Monday, September 29, 2008

National Public Lands Crest Trail Work Day

I co-organized a big trail workday with IMBA, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Gunnison Trails, and the US Forest Service. It went off Saturday, with over 80 volunteers working to show the local favorite trail some love.

The weather shortened the day a bit, but it was definitely a great success.

Passing storm dropping graupel which is accumulating quickly on the ground

I hauled a BOB trailer with a couple tools out to a work site just north of the Greens Creek Trail intersection, leaving the pass a little before 8 AM and arriving around 9. I worked with three other volunteers for about an hour before the other folks who had been assigned to this area showed up. Quite a bit of good work happened, but then weather moved in quickly.

I finished up one water diversion, after having had a conversation with another crew leader about how we had better get the flock out of there. I was gathering tools that needed to be replaced in the tools cache that the Gunnison Forest Service people had brought in on Thursday. I had just put down an iron rock bar as I organized a small group of tools to carry downhill. Just then, there was a blue-white flash and an almost immediate crack of thunder.

Volunteers started to scatter, looking for cover. We were working right near the 12,000 foot Continental Divide ridge. I dropped my tools and ran down off the trail to a small grove of fir trees. As soon as I got there another close lightening strike flashed and boomed, the noise echoing around the little basin below us. Three women who were riding the trail appeared shortly, disoriented with semi-panic. Those of us who were huddled in the trees for safety 50 feet below the trail called out to them to drop their bikes and come down to the relative shelter of tree cover.

As we sat there, graupel began to fall heavily and the air become much colder and moist.

After the lightening diminished, some still being heard over a mile to the east, we decided it was time to bug out. I grabbed as many tools as I could carry and trotted them down the trail to return them to Gunnison's tool cache. A group of volunteers down there felt that they absolutely had to finish up an open diversion and trail armoring project, but promised to head back to Monarch Pass as soon as possible.

I scrambled back to the top, watching for more Gunnison tools, and blue-painted tools that belong to my group, Salida Mountain Trails. I found the four McClouds that I had trailered in. Back on top of the ridge, I set about re-loading my trailer as other volunteers gathered around their bikes to get ready to roll out of there. The next wave of storm moved toward the ridge from the west.

During the next hour and a half, myself and all the other volunteers headed back to command central to finish up the work day, and get on to the more important business of executing a barbecue.

Barbecue for volunteers after the work was done

The fact that weather shut us down much earlier than we wanted was unfortunate. But the Colorado high country rarely allows for much dallying about during the afternoon. It was far better to get all the volunteers out before things got worse.

And then we got to have a barbecue at Monarch Ski Area.

What's more important, really?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumnal Equinox

Our summer has ended. End of summer is always a big deal to me--kind of the end of my year in some ways.

It's been an interesting, transitional summer for me. By contrast, last summer was simply part of my 2007. Which is to say it was ride, ride, ride, race, ride, ride...

This summer was a whole new deal.

Pictures recently were captured of this year's Colorado-style early autumn. Check 'em:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vapor Trail 125, 2008 edition

September 6-7, 2008

The 4th Vapor Trail 125 is now history. It was my honor to plan and run the event. Lots of work, but very gratifying. To all the riders and volunteers, thanks. It was really cool thanks to all of you.

The riders line up on the F Street Bridge in Salida

It was a great event. Check for more details at and of course

See you next year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

24 Hours in the Sage

For the folks who have been reading this blog for the past few years, sorry to have left it to go stale lately. It's been a busy summer, and I have been doing some different things. Starting in about January of 2007, riding mountain bikes was pretty much what I did. Long solo rides, events. More long rides.

I now have somebody very special in my life, and I have been spending less time riding, and more importantly and very happily, less time alone.

After the Cream Puff, I decided to move away a bit from training for events and making those events the punctuation marks of my life. I felt the need to do at least one more solo 24, and I love the Sage race, so I signed up for that one.

