Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Citizens Arrest!

I had an interesting encounter today.  I was at a stoplight, stopped, and knew the light so I knew it would be little bit before it changed.  I was on my way to grab a drink at a convenience store (if you love frozen Coke/Icee/Slurpees, the machine at the Kangaroo chain of convenience stores really is the best of the breed) and thus wanted to get rid of the mostly watered down tea that I had.  I checked my mirror because there was a left turn lane beside me that was vacant to make sure nothing was coming around me, and opened the door a bit and dumped the tea/water/ice out on the road.  I even took a couple seconds to shake the cup well as I glanced at the light that was still red.

I closed the door, put the cup back in the cupholder, the light changed, and we went.  I do remember well that there was a white F-150 behind me, but couldn't see much else further back.  I crossed the intersection and turned into the Kangaroo, which is out in front of a big strip mall in Carrboro.  Ran in, got my drink, paid, and headed out.  As I was getting in the car I noticed a car moving across behind my car through the parking lot.  The windows were down and I could see an older lady driving.  An older man in the passenger seat yelled "hey" and I looked to see why.  I wasn't sure it was directed at me (seemed possible I just overheard something he was yelling at her), so I continued getting in the car.  But as I did I could see the lady had stopped and the man was getting out with a piece of paper in his hand and heading toward me.

I stopped with the door open, seated in the car, and turned around as he approached.  I figured he needed directions or something.  I said "can I help you?"  He said "I just want you to know you should expect a call from the police about what you did over there" and he sort of pointed toward the intersection where I had dumped my drink.  I said "excuse me?"  I had no clue what he was talking about at the time.  He said "you dumped that tray over there."  And he turned around and started walking back to his car.  I said "for dumping out a DRINK?!?" and started laughing.  He just got in the car and the lady drove away.

I think he said "tray", I'm not completely sure.  The ice was the "half moon" shaped ice from home which is pretty "white" versus clear, so maybe he thought I dumped something out that was solid, I don't know.  I don't even know where he was when he saw me do it unless he was behind that truck or sitting in the parking lot of a different convenience store that would have been to my left.  I do know I dumped out some liquid and ice, and unless I'm missing something big, there's no crime there.  It's been about 30 minutes and no call from the police...my guess is they are out looking for, uh, actual criminals, though. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hell, and the freezing and whatnot

So I'm normally the guy that laughs at people who get stuck in the grass after it's been especially wet.  Unfortunately, today I could only laugh at myself.  Ashley had to be at church early, so me and the kids came separately.  I was "on time" for church, which means cutting it kind of close, but still, we were there in time to get inside long before the music stopped.  But it was a big day at church, and the parking lot appeared to be already bulging when I got there.  And I was in the van, which is kind of large.  So when I saw a spot where I could back in on the grass and not be in a tight parking space nor in anyone's way, I decided to jump in it right quick.  Only it was downhill just a touch and it was REALLY soft due to recent rain.  I felt it the moment I backed in, but it was too late.  Just started spinning.

Ugh.  Normally I would have not worried too much about it and just gone to services and waited until most of the parking lot was empty afterward and dealt with it then.  But today we had baseball at 2pm in Pittsboro, so we needed to be gone right when church ended to have any time to grab food at a drive-thru and get there in time for Zach to warm up.  So instead of going to services, I went and found Ashley and had her pull me out with her Pilot after services started.  By some stroke of luck I did have a tow strap in the van, but didn't have anything to attach it with.  But I used some bike rack parts on one end and random piece of metal on the other and made it work.  But it still took a good 15 minutes and my shoes were pretty gross from the mud, so we went ahead and just went and sat down to eat lunch and then went to baseball.

That's a little bad luck, but also something I should have known better to do to begin with.  Just like this past Friday night, when I took Kevin and Zach out to eat at a local Mexican restaurant.  We ordered, ate, and then when the bill came I realized I had NO MONEY.  Somehow I had forgotten my wallet.  Fortunately they were quite understanding and I was able to call them with my credit card number when I got home.  Which was also kind of dumb, since I actually do KNOW my American Express number and could have just given them that on site.  It's been a pretty mediocre weekend.

But that brings us to the hell freezing thing.  For the longest time I've said I had no urge to do a long running race, but I've found I have almost no running motivation these days, even though I really need to do it to help my mountain biking as well as for the cross training benefits.  I used to run both for those reasons and because I thought at some point I'd learn to swim and work on being a triathlete.  But I've mostly given up on the triathlon idea, which has led to less running motivation.  So I figured a good way to get some motivation back might be to run a half marathon.

Yeah, a half marathon.  You know the joke...every time someone says they ran a half marathon I think to myself "now there's someone who knows how to do things half-way."  So soon that will be me, too.  Well, "soon" is a relative term...I don't think I'm going to do a race until late January or early February, but it's time to plan it, anyway.  And thanks to Shelley, I have a time to shoot for...1:57.  That's going to be tough!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The one you've been waiting for!

It's finally here.  Pictures!  I know my blog posts are so long it's like a few pictures worth (1,000 words per picture and all that), but this time I'm just going to let the pictures and some captions do the talking.  Oh, and there's a short video at the end that's pretty boring, but with a fairly cool ending.

The climb up Columbine, near the top
Singletrack in the middle of the course
A little downhill action on the singletrack in the middle
Getting ready to turn down a steep hill
Pushing it up the bad part of Powerline
Powerline descent
The finish with Zach airborne!

And here's the video:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So was it....FUN?

