Monday, August 26, 2013

Like a Fool in the Rain

Here I sit on a rainy day. Being unexpectedly called off work, up to early, and over-caffeinated finds me with time to do the weekly blog update. Gotta stick with the self-imposed goals. Good thing I've got something to share!

We've been paying for our 300+ days of sun recently. Heavy rains for the last few days have left our trails in sour shape and provided some comical (after the fact) experiences for a number of us.

Just the beginning

Rain and moisture are certainly good things, but I usually prefer to pay for my sunshine during the months when the day is too short and moisture comes in a less fluid state of matter.

Don't let the photos fool you and start thinking I'm out of bike mode. Far from it. With Big Mountain Enduro #4 coming up this weekend and being the series leader, I'm more focused than ever. Durango is the race I'm most excited about and is also the first race of my life I've put specific training into with a specific goal in mind. I want to win this race. Bad. Knowing my loose training plan of ride hard one day and easy the next wasn't going to cut it. Sure it worked for races of a shorter duration in the bike parks, but Durango is a different beast. Having ridden part of the course and researching last year's race times gave me a good idea of what it would take to win. Time for some self-inflicted misery. 25min threshold intervals. Uphill, downhill, flathill. Love em'. Hate em'. Will they be enough to beat the Durango locals at their own game? One way to find out.

New favorite

Training isn't without mishaps
First kayak descent of Holy Cross, anyone?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bottom's Up, Durango

With vacation coming to an end and Big Mountain Enduro #4 coming up in a few weeks, it's time to get back to our mountain bike programing. 

Just a little preview of what's to come
It is safe to say that Durango, CO is one of the more well-known towns in mountain bike lore. Durango is home to lots of big pro names of the past and present, killer trails in town and the surrounding high peaks, more breweries than you could stumble to in a night, and now Big Mountain Enduro #4.

With the race course for day #1 being known and rumors running rampant of day #2's fun, preparing for the race was the focus of this recent trip. My friend and pro rider/racer, Eric, was able to take a couple days away from his work and family responsibilities to join in the fun.

A small business owner's work is never done

Normally, the race stages are not published until a very short time before the event. This, in theory, limits practice time, levels the playing field for out of towners, and makes the race a bit more challenging. Durango is a little more unique because day #1's course is the same as last year, featuring a 20+ mile backcountry ride. Day #2 is all conjecture at this point, but there is pretty strong thought as to at least part of the course. Despite the unknowns of day #2, we thought a preview trip would be worth while.


Due to a late start from Grand Junction and a shuttle to Kennebec Pass not available, we decided to check out what is believed to be part of the course for day #2. After lunch in the trailhead parking lot, we grabbed the helmet cams and began our ride/hike up to the top. While there are easier ways to access the top of the course, walking up it gives you more time to pick lines and see the terrain. What we found was slightly shocking. This trail is tough! And that's coming from two guys accustomed to techy, rocky riding.

It's a grunt up the trail and a grunt down the trail. No question it'll challenge racers fitness, technical abilities, and equipment in a big way. Bring your elbow pads!

View from the top?
Following the big push up comes the fun part. DOWN. But not before Eric fixes his tire that blew off the rim, spraying Stan's sealant every where while we were getting our helmets on…

For once, I'm not the one with a flat!
I won't lie, I took great joy in this. Why you say? I have a long history with flats and am constantly getting ridiculed for this affliction.

Less than 10 minutes down the trail and guess who DOESN'T have a flat again. Guess who does

For the record, 29er tubes work fine in a 26er
Having a preview lap done and filmed and no more tubes we decided to take a shorter lap on a recently opened "progressive" trail in the area. Thinking it'd be fun to ride fast with a purpose and test ourselves against the highly competitive cycling population of Durango, on went Strava. (Yes we use it. No we don't cut corners or run people down or risk trail access.) Two short segments later and here's what we got

Really didn't expect that! Having brighter spirits and hungry stomachs, we set off to satisfy Eric's burrito craving.

Highly recommended!!

 DAY #2

Normally people use a shuttle van to access the ride from Kennebec Pass. After I was unable to get in contact with the shuttle company, we figured we couldn't give up and would just ride up it. Doing the entire thing as a loop isn't too uncommon for the locals, who we've since learned ride forest service roads to the top. Riding up the actual single track is a little less common. Doing it on long-travel trail bikes with single rings is probably more rare. Training right?

Looking fresh at the start
Slightly apprehensive, we loaded our packs with all the necessary gear (including a tube each) and a firm plan to pace ourselves and eat every 30 minutes, we set off. The climb up really isn't too bad. Thanks to our pacing and feeding plan, we were able to ride 90% of the trail.

I couldn't ride this part. For the record, 27.5 tubes will work in a 29er.
The other 10%
Though the climb up wasn't as bad as expected, it was quite nice to reach the top.

The end is near
The finish! or just half way
Spirit of Enduro
The view
A little snack, helmet cams mounted, one ripping descent, one almost morale breaking climb, one more ripping descent, no flats, huge smiles, and great euphoria later we were back to the day's start.

Final stats 
This trip and ride provided both Eric and I with a huge learning experience and confidence boost. We felt tired at the end for sure, but even the last few miles we could lay down the pedal power and felt strong. Everything came together for a great time.

I've long read blogs and articles about outdoor athletes with twinges of jealously and awe of how they can do big things day in and day out. I've wondered how to get there. I want to be like that. How can I do that? With these last few months of racing, I've slowly been learning what it takes. Time, hard work, lots of pain, mental focus and drive. Desire to be there, truly believing you can be there. Support of those around you. Using your head.

