Halfway

Halfway through the year and halfway through the Transcendence Series . Back in February when I was getting organized for Stories, this poin...

Dec 19, 2014

Sanity vs safety

It's no secret that I love getting out on my mountain bike. I've posted pictures of Nick and I in all kinds of weather - snow, rain and the dark of night. We have the clothes for every condition and plenty of toys that allow us to play. And as a mountain biker, doing my workouts on singletrack emulates the conditions of my races. There's a different style of training needed for success on singletrack and as the days get darker, its harder for me to get. Darkness falls early, often just after I get off work. I've done plenty of night time workouts and it's always fun. Pure riding, focused on the bike and the effort, not the numbers. I have to turn internal and get the feeling of what the numbers mean physically. But come winter, the darkness is joined by cold. Sometimes the cold isn't bad and it's easy to want to get outside. Other times, the cold is deep and biting. Not conditions I want to get caught out in if something happens. I have the clothes, yes. But if for some reason I can't put them on, they don't do me any good.

So safety become the priority. And that means the garage and the trainer. While workouts in the dark train me to focus internally and feel the effort at different power levels, the garage is totally different. There is nothing to distract me from the numbers staring me in the face. I've never been good at listening to music - the noise distracts me from what I'm trying to accomplish. So it's just me and the silence of the garage, the whirring of my trainer and my breathing. The cold still seeps into the garage, almost negating the need for a fan. I still have to bundle up with wool socks and knee warmers and can see my breath like a dragon. Steam rising from my arms as I pedal - doing the work in the safety of my solitary, stationary world. 

It gets the work done, but does nothing for my sanity. Even as a runner, I hated the treadmill. I was outside as much as possible - unless there was risk of injury. That need for fresh air hasn't changed even as my sports have changed. I can tolerate the sessions in the garage, knowing that I can play at some point. There will be night rides with Nick and the  Procycling shop rides. There will be adventures on the weekends - fat tires, skinny tires or fatter tires. And most of my runs in the crisp dawn air, watching the sunrise creeping up. It's those little things that provide me the sanity I relish while still maintaining focus and safety. And dreaming of summer and the reasons for the hard work right now. 

Dec 13, 2014

Baseline

It's been a few years since I've done base line testing on the bike - partly because the focus was more on building tolerance to the workload. Coming from the running and triathlon background, I wasn't as strong on the bike as I needed to be for my goals so increasing threshold wasn't as important increasing my ability to handle increased workloads at threshold. I've gone from doing shorter workouts at lower power levels to longer and more intense intervals. I've also been able to stack more workouts together with less recovery. Looking at the TSS on Training Peaks has shown the trends of what I can tolerate and when I need to step it down for a recovery week. All of that work was done based on the threshold and ranges established on the last field test I did. With the improvements I've been seeing, I figured it was time to for another field test and to establish new ranges.

But threshold testing isn't something to be taken lightly and when I picked up the nasty head cold and crud that was floating around at work, I had to postpone. I wasn't in shape to get any kind of decent numbers with that crap! Finally got to doing the testing this week - hid in the garage, just me and my bike and a fan. It was time to suffer and turn myself inside out. In a way, I was looking forward to the testing - I was sure that I would have some good numbers and see a nice increase in my FTP. At the same time, I wasn't sure I was healthy enough to be doing it just yet. I was still coughing and fighting a drippy nose. But I was tired of waiting and I wanted to get going on the next block of training. Besides, even with being sick, I was still turning out some steady times on my running workouts. So off I went, setting it all up and running through the field test

When it was all said and done and I'd looked over the data and done the math, it was less then inspiring. Surely I would have seen an improvement in my FTP and be able to adjust my training ranges up right? Well, there was an increase, but not enough to be statistically significant. For what I got, I could have just done some intervals and not stressed myself out about the testing. I was all prepared to have a nice mope fest given the numbers I'd gotten. Then I realized - its more then just numbers. How can I really compare two tests so far apart? One done at CTS, on the Computrainer with all the variation that entails. Inside, with people around, cheering you on, driving you to push harder and dig deeper. The other done in the garage, on a brand new trainer and with changing temperatures throughout the test. All alone with nothing but my thoughts to encourage me. Not to mention the coughing fit between two efforts. Too many variables between the two tests to accurately compare the numbers. For all I know, the ranges I had back then were too high and I have just now developed into being able to accurately push myself. In order to really compare two tests, I have to be more precise. Same trainer at the same tension if done inside. But preferably, the next time I do a baseline, I'll be outside. The road doesn't change - the might be a headwind one day vs the other, but the road stays the same.

Dec 5, 2014

A New Chapter

It's no secret that I've been working with Coach Adam and CTS for the last five years. I started out with CTS back in 2009, as a struggling Xterra triathlete who was easily distracted by other events and races. Over the past five years, I've refined my athletic focus to better mesh with my life focus. It's been quite the journey, going from self-coached to having the guidance of Coach Adam; to always wondering if I was doing enough - or too much to being able to trust that that the workouts written would get the results I wanted. I knew enough self coaching to be dangerous from my years of running - Coach Adam was able to tie it all together with the multisport and later cycling focus. Coach Adam was a restraining hand at times, others a driving force to challenge me; it was a successful relationship between athlete and coach. One that I'm lucky to have had.

