Transcendence

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...

Sep 29, 2013

Maiden Ride

Okay, so I'd actually had the bike for a week before the "Official" maiden ride. But on Thursday, the Stumpjumper was all mine. I could wipe out and scratch the frame and it wouldn't be an issue. I wouldn't be happy about it - but it could happen. So I picked a trail I don't usually ride (like only three times...), invited Alicia and headed into the hills. Palmer trail and Section 16 was calling our names. It was the perfect trail and a perfect night for a ride. A beautiful quiet day on the trail, despite the full parking lot. We saw only four groups of hikers the entire time. It was also a great Colorado fall day, with a crisp chill to the air and brilliant blue skies. The trees aren't quite changing yet , but the greens and almost golds were vibrant thanks to the recent rains. 

Alicia and I climbed up Palmer trail, maintaining a steady pace the entire time. It's a good climb, no super steep sections and nothing super technical. I tried to keep conversational effort and kept an eye over my shoulder the entire climb. After some major injuries, Alicia is getting her climbing legs back. We're a great duo for riding though, since she schools me on the downhills. Finally, we reached the top. Time for a leadership change - I yielded to Alicia, hoping to be be able to stay close enough to see her lines. For my fourth trip down Section 16, it was a blast. The Stumpy handled the descent like a charm and I was able to throw the Tonka truck wheels around without issues. Having handle bars the right size helped for sure! And while I wasn't able to keep up with Alicia, I made more of the technical sections then before. I just need to remember the fork takes the initial braking and I can't just cram on the brakes anymore!

And I kept the rubber side down, so it was a successful maiden ride. That first crash will happen - I know it.  But until then... I'm going to enjoy my Stumpjumper. I'm not sure why we waited so long to get me a trail bike! 

Sep 27, 2013

Bike love

It's rare that I get a chance to test ride a bike. Out of the five mountain bikes I've gotten in the last few years, I've only gotten on one before we bought it - and that was just for a ride around the parking lot. The rest have been leaps of faith - it looks like it will fit based on geometry, so... I've been lucky with the bikes and only one hasn't fit well. I've been adding bikes to my geometry charts as we've gotten them, so we have a pretty good handle on what will and won't fit, and what we will need to do to get it fit. But with the exception of my Fate, it's all been 26ers. Both Nick and I were hesitant about the sizing of the 29ers and full suspension. They all looked like Tonka trucks with the monster wheels smushed into tiny frames. Even my Fate, a HT looks kinda silly. I could see the future though - few bike companies were making 26er every year, especially in the trail categories. I was also stuck because I wanted a full suspension I could race and something fun for trail riding. A bike that could do both and actually be light enough to race without a huge penalty would break our budget, assuming I could fit on the men's 29ers. The women's bikes were good, but very very heavy and not (yet) race worthy. But having small bikes at demos was rare and I wasn't sure I'd ever get to test ride any of the fun trail or race bikes out there.

Then last week, Nick comes home from ProCycling with a huge surprise. A small Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 29er that I could ride for a week. "Don't get any ideas," he warned me "this is just to make sure you fit and can ride the smalls." He then spent two hours in the garage, getting the bike as close to my Era as we could. Once everything was done, I hopped on. And it fit. Wow. I'd always assumed the men's small would be a little too big and we wouldn't be able to make it fit. And now I was sitting on a 29 Stumpy, ready to ride. And ride I did. Four days in a row, on familiar trails, on new trails and on challenging trails. The bike handled like dream, climbed efficiently and soaked up bumps like a pillow. A live suspension with 30mm more travel made such a difference on the rocky trails. Even without a dropper post, I found myself riding stuff I wouldn't have ridden before. I can't say it was all the bike - I've gotten a lot better over the last few years. Instead of the pause from the brain, the bike simply took the drops. Talk about giggling while riding! I'd never had so much fun riding before. Every ride made me want the bike more, despite Nick's stern warning to not get any ideas. It was a bike I could ride uphill comfortably and then have even more fun going downhill.

Then it came time - Nick took the pedals off, swapped back the saddle and we brought the bike back as promised. My week was up and I had to return the bike. Apparently when we rolled the bike up to the service counter, I looked utterly pathetic and disappointed. We weren't planning on buying a bike. It was just a test ride. But after a hour of discussion and me looking longingly at the bike leaning against the counter, it was decided. Maybe not the smartest of choices, but definitely the one that made me the happiest. A brand new Stumpjumper FSR 29er in my hands. A bike for trail riding and fun days with friends. My Tonka truck machine, with enough travel to make me happy (and dangerous on single track.) The maiden ride (as my own bike) was yesterday and I came home with a huge smile. I just need to get the first crash out of the way now...


