East-Bound and Down

Forty-eight hours from now, I’ll be on the road, heading east and south to the great state of Arkansas. The winter slowdown is in full effect at the bike shop, so I’m taking the opportunity to go out and explore the Northwest Arkansas trails that I’ve been wanting to check out for forever (and visit with some family as well).

Last week was a bit of a rollercoaster. Wednesday morning, I was fresh out of bed and at least half asleep when I walked out the back door holding Indy in one arm. He’s got a handicap ramp built out the back door because he falls down/up stairs too easily, and it was nowhere in my mind at that point in time that said ramp might be covered in frost. I took one step, both feet slipped, and I landed violently on my ass and right hand.

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How violent? My landing broke the runner under that part of the ramp and hurt my shoulder pretty bad. On the up side, I didn’t fumble the dog. With all of the moderate-risk activities I’m in to, it’s the mundane things that are the most dangerous. Since shoulders have a lot of stuff going on, I decided I’d get to a doctor as soon as I could. The last thing I need is a nagging injury that turns out to be something serious.

Luckily, the x-ray was clear, and the doctor determined with some range of motion tests that it’s an anterior deltoid strain. I basically just stretch it and keep my activity level pain-free, and let it get better on its own.

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Picture unrelated. It’s just a very satisfying steertube cut.

Given my shoulder felt a little weak, I didn’t really want to go for a long bike ride on Thanksgiving. I instead convinced Matt that climbing Mt. Morrison would be a good idea. It’s steep and a little scrambly near the top…

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Obligatory Thanksgiving Dinner photos-

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Saturday, I celebrated my shoulder feeling a lot better by taking the Singlespeed to Buffalo Creek.

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I love the mountain biking in Colorado, but I also can’t wait to get to Arkansas.

On a somewhat unrelated but equally stoked note, Thursday night, I was extended an invitation to test for my blue belt in Jiu Jitsu. The coolest part about this is that December 1st is my martial arts “birthday” of sorts- It’s when I started training at UFK in Memphis three years ago. There have been a couple of breaks in there, but the journey is always ongoing. I’ll test sometime later this month.

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Boulder Running Adventures

When  I first started working in Boulder, I made the climb up Flagstaff Road a somewhat regular part of my training. It’s literally right outside the door of the shop, so it’s a good pre-work leg burner. I couldn’t help but notice on the way up that there’s a trail that crosses the road in various places. It looked somewhat gnarly, so I was intrigued. However, all of the signs say “No Bikes.” So, I took to two feet and started exploring.

Holy wow.

I’d had no idea that there was an entire trail system up/around/over the Flatirons. And the “No Bikes” thing? Unfortunately, a lot of the trails in Boulder are closed to bikes. However, you really wouldn’t want to ride a bike on large portions of the trails.

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Ok, now that I look at those pictures again, maybe they’re the “perfect” trails to ride down (pictures always reduce steepness by 10% of the grade), but there are a multitude of straight up/down rock steps with tight switchbacks and whatnot. You’d never go up any of the trails, and people would literally die trying to go down.

The ruggedness makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I started with small run/hikes up and around the Flatirons and corresponding peaks. Green Mountain is the easiest and closest to where I park at Chatauqua, so it was the first route I came up with. This picture is from an intersection near the top at the exact moment I started wondering “when TF am I going to be at the top?”

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Not long after, I visited the 1st/2nd Flatirons trail, which is a shorter, but no less steep climb. With a short scramble, you can sit on top of the first Flatiron (the one in the background is the 3rd, I think).

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I started to get a little brave and made a bigger loop out to Bear Peak… slightly larger than Green Mountain, and a significantly longer run. The last hard climb before the top goes though a burned area and can be demoralizing if you don’t like seeing what sort of challenge is ahead of you.

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At the top, you have the choice of scrambling to the summit, going down the Fern Canyon Trail (The descent down Fern Canyon is the right amount of dangerous, if you’re trying to go fast), or continuing on to nearby South Boulder Peak. The top of Bear Peak has an amazing 360 view.

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East:

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South:

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North:

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West:

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Seeing the trail out to South Boulder Peak inspired a new personal challenge to myself. I wanted to run all three peaks before work the next Sunday. I called it Boulder Three the Hard Way.

Physical challenges are the high octane fuel to my motivation…

Up Green Mountian:

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At the top:

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Bear Peak:

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And off to tackle the out & back up South Boulder:

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I couldn’t find any survey markers or cool stuff up there, so here’s a weird iron thing driven into a rock-

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The run down Shadow Canyon from there was exhausting. It’s at 7.5 miles/8,500 feet of climbing in, so my legs were already pretty torn up. I made it down with no falls or rolled ankles and motored on to the return on the Mesa Trail… which is neither flat nor all downhill until you’re at the last mile.

Here’s the route/profile: https://www.strava.com/activities/760836310

Fourteen miles in 3:45 doesn’t sound that impressive until you start looking at the gain/loss on each climb and descent. Running downhill there is like its own lite version of parkour.

