2014(5) Training Camp #2

While I was out having a double-rainbow moment in the woods on Monday, Matt was on his way to the cabin. As I mentioned previously, it’s been really cold. So, Tuesday morning, we passed the 20-something morning hours by going to the Sylamore shooting range that’s just north of the trail system. Matt brought his .22 rifle, and I brought my 12 gauge shotgun (A.K.A. the “cabin security system” because it’s next to the bed any time I’m over here).

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We played with the .22 a while. I hit the targets pretty well, but then I got impatient with it and decided to knock the targets down all the way.

The weather generally fluctuated between cold and cloudy and “balmy” 40’s and sunny. We celebrated New Year’s eve with a long-ish ride on the Orange, Blue, and Green trails (highly recommended route if you’re looking for a 3-4 hour adventure). Everything is in fair-to-excellent shape right now with the exception of the long, technical part of the Yellow Trail. The long ride meant that we also celebrated New Year’s on Eastern time.

Matt got into the puzzle game

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There was bound to be rain starting in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, so we got up and on our bikes earlier than we had previously. It was a rare chance to take advantage of extremely light “everyone home in bed” traffic on Highway 9 and ride north from the cabin to explore down some of the gravel roads in that direction. The number of property owners who have gated off the roads that pass through/in front of their property is astounding. I’m relatively certain that about half of them aren’t legitimate owners of the roads, but since no one else really has a reason to use the roads, they get away with it. We also rode down the mountain to the “town” of Sylamore because I wanted to check out a creepy looking boarded up building that I’d noticed from an overlook across the river.

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The rain that came in Thursday afternoon kept going until just a little while ago (it’s Saturday morning).

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Matt left on Friday, and I decided to make it an off day (first one since the 25th). I kicked it off with a trip to WalMart for one more puzzle and a few necessities. The rain was light once I was back and had breakfast, so I decided to take Turbo out for a tree-clearing hike. We cut a couple of trees off the Blue Trail near Highway 5.

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That last one is how I drove home from the trailhead (with the addition of a couple of bungee straps). My dad makes walking sticks, and one of the trees I cut was a small-ish white birch with lots of “walking stick” sized branches. Old Turbo was pretty exhausted after that

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Back at the cabin, I decided I’d patch up the heel-rub holes in my shoe covers. I used a wader repair kit and lots of Aquaseal. I don’t really need waterproofing, but I’m hoping that it will prolong the life of them for the remainder of the winter

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The remainder of the day was reserved for writing a blog post, eating, doing laundry, watching football, and, of course…

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The rain is finally clearing out, so I should be able to get out and ride some forest roads and maybe the red trail this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow is partly cloudy with a daytime high hovering around 30 degrees. I plan on bundling up and polishing off my training camp with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours of riding.

Solo Syllamo Weekend

I made a mid-week decision to go for a solo trip to Syllamo over the weekend. Before I left town, I had some stuff to do…


That’s an Ancestory.com DNA kit. The whole site makes me cringe a little with its subscription-ness, but the “spit in a cup and we’ll tell you about your ancestors” part is wholly fascinating to me. So, I’m anxiously waiting on that to process.

Thursday, I explored some horse trails. Along the way, I saw (literally) a ton of deer as well as a turkey and an owl. I also found large quantities of mud in a couple of spots.




Given the large quantity of mud I had to clean off/out of my bike on top of an already busy Friday, I didn’t get out of town until around 4pm. Apparently, there’s a never-ending Friday night congestion of U.S. Highway 64 between all the small towns across Arkansas. Who knew? There’s a more northern route that’s a few minutes shorter, but I’ve always felt a bit of an adventure connection to 64 since it’s been a part of many of my travels to races and whatnot in both directions across the country.

Anyway, Turbo and I made it in enough time to make dinner and start a new puzzle.



