Friday, April 29, 2016

West Elk Bicycle Classic 2015

I love Gunnison, I love Crested Butte, I love Paonia, and I love the Kebler Pass road. I have loved this part of Colorado since I first saw it way back in the mid-80s.

kebler pass road

When I first saw this country, I loved it for its rugged beauty and remote places. As the years have gone by, and as I've lived close by just over the Continental Divide in Salida, I've learned to also love Gunnison County for the people. They tend to be kind, generous, fun, and friendly. Many are amazingly talented elite athletes with the humility of a novice.

Over the years I've been able to meet many of the key characters in the Gunnison County cycling universe. I met Dave Wiens, first through an event I help to manage, the Vapor Trail 125. Dave raced and won the event in 2005, the first year it ran. Then he assumed the role of aid station captain at our critical Aid Station #2. I raced the Growler a couple times, saw what a quality, well-run event it was, and became a volunteer.

I met Jarral Ryter also through the Vapor Trail 125, first as a competitor and then as our Aid Station #2 captain during some years when Dave's boys were busy with high school athletics and he couldn't be there to run it.

Jarral and Dave started an event several years ago as a benefit for the Mountain Sports program at Western State Colorado University. It's a road event, and I'm mostly mountain biker. But the course! The road I had only seen once between the Blue Mesa Reservoir dam and Paonia! Kebler Pass! And the Gunnison County people! With Jarral and Dave involved, I knew it would be run like a swiss watch. (Turns out I was right!)

So enough gushing about Gunnison County! What about the ride?

I got to Crested Butte the night before and had beers at the Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub. The next day started before dawn. I got dressed and had some coffee thanks to my friend Dan who had offered me his spare room. When I stuck my face outside for the first time, raindrops were spattering. Whaaat?

I gave a little uh-oh and started re-thinking my clothing. I had hoped to get away with wearing shorts, short-sleeved jersey, arm warmers and light rain jacket. Leg warmers too? Rain pants? I needed leave soon with everything I would need, and to be able to carry everything all day. I did not want to wear a pack. I decided to stick with Plan A. If the weather wound up too nasty, the day would probably end early for me anyway. And I probably wouldn't be the only one.

Loaded up in a van a little while later in a dark, wet parking lot. Weather was the topic of conversation for the first 10 minutes or so, then we drove out from under the dome of Crested Butte moisture and into the gray dawn, and the rain stopped. By the time we got the the Western State Colorado University campus to the starting line, the sky was blue and the air was crisp and cool.

starting line at WSCU

Boom! The gun went off and so did the peloton. We moved through town and west on highway 50 toward Blue Mesa. It was hold yer line and stay in the draft of the rider in front of you. The pace was brisk but comfortable even for an old fogie like myself. I just sat in the middle of the peloton and let it carry me along.

in the peloton
And then about 10 miles from the start, it seemed that the riders at the front decided it was go time. The whole train upshifted and the chit-chat went away. Slowly the peloton started to break up. I wound up hanging with groups of 6-10 until we arrived at the dam and it was time to turn right onto CO Highway 92.

The first aid station was on the north side of the dam. I stopped and filled bottles with Tailwind Nutrition calories. The station was stocked with all kinds of good food choices. But I was only interested in water to mix my Tailwind.

riders on CO92

The next section of the ride on CO 92 was one of my most anticipated parts of the day. And it did not disappoint. The views into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, undulating pavement, cool air, and the near absence of traffic other than skinny-tire two-wheelers made for a wonderful mid-morning.

Funny how you never really know how much climbing there is on a bit of road you've only driven.

out on highway 92

What a beautiful place for a bike ride!

view from CO92

view from CO92

view from CO92

Colorado Highway 92 rolls up and down along the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, then eventually drops into the clay hills and rabbitbrush of Crawford and eventually Hotchkiss, CO. Fast descents on smooth, empty roads; deeper into the beautiful western slope landscape.

And warmer. The cool of the morning up in the hills had burned off. Not hot really, but definitely not cold. I became conscious of how much elevation I was giving up. There will be payback for all this la-de-da descending!

Did I mention aid stations? They were common, stocked with great food and drink options, and manned by friendly, helpful people. You could probably do this event carrying nothing more than a single water bottle. Crawford and Paonia are sweet little towns. Rolling through on my bike made me want to come back some time to look around. But the clock was ticking, and there was a boatload of climbing to do before it was beer:30 back in CB! I kept turning over the cranks.

out on highway 92

After leaving Crawford and the wonderful aid station there, it was time to start the climbing. Very gradual at first, while we rolled on CO Highway 133 along the N. Fork of the Gunnison River. Shortly after passing through the old mining town of Somerset, we turned east off the highway onto a narrow paved road that soon became a narrow gravel road. We had reached the Kebler Pass road, and it was time to start really climbing. Between the low point on the course around 5,200 feet and 10,007 foot Kebler Pass there was nearly a mile of climbing to do.