I’m hoping that my body holds up to the running enough that I can do it all Winter as an alternative to riding in the cold or on the trainer. I’m still having some pain from previous overuse injuries in my left knee and foot, but listening to my body and doing a lot of yoga and foam rolling seems to keep it relatively minor. This Saturday will be a good test… I’m going to go out and try a self-supported trail marathon. It’ll be scenic, if nothing else.

Boulder Gravel Adventure

It’s only been a month-ish… but I’m just gonna pop in here and drop a post like it’s been last week.

In my previous post, I told you about the failure of my Fox shock. I’m happy to report, Fox warrantied the shock, and Pivot warrantied the front triangle (after I proved to Fox that I didn’t run the bike in to a garage door).

Enough about that, though, there are adventures to report.

I’ve got very little free time. Yeah, I hear those of you with kids laughing/groaning/whatever. It’s not my fault you baked up some new little humans to engulf your mornings/nights/weekends, so, I’ll say it again… I’ve got very little free time. I try and make the best of every second of it, which explains my lack of recent postings. If you really want to see/hear some snippets, I’m on the internet in other places, like the Just Riding Along podcast, Instagram, and Twitter.

It’s here, though, that you get the whole story of the snippets. I’ve got a lot of stories, but my favorite of the last month-ish is definitely my gravel ride out of Boulder. I used a combination of my limited local knowledge and a site called Coloradogravelroads.com and mapped out a route that turned out to be amazingly rugged.

You can see it here: https://www.strava.com/activities/770204857

I started from the shop in South Boulder and rode the bike path up Boulder Canyon to Four Mile Canyon. The pedal up Four Mile is the longest bit of asphalt on the route… about 5 miles. It dead ends at Switzerland Trail- an ATV road that’s also a popular mountain bike route. There’s a really grouchy guy at that intersection that yelled at me from his porch to not lean my bike on the fence next to the Switzerland Trail sign. “It’s a CONSTANT problem”… according to him.

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Switzerland Trail isn’t bad on a CX bike. I’ve actually ridden it on my road bike a couple of times as well, though, I wouldn’t really recommend that to anyone. As you climb Switzerland Trail, you get to periodically peek at the high mountains in the distance and start to get that warm, fuzzy feeling of isolation.

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Once I was on Gold Hill Road at the top, I stopped to eat and saw a bald eagle. I tried to get a photo and managed to fumble part of my pop tart on the ground and get a blurry pic of my feet. The eagle was still pretty sweet, though. I still ate the pop tart… you know- five second rule & all.

Gold Hill road has a few steep spots, and it’s up where you start to really feel the elevation in your legs. I eventually made it to the peak to peak highway, where I headed south for a mile or so before turning off on to the next forest roads- FSR 116 and 505. Those took me to the high point of the day- topping out somewhere around 9,400ft at mile 32. They’re definitely the best part of the route.

FSR 116:

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When I saw FSR 505 on the map, it wasn’t clear as to how rugged it would be. It was a varying combination of chunky like in the photo to smooth flowy dirt and everything in between… including ice.

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I dropped down in to Nederland from there and stopped to refill a bottle at the local coffee shop/cafe. I needed to get to Magnolia Road to take me back down to Boulder, but rather than climb out the obvious way on Peak to Peak highway, I rode into a neighborhood on the south side of town and took a small singletrack connector into/through the East Magnolia trail system. There was a little hike-a-bike involved… a trait of any and all excellent adventures.

I didn’t take any pictures after Nederland. I was a little worried about getting back to town in enough time to get to Doggie Day Care to pick up Indy. If they closed before I got him, I’d probably sit outside the door and cry or something. So, I was making haste. The only part of my planned route that I messed up was taking the Winiger Ridge trail out of a neighborhood off of Magnolia. You can see on the route that I turned in and missed where I should have gone to get to the trail. Oh well… next time.

The last of my gravel was one more chunky 4WD route called 68J. It connects in to the back side of Flagstaff Road, which goes directly back down to the shop. That last little 500 foot kicker up the back of Flagstaff really builds character at the end of a route like that.

I can’t wait to do that one again, though at this point, I’ll probably have to modify the far end of it to stay lower. I’m guessing that the last weather that came through put the first real layer of snow on FSR 116 and 505. So, I’ll likely take the southern spur of Switzerland and connect to County Road 103 to go south to Nederland- not as wild or rugged, but still pretty fun.

I’ve got a lot of Boulder running adventures to post about soon. The trails in the Flatirons are incredibly challenging, so I’ve taken to them like Br’er Rabbit to the brier patch.

