Tuesday, July 31

Breaking Records

I'm calling it a little early. July is going to be my biggest mileage month ever but only by a few miles.

On Sunday I realized I had three riding days left in the month in which to cover 154 miles if I wanted a 700 mile month.

That was basically 50 miles a day. Sunday was my second planned rest day after my Corona Pass ride and I was leery of breaking a big rest day just to pad my miles.

I didn't ride Sunday, and I'm still glad I stayed off the bike, but that changed my burden to 75+/day the last two days of the month.

Yesterday I managed 44 miles but the last 20 were rough. My morning ride up Lookout cost me.

That left about 110 I'd need to get today. Don't think me a wuss, but I just didn't have it in me. As much as I wanted to claim two centuries in a week's time, as much as I think one more "easy" century would help me toward Leadville, I just couldn't find the mental energy and physical strength to pull it off. I'd have had to call in "sick." I'd've suffered through one century or two moderately long rides...and for what? Well, glory. Bragging rights. Sponsorships. More maintenance on the bikes. One less sick day to burn this fall. 700 freakin' miles.

This was a lesson learned long ago: the last couple days of the month are not the appropriate time to bulk up on miles. You push too hard.

I'll bust my previous record of 601 miles. I'm at 600 and change now. Heck, pushing my bike down the hall this afternoon to leave the building will put me over my record.

July has been a good month though. I did three big rides, my second century ever, and despite about half a dozen days I didn't ride to work I still managed my best month ever.

I feel good too. I've managed my recovery and associated pains well. I feel much more fit on the bike than I ever have. And I still love riding. I'm not choking on too much.

Monday, July 30

Inspiration Point

I had wanted to ride down before work and catch the start of the 2012 Colorado Trail Race at 6am at the Waterton Canyon trailhead this morning. When I finally understood the math I realized I'd have to leave at 4am to get there by 6. Nuh-uh!

I need to keep training and I want to pad my miles for July as much as possible, so decided to head up and over Lookout Mountain. The deal was sealed when I saw a tweet from @steepclimbs:

Lookout Mountain, Golden, CO http://steepclimbs.com/2012/07/30/lookout-mountain-golden-co/

Yeah, had to go do Lookout. I'd been up there twice this summer but turned back both times at Windy Saddle because I didn't have time to go on to the top and make it to work on time. This morning I made sure to leave early enough that I'd have plenty of time. And I did.

I'd never ridden Minus (my '86 Bianchi road bike) up Lookout. I was worried it wasn't geared low enough. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Minus goes up hills like you wouldn't believe. At the pillars I settled in to my crotchety commuter pace and within a mile or so an old guy passed me. He wasn't screaming up the mountain, but he pulled away and kept right on going.

When he was a couple hundred yards ahead the competitive demon on my shoulder told me if I were truly hardcore I'd catch the old coot. So I mashed down on the pedals and Minus lurched forward. Huh? I definitely wasn't scraping the bottom of the barrel. So I applied more force and sped up. Easily.

I never caught the other cyclist, but I kept a good solid clip all the way to the top and over into Mount Vernon Canyon.  It was a good morning to ride, and I chose a good ride to do.

Riding up Lookout always makes me want to ride more. Kingston left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but I've since masked it with my ride on Friday and this morning's jaunt. I feel inspired to incorporate Lookout (and other rides) into more of my commutes, to spice things up, to keep my interest up, to keep me going when the going gets tough.

Before I "had to" get serious about training for Leadville I think I was sinking into a rut. In only rode places I had to ride. I mean, I tried to make my cycling interesting, I rode to places like Boulder, but I'd become Jack's Crushed Spirit. I should have been stoked to be riding, but it do often felt like a chore.

I did Lookout Mountain from highway 93 to the entrance to Buffalo Bill, which is right at five miles and 1,450' of gain, in 55 minutes.

The record (for the 4.5 miles from pillar to post) is 16:02 by pro cyclist Tom Danielson. I'm a universe away from that kind of effort, but I think I can shave off some time from today's effort, definitely my best to date.

So...I need 130 miles and change by the end of the day tomorrow to pull down 700 for the month. It's tempting to call in "sick" and go out and do a solid century in the plains on the road bike. I can totally justify it as training.

Saturday, July 28

Slaying Rollins...

I shot out of the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon like a cannonball...40mph, knobbies whining, a huge grin on my face. I knew I was going to make it home in less than 10 hours. The fact that I got turned back just shy of Rollins Pass in the face of a thunderstorm...eh, discretion is the better part of valor.

I'd done battle with the pass for so long. I was determine my ruin would not be smote by Corona. Yeah, I like the original name of Rollins Pass better: Corona. It's a more earthy name, more noble, not named for some rich white guy who never rode his bike 103 miles.

I left Arvada at 4:38am. I maintained a solid pace all the way to Rollinsville. Above Coronaville and through Tolland and beyond I kept on cranking toward the pass. Finally I turned onto Corona Pass Road. It was rough. But I kept on going.

At 50 miles I had been going six hours. I maintained my attack...ramming speed. I wanted the pass bad, and the realization that I was riding a 12hr century pace after so many thousands of feet of climbing spurred me on.

Soon I could see the Needles Eye Tunnel ahead, but Rollins, the Mr Hyde persona of Corona Pass, was throwing dark clouds at me. A rumble of thunder, a few cold, fat drops of rain, then a wicked dagger of lightning...

I knew when an ugly defeat was imminent. A man I knew once said: "A good run is better than a bad stand any day."

And so I ran, back toward home 51.65 miles away. I had been so close to the summit of the pass, but I'd stretched it out until I was certain I'd hit a century. Or would I?

The battle wasn't over. The ugly thunderheads raced out ahead of me to the north toward Coal Creek Canyon and Rollins raised up rocks and cobbles in my path to beat me senseless.

Staying just ahead of the rain I endured the bone rattling descent. On the climb up I knew it was rough, but it hadn't seemed that rough. I fought hard to keep my speed above 10mph even as gravity pulled me away from the maw of a monster storm.

