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 #1

Re-occurring three day weekends are one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. You’d think with all that time, I’d be able to post here more regularly, but the opposite happens- I venture out into the backcountry and make more adventures than I could ever describe in the small amount of time that I make to sit down and stop moving for a few minutes.

The month of June is a micro-shoulder season around Salida. The low trails are hot and dusty, but the high country is still snowy and wet. I spent a lot of time scouting up Marshall Pass and riding “backwards” on the Monarch Crest Trail as far as the snow drifts would allow.

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Sometimes I have a hard time stopping to take photos because the iphone will never, ever really capture how amazing the scenery I’m looking at really is. If you look at any of these, just imagine them being 10x more awesome in person than how they appear on your screen.

June is also Tour Divide and American Trail Race season at the shop. The two cross-country routes meet up just north of Salida and share a path through town, staying together until they’re over Marshall Pass. The leaders of both races rode through town within about two hours of each other. If you follow my instagram account, you’ve seen the multiple drivetrain replacements I’ve performed for riders on both courses.

Pro tip- if you’re racing across country, start with a new drivetrain, brake pads, and tires.

One of our Just Riding Along show listeners is a member of a group of gravel riders in Kansas. They have a friend on the Divide route, and wanted to send him a beer via the shop. In keeping with the ethics of self supported racing, if they wanted to do that, then all riders had to have access to a beer at the shop. So, he paypal-ed me a few bucks for beer, and we’ve been offering it to every rider that comes through the shop. I also spent a day on the route up the north side of town offering beers to racers I found on course.

This was my “waiting” spot on the last hill that racers climbed before descending into Salida. Soon after I set up there, I met a couple who were northbound Divide riders. They passed on the beer, but stopped to chat a few minutes before heading off.

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Looking at the Trackleaders site, I could tell I had at least an hour or more before the next rider was through, so I went off in search of a forest road I’d seen on a map that looked like it’d connect to make a loop back to my beer spot. I found the road…

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I also found out that the Everett Cattle Company effs up everything in that area…

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Basically every secondary numbered forest road north of Salida has one of these signs on it. Highly disappointing.

I went back up the hill to wait on the next rider. He showed up after a while and was pleasantly surprised for the beer handup.

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That same weekend, I decided to explore a 4×4 road I’d seen on a map (basically how most of my adventures start). County/Forest road 240 goes into the mountains from Maysville (on highway 50) and ends at Billings Lake. I took the Colorado Trail to 240 in order to skip riding up Highway 50 (though I did end up riding down it to get home)

Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/1052441531

The section of Colorado Trail from Blanks Cabin to 240 is gorgeous and flowy (with a slightly hairy descent at the end). On the way to the trail, I could see my destination in the distance- the low spot in the mountain horizon just to the left of the cow’s head.

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The CT:

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The climb up 240 was tough- about 7 miles of mostly steep and rocky jeep road. However, the scenery at the end was as gorgeous as the climb was difficult.

Along the way, you pass an old trail that goes up the backside of Shavano. Gonna have to explore that one.

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Stay right for maximum mountain enjoyment:

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The area at the end of the road is covered in old mine remains. I’d love to find out more about the history of that spot. You can see the road I came in on to the left of the lake in the first pic-

 

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The opportunities to explore the mountains around here are nearly endless. I spend literal hours looking at a topographical map, then cross-referencing it to strava heatmaps and local trail maps to try and determine if what I’m looking at actually exists as a road or trail. I want to refer to the resulting rides as “Epic,” but that term has become pretty watered down by people whose idea of adventure is a zipline tour or ski resort.

In my next installment, I go higher.

 

 

 

 

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.

Devil on the Divide 22k

Wait, what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dis-Organized Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spot the cairns #1:

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Some hike-a-bike:

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

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

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

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

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

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…not trying to brag with the postcard pics…

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

Every Ten Miles

With the extra horsepower I’ve felt on my singlespeed as of late, I’ve had a growing desire to buy a carbon hardtail. I like the Cysco and all, but I’m jonesing for something lighter and stiffer. I’ve got enough money saved up to buy something, but it’d involve some parts selling and maybe living close to paycheck-to-paycheck for a month or two. That’s not really my thing, so, even though the desire to make it happen is strong, I have been mulling over lots of purchasing options and not made any hard decisions yet.

Hold that thought for a few minutes.