(OK, so the second photo is from the morning, as evidenced by my coffee, but that’s all I’d finished the night before)

This winter, I’m embracing the “just get out and ride” method of free-forming my base miles. I’m also embracing some interesting ride food, like rum-soaked fruitcake:


I came up with a route that I dubbed the “Baby Epic,” because in the future, I’ll add more singletrack to the eastern side of it. If you take a look at the map: http://www.strava.com/activities/229517383, you’ll see that, following Branscum Rd. (which is actually a pretty rough/steep horse trail), I used a combination of Green Mountain Road, the last 4 miles of the Red Trail, and the last short/tech section of the Orange trail to return to where I started. Next time, the plan is to add the Blue trail from the 2nd trailhead to the Orange, and, as a final “Big Epic,” add the long/hard section of the Yellow on top of that. That’s bound to be an all-day ride for sure.

Along the way, I did some futzing with my suspension as well as making a stop to take photos from the little side trail to a waterfall at the bottom of Branscum “Road.”




That last one is from underneath the waterfall overhang. You can see the water coming down from the upper right side of the photo. It is gorgeous out there, and the trails are generally in great shape. After my journey, I arrived back to the parking lot and saw another Shelby County vehicle parked next to mine. The occupants (including Fullface Kenny) had left some dust art for me.


I unscrewed their gas cap.


Ginger Ale and recovery candy.

Back at the cabin, I snacked, cleaned up, and worked on my puzzle some more. After a trip to WalMart for provisions, I came back and made a kickass dinner and watched the ever-present A&E Criminal Minds procedural crime drama marathon.


Sunday was a day for survival and not photos. I rode from the 2nd Green Mountain Road trailhead without much of a plan other than “explore side roads.” Turns out, most side roads just lead you to logged-off meadows. My legs were thrashed from the day before, so it was a 2.5 hour exercise in keeping the pedals moving and trying to enjoy the scenery and little bit of excitement that comes with exploration… all the while, trying to ignore the fact that my legs were still back at the cabin drinking coffee and working on a puzzle.

Driving home from the cabin depresses me. Aside from the lack of multiple cute animals, it’s like my safe, cozy fortress of solitude where I can go and ride some of the most difficult terrain available then relax in the peace and quiet of the Ozarks. It’s one of those things where the whole way back, I’m already planning the next trip in my head.

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The Long Weekend

Since my family acquired a cabin near the Syllamo Trails, I’ve been going over there for Thanksgiving. The past two years, it’s been a family event, with one or more relatives coming to visit. I decided to take Turbo this year since she’s been fighting off pneumonia for the past two months and the extra exercise of being able to trot around and pretend to chase deer (there’s not much real “chase” when you’re a large 13-year-old dog) is good to help clear her lungs. On Wednesday, I took her to a small local bakery/grooming shop called Woof Gang Bakery where they offer self-service baths/blowdry. She loves the attention…


Speaking of dogs… look how cute these two are:


Also on Wednesday, I made the best green bean casserole, ever. I love it when I find a recipe like this one that’s been bastardized by pre-made/canned food and take it back to the basics to remind everyone that even a casserole can taste like actual food and not just salty mush.

Thursday morning, Ryan and I left early so we’d make it to the cabin for lunch festivities. Everything was pretty delicious, though I refrained from gorging too much because we planned on squeezing in a post-lunch ride that afternoon. Not long ago, a professional work crew cleared the entire 13-ish mile Red Trail, and, even though it’s not my favorite one in the system, I hadn’t ridden it in more than a couple of years because it’s continually been in bad condition. Other than a couple of branches and lots of leaves, it’s now super open and nice. We also checked out the Yellow trail on the non-trailhead side of Green Mountain Rd. between the Red trail Trailhead and the Yellow/Blue Trailhead. Half of it was clear and open like the Red Trail, and the other half is thorny with several trees down.

Thursday night brought about my newest Thanksgiving tradition- an obnoxiously large and difficult puzzle. This one was particularly terrible because the photo used for the puzzle is mostly out of focus.


Spoiler alert- we never finished it.

Friday, I wanted to ride a potential Enduro course. Details are mostly a secret, though I will say the transition climbing is going to kill the shuttle-runners off with a quickness. It’s very scenic, though.


