Longest Offseason Ever

I can’t tell you the number of racing years that I’ve reached the middle of the race season and thought, “I’d really love to go do _________, but I have to stay ready for ________ bike race.” I have quelled that thought countless number of times- my heart lies in both adventure and in competition, so I’ve let the competition side win every time.

Next year will be something different.

In the world of training periodization, the post-season (what I talked about in my previous blog entry) would be considered taking a break. The Off-season is when you lay the foundation for pre-season and in-season training. Off-season training is often less specific (at least in the early phases). It often includes strength training and other sports that can build similar fitness to the demands of your sport (for example- if you’re a road cyclist, you probably wouldn’t make gymnastics or table tennis  your off-season sport for training, but you might mountain bike, run, hike, play soccer, or XC ski… things that require cardiovascular endurance that aren’t necessarily riding a road bike).

So, in the spirit of Phil Gaimon’s “Worst Retirement Ever,” I’m taking on the “Longest Off-Season Ever.” I have no plans other than to take on whatever the mountains call me into.

Ok, well, that’s sort of a lie. I have several things I want to do but that I’m leaving myself open to not doing if they just don’t work out:

-Bikepack my big regional loop that I failed on in September
-Summit all of the peaks >13k feet within that loop (human-powered only for the approach to them would be a bonus)
-Rainbow Trail in a day on bike (on or around the summer solstice, most likely)
-Rainbow Trail on foot in <30 hours

I’m not saying I won’t go to any bike races, running races, burro races, or the like. I’m just saying that my focus is going to be taking a year off from planning my outdoor activities around the goal of bike racing. I feel like I’ve always bike raced not just in the spirit of competition, but also in search of new trails and challenges. For me, that latter aspect of bike racing has died off. While there’s lots I haven’t done, I feel like my sample of racing successes are representative of some of the most challenging events in the sport. The first few that come to mind:
– Three seasons of NUE 100s, the middle season being totally singlespeed and still finishing 5th overall in the series for Pro Women (also finishing 5th overall in the 3rd season, but with a geared bike).
– Breck Epic 3x singlespeed, with 2x 2nd place finishes and 1 win.
– Dirty Kanza 200, 3rd overall woman
– Vapor Trail 125 win and “new” course record.

Races, no matter how difficult, technical, etc, are still required to stay within the confines of permits, emergency access, course marking/sweeping, aid station support, and general safety for their participants. I’m looking to take on feats of endurance that are outside of those confines.

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Now, for the “audience participation” part of the show. How do you want to watch this? Should I keep doing like I have with spotty blog posts and most frequent pictures on social media? Or, should I move forward into the increasing popularity of the YouTube Channel? All of those? At some point, Time becomes a factor (the infrequency of blog posts being example #1). I kinda feel like uploading a video blog might be easier. I’ve definitely videoed my thoughts while out on previous adventures only to delete them later for one reason or another.

Hit me up.  I’m here to entertain. You let me know the vehicle.

Hoodrich Transients, Volume 3

Well, more accurately, Transient. I went solo on my latest trip.

I’ve got a grand scheme of sorts that I’ve stared at on various internet maps since I moved to the area. MyTopo.com is an addictive resource- I start there, then, when I see a route I want to check out, I use a combination of a paper map of the area, Strava Heatmaps, and Google Satellite view to see if the road on the aged topo map is actually still in existence and open to the public. I’ve come up with a grand loop of the area, and the trip with Levi along with my most recent one this weekend served as scouting journeys.

This weekend, I wanted to check out the route to Tincup Pass. It would only take a handful of hours to ride there from Salida, but I wanted to use the route I’d come up with for my big loop, which meant taking the long way up through Aspen Ridge and Buena Vista to Cottonwood Pass where I’d then split off down CR 344 to the Green Timber/Poplar Gulch trail to St. Elmo at the base of Tincup Pass. I knew I’d be camping somewhere between Buena Vista and St. Elmo, but not 100% sure as to where, and my plan was to ride Tincup Pass and loop back to Williams Pass and back home the next day.

I packed up, dropped Marley off at dog daycare, and started up to Aspen Ridge around 9am. The aspens are just starting to get patches of yellow, and the intermittent views of the Arkansas River Valley below were really cool, albeit smokey.

