Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years Day should be December 22

But whatever. We have to pick some day to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another. Since we rock the Gregorian calendar, it makes a certain amount of practical sense to end the year at the end of the 12th month.

Vicki on New Years Eve 2015

To me it makes more sense to start when the sun's light, like a seed, begins to grow. The end and simultaneously the beginning of the year is immediately at the solstice.

It's natural at this time to remember the past and consider the future. But it's also a time when, at least for those of us who live more than 37.0000° N, the reduced photo period and chillier temperatures can have an effect on one's state of being. I think a focus on looking forward might be more effective around the vernal equinox. Let's all spend winter drinking whiskey and fat biking.

But what evs, for now I'm feeling like doing a little 2015 Greatest Hits. Monthwise. Lotsa pikturs.

January

I got a Kona Wo fatbike at the end of 2014. In January 2015, at least according to what kind of pictures I was taking, my life was about going snow-biking with my dog. She likes it, I like it. Everybody wins.

up poncha road
Up the Poncha Creek Road

up marshall road
A sunny day up the Marshall Pass Road near O'Haver

February

My parents have been living in the Coachella Valley of California in the cold months for 20 years. In that time I've taken part with my Dad in an event called the Tour de Palm Springs probably 15 or more times. We did it the first year they put it on, and it became something of a tradition that I would visit in February and we would do the ride. Dad introduced me to distance riding back in the 70s when I was just a little kid--we did century rides. My first was in 1974 when I was 10.

This year my folks have changed their living arrangements and no longer live in the Coachella Valley. I probably will never ride that event again.

Tour de Palm start
The start, ~7 AM Valentine's Day 2015

Snow Bikeen
And then some late February snow-biking back home!

March

2015 was a rebuilding year for me. 2014 was frankly a shit show. A motorcycle accident in May cost me dearly in terms of health. And confidence. And it had to be the same year I turned 50. It felt like I'd gone through a gate; youth on one side, middle age on the other. And the AARP sent me an invitation to join!

In March of 2015 I got a glimmer of excitement about getting my body strong again. The snow-biking had helped me stay a little fitter than a typical winter. I was fat, sure. But at least I could get my heart beating fast without wanting to vomit. So I started making plans and goals, and I started working a little harder.

Poncha Pass
Not so many pictures from March. This is what it was about.

April

In April I kept after it. A typical weekend day would see me walking or riding with Vicki for an hour or two then riding by myself for 4+. Not a lot of pictures! Growing my endurance base, and enjoying the feeling that you get from building a broken body back into a capable body.

Penitente
Penitente

May

As the leaves started popping and the snow started to recede up the mountainsides, I was clawing my way up. Up toward the Divide. I was aching to ride all the way from my house to the Continental Divide. If I heard a rumor that a trail was dry or close to it, I would get up there and see for myself. Every glimpse of a place I never visited in 2014 was a treat. I was insatiable.

Rainbow MethodistRainbow Trail, Methodist. May 2nd. Barely clear. But clear enough.

tree down
Cleared a lot of trees this Spring. I was into it! So nice to be part of the world of trails again!

June

The Salida Big Friggin' Loop is a race/ride I've been putting on for several years. Due to a comedy of errors, I had never finished it. That was one of the things in March that I decided. Gol-dammer, gonna ride that gol-dang SBFL. I did that. I finished that. Then I got to the Divide. June was a winner month for me. Almost everything I did outside in June was joyful.

on the Divide
On the Continental Divide again at last. About to descend back down to Salida.

Silver Creek Trail
Silver Creek Trail with happy dandelions.

July

Summer was rich and green. Colors were saturated. A wet spring and early summer. Hard on the bike parts but easy on the eyes. As soon as the high country would allow it, my bike and I got up there. 

rainbow wet
Rainbow after rain squall.

rainbow lush
Silver Creek Trail with spring color

canyon creek
Canyon Creek, way up high. July 12 and still snow drifts.

Then at the very end of July, Thursday the 30th. I made an ITT attempt on the VT125 course. I failed, miserably. With a huge smile on my face. It was awesome. The best experience of my year. The best. Thank you universe.

August

The overnight adventure I undertook at the end of July released me. Since March I had been exploring and visiting places, but with big miles. I would often hire somebody to look after Vicki on a weekend day so I could ride 8+ hours. Once I had proven to myself that I was back, that my body could do whatever I asked if I worked hard, I was satisfied. I felt free to plan my weekends around fun. No longer compelled to have so much time in the saddle for the sake of fitness.