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Sunday, we attempted to ride the “hard” part of the Yellow Trail from the middle Green Mountain Trailhead going clockwise (reverse race direction). It still has some overgrown spots- especially in the logged-off areas (of course) and a pretty steady amount of downed trees. However, the rock gardens are in prime condition. Ryan wasn’t enjoying the looseness of the leaves and marble-y gravel beneath them, so we ended up bailing off at a logging road just after the Overlook.


We extended our ride on the nearby gravel roads and checked out the scenery at the bottom of Sandy Flat before heading back to the cabin to eat and pack up for home. Conclusion? The trails are about 85% awesome right now. The more traffic they get, the more the leaves will be unfluffed, and the better they’ll ride. If you’re on the fence about going to Syllamo because of past conditions, I’d say it’s worth the trip.

Sunday, I wanted to get in another good ride back in Memphis. The weather was super nice, with highs somewhere up in the 60’s for much of the day. Since it hadn’t rained in a while, Matt and I decided to try checking out the “Epic” trails- a sort-of system of 4×4 trails that winds through the narrow strip of woods between the Wolf River and Interstate 40 across most of the length of Memphis. Because of the neighborhoods it crosses, it’s not a place to go alone, and there are mudholes there that could swallow a jeep, however, when it’s in good shape, it’s a lot of fun to explore as long as you know what you’re getting in to.

Along the way-




We found out very quickly that it was way too muddy. We probably should have taken a hint from this guy, who we found stuck in a hole near the beginning of the trail-

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My tires clogged with muck within a mile, and both wheels couldn’t turn. Our adventure thwarted, we turned around and hiked out. Lots of other people were out enjoying the mud and nice weather, so we had some entertainment along the way back.



I recorded a little video:


Our bikes were pretty trashed in a short period of time, so we rode back home and, following a little errand-running, drank just enough alcohol that playing “you be jab, I’ll be cross” with my boxing gloves and later “trade leg kicks” sounded like a good idea. Ryan didn’t participate, and, lo & behold, he was the only person in the house not walking with a slight limp on Monday morning.

Now, it’s back to the grind for the time being… mostly. There’s currently another Syllamo trip in the planning stages. I’m also about to have a bit of a change in my MMA training. Since my fight back in July, John and I have been training a little on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. However, since the building that Ingram’s Martial Arts was in is being taken over by another lessee, they’re moving their classes to UFK, and I’ll be starting in with them tonight. It’s slightly uncomfortable to be the “new kid,” but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out just fine.

Arkansas-Induced Happy

Sorry (a little) for making bummer posts lately. My trip to the cabin/Syllamo Trails was gorgeous. I only got to ride on Saturday because of some crummy weather that came in Saturday night, but it was totally worth the trip (as always). We rode the Orange and Blue trails, and they’re in excellent shape right now.

Riding for any length of time on those trails will confirm that nearly every inch of them wishes for you to fail or break down. Matt flatted on a forest road, at which point, I decided that the Syllamo Trails are like the Australia of trail systems- there seems to be a disproportionate number of things there, both large and small, that will injure your equipment or your person. That probably only makes sense when you realize that Australia is home to lots of things that want to kill you.



Flats and falls aside, it is, and will always be, one of my most favorite places in the world. It’s quiet, remote, and beautiful.



I’m excited to go back this weekend, ride, and do some trail work on the less excellent areas. From what I’ve heard, the Red trail (which was definitely the worst as far as overgrowth and deadfall), is now clear, thanks to a crew brought in by the Walton Family Foundation (most people in Arkansas would agree that the trail systems in the state wouldn’t be what they are today if it weren’t for the generous donations from the Walton Family).

