Thursday, May 31, 2007
We insist on using one of our publicly funded (and richly funded) research institutions, NASA, to continue pursuing manned space travel. As an activity, manned space travel is kind of sexy, and we all have heard about the great technology that came out of the space race in the 60's and 70's. But you know what? We can't really afford to do any more of that crap. Here's why:
We really really need to be throwing our research science resources at problems right here on our planet. Global warming. The complete reliance on burning fossil fuels. Drug-resistant diseases. Sustainable agriculture. Getting us past the two-party democracy that is keeping America from actually working.
Colonizing space will benefit a tiny fraction of the earth's population. And you know what? Space sounds incredibly boring to me. There are no environments that we know of out there that we can live in. So we'll be inside all the time. Probably in cramped places. Eating synthetic food. Crapping into bags and jettisoning them into the vacuum that is space. Gee whiz, sounds like a blast.
Earth by comparison is way fun. We have sunsets. We have rivers. We have singletrack. We have air! Will we always? Will our children (not that I have any)? Not if we don't get off our fat asses and start fixing the problems that we aren't really fixing. Playing around sending people into space at HUGE cost doesn't do much of anything to fix our best resource--our planet!
OK, I'm done ranting for now.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Rainbow Trail just east from the Silver Creek jeep road
The weekend after I returned from Durango, many friends hit the Kokopelli's Trail for the annual hoo-ha out that way. I would have enjoyed doing that, but it's time for me to stop flitting about Colorado and focus on the home country.
It's opening up, by the way. I've ridden the local Bear Creek section of the Rainbow Trail in the last 11 days, and yesterday I got up to the Silver Creek section. This bit of singletrack is probably my favorite bit in the local area.
How was it? Three words: Ooo La La
I've also been working quite a bit for Absolute Bikes, buffing up their web presence. Busy busy.
New Girlz seem to be showing up in Salida lately. The river is up, summer is coming.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I was feeling a little lethargic, but thought this weather might actually be perfect for a little tour of Durango's test track. I had picked my parking spot based on that strategy that I'd be able to ride either Horse Gulch or Test Track with little inconvenience. So I reached into the truck for my duffel, and pulled out what turned out to be my last clean jersey and my last clean pair of lycra shorts. I squirted a copious amount of Chamois Butt'r into the shorts and pulled them on while sitting in the passenger seat, parking lot superman.
I got my bike back out, threw a leg over, and grimaced as my sore butt settled onto the saddle. It had been a long 5 days of riding. Oh yeah.
I pedaled over the raging Animas River on the river trail pedestrian bridge. Then I turned left and made my way through a residential neighborhood toward where my map showed one of the many trailheads.
Passing a sign that said Durango Mountain Park, I saw a whole herd of shrimpy mountain bikers on 20" and 24" wheeled bikes being supervised by two racer type young riders. Durango is a bikey town. Those little goobers would have been on a soccer field anywhere else in the USA. I passed them and spyed a singletrack emerging from the gambel oak to the left. I turned onto it and began to climb.
It was very tight, cut through a narrow tunnel in the scrub. I was mostly climbing, and the sight lines were short. I felt a little vulnerable, since any fast-moving downhill rider would be on top of me quickly and there would be not much room to bail off the trail. But there was nobody.
Soon I came out into a little junkyard-looking lot. There was some recently bulldozed soil on a ridgetop, and I looked down on some commercial property. There was a little residential trash and some discarded household items. So this was kind of like Salida's S-Mountain, or maybe the Camel Humps. Soon I saw a fridge. Seems like every Rocky Mountain town has somewhere that the goat-ropers go to get rid of couches and the like.
My opinion soured a little. Even though the singletrack was very interesting, my impression of the area was being blown. I figured I'd spend maybe another 20 minutes then bag it and get on with my evening.
Soon I topped out in an open area that looked like it was bulldozed tailings or some such. There was the hardbody gal, one of the two riders supervising the little kids. I rode up to her and asked if most of the riders who used this park climbed up on the road as she had to descend. She pretty much told me that I should do whatever, that there were no rules or customs. She also told me I'd come up the farthest southern trail, and that I should work my way up to the north if I wanted to really see the park. So I did, descending the trail I had just climbed first, then up a rough doubletrack back to where the kids were, then I spotted a singletrack to the right and took it.
