Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Jan 28, 2013

Shouldering the fall - and the fun

Another warm weekend with nothing to do but ride my bike. Awesome! I was even luckier that Nick wasn't riding with the guys on Saturday and could ride with me. We both wanted something different, so decide to head up to Ute Valley Park. I've only ridden there twice - once many years ago when rocks scared me and during The Dirty Du Duathlon last year. Way back when, Nick stuck to the easy trails so I wouldn't kill him and the race just used the outer perimeter trail. So I really didn't know what to expect in this ride. I asked if I could ride my HT - wanting the power numbers for a least one ride this weekend. Nick didn't say no, so I took that as a yes. The ride got off to a bad start when I realized I hadn't charged my Gamin and had no battery left (first world problems for sure). So after a delay to push as much power as I could and hopefully get all three hours of riding, we finally headed out.

Nick had the route all planned in his mind - Santa Fe north, then cut into Ute on the eastern end. We made good time heading north, managing to dodge all the other trail users. Once in Ute, it was all singlet track fun. Nick loves riding the rocks and technical stuff and he's gradually making our rides harder as I progress. I was a little out of it to start and slid our twice in the sand - having to unclip to prevent a fall. We took some new trails I didn't even know existed in the park. I was having fun, but riding slow - I would have had more fun with some suspension! Lots of talking to myself, but I managed to ride the first big rock drop without too many issues. Passed a lady with a dog that yapped at me in the middle of the park, and back into the trees. We did a small loop around on some of the main and smaller trails. I was working hard to keep up with Nick, but every time we crested a hill or hit some rocks, he was gone. As a result, when we looped back around into the center of the park, I was a bit behind him. And that distance would be more important then I realized. He passed a guy hiking, who stepped to the side of the trail. But I was far enough behind that the hiker stepped back into the trail. I swerved to avoid him and hit something. I think it was a sturdy tree branch, but not sure. Whatever it was, it enough to stop my bike. I however kept moving forward. Head over heels, supermaning towards the ground. I managed to tuck a little, but my right shoulder took the brunt of the impact. Nick didn't even see the crash - he was yards up the trail. After a quick shake up and check of my brakes, I went chasing after Nick. My shoulder hurt like heck, but it didn't hurt to ride. So we continued our explorations of Ute. I was a little shooken up, but did my best on the technical stuff. My shoulder ached every time I tried pulling my front tire into a wheelie or hopping my rear tire over a rock. One more big rock drop - which Nick gunned it to get ahead of some kids on big down hill bikes. I followed along, trying to be smooth and fluid over the rocks. It was all rollable, but I was still pretty nervous going down. Then out of the park to start heading home.

More trails I didn't know about - these in the Garden of the Gods. Yes, there are some legal mountain biking trails in the park, traversing the ridge west of Rock Ledge Ranch. I'm not sure how many trails are in that area, but the one we rode was pretty fun. I was just getting really tired, my shoulder really hurting and loosing some of my ability to throw my bike around. We still had to get through Red Rocks to get home and I wasn't looking forward to that. Luckily, Nick knew my shoulder was starting to really hurt and took the easiest single track route through Red Rocks. I think the pain in my shoulder was affecting my riding more then the fatigue from chasing Nick. I tried the big line on the rocks near the end of the Hogs Back, but didn't make it - cheated to the right and got stuck. Ugh. At least we were almost home. A few more water bars and railroad ties in Bear Creek to deal with, then I could ice my shoulder and assess the damage.

It didn't feel like anything was broken, but plenty of movements - including getting my shirt on and off - hurt so bad. It was nearly impossible to get my sports bra off! And I'd broken my helmet in the crash... Time for a new lid! With all if that, I was pretty sure I would be stuck on the trainer Sunday. I could ride, but didn't want to stress things. But warm weather and sunshine make people do stupid things. When I woke up Sunday, my shoulder ached but felt mostly okay. After Nick offered to bail on his planned ride and ride with me, I decided to heck with the trainer. Let's go find some fun and easy dirt! I might not make the whole ride, but it was better then being stuck inside...

