Friday, July 29, 2011

Scary riding

This past weekend, in preperation for MFSL, I took on some healthy mileage. Saturday my friend Arza and I took the gondola on up to Mountain Village and began a solid loop out to Alta Lakes, down Sunshine Tr and into Illium, then on up the Galloping Goose trail and on back through the valley floor to T-ride. More climbing than anticipated, but going down Sunshine made up for it. 20 or so smooth, tight, switchbacks through high grass and aspens. I wish I had a Go Pro to film it.

The next day wasn't as pleasant. There have been few, if any, rides that have caused me to fear for my life. Last Sunday was such a ride. I planned out a solo ride that seemed reasonable enough, minus maybe the fact that it went up to 13,000'. Bridal Veil Rd to Wasatch Trail, up over a pass then down into Bear Creek and back to town. I rode to the end of town, up Bridal Veil Falls Rd to the top of the falls (tallest waterfall in CO). There I began to climb up through a high mountain valley, with pitches getting gnarlier and gnarlier. Dark clouds off in the distance and not a soul in sight. I kept pushing on up. Luckily I came across a very friendly hiker that gave me some info about what was ahead. Not sure when I'd attempt this loop again, I opted to finish it out. Several times afterwards I had to re-assess how risky I wanted to be.

I was completely out in the open up there and though I had a wind-shirt, did not want to be caught in a high elevation t-storm. More snow needed to be crossed the further I went up as well, some cuts had snow towering ten-twelve feet above. Yep, in July. I was only able to ride short stretches at this point, hiking the rest. To add insult to...looming possibility of injury, the route wasn't marked at all. There was a cairn here and there, but I had no certainity I was heading towards the right pass. Of course, I forgot my map.

I dug deep and kept moving forward, against perhaps my best judgement. Towards the top I encountered the beginning of a series of treacherous, heart-in-throat obstacles. First was a snow slide laying out across the bench-cut trail. Slowly and methodically kicking in and forming steps I made my way across, trying not to look down the 100 or so feet I could've very easily slid down, bike in tow. I looked back and for the first of many times thought "what the hell am I doing?". I just wanted to get to the top. I was confident that I could descend the other side. Ah, hubris.

Downward began easy enough. Bench-cut double track with sharp, loose blocks to dart around. Several switches later I lost the trail. It narrowed and got covered by overgrown high-alt. shrubbery. After an exploratory climb up to an abandoned mine looking for trail, I saw where it continued down across the massive scree field below. From this point there was absolutely no attempt to ride, at least not for a good while. The trail was too narrow, the pitches too steep, the ground too loose, and holy shit would I be screwed if I went down.

After the scree field came the sketchiest obstacle of my riding career. There before me layed a massive chasm cut down the mountain, still filled with hollowed out rotten snow shelves, and I soon found out, loose dirt and boulders. Cairns on the other side told me I had to cross it. Sliding in on my ass, bike ahead of me for balance, I learned just how loose it was. Twenty pound stones came sliding in with me, to the bottom, ten to fifteen feet below. There I saw no easy exit. Five attempts later, after boulders half my size slid away with me, I inched my way out. At this point, it's fair to say that I was on the verge of panicing. I avoid the threat of bad weather but could not get over how dangerous the descent was turning out.

Soon after, I was low enough to be in trees, but still with scary drop-offs. Even when it became rideable again the switchbacks were hairpin-sharp and sketchy to roll around. It finally dumped me out into a massive wash of baby-head rocks strewn throughout the trees. The remnants of flooded Bear Creek and next to impossible to navigate. Somehow I managed to find a fallen tree to cross the now modest creek and onto the most beautiful, well traveled, wide and safe trail home I ever saw.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quick Race updates

Full Tilt in Telluride was a waste of money and time. 30+ miles of boring, wide, sidewalk-like trails. It began with a straight up climb that put me well in the back and gasping for whatever air I could get. Blah. Moving on...

Breck 68 was this Saturday. This was what I really had my sights on and it did not disappoint. Doable climbs, unending singletrack, and high mountain passes just above 11,000'. Finished in 7hrs 38mins and took 8th place. I felt strong, never went down, and didn't get any cramps. All in all a great endurance race experience.

Plenty of people from PA out for the event. One of them told me about my next adventure by bike: MFSL

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

CO Racin'

So I've done one race here in the Rockies thus far, the next one this Saturday here in town. Two weeks ago I drove the breathtaking route up to Crested Butte for their mountain bike festival and 40 mile race. Hip little mountain town, not so unlike Telluride, but without so much of the pretension and with an extra helping of funkiness. I drove in near sunset and I found a campsite among a bunch of kayakers in the national forest just outside of town. The next morning I rushed into town, got a kick-ass breakfast sandwich at a gas station, then figured out where to register. It was my first take at racing at altitude, so I wasn't taking things too seriously. I got about ten minutes of warming up, then hurried to the line. There was about a mile pavement climb to the first trails. By the top of it I was in the back. Heart rate through the roof, unable to hold anyones wheels. Not such a great start. It didn't seem to matter once we started on the singletrack; it was a river of bikes switching up the mountain. It wasn't until we got onto a dirt road that anyone could pass. The trails that followed....well, it is fair to say that Crested Butte IS mountain biking. Better than I could've expected. Two super friendly aid stations followed, with a wicked climb/hike-a-bike in between.

Loved that race.

I ended being scored wrong, but considering my time, I'd be 9th in the SS division. Not bad for my first race at elevation I think...

This weekend will be a shorter xc style race up at Mountain Village, the ski town above Telluride. Hopefully I'll have some people out cheering.

The weekend following, back up north to Breckenridge for the B68. It's the shorter version of the now famous Breck 100. 68miles sounded just fine to me and it was much much cheaper of a race than the 100.

Feeling good. Getting acclimated. I'm excited...

T-ride from Tom Boy

Branching off of one of towns central residential roads is Tom Boy Road. It climbs up to one of the highest road passes in the US (so I've been told), Imogene Pass just above 13,000". I tried riding up it one day and got, oh, about a third of the way. I realized it was more than a one bottle/no food ride. I definitely got above 10,000 feet, certainly the highest I've ridden myself to thus far. These pics show town down the valley and Bridal Veil falls at the end of the box canyon. One of these days I'll make it all the way up!

Oh yea....this was still with a 33x18 on my bike. Tough. Also, less than a mile up this road was a great place to watch 4th fireworks, which were, like the landscapes here, to a stunning scale. The 4 F-16's, one after another, that buzzed down the valley and main street during the parade were certainly amazing as well.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Phil's World

After that long and satisfying road ride in Moab I made my way back to Colorado. The next day I had another all time great ride at Phil's World near Cortez, CO and just down the road from Mesa Verde NP. Fast sandy stretches, rock gardens, ledges, slick rock, and the coolest series of pump-track-like hills I've ever ridden. Definitely worth checking this place out again this summer.