The Golden Giddyup that Wasn’t

We’ve talked about it on the JRA Podcast, but, if you’re like me, and don’t listen to podcasts, then this is news to you…

A few weeks ago, I was racing the Golden Giddyup. It was a cool race- one of the only opportunities riders will ever have to ride some favorite Front Range trails as a closed course. The course featured both uphill and downhill timed stages, and you could bring whatever bike you wanted depending on where you wanted to focus your speed. Since it’s not terribly difficult to knock out an uphill time on a normal weekday without ruining other trail users’ fun, I decided to take full advantage of the closed course and bring out the Mach 6 for maximum shreddage on the downhill stages.

I wasn’t the only one who was thinking the same way. There are a handful of ladies around here that are incredibly fast downhill, and they were all lined up at the start. I was stoked that the Open Women’s category was the wave to go just behind the Open Men. This meant that we likely wouldn’t be dealing with a dude who wouldn’t let us pass on a stage, which had been one of my biggest fears, given dude’s track records for just looking over their shoulder and trying to go faster when anyone is behind them (especially a woman) and wants to get by.

Stage 1 was uphill on a section of the Chimney Gulch trail (you can look at the Strava page I’ll post a link to below if you need some help knowing where that is). I went kinda hard, but not really. The Mach 6 is a little on the heavy side (around 28 pounds), and it gets a little unwieldy on steep, technical stuff because the bottom bracket is low and the front wheel likes to be off the ground… you know, all the stuff that makes it great at going downhill. So, I ended up walking a rocky section and soon after, pulling over to let the woman behind me pass (somehow I still managed a 3rd fastest time out of the group up that one).

Stage 2 was down the Enchanted Forest and Apex Trails. I got to the start of the stage ahead of the other women and went as soon as I could. Enchanted Forest is cool because, unlike every other exposed, loose-over-hard front range trail, it’s tread is comparatively soft and grippy… and it’s through a forest, as the name suggests. It’s the perfect sort of place for the Mach 6 to shine. It’s got steep downhill droppy root sections that, if you have the nerve for it, you can let loose and straight line. I was doing just that (see Strava page for proof): https://www.strava.com/activities/717363117

I was feeling really good- somewhere on the edge of being out of control, but not quite. Suddenly, at the end of the Enchanted Forest before the course turned on to the Apex trail, I was hauling the mail down the last major root section, when I heard a bad POWCRACK noise and almost instantaneously lost control of my bike. I managed to lay it down somehwat gently, considering the speed at which I was traveling. I quickly gathered myself off the track to try and continue, but when I picked up my bike, realized that my top shock eyelet had failed… catastrophically. As in, it went from being an O to being a C.

I was sad.

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I walked my broken machine down the Apex trail to the neutral support at the bottom, where everyone gawked and said they’d never seen that happen before. I continued being sad and had a shot of Wild Turkey 101 and a slice of bacon.

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The following Monday, I called up Pivot and explained what happened. It wasn’t their part that had failed, but, in the process of the Fox part failing, the linkage had broken the seat tube on the Mach 6.

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Even though it wasn’t technically “their fault,” they agreed to warranty the frame, though in order for them to get a warranty shock from Fox, I ended up having to prove to Fox that I hadn’t driven my bike into the roof of a garage whilst it was attached to a roof rack… which wasn’t all that hard to do, considering I had strava, chip timing info, and a couple of people who were willing to vouch for me (including a professional photographer who took a photo of my broken bike on course when I walked past her), and a solid lack of owning a roof rack or being friends with anyone who does.

Don’t expect that sort of treatment from all bike companies. There are some out there that would have given me a warranty shock and crash replacement pricing (maybe) on a new frame, rather than a warranty. Pivot is pretty rad, though, and in the words of their warranty guy, “we want you to be stoked on your bike.”

That, I am. I should have a new Mach 6 back in the stable any day now.

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Devil on the Divide 22k

Wait, what?

A long time ago, I started my endurance racing life as a trail runner. I raced a handful of 50ks and trail marathons in Arkansas before my trail running friends (the Warthogs in Memphis) took me out on a bike one summer and I gradually left the sport of running for road racing. I still have a love for trail running, though.

So, when I started having a 45-60 minute one-way commute every day, I found that running is a good way to get in a quick workout prior to leaving the house for the day. I’ve been running around 3 miles 1-2x per week, depending on whether or not I’ve got a cross country race on the weekend.

You may remember a while back, I went on a hike-a-bike adventure with Jake. Look at the map so the rest of this makes sense:

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https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584

We traversed the Bard Creek Trail, which he’d seen on a website for a 50k running race called Devil on the Divide. He wanted to recon the trail as a way to “close the loop” for a popular mountain bike ride up Jones Pass to the Continental Divide Trail and Herman Gulch, which, if you close said loop using the road, looks like this:

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https://www.strava.com/activities/699535569

The 50k Devil on the Divide makes the loop on trails. Though, as Jake and I discovered, not very ride-able trails. Since the day he told me about the trail race, I was itching to do the 22k version of it, which is a point-to-point of the above map from the start/finish marker to the trailhead by I-70. However, with my lack of running volume, I’d sort of written it off.