[ How did this blog post get so long?  Cliff Notes version: Thanks to Dad, Jonas, Alisa, Edward, and Reid.  Was it fun?  HELL YEAH.  Now if you need something to put you to sleep, read the long version. ]

First I want to thank a few more people who helped make this possible.  One is my Dad, who loaned me his trailer for the trip.  Made life a LOT better.  Plus, you know, he's my Dad...he almost taught me how to ride a bike in the first place!  (He tried one day, but we weren't seeing eye to eye on it at all, so we, uh, took a break from it.  Then apparently a neighborhood girl passing by on her bike was able to teach me quite easily.  But Dad still gets the credit for buying me that first bike as a used bike and completely restoring it to bad-ass status.  Plus he taught me about everything I know about working on things like bikes and even just about having good tools, though he claims I stole all my tools from him anyway.  That's not true.  I have never stolen one single tool from him. *ahem*) 

Another is Jonas Sahratian, my strength coach.  He doesn't really care much for long endurance sports, but he doesn't let that stop him from making sure my body is as balanced as he can possibly get it.  You see, all this bicycling is particularly efficient at strengthening very specific sets of muscles, often to the detriment of other muscles that your body needs to stay in balance.  By that I mean you can literally strengthen some parts to the point that if you aren't careful they can tear up other body parts that aren't keeping up.  Jonas makes sure that doesn't happen, all the while chewing my ass about how terrible my diet is.  One day I'll listen, too.  Maybe.  He somehow manages to make that weight room fun most of the time, though, without ever letting you take the day off.  But I definitely don't think it's luck that I've stayed so injury-free throughout this process.  Thanks, J.

And still another is my wonderful assistant and good friend, Alisa.  Strangely, thanks to our family beach trip, a vacation of hers, and this trip to Colorado, I've seen her exactly one day in something like seven weeks.  That's just not right!  She makes so much of this kind of stuff possible that it's not even funny.  And she does it all without ever a complaint or a question as to "why?"  Yeah, sometimes I get the "you're nuts", but I already knew that.  But nobody gets their job done better.  But more importantly, nobody else could put up with me and still be my friend while doing that job, too.  She's a special lady.  I miss her, but I'm sure it's a lot more than she misses me!

Last, a big shout out to Edward and Reid.  They pulled off some nice things in those last couple days of packing to make the trailer and RV situation much better for me in terms of traveling and living for a month away from home.  Reid helped out big time with some bike prep I might not have finished before leaving, too.  Thanks, fellas.  The only warning I have for you two is I came up with a LOT more modifications to the RV I want to do while sitting in it bored during rain and such!

So now that I've had a couple days to reflect on Leadville, I realize that in all my story telling about the race itself I never really said it was fun.  I used words like "epic", which is probably getting to be the most over-used word in mountain biking, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was fun.

Alan, Matt, and I...team Leadville!
So was it?  Yes, yes, yes, and uh, no.  Or something like that.  It's really hard to say.  I had some training workouts leading up to this that I dreaded and those certainly ended up having elements that weren't fun, but overall, I'd even describe those workouts as fun.  I learned something in each one, too, and I enjoy learning.  There were parts of the trip itself I was dreading (like the several days I was by myself during the trip), but I found ways to have fun then, too.

I was dreading the time stuck in the corral before the race start.  While I can't say any of that was fun, I will say it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.  We did a really good job of having our stuff prepared the day before, so I knew all I needed to do was get out of bed, eat, dress, and drive to the RV.  There we got bikes out, checked air pressures and put our fuel bottles in, and headed to the start line.  When we got there, it was an hour and a half of waiting, but we carved out enough space to lay the bikes down and sit on the ground, and I had a full coat and thick sweatpants as well as good gloves.  Between that and having my phone to poke at the Intertubez, I killed most of that time fine.  It wasn't nearly as cold as it could have been, which also helped.  Ashley and the kids showed up just before the start and we were able to give them our warm clothes.

I was dreading the race start, too.  Not because of nerves...which I really didn't have.  I think that was simply because we were so well prepared (a more in depth look at the preparation for this race will probably be another blog).  No, I was dreading the start because of the cold.  See, at altitude it does get very cold at night, but it also typically warms up VERY fast this time of year.  And being cold for a little while is better than getting stuck being hot and/or carrying a bunch of gear you don't need any more.  And I'm just not into trying to dispose of gear on the trail...so that meant suffer a bit.  My clothing for this race consisted of biking tights, a bike jersey (provided by Carmichael Training Systems, which was how they spotted us on course before the aid stations to have our supplies ready to restock us during the race), thin Smartwool socks and bicycle shoes, a thin headband, bicycle helmet, clear glasses, thin mountain bike gloves, and Smartwool arm warmers. 

The start of the race is at 6:30am and goes downhill for several miles before going across a pretty flat gravel road for three more miles.  So it's fast.  Which means wind.  Cold wind.  But like I said, it really wasn't as cold as it could have been, and while I wasn't toasty warm, I wasn't shivering for that entire start, either.  So that was another thing that was better than expected, if not exactly fun.  The Smartwool arm warmers are like magic...you can push them down if you get warm and pull them back up when it cools off.  Since we were changing altitude a couple thousand feet at a time, this was nice to be able to do.

The climbs were not fun, but I was prepared for them mentally, and they all lead to fast downhill which is what mountain bikers really love.  So they led to fun.  Now, not all downhill is fun...sometimes you're stuck behind people who are slower than you with no room to pass for various reasons.  That happened a lot more than I expected in the race, to be honest.  Then there was the other part I wasn't quite prepared for...the fact that I had to walk more of the climbs than I wanted because it was easier to walk than to bicycle as slow as the people walking in front of me in places where there was no room to pass.  I wasn't even walking as fast as I wanted to be walking for long stretches!  That part wasn't exactly fun, either.  But on the downhill where there was room to pass, boy did things get fun in a hurry. More than I expected, in fact.  On Powerline alone I heard a lot of "OH MY GOD" as I blew past people.  See, for most of that downhill, there's a reasonably obvious line to take, and most people seemed to think any other line was borderline insane.  Fortunately for me, I am borderline insane.  I'm sure people understood that those lines were possible, they just didn't know they were possible with that much speed.  I am speed.  Okay, so it's not all that...I'm no world cup downhiller, but compared to some of these folks I surely was.  That was fun.

The most disappointing part of the riding in the race had to be the singletrack descent in the middle of the course.  It's by far the most fun section of the course.  It's almost rollercoaster-like when you have the freedom to ride it at your own pace.  But alas, I got stuck right at the beginning of it behind someone who was a very timid rider and by the time that section ended, there were about 15 of us stacked up behind him.  It was paaaaaaainful.  But it was totally a single-lane section and no option but to follow along.

