With that, it’s over

Posted on Nov 20, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

The season. Bike racing season. OVER. It was a long one and quite frankly, it lasted too long. First race March 5, last race 8.5 months later, roughly 47 races in-between with a few taking the better part of entire days. After a big diet and effort push to Leadville, my interest and energy waned heading into cross season. Despite some great early results, I didn’t have as much fun as I should have, completely ran out of steam, and barely made it through, BUT MADE IT THROUGH I DID. All in all, I probably only “skipped” three races due to burnout. That’s not so bad.

I found my way onto the podium 13 times of which three were on the top rung. An unprecedented year.

OBRA Results | Strava data

Let’s work our way back through the seasons, shall we?

Cross

It went well. Turning 35 allowed me to race in the 35+/old man category. I ran away with a few Cat 3 races, earned a leader’s jersey, and was bumped to Cat 2 following three wins and a few other respectable finishes. Despite only getting a handful of races into the early season series, I still finished second overall, although I didn’t qualify for final standings due to lack of results. In order to truly “win” in a lot of bike racing overall competitors you need the perfect balance of finishing well, but not too well to upgrade – think 8th every race. Funny thing.

Following my upgrade to Cat 2 I was faced with racing Open 2/3 (45 minutes) or Masters 1/2 (60 minutes with the big dawgs). I opted for the former in all but one race and finished mid pack. No longer capable of finishing at the top and really feeling the mental fatigue, I kind of let my training and diet go, and more or less slogged through the rest of the season. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but a lesson learned; ~50 races is too many.

Next year I’ll likely focus on smaller races as I think I get more enjoyment out of spectating the larger ones than racing them. Will still likely keep in the Open 2/3 category too as the one race I did in Masters 1/2 had me battling for close to last place, that’s no fun, and neither is racing last in the schedule of events; my ~1ish starts allow me to sleep in, race, and then chill/spectate for a couple of hours.

Mountain

I’ve previously written about this in a multitude of posts. I progressed leaps and bounds here mostly by a) doing it and b) getting a fantastic new bicycle.

Next year I’ll find myself in Cat 1 for Short Track so that’ll be entertaining. Also planning to do the big local races, Tahoe, and Leadville if I can get in.

Track

I tried it. It’s scary as hell, but fun as hell. I want more of it. Lots of room to improve skills here so a worthy option for focus next year.

Road

This proved to be a tricky road year for me. I came out of a great off-season feeling crazy strong, but it’s the only discipline I don’t feel I really saw huge improvement in. My placing were more comfortable than years past, but I felt an upgrade was inevitable and it didn’t happen.

Next year I’m going to focus on that upgrade. It needs to happen as it’ll likely be the only one I get for a long while.

For now, I’m going to get back to enjoying aimless outdoor riding when weather permits, and when it doesn’t I equally look forward to spending a lot of time on the trainer catching up on Netflix and reading. It’s gonna be real nice.

Leadville, Leadville, Leadville!

Posted on Aug 19, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

 

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It happened and I survived to tell the tale. Here is that tale.

About Leadville

Leadville was a silver mining town in the 19th century. At its height, there were 40,000 residents. The silver ran out, but some dude discovered molybdenum, a mouthful of a metal used in steel hardening. That has propped the town up numerous times over the past hundred years, but only marginally, and the population is now below 3,000.

The last time the mine closed due to lack of demand. unemployment in town hit a nationwide high so a dude named Ken Chlouber and his wife, Merilee (pictured above), decided to do something about it. Looking around, they recognized they had something unique – they were surrounded by beautiful mountains, great trails, and less air than any other city in the US… So they created the Leadville Trail 100 in 1983, a 100 mile run starting at 10,000 feet. Nuts. I would never do something so insane.

In 1994, seeing what the race was doing for the town, they added a weekend to August’s festivities (they also have a festival at the start of the month) with a mountain bike race. 104 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing, again starting at 10,000 feet. That’s more my jam.

Why?

Why not? It’s not something I’m going to be wanting to do when I’m old (the oldest rider was 84 and that is awesome, but I think I just want to read books at that age). I’m able-bodied now (I do still read books, though) so I’m gonna do all the things.

Getting In

I only recently (two years ago) learned about the race through a friend. He explained there was a lottery and it was really hard to win it. If we signed up together we’d have twice as good a shot; if one gets in, you both get in. We didn’t get in. He had been trying solo for years. I’ve heard stories of folks trying for over a decade with no luck. Fast forward a year to this past December and he was a month out from having a kid; I’d be going at this one alone. My life was beginning to have a lot more free time, and besides, the chances of winning the lottery are SUPER slim so I entered… And got in. When I received that e-mail my heart skipped at least a single beat. I didn’t even remember entering (the drawing is months afterward). This was a big commitment and I’ve only ever dabbled in mountain biking.