Then, exactly one week ago today, I went and ran the Mount Falcon trail. The loop I made was probably somewhere close to four miles- almost two miles up, and almost two miles down. It felt awesome. So, I went home and entered the Devil on the Divide 22k.

Let me interject here some reasoning to make this sound less insane- I know that normally a 4 mile “long run” is not usually considered sufficient to do a half marathon on such extreme terrain. However, it did let me know that the previous overuse injuries I’ve been trying to avoid re-irritating were not going to be an issue in a half marathon. Also, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know how to dress, pace, and feed myself for such an effort. The rest of it is just putting my bike fitness and stubbornness to good use.

Friday morning before the race, I’d had to take little 16-year-old Indy to the vet because he had terrible diarrhea and vomiting the day/night before. He had to get some fluids and anti-vomiting drugs, and I almost decided not to go to the race because I was so worried about him. However, he slept most of the day and seemed a little better. So, Matt agreed to watch after him until I returned home on Saturday.

The race start was so early that I didn’t want to make the drive Saturday morning. Friday night after work, I loaded up the car and drove up to Empire to camp out at the race HQ area. It was cold up there. The Weather Channel had predicted an overnight low of 37, but my tent was covered in a thick layer of frost when I got up in the morning. I made some coffee, picked up my race packet, and changed in to my running clothes with a few extra layers to take off after the shuttle to the start area at Henderson Mine.

The 22k had a single aid station at the top of Jones Pass road- about a 4 mile climb. The remainder of the course was about 2 more miles rolling uphill on the CDT before turning downward towards the Herman Gulch trailhead. My fueling strategy was simple- I had a 16oz handheld water bottle and a gel flask full of Gu Roctane in the pocket of my tights. I carried a windbreaker in the pocket of the water bottle harness. I figured that the 16oz was enough to get me up to Aid #1, about a 1-1.25 hours (contrary to what a man at the start line thought when he looked at me and asked, “what do you think this is, a 5k fun run?”). Then another 16oz would get me up the CDT, and I wouldn’t have much opportunity to drink after that other than the brief uphill punches on the way down.

When the race started, I didn’t really pay attention to the other women around me. I had no idea if there was a method to the bib numbers to determine who was a 50k runner and who was a 22k runner. As I alternated running and fast walking (on the steep sections), I knew that I was pretty far up in the group, and passed a couple of ladies as I made my way up. I finished the last of my water just as I rounded the last switchback to the aid station. There, I refilled and struck out on the CDT. I passed another lady right there… again, not knowing if she was 50k or 22k.

Running the CDT is an amazing experience. I kept up my strategy of running/hiking depending on the grade. The lady I’d passed at the aid station was staying close until I went all mountain goat through a scree field. I don’t know if she had some sort of issue or just went slower than I had, but when I looked back at the high point of the trail soon after, she was a loooooong way back.

I started my way down to Herman Gulch. There was one out-and-back spur to Herman Lake about halfway down. It gave me the opportunity to see anyone ahead of me as well as anyone close behind me. It was on the out-and-back that I really started to feel some pain in my legs from my efforts. At the turn-around, the man punching bibs let me know that I was the 3rd woman he’d seen. I asked if he knew if the other two women ahead of me were 22k runners, and he had no idea. When I saw the woman I’d passed at Aid 1, she seemed close to catching me.

I knew it was almost all downhill (and very technical, even from a running standpoint) to the finish. I was hurting, but I managed to hold her off until I reached the 22k finish/50k Aid #2. The ladies at the finish area said I was the third woman overall. I was OK with that, considering the nature of my “preparation” for the race. The lady that I’d been holding off came through and ended up being a 50k competitor.

While I sat around, I couldn’t help but notice that there were no other 22k-looking women milling around as if they’d arrived ahead of me. There weren’t any on the shuttle bus back to Empire, either. I figured they’d just had a ride back that wasn’t the shuttle and already left. The crew was still working on results back in Empire, so I ate some post-race pasta and packed up the tent.

To my surprise, when they announced female and male overall 22k winners, they called my name. The other two women ahead of me were 50k runners. Hot Damn. I got a finisher mug, a bell, and a $110 gift card for Chaco sandals.

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I’m hurting pretty badly today from the miles of downhill running, but all-in-all, I don’t feel terrible. Last night I had a little aching in my posterior tibial tendon, but nothing like the pain I felt there last time I tried to run and foolishly increased volume too quickly and nearly put myself on crutches. Otherwise, it’s just the joint and muscle pain one would expect to feel if one took a somewhat unconditioned body through such an ordeal.

My shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) were not so lucky. The tread on them was previously a bit low from their brief use in Memphis and as occasional work shoes, but after a couple of times on the trail here in Colorado, the aging tread now has chunks torn out of it like a well-used mountain bike tire. A new pair isn’t in my budget right this second, so I’ll likely keep them around for a while. I have a pair of Altra’s Olympus model that I use for road running, which is currently 99% of my runs right now. They’re the only brand of shoe that don’t give me blisters and that don’t make me feel like I need to constantly loosen my shoes as I’m running.