Sep 25, 2013

Reflection

I'm not sure what made me think about this, but I started reflecting on everything I've done. Maybe it was reading a thread on Slowtwitch that asked people what races they would do if they didn't have to worry about qualifying, logistics or expenses. And looking over that list, it was "wow - I've done a lot of those races already!" Then I felt a little guilty, because its evident that many people would love to experience even a third of what I've gotten to do. Which makes me feel even guiltier, since I'm not sure I took advantage of what I was able to do. Things were just check marks on the list of things I would do. The history and signifigance of all the events was just a sidenote to me looking for my place. I just assumed I would achieve what wanted, regardless of how crazy it sounded. Most of it I did achieve. Some of it I didn't and and won't at this time. Others I have plenty of time to continue working towards.

But I don't want to make the same mistakes as I work towards my new goals. I don't want to be so focused I miss out on the experience of the journey. Since I'm naturally driven with my training, that's going to be hard. I've gotten better at balancing the needed workouts with just getting out and having fun. Sometimes it's not the numbers that matter, it's riding bikes with friends. It's making the memories of fun times while working hard. I've done enough interesting things and have plenty of fun stories to tell. Most are from the races before I started the blog, but all are from races on the Slowtwitch thread. Escape from Alcatraz, Kona, New York and marathons in all 50 states. I'll reflect on my history, looking at the experiences and fun from traveling the country. Hopefully, I'll also learn from my mistakes and keep this round of adventures fresh, fun and never take what I am doing for granted! Regardless, there will always be new and exciting stories, as well as insight into how I have evolved.

Sep 23, 2013

Bike Packing Fun

BikePacking old school style! With the army bag and the WallyWorld tent...
After a week of straight rain and the subsequent cleaning up from the deluge, it was nice to get away from the world, ride up into the mountains and just chill. Not much riding was involved in this trip, but it was still fun and a super quiet weekend. Nick and I rode with some of his cycling buddies - the Palmer Park TBR crew. I think the funniest part was watching how everyone packed their camping gear. It ranged from me, who had Nick to carry everything to Daniel who was using his huge army bag. But the variety of packing and securing bags to bikes worked for everyone and we had an uneventful ride to the camping spot. After everyone set up camp, it was time for supper and some beverages. If you'd carried up a six pack as well as a large bottle of whiskey, you would be ready for some drinking! It was also funny to watch how everyone cooked food. Nick and I had dehydrated meals and he warmed up the water over the campfire. Drew and Tyler had tiny little stoves and cups to make their meals. Matt used a nice sized pot and kept offering the use of his stove to Nick. Daniel went with his MREs and Duanne? Well, he just brought leftovers in the tupperware!

Gears would make that climb a whole lot easier...

Who needs a fancy ground cloth? That's what picnic table clothes are for!

I ain't eating any of that dehydrated shit - oh no. It's real food for me!

It was surprisingly warm up there as well. The wind picked up and kept the temperatures from dropping, which was nice for me. I get cold really easily when camping. We also got to try out Nick's new tent - large enough for the two of us, but light enough for him to carry alone. And it was really easy to set up and tear down. Since some of the guys had to be home early, we didn't get as much riding done Saturday as we'd hoped, but we got some fun trails in. I think I had the most fun - was carrying the least amount of stuff and was riding a big bike for the first time!

Yep, super easy when the Sherpa (Nick) is carrying everything!

Sep 19, 2013

Seventeen Seconds - Part Three

Ten years ago, I attempted qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials - Seventeen seconds that changed my future. Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Four years is a long time to hang on to a dream - especially when the pursuit of the dream had cost so much physically and emotionally. I still wanted it - but now I was missing 1:17. The trials standard had been lowered to 2:47 and I was already questioning if I could seriously run that fast. After all, 2:48:17 had hurt beyond anything I had ever imagined. I did my research though - the window would be open for one day in 2005, then re-open in mid 2006 until one month before the trial in Boston, 2008. I would rehab and recover well from my surgery and try at the Twin Cities marathon. If that didn't work, I would make one attempt in 2006 and one attempt in 2007. But I'd learned my lesson - no more 90-95 mile weeks, more recovery and actually listening to my body while training. At least that was the plan...