The first weekend in August, I took my dog to hike the West Maroon trail to Frigid Air Pass. So beautiful, and especially so as part of a wet summer.

columbine at dawn
Columbine with morning dew

west maroon trail
Vicki on the West Maroon trail

on frigid air pass
Vicki and I on Frigid Air Pass

I visited my parents in Michigan. It was nice. I so rarely see my home state, and it's always nice to spend a long weekend with my wonderful parents.

michigan

September

I rode in the West Elk Classic in September.

west elk roll out
Chilly morning, fast rollout. I am at the far right in my gray rain jacket.

west elk
Such a beautiful day, what a great event!

September has come to be a busy month for me. I help with the Vapor Trail 125, and this year again helped with the Salida Bike Fest. Then it was time to start scouting for elk! We had an amazingly long, mild, warm autumn. I wasn't too busy to enjoy it myself from time to time.

silver creek color
Same meadow on Silver Creek as one of the previous pictures, from when it was green.

more silver creek color
Glorious color

October

I rode a lap of the 12 Hours of Penitence, then crashed and remembered why I don't do lap races any more.

finger
Snacks and a beer, after I am promoted to spectator!

Elk hunting was a bust. It was in the 70s at 9000 feet during my whole season. Vicki and I did a lot of homework, but the weather that made the autumn so enjoyable for biking and hiking made it a difficult elk season. Guess that was good news for the elk!

Certainly was a lovely, golden October.

sangre wilderness
Up in the Sangre de Christo Wilderness looking for elk poo

November

Mother nature continued to encourage the dog and I to explore outside. We hiked way up Dead Horse Gulch one day.

dead horse

Trail riding was stellar the whole month of November

n backbone
North Backbone

cottonwood
Cottonwood got some new linkages this year. What an excellent ride it has become!

For the Thanksgiving holiday, Vicki and I traveled east and north to visit my sister and her family in Wisconsin. Moist and mild.

Badger Trail
A moist rail-trail in southern Wisconsin

December

The final month of this year turned wintry right away. Vicki rejoiced, the fatbike came out of the shadows in the back of the garage. Boo-yah! I've had trouble with winter in years past. Mainly the trouble has been me hating it. But Vicki has really helped. Seeing her enjoy it has made me more enthusiastic about getting her out there. And when I wasn't watching, it seems that I started enjoying it too!

fsck summer

tracked up

It's been a good year. Not that there haven't been some problems and bummers. There have. But it's balanced. Keep looking for the good and sometimes you'll find the good.

Here's to everybody finding the good in this next trip around the sun!



Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Contrived Failure, and a Clear Win

Thursday, July 30, 2015 I worked like normal, but left around 3:30. Went home and started darting around, fussing with my pack and trying to make sure I was remembering everything. Then a little before 7 I rode down to the F Street Bridge to do an offical start.

lining up with myself for ITT start
lining up with myself for ITT start

I had been planning for several weeks to make an attempt to finish a Vapor Trail 125 ITT. I did this in August of 2013, and it was the hardest (physical) thing I had ever done.

I was more or less satisfied after my finish in August. It was a feat of 1-day endurance that was good enough for me; I felt no compulsion to find a harder thing to trump a Vapor Trail 125 finish.

But then 2014 happened. I came into 2015 feeling like I could get fit again if I could put in some work, but something like a VT125 ITT felt like one of the things I could do before the accident, and when I was younger. But those days were past.

Some time this spring, I got the fire again to ride far and push my own limits. I finished the Salida Big Friggin' Loop, which opened my mind to the possibility that maybe I could finish another ITT. Once I had that thought, I knew I was going to need to try. I upped my training and then picked a date.

I borrowed a GoPro in order to document the experience, so I have some footage. Futzing around with the GoPro cost me some time, but I'm happy I did it because I have some good footage.

The ride started with a warm evening. It was a little cloudy, but looked like a normal nice summer evening. Right away Mother Nature let me know that she controlled the game with 20 minutes of good hard rain. The smell of ozone was in the air, but thankfully no lightning. But I went from a little too warm to damp and chilled. By the time I got to dirt after the first 40 minutes or so the rain was a memory and I started to dry off and get warm again.

