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...

Apr 30, 2013

A taste of Whiskey

After a very stressful trip from Colorado Springs to Prescott, we finally rolled into town and got settled. Hotel, unload car and such, then time to ride! We parked near Whiskey Row, stashed our map and cue sheets, then headed off into the woods. Our plan was to pre-ride the 15 proof course, check out some of the single track and get an idea of what we were in for. Neither one if us had any clue at to the terrain, dirt or even riding style of the area. It felt really good to get out of the car and ride, even if the first miles were solid climbing. The in-town turns weren't marked, but the directions were really clear.

We climbed up from the car for over four miles, then turned off the main road and continued climbing on a jeep road. Through a youth camp, across a small stream and more climbing. We knew the course was a little different and a little longer then prior years, but never noticed it. The corners were marked with flags now, negating the need for our directions. After nearly six miles of road and double track climbing, it was time for the first section of single track. So much fun. Flowing and fast with lots of corners and loose rocks. I was just having a blast riding - rolling and climbing, undulating single track through tall pines and across small creeks.. One little techy section on that first chuck of single track - I thought nothing of it at that time. Too soon, we popped out at a trail head. While both the 25 and 50 would cross the road and continue on single track, we turned right and cut up the road. I wanted to see the rest of the trail, but also knew we weren't prepared to ride the entire 25 course. So we stayed on the 15 route, up the road with more climbing. Not hard, just steady. Through a major intersection where some volunteers and spectators would be come race day, then the last chunk of climbing. Finally we reached the overlook. A quick peek at the view and it was time for single track and time for fun. It was an awesome descent - but something that I would have to be wary on during the race. Ride my bike, not race my bike - the track was loose and filled with baby heads and sharp rocks. But if I pushed too hard, I would find myself in the dust, not on my bike. One final kicker of a climb (I would learn it was called Cramp Hill after the race) and a few more fun single track sections. Again, really fun single track and a treat to ride. I was encouraged by the trail and knew I would be looking forward to the end of the race. I also knew that the last few miles would be hard for Nick - we soft pedaled down the blacktop road and he was spun out the entire time.

Apr 19, 2013

Snowflakes and Sunshine

Not the smartest thing I've ever done, but it was certainly fun! At least as fun as a Max interval workout gets....

While we did get some snow on Wednesday, and the wind and cold were more like December weather, I held out hope of getting outside to do my workout Thursday. The trails were muddy but the roads were clear. As long as they stayed clear and the wind didn't pick up, id be good to go. When I drove between my two buildings the sun was shining and it was pretty nice out - just cold. Then the clouds closed in over lunch and snowflakes started flying. Not fair! Nick had the spin bikes in the garage, all ready to go. I was tempted, but knew Coach Adam would want the power numbers for this workout regardless of where I rode. But I tried - texted him and said I was gonna just ride in the garage. Nope - got the text back "power please." So I started to get ready to head to CTS to use the computrainer. Somehow, as I was getting orginized, we decided it was a waste of time to drive over there to ride. So...

We bundled up and headed into the snowflakes. The air was still, with sparkling flakes drifting around us like glitter. Just enough sunshine filtered through the clouds to illuminate the delicate flakes. Without any wind, it felt fairly warm. While I'd planned on staying on the road to keep my bike clean (Nick had just put a new drive train and cleaned up the bike to get it race ready) Nick decided to head into Stratton. The road was clear and it was still decently nice. We decided to just head up the road and continue heading up. Normally I do the recovery downhill so I'm fully ready for the next interval. Neither of us wanted ti turn around and ride downhill though. It wasn't that warm! While on the road, I felt over dressed. On two of the recovery intervals I took off my over gloves and hat. I wasn't getting chilled by staying climbing. We found some mud and snow while climbing up the Chutes. Nick rode ahead of me, riding his own workout. I continued climbing - interval and then recover all the way up and onto the road. And into the wind and snow. The clouds descended, hiding the sun and bringing with them biting cold and snow. And I wasn't even halfway finished! We kept going up Gold Camp, into deepening slush and mud and ever stronger wind. My hands were freezing in my summer gloves and my ears were numb without my hat. Almost finished though. I could suffer for the rest of the workout.

As soon as I finished, we hid from the wind and bundled up. Hat, warm gloves, Gore Jacket. My camelbak was frozen solid. My once clean bike was covered in mud and ice. So much ice in fact that I couldn't shift into my little ring! The cable was covered in a think layer of ice. Luckliy, we were taking Columbine home - only one hill that I'd have to deal with. I wasn't the only one freezing - Nick's hands were numb. He couldn't feel his brakes! Like I said, not the smartest, but still a solid workout - physically and mentally!