If I look scared, it's because I was focused on NOT crashing! Second attempt at the rock garden...

Don't look at the rocks, don't look at the rocks - riding hard while worrying about crashing isn't easy!
So what does someone the day after a hard crash with a bum shoulder go and do for fun? Head north to Monument and ride Stupid Trail! Fit with the idea of riding that day... But it was great. The trails were fun, I was able to ride most things. There were some sections that I decided to walk through - both up and down - I just didn't have the strength to manhandle the bike up and over some of the bigger rocks and I was very timid going down. I didn't want to crash again and make a bad thing worse. There is so much fun riding up in Monument. We'd only done two hours, barely even touching the bulk of the trails in the lower preserve area. I wanted to keep riding because I was having so much fun, but my shoulder was starting to really tighten up. Add in the fact that I was riding like a wimp in places and it was time to head back to the jeep. And time for a few days off the mountain bike! To the garage I go, to let my shoulder and my psyche heal!
This is more like it - small rocks and smooth trails

Having fun! Can't beat a ride with my husband on fun trails in great weather!

Jan 25, 2013

Playing hooky

After spending most of the last three weeks hiding in the garage for my workouts because of the freezing temperatures, i was looking forward to some sun. Last week, it was so cold I wanted my down coat while doing my workout in the garage! And there had been plenty of other, equally cold days to limit outside activity. With highs projected to be near 60s for Wendesday and Thursday, I knew I was going to take advantage of the weather. But with just starting my new job, it was gonna mean playing hooky. It's a good thing lunch takes forever at my new building! More then enough time to escape for some fun.

Wednesday, as soon as I saw my last patient before lunch, I clocked out and bolted for Palmer Park. I had my bike with me and I was on a mission for some fun in the sun. And it was a great day to play. I didn't ride anything really technical - just meandered around on the easier trails. It was a planned recovery ride, so I didn't even have to push the pace. All I had to do was enjoy myself. Which wasn't hard at all - even on the easy trails I was having a blast. The park was amazingly quiet and I was able to ride a few trails faster then normal. I try to be really polite while riding in Palmer Park - you don't want to be "that cyclist!" The lack of snow, the warm temperatures and the freedom of riding made me appreciate life so much more when I got back to work.

After sleeping through my alarm on Thursday, I decided another long lunch was in order. After all, with the sun coming up and getting nice out, why would I want to run in the chilly dark? I love my morning runs, but the cold gets draining. So sunshine and shorts in January? Yes please! More then made up for the frozen eye lashes in December! I was happy I waited, even though it made the day a little crazy. A nice, relaxed run through Bear Creek and I was ready to face the full moon induced insanity that awaited me!

Speaking of full moon, the night ride last night was one of the best this year. I was expecting it to get freezing once the sun went down - Nick had come home from his ride with frozen hands on Tuesday. But it didn't get cold at all. A stiff wind picked up just as we headed out, but it just kept things mild. It was a smaller group this week, but no less fun. We stopped a couple of times to practice rock gardens, but mostly just rode. It's hard to beat a chill ride with friends, under a near full moon, with spring like temperatures. We might pay for it later (and I know we've had a few frigid nights already) but I will take the warmth and the opportunity to play hooky when it comes!

Jan 21, 2013

Pueblo - Finally!

After our last attempt at a weekend get away to Pueblo State Park, we were a little concerned when we loaded up the Turtle and hit the road. Other then the lingering smell of antifreeze, the camper ran smoothly and we had a smooth drive down. It was already busy in the main parking lot so we just headed to the campground to stake a claim. Once again everything was working well so setting up didn't take much time. Then it was time to ride! Two long days of riding in warm weather, on dry trails with plenty of time for fun, technical and fast.