I went up, then down, then up again. The trails were more of the same, for the most part very tight and fairly steep. Almost all were climb-able though--after all this is Durango.
On one of the trails on a ridge top, I found a really killer dirt jump series.
Eventually I found myself in a wash gulch, climbing good singletrack. There were a series of solid wooden bridges. I stayed low, following the trail until it became the wash itself. It turned into kind of a Death Star type setup, wash bottom with steep vertical sides. When it turned muddy I turned around and headed back down. I had a much higher opinion of the Test Tracks than my early impression, but I was getting tired. So I figured I'd leave the rest of it to explore another day.
But then I saw a track heading up out of the gulch, and it looked really good. "OK" I said out loud, as if I was a little exasperated at myself, and I clicked down into granny to climb another trail and headed on up.
Damn it was good. If I'd been a little fresher, I would have been able to climb it without dabbing. But it was steep and the switchbacks were tight. The gambel oak leaves had just come out, and they shone bright green in the late afternoon sun. After about 15 minutes I topped out on a ridge with absolutely fabulous 360° views. OK, OK, here was another incredible community asset. A little rougher than the finished diamond that is the Horse Gulch trail system, but damned good. And variable. And quite vast for a trail system that literally comes right out of a residential neighborhood.
I got back down to the truck after another very satisfying, more than two-hour ride. I loaded up, and headed downtown to find one of the two Thai restaurants that I'd located while on the 'net in the library.
I got a curry dish, inhaled it, and got onto hwy 160 headed east. With all my important clothing dirty, it was time to head home. I figured I'd get at least past Pagosa, find someplace to crawl into the back of the truck near the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass. But when I got there I didn't feel too tired, so I just rolled. I got back to the tPOD at around 11 PM and crashed almost immediately. Back in Salida, ready to re-enter Real Life™.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I got up to the sounds of lots of happy birds up in the Junction Creek Canyon, ate some breakfast, brewed some Maté, and then put on my lycra and headed down to the middle of Durango. My plan was to park somewhere free, and then roll onto one of the trail systems that can be found at the edge of town. I found a lovely little park called Rotary Park right near the roaring Animas River. I parked got the bike out, clicked in at 8:30 AM, and found my way to a trailhead within 5 minutes.
At first I climbed up to a trail that my map showed skirting around the Mesa that Ft Lewis College is on. The picture above comes from that trail. There were shrubs blooming, a great view of the town, and lots of pretty women walking dogs. What can be nicer? And the singletrack? It was climbable.
As I came around to the point of the mesa, I found this pump track and a few dirt jumps. Ft Lewis is a mountain biker's school. Seems like it might be hard to actually go to class or study though.
After I left the Ft Lewis College area, I crossed a road that went up to a place where many earth-moving machines were creating Progress. It's hell to see a place as beautiful as Durango suffering progress, especially when it takes the form of trophy homes, huge condo complexes, and the like. But it's understandable. Durango is pretty &*%@$ nice.
The trails that are found out off of the Telegraph Trail are utterly killer. They are not difficult. They tend to be smooth, swoopy, utterly hard-packed, and of course, climbable. What a pleasure! Imagine being able to ride out there on a whim, any time.
I did not return to my truck until almost quarter to 1. I was riding the whole time. Over 4 hours. And I had a fabulous time. What an asset.
When I got back to town, thunder was rumbling and a big dark cloud was looming. I was going to just re-fill my HEED bottle and hydration pack and head over to the Test Track, but it looked like that would be a recipe for wetness. So I ate a ham sandwich and went to the library.
Looks like things are improving now though, and I'm burning daylight.
Monday, May 14, 2007
I saw a bike shop, but it wasn't one I recognized. I wanted to visit Mountain Bike Specialists since that shop is part of mountain biking history. I wandered around, glancing at the sidewalk occasionally hoping to spot a dime or quarter, then finally saw the shop and jaywalked over to go inside.