Apr 18, 2013

Clouds and Sun

Saturday April 13th - with forcasted highs in the 60s - sounded like a great day to head west into the mountains. But when we woke up, heavy fog blanketed the sky. So much for sunshine all day! Undeterred, we added some more warm clothes to our Osprey packs and pedaled off into the mists. Nick and I were meeting some of the guys for a long day on the bike. Drew rode over to Stratton with us and Shad and Adam J were waiting. The five of us rode straight up the Chutes - taking advantage of the quiet trails. (I aloe think it was because two of them didn't realize there were better ways to get to the top.) I quickly settled into my place for the ride - dangling off the back, pedaling steady to keep them in sight. Riding my Fate, I had the added benifit of my power numbers - I think I was able to do a better job of trying to keep up because I paced myself better. I didn't blow up on the chutes, trying to keep up with them. As a result, when we hit Gold Camp, I was ready to go. A very useful tool - my powermeter, but numbers don't win races or find fun rides. I need to be able to do that my self!
The clouds below Gold Camp Road on 4/13
At the top of the chutes, while Nick, Shad and Drew stripped layers, I was adding toe warmers to my shoes. We were still buried in the clouds with no sun in sight. Despite the steady climbing, my toes were numb. Wool socks and booties were not doing the job for me! After the quick break, we were back to pedaling. Up into the clouds we rode, in and out of the mist. The sun started filtering through the fog, offering brief glimpses of blue sky above us. Hopefully soon, we'd be in the sun. I was doing a decent job of staying on wheels, but Shad and Adam kept picking up the pace. As we crested the singletrack above the collapsed tunnel, the sun finally broke through. We were finally above the clouds, looking down on the blanket of fog draped over the city. A short photo stop, then back to riding. I had to be smart - keep up, but be ready for the coming downhill. And I was. Despite my fitly tires and my lack of suspension, I felt solid on our trip back down into the clouds. Just remember - ride my bike and focus on the basics!

"And my hands are finally warm!"
Sunday April 14th offered another day of riding - this time with Lonna and Melissa from WMBA. With a meeting time of 10:00, I left the house at 9:00. I was going to take the long way to Lonna's house! It had rained for several hours overnight and I knew the Stratton trails were going to be in awesome shape. While I've made fun of Strava many times, I also had my eyes on a QOM in Stratton... I've been close on many attempts - but when I've had good starts, I usually meet hikers or other riders. And I don't want to be one of "those" riders! So I slow down... but today was different. I felt fast, the trail was tacky and there was no one in sight. So I went for it - all the way instead of cutting out two thirds done. After my fun, it was time to meander over to Lonna's for the rest of ride!

We were heading into Red Rocks, hoping to find some of the trails we've ridden at night and see what they really looked like. After a short jaunt on the road, it was on to dirt. With no agenda and really no plan, we just meandered around. Down to Roundup the fun way, up one of the roads, down the "Tunnel of Doom." It wasn't nearly as terrifying during the day! Then time for some exploring. There was a fun trail that I'd only been able to find a few times at night. I wanted to know exactly where it was. Success. I figured out both halves of the trail and where it crossed the road. Now I'll be able to find it again! At the road crossing, we met a large group of little boys and their dads. So cute, the little tiny wheels and super motivated kids ready to find some rocks. And the dads all seemed happy to be out riding with their boys. It was really cool - and I had to stop halfway down the trail to watch them riding.
Lonna approaching one of the rock steps on the Quarry trail

Melissa picking the right line to clean the rocks...

By then, it was time to start heading home. Up and over the quarry, hiking down the stairs. I managed to ride the rest of the trail except for the right hand switchback. Pretty good - I was happy about that. We took the road down and across to Codells. That trail is just fun, no matter what. Along the ridge line, then we climbed back up to 26th street. Lonna and Melissa headed home and I continued up to the hogsback. I took the rock gardens pretty smoothly despite the fatigue, and dropped down to Gold Camp. One more climb, then some fun through Stratton to home. The trails in Stratton were much more crowded and I had to play the "kill them with kindness" card a few times with the hikers. But it was to nice a day and such a fun ride to get annoyed with anyone...