If you’re a follower of Mountain Bike Radio and listener of Just Riding Along, you’ve heard all that before. If you aren’t a listener, you should definitely start this weekend. You can go to the MBR website and listen directly, or click on whichever of the “download/listen here” buttons most suits your fancy. You’ll be entertained and/or informed during your hours of Thanksgiving travel. If you’re new to JRA, you should definitely go back in the archives and learn about the hazards of the trailside Armadillo. That way, you’ll be fully prepared to get a t-shirt once we have them printed:



No Plans Other than the Weekend

Too often on blogs and other social media, individuals paint a shiny, perfect picture of their lives. I’m not in to that. Even if it loses a few readers, I like to keep it real. It’s also somewhat therapeutic to organize and describe my feelings in neat and coherent paragraphs. So, for my next therapy session…

That last post got me down a bit. I was really enjoying the break from my usual grind and looking forward to the upcoming marathon challenges. I’ve basically written off being well enough for the December 6th LOViT Marathon. My tendinitis is still there and wants to flair up if I do any sort of ballistic movement with my left leg. I can, however, ride a bike without any pain, so I’ve been getting back on the trail on two wheels… not really with a plan, but that feels alright for now.

I do plan on working with a good PT in the coming weeks. I think that my injuries are all stemming from the last round of hamstring injections I had back in late September. I have to figure out the root cause and deal with it in order to train as hard as I want to without continually injuring myself. As for what I’m training for? I don’t know yet. I’m going to bike race next year, but I haven’t felt compelled to put together a schedule other than “Crested Butte Enduro Stage Race.” I’m not sure if I want to keep it more regional, maybe go to Pisgah a little more often, or try and get out to Colorado more than once.

All of my hesitation to make a 2015 plan boils down to my ability/inability to train. Living in Memphis, training on the road is almost required. I used to enjoy it. Then, I got hit by a car, and it became a necessary evil that I fought through and tolerated. My ability to do so has become almost totally exhausted. I dealt with PTSD once before after aiding in cadaver recovery (with a recovery K9) at the World Trade Center following the 9/11  terrorist attacks. It took a long time for that to go away, but I realized the other day when I passed a burning car (which smells almost exactly like a burning World Trade Center) and didn’t have any sort of panic or flashback feelings, that I could call myself 99.99% healed from that experience.

Dealing with the hit-by-car thing has been way different. The best way I can describe it is it’d be like if you’d worked in the World Trade Center and barely managed to survive the terrorist attacks, and then immediately went back to work in another high rise office with airplanes constantly circling it, and on most days, at least one of the planes would buzz your window and/or play chicken with your building, and at least once a week, you’d have a friend or a friend of a friend whose office was exploded via another errant plane. That’s basically where I am now.

I’m not saying that I am giving up- far from it. I’m just saying it’s going to take some extra work and determination to do most of my riding away from vehicles. I’ve had a few people suggest group rides. Being tucked in a group does nothing to make me feel safer the same way being in a high rise office with hundreds of other people wouldn’t make the person in my example feel safer.

I decided to run off to the cabin for the weekend to get back in to some fun riding. The mountains are very much my sanctuary when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed by anything. I’m not all doom and gloom, it’s just going to take time to work through my fears and figure out what I can tolerate and where I can compromise. I have never been one to stress over uncertainty… I actually don’t mind it at all, because it leaves the future open to anything rather than corralling me on to the same worn path.


Lula Lake Race Report

In the running for “biggest success of the weekend” could be my avoidance of this traffic jam on the way to Chattanooga. I checked the traffic map prior to leaving my acupuncture appointment in Spring Hill just south of Nashville and saw the backup starting near the I-24/I-59 junction close to Chattanooga. I checked again at a rest stop, saw it was worse, and figured out which back roads would route me around it.


Chattanooga is like any “up & coming” city… gentrification abounds, and, while it whitewashes much of the cultural interest of an area, it does make for a cool and convenient place to stay downtown.

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I digress…

The Lula Lake Land Trust 5 Points 50 was (despite plenty of rain) a great race on an excellent course. I wasn’t quite recovered from the adventure race, so not only was I not firing on all cylinders from the gun, the ones I was firing on started to fail around mile 26. I swapped between 3rd/4th place for a while, finding that, while the woman I was racing for the podium spot could handily outclimb me, I was better at downhills and slippery/slide-y/technical stuff. The course really favored a strong climber, though, and I wasn’t able to fake my way ahead of her for the 2nd half of the course. I was in 4th for a while, and, while I was downing a Red Bull at the 38ish mile aid station, 5th caught up to me. She was ahead for a while, then the caffeine took hold, and I was able to pass her on a steep spot. I held her off through cramps and my building frustrations that none of the downhills seemed long or steep enough to justify using my dropper post, and ended up finishing in 4th place out of 13 ladies.