Great shop; they were busy with a number of customers. One I overheard was an affluent-looking man in his late 50's agonizing over whether he could afford a $450 mountain bike. Soon a tiny woman came over to talk to me about trails. From what she said, lots was open. The Colorado Trail way up high, at least 5 or 6 miles worth of Hermosa, and of course the Horse Gulch System and the Test Track in Durango Mountain Park.
I had committed to seeing the low-elevation riding that I've never ridden before, but hearing that I could ride the Colo Trail way up past Junction Creek was compelling. I bought the Latitude 40 Durango map from her and headed up to the western terminus of the Colorado Trail.
Oh baby, climbing singletrack. I really enjoy riding around Salida, especially in summer, but dangit, we just do not have anything like the wonderful climb-able singletrack that characterizes Durango. What a joy it was!
I rode up past lots and lots of joggers and dog-walkers in the first mile or two, then saw fewer people. At Gudy's Rest I was asked if I had a tube or patch kit by a young dude. I patched his tube for him and talked with him. He was really thankful, and I can imagine why. It would be probably nearly two hours to walk a bike down off of that place, but just 15 wonderful minutes of riding it. He was helmetless, shirtless, wearing Vans and riding platform pedals, and of course showing 4 inches of boxer shorts over the top of his frayed shorts. I pointed out the wisdom of keeping a stocked seat bag and frame pump. When he rode off I noticed that his StumpJumper's saddle was as low as it could go and he was standing as he started the descent. Kids these days.
I climbed on up well past Gudy's. I was climbing for a little over two hours, and every turn of the trail rewarded me with views that made my heart swell with the realization that summer is right around the corner. Rocky Mountains in summer--the sweetest place to be that I know of.
After descending for nearly 45 minutes (being conservative though, since the trail has lots of folks on it that I didn't want to maim) I drove 3 minutes farther up the road to get a spot at the lovely Junction Creek Campground. After over five hours of saddle time, I was ready to eat like a pig, which is exactly what I did. Then I slept like a baby (not the screaming, wet-diaper kind--the other more relaxed ones).
After a leisurely morning of packing up, eating, and chatting, some went back to the upper Arkansas Valley, some went off to Moab for a few days, and I went to Dolores. My intent was to find the owner of Sol Cycles up there, who had invited me to come ride when we met at Interbike.
I got to Dolores a little after noon and found Sol Cycles closed for the day. Rumor had it that the Corps of Engineers were releasing a big flow of water out of McPhee Reservoir down the Dolores, and that most of the sportos in town were playing in rare Dolores River whitewater.
I set up my little portable grill and cooked some Scanga bratwurst (Mmmm, bratwurst) which I ate with cheese and mayo on stale tortillas. Wonderful.
After eating I sat in a folding chez lounge reading and listening to birds sing and bikers coming and going from the bar and making drunken jokes and comments about each others' bikes. Ah Harley people, they make the rest of us feel so smart and sophisticated ;)
Eventually I worked up a little energy to take a bike ride and find a quiet place to sleep overnight in my truck. I wandered up onto the rim over the Dolores River canyon north of town. There I found some nice, easy, relaxing singletrack to work out the kinks in my tired muscles.
There was a trail system with carsonite signs that pretty much told users what mode of travel was allowed, and gave us no clue about where we were or where we might be going. I intended to ride for an hour, perhaps 90 minutes, but got disoriented and spent over 3 hours. But it was good.
And just as I got back to the truck, a thunderstorm that had been threatening to come in from the West showed up, cracked some really close lightening, then moved past as I sat in the cab of the truck wishing my mom happy mother's day.
Then I found a fabulous, quiet place to park the T100. I ate a huge dinner, then crawled into the back, read until I was sleepy, and crashed good and hard. I slept great, and woke up at around 6:45 to the sound of birds singing.
This morning I debated about riding more. There had been an interesting looking trail junction I had seen that didn't seem to correspond to anything that was on my map, so I decided to enjoy the cool morning with a ride out to check that out. Turned out to be a good idea. I retraced much of my ride from Sunday afternoon, but it was nice and mellow. And the birds kept me company all morning.