Apr 17, 2013

Being Lazy

I can tell I haven't been very good lately. I've been very lazy about doing yoga, my lifting and my back exercises. I know why I stopped, but haven't a good excuse as to why i never resumed. I was sidelined by my crash way back in January. I couldn't put any weight on my right shoulder, so lifting and yoga was out. And I had been doing so good - finally getting consistant with the off the bike training. But after the crash, I couldn't. And I never got back into the groove with it. I got lazy, sleeping in and not doing my exercises. With the taper and recovery weeks before and after 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, it wasn't much of an issue. But then the training started again. And I noticed right away that I'd been lazy. Wow. Hips tight, neck tight, shoulders stiff and back aching. All things I could have prevented had I just kept at all my off bike workouts. And now, with my first big race coming up, it might be too late. I can't be lazy anymore - there are only two months left until the biggest race of my life. I have to be vigilant before then and maintain all the things I know I need to do....

Apr 16, 2013

My Boston - The World's Marathon

I may be a mountain biker now, but growing up I was a runner. My mother was a runner and she was my inspiration. As a child, I couldn't keep up with her and thought she was super fast. She ran in the 100th Boston Marathon and I knew what my goal would be. When I was old enough, I wanted to run in Boston. And it would be even more special if I was able to run Boston with her. I was lucky - I qualified for the 2000 edition of the Boston Marathon my first attempt. Running a 3:39:55 at the 1999 Walt Disney World Marathon, I was in. Now it was time to get Mom her time - a 4:05 marathon. She hadn't made it at Disney. We tried again at Grandma's marathon, but a foot injury prevented it. After her foot healed, we had enough time. One more shot, the 2000 Desert Classic Marathon. I paced her to a 3:57 marathon and the race officials printed out her race results. Three days before the entry deadline and she was in! We would run the 2000 Boston Marathon together.

And we did - at least up until mile 16. I left her at the start of the hills, running my own race among the thousands. It was my first big city marathon and the number of people left me in awe. I still remember the Welsley girls screaming, the cheers on HeartBreak Hill, the Citgo sign. That small rise just before the final turn onto Boylston street and the huge finish line painted across the road. I finished in 4:13, and then waited for Mom to cross the line. All around runners and family celebrating a lifeline dream - finishing the Boston marathon.

So as usual on Marathon Monday, I made my patients for 2x13 for all their exercises. I explained the extra rep with grin and a laugh - a total of 26 reps. One for every mile of the race. And as usual, my patients all laughed at me, rolled their eyes, but indulged the silly PT. It was like any other marathon Monday. Until the twitter feed changed and the live reports filled the tv screens. Smoke and blood - spectators being rushed away in wheelchairs meant for exhausted runners. The true horror of an attack on the most prestigious sporting event in the country - the Olympics for many runners and a celebration of freedom for the city of Boston. Like so many others who have made the trek from Hopkington to Boston, I calculated my time - where would I have been? Just making the turn. With the finish line in sight. My goal nearly accomplished.

Words cannot express the feelings of shock, horror and anger I felt when I saw the replays. Shock that someone would dare to attack an institution like Boston. An event to bring the world together in the celebration of the human spirit. Horror at the coverage of spectators and runners, their lives forever changed. To be in that spot, at that moment and to have all the vitality granted by running stripped away. And anger that the innocence of the sport I grew up with has been forever changed. Not only were the runners targets, but the thousands of spectators that line the course. The human wall of encouragement that can propel you to the finish line took the brunt of the heartless attack. I have nothing to say - no words change change things. No mindless platitudes can return what as been lost. Thirteen years ago, it was a place of joy. Yesterday - a place of fear. But in the future, joy shall surface again. We are runners - we will join together as we have in the past and reclaim our marathon. For Boston, one step at a time.

Apr 14, 2013

April Showers...

Or the blizzard that fizzled. The forecast last Tuesday had dire predictions on snow, wind and Arctic temperatures. Schools closed early and I was debating doing my intervals inside on Wednesday! But alas for the weatherman, they only got two of the three right. It was bloody cold and the wind was miserable. I really had to bundle up when I was running in the morning - like it was still winter, not the beginning of April. And had we actually gotten snow, it really would have been bad, with the wind and bitter cold. But no snow, so this was the April Blizzard that wasn't. That meant I got to ride outside for my workout...

Still, it was winter cold in Wednesday, so Nick decided we'd do the workout on a different hill the I usually use. Long enough for the intervals, but protected from the biting wind. It was a little steeper of a hill, so I was struggling a little. I've been working on keeping a higher cadance up with my intervals and this hill was steep enough I really couldn't. Not complaining thought - a workout is a workout and the numbers were good. Some good spikes and steady efforts up the hill. I'm also recovering better between each interval so the numbers didn't fall as much as in the past. I was still pedaling squares for a while afterwards, so we didn't dally on the way home. Between the wind and the cold and the fatigue in my legs, I was perfectly happy to follow Nick home. My toes were going numb, even with the toe warmers in my shoes!

