Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mt. Bierstadt, Adventure Racing style...

On Saturday, I joined Jeremy Rodgers and Heather Prentice for a fun adventure racing training day in the mountains...Our plan was to ride up to Guanella Pass, stash our bikes, run/hike up to Mt. Bierstadt, traverse the treacherous Sawtooth Ridge to Mt. Evans, and then drop down a couloir back towards the bikes. We'd end with a nice downhill warm-down back to the cars, 12 miles below. Personally, I was looking forward to the traverse as the highlight of this trip.

We parked our "multisport-mobiles" at the Georgetown visitor's center parking lot off I-70 which sits at 8512'. We started quite late, especially for a high mountain excursion, around 10:00am. After giving Heather a head-start so we (ok, I) could fix a broken chain, Jeremy and I rode out of Georgetown and up the newly graded fireroad 12 miles up to Guanella Pass, at 11,669'. We caught Heather right before the pass and enjoyed some excellent views on a mostly clear, warm morning.

After hiding and locking our bikes together we began running/hiking up the sometimes crowded trail to the rocky summit of Mt. Bierstadt, 14,060'.

Shortly after a quick stop to put on warm dry clothes (and hats/gloves/jackets/knee warmers) and regroup at the saddle below the summit, we came within a literal stone's throw of the summit before the sound of thunder erupted around us and we found ourselves in the middle of a nice little electrical storm. The rocks around us emitted a light buzzing sound. Thunder became louder. At 14,000', we had a crystal-clear view of the surrounding hailstorms and approaching dark clouds. It was time to turn around and skip the Sawtooth traverse adventure...

I had never summitted Bierstadt before, so I RISKED IT and scrambled up to the top, where I spent approximately 2 nanoseconds before the feeling of electricity in the air increased, my eyebrows began tingling and buzzing and a couple zaps to my head scared me into retreating MACH SCHNELL.

Hail began to fall and my hair and eyebrows (time to trim?) stood on end. After many years playing in the mountains, this was the first time I had experienced audible zapping and buzzing to my head, and small shocks. This was good enough to motivate us to hurry down the boulder field and rocky slopes back down to the trail. We ran down the muddy trail back down to the pass in light hail and rain...which was actually refreshing!

After a quick transition we blasted back down the fire road to our rigs...

Although we were not able to accomplish our original goal-plan of traversing from Mt Bierstadt to Mt Evans via the Sawtooth Ridge and scramble down the couloir, I am sure we will be back soon to finish what we started. And speaking of 'started', we may begin our adventure a bit earlier next time...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Breckenridge 100 Race Report


Not acclimated to race at 10-12,450' yet...But I'll be back. What a great ride!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Standby for Pain

"Standby for Pain"..."Standby to hit the surf"..."Standby to go get wet"...

These mocking words--and their context--I will never forget. In my too-short stint in special operations training in the navy I learned at age 20 that the body and mind are capable of enduring far more pain and misery than you can imagine, for quite a bit longer than seems possible. That distilling experience over several months in spring of 1996 molded my mindset and prepared me to overcome any adversity in life.

Silly things like Ironman Triathlons, Expedition Adventure Races seem relaxing and comfortable--mere child's play compared to the intense strength, endurance, focus and fortitude which that training demanded all day, every day. 25 hours a week of aerobic training? That would have been a tapering vacation. Although I sorely wish I would have continued to complete the training, I benefit greatly in myriad ways to this day from the few special months I spent under the tutelage of the world's greatest and toughest warriors at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado.

As I do during all of my hardest races, I will try to recall that strength this weekend at the Breckenridge 100. Racing 100 miles on the mountain bike at an altitude of 10-12,500 feet is going to be a unique brutal challenge, but one I look forward to greatly. I have certainly raced much further in the past, both distance and time-wise, but not at a consistently high oxygen-deprived elevation at this intensity. This type of race promises to punish anyone who disrespects the elevation chart early in the race.

After pre-riding 2/3 of the course now, I know exactly how the altitude will effect power output and hydration requirements. The locals who live at 10,000 and train every day on the course have a great advantage over folks like me from Boulder (5400). For people who come to this race from sea level (like my super strong nuun-SportMulti teammate from Georgia, Jen Rinderle did last year), the race is more about completion than competition.

I have taken some measures to prevent the recurrence of the mindless mistakes that sabotaged my Vision Quest race this year. I have had former Team Garmin wrench DAIMO tune my Turner Flux to be race-ready, and I am running a pair of new Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. The training "hay is in the barn" and fueling is a non-issue for me in any race when I use Vitargo, nuun, and FEIN.