Saturday was canyon day. Up and down, working the technical skills both directions. I was doing my best to keep up, but to ride smoothly I had to slow down a little. Then rail it to catch back up - so it was hard riding for me. We did Freeride down, up Skull Canyon, down Broken Hip - I made the tight switch back with made me happy. Then up Stonehenge - huh? I didn't think anyone ever rode up Stonehenge! Well, when I looked on Strava, more then a few people rode up Stonehenge. Its not an easy climb, although we did find a fun line in the canyon. I also noticed some more stone sculptures on the east side of the canyon - I never would have seen then riding down. After just over an hour of chasing Nick, I noticed my right clear seemed loose. So while I stopped to tighten it, Nick went to ride a few of the trails l too chicken to ride. I continued on my own for the next hour, sticking to the fun but easier canyon trails. Then we met io for that final hour to ride together again. And the first trail on his agenda was waterfall. I've run down it but never ridden it. Yikes! Stuck in Nick's wheel like glue so I could see his line. But success. I made it down to the bottom without crashing!

One major reason we wanted to camp in Pueblo this weekend was to test some new toys. We just broke down and got a generator for the long camping trips, charge our lights and such and run our fridge. The propane setting on the fridge is so corroded, Nick doesn't trust it. The generator is pretty small, so we also wanted to see if some if our electronics would work with just that. We have an old hot pot and a small electric skillet for cooking in case we run out of propane. But we hasn't really tested either one. During a race, we do more warming up then cooking, so that's what I tested. Warmed up lunch using the electric skillet and hot pot. And while not perfect and not as easy as the propane stove top, it worked just fine. One less worry heading into Arizona.

Sunday was a little cooler, but no less crowded. We got an early start - before the parking lot started filling. I wanted to ride the Limits and I wanted to ride hard. The sooner we were pedaling, the fewer people we'd see out on the trails. It worked out well - we had the trails mostly to ourselves for the first hour and a half. We rode Inner Limits hard, near my endurance race pace. The trail has smoothed out a lot from the first time I'd ridden it, but still bumpy. There's some good climbs on that trail - steep and punchy. Some of the turns are really tight as well - easy to blow if not paying attention. On to Outer Limits and Nick kept the tempo quick. Every time I got close, he wound up his cadance and pulled away. I just kept chasing. It took us less time to ride the slight longer Outer Limits then Inner Limits. We stuck Tri that middle Mesa for a few more trails, watching the gathering crowds of riders heading for Voodoo loop. On our way back from the end of the Detour, we bumped into Lane, Justine and a few other Ascent riders. A short chat, then they rode off west and we continued east. One hour left of riding and it was time for "the fun stuff" as Nick put it. I did have to stop and put air in my rear tire - bounced off a rock and slit the side wall. But thanks to the Stan's sealant - no tube needed. I wasn't as efficient as I could have been with the re-airing process, but got it done. The fun stuff involved another trip down waterfall, sidewinder twice and Stonehenge twice. By the time we headed north for the camper I was done!

We accomplished everything we needed to with this trip - solid riding, tested the electrical stuff and such. It's getting closer and the more we get done now, the better the trip will be.

Jan 16, 2013

Back to Work

The "real" kind of job - the one I went to school for. It's been fun the last  four years, traveling around the country, training hard and not working much. But not working doesn't pay the bills, let alone the expenses for the "fun" stuff. And while I've been lucky with some of the races and making some money on my bike, I'm not at the point where it's a source of income. So I've had my eyes open with the companies I work for - looking for either a part time position with some consistent hours or a flexible full time position. I've been wanting the consistency for a while - both for my sanity and my training. I just do better when I have a set schedule and I use my time better to get things done. It's less stressful to know what days I have to get up early and what days I can sleep in. And less stress means better training, which means better racing.

Well, end of last year I found out that the PT at one of the companies was leaving. And they didn't want a full time 40+ hour PT to replace him. The case load there doesn't support having the full time PTA as well as the full time PT. All they wanted was someone who would be willing to work between 30-32 hours a week, doing the evals, 10th visits and all the rest of the stuff the PT is responsible. That's exactly what I've been wanting. So starting next week, I get to rejoin the working world. I'm looking forward to it - it will be an adjustment for sure - but not getting calls at 5:30 asking me to work will be even nicer.