Thursday was better - no staid intervals, but race simulation at Bear Creek. I've done the Sand Creek races enough to have a pretty good sense of the courses. We picked a lap, did a practice loop to warm up, then started racing. No waiting around - clouds were threatening over the mountains and sprinkles of rain filled the sky. Wasn't much of a race - Nick and I were the only ones who showed and I was off his wheel right away. Every lap got a little further behind. But he didn't lap me - that was my goal. Just keep the pace high and the pressure on so that Nick didn't lap me. I also needed to ride smooth and smart in all the little rock gardens. Success on all counts - while he put six minutes into me over our five lap race, I was much smoother on the trail. Smooth is fast and fast is smooth. After the hot laps were finished, we went back to practice a few sections since the rain had held off. Especially in a race like the Ascent Series, every second counts. Getting smoother over the rocks will save me time when it counts. Two solid days of riding done - now to get ready for some epic fun on the weekend!

Apr 11, 2013

The Politics of Pedaling

It has been a crazy, kinds stressful week. It all started an email on Friday from USA Cycling regarding a UCI rule I hadn't even heard about until this year - 1.2.019. In short, it says that anyone holding an international racing license is forbidden to race in any non sanctioned events. Well, as a pro mtb racer, I have an international license, so I got one of those emails (Nick, as Cat 1/SS racer did not.) First reaction? What the hell? Second reaction - what is going to happen if I proceed with my schedule as planned? I then sat back and watched social media explode with comments. Some well worded, some dripping with anger and some sarcastic dismissals. All weekend was like that, since the email went out on Friday the 5th.

Then came Monday and the verbal warfare picked up. People had had the entire weekend to think about what they wanted to say and an entire weekend to stew in anger. I kept quiet, watching the riders and race promoters sparing with USA Cycling. I don't know the history of this sport or why so many quality races forgo USAC sanctioning. It's not my place to judge when I don't know the details. But I didn't like the silence on the part of UASC. A stop gap measure of domestic pro mtb license was offered and promptly shot down. After all, while many mtb riders are affected, its more then just the fat tire crowd. This time, roadies and CX racers are also invested in this issue. And they want a solution as well. Big name teams also joined the fray, firing huge salvos at the enforcement of this rule. USAC attempted to return fire, but the response wasn't well thought out and angered more then it appeased. All the while, Nick was telling me not to worry. I was trying not to, but it was hard not to. After all, my first race is one of the biggest non sanctioned events in the country and USAC would be watching.

Today, it appears the verbal push back has won a reprive - at least for this year. The rule will not be enforced until 2014 - to allow time to work out an acceptable enforcement strategy. Many riders are still not happy since this does not address the underlying issues - racers feel like the races they can do are being dictated by the USAC/UCI and race promoters feel like they are being bullied. All I know (which is a lot more then last Friday) is there is a lot of work to be done to satisfy all parties involve. Race promoters have some very good reasons why they want to remain grass roots. Riders want freedom and and well organized events - the the freedom to choose what races they want. USAC needs to help develop the sport. - not stifle it. And for mountain biking, that means high school racing and fun riding.

And I want to test myself against the best in my area of focus. That means a lot of unsanctioned events. This year, I only have one sanctioned event as a focus race! I worked hard to get my Pro upgrade and want to keep it. I want the ability to line up with Georgia or Rebecca or Pua. I might finish DFL in the Pro field at some races, but its the challenge I'm after. And next year, I will do what is necessary to be able to race events that sound fun and fit my lifestyle. I know I am not alone with that choice.

Apr 7, 2013

Back in the Peloton

Back to the skinny tires for Saturday's training ride. Despite subtle hints and outright pleading, Coach Adam insisted that I join the roadies for the Saturday road ride. I offered all kinds of reasons why a mountain bike ride would be better... I would be riding my Fate, we'd have power data. There would be a large crowd and the pack could be sketchy. I hadn't done a road ride in over a year and my skills were a little off. I didn't need to risk a crash and getting injured. But for every good reason why not, Adam had an equally valid reason why I should. So finally I caved and made plans for some skinny tire suffering.