As far as predictions, I have only one: PAIN. I will aim to think clearly, stay in the present and make the necessary adjustments along the way to take my task to completion...simple, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Singletrack Safari: Steamboat

Billy Kidd

After consecutive weekends riding and running some of Colorado's finest high-altitude mountain bike hot spots in Breckenridge and Salida, my definition of "great" singletrack has been totally redefined. Over the weekend I had the good fortune to hit another new (to me) "singletrack destination" that managed to meet "the standard" of my newly jaded perspective.

The subject of this week's edition of Singletrack Safari is Steamboat Springs. I arrived on Saturday afternoon with a rough idea of where I wanted to ride and run based on maps I had Googled at the last second. Fortunately I wound up riding some of the funnest sections of singletrack and one of the more rewarding climbs I have found so far in Colorado. Starting from town at around 7000', the ZigZag/Sunshine trail ascended to the summit of Storm Peak at 10,372 feet. Trails like ZigZag, Sunshine, Cathie's Pete's Wicked Trail cut in and out of thick aspen groves and across steep black diamond ski runs while offering occasional views of the town far below.

Notably, Steamboat Resort's trails on the ski slopes are almost *too* buffed and smooth. With wider than usual switchbacks, bermed turns and almost bikini-waxed singletrack, I wondered if it was the result of traffic or simply to accommodate the Monster-drinking downhiller/freeride crowd who prefer high-fiving on the gondola ride to the top rather than climbing 3500' feet. I will concede that unlike me, the majority of users would not necessarily deem the absence of technical riding a "negative".

Although I only encountered 3 other riders on this particular day, the condition of the trails tells a different story that this is a very popular trail system with the locals and visitors. I am certain there are myriad local trails I missed that offer a greater technical challenge, and next time I ride Steamboat I will surely check them out. With only one afternoon to fit in a ride, I still think I lucked out with my trail choice and look forward to riding it again. Overall, I have to give Steamboat an "A" and "must-ride" status for anyone interested. I award Bonus points for the Apres-Ride scene only a block from the trail head: multiple bars serving up Colorado IPA and live rock and roll, mysteriously almost as busy as ski season.

To check out the live MountainCam, click HERE.

Sir, have you had any alcoholic beverages tonight?

On Saturday night we camped above town at 8,000 feet (I need the extra red blood cells!), a short distance from the resort. Before we made it to our camping spot, while debating my route choice TO said spot, I must have swerved a few times because i was pulled over by the Steamboat police. Apparently they thought I was a DUI candidate. Great. The field sobriety test was a novel experience for me, as I simply don't believe in drinking and driving. After a hard ride only a few hours before, sore knees and a bit of dehydration at 11pm, I wondered if I DID actually appear drunk.

I tried to make the most out of the experience and secretly enjoy the balance exercises by pretending I was slacklining. Throughout this impromptu Decathlon of sobriety tests (which, for the record, I believe I can log as "training" on the officer continually rebuffed my offers to take a Breathalyzer test. Finally after running out of 'events', the officer--who was quite nice the entire time--relented and gave me my very first Breathalyzer. I studied her countenance closely as she read the results, knowing she would be disappointed. "OK, you're fine..." She went on to give me directions to the campsite as well as some inside scoop on the best place to park for the next morning's (are you ready for this?) hot air balloon competition.

We eagerly rose before the sun the next morning to catch the Steamboat Springs Balloon Rodeo. Witnessing dozens of balloons carefully inflate, launch, and then carefully descend a and maneuver a brief touch-and-go on a target in an adjacent pond kept our attention. An over-caffeinated, wise-cracking emcee who must have been a last-second replacement gave the event an awkwardly surreal texture as the sun rose into the sky along with the colorful balloons.

My first painful disillusionment of the day (of many balloon-related disappointment daggers) was the realization that no lasso-ing of balloons was to occur. Nope. Not today. Even worse, I found out the hard way there would not be any furiously bucking bulls impaling the sweet and innocent balloons or baskets. In fact, the "Rodeo" misnomer must have been some sort of cruel joke of an ironic reverse euphemism, like naming a Yorkshire terrier "Bonecrusher". Duped by the bait-and-switch again. I won't get fooled again!

Balloon Rodeo: FAIL.

We left shocked and disappointed--embarassed almost--that even after the cancellation of balloon-lassoing and balloon bullfights, the glib balloon pilot curmudgeons chose to twist the dagger by:

A) Apparently disallowing any basket-anchored Bungee Jumping or Ballooon-to-Balloon jumping of any kind.
B) Obviously preventing passengers from Cannonball-diving into the water from their balloon as it hovered over the pond;
C) Astonishingly, forgetting to Drop water ballloons or other objects such as pumpkin pies or fake plastic frogs onto the crowd;
D) Pathetically chickening out on the much-anticipated Buzzing of the tower a la Maverick in Top Gun.

