Monday, December 24, 2012

Seeing things

I'm up here mostly alone in the house for the break. It's quiet, clean, and I love it. But before I knew it, I was going stir-crazy. You see, I stepped out the front door one day to find this message in the snow. See it?
Too small for a mere human to urine-write. It must've been a small local canine with advanced, under-appreciated intelligence. I was sure it said something. But in in what language?

I had to get out of here. 
So out came the maps. Moab is nice this time of year, right? It's a desert; there'll be clear trails and warm temps. I'll have myself a weekend, riding getaway.
The further west I got, the less hope I had for those warm temps. Glenwood Canyon on I-70 was an hour long traffic jam. Car in park, engine off type of traffic jam. Icy roads led to a multi-car and tractor trailer pile up. Grand Junction: snow. Fruita: snow. A little farther, surely it'll all be gone...
Wait a minute...that's a lot of snow. This is Utah?
And then I crossed the border into Utah. I really should've checked if there'd be snow. Now, before you completely write off my western adventurer credentials, I did check the temperatures before I left. It wasn't much warmer than Estes Park, but 40 and sunny sounded doable. I just didn't expect as much of the white stuff as there was. I'm gonna consider this a learning experience. 
Cold enough for icicles  
After a long morning exploring my options and a parking lot breakfast of bacon n' egg croissant sandwiches, cooked up on a whisperlite, I settled on a route. I parked at the end of Willow Springs Rd and ventured into the trail network between 191 and Arches National Park. I had my Salsa El Mariachi and my All City Nature Boy with me. Unlike the guy who's route I was trying to re-create, I opted for skinnier tires. Glad I did. The gravel roads I stuck to had truck tracks to follow and I appreciated the taller gear and speed. Plus, cross riding in the snow is just a good time.
Slick rock enhanced with a thin layer of ice and snow
What was far more disturbing than driving 7hrs to ride in snow when I could've stayed home and done the same, was all the evidence of fracking. I'm fairly familiar with it's nasty environmental effects and knew exactly what all the pipes and pumping stations scattered throughout the relative wilderness were. Last year some time, back in State College, I went to a protest against this dirty energy extraction. Not necessarily because I thought it mattered that I was there; more for the experience. Maybe I could look cool one day in a hippie round of never-have-I-ever.  Not so sure what the point of standing around looking pissed-off is. Anyway, I learned even more about how the Mid-Atlantic is dealing with it, or more so how the gas industry was taking over. Out in Moab it's clear they're winning as well. 
I nearly gagged holding this pose @ a fracking site. Or was it the fumes??
polka dotted saddle compliments of mud on the way back
Before I tucked tail and drove back east to Testes Park, I dished out the ten dollars to do a quick drive through Arches. I could almost hear Edward Abbey rolling in his grave. I didn't feel too good about it myself. It was worth it, but was more like the protest: just for the experience. It seemed a strange thing to do to drive around incredible rock formations for less than an hour that took millions upon millions of years to form. It's all hard to grasp, and in my cold, tired, and bitter state of mind, I didn't really try to.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Oh yea. That's why I didn't like it

I mentioned earlier that I finished this book that took me a god-awful long time to get through. It finally struck me (an idea, not the book) why I couldn't get into it and why in the end, I really didn't enjoy it.

It's a novice British riders account of his Tour Divide ride, a Canada to Mexico haul across the Rockies.   (again, poor wording. He's a self-described novice rider, NOT novice Brit). He attempts pithy travel humor, a la Bill Bryson, but it often falls flat. The characters are one dimensional and the terrain is minimally described.

That's what I realized.

He speeds through describing all the "in between" riding and wastes much of his paragraphs on the towns. "There's nothing for 100 miles" he would write, blowing off the nuances of a long distance adventure like this. Most nights he spent in cheap motels, not outside, not on the trail, not in the terrain he was experiencing mile after mile.

Mind you, as a long time rider and AT thru-hiker, I'm a tough critic. But on both fronts, the long distance travel and the mountain biking, there isn't anything really revealing or entertaining. It sort of drags on.