The climbing was tough, but every pedal stroke took me up a little higher into cooler air with more shade. My fatigue was significant, but the scenery was so amazing! I had driven the Kebler Pass road before, but never pedaled it. I'm here to tell you, pedaling it is the way to go. So much to see, such a beautiful cruise through the West Elk range.

Arriving at the pass was wonderful. Lots of cheers, photos being snapped, and the promise of a long smooth downhill into Crested Butte where beers and food were waiting. When I rolled in to the finish a band was playing and a crowd of bike people were strolling around in the green grass. It was a wonderful finish to a great day on the bike. I got to catch up with lots of old friends, ate some amazing food, drank perfectly cold beer and heard some great music.

Perfect day, can't wait to line up this year!

view from CO92

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Two Years with my Sweet Little Dog

On the evening of March 20, 2014 I stopped at Kenosha Pass to let the dog I was adopting have a chance to relieve herself. We had left the Foothills Shelter in Golden around 6 PM, Vicki had been on the floor of the passenger seat in my truck. She didn't seem particularly frightened, more like apathetic. She didn't look at me unless I spoke to her. She let me touch her, but didn't seem to either dislike or enjoy it.

Vicki on Kenosha on the way home

I was worried that I may have made a poor decision. I hadn't been looking for another dog with baggage. This time I was going to get a fun-loving, unafraid, non-aggressive, easy buddy dog. I wanted a herding dog. I was thinking of maybe a heeler that had been born on a ranch but just hadn't turned out to be a great herder. I was checking ranch-country pet shelters and breed-specific rescue organizations. But also there are pet-finder sites, and Mara (Vicki's slave name) popped up often.

Turns out, the people at the Foothills Shelter were working hard to find homes for their animals. Vicki's sad little face was on all the relevant pet-finder sites. Foothills stood out as an organization that was really doing a good job. My questions were answered quickly and completely.

So it all seemed right, except that this dog I'd gone to meet was too scared of me to let me touch her unless I had a biscuit in my hand. These good people gave me a chance to back out on adopting her, and they promised that I could bring her back if it didn't work out. I looked at this scared little dog and decided she deserved a chance. Might not be the easiest for me, but she at least should have the chance to be in my home for a while and see if she can feel like it's her home.

Vicki on Kenosha on the way home

Here's my little girl on her first morning in my house. The rawhide bone and toy she refused to acknowledge are on the floor. She watched me warily for the first several days. When I gave her a treat I could touch her briefly before she slipped away to eat it. If she had been adopted by a woman it might have been an easier transition. I know now that men are often seen as threatening to her but women rarely.

Slowly she started to loosen up a little around me. She would let me touch her head. After a few more days of feeding her I could reach down and scratch her chest. But always this touching happened when all four of her feet were on the ground. Sometimes she would suddenly bolt away.

One day after a couple weeks, we were in my back yard after having gone for a short hike. I was sitting on the ground talking to her and petting her head. Retaining eye contact the entire time, she slowly laid over and rolled onto her back, for the first time inviting me to scratch her chest and belly. We had a good long belly rub.

At some point around the same time, I realized that she actually does have a tail. Her tail was docked, so she has only a short stubby one. One day I said something to her and there it was, a stubby little tail popped up and wagged around. She had been keeping it tucked down the whole time she'd been with me.

Rainbow Trail

There were always setbacks. The fear in her will always be there. Even as there were more belly rubs and tail-wiggling, every once in a while something will spook her and for a time her eyes will go wild with fear. I learned to keep an eye on her body language, and to help her react more confidently to things that come up. I learned that she cannot tolerate being held and kept from moving. I learned the hard way not to grasp her collar and hold on.

She was completely indifferent to toys and play, like tug-of-war or fetching a ball. I would give her a plush toy and she would just look at it and then at me. But at some point, probably more than 6 months after she came to me, she started being interested in toys. At first she just carried them around, now she excitedly tears into them as soon as I give her one. Fetch isn't a big thing for her, but sometimes she'll play along. She loves tug-of-war now, with lots of fake growling and being swung around off the ground.

West Maroon Pass Trail

About a year ago she made a leap. She became a whole level more confident and able to relate to people other than me. Much of that is a credit to friends of mine and hers who worked really hard to earn her trust. My friend Nate crouched down and spoke to her and let her sniff his hand for almost a year on a nearly daily basis. And one day, she stepped two steps closer and let him put a hand on her head. After that, Nate was OK. After Nate was OK, more of the people she sees often could be trusted to be close enough to pet her.