I was very nervous about the ride and did a little longer pre ride cruise to shake things out. Remembering that my pedals only had one side was a big thing! Got to the meeting spot about 9:55 and waited. There were already about 10 people waiting. I knew there would be more coming out of the cracks as roll out approached. Riders appeared in twos and threes and the pack waiting quickly swelled to over 30. Yikes. And that wasn't even including the riders we would absorb as we pedaled out of town. Sure enough, every intersection another three or four riders would join the peloton. It was a huge crowd and everyone was ready to test their legs with some "friendly" competition. Mindful of Adam's advice to stay in the front as much as I could to avoid crashes and of the red light incident last year, I made my way along into the first group of riders. Even along Platte, the pace was high and I was working pretty hard to keep my position. I never had a chance to look and see how big the peloton really was.

And then we made the right hand turn and the racing was on. We were heading south into a head wind and just flying down the road. I knew I would have to take a pull or two to be able to stay in the front of the pack. Amazingly, when I pulled through the first time, I was able to punch through the wind and clear the front wheel of the rider beside me. Immediately pulled over to the resting rotation - but I had pulled through! Really happy about that, but had to focus on the dynamics of the ride and the road. Not everything was getting called out and I'd narrowly missed a few small potholes. Too late, I saw a big pot hole right in front of me - wham! Right into it - lighten up the wheels, pull up the bike a little... Somehow managed to survive that without crashing or wrecking a wheel. I was till in the pointy end of the field, still working with the group. I wasn't a factor or instigator in any attacks, but I was up where I wanted to be and had managed two more short pulls. I was also doing a good job hiding from the wind, trying to stay towards the right of the peloton. So good a job, I forgot about the end of the shoulder (didn't help that again, no one called it out...) Whoops - into the gravel - keep speed up and look for a good opening to hop back into the road... Made it in back onto the road in one piece and with both tires intact.

Getting close to the left turn onto Link and the front of the pack started attacking. I got caught in no man's land just before the turn and didn't latch onto any wheels. I also didn't have a friend (or coach) on a motorcycle giving me a push from the back of the pack all the way to the front group... After the left, I picked up the cadence and put my head down. I was able to get back into the pack - the second group on the road, but I was still in a group! I could also see the lead pack crest the hill -first time for that! I attacked at the bottom of the hill, hoping to get a little bit of a gap. I knew I would get spun out on the descent and wanted that time in the bank. My attack didn't hold and I was in the group at the top. Sure enough, I was spun out by the time we hit the flat and kept drifting further back. Finally, I lost contact with the peloton. Between the railroad tracks and the left turn onto Old Pueblo Rd, a few more riders got tailed off. I was close to making contact with one of the other girls in the group just before the left. No luck - a pickup I'd seen a few times already on the ride was waiting for her. It peeled out onto the road and she tucked right behind the bumper. Free tow for her back into the group, leaving me to battle the wind alone. I made a few attempts to surge up but it wasn't happening. A solo rider against the pack and I was done. No catching back on this time.

I kept riding all the way down to the bridge - the furthest I'd ever gotten on the group road ride. But the guys were still racing and I had no chance. I got dropped hard on the leg back north into Fountain. I couldn't hang at all - and given the huge size of the group, didn't really want to be struggling at the back. I didn't stop at the gas station in Fountain, preceding to ride with a few others to Ft Carson. We were all pretty tired and wanted a break from the super hard (for us) riding. It want until we got to the entrance gate that the size of the peloton dawned on me. Beyond huge! It was larger then the entire field at some of the RMES races! I was mentally game for one more hard interval through Ft Carson, but physically not so much. I couldn't hold wheels, did a few hard surges to catch back on, but burnt myself up doing so. It would be a solo ride for home. I didn't see any of the group again. But overall a solid ride. It's nice to see how much faster I've gotten. The same lead riders, a huge pack and I was able to hang on for longer then ever before. I still don't like the group road ride though!

Apr 3, 2013

More Fun, Starting on Moore Fun!

Sunday. Another perfect day for riding. Nick had the maps and we were heading back to the Mary's loop area. Same parking lot, but heading the other direction. East across Moore Fun, then down into the main parking area before starting back west on Mary's. Steve's loop also called, then who know. It wold depend on how long we wanted to ride! I made sure I hand plenty of water, some really food (more on that later) and clothes in case the weather turned. We were ready to ride and have some fun on Easter Sunday.

The parking lot was almost empty when we arrived. Perfect! I was looking forward to Moore Fun this time around - a chance to test my skills and see how much I would be able to ride. Last time we rode this trail, I did a lot of walking, a lot of whining and generally wasn't happy with Nick for making me ride something so hard. Not this time around. While I still did a bunch of walking, I was quite pleased with the amount I was able to ride. After I got my head on and remembered to focus on the basics, I did pretty good. And the descent down to the main parking area was way more fun this time around. I was grinning, enjoying myself, talking a lot and generally happy to be on my bike. One of those times where the improvement in skills and fitness was obvious - and a big incentive to keep working on skills! There are things I missed that I know I should be able to ride!

