Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday's big hike in RMNP

Today, we again decided to head to the high country to avoid the near 100 degree heat in the Front Range. Today we'd head up Highway 7 again, but this time to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. We've lived here long enough to learn the tricks, like don't go to Estes Park between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So with that in mind, we hit up the lesser known/traveled Wild Basin entrance to get up to Ouzel Lake.

A pretty long, tough hike of about 10 miles and 2,000 feet. This would be one of our longer hikes period, and definitely the longest we've been on this spring/summer season. Along the way we would pass a variety of notable places such as Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascade, Ouzel Falls and finally arrive at Ouzel Lake.

So some pics of the various sights along the way:

Calypso Cascade was impressive, much more so than my pics can convey

Views of Long's Peak to the north

Ouzel Falls

Our ultimate destination

Self portrait

Ouzel Lake sits in the valley of these three peaks

The one funny moment came when we were looking for a spot to have a snack. There was a big rock exposed in the lake, but sat about 4 or 5 feet from the shore. I was confident I could jump to it, and after some negotiations with Jill I went for it.

Splash? Nope, my mad hops propelled me straight to it. I then tried to get Jill to come over, but she didn't think she could make it. So I hopped back across to figure out a way to get her across. I found a 3 or 4 inch diameter log that was just the right length and stretched it across the watery gap. A couple of quick tests and I was ready for the full test. Just as Jill said "I don't that will hold you" the log snapped and I was submerged to the waist in the iceberg cold water in the high alpine lake. Oops. Eventually I got Jill to come across, and we sat together on the rock as my shoes/socks dried out.

Two days, two high country activities and quite a few laughs this weekend.

Avoiding the heat

Summer has come to the Front Range in a hurry. We've been hit with a hot and dry weather pattern that has had our temps in the mid 90s for the last week or so. So when the temps get hot, we head for the high country. Saturday I was desperate for a mountain bike ride, so Jill and I rolled up Highway 7 to hit up some Sourdough action.

As we pulled up to the parking area Jill, the constant multitasker, decided to start getting ready with the sunscreen. I'm pretty sure that no matter how long we live at altitude, Jill will never remember that pressure changes considerably when you go from 5000 feet to 9500 feet. As she opened the cap to the sunscreen, which was pointed in my direction, a huge burst exploded across the car splattering everything to Jill's left. There was splatter all over my chest, seatbelt, window....just about everything that wasn't Jill. Wait a minute...

Sourdough is a loose, rocky and technical ride that runs along near the Continental Divide paralleling the Peak to Peak Highway. We did a pretty good loop, although we had to deal with a group of about 30 horse riders that um....decorated the trail about every 50 feet. Tough to avoid horse crap on tight singletrack. For some reason I didn't take a camera or my helmet cam, so no footage.

The real excitement came as we left the parking lot. We got about 1/4 mile down the road when a group of road bikers began waving us down frantically. We pulled over to see what was going on. They had a woman who had severely overheated on the long (15 miles or so) climb from Lyons under the hot sun. She was cooked and was a long way from home, and cell phones just don't work up there. We loaded her bike up and she hopped in with us. Turns out she was a product designer for Descent Athletics in Boulder. We did a quick detour to Boulder to get her to her car, and then headed home. We're getting to be regulars at this help and rescue stuff.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Pooch

Baloo is so active compared to Molly, so she ends up being the star of the blog more often that Baloo. Baloo being jet black also makes it tough to get enough light indoors to get a good shot, but tonight a tired Baloo was being very cute curled up on the bed and I finally got a good shot of him.

Baloo has been my trusty sidekick since January of 1999, and we've only just begun. If it wasn't for the gray chin, you'd swear he was a 2 year old dog. So tonight, this simple post is dedicated to my first pooch of my adult life, Baloo.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Safety First

A good rule to live by:
Don't adjust your helmet cam while riding narrow trails, because if you clip a tree with one arm on the bars you can get pitched pretty quickly.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OK One more ride, then on your way...

After Justin woke up feeling ill on Saturday, Jill, Linda & I stayed close to home and just did some shopping. On Sunday, Justin woke up feeling somewhat better and decided he would be alright to try his hand at mountain biking one more time. So with all the bikes still loaded in my truck, we headed up to West Mag again but this time with much warmer temps and a whole lot more people.