Prep

Step one was to get a bike. I did a light amount of research and being loyal to Norco, chose a Revolver 9.2 FS as my weapon of choice. It’s a full suspension cross-county race bike. It can’t downhill or trail ride with the best of them, but when the stuff is non-technical (like Leadville and all the riding I like to do), it goes like a rocket ship and comfortably so (the low travel rear end is great for the old back).

Step two was to learn how to ride it. Immediately, I signed up for Sisters Stampede, learned I had a lot to learn, and planned out the rest of the summer – regular rides and a pair races that would be similar to Leadville and in increasing length. I would go on to compete in a full season of Short Track, the Mount Hood Endurance Classic, and Tahoe Trail 100, the latter of which was a great simulation for the big day. It also provided me a spot in a much faster corral at Leadville, taught me about nutrition/hydration over really long events, and gave me an indication of what I would be capable of by comparing my time there with those of folks who did it and had previously done Leadville.

Getting There

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Like a glove

I had planned to drive the 18 hours each way, but about a month before it was time to do so a friend mentioned that Alaska Airlines treated bikes as regular bags. Having their credit card, I get a free checked bag, which means FREE CHECKED BIKE. Life and travel will never be the same. Flight options weren’t great, but they were cheap. I’d end up spending an afternoon at SFO (took advantage of the time to walk to a pancake house I knew of), but total cost with everything was going to be around $315. I couldn’t come close to that cost with driving beside the whole four days spent on the road bit.

Being There

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Peekaboo

I didn’t alter my work plans so I ended up arriving to town Wednesday (race on Saturday) as opposed to late on Thursday as I would have via the driving plan. At first I thought it might be a bit too early as your body goes into a transition phase as it acclimates, which puts you in worse shape than either being acclimated or arriving hours ahead of time, but I ended up liking the extra time.

I learned the town, relaxed, had ample time to get the bike together and tuned, and ultimately I didn’t even notice the altitude effect during the race. Yes, walking down the street at that elevation puts you out of breath, but on the bike for such an event your only goal is to keep yourself below redline, which I did. Sure, that redline may have been geared down a mile per hour, but the feeling was the same at no elevation – simply an exercise of keeping the body going.

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Afternoon cruise

Leadville is a cool little place. Without these events who knows if it’d even exist? Most locals recognize that fact and the events make it fairly clearly by dumping huge amount of money into the local economy and granting every high school graduate money towards higher ed. It’s an expensive weekend of bike racing, but it feels good to know it’s going to a good place.

Over my one week stay I did and ate all there was in town. City on a HillTennessee Pass Cafe, the Mineral Belt Trail, and my AirBnB get many thumbs up.

The Goal

Finishing under 12 hours is the thing everyone strives for. I knew I’d have no problem with that. Finishing under 9 hours gets you “elite” status and a more significant reward. Some number crunching on very little data (a single elite rider’s performances) told me I might be able to finish in 8:45 so I set my sight on that sub-9 finish.

The Race

2,000 sign up, 1,400 start, 1,200 finish. Start is 6:30am, which at that elevation means it’s cold. I believe it was 39 when our tires began rolling? Minutes later, the sun has peeked through and you instantly feel 10 degrees warmer. Far too much thought and effort went into keeping warm and then not being too hot, but it is what it is. It doesn’t make sense to start any earlier or later.

40 seconds after the shotgun went off, I was through the starting gate. At this point I was out for a morning ride with friends. My adrenaline was not pumping knowing I had a full day of riding ahead of me, and I honestly hadn’t done any sort of course recon other than having watched the video about the race on Youtube, which had been months ago and was completely gone from my memory aside from remembering that Lance is a cheater asshole. I was flying blind and I think that was beneficial. Looking back, it was kind of ridiculous, but at the time not knowing the challenges ahead kept me cool headed and focused on a single pedal stroke at a time.

The first handful of miles were paved roads. We were absolutely flying at 20+mph. I noted this for the finish – if time was tight, I had some road miles to power through, where I’d be able to pick up minutes over trail speed.

Once we hit the trails, it became apparent that I should have put more effort into the road sections. For the next five miles of trails I’d be help up by traffic at a speed far below what I would have gone on my own. There was nothing I could do about it at this point and with 90 miles still ahead, I figured the energy saved here would eventually work itself into time saved elsewhere so it’d all be a wash.

Being a huge, hard, and expensive ($425) race, it is very well supported with aid stations and neutral support (a mechanic who will fix your bike) every hour or so. Around mile 24 (that’s how they list it, but I swear my GPS said 26 or 29 or something far beyond that and confirmed it on the way back, but I digress) we hit the first aid station that crews can be at. I did have a crew. I’d go on to see them an hour later at mile 40, a few hours later at mile 60, an hour after that at 74, and again at the finish. It was amazing and I am forever grateful, but more on them later as they deserve to not be lost among the sea of text here.