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From the top of Aspen Ridge, the route generally descended down through the Castle Rock area towards Hwy 285 a few miles east of Buena Vista. At 285, I completed the scariest part of the journey- 3/4 of a mile on the highway with a narrow shoulder and a ton of holiday weekend traffic (on the map, I’d seen a connecting “road” that paralleled the highway between CR 315 and 305, but it was indistinguishable in the scrub). I turned on a really bright taillight, waited for traffic to clear, and had at it. It wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, but it wasn’t fun. Luckily, it was short.

I arrived at the Midland Bike Trail ready for lunch.

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It’s a really cool trail- mostly singletrack on an old rail bed, punctuated by technical bypass dips where the old trestle is gone. I arrived in Buena Vista and refilled my water from the river instead of from a fountain- something I’d regret later, but preferred at the time, because filtered river water tastes way better than tap water from the trailhead fountain.

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The next portion of my route was some more road out Cottonwood Pass to CR 343. It was a little hot, and there was a little traffic, but the view was nice. I was pretty glad to be off pavement once I was there, though. Once I was on gravel again, I ate some more and continued up the climb towards the Green Timber Gulch trailhead. Somewhere along that part, the distance, elevation, and hours traveled started to get to me. I got tired and cranky, but the view and the temporary leveling off of the grade along Cottonwood Lake soothed me a bit. I was glad that I still had a few hours of daylight to get up higher on a trail, because the valley was full of weekend campers.

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I finally reached the trailhead just before 5pm, where my plan was to fill my water and head up to treeline to camp.

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I knew the trail would be rough, steep, and mostly hike-a-bike, especially with the loaded hardtail. I stopped to refill my water and found that my MSR Trailshot filter was clogged- something that I’d heard of, but not yet experienced (Chris Plesko nearly succumbed to dehydration during the Colorado Trail Race when his did the same thing, and Levi reported something similar. You’d think I’d learn to take a fresh filter with me when it really mattered). I removed and flushed the filter repeatedly in order to get at least a trickle of clean water out of it. Eventually, I nursed it back to semi-health and was able to refill my water, though I’d wasted about 30min of daylight in the process.

I started the hike-a-bike at around 5:20, and told myself that I’d begin looking for camp spots at 6. The combination of thick tree cover and the gulch I was traveling up meant that the light would fade slightly earlier, and I wanted to set up camp and get to cooking dinner before sunset. As far as hike-a-bike goes, this one was one of the hardest I’ve ever done- especially at hour nine of a long day of pedaling.

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It was pretty scenic, though.

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Sometime around 6:20, I passed a flat-ish spot in the trail. At first, I kept going, determined to find a spot closer to treeline that’d rival the Sargent’s Mesa spot I’d camped in with Levi. The sun peeking over a distant saddle drew me up like a siren, as its presence through the trees indicated that I was close to the elevation I desired. However, I stopped at the next really steep hike-a-bike, looked at my GPS, and realized that I was already at 11,600 feet and that the trail would not really level off again until almost 12,000 feet where it turned to make the final push to the summit. I decided to turn back to the small flat spot I’d passed a minute earlier.

Day 1 Map: https://www.strava.com/activities/1165270231

It was, admittedly, too close to the trail according to the ethics of backcountry travel (I was at least far from water, though). However, it is a seldom-traveled moto trail, and I was, as I’d find out while setting up camp, way more exhausted, cold, and low on calories than I realized when I was still moving upwards. Being a seasoned endurance athlete nearly got me into trouble, as I’d been ignoring all of those things in the pursuit forward motion.

I noticed the cold first, and, as I unpacked my warm camp clothes, immediately stripped off my damp cycling kit (I told you it was secluded), dried myself off, and bundled up. It took a huge mental effort to pitch my tent, including 4 tries at getting the correct side of my rainfly facing up. I’ve been that cold/tired/bonky before, though, so I kept it together and soon enough, I was sitting in my tent watching dinner cook.

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The best part of that camping spot was that it was totally silent of all things human. I could hear the woodpeckers’ toenails on the trees around my tent. The result of warm food, lots of pedaling/pushing, and total silence was falling asleep before it was even dark. My tent was like a sensory deprivation chamber in the middle of the woods- the sort of quiet where your heartbeat and breath seem loud.

I never sleep great in a tent, especially at that elevation. So, I had weird dreams and woke up three or four times. Eventually, I woke up to creeping morning light. I made some instant coffee and oatmeal before packing up to continue my bike pushing adventures.

