Stories from our lives here on the Front Range of Colorado. Lots of mountain bike adventures, ski days, hikes, pictures of Cooper and Lauren, our two dogs and anything else I choose to pontificate about.
100 degrees on the Front Range meant another pilgrimage to Winter Park for some relief from the heat in the form off lift-assisted downhilling. Some of trails I wanted to try out were closed, but we took some new and different routes to mix things up. We ended up doing some climbing at times, much to the angst of Jill, but found some cool trails. Here are some of the pics:
Ahhhhh... Back to a small venue concert. I absolutely love Red Rocks, and Coldplay was great at the Pepsi Center, but there is something unique about the experience of seeing a good concert in a small, intimate venue. Last night Jill & I checked out the sold out Pete Yorn show at the Fox Theater in Boulder. The Fox is a small place. When you walk into the room with the stage, the last row isn't more than 50ft from the stage. My kind of place.
And you ask, "Who is Pete Yorn?" Well he's an artist you should know. He is an oustanding guitar player (played acoustic last night), and a unique singer that doesn't fit any mold that I can think of. He's had moderate radio success with "Life on a Chain" and "Crystal Village", but never hit the mainstream. I've been a fan since his debut album "Music for the Morning After", but after seeing him live last night I've become much more of a fan.
The show started with Pete slowly walking on stage, with nothing more than his acoustic guitar. He played 4 or 5 songs, with just him and his guitar (and harmonica for Life on a Chain). After that he had a pianist join him for several more songs, then a drummer and a bass guitar player came out. The set started taking a much more upbeat tone from that point, which continued to a impressive rendition of Strange Condition.
He's got a new album due out in late August, certainly worth checking out. And if you ever get the chance to see this guy live, you should definitely check it out, as he puts on a really great show.
Hit up West Mag in Nederland this morning before work. These trails aren't overly technical by any means, but something about them really makes for a great ride. Even though I rode pretty poorly, my legs and lungs burned, and it was early when I was at work I kept thinking about how good that ride was for my mental health.
Even at 30 years old, I still have lessons to learn, sometimes I learn the hard way. Everyone who lives here knows the golden rule of high elevation recreation: "Get off the peaks in the afternoon, storms brew up fast and lightning is a real concern."
Well after the big hike yesterday, I was lazy getting around this morning and didn't get up and get in a bike ride. So finally I decided after lunch that I would go check out Sourdough Trail, which sits just east of the Continental Divide. Yeah I know that storms brew up on the Divide in the afternoon, but it can't rain everyday up there can it? Today surely wouldn't have any storms, the skies are as blue as they can be up there. I'll get this ride in for sure.
So I drive up to Sourdough (about 25-30 miles), and as I approach I start seeing some lightning. No big deal, its way north of where I'm going. I'll just keep an eye on it and make sure it isn't getting too close. I continue on.
I think to myself, "Looking a bit dark over there". I pull up into the parking area and a flash of lightning rips across the sky, followed by an immediate boom of thunder that makes me jump. That was close. I think I'll stay in my truck and let this thing blow through, then I'll get in my bike ride.
And then the heavens unleased. The rain came so sudden and so furiously that even with my wipers moving at their maximum (and the truck not moving) I couldn't see out of the window. It was incredible, I've never seen rain like this before. I look over at the trail kiosk to see a group of 3 bikers scrambling for cover, looking quite surprised and soaked by this so at least I'm not the only one.
I decide I'll wait it out and maybe go if it blows through, but after a gaze up the trail to see the huge amount of water rushing down it I realized today is a bust. So I put my truck in drive and started making my way out, as quickly as I could given the circumstances.
On the way back I got stuck behind a very large man riding a motorcycle at a very, very slow rate of speed. With no opportunity to pass for miles, I just decided to pull over and enjoy the rushing creek and let him get ahead of me so I could enjoy my drive back home a little more. I pulled out the Yeti and the camera and snapped a couple pics just to have gotten something done instead of driving all the way up there for nothing. I considered stopping and riding at Hall Ranch or Rabbit Mountain, but then I just decided to head home and try this again tomorrow.
But on the bright side, I got a free bike wash out of the deal...