Another strong desire I’ve felt for a long time is to get in to bikepacking. The pull I get from the mountains is almost magnetic. I feel physically drawn in to them. Good backpacking/bikepacking gear is expensive. That, along with Indy’s need for almost constant care, has been my barrier of entry in to the wilderness.

The other day, a man came in to the shop with a steel road bike and two flat tires. On his back, he carried a hacksaw and some hedge clippers. If I had to guess, I’d say he was somewhat homeless and did little odd jobs to feed himself. He was an incredibly interesting person. While I fixed his flats, he talked with my coworker Amanda about riding across the country and how free he felt doing it. As an avid bikepacker, she could relate.

He had a theory that every 10 miles, the landscape of the Earth changes. On a literal level, if you’ve ever ridden long distances by bike (or on foot), you might agree. When your mode of transportation is slow, you have time to notice subtle nuances in the terrain around you.

I thought about “every 10 miles” the whole way home that afternoon. Maybe it’s not the Earth’s terrain that changes every 10 miles of pedaling, but instead, your perception of the Earth around you. I’m drawn to the idea the same way I feel physically drawn into the belly of the mountains just to the West of my front door.

I went home and dropped a chunk of my carbon hardtail savings on a really nice sleeping bag and pad. The way I see it, it’s the difference between purchasing a “thing” versus purchasing an “experience.” I’m pretty good at riding the ti bike, anyway.

What about Indy?

I’ve found some very kind ladies at a doggie daycare called Rover’s Stay and Play. He gets to hang out behind the front desk and periodically go out make his right-hand circles in an outdoor kennel by himself. Between daycare and overnight help from Matt, I look forward to a couple of overnight trips this summer. I know Indy is somewhat of a burden to watch for anyone but myself, so I don’t have any current plans to go longer than that. Finding the daycare does open up a few more modest travel options than what I was limited to before, though, which is promising.

I don’t think most people would read so far in to a homeless dude’s theory of how the Earth’s formations exist. However, the more I think about the rate of personal transformation that can happen to you when you get on a bike and start pedaling, the more it fascinates me. I want to explore “every 10 miles” on both the literal and metaphorical levels.

Occasional Adventures

Obviously, my post frequency has taken quite the hit with the onset of a 40+ hour work week. I’m getting settled in to a routine, though, and likewise, getting settled in to a rental house after being somewhat “nomadic” for a couple of months when I had to make the transition from living/working in the mountains to living/working in Denver, then dealing with moving and working a lot. It’s getting better, though.

First off, don’t forget- I’m selling a small Jet9 RDO. In order to be competitive with eBay pricing, I’m pricing it at $1900, shipped anywhere in the lower 48. It’s still in the box. I’ve only taken it out enough to snap a couple of pics of the color (slate/black/yellow).

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As I alluded to in my last post, life now is days at Elevation Cycles in Highlands Ranch, riding when I can, and MMA classes a few days a week at the new (to me) gym. Weekend before last, the shop sponsored a work trip to Fruita. All three shops closed early on Saturday (and remained closed until Tuesday morning), and everyone rolled out to go west to the desert. Since I had Saturday off, I took full advantage and went to a jujitsu seminar with Andre Galvao.

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It was a great day of learning. Also, I had the privilege of watching two people get black belt promotions (the two dudes on the outside of the pic below). It was emotional… in a room full of really tough athletes, there was hardly a dry eye.

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Afterwards, I loaded up the Subaru and started my trip west (somewhere along the way, I rolled over 100k). The desert scenery and riding never disappoints. We rode the Lunch Loops and Ribbon trails on Sunday then Kokopelli on Monday. Dave- the service manager/mechanic in at the bench next to mine, who could be mistaken for my older brother based on riding style, proximity to gingerness, and general surliness, rode the drop in to Horsetheif.

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I am the only woman between the three Elevation shops (other than the lady who does all the important stuff like paychecks and whatnot). I definitely put some pressure on myself to prove that I could keep up with the guys. I feel as though I was mostly successful in that.

Work itself has its expected high and low points. Example-

High point- geeking out over rehabbing a classic old Pinarello with Capagnolo Nuovo Record-

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Low point- assembling a Speed Concept

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It’s like trying to assemble Ikea furniture without an instruction manual.

Saturday, on my day off, I went up to 92Fifty to get the rest of my stuff out of the bike shop. I took the opportunity to go explore the nearby James Peak Wilderness area at the end of Rollins Pass road.