At mile 40 the going gets tough. We’d been up two good hills past 11,000 feet already, but they were nothing compared to Columbine Mine, which tops out over 12,200. Not only is the air stupid thin up there, but halfway into the climb the trail turns into loose rock and becomes just a bit too much for most to handle… so we walked. Well, more of a death march… For about two miles. I would reach the summit and halfway point of the race at 4:50, 20 minutes slower than the arbitrary goal I had set for myself, but the harder stuff was behind us and rather than walk back down that 2-hour segment, I had a 35 minute descent ahead. I was hopeful. I grabbed a good amount of food and beverage at the top and cruised my way down, skipping the next aid station (mile 60) for anything more than a quick hello.

Around mile 62 I felt my energy wane. This was a flat road section and my legs just didn’t have the go left in them. Of note, I ran out of gas in Tahoe about an hour earlier so things had improved, but on this day I still had a long way to go. Coincidentally, right as my crew passed by in the car, my left leg cramped just above the knee. Ugh. I’ve never cramped before and at the summit I had even taken this expensive “no-cramp” product (I didn’t and wouldn’t pay for it) that almost made me puke (it has capsaicin in it). They saw the look on my face and had to be worried – it was excruciating pain and literally the moment they passed. Luckily, I was able to work it away and it didn’t return.

Note: two weeks before Leadville I did the final Short Track race of the year and went down hard in the team relay. I took some seriously large chunks of meat out of my hip on arm, and had massive bruising on my hip, which to this day still has not subsided  much and the gash in my hip could still pass for a fresh wound. I honestly didn’t know if I’d get through or even start the race due to the injuries. I’d been limping severely for two weeks and had done some long walks in that time because I needed to stay active and wasn’t able to bike in comfort. I’m sure this created some fatigue imbalances in certain muscles, which I think was the cause of the cramp. Long story short – cutting off racing even a couple of weeks before a big event isn’t enough. Be smart. While I don’t think this all cost me too much time, the two weeks of worrying about healing, sleeping poorly due to pain, and the energy my body had to put into rebuilding couldn’t have been beneficial.

At mile 74 I did some quick math and it told me I had a shot of meeting my goal. I had found someone’s splits online and while I was a little bit behind them, I felt they had 20-30 minutes buffer built in because the math didn’t add up. By my best guess, I had a mile of buffer to work with at this point. I made a quick pass through the aid station full of hope and was off.

At mile 90, just about at the 10,000 total ascent advertised, and after another lengthy bike walk, I calculated I had 10 flat or downhill miles ahead and 45’ish minutes in which to do it. Not a cakewalk, but well within my means. I chatted up some riders around hoping to build up their motivation and then it all came crashing down. An experienced rider told me the race was actually 104 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent, we didn’t finish on the road section I had counted on, and even the fastest guys barely do what laid ahead of us in under an hour. It was over.

Honestly, I was kind of relieved by the news. It turns out the math of the guy’s splits I had copied were not wrong and I am in fact a mere mortal (I would not win the big prize at the biggest mountain bike race anywhere in my first year of riding mountain bikes). I was now able to pedal comfortably into the finish knowing I gave it my best, it wasn’t enough, I didn’t break anything, and didn’t even draw a drop of blood! On my best days I have trouble walking down the street and accomplishing those things!

I crossed the finish line in 9:27 flat for an 11mph average. It was a pretty emotional thing.

GPS | Results

The Rewards

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Bling

SWAG! Lots of it. Too much. A tee shirt (note to events people: I never want a tee shirt unless it’s really awesome, which they never are), a jacket sweatshirt thing with my name and time printed on it (kind of cool), a finishers medal (why?), and A SOLID SILVER HAND-ETCHED BELT BUCKLE. The buckle is what it’s all about. It’s my first belt buckle and it’s freaking sweet. It was the smallest of all those awarded (sub-9 is probably 50% more material, 10 year finisher is likely 100% larger, and 20 year finisher 100% larger than even that [chest sized]), but it’s mine and I freaking love it.

The Crew

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Those smiles… every hour

I was lucky enough to have a crew of three. I don’t know how many other racers had crew at all, but it was a huge thing that I don’t know I could have done without. Something I’ll be forever grateful for, and not just for the obvious reasons of them saving me time by having what I needed at the ready, which they did, but when the going gets tough knowing there are people ahead rooting for you and soon to be greeting you with smiling faces, hugs, and maybe even kisses was an enormous help… Probably even more than the help that handing me bars, drinks, and other necessities was, and I’m talking in terms of race time.

Dad, Karen, and Rebecca, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dad, we’re even for Mount St. Helens. Actually, no, no we’re not. That was way bigger.
Karen, I owe you beyond what I can put into words not only for this event, but for putting up with him.
Rebecca, I’ll return the favor when you do the 100-mile run next year.