A line floating around when I was on the AT was "you gotta hike your own hike". And the same goes here: you gotta ride your own ride. You just don't need to read about this one.

....and yes, I used an NYC parking ticket as a bookmark. Beats paying it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow daze

I woke up today to a message on the outside of my bedroom door. 
The storm yesterday was bad enough to leave a few co-workers stranded here, unable to get into town or get to DIA for a flight out. That's what guest rooms are for. I suppose this message would take on a different meaning if found inside my bedroom door...
 After some shoveling, bacon n' egg breakfast, and the final pages of Eat, Sleep, Ride, I got out to check the road conditions. 
Sub freezing temps made it a short adventure up to the H Bar G Ranch gate and back. Smooth riding, minimal 'stache-cicle formation, and surprisingly warm extremities. It wasn't until I got back that the sun  broke out and blue skies took over. I should've picked up another book and waited. Or maybe stayed out longer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the long awaited Winter arrives

All this blue on the screen is leaving a lot of white on the ground. I'd love to pack up and head to Moab for a few days to ride, but the roads are a mess and it's a haul from up here. Looks like I'll don the neoprene gloves, booties, and other winter accoutrements to leave fresh tracks tomorrow. I'm shacked up in what feels like a mountain villa for the next few weeks by myself. I might as well embrace the season!... Winter, that is.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012: The year of TSE -- mustaches and manifest destiny

Yea... That's right. I said "manifest destiny". Westwards the wagons. I lived in four states this year and now I'm back in Colorado. The pull of the West remains. 

This marks my first year with Faster Mustache, an outfit out of Georgia, one of the four this year. They were super supportive while I was down there, even though I wasn't in ATL. Sweet kits, sweet sponsorships, and an excellent collection of characters. 

My primary focus this year was seven days of familiar PA riding: the Trans-Sylvania Epic

Here's a much delayed quick recap with pictures compliments of Mid-Atlantic mtb photographer extraordinaire Abe Landes

Family and friends were on hand. 
 Stage one got the butterflies out of the system with a ridiculously fast time trial. It locked me in third place, where I stayed all week.
Stillhouse Rd took some of my skin on Stage 2.
 Stage two gave me a scare. Nasty crash early on had me riding safe the rest of the week.
Future FMer Dicky and I got comfortable standing here.
The start of a lot of road riding. 
 I let third place ride away on the third day. It was hot, I was beat up, and I raced conservatively. Plenty of grueling climbs had me cooling off in streams at the bottom to prevent over heating. Strauber helped by pouring a bottle over me at the aid station too.  It all worked, but I was off the podium.
Don't let him fool you, he's slow on the rocks.
What's great about NoTubes other than their wheels? Rich. 
A re-accuring character out there was Paul; dressed as Dracula. He was race support, morale support, and beer support. His post below, on the other side of an old rail tunnel we rode through, was not only appropriate, but needed. Here's to more Paul's in mountain bike racing.
Hand-up Dracula @ his cave.  
We got bored up there. 
Then came the Raystown Stage. I was fed certain information from some local friends that I could beat Dicky on the smooth grade reversals. He's tiny and apparently doesn't carry momentum well. I showed up early, warmed up until I was sweating, and prepared myself for a fast start. I put the hammer down, took an opportunity to pass on an uphill and kept pushing. At one point, Dejay was in striking distance on the unexpected hike-a-bike. It pushed me even harder.
Gaining some time. Just a little.
Sweet sweet 2nd.
Speaking of Dejay no-longer-with-Niner Birch. He was the only single speeder with suspension. The rest of us chose beefy tires and low psi to smooth out the ride.
All rigid.
We were treated to many Rothrock gems throughout the week, including Tussey Ridge. It came late in the stage, after I held onto second place for a little while. Even led Dejay through the rocks of John Wert trail. Him and his cushy fork. I knew full well that Dicky was in hot pursuit. All it took was a tire puncture on Longberger (aka Magic Carpet ride for them State College old timers) and he came ripping pass me. Oh well, another 3rd for the day.