Jill and I did a big hike (by our standards) up to Chasm Lake at the base of Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday. Its about a 9 mile route, starting at about 9500ft and climbing up to 11,800ft at Chasm Lake. We got there early, but the parking lot was already jammed with people who were climbing Long's Peak, and had been there since 3 or 4 a.m.
We started about 8, and climbed steadily on the way up stopping to take pics at various places. It wasn't too long before we got above the tree line and were presented with some great views of Long's and Mt. Meeker. We reached Chasm Lake, sat down and had a splendid lunch while taking it all in. After some more photos, we headed back down to the car to call it a day.
Words do this place no justice, and even the pictures don't come close to conveying the incredibly massive, rugged beauty of this place. RMNP's beauty cannot be appreciated by simply driving through in your car, its a park where you must give penance to be rewarded with its true beauty.
This year's Tour de France has been a roller coaster ride, complete with painful "cracks" and triumphant returns, and all that is just in the last 24 hours. American hope Floyd Landis has been steady and strong, until a monumental blowup yesterday left him all but dead in the water, as he fell from 1st overall to 11th overall losing more than 8 minutes.
But today Landis put in what is easily the best ride I've ever seen. Ever. He knew he had to do something extraorinary today after yesterday's collosal explosion, and he did just that. He put his team on the front of the peloton early, and had them push the pace high and immediately started to put the other contenders under pressure. Then he jumped on them. Several other top contenders tried to follow Landis as he moved away from the pack, but he simply rode them off his wheel and never looked back.
Landis did a 125km solo break today, getting back almost all the time he lost yesterday. He now sits 30 seconds behind the race leader, and 18 seconds behind 2nd place with a showdown coming on Saturday in the penultimate stage, an individual time trial in which he excels. In Saturday's showdown, "the race of truth" as time trials are often termed, Landis will be favored and after today's enormous ride I can't imagine anyone who would doubt him.
All these things would be considered monumental, but then you throw in the fact that Landis is due to undergo a hip replacement shortly after the tour and it begins to take perspective. Landis may never race again, and he left it on the road today in impressive fashion. I've been a casual Landis fan for the last couple years, reading about his antics while being one of Lance's helpers, but in the last 48 hours I've turned into a huge fan.
Jill & I hit Winter Park again yesterday for some more lift-aided downhill runs. Crowds were light and conditions were much more bearable at 9k feet than they were on the Front Range where temps hit 103 yesterday. Still a warm day for being at a ski resort, but quite pleasant zipping down the mountains.
The unfortunate part of the day is that I think Jill is going to have to fire her bike mechanic. First off this guy didn't get her quick release sufficiently tight and her wheel started to come loose on the first run down. Geez, this guy is a joke. Then I realized he has her front brake poorly mounted. Ugh. I've got some words for this guy.
So the second run down Jill's front brake went out, and we had to take the easy roads down. Luckily I was able to buy a new brake cable and some housing at the bike shop at the base and get it fixed up while we ate some lunch. After a couple tweaks, we were back in business with functioning brakes, which is typically a good thing to have when riding downhill.
We ended up making 5 runs up & down. We thought about trying some new trails out but we were both having a good time on the old standby of Cheyenne to Long Trail that we just did that run each time. Its a good, fast run that had little traffic. Nothing real technical on it, but its just fun to rip down the twisty singletrack and buzz through the trees.
I subscribe to a lot of magazines, Outside being one of them. Well in the August 2006 edition of Outside they have named Boulder, CO as the best place to live for the sporty, outside type. Frankly, I agree with them. For a person who thrives on sports, the outdoors and adventure it pretty much has it all, well everything except cheap housing...
Mountain Biking? Yep, lots of great trails close by (West Mag is my favorite) Road Biking? Oh yeah. Tons of bike lanes and great climbs Kayaking? Yep, Boulder Creek, St. Vrain River, Clear Creek are all close Running? Tons of hiking/running trails without those pesky mountain bikers Climbing? Loads of established climbing routes Skiing/Snowboarding? Eldora is less than 30 minutes away. Winter Park 1.5 hours
Boulder really does have it all for athletes. Bike shops are stocked with high end bikes in every shape and size. Orthopedic doctors are the best in the country. Sports massage operations are more common than Starbucks. 300 days of sunshine and pretty much 365 days a year you can train (although I skip lots of them).
So with all this lauding going on its hard to imagine drawbacks, but the magazine also has an article named "I hate Boulder, Colorado! Why Perfectville Drives Me Nuts" and it is a great read.