Jan 11, 2013

Night Time = Fun Time

After freezing my toes, nose, tail and waterbottle last week, the chilly temperatures for this week's night ride seemed practically balmy. It was a quiet night, with clear skies and just a little wind. Perfect for riding! And there was a good group assembled at ProCycling for some fun in Red Rocks. Nick tagged along as chaperone again (I feel better when he's around - having seen some weird things on the trail at night.) With a better sense of where we were heading this time, the group pedaled over to Red Rocks. I picked a route similar to what we'd done the last time in Red Rocks, but staying off some of the harder goat trails in the valleys. We were the only people out riding, but I think the noise of five girls and Nick scared away all the animals! I only saw a few deer on this ride.

Across Codell's with a stop to practice switchbacks. Up the climb to the Hog's Back, then across the Hog's Back. That trail is always fun, but always hard. There's no way to ride through that constant rock garden without redlining a few times! We stopped again to work on one rock section near the south end of the Hog's Back, then kept pedaling. This time, we took Section 16 up to Intemann trail, avoiding some of the snow in the deep valleys. In the dark, Lonna rode a rock section she'd never cleaned before and almost made the steep sandstone climb on Section 16. We didn't stay on Intemann long, choosing to take an easier and not icy trail down to the quarry. But we still climbed up to the "Tunnel of Doom" trail - a fun, switchbacky trail down one of the canyons. Nothing technical, but a few blind drops. It's all rollable, but really scary the first time because the trail just disappears over this edge. After that, it was time to head back to ProCycling and call it a night.
Stacy and Kelly looking at the rock obstacle

Scouting the best line through the rocks
I've said it before, but riding at night really helps sharpen skills. With the darkness enveloping the trees and terrain on either side of the trail, all you see is the here and now. The risks of a rock garden are suddenly lessened because you don't realize what's there. Or if you're following someone and they pick a line, you just hope and pray it's a good one. There might be other lines, but the darkness conceals the options. At the same time, it's a little scary riding at night. Especially on twisty trails where then next corner is a mystery. But that's the thrill. It's been a lot of fun this year, with the weekly night ride. I might miss winter and the return of the afternoon sun this year!
Kelly tackling the rock with Nick spotting her

Jan 7, 2013

Looking Forward

Making resolutions seems so cliché - things painted in broad strokes without real meaning or purpose. I've never been big on resolutions or announcing goals to the world. I much prefer an open minded approach towards life improvement. It's not always about changing personally, but shifting the way you view and interact with the world. I always make goals and identify what I want to improve upon. 2013 will be no different - I have big goals, some personal things to address this year and the usual assortment of things to improve. So here goes - some goals for 2013.

Take more pictures.
I'm always envious of other blogs with well crafted stories and stunning photography. Too often, I have the story but without the pictures to help with visual impact of where we have gone and our adventures. I have a good camera - small enough to carry and it takes good pictures. Even if I only use 85% of the photos, I'm bound to improve the stories I'm telling. So this year, I'm gonna try to bring my camera on all my rides. I just need to convince Nick to stop a little more frequently so I can take some pictures!

Work on my skills.
You don't always realize what you have until someone points it out. I'm very lucky to have a husband who is willing to ride with me (most of the time)  and who wants to help me get stronger, faster and technically smoother. I don't always appreciate the time he spends with me. I get frustrated sometimes, riding over the same rock 20 times or trying to turn in circles for a minute. But it is all important in the long ride. So I need to take more time and get smoother. Fast is good, but horsepower alone usually doesn't win races. (And as I get better, Nick and I can ride more! Win-win!)

Learn my new toy.
A PT wheel for my Fate! A complete surprise and one of the best presents Nick's gotten me. Now that I have the technology, I need to learn how to best utilize it. I don't want to get caught just looking at Training Peaks and what Coach Adam has planned for the workout, then blindly uploading files without the knowledge of what all the data means. That would defeat the purpose of having the power meter. I know the goals of all the workouts - having the data helps me meet those goals. But what does it all mean on the fun rides? That's what I need to start learning so I can ride smarter and faster.

