Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big Creek

Last weekend was my annual race like a tri geek weekend. I always enjoy hangin’ with the triathlon crowd, a lot of them are kinda geeky about their sport… a lot like I am about mountain biking, so it’s a great fit! The 28th edition of the Big Creek Triathlon, hosted by my good friends Jenny and Craig was another huge success with over 450 participants registered for the event.
The 2008 version of team Vitruvian Triad consisted of Brian Kura leading off for the swim, myself for the bike and Kristy Feldman doing the run. My goals for the race were for our team to repeat as overall team champs and also to improve my 40km bike split of 57:17 from last year. Our main competition this year was going to be Team BOS and consisted of Collier Schofield, Casey Owens and Dan Bartlett. Last year Collier was probably the fastest time trial rider in the state prior to his nearly devastating altercation with a pickup truck. The fact that he can even ride a bike a year later is truly amazing… and it gets even better. Casey is an Olympic caliber runner with the 10k distance being her specialty. I’d never heard of Dan before, however with Collier and Casey, we knew that we were going to have a really tough go of it!
The race started and Dan came out of the water in 25:34, Brian came out in 28:07. So Collier had a 2:30 head start on me. I ran my bike out of the transition area and did my cyclist style of entry onto my bike. I’m sure that all of the triathletes that witnessed this probably got a good laugh out of it! I took off and as soon as I put some pressure on the pedals, I knew that my legs were going to be mediocre, at best today. I forced the issue until my heart rate hit 175 and decided based on how I felt, that was all that I had in me for the day.
I was able to maintain it in the mid 170’s over the first half, but found myself thinking that it wouldn’t last. I hit the turn around and started going into the head wind and found my effort slowly dropping off to the point where I was struggling to get back into the 170’s. I put my head down, stuck my tongue back into my mouth and did my best to bury myself into the red. It really helped to have a lot of people to pass throughout the ride as it gave me small goals to shoot for throughout the ride.
I ended up with a bike split of 56:22 over the 40km distance with an average heart rate of 173 and scored a PR by 55 seconds. I was unable to reel in Collier, but I did manage to close the gap by about 78 seconds. I handed the baton off to KF and she took off like a scalded dog in pursuit of Casey. Casey ended up running a 38:34 and KF was unable to close the gap. However she still had a great run in 39:41, which I’m pretty sure was her best time by a lot!
Team BOS ended up taking the win in the team competition with a time of 2:02:41, we brought home 2nd with time of 2:04:54. Last year we won the team competition with a time of 2:14:48. So our team set a new PR by 10 minutes and we still ended up 2nd with absolutely nothing to complain about! It actually felt like a huge victory in that Collier, despite what had happened to him last year, cut a time of 57:40. If you’d seen him at this time last year, you would be absolutely amazed at what he had just accomplished! In a small way, I shouldn’t be surprised as Collier has some very strong mental fortitude and a lot of help from God which led to a speedy recovery. Brian had a great swim, especially considering that it was his first open water swim! I set a PR and had the fastest bike split overall and KF had a pretty amazing run, finishing a scant 67 seconds behind Casey and setting a huge PR.
As always, Jenny, Craig and their army of volunteers did a fantastic job in putting together another very successful event. Everybody looked like they had a great time throughout the day and I’m already looking forward to Big Creek 29!

Next up is IMBCS #6 up at Seven Oaks Ski Hill this Sunday. I love the course and am so looking forward to racing on the dirt again!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, July 18, 2008