After doing hand to hand combat with Rollins for so long my wrists and knees were aching and my right thumb was bleeding from where I'd been cut by the shifter. I was ready to be off Rollins Pass Road. And still the beating went on.

An eternity passed before I finally reached Tolland Road, and laughing hysterically, I banked hard left, thumbed into higher gear, and put the spurs to 'er.

There's something both insane and thrilling about doing 30+mph on a dirt road. Tolland Road loses enough elevation back to Rollinsville that it's a true screamer. That's when the grin formed on my face. I was kicking my overall average back up and stomping down on the clock.

My lovely SAG driver was meeting me back in Rollinsville and I was eager to see her face. So I pounded on the pedals even harder.

As I finally could see the little town and the Peak to Peak Highway I saw a white 1999 Suburbaru Forester rolling west on Tolland Road. The grin got so big the top of my head was in danger of falling off.

I couldn't helping giving her a big kiss. I was gushing with joy, at eight hours out I had only 30 miles to go and much of that was downhill. Two exceptions were the climb up from Rollinsville to Kelly Dahl campground and the 3.5 mile steep climb from Pinecliffe up to Wondervu at the top of Coal Creek Canyon.

From Wondervu it was 22 miles downhill all the way home.

I wanted to linger and visit with Mandy, but I needed to get on with it. We both agreed the skies over Coal Creek Canyon were looking mean and ugly. I was hoping I could get over Wondervu, less than 10 miles away, before the rain started. I felt good and didn't want another skirmish with the ghost of Rollins.

I powered out to the PtP and turned north. Mandy passed and drove away toward the plains. I'd see her much sooner than we both imagined.

The rain started at Kelly Dahl. I did the short steep descent to Hwy 72/Coal Creek Canyon Rd at a cautious speed. By the time I turned on 72 I was pretty wet. But then I was less than halfway to Pinecliffe when I got ahead of it and the pavement was only damp. I was slightly soaked but keeping a 25-30mph speed.

I shot across the railroad tracks a little fast, but kept upright and in the road. A few seconds later I was shedding gears like a rocket sheds stages. Up the initial climb...with the rumble of a diesel engine chasing me. A dump truck passed within inches, confirming my fears of a slow slog up the twisting road with almost non-existent shoulders. I kept on pedaling. There was nothing else to do.

The initial short hill was easily dispatched, then I was treated to a brief reprieve before the long, long slog.

A few cars passed as I climbed, but none came as close as the dump truck. About 2/3 of the way up Rollins was catching up with me. Violently loud thunder cracks were punctuating the sky all around. And the the rain began to fall. I cranked up in my middle chainring against the onslaught of cold drops and the threat of lightning. I'd have to crest Wondervu at the top and get over into the canyon before I'd feel safe from being struck down. I prayed continuously for safe passage, and I kept fighting back against all Rollins could send after me.

Then...finally...I saw the Wondervu Cafe. The rain was coming down cold and steady at that point, running off the pavement in sheets.

I pulled in and skulked under a ponderosa by the restaurant to suck down some fuel for the final push. The rain didn't let up and lightning and thunder raged all around. I longed to have the luxury of time to linger at the Wondervu and sample their fare, but it would have to be some other day.

As soon as the last bite was crammed I my mouth I swung a leg back over the top tube of The One and pushed off for glory. Gravity grabbed on and pulled me down into the canyon. I reigned in for fear of going to wrack and ruin in some gravel-laden curve. I blocked the car behind me from passing until there was plenty of real estate for them to do so safely.

I was still fighting to get free of the claws of Rollins, balancing caution and speed to get down the canyon so I could get across the open plains ahead of the electric death from the sky...and then I was free. Out of the rain and back on dry pavement I turned The One loose and hung on for the ride. Bombing down the the canyon at 40mph I took the full lane, as I was easily doing the posted speed limit. I laughed out loud as the sounds of thunder faded behind me.

Down through the deep cleft between Blue Mountain and Crescent Mountain I continued at breakneck speed. Yeah, I did ponder what would happen if I blew a tire and it ripped away from the rim. And then I slammed down on the pedals and hunched over my bloody handlebars.

I rocketed out of Coal Creek Canyon and across Rocky Flats. I continued on down into Arvada, and finally, at Indiana, the grade leveled a bit and I slowed to about 25mph. Traffic lights stayed green for me, midday Friday traffic remained light, and on I went with the knowledge that I just might make it home ahead of the storm and under ten hours. Despite all the miles I kept pedaling.

The light caught me at Kipling and 72nd. As I waited for the light to change so I could ride the last couple of miles home the Rollins balrog was looming over western Arvada. Drops of rain from it's slavering maw were spattering the asphalt. Thunder rumbled from its chest.

Green. Go! I hit the 35mph speed limit on Kipling quickly and kept on pedaling as it curved into Oberon. I cranked over much familiar ground, dodging familiar obstacles, weaving through parking lots and into my neighborhood. I turned on my street and stood up on the pedals for a solid powerful finish into the Bikeport.

Mandy had not returned home, and violent lightning was crashing all around. I texted her that I'd made it back...and didn't have my house key. She said she'd be home ASAP. Neither one of us expected me home so quickly after parting ways in Rollinsville.

The final numbers: 103.3 miles, 9 hours 54 minutes, Rollins Pass 1, Me 1

I attribute my sub-10 hr ride to carb loading, proper rest and careful SAG planning.

I didn't summit the pass, but I did ride my second century ever, and to altitude, AND in less than 10 hours. I was not thwarted in my primary goal by gain, by terrain or by weather. I failed in my secondary goal, reaching the pass, thwarted by terrain and weather.

I was neither thoroughly defeated nor totally victorious , but I did pull off the best bike ride of my life. I highly recommend the 20 mile (one way) ride from Rollinsville to the summit of Corona Pass. You'll have to portage around the closed Needles Eye Tunnel and keep your eyes peeled for an ugly balrog waiting to chew you into oblivion, but otherwise if you have the opportunity, the will, and the energy...ride Corona Pass.

Someday I want to ride over the pass, camp in Winter Park and return the next day.