Creatures started showing themselves to me. First it was rabbits and other rodents. Then a mule deer doe. And then, before I had even gotten above 9,000 feet elevation I saw a cow elk who looked like she'd just come from a salon. Beautiful healthy coat, standing in good grass and vibrant flowers. Our land is bursting with fertility this summer, and this huge animal looked like she'd been eating grain and alfalfa all summer.

My buddy Ryan met me just as I got to the Colorado Trail. He'd been on an adventure all day, all the way from Cotopaxi to Monarch Pass, then the CDT over Chalk Pass and on to the Tincup Road. Then all of the Colorado Trail from Chalk Creek to Blanks where we met. He knew I was going to be out there, so he'd arranged to find me on his way home as I was on my way out. That was cool, great to see a friend as the last light faded. He was just finishing up a huge day and I think he waited around at the trailhead to see me.

As I started my night and the Colorado Trail singletrack, light rain fell for about 20 minutes, but not enough to soak me. Just enough to make things nice and cool, and to remind me about who really controls the night (Mother Nature). I had borrowed a light from a really cool guy Jay Buthman who has a company called Amoeba. I'd always been curious about his lights, and didn't have a great solution for my helmet mounted light. Jay sent me a demo unit, which is so cool. I hadn't had a chance to mount and test it in darkness, and had to tinker around a little to get it right, but damn, what a light! Made the tech chunk on the CO Trail all the more fun. And made my own bar mounted light seem pretty weak!

Here's a video of me pushing up the first hard hike-a-bike, which is about 15 minutes into the CO Trail section (2 minutes):



Here's a video showing some of the trail riding, smooth:



Here's a video showing some of the trail riding, chunk:


That section of CO Trail is probably my favorite night ride; challenging parts, smooth parts, beautiful woods and creeks. I took enough water to get to my next water stop at Canyon Creek from Browns Creek. Wonderful tasting clear water.

I should mention that for this entire effort, starting from a couple hours before I left, I was feeding using Tailwind Nutrition powder. I had a supply that I used to mix and refill my water bottle from the clear water in my Osprey hydration pack. I used their caffeinated product through the night and switched to normal after dawn. I was using a Steripen to sterilize the water, since it was absolutely gin-clear but certainly carrying some beaver fever. I don't take water from creeks that flow out of mining districts.

I felt really good during that whole trail section, and popped out onto the road to St Elmo at midnight feeling strong. Time to get to work knocking out that climb to the divide. Three hours of constant, relentless climbing. No way to get it done other than to get started and keep going.

Stayed on task relentlessly from Cascade all the way to the bottom of the trail up to Altman Pass (Alpine Tunnel). When I got there I had my first crisis of fatigue. When you do these things, there typically come times when the effort gut punches you. I couldn't catch my breath. My legs were aching and shaking. I had probably pushed too hard up from Cascade.

On this course, when you get to the divide you better take stock. Continuing means you're over on the west side of the divide in a wild, remote place. There is no help or cell service and no easy way home once you're over there. If you go over there you better be ready to work. Even turning around heading home from the Alpine Tunnel means a two-hour ride home. If there's any question about where you're at, it's time to do a full diagnostic.

Luckily, I was unwilling to turn around without at least making it to the continental divide. I pushed the bike up there, and by the time I got to the top I could catch my breath, even though I'd just pushed hard for 20 minutes over rocks and up slippery gravel. That made me happy. I had gone from beaten to back in the game. That's key to finishing something big. Down times will happen, but you can beat them if you try. Or you can let them take you down.

I made it up and over to the west side, rode the railroad grade road down about 2 miles to where the Tomichi Pass Road branches off to the south. From there, it was time to push the bike for two hours. I had a nearly full moon, but clouds kept it mostly obscured. Until I was stumbling over the bowling balls of the Tomichi Pass Road. Suffering in moonlight, and stoked to be there.

On this adventure, I felt that my fitness for hike-a-bike was solid. HAB is never fun, but I was able to tolerate a lot of effort and kept it going very well. There is a TON of HAB on the night-time part of the Vapor Trail 125, and in years past it gutted me. But I've been hiking more, and riding more primitive stuff on my recreational rides.

I made the summit of Granite Mountain right around 5:30. Pink light on the eastern horizon, beginnings of daylight, but still not enough ambient light to ride without lights. Here's a video where I can be heard explaining the nature of the risk as I begin my descent.



