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...

Jul 30, 2013

Ascent Cycling Series #4

For the fourth race in the Ascent Cycling Series, we returned to Cheyenne Mountain State Park for the first time in a few years. A new course with more rocks despite the absence of Medicine Wheel meant a pre-ride was super important. The ProCycling Tuesday Night Mountain Bike Ride headed over for to the park before the race to check things out. We all had fun playing on the rocks and I had some thoughts on the best way to approach the course.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Race

Practicing one of the lines on Cougar's Shadow

Jen V working on the rocks of Boulder Run
I'm always talking to myself and this race was no different. Unfortunatly, Pat from Ascent was right behind me for one lap and got a nice veiw of me yapping aloud. That proved to be my inspiration for the race report. After the race, instead of a formal race report, I traced the four laps I rode through the mantras I use. Breath, flow, relax and ride my bike! Aways good advice...
Talking to Myself
Focused on the trail
Photo - Lydia West
Nick - picking the best line on Coyote Run
Photo - Tim Bergsten

Jul 29, 2013

Specters in the Mist

Sunday. The girls day on the trail out in Salida. After the guys had their fun on the Crest and surrounding trails under bluebird skies, Kathy (Blaine's wife) and were hoping for similarly perfect conditions. We knew we'd have to get up early to avoid fellow trail lovers - when I'd dropped the guys off Saturday, there was a herd of cyclists getting ready to ride. But that was planning for sunny skies. When we woke up Sunday, after a night of intermittent rain, clouds covered the mountains. We were in a spot of sunshine in downtown Salida, but the mountains to the west, north and south were draped in white blankets. It made for a pretty morning, but we were all questioning the weather conditions at the top of the pass. Regardless, we were still riding, so Nick and I loaded our bikes into Blaine's RV and we headed for the clouds. We we treated to a rainbow across the Pass from the rising sun as we drove westward. Then into the mist. There was no visibility at all, with the clouds growing thicker the higher we went. Finally, we reached the summit. There weren't too many other riders gathering amid the fog, so we knew the trails would be quiet. When the shuttle arrived, there were only half the numbers from yesterday. Blaine wished us safe riding and took off - he was in charge of the kids for the day.

Mist meant empty trails and quiet riding - just our tire tracks on the trail
Kathy riding away into the fog
Middle of July and we set off on the Monarch Crest in rain coats, arm warmers and knee warmers. There was a brisk west wind chilling the air every time we broke clear of the trees. The miles of views that made the trail famous were blanketed in heavy mist. But the trail conditions were almost perfect - tight and tacky. The rocks required more finesse because of the moisture and there were plenty of puddles to splash thru. In and out of the tree, traversing the fog covered tundra, climbing higher into the clouds. The only sounds were the wind, our breathing and the tires crunching on the trail. Absolutely alone - hidden from the world and reality. Just me, Nick and Kathy. In places the clouds thinned, opening up brief glimpses of the surrounding mountains. But it was so different then the last time I'd ridden the Crest. Then it had been perfect weather and so crowded on the trails.

Nick got to ride with the ladies - how lucky for him!

Another view of the mist shrouded trees and the bright colors that kept us visible

Silver Creek overlook - the sun was trying to come out!
But even under such adverse conditions, it was beautiful. The trail was a thin brown line in the tundra, with mist coated foliage reaching up on either side. Everything was clean and bright, the colors popping despite the dull skies. The fields were filled with daisies and lupine, the yellows and purples gleaming up close. The trees loomed tight to the trail, a medley of greens and rich browns. The vibrant colors of our rain jackets vanished into the mist, swallowed by clouds. Trees in the distance had a ghostly specter to them - what could be lurking behind the next bend, over the next hill? And then the trail plunged into the trees, the mist dissipated and we were transported from the Colorado High country to another world. The Pacific Northwest perhaps, or even the swamps of Dagobah. We stayed in the thick mists until the drop down to Marshal Pass Road, then the clouds opened slightly with a hint of sunshine. At that point, we caught the only other group on the trail. It happened to be another COS rider, Kervin and some of his friends. Three became six for a brief time as we traversed the Colorado trail between Marshal Pass and Silver Creek.
Focused - dropping down Silver Creek
Stopping to take in the view