The last five years have been quite a ride - with unbelievable highs and lows and I've been able to count on Adam for support through it all. But as things change and situations change, so to must our relationships. With Coach Adam relocating and shifting his focus to the SHO-AIR Cycling group, it was time to say goodbye and move on. This is a wonderful opportunity for Coach Adam and I wish him the best of luck. As for me, I will be parting ways with CTS as my coaching sponsor. This is a great opportunity for me; the chance to apply the knowledge I have gained on the hardest athlete to coach. Myself....

Nov 20, 2014

Escaping life

Last year's post Frog Hollow vacation was mostly off the grid, dirtbag style camping. It was nice and relaxing - a chance to just settle in to a routine without distractions of the world. We did plenty of off the grid this year, but all spent more time in cities and around people. In some ways, the mix was even better - we were better prepared to head off the grid but were able to make all kinds of connections. And the time alone was that much sweeter.


Sunset at the McPhee Reservoir outside Dolores - got to see a part of Colorado I'd never been to before
Thanks to the challenging weather at the race, people were in a hurry to get home, get clean and warm. With no one left at Frog Town and a brief dry window, Nick and I also packed up our gear and headed to St George. Our first thought was a nice campground with laundry and showers, but that proved to be elusive. We ended up in Snow Canyon for the night - one of the quietest nights I've had. Best shower I'd had since the 29th of October (and it was only the 2nd of November.) After riding and some more searching, we settled on a cheap motel that offered kitchenettes and laundry. Ended up staying three nights - the place was centrally located and we had power, cooking abilities, laundry and showers. We had clean clothes and a cooler full of prepared meals when we finally left town. With the in town came cell service - good and bad. Good because I was able to get a start on the race report and such. Bad because it meant I was able to peruse Facebook and such. Part of the goal of the trip was to loosen the wires and cords I've become attached to. However, it also allowed us to meet up with Jonathan Davis and ride with him twice.


Took more selfies then ever on this trip - kissed by the sun in this shot
Gooseberry was the first off the grid nights for us. A quiet campsite and no power quickly led to an interesting schedule. I would get up as the sky lightened - just before sunrise. It was chilly but it was my time. No distractions. I took advantage of the dawn stillness to stretch and do yoga. Peaceful - moving through the flows on a large, with the sun rising to the east and the moon setting in the west. No sounds but the birds chirping. After it warmed up a bit, Nick would also get up. We'd eat and then get organized to ride. Mornings were riding time. It was a little chillier then, but the trails were quiet. Nick stretched after the ride and I got a snack ready. We'd chill out - read, enjoy the sunshine and generally decompress. Dinner was served as the sun was setting, which treated us to a spectacular moonrise on the first night. And then as darkness surrounded the camp it was bed time. Yes - we were climbing into bed around 7:00 most nights, asleep by 8:00. Not something we would ever do at home, with the lights and the distractions of TV, music and cell phones. And it was awesome, getting that much sleep. I think it was one of the reasons that I was able to keep riding more last year, on harder trails and for longer rides.


We thought about camping at the reservoir, but the wind was too bracing. Found shelter in the trees at Boggy
The next time we were in town and had service, I was able to get a hold of Jeff Hemperly and we joined him for a spin around Phil's World in Cortez. He was recovering from the Moab Trail Marathon and I was starting to reach my limit of consecutive days of riding. I needed a day off the bike soon - but I didn't want to miss Phil's World. So it was a slowish recovery ride for Jeff, a super easy ride for Nick and fun for me. I was slow, I was tired but Phil's World is just too much fun. I did behave and take the next day off the bike, just running a little while Nick was riding. On Jeff's advice, we were in the Boggy Flats trail system. Not as off the grid as other nights, but close. We did a little exploring - heading to the end of the road and getting caught up in a Dolores traffic jam. Missed the new riding, but the running was much easier then Phil's World would have been.

An interesting traffic jam to get caught in... All in a days work
And then Moab. We woke up with ice on the inside of the windshield and discussed getting a hotel while in Moab. There's plenty of camping options, but it's still November and it was getting cold. We had big days planned and not sleeping because we were freezing would prepare us for the big days. So hotel it was, which actually worked out great. We got clothes washed and were able to cook delicious, healthy meals in a warm kitchen instead of shivering over a little camp stove. When we woke up Friday to snow on the rim and cliffs around Moab, we were even happier we'd spent the money for the hotel. We did decide to skip that day's ride because of the weather and started heading for home.


Nick coming down Rib Cage in Phil's World with me in the distance
Truly lucky with this trip - the perfect blend of racing, trail riding and fun. We got plenty of exploring done around St George. I finally got to ride Porcupine Rim. We were gone for 17 nights and only spent 6 of them in hotels. We had big plans for riding and only had one day weathered out - and only because we decided it was time to head home. Not everyone is able to live this kind of lifestyle - traveling around with no plans except for riding and the two weeks was a treat. I was concerned about two weeks on the road prior to leaving, especially when one week toasted me last year. But it was good - we balanced riding, rest, relaxation and running enough to get almost everything done.


The gummi worms I carried with me on all the rides were a hot commodity at times...

Jeff - very happy to play tour guide at Phil's world and regale us with tales of his marathon (sounded like a fun time...)


Nov 19, 2014

Moab Meltdown

Many years ago, while on a hike during a Sierra Club camping trip I wanted to join the adults on a hike to the summit of a mountain. I don't even remember the mountain, but I know that in order to get to the summit, there was about 50 feet of trail exposed on both sides. The trail was maybe a foot wide, just a ridge of rock, with nothing but air on either side for hundreds of feet. Well, I made over to the summit just fine, but panicked on the return trip. I think it took me a hour to cross that 50 foot gap, and only with patient coaxing from nearly all the adults on the trip. Ever since, exposures have been a weakness of mine - one of the reasons I was so proud of myself for not panicking in sections on Porcupine Rim. I was able to block out the tickles of fear and focus on the trail. Well, I wasn't so lucky on the second ride at Moab this time around.