Approaching one of the rocks on Moore Fun... All focused on where  I want to go!

Just keep pedaling! Even power, butt on the saddle.... Whew! Made it!

Nick on the same rock, he made it look easy.

After Moore Fun, we headed west on Mary's Loop. Time for some Horsethief action. We got to the drop in and there was a large group walking down. I joined them in picking my way down and around the sandy rocks and steep drops. But one of them was scouting the entrance, looking for the line to try and ride it. Nick also got off his bike to scout the rocks.With plenty of suspension on his Stumpy, he wanted to give it a try. Yikes! A crowd gathered at the base of the drop, everyone waiting to see success or carnage. The other rider went first. He took a left line and made it about halfway down, then stalled trying to repostion his bike to hit the next drop. Oh well. I think the crowd was disappointed there was no carnage  Nick took his shot, taking a right line. Same result as the other rider - hiking down with his bike. I was hoping he would have made it, but happy he was in one piece  Both Nick and the other rider agreed that it wasn't a good day to attempt the entrance - the rocks were covered in fine sand and there wasn't good traction anywhere. Nick did ride the wash near the halfway point on the trail - and the little boy watching was super excited he got to see someone riding that! Me? I walked again. The whole issue with cliffs was coming back...

Nick and the other rider who attempted the entrance to Horsethief  Bench

Our next adventure was on Steve's loop. We took the eastern most drop into Steve's, with another big rock feature. Getting a little tired at this point, I opted to walk down. Another day, I might try to ride that... Steve's was pretty chill, a fun little trail meandering very close to the cliffs. I wasn't having as much issues there because there were no rocks in the trail. I didn't have to worry about bobbling on something and going over the edge. The views from Steve's were good. We were a little closer to the river, below the Kokopelli Trail. Occasionally, I could see riders above us, hugging the edge of the ground. We also climbed above the eastern chunk of the Steve's affording us the ability to look down at the riders making their way around the loop.
The view from Steve's loop - there's a rider down there, right at the point of the trail

Nick taking in the view.

We still had some time left to ride. I'm sure I surprised Nick by asking to try riding Mack Ridge again. I wanted another shot at some of those obstacles. It meant another round on Lion's loop, right along the cliffs, but I was ready for it. I actually rode more of Lion's then the first time - a little more knowledge of the trail and feeling more comfortable near the drops helped. Once we got onto Mack Ridge, it was game time. Focused on the trail, moving the bike around, timing my pedal strokes and keeping my weight on my saddle. It all helped and I was able to ride a lot more then the first attempt. Even on the descent, I was riding more and having more fun doing it. A great way to end a long ride, on some fun single track, with some serious rocks!
It's a long ways down! Working on my tan lines and having fun riding,

Dining with the "Glutard"

That's what Nick calls himself anyway... And this will be a little bit of a rant, so consider yourself warned!

More and more restaurants are catching on - realilzing that people who are gluten intolerent want to be able to eat out with their friends and not worry about getting sick. This was our first trip where it has really been an issue. Before, with the turtle, I was able to make anything - all healthy and gluten free for Nick. It was a simple as cooking at home - just on a smaller scale. Not this time. Although I am pretty dangerous with a microwave and hot pot, sometimes all you want after a hard ride is a pizza. Or a hamburger. But it's more then just food. It's the whole package. Food, drinks, ambiance. And while we got the food at least once, (the other was a little poor - even simple questions like "are the fries cooked in the same oil as the breaded dishes" couldn't be answered. And an extra piece or two of lettuce with the hamburger wouldn't break the bank, would it?) the rest was sorely lacking. If someone is ordering a gluten free pizza, are they really going to get a wheat or barley loaded beer? Not likely. And just because someone is gluten intolerent doesn't automatically mean they like wine. There are plenty of quality, gluten free ciders (not so much on the beer side - that's been a bit hard). Why not offer one on tap or a bottle? Then we'd be like any other group in Fruita, discussing the epic ride over some adult beverages. And we would be happy and more willing to spend money. That brings me to ambiance. If it's so loud the wait staff can't hear a simple question, it's too loud. If I can't hear Nick talking, it's too loud. We are not gonna hang out someplace so uncomfortably loud - especially if there is nothing to drink. It was a little disappointing, trying to eat this weekend. As Fruita is up and coming hotbed of riding and marketing the town heavily, one would hope that people would be at least aware of dietary issues (and acknowledge that there is good money to be made with catering to people with dietary restrictions.)