All ridge.
Maybe too bored?
Then came our last day together, a rolling party that exemplified our true ideals as single speeders. Probably not. When our supplies were running low just before the half way point, the only aid station on course, we had a surprise. A fully stocked bar/trailer with colorful women welcoming us with open arms and full dixie cups, like a mirage in a blurry desert.  Minutes, maybe hours passed, the sweepers for the day gave up on us and went ahead, there was dancing on the aforementioned get the idea. Somehow, someway we saddled up and moved on. Barely. What followed was a mess, with some time for a nap thrown in for good measure.
Before it got blurry. 
The beer derby gave me my second introduction to the ground for the week. Note: you can't ram through traffic cones like a rock garden. The physics just aren't the same. 
Definitely after it got blurry. 
After TSE, work took the front seat, putting me in Cape May, NJ for a month, PA a bit, then here. Riding was inconsistent and racing wasn't happening. I improved my time and place at the Stoopid 50, but still just didn't enjoy that race. There's something about it. I don't know. Maybe it's too much of a good thing. The rocks and the route. Fast forward a few months and two lackluster, but not lacking lactic acid, cross races finished out my year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

5 race requirement has me re-thinking my re-thinking

The good people over at the news have announced the updated NUE series, including a peculiar new addition to the rules:

"Organizers also changed the rules for winning the series. To claim the title in any of the four divisions - men, women, singlespeed, masters -  next season will require a minimum of five races, up one from four in previous years. However, all racers who complete four races will receive a national ranking and series awards."

Wait! Now I have to do five races to place in the series?

No, no. read again.

So only if I was planning to win the series would I have to race 5? Interesting. So basically they're making the top five in each division, because that's usually all who are competing for the title, pay an extra couple hundred dollars (entry fee...unless it's waived...I  suppose it sometimes is for these folks..., travel, food, etc.) to race a fifth and compete for the series win.

Luckily for PA single-speeder's like Pflug and Ferrari, consistently on the podium, there are at least 5 east coast options for them to choose from. Makes it a hell of a lot easier to compete in it than out here in the west. You know what...? There's a lot of Pennsyl-tuckian podium takers in the NUE (Cheryl, Vicki, so on and so forth).  Maybe they should make a ruling that if you hail from the keystone state you only have to do four. You know, a little kickback for supporting the series for so long.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gasp! NUE 2013 Schedule finally revealed.

So referring back to my post about my potential 2013 race schedule, I now have something new to get excited about.

Tatanka. Tatanka? Yes, Tatanka. Proceed with the Dances With Wolves jokes.

The Tatanka 100M apparently returns for it's second year in 2013. It doesn't appear to have had a spectacular turn out this first year, but hey, small races can be solid events too. Plus, I've never been to South Dakota. Could check one more off the list.

Seems like a good time. Note: The last few, mostly downhill miles are cut off here. 
This is an unexpected addition to the 100miler based NUE series. And with further investigation, as I learn more about my local geography, I found that it takes place within a rather reasonable distance from homebase. Sub 7hr drive for a 100 mile race (or, 112 in this case) is totally realistic. Never mind the fact that I don't have an automobile anymore. Details, pointless details.

This unheard-of race makes a 2013 assault on NUE a possibility...and borrowing someones car a requirement. Beginning with a seemingly early True Grit Epic in March. 10+hrs away. Leaving plenty of time to prepare for the 2nd annual Tatanka 100M in late June. Sub 7hrs away. Then a couple weeks later return to Summit County to take on all three loops (rather than just two, like my Breck68 appearance in 2011) of the Breckenridge 100. Then finish the required 4 races with either the 9hr drive away Pierre's Hole 100 in Alta, WY, the ridiculously quick to sell-out Park City P2P (sub 7hr drive), OR a flight back east to some old favorites, like the Wilderness 101

You know what? It's still a shit load of travelling, as I already mentioned. But maybe it's worth it. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Full Moon EP exploration

Thursday nights are the beginning to my weekend, having Friday and Saturday off. The school I live/work at is built on a contour in our own slice of heaven up in the hills outside of town. An incredible place, but it is a fish bowl life at times. Sometimes you just need to get out and stretch your fins, if you will. 