Ignore the phone.
Good about this while riding, but not so much every other time. Not every ding or ring or buzz needs to be addressed that second. It can wait. And while I love following what everyone else is doing, there needs to be some quiet time and some solid limits. Ignoring the phone will improve many things - my recovery, stress levels and the like. Because in the end, what's important is what happens right in front of me. That's what I can do something about, unlike the virtual world.

Get to know the foam roller.
And the yoga mat, and the weights and thera band I have stashed around the house! Cycling is such a linear sport, with little deviation or changes in body position - even on the mountain bike. Adding in some time every day for the foam roller and some solid stretching will improve all areas of my cycling. And hopefully keep any injuries at bay! I'm still running and swimming, but not as much as I was before. So maintaining the flexibility and the cross training is going to be important, especially as the middle of the season comes around.

Those are my resolutions for the year. Five things, not earth shaking, but all things that will improve my riding, my life and my writing. No race goal - not yet anyway. I want to get the season started and my wheels turning before I really start thinking about race goals.

Jan 6, 2013

Weekend - interrupted

We've been bad RV owners this winter. We haven't used the turtle at all since our trip Salida mid October. We haven't done any driving around town this winter! So Saturday morning, when we loaded up bikes and gear for a weekend trip to Lake Pueblo, we were hoping for the best. Unfortunately, that wasn't what we got. Cruising down I-25, just south of Circle and Nick sniffs. "Smell that?" A few seconds later, the smell of radiator fluid fills the cab. Then a small backfire and Nick says "that's it, we're done." We creep along until the S Academy exit where we can safely pull over. The entire engine is steaming now, with billows of white smoke pouring from every opening. Apparently, that was an improvement over the grey purple cloud coming from the tail pipe! We hung out for a while, hoping to limp home on the slower roads. Nick was sure the turtle was dead - cracked engine or something. When we got home, I unpacked and he called his dad, who somehow knew exactly what the problem just off the smoke colors! And he was right! So instead of a relaxing trip, some fun playtime in the canyons, Nick got to fix the turtle.

Talking with some friends mid ride at Red Rocks

But we still got out and rode. We took advantage of the cool temperature and late start to meander our way into Red Rocks. It was a mix of snow and dry trails, and lots of fun. We rode a lot of different trails, exploring the area. Red Rocks is usually so busy that we avoid the main trails on the weekends, but with the setting sun, it was perfect. Cold enough that there was no mud, but warm enough to leave the heavy gloves at home. I still missed the rock slab on Roundup - that thing just scares me. I'm not sure I could figure out where we went, but it was good riding. We did take one side trail that Nick rode - I walked - but he made it look easy in front of two guys who were sure only pro DH riders could make it. Awesome! I also got to watch Nick wipe out in the snow and go sliding on a different trail. That doesn't happen very frequently - usually I'm the one who wipes out!

Sunday we drove the now repaired Turtle to CMSP with plans to ride and run. Well, we got the ride part done. I was slower then molasses and just crawling up every climb. The soft snow didn't help, but again no mud. We stayed on the north side of the park, riding Blackmere, Soaring Kestrel and the other fun trails around the campgrounds. Because I was feeling so sluggish and tired, we spent about 10 minutes in the middle of the ride working on skills. Balance, hopping and multiple steps in a row. Every time I think I'm getting good with my skills, Nick introduces something new and I'm a klutz all over again. Same thing this time - just clumsy with the turning mid hop. As for the run, I opted for an easy mile with Nick. I was still feeling the Rescue Run in my legs!

Nick showing me some things, like hopping while turning at CMSP
Hopefully, that's the only turtle issue we have between now and February. Old Pueblo is getting close and we've gotten spoiled having our home on wheels for 24 hour races.

Jan 4, 2013

Embracing the cold

It only took two pairs of socks, winter shoes, knee warmers under fleece knickers, wool base layer, heavy jacket under Gore jacket and wool gloves under winter mitts. Oh, and a windstopper baclava! Yeah, last night's ride was just a little chilly - started out at 20 and dropped from there. But we are so lucky where we live - instead of dealing with a long climb and hypothermia inducing descent, we headed over the Bear Creek Terrace single track. After meandering through east Beat Creek for a few minutes, we got stopped at the light on 21st street. My bottle was already slushy!