After my ride I packed up and drove back down to Dolores. Sol Cycles is not open today either, so I guess that's all for finding those guys. I don't have any other contact info for the guy I met at Interbike.
So now I'm off to Durango. I'm going to ride the low-elevation stuff around there until Wednesday when I'll head home. It's been too danged long since I've ridden in Durango, and I don't think I've ever ridden the low, close-to-town trails.
Off I go!
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I had a chance to check out the course at Phil’s World just east of
The course was wonderful. I felt fine with my choice of WTB Weir Wolf LT tires front and rear. They are large volume, but with low knobs and really fast-rolling. The trail that I saw was mostly a ribbon of hardpack, with a few anchored rocks and a skiff of sandy gravel here and there.
My snowbird parents, who are on their bi-annual migration between SoCal and
We had a good dinner in Mancos, but it went late. I wasn’t back at my truck until almost I crawled into the back and had a brief and restless night of sleep. It did not cool off much over night, which gave me a clue about what sort of day Saturday would be.
I knew that I was a long shot for any sort of placing, so I decided to make a half experiment, half training exercise out of the race. I knew it was going to be really fun to ride the course fast. So I decided to purposely ignore my boss Shawn’s perennial advice for me when doing long races, “Don’t win the warm-up.” I decided, pretty much 5 minutes before race start, to go out fast. Put the hammer down while it’s still relatively cool, then see how well I can recover into a pace and survive a whole day in the heat.
In the past several years, as I have focused on only long races, my training has featured almost no intensity. As a result, I’ve had trouble in situations where I need to make a super-hard effort. In short, it kills me. This year I’ve been force-feeding myself some intense workouts. I just don’t like going out and doing intervals. It feels like taking cod liver oil. So I’ve been doing some traditional X/C races to have some fun while I’m taking my cod liver oil. I decided to take some at the beginning of the 12 Hours. And once the race started, I got caught up in the excitement anyhow.
Right from the start it was shorts and short sleeves. I left the hydration pack in the truck and just took a water bottle with HEED. Traveling light.
I ran the
What a ball. The curvy, windey course bobs and weaves through piñon and juniper, up onto ledges, through rocky, technical descents, and along broken rimrock. I was pushing a big gear and railing through the sweeping corners. Wahoo! Fast, fun singletrack.
About 20 minutes into the lap I came into a smooth uphill left turn and my front tire washed out. I landed on my elbow and hip, cussing. I jumped up and back onto the bike without bothering to dust myself off. I jumped it right back up to speed, but decided I better be a little more conservative about the corners. The traction I was finding was deceptive--there was a limit.
I passed through the part of the course I had seen the evening before, and headed north into uncharted territory. There were some climbs. One of them was really pretty steep, but none were long. Never more than about 10-15 minutes of climbing at a time, and the longer ones were pretty mild. And there were lots of bits of flowy fast singletrack. I kept the hammer down all through the lap, always upshifting to the limit of my ability to push the gear and deal with the terrain.
In the second half of the course I made my first trip down Green Lizard and onto the Tuffy Rim. This 2 miles or so was suspension terrain. Slamma bamma suspension terrain. Going fast through it made the bike creak and groan. I hit the series of short climbs in middle ring, throwing my fresh legs at it with gusto. Then I climbed out of the technical stuff up and over Stone Axe Hill, and on into the Ribcage. I have been hearing about this section for a while. It’s a series of compression dips and peaked whoops. My friend Casey had told me that I should be careful, because when you take air sometimes you see that the trail on the other side of the whoop goes a direction you wouldn’t anticipate.
I resolved to take my first trip through the Ribcage conservatively, keeping the tires on the tread to the extent that I was able. That’s always the fastest way anyway. The shortest distance never includes airtime. So if you can go fast but stay down, you are fast.
