Sep 20, 2016

To the depths of determination - Vapor Trail 125

If I counted up the number of times that I thought about emailing Tom in the two months between Sheep Mountain and Vapor Trail 125, I would run out of fingers. I honestly thought that two months would be plenty of time to recover between races - after all I've done numerous big races stacked close together before and never had an issue. But I was wrong. It took me longer to recover from Sheep Mountain then I had anticipated. I would get on my bike for a long ride or workout and feel great one day and the next day I would be worthless. When even the gravel grind up Gold Camp Road felt like I was climbing Pikes Peak, I knew something wasn't right. A few easy days hoping to get some spark in my legs and nothing. It just wasn't coming back and I knew that I wouldn't be ready come 10:00pm on September 10th. Despite the inner dread I was developing as the race approached, I continued making my plans as if I was 100% and raring to go. Just finishing was lurking in the back of my mind, but I was determined to stick with my goal time. If nothing else, maybe I could mentally con myself into riding fast!


At the start with Nick - hopeful for the best
Photo - Kara Durland

Sep 9, 2016

Nerves

Here they come again - nervousness, the second guessing and worrying if everything I've done will be enough to carry me for 17 hours across the Continental Divide. The Vapor Trail 125 is Saturday - 10:00pm and 45 intrepid souls will head off into the night. This will be my third time riding (racing?) the Vapor Trail and dispite a hard earned veteran status I don't feel as ready as I have in the past.

Why? In prior years, Nick and I spent every free weekend down in Salida, riding almost every inch of the course. From the Colorado Trail to Canyon Creek to Rainbow Trail - we spent many hours scouting. Always fun, but always with a purpose. Learn the course, memorize the descents and mark the climbs. That way nothing would be a surprise come race day. Sure the trails can change a little, but it's nothing like going into the event blind. Not this year - with the exception of one run down Monarch Crest, we have spent no time in Salida. No treks to the summit of Granite mountain for the epic descent of Canyon Creek. No long slogs up Old Monarch Pass. Everything will be new this year - seeing the course through fresh eyes. In some ways that makes me even more excited for the race - but at the same time worried. Will I be able to descend at my full potential without pre riding anything? Will I pace appropriately on the climbs or just go all in and blow up later? Time will tell. 

And why didn't we spend weekends in Salida this year? For the same reason I haven't done a single ride over six hours this year. I had other goals in the middle of the summer that didn't involve riding. That didn't mean I wasn't spending plenty of time out on the trails, getting in the miles and putting in the hours. It just meant I was on foot, rather then on bike. Since one of my big goals this summer was to finish my first 50 mile race (which I did at Sheep Mountain) I wasn't spending my weekend riding. I was running. A lot. A few weekends, I covered nearly 40 miles on foot, in addition to a ride. A lot of miles leading up to a long day. But that also meant I wasn't riding as much as I normally do. So the Salida trips were out - it didn't make much sense to head down there when I had specific running plans and couldn't get the most out of the weekend. Our adventures had us in Buff Creek and Fairplay this year, with an added trip to Utah for good measure.

So here I am, charging my Exposure Lights and making sure I've got my clothes, food and plan dialed when I'm not even sure what to expect. I know endurance is endurance and the strength gained from nearly 12 hours on my feet in July, as well as the training leading up to it should help carry me through the hours of darkness, sunrise and the Monarch Crest Trail. A different kind of endurance, yes - and a different kind of strength. At least the HAB up Granite Mountain should be easy this year!

Aug 29, 2016

Timing it right in Moab

August in Moab conjures one word for me. Hot. It is after all in the destert. There might be the Colorado River right next to town, but it's still a desert. When we decided to finish out our trip in Moab, I was worried about the heat. How would we be able to get some good rides done with temperatures soaring? I figured we'd have to get up early at least once - beat the heat and greet the sun. But when we rolled into Moab, the clouds were already building and rain drops sprinkling from the sky. A little humid, but pleasant. We got the keys to the condo and some grocery shopping done. Finally - a place to cook and be able to eat real food! Being able to cook and eat normally is so important - and it doesn't take more then a few days without that ability to make it even more evident.