All of the above seemed like painfully obvious stunts that I had reasonably assumed I paid for with my 10 dollar admission.

What the hell, Scrooge?

Isn't the WHOLE POINT of flying a hot air balloon to drop splatter-able objects on unsuspecting pedestrians
below? Hello?

My dreams: Crushed.

Deflated, after the anti-climatic balloon let-down we stopped at Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs for a hilly trail run and a dip in both the hot springs and cold river. Hear me now and believe me later, girlymen: those springs are H.O.T., and the river is COLD. The funky interlude was timed perfectly to precede the next leg in our weekend journey.

Benefitting from our pre-dawn early start, we skipped town early enough and rallied the 100 miles over to Breckenridge to continue the weekend's "Singletrack Safari" on the last half of the Breckenridge 100 course. Little did I know what hypothermic misery was in store...

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Salida-Leadville-Breckenridge Weekend

On Saturday I packed up my new (to me) Tacoma with mountain bikes, running shoes and camping gear and headed out to the whitewater and singletrack mecca of Salida. There we met up with fellow Boulder athletes Jeremy Rodgers and his girfriend Heather Prentice. We camped on the Arkansas river under a clear night sky and shooting stars after watching kayakers work/get worked in the whitewater park. The next morning we loaded up the bikes into Jeremy's ridiculously pimped-out Mercedes Sprinter van and drove out to the Monarch Crest Traihead. Monarch Crest has been called one of the top 5 mountain bike rides in the United States. Believe me, it's absolutely true.

The view from 12,300 on the Monarch Crest trail...

Jeremy and I split up from the ladies and rode point-to-point back to town via some singletrack trail that reminded me quite a bit of my former hometown Issaquah, Washington.

After finishing the ride and scarfing dinner on the river we drove the 45 minutes up to Leadville to catch up with my friend and former Seattle neighbor Matt Hart, Sean Meissner, and one of Matt's ultrarunning coaching clients. They were in town for the Leadville Trail Marathon and to bag some 14ers.

Matt is pacing a friend through 40 or 50 miles at Hardrock 100 this weekend so he was getting some last-minute altitude exposure prior to the Big Show. (Contrary to McDougal's over-the-top book "Born to Run", we did not spot any (quote) "Mean MFers beating their wives" in town. None! Myth: Busted...Kind of like the barefoot myth) After touring Leadville on foot on our failed hunt for MMFers, Lisa and I headed up to Frisco to watch the spectacular 4th of July fireworks over Lake Dillon before camping above Breckenridge.

After breakfast on the river in Breckenridge, it was time for some pre-riding some of the Breckenridge 100 course. While I haven't any ambition to compete with Josh Tostado or other local pros with knowledge of every inch of the course this time around, I also want to know what to expect and I have been itching to get on the course after studying the map and seeing some amazing photography from past years' races.

I started in town and rode the first quarter of the course, more or less. The race starts with a climb from downtown Breckenridge at 9700' straight up to Wheeler pass at 12,400 feet. Wheeler Pass sits between Peaks 8 and 9. Much like the previous day's ride on Monarch Crest, where we contoured along at 12,000 feet, I would have to rank this section of trail as Top 5 range. After descending the backside of Wheeler, there is a considerably long section of flats that should be perfect for ingesting and digesting a huge hit of my race fuel, Vitargo S2 during the race.

...Much more enjoyable with two pedals...

Enjoy the view? OR focus on the 12" wide dirt and rock singletrack?

To make things interesting, the last couple thousand feet of climbing is on a somewhat loose, rocky jeep trail before the short singletrack contour (across snowfields) to the actual pass. To make things REALLY interesting, I broke my pedal somewhere around 11,500 feet. Bad timing! The singletrack descent on the backside of Wheeler pass is fantastic...not too technical or exposed but enough to keep you focused. With a 29er or full suspension bike like the Turner Flux you can really have a blast on this descent. For the record, I would not recommend riding this wearing a slippery carbon-soled shoe on a broken pedal spindle. FYI.

This weekend was a huge Mojo-Booster on the mountain bike...a much needed one indeed...but also gave me a rekindled appreciation for the little oxygen. The moist oxygen-rich air in Boulder at 5400' feels like sea-level compared to the high country. Hopefully I can hammer myself with some interval sessions this week, freshen up a bit, and return to altitude this weekend to resume my recon of the Breckenridge 100 course this weekend.

I kinda like my new truck-driving hat...

See you on the trails...