Quick - let's play find the trail along the distant cliff!
We went to the Amasa Back area with no real agenda - we'd been told that Captain Ahab was a great trail and there was plenty of riding there. I had a bad feeling when we got to the parking lot. We drove up a little further and I could see the trail carved into the cliffs across the creek. On either side of us, shear sandstone walls. There was a gnawing pit in my stomach as we started riding, but I was able to ignore it. I couldn't place why I was so unnerved being out there - but there was something.



Climbing up Hymasa - already freaking out about something

The climb up Hymasa was fun - it was a well build chunk of trail that was hard but not over the top. Plenty of things to challenge without scaring and I was starting to feel comfortable on the bike finally. The trail maps every time we reached an intersection were great, allowing us to just focus on riding and not worry so but getting lost. Up and up we climbed, meandering over rocks and slick rock, through small stands of pinons and criss crossing the Amasa Back jeep road. At the top, we had a choice - take Captain Ahab down or continue on the jeep road. Nick decided we would keep exploring and off we went on the aptly named Cliffhanger. I really can't see how jeeps manage that - I would be terrified. As it was, despite how wide the trail was, I was starting to have issues. Maybe it was the chunky rocks and the crash the day before. I know the 1000 foot cliff to my left wasn't helping. 
Taking in the view from the top - huge terrain out there

We took Pothole Arch trail out to the little arch. A fun trail, finally away from the cliffs for a little. Over slickrock, meandering to the north with huge views of Canyon Lands NP. I enjoyed the mix of terrain and took my time to enjoy the views.

Nick at the end of Pothole trail, taking in the surroundings
And then came Rockstacker. The sign warned that it was technical, but I wasn't too worried. If I didn't feel comfortable on sections, I could walk. No shame in that. And it was technical - hard riding that was a little over my head for how tired I was. But that was okay - we were there to explore. And then it wasn't - one section, with the trail switchbacking above a cliff dropping all the way down to Colorado River. I could handle the switchbacks, but not the cliff. That was it - I was done. The nervous breakdown was starting. Nick was loving Rockstacker, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the cliff and ended up walking more then I wanted. And there wasn't any desire to repeat things - I was completely unnerved and out of it.
 
Settled a little bit on the climb back up Cliffhanger and then it was time for Captain Ahab. I wish I could say I enjoyed the trail, ripping up and down the rocks along the cliff edge, but I didn't. The panic returned and it was all I could do to stay on my bike. There were several stops for me to try to regain my composure. It was a thoroughly miserable ride down back to the car. I was slow as molasses because of the panic and I was unable to focus on how fun the trail was. I rode everything down Captain Ahab, but it wasn't pretty. It was slow and pathetic as I got more and more annoyed at myself and then more panicked when I tried to ride faster. Ugh. So next time - I need redemption. I want to return to Ahab and come back with the grin that trail deserves. 

Nov 18, 2014

Porcupine

Three years ago, our planned Porcupine Rim ride got rained and snowed out. We drove up to LPS that day and played in the snow, but left without riding. Last year, I wimped out on the climb up Sand Flats Road and we were unable to arrange a shuttle so we could ride Porcupine. So with two trips to Moab under my belt and I'd yet to experience one of the classic rides - still no Porcupine. This year we made it the priority. We wanted to explore Moab a little more and ride some new trails, but first - Porcupine. I even took a day off the bike on Tuesday to ensure that I would be ready for the rough, challenging terrain and long, technical ride.

Before the fun of Porcupine comes the long grind up Sand Flats. We didn't even bother calling about a shuttle this year, figuring we'd get the same answer as last. Time to ride up the road. With our early start and the chilly temperatures, the road was quiet. There were only a few cars in the Slickrock parking lot and even fewer further up the road. Despite the sunny skies, it wasn't warming up and a stiff wind kept us cool. Clouds lurked behind the La Sals, hinting at the possibility of bad weather. We took our time on the climb, riding steady but somewhat easy. Nick made sure I wasn't pushing the pace, reminding me frequently that when I needed the power and spunk to ride, I would need it and not to waste it on the road. About two miles down from the main Porcupine Rim trailhead, the shuttle van came roaring down the road - the only traffic we'd seen in miles. Guess they had enough people to run today! Oh well. We would do it the classic way, earning our descent. We kept climbing past the Porcupine trailhead. Our goal was at least some of LPS - maybe all of it or even UPS depending on the snow and how we (I) felt.

Sand Flats road with Arches NP and the desert far below us
 

Still heading up, surrounded by huge rocks

At the main sign post for the Whole Enchalada, we stopped. I had a snack and Nick looked at the map. There was snow in the shade all around and we decided to jump on LPS there and start the descent. I wanted to keep going and at least ride all of LPS. I really wanted to go all the way up to UPS, but Nick vetoed that. He told me this chunk of LPS and Porcupine would be enough. No sense pushing higher then we needed to go, only to have something happen later because of fatigue. I was still reluctant, but followed Nick onto the singletrack.
 

Let's go! Finished with the easy part - the climb!