Across the street and we just played around. Took every trail in the area, up and down, working on some technique and smoothness on the dry, crunchy snow. I wasn't fast at all - my legs still feeling the training of the prior three weeks. Nick was just riding away from me on the climbs, but I didn't care. If I rode easy, I was able to ride steady and stay warm. And staying warm was the primary goal! That and enjoying the crisp, cold air. Other then the sounds of tires on snow or gravel, the air was still and silent. Nicks lights glowed in the darkness, illuminating the frozen trails. Worth bundling up for! I could have ridden earlier - in the relative warmth of the sun, but I would have missed the joys of night riding in the winter chill.

After about 1:20 of playing the snow, we finally returned home. My toes were numb despite the warm socks, toe warmers, booties and winter shoes. But everything else was warm - a testament to the quality of our riding clothes. My water bottle hadn't fared as well - it was frozen near solid after our short ride! So much for staying hydrated in the cold air!

Jan 3, 2013

Running for EPCSAR

Ahh, the annual Rescue Run, held in sleet, snow or 30 below. I decided New Years Eve to jump in the 10k race - it seemed perfect Rescue Run weather - freezing cold and snowing. Well, while the temperatures were not quite 30 below on New Year's Day, it was definitely one of the chillier Rescue Runs I've done. But it's always a fun time and supports an organization that does a lot of good and one I hope I never need - the El Paso County Search and Rescue. The Rescue Run is one of the main fundraisers for EPCSAR and serves as a good kick start to the 2013 season.

The cold kept many runners huddled in their cars until moments before the race. As the time ticked closer, herds of people appeared, streaming towards the start. The race actually started a few minutes late because of the numbers. I was up with two Colorado Running Co runner - Amanda and Connilee - and when the fun went off, we started out together. Amanda was doing the 5k, so I wasn't worried about her when she pulled away at the base of the first hill. Connilee was a different matter - I knew she was in the 10k. (And in 2011, on the ice, she won and I placed second.) So when she pulled away, I tried to keep pace. But I knew on that first hill, it would be a tall order.

I settled into the hardest pace my legs would manage - a steady clip on the flats but slow on the hills. I was keeping Connillee close for the first two miles but on the long, gradual climb from yucca flats to the road, the elastic broke. I couldn't maintain the pace to even keep her in sight. And when we merged with the 5k course, it would be impossible to try. Most of the record number of participants must have been in the 5k! There were lots if people walking and enjoying the chilly but otherwise perfect morning. Unfortunately, many of them were also walking three to five abreast and not really paying attention! Hard to get annoyed when someone's out getting some fresh air and exercising though. So I kept my eyes open and threaded my way thru the herd with a smile. At the turn around, Connilee had a good gap on me, but I wasn't a secure in second. I needed to pick up the pace a little. Good thing it was mostly down hill to the finish! I held my position thru to the line, finishing in 44:04. A good time for me, but nothing stellar for that course.

Afterwards came the real test - who had enough clothes to wait for the awards! Luckily, Connilee, Amanda and I did a fun, meandering cool down and didn't have to wait that long at all for the awards. I did have my fleece pants, down coat and boots for the short wait. Congrats to everyone who raced and participated in the brisk and sunny day. And thanks to EPCSAR for all they do in the community!