Durango - 7.18.08

Rather than doing a long winded entry today, I thought that I’d give a brief summary of the ride and then let some pictures do the rest of the talking.
My last epic ride in Durango had to be the ride up to Kennebec Pass, no shuttle this time. It took me just under 2 ½ hours of nothing but climbing to get to the notch, just under 5,000 feet of climbing. The clouds were just beginning to gather for their daily shindig, so I had a little time to explore while I was in the high country. I rode over to the Highline Trail and started my ascent up to further heights. About ¾ of the way up it became nothing but hike-a-bike. I took a look at the sky and the clouds were becoming more abundant, so I did a 180 and headed back to the Colorado Trail and took it all the way down to Durango. Once at the trailhead in Durango, I turned around and headed back up to the Hoffheins Connector and took Hoffheins back to the ranch. I ended the day with 8,100 feet of climbing and 6 ½ hours of saddle time, pretty close to what I would call a perfect day!
I enjoy riding my road bike and I also dig the triathlon scene even though I can’t really do one. But there is nothing like a mountain bike ride in the mountains. The places that you can go, the things that you can see, no cars to deal with, no noise other than whatever noise mother nature happens to create. The smell of the high altitude pine forests, flying down a narrow strip of buttery smooth singletrack, darting around pines, aspens and rocks. Lung busting climbs, crazy fast descents. You can’t experience any of that on a road bike or during a triathlon. My words fall way short of describing the sensation, so I’ll let some pictures do the rest of the talking, enjoy!

Some company called Wildcat Mining wants to start a mining operation in LaPlata Canyon. I saw signs like this throughout Mayday, at the base of the canyon. I'd say the locals are a little upset about it, I would be too!

I smile everytime I see this sign.

A homeless chimney, probably from an old miners cabin that burnt down back in the day.

This is my idea of a perfect road for a gravel grinder, I could ride on stuff like this all day.

More gravel goodness, Colorado style.

Go mine Uranus.

Squirrel, I dare you to ride down this.

A view of the Highline Trail from the Notch. The Highline traverses up the side of the mountain near the center of the picture.

A view of the Notch, located between the two peaks at the center of the picture, from my where I decided to pull the plug on my ascent up the Highline Trail.

The gathering of the clouds, time to boogie on outta here!

An abandoned miners shack at about 11,200 feet. I bet their view is better than the view out of my office window.

A view from the top of the Sliderock Trail. Just looking at the picture activates the ole' pucker factor'!

When riding on Sliderock Trail, it is best not to look down.

Primo stuff!

Sweet switchback.

More sweet singletrack.

Junction Creek.

I sure am gonna miss this!

I'm gonna miss this too.

A view of the canyon from the trail.

Another view from the trail.

Climbing through a pine and aspen forest. I dream about this stuff when I'm home.

Descending through an aspen forest at mach 4, I'm glad that nothing broke on my bike.

Tomorrow is my last day in Durango, not sure what I'm going to do for a ride in the morning before I leave. I've got about 15 different mountain bike trails to choose from...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Durango – 7.17.08

Had another eventful day today. Headed out on the road to the same private drive that I rode up last week with the intent on riding it until the road stopped.

There's that sign at the bottom of the rich folks road again. Still can't figure out what it says...

It took about 30 minutes of climbing in my 27 to make it. It was crazy steep in a lot of places with an average of 8.2% gradient. My HR was in zone 3 the entire way up. It took about 15 minutes to get back down, it would have been about 10 minutes quicker if it wasn’t such a technical descent, very twisty, there must have been at least 40 switchbacks on that bad boy.

The view from the top of the rich folks road. I'm sure they'll whack out of all of the trees that are in the way of their precious view.

Another view from the top, looks like a lot of trees have already been whacked.

Continued my ride out to Lemon Reservoir, looked at it for about 5 seconds, then turned around and rode out to Vallecito Reservoir.

The Florida River drains from Lemon Reservoir and rolls along Florida Road... very nice.

Another shot of the Florida River.

Rode around Vallecito until the road turned to dirt.

The valley leading up to Vallecito.

Vallecito Reservoir, hope the levee holding it back doesn't break. Maybe some of the folks in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids can give them some pointers on levee design.

The mountains beyond Vallecito.

Vallecito Creek, one of the many creeks that feed Vallecito Reservoir. It'd probably make for a nice post ride ice bath!

