Monday, May 28, 2007

West Mag with the pooches

The West Magnolia trails up in Nederland are some of my favorite trails to ride, and each year I can't wait for the snow to melt off so I can get in some miles up there. Its a great escape from the summer heat, as the trail starts around 8800 feet. The trails aren't overly technical, but are some of the sweetest, flowing singletrack around. Its amazing what happens when mountain bikers actually make the trails (these trails started as pirate trails) instead of a county trail crew.

I took the singlespeed, which was a pretty good choice. Sure the Yeti is fun to blast through all the rocks and jump off everything in sight, but for the pure joy of twisty trail, you can't beat the 29er SS. The SS made the climbs more challenging, especially on dead legs, but also made it less guesswork trying to anticipate the sudden climbs that I had forgotten over the winter. No gear mashing, just stand and push the pedals.

The two pooches did pretty well, and really seemed happy to get to go. I was worried about the holiday crowds being a problem, but it wasn't too bad. We encountered a trio of riders somewhat suddenly and we didn't see them in time so we all had to stop briefly, but for the most part the dogs were well behaved.

We busted out a small loop with the dogs, and then headed for the car to put them up while we rode a bit more. Upon getting back to the car, Jill decided that would be enough for her and I went out solo for a little more trail time. I completed the loop of the lower trails and then headed downhill to the main parking lot to meet up with the rest of my crew.

We loaded up the sweet new trunk rack on the Accord, and headed down Boulder Canyon. Loads of rock climbers, cyclists, and picnicers lined the roadway. Starved, we called in some Chinese food pickup on the way. Home, full and clean the rest of the day was laid back.

A great weekend of a long mountain bike ride, a long hike and a quick ride with Jill and the dogs. I could get used to this...

Its still winter at 10,000 feet

Since I had used up all day Saturday on the Redstone ride, I told Jill the rest of the weekend was for her. She decided she wanted to get up and do a high country hike Sunday morning, so I dug out the map and started looking for something new and exciting. This time of year is a mixed bag around here: warm, sunny and dry on the Front Range and cool, snowy and wet in the high country.

Knowing we'd probably be encountering snow anywhere above 9500 feet, we decided to go hit up the Indian Peaks Wilderness area. Normally you can drive up to Brainard Lake (10,300 feet), but with huge snow drifts in the road still, the winter gate was still locked. That meant we had a 2+ mile hike from the car just to get to Brainard, which was a long way from our intended destination of Lake Isabelle.

We made it to Brainard in pretty good time, and but we could tell by the snow drifts that we wouldn't be making Lake Isabelle today. We walked around Brainard Lake as fishermen in waders tried to lure the trout out of their winter slumbers, and marched on. We encountered a couple people on the trail that told us Long Lake was doable, but after that it was tough going. Pretty much what we expected, plus we didn't plan on having the added 4 miles of pavement from Brainard to the car.

The approach to Long Lake was completely snowed in. We were just walking on top of the packed snow drift following the previous hiker's trail like a couple of lemmings. Eventually we popped out to a spot where we found a clear beach, and we sat and ate lunch.

The lake was about 90% frozen still, but the melt-off is coming quick. The creeks are rushing, the wild flowers are starting to pop up and more and more terrain becomes obtainable each day. While we were disappointed to not reach our ultimate destination, we did learn some things that we'll keep in mind next time we're back (like take your bike so you can ride the paved miles!). We'll definitely be visiting Lake Isabelle this summer, as the pictures I've seen are absolutely stunning. It sits a bit higher in the bowl of jagged peaks that you can see in some of the pics I took around Long Lake.

And onto said pics...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Deathmarch Dave rides again

Dave over at Redstone Cyclery has earned the moniker of "Deathmarch Dave". He's an ex-semi pro racer with a huge motor. The Tuesday night rides he leads are like a NORBA XC race, and I always get dropped on the first climb of the night. Every year on Memorial Day, Dave plays host to the Lyons Fat Tire Festival, which is basically a small ride on Friday, a deathmarch ride on Saturday and a party Saturday night. For the past 2 years I've wanted to attend, but for various reasons haven't been able to make it. This year I've trained hard, and the schedule was free so I felt it my duty to go get my rear handed to me sufficiently.