I decided to ride it on the singlespeed, for the experience, and because I remembered the blurring speed that I achieved last year on my geared full-suspension Lenz Leviathan. I'm in injury avoidance, since I'm still sporting some of the effects of some key crashes between March of 2007 and May of 2008. I'm getting too old to keep on busting myself up. It's fun to ride fast, but also fun to be able to keep riding in general, and avoiding the arthritis and other pain as I head into older age.

I raced at Gallup in April on the single, and it was good. Didn't totally kill me, and especially wasn't hard on the knees and legs, as conventional wisdom might have you expect.

So off I went. My goal for this ride was to have the experience, and nothing more. Last year I rode my first three laps fast and then kept up as brisk as possible a pace. This year I just rode.

The singlespeed was much harder work, or so it felt at least on this ride. All went well, it just took more energy. I rode almost everything the first two laps, then started pushing some of the steeper bits. By my fifth lap, there were several key hills that I just jumped off and walked without even any attempt to ride. But it was going OK. I just seemed to keep getting hungry, more often than usual during this part of a long race.

I stopped for quite a while when it was time to mount the lights. I was tired, and I did not feel particularly driven to get back out there. But I did, and the sun went down. Soon a huge full moon appeared from behind thunderheads on the horizon.

I rode a couple good night laps, and felt pretty good energy. The night almost always energizes me. I started my eighth lap feeling the same. Good. It was about midnight as I headed out from the start/finish.

About two-thirds through the course, the Sea of Sage downhill came along. I rocked it as fast as a singlespeed can. It was great. I felt alive and exhilerated. I noticed that the air had become really chilly, and thought about putting on more clothing when I returned to the start.

At the end of the downhill, I started the climb up Rocky Ridge. I had been able to pedal it on every previous lap. I stood up and started grinding through the steepish first part. Out of nowhere, my body sent a big Ugh up my spine and into my brain. I stepped off the bike and started pushing it. With every step I felt worse. Hungry. Very cold.

I saw a big rounded rock off to the left of the course. I laid the bike down and staggered over to it. I sat down and grabbed an extra layer from my pack. I started eating a hammer bar. It tasted like sugared sawdust. I sat on that rock and looked at the clear, beautiful sky. And I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing out here? I was pushing my body hard, but I didn't really have a goal. The world was so beautiful, why was I making it so hard? Do I need to race to enjoy riding my bike? Do I have to enter 24 hour races to go ride at night?

Cold. I pushed my bike for a while. People asked me if I was OK. I thanked them and said yeah, just got the staggers for a while. Eventually I rode on and off. I wanted to get back. I wanted to go to my camper and get warm. And get really warm clothing. And maybe eat something that tasted good.

Descending through "the gap" and back down the road to the start/finish I got even colder. I felt like I was turning blue. When I got there I checked in the lap and then went to my camper. I crawled into the sack. Once I was in there I knew I wasn't going to get out. I was pretty sure I wouldn't even go back out after the sun came up and it got warmer.

In the morning I put on street clothes and we went over to the start/finish. I was done. I did 8 laps. Fine. It wasn't that I had missed making my goal. I had not started out with a goal for how many laps I would do, my goal had been to have the experience. And that goal was met.

I ran into people that I know who I rarely spend more than a few minutes talking to when I go to solo these things. I got to hang out. I had some of the pancakes that they were handing out--pancakes that I would not have had if I was still out there doing circles on the course. I took pictures of friends who were coming in from their laps. It was fun.

Here's a picture I got of my good friend Anton:

Townie 24 Hour World Champion Anton van Leuken rolling to the finish

Not sure where this is going for me. Right now I'm not planning to do any races. Not planning to not do them, but I'm happy for now just riding and doing my thing.

We'll see where this blog goes. I'm guessing it will be different. Hope that's OK with y'all. Just my life going somewhere a little different for a while.

I may post some back-dated stories about fun things I did. Some did not involve bikes. Most did involve some beautiful rocky mountain scenery. Hope everyone had as good a summer as I did.