Over the Rainbow (again)

Since my days off from the shop are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I have quickly formed a tendency to do something a little “out there” on Thursdays, despite having a race on Saturday. Last week, it was another Rainbow Trail adventure.

If you recall from a recent post, I explored a section of the Rainbow Trail that people generally avoid due to an extended hike-a-bike. After figuring out that I’d gone the “wrong” direction before, I decided to go the other way on this outing.

The skies had been a little threatening most of the morning before I left, but I decided to pack a rain jacket and take my chances anyway. The trails here are super dry now, and any moisture that falls gets soaked up super fast. I headed up county road 110, hitting the Double Rainbow trail along the way. Once I made it to the Rainbow Trail, I started the walk.

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There are a couple of spots you can ride, but they are brief.

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It rained steadily for about half of the hike up. I was prepared, though, and thoroughly enjoyed being at the top of Poncha Mountain at the exact time that the sun re-emerged.

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The aspens up there are hardly believable.

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I have no pictures from the descent, because I was having too much fun. I will say, though, the view of Mt. Ouray on the way down nearly wrecked me with distraction.

The Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/1016899299

I bonked a little on the way home and drank the last of Leah’s almond milk in a recovery shake so I wouldn’t die all the way before I was able to make real food. A ride that includes two and a half hours of climbing isn’t my usual “thursday before a race” routine, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Gunnison Growler Race Report

Nearly two weeks ago, it was re-enforced in my brain that people’s memories about the difficulty of a trail system are highly subjective and very skewed towards the difficult portions of said trail. I’d been warned repeatedly of the tech that awaited me in Gunnison and had people freak out a little when I mentioned that I’d be singlespeeding it.

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The Gunnison trails used in the Gunnison Growler course are mostly buff, smooth dirt. If I had to guess a percentage, I’d say 90% of the course was silky smooth, flowy, bermy sage surfing. The other ten percent is where the trail crosses a rock formation- probably ten to twenty feet at a time’s worth of rock garden navigating. Apparently, those rocky punctuation marks in the trail burn a lasting impression in to people’s brains moreso than the silky parts, because based on the descriptions I’d heard, I was expecting it to be the the other way around.

The difficulty in the race for me was singlespeeding it- not because of the terrain itself, but because the race started with the bane of all singlespeed existence: the “neutral” rollout.

A “neutral” rollout is where you’re in spin-coast purgatory, burning matches at 120rpms and hoping to hell that you don’t get spit out the back of the group as the lead vehicle gradually accelerates to speeds that far exceed your (and even a lot of geared riders’) ability to hold on. According to people I talked to following the race, the “neutral” rollout from town to the race course ~4 miles away was rolling in excess of 25mph for the last two miles. Needless to say, my belt-drive equivalent to 32×20 gearing had me riding off the back for a mile or two before hitting the dirt.

It’s worth adding in here that Sunday’s full-distance Growler course (two 32 mile laps) was accompanied by a non-competitive Half Growler ride (one 32 mile lap). The competitive version of the Half Growler was on Saturday.

What I’m getting at here is that the combination of a fast rollout and an additional bolus of less competitive riders on course meant that I hit the singletrack with people who tended to granny gear the climbs and walk the technical spots. No bad vibes to them… they were doing alright and having a good time. They were pleasant to be around and generally courteous. However, I went in trying to race, and, for the first 32 miles of dirt, was in a conga line of 10-20 people, and couldn’t. I’d try to pass a person or two, only to have them pass me back on the intermittent dirt roads in the first half of the course. The second half of the course, there just wasn’t room to pass 5-10 people at a time without being a jackass.

I re-adjusted my expectations somewhere on the first lap and rolled in to the pit area feeling nice and warmed up, ready to kill my second lap of much more open trail. The second lap was pretty great. I had free reign over the climbs and rode most of the technical stuff. Other than the rollout, the course is pretty great for singlespeeding.

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Back when I’d entered the Growler, I didn’t know if I’d have a team bike ready or not, so I’d just entered the Pro division instead of singlespeed (I was the only woman on a singlespeed doing the full version, anyway). I ended up finishing 5th in the Pro category. I didn’t think I’d get any sort of prize (the podium was 3 deep at the Saturday half), so I committed the pro-faux-pas of leaving before my podium presentation. I was already home when friend/COSprings singlespeed legend Dan Durland sent me this photo:

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Oops.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the race logistics that made the Growler less of a race for me (I’m just repeating them here because they’re pretty relevant to a race report post). It was still a fun time on a gorgeous, unique course. I still had a killer day of training- I left with tired legs and more skill than I’d started with. So, I consider it a success.