Some of my favorite excerpts from the article: "The Gore-Tex Vortex"
"The Dunkin Donuts went out of business, but the oxygen bar next door to the gay-and-lesbian bookstore seems to be doing well. The panhandlers on the Pearl Street Mall sport $70 sandals and pull in upwards of 25 bucks an hour."
"Buy a meditation table, slap a 'Go Vegan!' sticker on your roof box, and you'll blend. You're here for the fitness pursuits anyway."
"Except that's where Boulder gets weird. In most American towns, outdoor-sports aficionados are part of an elite counterculture minority. Mountain bikers and climbers have cachet. Not so in Boulder. Recreating outdoors is the norm here, and it's in your face. There's always some horse-toothed mountain-town equivalent of Laird Hamilton ready to kick your athletic pride through the dirt. Remember the 2005 Tour (de France), when T-Mobile kept attacking Discovery, trying to break Lance? That's what a casual bike ride is like in Boulder. Strangers attack. Old guys with gray beards and steel bikes attack. Reach for a shot of Gu and even your friends attack. And women: Women always attack-they're the worst."
"It doesn't matter what sport you do, you will suffer similar humiliation."
This pretty much sums up Boulder. I've heard some people stating that this article "rips Boulder", but I disagree. I think you are taking yourself a bit too seriously if you can't read this article and enjoy it for the satirical viewpoint of Boulder.
Boulder is a unique place, and the athletes here are truly world class. I've said many times in the past year that I couldn't be in the top 1/2 of the beginner bike races here in Boulder, but could probably podium in the Sport class in Oklahoma in my current shape. It seems everyone in Boulder is a tremendous athlete, yet we all seem to have these insecurities due to the other athletes we encounter every time we hit the trail. Me? I think I've done a pretty good job to realize that I'm never gonna be at the top of the cycling scene in Boulder, but even the bottom is a pretty good place to be. Like Jill says, "There are no fat people in Boulder."
Who signed up for this thing? Getting up at 4:45 a.m.? Where am I? A bit disoriented, and very tired I stumbled out of bed and started getting dressed for the two days that loomed in front of me. Sarah & I had to be on the course by 7:30, but wanted to be on the course closer to 6, so we were off and on our way very early.
We arrived, checked our luggage and shuttled to the start. The skies looked dark but were so far holding off. The weather forecast had gone from 90 deg and chance of afternoon T-Storms to 70 deg and rain all day in 24 hours. Luckily I had a brand new rain jacket I picked up that should keep me dry in the event of showers. So I thought.
We took off on our way from Highlands Ranch south towards Castle Rock. No warm up here, lots of rolling climbs to get wake you up in a rude manner. I had put my rain jacket on at the start, but quickly had to ditch it as I was burning up in it due to the climbs. We skipped the first rest stop to get ahead of the masses and cruised along to the 2nd where we stopped long enough to turn our noses up at the PB&J sandwiches and rice cakes.
As we left the 2nd rest stop Sarah tells me she thinks its the same road (i.e. big climb) we did on the Elephant Rock. No way I think. This is clearly a different road. Well about 5 miles down the road when I see the asphalt leading towards the heavens I realized she may have been more correct than me here....
So we do Elephant Rock part deux, with me going ahead on the climbs then regrouping at rest stop #3. I've got a time gap on Sarah so I phone back to Jill to give her and update and check on Baloo, our black lab who had just had surgery on Friday. Jill tells me Baloo is doing much better and everything is looking good. I go on to boast to her about how we've knocked out 30 miles, I feel good and even though the skies look really dark it only rained on us briefly.
Open mouth, insert foot.
No sooner than we took off from rest stop #3 did the skies open up on us creating a torrential downpour. No problem, I've got a trusty rain jacket that should keep me dry right? Well sure, it keeps you dry for a little bit but at some point it just gets saturated and does no good. The roads were so wet, the splash back and roost from riders in front was brutal. You couldn't be anywhere in a 20 foot area behind someone in front without getting pelted in the face. To make matters worse, the rains had washed tons of sand into the road, which was creating a brutal sandy water/road grime gunk that was getting pasted all over you. Not pleasant riding conditions.