The least fun part had to be that time period of about 45 minutes that started with about an hour and a half to go.  That, I would go so far as to say, was depressing.  It was about that length of time that I was pretty sure I couldn't make it in under twelve hours.   But you know, that's what makes the success so sweet.  If we were sure we could accomplish things, actually pulling it off wouldn't be any big deal, now would it?  No, I was never sure...but I was pretty confident going in.  For 45 minutes, though, I had lost all confidence.  But for that last 45 minutes or so, as the picture began to look much brighter, everything changed.  I was dreading that final climb into town before the race even started, but as I actually approached it I knew it was mine for the taking.  I had Burt Reynolds voice in my head from Smokey and the Bandit...."Hot damn, we're gonna make it!"

And I did.  And it was crazy emotional.  And awesome.  And fulfilling.  And yes, fun.  The whole thing was fun.  Crazy hard.  At times it was "why am I doing this again?" hard.  But I never once didn't have an answer for "why?"  Because it would be fun.  And it truly was.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Doesn't that hurt?!?

When the subject of my cycling comes up  and people find out how long I ride for (six hour training rides, occasional races or mountain riding days much longer), the topic inevitably turns to how much that saddle would hurt them if they tried that. 

Guess what?  It hurts me too. 

Okay, it no longer hurts me as much as it would hurt someone who doesn't bike a lot to go that long, I admit.  But the dirty little secret in the cycling world is that you really don't ever get to the point where it doesn't hurt past a certain point.  Well, maybe there are some people that do, but I really don't think so. 

What I think is that you get your body used to it and it will stop hurting very early in your rides after a few weeks.  Then you'll go a few months where it only starts hurting after a couple hours but you can handle an hour or so of the pain before it gets to you.  Then you kind of come to an understanding...you either love to bicycle enough that you learn to ignore the pain or you don't and you never ride more than that couple hours plus maybe a tad of pain, depending on how much fun you're having with your buddies.

Guess what?  That's fine.  Contrary to what some cyclists might imply, it really is fine to make that choice.  It doesn't make you less tough, it just means you probably don't love to be on that bike quite as much as some people.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

Me?  I've found a love of being on a bicycle that let me push through that pain because I wanted to.  I sure never had to.  I don't feed my family with a bicycle.  Nobody is holding a gun to my head and making me do it.  My riding group is a little nuts, but we all have time constraints that limit riding time for whatever reason and nobody ever complains about it. 

And yes, once you make that decision that you're going to push through it, in a few months you do extend your time before it hurts some more.  To maybe four or even five hours.  And then it starts to ache here and there and you find yourself finding places to stand and pedal for a while, you fidget, you might complain to your riding buddy (which never does much good, because he's in the same boat as you, most likely), and you fight on through.  Why?  Because there's just something a bit magical about riding a bicycle.  To some more than others.

Leadville Trail 100 Race Report

Wow.  Just...WOW.

That was one epic day.  It started with getting up at 4am so we could get to the head of the corral when it opened at 5am.  That went as planned, which was good as our corral was a full half the race and that meant there were probably around 1,000 people in it!  The race started promptly at 6:30am, and it was on!

Alan and I moved through traffic down the paved hill pretty well, but man did things stack up on the first gravel road and then even worse on the first climb.  But I settled in and did my thing and Alan set sail ahead of me and I didn't see him for a long while.  Everything was going quite as planned until I got about 15 miles in and was starting to climb the back side of the famous Powerline descent.  All the sudden my bike just started to lock up...I couldn't pedal!  I jumped off, flipped the bike over (which requires removing my GPS, which I accidentally STOPPED and didn't realize it until 13 minutes later, ugh!), and started diagnosing.  Turns out the nut that holds the cassette (the big cluster of gears on the back tire) had worked loose somehow.  I've ridden THOUSANDS of miles and this has only ever happened to me TWICE.  But still, that's something I should have checked and didn't, and it cost me.

I did not have the special tool you need to tighten that, so I made due and got it as tight as I could and took off after a few minutes, scared it was just going to happen again.  But I made it to the 27 mile aid station (Pipeline outbound), where I had been smart enough to leave a complete wheelset, with the world's most awesome crew, Matt Kimel.  We swapped to my backup rear wheel in a matter of seconds, restocked the fuel, and off I went. 

Things went very well from there through the Twin Lakes outbound aid station and to the start of the Columbine Mine climb.  That's ten miles out and the climb is about 2,800 feet of elevation gain to 12,600 feet above sea level, which is well above tree line.  Let's just say that riding that after riding 40 more miles of the course did NOT go nearly as well as the training rides!  Wow, that was brutal.  I did see Alan coming down as I was still climbing, which was cool.  Somehow I missed my friend Tammy, who is a Pro and did very well today, too.  Kind of bummed about that, but I must have had my head down grinding pretty hard when she went by.  By the time I passed Alan I was up closer to the top and was walking the steep and very loose section, so I spotted him and wished him well.

Made it to the top, grabbed some Coke and a few banana pieces from the aid station, and headed back down.  Man, I must have passed 50 people on that descent!  Generally speaking, I rode the descents within my limits and fairly safely, but I still passed TONS of people on every one.  This race attracts a lot of people that really don't do much intense mountain biking, and my riding with my local group of buddies at crazy places like Pisgah National Forest has prepared me pretty well for going downhill pretty fast.  So that was fun.  It wasn't as fun watching those same people pass me back on the next climb, though.  I need to work on that!

Every climb after Columbine was pretty tough.  The legs just didn't have the power any more.  But they kept going (with some amount of walking here and there) and I slipped my time goals just a little at each station, but not too bad for the first 2/3 of the race.  It was that last third that hosed me!  But to be fair, there was a HUGE wind this afternoon that made a section of the course MUCH slower than it would have otherwise been, and was at a point where it just sapped energy like crazy.  It should have been a soft downhill to flat to soft uphill paved section that in a group would have been easily done at 18MPH or more.  But instead we were reduced to grinding more like 12MPH.  And it hurt.