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I’d passed the trailhead multiple times over the summer, and wanted to check out the snow and stuff. Hiking a trail in feet of packed-in snow was a lifetime first for me. I can’t wait to go back a little more prepared and hike up higher.

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That’s about all of my adventures for now. I’m posting pretty regularly on Twitter and Instagram if you’re in to those things (links over on the right of this page). I mostly stay off of my personal facebook page. Facebook has become a shining example of how terrible,  uncaring, and racist a lot of people are. I don’t want to waste my time confirming something I’ve suspected all along, so I quit really giving it much attention.

Indecisions (photo heavy)

I’m sitting around the RV right now wringing my hands about what to do this weekend. I’m entered in the Snowmass BME race. For whatever reason, my motivation to go to said race has fizzled out. I’m not really sure why- it’s sort of a combination of the thought of being in a ski village for a few days combined with the fact that the race is mostly lift-serviced. I’m not criticizing the organizers for that second one, but, personally speaking, it’s not nearly as appealing to me as non-lift serviced riding. I could race Singlespeed XC at Winter Park instead, and it’d be a cheaper day trip as opposed to a three day/two night stay in the land of $17 hamburgers.

On the other hand, it’s been ingrained into my psyche for as long as I remember that you don’t just back out of things because you’re feeling wishy-washy (see pic of Gerald in my previous post). That personality trait makes more sense for children and teenagers than it does for an adult making a financially and personal preference-based decision, but it still makes me feel superiorly guilty to consider backing out.

The last week of riding was such a beautiful mix of both styles that it doesn’t help me much. The day after the Beti Bike Bash, I met some new friends at Keystone. Along the way, I stopped for an impromptu hike up the mountain from Loveland Pass. I can’t get enough of being up that high. It’s one of the most beautiful experiences on earth.

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There are tons of tiny wildflowers blooming. It boggles my mind to see something so delicate in such a harsh place.

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Keystone is gnar. Only the bottom half of the mountain was being serviced, and no one wanted to pedal up higher, so we stuck to the lower trails. They were chunky and steep. It’s the sort of stuff that, on the right day, I am pretty damn good at navigating… especially on the Mach 6, where I’m more limited by my nerve than by my machine.

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Mid week, I took the singlespeed out for some gravel riding in the backcountry. I discovered some pretty nice “roads”

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… including one that was basically a 1000ft descent on a blown-out chunk atv trail that I was sure would be gated off with a no trespassing sign between me and where I wanted to go. I was mentally prepped for a hour of hiking back up if that were the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the “use this road, but hurry T.F. up” sign.

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I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the snow had melted off of Dakota Hill (the place where I’ve experienced my recent “lost in the snow” adventures).

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Bookending my week, I went with Matt to Winter Park to do more lift riding. It was fun, though I wasn’t feeling the chunk that day like I had at Keystone (which isn’t too terrible, considering there isn’t as much chunk at Winter Park).

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There are a ton of tabletop jumps, which I’ve never actually learned to do (and actually wrecked on one at Keystone). I definitely improved while I was there. I can now leave the entry jump and land both wheels at the same time on the top part of the jump. I even made it smoothly across a couple of the smaller ones. Matt, on the other hand, was riding BMX before I learned how to ride a bike, so he’s pretty cozy with them.

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To balance the pre-packaged adventure of life-service riding, I ventured into the backcountry again yesterday. It’s been really warm here (in the low 80s!) so I wanted to see how far up I could go on Rollins Pass. Aside from a couple of snowy patches on the way up, it’s not totally covered until about 10,700ft.

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In the shop this week, I overhauled our Mach 6 Demo bike so it could be sold. It’s buttery smooth now. Anyone interested in purchase can email me andrea at 92fifty dot com. It’s a medium, 2×10, and in good shape other than the usual bumps and scratches. Asking price, $3800.

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We’ve also got a stack of MBR stickers

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And, your bike hates you…

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Now that I’ve typed it all out, I realize that what it boils down to is that Enduro seemed like an awesome idea until I realized that my fitness is decent again, and I can’t help but fall back in love with riding singlespeed. Don’t get me wrong- I really enjoy enduro racing… I just don’t have the motivation to spend the time and money traveling to do it right now. Other than feeling like I’m a giant disappointment of a human being for bailing on something I’d already committed to, I think I’m just going to bail on it, anyway, and go race SSXC in Winter Park on Saturday.