The ride was a "Colorado shuttle". A "Colorado shuttle" ride differs from the traditional shuttle as here even though you drop a car at the beginning of the ride and at the end, it isn't all downhill like most shuttle rides. Far from it.

The ride was only supposed to be 25 miles, but the climbing would be the real threat to finishing for me. I'm not a climber, regardless how hard I try. 195lbs plus a 31lb bike just isn't going to beat up the shaved leg, 135lb cross country freaks riding a racing hardtail. As we stood at the starting point for the ride, just south of Estes Park, I scanned the parking lot. 75% of the 41 bikes (yes there were 41 crazy bikers) were short travel dual suspension or hardtails. Uh oh....

Nothing like starting out a long day of riding with a long, steep climb with absolutely no warm up at all. The group rolled out and the groups formed. Shaved leg crowd hammering a race pace up front, downhillers already off the back and then the rest of us in the middle. I tried to keep my pace in check early, but the steep climbs coupled with a starting elevation of 7800 feet meant I was redlining early.

I forced myself to drop to the granny gear and just let the racer types go away. I have nothing to prove to those guys. The only thing I wanted to prove to myself was that all that trainer time and road miles meant something. I had a hard time getting the legs fired up, but I was pleased to see that on the flats I would recover quickly. I just wasn't used to the steep, sustained climbing but I was still moving.

Finally after 4 grueling miles, we got our first downhill. It was a welcome sight, but a bit unnerving as we had the natural progression of all the downhillers zooming past to the front and the hardtail guys moving backward. Again being squarely in the middle, I just tried to hold a line as to not get run over by some of the more overzealous types.

After the 2.5 mile downhill, we hit another 2 mile uphill slog. This one was probably a little tougher than the first as it was looser and probably even more steep than the initial climb. I did my best to ride it all, but eventually succumbed to the burning thighs and heavy breathing and pushed my bike on the really steep stuff. When I would hit a less steep area, I'd remount and ride again till I had to get off and take a break or push for a bit.

The rest of the ride was rolling and somewhat downhill. We got lost a time or two and backtracked a bit, the skies threatened, the group split and lost track of a couple people. All the standard ingredients for a deathmarch. As we stared into the face of Mt. Meeker (a 13,900 foot peak), I was sure the snowstorm was heading right for us and we were a long way from the cars.

Getting 41 people of mixed ability and disciplines through 20+ miles of forested terrain with constant climbing wasn't easy. Regroups took 30 minutes, headcounts took several minutes and both climbs and descents put huge gaps in the group. While all that was a bit taxing, the whole group seemed to get along well and we all just seemed to be glad to be able to have the opportunity to ride in such a gorgeous place. Granted we didn't hammer out secret stashes of singletrack buried deep in the woods, but it was still new terrain and still a lot of fun.

I actually seemed to get a bit stronger as the day went on, which was unusual for me. I ate much better yesterday than on other big rides in the past and I'm sure that helped a ton. I wasn't blown up at the end, and I still felt pretty good except on the steepest climbs. I didn't walk a single section after lunch, which was an improvement over the 1st 7-8 miles for sure.

When it came time for the big decision of "short way or long way", I ultimately chickened out and took the short way. The long way was a trail that I had just ridden two weeks ago, and featured a pretty stiff climb at the end. I think my legs would have handled it just fine (I cleaned the climb 2 weeks ago), but the biggest factor in my decision was time. I left the house at 8am, and it was going on 3:30pm when we were at the short/long route junction. The long route was easily an hour longer than the short, and I really just wanted to be home and showered so I could take Jill out to dinner. So I bailed on the increased mileage and headed for the car, a decision I'm quite fine with 24 hours later.