It wasn’t terrible… I knew that a lack of recovery was a real possibility, and I was game enough to have a good time and enjoy a fun trail system.  If you want to hear more about the Lula Lake race, keep an eye on the Mountain Bike Radio Just Riding Along page. I interviewed the race winners as well as the people responsible for making such an excellent event.

Post-race road trip necessity for the drive home on Sunday:


When I arrived back home, I spent the remainder of the day chilling out and occasionally assisting Matt in his ambitious weekend schedule of home improvement projects

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Ryan and I drank beer, sat in the garage, and spectated that portion of it.

The focus now is on recovery. I kicked the week off right by taking the dogs to the dog park. Marley likes to run the fence at full speed trying to catch squirrels, Indy wanders around the corners, and Turbo generally sticks by me. A good time was had by all.



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My current plan is to rest hard and try to be on top form for the 12 Hours of Nite Nationals race on the 25th. It’s going to be a close-to-gameday decision, though. My fitness prior to the adventure race was the best it’s been all season. However, it will take every bit of that fitness and then some to do well against the ladies that are going to show up at the race. So, if I don’t feel 100%, there are other things I’d rather do than flog myself in a sleep-deprived lap race.

Pisgah Stage Race- from the background

Ok, finally, now that I’m back home and about to re-pack for another adventure, I have a little time to post a few pics and stories from my week as a crew person at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race. If you want to hear about the race itself, head over to the Just Riding Along Pisgah Special Report page on Mountain Bike Radio and listen to Matt’s daily stage reports as well as interviews with Todd, the race director, and some of the other racers.

The ideal way to go about racing a stage race is to show up, race half the day, eat immediately, then spend the remainder of the afternoon napping and laying around before going to the evening awards ceremony (universally at around 6pm for the races I’ve been to). My day basically went like this:

6am: wake up, make coffee, make breakfast, prep my own stuff to ride, pack a cooler with post-race drinks & snacks, do breakfast dishes (there wasn’t a dishwasher), pack the car, load the bikes. It sounds crazy until you’ve been there yourself, but eating breakfast during a stage race can be a really difficult task…



8:15-ish (depending on start time/location, we left as early as 7:15): drive to start, unload bikes, drink more coffee, get Matt’s jacket, etc. from the start line. A couple of the days involved a remote start- racers met at the finish line and were shuttled in a bus out to the start location.





9:00-ish: race started, prep my own stuff to ride, go out and ride part(s) of the day’s course.










I pretty successfully managed to ride until about the time the first racers were crossing the finish line (Matt was consistently finishing around 10th-13th). That gave me enough time to change, snack, and stand around at the finish for a few minutes to get a photo (Ok, I cut it close once and was still in kit at the finish when he came through. That’d involved a flat tire of my own fault, though).




After stage 1, I found local racer Jordan Salman with a bandaged up broken finger that put her out of the race. Sad day.

1-2:00: somewhere in that time frame, we’d arrive back at the house. I’d put away the dry breakfast dishes and make lunch while Matt changed & showered. Then change/shower myself, eat, and have approximately 3 hours to do the afternoon chores: wash more dishes, unpack the cooler, wash/refill bottles, go to the laundromat, go grocery shopping, and generally pick up and re-organize stuff at the house so that nothing would be lost or misplaced.



Matt usually laid around and napped, though by 4 or 5, he’d get kinda stir crazy and go wash his bike (and sometimes mine, too). I could have squeezed that in to my afternoon, but it’s not a terrible activity to do if you’re just wanting to get up and move around after laying down for a couple of hours. We’d also do the daily MBR stage report.
Most of the time, just before leaving for awards, I’d make Matt a giant smoothie with frozen fruit and Kefir.
5:45 Leave for the awards ceremony/happy hour at the Brevard Music Center. Stay there ’til 7:15 or 8, depending on whether or not we did any interviews for MBR and whether I had one glass of wine or two.