Apr 2, 2013

Twice the fun of Fruita

Two rides planned for the Saturday meant a really busy day! We got up early and headed out to the North Fruita Desert aka 18 road. No agenda planned for this ride, other then find singletrack and have some fun. The parking lot at 18rd was already busy when we showed up about 9:00 - lots of cars and bikes. We quickly got organized and hit the trails, heading west. At the first intersection, a choice - road or new single track. We had a general idea of where we wanted to go and I more interested in exploring then getting there fast. So on to Zip Off we rode. And it was fun. Undulating single track through the sage and desert. Nothing hard but really cool riding with views of the book cliffs to the north and the monument to the south. It was also a good easy warmup to riding. We reached Western Zippity after a bit and started climbing. Gentle rolling climbing, but there was no mistaking the increasing elevation. We hadn't met another rider yet and were enjoying the peaceful ride. So much in fact we missed a turn and kept climbing! It was only when we got to the road at the northwest side of the desert! Whoops! Wouldn't have been a big deal except we had also had some fun descending down to the road. And now we'd have to climb back up it all.

Nick coming down the steep hill on Edge Loop - We'd have to climb back up it later....
Once we got back on the main trail we found out where all the other riders were. Herds of them heading west. All ages, all kinds of riders. It was really cool to see some of the little kids on their 20" tires just pedaling away, rolling over bumps and rocks. Only issue was we were headed east! Lots of stopping to let the west bound up hill traffic through. And it would only get more crowded as it got later. We opted for Chutes and Ladders to keep heading east. I was looking forward to another try at that trail. I hadn't ridden much the last time we'd rolled through a few years ago. Well, I made more of the climbs and and thought id be able to ride the tight downhill switchbacks. I tried them st least! Made the first one but not the second one. Too much speed and a handful of front brake sent me flying. There would have been blood if I hadn't been wearing my knee warmers! As it was, I smashed the buckle on my left shoe. Nothing holding my heel in place for the rest of the ride! The two straps of Velcro worked, but it wasn't ideal. We finished out Chutes and Ladders, but missed the turnoff to Edge Loop. A huge group was standing in front of the sign... As it was, we were both getting a little fed up with some of the Cat 2 syndromes on display and decided to call it a ride. The parking lot was a mad house when we rolled up, indicating that the craziness on the trails would only get worse. Time to head back to the hotel and chill before our second ride.

Scenery shot! Climbing up into the BookCliffs under bluebird skies

Our second ride was at the Mack's Ridge area, AKA Mary's Loop. We parked in the middle lot, at the end of Mary's and the start of Lion's loop. This time, we had a specific ride planned - out the Kokopelli Trail to the Troy Junction, then continue on Troy back to the road. We wanted to finish the ride on Mack Ridge. These were all trails I hadn't ridden and I was looking forward to the adventure. While the parking lot was full, there were plenty of riders finishing up. We were pretty confident that we'd have most of the trails to ourselves and started down the road. Hitting single track and the trail turned up. Legs a little tired from the earlier ride, I was quickly yards behind Nick. But I was riding smooth and smart - at least on the sections of trail that weren't right on the cliff! It didn't take long for the ground on my left to drop away - 100s of feet down to the Colorado River below. I got a little sketched out at times, bailing on fairly easy technical sections because of the consequences. It wasn't that I couldn't ride through the rock gardens, it was more that fumbling might lead to a really long fall. So I walked a little more then I wanted. Nick kept pretty close so I could keep my eyes on his tires, not on the ledges beside me. The views also made it hard. I kept wanting to look around, take in the stunning surroundings. But that meant taking my eyes off the trail!

One section of Troy that was a little further away from the edge
Fun riding on one of the easier chunks of trail - Troy

Troy Built Loop was even worse with the exposures. There were a few times that the trail was only feet from the edge. I was having a blast riding when we weren't right along the cliff but freaked out every time the trail meandered closer. And on Troy, there were plenty of times we were riding right along the edge, through rock gardens, down step little hills with sharp turns right at the end... I kept talking to myself - eyes on the trail, follow Nick's wheel, breath, relax and ride... While I never really got over the cliffs and ledges, the trail was really cool. We were the only ones riding that section and it was super quiet. Nothing but the faint sounds of the river, the crows calling and our tires on the gravel. We reached the Bridge overlook and debated continuing out on the Kokopelli trail. Between the steep climb on the other side of the creek and the gathering clouds, we decided that it would be smarter to continue out on our planned loop. Finished out the loop, ending on the road. Then came the long, long climb up to Mack's Ridge.