Rainbow Trail- Over the Hump

I raced the Gunnison Growler on Sunday (the 28th), but that’s another post.

At the bike shop, I work 4 days (Sunday-Wednesday), then I have 3 days off. That leaves the 3 day weekend to do some big adventures and whatnot. On Saturday, roommate/co-worker Leah and I rode out to the south/west end of the Rainbow Trail.

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It had snowed earlier in the week, so everything above 9ksomething feet in the shade was patchy snowy. It made for some sketchy wet rocks & roots in spots as well as some cool scenery.

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As it dropped out of the woods, it turned beautiful and dry.

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There’s a section of Rainbow Trail that, since I started visiting Salida, I’ve been told is no fun because it’s blown out, steep, and hike-a-bikey (the trail is open to motorcycles, so it definitely gets loose). Since I was there, and I didn’t have much else to do that day, I figured I’d try it out.

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I was able to ride about the first half of the climb up. As the summer progresses and it gets drier & more moto-trafficked, there will be some spots I rode that won’t be as rideable. The second half is a lot steeper and rockier. I was getting really excited that the other side of “the hump” (the local name for that part of the trail) would be a fun, techy descent much like the stuff I was hiking.

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The top of the hump is somewhere around 10k feet, so there was a good bit of slushy snow and water. I eventually made it to the spot where the trail seemed to drop straight off the mountain.

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I was mildly disappointed when I found that the descent was nothing like the climb. It was all gravel & sand surfing. So, next time, I’ll definitely go the other direction and hike up the gravely side and descend the fun side.

I kept riding to county road 108 and descended back down to town. Here’s the Strava file for it:

https://www.strava.com/activities/997741104

It was about 6 hours, door-to-door, so I was stoked to eat a two-person-sized serving of tacos for dinner.

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Adventure number one of many.

Battle the Bear and a Move to the Mountains

The Spot Rocker is, hands down, the most fun-to-ride hardtail I’ve ever owned. Whether you want to ride geared, chained SS, Gates Carbon Drive SS, or Carbon Drive with an internally geared rear hub, I’d highly recommend it. Short chainstays are pretty great.

On Saturday, I raced the Battle the Bear race of the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. I wasn’t surprised to be the only singlespeed lady lined up. So, I figured I’d do my best to ride a steady and hard pace all day. I may have been a tiny bit conservative for a race-pace day, but I count it as a successful hard day of training.

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What the podium picture doesn’t show, and what went largely unnoticed (as far as I could tell), was that I was also second place overall in the women’s times (15 minutes slower than pro racer Megan Carrington).

At least I won the podium jorts competition.

Sunday following the race was time to pack in preparation for Monday-move-to-Salida day. Moving is absolutely exhausting, both mentally and physically. Luckily, I had the help of Matt and Levi. Matt and I packed up a U-haul load of house and drove it over to Salida Monday afternoon. After packing some stuff in to a storage unit, we dropped the rest of it over at the house where I’m staying for the next few months.

In lieu of driving Matt back to Denver (he’s working a Mountain Bike Radio job for the summer), our best Arkansas-transplant buddy Levi came over to ride a little and drive Matt back to Lakewood.

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Life in Salida so far is absolutely amazing. I almost can’t believe that I’m living here. I worked Wednesday and Thursday, then went for another ride up to the Cottonwood and S-Mountain Trails today.

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I can ride prettymuch anywhere in town, which means that since I got here, I have driven a total of 5ish miles. The Surly is on car duty now. I rode the bike path to Wal-Mart last night.

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The ride today was beautiful. County Road 175 is my new Apex Valley Road (Apex Valley was the “road to adventures” in Black Hawk when I first moved out to work at 92Fifty).

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I’m old enough to be cynical about having an optimistic outlook on new things, but I have a feeling it’s only going to get better from here.

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Spot Rocker- the 2017 Race Machine

And now, for something completely different…

If you listen to JRA, just scroll on down to the pics, because you know the rest already.

