Dodging Rainbows

Day two of our three day exploration weekend. We'd discused paying for the Monarch Crest shuttle and doing the entire section from the pass on - including Starvation and Poncha. But neither of us were motivated to get up early enough for the 8:00 shuttle and the 10:00 would be too late. So we decided to ride back up Poncha Creek and join the Crest at that point. We'd miss the fun alpine sections from Monarch to Marshall, but it would still be a solid ride and tackling Silver Creek and Rainbow after the Poncha climb was something I was nervous about. So off we pedaled, back up to the 11,000" and Continental Divide. We would earn our fun on Silver Creek... The climb up Poncha seemed easier this time - knowing how long it was and the twists and turns helped. Will I remember come September? Who knows. I was able to set a nice steady and sustainable tempo. Hard enough to keep it honest - I was actually able to keep up with Nick and even force the pace a little! But not so hard that I wouldn't be able to ride smart and fast come the singletrack. It doesn't matter how fast you climb if you crash because you're blown! I was also paying more attention this time - where I could eat and drink in preparation for the coming Colorado Trail. That's the point of scouting - besides having fun!
Yep - Poncha Creek is gonna be a sucker punch in September...


As we got closer to the pass, I commented to Nick about how many shuttled we might see. After all, the 8:00 shuttle usually doesn't disgorge it's herd until close to 8:30 and few riders get going until 8:40. There was a chance we'd see a few. It was 10:27 when we crested the summit of Marshall Pass. There was no way we'd see anyone from the 10:00 shuttle, but we quickly started catching riders when we joined the Colorado Trail. 

I'd forgotten how much climbing there still is after Marshall Pass. Wow. Things to remember and budget for on the morning of September 7th. Nick was riding his pace - forcing me to pedal hard on everything to keep up. I remembered bits of the trail from the last time we'd ridden it and was able to stay smooth and flow on the singletrack. And it was fun. I was taking some chances, but riding within myself. I needed to keep my focus on my lines and not try to chase Nick. We passed a few more groups of riders, always smiling and being nice. Flowing though dark pine forests and open alpine meadows filled with flowers, just enjoying the ride. We rolled through the tight switch back, noting a trail heading off due south, then the steep grunter of a double track climb and then the drop into Silver a Creek. 

A group of guys was standing at the entrance to Silver Creek, near blocking the trail. Nick rolled through and vanished down the singletrack. I followed confidently - well aware of the glares from the clustered guys. A pointless glare - they weren't even ready to ride at that point! And the snarky "crap, a girl," comment disappeared on the wind as I dropped my saddle and entered the singletrack. I wouldn't see them again. But there were plenty of other guys who either gave me dirty looks or didn't want to get chicked down the descent. To each one, I just smiled and said "thank you" in my most feminine voice. If you're gonna pull out just in front of us to prevent the girl from passing, you should be fast enough to actually stay infront... But I digress - the focus of ride was to work hard ride smooth and have fun. Not get frustrated by the still evident ponytail factor. 

Silver Creek was awesome. Nick dropped me quickly, leaving me to find my own lines and ride my own pace. Which was good. I need to be more self reliant on my lines and confident of my riding abilities.  Nick did wait in several places as he always does, but never let me stop to rest. Just ride - eyes on the trail, launch the rocks if possible, pick the fastest and smoothest lines. I felt a lot more confident and comfortable and was enjoying the trail. No panicked, fingers clenched around the bars, holding the brakes for dear life this time. I'm not sure I could have gone much faster - I was so close to my limits. Processing the trail, picking my lines was mentally consuming. No time for sightseeing or pictures.

The only picture from Silver Creek and Rainbow - Nick was more interested in riding then photos this time!
I was hoping for a respite on Rainbow. But it was not to be... We'd just passed a large group of guys and Nick wanted to stay ahead of them. So no break. We blasted right through the transition from Silver Creek into Rainbow. I found myself rolling right over the rocks on the intial section of Rainbow instead of trying to pick my way around them. This time I was able to remember that every downhill into a gully means a steep, ugly little climb is coming. I also was able to pick better lines through the multiple creek crossings. Nick was still driving, still pushing the pace (for me) on every little climb. I was starting to fatigue a little, but still handling the trail well. Thunderstorms were also starting to build - ominous rumbling mixed with much to close booms. The original plan was to take 203c down from Rainbow - avoid the last few sections of climbing. But when we reached the junction, Nick offered me the choice. Left or straight? Down or continue on the trail. I opted to continue on Rainbow - might as well finish the day out right! Felt a lot stronger on the climbs this time and wasn't struggling on the road back to camp. A successful day of riding and a good confidence builder! One more day left....

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