Turned around and rode south to Bayfield. On the way back from Bayfield I got caught in a fifteen minute downpour. Unlike the last time, this actually felt pretty good with the temps being in the 70’s. I got pretty soaked and even got peppered with some sleet.
At about the 4 ½ hour mark I heard a ‘PING’ at the rear end of my bike. I stopped and took a look at the back wheel. Sure enough, one of the spokes that I damaged when my rear derailleur exploded snapped in half. I moved the broken ends such that they wouldn’t get in the way while I was rolling. I also had to loosen my rear brake all the way because my wheel looked like a potato chip. I was able to limp my way back to town and stopped at the same shop that replaced my rear derailleur, 2nd Avenue Sports. They had an old Ksyrium SL wheel that was toast and was able to cannibalize a spoke from it. I told them that I only had a $1.77 on me. He said come back later and settle up then. While they were fixing my wheel, we were talking about mountain bikes and I had mentioned that my rear mtn hub had some lateral play in it. One of the mechanics mentioned that he had a lot of experience with Chris King components and told me to bring it in.
I made it back to the ranch with no other mishaps. I took the back wheel off my mountain bike and drove back to 2nd Avenue Sports. The guy took a look at it and was able to fix that also. 2nd Avenue Sports kinda reminds me of Rassy’s, they were first rate when it came to customer service. I must have been in their shop 67 times over the past two weeks? Every time, they took care of me right away. So, if you ever end up in Durango and find yourself in need of a shop, I’d definitely recommend 2nd Avenue.
I ended up logging 98 miles with 5 hours of saddle time and about 6,400 feet of vertical for the day. The rich folks road was about 3 ½ miles long with about 2,200 feet of climbing, great place for hill repeats! When my spoke broke, I started to think that maybe all of the mechanical meltdowns that I’d been having were some sort of divine sign that I should pack it up and head out… Nah, both bikes are back in good working order, so I’m gonna get at least two more epic rides in while I’m here!

Saw this cat cruising on his custom chopper bike outside the coffee shop tonight.

He said it cost him 300 bones to have it built.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Durango – 7.16.08

Sent Pops on his way back to Texas today. We scored some greasy grub at a greasy spoon that only the locals seem to frequent. That’s a good indication that it’s one of the better, non touristy places to eat. I wish that we had a place like this in Des Moines, but it’s probably a good thing that we don’t because I’d probably eat there way too much. I’ve never had a chicken enchilada for breakfast before, much less with a pancake. It sure was good and I’m sure that I’ll probably pay for it tomorrow during my ride.
Headed up the gravel road to Dry Fork. Took Dry Fork to the Colorado and rode the Colorado to Animas Mountain. Did two laps on Animas and the 2nd time up was my fastest yet. My legs felt really good today, so I upped the effort on both laps. After I did Animas I rode back over to the Colorado. Rode the Colorado back up to Dry Fork and took Dry Fork back to the ranch.

The valley leading up to the homestead.

The gravel road up to Dry Fork.

If you decide to do a gravel grinder in Colorado, this is one possibility of what it might look like... Sweetness.

Ended up being a great workout! Logged about 6,500 feet of climbing and about 5 hours of saddle time on the dirt… good stuff!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Durango – 7.15.08