As I began my descent, I noticed that some kind of noisy birds were squawking as I went past. I was apparently disturbing them too early. Then I heard much more animal noise up on a ridge to the west. I looked up and saw this:


Amazing! What a privilege to be in that wild place at that time of day in mid-summer!

In another mile the trail came close to the creek. A high mountain creek, just below the headwaters. Gin clear and cold. It probably didn't need to be sterilized, but I gave it the steripen treatment. Don't need me no beaver fever.

Canyon Creek is a long, challenging descent with a painful punchy 15-20 minute climb at the end. The descending part, for somebody with my skill and risk tolerance, is well over an hour. That descent at first light has been the setting for bad crashes for me two different times. This time I made it down in decent time, unscathed, and had a blast. Success!



Making it to Snowblind Campground where the Canyon Creek trail ends, is a huge milestone as part of the Vapor course. It's a transition. Made it through the night and getting ready to tackle the day. Lube your chain. Take off a layer. Steel yourself for one of the two remaining long climbs on the Vapor Trail 125.

The 2,500 foot ascent of Old Monarch Pass. You finish Canyon Creek with a sense of elation. Old Monarch Pass road replaces that elation with exhaustion. It's relentless. Not a terrible climb when you're fresh, but after the night portion of the Vapor course, it's a soul-crusher. But without help from somebody who has a vehicle, you have no choice for getting home but to tackle it.

I know from past attempts, best thing to do with the Old Monarch climb is just to get to work and stay on task. Don't let it get to you. I did as well as could possibly be expected, but I was tired and the Old Monarch grind took a toll. A high point was seeing two more cow elk just a mile or so above the valley floor. I looked into the woods and saw what my brain first identified as horses. Because they looked like they'd been curried. Maybe it was my semi-hallucinatory sleep deprived state, but I tell you, those critters looked healthy. Fat and happy like a domesticated ungulate.

I was deep into my keep-moving-and-don't-think-about-quitting mode. When you make the Old Monarch summit there's a strong urge roll on over the top and point it down. If you want to finish you have to put that out of your mind. Descending on the highway sux. What a waste of all that climbing, with so many good descending trails.

I rode the singletrack link from Old Monarch Pass to Monarch Pass. My inner dialog during the latter part of the climb and the link over to Monarch Pass was about how I would be OK with it if I decided to just do Starvation Creek then call it a good effort and head home. Or maybe I'd rally (the Crest Trail can be quite a kick in the junk when you really need it) and want to take on the last 3-4 hours after finishing Starvation. Either way, I had no doubt that I had 15 miles to the Starvation trailhead in me. I wasn't even thinking about bailing down 50.

As I started climbing past the tram on Monarch I felt deep fatigue. Nauseating heart-pounding dead legs fatigue. As soon as I hit the steep part of the first jeep road climb I had to jump off and push. It only got worse. I knew I was properly hydrated and my nutrition was good. This wasn't a bonk. I hoped it was just a low point that I'd ride through.

There was a threatening dark cloud ahead, even though it was only around 10:30 I was concerned about getting caught and considered taking the first exit, Fooses Creek down. Before too much longer I decided to take Fooses regardless, because it was only a couple miles away and I was shelled.

Then the bottom fell out. I walked through a ride-able rocky section. When I tried to re-mount the bike, my balance was bad. I had the staggers. A couple of novice riders were catching me, so I got off the trail and sat. Did I have enough energy left to get to Fooses? A couple miles maybe, 300 feet of climbing?

Then I thought, is it even safe for me to try to descend on singletrack? I'm kind of a shit show, stacking way up on the Colorado Trail would not be an ideal way to end this adventure.

As disappointing as it was to forgo one more singletrack descent, my practical mind kicked in. Nope. Go home. It's been a memorable experience. It's been a huge success. 80 miles already, nearly 30 more just to get home on the highway. Visions of pre-dawn in a wild place. The memory of a mouse running across the Colorado Trail last night as I floated through the night.

Why risk tarnishing all this goodness? I had already happily capitulated to the reality that trying to finish would be un-fun. I was fine with that, why get greedy about the end of the ride?

So I rode down.

