Yes, we did it! Here's my report from the day after (sorry, no pictures):
What a ride! Given that my primary stated goal was to wake up alive this morning, I must say that it was a raging success. I actually feel pretty good, and may go for an easy ride again today. Eileen (EpicSki's eadjbrown) and I stayed together throughout the ride. Our ride time for the 106 mile event with nearly 13,000 feet of climbing surely didn't set any records at 7 hours 36 minutes (about 14 mph average speed), but all things considered, I'm pretty happy with it.
For anyone unfamiliar, here's the official website for the event: Deer Creek Challenge.
And here is the Facebook page, with some great comments that mostly reflect my own experience: Facebook--Deer Creek Challenge. "Joe Turcotte" may have summed it up best: "Eleven Ironmans, multiple centuries, Mt. Evans etc. None of them were as challenging for me as Deer Creek. It was the most painful slice of heaven I've ever experienced. As for the organizers, volunteers and sponsors....THANK YOU! Everything about this event was first class. Bicycle Village was everywhere! The "Ott...er Pops" were awesome. The expressions on the faces of the riders was no different than a group of five year olds at an ice cream store....priceless! As for those who questioned "The Toughest Century Ride in the United States" claim, they aren't kidding. If my Garmin is correct, many stretches of road exceeded a 20% grade. Thanks again for a great day." I concur! (But I missed out on those Otter Pops somehow.)
It was a very nicely organized event, with many volunteers all cheerful, helpful, and encouraging throughout the ride. Even the locals who live along the route were friendly and supportive, many parked on lawn chairs with coolers to cheer the riders on. On the second (brutal) lap of City View, there were at least two parties who had brought out coolers of cold Coke to offer to riders, although I did not see anyone take advantage of it. It was a nice gesture! I encountered nothing but encouragement and friendly support from everyone along the route. The Jefferson County Sheriffs were there in force, going overboard (in my opinion) to ensure that everyone came to a complete stop at the few stop signs along the route--and reportedly issuing a few tickets to "violators." Before every stop, friendly volunteers were there to warn us of the sheriff's presence, and to be sure to comply with a full stop. As promised, they'd even swept most of the route clean of gravel and debris, especially the curves on the steep descents along City View and Highgrade.
It was a little chilly in the morning, especially the long descent down Broken Arrow Road from City View, but it warmed up quickly after that. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind a slow car that was stuck behind other cyclists for almost the entire descent, keeping our speed there a bit below what we would have liked. Some people didn't seem to like this out-and-back spur, but I thought it was cool to see so many riders coming the other direction each way. I suspect we got a chance to see nearly everyone on the century ride (which started earliest, before the metric century and 33-mile rides).
We got started at about 6:40 am, a bit later than we'd intended, but with the just-rising sun, it was a gorgeous ride up Deer Creek Canyon. By agreement with Jefferson County, they were starting people in ones and twos to prevent large groups on the road--which seemed to work, although it's not a ride that lends itself to groups or pacelines anyway. I started with my lightweight jacket on, but soon stopped to take it off. First lap of City View/Broken Arrow/Highgrade was not too hard, as we paced ourselves pretty well (better than I usually tend to do!). Then it was on to Shadow Mountain, Evergreen, Kittredge, and back to the Turkey Creek Firehouse aid station (a point we crossed three times). Shadow Mountain was a long climb, with some particularly steep sections, followed by an even longer descent into Evergreen and Kittredge, a brief ride along the wide shoulder of Highway 285 and back to Turkey Creek Road. From there, the final ascent of City View loomed, and it was brutal--a sentiment that seemed to be shared by everyone who got that far (I'd like to know how many that was). Surely, the heat of the day must have expanded those mountains and doubled the already-steep-enough gradient of those climbs, and there must have been something wrong with my pedals, which seemed to go around slower than the first time, and require more effort. But the final summit came in due time, and the final long (nearly 3000 vertical feet) descent of freshly-paved Highgrade Road to the finish, knowing that we'd done it and there were no more climbs ahead, was glorious and rejuvenating and oh-so-satisfying. We finished strong!
Century riders got their ride numbers stamped at key waypoints along the route, as well as the start and finish. Only those who got all the stamps were entitled to receive the Century jersey, while they had a different commemorative jersey available for everyone else. I hadn't preordered a jersey at the discount price, but I decided to buy one at the finish. It's a nice, full-zip Pearl Izumi jersey--much better than the typical jerseys from other rides. And I earned it! Eileen, always smarter and never lacking confidence, merely picked up her preordered century jersey. (She, by the way, gets stronger and stronger after about 40 miles, just when everyone else starts fading. I've never seen an evil laughing grin quite like hers as she passed rider after rider, mostly younger males, on those brutal climbs!)
I was afraid that the battery on my aging Garmin Edge 305 gps cycling computer would not hold out for the whole ride, but it made it almost all the way to the end, finally dying on the access road to Denver Botanical Gardens, in sight of the finish line. Unfortunately, the heartrate monitor died a few days ago, so I didn't get that data or have the opportunity to use it to help pace my ride.
It is a great ride--a first-rate event--and I hope they will be able to continue it for years to come. The whole thing was a very sensitive issue with Jefferson County locals and authorities, and the event managers, volunteers, and most of the riders did a great job to keep everything under control and respect the fact that this was a test, and that future events in Jefferson County would largely rely on its success. I was disappointed to see a few energy gel packets discarded along the route, left by a few cyclists who just don't get it. But they were the exception, and from the reactions of the locals I saw, combined with the fact that the event raised money for local charities, I hope the ride will be welcomed back next year.
See you all there!
PS--Apparently, there was the to-be-expected "tack attack" as some low-life with less-than-dizzying intellect sprinkled thumbtacks on the Highgrade Road descent before the ride, but I wasn't aware of it until reading it in the Denver Post: Meyer: Deer Creek Challenge succeeds despite sabotage. They had it swept up pretty quickly, I guess, and I've heard no word of injury or other incident. Honestly, though, besides the real risk of seriously hurting or even killing someone by causing a front tire blowout at 40+ mph, you have to admit that these predictable antics are getting old and boring. All it takes is one, and you can pretty much count on some gray-matter-deficient moron to do it for every large ride these days. To the perpetrator: get a life--or at least, an imagination. It's not much to be proud of!