Since this is my Dad’s last day in Durango, and we hadn’t gone on a father/son ride yet, I decided to go for a ride with him. We ended up driving part of the way up to Kennebec Pass, maybe 6 or 7 miles up and rode the rest of the way. My Dad tried to do the same ride last year, but came up about ½ mile short of the pass. The last half of the ride is pretty tough, lot’s of steep, technical jeep roads, high altitude in the range of 10,000 – 11,600 feet and sometimes sketchy weather. We got a little bit of a late start and I was a little concerned about the weather, however when we started, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky… a seemingly perfect day!
I did the ride up at an active recovery effort and back tracked whenever my Dad fell behind. It was pretty cool taking it easy on this ride for a change because the scenery is some of the best that one can see in the good ole’ US of A. As we crossed over the 11,000 foot mark I back tracked to Dad, he was hiking his bike rather than riding and he looked pretty worn out. He looked at me, kinda smiled and said that he needed to turn around. We were at about the same place that he had to turn around last year, only about 10 minutes from the pass. I had mentioned that we needed to pay attention to the weather also as it looked like the clouds were beginning to gather for their daily shindig.
So Dad turned around and I continued up to the pass and then up to the notch. As I approached the notch, thunder started to echo around the peaks that surrounded me. I looked back down into the canyon that I had just emerged from and it was looking pretty gray. I rode up to the notch, dismounted my bike and looked around for about 30 seconds and then remounted just before this dude in a jeep took off. I didn’t want to get stuck behind the guy on the way down.
I began the descent and started to suspect that the weather was quickly heading in a southerly direction. Shortly thereafter, I could feel rain drops. A few minutes later the rain drops turned into a downpour and the temperature dropped down into the 40’s. As if the downpour wasn’t enough, hail began to fall. At that point, I didn’t care about the hail. I was so cold that I rode my brakes the entire way down because it was way too cold to go fast. About halfway down, the jeep road turned into a flowing river and I couldn’t see anything beneath the flowing muddy water. The parts of the road that were visible were way too rocky to ride, so I rode the ‘river’ all the way down. My hands were so cold that they became numb, which forced me to slow down even more.
After what had seemed like an eternity, I finally made it back to the truck. From the looks of it, my Dad had just gotten there about five minutes before I did and he looked about as cold as I felt. As I was riding down the mountain in the rain and hail, I found myself almost smiling because I knew that my Dad was going through the same weather that I was and we were going to have fun rehashing our experiences. We both climbed into the truck and turned the heater up as high as it would go and made several attempts to talk about our ride through our chattering teeth. We had a pretty epic day, and in a strange kind of way, I’m glad that I went through something like this with my Dad. I can say this now because I am sitting in a nice, warm coffee shop sipping away at a hot cup of Joe!
It took about 2 hours and 24 minutes to get to the notch and about 36 minutes to get back down. That’s mountain biking in Colorado for ya! I ended up with about 3,000 feet of climbing, about 3 hours of saddle time and experienced being the coldest that I’ve ever been. Yes, it was colder than any winter ride that I’ve done in Iowa!
I think that my groin is good to go now, so I’m really looking forward to ripping it up in the dirt tomorrow. Hopefully my somewhat broken rear hub will hold together, I’d hate to have that detonate on me while I’m doin’ mach 4 down the side of a mountain. And yes, I forgot my camera once again and it’s probably a good thing because the rain most likely would have destroyed it. I’ve broken enough things on this trip already…

Monday, July 14, 2008

Durango – 7.14.08

Another great day in Durango, another great road ride to give my groin a little more time to mend.

Rode 35 miles over to Mesa Verde, paid the 8 bones to get in and listened to Ranger Rick give me what appeared to be his well rehearsed speech about the park. My first inclination was to cut him off somehow so that I could get on with my ride. However he was having none of that and proceeded to give me the goods about the park. So I sat and listened. He even told me that I should have lights on my bike. I kinda looked at the sky, then my watch (it was 10 in the morning) and then smiled thinking it was probably best that I didn’t inform him that I still had about 9 hours of daylight left. After the speech I rolled through the toll booth and began my adventure. I did nothing but climb for the first 45 minutes. The beauty of that was that I had a nice, 40+ mph descent to look forward to! I logged about 45 or so miles in the park and I think that it was actually worth the 8 bucks. There were a lot of cars in the park, but most were parked while people were out wandering around looking at stuff. There was a lot of cool stuff to look at, though I didn’t really see any cliff dwellings because I had my bike. You had to do a little hiking to see the good stuff. It was still a pretty scenic ride regardless.

A whole lotta rocks, cliffs and people pokin' around.

Thought about riding my bike down this crack, but there were people in the way.

More rocks and cliffs.

