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 things...like 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...