Then comes the Powerline climb.  Let's just say I had to walk almost every inch of the uphill parts.  I felt like I could have ridden some of the easier parts between the steep climbs, but every time I tried I had the strangest cramps up my inner thighs.  I've never had those before, and it was like FIRE shooting up my legs.  It only happened when I tried to pedal and walking was fine, so I kept walking and hoped something good would happen, with little expectation that it actually would.

And around this time I was doing all this walking, I started running time calculations.  Oh crap, making the 12 hour time for the silver belt buckle award (and being recognized as a "finisher" at all) was looking quite unlikely.  Especially since there was still one long climb left to another descent, and then a three mile climb back into town for the finish.  I was really worried I couldn't pedal with any power due to the cramps, which meant climbing was going to be walking, and there was too much left.

But I took some more salt supplements, kept drinking fluids (water and my nutrition drink that also had electrolytes in it), and kept moving forward.  One thing I had in my favor was I had a fifteen minute descent for my legs to rest and get fluids before that next climb, and apparently that was enough.  I wasn't fast, but I was able to pedal at about twice the same speed I could have walked up that hill.  As I worked through the woods to that last descent, the math still didn't look good.  I was pretty positive for the last hour and a half that I'd never make it.  But thanks to all the support from all my friends and family and coaches and even random people from the Internet that I've never even met, I just knew that as long as my legs would pedal, I was going to keep going.  And I did.

And that descent was fast again, and there was a four mile stretch before that last climb that was probably a soft downhill, because I averaged around 20MPH for that stretch.  As I neared the end of that stretch to start the final climb, I realized I was going to make it with a few minutes to spare.  That was quite a feeling, but then my thoughts turned to my poor family, crew, and all of you following along at home.  I figured it was going to be nerve-wracking since you guys had no idea I was so close.  Sorry about that.  It wasn't much in my control after a certain point!

But I ground out that final climb, often times with power outputs that WERE very respectable (which was quite shocking to me!) and as I approached that red carpet, I couldn't help but start crying.  The amount of climbing in this race just does something to you.  You swear over and over that current climb will be over around the next bend, only to be presented with plenty more to go.  I like to make sure I know a race course ahead of time, and I really did know this course pretty well, but yet once you're racing and doing that to your body, it affects the mind as well.  So you end up back in that same space from time to time, and that kind of thing accumulates inside somehow.  Plus, I had all that time (probably an hour) when I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it.  Then to find I could, pretty much only 20 minutes from the end, meant a huge release when I finally crossed that line.  Here's a picture at the finish...more good pics to come as the various race picture folks have stuff online:

And here's where I owe a huge debt of gratitude to a lot of folks.  I've mentioned my family once, but I'll do it again...they've put up with a lot of me being gone to train for this.  Amazing support.  Then my coach, Sage Rountree, who made this possible.  Without her, there's just no way I could have done this on my own.  And then there's Tammy Sadle, who was my inspiration from the beginning.  She works at Training Peaks, the site my coach and I use for our main method of communication for workout planning.  She did this race for the first time last year, and they blogged about her effort to raise money for Team First Descents and she did great her first time out.  I followed her progress, but also made a small donation to her fund raising effort, which resulted in her being nice enough to reach out to me via social media.  Seeing how well she did made me want to try it, too.  Happy to say she's a friend now, too!

And then there was Alan Bocko.  Been friends with Alan for many years, but I was pretty sure if I signed up that he'd find a way.  And he did.  And then Matt Kimel, who was cool enough to sign on as our crew for the event, including spending several weeks here in Leadville keeping me company.  You've probably read about our motorcycle adventures already.  LOOK AT MY HANDS! And thanks to Matt's family for letting him do this.  That was a big deal for them, too.  Oh, and my Chapel Hill riding crew...riding with those guys is always fun and challenging.  That crew always has multiple people in it that kick my butt on any given day.  And Santa Cruz for making awesome bicycles!

And then there's all of you folks who donated or even just supported me online.  I owe you so many thanks.  I really didn't want to let you down, and I hope I did you proud.  I thought about every one of you at some point on this long day, I promise.  Thank you all so much for all the kind words of support.  It really means a lot to me.   More pictures and further wrap-up to come...I really should go to bed now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The big day is almost here!

Well, the big day is almost here.  It's kind of hard to believe, to be honest.  But it's here, and I'm excited!

It's not too late to donate to my fund raising effort if you haven't already.  I'd really like to send a few more young folks with cancer to this very special camp, so please donate to help out if you haven't already!

I feel like all the prep work is done and all that's left is to go have some fun doing some riding.  And then ride some more, and some more, and some more, and a little more.  And then maybe a lot more.  Who knows?  I just know I'm going to give it all I've got to reach the 103+ mile finish line.

If you want to follow along, the race starts at 8:30am EDT (6:30am here in Colorado) tomorrow (Saturday, Aug 11) and you can find a link for living timing at the bottom of this page.  I sort of expect to be through Pipeline 1 (or outbound, as this is an out-and-back course) around 2:30, Twin Lakes 1 (outbound) about 3:30, Twin Lakes 2 (inbound) about 6:30, and Pipeline 2 (inbound) around 7:30.  That would put me at the finish around 10:30 (or about 7pm, EDT).  These are very rough estimates, and there may be a couple more timing stations reporting than this, but I'm less sure about what those splits might be as I'm not completely sure where they are (well, one is likely at the top of Columbine assuming they can get data back from up there, and that would be about 5:45, I'd guess).

Anyway, time to get to bed and get some sleep!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The RV in video

I had a request from a loyal reader for some pictures of how we live in the RV.  I figured a video would do it better, so if you want to kill three minutes of your day, check this out:

Today we didn't have much on tap and somehow ended up with a late start.  But we headed toward Minturn on 24 to eat lunch with Matt leading the way since he had been there before (that's one of the places his adventures in search of a motorcycle tube ended up).  But yet again we find that any time Matt leads the way, we're in trouble.  As we rolled through Minturn we found a cute little town with shops and restaurants and outdoor type stores all over.  With one oddity...every restaurant was closed.  Seemed strange, but we rolled on to Vail and never saw anything we liked.  But as we had left Minturn we both noticed a bit too late a restaurant that had appeared open, but we were set to try Vail at this point so we rolled on.  But in Vail when we didn't find anything we wanted, we decided to head back to Minturn.  They're really only a couple miles away.