In the not-too-distant past, I received an out-of-the-blue Facebook message from Mitch, the Manager of Team Gates Carbon Drive. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining, we discussed some specifics, and I said something along the lines of “f*ckyeah, let’s do this.”

If you have been following since the beginning, you know I’ve worked really freaking hard to reach out to sponsors and potential sponsors and, more often than not, get rejected or not even answered. I did get some really solid, long-standing support from the likes of Gu and Industry Nine, but was generally pretty burnt out on the whole process. So, for someone to actually take notice of my race results last year and reach out for this season with some really excellent team support literally brought me to tears.

Last week, I put the finishing touches on the build up of my Spot Rocker singlespeed (of course, it snowed 10″ immediately after, so I’ve only ridden it once). Today, I finally got around to taking some nice photos…

It’s steel, belt-drive, RS-1, and Quarq equipped. It’s a bike with as many personalities as the weather in Colorado.

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Gotta fly the WC Rainbow seat pack as a nod to winning Breck Epic that one time.

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Level Ultimate Brakes and a Whisky Parts Co flat bar… that sucker comes stock at 840mm wide. I chopped it to 730.

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-I’m missing my I9 hubs. They have not been granted access to SRAM’s Predictive Steering hub, though, and mismatching would make me itchy.

The maiden voyage was pretty great. Belt drive is super quiet and smooth, and the belt-compatible frames have to be extra stiff in the bottom bracket & chainstays because flex will derail your belt. The result is a metal frame that pedals like its made of carbon. The chainstays on this particular frame are also super short- something I’d never experienced in a frame. It makes it way boost-ier and fun.

I am going to withhold totally gushing over the RS-1 right away, but will say I was incredibly happy with it on ride #1. I want to try it on the 429 since I’m more familiar with that frame, and that will give me some back to back comparison against a Pike.

Next race is Battle the Bear on the 13th. Since I’m a little more concerned with being ready(ish) for Gunnison Growler not long after that, I’m going to train right on through it rather than tapering back for it. I’ve heard that one’s a beast!

Moab Rocks Stage Race

In the midst of everything happening in my previous post, I participated in my first bike race of the 2017 season. After competing in 6-7 day stage races in the past with Breck Epic and Trans-Sylvania, the three day Moab Rocks race felt pretty manageable. My results were solidly mid-pack, but it was a hell of a pack out there. Matt and I made a daily race report recording for Mountain Bike Radio that you can listen to here: Moab Rocks Recaps

The basic gist, if you’re not the listening type, is that I need to work on my longer power output efforts- days 1 and 3 began with ~15 miles of climbing, and I felt pretty flat (finished 10th both days). However, day 2 was less sustained and more punchy, and I was able to pull off an 8th place finish. I was very consistent with my power over the 3 days, though, which is a nice affirmation of my base training, as well as my ability to pace myself, recover between stages, and push myself when I start to feel the previous days’ efforts.

The only dark spot of the entire weekend was some jackass with a backpack speaker. Every day, we was someplace in the pack close enough to me that I listened to a lot of really terrible music being broadcast across the desert. In case you, the reader, don’t know this already- the only person who enjoys listening to music from your backpack is YOU. EVERYONE ELSE HATES YOU AND THINKS YOU’RE A SELF-CENTERED PIECE OF GARBAGE. If you’re the type of person who can’t stand the thoughts in your own head, GET HEADPHONES. I also watched the same guy ride through cryptobiotic soil in order to make a pass on two out of three stages, so he obviously needs to trip and fall in to a pile of fire ants.

I digress.

Other than “that guy” the race was pretty great. Moab is a special, awesome place. I want to make a trip there in the fall to try White Rim in a Day as well as the Whole Enchilada (the highest I’ve gone into the latter is Upper Porc Rim).

In bike news, hopefully I’ll have a new singlespeed build going on pretty soon. I sold the Mach 6, so I’ve got some cash to budget towards making a sick race sled this season. More on that as it happens, though.

Big Things, Sad and Happy

It’s been a few weeks, so I can finally type it out without getting too upset. You gotta gut out the sad part of this post to get to the exciting part.