Then I saw an ad for a triathlon in Nevada. An iron distance race that was advertising its self as the "world's most grueling triathlon." I was intrigued. Deep down, I'd already given up on qualifying - when I lined up with some of the really fast runners I looked like a line backer. Twenty pounds too heavy and five inches too short - and no longer willing to run the high mileage everyone said was required for qualifying. But this triathlon - now that looked interesting. I always wanted to do an iron distance race. We were even planning on using Ironman Wisconsin for our Wisconsin marathon. And here was this inaugural event, set in a very pretty and challenging area of the country. Before I even saw the course profile, I was signed up. I wanted to be one of the first to challenge the Silverman course. I was starting to do a few shorter triathlons and really had fun - my swimming background combined with my running led to some solid results. And it was fun. A lot more fun then just running. The final nail was helping my then boy-friend with a 24 hour mountain bike race in 2005. I ran his pit, keeping him and his buddy rolling. I did a little mountain biking on the course, but was terrified of the rocks and didn't ride much. But it looked like fun - like a real challenge. Something more then just running fast for three hours. Something that required both endurance, speed and mental strength, as well as solid prep and planning. As a novice mountain biker, I was sure I'd never do a solo 24 hour race, but I still wanted to try. There was so much more to experience then just running

All that was happening as I was trying to train for Twin Cities. On an unusually humid day in Minneapolis, I lined up, feeling somewhat ready. But in the first mile, I changed my plans. I wasn't ready to run that fast - I would be happy for just running under 3:00. Even that didn't happen as I finished in 3:05, disappointed in my performance. But I had my bike with me. My fiance and I rode around his home town, getting stared at by the locals. They never saw bikes, or spandex or any of that in Park Rapids! I also had Silverman coming up. And I was more excited about that then anything else. Something different - something new. Something challenging. I'd finally seen the course profile and knew I was in for something big.

I loved every minute of that race. Every photo - smiling huge. I had a blast. The swim was awesome, the bike hard as hell and the run a slap in the face. And I wanted more. Silverman would end up becoming one of the primary focuses in my training for the next five years and I'm still sorry that it's no longer around. I wasn't just running anymore and I was having more fun then ever. I was still running marathons - working on finishing the 50 states, but I wasn't trying to run fast. In 2006, I ran 8 marathon going under 3:00 twice. I didn't think about trying to qualify that year. In 2007, I made a final attempt but again blew up spectacularly. And promptly turned my attention to IMWI. If I couldn't run in the trials, I would qualify for Kona. With a fast swim, solid bike and (for me) sub-par run, I met that goal easily. Instead of the trials, 2008 would be the year of the triathlon. I finished three iron distance races that year, including Kona. I decided that I wouldn't worry about marathons anymore and would focus on triathlons.

I would stay in triathlons for a few more years, trying my hand on the Xterra circuit instead of the hyper road scene. I loved the racing and the places I was getting to see. But I was starting to see a side of triathlons I didn't like. I would always return to the long distance racing and riding and find that's where I wanted to be. It would take three years for me to figure that out. All the while watching Nick head out for long, epic days on his mountain bike and wishing I could join in the fun. Especially after racing my first 24 hour race with my husband (the same race I crewed for him at.) There was so much going on and such a fun, low key crowd. That was the turning point.

Finally, in 2012, I'd had enough. I just wanted to ride my bike and be able to do things with my husband, not travel across the country trying to force myself into a square I'd never fit. I turned my back on triathlons to ride ultra distance mountain bike events. And doing so, I found where I belonged. Not among the svelte twigs running marathons. Not among the type A road triathletes. Not among the speedy but technically lacking Xterra athletes. But on real single track - riding up mountains, down mountains, through forests and meadows. My lack of speed suddenly didn't matter as the time stretched out during 24 hour races. It's about finding something that you love, something that you can share with the people in your life. It's not about the racing, it's about the journey that takes you to the starting line. The journey is what's worth doing, worth experiencing. Every new trail, every time I clean a rock garden - it's another step in a life long adventure.

Where would I have been if I'd run seventeen seconds faster in 2003? Good question. I've pondered it many times, but always return to the same answer. Struggling with injuries, trying to hold onto something I never really had? Burnt out and not even wanting to participate in sports? I don't see success or happiness had I qualified - just another back of the pack runner at the end of the day. But because I failed and didn't meet my goals, I was sent onto another path. One that has led me to where I am today. Getting to ride my bike with my husband as he has patiently helped me excel with technical riding. Fun camping trips with amazing single track. Sharing a podium with the man I love at 24 hour races. Sitting among the trees, staring at maps, plotting new adventures. Would I give any of that up for seventeen seconds in 2003?

Hell no!

Sep 17, 2013

Seventeen Seconds - Part Two

Check out part one before reading part two
Seventeen seconds. I'd missed my goal by a mere seventeen seconds.  All that work, the training, for naught. I wanted to collapse to the ground in tears, but the medical personal mistook the disappointment for difficulty breathing and whisked me into the tent. A good thing - I didn't realize how cold it really was - and how little I was wearing. Shivers quickly overtook me, both from the cold and emotional distress. I'd failed. I'd come so close, but I'd failed. Where could I have found those seventeen seconds? It was too early to analyze the race - and I would never really figure out where I lost the time. Maybe the final hill at mile 23. Maybe all the sharp twists and turns between 19 and 23. Who knows - I didn't even want to think about it at that point. It was a long and quiet drive back to Colorado Springs. My legs hurt like I'd never imagined after a marathon. Everything ached and getting into and out of the car was a struggle. 