Back in Minturn we found THAT restaurant closed, too!  We stopped in a local fly fishing shop and asked where we could eat only to find out why the restaurants were all closed...they had a water main break that was still being repaired.  Ugh.  But he pointed us toward the town of Eagle-Vail and to a really good local spot called Route 6.  I had some REALLY good Mahi fish tacos, which I'd say is probably pretty rare in Colorado, and we headed back to Leadville.  I was leading this time, but that couldn't quite change our luck and we ended up riding through rain again to get home.  At least this time it was all pavement!

Today's workout is just a walk around town since it's time to taper down...so nothing interesting to report there. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

More recon and a review

Took a little trip today to the middle of the LT100 race course.  This was the only part I hadn't yet seen, and is the easiest part of the course.  Took a little doing to figure out a little bit of it, but we've got it now.  There's still one tiny part I haven't ridden, but I'll get it later this week.  I am glad to have seen most of this middle part, though, because it does give me a little faith that I can get this done.

Now for a bit of reflection.  This is a fairly interesting summary:

That's a pretty good 30 days on the mountain bike.  How about my total cycling in the last year?

Holy crap on a cracker!  3,000 miles on a bicycle?  Wow, I am broken or something.  I sure did enjoy a lot of it, I know that.  And most importantly, I think it's prepared me well.  I have the best coach in the world to blame for much of this...Sage Rountree.  But I also have the best family in the entire world who would let me leave the house for a lot more than that 290 hours it took me to get the riding in.  See, it's not like all 290 hours or even most of it was near home...a lot of it required trips or driving to Raleigh or just working on bikes.  But they've helped me pursue this bucket list kind of dream of this crazy huge race in Leadville, and for that I am eternally grateful.  In just a few more days they'll be here to join me, and I can't wait!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The mystery is revealed!

Folks following along religiously with this blog (seriously, what's wrong with you people?) might recall this picture:
And in particular, I couldn't help but wonder why an antique store had costume rentals, particularly this time of year.  Well, we have our answer...Boom Days!  That's right, I reported that Boom Days had started yesterday and the fact that it's a big yearly festival here in Leadville.  Matt talked to some folks who come every year from Pennsylvania, in fact.

So the theme is to hark back to the time when Leadville was in its heyday, and that's the very late 1800's.  So the locals actually dress up in costumes for the events, as seen here:

The one on the right, not the one on the left!
They have fake gunfights in the street, but the garb is as close as we get to the fake brothel part, I guess.  According to this blog, "by 1880 Leadville boasted 120 saloons, 118 gambling halls, 110 beer gardens, and 35 brothels."  And that's all inside of one square mile.  Talk about a happening place!

They also have a car show, and here are some of the highlights of that:
Lamborghini Countach that is a native of Leadville.  Incredibly shocking.

Superformance Cobra replica, also a Leadville native.

Does this need words? At least it was NOT a Leadville native.
They have a great selection of fair food, and today I had a bacon-wrapped sausage on a stick.  And homemade potato chips.  And awesome sweet tea.  What more could you ask for?  Oh, I also did a workout earlier...a long walk up a steep hill.  Necessary, but booooooring.  At least we did it on somewhere I hadn't really seen before, and I did push my bike up so I could ride back down.  Matt got a good little workout in by spinning along beside me as I walked, so that was cool.  Plus I had someone to talk to!

Anyway, Boom Days is huge around here, and not a bad way to spend a few afternoon hours, certainly.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Just another day in ... Colorado

So today's workout was to climb Powerline again.  Yay, me!  Or, you know, not.  It's just a few miles, but it's also 1,400' of elevation gain over some of the worst terrain imaginable...huge ruts, loose sandy soil, large loose rocks, etc.  I tried to park a few miles away so I could warm up first, but I came in from the wrong direction for that as there was just nowhere I felt like I could leave my motorcycle safely.  So I parked near the bottom and just took off cold.

Wow, that stunk.  Cold starts at high altitude with large workloads are tough.  But it's not long on the Powerline climb before us mere mortals have to walk no matter what, anyway, so it wasn't too horrible of a situation.  Then it levels out to merely a horrible climb so I started pedaling.  I made it up in about ten minutes less than the first time I did it, so I'm pretty happy with that.  Here's a self-portrait of me at the top:

Then it was time to descend.  The descent is pretty dangerous on Powerline if you aren't careful.  I've been wearing sunglasses for most of my riding out here because the course is so open for the most part and the sun is pretty tough.  And I really prefer to have glasses of SOME kind on when I'm riding for the safety...it's no fun getting bugs or dirt in your eyes when you really need to see!  So I had sunglasses on even though part of this descent is in a wooded area, which meant shadows made things tough to see.  And I missed a rock that was ill-placed such that it somehow took out my rear brake disk.  I didn't crash nor even come close to it, but the best effort I could make to fix what was basically a brake disk in the shape of a taco meant that I got the rear wheel rolling again, but I had no rear brake at all.  Here's a picture of the scrapes on the disk, and trust me, it's very bent:

Now, everyone knows you do most of your braking with the front brake, but on a descent like this, particularly with someone as heavy as me, it's very important to be able to use both.  Since I couldn't, I decided to stop a couple times on the way down to cool the front brake.  Having it go out on me during this descent could be devastating, so I chose to take no chances here.  But I got through it, and got the disk swapped and things appear fine otherwise with the bike, so no worries.  I will probably switch to clear glasses for the rest of my training and the race, though.  It's just what I'm used to.

