Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rim Ride Moab '08

This year we didn't even have miles of sticking green clay! Easy, no sweat at all, right?

Oh baby. Other than my failed attempt at the '07 Vapor Trail, I'm not sure I've ever had a more intense ride, or conquered a bigger challenge. Wow, is that course big.

I bailed last year at about mile 65, and still got in around 80 miles when I counted in getting back to town. This year I was determined to make the grade. What just another 25 miles over what I did last year? Big deal.

The ride started out a bit more gracefully than last year, when I forgot my water bottles and had to swing into camp; which allowed the pack to put a quarter mile gap on me right from the start. This time I rolled with the group north out of Moab as the dawn twilight developed. It was a beautiful morning, and warm enough to start before dawn with just a wool jersey and arm/leg warmers. Luxury.

The first job was tackling some rowdy slickrock on the Rockin' A trail. It was a real suspension workout--but of course as I rolled off it onto the slightly less rowdy Circle O I noticed that I had my fork locked out since the climb out of down. Dingbat! The fox blow-off works really nice though. I'm sure the fork was soaking some of it, and I know I saw near full travel at least once.

Sovereign really is beautiful, and what a great bunch of singletrack! I probably expended too much precious energy hammering the climbs, but it was too fun. The final descent to the crossing underneath 191 was so technical, my hands, arms, and shoulders were stressing. Too fun.

I did stop for pictures a few times. Couldn't be helped.

Matt from GJ rolls by with Manti-La Sal in the background

Climbing rim riders on the Sovereign Trail

After crossing 191 it was on to the Cottermine Road, then 7 Mile Rim Trail, then Wipeout Hill. Very climby, temperatures beginning to be noticed. I peeled off the leg and arm warmers, slugged water and electrolytes, and mixed up a fresh bottle of food. Another beautiful, rugged chunk of terrain. Got to hwy 313 at about mile 42 starting to feel a little bit mortal.

Then it was 5 miles of grinding into the wind up the pavement. This was some of the worst of the day actually. Seemed much longer than 5 miles, and I was tired of the flat pavement almost immediately. I was really happy to see the Gemini Bridges Road heading back down toward Moab.

As I left 313, I pulled out my queue sheet for the first time. I just hadn't needed it yet, between other riders being around and copious blue flagging. But I needed to know just how far it was down this road to the start of Metal Masher. I pulled out the queue sheet and it came apart in my hands. I had sweated on a seam of the folded paper and it tore easily as I pulled it from my jersey pocket. Luckily it tore right down the center, so I needed to look at two different pieces of paper to get the complete queue description for the rest of the day.

But it was easy to tell that I needed to go 4 miles to the left turn that starts Seven Mile Rim/Metal Masher. Off I went, with a crowd of junior high kids swerving down the road on crappy bikes that had been shuttled up to descend the Gemini Bridges Road. Shortly my turn came and it was time to suffer climbing up to Seven Mile Rim.

I ran into Matt and Cat sitting in the shade drinking water and swallowing electrolytes. It was really pretty hot by that time, or at least the sun was shining hard. It was around 2 or 3 pm, and as I told them, I was feeling pretty mortal. I passed them sitting, and then 2 minutes later they caught me and passed me. I was really crawling right then.

Seemed like it took much longer than I remembered to get through that bit and back to the Gemini Bridges Road. I was trying to make it to the beginning of the Gold Bar Rim Trail before 4 PM, and it looked like I had pretty good slack on that, but I kept not getting to the end of Metal Masher.

Eventually I made it to Gemini, and shortly after that descended to the turn-off for Bull Canyon Road. Around this time I started crossing paths with a dude that I later learned was Josh Tostado. He's a majorly fast pro rider who apparently had started the race late. Both of us were confused about the route. I took a wrong turn after referring to my (ripped) queue sheet several times. As I concluded that I was going the wrong way and was riding back out, I met Josh who was on his way into where I had just gone. I explained to him that I'd seen bike tracks that circled back and headed out, he agreed that we must have missed a turn. He turned back and I followed him, and after a minute I saw him point right at an intersection and then go that way. When I got there I saw the blue flagging and went that way as well.

That was the last I saw of Josh Tostado.

But soon I did catch up to Adam Lisonbee. Adam and I have known each other for a year or so. During last year's Vapor Trail we found that we pace together pretty naturally. Adam climbs better than I do and I descend a little faster, but it usually washes out to where we leapfrog all day. That had been happening all day yesterday. We had ridden together and talked several times.

Adam was riding with a GPS with the course loaded. And he had pre-ridden almost all of it. He explained things to me that I did not know. And he warned me about a trail up ahead called the Golden Spike-blue dot trail, how it was hard to follow. He also explained that we had not yet reached the final bailout point, one marked on the queue sheet with a warning not to continue the course if you reach it after 4 PM. It was about 3:45 at this point, and we were not yet to that intersection. I remember thinking that Adam might be a good dude to keep nearby. I also had assumed we'd already passed the bailout I thought that I'd been there with half an hour of slack. Nope. Hmmm.