Was it a deathmarch? Probably not that severe, but it was definitely a test of my fitness. We ended up logging just over 4,000 feet of climbing. Now that number isn't overly huge, but consider that we did 4,000 up and 4,000 down in a 20 mile ride and it starts seeming a bit bigger. The average gradient for the climbs was a huge 8.5%. To put that into perspective, I-70 climbs about 5-6% on the way to Summit County from Denver.

It was a big day for me and Betty the Yeti. She & I both fell squarely into the "middle of the pack" class, and I think we're both damn thrilled to be there.

And the obligatory elevation chart...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mt Rushmore Road Trip Conclusion

So two post about a road trip to Mt Rushmore without a single pic of the mountain itself? My apologies, I get easily distracted. Sunday morning we got up early and headed up to Mt Rushmore via the Needles Scenic Highway to take advantage of the clear, blue skies.

Mt Rushmore, while not that impressive to us in a drive-by, was much more impressive when you actually walk up close. We took in the sights, and then Jill, Scott, Kim & I walked the .6 mile trail around, taking photos at pretty much every conceivable angle. So I'll just let the pics speak...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mt Rushmore Road Trip Part 2

After finding some shade trees to park under and getting the dogs out for a quick walk, we went to check out the Mammoth Site. The Mammoth Site is very interesting, but also somewhat depressing. You basically get to see this huge mud sinkhole where hundreds of mammoths plunged to their ultimate death. The amount of skeletal remains is remarkable, and we took our time exploring all parts of the dig before moving on.

After checking out the Mammoth Site, we headed up towards Custer State Park which would serve as our camping area for Saturday night. Custer State Park is a really scenic place with lots of rock outcroppings, lush forest areas and rolling hills. The Needles Highway is especially a cool thing to drive, as they have blasted/carved out openings in huge rocks that are just barely big enough to get a car through.

We grabbed a campsite in a more remote area so the dogs could run around a bit. After securing a spot to sleep, we drove around and checked out the park before doing a quick drive by of Mt Rushmore.

Saturday night, Kim cooked up yet another gourmet meal with artichoke dip, boiled artichoke, spaghetti, salad and bread. We don't eat this well at home, let alone when we camp!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mt Rushmore Road Trip

It all started back in ski season with a discussion/argument over burgers & beer about how far Mt. Rushmore is from Boulder County. Sarah adamantly told us it was less than 6 hours, all while the rest of us scoffed and declared "If its less than 6 hours, we'll go next weekend."

Well the short version is that its about 5.5 hours, and while it wasn't the following weekend, all the parties involved loaded up on Friday and headed north into the great unknown. 5 people and 6 dogs packed in two SUVs jammed to the ceiling with gear & food rolled along the highway.

Our decision was to camp about 1/2 way to our ultimate destination, which worked out to be Glendo State Park near Douglas, Wyoming. Nice campground that was about 1/3 full meant spacious area for the 1/2 dozen dogs to get reacquainted with each other. Other than a couple of minor food/territory squabbles, all 6 dogs got along remarkably well. We setup tents, relaxed by the fire and called it a night. The next morning, our two dogs started up bright and early (much to Sarah's dismay). The upside was that we were treated to a great sunrise across the lake.

Kim is a master chef, and didn't disappoint with a full breakfast with eggs and sausage among other things. We ate everything she whipped up, packed up camps and hit the road heading north to our next destination, which was the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD.

Here we tried to timer shot a group pic, but its hard to get 6 dogs & 5 humans to all look at the camera on cue. Pretty much all the dogs cooperated except our two.

I'll continue Day 2 tomorrow, still trying to catch up on sleep.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Summer Road Trip Season Starts....Two Days Ago

1 road trip in the books.

Whirlwind tour of Eastern Wyoming and Western South Dakota.

1 National Monument, 1 National Park, 2 State Parks and quite a few stories from the road.

Not much time to blog about it tonight, just a quick pic and I'll recap the events soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Big wheels keep rolling

I am starting to develop a love affair with big wheels. I was skeptical at first, and wasn't ready to convert without decent tires and forks to chose from but all that is in the past. The singlespeed 29er is so much more versatile than I ever expected, and its just a blast to ride. On nights when I get home and don't feel like getting out, this bike is what convinces me to get out and ride.