LPS was great. Right along the edge of the rim, in and out of the pines, up and over rock gardens, down sandstone slabs, the kind of riding that I'm starting to really enjoy. We took the Notch option off LPS proper, leading away from the edge of the canyon. Once we hit it, I took one look and chickened out. No way - wasn't happening at all. Nick studied and picked out the line but decided not to ride it. With it being an off season weekday and just the two of us it wasn't worth the risk. Then back to LPS, carefully over the patchy ice covered trail in the shadow of the cliff edge. I was having fun, finding the flow over the chunky rocks and drops. It was awesome, challenging and lots of work to ride. Perhaps I was getting a little cocky...

That's a long way down into Castle Valley...

And then I was flying. But my bike wasn't. The front wheel was at a dead stop and the rear of the bike rising up, bucking me into the air. With my arms outstreched ala Superman, I only had seconds to react and establish a landing spot. There really weren't any good options - there was going to be damage no matter what I did. The trick would be to minimize it. I didn't quite get my hands in all the way to be able to roll out of the flight, jamming a finger into a rock. My right shoulder hit another dust covered rock, with my face finding a third. Adding to the insult, my bike clattered to landing halfway on top of me. Ouch. But there was no searing pain anywhere - just dull aches from the rocks. My chin hurt and my shoulder stiff and covered in dust, but I had full movement and all my teeth. I picked my bike up and checked it out, then coasted down to where Nick was waiting for me. Pride was shaken and it took a little bit for me to regain my confidence on the slabs of standstone jutting up into the path.

Riding back up to work on some skills and get my mojo back
 
 

We caught the first two shuttle bunnies midway down the motorized section of Porcupine. Classic flat tire posture with one bike upside down along the trail. Nick slowed but they waved us along with a smile. The second group was near the end of the road, also with a bike upside down. They also waved us by, assuring us they were fine, seeming content to enjoy the views and take their time with the repair. A few more minutes of bone chattering descending over rocks and the road ended. Barriers preventing jeeps and motos from going any further. We took a few minutes to look around and then it was time for more singletrack.
 

We were way up there - at the La Sals not that long ago
 
Nick waiting for me to clamber over the rocks - another long way down...

Time to focus on the ribbon of trail in front of me. No more sightseeing allowed. The trail was narrow and rocky, with cliffs stretching for 100s of feet beside it. The exposure was unnerving in places, so close to the trail with such huge consequences for even a simple mistake. I kept my eyes on the trail, my one woman conversation loud enough for Nick to hear. There were only a few spots that I decided to walk for sanity's sake and a few others where Nick warned me to be careful. Despite the exposure and the occasional surges of fear  - heights and exposures were a huge challenge for me when I was little - I was having fun. I was on the limits of my trail reading ability and pushing the speed as much as I could. We reached the canyon crossing and I thought better of trying it - my chin was an oozing reminder of how much overconfidence can hurt. Nick gave it a solid go, almost cleaning the entire thing.

Nick working the canyon crossing near the finish of the trail

And then we were at river level. The trail dived under the highway and popped out on the westbound side. Save for a short distance, there was a bike path all the way from the trail head back into town. Awesome! The feared death march along the highway was replaced with a casual pedal separated from speeding cars. While we cruised back to town, I pondered the luck - had the weather not prevented us from riding Porcupine three years ago, we would have attempted it. I would have hated it and the classic "take your wife mountain biking" scene would have ensued. Even last year, with how tired I would it would have been a struggle. This year was perfect - except for the bruise on my hip, bleeding chin and torn backpack...

Nov 17, 2014

Fatso

After nearly two weeks of sunshine and warm temperatures, we returned home to sub freezing and snow. More snow was on the way as well. Before, that would have set me to the trainer or to a run. Not this year. I'm thinking except for targeted workout where I have specific goals in mind, the trainer isn't gonna see a lot of use. Nick was right last year with his trainer killers article. There's no excuses to get out and play in the snow now.

Nick heading up into Stratton - no first tracks there. Someone had beaten us there



But we did get first tracks on Spring Creek!
What's changed? A new bike of course and Sunday morning was the maiden ride. We got it just before our trip and had enough stuff to do without trying to get a bike fit as well. So when the snow started falling Saturday night, I was jonesing to go. Nick gave it the once over and did the fit Sunday morning while I made breakfast and then it was time to ride. We dressed for the freezing yet sunny weather and headed west towards the mountains. Fatso (yes - nicknamed after my cat Isis..) was going to get a proper shake down ride for the first pedal.

Coming down Spring Creek - not enough snow, but enough to be fun!
A few things I noticed - that bike is a lot of work to pedal. Its big and heavy and looks utterly ridiculous  underneath me. People notice the fat bikes - took the same route to Stratton that we normally do and instead of getting ignored, everyone was commenting on the big tires. It's back to basics riding. No suspension means using my body much more intelligently even on the easy trails. And even though the huge tires do provide great floatation on the snow, it's still up to me to keep them turning. Traction is an even bigger issue and any weak spots in the pedal stroke are easy to identify. 

On Columbine - man that bike looks huge under me!

Plenty of things to work on! All while having fun and challenging what most people consider riding conditions. That and the winter bike series means this is going to be an exciting winter.
Coming up the Chamberlin extension - winter workouts are going to be awesome this year

A side of Guacamole

After vacating Gooseberry just before the mass of riders arrived, it was a quick stop to pick up a part and resupply. Then onto the next adventure - Guacamole. A few people had told us to check it out, that it was worth the drive up. And a drive up it was! Dusty road through an expansive valley, then up the narrow canyon to the top of the mesa. We were just across from Zion and the rock formations of the national park filled the eastern sky. It was only 2:30 when we parked the van and the sun hung high in the cloudless sky.