Later, Matt and I decided to do some motorcycle riding.  First we hit a local trail for some exploration that didn't take long and ended without much interesting to find, and then headed out to ride up Columbine Mine, the biggest climb of my mountain bike race.  It takes you to 12,600' and above tree line, and weather was great this afternoon, so it was a very good ride up.  Here's a picture of us and our bikes and some amazing background scenery:

It was kind of cold up top, so we didn't stick around long.  I need to check the data, but I'm pretty sure I can descend that mountain faster on my bicycle than I can on the motorcycle.  Of course, it's no contest the other way!

We headed back to town and walked over to watch some of the Leadville Boom Days! festivities.  I'm not sure how much of an overriding theme there is, but it's a crazy mix of interesting things culminating in, of all things, burro races on Sunday.  Tonight was some slow motorcycle competition stuff in the street.  What we got to see was a competition they call the "weiner bite."  That's where you have a guy driving a motorcycle with a girl on the back.  They go really slow under a hot dog hanging from a string.  The girl has to bite off as much of the hot dog as she can, but not swallow it.  Then she spits it out and they measure who bit off the most of the hot dog and that's the winner.

Yeah, that was amazing stuff, let me tell you.  But there were a ton of fair food vendors and we had some great "ribbon fries" and brisket.  Sadly, they don't allow open container alcohol even for Boom Days, so I had a sweet tea and we called it a night.  I woke up at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep this morning, so that was plenty of day for me anyway. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tempting fate with another day off from adventure!

Okay, so one more reminder...I'm raising money to help young folks with cancer through Team First Descents.  There's just over a week to go and I haven't reached my goal.  Please donate!

Not much to report today.  I was able to scrub most of the black dye off my hands from yesterday using Gojo with two harsh scrub sessions.  Then I went for an easy run around Leadville:

That was kind of a cool map to make, though with Leadville being on a hill, this was like a crazy interval run.  Then I got a shower which thankfully took care of the rest of the dye on my hands.  Otherwise?  It's been a boring day.  Matt and I had some lunch at a very good local Mexican place and have just done some housecleaning around the RV and watched Olympic coverage.  Weather has been pretty rainy all afternoon, so not much else to be done.

So now that you're sufficiently bored, click this link and donate!  Many thanks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Never take two days off from Colorado adventure. Ever.

Because if you do, apparently Colorado tries to get you back for it in one shot.

The day started off innocently enough...I got up early, made my smoothie, got dressed for a three hour ride, and loaded up the motorcycle and headed over to Twin Lakes, the site of the 40 and 60 mile aid stations in the race.   It's both, because when you leave you climb ten miles to the top of Columbine Mine, and then you turn around and do the course backwards from there.

The ride was fairly uneventful.  I'm happy with my performance capability, and learned a couple things.  You can see the data here.  I was even able to find someone to take a picture of me at the top:

Me at 12,600' at the top of Columbine Mine

So that was all good.  Got back to the RV with a couple sprinkles on me on the way, got a shower, and Matt and I headed to Wild Bill's for some burgers and a shake.  As we walked back, we could see the skies just didn't look good, and not long after sitting down, it started to rain.  Matt was bummed because he really wanted to motorcycle ride, but I was kind of okay with it since I really just wanted to rest my legs.

So we watched Olympics until about 3pm when it was no longer raining and Matt was itching to ride.  The skies still didn't look great in pretty much any direction, but I went along anyway.  Mistake, mistake, mistake.  Matt wanted to go across Independence Pass to Aspen, so we headed that way.  That takes you right by Twin Lakes, and I stopped briefly to consider riding to the top of Columbine just to show him the turnaround.  But it was definitely raining on top of the mountain and not in the direction we were headed toward Aspen, so we went on.  And Indpendence Pass was beautiful and amazing pavement up and over the Continental Divide.  Here are a few pics from the overlook at the top:

That's all from 12,095 feet, which is just above the tree line here.  There were tons of people up there, all apparently from Aspen, because they were in shorts and t-shirts and were shivering.  I'd guess it was about 50F there (which is way colder than it was at the top of Columbine Mine, which is 12,600 feet...strange).  But I was wearing jeans, boots, t-shirt, and had my good Aerostich suit on over that, which has waterproof pants, waterproof shell, and a good thick fleece liner.  So I was fine.  In fact, I had the vents open on my coat while riding to cool off just a little.

Then we headed on into Aspen, where we found a cute little town with a lot of traffic.  As we were stopped at a stoplight we decided neither of us was terribly hungry at that point, so we kept riding.  It was about 5:15, so we had been riding two hours at this point.  I had no idea what he was thinking in terms of how we'd continue on, I was just following him.  We kept going through Aspen and out of town on highway 82, and he finally stopped about 15 miles out of town at a store.  There he informed me we were headed toward Hagerman Pass to return.

Now, part of Hagerman Pass is part of the LT100 race course, and we had actually ridden from Leadville out Hagerman Pass a few miles just a few days ago before turning around because it was getting late.  Everything we saw of Hagerman Pass was a nicely groomed gravel road, so that seemed fine to me.  The weather was cloudy but didn't look threatening.  So we headed on down through the town of Basalt, and out on Frying Pan Road.  This road parallels a very pretty river that had fly fishermen everywhere.  And it kept going and going and going.  But I didn't mind...it was great riding.  Few cars and lots of curves.  Doesn't get much better than that!

We finally reached Ivanhoe Creek Road.  That was what Frying Pan Road turned into when it turned to gravel.  I had assumed we'd reach Hagerman Pass, not something else, but there was a "Utility Construction Ahead - Expect Heavy Delays" sign here.  And there had been one of those on the other end of Hagerman Pass.  So we figured this must be the right way.  I wasn't worried about the construction, though, as it was after hours now.

We rode and rode and rode.  This gravel road was fairly well groomed, but went downhill slowly the further we got until it was pretty much one lane with blind curves and some bumpy sections.  It started to rain just a little and I signaled to Matt to pull over.  We pulled over and used my GPS to make sure we were going the right way, and we were.  But the rain was getting harder, and the sun was going away.  And we had a long way to go.  At this point, turning around would have meant a LONG ride on pavement back around.  Probably a full 100 miles, in fact.  And it looked like we were definitely less than 20 miles this direction.  So we soldiered on.