Thursday, July 26

Counting Carbs...Er, Costs

In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway. --Tyler Durden

In an attempt to ensure success tomorrow on my bid for Rollins Pass at a race pace I have been carb loading this week. It's something I've never tried the right way. Part of doing it the right way is cutting back your level of exercise, so after a rest day Monday I rode easy in to work on Tuesday. I quickly realized that riding at all was going to thwart my fueling technique.

I've driven the past two days.

Let that sink in good and deep. We'll break it off and let the point remain later.

It's summer and I have driven alone to work. Since December of '09 that's probably happened less than three times.

I hate driving to work. Did we hit a bone?

I hate traffic, traffic lights, tailgaters, traffic, traffic lights, indirect routes, parking, parking garages, traffic and not riding my bike.

It's a very strange feeling to walk into work not sweaty and dressed for work. It's just not natural.

As I rolled along in my gas powered wheelchair I couldn't help be cognizant of how much oil all that traffic was consuming. And by consuming I mean destroying.

As I walked through the parking garage I marveled at the overbuilt vehicles: luxury cars, SUVs, sports cars, luxury sport SUVs and the like.

I'm driving a '99 Suburbaru Forester with nearly 300,000 miles on it. While we could have replaced it with a shinier mode of transport long ago we've chosen to get the most out of our investment in Gump. There has been no pressure to keep up with the Jonses in our family.

Because we're driving our car until the wheels fall off (that has actually happened to us twice) we've remained more resilient. We're not making a car payment and forking over cash for full coverage insurance and high tax and registrations fees.

I looked at all of the cars in the parking garage and the thought entered my head: none of these people (myself included) are truly paying the full cost for our cars, and while some may feel all tingly inside because they think they can afford a sports car or flashy SUV, they can't truly afford the total cost of their personal transportation.

We're just pushing off the bulk of the costs on future generations. We're robbing from the future to enjoy the present. And how will our descendants look back on us? As fat, craven slobs, hell bent on gobbling up as many resources as we can keep down our gullet?

I've pondered a few jobs that would have only been possible if I were to go back to car commuting. I don't think I could do that. I just don't think I could consciously put myself back behind the wheel everyday. Lord help me if I'm ever injured to the point I can't ride anymore...

I hope that point doesn't fester where it's lodged in your bone.

Next week I'm back on the bike for an all out effort to drop pounds and built muscle. Then, assuming my carb loading this week works, I'll be resting most of the week of Leadville minus a scouting ride over Powerline and up St Kevin's.

Wednesday, July 25

My Two Cents...Worth Two Cents

This piece may seem out of sorts on a blog like mine, but in reality it's just a blog and just my thoughts. I try to maintain a transportation theme but in the end I can write about anything I want.

I don't really want to, but feel I probably should write about the shooting in Aurora last Friday.

It's terrible. I feel bad for the victims and their families, and in a way I feel bad for the shooter and his family. I'm not defending his actions, but he's obviously troubled.

I have no connections to any of the people involved. I've never been to that part of Aurora and only know a half dozen people that live in the city. For me this is as far away as it is for most of my family in the East.

I'm sick of the ceaseless "coverage" by the local news. It's big, but let's get back to important things in the world. Let us know when something major occurs. Otherwise, give everyone some peace from this tragedy. After this post I intend to do just that.

Gun control. I'm not a democrat, a leftist or a liberal. If you're a semi-regular reader of this blog that may be a surprise to you. But I say it often enough, I just don't buy into the Left vs Right ideologies. They're too cookie cutter to be of any benefit to mankind.

Gun control. I believe in the freedom to arm yourself. I didn't grow up with guns, but we have guns now. I'm not pro- or anti-guns. I once hit a head sized target from 200 yards with a Yugoslav M-48a. But I digress...

Watching the video of the 71 year old man who fired on two robbers in an Internet cafe in Florida gives me pause though. From what I've been taught about guns I saw that his behavior was a little reckless.

In that situation the shooter turned a situation with no gunfire into a potential shoot out in a crowded room. He fired between two patrons that were well forward of his position and then out the front door.

Had the robbers returned his fire instead of running it is likely many people would have been injured or killed.

Some have said one armed person in the Aurora movie theater could have ended things much faster, but I disagree.

First, Holmes was wearing body armor. The typical carry-sized handgun may not have had much effect on stopping him. Secondly, he had a shotgun, assault rifle and a handgun. He had anyone legally carrying far outgunned. Oh, but if there were a few legal carriers in the theater they would have had him outgunned?

I'm not sure I'd want to be in the middle of a gunfight in a chaotic dark theater. Same as a crowded Internet cafe. More guns, more bullets flying...not necessarily a better situation. Stray bullets, ricochets, unintended consequences...

Possession of a concealed and carry license does not immediately bestow good judgment and marksmanship on a person.I wish it did.

Let me pose a quick scenario.

You can legally conceal and carry a handgun. You are doing so at a midnight showing in a crowded theater. In the middle of the movie a man enters the theater and opens fire. Within seconds you see muzzle flashes in other locations in the dark theater. How many assailants are there?

As someone who had a concealed and carry in another state, I can say honestly that it had occurred to me that by pulling a gun in that sort of situation I might get shot myself. And not necessarily by the bad guys.

If police officers come into the middle of a gunfight in a dark theater which side do they take?

If an assailant is dressed like a policeman, how do you know the real thing in a dark theater?

I believe in the right to bear arms and the freedom to defend yourself. But I don't agree that the solution to random public shootings is to arm everyone. Other than a smidgen of deterrence, the widespread packing of heat in crowded public places does not necessarily increase the safety of the average person.

My true point is this...in the heat of the moment we rarely know the full story. Solving problems with guns is rarely the best approach.

Did James Holmes deserve to be shot for what he was doing? Yes. How about the Internet cafe bandits? I don't think so. Truthfully, it seems they were just in it for the money. Let them take the money. Don't endanger the lives of others by opening fire, even when it might seem to make sense.

I don't know if I would trust my own judgment in either of those situations, not because I have no reasoning skills, but because in the heat of he moment I don't have the training and experience to make the right snap decisions.