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My read on the topo lines of my GPS were spot on- I didn’t pass another place that would’ve been good for camp until I was well above treeline, which would’ve been another 20-30 minutes of pushing and another 500 feet higher/colder. Even the first view above treeline was a little too sloped & rocky. I would’ve been in the basin just below the summit.

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The summit was about another 50 minutes of pushing from my campsite, and was gorgeous (as always).

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At the top, the name of the trail changes to Poplar Gulch. Despite the fact that I had to hike-a-bike 99% of the 3-ish miles of the Green Timber Gulch trail on the way up, I was glad I’d gone that direction, because the Poplar Gulch trail was slightly more moderate in grade and rockiness, meaning it was easier descending on a bike that’s a little sketchy at descending.

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It was nice to feel the air begin to warm as I dropped down to the trailhead.

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I rolled in to St. Elmo as the general store was waking up and ventured inside to buy a couple of bottles of water.

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It was also the time of day that at least 50 (not exaggerating) off road vehicles of various sorts were staging to climb Tincup Pass. Ugh. According to the clerk at the store, “Tincup pass is going to be an absolute zoo today.” Given that, along with my failed water filter, I felt like the responsible thing to do at that point was to go home instead of continuing on my planned route. It was a little disappointing, as my legs felt like they were up for it. I just didn’t feel like dealing with a zoo of off-road vehicles. So, yeah- poor planning on my part in both filter and route considerations. I’m not too upset, though. knocking out that mileage & gain the weekend before Vapor Trail 125 may have been a bit ambitious.

Day 2 Map: https://www.strava.com/activities/1165271847

Once I was home, I performed my favorite recovery rituals of eating and tubing.

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Afterwards, I picked up Marley from daycare. I’m not sure which one of us was more exhausted.

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I’m excited for Vapor Trail this weekend, and maybe even more excited to get out more more than an overnight on my big loop afterward. I might even have a different bike to utilize as my pack mule by then, but I’m hush-hush on the details for now because they’re still in the works.

 

Breckenridge 68 Race Report

It’s been a rainy summer here in the mountains. Saturday’s Breck 68 was no exception. I haven’t raced on this exact course since 2010, when it was my first singlespeed 100 (I am glad I don’t have the same strong feelings about the bump in the road that is French Gulch, since that climb is in basically EVERY Breckenridge bike race). I was happy to come back and do it over again with way more experience/fitness/acclimatization and without the 6:00am first lap start up Wheeler Pass.

It rained a lot. I packed the car in the rain, drove in the rain, picked up my race packet in the rain, set up my pit cooler in the rain… you get the idea. Not sprinkles, not storming (yay!), just a constant, steady rain.

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There’s some variation of a quote about there never being bad conditions, just bad clothes. Saturday was no exception. The temperature in Breck was 50. However, on the drive to Breck, the temperature was 42 over Hoosier Pass- an elevation I’d be racing at more than once on course. It had also been raining all week in the mountains, so there was sure to be standing water and high creek crossings on course, even if the rain stopped.

So, I dressed for a day of 40s and rain. It’s really easy to cool off if you overdress and get hot. It’s wayyyyy harder to warm up in those conditions if you get too cold. I saw a lot of people dressed for an hour of 50 and rain. I also saw a lot of people DNF because they were hypothermic. I wore normal summer kit, waterproof socks, rain pants, a real rain jacket, and mid weight gloves. The gloves were my weak point. I don’t own an waterproof gloves. Later I was given the advice to put latex gloves under my normal gloves. That definitely would have been an improvement, given my issues with poor circulation. I also put a few extra things (cap, arm/leg warmers, warm gloves) in plastic bags inside my pack (my Osprey Rev pack with no reservoir) in case the isht really hit the fan, weather-wise. I don’t usually race with a pack, but in this case, it was important to carry the rain clothes if it got warmer and to carry the other stuff if it got colder. It’s a super light piece, so without water in it, it’s hardly noticeable.

I entered the Pro Women’s category because there wasn’t a women’s singlespeed category available at registration. Also, I have been turning course times similar to Pro women, and there’s usually money available for placing. Once the race started, though, I didn’t really pay attention to who was ahead/behind me. I figured it was going to be a long day, and that things would just shake out however as long as I was keeping a good pace.