Fresh snow Salida

She and I have bonded very tightly. She is very important to me, a member of my family. I love her deeply. People who know us know how devoted we are to each other. She looks to me for protection. She wants to go where I'm going without being called or leashed. She sleeps with me, and every night spends about a minute carefully licking my face before we both settle in to sleep. I love to see her tiny little tail pop up and wiggle, see her excitement over toys and playing.

She's really easy, other than the occasional piece of clothing or personal object that she chews. She was a little over a year old when I picked her up from the shelter. She had been pregnant, her teats and mammory glands were still enlarged. For a herding dog of her age, she is amazingly calm and attentive. She's an old soul. I never need to raise my voice. She never runs off unless I fail to control something that scares her.

I can't imagine life without my little dog. These two years have only been the beginning of a long, close friendship.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tailwind Nutrition

For 2016 I have been selected to be a Tailwind Trailblazer! I'm honored to be an ambassador for this product that has done so much to enable my success. What is it?

Very simply it is Endurance Fuel.
How did I come to be a Tailwind zealot?

Nutrition and Hydration is one of the key areas that an endurance athlete needs to master in order to be successful. As a cyclist, I've been pushing my limits for nearly 15 years now. When I entered my first Leadville 100 in 2005, I had been riding big all-day rides but I was still a total novice. I was experimenting and learning with training, recovery, race day tactics, and nutrition/hydration.

Nutrition was a problem for me. Friends would often use plain food like peanut butter and jelly or burritos successfully, but for me that kind of food would sit in my stomach and do more harm than good. I tried some popular sport nutrition products with a certain amount of success. But almost without exception, the philosophy behind those products included the strong assertion that you need to have a source of protein in addition to carbohydrates and electrolytes.

I believed this, and there was science to back it up. But all the sources of protein I tried made me feel lousy. Soy protein was terrible for me, and through my experiments using it during big 8+ hour efforts I learned that my body hates soya in general. So then I tried powdered rice protein. Fail. Eggs cooked and rolled in a tortilla or a mini croissant. Better, but still something I would eat that would set me back until I could finish digesting it.

In the summer of 2012 I was riding in the Durango Dirty Century. It happened that Tailwind was being offered at the aid stations. I filled a bottle and went on my way. The DDC is a huge effort (one that proved to be beyond me that year), and my body was stressed. That bottle of Tailwind tasted great, and while I was drinking it I felt good. When it was gone and I went back to whatever it was I was using then, I missed it. I filed that information away.

Later in 2012 I signed up for a Solo spot at the 2013 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. As I started to ramp up my training in early winter I decided to try a new nutrition/hydration strategy based on a product I had sampled at Durango Dirty Century. I went to the website and read about the product. A little way down the page I came to a section about protein. Here's how it started:

"We researched it. We tested it. We asked experts about it, so you don’t have to. Protein during exercise doesn’t improve endurance, but it does correlate with GI distress."

Holy cow! There it is! Permission to skip the protein, with science to back it up! My experience completely confirmed what I was reading. My most successful endurance achievements to date had happened on days when I (guiltily) skipped the protein. Now I could see that protein had been costing my body during big efforts. My gut tried to break it down into something useful, but the chemistry isn't there. It doesn't get broken down into anything useful, and it takes energy and water for your body to try.

Tailwind Nutrition was offering a deal where if you bought a fairly large lot of product and then named an event that you had signed up for, Tailwind would refund your money if the product let you down. It was a  pretty big buy, but I felt like the refund deal would help me out if it didn't work. And the philosophy behind the product spoke to me. So I took the risk and ordered a bunch of it.

Old Pueblo went really well for me, and I used Tailwind exclusively. Well, full disclosure: I had a Trader Joe's carrot cake cookie at midnight. But it sat in my stomach for the next lap!

That was it, I was officially a Tailwind athlete. I went on in 2013 to have probably my strongest season ever as a 49-year-old. Now, 4 years later Tailwind is a core part of my training and racing. My body loves it. Back in the bad old days I had to carry so many different things to support my nutrition. Among other things, I always had a little film can of sea salt crystals, because no electrolyte source I ever found before Tailwind was enough, especially on a hot day.

So now I'm a Trailblazer. You'll hear me going on about Tailwind on this blog and on social media. Have questions, or would like a sample? Let me know.

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.


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


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!


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.


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.



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!


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.


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.


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.



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


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

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


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 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


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.