Of course we'll watch how this tragedy unfolds. I'm not going to lie, I have a morbid curiosity about Holmes' motives. The 'why' is the big mystery. I don't feel the urge to keep up with day to day developments though. It's like watching paint peel and then explode. Your heart and mind can only handle so much.

I was really impressed with Christian Bale coming to visit the victims in the hospital. That was an amazing gesture, to fans, to victims, to those who had not expected it. He didn't have to do it, and many wouldn't have. Kudos to you Mr. Bale.

Tuesday, July 24

A Writer Writes...Always

The night was...

I've offhand mentioned my attempted fiction exploits, and today, Dear Readers, is the day I offer up my first short story to you for public consumption.

The story is called "All You Haters," and chronicles a day in the life of a cubicle bound bicycle commuter named Brian Anderson.

I'm going to offer it two ways. In the spirit of vulture capitalism I will offer the finished story to you through Amazon's Kindle store (for the low, low, low price of 99¢): All You Haters Kindle version

And in the spirit of this-is-my-first-story-so-I-feel-guilty-charging-you I have an earlier draft here on google docs: All You Haters free version

I have no qualms with you reading it for free, the only thing I ask is that in return give me some constructive feedback. Anything goes.The main difference in the two versions are some word choices and other minor variations.

I hope you enjoy it. So far I've had mostly positive responses to it, but these are responses from people who know me well. I'd like to see what the masses think. Or, the two or three people who read this blog.

I'm also working on another short story that I feel is much better, but it is also a much more deeply personal piece, and therefore is taking me a bit to refine it.


Monday, July 23


I stand at a crossroads. Reality is sinking in. I have less than three weeks to Leadville and I don't feel prepared. I'm going to do it. It may be hand-to-hand combat through hell, but I'm going to go and finish.

Here's my realization: I'm not built like a competitive cyclist. And speed is not normally my thing. I like to go fast, but I do better maintaining a steady speed during long efforts. Not fast...steady.

My "fast" is slow in the whole scheme of things.

But I needed something like Leadville to give me more focus. To exercise, to eat better (my wife is rolling her eyes, but "better" is the key word), to have a goal to aspire to...I didn't think I was a competitive person, and I guess on the traditional sense I'm not, but I need some personal benchmark to throw myself at, or I have no other target to hold my attention.

I was less than a mediocre rock climber with the goal of "being a better climber," but when I decided I wanted to be a guide and started researching the American Mountain Guides Association's courses and their pre-requisites I made a goal to achieve the pre-reqs for the rock guide exam. I never got to that point for various reasons--though I did complete the Top Rope Instructor course at Seneca Rocks, WV in 1999--but having that goal and working to make myself better within that context actually made me a better climber in the ways I wanted and in other ways I hadn't imagined.

Leadville has done the same thing for me as a cyclist, and I am loathe to fail in the ultimate goal.

If I fail, what then? That's a hard question. If I succeed...I'm not sure my struggle is over. After the Triple Bypass in '09 I just stopped riding regularly. The five months after I rode 65, 43, 110, 65, and 29 miles respectively.

I felt like quitting on Saturday. It was the heat baking my brain, but the thoughts were there. I love the mountains, but I don't have to enjoy them on the bike. I love cycling, but I don't have to do it all the time.

How much will I feel like quitting on August 12th? Enough to browse the car lots? I'm too committed to just walk away.

Do I become more committed? Eat like a roadie? Drop the baby-fat? Ride so hard my knees are rendered useless? Ride so hard I loose blood to my brain and crash more often? Do I sign up for another race next year to keep me focused?

There are a lot of things I want to do. Few inspire me to stay healthy like shooting for a fast off-road century. Aspiring to ride cross country is a less tangible goal. Doing the Colorado Trail Race or the Tour Divide seem overwhelming to me after Saturday, but I think it's a skewed perspective. But then again, maybe I'm just too slow. I'd have to treble my efforts to seriously approach those rides. Don't get me wrong, at a touring pace I think I'd do fine, but trying to keep up a hard line pace may not be within the realm of possibility for me as I enter my 39th year.

Kingston Peak from home was an awesome ride, an awesome adventure, and it was tainted by the pressure to perform. If I'd not been trying to go so hard I would have actually made it to the summit and back. It probably would have taken me 11-12 hours, but what an amazing accomplishment. But I felt failure.

I was telling a non-cyclist friend about my plan to ride to Rollins Pass and back and they asked if I was going to ride over to Winter Park. In my heart of hearts what I want is to tour over Rollins Pass, camp in Winter Park, and then ride back the next day. That would be the true adventure I crave. Leadville isn't allowing me that freedom. Without realizing it, that friend identified the obvious dream...

So now, even before the dust of Leadville is stirred up, much less settled, I ponder these things and put myself to the test. Why? For what purpose? To what end?

Saturday, July 21

The Hardest Five...Er, Three Miles of My Life

The plan was 80 miles and 9,000 feet from home to the summit of Kingston Peak and back at a 10mph pace or better. The reality was 78.9 miles, 8,000 feet to just shy of the summit at an 8.8mph pace. No buckle for me.

I won't lie. When I collapsed on the curb outside Heinie's market I wanted to cry. I fought hard to keep a respectable pace up Golden Gate Canyon, through the state park, and then up Apex Valley, across Elk Park and up the slopes of Kingston. Truth be told, I walked some really soul crushing hills.

Golden Gate Canyon, Apex Valley and across Elk Park I felt strong and solid. But the other climbs I flubbed, struggled, walked, ached, and cursed my way up.

I walked out of Elk Park, I walked a bit of my shortcut from Apex Valley up Hughesville Road to the Peak to Peak, the hill south of the state park visitor center...I pedaled up Guy Hill all the way on the return. I was stoked about that.

Then I hoped to bomb down the canyon, through Golden and out the Clear Creek Trail home. Ah, but the wicked hot headwind blowing up the canyon dashed those hopes. I fought to keep a good solid speed down the canyon. Golden felt like an oven, and by the time I reached the CCT I was struggling to go 13 mph.