First order of the course was to climb up to/over French Gulch. I swear that climb is smoother/easier since the first time I did it back in 2010. We descended American Gulch on the other side, where I had flashbacks from Breck Epic 2015 when Sara Sheets and I battled up that climb after trying to kill each other over two other mountain passes. At the bottom, I stopped at the aid station to refill a bottle and swap to dry gloves (the aforementioned bad circulation was biting me in the ass). It took some effort to get the dry gloves on because the muscles controlling my right fingers had basically stopped working, so it was like trying to cram wet noodles into a glove. One of the aid station workers rubbed my hand between hers to get the circulation back, and I was able to manage getting the glove on. It was a bad chunk of time to lose on course, but I feel like it was necessary for my hands to be functional in order for me to continue racing.

The next climb up the Colorado Trail is a tough one with an awesome downhill reward. The toughness level was increased by the number of wet roots on the steep parts. I walked a good bit. That was also the warmest part of my time on course. I removed my rain gear and stuffed it into my pack. At the bottom of an really awesome descent, I filled another bottle and headed out over the last hump of that loop (Tiger Road) before rolling back in to Carter Park and starting loop #2.

At the park, I grabbed my windbreaker out of my stuff. The rain had started alternating on/off, and it was a little windy and chilly, so it felt like the right clothing for the rest of the day. I kept my rain jacket & pants in my pack, because, even though the weather seemed to be improving, it could potentially turn to downpours at any time. I don’t screw around when it comes to weather in the backcountry.

The 2nd loop started with a hard climb up Indiana Creek to Boreas Pass. Again, I had some flashbacks from Breck Epic. Once at the top of Boreas Pass, the course goes down the Gold Dust Trail. It was there, that I had my only wreck of the day on a wet, sketchy, high-speed, off-camber bridge. If you want to hear the details, you have to listen to the latest episode of Just Riding Along. It’s funny in a self-deprecating way.

The Gold Dust Trail seems to go on forever, but I eventually made it to Como, where I fueled up in order to start the long climb back up Boreas Pass. I gathered all of my mental energy and made it my goal to have empty shells of legs at the top of the pass. That worked out really well, because I suddenly found myself approaching the aid station before I was expecting it. I could smell the barn from there, so I hauled ass over the top without stopping.

Somewhere on the last singletrack, another singlespeeder caught up to me. I asked if he wanted to get by, and he mentioned that we were racing each other. I told him that even though I was singlespeed, I was definitely entered in the Pro category. Fun fact of the race I figured out later- I ended up finishing a little less than 1 min behind him. If I had turned on “ludicrous speed” for the last downhill and beaten him instead of staying “conservative” and letting him by, I would have been 2nd singlespeeder of the day behind Dan Durland.

Looking at the results page for just the 68 mile race (not the 100 or the 32), here are your rain/cold Did Not Finish/Start (DNF/DNS) stats:

43 Finishers
4 DNFs during the 1st lap (started the course and quit before the end of the 1st lap)
26 DNFs who finished a 1st lap and didn’t start a 2nd
16 DNSs (people who looked out the window that morning and were like, “Nah”)

Hopefully some of those 46 people can read this and take it as advice on dealing with the weather. I’ve been hypothermic more than once in the middle of summer in Colorado, so I’m coming from a place of lots of personal experiences in doing it wrong.

I ended up 2nd overall woman by about 14 minutes.

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Carbon Drive is really awesome in those conditions. The only complaint about my drivetrain was the freehub on the Stan’s Neo Ultimate rear hub. It was popping/creaking during the race, and making me feel like it was going to catastrophically fail at any point. When I took it apart on Monday, I found that the rubber seal between the hub shell and freehub body had failed to keep mud out. The low points of the drive ring were filled with mud, and the lubricating grease had become mud-fouled as well. I cleaned/re-lubed everything, but I don’t know if it caused permanent damage. After years of Industry Nine reliability, I’m not at all impressed with the performance or reliability of the Neo Ultimate hub.

I’m still pretty shelled from the effort. It was a really nice hard day of training for Vapor Trail 125, though.

Journey into the Clouds

Since I first looked at a Salida regional trail map, I’d lusted over the idea of following the Continental Divide Trail north from Monarch Pass (the well-known “Monarch Crest” route goes south and follows the CDT until you reach the Silver Creek trail). Most CDT rides involve extended hike-a-bike, cairn-finding, rugged/steep alpine terrain, and occasionally unpredictable weather. They also involve a sense of awe and scenery that’s unlike anything you can find from the safety and comfort of your couch or car.

This ride was all of those things.

