Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Local Action (FINALLY!)

For the past 6 months all of my ride reports have focused on rides that were not here close to Salida. All of them.

At last there has been some melt-off. Today I rode up into the Arkansas Hills north of town to around 9,000 ft. elevation then descended on a trail soon to be made off-limits. I don't mention the name of the trail for obvious National Security™ reasons. But let's just say that the name rhymes with Trottonwood.

Wellsir, it was pretty damned nice. Suiting up right on my apartment rather than out of the truck in some southwestern parking lot, rolling right down the driveway and out of my town, and then climbing a few thousand feet to do a real mountain bike ride!

Damn straight.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yeti Spring Series #2, 2008

Yessir, I raced it.

Well, OK, not officially. I signed up for the expert race, filled out my 1-day license form, then went off to warm up. On a trip past the start finish area my friend Taf, race official and really cool person, let me know that I couldn't race expert on a 1-day license.

Bah, I told her, I'll just ride with the pro-experts. I ain't gonna buy a $60 annual license when I won't likely ride in another NORBA sanctioned race this year. If I'm going to get spanked, I want to be spanked by the best. But I know it won't count for anything.

It was a pretty day, but windy like only Chaffee County in the spring can be. The Spring Series course at the RPM venue is a little different than the Chalk Creek Stampede version, but both feature nice long fenceline straightaways up a false flat right into the prevailing westerly wind. Nice view of Mt Princeton while you're suffering, wind roaring in your ears.

I raced just fine. I've had a little repiratory thing bugging at me for the last week, so I was a little worried about breathing really hard for 2 hours, but it went fine. I felt good, pushing a damned hard pace but not blowing up. I'm not fast enough to keep the leaders in sight, but that isn't really news.

Then, after the race, things got interesting. The real endurance event was hanging out for the awards and raffle, since the wind was blowing harder than ever and it turned chilly after the race ended. Only about a dozen riders actually waited for the awards. They were raffling a yeti hardtail frame and a nice DT Swiss wheelset, and there were only 12 ticket holders?!

You guessed it. Well, no, I didn't win the frame. That would have been me winning, which just doesn't happen. But I did bag the wheelset! DT Swiss X1800s! Woo Hoo! 2nd Place!

Sure, they're 26", so I won't be rolling them myself. But Mr eBay will hand me at least a couple hundred bones for them, which will maybe pay for my gas to Cortez in two weeks for the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde.

Looking for a deal on a wheelset? Check here:

Hope y'all have a good week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dawn 'til Dusk Day

The day dawned COLD. I mean gnarly cold, even by CO standards. I was up in plenty of time, but it was hard to get going. The heater in my camper did not want to run. The water in my 6 gallon jug was almost too frozen to get anything out. What came out was pretty much slush. Of course, it's standard operating procedure for me to assume that things will be pretty warm when I'm lower and farther south than home. Luckily I had basic warm clothes, minus the winter weight gloves, shoe covers, and head beanie.

I trotted over to the riders' meeting just in time, it was thankfully short. I jumped up and down shivering. But nobody looked comfortable, so it wasn't just me. Went back to tPOD II for final prep, then wound up rolling on my VooDoo singlespeed at about 6:58 toward the starting line about half a mile from camp. I rolled up to the back of the pack just as the horn blew. I didn't even put a foot down.

The first lap rolled on a dirt road north. My hands were painfully numb. My feet were getting there. The sun had just cleared the horizon, but we were on the west side of the mesas where the course would run, so we were in shade. After a brief easy climb we were on flat or slight downhill. I rode much of it hands-off with my hands shoved into my armpits.

Then we hit singletrack, and it was time to race.

Racecourse singletrack

As soon as I was on singletrack I felt warm. And by then we were in the slanting morning sun. The sagebrush slalom began.

My singlespeed's gear was 33:20. It was just perfect for this course, at least for me. A stronger pedaler could have gone a little higher, but I rarely felt really undergeared when railing through the twisty singletrack. It was good.

Lap 1 must have been a little short, because I turned it a few seconds shy of 59 minutes. At the end of the lap I considered hitting camp to shed some clothing and stock up on food, but after I passed through start/finish I decided it still wasn't really warm and I had enough of everything. I ran this whole race using just two bottle cages and jersey pockets, so I needed to be sure I still had food in my food bottle and clear water in my water bottle. There was enough, so off I went, to tackle the initial series of climbs that led us into the regular course.

My strategy for Dawn 'til Dusk was a little different than what I've brought to these races in the past. Normally I start out assuming that I have no chance to be on the podium, so I ride to please myself. I set a goal and ride for that goal. But my results have surprised me in the last year or so. Saturday I decided that I would ride to win. I rode every lap with what I had available.

Lap 2: I still had it. I rode it like the devil was after me. My first intro to the full course was positive. I probably got off the bike to push less than 5 times. I attacked the climbs, I rocked the singletrack to the limits of my ability. It was really fun.