At the giant pringle cans I knew I had five miles. At the giant pringle cans I wanted to chuck my bike in a ravine and never think about doing a long bike ride again...ever. Ever. At the giant pringle cans, with five miles to go, I started cramping. My left peck and thigh cramped.

I felt nauseous. My legs felt hollow. The heat was like a blanket of hot concrete. I was done. I wanted to be home. The thought of pedaling up the meager hill on Tabor to Ridge Road, where I would continue to broil in the sun made me want to cry.

So I coasted to an awkward stop at Heinie's and texted my lovely wife, my faithful SAG crew leader, and asked if she would come pick me up. I'd given up.

So much for a dress rehearsal. So much for training, for a year of hoping, dreaming, scheming. Today's ride was harder than Squaw. It was harder than the Triple Bypass or any other ride I've ever done. It crushed my mind and soul.

Yeah, my abject failure got me down. I know what happened. I didn't fuel correctly. Always its my eating that thwarts me. I had a pretty good week, but apparently not good enough. And then I didn't eat enough, or early enough before heading out. I slacked off as I got higher and closer to Kingston. And on the return trip I almost didn't eat at all. I tried, it was just so hot and I was so tired I didn't want to fool with it.

I drank about 7-8 liters of fluid (water and gatorade) in 9 hours. I went to 11,000' and returned to ridiculous heat.

I think I have one more effort in me. I think I have one more chance to figure it out. I'm feeling pretty good now, considering how I felt sitting at Heinie's waiting on Mandy. I had some good moments. Descending Apex Valley Road was awesome. I was screaming down the dirt road at 25-30 mph and feeling strong. Guy Hill loomed in my mind, but I actually got up it in fairly good shape. Riding through Elk Park was awesome!

Okay, maybe I won't sell my bike just yet...

Thursday, July 19

The Leadville Chronicles: Event Horizon

After a weekend away it's hard to get back into the swing of things. This week has been particularly hard.

I'm planning on doing my Kingston Peak ride Saturday a.m. Mandy has offered to run SAG. I'm still a bit nauseous thinking about it. I've been slowing down this week. Each day I've felt more sluggish. Tomorrow I may drive to work to give my body a rest before my big effort.

The reality is that Kingston is a five mile greater effort than Squaw was. There's a little more climbing on the return, and the roads aren't as bike friendly, but otherwise it shouldn't scare me.

My goal is to successfully fuel a 9 hour Leadville pace (11.1mph) to Kingston and back. On Squaw I managed 10. That was an improvement over my deplorable Bergen Peak ride awhile back, but still short of a big buckle. The flaw on Squaw was too little fuel.

I'm upping my intake to 200-250 calories an hour with a good base of glycogen stores out of the gate. I've been going too lean. I'm afraid to eat too much while riding. But I've been suffering from an empty tank. I know that's been the problem.

It occurred to me yesterday that I should be approaching both Kingston and my planned Rollins Pass ride each as The Event themselves. These are my dress rehearsals. It's all or nothing. These have to be the full effort.

It helps that I'm stoked to ride beyond Elk Park to Kingston. I've never summited Kingston, and the area around it is pretty cool. It's just below James Peak on the east side of the Divide.

I've never been to Rollins Pass either, and I'm chomping at the handlebars to do the ride from the valley to the pass.

The One needs some love too. Saturday afternoon I might try to get it into the LBS for some tightening and adjusting. Got to get everything dialed in...

Monday, July 16

Scenic Byways

Over the weekend Mandy and I took a road trip west to a little place on the Colorado-Utah state line. We camped in the Manti-La Sal Nat'l Forest in the highlands on the eastern slope of the La Sal mountain range.

The La Sal Range from the south

We took the MTBs and did a fun ride from Buckeye Reservoir, up onto Carpenter Ridge and back, riding in two states on our 10 mile loop.

Along Carpenter Ridge

The next day we attempted to bag Mount Peale, the highest peak in the La Sals at 12,721, but we're thwarted due to weather and a slow moving party. But we got above treeline on Peale, and that's always a success in my book.

Looking toward South Mountain from the western 
slopes of Mount Peale at around 11,300'

We drove home south of I-70 across the middle of Colorado, first dropping into the Paradox Valley, then picking up the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway at Naturita, taking to to the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway into Ridgway and then up to Montrose, over to Gunnison (West Elk Loop SB), over Monarch Pass to Poncha Springs, up the Arkansas River valley (Collegiate Peaks SB) to the 285 split over Trout Creek Pass, then across South Park to Kenosha and over familiar roads all the way home. We travelled a total of five of Colorado's scenic byways on our trip.

We also saw Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River east of Grand Junction, Utah (a new state for both of us), Moab, the La Sals, a bear along the San Miguel River, the Sneffels Range, Montrose, almost saw the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Blue Mesa Lake, the town of Gunnison, the route of the Salida to Crested Butte stage of last year's USAPCC, crossed the Colorado Trail east of Monarch, kissed the Tour Divide route in Poncha, crossed it at Como, and rode with the CTR route on 285 north of Kenosha Pass.

We didn't detour to Fruita, but that's okay.

Moab is a cool town. Lots of bikes. Some some MTBers that appeared to be bikepacking long distances. We saw lots of bikes in general in Moab. We'll be going back soon.

Montrose and Gunnison both seemed to be ultra-bike-friendly towns. I think I could fall in love. For me, the most bikeable road on the trip was the San Juan Skyway between Placerville and Ridgway over the Dallas Divide. But the whole drive home would make for a spectacular 400 mile bike tour.

Colorado is an amazing place to be a cyclist (any kind) and I appreciate it most when I get away from the Denver metro area and see the infrastructure, presence, and welcoming attitude all over the state.

But the highlands around the La Sals was my favorite part of the trip. I could spend a week there: relaxing by the lake, riding my bike on the roads, hiking in the mountains, enjoying the peace, the quiet, and the sublime beauty of the area. In my old age I am slowing down a bit. I like it though. I'm savoring my experiences more, more fully appreciating what I see and do.