And the road got worse.  And the rain got worse.  And the road got worse.  And then it started to hail.  And then we even got to a water crossing.  Impossible to tell quite how deep, but there was a short spot to cross it that couldn't be too deep.  My fear was that it would be a very soft bottom.  So what do you do?  Gun it.  And it was fine.  But at this point, it's getting cold, too. Very cold.  And now the rain was so significant that every pothole was filled with water.  And my gloves were not waterproof, and on this bike my seating position doesn't let my pants stay over my boots, so my feet were getting soaked, too.  The rest of me was dry, thankfully. 

But at low speed I couldn't close my visor because it would fog immediately.  So I had to keep it open and just let the cold rain and occasional hail hit my face.  It did act as enough of a visor to mostly keep it out of my eyes, at least.  And now we were going vertical...straight up.  Through rivers of water running down.  Over huge loose rocks.  With huge cliffs sometimes on both sides of this one lane road.  And then we reached a sign...we were crossing the Continental Divide again.  Duh, guess we had to if we had crossed it once on our way out.  But then I noticed we were above tree line again.  And there was occasional lightning, thunder, hail, and constant rain.  And now we were going down.  Through rivers.  Through mudholes a foot deep.  Over loose "baby heads" as trail folks call the big loose rocks.  Around switchbacks.  And back into the treeline. 

And that went on and on and on for what seemed like forever.  And finally we reached the groomed gravel road on the other side.  And soon pavement, and soon we were back in town.  FIVE HOURS AFTER WE STARTED.  Matt was more soaked than me as his gear isn't quite as rain-proof.  But the worst part might be this:


The dye from my black leather motorcycle gloves seems to have at least semi-permanently stained my hands.  I've tried soap and Gojo and they still look EXACTLY like that.  This stuff is NOT coming off, period.  It's quite horrible....I look like a coal miner! 

I honestly and truly thought that the trip Matt and I took over Mosquito Pass was the most harrowing and crazy thing I might ever do on a street legal motorcycle.  Boy was I wrong!  This was like that, except with tons of water added.  And my hands were basically numb the entire time.  And you know, your hands are kind of important when you ride a motorcycle.  But I have to say, my BMW G650X is one capable motorcycle.  I might have been scared out of my gourd, but that bike just wouldn't slip or slide.  It simply handled it and handled it well.  I definitely learned I have much further limits than I thought when it comes to this kind of thing, but I would have been happy remaining ignorant to THOSE particular limits, let me tell you.

But I can't help but wonder how long my hands are going to be like this.  sigh

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The workout day off == no adventure.

Today is my normal workout day off.  Well, it's probably my last normal workout day off for a few weeks, because next week is race week and I'll take Thursday off (which is typical for long endurance racing...you take the day two days before your race off, then do a light workout the day before).  After that, I'll take at least a full week off and who knows what after that.  I guess it really depends on if I survive the race at all!

So what do I do on my day off?  Get a massage!  And thanks to finding a wonderful massage therapist in Erin at Blue Earth, I get to keep my normal groove going.  So I slept in (yes, two days in a row!), had some breakfast, got my massage, and then came back and Matt and I had some lunch across the street at the Pastime Bar.  Matt snuck this picture of me enjoying the heck out of my wings:

The sauce is just about as hot as I can handle, but man is it good.  And they really do have awesome fries.  Oh, and Fat Tire.  Yeah, it was a Fat Tire at lunch kind of day.  Then it was back to the RV to kick back for a bit and do a couple loads of laundry.  After that, I headed out to take my prescribed walk, which involved some pics from around town...

Still haven't been here.
Love this sign.
An All-American street.

Amazing church, including "DANGER AVALANCHE" sign due to roof.
I don't know why they currently have costume rentals, but okay.

Awesome old school downtown drugstore, the only one in town.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Okay, a little less adventure today...

We slept in a bit today, and then got to work on the motorcycle problems that lingered from yesterday.  I started doing some more work on the bike while Matt was kind enough to run to the hardware store for some tools and some supplies.  He found almost everything we needed except for one spacer (and to his credit, he did find a spacer that would have probably done okay, but I wanted better).  As we looked around for possible other solutions for a spacer, we found a spoke weight from his bike that was no longer being used.  It was the right outside diameter and the right length, but needed a bigger hole in the middle.  While we discussed how to make that happen, Matt noticed a "machine shop" within walking distance of the RV!  So $5 later, including tip, we had the spacer we needed.

After some reassembly, it started to rain.  We had just finished, but had to rush to get the tools put away.  For the next few hours, it rained on and off.  I decided that it would make sense to go try to do my 45 minute easy recovery spin on the trainer in the trailer while the weather was bad, but then I hit a snag.  The Computrainer can't fit a 29" tired mountain bike.  I had no idea, and that's the only bike size I brought.  Oops.  Fortunately, the rain stopped long enough to get the ride in on the road around town with only minor occasional sprinkles.

Oh!  Before that, Matt and I went to do some shopping.  First up was Alco, where we procured a few random items as well as a shower rod and shower curtain.  No, we did not need one for the shower in the RV, but instead for the middle of the RV.  You see, the RV bathroom is so small that it's nearly impossible to put on clothes after you get out of the shower.  So with this, we can just open the door to the bathroom and come all the way out, yet still have some privacy:

Next up was the grocery store.  We now have a bulging refrigerator again, along with leftover burgers and mac and cheese:

That's right, Matt did it again on the grill.  That was a KILLER burger.  And Sage said "eat a lot of red meat", so I've still got that going.  She said have more beer, too, so hellllloooooo Fat Tire!  That came from shopping stop number three, the local beer/liquor store, which has a really nice selection.  It's handy that Matt's motorcycle has so much luggage on it...we put a lot of food and beverage in there at one time.  And I really should have had Matt get a picture of me carrying a shower rod while riding a motorcyle...can you say "jousting"?  But hey, we got it done.  Since then it's been nothing but Olympics on TV (including women's beach volleyball!) and some more Fat Tire and chips and salsa.  I know, life is hard, right?!?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Every day is an adventure here in Colorado

Wow, what a day. And it's not evey 7pm yet!