Nick decided that he would get in a quick lap of the trail, see what we were in for tomorrow. Despite my fatigue and slowness with the ride at Gooseberry that morning, I decided I would do a short run. I'd originally planned to stick to the jeep roads that lead off in all directions from the trailhead, but my TADD kicked in. There was singletrack - with the potential for views! Why just run on the roads? I can do that at home. So off I went on to the trail. I knew it would be slow when I hit the slickrock section, but speed wasn't the point. I danced along the trail, following the cairns and tire tracks to the edge of the mesa and back. Nick also returned from his ride grinning, so I knew it had to be good.

Gazing down into the valley below - don't lose your balance!
Morning greeted me - chilly and calm. Like the prior mornings, I made a cup of coffee and then did yoga on the rocks as the sun rose. The moon was setting, the sky turning pink as the sun inched higher in the sky. The cliffs of Zion were bathed in gold from the rising sun. A perfect, quiet morning.


Sunrise over Zion
Guacamole didn't disappoint. So different from Gooseberry, but also similar. Wildly varying terrain, with the trail shifting personalities around every corner. We were ducking and diving around the pinion pines, following the same cairns and tire tracks I'd followed before. And then the forest opened up into an old burn area, revealing slickrock and more. The cairns lead us onto huge humps of white rock, jutting out of the surrounding stone. Completely out of place with the rest of the mesa. We found the bonus loop trail Nick had missed the day before and heading out, following small paint dashes and cairns. All the way to mesa's edge, the trail meandered thru the burnt pines, winding in and around the white rock hulks. It was fun, challenging riding and different from what we'd seen already on the trail. One minute we were climbing a gradual slope, then next dropping between small canyons, tires clattering over petrified wood. Then we were tracing the edges of the stones, like we were dodging huge rain drops that solidified on contact with the dirt. The trail was easy to follow, then a confusing mix with cairns in all directions. Which one was the line? Was that cairn a quarter mile away and around several rocks or the next one? Every corner and edge had to be assessed on the slickrock as the wrong move frequently led to a 10 foot drop instead of a roller.


Nick in one of the many rock features on the mesa - this one required climbing up into the bowl, doing a U-turn and traversing the edge around to the far right


We were finishing up the loop as other riders started arriving on the mesa. Time to move on - the next destination called.

Nov 16, 2014

Gooseberry Return

Three nights in St George and it was time to head off the grid to Gooseberry. We'd spent the time at the hotel wisely and we had a cooler full of food and clean clothes for the next days of riding. We scored a good campsite this time with morning sun, afternoon shade, some big rocks that were perfect for stretching on and quiet. We were only a half a mile from the trailhead and there was a rocky section of road before and after the pull in, forcing the traffic to slow down and decreasing the dust from the cars. Perfect for home base for a few nights.


Nick on one of the rocky climbs on South Rim trail
Time to ride. We were both looking forward to exploring Gooseberry some more. I of course, started the ride off badly, falling off two big rocks right away. Nick was in "make your own fun" mode on the slickrock and I thought I could follow him. Well, I didn't fully commit to one line and toppled backwards - I would have the bruises and scrapes to show for my efforts later. Finally, I settled down to the different style of riding that Gooseberry demands and we were off. We took Windmill trail all the way out to the Yurts for a quick look around. Then back all the way to the western most point, overlooking the Frog Hollow venue. There was a crowd of riders there, so we didn't stop for any pictures. Just riding. After my earlier silliness, I was feeling much more confident and comfortable on the trail. We headed back on South Rim, taking the same route as last year. The differences in my awareness of the rocks and the moves and body language required to get up some of the rock slopes was amazing. While I didn't always realize what I was doing different than last year, I was able to get the power when I needed it, as well as maneuvering the bike appropriately. I was riding a lot more and a lot smoother than last year.

Slick Rock style make your own fun riding
Back at the van after three hours of fun riding. Nick gave the bikes a quick once over and I warmed up supper. We had a simple sunset, but as the sun slipped below the mesa, the full moon peeked over the mountains to the east. Moonrise was spectacular, with the orange glow illuminating the clouds long before the moon even appeared. We ate supper with the moon as our entertainment and settled in to watch it rise long after darkness fell. A night lap was tempting, with the light of the moon almost as bright as the sun
 
Manuvering under the slickrock in one of the narrow canyons


Moonrise over Zion
The next day was one of accidental exploration. Which was the point! More South Rim and a wrong turn on a road took us to the edge of the earth (or of the mesa.) We were going to turn around and take the road back to trail, when we saw the tire tracks. Fresh tire tracks leading off into the pinon pines, with paint dashes on the rocks just beyond view. Well. It was a fairly well ridden trail but definitly off the beaten bath. Following the painted lines and tire tracks was like learning to read. I didn't know the next move or turn and was constantly scanning all around for the next clue of where to go. Challenging in spots with slickrock climbs marked by paint and tight turns with exposures, then into the forest with tire tracks to follow. It was a great trail, well thought out and planned. The rock sections were rewarding and the danger factor was just high enough. A hidden gem that had smiles on both our faces, even though we were riding slowly. Nick let me lead most of the way so I would be comfortable with the lines and the unknown. And that's all I'll say about that...
 