My fitness is very good, and I'm very grateful that I've gotten back from my injury. From the way this ride went, it's obvious to me that the capability is there--it would just take deeper training. In 2013, the year I did this successfully, I had already done a 24 solo, the Durango Dirty Century, the Redneck Epic, Dirty Double Fondo, etc. This year I've done some great riding, lots of very long days, but nothing like the endurance base I had by August of 2013. This was a nice big chunk of training too, beyond all the other wonderfulness that it was.

I pushed through several low places, and got myself home without needing or taking any assistance. I had logistics covered, meaning I never needed something that wasn't in my pack. You can forget how to prepare for these things, and that can mess you up just as badly as lack of fitness.

I needed to know how much two more years of age and a big injury had taken. Answer, not enough to matter.

That's a win. Solid win. I put more golden memories into the bank. I made an adventure. And I satisfied my inner critic. For now.

Hot damn.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 2015 High Country Images

We are having a beautiful year.

In winter it was cold. Spring brought an unusual amount of moisture; snow, rain, slush--it was wet.

Summer has been very dynamic. Big thunderstorms, then hot and clear for a while, then a week's worth of rainy afternoons.

The land is busting out with life. Green grass, happy sagebrush, flowers, mushrooms.

Here are some of my pictures from July adventuring.


Greens Creek


Pretty columbine on Greens


The view down toward Whitepine from Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail


Looking north toward the Alpine Tunnel and Brittle Silver Basin from Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail.


My buddy Craig checking out my bike, top of Granite Mountain, Canyon Creek Trail.


Looking south from Granite Mountain.


On the way down from Granite Mountain, upper Canyon Creek Trail


Another day, another bike ride. Crest Trail.


Crest Trail, new friend Taylor cresting a climb


New friend Denise on Silver Creek Trail


Denise going past and Taylor rolling on Silver Creek Trail


Taylor finishing one of the hundred climbs on the Rainbow Trail near Mear's Junction.

Get out there. The rockies in Southern CO have never been prettier.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Describing my favorite ride

When summer comes and high country snow recedes, I start venturing up into my happy place on my bike. Between Mt Ouray and Mt Antora there there is a high basin with a series of drainages, two of them with trails following down. There are two good climbing routes: the Marshall Pass Road and the Poncha Creek Road. Silver Creek and Starvation Creek have trails following them and they are born at the Divide and complete their runs to drain into Poncha Creek within a relatively short distance.

I love to start from my house in Salida on my mountain bike and ride to Marshall Pass. From there a number of adventures are possible. Down Silver Creek or Starvation Creek then back to town the way I came. Or backwards south to north on the Monarch Crest Trail, to descend Greens or Fooses and return to home using highway 50. Or Agate Creek. Or something else I dream up.

Every adventure up there is different. Weather, riding companions, animals encountered; all of these things make the ride unique.

Since it's such a favorite place of mine, I thought I might dedicate a blog post to deconstructing a ride into the shadow of Ouray (photo album at bottom of page).

Start with 5 miles of Salida town and County Road 120. Elevation change is roughly 7100 feet to 7500 feet. Then 5 miles of climbing toward Poncha Pass and the Marshall Pass Road. It's a good wide highway with a breakdown lane to ride in, but lots of traffic. Elevation change is roughly 7500 to 8200. An hour or hour and fifteen minutes of pavement, and I turn right onto the gravel Marshall Pass Road, Chaffee County Road 200.

Marshall Pass is 15 miles away and 2,500 feet higher. The road starts in Piñon/Juniper and grass with the occasional ponderosa pine. The first 3 miles are pretty flat, but climbing is constant all the way from Salida to the Pass. The three miles bring you to an intersection at a place known as the Shirley Site. There was a town here at one time over 100 years ago, but now it's a parking area with a latrine. There are three ways to proceed up from Shirley. County Road 201 goes south and then west up the Silver Creek drainage. Poncha Creek Road goes west, and a mile up the railroad grade curves around back to the east to begin snaking its way up toward Marshall. Poncha Creek Road takes the straightline approach to get to the same place, going more or less straight without regard to steepness.

Sometimes I go up Silver Creek Road and ride only the Rainbow Trail then back to town. But my favorite is to follow the railroad grade. That's what I did on July 3, 2015. As I left Salida that day it was cool, humid and overcast. I was planning for the clouds to burn off, but prepared for whatever the mountain had in mind for me.

