Friday, April 29, 2011

Road Report: Part 2- Grand Junction / Fruita

We arrived Wednesday to chilly temps but sunny skies. Seems Spring is a late bloomer this year in this neck of the woods. But when you're in the high desert, these are perfect riding conditions.

The group from SD arrived minutes after we did at the rental house, which, by the way is fbombing sweet. 3 beds, 2 baths and a gigantic covered patio, upon which I'm sitting and staring at the mountains. The place was still locked up so we went and grabbed some grub. We discussed plans for the day and since we had two vehicles, the choice was clear: shuttle run the Ribbon/Eagle's Wing/Lunch Loops. I didn't bring my phone on any of the rides to capture quick images but once I get home, I'll post links. But for anyone who ever comes to GJ to ride, the Ribbon is an amazing experience. I call it a parking lot in the sky. It starts out on a giant slanting slab of slick rock. You can ride all over the place at crazy speeds. The views of the Book Cliffs are breath taking. It'd be worth just hiking it! In order to continue down the trail, one either has to grow huge cahones or hand down bikes. I didn't see it but I guess Eyeberg and one of the SD riders, Kara, who knows how to work a downhill bike, managed to endo one right after the other on a very sketchy lip. Thankfully they both fell the correct way and no bones broke. Kara did wow us with her skills later in the ride, attempting anything that pointed her straight down. She didn't always make it but she was willing to try. Once down the ribbon, we rode through a wash before climbing back up to the road that connects to Eagle's Wing. The terrain is normally dry and sandy and takes much effort to ride. One has to be comfortable with getting a saddle enima to make it most of the way up. Unfortunately, the surface was dry but the muck underneath wasn't and I slipped and sat myself right down in the clay. It was hard to get traction just to walk up. But we all finally made it and continued on. Eagle's Wing is a rocky, ledgy climb up and a rocky, ledgy descent. It's not one that fits my skill set (or lack thereof) but I do what I can and just take my time. Ryan unfortunately took another spill, this time spraining an ankle and giving him a strawberry on his hip. He mellowed out after that. Once down to lunch loops, we did Holy Cross. It's a techy rider's wet dream. In other words, Roxy's night mare but it lacks the exposure so I just walk most of it. All in all, it was a great way to start this leg of the trip. The Todds dug the Ribbon. It's pretty bitchin. We came home and put steaks on the barbi. Helluva way to top off a great day.

The next day was our epic day. I was (and still am) battling a head cold but it was to be 70 degrees (our warmest day of the trip) so I wasn't going to let a little sniffle get in my way. We did everything at Loma and Mack exits, starting with Mary's Loop/Horse Thief to warm things up. Thenjust R&R and the Todds went onto Troy Built and Steve's Loop and down Mack Ridge. Lots of slow techy riding, which suits me just fine. For all of the work, we are rewarded with amazing views of the Colorado River as well as all of the trails we rode that day, as they are stacked up on top of each other: a riders paradise. We came back all smiles and no blood. I did smack a square edge with my front tire and tore the side wall but other than that, it was a great ride. We topped the night off with burgers on the grill and when the other group got back, loopy and tipsy from a long day of riding and drinking, an ice cream run was ordered. But when ya burn thousands of calories a day, guilt doesn't even come into play. It's why we ride, people.

Today, Friday, we took the Todd's out to Rabbit Valley and rode their race loop. It was pretty overcast and windy but we went anyway. Luckily we had a head wind to start so our return trip was all big ring and big smiles. After that ride we stopped in Fruita to pick up our race packets and then we hit the Hot Tomato, the world famous pizza joint owned by two down hill chicks from New Jersey. Post za, we then hooked up with our SD peeps and hit 18 road for one run down Joe's Ridge and Kessle Run. What a fbombing blast. So much fun!!! We were pretty spent by then and called it a day. As I write this, RF and Eyeberg, (aka Magic Man) lost his Garmin somewhere along 18 road, so they are trying to find it. That totally sucks. I hope they luck out.

Tomorrow will be a chill day as we prepare for race day. An easy ride at 18 road is the plan and rest. I was feeling the rides today and my cold wasn't helping. But as us bikers say, a dose of pedal time will cure anything.

Next entry will be a race report. Scheduled start times for Sunday are 10 for the Todds and 12:30 for R&R.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Road Report

You know the drill. Ride. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Day 6 of our trip and we've covered some ground. Let me bring you up to speed.