But at the same time - hope. I wasn't supposed to be that close to the qualifying mark that soon. I was really planning on a 2008 attempt. Not 2004. I was no longer a wannabe joke who hadn't even broken 3:00. I was a legitimate trials hopeful. And with just 17 seconds to drop, there was a chance I could do it before the window closed in March of 2004. It was only September. I had plenty of time to recover properly and then ramp up the training again. I was able to leverage my new status to get entry, status and accommodation for the Austin Marathon. It was one of the last chances for a lot of women seeking that elusive 2:48:00 qualifying time. 

My training for Top of Utah had gone well. I'd averaged between 70 - 95 miles for most of June, July and August with long runs of 22-24 miles. Double days and long, hard workouts. Maybe all I needed was a little more - a little more mileage, a little more speed. I still took one day off a week from running, but the mileage quickly added up, with 17 miles in one day split between two workouts , followed by 10 miles the next day and so on. But while the miles were good and I was hitting the workouts solidly at my goal pace, I wasn't feeling as fresh as I did in July and August. One marathon long run in the beginning of November quickly deteriorated into a stroll through Maryland, adding to the sense of discouragement. A second marathon as a long run at the end of November, the day after a hard workout, came easy, with a nice fast time and renewed my confidence. I was going to do it. I would drop those last 17 seconds and line up in Forest Park, St Louis for the Olympic Marathon Trials. I kept focused on the positive - seeing only the numbers I wanted to for all of December and January as I reached higher and pushed further. Four weeks in a row of touching 100 miles, with an "easy" week of just 80 miles. Looking back at my training logs, I can see it coming. Then, all I saw was the goal - so close yet so far. Everything else, all the other signs - the fatigue, the little aches and pains, the lack of motivation. I ignored it all. I'd never been injured before. It wouldn't happen to me.

When the Austin Marathon finally rolled around, I was ready to be done. I just didn't know it yet - my body had had enough. I pushed it to the edge and kept pushing. Even the taper wasn't enough to pull me out of the depths I dug while training. On a cold day for Austin, after nearly missing the start to the race because of hectic traffic and poorly timed buses, I lined up with the other women seeking that last moment of brilliance. All I wanted was to recreate the magic of September 20th, but find those 17 seconds I'd worked so hard for. The first few miles were crowded and I couldn't get into a smooth rhythm. I was clicking along right at 6:20s, but nothing felt easy. I was already tight and tired. Then the road finally opened up and I was able to run. It was too late. Only ten miles in and I was struggling to hold 6:24 - the minimum I could run and still qualify. I came through the half marathon at 1:23:55 and knew then it was over. I've had good negative split races, but this was not to be. But instead of accepting the inevitable, I kept pushing. I didn't want to give up the dream that easily and feel like a failure. If I was going to fail, it would be epic this time - going down in flames. And it was spectacular. By mile 18, both hamstrings had tightened to the point where I was hardly running. At mile 22, where we paralleled the Colorado River, I could see the finish line on the other side. How easy would it have been to just step off, walk to the hotel and call it a day? At mile 24, I saw not only the 3:00 mark come and go, but the 3:10 mark as well. Hordes of people were passing me as I hobbled along. There were plenty of celebrations at the finish line by other runners as they qualified for Boston. I just wanted to home. I couldn't run, could hardly walk. I'd buried myself with over-training and hadn't even had the chance.

The 2004 trials came and went. I focused on my other goal. The fifty states - instead of running one or two marathons super fast each year, I started running more races. I explored. I had fun. I saw parts of the country I wouldn't have otherwise. Between the end of March and the beginning of May, I ran four more marathons - all of them faster then at Austin. I was regaining my love of running and starting to want to train again. And with the desire to train came the desire to run fast again. A 2:58 marathon at the end of the year on a shredded ankle tendon gave me even more hope. The window for 2008 would open soon and I wanted to be ready. I hadn't given up yet - the time might have dropped to a 2:47 marathon, but I was still willing to try again. Ankle surgery to fix the tendon in my ankle meant a forced down time - which I took as a much needed complete recovery block. I also started looking at other things, allowing my focus to be distracted by sparkling new events and challenges. 

And that's where I'll pick up later! What changes did those missing seventeen seconds end up bringing to my life?