Half way up the 5 miles of highway 285 it started to rain on me. After 10 minutes of rain, I considered turning around to ride something lower rather than suffering in rain all day. It looked like it was settling in, and might rain all day. I actually slowed and looked for a gap in traffic to turn around, then thought, "Ah, what the hell. Might as well keep going. I'm already up here."

When I got to the Marshall Pass Road, it was wet and to the west it looked much more wet. I stuck with my plan, because I'd already climbed the pavement part and it wasn't raining hard enough yet to turn me back. If there's anything I've learned about these mountains, it's that you can't tell what the weather will ultimately do based on what it's doing right now. So I kept rolling over the moist gravel.

When I got to the Shirley site there were lots of puddles and the brush and trees were shining with moisture. But blue sky had appeared on the western horizon. My wager had paid off. It was burning off, and as I rolled up the railroad grade the aroma of happy wet sage filled the air.

The railroad grade is a wonderful aerobic climb. And much of it rolls through a tunnel of aspen that goes on and on. So beautiful. I often see bighorn sheep, and the road is littered with old rusting railroad spikes.

After 15 miles of dirt road and over three hours on the bike I emerge at the pass. Now singletrack! Between the ~4 miles of Continental Divide Trail/Colorado Trail from Marshall to Silver Creek, the ~6 miles of descending on the Silver Creek Trail, and the ~10 miles of Rainbow Trail, there are nearly 20 miles of classic Colorado trail ahead. The whole ride is a reward, but this section of trail-riding is what makes it world-class.

On July 3, 2015, I rode the traverse over to Silver and down Silver in lovely cool, sunny weather. Shortly after I emerged from Silver Creek to start the Rainbow, I noticed some clouds blowing in from the north. Before I'd gone 15 minutes down the Rainbow the rain started. Five minutes later I was hunkered down in cover with lightning flashing and cracking overhead. It rained hard and there was lots of electricity, then it gradually moved off to the south.

When I started moving again, I found a trail that was more puddle than not. The muddy water sprayed all over me and my bike. Total mess. But the sun was back out and everything was green and cool. So we went from overcast to rain to sun to storm back to sun. Typical day up in the shadow of Ouray. This particular ride took me 7 hours, 55 miles, over a mile of cumulative climbing.

I finished, a muddy man who was almost out of water, rolling down the highway sometimes hitting 40 mph, then back to town on County Road 120. Home to my dog, a shower, and a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Typical day up to the divide on the bike. Bliss.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Am I a Hundie Guy? Why?

Today I was up in my happy place riding my bike. 

When I left the house this morning I was planning to climb to Marshall Pass and then climb backwards up the Crest trail to the top of Greens and down. I figured there would be snow, but passable. Messy.

As I rolled through town on the way to CR120 I thought about it. Up to Greens and down seemed short. It would be trail I haven't seen since 2013 so it qualifies, but it seemed short for a beautiful early summer day with an early start. A more worthy ride would be Marshall and then Starvation Creek, then back up the Silver Creek road to do the Rainbow. That's a hard ride. So before I hit the city limits my plan had switched.

Starvation was amazing. Early summer beauty. Everything wet and mossy. But it was also strenuous, more than I remembered. Especially since I couldn't keep myself from clearing half a dozen blowdowns.

As I got down to the junction with Poncha Creek I was thinking about calling it a day and heading home rather than taking on the hour climb back up to the Rainbow trailhead. I was tired. It was hot and getting hotter.

"Well," I sez to myself. "Well, if I go home right now it's just a bike ride. But if I suck it up and climb up and ride that trail, then it's a 60-miler with over a mile of climbing. That's an accomplishment."

So here's the thing that popped into my head. Why does it need to be an accomplishment? And I chewed on that during the hot dusty climb up the Silver Creek Road...

Some of my heroes are the people who do the Big Multi-Day Rides like the TD (wow what a finish for the men's field last night!) When I grow up I want to be Eszter Horanyi or Jefe Branham or Mike Curiak. What they do and have done really inspires me. I have half the gear I need to get into that game, and friends tease me for how often I've declared that I'm going to get out touring, but never do.

Most of those heroes of mine graduated from the Big One-Day Rides like Leadville, the Breck 100, and of course the daddy of them all, the Vapor Trail 125.

I never graduated. I'm still stuck on the Big One-Day. And my little internal pep talk reminded me why.