I can see for miles and miles...

and miles and miles...

and miles and miles.

The park roads rolled up and over various parts of different mesas, down into canyons, through a pretty long tunnel that got really dark about midway through. There was no shoulder throughout the length of the tunnel, so all that I could do was get over as far as I could and hope that the two cars behind me could at least make out my silhouette from the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t get hit, nothing broke and all of my body parts seem to be intact, so all is good!
I ended up with about 115 miles, 8,700 feet of climbing (a lot of which was in Mesa Verde) for about 5 hours and 55 minutes of riding. I was again surprised at how good I felt throughout the ride, especially after having done a 6 hour ride yesterday at a pretty good effort.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Durango – 7.13.08

Woke up this morning at about 5 and had to go to the bathroom so bad that I didn’t even think about my groin until after I was done. I was able to climb out of bed and trot outside with little to no pain, saweet! Slept in until about 6:30, groin still felt a lot better, so I knew that I wasn’t dreaming. I shoved some food down my pie hole while getting ready for another epic ride up to Silverton and back. I was hoping to be on the road by 8 at the latest so I didn’t get caught in the afternoon rain/hail. Hit the road and was pretty surprised at how good I felt considering that I’ve logged just over 46 hours of saddle time in the 10 days that I’ve been here thus far. I usually spend most of the time in my 27 on the climbs up to Coal Bank and Molas, however this time I was surprised at how much I was able to ride in my 25 with the same or less effort than I normally would in my 27. I must be getting a little stronger eh?! I’d always kind of thought that I had missed out on my strongest years because I was in college for 9 years and didn’t discover mountain biking until I was well into my 30’s. However with guys like Tilford and Overend still ripping the legs off of pro’s that are half their age, you can pretty much count of having the ability to produce some pretty strong results well into your 40’s and even early 50’s as long as you train smart. Forgot my camera again, so no photos this time. Stats for the day: 108 miles, 8,660 feet of climbing for a total of 5 hours and 55 minutes.
Some guy on a motorcycle followed me down Molas Pass to Silverton. When we got to the bottom he told me that he had me at 55 mph a couple of times. I told him that I could have dropped him if I wanted to. He looked at me, spat at my feet and cursed me under his breath. Actually, he was a pretty nice dude and seemed to enjoy the ride down as much as I did. I saw another dude on a Harley with a matching trailer in tow. He had a dog kennel strapped to the top of the trailer… you guessed it, there was a big ole’ hairy dog inside the kennel flyin’ down the highway with it’s tongue flappin’ in the wind… pretty funny.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Durango - 7.12.08

I think that I must have some sort of voodoo curse goin’ on or something. First, it’s my rear der on my road bike. Yesterday, my ‘bomb proof’ Chris King free wheel became not so bomb proof. This morning I pulled a groin muscle… maybe I should pack it up and head home before I blow something else out! So the groin muscle… I was eating breakfast with my Dad this morning at a local greasy spoon. We finished, I tried to open the door by pushing it with my foot… POW, this sharp pain shot through my right groin area and all of a sudden I can’t walk. Yeah, what in the world was I doing trying to push a door open when it had a sign that clearly said PULL. And why was I trying to push a door open with my foot… I really don’t know, maybe my brain can’t handle the thin air or something. I had to alter my walk in such a way that it looks like I have a load in my pants. Yep, my thought at the moment was that this is worse than a broken bike. I can usually fix a broken bike and continue on within a day. A pulled groin, I have no idea how long it takes to fix something like that, it’s a new one for me.
So we got back to the cabin, put some ice in a bag and shoved into my groin area. Took about an hour long nap with a bag of ice against my nether regions. Woke up and figured I try to go for an easy spin. That was my plan for today anyway. So I suited up and headed out. The short version of the story, it felt pretty uncomfortable at first, to the point where I thought that I was screwed. As the ride progressed it felt a little better, to the point where I ended up riding for about three hours with only a little irritation at an active recovery pace. It actually felt better when I put some pressure on the pedals. It felt OK enough that I think I might try to do the ride up to Silverton and back tomorrow. That might end up being the wrong thing to do, but I’m out here to ride and I have no intentions of staying cooped up in the cabin, I’d feel like a caged animal. Mountain biking is definitely not going to be happening over the next couple of days, I think that my free wheel is pretty much toast anyway. I had a bit of a reality check during the ride today. I was riding along, kinda bummed out, thinking about my groin, when I saw what I think was a paraplegic rolling down the street in a motorized wheel chair… Broken bike parts, faulty body parts that will mend themselves… not such a big deal afterall.

