Two DIRT teammates tell the story of how their chance meet-up turned into a physical challenge and how they crushed it just like they have 100’s of times before.
In the words of Shawn ‘MacAttack’ McAfee himself.
I was packing for my upcoming family vacation when I heard my phone buzz. It was Clay. A DIRT teammate and friend was pinging me on Discord.
Pretty soon, we found out that the two of us were both going to be in the same area, within 16 miles of each other at the same time. I hadn’t met many of the folks from DIRT in real life, but I rode with Clay no less than 100 times.
He is a core part of the Operation Bearclaw and HERDing efforts and has played chief strategist for the past 3 HERD Summer Racing Leagues that we targeted together. An opportunity I couldn’t resist.
Unfortunately, we weren’t taking compatible bikes on our trips, he brought a road bike, and I intended to get as DIRTy as possible on my MTB. We hoped to meet up in town one day for lunch or a coffee.
Fast forward a couple of days full of us sharing reports back and forth about area attractions and what we thought. It was Monday night about 8 pm or so, and I got the following message out of the blue:
That was unexpected. We hadn’t discussed anything about hiking a mountain. Much less hiking to one of the tallest peaks in North America! I was unsure about this but interested!
It took a little waffling on my part and then a whole lot of convincing my better half that I wouldn’t be gone ALLLL DAY. I scrounged up a set of gear from my bike clothing that I could take on the hike.
I set the alarm for 03:30 am the following day and told Clay to get ready. I’m in.
Driving up to the trailhead parking for Quandary Peak, I didn’t know what to expect. I had spoken to Clay a lot, but meeting in person is always a surprise. What if he doesn’t like me, I thought! 😀
It turned out Clay and I hit it off immediately and picked up on every DISCORD conversation we had ever had. We discussed current fitness and riding for each of us.
We talked about our other friends on the DIRT Zwift Team just as if they were guys we rode trails with in person every week. We talked about our jobs, families, goals. It was a hell of a morning just being in the outdoors and chatting with a friend.
Ultimately we covered 6 miles of steep hiking trail in just under 3.5 hours and reaching a peak elevation of 14,265 feet. We are flatlanders living at 50ft and 700ft above sea level and having minimal elevation at home.
We set a fast pace covering the ascent of the mountain in just 2:15, an accomplishment we both attributed to the excellent fitness that we had found due to the DIRT Zwift Team and our frequent racing as a team.
In the words of Clay Jackson himself.
I planned a week-long family trip to Colorado with my wife, son, and parents. The day we left, I thought that we would be passing through Dallas both ways and that Shawn (my fellow co-HERDing leader) lived there.
I messaged him to see what part of the city he lived in, and in awe, I ended up nearby to meet him for a beer. He mentioned that they were leaving for Colorado at the same time, and we would be only a few miles apart for four days of the trip.
His family is just on the other side of the continental divide from my family in Breckinridge. We agreed that we needed to meet up.
Come Tuesday, and I messaged Shawn that I planned to hike a 14er (Quandary Peak) the following day and asked if he wanted to join. I planned to be at the trailhead at 4:30 A.M. so I could be back for family activities. (Sounds very familiar to our DIRT Zwifting schedules!)
Shawn agreed, and we exchanged a few planning messages about gear and supplies, and I headed to bed. We arrived within minutes of each other, chatted for a couple of minutes, and it was the same face and voice I knew very well from discord and YouTube streams.
We headed out in the darkness of night with our headlamps to guide us.
Part of our discussion the night before and the early part of the hike was that even though we live at 50’ and 700’ above sea level, fitness from Zwifting and riding IRL should be more than enough for us to summit the peak in a reasonable time.
The hiking trailhead is at 10,850 feet. The first mile felt easy. When we reached 12,000 feet, and above the tree line, we both started to feel the effects of the elevation. We took a short break and then soldiered forward.
It seems both of us acclimated reasonably quickly. There were lots of pikas, chipmunks, cairns, and a beautiful red sunrise. The last mile was quite steep and littered with loose rock.
We had reeled in multiple groups that had started before us, with only one local that passed us. The gal who overtook us was pretty impressed with us two flatlanders and the pace we were maintaining.
We made it to the peak in just over 2 hours (2:04 moving time). We savored our time on the peak with the small group that summited right after us, taking in the panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, lakes, and sky.
The trek down took a toll on my repaired knee. We don’t rush down as we were well under target to get back to our respective families. Making it back to the trailhead and vehicles, we congratulated each other, reflected on how epic it was, and parted ways.
It was a great experience to turn an “internet” friend into an IRL friend.
From the perspective of fitness, I was even able to make an additional short hike ~2 miles at 9600 feet with my family once I made it back later in the day.
Do you have a DIRT IRL meet-up story?
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Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!