I'm hooked on the banana split feeling. What, you say, is the banana split feeling? Well, it's this feeling you get after you do something hard and then your dad and his best friend Jerry take you to tastee freeze and buy you whatever you want. And they tell you they're proud of you. And you feel all settled, and satisfied. Like you did what you set out to do.


This should really be a Father's Day post, but it wasn't in my head yet. And Father's Day is just arbitrary. We shouldn't limit ourselves to thinking about our dads when Hallmark tells us we should.

Forty years ago. Forty plus. My dad and his friend Jerry Barringer got into riding bikes with gears and funny handlebars. Tony Barringer was my age and my friend too, so we had a posse. Check Tony out with that ridiculous hat! King of the Mountains theme.

those were the days
That's me with the poo brown Schwinn Varsity with the yellow bar tape.

So it started with riding to the next town to have a burger at the diner there. And then some longer rides, and then centuries.

What I really got thinking about today as I asked my tired body to work for just another couple hours instead of going home was that first one. My first century ride. I know I finished it on that Schwinn. I got a better bike, an Italian Torpado (with Campy!) using paper route money the next year. But that day, that banana split day, I was a little kid on a 48 pound steel throwback to a different era.

It was the Seaway Century out of Muskegon, Michigan. I can't honestly remember if it was 1974 when I was 10 or 1975 when I was eleven. I remember crying. I remember really caring about whether I was close enough to my dad's back wheel to be in his draft. And I remember the words. He didn't make me feel bad for crying. He just spoke to me evenly and we worked through the miles. I can't tell you what he said, but I'm pretty sure I remember what it meant.

That experience I think set up some basic wiring in me. There's something in me that likes getting up out of bed and facing a big challenge; to be dealt with and either completed or not before it's time to go to bed again. And then you eat ice cream. And hamburgers.

I think I'm going to go get some ice cream.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reclamation

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would ever do a huge endurance series ride again, I would have probably told you that it was unlikely. I was busted up and trying to kick the narcotic pain meds that had kept me inside my skin for a month. I felt not only broken, but aged. Significantly aged.

Feeling old, like feeling young, is a state of mind. My 2014 was chock full of life lessons. One of them was the power of states of mind. When you are a busted up 50-year-old sitting through whole summer days inside on a recliner, you aren't putting yourself into a picture that includes athletic achievement.

If you aren't careful, you can become that guy on the recliner.

Yesterday June 6, 2015 was the Salida Big Friggin' Loop, an event I've been putting on since 2012.


Blanks Cabin Colorado Trail trailhead

Some time between  October and March of this past year, a kernel of desire started to establish. It was desire to have my strength back. Meaning, to have the belief, that I could be strong on the bike again. I worked on getting back fitness, which is necessary to achieve on the bike. But without faith there's only so much you'll be able to do.

Some time last winter I put my name onto the registration list for the Big Friggin' Loop. I put a stake in the ground. I cleaned up my diet and started living a little more cleanly, and I started putting in bigger miles on the bike. And I started making myself believe.

Yesterday was test day. Time to answer the question, "can I still do something like this?"

Not going to do a blow-by-blow, but suffice to say the weather looked threatening at times but turned out to be 5 different kinds of late spring weather, each with something pleasant to offer. I got very tired, but kept the cranks turning.

About 5 hours in I had an awkward stuck-pedal crash and fell over into a pile of rocks. I banged down hard on my right elbow and thigh. My blink reaction was fury. I swore and yanked my bike back upright, pushed it to the top of the climb that I'd dumped on. When I started riding again I found that it wasn't shifting right. Must have bent my derailleur hanger. Fuck!

Then I got a gift. Having been through situations on big rides where something bad happened and it took me down a negative road, I stopped myself from going that way. And then realized that, even though this setback had happened, I was still rolling. My forearm was stinging, and I felt joy in the sting. I was on a finisher's pace in the SBFL! I'm out here doing this, and feeling this! The pain means I'm alive. What a privilege! What a blessing!

When I got to Buena Vista, I went straight to Boneshaker Cycles, to re-stock since they were so kind to set up a whole neutral support area in their shop, but also to see if I could borrow their hanger tool to fix my derailleur. The town was jumping. The street was full of cars, the sidewalks full of tourists. And Boneshaker was super busy too.