Sunset behind the tree
We'd planned on moving on, but decided to stay another night. We had a few more trails we wanted to ride again. Saturday was a shorter day compared to the first two rides on Gooseberry. I was getting tired and getting slower. So we did some of the fun trails and just a little more exploring. Nick got into another "make your own fun" section on the slickrock bowls and ledges and we sessioned some of the rocks so I could feel what I was doing on the bike. Then it was time to head back. The mesa was filling up and the trails were (comparatively) getting crowded, with cars filling the parking lots and campsites.  

Setting up for the climb up to the top of the slickrock




 

Nov 15, 2014

Searching for St George Singletrack

Big days exploring new trails on tired legs with fast guys. That was me after asking Jonathan Davis (who was also in St George - running the recovery station at Frog Hollow with his Elevated Legs) if he wanted company on the ride he had planned for Tuesday after the race. Nick and I were planning on almost the exact ride  - I say almost because we had anticipated parking at a different trailhead and just riding the singletrack. Meeting up with JD meant riding more of the True Grit course, having someone who had a better idea of where we were going with us and about two more hours of riding. Well, that was what we were there for - trail riding and exploring. The ability to do it with friends? Even better. I packed my Osprey Rev 12 with enough water for four hours and plenty of food. I had a feeling I was going to need it.

We left the Green Valley - Zen parking area and headed up the mesa across the canyon from Zen. Just a short road climb and we were descending big swooping drops in and out of the washes far below the cliff edges. Some - okay all - of those drops could lead to some big air if you knew what was coming. My first time on the trail so I rolled them all, pondering each time if I had the nerves to try to launch the next one. Then we were on the Stucki Springs loop - part of the True Grit course. The boys were riding just a tad faster then I wanted to so I kept falling off the back. No worries - they waited at every intersection and I could see Nick's orange helmet across the desert. We followed the True Grit course all the way around the Stucki Springs, with JD pointing out the Rim Rock loop - a little side loop off the main trail. We considered riding it, but decided only if we weren't exhausted later.
Nick and JD, studying the map for clues to the best direction to ride

That wasn't the goal of the day. The goal was a new trail for all of us - with the charming name of Suicidal Tendencies. None of us knew what was coming - would it be the big rocks and moves of Zen or the flowing singletrack we'd already ridden? We knew nothing about the terrain or technicality of the trail - one of the reasons I'd let the guys ride away from me and not struggled to keep up. We got to the info kiosk with a trail map and pondered for a while. At least the guys did. I was too busy scarfing down some food and catching my breath! As with most loop trails, we knew there had to be a preferred direction to ride. But maps don't tend to show that information. Finally JD texted an inside source (Lynda W) for advice. A few minutes later, we had our direction - go clockwise on everything - and he had orders to clean all the switchbacks. That's what happens when you ask your coach for help with trail finding on her local trails!

But before Suicidal Tendencies, we had Precipice and Sidewinder. Precipice trail was fun, tracing along the edge of the mesa with views of the wash below and just a few rock gardens to navigate. Then Sidewinder, switching backing up and up towards the summit of the mesa. The guys quickly climbed ahead of me, leaving me to enjoy the view alone. I picked my own lines through the rocks and corners, stealing glimpses around when I could. We crisscrossed from mesa edge to mesa edge, tracing a winding path higher and higher. At a trail junction, we turned left, follwing directions to go clockwise with all turns. We were closer and closer to the summit, with no sign of our next trail. Where were we going?


Nick on the switch backs
That's when I saw the switchbacks carved into the next mesa over. But how were we getting there? A sheer cliff dropped away to the left, not revealing it's secrets or the trail. At the tip of mesa, with nothing but air all around, the trail sign appeared for Suicidal Tendencies and cheerfully pointed us down. Turning to look, I saw the switchbacks snaking down the cliff towards the valley between the mesas. Tight and steep, a thin line of trail dug into the rocks. Yikes. And while JD was under orders to make all the switchbacks, I had no such command. I gave them all a go as we dropped into the valley, but with a dismal success rate - I made two cleanly, walked three and dabbed on another.
 
Nick on the rock slab I walked up - it's steeper then it looks and a lot more exposed

My turn - not as strong as I wanted

Then we were climbing again - up the edge of the adjoining mesa. A few more switchbacks which I happily cleaned, two rock slabs with some big consequences that I also made - eyes on the trail, don't look around type riding. I was getting my mojo back after the difficulty with the descending switchbacks, despite not making the next two really tight and steep turns. I got back on my bike, aware of the increasing exposure to my left and focused on the next obstacle - the trail squeezed between two rocks and made a gradual turn up and right. Should be easy, nothing to it. Eyes on the trail, even power, weight low to keep traction on the tires. Should be... It wasn't that big of a move. But my eyes kept focusing to the left and the now hundreds of feet drop below. Yeah. Not giving that one a second try! After that, the trail returned to the top of the mesa and meandered along the edge to the highpoint, affording us a huge view of the valleys and mountains to the southwest of town. A short break for photos and some food, then it was time for the return trip. I knew the rock slab was coming, but successfully kept my focus on the trail and rode smoothly down and through the rocks. I got the rest of the trail back down to the valley floor. As for the switchbacks up to Sidewinder? Well, I tried them all - but had a similar success rate as with the descent.
Spending more time looking around then riding hard

View from the top - wow!
After completing Sidewinder with a little more skills work on a simple looking but challenging rock stepup, we had a choice. Finish out the True Grit course with a lap of Barrel Roll or just return to the van. It would take us about an hour to ride Barrel Roll. Of course we opted for additional singletrack. Why miss the fun - we were there to ride and explore. I was getting hungry, having eaten my last snack at the finish of Sidewinder. Barrel Rolls offered more fun riding, with gradual climbs, some tricky little rock gardens and flowing singletrack up and down through the canyons and washes. Just plain fun, classic riding. I was happy we'd ridden it, but suffered on the final stretch back to camp. Luckily it was a mix of singletrack, double track and one really cool canyon with polished sandstone from the recent rain. Four and a half hours and 30 plus miles later, we return to the van. Awesome riding, made even better by the chance to ride with JD.