Interview pics…


7:30ish (depending on when we left awards): back at the house- put away lunch dishes, make dinner, eat, clean dinner dishes, lube chains.

We also didn’t have wifi at the house aside from my phone. So, in order to put the MP3 files online to be posted on MBR, on the way home from awards, we had to park outside the laundromat and upload them using their wifi.

That made for finally getting to stop moving and lay in bed around 9:30-10pm.

Stage 5 was the exception to the “finish before Matt” rule. I hitched a ride with Todd, the race director, to the mid-point of the course. From there, I hammered up a 7-mile forest road climb to the top of the final enduro of the day/race. Up there, I hung out with the guys doing Enduro timing and handed out an entire bottle of whiskey in small Dixie cups to whichever racers wanted a shot (or 4).

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Listen to the post-race interviews in the MBR link above to find out why, exactly, those guys have “F@#K” on their jerseys… it’s pretty amazing.

Following stage 5, we stopped by Sycamore Cycles (local shop sponsoring the race) and hung out a little while. Chopper the dog is adorable…


The awards ceremony for the week was a blast. It culminated into a pie-eating contest. When they made the call for contestants, Matt ran up and, of course, took his shirt off so “it wouldn’t get dirty”. Other guys started filtering their way up, and I instructed them to also take their shirts off. The ladies in the crowd were amused, and many phone photos/videos were taken.





Kaysee Armstrong is all like, “no, I’m not looking…”


Post-race pics:

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I’ve put a video of the pie eating as well as some other during-race action on my YouTube Channel.

Being a crew-person is absolutely exhausting but very rewarding. Matt had a great race- he followed my advice on pacing and eating, which allowed him to put his tech riding skill and fitness to good use throughout the whole week and come away with a 10th place finish in the open men’s category (results posted here). I’m looking forward to racing it myself in 2015.


Vapor Trail Road Trip- #5

The good news is, my fork is feeling better. The bad news is, through the magic of the cool testing & training equipment found around the 92fifty/Elevated Legs compound, I was able to quantify just how much I’m affected by the 9k+ feet of elevation. Sitting around in the house, the pulse oximiter tells me that my red blood cells are only 93% saturated with oxygen… something you’d only expect to see at sea level if you were dealing with a person who has a pulmonary problem of some sort (like asthma).


I laid around in the Elevated Legs for a while breathing oxygen from the O2 generator, and, surprise! I made it (temporarily) up to normal.

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The idea behind the setup like the one in the 92fifty studio is that you can get all of the good physiological adaptations you’d see from hanging out at altitude, but by doing higher intensity sessions indoors with supplemental O2, you can still train your top end like you’re at sea level.

So, there’s your brief and informative science lesson of the day.

Wednesday, I packed up my stuff and headed out to visit Megan- a high school/horseback riding friend who moved out of Memphis forever ago. She’s settled in to an awesome little farmhouse in Black Forest with Sara (her girlfriend), two horses, dogs, and kittens…

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I also sold my first road bike to her. Sadly, it developed a weird crack in the downtube, and she moved on to a different bike. She was nice enough to let me take her parts off of it and take it home with me to hang on the wall.


Thursday, I made up for not riding on Wednesday and, after breakfast, went to Colorado Springs to ride with Dan, who really made me miss my singlespeed.


He’s also taking on the Vapor Trail 125 tonight, so we had plenty of post-ride banter about how terrible the weather could possibly be.

I stopped back through Megan’s to change and eat some lunch before heading north into the suburbs of Denver to see Ben Welnak (from Mountain Bike Radio). He’s like, super-dad of the century as well. We waited around for a storm to pass before riding, and, since I took about 4x as long to prepare to ride than he did, he started dinner and wrangled kids while he waited on me.