As I crested each whoop I shoved the bars down. It was a super big thrill, even without air. And I came to one of them where I free-fell facing down even though I hadn’t actually caught air. The trail fell away from the top of the whoop so abruptly that any speed took you into a free fall. What a gas. I pedaled those whoops, and carried a ton of speed through the whole Ribcage. Then I rolled downhill at light speed and suddenly found myself at a place I had seen before, perhaps 10 minutes from the finish. I rocked into the finish, quickly checked in and then hit the truck, got a full bottle of HEED and back out onto the course.
I did not really intend to keep up the hotrod pace for the second lap. At first I cooled it off and was passed by another team rider. Then I started thinking about how cool Phil’s World is. This is another example of a trail network that got built on BLM land, then later the BLM came in and blessed it. In Salida we’ve been working on the “good guy” model, where we try to get BLM to approve the trail system plans in advance. And we’ve spent years, literally, waiting for them to get comfortable with the idea. I started thinking about this and my temper started to rise. Soon I was riding angry, rocking and rolling and mumbling through gritted teeth. It felt good, great really; cathartic.
And of course it was a recipe for speed. My legs were still fresh, and I had adrenaline pumping. Once again, I was not passed.
I jammed through the lap, back to the start/finish, checked in, got a fresh bottle, and off I went.
Right away in the beginning of lap 3 I felt mortal. Big surprise huh? 43-year-old dude rides for 3 hours like a 21-year-old, then starts feeling tired. Not only that, I suddenly noticed that it was getting hot. I felt the telltale dryness in my mouth that told me that I was becoming dehydrated. Once again, big surprise. Over 30 miles at race pace and having drank only two bottles of HEED, and almost no fresh water (only when back at the truck).
I took a big hit off the bottle I had with me.
By halfway through the lap, I pulled the bottle out and saw that it had about a swallow and a half left. And it was getting hotter by the minute. Uh-oh, mortality--a huge black buzzard circled overhead. I rode carefully through the remainder of lap 3, trying not to bonk. I felt like a raisin by the time I checked out of that lap.
Back at the truck, I drank water like I’d just come off the
Lap 4 wasn’t as bad as lap 3, but it was tough. I kept trying to hammer fluids and hammergel, but every time I took in anything I got a touch of nausea. The heat, the effort, and my tired dehydrated body combined to make me feel really crappy. I rode lightly, and kept after the moisture and feeding. Near the end of the lap, as I rolled fast through the ribcage, I finally started feeling a little more OK. That bit of singletrack was so fun, it breathed life into me on every lap.
By the end of the fourth lap I had started doing the time math. My first two racer-boy laps had been right around 90 minutes each. But 3 and 4 were closer to 2 hours. And my pits were getting longer, for good reason. I wanted to do 7 laps. I had to be done with #6 by to start the 7th. I started the 5th at around . So, all I had to do was two two-hour laps. Then one more.
The fifth was another tough lap. It was hot. Probably the hottest of the day. And I was starting to really feel the tiredness. Climbs I had been doing in the middle of the middle ring were starting to be granny gear climbs. And at the top of a couple of them I found myself dizzy and nauseous. I would stop, breath, drink water, and be back on my way in a minute or so. But it was getting painful.
I finished the fifth at about , spent a while in the pit. I ate some dates, which were hard to chew and swallow. I didn’t seem to have much available saliva. I was wondering if I had the gumption to finish a seventh lap if I even got a chance to start it. By the time I was ready to leave the truck, I was pretty much convinced that 6 was enough. Ride it like you stole it for 30 miles, then live through 60 more in dry, breezy heat. Not too bad really. Did I come here for fun and training, or to flog myself past reason in order to achieve some arbitrary goal? Yeah. Right. I decided to mount the GPS to get a track of the course, and to take the camera. I’ll take some pictures and enjoy myself a little.
So that’s what I did. I stopped wherever I saw a volunteer, thanked them and chatted for a while if they were into it. I took some pictures of riders that I was allowing to pass me. And of course I grooved on the fast downhill stuff. It’s worth mentioning that all the climbs hurt pretty bad that lap too. But the heat was subsiding, which was nice.