That rock and turn combo was harder then it looked!

Nov 4, 2014

Finding Zen

Zen Trail that is! I've seen photos, read reports and knew it was an integral part of the True Grit Race (which is on the agenda for next year) So it was on the list to ride for sure. With the help of our map, we found the trail pretty easy and headed up. A steep double track climb up towards the Mesa edge that quickly led to narrow singletrack right along the cliff edge. Wow. Higher and higher we climbed - following the tire tracks and cairns through the maze of rocks. Big rocks. With some big moves. Nick was enjoying every minute. There were some tricky lines, but only a few places had big consequences. That made it even more fun. We practiced a few different sections, the lines between the rocks becoming more clear with each run. After one lap, we decided we hadn't had enough fun and headed back up the road. A little cleaner this time and more ability to enjoy the huge views.
Looking off to the north from the top of Zen

View from the top of Zen, looking north.
Wow - from the climb up to the Mesa edge to peaking over the edge of the cliff. We could see the maze of trails below the mesa, wondering where they all went to. On our second lap, we found the trail through slick rock that we'd missed the first time. Following cairns down into the wash, I found the one section I wasn't willing to ride. Steep downhill into a choppy right into a wash. Yikes! I bailed and walked. Maybe next time...
One of the many rock features on the top of Zen

Working on the technical skills required to manage Zen

On Wednesday, Nick met up with JD and LW for another Zen loop. Me? I ran - needed some some time off the bike to rest up for a big weekend on Gooseberry. I was planning on staying low and just running out and back on the section of trail that paralleled the road.
Shadow surveying the trail while running
But after I turned around and met Nick and the gang, I suffered from a severe episode of TADD (trail attention deficit disorder - or a severe lack of being able to do out and back runs.) A road looked like it lead up to the singletrack at the top of the Mesa. So up I went. There was some power hiking as the road tipped steeper, and some cairn following as the road turned to singletrack and traced a path between two washes. And then I was on Zen. I didn't know if I was ahead or behind the of riders, but I was ready to have some fun. It was easier to follow on two wheels and just as fun as riding.
yes - there is a trail there...
Dancing down the trail, over the rocks. I'd told Nick I was planning on running between 6-8 miles and the addition of Zen made it a solid eight. Perfect. I even had time to stretch for a while before the guys showed up. 
Nick and Lynda W at the top of Zen
 

Frog Hollow v2014

We had a very simple plan coming into the 2014 25 Hours in Frog Hollow. Race as hard as we could until midnight, then see how we felt. With a planned vacation to explore the riding around St George, we wanted to be able to trail ride after the race. (Zen Trail! Barrel Rolls! Gooseberry!) So we were planning on pulling the plug early and going to bed, regardless of our standing in the race. We just didn't know when it would happen. But until then, it was game on.
Dark skies to start the morning out
Under cloudy skies and howling winds, Nick lined up for the running start. I stood among the dust devils, waiting for him to appear. There were some fast runners, but Nick was well within the top fifteen on the run. Then off into the dust he vanished. Our plan was to start a little easier this year, but be more consistent with our laps. I dressed for my first lap, hemming and hawing over the light weight rain jacket, gore jacket or mont-bell hooded rain jacket. Dark, wet clouds lurked over Flying Monkey Mesa, inching ever closer with the wind. I smushed the Mont Bell into my jersey pocket. It was a tight smush- those jersey pockets aren't made for a real rain jacket! I wasn't the only one with a rain coat, but I was amazed at the number of people I saw without anything - no tube, tools or pump. Having a mechanical is bad enough - not having anything warm to wear or things to fix it with is just plain silly.
Clouds led to a brilliant sunrise though
Riders soon came streaming in. With a baton system in place this year, the little exchange tent was quickly crowded with riders. I parked my bike and went inside to wait. Nick was right on time and I headed out into the wind. Ugh - and it was a strong wind right in the face up the climb. Part of our plan was to ride a little steadier this year and keep the lap times constant. Since I was on my Camber, that meant keeping an eye on my HR for the climb. Keep it steady, below threshold. At the top of the climb, I glanced behind me - there was one guy, but not close enough to wait. So off I went for the grin inducing descent off Jem. Nice and easy around the drop and then swooping and driving they the wash and into the safe. The guy was on my tail at the start of the drop, but I didn't hear him again until the road. This time I was nice and pulled over, coasting until he was around. Not as smooth as I wanted in the rocky descent up to the aid station, but better then last year.  A clean run across the Rim trail and I was back at the tent.

The puffy coat was already making an appearance... I handed Nick the baton, set him on his way into the building clouds. Ignoring the stares from the euros, I pushed my bike up to the road and pedaled back to camp. It looked down right crappy to the north over Flying Monkey Mesa. Clothing would be important for this lap. One hard but fun part about 25 Hours in Frog Hollow is the short turn around between laps. I would have about 35 minutes on average of down time each lap to eat, change and get warm. Not bad in the start of the race, but gets harder each lap - and harder as the weather got more ominous.  I was trying to avoid looking at the clouds, but they were all around. I was starting to head to the transition tent, light rain jacket in my jersey pocket as it started to pour. Wind driven drops splating hard into the dust, gaining in intensity each minute. Heck with the little jacket! On with knee warmers and arm warmers and my real rain coat. I wasn't gonna suffer in the wet weather. The good news was there was no dust as the rain tamped down the trail just enough. The race photographer got an awesome picture of me riding - a silly huge grin on my face. The trail was nearly perfect with the slight rain - the rocks on Hurricane Rim clean of dust and the trail tacky and fast.