We got to the intersection with the Gold Bar Rim trail. It was by my watch 3:53. I was tired, but feeling OK. Adam and I talked, and both of us were a little concerned about the time, but neither was willing to just give up and DNF. As Adam said, "there's no reason I can't do this." Off we went past the point of no return.

Adam fell back right away, and I decided that I just had to move at my pace. Adam was free to turn back just as I was. But I really wanted to finish this thing. Soon I got to the bottom of an endless slab of canted sandstone. I started to granny gear up it, but quickly found that it was too steep. I got off and started marching next to my bike. Turns out that I marched for about an hour. I looked back several times to see if Adam was close behind. I couldn't see him, and it felt like I could see pretty darned far. I felt pretty sure that he was not back there, and that I was on my own. Fair enough. That's the game we're playing here.

I couldn't believe how high I marched up before I found the right turn to the Golden Spike Trail, another 4wd route. Right away I crossed a ledge and gap where a kid who looked less than 17 seemed hopelessly stuck trying to get his Jeep Cherokee up onto the ledge. His rear tires were just turning with a chattering screech. Seemed like getting up on that ledge was pretty much required for getting out of there. Good luck kid.

Golden Spike was a mix of traversing and climbs that made me walk. It was supposed to be 3 miles to the beginning of the blue dot singletrack. I was having a hard time judging distance by time, because I was moving incredibly slow. I wished I had brought my GPS just to help me with distance. I left it behind because the battery is only good for about 7 hours. Live and learn.

After what seemed like an incredibly long time on Golden Spike, the road lead right up to the rim, and I found myself looking down off a shear cliff to Moab, thousands of feet below. I had never seen the turn onto the singletrack, which was supposed to be a left even though that made little sense to me. It was 6 o'clock. Less than 2 hours of daylight left.

I started to freak. There was a faint singletrack going to the right from this rim, but it was supposed to be a left. And there was no blue ribbon. And it did not show at all on my Latitude 40 map. And I was burning daylight. Not much time to flail, I needed to figure this out!

I desperately fought the urge to panic. But I was really loosing my cool. Going back seemed like a huge undertaking, and it would have been! There should have been only 20 or so miles of course ahead of me, and obviously most of it would be down, since the finish was Moab and I could clearly see that Moab was down! If I had had a parachute I might have seriously considered using it.

Even though I hated to go back down something I had already bothered to climb, I felt that I had no choice but to find a blue ribbon marker and then search for the one that lead to the intersection. I must have missed something!

As I headed down, what do you think I saw? Adam Lisonbee! I almost hugged him. I don't think I've ever been as happy to see anyone. I was babbling incoherently about how the queue sheet made no sense and there weren't any blue flags...

Adam took it all in, but he seemed very calm. The reality is that he was calm, because he was too tired and worked to be anything but calm. We climbed the quarter mile back to the rim and he calmly explained to me that the faint trail to the right was our trail. We started riding it, and lo and behold! There were blue dots!

I didn't find the blue dot trail all that hard to follow. It reminded me of do-it-yourself trails from around Salida. It was full of crazy double drops from boulder to boulder, super tight switchbacks, gaps between rocks that were too tight for my big handlebars to pass through--but we were on the route! Adam saved my butt!

Here's a picture of him on the blue dot trail:

This is the man who saved my bacon

Shortly Adam and I made it to the Poison Spider jeep road. All we had to do was follow that out to the Potash Road, then it was pavement all the way back to Moab. I knew then that I was not going to spend the night lost in the desert. This made me very happy. I decided that Adam and I would finish together (unless he dropped me).

Poison Spider was much farther, much more work, and much more technical than I remembered. But it had been probably 15 years since I last rode up here. It took a really long time. It got dark on us. Eventually Craig Tuttle and another Matt (not my friend last seen on Seven Mile Rim) caught us. Craig is a local, so he knew some short cuts for getting back to Potash Road with a little less beach sand. We all turned on lights and started down the last half hour of Poison Spider in increasingly dark darkness.

At about 8:30 Craig, Matt, and I made it to Potash. Adam was still up there, so I told Craig and Matt to go on to Moab and let people know that Adam and I would be in shortly. Maybe 10 minutes after Matt and Craig left Adam showed, and he and I spun up the Potash Road to Moab. It was about 9:15 when we got there. That was just fine. Down. Done.

We don't do these things because they are routine. This one was not routine. It was friggin' hard. Mentally, physically. But what memories.

For the record, I'm kind of tired of sandstone.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Without further ado, allow me to introduce tPOD II:

I know that everybody out there in TV Land has been anxious for a look at the new vagabond rig. Here she is.