One of those people was Josh. Whose is Josh you ask? An incredibly drunk/stoned fellow that locked his keys in his running car and then proceeded to befriend us as to help him and his normal seeming wife out of their predicament. Some of the highlights of our brief time with Josh:

1. He hopped on my 6" travel, turquoise Yeti and rode around. Then he grabbed my rigid 29er, pushed down on it exclaiming that it was "too squishy for him" (mind you he grabbed the rigid bike), then was shocked as he looked down and exclaimed "Wait! This thing had suspension, what happened?"

2. He informed us that not only where both sets of his keys inside, but also his two dogs. Then as his two dogs, who had been running loose all over, passed by and he still didn't notice his wife tells him "The dogs are right here".

3. He really wanted to solve the locked car problem by smashing a window out with a rock, which in hindsight maybe I should have let him as I'm absolutely sure it would have been an entertaining sight.

After leaving Josh to his own devices while he awaited the tow truck, we headed down the trail. It only took about a mile before Justin realized he just didn't have it in him today, regardless how much he wanted to ride. So we looped back, dropped Justin off at the truck and Linda, Jill and I continued to ride a bit more.

A steep, loose climb that I had trouble making on the singlespeed had Jill and Linda walking. I hit the apex of the climb, then turned around to help them up when Linda snapped this pic that we all laughed about for a good time.

More weekend photos with Justin & Linda

Friday we headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking and sightseeing. We hit the Alluvial Falls area briefly, then headed down to the Bear Lake area. We hiked up to Bear Lake, then up to Nymph Lake, followed by Dream Lake and finally Emerald Lake. Not content with that alone, we headed up the climb to Alberta Falls before heading over to Fort Collins.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A good excuse for a great meal

After earning our dinner up in Nederland Thursday afternoon, it was time for a reward. Dinner in Boulder on Thursday night can mean only one thing, Chicken Juliana at Pasta Jay's. Easily my favorite thing to eat in the entire town of Boulder, I have to limit my intake of the rich but oh so delicious dish.

After we stuffed ourselves, we toured up and down Pearl St., where Jill tried on a goofy hat which has become somewhat of a tradition for us. Hit a few shops, then headed back to the car for a driving tour up Flagstaff to the overlooks above the Flatirons.

After some bowling on the Wii, we called it a night and headed to bed to get some sleep. We've got a full agenda planned for Justin & Linda, and Friday would have us in Rocky Mountain National Park for a full day of hiking.

"Welcome Fatlanders!"

Jill was sending an email to her brother Justin & his wife Linda about what they wanted to do when they visited. Unfortunately, she left an "l" out of "flatlanders" and the result was a less than flattering adjective. So the last couple of days, Linda has given Jill plenty of grief about being a "fatlander" as we've drug the pair all across the Front Range.

The Alaska bound duo showed up Wednesday night in time to grab some dinner, gab a bit and then get some sleep after a long day in the car. Not cutting these "flatlanders" any break, Thursday morning we took them for their first mountain bike in years. With some borrowing and tapping into my own personal "fleet" of bikes, we had everyone outfitted with bikes and the required helmets.

We headed up to Nederland, home of the Frozen Dead Guy, for some West Mag goodness. West Mag is a fun trail with minimal climbing, with the downside being that it resides at 9,200 feet which is about 10x the elevation that they have been living at for the last year or so.

After boo-hooing about the Oklahoma heat and humidity last week, I felt completely redeemed on Thursday as we hit the West Mag trails. Dressed in a Smartwool long sleeve shirt & shorts, I was pretty comfortable despite the blowing Chinook winds and snow flurries. Yep that's right, snow flurries in mid-June. Home again home again...

We hit the trail and J&L did very well, much better than expected. I had given Justin the keys to Betty the Yeti, while I took the singlespeed. I was pretty impressed to see Justin taking the rocky lines on the trail and grinding his way right up the climbs. Linda too was making climbs that I didn't expect she'd even attempt to climb. We moved along a good pace, having a good time just hanging out together.

The only drama was when we came we approached the first of several downed log crossings. I've been encouraging Jill to ride these, as I've felt they were small enough she could get over them pretty easily. I rode it, then Justin promptly followed suite and went right over it. Linda bravely tried her hand at it, and promptly endoed pretty good but hopped right up unscathed. We remounted and headed off, although Linda was lagging behind to give that log another shot. The 2nd time evidently didn't go as well and she did the full over the bars treatment but again hopped up unscathed thankfully.