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Also, more importantly than all of this… Indy is feeling better. He hasn’t had any more vomiting since he saw the vet, and, with the tiny amounts of food and pepto bismol he’s eaten, he hasn’t had any obvious diarrhea. He has two more days of eating bland can food and anti-vomiting pills and hopefully he’ll be back to normal.

Winter Park to Boulder- Hood-Rich Transients, Volume 1

In my last post, I lamented on the difficulty of making the race/ride home adventure in one day. My work-around idea was to make it in two. So, for the final Winter Park race, I made additional plans and brought a friend.

Since there was some money available for the top three Pro spots at the final installment of the Winter Park XC race, I decided to put the Mach 429 in “race mode” and moved up from the Singlespeed category. This meant swapping the Pike for the SID World Cup and the I9 Trail 24 wheels for the Carbon Pillar Ultralight set. While it doesn’t feel as solid bombing downhill as with the Pike, I’m still “fast enough” downhill to be more than competitive in cross country racing at any level.

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I had a good race. I raced hard. The only snag I hit was when I passed two of my competitors on the first and longest descent of the day, only to be blocked by a dude I caught who had started TWO MINUTES ahead of me. I asked him to get around, and all he’d do was look over his shoulder and try to go faster, which wasn’t that fast. The second woman I’d passed earlier in the descent caught back up to me pretty quickly, and when we popped out of the trail on to the forest road, she called him a dick, and we continued racing (she’d had a front row seat to the whole, painful ordeal).

I digress.

I otherwise raced my heart out and ended up 4th behind Amy Beisel, Evelyn Dong, and Ally Faller. If you follow women’s cross country racing in the U.S. you’ve probably heard of the first two, but watch for the third one… she’s only 18, and she is kind of a monster. Though I was out of the money in the Pro category, I took home the overall singlespeed win for the series- something that had eluded me the previous year.

I crossed the finish line and regained my composure, then headed back to the car to eat and strap my bags on to my bike. At the time, the thought of climbing another 2,500 feet with a fully loaded bike seemed like an insurmountable task, but the weather looked clear, and Amanda was excited to get going. I was committed.

We headed off across the highway to Corona Pass Road, which would take us up and over the Continental Divide before we’d make our way down in to Nederland for dinner and camping. The views up there are something I can’t describe in available English language words:

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We reached the top eventually… I wasn’t really watching the time.

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On the other side, there are a series of abandoned train trestle crossings. Here’s a link to the story of Corona/Rollins Pass that you can read if you’re interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollins_Pass

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We descended the pass via the Jenny Creek jeep road- an adventure in and of itself. It takes you to the Eldora Ski area just outside of Nederland, where we were just a quick road ride away from pizza…

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The hippie pizza restaurant in Ned is also an experience. The person cooking the pizzas probably consumes more weed than he does pizza. We sat around in the brewery and listened to bluegrass and consumed large quantities of food (and a small quantity of beer). I called us hood-rich transients. Thus, the name of this adventure- Hood-Rich Transients, Volume 1.

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I’d be willing to bet money that Nederland has the highest per-capita rate of dreadlocks of any city in the world.

After filling up, we headed out to the woods to camp. There’d been reports of transients living in the campground, but Amanda knew of a spot far away from the transient camp. The adventure to get there was one of those where I quit believing her when she told me how close/easy to get to the spot we were going to was. It was OK, though, because it was a great spot where no one would be likely to come across our camp, and, as an added bonus, the view in the morning was amazing.

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In the morning, we packed up and rolled down to the Peak to Peak highway and up to Magnolia Road, which would take us back towards Boulder, where I was to be at work at 12pm.

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We stopped on Flagstaff Road- the final descent back in to reality- to take a picture at an overlook that really gave a sense of where  we’d come from. In the picture, we crossed the mountains just out of frame to the left.

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At the bottom, we at mass quantities of real food breakfast, and I clocked in right on time.

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I can’t really describe (again) how great of an adventure it was. I’m hooked on bikepacking now.

Oh yeah, and just to give my setup so far, since a lot of people tend to ask- most of it is made by J.Pak. The bottle/light battery/trash holders on the bars are Ruksacks, the top tube bag (most of my food fit in there) is a Snakpak, the seat bag (all my sleeping gear) is also made by him. I also used a Blackburn Cargo cage with a dry bag to carry some sleep clothes, a couple of extra layers for morning riding, and a rain jacket. If I were to need to carry real food/a stove, I’d probably try another cargo cage for that. I need something a little tougher than the dry bag, though.