Here's a shot of her all puffed up and ready for inhabitants:

But now it's time to get ready for tomorrow's Rim Ride Moab! Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

San Ysidro Dirty Century

Cool event. Really cool people. Really interesting country. Really gusty wind.

Kind of a misnomer though, it was 123 miles.

This is the first New Mexico Endurance Series event I've done, but not the first I've wanted to do. As expected, it was really a cool ride.

We started from the Turtle Mountain Brewery parking lot a few minutes after 7 AM before the sun came up, with the thermometer sitting at around 35° fahrenheit. Yep, chilly. Still and clear, but chilly for sure.

We rolled west out of Rio Rancho on pavement for 30 or 40 minutes, then turned north on one of those good old fashioned western gas-line/ranch roads. You know the kind--straight as a line, horizon to horizon. The kind we love to suffer on. This one is known as the Encino Road. As the riders strung out, we made for the NGCS (Natural Gas Compressor Station) roughtly 20 miles out there in the high desert north of ABQ.

At the NGCS there were the stems of two cherry-stem loops. To the east was the White Mesa trails loop. The start of the singletrack was about 8 miles east on dirt road (this one has curves!)

The White Mesa singletrack was quite a treat. It's really unusual and beautiful. I did not have my camera, since I'd packed my pack with every bit of food, water, clothing, and et cetera that I would need for the whole day. The organizers set up a drop bag support system, and there was plenty of cached water I could have poached, but I'm getting ready for the Rim Ride Moab, so I was kit testing. The camera did not make the cut.

Anyhoo, here's a picture of White Mesa I poached from my co-worker, Jennie:

Photo courtesy of John Evaskovich

It was a blast. Or at least I think it was. So much more riding happened after I left White Mesa, it seems kind of like a distant memory.

On the way back to NGCS I happened to notice that a little breeze had come up. You know the kind, where you're shifting down as you go downhill to keep from being blown backwards? It was rockin', and by the time I got back to the Junction I was thinking maybe I should just bag the other loop and head back to town. For the life of me I could not think of what I would do with the rest of my afternoon. It was only 1 o'clock, so I said WTF, and headed north on the Encino Road to circle Cabezon Peak.

Farther out onto the horizon on straight-line gas road. Much of this was passing through the stark, khaki-colored, peaceful-in-it's-simplicity desert terrain so typical of this part of the world. The high desert. The llano. Nothing to obscure the horizon, where there are mesas or more llano to be seen. And nothing to block the wind.

Oh baby was she blowin' now. At 11 o'clock when I was working my way back west from White Mesa, it was windy. But by early afternoon it was windy.
About 7 miles north of the NGCS I turned west onto the Ridge Road and started a mild, winding climb into the wind. A few miles up and I met with the junction that was the start of the loop.

Cabezon Peak looked really far away. Really far to the north. Hmmm, I guess this is a big loop? I looked at my watch. About 2 PM. Well, you never know 'til you know. No better time to find out how far it is than right now. Heck, I have lights.

So off I went, with a song in my heart and a taste of wind howling in my ears. The Ridge Road went north and west, and it was fun with lots of downhill bits and swerves. And the wind, which by now was coming out of the southwest, was more or less at my back. Of course, good cyclists know that having a tailwind on the way out doesn't necessarily mean you'll have one on the way back.

Then it was down and down and down off the ridge, until I crossed the Rio Puerco. After that it was time to turn south. That was when I came to be at one with the wind. We fought each other bravely, but I think the wind had a bit of an advantage.

Oddly, that bit of grinding into the wind found me in a strangely good mood. I'm at a loss to explain it. Perhaps it was the Red Bull I chugged as I started the loop? It took some time, and it took its toll; and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to turn east at 2 thirds of the loop and start heading back to the junction with Ridge Road, but it was OK. I shook my fist at Cabezon Peak a few times, but not in a bad, mean way.

Then, as if I was waking from a dream, I found myself back at the straight, straight Encino Road. Time to go back. Back to the Turtle Mountain Brewery, where I will order a hamburger. Back to where my truck and it's cargo, tPOD II are parked. "How far is it?", I think to myself. Far, I'm guessing. I have a queue sheet somewhere, buried in my pack, but I don't really want to know the specifics, actually. Really no choice but to ride it. Doesn't really matter how far, just matters that I get started and keep going until I'm there.

So off I go. Feeling pretty good to the NGCS, which I remember was a bit over 7 miles. The wind is now crossing, which is a friggin' blessing. Seems like it's shifted from southwest to west. Which is very good for my tired bones. If it had been a full-on headwind, I might still be out there; with ravens plucking my eyeballs and tongue out of my head.