Along Carpenter Ridge with the La Sals in the background

Thursday, July 12

The Leadville Chronicles: To Leadville...and Beyond

I've known about the Leadville 100 since at least 2008 when I moved to Colorado. Maybe I'd heard of it before that, but I can't say for sure.

In '08 I couldn't fathom riding 100 miles off road in a day. That seemed like something only superhumans could do. In '09, after completing the 120 mile Triple Bypass, I conceded to the possibility of mere mortals being able to do 100 miles of mountain bike racing, but still assumed they be of the uber-athletic ilk.

Then I saw Ride the Divide. Those people didn't seem like Lance Armstrongs with hairy legs. Soon after I saw Race Across the Sky 2010. Hey! Some of those people were old...frail in health...diminutive in size...fat and slow like me...normal. Average people were doing the Leadville 100.

I could do that!

Once I made the span across the chasm to the land where something like that was possible the appeal of the event exploded in my mind, and, like all of my best schemes, became an obsession.

But let's go back to that Ride the Divide thing...

How does a movie about a mostly unknown 2,745 mile mountain bike race, self-supported, inspire one to do a one day all or nothing, cult classic, fully supported and fee-d bike race/event?

It's all the same cloth man! The seeds for Leadville were already there. The Tour Divide became my new "only monsters can do that" dark corner in my mind, but only until the end of the movie. By then I was in like Kevin Flynn.

And I knew if I could do Leadville then I could do the Tour Divide. My only hang up to doing the Great Divide route is having the time to do it.

My obsessive Internet twitchings eventually led me to the Colorado Trail Race. I was pleased to find this mini-Tour Divide that begins just 30 miles from my front door.

The record is four days, three hours and twenty minutes to do the 470 mile self-supported race. The slowest times for finishers are about eleven days. That's less than a 50 mile a day average. Heck, I could do better than that!

A couple of friends in Kentucky are planning to do the Tour Divide in a few years. I replied to a Facebook thread that the CTR would be a great shakedown for the TD.

So maybe in the summer of 2013 I ride the Colorado Trail Race with a couple other guys.

That puts me one step closer to Le Grande Tour. No, not the one in France.

I have the distinct feeling that my forties may be my funnest decade.

I discovered something while comprehensively mapping the CTR. The CTR route and the Leadville 100 run together for two and a half miles. At first I also thought the Tour Divide might run with them too, but then I remembered it takes the path into South Park over Boreas Pass on the east side of the Divide, whereas Leadville is on the west.

So the CTR first crosses the TD route in Breckenridge, then runs with the LV100 for 2.5 miles, then crosses the TD route again south of Poncha Springs, then the two run the same road for about six miles going opposite directions. Between Breck and Leadville is only about 20 miles as the crow flies. That 20 miles should be the Golden Triangle of mountain biking.

Tuesday, July 10

Smashing The Ones You Love

Up the streets she flew, her new pink handlebar tape bright in the friscalating dusk light, her Wellingtons pumping up and down on the pedals, she banked gracefully into a u-turn to come back down the street toward home...and collapsed in a tangle with her bike in the middle of the street.


I ran to my wife and reached her as she managed to untangle herself from her bike and get to her knees.

When she dove into the turn her rear brake had locked up. Maybe I shouldn't have given the barrel adjuster quite so many turns...

This morning she texted me from an elliptical machine at the gym and said her knee was sore to the touch. I still felt bad. Somehow crashes hurt worse to watch than to have.

And I hate adjusting rim brakes. Give me disc any day!

When I read that she was at the gym I refrained from asking if she rode her bike there. I'm very thankful she didn't get hurt worse. From now on my mantra is going to be: a good bike mechanic does his own test rides!

My own ride in this morning was slow. Not sure what my deal was, but I seriously lagged. So I made up for it by doing leg presses in the weight room before I got ready for work.

I've been exercising my brain considering going tubeless to shave some weight off The One. Cost is an issue. Lack of familiarity and the associated foibles and stress with an unknown factor going into something like Leadville make me think I've missed the window of comfort.

Low weight is expensive. My intent is to do this because I have the physical, not financial, means to succeed. My philosophy is that the bike is never too heavy, I may just not be strong enough. Your gear doesn't limit you, or make you stronger or better, it just creates a more efficient environment. You may perform better with bling from your sponsors, but the gear doesn't make YOU better.

Climbers are alway going on about lightweight carabiners and other gear, always shaving off as much material as possible without compromising strength, in theory; but, even in rock climbing or mountaineering, you can compromise too much.

A climbing friend once gave a sales pitch for some ultra-lightweight carabiners that costed almost three times as much as my "heavier" 'biners that were only grams denser. Finally I couldn't take it anymore.

"Just do some pull-ups!"

So for Leadville, my strategy is: "Just smash harder on the pedals!"

Monday, July 9

Executing Daydreams

Under an iron gray sky I rode in to work this morning. Despite the overcast skies I longed to be in the midst of a long bike tour. Amongst other things.

I pondered my impending doom in Leadville, decided its time to borrow the h-bar from the Cannonball for The One, and daydreamed about being 22 again and winning a stage of Le Tour.

coming soon: we'll be headed west to camp and see some more of the state and most likely a new state ("Maybe Utah"). Of course we're taking the mountaining bikes. The plan is to sample some of the trails in Fruita. We might have to make a fall trip to check out Moab when it's cooler.

Though, after further research its looking like we may be mountain cycling around Buckeye Reservoir and/or perhaps bagging Mount Peale over the border in the La Sal Mountains while Fruita may fall by the wayside.

Regardless of what we end up doing I think we're going to want to make a trip back west. Too much to do, too little time.

In the meantime I'll be dodging raindrops for a day or two, and there won't be much prairie biking goin' on.

After my 70 mile ride Saturday I've felt pretty good. In fact, today I feel great. Kingston Peak is out there taunting me, 40 miles away and 6,700 feet higher than my house. I'll do it unsupported, though I'm not sure the next training iteration, Rollins Pass, should be attempted solo. There are commercial support opportunities along the way, at least in theory, but it's a long, lonely 106 miles there and back again.