So again tonight I hit up the dirt roads, having completely honed my route to the absolute minimum in pavement riding. I set out east on a cloudy, hazy night to just spin the pain out of my legs from yesterday. I took it easy, only picking up the pace on the occasional hill.

Within 15 minutes, I'm miles removed from the 'burbs and back to dirt roads and pastures filled with cows. The cars are few and far between, and occasionally I pass another intrepid biker rambling around a we exchange a quick wave and a "I like your style" nod as we pass.

I can't wait for some of the fast, swoopy trails to open up in the high country as Nancy the Niner will eat them up. I'm anxiously awaiting the day when I can get up to West Mag on my Niner and pound out a 30 mile day on the singlespeed. Oh yes, I have some serious plans for the high country terrain this summer....

I know Nancy, but its just a couple of days...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together

Last night while in the final mile of my easy paced recovery ride I got caught, passed and sufficiently dropped by a woman who at first glance didn't look like someone who should have dropped me. Not a big deal, I've been dropped by plenty of women so I kept my pace and watched her pedal off.

Tonight I was out "stretching the legs" a bit, and once again got caught, passed and dropped by anther woman. This time I was putting down a pretty nice pace, but from the looks of this woman she meant business. Seeing her pass me, then back of her pace actually made me feel pretty good since I'd guess this woman as a serious racer. I didn't really try to pull her back in, but she sat up to take some drinks and I started pulling back onto her wheel. I got within about 20 feet of her before turning off to Rabbit and watching her motor off into the distance.

Now it was solo time, and I was feeling really good on the bike. The slow gradual climb to Rabbit Mountain wears you down before it kicks you in the teeth right at the end. Until a couple months ago, I would turn around at the parking lot and skip the hard part of the climb.

This year I go right at the climb.

It still hurts, but I make it.

The ride home was swift, as its mainly downhill. I didn't have my Polar heart rate monitor so I don't have real data on my exertion, but I'd gauge it as a Zone 3 ride. I was pushing bigger gears than normal, but I wasn't hurting.

I got home, downloaded the data and I was pretty surprised to see a fat 19.3 average. How did that happen? My fastest average for a ride over and hour has been 18.8, and that was a route with very little climbing. I think I'm really starting to see measurable progress. Last year I celebrated my first 100 mile week. This year I expect to hit 100 miles every single week, even if I'm riding mainly off-road.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This pretty much sums it up...

Just like Michael Scott on The Office has "World's Best Boss" mug, I've now got a sweet bell for one of my bikes courtesy of Scott & Kim Turner. Last Friday they bought me this bell and an even sweeter pink horn jokingly for my birthday.

I've found my place in the saddle for a considerable amount of time this week, only missing last night due to hail/wind/rain/etc. Tonight I broke out the road bike for a much needed "easy" spin out NW. I found a new route, took it nice and easy and my legs thanked me for it.

I managed to get in a bit over 23 miles, managing a 17+ mph average. Tomorrow I've got plans of getting out on the Yeti for 10+ miles of actual trail, that is assuming I can sort out my rear brake issues in time. I guess I could always just take the Niner and punish myself...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tour de Dirt Roads Niner Style

After Saturday's high altitude ride on the Yeti, I was looking for something more to give Betty the Yeti her due. After pondering some scouting expeditions SW of here, I just decided to hop on Nancy the Niner and pound out some dirt road miles. While the dirt roads aren't exactly alpine singletrack, they do provide a nice change of pace to asphalt miles on the road bike. The other factor is that the loamy, loose and bumpy dirt roads provide a pretty serious workout.

I started with my normal route heading out east crossing under I-25 and continuing until I ran out of dirt roads and hit pavement. It was at that point that I began to suffer. A very stiff wind out of the NW made the uphill grind back west punishing. The grade wasn't steep at all, but factor the wind and the one gear and it was putting a strain on me.