At the end of the lap I hurried to my pit. New food, upper layers peeled off and chucked into the camper---replaced with short sleeve jersey, Hammergel flask into pocket, gone.

With the pit stop, lap 2 was hour and 20.

Lap 3: For the most part, I still had it. Hit it hard, unfortunately needed to visit pit again to peel off leg warmers, etc. Chad was there to lube my chain, switched my food into higher capacity bottle and put the film can of Sportlegs into my jersey pocket since the lactic burn was beginning to be distracting. Lap was 1:27:23 with pit.

Lap 4: Still running fast, but it was hurting me. Felt good to be riding in just shorts and short sleeves. I ate probably not enough--trying to stay on the throttle and not stop for anything. No pit stop, 1:19:45.

Lap 5: Uhg. My limits were rising into my throat. I pushed far more of the climbs. I felt pretty crappy and definitely like I had burned up much of my day's energy. I ate more, sometimes actually just coasting for a while to eat without breathing too hard or risking that I would drop my bottle. For the first time the singlespeed seemed to be a maybe mistake. I considered that I may actually have to stop early. Hit the pit at the end of the lap.

In this pit I swallowed maybe 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, ate most of a Hammer Bar, drank about a pint of water at once out of my gallon jug, and slugged about half a flask of Hammer Gel. I mixed a new quart of food from the pre-mixed powder I had handy. Then I decided that it was time to tap into a can of ambition. Red Bull, baby. I drank about a third of it, pouring the rest into my food bottle. Back to start/finish, lap with pit stop was 1:36:46.

Lap 6: Phoenix from the Ashes. It took a while for my motor to start hitting on all sixes, but by the end of the first 15-20 minutes, which was where much of the course's climbing happened, I was good again. Good lap. Happy lap. 1:26:03. No pit.

Lap 7: Started good, but near the middle I felt again the grim reaper's existence. Oh yes, there is a limit. I also flatted on this lap. Often during a race, flatting will really stress and bum me out. This time I just calmly flipped the bike over, pulled out my Jethro Tool, and got down to the task of getting back on the trail. I was tired, which was a calming influence, but my mind also felt clear and clean. I just dealt with it, and got back on the horse. Headed for pit at the end.

Quick pit stop, just topping off food and water in my bottles. Probably took a big hit of Gel also, but I do not recall. Lap with pit was 1:49:54.

Lap 8: I knew this was my last--there was no way I would have time for a ninth. And I did not want one. I started out with resignation. I marched up the steep pitches on the initial climb with the purposeful trudge of someone who really wants to sit and a chair and eat bratwurst.

On one of the marches, which brought us through some slabs of slanting sandstone, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Sitting cross-legged at about eye level was a Native American boy maybe 3 years old. He was just sitting there silently watching racers heads go by. I looked at him and smiled and his face became a disco ball of friendly good humor. He was a really cute kid, and just seemed peaceful and happy. I didn't say anything, just smiled at him until I was past. It was a real shot in the arm.

Once I mounted back up, I found some of that weird, hard to explain energy that comes late in an endurance effort. I rode up some pitches that I'd been walking for much of the late day, and really trucked it in the fast parts. I talked with other racers who I would eventually pass, but just felt friendly, happy, and patient.

All through the last couple laps I'd been entertaining a fantasy that I might actually place. I'd seen lots of male singlespeeders (and quite a few really strong ladies), but they all seemed to be young bucks. "What if?" I thought.

I finished that last lap in 1:24:54, my 3rd best lap all day (though it was only 1 of 5 with no pit stop). When I got in there were only results through about 6 PM, so I asked the timing official if there was any chance that I'd placed. It took a while, but eventually he told me I was fourth in my category.

At the start/finish was most of the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse team, cheering their finishers. I hung out with them for a while, then saw Jim Gibson, a good friend from Flagstaff who had raced duo with Jake Rubelt. Jake finished while I was standing there, and we visited for a while.

I was so hungry, and just wanted to sit for a while and then hit the rack early. So I decided to shine on the awards ceremony. I grilled up some bratwurst and thick slices of potato with cheese on them. I ate half a sweet potato that I had pre-cooked. Then I ate the bratwurst on bread with mayo. Then I made an important phone call, and soon I was sleeping.

Good day. I'm pleased with fourth, but of course I'm still gunning for an actual shot at the podium. We'll see with the 12 at Mesa Verde next month.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dawn 'til Dusk Gallup, NM

Great race, really good. What a kickin' course! Really fast and fun.

My first race on the singlespeed. I am surprised at how well I was able to hold up. Put a bunch of the pain onto my shoulders and triceps from all the standing and grinding. But not knees. And my gear was perfect. Really fun for rockin' it through the swoopy turns!