Sep 16, 2013

Seventeen Seconds - Part One

Take a breath - let it out slow and count to 17. How far can you run in that time? 100 yards? 150 yards? Then think about the last 385 yards in a marathon. Now at that point - how far would you go in 17 second? Or think about the prior 26 miles - where could you find the seconds on the course? It's less then half a second per mile. How many times would you replay those last 17 seconds counting away as you attempted to sprint for the finish line?

In every event there are time thresholds that people want to reach. Some of them are for personal satisfaction and for recognition from other athletes. Those tend to be the even number goals, like the sub 3:00 marathon. Others are set by outside parties - the Boston Qualifying times are perfect examples. And then there is the pinnacle of sports, beyond the reach of most athletes but still in the dreams of many. The Olympic Trials. The final step before the Olympics. Back in 2003, the qualifying time for the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials was 2:48:00 for the women. A marathon in an average pace of 6:24 per mile for 26.2 miles.

In 2002, I'd just missed running a sub 3:00 marathon at New York. I'd come agonizingly close, having watched the clock ticking down from two miles away. I finished in 3:00:39 - close enough to taste but far enough away to limit second guessing. But I knew I could run faster - I'd had a far from perfect race. Having run the two big marathons, Boston and New York, I set my sights higher. The Olympic Trials. The only other marathon that required a qualifying time. I was realistic though - taking 12 minutes off my time in less then two years would be nearly impossible. So I looked at the 2008 trials, all the while secretly hoping my training would work magic and I would find myself in St Louis on April 3, 2004. I ran the National Championships on the Trials course in April 2003 and began to seriously entertain thoughts of attempting to qualify for the 2004 trials. With PT school ending and not being able to work until I passed my boards, I had the entire summer to run and recover and get my time down. So that's what I did. I decided to play running bum and focus on studying and running.

The training was going great - I was hitting huge mileage for me and getting my times down both workouts and races. I just had one problem - I needed to choose a marathon. As a not even sub 3:00 runner, calling up or email race directors or elite coordinators was pretty funny - and an exercise in patience. I had narrowed it down to a few choice based on number of other fast runner, race course and running conditions. Finally, I had it down to two races - the Chicago Marathon or the Top of Utah Marathon. Chicago was a proven fast course, with lots of other runners. Two weeks later and usually had perfect running weather. But it was also a big city marathon and I've had issues at all the big city races I've done. Top of Utah - small, well organized and I knew the course having run there once before. But few other super fast runners - I would have to take 10 minutes off the women's course record to meet my goal time. It was also at altitude, but was a generally downhill course. And I run well in downhill events. My choice was made for me by the Chicago Marathon - when I emailed with questions I was bluntly told I would be in the "sub-elite" corral as only invited elites or people who have run faster then 2:45 are in the elite corral. Since I would already be running a fine line, I knew I couldn't sacrifice 15-30s to get across the starting line. Unlike Boston, USATF does not accept chip time for qualifying. So I turned to Top of Utah and fine tuned my training to emphasis downhill running.

Race morning in Logan, Utah dawned crisp and cool. Perfect for running. I had the long bus ride up Blacksmith Fork Canyon to gather my thoughts and prepare. But it was hard - could I really do it? Was I capable of taking 13 minutes off my personal record. Or would I crash and burn spectacularly like I had at New York when I'd started out at a 2:52 pace? It wasn't until the shotgun sent us flying down the canyon that I really settled. Nothing mattered but running - finding the right tangents, keeping the pace smooth and running intelligently. The first 17 miles clicked off according to plan - I was running between 6:15 and 6:20 miles, and felt really strong. We came out of the canyon and two motorcycle cops began the escort. Lead Woman, hopefully Olympic trials qualifier. At 19 miles, we turned off the main highway into the Logan neighborhoods. With 7 miles left, I was feeling confident that I would make it - my mile times were slowing, but still solid. But I forgot to factor in the sudden change in course - from a flowing trek down a canyon to a twisty urban meander to make up the last six miles. The easy, steady pace was transformed into slow for a corner, accelerate back to speed thru multiple 90 degree or steeper turns. And the hills. What had seemed to be small bumps in the road a few years ago were suddenly mountains in my way. I wasn't holding the pace anymore. I was getting passed by men and couldn't keep up with them like before. Physically, I was starting to fall apart. Mentally, I kept pushing, kept lifting the pace until my legs rebelled, then forcing a few more steps. Mile 20 - still below target pace. Mile 21 - inching closer. Mile 22 - 30 seconds to spare. Mile 23 - starting to flail. Mile 24 - footsteps behind me and the motorbikes pulled away as another woman passed me. Mile 25 - I couldn't hold on anymore, couldn't keep the pace and fell away from the leading woman. Mile 26 - where was the line? Turning the corner and seeing the clock counting. Each second agonizing, each footstep bringing me closer. But not close enough. Nothing I did mattered - there was no sprint, no lunge for the line. Just the inexorable sense of failure as I saw the numbers. The cruel ticking of time - waiting for no one.

