800 feet. The trail wasn’t difficult by any means, but I could already feel the effects of being at higher elevation and did a lot of huffing and puffing on the short climbs.

Day two was on to Durango, Colorado. The drive from Santa Fe to Durango was gorgeous, but by the next day we were ready to stretch our legs and pedal. We decided on a road ride, and on the advice of the local bike shop, headed out on a winding country road, County Road 250, that hugged the base of the mountains. We sped past horse farms and green pastures on our 32-miler, all while listening to the occasional whistle of the narrow gauge railroad in the distance. I felt great, and I was surprised that the elevation here had little effect on me. Of course the air temperature being 20 degrees cooler was so energizing that it probably counter-balanced the thinness.

It wasn’t all MTB on Joyce’s vacation. She hit the road in Durango.

Next stop, and our destination, was Crested Butte, Colorado, purported to be the birthplace of mountain biking. We had never been to Crested Butte, and as we drove into the town that evening, we were in awe. The sun was setting and lit the face of Mount Crested Butte with an amber glow. This was in contrast to the emerald green pastures at its base, dotted with cattle grazing peacefully. Crested Butte lies in a valley with a river meandering through it and magnificent mountains surrounding it in every direction. The town itself, comprised of a grand total of 1,500 residents, is pristine and there isn’t a chain restaurant or hotel in site. As we drove by Elk Street, the main drag, all I could think of was that this was like some sort of Disneyworld for grownups.

Elevation profile for the 401.

We spent the next three days on our mountain bikes because it would have been an absolute crime not to. The epic ride, which everyone there admitted was an overused phrase, but couldn’t keep from using it in this case, was the “401 Trail.” The 401 loop as we did it, begins in the so-called town of Gothic, which is just a humble conglomeration of wooden buildings and conservation studies. The first five miles of the ride is a climb up a dirt road, starting at 9,400 feet elevation and culminating at 10,700 feet at Schofield Pass. We then entered the single-track trail for another 580 feet of climbing over 1.3 miles. Hills that wouldn’t faze me in Texas were killer because of the lack of oxygen. But after 5 miles of climbing came the reward—eight miles of downhill, switching back and forth down the side of the mountain through aspen groves and fields of wild flowers and grasses that were nearly waist high. The pines were so thick at times that the air smelled like Christmas. The view was such that I expected Julie Andrews to appear at any minute singing “The Hills Are Alive….” If I’d been able to breathe at all, I would have burst into song myself. This isn’t a ride to hurry through because you just want to take it all in and appreciate the sheer magnitude of the terrain. By the time we got to the end, my quads were burning, not because of the climbing, but because of standing in the pedals for so long on the descent!

Descending the 401.

I had promised my coach to get some runs in on the trip, but after a few hours on the mountain bike, our destination was the local pub for a juicy burger and an ice-cold draft beer. Of course my penance was that when I got back to Austin and went to swim class, I felt like I was starting from ground zero and it took me a few days to get back in the rhythm of freestyle swimming. Strangely enough, my running didn’t seem to suffer as much.

What a ride!

In the end, if I finish 124th instead of 119th, I’m blaming it on the trip. But it was worth it. In the middle of all this training of the body, it was good to take time to nourish the soul.

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About Joyce:

Joyce started her Bicycle Sport Shop career on the sales floor at the Lamar location about a year and a half ago, having relocated to Austin from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then new to mountain biking and road riding, having been introduced to it just a couple years prior by her now husband, she was previously a runner and an equestrian. As soon as she started riding all she could think was, “where has this been all my life?” and was hooked.  As of April, Joyce became the new Marketing Director for Bicycle Sport Shop combining nearly twenty years of marketing experience at both ad agencies and on the corporate side and her passion for bikes. As Joyce says, “it doesn’t get much better than that!”

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