What’s Next

I will happily do the race again, but without getting WAY faster and “winning” (placing in the 10%) a qualifying event that all require significant travel (Tahoe is the closest) or dumping a few $k into a charity spot or mountain bike camp, I’m faced with the lottery.

The chances of getting in again next year are slim, but I’m going to rally the troops for a large group entry (I think that increases our odds greatly?) and hope for the best. It turns out that volunteering at the running race the following weekend is a pretty much assured entry into next year’s mountain bike race. Perhaps I stay in town a week and a half next year (if I get in) or head down for that weekend alone to make that happen and cement my spot for 2019?

I’m currently enjoying a week of not riding seriously and eating anything and everything (I burned 7000 calories so I’m pretty sure I can never catch up). Cyclocross begins in another couple of weeks so come Monday I’ll get back to pouring in miles and caring about my diet. Fun, fun.

Parting Thoughts

  • The men’s podium didn’t show up for awards. Totally classless. Sure, one of them might have had a great excuse, but all three? Give me a break.
  • A beer after such a race is disgusting. I took one sip and threw the free one out. It wasn’t bad beer, but it was the last thing I wanted to put in me.
  • I need to pay attention to the notes I take after races. There were a couple of things I had told myself to do to my bike after Tahoe that I was kicking myself for having not done when I realized the mistakes a few miles into the race.
  • The pre-race rider meeting is not one to be missed. I wish my crew had attended, but we assumed it wasn’t important. They call it mandatory, which is funny, because last year’s race winner who is also a local wasn’t in attendance when they called his name. Somehow he was still allowed the race the next morning!
  • The camaraderie amongst “competitors” was great. They make it a point to call us family all weekend and it really does feel that way. Unless you’re a world-class athlete you’re only racing yourself. There was lots of chatter, working together, and courteous riding out there. I would get to know a couple on a tandem and One-Armed Willie throughout the day.
  • I would have been really well served by doing more long rides. I’m talking the 5+ hour type. I knew this, but they’re not an easy thing to comfortably fit into life, whereas my daily 1-2 hours are.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Rebecca did the 10k the morning after my race. She ran well, but was definitely not a fan of the altitude. While it didn’t affect me much, running a 10k is a much more anaerobic ordeal than what I did. As soon as you’re out of breath, you’re screwed, and you’d damned well better run out of breath in a 10k. I was not jealous, but I am proud.

Short Track Recap

Posted on Aug 16, 2017 in Cycling | 0 comments

What is Short Track? It’s like cyclocross, but with mountain bikes. What is cyclocross? Short-form off-road bicycle racing. The difference here is the features are bigger/bumpier, and there are no hurdles requiring dismounts. You can do it on a cross bike, and some do successfully, but it’s probably easier on a mountain bike. The series is weekly from June to July at the local motocross track. It’s a good time and a great way to spend a Monday night.

I had previously dabbled in Short Track two years ago with a pair of races, winning one in the beginner category. I moved up in groups for the the start of last year, placed close to dead last, and hung it up; without significant mountain biking effort, I wasn’t going to get any better and at the time I had no desire to put that effort it.

Come this year, with Leadville in my sights and a new bike, I went back out for it and the results were pretty surprising with five podiums in eight events, a win for the June half, and a 2nd overall for the entire thing, which was decided when I put together an absolutely garbage final race to drop my season-long lead to a Cat 1 roadie friend.

The final race of the year also has a team relay. I was in charge of organizing our two teams and we came away with a 2nd place in that. Pretty sweet. Not so sweet was the crash I had during this, which three weeks later still has me nursing a pretty gaping hole in my hip and a golf ball sized collection of fluid. I figured I’d be safe by ending other racing two weeks before Leadville, but I thought wrong.

I can attribute the new speed to mountain biking a good bit more (600 miles already this year as opposed to 300 total in the past six), but I think mostly my insanely sweet new [as of the beginning of the season] bike; the damned thing simply sticks and goes like hell.

Of note, I didn’t win a single race. 2nd place is becoming my jam and I suppose I’m okay with it as it’s not too terrible and I’m tall enough that I usually stand above 1st anyway.

Next year I move up to Cat 1. Should be interesting, but even more interesting is how this new ability should translate to the cyclocross season that’s just around the corner. Super excited.

Quick weekend in Tahoe

Posted on Jul 20, 2017 in Cycling | 1 comment

This past weekend I made a quick trip down to Tahoe. I left Thursday morning and was home by Sunday night. A nine hour drive each way, much of the trip was spent on the road. The goal was to race in the Tahoe Trail 100.

The plan was to make the trip down take two days with most of the driving front-loaded so I could rest on Friday in preparation for the race.

Love this car, love this land.

Love this car, love this land.