As we started to near the end of our planned loop, the weather started deteriorating even further. The high winds continued, but the snow flurries intensified. Temps were in the mid 40s, coupled with the wind and snow, made for a chilly sprint back to the truck. As we loaded the group was all smiles, but ready to be done.

* - Photo credits to Linda

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It is easy being green

Conservative or Liberal affiliations aside, I think most people will agree that Global Warming is something real that is happening. Jill and I have been making a concerted effort to do more to help out, such as recycling more and using compact fluorescent bulbs in most our fixtures.

One of the things we've been wanting to do is use our bikes to commute around Longmont more often. We've got a great network of bike lanes, paths and side streets that allow us to navigate the city quickly and easily without having to be buzzed by cars all day. Nancy the Niner was bought with the promise to Jill that we'd ride to dinners instead of drive when the weather was conducive, which is about 90% of the time around here.

So tonight with the lure of a free burrito at Chipotle (food drive promotion where you got a burrito free with a food dontation), we set off on our bikes across town in search of some dinner. The weather was quite nice, mid 70s with overcast skies and a light wind made the ride quite nice.

Upon hitting Chipotle it was clear that I'd be 0 for 2 on the free burrito, as much like lunch the line was out the door and around the side of the restaurant. So on to plan B, which was to ride down the road to Old Chicago for some pepperoni rolls and a calzone.

After dinner, we hit the mall for a quick bit of shopping then headed home. We wound our way through neighborhoods picking and choosing our route carefully as to minimize the amount of climbing we had to do on a full stomach. Upon returning to the house, I felt great and really enjoyed mixing two things I love, biking and eating. So as the Summer months get here our goal is to ride more and drive less, which is good for the wallet and environment.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Humidity Hundred (aka Tulsa Tough 100)

Nothing brings you back down off your high horse like taking yourself out of your element and trying to go bigger than you've gone before. Long ago, I told my buddy Jason that I'd come ride the Tulsa Tough 100 with him, as riding a 100 mile route solo is much more difficult than riding with someone else.

So I headed from the cool, dry mountain filled landscape here on the Front Range for the swamp I used to call home. Immediately when I got out of the car, the humidity hit me. I almost found it comical how much I noticed the humidity when it was a unnoticeable fact of life for 25+ years. The air in CO is ultra thin, but its not dripping with water like the Oklahoma soup.

The Tulsa Tough was more a pit stop for me this year, not a goal and I had no real expectations except my "higher than thou" thin air cloudy vision that Oklahoma centuries would be easy for me. Oklahoma doesn't have climbing. Oklahoma doesn't have the pro roadie scene like Boulder county. Oklahoma doesn't have me in it anymore.

Brandt and I rolled out of his house for a leisurely 3 mile ride to the start. It was my idea to ride as to not have to worry about parking. I believe my quote was "Its only 3 miles". The start featured a 3+ mile roll out behind a pace car before the ride was underway. Brandt had conveyed his plan to me to "stay in Zone 2 for the 1st half of the race", no problem I thought. Well it took me about 5 miles in before I got really tired of all the recumbent riders and tandems who would blow by everyone on the downhills and then hold up traffic on the uphills. A short conversation later, and Zone 2 was a distant memory that we wouldn't be seeing for a lot of miles.

We hopped on a couple of pacelines and our speeds (and heart rates) were high. Miles clicked away and we were shattering the pace we needed to be carrying to finish in sub 6 hour finish time. At the 50 mile mark we were averaging 19.3 miles per hour, a pace that was way too high for us to sustain.

And then problems started...

I had been cautiously watching my heart rate monitor, and even when I felt like I was going easier my heart rate was alarmingly high. I couldn't really understand it, but I knew it wasn't good. My body was having such a hard time cooling itself, that it was working overtime. Here in CO, when my heart is beating 175bpm and above, I can't talk freely but in Oklahoma my heart was even higher than that but I could speak freely. It wasn't aerobic difficulty and my legs never felt like lactic acid built up, but I was working way too hard for my output.