The shop is busy enough this summer that getting a spot on a shuttle to the Monarch Crest can be difficult. I talked to one of the shop guides, and she informed me that there’d be a 5am shuttle on one of my days off… some people from Pearl Izumi were doing a photo shoot up there, and wanted to get the “good” light. I jumped on the opportunity- especially since earlier is better when going on a trip that’s above treeline for an extended period of time (afternoon weather can get hairy).

It was just getting light when we reached the top of the pass. I grabbed my bike off the trailer and was halfway up the first hill before the van was fully unloaded of its passengers:

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The first couple of miles was all pretty rideable. The singletrack traverses the hillside until you reach Old Monarch Pass. I had to stop and take a selfie, mainly because my most “fond” memory of that exact spot was from 2014 when I was pre-riding the Vapor Trail 125 course. The ride was huge (especially given my lack of acclimatization), and the weather was spotty until I reached the lower pitches of my final climb of the day- Old Monarch Pass. At that point, it started to rain. Heavy, cold, saturating rain. I reached the top, and- no exaggeration- was standing in said rain looking at sun on the road just ahead of me on the other side of the pass. I took this photo to commemorate my ride:

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Please, go ahead and laugh. I do, every time I see it.

This time, I was a lot happier, for lots and lots of reasons:

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From there, you soon get to Monarch Ski Area. The riding stays relatively easy until you get back on singletrack and start climbing again. It’s at about that time that the views start to get indescribably beautiful.

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At one point, I was in a cloud. It was chilly and kind of windy, but the angle of the sunrise kept everything oddly bright.

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Wildflowers and hike-a-bike:

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I made it over the final hump before descending into a huge basin on an occasionally-unrideable trail to Boss Lake.

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I know the pano shots kinda suck, but sometimes I don’t know how else to try and capture what I’m seeing.

I got a little lost trying to find where the CDT leaves the Boss Lake area. It took getting my phone out and using MTB project to figure out where to go. The next section of CDT looked new-ish, but was in bad shape. I’m not exaggerating when I say there were about 20 trees down in a couple of miles of trail.

That section was soon over and I made my way up a jeep road towards Chalk Creek Pass. The CDT eventually split off and ran parallel to the road. It was mostly rideable except where there were more trees down. Eventually, though, it became hike-a-bike once again.

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As the terrain became steeper, the trail became less obvious. It crossed a couple of big snow fields as well as a big scree field. The rock cairns were clutch.

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Just before I reached the top, there was one more snow field. It was steep enough that I had to kick my toes into the snow with every step in order to not slide back down.

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It’d be nice if I had the upper body strength to be able to hold a phone level for more than 4 seconds.

The top of Chalk Creek Pass was just on the other side. From up there, I could watch the valley on both sides of me filling in with clouds along the edges.

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The cloud cover didn’t look much better towards Hancock Lake:

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As I descended to Hancock, the clouds grew thicker and more threatening. I made the decision there to continue going down the road instead of staying on the Alpine Tunnel section of the CDT. The downpour chased me with occasional raindrops and gusts of wind most of the way down the valley.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1083462849

I’m slowly filling in the gaps of places to explore around the area.

Monarch Crest- No Shuttle

The weekend of the Mt. Antero adventure didn’t stop with said adventure. Though, I did take Friday as a recovery day. I ran errands all morning then went tubing for the first time in the afternoon. Tubing may be my next favorite recovery day activity. I grabbed a tube and some advice from SUPDVK (only a block from the shop), and headed to a popular put-in spot a few miles west of town.

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Then, I put forth no effort other than to float down the river and occasionally flap my arms for the next couple of hours. I did manage to go full send into the water on one of the rapids, which was more fun and exciting than it was scary. As I neared the boat ramp by the shop, shop-owner Shawn happened to be near the river and caught it on camera:

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To make sure it was a full-blown recovery day, I took the shop errand bike back to my car-

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Because I went full send on recovering, I had the legs for another big adventure on Saturday. I really wanted to ride either north or further south on the Continental Divide Trail than the traditional Monarch Crest section. However, the shop shuttle to Monarch Pass was full. So, I decided I’d ride up to the Crest via North Fooses Creek (N Fooses is all doubletrack access road and takes you up close to the start of the Crest Route, and South Fooses is the Colorado Trail section that connects to the Crest Route a few more miles south of Monarch Pass).

I decided I’d once again tack on a little extra Colorado Trail to the beginning of my ride and then explore one of the trails other than Silver Creek off of the Crest Route.