Gritting my teeth, hunkering down and just trying to stay focused mentally to keep from ending up on the ground like so many other people I had seen I kept going with the promise of lunch ahead. Lunch would be at the 50 mile mark, and it couldn't come soon enough. He had just climbed for the majority of 50 miles, 30 of it in pouring rain, and I was soaked to the bone. My front tire was throwing up so much water that it was hitting the down tube and spraying huge amounts of water directly into my shoes. I kept the idea of lunch in a covered pavilion type area would be my refuge. Well I was partially right at least.
We finally arrived at lunch only to have our fears recognized. There would be no pavilion. It was eat in the rain, which was still coming down hard although it had let up some. Morally defeated I sat down at an exposed picnic table where I had probably the best turkey and cheese wrap of my life. You can see from the pic, my rain jacket was totally saturated and I was starting to get really cold since I wasn't climbing anymore.
We took our time and ate some lunch, as we talked about the miserable conditions. I went back and scored a second box lunch, as I needed the calories to keep going. I was wasting so much energy shivering that I wasn't sure I could do 30 more miles in these conditions. I was still going forward, but I had mentally checked out a couple times on the ride. So to entertain ourselves, we did things like take pictures of Sarah's prune feet and her ringing water out of her soaked socks. This is what you do when you are delirious from the rain...
I was sporting a super sweet helmet Mohawk that we had to document...
I took some shelter in the bathroom at the lunch area, where I found temporary relief in the form of a hand drier. The warm air was enough to help me dry out my rain soaked jacket and get some internal warmth back. After the quick reheating we started to head back to our bikes.
As we approached our bikes I saw a volunteer guy with a bullhorn starting to make an announcement, so we stopped and listened. He announced:
"We are closing the course due to a large outbreak of hypothermia. If you are on your bike right now, you can go ahead and ride with support but everyone else who is here will be shuttled to the finish line."
Well I didn't like the thought of more riding in the rain, but I also didn't ride this far in the rain to take a shuttle the rest of the way so we hurried to our bikes and took off before they could close the course down. Of course, the first 10 miles after lunch would be you guessed it....MORE CLIMBING!. Ugh. You know you're in for a long day of climbing when the road you are riding on is name "Roller Coaster Rd.". Seriously, Roller Coaster Road. Oh how I longed for a road in west Texas. Flat roads are good.
We did the 10 miles after lunch in workman-like fashion and regrouped at the rest stop at 60 miles. After some Gatorade, we took off for what would prove to be nearly all downhill for 20 miles and finally without the rain. The splash back was still really bad, so there was to be no drafting on this day, but at least we could cruise downhill at a good rate of speed.
We hit the outskirts of Colorado Springs and knew the end (for today at least) was near. We made our way across the city, and as we neared the finish the number of spectators and people cheering grew continuously. It was a cool experience to have everyone cheering you on as you approached the finish, a very celebratory experience.
Upon getting to CO Springs, we were filthy, still soaked and very tired. We tossed around the idea of calling Jill and ending our journey right there, but then decided against it. Our next decision would be one the best decision we made all weekend, we decided to get a hotel room instead of camp like we had previously planned. Once at the hotel, we showered, ate and were both asleep by 8:30.
The hotel was a godsend for sure. It poured rain most of the evening and stormed hard overnight. The thought of sleeping in a tent that would have surely been leaky, wet and loud all night in the rain was too much, and I am so glad that we procured a hotel room. A shower, a hot meal, and a good nights sleep were the only cure for our tired bodies.
Getting a hotel instead of camping in the continuous rain overnight was the best thing we could have ever done. Awaking at 5:00 a.m. and seeing the huge puddles in the parking lot, but blue skies to the west and some much needed sunshine was a welcome experience. We gathered our stuff up and took the shuttle back to the starting line, hoping today's ride would be better than yesterday.
We got started about 6:30 and climbed up and out of Colorado Springs heading towards Canon City. The legs felt decent, but my shoulders and neck were pretty sore from the death grip I had on the bars trying to stay upright the day before. We breezed past the first rest stop and worked our way up to the 2nd rest stop in pretty good time. I had gapped Sarah out a bit on the climbs so I hopped off and took a quick pic of here speeding down the road.
We grouped back up and for the first time in two days, we were able to sit in the draft of each other. Working together we made good time heading towards lunch, and the weather continued to hold.