Following  a casual departure from home, I made a stop in Oakridge for lunch at a deli that could have been right out of 1950 had it not been for the TV entertaining the owner’s daughter. I’d been wanting to get to Oakridge, and I suppose I can now technically check it off, but it’s most known for its mountain bike trails, which I didn’t get a chance to play on.

From Oakridge I made my way down to Klamath Falls, basically the last city on your way out of Oregon. Like much of Oakridge, it seems this is a town that time has more or less passed by. The downtown, while beautiful and well-maintained, was very much pre-1950 in architecture and feel.

Morning sunrise.

Morning sunrise.

The next stop was Alturas, California, where I had planned to sleep. I had done prior research and found some free places to catch some rest, but, well, the lesson learned is that National Forestry sites are difficult to read. While I did manage to enjoy their wildlife refuge and one of the best Mexican meals I’ve ever had, the spots I had scoped for sleeping were 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Following dinner and some riding around town, I had some energy to burn so I decided to invest more in my driving.

Around 9pm I was starting to feel a bit tired and began scoping out places to sleep. I have removed the seats from the back of the car and my luggage only took half of it so I had a solid 6′ spot in the back for bed, but you can’t just sleep anywhere… Well, it turns out you can… or at least if you’re a trucker you can. They were all over this very lightly traveled highway, but I’ve yet to really push the limits in a passenger car. I was about to pull into such a turnoff for the night (they can be tough because as soon as you see one you’re past it and it’s important to find one where you won’t have headlights in your windows all night) when I passed a campground sign. I was in the middle of nowhere and that was the extent of the signage. Two to three miles up the dirt road, I came across the Ramhorn Springs Campground. This campground is hardly maintained, won’t show up on any guidebook, and I couldn’t see anything as dark as it was when I arrived, but in the morning I’d find it was in great shape and had absolutely spectacular views of the sunrise. It was absolutely perfect. In the morning I donated (free with donations suggested) $2 to maintenance (I peed once – the extent of my actual usage) and was on my way.

With my AirBnb not available until 3pm, I had plenty of time to kill so I set my sights on Kings Beach after passing through Reno and back into California. There, I’d grab some great coffee and breakfast, and spend a few hours soaking up [too much of] the sun reading and catching up (I ended up pretty burnt on my legs and half my body). Luckily, my place was ready early so I shot over there and got settled before it was time to head to Northstar for the preface stuffs, which included registration and a [shortened] course pre-ride with some pro riders, and a riders meeting. From there I grabbed some pretty solid Italian and retreated back to my place to tune up the bike and get in bed by 8. I set my alarm for 5am and wouldn’t get to sleep until around 2 or so due to some noisy neighbors. Lesson learned? Maybe stick with camping?

The next morning was the big event. I had a goal of 5:15 for the 100km, but had absolutely nothing to base that on; I just knew that would get me in a smoking fast heat at Leadville. To back up a bit, the reason I was doing this race was solely because as a new participant at Leadville I was placed in the absolute back starting corral, which means I’d have to pass countless folks who would be hours slower than me, and likely have no chance at a shot at a sub-9 hour finish, which earns the ultimate prize. At the end of the day I qualified to start probably in about the front 1/4 of riders so all is good.

Shred.

Shred.

The race itself was fast and long. We started early, but it was a hot day and the final hour or two were in near 90 degree heat. In the post-race survey I suggested they start an hour earlier. My ride went very well – no crashes and the bike held up just fine. I did learn that the water bottle holder on the bottom of my downtube cannot be relied on as I lost one of my two bottles on a fast descent only a few miles in. The race was very well supported with aid  stations just about every hour (at my pace) so if I kept the pace up and stopped to refill my single bottle at every station I’d be fine. Still, that bugged me as I really didn’t want to be making stops every hour, and what if I lost that bottle too? About 20 miles in my prayers were answered as I came across someone else’s lost bottle. This was not the first time I’ve grabbed someone else’s bottle and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Regardless of how many times I do it, though, that first swig carries so much unknown – what if the person was drinking vodka? Or poison and I die? Luckily, that hasn’t happened. I’d carry that bottle in my pocket the rest of the race and only have to stop at every other station.

Halfway through the race, which was a two lap ordeal, I was at 2:40, but I had taken it really easy so while a 2:35 final lap was possible, I really had to pee, replenish my snacks, and get my chain lubed. Rather than risk my health, bike, or happiness, I spent five minutes at the halfway point to handle those things, effectively throwing away my shot at 5:15, but also making the final lap a lot more casual and enjoyable. While the result splits look a bit funny due to the break counting in my second lap, doing the math shows I ended up pretty much riding even splits, which I’m really pleased with. I did run out of “go” in the last hour, but I think I can mostly attribute that to the heat and not forcing myself to drink enough. This is the second time I’ve done that and I won’t make the mistake again.