Nick's first priority while we were in Moab? Captain Ahab. He loves that trail. He would be happy as a clam just doing laps on that trail all day. I'm starting to like it even more - I get more comfortable with the exposure and drops every time we ride it. This was no exception. I felt a little sluggish on the climb up Hymasa, but smooth on all the rock slabs. Even though I felt slow, it was still one of my better rides up - I was even able to look around and enjoy the views on the climb. Made a few more things on the descent and all around just enjoyed the ride more then I have in the past.
Everything in Moab feels huge. Just a tiny dot of color among the sand stone towers on the Hymasa climb
 After the ride, it was time to start planning. If Cam could make it down from SLC in time, he and Nick were going to ride part of the Mag 7 loop. I would play shuttle bunny and run while I waited for them to finish. Well, Cam didn't make it down - but I still wanted to run. And I really wanted to run at the Moab Brand area. Part of exploring is new trails, and an easy run on the Moab Brand trails would be a great sampler. And it was cloudy out - so I wouldn't be baking in the August sun. Nick joined me and did a shorter run, then waited at the van. I didn't want to worry about a map or getting lost, so I opted for the straight forward North 40 loop. I could repeat the smaller loop at the far end if I wanted to for some extra distance. Perfect choice. For the kind of run I wanted - slightly rolling, some techy stuff but nothing crazy - North 40 was the best trail. Some good rolling climbs, a few slickrock sections and rock gardens, but generally a great trail for running. I wouldn't want to be out there in the middle of the day, but with the cloud cover it was a perfect afternoon run.
Running on the North 40 loop in the Moab Brand trails
 And then came the big decision - it was the end of August. The Whole Enchilada was clear. A shuttle would be running on a Saturday for sure. We usually are in Moab in November or March - and the La Sals are snowed then. And here we were, with the ability to finally do the Whole Enchilada. It would mean not exploring the Grand Mesa at all and having to drive straight home on Sunday. But how could we resist? We couldn't... The condo was available for another night and there was room on the shuttle.

So Saturday morning, bright and early, we found ourselves smushed into a van with 11 other eager riders for the long drive up to Geyser Pass. And it was long. Flat at first, then gradually climbing on pavement, then steeper climbing and finally the turn onto the narrow, winding dirt road that would take us to the top. Out of the desert and into the pine forest of the mountains. It was actually cold when we were getting the bikes unloaded! I didn't need the ice in my pack at that point. We'd both frozen about half the fluid in our hydration bladders - sure it would be a hot day once we hit the UPS section.
Making sure things are working before starting downhill. Trail repairs at the top of Burro Pass!
We were among the first riders heading out onto the trail. It was very much like any Crest shuttle - all the riders sizing each other up and trying to figure out where they would fit in the order. I think Nick just wanted to get going! That initial climb up to Burro Pass was a kick in the pants. I knew it was coming, but wow. Not ready for that steep of a climb so early in the morning! But once we got to the top, the views were incredible and it was mostly down hill from there. I got a chance to take a few photos since Nick needed to air up his dropper post...

View to the east from the top of Burro Pass
And those were the only pictures I took. Once we started down, there was no stopping. The descent off Burro Pass wasn't what I was anticipating at all. Steep, tight switch backs, rocky singletrack and multiple creek crossings. Even in August, Mill Creek was raging. Deeper then I wanted to ride through in a few places! I wasn't as clean on the switchbacks as I wanted to be, but was handling everything else well. Nick was pushing the pace a little since he didn't want to get caught and start yo-yoing with one of the groups right behind us. Which was fine, but I was definitely getting dropped on everything. We almost caught the one guy ahead of us on the Hazzard County climb, but he knew the descent and was able to easily drop us. At the crest of the Hazzard County trail, I should have stopped. The entire Castle Valley laid out below us, red desert with sandstone spires rimmed with  the green of the upper mesa. A stunning view. But there was no stopping! Not with Nick. Hazzard County was a little different - fun but different. More bermy and banked, swooping through scrub oak and brush. Not knowing the trail really kept me in check - it only took a few misjudged twists to make me slow down. After the short double track jaunt on the Kokopelli trail, it was time for UPS. And back to the land of 1000ft exposures! Eyes on the trail - no sight seeing unless stopped....