So I finished up the 6th lap. Turns out that the top three guys all had 7 laps. I rode with my friend Casey from Leadville during part of his 7th and my 6th. So, I could have done 7, but I don’t think I could have placed. Maybe if I’d actually ridden the race smart, to win, I could have taken 3rd. Which would have been cool obviously, but I had a good time. And I achieved my goal. I lived through racing dumb. Next time I won’t win the warmup, I promise.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Of course, it snowed bloody hell from dawn until about 9:30 Saturday. But Ed and Jen made it. And by the time they got here, things were actually looking OK. So we jumped up and rode Cottonwood. It was cold, and it snowed hard on us a few times, but we had a great time.
We had a nice dinner at the First Street Cafe Saturday night after watching Jen's old friend Rich jam at a restaurant that just opened, the Purple Sage during the afternoon. The show was cut short by a raging snow squall.
Sunday morning looked perfect. The forecast called for continued crappy, but here's what Mt Ouray and Mt Chipeta looked like from the bikey compound just after dawn:
We climbed up to the top of the barbed wire trail, as the snow got really pretty heavy, on a road constructed entirely of semi-frozen chocolate pudding. MMMmmmm, chocolate.
Jen and old friend Rich
Anton on the Famous Bicycle™ (recognized that, Dirt Rag Fans?)
Ed rockin' his Ericksen down into Cottonwood
Prettiest smile of the day on Jen's face
Steph is goin' for it!
Andrew motos around a sweeper
Ed getting his groove on
Rich rockin down Cottonwood
As you can see, lots of smiling and good times being had here. And me? I rode two good hard days. Is my back/neck perfect? Nossir, it is not. Am I able to ride and have fun. Hell yeah! Did the weather ruin the weekend, nossir, it did not.
Just goes to show you. It isn't a lost cause until you've lost interest in it. This weekend was one of the best of my year so far. Thanks Ed and Jen for coming up! Good luck at KTR in a few weeks!
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Next weekend, I'm headed over to Cortez, CO for the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde. Gonna hang over there for 3 or 4 days after to soak up western Colorado rays and ride singletrack in Dolores and Durango.
This weekend my friends Ed and Jen are headed up from the Front Range to ride the emerging singletrack here in Salida. The warm weather has the melt-off in full swing, and the Arkansas is running fast chocolate milk. And good riding is drying off; higher and higher.
But you know, every time you get excited about stuff that isn't church, God comes along and messes with you.
Icky weather oozed into the state yesterday. There was controversy about just how icky it would be, but I figured I better get out and do some riding yesterday just to be sure I had a little training under my belt before next Saturday when I'm expecting to race for 12 hours.
Riding down Cottonwood, be-bopping along with a kickin' Beck song in my earphones, I swooped to the right around a large rock jutting into the right side of the trail. My front tire cleared it, then the chainring chomped into it and I found myself flying through the air. Thanks to Gol Durned Gravity I landed--right on the top of my head. My neck was the crumple zone. My hands were still on the grips. There I lay, a rumpled mass with Beck still jamming in my earphones. Ow.
Thank you God (Buddha?) for not making me a quad, and thanks for modern bike helmets which kick ass. I rolled onto my butt and moved my head around. I could hear a sound like a fist full of crushed Saltine™ crackers grinding around in the base of my head. But the important thing is, I could move my head around!
Yeah, I can find the silver lining. But today I'm having to look hard for it. I'm pretty sure Ed and Jen are coming regardless of the weather, but the we probably won't be riding the Rainbow at 9,000 feet today.
Snowing so hard, it actually snowed a mini-Winni.
And I'm just a wee bit sore. Just a wee bit. When you're in your 40's, it's not such a great idea to slam yourself down onto your head. Much more fun when you're 25. Tomorrow I'll know how sore I'm going to be. But I'll survive. And I'll ride with Ed and Jen if they are into it. Just may be a little uncomfortable, which is like life--just a little uncomfortable, mostly.
How much more riding will I do before I leave for Cortez? We'll let's ask the National Weather Service what they think:
Good ol' Colorado mountain spring weather. But, of course, we need the moisture!