Dawn 'til Dusk course just after sunrise

I'm not going to write the story just now--need to get down the road back to Salida. But wanted to include a couple pictures. Here's the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse crowd who I camped with.

What a family reunion this was! I must have seen 40 people that I know from a variety of places.

My campmates, the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Team

Good time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Gallup or Bust

What is it with this year and me trying to travel out of Colorado?

lotsa winter on Cumbres Pass near the CO/NM border

I dragged the tPOD up and over Cumbres Pass into Chama, NM to take a bit more interesting route to Gallup than the old standards, either Wolf Creek to Durango and down or down to Albuquerque and over on boring old 40. It was pretty gnarly, but pretty.

new leaves

Once I got down out of the high country, everything was looking pretty durned spring-like. Love those fresh new leaves...

Tomorrow it's Dawn til Dusk. Go baby go!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Sunday was a down day for me. I was just tired. I layed around in tPOD II letting food, water, and oxygen help me recover from Saturday. Mid-afternoon I rode my bike into town from the north side to visit Radio Shack for the cig lighter cell phone charger I've always wanted.

Just as I was leaving Dave Nice called me. He was done riding Slickrock with the Arizona Boys, was hanging at Poison Spider. He was planning to catch a ride back to Salida with me so I went and met him and took him back to camp.

We ate bratwurst and potato slices grilled with cheddar on top then hit the rack. Dave started out under my truck since rain was imminent, but wound up crashing on the floor of the mens room since the weather turned really nasty. I never knew anything was happening outside the tPOD. I was out like a light.

Monday morning was beautiful and Dave and I hit the Moab Diner for the special (2 eggs, bacon, blueberry pancakes: $5.50).

I suggested Hurrah Pass-Jackson's Hole-Amassaback. Dave didn't know if he'd seen any of that other than Amassaback, so it was a plan. We parked at City Market and suited up. By then the pretty weather had left town, and there was just the lightest drizzle under overcast skies. We briefly considered scrubbing the mission, but of course that was just crazy talk.

Rolled out the Kane Creek road into a normal headwind, onto the dirt and past the Amassaback trailhead, on out to where the Kane Creek canyon opens out wide and beautiful. Skies stayed overcast, but the weather seemed more or less stable.

As we turned off the Kane Creek road toward the approach to Hurrah Pass it began to sprinkle again. Five minutes later it was non-trivial rain. We didn't really talk about it, just kept going. I wanted to at least get to the top of the pass before considering turning around.

When we got to the pretty and interesting part of the climb the rain stopped. There was sunlight lighting up some of the buttes and mesas in the distance. Soon there was a little blue sky showing. By the time we got to the top, the sun was out.

Here are some photos from the Hurrah Pass part of our little tour:

Dave on the Kane Creek side climbing toward Hurrah Pass

another one of Dave climbing toward Hurrah Pass

yet another of Dave climbing toward Hurrah Pass

cookin' it down the Chicken Corners side

Once we got to the bottom of the descent on the Chicken Corners side of Hurrah, my memory of the route finding started to fade. It had been maybe 10 years since my last trip over. We came to a big sign announcing a bed and breakfast that I did not remember being there. There were private property notices. The entry to this B&B looked an awful lot like the turn I vaguely remembered. But it seemed like it must be on down closer to the river, so we went past.

After a mile or so it became clear that we were on the way to Chicken Corners and not the turn-off to Jackson's Hole, so we turned back and into the B&B entry. Sure enough, a couple hundred yards in there was a gate and sign saying "stay on the road through private property--Jackson's Hole access". Coolio. Through the gate and on our way.

in Jacksons Hole making for the ladder

The ride through the Jackson's Hole was nice and scenic. Dave was digging the new horizons. Always nice to take someone on a ride they haven't seen before.

Climbing the ladder reminded me that my legs are tired. But I took my time and got up there.

Then it was an uneventful trip down off Amassaback. It had been a while since I did that too. Seemed about a quarter of the distance that I remembered. I guess we used to do short little things like that back in olden times. Silly rabbit.

The plan had been to roll over to Fruita or Rabbit Valley, camp and then hit the Mack Ridge trails on Tuesday. But when we got back to City Market, I asked Dave whether he thought maybe we should just head right out and make for Salida, since I figured we could be home by 10. Dave had been thinking the same thing. Both of us were tired and kind of ridden out, and being home sounded good. So we made some sandwiches, picked up malted milkshakes at Moab Diner and got on the road.

Only blip was some pretty serious icy travel over Monarch Pass. We got home at 10. Dave crashed in my apartment and I racked out in the tPOD out in the street. This morning bumped into my friend Greg who was headed to Pueblo to ride. He offered Dave a ride to Penrose where Dave could pedal up to C. Springs and catch the bus to Denver. We said our goodbyes a while ago, and now it's time for me to do laundry and start putting my life back together.

Nice trip. Good 'n tired.