2:47:56
2:47:57
2:47:58
2:47:59
2:48:00
2:48:01
2:48:02

It was over and I was still steps away.
Part two - coming later this week

Sep 14, 2013

After the Flood


Cheyenne Mountain with a blanket of clouds
It's been quite the week here in Colorado Springs. We got some rain on Tuesday, but really not that much. Wednesday was a little more, but intermittent and it didn't seem that heavy. I got out during on of the sunny parts of the day and did the classic Chutes-Gold Camp-Buckhorn-Jacks-Chutes rides. It had been a while since I'd done that loop straight out and after a rough start it was a really nice ride. And I beat the rain, so I was pretty happy. Little did we know what was coming... It rained all night Wednesday - at times light, but mostly heavy. There was a brief opening in the clouds Thursday morning when I went running, then the deluge continued. I rode inside during the only other sunny part of the day because I didn't know how long the sun would last and I didn't want to get into trouble on the trails. It keep raining all Thursday night, a torrential downpour that left creeks swollen and roads destroyed. All around the state, people were dealing with amounts of water we normally see in a year - not two days. Boulder and points north got hit very hard. Closer to home (two blocks away!) Cheyenne Creek was flooding into Cheyenne Road and everything west was drenched and washed out...
North Cheyenne "creek" Looks more like a river right now!
But how bad? That was the question. So Lonna, Melissa and I played rebel today and dodged Park Rangers and such to find out how bad things really were. We were expecting near total devastation on some of the local trails based on the photos that had come out. In some places, we were pleasantly surprised. In others? Well, it's gonna take a lot of manpower to fix one nights worth of damage. I don't know about all the trails - didn't get a chance to go any further up the Buckhorn and didn't get onto Columbine at all. That will be an adventure for when the water is a little lower. But here's some pictures from the adventure. It was a fun ride and hike - but a little disheartening knowing how much damage has been done.

Melissa and Lonna in a "smaller" rut on High Drive
I'm 5'4" and Lonna is over six feet... That's how deep this rut is!
Not the best photo, but usually that rock has just a trickle of water this time of year - Helen Hunt Falls
Only one spot on Buckhorn was bad - better then we thought!
View of Gold Camp Road - that doesn't look good...
And then we hit the bottom of Jacks - Portage or jump!
The new Jack's River - right down the middle of the trail!
Melissa fording the Jack's River
Well then, this was Gold Camp Road
There's a way around this hole in Gold Camp if you look closely...
It's sad looking at the damage. And for me, it's even sadder since I might have been one of the last people to get to ride that loop. Looking back, I'm happy I got to ride it hard, but I wish I'd been able to enjoy it more. We take what we have for granted so frequently. It's only when it gone do we realize how lucky we are. Walking out the door and having single track within ten minutes - with the ability to do rides of varying distances. A hard, steady climb up Gold Camp, finished with the steep mile that is Buckhorn. The reward - a flowing and fast descent down Jacks. All of that, permanently altered by water. A year's worth of rain in two days. Nearly impossible to fathom. And the damage done in those two days will take months if not years to repair. If ever...

Sep 11, 2013

speeding up nature

While I know that most wild animals ultimately meet their fate roughly and with suffering, it's not something I want to see. Especially when it could have been avoided through two simple actions - controlling a pet or paying attention when behind the wheel. I hope I never have to see what I saw at the start of my ride again. I needed a few minutes to gather myself and ended up riding a lot harder then I'd planned. Simply because I was angry at what happened.

I was pedaling along Cheyenne Blvd, heading west for some fun in Stratton. I knew the trails would be super tacky and was looking forward to a fun ride if I could stay out of the rain. As usual when on the roads, I was paying attention to everything. I'd just seen two deer in someone's front yard, munching on flowers. I'd just gone thru the first of two lights on my way to the parking lot and was waiting for the first cars to pass me. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw something. A fawn, spots just barely faded, running like crazy thru the lawns on the south side of the street. In full on flight mode. That caught my attention and I turned to look at what was scaring the fawn. A huge white husky. Chasing like he was hunting for dinner - with dinner being the frightened fawn. Not sure of what was going on, or where the dog's owners were, I slowed just a little. A white car pulled up alongside of me, the driver absorbed in something. He wasn't paying attention to the drama unfolding on the other side of the road.