So RF and the Todds met up in Pueblo to do the Voodoo Fire race last Sat. It was a 1/2 marathon, 35 miles or a full marathon of 75 miles. We all did the half since we were going to be riding so much. It was an interesting area to ride. Wide open and fast. There was not a lot of coasting as the trail swurved up, down and around. Big ring was the standard, if that gives you an idea. We had a neutral roll out of about a 1/4 mile uphill paved road. Once we got on trail, it was on. With cactus and goat heads aplenty, there wasn't much room for passing but with a little patience and some polite asking, I managed to make up some places. My bike was performing great until about an hour into the race. I suddenly had a sick feeling that something was wrong with the frame as the rear end kept swaying back and forth. I was relieved to find out that it was just the tire. It had burped air and was super low. I jumped off and grabbed the inflator. I added a few pumps of air and was back in action. I had to put the pedal to the metal and make up some spots. Not long after it was low again so I jumped off and finished off the rest of cartrige. I told myself that if it was low at the s/f I would quit. I didnt have anymore cartridges and no pump so I didn't want to go back out and risk a total flat but as i came through, it was keeping air so I went back out. I had a great final lap and came back in to high fives from Eyeberg and some random couple giving me props for riding hard and setting a good pace. Made me feel good. Afterwards we stood around and ate a bunch of food the race gave out and waited for RF but he never came through. Patty said she got a tweet from him. Eyeberg and I found him in the parking lot, pants rolled up above his bloodied knees. In his attempt to hang with the likes of Jay Henry, he took a corner hot and had a spectactular crash, flatting a tire and removing a few derma layers. When the tire refused to re-inflate, he walked out. The terrain won some battles that day. I was pleasantly surprised to find out later that I won my class. So yes, I will shut up that I am only still in my build phase of training. Hmph, maybe running in my off season did more than I thought.

Once the race was done, we b-lined to a Chipotle and was back on the road by 2:30 for our long slog to Moab. We took HWY 50 through South Park, literally, and through Breck and Frisco to HWY 70, which from that point on, it rained. And rained. We made it to Moab late Saturday night and it was worth the effort. We wanted Sunday to be a ride day and boy howdy, was it ever!

Days 3, 4, 5 - Moab

RF and I have been coming here every year for 10 years and we've never seen this much rain or experienced such consistant cold temps. But neither deterred us. We were able to ride every day. Sunday was on a new trail Pipe Dream, that was literally a ride out of our door. It wasn't long but it was awesome. All slow power riding and nothing too technical. We did it backwards and turned around and went the correct way and it had much more flow. We got a little wet but nothing terrible. It was a good intro to the riding and we didn't have to drive to the TH. Score! I recommend this ride as a quick ride if you don't have much time or in combo with another ride. If you don't turn around and do it as an out and back, you can take a dirt road back to the TH.

Monday was a big day. We rode the Magnifcent 7 trail, which is actually a connector that hooks up 7 trail systems, starting at the Gemini Bridges trail head in Canyonlands. We stashed a car at the end of the trail and then stuffed all of us in the subi and drove to the put in. Unloading the car, RF's rear tire, again, was flat as a pancake. So he put in a tube and we were off. It was in the 40s and windy but dry. The combination of the day was epic. From slow power singletrack to bumpy jeep roads, we saw it all. RF was on form, riding almost everything in his path. It was fun to watch, well, for me it was fun to hear him whoop it up. As I was usually not near him. About mid ride, his rear tire starting loosing air around the valve so he put in another tube. Luckily for the rest of us, while he did that, a group of jeepers were coming up the trail and we got to watch them and a few motos, climb up and over crazy ledges that looked impossible. One of them had a little girl, maybe 8 years old, asleep in the front seat of a jeep that only had a roll cage. It was kinda unsettling. As we continued on, the sky began to look ominous and we were growing weary so we opted for lower terrain and jeep roads rather than techy stuff up on the ridges. With about 7 miles left, the rain started came down. We were on a section of slick rock where we relied on the surface of the terrain to help up climb. The moisture wasn't helping. Luckily by the time we were back on jeep roads, the sun popped back out and our attitudes shifted from tired and cold to tired and relieved. Amazing how the sun can adjust the attitude so quickly. We ended our ride coming down Poison Spider and then finally onto the road to the car. After 6 hours, it was nice to be done. We only covered 25 miles so that pretty much tells ya how crazy the terrain was. We worked for our dinner that night, which was a dive Mexican place on the south end of town. Seems the Wixens have a thing for dive Mexican restaurants and this one didn't disappoint. We had our authentic Mexican meal within in minutes and it was awesome! Ice cream followed and that a perfect way to end the day.