I set my alarm clock to go ahead and get up and get my 1.5 hour ride in while it was cooler.  Got up at 7, got my breakfast smoothie made, ate, got dressed, and went out and loaded up my bicycle on the back of my motorcycle.  I didn't take a picture of that today, but here's an older one:

Yeah, I know, kind of nutty.  But it works.  Well, it used to.  But I'll get to that in a minute.

I rode out of town, found a good spot to park, and jumped on the bike to get another ride on the St. Kevin's climb.  Did that part of the race course and doubled back on the road and finished up right on time.  Loaded up and headed back to the campground.  While I was gone, Matt had gotten some breakfast, gone for a little exploratory motorcycle ride, and returned with some groceries while I was in the shower.  When I got out of the shower, he helped me with a couple of nagging plumbing issues we had with the RV, then we geared up and decided to go do some exploring.

Ashley had bought a couple of great books on Colorado off-road trails, and we used Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails.  In it, we found that a nice loop looked to be to take the Mosquito Pass over to Fairplay and down and back across on Weston Pass.  Mosquito was labeled "moderate" with Weston labeled as "easy."  Hmm, alrighty then!

We set off and pretty quickly found ourselves on a dirt road through abandoned mine country.  We passed a large area of parked SUV's with ATV trailers and kept going.  Soon the road turned to large loose rocks and not much more than what you'd call "trail."  And it started going WAY up.  And things started looking like this:
Yeah, that little road on the right is what we rode up.

And a while later, we made it to the summit:

The camera and Aerostich pants on top of jeans adds 20 pounds
That was seriously some of the most intense, crazy, scary riding I've ever done.  Until we started going DOWN.  Oh my.  That was worse.  Way worse.  Oh, I forgot one interesting thing...there was a Jeep at the top with HAM radio antennas all over it.  At first I just assumed it was some dude monkeying around with talking to really far away places by getting his antenna REALLY high.  But no, it was a dude and his wife and they were volunteering doing communication work for the burro races.

Wait, the WHAT?!?  That's right, the burro races.  Turns out this weekend is Burro Days in Fairplay, CO.  So we were informed that if we were to see any burros (that would presumably have people with them), it would be appreciated if we would just pull to the side and stop and turn off our engines and let them pass.  Both Matt and I assumed these burros would have riders.  Mmmmkay, so we head down, trying not to fall off a bazillion foot cliff while navigating motorcycles on steep, twisty, rocky, loose "roads."  Oh, and keeping our eyes out for the burros.

We go a pretty good ways without incident and without seeing any burros and reach a point where it appears the road gets much better and there's an abandoned mine and a couple cars parked.  We stop to take a break, because both our necks and shoulders and backs were getting quite tired of all this work.  Okay, it's not hard work, but when you're that stressed about it, it's bad.  We find that one of the groups is another set of HAM operators helping with the burro races.  I quickly noticed they had a cooler and it was quite large.  And we were parched.  I asked if they'd be so kind as to sell us a couple bottles of water, but they were quite friendly and gave us each a bottle.  So we sucked those down and got ready to mount up.  In smalltalk with those folks, I mentioned I was glad it looked like we had the worst of the road behind us.  "Oh, well, there's one more pretty bad spot on down.  Be careful."  Oh great.

Turns out his idea of a bad spot and ours were way different.  It really wasn't much of a big deal and soon we found ourselves on a long stretch of normal gravel road.  And then it happened.  Burros!  But apparently these aren't racers because they're just walking the burros.  We crawl past them and give them plenty of room, only to see they have race numbers on the burros.  And each burro had a pack  on its back with a gold mining pan, shovel, and various other things that appeared to be "spec."  Matt commented at one brief spot in between burros that he wanted to tell one of them to "get your ass out of the road."  But I think he knew that wouldn't come across quite right from out from under a motorcycle helmet, since he was only kidding.  We had nowhere to be, and well, how often do you get to see a real live burro race anyway?

We made our way through that and to the highway and turned toward Fairplay.  Wow, Burro Days are huge.  Took a while to get through town and to the other side where we stopped at a store to top off our fuel tanks, hit the restrooms, and get a snack.  Then we made our plan to head further south and go back across the much easier Weston Pass.  And it was easier, with parts of it simply "unmaintained for low clearance vehicles."  So it was very rough and rocky, but never particularly steep.  At one stop, however, minor disaster.  Matt shook my bike's rack and it moved.  A lot.  No, I wasn't carrying a bicycle, but I did have the top box on it there. 

One bolt was missing, and one bolt (caddy-corner from the missing one) was sheared off.  It and it's bushing were still there, though, and we realized that the rear pair (of which this was one) were longer than the front.  This meant that this bolt would work in place of the missing one on the front.  So we figured three were better than two and should get us home, right?  WRONG.  Not long after, that bolt sheared off, too.  Now, I had next to nothing in my top box, so it wasn't overweight or anything.  But the vibration just killed it.  So we had to stop again and remove it completely and strap it to Matt's rack.  Fortunately we had enough stuff to do that securely.

So it would seem that bike rack and top box are a bit too much weight, particularly as far back as they have to be mounted to work, on the rough trails.  That's not a huge problem because they aren't hard to take off for that kind of thing, it was just tough finding it out like this.  I need to procure a few parts, but I think I can get it back together by Tuesday.  I was a bit bugged to find that in the bouncing around it also broke my rear tail light, but then I remembered that I had a tail light upgrade that I had yet to install, and I brought it with me!  Talk about luck.  Even when I have bad luck, things have seemed to work out okay.  *knock knock knock*

So we made it back, and remember when I said Matt bought groceries? 

Well, he got steaks and he not only grilled them, he made potatoes and even got a fresh cantaloupe and cut that up for us to eat.  I knew I brought that boy for a reason!  And we did all of that before 6:30pm.  Good thing, too, because he had to finish cooking in a bit of rain as it was!  But the skies have cleared up and our bellies are full and we're ready for another day of adventure tomorrow.