Kathy coming down Silver Creek
Then it was time for the descent down Silver Creek. We left Kervin and his group behind as the clouds again closed in. The trail was tricky in the rain, every rock slippery and treacherous. I tried to follow Nick's lines down the singletrack, but needed to ride within my limits. That meant letting Nick go and picking my own track down the slopes. There were a few berms I launched, some rocks I jumped, but mostly it was about staying smart and having fun. I felt comfortable and confident on my Era, steering the bike as smoothly as I could through the tunnels of trees and rocks. Despite the wet roots and rain soaked trails, I was grinning and laughing the entire time. Just not grinning too wide - I didn't want any of that mud splattering into my mouth! We reached the bottom of Silver Creek, waded through the river and re-grouped at the start of Rainbow Trail. There would be no more Rainbows as the clouds opened up and the downpour began again. We quickly pulled out our rain jackets and bundled up for the final push across to 285. It was fun but slimy riding through deep pine forest, down and up steep gulleys. Every few minutes the trail opened up into sparkling green sage fields, the pungent smell filling the air. There might have been clouds and rain, but the scenery and smells of the trail were more vibrant then ever. Worth the soaked toes and mud covered bikes. The mud wasn't an issue at all until that final descent to 285 - the sun came out (finally) and the trail was just dry enough to become slimy clay. I slithered around and finally almost face planted! Mud is good for the skin... Then we were done. All that was left was the blacktop push back to Salida. A wet and gloomy day turned into the perfect chance to escape from the world and experience Colorado trails under a different light.

Muddy bikes meant big smiles when we were finished!

Jul 28, 2013

Solo Salida

Sometimes, adventure is found in the most unexpected locations and even workouts become about the experience instead of the numbers. This weekend was a perfect example. My first plan was to get on the Fate and have my power meter going for this weekend. I'd just gotten it back and was super excited to finally be able to quantify my workouts again. Just in time for the next training block. But Friday when I got home from work, the weekend plans we'd made changed. I was home early and there was a decent group of COS riders heading south. So we loaded up the van and headed south to Salida for a weekend of riding. And with that new plan, the Fate stayed home and I opted for the Era. Full squish was calling despite the Saturday workout! I was going to want the fun bike for Sunday. 

Friday was an easy pedal in the lower Methodist Mountain trails. Nothing fancy, just enough to flush the legs from sitting and work. We met up with Blaine at Riverside Park in downtown Salida to plan the next two days. Nick, Blaine and Fred had a big day planned and I was dropping them off at the top of Monarch Pass to start out their fun. Then it was back to town to start my ride. I had originally wanted to ride up Bear Creek Road for my workout, then ride Rainbow Trail west for a bit before dropping back down into town. Nick and I had done that ride once before and I was confident I could handle it. But Nick didn't like the idea of me being that far out on fairly low use trails on my own. I couldn't convince him I'd be okay, so it was time to study the map some more. And plan B had me staying closer to town, doing my workout on Ute Trail, then playing in the Salida Mountain trails afterwards. Not so far out and more likelyhood of people being around. 

Not a bad place for some intervals!
So after dropping the boys off, I had to drive the van back down to Salida. Then it was time to ride. I had a general sense of where I wanted to go - but wasn't sure of the best way to get there. So I followed two guys up Frontside to the top, then peeled off down the road. No more turns, just pedaling. I started my workout near the end of the black top, with the intent to do the interval, ride down to recover for a bit, then start again. And the road was perfect. A nice steady grade with only a few steep segments and very little traffic. It followed a ravine deep into the hills north east of Salida, meandering among rocks and scrubby pines. I saw more big horn sheep and humming birds during that hour then people! Perfect escape for some suffering and I knew I'd have some fun single track at the end.

View from the road - just me, the hummingbirds and the clouds
After the workout was finished, I stopped at a forest road junction to check in and have a snack. I had Nick's spot with me and he wanted me to check in when I was done. So I behaved, took my time and was just getting ready to head back down the road when I saw the two guys I'd followed up Frontside rolling up the road. Huh. Where were they going? But they weren't being social - a wave was all they could manage. So I pedaled down the road, planning to ride North Backbone into the main park and then drop to the car. Well, plans can be fluid - the next switchback down the road, two more guys were pedaling up. And they were willing to talk. There was a trail off the jeep road where I'd stopped to eat - and they said it was super fun. I wasn't sure, but when they invited me to ride with time, I decided to take the chance.