Ben swore that the rain would be gone quickly after sunset, so we left in a drizzle and rode up Waterton Canyon towards the Colorado Trail. It was soooo gorgeous. It also never quit raining. I was more disappointed in not seeing any nocturnal creatures than I was in the wet weather.

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Friday morning, it was time to get over to Salida. After I ran around Denver shopping for waterproof socks and gloves, I got on the road and made it to town around 4:30. I hit up the local shops for some souvenirs to take home and caught a couple who were on the Continental Divide Trail. They’d stopped by Subculture Bikes to get a brake fixed.

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The people working in the shop were super nice and remembered me from stopping through last year. They invited me to have a beer and go get pizza with them. Very cool.

So, now the countdown to race start begins… about 8 hours from now. The lights are charging, the bike is tuned,  and I’ve made a tentative clothing selection based on a more optimistic forecast than what I’d seen earlier in the week. The next post you see will be a race report…


Vapor Trail Road Trip- #3

Once the pizza sandwich and ginger ale were consumed, I got on the road to Crested Butte. I didn’t know much about the town other than what I’d heard about the amazing quality of trails in the area. Once I was settled in at the hostel (which is huge, and, compared to a trail town/hiker hostel, has a weird, transient vibe to it), I walked down to the main street to get dinner. I wandered in to a pizza place called the Secret Stash and sat at the bar for a pizza and beer.

Given it was Thursday night, the mood was relatively calm inside. I was nearly finished with my meal when suddenly a raucous crowd poured into the bar area. A lady got up on a chair and announced that she was the bar owner and that Bud Light beer was free tonight. People cheered and the wait staff started tearing in to boxes of Bud Light and handing out bottles to everyone in sight. My first thought was W.T.F. This is Colorado… why is everyone freaking out about terrible beer?


Well, apparently, the city council had just approved a “Bud Light takes over your city” weekend. I’ll spare the details provided by the waitress, but apparently it requires businesses to only serve bud light (for free) for that weekend, and includes a huge free concert as well as food and a half  a million dollars to the city. The townspeople were very divided, but in the end, the Bud Light supporters won out. Soooo weird.

The next day, rather than dive straight in to riding, I decided to take a much-needed recovery day (I’d already clocked 18 hours in the past 3 days, so it was time). I started out with a bacon “scromlette” from McGills (where I ended up getting breakfast every morning since they were open at 6am).


That was followed up with coffee and blog-writing, then a massage and a drop-in visit to a great chiropractor. After a quick lunch of leftover pizza, I figured it was time to deal with my tire that I’d punctured and tubed a few days before. I’ve successfully patched several tires, though it’s always involved using a bench vice. I had no vice, so I had to improvise with what tools were in my bag.


It worked like a charm, and I took tire and wheel to a local shop where it could be sealed and I could buy a trail map. After a trip to the one tiny grocery store in town (tip- if you go to CB and plan on grocery shopping, do it in Gunnison on your way in so that you avoid the stupidly high small-mountain-town prices), I decided it was time for a quick spin before sunset. I made a loop of the “lower” trails, which were very nice.


The next day, I wanted something a little more backcountry. I saw the Deer Creek trail on the map, and, based on its description of “classic CB trail,” I thought it’d fit the bill well. It was a long climb to get there, and more climbing once I was on the trail. As soon as I was on the trail, I started dodging relentless cowpies. I had to hike-a-bike some near the top, and it was more of the same- a half inch layer of poo and urine slime, churned into the ground by cow hooves. I got to the top and briefly talked to some people who agreed that the trail was grosser than they remembered.

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About 90% of the whole 9 miles of trail was like that.


At least there were good views…




After my ride, I had a late lunch, laid around a bit, wandered around downtown, then had a nice dinner at the hostel. If I had to guess, I’d say there are more bikes in Crested Butte than there are cars. I borrowed one from a gal that worked in the hostel. It seems at though everyone has some sort of beater that they can just leave on any bike rack without someone bothering it. Awesome.



