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.