Then the drama took a different turn. The fawn turned northwards, leaving the protected environs of the lawns. I saw the fawn bolting into the street. There was no eastbound traffic, leaving only the car beside me and those behind it. Slow motion doesn't describe it. I watched as the fawn, hell bent to get away from the dog - a danger it recognized, only to dash into something far worse. And the thud as it hit the white car, shattering the mirror. It bounced off the side, onto the roof of the car. At my height, only feet from where I was riding. It flailed around on the roof and then slide off the drivers side and collapsed in the middle of the turn lane. I could almost hear it screaming in agony as it struggled to stand, hind legs wobbling and unable to fully support its weight. Finally, it regained its feet, limped across the street - only to collapse again in a lawn. By this time, the owners of the white husky had gotten control of the dog. I saw them talking to a lady with a black dog and a baby stroller, but then they vanished. The driver who hit the fawn went a little further west and turned around. I'm not sure what he was looking for - but he was more upset about the broken mirror then anything else. Then he saw the fawn and walked over - I think to take a picture to prove he'd hit a deer. The fawn, still freaked out and mostly likely suffering from significant internal injuries struggled to its feet and tried to run. I'm not sure how far it made it around the corner. And I'm sure that it won't make it through the night. The sound of impact echoed in my head for my entire ride. That and the realization that it could have been so different. I saw the fawn and had started to slow. But what if it had slid over the car? It would have slid right into me...

It would have been so easy for this to never happen. One - the dog owners actually having control of their animal. Why would you let your dog go chasing after an animal so close to a fairly busy road? If the fawn had made it across the road, the dog might not have. It's just me, but I would hope that people living in the urban wildlife interface would have the intelligence to actually train their animals to ignore the deer - or at least have good verbal control of them. And then there's the driver. I saw the fawn well before it bolted into the road. I know that I'm more aware when on my bike then when driving, but I also drive that stretch of road frequnetly. I know there's deer all over and that I need to be extra careful. I also don't speed through there and usually go a few miles below the speed limit so I have better reaction time. That close to the light, do you really need to be doing almost 40 mph all ready? Had he been aware of his surroundings and actually paying attention to driving, he would have had time to stop - or at least slow so the fawn could have made it across the street.

Sep 10, 2013

Company at Iron City

Our guest - being shy
We stayed at the Iron City Campground this weekend, buried in the trees below St. Elmo. Unlike most camp grounds that are loops off the main roads, Iron City is right on the road! It's not the main road - in fact the minute the campground ends the road quickly becomes rough and tricky. Because the campground was so far from Buena Vista and "civilization" it was pretty quiet. There were a few other groups there, but everyone was anti social. A wave walking to the bathroom and that was about it. Our company consisted of a pair of chipmunks - and not the normal fat campground chipmunks either. These two guys were skittish and not super interested in handouts. They were more interested in the pine nuts and such in the parking area! But if we didn't move, they scampered around like we weren't there. One movement and they were gone in a flash. It was fun to watch them scurrying, stopping and darting around.
This was right before he decided to climb on my foot

Sitting next to Nick's Chair

The other thing that made this camp ground a little unusual was the history around it. Lots of history - from a circa 1880s cabin that could be rented out, to the entire town of St. Elmo. But at the eastern end of the campground, we found something even more unusal. Not too common to have a cemetery inside a campground! Maybe that accounts for all the weird noises and such... Seriously, this was the historic cemetery for St Elmo, Iron City and the surrounding area. Not all the graves are marked with headstones - some just had white wood markers. All were surrounded by rocks, some adult sized, some tiny. Just inside the gates, there was a placard with all the people buried there, including cause of death when known. Lots of mining accidents - one person died of a "gathering behind the ear." It was cool, but a little creepy to wander around the grounds, looking at everything
Fancy entrance to an old cemetery - although it is still in use today. 

The cemetery sign

The list of names - interesting reading, and would be more interesting with a good history book



Sep 9, 2013

Above the sky

View of the ride - looking north on the CDT towards Tincup Pass and more mountains
Well, almost. Nick trusted me with the map again this weekend and we decided to explore a little out of St. Elmo. More scouting and learning things! Not as big a day this time, but plenty of big views, fun single track, tough hills and alpine riding. We started right out of the campground and headed up. No downhills for a while - just up. The north side of Hancock Road is an old railroad bed, so the grade was nice and gentle. Very different then the straight up, hike-a-bike pushing of the south side of Hancock Pass! Every so often, pink flagging marked the course for the Vapor Trail 125, which would start later that evening. We rode by the old trestle, through the abandoned town, taking in huge views the entire time. Then we reached the Alpine Tunnel Trail - take two on the steep hike-a-bike to cross over the Continental Divide! Nick rode most of it - only had to walk a few short sections. I did a lot more walking, but less then when we did the huge day a month ago. But this time we weren't crossing the Divide. We were going to head north on the Continental Divide Trail, paralleling the divide as we traversed through gulches and across alpine streams. And solitude. The only sounds were our breathing, the soft crunch of our tires or footsteps and the scoldings from the marmots and pikas.
Riding on the Alpine Tunnel Trail - an old narrow gauge railroad bed