My current schemes are an order of magnitude greater than my long ago climbing adventure up the Little East Fork of Indian Creek of Red River (Kentucky) to do a 50ft rock climb. I biked four miles, hiked a mile, rope-soloed the climb and then returned.

I daydreamed along the way of doing things like I'm planning and executing these days. It's amazing to be realizing your most ambitious daydreams.

So one day I'll be realizing the daydreams I had as I climbed up Squaw Mountain on Saturday? Sweet!

Saturday, July 7

I Am Not Jerome Morrow

Anton: Vincent! How are you doing this Vincent? How have you done any of this? We have to go back.
Vincent: It's too late for that. We're closer to the other side.
Anton: What other side? You wanna drown us both?
Vincent: You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.

Much like Vincent, I didn't save anything for the trip back.

At 6am I headed west on The One. I had three liters of water, three gel packets, two energy bars, an apple and a bag of chocolate covered coffee beans.

I made good time to Golden, up Mt Vernon Canyon, and on to Squaw Pass Road. I converged with a couple of roadies as I turned onto Squaw Pass. One took off and left us behind, the other guy meandered slow enough that I passed him quickly and left him behind.

I felt pretty good as I climbed away from Bergen Park. The skies were ugly, but nothing ever came of them. I ate regularly, drank frequently, and it seemed like I was doing pretty good on keeping my energy levels up.

The second roadie passed me after a couple of miles, standing up on his pedals and leaving me behind. I resisted the urge to mash down on the pedals. I was determined not to go anaerobic if I could keep from it.

A few minutes later I overtook the roadie on the shoulder. He was pedaling back out onto the pavement as I passed. He quickly caught me and matched my speed. We chatted for quite awhile as we continued up Squaw Pass Road. He was headed for Winter Park from Bergen Park. I kept up with his easy pace for a time, but as we neared Squaw Pass proper my tank was running low. I begged off to stop and eat some more and the roadie continued on toward Winter Park.

From Squaw Pass on I began to feel the miles. My food was gone except a couple of handfuls of chocolate beans. Soon after I turned off of the paved road onto the dirt road that goes to the summit of Squaw Mountain my Camelback gurgled dry.

I was 30 miles into a 70 mile ride and out of food and water.

A couple of miles from the summit I was off the bike and walking up the steep road. I had been repeating over and over in my head the line from Gattaca: "I never saved anything for the swim back." I knew I had enough gas left in my tank to get to the summit. From that point it was 6,100 feet back to the plains. I knew I could coast back. I knew as long as I could reach the pinnacle I had a good chance to to make the trip back.

A few times I almost gave up. I remembered the Leadville mantra "dig deep." And I kept going.

Finally I reached the top. I left the bike and hiked the last few yards to the fire lookout and then headed down. It was a long ride down.

As I bombed down Squaw Pass Road I schemed to stop at the Bagelry in Bergen Park to get a bagel. From that point I couldn't think about much else.

With a bagel and a Gatorade I felt a bit renewed and continued down, down, down and back home.

Round trip I rode 70 miles. I gained 6,100+ feet to a high point of over 11,000 feet. I returned home right at 7 hours out. I hung on through everything for an overall average of 10mph. I'm not down to a 9 hour pace for Leadville yet.

Much like Vincent Freeman, I don't have the superior DNA of Jerome Morrow. I have to do it all with heart and determination.

Friday, July 6

Friday Cleanup

First, let me apologize for some recent erroneous words and other typographic mistakes here on the edge of the pavement. I've been employing new technologies and they may or may not be sustainable. I.e. I've been composing my posts on my iPhone to fly under the supervisory radar at my day job, and I have fat fingers. Plus, I got a truly schizophrenic version of autocorrect.

I'm nearing 30,000 page views. In the whole blogular scheme of things that's not much, but for me that's a big number. And I'm happy to see traffic coming in from new and various sources. Hi y'all!

Since last Friday I've been glutting myself musically on City and Colour and Avett Brothers. Last night we discovered Mat Kearney has a new album coming out. We first saw him opening for John Mayer in '06 or '07 and became instant fans. I particularly like "Down" from his new album.

I'm avoiding writing about more serious things because my brain is tired. My whole commute was a meditation on Kennedy's Crimes Against Nature. You have to fight through the hopelessness that follows the realization that there are people out there with power and money that could care less if they harm or kill the masses.

Anyway, so I'm trying not to digress into bleaker topics.

The weather is cooling, but the chance for rain has been going up, though we've still not seen a significant precipitation event. Training conditions are improving, but tenuous.

No big changes on the blog of late. I might cleanup my blog list and some of the page elements. If there's something you like, or would like to see changed let me know. I'm thinking of simplifying, which means subsidies for the rich and cuts for the poor elements on the page. I'm always open for constructive criticism by the way. Just let me know...

Thursday, July 5

Campaign 2012: Vote for the Bike

I'm going to tell you how the bike can save the world.

Fracking. I recently wrote about watching Josh Fox's documentary GasLand. The film made me mad. The only films in recent history that have made me as mad, in fact madder, we're Deep Down and The Last Mountain, both about mountaintop coal mining.

Radical thought have gone through my mind, frustration abounds, feelings of impotent rage well up and almost spill over...but what can a husband and father of two do to fight such blatant evil? Especially since the damaging effects don't acutely affect my family's health and well-being?

The solution? I'll tell you. I thought of this while riding my bike: Riding a bike.

The reason tar sands, mountaintop mining and other unconventional extraction methods are becoming so prevalent is because those methods are cost effective only when energy prices in general are high.

So I revert to human energy sources in righteous protest. Bike is the new black, subverting even green as the rightful heir to the cool color throne.

As...consumers...our only true power these days is where we choose to divert our dollars. By riding my bike and using my hands to do work I can direct fewer of my dollars to those practices I see as evil. By being cognizant of the impacts of all of my choices I gain power over the tyranny and oppression of corporatism.

When the demand for oil and natural gas falls, so does the price, and those devastating unconventional extraction methods cease to be profitable.

The downside to that scenario is that for the most part the damage is done, and cleaning up the mess is less economically palatable to Big Oil and Gas than those expensive extraction methods. So the mess we have so far would remain.