Nice spot for a snack - I wonder where that road goes....
And the reward was worth it. A little more jeep road climb, then a turn onto a faintly marked single track. That trail was super fun - flowed down and across a gulch descending towards town. There were sweeping turns, built in jumps and plenty of options. I rode my own pace - settling in between the two guys. Smooth but with rocks and some techy stuff. Then a steep little climb up another jeep road to get to the next section of trail. And that one was even better. Grin inducing single track with no major consequences. Every time I got to a rock, I could see the A line and the B line. Usually took the B line - didn't want to take a chance that far out. There were two things I didn't ride - one I tried to, but chickened out and one I just didn't even try. No pride worth wiping out or breaking my bike. Then we were back in Salida Mountain Park and I was on my own to get back. I'm not sure which trail I took, but I was laughing the whole time! Big swooping berms, steep little drops, all cut right into the mountain edge. I could see Salida the whole time, downtown just out of reach across the river. 
Fully loaded since I was riding all alone
After the ride, I decided it was a good time for a run. The guys weren't back yet and it was a nice day. So I stashed my bike, changed into running clothes and started exploring on two feet. Found some nice easy trails and got to see downtown up close. It's a nice little downtown, with lots of shops and restaurants. I counted three bikes shops total! Then the reward for the day - soaking in the Arkansas River while I waited for the guys to finish their ride! Perfect way to cool off and recover for then next days shenanigans! Something fun, something big - Monarch Crest...

Another view of the mountains - a little washed out from the mid-day sun

Jul 23, 2013

Palmer Park at Speed

Wow. I've raced at Palmer Park before, riding through the rocks at speed. But those races have all been on easier trails - with fewer rocks and wider paths. It makes for some false confidence about how well I'm handling the technical riding. Sunday after the Ascent Cycling Cheyenne Mountain State Park race, Nick allowed me to join him, Todd, Cam's dad Doug and his uncle Chris for a tour of the non-race trails of Palmer Park. This was much different then any of races I've ever done - and much harder. And it really showed how I've progressed with my riding. And I saw allowed because he was very hesitant - telling me that it was going to be fast pace with no waiting. I needed to be able to ride my bike and try to keep up. The ride started out easy, then headed to Templeton - and not the sections of any of the races. It was all sections I'd ridden before with Nick, but never fast and never clean. I walk a lot of Templeton usually when we ride that trail. Not this time! If I had been walking, I'd have been lost. Completely lost. I needed to be game on, riding my bike and focused on the trail. And I don't know. Maybe it was performance pressure or maybe I'm actually getting better. There were sections of trail that I have never made before - have tried until frustrated, then gave up in a fit - that I managed to ride. Might not have been pretty, but I made it. Lots of grunts and self talk, but I was still on the bike making forward progress! I think it helped that I was able to follow a few different wheels through some of it, but overall, a great booster on how my technical skills have progressed. Now if only I could actually keep up... I was suffering like I was racing through the whole ride!

Jul 22, 2013

Ascent Cycling Series Race 3

Back to Palmer Park for some more fun. Before the race, I offered some tips on passing over at - after all, everyone needs a refresher now and then. That seemed to be a big hit - either that or it was the classic photos I dragged out of the archives!
In the Passing Lane

Then after the race, it was time to reflect on riding smart, not chasing and staying focused after a mishap. I'd gone down hard, but managed to pull it together to keep riding hard.
Trail Makeup and Staying Focused

And now some photos from Tim Bergsten of Pikes Peak Sports!
Nick racing downhill towards the finish

Singlespeed and focused

I'm not making it look as easy as he did

Eyes on the trail - eyes on the trail

Jul 21, 2013

The Call

I'm a mountain biker, and my husband is also a mountain biker. He often heads off into the woods, high into the mountains with the guys for long, epic rides. Come winter it's time for "Tuesday Night Worlds" when all the fast guys come out to play. I've done some of the trails they do on those rides and wow - it takes me and Nick an hour or more longer to complete the same distance. It's a given that Tuesday is Nick's night and I don't usually see him again until 8:30-9:00. I'm not normally worried - he's riding with other guys and he is also well prepared. Small medical kit, warm clothes, water treatment stuff and a spot tracker for emergencies. He'll occasionally check in with the spot so I know what's going on, but normally I just know the route and who might be joining him. But I also know that one day, I may get a phone call changing everything. 