The Route:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1074173637

The section of Colorado Trail from Blank’s Cabin to Highway 50 is excellent. It includes a flowy aspen tunnel, a steep techy descent, and a very rideable climb out of Shavano Campground. Once across Highway 50, the climb up to the Continental Divide is long and one of the less interesting, more character building efforts in the area. It’s a little Jekyll & Hyde- once you pass the split where the Colorado Trail goes up South Fooses Creek, North Fooses turns more doubletrack-y and rough, but never incredibly steep… until it goes all the way steep a few miles up.

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Of course, in photos, it looks pretty rideable. In real life, it’s basically a wall of loose rock.

As I was pushing up, I could see rain/thunder clouds passing over the area I was headed to. Just like with Antero two days before, I made the decision to keep pushing and watch the storm path. I eventually made it to the top behind the storm.

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Once I was on Monarch Crest, I rode pretty hard. There were no storms right then, but they were definitely in the area. I decided on checking out the Green’s Creek Trail. As I found the top of it, the rain started (pretty sure that black cloud in the background of the above photo is what I was under). Thankfully, I was well under treeline by then, and there really wasn’t any hail or lightning.

The Green’s Creek trail is, however, very rooty and rocky… and, in this instance, very wet. It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden wet roots. Honestly, I don’t know when I learned to do so, but somehow, I’m guessing just through instinct, I was able to do it. You basically have to point your bike in a general direction and not touch the brakes until your braking tire is not touching a wet root…

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It takes nerves of feckin’ steel. I found the limits of the cross country bike in both rear wheel travel and lightweight brakes. You either go really fast because you can only brake where it’s not wet/rocky/rooty, or you walk. Somewhere in the middle isn’t an option… I know, because as I got tired, I tried to slow down, and it resulted in slipping/falling more than once.

Somewhere before the bottom, the rain stopped, and it was warm and sunny. I stopped at the trailhead to refill my water bottles and let the last few miles of riding soak in before rolling back down to town. Unlike my previous adventure, the wind was pointed towards town, and I rolled back in with a grin on my face.

The Circumnavigation of Mt. Antero

The weekend following Firecracker 50, I was jonesing for big rides. I need some soul-crushing adventures in order to prep for Vapor Trail 125 in September. It’s a race that’s equally demanding mentally as it is physically.

Inspired by Jeff Kerkove’s route up/around Mt. Antero using the jeep road and Brown’s Creek trail, I talked to a few people with more trail knowledge than myself and planned a similar route that included more Colorado Trail as well as Little Brown’s Creek instead. I came up with this: https://www.strava.com/activities/1071335857 . Riding from town adds a good dose of steady pedaling as well as at least 1k ft of elevation gain. I also enjoy staring at the mountains as I approach them and trying to discern what my passage is going to be from a distance.
In this picture, Antero is the tallest peak with Mt. White just to its left. My route traversed across the base of Antero into the valley on the right, then up the back and across the saddle between Antero and White before traversing south to the base of Shavano off to the left of the picture.

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The first part of the Colorado trail was rough. The connector to the Colorado Trail from the Brown’s Creek trailhead on FS272 has been torn up and heavily shat upon by equestrian traffic. There was a trailer load of 10-20 horses at the trailhead. They’ve widened and pulverized the tread of several miles of trail into several inches of powder that’s a mix of what used to be trail combined with urine and feces. You can literally smell the trail when riding/hiking on it. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve ridden miles of ATV and moto trails out here, and those vehicles don’t cause nearly the tread damage that horse traffic has caused.

I digress.

I eventually made it to the Antero Jeep Road. It’s gnarly and steep the entire way up. There’s no rest unless you just stop.

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I heard thunder as I was starting to climb. My first instinct was to turn and go home, but I told myself that it was going to be a solid hour or more before I was near treeline, so I should make the decision there since the storm would likely move on by then. I talked to a couple of downward-bound hikers, and they said it’d just stormed like mad, but it seemed to have moved off for now. Once I was up high and the hike-a-bike was becoming more sustained, the skies looked grey, but not too foreboding. There were piles of pea-sized hail all over the place. I pushed on up some pretty tough pitches- in several places, the road bed is just loose-ish softball-to-basketball sized rocks.

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Once the road starts to switchback, it becomes slightly more rideable. The grade isn’t terrible, but, at the 12-13k elevation span, the watts available to get up small rocky punches and loose spots are greatly diminished.