Some nice parting shots for the day...

Animas Mountain, a great place to do mtb hill repeats. I hope my crotch heals up enough that I can ride there again before I leave.

A view of the Animas River from a bridge that I rode over today.

The Animas from the other side of the bridge.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Durango – 7.11.08

No dirt ride today and I forgot my camera so no pix. Hit the road and rode west out to Cortez. Rode by Mesa Verde National Park on the way to Cortez. I love national parks so I thought that I’d do a loop in the park. Rode up to the gate and this cute little park ranger said ‘That’ll be 8 bones please’… Seriously?? I only had $10 on me and I needed that for food and bevy’s later on in the ride, so I took a pass. After looking at a map of the park, it looks like it’d be a pretty sweet ride. I could probably ring about 40 miles of riding in the park alone over some tight, twisty, undulating terrain. I’m going to try and do it sometime next week, even if it costs 8 bones, it looks like it might be worth it if not for the scenery, but also to log some good miles on roads where cars can only go 25 mph and the diesel fumes won’t be quite as thick. My body doesn’t run very well on diesel.
So I continued on to Cortez and then headed north on 184 to Dolores. Once I got to Dolores I turned around and retraced my tread back to Durango. Logged in about 106 miles for the day, a little over 6,300 feet of climbing for a total ride time of 5 hours on the nose. The roads were great for the most part with shoulders wide enough that I wasn’t bothered by all of the truckers salivating at the idea of mowing over my scrawny buttocks. The ride wasn’t as nearly as strenuous as the ride up to Silverton. There was still a lot of climbing, just not quite as steep. Plus the elevation on some of the climbs up to Silverton are over 11,000 feet, whereas today I peaked out at around 8,300 feet for some slightly thicker air.
If anybody knows of a good paying job here in Durango in which I can use my skizllss as a structural engineer, let me know!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Durango – 7.10.08

Today was a great day… everyday is a great day out here, even when I destroy bike parts. Started the day off at a local coffee shop, threw down some Joe with Jesse, ate a couple breakfast burritos and a sweet roll. Went over to Caleb’s to watch Le Tour. Then went out for another epic mountain bike ride. Rode up Dry Fork Trail, down the Colorado Trail to the base of Animas City Mountain.

Above D-Town

A view to the north of the Animas River valley.

Another view of the river valley, I almost fell down the cliff when I took this picture.

Yes, Animas Mountain has 'parts', looks to be a male... At 8,100 feet no less.

And yet another view of the river valley.

Did two laps on Animas at a pretty hard effort, great place for hill repeats. It starts out at about 6,600 feet and tops out at 8,100 feet and it takes a little under 30 minutes to make it to the top. The climb up is granny gear steep with lot’s of loose rocks that make for a pretty technical climb. I’ve never been able to clean all of it, though I came really close on my second lap. I’ll try it again next week…

It was fixin' to rain again.

More rain fixins'. It sprinkled while I was at the top, man did that feel good!

Another shot of the buff singletrack heading up to Gudy's Rest. Makes ya wanna come here, doesn't it?!

Took the Colorado back up to the Hoffheins Connector and rode back to camp for a total of five hours of saddle time and a little over 6,000 feet of climbing. Great workout! Oh… an I didn’t break anything today and my Dad showed a couple of days early, so I had a beer with him. I’ll probably do that a little more this year because it sure tasted good!