Tick-Tock Goes the Clock: Riding Against Time
By Scotty Mac
Pulling out of my driveway, I glanced at the 4Runner’s clock. It was 4:30 PM, and my wife and daughter were due somewhere at six. I had just that much time to get from my house to Palmer Park, do a lap, and get back so I could watch my son while the girls were away. I needed some green light love on the drive over and back, and I had to have a near-flawless lap on the single speed. There wasn’t enough time for anything more than that. Game on…Riding Against Time!
Twelve minutes later, I pulled into my favorite spot on the Brenner-side entrance. I threw the ‘Runner into park and went about the business of grabbing my riding gear and bike. I stashed my water bottle in its holder, locked the doors, clicked into my pedals and set off on the lap.
The lap in question was mostly a sampling of Palmer Park’s outermost trails. The course was 7.5 miles roundtrip, and usually in the 45 minute range for me to complete on the Unit at something south of maximum effort. That wasn’t going to quite cut it this time out, I figured. So, hammer down and get after it, then.
Going counter-clockwise, I set out down Palmer Point and noticed immediately that the monsoonal moisture we’d been having in the Colorado Springs area had worked its evil magic on the trail. The singletrack was sandier than normal, and I felt my tires squirm and shift a little as I set up for the first corner. I worked my way through short climbs and down the well-laid-out rocks to the first section where I felt comfortable taking a pull from my water bottle. I cruised along, hitting the next punchy climb full-bore, and enjoying the rock-strewn down slope on the other side. Popping a small drop at speed, I felt comfortable with the pace to that point. I wanted to make the stables off of Paseo Road in under ten minutes, which would be my first indication that I was putting together a decent lap.
I cruised through the stables, grabbing another quick drink, and glanced at my watch: under ten minutes. Okay, so far, so good. I crossed the road and started the grind up Grandview. Once again, the hard rain made itself known as I chugged through deep sand. The dirt did its best to reach up and grab my tires, sucking my momentum away like a kid downing a root beer float on a hot summer’s day. Working through it, my breathing transitioning from calm to heavy to gasping, I gained the top of that dumb climb sounding more like an asthmatic rhinoceros than a mountain biker. Turning the cranks over, I kept on toward the Grandview Overlook, the worst of the climbing done… for the moment.
Another seven minutes and I was at the overlook, having successfully negotiated a rock garden and a quick downhill in the process. I pounded an energy gel, swigged some water, and cranked down the road, lining up for Kinnickinnick, a fun trail with a little bit of everything Palmer Park has to offer. Except sand. Sand sucks.
I finished off the run and crossed the main road in the park to a climb that once again brought out the wheezing rhino, following the twists and turns toward Little Moab. Too much was going on in the trail for me to glance at my watch, but things seemed to still be going well. I ducked around the rocks and bumped down the line I knew I could handle, clearing the rocky section with little drama.
Tick-tock goes the clock, tick-tock goes the clock was on perma-repeat in my mind. There was one final climb up to the scout camp, and then on to the lap’s maraschino cherry: Star Wars. Picture the speeder sequence through the trees in Episode VI and you’re basically right there with me. I cornered around and dodged the low-hanging trees, all the while pedaling at an only-on-a-single speed silly-fast cadence.
I scrambled up the last rock step and shot out onto the trail junction above Brenner, lap completed. 41 minutes, a personal best. There was no time to bask in the accomplishment, however. Heck, there was no time to stretch, I had to get home! The traffic lights were once again good to me, and I parked the truck in the driveway with the clock reading 5:45 PM.
I told you guys all that to tell you this: sometimes, you gotta gamble a little, race the clock, cut things close. The ride is that much sweeter when you pull it off.
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