 

Racing and Stuff

Jeez, it’s been two Winter Parks ago since I posted…

I’ve continued my trend of fun-rides and it’s worked out pretty well. Winter Park #4 was part of the Colorado Freeride Festival, so, unbeknownst to me, they offered a decent prize purse to the Pro racers. Even though some bigger hammers than usual showed up, I still could have finished in the money. Oh, Well…  I still picked up the SS win.
#4 was also my vain attempt at riding back to Lakewood from Winter Park. I’d planned accordingly with the exception of actually paying attention to the fact that finish times for that course were a full hour longer than the previous courses. I started up Corona Pass far too late in the day to make it through White Ranch before the sun started to set (and the park would be closed), so I ended up turning back just a few miles in to the ride. I decided that the only WPXC race with the right combination of “late enough that the snow has melted” and “early enough for the most daylight” is #3- the Race Rendezvous course.

Winter Park #5 was definitely the best course of all the courses. It was Point-to-Point style, starting in the ski area, and ending somewhere in the mountains west of Fraser. It was mostly singletrack, and played well to someone with both lots of fitness and very good bike handling skills. Even though I was singlespeed, I felt really good, so I took off after the Pro and Expert women up the first climb. After some jockeying for position in the first 5 miles, I was in 2nd place behind a young expert lady (who has been blasting everyone at a majority of the races. Despite my effort to try and chase her down, I never saw her, and I ended up 2nd overall, less than a minute ahead of Pro racer Kathy, who’d been chasing me all day. It was the perfect combination of course and fitness.

I discovered a new favorite (albeit too expensive to do often) recovery activity the Tuesday following the race when we went back to Winter Park with big bikes for some lift service riding. It’s like going to an amusement park, but with bikes and purpose-built downhill trails instead of sketchy-ass roller coasters assembled by carnies.

Somewhere woven in with all of that, I’ve been working my ass off. I did some mechanical support at Ironman Boulder. Triathletes are weird… it’s like a whole other sport that just happens to involve a bike. The bikes I saw were akin to a dog kept on a chain in the back yard- you definitely own it, but you don’t think about it much, and only really care for it enough to keep it alive.

The best part of the weekend was walking in to the shop tent and seeing another lady mechanic standing there. We shared a brief part of a second of surprise before getting to work fixing everyone’s clapped out stuff. Of course, I just took a picture of Knobby the dog, because that’s how I roll.

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Random bike…

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Also between races, I rode up to Squaw Pass. On the way down, I spotted a massive elk just chillin’ next to someone’s driveway just outside of Evergreen. If I had to guess, I’d say part of why he’s so large is because he terrorizes the local gardens. He also wasn’t very afraid of me. As someone highly wary of moose, I wasn’t very comfortable getting any closer than “across the road.” I don’t know how aggressive elk are, though I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of one trampling anyone. Better safe than sorry, right?

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With one more Winter Park XC left, I’m going to switch it up a little for the final race (where there is, once again, some $$ available for the Pros). I’m going to put the Mach 429sl into XC mode with my carbon wheels and SID World Cup fork (it currently rolls on a Pike, because the Pike is awesome) in hopes of taking home a little cash. We’ll see how it all shakes out. My work/commute to Boulder has me pretty exhausted most of the time, so I’ve had to really make time to get a hard effort or two in before the work day.

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At least I work right at the base of a kickass climb up Flagstaff.

If all goes according to plan, this weekend after WP#6, I’ll go to the podium party then ride off in to the woods for an overnight adventure with my (former) coworker Amanda, Indy wrangler and bikepacker extraordinaire.

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Dis-Organized Training

You may have noticed that my race report was absent following the previous Winter Park race weekend (way back on the 9th). I went to bed the night before with a slightly sore throat and woke up the next morning feeling like five pounds of shit in a 10-pound sack. I still raced, and I still won singlespeed, but I didn’t have the punch to pull off another overall win, finishing 3rd out of the women’s starters.

The next day, I went to my second ever jujitsu tournament. It was pretty small compared to the previous one, meaning I only had one other person to compete against. My lone competitor was fierce, but I won the first match via armbar and the second via triangle, giving me the gold.

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I’m testing for another stripe on the belt Thursday night, and I’ll be racing again at Winter Park this weekend.

I have to admit, I’ve somewhat lost my drive to do any sort of organized training plan. The dis-organized riding here is so great that I basically hit up Valmont Bike part before work a couple of days a week and try to get out for some sort of longer adventure on my two days off and Sunday mornings before work. The result is a general tapering off in fitness gains, but a gradual onset of awesomeness everywhere else. So, I’m not too concerned about it.

Since the last time I posted, I’ve ridden a big loop at Buffalo Creek, including the new Little Scraggy trail (sorry, no pics), I’ve taken Brandon, the service manager at the shop who just moved from Chicago, up Mt. Falcon and down Lair of the Bear, explored the Bard Creek trail with Jake, and went on a pre-work trail hunt with Clayton (which also resulted in nabbing a Boulder Strava QOM as we were hammer-down descending back to the shop, trying not to be late).