Bonus doggie pic of “Riot”


My next day ride was up to the 401 trail. The forest road up to the trail was surrounded by gorgeous scenery (notice the snow pack in the left of the first pic)




The trail itself was soooooo sweet





After my 401 ride, I had to pack and head north for my stay with the 9250 Cyclery guys. Random fun fact from the trip- the high mountains near Breckenridge have a fresh sheen of snow on top of them.

Vapor Trail Road Trip- #2

Following my failed attempt at riding the “hard” part of the Vapor Trail course, I arrived back at the hostel to find that there was another CDT rider stopping in to take a break from the trail. It was a German woman who had actually started her journey in Montreal, Canada.

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Once I was cleaned up and starting to get hungry, I walked to a nearby pizza restaurant with her and a hiker. I love sitting and listening to their stories from the trail… it’s one of my favorite things about hostel-ing in a trail town. Afterward, we went to the grocery store and picked up ice cream for later.
Over dinner, we briefly discussed my failed ride from the day. I lamented that in order to achieve my pre-ride goal of “not being above the treeline during afternoon storms” that I needed to get a ride to near where I’d turned around earlier. The dude who was out hiking the Colorado Trail offered to help… he had planned on hitch-hiking back to where he’d left off the trail to come to the hostel. That spot just so happened to be relatively close to where I’d finish my ride. So, we decided that we’d drive the element up to the Alpine Tunnel Trail, then I’d get out and ride, and he’d drive to the trailhead where he needed to get back on the trail. Perfect.


It was cold and cloudy when I started up the trail. The scenery was magnificent, though. Before I started the hike-a-bike to the pass, I took a few minutes to check out the site where the tunnel had gone through the mountain..

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I then started the first (and easiest) hike-a-bike of the day up and over. I made a quick stop at the top for a photo before heading down. Most of the train station still remains on the other side of the pass. It was somewhat surreal in the fogginess.

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Soon the race course took a turn off the old railroad grade to go up and over Tomichi pass. It was intermittent granny gearing and hiking followed by a final push up and over the top. It was snowing up there. I was stoked.

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As soon as you cross that spot, there’s a short descent, then the real fun starts… the hike-a-bike that everyone talks about. It’s steep, almost all rocks, and goes on for about an hour. I sang “99 bottles of beer on the wall” in my head several times over before reaching the summit.

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What follows is, at least during daylight hours, the reward for all the pushing. It’s a descent from over 12k feet to around 8k feet. The trail very quickly links in to a trail that’s open to motorcycles, and I found that the moto who had gone down not long before me (it was intermittently raining, and the tracks were super fresh) had taken excellent lines through all of the steep and rocky spots. I was able to “follow” him the whole way down. Dropper post central.

After one more short, steep, and sandy hike-a-bike, the trail dumped out on to a gravel road that meandered its way towards the final climb of the day- Old Monarch Pass. It was warm at the start, but about 3/4 of the way up, it was cold and raining. Like steady, soaking rain. Luckily I was mostly prepared. It would have been nice to have some more water resistant gloves.

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I’ll admit, the climb nearly crushed my soul. However, I eventually made it over the top and found the trail to take me to Highway 50.


Once I was there, I put all of my extra clothes on, brushed the mud off of my tail light, and began the descent to the Fooses Creek Trailhead where my car was supposed to be parked. I averaged 40 mph for several minutes. I might have gone faster, but I basically pulled off at every side road to check and make sure it wasn’t where I needed to turn off. Eventually, I found it, and I was very happy. As soon as I was in to some dry clothes, I ate some leftover pizza and a ginger ale.



With the 20 clothing change stops and an equal number of photo opportunities, the entire outing took me about 6 hours and 45 minutes. I expect I won’t take quite as long on race day (er, night), but it won’t take much less time, either. I can say that, without a doubt, this qualifies as the most difficult course I’ve ever taken on- day or night.

Once I was in the car, I drove with the heat blasting almost all the way to Crested Butte. I’d planned a couple of nice rides there, but since the extra pre-ride day was so brutal, I decided that my first full day in CB would be dedicated to recovery and a little wrenching. Photos of that tomorrow, because today is ride day, and it’s time to go.