I want more

Where the trail ends

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Vacation

I've been on a vacation the last 10 or so days. I know, I know. Why could a guy that works three days a week need a vacation? Well originally, I scheduled this time off due to the Leadville 100 mountain bike "race." I figured having a week of down time on either side of the event would be a good idea and my parents were going to come for a visit, as well. What happened to that plan?


I decided that doing an enduro race in Crested Butte would be a fun intermediate goal before Leadville. Then I had a weekend off and figured I'd do the Angel Fire enduro before CB. I won that race and had a ton of fun.

 Then came the Crested Butte enduro where I won again. It was even more fun. From there I decided I should do the entire Big Mountain Enduro series since I was doing well and really, really enjoying the racing, the travel, the people, the challenges. Pretty much all of it.

While I was/am having a blast doing the enduro thing, Leadville was looming like a black cloud. When I got in the Leadville race last fall, it was with the idea of doing it to do it. To survive and just finish. To see if I could. It really didn't seem like it'd be very fun and isn't that the entire point of riding a mountain bike? Plus, training to even finish an event like Leadville doesn't exactly go with racing enduro. Long story short, I bailed on Leadville. Yep, I'm a quitter and proud of it!

Where is all this going? Vacation.

With my time off still scheduled, my parents coming out to visit, and no Leadville 100 to worry about things are were looking pretty good. We played the tourist role well. Good food, jeep tours, lots of driving to see the sights, a few training rides, wild flowers, no work. Ahh, yes.

Bob Ross and Co do a great job. Give them a call

Governor Basin

Figure out why they're called Pink Elephants 

Still some flowers on 401 in CB

According to the info at Box Canyon Falls these Black Swifts are a rare bird. Kinda looked like bats to me. 
We saw Jesus in a window….

A mom and her baby 
Bovine in the mist
With vacation coming to an end and my last few races coming up, it's time to get back on the bike. You should, too. Go ride.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Specialized Enduro Recap

 I raced the Specialized/EWS Enduro race in Winter Park this past weekend. I felt 7 weeks off between rounds 3 and 4 of the Big Mountain Enduro series was too much and I was lucky enough to procure a spot in this race. Gotta keep the razor's edge honed. As this was to be the only US round of the Enduro World Series, it also meant the best enduro riders on the planet would be showing up to race. And they are insanely fast. Wow.

This race was to consist of 5 stages over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Weekend highlights include:
  • Getting caught in a massive hail/rain storm during Thursday practice

  • Finding out I left my rain jacket in the car during said storm
  • Becoming mildly hypothermic complete with blue lips, uncontrollable shivering, and maybe a bit of looniness
  • Having my encounter with "the rotor rock" in practice and not in the race
  • Chocolate coconut water
  • Passing the #1 enduro racer in the world, Jerome Clementz, on the climb to stage 3/4. He was smiling and chatting. I was sweating.

  • Wet weather redemption

  • It was a pretty dang good time, too.

Stages 1 and 2 were on Friday and proved to be the most difficult of the weekend for me. After a hard crash in practice and struggling to find my rhythm on the bike, I wasn't in the best of places mentally going into the day's stages.

5ft drop out of the gate to start the day
Stage 1 had us on the downhill race track. Rough way to start the morning and it had me wishing for another cup of coffee or a jolt of lightning. Things were actually going okay until I caught my 30sec rider in the steepest and roughest part of the course, lost the race line, and went over the bars. It may not have been too bad except for the fact that I couldn't get back on the bike due to the nature of the section so I had to run down 20 yards of track to get back on. In the mean time, the other rider had continued on. What happened next you ask? I caught him. Again. In the second most technical and steep section of the course. And crashed. Again. By this time, my friend,  who is my biggest competitor and 30sec guy, came blowing on through in route to the stage win. Nothing left to do other than ride down and minimize time loss, successfully passing my 30sec and 1min riders for 14th.

Stage 2 was far less technical and much more about the pedals. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the legs that day. I still managed to finish the stage inside the top 10 and was 11th overall, but my goal of making the podium had slipped away.

Day 2 would be stages 3 and 4. Three would be the most physically and mechanically taxing of the weekend. Starting at 11,200ft is tough regardless of the terrain. Add in a couple miles of fairly flat twisting singletrack with enough roots and rocks to prevent carrying much momentum and you've got a great way to totally gas racers before dropping them down the most technically demanding terrain of the weekend.

Stage 3 also had a surprise for knackered racers. The "rotor rock" as it became known, was a rock within the nastiest rock garden that was a perfect height and shape to eat disc brake rotors. It wouldn't cause a crash, but it would bend the rotor beyond the point of repair, simultaneously causing massive amounts of brake drag and totally disabling the rear brake. I was lucky enough to hit the rock in practice and get one of the last replacement rotors in town. By the end of race day over 50 riders had destroyed rotors or broken wheels, including some of the biggest names out there. Thanks to some conservative riding in my race run, I finished 4th and avoided rotor rock.

Stage 4 was the shortest stage of the weekend and was by far the most bike parky. With almost no rocks in sight, berms on every turn, large jumps and drops, it would be a good time. The video posted is from this stage. Feeling good and having fun, I managed to finish 3rd in the stage and had moved up to 7th overall. Now just one more to go.

The morning of stage five looked like this

It would slightly clear for the pros to make their race runs, but the fog and rain began 5mins before I was to go off for the final stage of the weekend. At the top, I was having memories of the last race I'd done in the cold rain. During downhill nationals in 1999 at Mt. Snow, VT I spent the day on a backboard and getting head CTs after a crash in the wet knocked me out. This morning was rather similar in appearance, except I was looking forwards to riding and sliding. And slide I did. On my ass for about 10ft. Oh well. I still moved up a spot in the overall, finishing 6th for the weekend. Knowing I could have been well within the top 3 without the passing related crashes on stage 1 was a bit frustrating, but that's racing for you. Fuel for the fire