I kept pedaling, and before I knew it I was turning south onto a slight downhill. Things were getting easier. I knocked out a small climb and as I turned back west i was treated to some more brutal head winds. Instead of turning north like my normal route, I kept heading east in order to add some more time/mileage to my ride.

I ended up hitting up the Sandstone Ranch, where they have a small loop with a pretty steep (but short climb). I did 3 quick loops, which were pretty much intervals, while the hikers looked confused as I kept passing them.

I knocked out my 3 loops, then headed back to the dirt roads and meandered my way back towards the house. I added on a couple small climbs where I could find them and then wrapped up my ride.

I ended up putting in 27+ miles in about 2 hours. While this certainly wasn't a climbing route, I still managed to get in about 1100 feet of elevation somewhere in there (300 coming on the Sandstone loops). By far my longest and furthest ride on the Niner SS, and it felt really good. I'm slowly transforming these legs from 1 hour sprint pace to more of an endurance type conditioning. With the road bike, SS and the Yeti I get a really nice blend of workouts and can find something that suits my fancy pretty much everyday.

And for the first time, I dared to wear my heart rate monitor while on the SS. I've been a bit scared to do so thus far but I'm getting into a pretty good groove with the Niner. For the 2 hours I averaged a 152HR, which is top Zone 2, bottom Zone 3 for me. A pretty hard ride all things considered, but it felt good to put in a hard effort.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thanks Mom!

Just a quick thanks to our Mom's on Mother's Day. Being 750 miles away from family isn't easy, but thanks to internet and phones we due our best to keep up to date with our families.

To further honor my Mom on Mother's Day, we did exactly what she would have wanted us to do...Eat out instead of cooking! :) So a huge thanks for all you do to our mother's, as I know that it couldn't have been easy raising the two of us.

Also a quick congratulations to one of the newest mother's Cindy Davis. Bryan & Cindy Davis who had the 2nd child, a son, yesterday. I'll be expecting to get an email with the name (AND SOME PICS DAVIS!) soon, and I'll be sure to post them up.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Betty Gets Her Day (Subtitled new singletrack)

Betty breaks out of her hibernation in a big way today. New trail to test out the newly PUSH'd suspension mods on a new trail filled with gorgeous views. The high altitude terrain isn't ready, but the "higher than the foothills" stuff is ripe for the ripping.

Jill & I headed up to a trail I've been hearing about for some time, but haven't had the opportunity to sample thus far. A great mix of sweeping singletrack and rocky steeps, with a long descent followed by a grinding climb.

Jill checks out the homestead

Sweet alpine singletrack

After a fun 3+ mile descent, we passed an old homestead (pictured above) and then found our way to the North St. Vrain River, which was rushing along nicely with the warm temps really starting up the spring melt-off.

A fun ride (not sure Jill would agree) with a good mix of terrain, and its always good to try out a new trail. My PUSH'd suspension worked incredibly well, helping me make several rocky, steep climbs that I was surprised to make. Once I braced to take an impact of a tree limb in the trail, but was pleasantly surprised when the suspension soaked it up so nicely that I had to glance back to make sure I had hit it.

I did draw first blood today, with some minor cuts and bruises. I stalled out climbing a steep, rocky uphill and when I was scrambling to get a foot down took the nose of the seat right into the back of my calf. Its sore, but nothing that won't keep me from riding tomorrow. It sure was different, albeit wonderful, to be back on suspension. The 575 feels like a dream, especially after so many rigid miles under my belt.

A great day to be out, can't wait for the higher elevation stuff to melt out. Its beginning to feel a lot like riding season.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Birthday sights

30 has come and gone, so I decided to start year 31 with some sights from my 1st day in my post 30 life. So today, few words and more pics.

My view on my drive to the bus stop

Decorative manhole covers in LoDo

My stop on the bus

The painted cow outside my office

The clock tower across the street

My version of the morning cofee

The daily grind

A nice surprise from Jill left on my truck

Molly offers her birthday wishes

Baloo watches intently as I open gifts

A very nicely decorated present from Jim & Judy

And some great shirts too!

And a new fun game for the Wii from Sarah.