The weekend of the Land Run 100, I made the decision to put Indy to sleep. His dementia had made caring for him a pretty full-time job for at least the last year. I missed out on some bike racing, some good friends’ weddings, and some other life stuff in the name of watching after him. He’d been with me through so much of my adult life, he was worth every second of it, though. He’d just slipped to the point of where he didn’t do anything except eat, sleep, and walk in circles.

I won’t sugar coat it and say he was a loving, sweet baby… he was a little terrier a**hole (saying that with a little grin), who most people have a story about “that time Indy bit me.”

He did typical terrier things like getting in to the compost bin to dig for critters:

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He had a ferocious appetite for sticks:

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One time he broke his foot, and I never figured out how it happened:

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He was definitely a giant dog in a tiny dog body:

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He wasn’t 100% piss and vinegar, though:

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I miss him a lot. It’s lonely not having a dog.

I do, however, get to borrow Matt’s dog Marley… which brings me to the part of this post that as exciting as the first part is depressing.

I’m moving to Salida, Colorado in May.

I’ve lived in Colorado for two years now, and, while the Front Range region has a lot of upsides, it also has an insane population density. Everywhere you look, multi-story apartments are being built, so it’s not like it’ll get any better any time soon. The trails are great, but they’re also really crowded. User conflict abounds.

Ever since the first time I visited there, Salida has remained one of my favorite towns. It’s small- around 6,000 people, and it’s nestled right in the crook of the mountains not far from both the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Bike Route. It’s the home of the Vapor Trail 125 race as well. So, saying I’m excited to live there is somewhat of an understatement. I’m going to work at Absolute Bikes, which is basically your one-stop place for all things cycling in the area- they’ve got a really great demo fleet, maps, local knowledge from people who built some of the local trails, shuttles, and, pretty soon, a cafe next door.

I’ll be taking Marley with me for the summer while Matt works in Wisconsin for Mountain Bike Radio.

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It’s going to be quite the adventure. I can’t wait to be living in the mountains again.

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SOLD!- Pivot Mach 6 w/XTR, Size Small

There are currently a bunch of things happening right now, all of which will culminate in the renewal of posting here on a more than quarterly basis. But, for now, I would love it if one of you would purchase my Mach 6…

SOLD!

A little about it-
You all remember the shock failure at Golden Giddyup, right? I got the warranty front triangle and shock from Pivot/Fox, then put the bike back together and never rode it. So, half of the bike is new and unridden. According to my mileage on Strava, the rear triangle, front fork, wheels, and drivetrain have exactly 627.6 miles on them. I’ve serviced the fork once in there somewhere (like I said, the shock has never been ridden).

This thing is clean. It’s not the clapped out full suspension bike that we warn you about on the JRA Show. It’s got brand new shift cable/housing, the chain wear is at .25 on my KMC digital checker, and there’s at least half pad life in the rear (more on the front). All of the pivots felt great when I reassembled it with the warranty parts. There are a few scratches and dings (pictured), but they’re minor and cosmetic. Here’s a rundown of the parts on it:

Industry Nine Pillar Carbon Wheels
Maxxis High Roller II 2.4 front tire
Maxxis Ardent 2.4 rear tire
Fox Factory Series 36 Fork
Fox Factory Series Float X Shock
Shimano XTR Right Shifter, chain, 11-40 cassette, and rear derailleur
SRAM GX Crank (175mm) w/Race Face direct mount 30t chainring
Wheels Manufacturing pressfit BB w/angular contact bearings
Shimano XT Brakes (180mm rotor front/160mm rotor rear)
Rockshox Reverb, 100mm travel
Ergon grips and saddle
Race Face Atlas 35 Stem (65mm, I think. Could be a 50mm. It’s stubby, OK?)
Race Face Next 35 Carbon Bar, cut to 760mm wide
GTFO Bell

Asking Price, $4000 shipped to anywhere in the lower 48 States. Email me: andrea at brickhouseracing dot com

Pics:

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East-Bound and Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obligatory Thanksgiving Dinner photos-

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

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

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

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Boulder Running Adventures

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

Holy wow.

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

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

The ruggedness makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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

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

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

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

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East:

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South:

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North:

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West:

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

Physical challenges are the high octane fuel to my motivation…

Up Green Mountian:

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At the top:

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Bear Peak:

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

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

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

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

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

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