So as the full moon rose over our ever-present monoliths, I began the always stellar voyage into town. Coming down our long driveway that opens up into the greater Estes Valley never disappoints. Rocky Mtn National Park fills the western horizon with snow covered ranges, sometimes so clear they seem closer than they are, sometimes hidden in their own weather systems, sometimes glowing in the moonlight like this night, and sometimes so bright from the snow's reflection that capturing them with a lens is nearly impossible. 

And there's the wind. My oh my, this damn wind. It's maybe a 2-3 mile descent into town and it's rare that I'm don't have to pedal forcefully to keep moving. The gusts are heavy and often unending, making for difficult downhills. Luckily, the other common obstacle has only been dealt with while driving. Elk. I'm not looking forward to the night I come across a gang of elk, a big bull and his heirem, aimlessly crossing the road. It's been a humbling experience to drive through them in a car. 

I was intending to grab a bite and a beer at one of Estes Park's several mediocre mexican joints, but alas, like most of businesses in town, the one I had in mind closed their doors recently for the slow winter. So I kept riding up the short, heavily lit main street, to see what else town had to offer. I cringed as I passed several businesses closed for the season, but blaring some of the worst christmas music onto the street for all to hear. It wasn't getting me into "the spirit" as it might have been intended to. Downtown is chock full of tacky tourist traps; a mountain beach town, complete with tie-dyed t-shirts and salt water taffy shops. Yes, salt water taffy. In Colorado. Not two minutes and I was at the other end of town, coming up short for appetizing dinner options and needing a drink more than when I left. 

Ah, but what if I rolled up the hill a little, just outside of downtown? There lies the Stanley Hotel and Colorado's largest selection of whiskey (I later learned). The very same hotel of The Shining, and perhaps more importantly, Dumb and Dumber fame. It's a bit on the classier side of things, but I could roll down my pants and take off my wind jacket. This is Colorado after all. They expect beards and burliness. At least the tourists that flow through this place do. It was my best option. 

No bike racks at a place like this, so I locked up to a No Parking sign, rolled down my pants to best conceal my mtb shoes, shed my wind jacket, neoprene gloves (which are amazing!) and cycling cap. Once at the marble and wood bar, I knew instantly that I made the right choice. It was a most enjoyable   culinary and lone-wolf at a bar experience. 

On my return ride it dawned on me that I was out of any sort of libation back home, so a stop at Rambo's, possibly the best named liquor store I've come across, was in order. But I was travelling light and did not have a bag. What to do, what to do...Round bottles and double bags but of course. Luckily there was an affordable bourbon packaged in such a bottle. One must celebrate these little moments of ingenuity. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

2013 race schedule on the mind

Living back in Colorado, this time for a full year (maybe longer) rather than the quick summer in 2011, has got me doing some serious shopping for 2013 races. Diving into endurance racing with the Wilderness 101 back in PA, then attempting an NUE 4pack to qualify in the series back in 2010, makes it hard to let go of that series. It's just a ton of traveling to pull together 4 races living out west. There are plenty of ridiculously hard, fun, and in some cases free races right here in CO. Hm, but I'd sure love to see what a year living and riding above 7,000' would do to a finishing time back east...

With the aforementioned tubeless wheels built up for my cross bike and a renewed excitement for riding it,  the gravel grinder format also has quite a bit of pull. Reading about the Dirty Kanza and Crusher in the Tushar in XXC Mag certainly piqued my interest.

Sadly, the work schedule doesn't allow for any stage races. I'd love to return to the 2013 edition of TSE  or take on the Breck Epic, but don't have the time. 

I'm also searching out teams as well. Care to add an endurance single-speeder to your roster anyone? I certainly enjoyed wearing the cog skull and cross bacon jersey of Faster Mustache this year, but considering the fact that I'm no longer living in the GA, it seems time to move on.