Well, last week, we got that phone call. But not for Nick - he had bailed on the guys ride to pre-ride the CMSP race course with me and the girls. He wanted to check his gearing and make sure I was comfortable with all the lines on Cougar's Shadow. And it was a super fun ride. For what ever reason, he'd offered to let me drive the van down to the park, but I declined. I still hadn't driven the brown bullet - just not feeling comfortable with the large vehicle. After the ride, I was uploading files to the computer and Nick was warming up supper. Then the phone rang - due to the crappy reception we get at the house,  it was actually the second time Amber had tried calling. This time it went thru. Cam had crashed and the guys were going to try to walk him out. At least that's what they told her. Fred had tried calling Nick multiple times to tell him the real story, but it hasn't gone through. So we jumped in the van, picked Amber up and headed west up the pass. Then Nick got a call from the guys. I have never seen Nick drive that fast up US 24 thru Ute Pass. I knew something was seriously wrong at that point.

We reached the trailhead to see the ambulance and fire responders talking to Blaine - one of the guys on the ride. They were waiting for SAR to arrive so they could figure out the easiest and safest way to get up the trail to where the Todd and Fred waited with Cam, trying to keep him warm with all their spare clothes and even tree branches. Once Nick and Blaine explained the trail, the first responders took them up the Pikes Peak Highway to help them figure out how to get to Cam. Fred had triggered his spot and between that, the cell phone gps and Nick and Blaine's directions they had his location down to about 300 feet. It was just a matter of getting there. That left me and Amber to wait for Daniel - who was walking down with the bikes. And then I would have to drive the van down this narrow little road to a more centrally located place to wait. And wait. And wait some more. It was agonizing, waiting and not knowing anything. All we got were the occasional texts from Nick or Blaine. Once of the longest three hours of our lives. There were four of us in the van - trying to keep things light and keep our minds off the worst case scenarios. 

Then finally - the ambulance coming down the mountain. A short stop to let Amber know where they were going to take Cam and what was going on. Then gone again. Amber followed with Kervin, leaving the other four guys with me and Nick. We dropped them all off, then headed home. A long night and no information about one of our best friends. We wouldn't learn anything until Wednesday morning. When we did hear from Amber it was a collective sigh of relief for Cam. And given everything, he is super lucky. Things could be so much worse...

Things can happen so quickly. Sometimes we are prepared for what is coming, but sometimes there is no preparation that can help. Sometimes we make choices that seem silly at first, but later can be life saving. Why didn't Nick join them? He didn't need to come with us to the park. Maybe things would have been different if Nick had been on that ride - but it's impossible to say if it would have been different for the better or worse. What's done is done - all I know is I will be more prepared when heading out into the mountains. It's impossible to  say if and when someone else will get that call. We are mountain bikers - unfortunately accidents happen on the trail. But that doesn't mean we will stop riding our bikes - danger abounds just walking thru the parking lot to work. It just means we will find our safety in numbers and communicate the plan to everyone. Plain and simple, the mountains and trails that we call our home and playground demand great respect. 

Jul 15, 2013

Weekend fun

Finally feeling like its time for some long rides and adventures. I think I might have been ready sooner if not for the Achilles issues after 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. But that's a part of 24 hour racing, particularly going solo. The cause of the Achilles irritation has been addressed and its feeling a lot better. No tightness and the swollen area in the tendon has gone away. I was really worried about it after the June 26 Ascent race, but after the July 10th fun I was feeling a lot better. The bad thing about behaving and making sure that everything healed up was missing a lot of fun rides. A lot of fun rides and adventures. Sure, we went to Breck for the CTS camp which was awesome, but there were plenty of other trips I passed on. Nick went down to Salida with the guys over the July 4th weekend, and followed it up with another ride in Breck. He invited me on the Breck ride, but I stayed home and behaved. I really wanted to go, but needed to ride easy and be smart. Boo. I love getting to ride new trails. A bike packing trip with the Tall Boys last weekend which I also bailed on. Wanted to go but again, needed to be smart so stayed home and played with the cats.

So come Sunday and Nick is planning a ride with Fred and the gang. I'm planning on riding over and then only doing a short ride - not the whole epic day. I only brought enough food and water for a short ride, so I was honestly planning to behave. But the day was perfect and the ride they had planned sounded fun. And they didn't mind if I tagged along. I left a little early sisnce Fred had one more person coming and they would easily catch me. An easy pedal up over the hog's back - very smooth on that technical section this time - then the gradual climb up Gold Camp. It took longer then I anticipated for them to catch up - but they'd been waiting for a while. The pace picked up a little as we continued climbing. I know they weren't riding hard or fast , but it was a good pace. A quick stop for a snack then time for fun.