I was really hesitant to bug them; a busy shop in the summer doesn't need a distraction. I went back toward their service area, where the mechanic was busy working on a rental bike. When I sheepishly asked if I could borrow the hanger tool, the wrench said "want to come back here and put it on a stand?" That was exactly what I wanted, but I wouldn't have asked. Having it offered was really nice, and my new friend took a couple seconds to clear the stand for me. With a good stand and the right tools, I had my bike shifting right in a matter of minutes. I lubed the chain since it was so convenient up on a real work stand, then headed back out to see about finishing. Chatted with the Boneshaker guys for a while, and they really are wonderful people. Then topped off my water and rolled out into a hard rain in full sun.

I left BV feeling happy, positive and ready to go finish the long loop. The Barbara Whipple trail took a bit of the starch out of my collar right away. The punchy steep climbs made me really feel the miles that were already in my legs. And then about 15 minutes into the Midland Trail, I repeated the clumsy keel over crash into a new pile of rocks. Onto my right side again, but this time the elbow took the worst. Again, the quick rage followed by a sense of big picture gratitude. I chuckled at my own klutzy nature, and how dumb it had been to not take 20 seconds to lube my pedal cleat the first time it stuck and sent me crashing down.

I ground my way through the afternoon, deep in the pain cave. By the time I came to the turn-off for the base loop, I was there. I could tell that finishing the base loop would be plenty of challenge. So I pointed myself east and south and made for home.

The discomfort was from everywhere. The ass. Legs, butt, and back. My left foot was numb or in pain--an issue that started last summer. I think I had some gout symptoms that may have left a uric acid crystal in my forefoot. And then there's the feeling when you have to burn some matches to get up a steeper pitch, and there's a moment of nauseous breathless heart-pounding.

It was great. Full suffer, but with the acute awareness that I was back! I can get into the pain cave, I can live there for a while and my body will handle it. I was playing a game that I had almost convinced myself was a game for a younger Tom. A couple times on the way up to the Aspen Ridge summit, I choked up and felt my eyes fill with tears. What a privilege to have this suffering! My patched up, worked over, broken and healed body Can Still Do This! Through the intense discomfort, elation surged. I would choke up, and make a kind of asthmatic moan. If I there had been more energy and breath in me, it probably would have been a sob.

I've taken something back that was lost. I am so grateful. I guess in 2014 it was my path to see some misery and be challenged to survive it. I don't ever want to live through something like that again. But at least now I know that I can if I have to.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Back at it, Baby!

Been wallowing a bit. For, like, a year?

Been suffering from Läzyfücker Syndrome. Riding bikes for long distances has just been seeming too durned hard. Dunno if it's a positive reaction to the longer days and more colorful light or a negative reaction to the tightness of my carhartts and belly overhang. But it's something. Something vernal I think.

I've been finding joy in the long ride again. I'm digging out of some pretty crappy physical sloth and my muscle is marbled like a high-quality prime rib, but pedaling the bike is starting to feel good again.

Poncha Pass in early March
Poncha Pass in early March

Put my name down to ride my very own Salida Big Friggin' Loop in June. Might ride the Dirty Double Fondo in May if I'm there in terms of fitness yet.

I have become aware of the fact that for many many years, my own perceived life purpose was riding mountain bikes really far. That started to seem pretty absurd to me. It still does. Am I on this planet to wear out mountain bikes? Is that what I'm for?

Well, I'm not sure where I am with that. But endurance riding is a part of me. I'm not ready to put it into the past, and I'm completely at a loss to identify something with which to replace it.

The Universe doesn't seem to have a plan for me. The idea that The Plan™ would be riding bikes still seems absurd, but frankly the fuggin' Universe seems more absurd and random than it seems orderly. There's order in nature, and that's one of the things that draws me out into it on a bike. But the universe of humans? So-called Humanity? Absurd and getting more so with every passing hour.

As Walter Sobcheck might have said if he was a mountain biker and not a bowler:

"Fuck it dude, let's go riding."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice Day

Acknowledge the darkness, appreciate the light.

Solstice Sunrise
Crazy sunrise on the shortest day

deer
Deer in the pre-dawn park. The rut is in full swing.

wind hike
Hike up in a draw out of the wind

sand dunes
Looking down at the valley from Salida's Sand Dunes

solstice storm

Strong snow-smelling wind
Winter's breath from the Divide
Look now toward light