Around mile 62 we stopped at a rest stop, which I thought was just in time. My calves, hamstrings, quads all felt like they were about to cramp up. I was right on the edge of what I expected to be "locked up" cramps. I was taking in water like crazy, eating GU and carbs while grabbing bananas at every rest stop but it wasn't working.

As we left the rest stop, we turned a corner and found a small climb. The combination of climbing and the stopped time shut my right hamstring down. I had to stop suddenly and yell ahead to Brandt who had dropped me on the climb. I expected my day was done, as I could barely walk. Brandt circled back and I limped up and down the road while trying to determine if I could continue. At this point, I honestly thought I had no chance to finish. I hopped back on the bike, carefully monitoring my output and taking it very easy and things were somewhat working.

From that point on, I couldn't push my output at all. Even on the smallest climbs, I was forced to drop to my small ring and nurse it up the hills. The new, skinny Brandt looked great on the climbs all day and his 140lbs dropped me on just about every climb we did, seemingly with ease. My added size paid dividends on the downhills, as I'd motor away using gravity to my advantage. Brandt & I proved to be pretty much polar opposites for much of the day. When I would be feeling up, he would be suffering and vice versa. On steep, short climbs he would be ahead. On longer, gradual stuff I felt more at home. Strangely, these opposing strengths and weaknesses would play out well helping both of us finish this century.

At mile 92, an angel at an oasis (OK maybe it was just a volunteer at an aid station) gave me some electrolyte tablets. These made me almost instantly feel better. I still couldn't dig deep and push my legs, but the constant on the verge of cramping feeling had at least subsided for now.

We knocked out 5 or 6 miles in workman like fashion, and the end was in sight, or so we thought. Somewhere along the way we missed a turn, a mistake that would have normally been noticed quickly. However, our missed turn had put us back on the course we had ridden earlier in the day making the markings on the road deceiving. As we passed 99 miles on the odometer we were motoring past the "Welcome to Osage County" sign. Not good as we needed to be in Tulsa county. Thankfully Brandt yelled up at me and we looked at the GPS and discussed our options. We backtracked for a bit and then just took the first available route to the somewhat distant skyline of Tulsa.

The unfortunate part of the route choice was the it was marked with more and more rolling hills. All day long we labored up and down in rapid succession, nothing like the sustained 6% grades I'm getting so used to here in Colorado. Completely demoralized and just ready to be done, we somehow found our way back to downtown Tulsa. We finally picked our way around the crit barriers and managed somehow to stumble into the finish line, where Jason's wife Jennifer was waiting and cheering us on. We rambled across in 6 hour 15 minutes, about 25 minutes slower than what we should have finished if we would have taken the almost all downhill route to the finish we should have been on.

So we finished, completely deflated but both first time century finishers. It was considerably harder than I ever expected, and I did pretty much everything I could have done wrong.

I severely underestimated the heat/humidity factor. (It was 92 deg. and about 75% humidity at finish time)
I let us get out way too fast in order to get away from the masses.
I quit riding the road bike and started doing mainly mountain bikes.
I stayed up till 1am the night before the race.

Yep, I totally underestimated the course and conditions. I'm quite pleased that given all my oversights and cockiness that I finished, as 1/2 way through I thought that would be impossible. I felt really bad that I had led us off course and cost Brandt his sub 6 hour finish he was aiming for, but I still don't know where we missed the turn. It was a good excuse to get back to Oklahoma and hang out with all my old friends that I miss dearly, but I couldn't wait to get back to Colorado and the low humidity and 70 deg high temps.

So kudos to Brandt for being well prepared, he was the stronger of the two of us. Of course next time we do one of these I'm going to make you come out here. I drank somewhere between 12-14 20oz bottles full of water/gatorade throughout the course, ate 3 or 4 bananas, lots of GU and still lost a lot of weight. Even after drinking three more bottles of water, a Dr. Pepper and eating an entire sleeve of crackers on the way back to Oklahoma City, I had dropped somewhere between 11-14lbs, a pretty alarming number. I was weighing 189 fully clothed with shoes, wallet, cell phone.

We ended up putting in about 110 miles total on the day, and managed to squeeze out about 4,000 feet of climbing (pretty impressive considering Oklahoma is flat!). The climbing is comparable to what I do in 50-60 miles here in CO, but the sawblade pattern of the elevation is definitely not what I'm used to.