Day 5 was Porcupine Rim. We woke up to chilly temps and howling winds. Thanks to the awesome Patty Wixon we were able to shuttle up to Lower Porcupine Singletrack (LPS) and avoid the dreaded ride up to the top. I hadn't ridden it before. It wasn't too technical. It was a bit on the muddy side and I purposely coasted through the puddles so I wouldn't soak my shoes. It was cold up there! We were awarded with some new views of Castle Valley and I have to say if you can afford it or have the means to shuttle, it beats riding up! With the Todds, we made really good time. Probably the best time we've ever done. It was pretty chilly and windy so there wasn't a lot of incentive to putz around. Rain was off in the distance but luckily, it stayed that way. The ride went without incident (we won't mention how Eyeberg came too close to an edge) and we made it back to the house well in time for us to rest and then make the trek up to Delicate Arch. After the ride, I was feeling a cold coming on so I went on a Nyquil run and took a nap in hopes of ridding my head of the sinus pressure. No luck. But, that wasn't going to stop me from the trip to the arch. It's something I look forward to every year. Even the Wixon's daughter, Alicia, came along and did great, despite the wind and cool temps. We had a great sky for pictures and a killer sunset. And if that wasn't good enough, we had a great meal at the Moab Brewery to cap off the night. By the time we got back to the house, I went straight to bed.

So, despite the less than perfect weather, we managed to ride every day. I recommend that anyone traveling to Moab, use local knowledge to assist when weather isn't cooperating. Had we tried riding the usual trails, we would have been pretty unlucky.

On Wednesday, we woke to clear skies and no wind. (Go figure). We stopped into Over the Edge for a trail report and then went onto Grand Junction where we are renting a house. Just as we pulled up so did our friends from South Dakota. The second leg our trip had begun.

More to come...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back in the Saddle

As Aerosmith once said....

Last weekend was my first race since last July. It was more than just a race. It was a reaffirmation that I truly am all about dirt trail racing. Last weekend was officially the beginning of my race season. And although I will be ramping up all spring and each race will be training, I don't really care. I'm riding my bike, on single track, away from cars, cement, gravel and most importantly, wind.

Bone Bender was held at Clinton Lake, a course near Lawrence, KS., where smooth trail is the exception. Rock garden didn't apply there. The trails are a test of suspension, tire pressure and nerves. Luckily, we didn't have to deal with them being wet too. I've raced there before and knew that the flow of the course allowed for power riding over the rocks. A few spots tripped me up every time but for the most part, it was all doable.

The race started with a run up a very steep and rocky service road. I welcomed it this time. With all of the off-season running I did over the winter, I wasn't intimidated. The only thing that sucked was my bike was at the end the rows of bikes, so I had the farthest to run. The gun went off and up the road we went. Once at the top, I felt like frogger, trying to get from the road to my bike all the while dodging mounted and as well as penguin-trodding racers. Once on bike, I threw it in the big ring and tried to make up as many spots as I could. All came to a grinding halt once we hit the single track. The rocks stacked us up like a bunch of nervous hound dogs. I knew I could climb so I just pedaled slow enough to give myself the room to power up. As the race went on the faster riders were allowed to pass and soon I was with a handful of guys who liked to hammer. After lap 1 I was in 2nd.

Lap two was much better. I could breath. There was room to hammer and also make mistakes without holding up anyone else. I did hit the ground on one root-rock combo that I mis-dialed. As I came through the s/f I noticed many of my team mates on the sidelines. The rocks had won a couple battles.

At the start of lap 3 a woman came through in my cat. She was pretty quick. I jumped on her wheel as we pushed towards the trees. She had great handling skills and didn't slow down much except for some of the rockier power climbs. I think she was on a hard tale and got bounced around a lot. I gave her the room and decided I'd just kinda "be the hunter" and let her hang out there in front, but in sight. Whenever it smoothed out she was like a jack rabbit but once the trail got rocky or went up, I could usually real her right back. I gave her room on the power climbs so that I wouldn't have to clip out but on the final one, after she clipped out and pulled her bike over, I gave her props for some great riding and continued on. She didn't chase so finishing my third lap, I kept my 2nd place position.

Just as I came through the s/f, I saw another woman just leaving. She seemed tired and not very interested in going again. I assumed she was on a team or something but it turned out she was the leader. I had come in at around 2:54 so I could have gone back out but toward the end of the lap, I had resolved myself to the fact that I had had a great race and since I was going to be traveling and racing for many weekends to come, I didn't want to push myself right out of the gate. So, yes, I quit. But in my mind, I had accomplished everything I wanted to and going into a 4th lap tired would have only increased my chances of making mistakes. I played it safe. I still managed to get on the podium, which was super cool.

I'm super bummed that so many tires of my teammates succumbed to the rocks! It was a test of tires and tire pressure for sure. On the other hand I'm super excited for newbies Todd Wixen and Kevin Bretetic who podiumed in the Sport open cat after only racing a few years. There were 50 dudes in that cat and they got 1st and 2nd. How f-bombing cool is that. And of course I gotta give props to Mr. RF for his amazing performance, especially after a week of traveling and checking things off the honey-do list!

Thanks to everyone for your support over the last 7 months while I healed and dragged myself from couch to saddle. As we all know, that damn couch has a loud voice. It's been pretty tough getting back mentally. The damn weather hasn't helped but I'm looking forward to getting back in shape and racing. Next up Pueblo, Co. and Fruita.