If you have ever lived someplace else besides Colorado, and then you move here, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of appreciation for the fact that, in an hour and a half of either riding or driving from the house, you can be in some pretty amazing places.

The Bard Creek trail is one of those places. Jake and I made a shuttle out of it, parking a car in Empire, and driving another to the Herman Gulch trailhead. We found out rather quickly that, while the trail is 100% legal for cycling, it is 100% a hiking trail. Most of the trail was extremely narrow (that is, in the places where the trail actually existed as more than just a sight line between cairns) and extremely steep. It also runs mostly above treeline (from about mile 1.5 to mile 10.5), making it as awe-inspiring as it is aerobically challenging.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we likely hike-a-biked for 7 of its 15 miles. Our average speed was 3.6 miles per hour. You can see the map on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584/overview

That’s about as solid of a trail as you get up there. The rest was cairn-hunting and following a GPS track on Jake’s Garmin:

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You know you’re way up there when the elevation makes your Gu packaging all puffy:

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A high Alpine lake… you almost can’t tell that there’s water in it because it’s so clear:

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Spot the cairns #1:

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Some hike-a-bike:

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Spot the cairn #2 (hint, it’s not the bush in the middle):

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Eventually we made our way down through some thick aspens and a soggy creek bed

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The final big view of the day on Empire Pass. It’s pretty amazing that the entire time, we were so incredibly isolated, yet never too far from a major interstate:

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It’s hard to convey in pictures and words on the internet the feeling of being in such a remote and beautiful place so close to where I live. It’s like every day off is a single-day dream vacation.

Working doesn’t suck, either. I periodically get to be a bike wizard/hero and save someone’s vacation/race/charity ride…

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…not trying to brag with the postcard pics…

I just know that posting them here will make my mom happy.

Realm of Possibilities

Have you ever watched a situation unfold and realized that it’s something that would never happen to you? Or could happen to you? What’s your Realm of Possibilities?

For example- at my gym, there was a laser tag night. I joked that one of the coaches has probably been kicked out of laser tag before for being too rowdy. He laughed and said that wasn’t outside of the realm of possibilities.
Example two- I see a couple unloading three children from a van. One is screaming, one is pestering the screaming one, and the other is drawing on the side of the van with a marker. That situation is so far outside my realm of possibilities that it will literally never occur in my lifetime.
Example three- It’s 11:30 pm and you and your friends decide you want to go to Taco Bell. Everyone hops in the car, windows down, music up. Along the way, you change lanes without signaling. Suddenly, the police officer you just drove by (not speeding) dives behind you and pulls you over. He wants you and your friends to get out of the car for no specific reason. He calls for backup because you have no idea what you did wrong and you’re questioning his authority because of it. Things escalate, and you and your friends end up drug out of the car on the ground in handcuffs because you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong and didn’t comply with an officer acting as if you did. Oh yeah- I forgot to mention- You and your friends are black.

How far outside of your realm of possibilities is that third one? I’m going to go ahead and assume that most of my readers are white, and therefore, that situation is 100% outside of your realm. All the way. Just like me and a heard of children in a van. You will never be stopped and questioned by police because you “look suspicious.”

When things are outside your realm of possibilities, you tend to ignore them- especially if they’re unpleasant. I’m white and was raised in a middle-to-upper-class suburb by two parents. It’s easy for someone like me to deny that racial profiling by police even exists because it’s something that is so far outside of where I exist.

I can ignore it.

Last night, Black Lives Matter protesters shut down the “M” bridge in Memphis. If you’re unfamiliar with the Memphis landscape, that’s one of the two major arteries across the Mississippi River in to Arkansas from the city. As a cyclist, I can tell you, people feel ownership to roads. When you slow their forward progress by even a handful of seconds, they lose their shit. My social media feed was full of white people screaming about how that’s not the answer. It was also full of white people saying they’d like to take bulldozers, guns, grenades, etc. to the protesters.

Suddenly, the plight of Black People became something they couldn’t ignore. It was suddenly within their realm of possibilities that the profiling of a race could effect their lives in some way, shape, or form, and there was nothing that they could do about it.

And, that’s where I’m going with this. A lot of people ask, “what good is it doing to shut down an interstate?” That’s what it’s doing- it’s making the lifetimes of anger and frustration caused by racial profiling everyone’s un-ignorable problem. It’s bringing attention to someone else’s realm of possibilities. For most people reading this, being profiled by a police officer because of your race is far outside of your realm of possibilities. So, you don’t pay much attention to it. It doesn’t matter to you. You may have even decided that racial profiling doesn’t exist because you don’t do it yourself. Being stopped/questioned by a police officer because you’re “black and in the wrong place” or, in more politically correct terminology, “looking suspicious” is something that has not and will never happen to you.

People wouldn’t be shutting down interstates if a problem didn’t exist. I don’t have a solution, but I know that empathy and admitting that the problem exists makes a hell of a first step. I still claim Memphis as my home town, and I’m proud of Memphis for a peaceful protest on both the protester and the police side.