We hit the lunch stop around 10 a.m., which normally would be a really early lunch but we were quite ready for it. As we sat eating lunch we talked about what was ahead. We had knocked out 40 of the 50 miles before the optional Royal Gorge route, so in just another 10 miles we'd be in Canon City and we were in no risk of missing the 1 p.m. Royal Gorge route cutoff time. So after consuming some sandwiches, we did a quick tire check and headed off.
The 10 miles out of Florence into Canon City were a slog. The food was good going down, but combined with the amount we had just eaten and the steady climb out of Florence, it was sitting pretty heavy on us. We just turned the cranks at a steady, easy pace as we worked our way to Canon City. I jumped off the front and motored into Canon City a little ahead of Sarah, needing to find a rest stop in a hurry. I had forced myself to take in a lot of fluids at lunch, and my bladder was feeling the effects. We regrouped on the edge of Canon City, where we contemplated what we had left in the tank versus what was left of the course.
I felt good enough that I was sure that I wanted to try the Gorge loop, after all that was what I came to see. Sarah took a little time to regroup and then decided we'd continue on. As we were resting up, the volunteer group posted a warning that a T-Storm was being forecasted in the Gorge area around 1 p.m., which would be about the time we should arrive. I really, really didn't want to ride in the soaking rain again, but thought maybe we'd get lucky and beat the storm today. So I asked some people around about what the road ahead was like and got the following response:
"About 6 miles of flat, then some climbing"
Well that person was a huge liar. I'm not sure we had 6 miles of flat on the entire course, and especially not heading from Canon City to the Royal Gorge. We did a steady, grinding 4-5% grade climb out of Canon City. The climb went on and on with no end in sight. A steady stream of bikers in front and behind us kept us going, and it seemed everyone was suffering quite a bit.
Finally we reached the apex of the long grinder out of Canon City, and saw the Royal Gorge signage on the roadside. Perfect pic opportunity.
A huge downhill followed the picture taking, then another rest stop. Mumblings of "The Wall" climb were heard and I thought to myself "Finally, we get to climb this 'Wall' and get to the Gorge." but alas there was still more to ride before the infamous "Wall" section would present itself. After another 4% grinding climb for about 5 or 6 miles, we hit the last rest stop. I was assured at this rest stop that the final climb, The Wall (a 10% grade for 1.5 miles) was just ahead. Finally I would get to this notorious climb....
Sarah took off in front on the downhill as I called Jill to try and give her an update. Shortly after the road went from down to up, I realized I was finally at the penultimate climb of the ride. The Wall was certainly steep, and the initial section may be the steepest part of it all. I stood and turned the pedals and felt surprisingly good as I ascended. I was bound and determined to ride this climb without stopping or walking, even though the majority of the people I passed had resorted to pushing their bikes up.
One by one I would focus on the next person up the road and reel them in. I probably passed 50 people on this climb alone, but as I neared the top I could hear the volunteers cheering and ringing their cowbells. I had a fever and the only cure was more cowbell. I came around the corner and heard a spectator yell "its the top of The Wall". Those are the sweetest words I've ever heard in my life, and I jumped up out of the saddle and hammered the final 100 yards out in fine style. I even got a "now that's a strong finish" from someone in the crowd. Finally cresting the apex, I cruised down to the gates of the Royal Gorge where I waited for Sarah.
Sarah came down the road, seemingly very thankful to be done with The Wall for good. We took a bit of a breather, snapped a couple pics and then headed on to see what we'd ridden all this way to see. Finally the Royal Gorge was upon us.
Just before the bridge:
Sarah riding across the Royal Gorge:
Its a long way down...
Of course with the pleasure came more pain, as the climb out of the Royal Gorge wasn't easy. I took off on the climb, hoping to make it to Highway 50 where I could call Jill and get her headed our way. We were pushing our luck as a violent looking storm was chasing us down and making good time. We could heard the thunder and see the rain, so I pushed on leaving Sarah behind to ride her own pace.