Last time we rode LPS and Porcupine Rim, it was at the limits of my exposure tolerance. This time? Much better. I still need some work on line reading and slow motion hucking (or hucking in general, honestly...) This time, I was much more comfortable and having fun trying to jump off as many little rock ledges as I could. I was also doing my fair share of searching for the easy line, but most of the time just followed Nick. Down the bumpy, chunky double track of Porcupine Rim and onto the fun singletrack. More exposure, more focus on the trail. The only thing I didn't ride that I wanted to was the waterfall near the end. Nick rode it this time - taking the big line with the foot drop at the end. I saw the slight left switchback to avoid the drop, but chickened out. I should have had Nick come back up and give me a spot so I could try to ride it - but mentally I was worn out. A lot of new trails and trails ridden at faster speeds then normal and my brain was tired. Next time!

And why was it perfect timing? Because Sunday when we woke up, clouds covered the valley. A downpour started just as we began loading the van. The La Sals were completely socked in, getting hammered. Even in Colorado, the Grand Mesa was getting soaked. Chances were that we would have had a miserable time in wet weather had we not stayed that extra day. So the Grand Mesa will have wait for another trip.

Aug 26, 2016

Park City touring

How much of the 400 miles of trails that Park City claims can you cover in two days? Not much really, but we made a valiant effort for sure! After landing in the only campground even close to Park City, we made tentative plans for a big day Wednesday. Two rides on the Park City mountain, one just the two of us and the other a little later with Cam.

The first ride we climbed up Armstrong - and kept climbing up until we hit the Mid-Mountain Trail. So nice having a dedicated climbing trail - just being able to ride without worrying about people coming down at you. We don't have any directional trails here in COS - even if a few should be directional! The Mid-Mountain Trail seemed like a good place to start heading down, or in this case traversing the slopes. So we turned left and started winding in and out of tree and ski slopes. The trail was well manicured, if just a tad dusty. I wasn't able to follow Nick that close because of all the dust. Short little climbs, fast swtichbacked descents. A fun trail and we just kept riding. Eventually, Nick had to pull out the map - we didn't want to end up in Deer Valley! We picked a trail to ride down - missed that one and hopped on another. I think it was John99 or something like that. After a few turns, we found ourselves on a very steep, super dusty trail with some fun little features and tight switchback. It didn't get us back into the resort, but we did pop out just outside of Historic Main street.

We had thought about doing some lift riding - but the lift was moving so slow it would have been faster to just climb back up on our bikes! So we had lunch and waited. When Cam arrived, it was time for another climb up to the Mid-Mountain. This time we took Spiro up - and while Spiro wasn't a one way trail, we were late enough in the afternoon to not really have to worry about riders coming down. Since we'd taken Mid-Mountain to the south last time, we turn right this time. To Canyons resort we were headed. The warning sign as we left Park City ski slopes was funny - no access off the trail for 11 miles, be prepared. And we were.. Mostly! Mid Mountain between Park City and Canyon was fun. Definitely not the smooth, manicured trails on the ski resorts - there were some good rock gardens and techy, traversing riding. All with a view of the million dollar mansions dotting the hillsides. Again, it was so dusty that I couldn't follow the boys close at all. I had to fall back, make my own lines and keep my distance if I wanted to be able to see and breath. We took Mid-Mountain all the way across to Red Coat on the Canyons Resort. Time for some down hill! Red Coat - Insurgent - Ricochet - all the way down to the base of the Canyons. Some of those features on Insurgent were a little interesting! After a quick stop for some sodas, it was an easy pedal on the bike paths back to the vans. One thing Park City does right - it's so easy to get around on the bike paths. The connectivity is out standing.

Thursday was supposed to be an off the bike day for me. So what did we do instead? Went and rode the lifts at Deer Valley! Neither one of us had ever done any lift served biking, so might as well! I will admit to feeling just slightly out of place as we started riding with my "little" bike, spandex and braid. It was definitely a "bro zone" at times between the 7" bikes, coil suspension DH rigs, baggies every where, free flowing testosterone and such. But after the first run, I got over it. The camber can handle almost anything provided the rider is in the right state of mind. Again, super dusty and I was getting some good practice at making my own lines on the slalom-like trails. It was different then we've ridden before - no traversing, no rock gardens. Just slalom switchbacks, jumps, berms and more switchbacks. We alternated between black and blue runs, trying to get a sense of the entire park. But there were two blacks (double black) on the far side that nobody was riding. Why not? Thieves Forest - down hill bike and full armor recommended. Umm - we had neither. Just the camber and the stumpy and light knee and elbow pads. What could go wrong? Nothing on Thieves - I did walk a few of the steeper, rocky switchbacks - I think if I rode it a few more times, I'd be able to get it cleanly. So back up we went - let's try Fireswamp! This time I saw the B-line around the squirrelcage and went for it. Made the b-line and was back in the trail, riding well and pretty happy with myself. Too happy too soon as the rocks decided I needed a reminder of who was in charge! Mental note - if you think you shouldn't wear a watch riding, you probably shouldn't. I was lucky to find all the pieces to put my watch back together later! We did a few more easier runs, then called it a day. Downhilling might not have the effort of trail riding, but it was still pretty hard! I was tired for sure - and we still had a few more days of our Utah trip.