Nick waiting for me in one of the rock features near the end of Troy

Our final section of singletrack for the day - Mack Ridge Trail. On Nick's map of the area, we had to turn left and continue on road at the top of the hill. But we'd passed a sign for Mack Ridge Trail when we'd turned onto Troy. So down the road we went, searching for some more fun to end the day. And Mack Ridge did not disappoint. Both the climb and the descent were legit challenges. I think I only rode about 50% of the climb. I was doing a lot of walking - between never seeing the trail before and being pretty darn tired, I wasn't going to take any chances. I made more then I expected, a combination of talking to myself and focusing on the basics of riding. We finally reached the top of the climb and the trail meandered along the cliff edge. It was a spectacular view, with the Colorado Monument and canyons off in the background illuminated though cloud filtered sun. The reds and greens of the canyon popped against the blue sky, with Nick riding into it. (I didn't get the photo though - Nick didn't know how long the descent was going to take and didn't want to take a chance of getting caught in the threatening storm. Given that I'd seen the waves of rain off in the north while climbing up the road, I couldn't disagree. But I still pouted... There was a short section of road, then the drop back down to the car. Wow. Legit trail. Super fun - I was focused the entire time. Really pleased with the amount I was able to ride, between focusing on my skills, getting my weight back and just riding my bike. I didn't try to keep up with Nick at all, I just picked my own lines and rode my bike. There was one section where I think everyone walked - I saw no tire tracks at all, just foot prints. And given the precipitous cliff at the end of the steep rock drop, I'm not sure how anyone could ride it! One mistake and SAR was going to have some business  Once through that, it was back to more challenging but fun riding. A few things I missed, but it was the best way to finish the day out.

Into the rocks of Mack's Ridge Trail
My turn at the rocks! I didn't make it....

Apr 1, 2013

Lunch time single track

Ahh - mini training camp time. Time to work on tan lines, technical skills and get some awesome hours in the saddle. Our weekend escape wasn't as exotic as Sedona or Moab, but convenient, closes and afforded many opportunities for different trails and fun. First stop on the agenda was a few hours at the Lunch Loops. We rolled out of the parking lot, ready for sunburned and fun dry riding. Nick's goal - find Holy Cross trail and play on some rocks. My goal? Ride as much as I could of the technical stuff and try to keep up!

Sunshine and singletrack with great views - What more could we ask for?

Keeping up was the hard part - coming off a few super easy days and sitting in the car for a bunch of hours left me feeling sluggish and stiff. And a little whiny. We did part of Kid's Meal to warm up and loosen up, which I needed. The snow and muddy trails had kept me off the Era for a few weeks and I was feeling a little twitchy. Always happens on my first ride on that bike after riding the Fate exclusively. But j got over it quickly this time and we were soon climbing. Up Curt's Lane, through the fun twisting switchbacks to the top of the ridgeline. A few moments of crankiness as Nick dropped me easily, then I got over it.

Nick found a rock to play on - actually a feature in the trail
We kept climbing up to the entrance of Holy Cross. Nick appreciated the sign at the entrance - this is a technically challenging trail. Do not modify or bypass any of the features... Yep! I knew I was in for some "fun" riding. And I was right. Nick was in heaven - hard features with consequences, some really challenging rock gardens and some really cool sections. I rode about 60% of the really hard chunks, but chickened out on a bunch of others. Nick showed me a few good lines, but I just wasn't up to it. I reached a few rock gardens and just bailed - off the back of the bike, stomach on my saddle. Nope. Not even gonna try! Nick was loving the dropper post on his Stumpy - I was more than a little jealous as we rode down Holy Cross. It was an awesome trail - can't wait to try it again next year!

Holy Cross - one of the easier sections that I was able to ride. Super fun, super hard

Coming off the rocks, heading into the trees of Holy Cross

After the fun of Holy Cross, we decided to climb up Gunny Loop to the Little Park Trailhead. Oh my. That was a climb! Nothing super hard, but long and unrelenting. I just rode - letting Nick climb away. I knew I had to ride own pace in order to survive. A few loose rock gardens, one really big steep climb and we found ourselves at the top. And with a choice. Take a new trail back down or enjoy the one we'd just climbed. I voted for returning the way we came. I was getting tired and we had a long weekend of fun planned. We knew what was coming by descending back down Gunny loop. So we did - and it was a cool ride. One section Nick cleaned and I thought about - but came to the edge and freaked. Another "nope, don't have the guts to ride this" moment!

Climbing up Gunny Loop. The reward would be coming down later!

A good start to the training camp/get away weekend. Three more days of riding left....