A mostly unrealistic, yet desirable list of potential 2013 races:

March True Grit Epic, UT (

April 6th or 7th(?) AntiEpic Gravel Grinder 150, CO (

April 18hr of Fruita, CO (

April 28th(?) Cohutta 100 Ducktown, TN (

April Whiskey 50 Prescott, AZ (

May Desert RATS 100k Fruita, CO (

June 1st Dirty Kanza, KS (

July Breckenridge 100, CO (

July 13th Crusher in the Tushar, UT (

July Wilderness 101, PA (

July Kennebec Pass Enduro, CO (

August Pierre’s Hole 100, WY (

September Park City P2P, UT (

September 8th(?) Vapor Trail 125 Salida, CO (

Stock Photos

A well brined* turkey can be so much more than two bags of tasty meat. 
 Take bones, add celery, carrots, garlic, onions, a leek, parsley, salt & pepper, water and heat. 
Then wait and enjoy the smell while it simmers. 

*The brine was apple cider, kosher salt, and homemade trinidad scorpion chili & peach hot sauce (compliments of my brother). 

Monday, November 19, 2012

"What I stand for is what I stand on"

Compliments of a High Country News issue in our library. Great reading. 

New Wheels. New Adventures.

New wheels on the Nature Boy. NoTubes Alpha 340 rims (prize for taking 3rd @ TSE) on White Industry hubs built up at Brave New Wheel
They've stirred my desire to explore my new backyard here in Estes Park. Below is the "Bone Pipe" trail heading back into campus. Longs Peak just to the left. Our very own Shaman Peak on the right.
The weekend I picked up the wheels, I dove into the deep end and raced at the USGP Ft. Collin's cyclocross race. 40 some single speeders and more carbon fiber than I'm used to seeing in the ss field. It was the biggest, most pro race I've done in a long time; maybe ever. Fun, but cx is certainly not my discipline. Way too fast, with no room for error. Not to mention I haven't been really riding for months now. Below's a picture of the fly over. Run stairs, ride ramp.
Two weeks later I got the stupid idea to subject myself to another battery-acid-flavored race down in Boulder. This time I thought I'd make it even harder on myself by riding down to it. 40 some miles of mostly downward slanted pavement. Beautiful ride, but I wasn't exactly feeling fresh at the start line. A bus of students and a colleague of mine drove down to cheer me on, and thank the internal combustion god, drive me home. The night before I experimented with some rice cakes (a la Skratch Labs recipes). Super simple combination of rice, crushed pineapple, and salt. Sure beats paying an arm and leg for energy bars.
I showed up to the Boulder race early and got to take in the views. Did I mention that the race was at Valmont Park? A city maintained bicycle specific park. Yea, it's pretty sweet. 

And new warranty replacement mountain bike came in. Out with the Salsa Selma, in with the El Mariachi. A huge thanks to Ray (of TSE fame) for pulling the warranty together back in PA! I gotta say, it's nice having a steel steed finally. Plus, I can fit fatter tires in the rear. 2.4 Ardents front AND rear? Sounds plush to me. 

A day or two after I built it up my friend Rick and I rolled out to nearby Crosier Mtn. He was lending me his size small 26" full suspension bike to show me around the first two months here. It was probably the longest I've ever ridden either a 26" bike, one with gears, or a bike with suspension. It took some getting used to, but it was time to explore my new local trail options and so I bobbed around and crunched through gears with a smile on my face. There were moments when I thought that some of these trails would be unrideable when I got a ss full rigid under me again. Silly me. That moment came and I've been crushing it. 

And I leave you with a view of a distant Longs Peak from Hall Ranch in Lyons (home of Oskar Blues Brewery). A grainy bedrock and boulder strewn climb, technical to the point of walking, but definitely rideable, led to a sandy well-designed lollipop loop on a plateau. There were signs warning you about mountain lions, but all I saw were mule deer. Ok, and incredible views. Again.