Winter Park #2- Cross Country Super Loop

Saturday may just be the hardest I’ve ever raced an XC course. I remembered from last year that there were a few spots that I refer to as “singlespeed purgatory.” They’re one(ish) mile stretches of forest road that are nearly flat/slightly downhill- basically, places where singlespeeders will get swamped by geared riders between the singletrack that the road connects. If you look at the elevation profile on Strava, you can see them very clearly.

Go ahead. Look. The race report will make more sense that way.

My goal of this race was to go harder than I thought I could go and find out just how deep my fitness went. So, I warmed up for a while- riding a quick loop of the first climb/descent and eating some Roctane gel a few minutes before I lined up. I think my heart was pounding harder waiting for the race to start than it had the whole time I was warming up.

We started at the bottom of the ski hill, just like the hill climb. The course made its way up 450ft of gain in one mile up the ski hill road before turning on to singletrack, then quickly descending to singlespeed purgatory #1. The race started. I went H.A.M. After 8-ish minutes, I went in to the singletrack just a few bike lengths behind another woman. Thanks to my pre-riding, I caught her after just a few techy turns of descending.  I hauled ass down to the first purgatory, where, about halfway through, I was swamped by Yeti Beti pro Natalie Raborn.

Luckily, she didn’t put so much time in to me that I couldn’t catch her on the next singletrack descent. It was short, but took us in to one of the more techy spots, full of wet rocks and roots. She let me by when she had to foot-down a big, slimy rock when I was right behind her. I did my best to settle in and float through the next few miles of rolling descent.

From about miles 5 to 11, the course mostly climbed, with the exception of purgatory #2 from miles 8 to 9. I didn’t see or hear anyone until I was well in to that flat part, where I was promptly swamped by two pros and one expert racer. I was somewhat frustrated and feeling a little blown up from my starting effort, but I did what I could- eating more Roctane, drinking, and spinning as hard as I could between gulps.

I managed to keep one woman in sight and started to catch up to her on a section of trail (“Upper Chickadee”) that was new to the course (a re-route since a creek crossing in the original course was too high). It was a climby section of bench trail in some pretty tight trees. I felt right at home, and my comfort rewarded me with having the other women in sight when we dumped on to another forest road before the final steep climb of the day.

On that little bit of forest road climbing, I felt like I was at a standstill. I wasn’t gaining any ground, but I definitely wasn’t losing it. Then, at mile 11, we turned on to a climb called “Lonesome Whistle”- a super steep double track. Lucky for me, the little bit of rain the day before made it slightly less loose. I swamped the three women who’d passed me on purgatory #2.

Then came the dig. I didn’t know exactly what the rest of the course was, but I did know that I was at 1:08 in, and at the highest point. That meant that it was biased downhill for another 20-30 minutes to the finish. With purgatory #3 (a repeat of #1) in there, I knew I’d have to ride as brakeless as possible to put a sizeable gap between me and the racers just behind me and avoid another swamping where it was flat.

I hammered it as if it was the only part of the course I’d done that day. My right quad threatened cramps several times. I caught and passed several of the 50+ expert men that had started ahead of us. All of them were quick to give me room when I told them I was leading the women’s race (thanks for that, guys). If it was uphill, I was stand-hammering. If it was downhill, I was taking chances through the rocks and tight trees.

Then, the terrible, awful mile of flat forest road. I wish I still had a powermeter so I could see what sort of average cadence I was doing for that four minutes. It was like being in a nightmare where you’re trying to run from a monster/serial killer/tornado, but your body is stuck in molasses. I kept hugging the edges of the road, hoping to cut precious feet off of the curves and stay out of sight if at all possible.

I never saw anyone behind me as I went in to the last singletrack. It was another little bit of slimy, rocky/rooty mud and tech, which I rode through with smooth reckless abandon before it kicked out on to the last quarter mile of flat road to the finish. No one caught me. The next woman (an 18-year-old expert racer) finished just 30 seconds later, followed by the first pro woman 30 seconds after that. (you can see all the results HERE)

Holy Crap.

If I hadn’t ridden my a$$ off in that last 6 miles, I would have been toast. I felt like falling down at the finish line. I found some shade and just sat and stared off in to space for a good 15 minutes.

I did manage to rally for the Singlespeed podium (no mention of the overall at the podium ceremony, but whatevs).

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The next race is a couple of weeks away. It’s the “Rendezvous” course, which was my favorite last year and is waaaaay better for singlespeeding. Yesterday, I rode Super Walker before work to get a little overload on top of Saturday’s effort (spoiler alert- I bought a ticket for the Strugglebus… non-stop service to Struggletopia). I’ll probably do an endurance-paced longer ride on Tuesday and a short track race on Wednesday before backing off and recovering again for the next XC installment. It hurts, but the speed is totally worth it.