On one hand I hate to turn the bike into a political machine. I ride because I enjoy riding. The secondary reasons of economic and political benefit are positive, but, for me, the real reasons are out of my pure enjoyment of riding the bike.

On the other hand, because I love riding so much, what better political machine could I choose?

Tuesday, July 3

Adventures at Valmont: Kee-rash!

Tomorrow all four kids, spawn and sibling spawn, fly east for the rest of the summer. I had to take them all to Valmont one more time.

The skies threatened rain, but we were not to be bullied about. Off to Boulder we went, skirting afternoon traffic by my new sneak route, reaching the bike park around 4:30.

We rode and rode and rode. All four kids from five to eleven had a blast. We averaged one crash per kid, though Bean's two crashes were minor and Ty  just picked himself up and rode away leaving a trail of blood behind.

Boone, on the other hand, busted his face.

When I came upon him in the trail I knew something was wrong. His face was covered in dirt and blood. He was crouching in the middle of the trail.

When I had him calmed down he told me he'd at least gotten a good jump, but it was an accident. He'd just gotten going too fast.

The day was over, but we'd all had a great time, even Boone, despite his new "ruggedly handsome" makeover.

Beanie is getting really good on her pink princess bike. She's learned good bike control with her coaster brake. Boone is doing really good too, dropping into some surprising courses at the bike park. And doing well!

So they'll be gone a month. I've already promised Boone is take them to the Golden Bike Park when they get back in August. I'm glad we got to spend some good quality time together before they go. Boone is a trooper and we told him he'd have good stories to tell while he visits grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Sensible Stewardship

Recently my wife and I watched two documentaries on Netflix that were an interesting contrast.

The first was Windfall, a feeble attempt to debunk wind power. The second was Josh Fox's visually stunning GasLand.

Windfall seemed to be a Right-wing attempt to mimic a more Leftist documentary. It fell on its face though, with poor correlation between windfarms and the alleged health problems people are suffering.

The one conclusion I did take from the film was that industrial wind generators are not appropriate in (even moderately) densely populated areas. Pennsylvania might not be the best place for them. Western Kansas? Pretty good place...

It was almost laughable how the filmmakers tried to paint the wind industry as full of corruption and greed, and therefore painting wind energy as not being the green solution it is touted as. Of course wind corporations are corrupt and evil. They're corporations. It's their nature. The problem is corporatism, not wind energy.

GasLand had a more stark and gritty feel. It explores the wild and wacky world of fracking. If you think fracking is a sustainable practice then I think you need a good smack in the head. If you watch GasLand and don't want to go out and blow up a gas well then you are a corporate stooge.

People will make the argument that we have to frack to have energy independence and to maintain our current way of life. And I say, if that's your only justification for doing something so ecologically damaging, and so harmful to human health, then perhaps you place to much regard on an unsustainable way of life. To be fair, I would apply the same argument to industrial wind in inappropriate places, built with unsustainable methods.

I'm not making these observations from a Leftist stance. I've seem firsthand the ecological damage left behind from conventional oil and gas drilling operations. It just naturally follows that jamming toxic chemicals into the ground and breaking up the earth would be MORE destructive.

An undisclosed location
near the Big Sinking Oil Field
in Eastern Kentucky

Common sense tells me that putting up massive wind generators near, or blasting up the bedrock under, someone's house is a blatant show of disregard for their well-being.

And I couldn't help but think of many of the films I've seen criticizing mountaintop coal mining as Josh Fox was interviewing landowners who allegedly had been affected by fracking. It's the same kinds of impacts to health, safety and welfare

The most disturbing thing from GasLand was the revelation (for me) that fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Another painful reality of recent American history was the blatant attack by the Bush administration on environmental protection. The stripping of our environmental protection is little more than tyranny by those in power, and only in the name of profit.

Shut up! I'm not a left-wing nut job because I recognize that to have any kind of quality of life human beings need an environment that is not filled with toxic materials AND financial gain is no justification for destroying the only environment we have to live in.

Common sense tells me these things. I don't need Robert Kennedy, Jr to tell me. Though I am also reading his Crimes Against Nature.

The real answer to these issues is for the Developed world to become the better example, to scale back on rampant and senseless consumption, to focus on quality of life, not quantity of stuff.

I do love nature. I don't worship it or hold it in higher regard that humanity. And I do believe it's purpose is to serve man, but...we have an obligation not to destroy the environment we currently live in, and in which our heirs will someday thrive or not, depending on what kind of stewardship we practice. But you can't truly love nature, and respect its importance unless you walk in nature, off the beaten path, under a clear blue sky.

Don't blind yourself to the reality that our health is in decline when we could be the healthiest generation of all time. Our health, and the health of our children, is being taken, without due compensation, just so industry can exploit to gain with fewer obstacles and more profit.

As for me and my house, we'll practice good stewardship.

Monday, July 2

Monday and Monthly Mileage

I had hoped for more, but June ended with 522 miles. Not too shabby, but I had hoped to have a chance to break my monthly record of 601.

My monthly average for the year is creeping up. Right now it's 430. Projecting that puts me on track to break my 5,100 miles in 2011. Stoked about that. July should be a high mileage month. I'm hoping for 700+.

I took Boone and Lily to Valmont on Saturday. It was hot. We rode for about an hour and the kids had a blast. It was a good outing, and I was glad to spend a little time with just my kiddos. On Wednesday they're flying east to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for the month of July. They'll be back just in time for Leadville.

I'll miss them, but this arrangement will be good. I'll be able to focus a little more on training and Mandy and I can do some fun non-kid stuff all the while. 

July I'm back on early shift, and today is the first Monday of July. I really didn't want to face such an obstacle. It wasn't terrible though. Rode The One.

The High Park Fire is finally 100% contained. Of course, unless you've been under a relatively cool rock you know that the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs was more destructive in a number-of-homes kinda way. High Park topped out at 87,000+ acres and over 200 homes. Waldo Canyon was/is much smaller but destroyed over 300 homes. Crazy.