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Above treeline is one of my favorite places, ever. I could’ve stayed up there a long time, but, after a snack and getting my windbreaker zipped up, I headed down into that saddle where the trails look like they converge:

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The view at that spot looks like the trail drops off into the sky:

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Once I was on the trail, it was standard Alpine rugged-as-ufck with a big snowfield at the top.

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It was really tough riding until the trail ducked into the treeline. Then, it was a mixture of flowy and techy rocks until the last mile or so when it began including intermittent punchy climbs before t-ing in to the Colorado Trail.

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The ride back home was the soul-crushing nail in the coffin. The CT traverse back to south to Blank’s Cabin rolls up and down/in and out of drainages for what seems like an endless number of miles before arriving to the Blank’s Cabin trailhead. The ride back in to town from there is almost all downhill. It was also almost all into a 20 mph headwind. Even though the elevation loss from the trailhead to town is around 2000ft, I was tucked behind my bars, pedaling at 200 watts, and only doing 12mph for the last 7-ish miles back in to town. It was the type of effort that can break people… though, the whole ride itself could be categorized as such, so it was really just another difficult patch to accept and work through…

Santosha

In Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, the word for contentment is Santosha, described as one of the key components to success on the path of self-realization.  It is the prerequisite to experiencing peace.

TKV Desikachar, a world-renowned yoga master, describes the meaning of Santosha as accepting what happens.  Simply accepting whatever life offers you and learning from it.  It is also accepting ourselves just as we are.  There’s no need for me to be different than I am, and there’s no need for my life to be any different in this moment.

…applicable both acutely to bike rides and chronically to everything else.

Adventure Dump #2- Matt Visits Salida

Before we get started, I just want to mention that the deer in Salida are pretty out of control. They aren’t afraid of people, and sometimes even act aggressively towards pets. They also poop everywhere.

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Now that’s over, time for Adventure Dump #2. Matt came to visit, and since he has been living at sea level since mid-may, I made the riding plans sub-epic (I don’t GAF, I’m taking that word back). It was perfect timing for more reasonable adventure, because I was racing on a duo team for Firecracker 50 the Tuesday following Matt’s visit.

Day 1, we rode Marshall Pass up to the Continental Divide/Colorado Trail to Starvation Creek. Afterwards, we hung out at the river and visited the local shooting range. I’ve shot plenty of shotguns and a rifle or two, but it was my first time shooting a handgun. It’s definitely a little harder to aim.

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Day 2, we rode some Colorado Trail from Blank’s Cabin. The section from Blank’s to the Angel of Shavano Campground is one of my favorites because of the Aspens.

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Day 3 was definitely the raddest. We caught the first shuttle of the year up to the Monarch Crest Trail. I had only ridden the full trail twice- once on my first-ever trip to Salida and once during Vapor Trail 125 (I honestly don’t remember much of the VT125 passage because I’d been riding all night).

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There were still a couple of large snowdrifts to hike over.

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It’s a lot of fun to play around above treeline for a handful of miles on a clear/sunny day.

We stopped at my favorite water refill spot on Marshall Pass. I’ve been using an MSR Trailshot filter and loving it.

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You might notice from the photos that I put the RS1 fork on the 429sl. If you haven’t already heard me talk about it on Just Riding Along, I will say it again here- the RS1 is the cross-country Pike that I’ve always dreamt about. It’s not SID-WC light (weighs in between 1600-1700g), but it’s stiff, plush, and freaking awesome. If you have the $$, and you’re on the fence about it, I say go for it.

The three days of “normal person” adventures was a perfect lead-in to the Firecracker 50 race. I teamed up with Brad Berger- one of my other new-this-season Gates Carbon Drive teammates. He hammered a 2:12 lap, which put me someplace in the top 10 of 65 teams. I managed to reel in some of the ladies ahead of me, but also got passed by Cody (who turned a 2:02 lap)- the dude half of the eventual winners. My lap time was 2:27- fastest of any of the women who were on teams, and comparable to the mid-pack pro times. We ended up in 3rd place… not shabby, considering we were the only SS team on the podium.

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The short/hard effort of XC-distance racing is a good blast of intensity to keep the watts topped off while I’m exploring for hours otherwise. With a couple of days of hard rest, I was ready for the hike-a-bike extravaganza that was my next weekend off/next blog post.

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.

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!