My attempt to be the hero and have Jill & the dogs waiting for us at Highway 50 was ultimately foiled by a dead cellphone battery. I had just enough juice to get connected with Jill before my phone died. Well so much for that. Thankfully Sarah managed to make her way up to the Highway 50 intersection pretty quickly and her phone actually had charge. We called up Jill and told her to come get us. We still had 10 miles to go, almost all of which was downhill but the thought of being soaked in the rain just before the ride home was too much. So yeah I guess we did sag the final section, but considering it was all downhill in the rain I feel very good about that decision. We had ridden every mile up to that point, and had seen the big payout so I was very comfortable calling in the sag wagon and skipping a rainy downhill ride back into Canon City.
The hero of the day, Jill arrived just in time. The storm was right on top of us, but we got loaded up and on our way just in time. We actually took 3 other riders with us as they were worried about the storm as well, so 6 people, 2 dogs, and 5 bikes in my truck as we raced into Canon City as the rainstorm unleashed itself on us.
So Day 2 ended with 77 miles with over 5,200 feet in climbing. Another brutal day on the bike, but so much more manageable due to the good weather.
Totals for the 2 day ride: 158.15 miles 11,447 feet climbed
I dug up an old friend to be the figurehead for my MS150 journey. I've talked in the past about finding Pete and putting him on my Yeti, and finally got motivated to have him take in the sights of the MS150 with me. When I get back he'll likely move to the Yeti, where he can see some real spectacular stuff in the upcoming months.
Its gonna be high miles, low sleep and a mix of hot weather and possible storms this weekend. I have been "peaking" towards this event, and that involved taking this week off entirely which felt entirely weird. So I'm quite anxious to get back on the bike and knock out 150+ miles. I really have no doubts about finishing, but I want to be strong on the ride and carry that fitness over into my upcoming epic rides I've been dreaming about since last summer.
That's right, as soon as the MS150 is over its high time for me to head to the high country for some high altitude riding. Was that enough highs? On my short list this summer:
1. Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass 2. Monarch Crest 3. Tipperary Creek 4. 401 & 403 in Crested Butte 5. Anything else that comes up that I'm available for
Well the holiday weekend has come and gone, and its back to the daily grind. Baloo survived the amateur pyrotechnics displays by sitting under my computer desk while I played really loud music to keep him from hearing the explosions. Molly of course was unfazed by the whole ordeal. Jill tried to sleep through my constant blaring of music, but I'm not sure how successful that really was. All in all, it was considerably better than last year where it seemed like the fireworks went for 4 or 5 days until all hours of the night.
My cousin Anne and her daughter Jenna drove in for the weekend, so we spent a lot of the weekend doing activities with them. We hit Rocky Mountain National Park, driving up Fall River Road and back on Trail Ridge in the middle of a storm (see pic on right). We got in another day of rafting on Clear Creek, which was good although about 1/2 the flow from early June when we last hit it. Of course we had some good food including The Walnut in Boulder, Tommy Knockers in Idaho Springs and Maggiano's in downtown Denver. Its a good thing I'm riding 150+ miles in the heat this coming weekend, as I have really pigged out in the last 5 days.
Of course any visit from Anne wouldn't be complete without some great Anne-isms including :
1. Anne asking Sarah about the signage on the roads in Colorado.
"We saw signs warning about elk and deer running out into the roads, but there were also signs that had bicycles on them. Does that mean the cyclist are going to run out in front of us on the roads?" 2. Another Anne cycling moment...
Setup - We were rafting on Clear Creek between Dumont & Idaho Springs. The river sits slightly below I-70 and at times you can see the traffic on I-70 from the river.
Curtis (a Kansas guy who was in our raft) looks surprised and announces: "I swear I just saw a bicycle flying down the road with nobody on it". Anne takes in his statement, starts to make fun of him then looks and says in amazement "I just saw it too!"
Of course we had a big laugh when Sarah & I realized they were seeing bicycles on roof racks of cars speeding down I-70...
3. On High School Fame
Anne - "I was voted most popular in my high school class. But for some reason I didn't win the 'Most Likely to Succeed' vote."
Jenna - "Yeah because you were pregnant."
Anne - "Well not when we voted!"
4. Graceful Entrances and Exits
Anne still has a few things to learn on her next trip to Colorado about entering/exiting the white water rafts. These you just had to be there to see....
Good times....Anne & Jenna were as entertaining as ever, glad to get to see them again. So now its back to work for a couple days while I rest my legs in preparation for the MS150 this weekend. After the MS150, its high time to start doing some big, high country rides like Kenosha Pass and the like so stay tuned for that.