But it was just a hint of what was coming. My next two laps were back into the dust and the wind. I was tired of both, as evidenced by my notes to Nick. Dust and wind - two things I'd fought with for 24 hours earlier in the year. But on my fourth lap, with the sun creeping lower in the sky, the future was written clearly in the sky. Dust wasn't going to be an issue for much longer.
powering down the road
photo - St George New
Nick came back from our 9th lap and sent me into the darkness. With my Exposure Lights Reflex on my bars and Diablo on my helmet, I was more then ready for a fast and fun night lap. I was also wearing my Mont Bell rain jacket - figuring the pit zips would come in handy for the climb. And then the skies opened. This wasn't a light drizzle - it was full fledged downpour! Rain drops reflected in the beams of my lights as I started the Jem descent. The drop was slick and slimy - I wasn't clean, allowing myself to get distracted and stuffing my front tire in a rock crack. Whoops. I spent the rest of the fast descent lecturing myself and getting settled for the rocks. And the rain intensified. If it hadn't been for my rain coat I would have been soaked and freezing. Hurricane Rim was a mess - the rocks were treacherous and mud puddles were forming between them. I was filthy but exhilarated. It was my slowest lap so far - nearly six minutes off my prior pace, but I was still in one piece. It wasn't until after I handed off to Nick that I realized how filthy I was. Another rider made a comment about my bike and I finally looked. Wow. Mud was coating every inch of my bike and my legs. Awesome! 

I cleaned the important areas of my bike - happy I was running a 1x and had one less thing to worry about failing in the weather. Sheets of rain filled the skies, evident in the powerful lights of the venue. Every rider I saw coming up the hill as I was cleaning my bike looked shell shocked, drenched and miserable. And the rain showed no signs of letting up. I switched to winter clothes, including my Gore knickers and jacket. It wasn't time to quite yet - I needed to be ready to ride. (Although I was secretly hoping Nick would decide to pull the plug early. My bike was a mess.) The next two laps were cold and wet - I was riding carefully, avoiding the worst of the mud on the road and picking good lines everywhere else. The rocks were getting slimier and slicker with each rider and it was clear that many people were opting to walk. Through it all, the volunteer at the top of Jem was there, awake and keeping an eye on us all. He'd ring his cowbell whenever someone riding would make the turn, alerting anyone below. Thank you be out there all night! Each time I finished a lap, I was hoping Nick would call it. But he was always there, ready to rage. 

And then - stars appeared as I was cleaning my bike for our 16th lap (my 8th) - could the weather be clearing? With the clear skies came cold temperatures, so I kept my Gore gear on. When Nick came into the tent, he told me we were finished - he'd be up at the tent. This would be it. Ride safe and finish smart. And that was my plan until I realized how tight the trial was with the ending of the rain. It was beyond fast. And there was no one out there... As I turned off the road, I decided to go for it - fastest night lap. Wouldn't hurt to try. No skimping on light this time - I had both my Diablo and 6-Pack on high even on the road climb. Nothing like that combination for some fast riding! Although it's also fun to see to come up behind someone and click - onto high. The 6-pack truly lights up the night... There was no holding back on the climb for a second lap. I was charging hard and counting the seconds. Once in the singletrack, with the empty trail, I was able to fly. A streak of light on the dark Mesa. Finally picking smooth and fast lines, I powered through the rocks of Hurricane Rim. No looking at my watch - just focusing on the rocks and the trail. I would turn a 1:09:47 for that last lap, putting us at 16 laps in 17:18:22. Not bad. We had about 3 laps on second place when we stopped. 

Not that long after we climbed into the van, the rain started. Not the gentle sheets of the earlier downpour. Rain pounded the roof of the van, an unrelenting assault on the riders still out riding. We went to sleep with the thunder of rain as our lullaby, with an alarm set for 5:00. We would get up, check results and decide what we wanted to do. When the alarm went off, it took me a few minutes to get motivated to crawl out of the warm bed. Results hadn't been posted yet, so I started getting organized. Our neighbors were still rolling - and they were telling tales of peanut butter mud on the road. Ugh. I related the info to Nick. And finally, results. Looked like we were still in the lead, but it was tenuous. Nick started preping to ride and I headed to the timing tent. 

Somehow, I missed the second place team finish their 16th lap and head out for 17. I settled in to watch and volunteer for a while - helping out and keeping an eye on the competition at the same time. Nick and I were having a text conversation - I had enough service to get texts but that was it. Then our competion came through, finishing 17 laps. I texted Nick - he wanted to know if he should ride and restart the race. We had a chance to run them down and both finish 19. My answer was no. We were firmly in vacation mode and would take our second place happily. Congrats to team "Happy 20th Anniversary" they kept pushing until the end, solidifying their win and finishing up with 19 laps at 25:16:55. Third place (Bec Bale and Mike Sharkey) ride a solid 16 laps in 24:55:36 - they were smart and slept through the rain storm. So we didn't live up to our team name of Overtime this year, but 2015 is another shot...
Almost the complete podium for the CO-ED duo!