Jan 1, 2013

2012 in the Rearview Mirror

Everyone says that you should do an end of year - end of season review. I don't normally do that because I sit down and analyze every race right afterwards. But after reading a few other end of year reviews, I realized I was looking at it too narrowly. The year isn't just about the races - it's about the miles, the trails and the adventures. So, in no particular order - some of the best (and a few worst) adventures of 2012

Best 24 Hour Race - 24 Hours in the Sage
You can't beat the party at 24 HitS. The KOA hospitality is on full display, with Dave's Kitchen cooking up some hot food around the clock. Nick and I have raced here four years and each year it just gets better and better. This year was especially memorable because we had a fantastic race. We were both on fire and ready to ride hard. Nick had a smart start lap and then kept the pressure high every other lap. While my fastest lap time was a little slower then last year, I took over two minutes off my average lap times. We finished strong - winning the entire Duo Class out right
Handing off the baton at 24 Hours in the Sage
Photo - Justine Garrett

New Trail of the Year (Long) - Monarch Crest
I had to break the new trail of the year into two classes because we did so much exploring and riding this year. The Monarch Crest trail was so much fun - I'm happy I finally got a chance to ride it. It was a gorgeous setting for a long ride with friends. Technical in spots, but overall just a blast. Distinct segments of trail divided the long down hill - from alpine tundra to a creek side flume trail to undulating single track under the changing aspens. It's no wonder so many people flock to Salida to experience Monarch Crest
At the junction of the CT on the Monarch Crest
Photo - Dan Joseph

New Trail of the Year (short) - Curt Gowdy State Park, Wy
There are oodles of trails and days of riding in this state park west of Cheyenne. We didn't get as much a chance to explore because I was racing in the Xterra. But what we did ride was making Nick giddy. Rocks! Big rocks! Tight single track under the trees! More rocks! It was a feast of technical riding that made the mountain bikers at Xterra Curt Gowdy super happy. I know we just touched chunks of the riding there and I hope we get a chance to head north again this year.
One of the smaller rocks in Curt Gowdy State Park
Photo - Nick Thelen

Worst Race Experience - Battle the Bear, take 1
Throwing in a worst, because I can. I knew that starting Battle the Bear on May 19th was dumb. The trails were already saturated with a night's worth of rain and anyone who's ridden at Bear Creek Lake Park knows what happens - clay. Lots of tire sucking, bike wrecking clay. Maybe if the sky hadn't opened again just after the start, we would have been able to finish the entire race. But the weather won that round. I only made 7 miles of the 60 and pedaled back on the road, drenched to the bone, shivering and covered in mud.

Best Race Experince - Colorado Trail, Breck 100
I have never had as much fun during a race as on the Colorado Trail - once I got to the top, that is. I'd ridden the descent to Dredge twice before, but not in a race situation. With a number plate on my bike and almost empty trails, I was able to test the limits of my skills and my bike. A grin and giggle inducing trip down the switchbacks with hardly anyone around me, through the meadows and under the pine and aspens. I knew I was riding really well down that section as the leaders of the 68 weren't pulling away that fast on the single track. Too bad reality had to set in with the next climb!
Coming down the CT and having a blast
Photo - Mountain Moon Photography

Best Local Fun - Ascent Cycling Series (racing and writing!)
I've off and on raced the local Sand Creek Races for the last few year. This year, I had the privilege of wearing the Sand Creek jersey and writing about the races for Pikes Peak Sports. Five races, one hour of pain each. The Palmer Park races were especially fun, throwing everything Palmer has to offer at us. And I can't beat being able to ride to the race from my house!
Palmer Park under the clouds
Photo - Christian Murdock

Best Camping Trip - Pikes Peak by Bike
Nick's idea, but one that sounded like fun. Ride up Barr Trail and Elk Park on Saturday, camp off Elk Park, then ride up to the road to watch the hill climb on Sunday, and finally ride back home down Barr. Carrying everything we needed for a night at 10,000 on our back and our bikes, we got some weird looks from the hikers that weekend. But it was a great trip up and down, with a quiet night under the stars to boot. I could like that bike packing thing - getting away under my own power. Watching the car race was fun too - the first time I'd done it, despite being a native!
I was doing some hiking on Barr Trail for sure!
Photo - Nick Thelen
Most Epic Ride - Up Jones
There were many rides that fit into this category  But having to audacity to ride UP Jone's Downhill in the middle of December topped them all. Add in the fact that I was riding with some very fast guys and I was in for a long day. But beating the weather and getting one more long day in before snow closed in was worth every minute of climbing. Coming down Pipeline and Seven Bridges also rewarded us for the three hour climb.