I ended up finishing in 5:30 for 100th place overall. I’m happy with it. Of note, I rode the entire first lap with a woman named Julie. What was amazing about Julie is that she was in her fifties and on a singlespeed as I, nearly half her age, was constantly rowing the gears. We had some solid conversation, but being much more experienced and a local who knew the trails, she skipped the break I took halfway through and I wouldn’t see her again. When I got home I looked her up. Oh, no big deal. Really nice lady and a pleasure to ride with.

GPS | Results

Following the race I collected my finishers medal, got a quick massage, drank a bunch of beers, and got a great night of sleep.

Didn't get eaten.

Didn’t get eaten.

The next morning I went for a short ride (I actually felt great for this – could massage be as good as the pros say it is?) that included a stop at the Donner Memorial State Park, grabbed some more outstanding coffee and breakfast, showered, packed it all up, and hit the road. I booked it home – for future reference, it can be a nine hour drive if you keep it tight and fast.

Overall, it was a great trip. The drive down to Tahoe is beautiful, fast, and stress free. Mountains, forests, desert, alpine, open plains. Awesome. I plan to do it a lot more often and am definitely going to put this race and a short vacation in Tahoe on my calendar for every year.

Random notes:

  • A lot of towns have more road signs pointing to them than they have residents
  • Google Maps destroys Waze for finding long and obscure routes

The summer that can’t stop, won’t stop

Posted on Jul 10, 2017 in Cycling, General | 0 comments

Another two weeks down and another few things worth noting.

High Desert Omnium

I did this event a few years back and had a chance to get back down to Bend for it again this year. I almost didn’t after being hit by a car two nights before it, but that turned out to be a non-issue. Ugh.

Left home early Saturday morning to arrive shortly before the time trial and the Bend Municipal Airport. I did pretty well in the TT last time, TT seems to be a strength for me, and I had an actual TT bike so I was pretty stoked for this. Any other year, I would have likely won this stage with my 27mph average, but the group was exceedingly strong this year and I was only able to nab 4th. Worth noting, the top two guys in my category would have been very competitive/almost assuredly podiums for the weekend in the Pro/1/2 field. Triathletes and time trialers aren’t handled very well in the cycling upgrade system, but that’s life in 4/5.

GPS | Results

That afternoon following lunch and some rest, we made our way back to the airport for the criterium. I hate criteriums. High speeds, lots of turns, lots of traffic. I hate them lots. Since I hate them so much, I typically dangle off the back of the group, which is a great way to waste tons of energy as the yo-yo effect (any sort of slowdown ahead is multiplied the further back you are, which causes you to have to work a lot harder to get back up to speed) is real, but it’s where I’m comfortable so it’s where I stay and how I lose. Luckily, this time it proved a saving grace as there was a nasty crash that took out most of the group about halfway through. Being on the back, I had plenty of time to recognize the crash and avoid it. About six of us were lucky enough to miss the mess, I tried to hold onto the top few strong guys, failed, and was happy with another 4th. Despite EMS showing up, everyone was relatively okay following the crash. A separated shoulder, a smashed helmet, some trashed lycra, and a stiff neck were the results.

GPS | Results

The next morning we made our way up to the Edison Sno-Park for a relatively flat 100km race in the mountains. It’s a funny race that keeps on dragging on with everything being decided in the final 5-6 miles, which is an increasing ramp up to the finish. There was some shuffling of the pack on the final hill, I recognized the stronger guys, when they made a move I followed, held onto them for a good bit, and was able to score yet another 4th with solid gaps in front and behind. It was a really strong finish and I’m really happy with it. Of note, the top four finishers in my 4/5 race were only beat up the final hill of the day by the winner of the Pro/1/2 race. Yeah, strong group.

When all was said and done, my three 4th place finishes placed me in 3rd overall for the weekend a good bit [in the points] behind those two guys that absolutely crushed the field in everything. I returned home with a 12oz Hydroflask Coffee Mug for my efforts ($60, lots of calories, $40 in gas, an entire weekend). Bike racing is good.

GPS | Results

June Short Track

In case you’ve not been paying attention, I’ve been making a strong effort to get better at mountain biking this year. Part of that was committing to the Short Track series, which runs June through July. The last time I did this event, I was close to dead last. A year later and it’s clear my work has paid off by winning Cat 2 for the month of June. I didn’t win any races outright so I’m not smashing the field and in the wrong class (the one time I was leading I got lost, was passed by five riders before figuring out my way, and passed all but one of them back), but I’ve been consistent with 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd place finishes so my point gap is pretty large. Hoping I can hold it through July and win a 12-pack instead of a 6-pack 😉  Yes, I also may have too much fun with the photographer.

Mount Adams Summit Attempt

On July 4th a few friends and I made an attempt to summit Mount Adams. It didn’t go as planned, but part of the group followed Rule #1 of mountaineering (when in doubt, bail) and made the most of our day with eating and drinking our way home.