And as I had anticipated, I was quickly dropped. I had to walk a few things and was much slower then the guys on the downhill. I did manage to ride more then last time, but I harbor no illusions. I cannot keep up with them on any downhills. On the traverse trail, I again did better - focusing on the trail and flow. I was doing a lot of talking aloud - focus, breath, ride my bike. One small goof up sent me into the dirt, but otherwise a really smooth ride. And well worth misbehaving for - but once again, I forgot the camera - no photos of the fun.

Waking up this morning to low clouds and much needed rain, I was happy I'd misbehaved. We need all this rain, and its the perfect light drizzle, but its no fun to ride in!

Jul 9, 2013

Front Rangers Ride

Last Wednesday, Nick and I were invited to join the Front Rangers for their weekly ride. The Front Rangers is a Colorado Springs base junior cycling team with athletes focusing on the both the road and mountain side of the sport. We met up with the mountain team to go over some skills like passing and switchbacks and generally just have fun on two wheels. It was awesome to see so many kids ready to ride and learn. So many different skill levels, different bikes and different ages, but all eager to hit the single track. Nick took the faster group and I hung back with the b group, but we all got practice on some of the gravelly trails of Cheyenne Canyon. Mostly photos!
Nick talking with the kids, reviewing passing and being polite on the trail

A stop on Chamberlin for some practice - that darn little root just at the start of the trail!

Heading up into the woods.

The infamous box drill as prep for Columbine. I remember that box drill - I used to hate it!

Jul 2, 2013

Racing on feel

It's only fitting. I just finished a post about the gadgets and toys that have invaded riding. Part of it was inspired by my own gadget needing service and how happy I was that I could still race on feel I didn't let the failure affect my race. I use my toys to get the data, but try to keep the riding free from distractions. But I really like uploading the files and seeing the squiggly lines indicated how hard I was working. Even without the power, I can still get plenty of information about how I'm racing and recovering from heart race. I was interested in seeing the data from the race last Wednesday - knowing I was going into the hour less then 100%. I wouldn't have power, but I still had heart rate and such. I could learn a lot from this race, the four laps of pain. So of course, what happened?

I forgot to charge my Garmin. I've been bad about that the last few months - letting it get low and then hoping to finish the workout. I usually catch it before events though - making sure I've got enough battery power to get through. Not this time. I'm getting ready to start my warmup and turn on the Garmin. Buzz.... Low Battery warning fills the screen. I can never remember how much time I've got left when I get that screen - and sometimes I go right to critical battery because I was't paying attention. This was one of those times. The garmin buzzed again and turned off. Well then. Not only was I racing without my power meter - I was racing completely gadget-less! I did have a watch in my car so I was able to at least see how long I'd been riding. But that was it and I had the watch on my wrist so I hardly looked at it. I was racing completely on feel and intuition.

Maybe that's why I raced silly - going out hard with Caroline and Rebecca. I listened to my heart and my mind, not my legs for that first lap and paid for it later. But it was still fun. All I was doing was riding my bike as hard as I could. And that's really the point of a race, right? Ride as hard as I can for as long as I can. I don't need the gadgets to tell me I'm riding hard. But they do help with riding smart. And riding smart often yields more rewards in the long term. I still need to be able to race on feel and make decisions based on physical feeling and not just the gadgets. That's part of racing smart and I've lost a little of that skill. Maybe I'll start throwing the Garmin in my backpackers so I can have both - numbers and riding on feel, in my mind.

Jul 1, 2013

Ascent Cycling Series #2

This time, I offered up some tips for racing in the heat. It was good timing, as the Wednesday temperatures were up into the 90s. I followed my own advice prior to the race, making sure I had plenty of cold water - frozen bottles and electrolytes. Didn't do the ice in the sports bra though!

Looking like I'm having fun - must have been the first lap!
Photo - Tim Bergsten
My race report is also over at Pikes Peak Sports. It was a good race, with some very fast women. Too bad I didn't race smart and remember how tired I really was.

Nick racing hard at Palmer Park
Photo - Tim Bergsten