The weather looked good - time to see what fun we could have at the next destination.

Aug 24, 2016

A trip around Utah - Ogden

Why a last minute trip to Ogden? Well, there's a lot of out door industry jobs in Ogden and the city keeps bringing in more. Nick has been looking for a change in work for a number of years and there plenty to choose from along the Salt Lake corridor - but most of them in Ogden. And while I've been out there several times for the Xterra USA championships, we never really explored the city and the trails in town. So without an agenda or an important race, we could spend the time getting a feel of the city.

Of course, any long drive has to be broken up a few times. It's a good thing the North entrance to Klondike Bluffs is really close to the interstate... Nick ran Saturday night, I did yoga on the rocks. And then we rode Sunday before heading up to Ogden.
Nothing like yoga on the rocks to clear the mind
 
Sunset from Klondike Bluffs. A nice quiet evening.

Our goal in Ogden was to find as many in town trails as we could. And while the bike shop we stopped in had some good information, it didn't seem like that many people rode right from in town. Everyone we talked to raved about the Bonneville Shoreline trail and the other "bench trails." They also mentioned Snowbasin and the Skyline trails. So Monday, we decided to take on the Bonneville trail. Nick wasn't keen on the easy traverse just above the city that the south end of the trail offered, so we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. Turns out we'd stumbled along the hardest trail that bikes were allowed on off the south side of the Bonneville trail. Malan Peak. I wasn't riding as much as taking my bike for a nice, steep hike!

At the top of Malan Peak

We reached the summit of the peak and paused to take in the view. The hikers up there though the trail looped back down and round, but weren't sure. So we turned around and wore out some brake pads on the decent. What took nearly an hour to climb was a mere 15 minute plunge back down to the city! It was a good thing we turned around through - the trail actually kept climbing and supposedly connected into one of the trails that when up and over into Snowbasin!

After lunch, it was time for a little more exploring. We decided to run the north section of the Bonneville trail - just a few miles out and back. One of my hottest runs of the year! I usually try to avoid the heat, but since we were trying to cram as much into a few days as we could, that meant running in the full afternoon sun. The trail north of Ogden Canyon was more challenging for sure - plenty of rock gardens, steep little climbs and sharp turns. It was interesting on foot and the heat kept the crowds down. I'm sure that on a nice morning, that trail is jammed packed with hikers, runners and cyclists. Back in the hotel, we spent hours studying the map we'd gotten at the bike store. And despite everything, we couldn't find any other trails in town. Maybe we were missing something, but...

Time to head to the mountains. Instead of Ogden Canyon, which we've driven dozens of times, we decided to take North Ogden Canyon. At the North Ogden Divide, where the Skyline trail crossed, we thought about riding that. Perhaps we should have - but without a good map of the area, we didn't want to get lost on a six hour death march into the unknown. So we went to Snowbasin to ride some of the trails that the Xterra doesn't use. Up Needles Trail - up, up and up some more. Climbing into the sky. I think we may have used part of that trail during one of the years - before the Sardina peak trail was completed. We were just below the lodge, nearly as high as we could get on our bikes.

Almost at the top - Climbing up Needles Trail at SnowBasin
 We took the only down hill only trail back to the base area. Porcupine. It was super dusty, but fun. Different riding then what we have at home for sure! We don't get those long, steep downhills as much as sustained traversing at home. Lots of tight switchbacks and bumpy corners as well.
Halfway down - yep, that's where the swim for the Xterra is!

Moose!!!

Peak-a-boo with the moose - she won...
After finishing the ride, we studied the map for a bit. We were finished with Ogden, having learned what we needed to know. Time to move on. The trip was now about exploring, riding and having fun.