This is pretty much a 1.5 day hike (you have to start stupid early or camp halfway up) so we did end up spending the night on the mountain so +1 to my nights spent outside this year.

The plan is to give it another go perhaps at the end of the month. Going to be a long and grueling day.

Mount Tabor Series

Since the start of June I’ve also been racing up and down Mount Tabor almost every Wednesday night. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the series very much with a generally sloppy group, some peculiar officiating, and bogus series prize decisions (1st place Pro/1/2 female received the same $20 as 5th place in Men’s 5), but I digress. When I had a decent race I fared pretty well, but more often than not I was left shaking my head and unsatisfied, and for that reason I had no qualms missing a few races. Still, good enough for 8th overall. Not sure I’ll be committing to the series much next year.

Mount Hood Endurance Classic

This slotted nicely into my training “plan” for Leadville (the plan is to ride a lot, mountain bike a lot, and ramp race distance up to 100 miles via other races). This was my first endurance race in the plan and it clocked in at 45 miles and 7000ft of climbing over some technical and difficult terrain on the east side of Mount Hood. It was a small/unsanctioned/fun race so results didn’t really matter, but they were collected on the honor system and of course I got 4th… my favorite place. The trails were absolutely amazing and it was great to learn of them. Much more technical than I’ll be facing in Tahoe or Leadville, but the length of time and amount of effort were really good at helping me figure out my hydration and nutrition needs, and to dial the bike and myself in for long efforts.

Half the field was my team, which was really awesome. I’m hoping to plan a camping weekend around the event next year.

My moving time was 5:15, which I’m very pleased with considering the terrain. Overall time more like 5:24 with two stops for mechanical issues (shifter almost fell off and a cleat twisted when I slammed a rock with my pedal). Apparently I’m also really talented at hiking my bike as I scored a Top 5 all-time time more or less walking up an unridable hill for roughly an hour. Hells yeah!

Biggest accomplishment other than my hiking ability? No real injuries. Spending five and a half hours on a mountain bike comes with its share of bumps, bruises, and minor cuts, but that was it.

We washed the race down with impromptu/undie bathing in the freezing cold Hood River and some beers at Mount Hood Brewing.

GPS | Flyover | Results

What’s Next

Later this week I hop in the car to head to Tahoe for the Tahoe Trail 100. This is a corral qualifier (so I don’t have to start at the back of the pack and deal with traffic all day) for Leadville and is apparently 75% fire-road – great for my abilities, and very similar to Leadville. Very excited for this.

Following that, another weekend in Bend to hang out with Molly and listen to some music, maybe another attempt at Mount Adams, and then… another long road trip, but this time to Leadville… the crux of my year. So soon! Already kind of feeling it in my gut. I’ll be fine. I think.

Summer is how many days old?

Posted on Jun 25, 2017 in General | 0 comments

And I need a rest. The insanity began May 28. Today is my first day doing “nothing” (I rode 36 miles, did 1568 chores, worked an hour, and spent far too long putting this post together).

Sisters Stampede

Kind of got duped by a teammate on this one, but I’m happy for it. “Mike, sign up for this Sunday afternoon race. I’ll drive.” I did. Later into the week she informs me she’s leaving mid-day Friday. Whaaaat? New job and no thanks anyway. I ended up driving myself 🙂 A+ dupage (new word).

I didn’t know what to expect as I’d not ridden in the area or in any real mountain bike race in years and years and years. Things turned out pretty well with a 13th place finish. I was really strong on the flats and uphills, but wasn’t skilled enough and didn’t have the right tires for the sandy descents. I’d laugh with the folks around me as we’d blow by each other depending on whether the terrain was going up or down.

Good race, super dusty, and pretty hot. Next year I’ll show up on some knobbier tires and things should go much more smoothly.

McKenzie River/Pass/Trail Camping and Riding

Then the next week… Each year my team spends a long weekend at Paradise Campground on the McKenzie River. I arrived first out of everyone because I wanted to get a lot of mountain biking in, and I did, finishing the weekend with three mountain rides and one road ride over a mountain (McKenzie Pass to Sisters and back). The weekend included a few dips in the ice cold river to bathe, and a visit to Belknap Hot Springs for a proper cleaning. I’ve concluded that this place and weekend are some of my favorite things in the world.

White Salmon and Klickitat Rafting

Then the next week… Each year Chris puts together a water-based trip. Before him, his dad did so it’s been a very long tradition. We used to canoe and camp on the Rappahanock, which happened about ten times, but then Chris moved to Seattle and at was the end of it. When I moved to Portland, the tradition was reborn, with this being the second West Coast edition. We’ve also gone from canoeing to white water rafting as well. More intense, less overall effort, probably more fun.