Nick riding near the summit of the Alpine Tunnel trail
Me riding (finally!) just after some of the hike-a-bike on Alpine Tunnel Trail
There was more hike-a-bike on some of the steep pitches, but overall, it was a fun trail. The isolation made the rocks seem bigger, the narrow trail winding among willows and through the tundra. Off in the distance I could see our destination - Tincup Pass Road. It would take a few more miles of riding - meandering through the meadows before we finally dropped back below the trees. The narrow, untamed single track suddenly shifted to manicured turns and rock free switchbacks. We descended further into the trees as the trail plunged from the alpine heights towards the road. It was fun but a huge change from the prior hours worth of riding. And there were people again. Back to reality of the ATVs, hunters and tourists in St Elmo.

Tunnel Lake Trail - the CDT. Touching the sky!
Nick riding away from me towards the first of three ridgelines on Tunnel Lake trail
Looking at the second ridgeline, about to start the short descent

Nick coming down from the second ridge








Sep 3, 2013

Wish list

It's that time of year - the season is winding down and it's time to take a break from racing. There are a few more races that I am tempted by before the season is really over. But generally, it's time to relax, recover and have fun riding again. Camping trips, long rides on fun (and sometimes new for me) trails, and just enjoying being on the bike. No workouts planned, no stress with what needs to get on the bike. It's always fun exploring and just doing stuff without an agenda. With that said, it's also when we start looking at options for next year. (Wow, 2014 already?) And each year, there's even more fun sounding events to choose from. That list is getting long! If I even get to do half the races, some months are gonna be long.

January - a quiet month filled with mostly training. As usual, I think I'm gonna start the year off right with the Rescue Run. This hilly 10k is held regardless of weather and is a fundraiser for the El Paso County Search and Rescue.

February - annual trip to Tucson for 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. Might make it a shorter trip this year so we can play more later! I'm also thinking about a half marathon in the beginning of the month.

March - there's an ultra endurance mountain bike race in St George called the True Grit. It's a 100/50 mile race that is one some of the best single track in southern Utah. One of our friends has done the 50 and called it real mountain biking.

April - it's a long drive, but I really want to try my hand at the Whiskey Off Road. I'll be naught more then pack fodder again (hey, being honest!) but I really don't think I raced well there this year. Something about being sick...

May - getting busier. The Growler is on for sure. Time to test myself at Hartman Rocks in the other direction! Then there's also the Eagle Outdoor Festival with two chances to race! A long race on Saturday and a women's only race Sunday. Some big names came out to play there this year. Also in May is the super fun course of 12 Hours of Mesa Verde - it's a little crowded, but a really enjoyable course.

June - one more chance at actually riding for 24 hours straight! Unless they bring back the CoEd duo class for nationals. There's also the Beti Bike Bash, a short track on steroids race that I haven't done in a while. And unless things change, two Xterras - the Lory race and Curt Gowdy. I was bummed about missing Curt Gowdy this year. It's a really great event. But if the first race happens, then nothing else will be on the plate.

July - should be a recovery month. Will it? Who knows. I've wanted to do the Firecracker 50 on the 4th - either as a solo or duo. But haven't gotten the chance yet. Classic Colorado racing according to many riders. I also want another chance at the Breck 100. It was my first 100 and quiet the challenge. I want to see how well I'd do now.

August - wow. That is going to be crazy busy no matter what races we pick! Steamboat Stinger has been on the watch list for a few year. We've heard great things about this event and just haven't had the chance. I don't know if we'd race solo or team - the benefit of team is we'd both get to race but wouldn't be exhausted. I want to do the Breck Epic one day, but it's a huge commitment in terms of time, money and racing energy. 24 Hours in the Sage is always on the bucket list, but we are considering a different class to allow for other racing later. And then I found an off road iron distance triathlon - 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of fire roads, double track and single track, followed by a trail marathon. Sounds like a lot of fun, huh? There will be choices for August.

September - on Labor Day weekend alone, there are three events that sound exciting. The Dakota five-0 up in Spearfish SD, which some friends have made an annual event. I've heard of great flowing single track and believe every word. The Park City Point to Point in Utah is also that weekend and also boasts stunning single track. Finally, for Labor Day, there is the Grand Junction Off Road - put on by the fine folks at Epic Rides. I've ridden some of those trails and know its a challenging course. I might be a little more then pack fodder there! There is a 50 miler event in Winter Park that we are skipping this year but looks like fun.

And whew - that brings us to a year from now! I can't even think about this November, let alone 2014!