As I'm riding past the NGCS I recall the long, long stretch on the way out from town where I was in the big ring for like half an hour. Hmmm. Maybe that's not so good. Turns out it's not. The climbing was not very steep, but I had so little fire left in my belly--I started to really suffer. My food strategy had been working great so far. But now, 10 hours out, I started feeling crappy.

I broke the cardinal rule, trying something new on a big ride day. But I had brought lots of backup stuff, so I figured it would be safe. The new thing was mixing Rice Protein in with my HEED. It had been great, really, but now I was starting to feel dehydrated, and I was having trouble continuing to eat. After a couple years of doing this crap, I've finally learned to pay close attention when my nourishment starts to suffer when there are still hours of riding before I'm done and home.

I slowed down but didn't stop, drank sips of water every few minutes, gradually slipped in some Hammer Gel, and eventually started feeling better. About the time I staggered up to the top of the climb, I was able to start drinking my protein solution again. Then as I got some glimpses of Rio Rancho below me. I finally started feeling a little happy again.

When I was able to start using my big ring--then I got quite a bit happier. Before I knew it, I was back at the pavement of Southern Boulevard. Then I was big-ringing it, downhill and downwind on pavement, only stopping for stoplights. Just before 7 PM I walked into Turtle Mountain Brewery, found event honcho Lenny sitting behind a tasty-looking pizza with a clipboard next to him. I watched him check off my name and write down the time, then I went back to tPOD II, put on clothing with zero rubber content, and returned to order my hamburger.

Another one for the record books.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

what is it with me leaving Colorado?

Man, every time I decide to go somewhere warmer lately I have to fight my way out! It was snowing so hard mid-day on Friday when I left, I swept off my windshield, went inside to grab one more thing, came out 2 minutes later and there was too much snow accumulated for the wipers to deal with. Once I got over Poncha Pass things got better, but then I came into monster wind when I crossed the New Mexico border.

I was carrying my new (to me) camper on the back of the T100. We got rocked all the way down to Albuquerque.

Pictures of tPOD II will be forthcoming.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Oh so ready to go

For the last couple weeks I've been giving the Lev some lovin'. During the 24 in the Old Pueblo she developed a brain-numbing creak that kept other riders from wanting to be around me. It was a nice constant drumbeat that kept me alert and aware, but by the time I finished up it was pretty much the first thing I wanted to address when I got back to the shop in Salida.

Über-wrench Scot and I tore her down when time became available (mountain town bike shop in winter--didn't take long for that to happen). Among other things we discovered that the sealed bearings in the main pivot were toast. She's seen some miles since we got together early last summer. By the end of October I had put in 700 miles just during races. I can add up another 700 just thinking of special long recreational and training rides. Then throw in another 200 at Old Pueblo, after dousing her with rain and snow twice in the weeks leading up... None of that counts normal ride rides. Creek crossings. And lots of wet days. Look at what our monsoon season was like in '07!

Every pivot got attention, new bushings and reducers from Fox, new chain, shift cables and housing... Now she's like buttah.

Anyhoo, I'm getting amped up for the San Ysidro Dirty Century next weekend! Weather is looking dry down there, and in the 70s. Sweet Fancy Moses! It's almost too good to be true. Cannot wait.

Heading down Friday. Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy.

I have been training. The snow race was a durned good workout, then I've done probably 5 road rides per week (most of them utterly bundled up to deal with temps in the 30s with wind).

Could it be that I could actually have perspiration? I can only hope.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Leadville Snow Bike Race #3

I was in Arizona when race #2 went down. The Tennessee Pass Night Jam happened at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center. Sounds like it was really cool.

I did roll up there for #3 yesterday, which was on the Mineral Belt Trail. A good time, of course. Bluebird day, big time.

In contrast to race #1, a guy could actually pedal this one almost the whole way. Sterling had gotten the trail groomed Friday. Temps have been higher and the sun has been shining, so the consistency of the groomed trail was a bit crispy (at first), It rolled like a soft dirt road for the most part, but there were softer spots.

The day was just beautiful. Not a cloud, felt much warmer than it was.

As the race went on, the temperature and strong sunshine started affecting the trail consistency. Just like a spring skiing day--crispy in the morning, softer and softer as the day went on.

In about the last 10% of the course, the snow suddenly became mushy enough to be like beach sand with flat tires. Our tracks did not show that we were sinking, but the rolling resistance got to be really high. I slogged with my singlespeed. I'm not sure that a gear change would have even helped though, it was just hard work. And the sun was shining. I sweated like a pig. I had to walk a few times on flat ground just to avoid cardiac arrest. And then there was the finish!

Dave knows what I'm talking about:

Dave rolls to the finish (looks easier than it was--that snow was soggy).

Dave allows himself to topple over after crossing the line. Nice place to wind down--and breath!

Lunch after the awards at High Mountain Pies, which was excellent.