This year we hit the White Salmon and Klickitats with Wet Planet. The two days couldn’t have been more different. The White Salmon was a half day in big things with more time to rest in-between, and in an unforgiving granite gorge. The Klickitat was a full day of endless small rapids and some amazing scenery. I greatly preferred the latter, and not merely for the chili bread bowl lunch that was supplied.

The first night we spent in Hood River being boys – visiting all the breweries and riding our bikes down steps and all over curbs. Lots of fun.

The second night we spent just inside Gifford Pinchot at Moss Creek Campground. I got to try out my new hammock and went on a super casual mountain bike ride with no destination in mind. I ended up climbing a mountain via a gas pipeline, found a nice clearing, and kind of turned my brain off laying in the grass taking in the scenery and the fact that there wasn’t a human likely within miles of me.

Stub Stewart Camping

Then the next week… I spent Friday night at Stub Stewart because I could. Left work a touch early and was at and setup in camp by 6pm.

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Learned some new 🔥 skills

The camp was hike-in, which was a first for me and very cool. My particular campsite was in a cluster of about six, which were all booked, but none of the others showed up so there was a massive space and shared firepit for yours truly.

The next morning, made breakfast and coffee, and went out for a mountain bike ride. The trails were super slippery and more difficult than their markings would lead you to believe, which was frustrating and not as fun as it should have been.

On the way back to town Saturday afternoon had an outstanding lunch at a hole in the wall in Banks and picked up some fresh berries because that’s what you do around here. Nice little way to break out of work on a Friday and to welcome in the weekend.

Mount St. Helens – Worm Flows Summit Hike

Then the next week… I took Dad and organized a group of 17 others to go up Mount St. Helens via the Worm Flows Route.

The 8-10 hour hike ended up taking Dad and me 16 with a finish at midnight. Suffice to say, it was a difficult day but it is done and I couldn’t be prouder of him for making the summit and making it back down to tell the tale. Yes, that was questionable at points.

The Worm Flows route is the winter route and starts you another two miles down the mountain from the summer route I’d taken previously. The bottom 3/4 of the route differs as well, taking you through a nice area of falls and water flows.

Overlooking the challenges specific to our hike, the winter route felt much easier and will likely be my preference when I hike again. The snow is much more predictable than the loose sand/dust found in the summer. More snow also means more glissading too.

Dad and Karen Visit

The same week… Dad and Karen came to visit. I don’t think he’s been in town for a year and a half so I gave him considerable grief over that. With my new job I wasn’t able to spend too much time with them, but I think that was best for all as they got to explore on their own and at their own pace. Of course, I provided them detailed itineraries for each day – in town, Coast, Gorge, and wine. I got to join them for the wine wine and even coaxed them into become members of a winery too. A++ for me getting all the benefits of that.

I think they had a pretty good time so hopefully they’ll be back sooner rather than later. I certainly laid the bait with two vegetarian dinners (Karen is an OG veg) and the day of wine, both of which Dad surprisingly seemed to enjoy. The man is turning a new leaf in his mid 60s. It’s good to see.

Other

In the meantime, a lot of racing has been going on and it has been going very well. I’ve been focusing on my diet (no, not “dieting”) very well and am down six pounds in the past month. Four more to go for Leadville target! More on racing and diet to come.

Next

Last night was “goodbye” to Dad and Karen, today I’m catching up on all the things, first weekend in July is a two day race in Bend, Fourth of July I’m hiking Mount Adams (12k+), middle of July is a road trip to Tahoe for a 100k mountain bike race/test/corral qualifier, and mid August is a road trip to Leadville for the main event. In September I’ll take a nap, but not for too long because ‘cross season.

Virginia Quickie

Posted on May 15, 2017 in Vacation | 0 comments

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While it was a quick Friday to Tuesday trip, and the Race for Hope the primary objective, I managed to bounce around and accomplish quite a bit. <pats self on back>

The hardest thing of having moved across the country aside from being so far from family has been being so far from my closest friends. They’re all pretty much married now and popping out kids, and I struggle to even keep up with the names of all the little ones.

When I put out a feeler for a place to stay for the weekend, I was very grateful to receive a number of offers and went with the one that was easiest to accommodate. While I had met my college roommate’s oldest daughter many years ago, she was a shy peaut and we didn’t really connect. In the meantime, a pair of twin girls came along and she opened up a bit. It was an absolute blast being playing jungle gym for the weekend and catching up.

Following the race, I boarded a plane down to Norfolk to meet up with my littlest new friend in Virginia Beach, a three week old little dude. It was a short, sweet, and appropriately long visit. For being so fresh to parenting, my friends are absolutely killing it; we went out to dinner twice (once without him!), a brewery, and even a three mile walk to brunch. He stayed cool as a cucumber, and while I’m not sure he’s even capable of it yet, I swear he threw me a smile.

Good times. Virginia, I miss you don’t miss you.