Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ironhorse Whiteout

The Element was loaded with 3 bikes on top and 3 29er's inside, along with all of KC's gear.
Saddling up at Amasa Back on Friday, before the rain.
KC showing the young wipper-snapper how to ride.
Chris doing his thing. There's not a drop or rock ledge exempt from his attack. Note the same hiking wipper-snapper in background.
Here comes the snow! This is before we hit Cortez.
Race canceled, car's packed. Hurry up and take the picture, Bill. We're off to Moab!

As we drove from Moab to Durango Friday morning, the snow began to fall. Actually, it is more like graupel than snow, but it was white and sticking to the road. We drove through areas of high wind, high clouds and no rain, and down right limited visibility. When we got to Durango around 4pm, it was raining. And it never stopped for more than a few minutes.

The atmosphere at the check-in was subdued, and it seemed like the excitment usually felt at an event like this was missing. I guess most of us subconsciously felt Saturday was going to be iffy, at best. With rain, snow and thunder all around us, having a positive outlook was an exercise in futility. And the prospect of LoToJa 2005 was in the forefront of my mind, as well as Chris & KC Holley, Dwight Hibdon and Bill Dark, all survivors of that near-death experience.

As we left the registration area we were informed to monitor a local radio station at 0600 Saturday to learn the disposition of the race. At about 0605 someone yelled out their tent, "go back to sleep everyone", and that was it! Ironhorse 2008 was officially canceled. To be honest, for me it was no big deal. My training for this event had been very limited, and I'm not a good climber, even when I have good miles on my legs. I was there for the event and to spend time with my cycling friends.

We decided to get out of Dodge asap and loaded my Element during a snow/rain downpour and headed to Moab. Surely the weather gods would be more receptive to us there and allow us to ride with a free spirit and smiling face. And we were not dissapointed. Chris, KC and I got in a ripping, single-speed, 2 hour ride Friday on the Soverign Trail followed by a Brat dinner cooked over an open flame expertly prepared by Chris. We went to bed early and were occasionally awakened by very light rain drops during the night, but nothing close to what we went through dduring the prior 24 hours.

Sunday morning started casually with a light breakfast followed by a single-speed ride on the Procupine Rim Trail. We did the usual start at the City Market and headed east through Sand Flats, past the Slick Rock trail and what seemed like hundreds of campers. There are lots of cool spot to sleep at out there that I'll have to try in the future. Beautiful views, and reasonably quiet. When we got to the Porc trailhead a tour guide suggested the "Lower" road out of the parking lot as a very fun, worthwhile alternative that we should give a try. BS! That variation sucks. I was probably 3 miles of steep gravel and paved road followed by 1 mile of so-so single track. Did I say steep! If you want to grind it out for 35-40 minutes with no relief, take this route. Otherwise, do the normal trail and do an out-and-back from the overlook. That way you'll be able to do the fun stuff and avoid the death climb.

We descended from the overlook like bats-out-of-hell and had an absolute blast. I did some stuff on my 29er that would have been white-knuckled, and over the bars on my Element. Fast corners, fast over the choppy stuff and even a few jumps. Just like Disneyland! Yahoooooo......

After that it was going to be hard to find more fun so we decided to pack up the Element and head home. It was a memorable weekend, and well worth the effort. I'm already looking forward to the next adventure, no matter what the weather gods throw at us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Power test confusion

I'm perplexed. I did a 30 minute power test yesterday, and got mixed results. While I'm somewhat satisfied with my power output, 258 Watts versus 265 Watts in April 2007, I'm confused about my average heart rate. In April 2007, while riding on the same course doing the same power test, my average heart rate was 163. Yesterday it was only 152 and, I raced last Saturday for 1 hour 17 minutes with an average of 166! When I look at my Cycling Peaks data, the yellow line that tells me whether I'm overtraining shows a plus value which indicates I'm rested. The only thing I can figure is it was hot yesterday, upper 80's versus mid 50's in 2007, I didn't eat a carbo rich lunch, and I may have been a little on the dehydrated side since I didn't drink a lot water during the day. I tried to have a positive attitude and block out negative thoughts, but staying psyched and motivated was quite a struggle. I haven't been training with a purpose for the last six weeks, but the XC races I've been in I have turned out real well and I have felt strong.

If anybody reading this has any thoughts, throw them at me. I am really curious to see how well I do in the Iron Horse Classic this weekend and will report on my results along with power and heart rate numbers compared to last year.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


You won't believe what I did today at the ICUP Soldier Hollow race. My race was going as planned, I was feeling very strong and sharp, climbing real well, no cramps and in the zone. Contrary to my normal routine, I didn't pre-ride cuz I thought I knew the course like the back of my hand, and after Hurricane, I didn't want to drain myself before the race. What wsa different for me is my group was to ride 1 full 9 mile lap and 1 - 12 and under 4 mile lap for a 13 mile total. I'm used to riding 2 full laps. Well, I did the 1st lap in fine style and had a several minute lead over teammate Bill Dark, and then it happened. I saw a couple of targets ahead of me at the top of the 1st grass climb and got myself all excited tinking aI could catch them before I had to turn off. I didn't think I could catch Westerman, but I did think Laura Patten was a possibility, so the race horse with blinders on kicked in, and the chase was on. I put my head down, cranked it up, and, I rode right past the 12 and under lap sign! I didn't even see it, and I thought I was looking for it. My engine was going full blast and I was picking off riders one-by-one and feelin strong. Laura was getting closer and I kept after her. When I got to the short hike-a-bike by the golf course, I caught her and asked if she knew where the 12and under lap was. She responded "it's way the heck back there. You passed it a long time ago." Crap!!! NOOOO, this can't be happening to me. So, I turned around and backtracked and found the damn sign, right where it was supposed to be. I kept the hammer down hoping I still had a chance, but I ended up in 3rd place. The only good thing is Bill took 1st, so two of us made the podium.

Part of my confusion was watching my odometer. The 12 and under lap is supposed to be 4 miles, but it is only 2.6. I was thinking the turnoff would be around 2 miles and didn't think to look real hard before then. My bad! As it turned out, my group actually rode 11.6 miles, not 13, and I put in 14.7 on my version of the course. That's really dumb on my part. But, like Bill said, that's racing.

I've learned my lesson and trust I won't have anymore senior moments in the heat of battle again. I will pre-ride the little loop from now on and, I won't get caught up in other category races, or try chasing down riders that are better than me.

Stupid, just plain stupid!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesday Night Series

Last night was the first race of the Soldier Hollow/Sundance weekly series. Because it was so well attended, there was a bit of an issue and back log during the sign-up, but it got worked out and nobody got hurt. Mountain bikers are a very patient lot. Now that we have our numbers, the lines should get faster and everybody will be happy.

I haven't done this series for a few years, but after last night, I'm looking forward to riding a lot of the races. They are short and intense, just what I need for a weekly interval session. The competition is great and the SH ICUP course was in the best shape I've ever seen it. Unlike Sherwood Hills, this course is fast and most of the moisture is gone. I imagine it will be a bit dusty Saturday as the race progresses, but that beats the mud.

Yesterday was a first for me because I raced my SS Rig. And, I did it in the expert class, did not finish DLF and I didn't blow up. That makes the race a success. I have to say I'm running a wimpy 32x21 on my 29er compared to Brad Keyes who runs a 16or 17!!! I can barely push that on the flats, let alone on a climb.

The Rig was fun but this was the first time I've really pushed it hard, and it showed. I'm not used to the big tires, or the hardtail, so I'm going to have to make adjustments. Braking is slower and I over shot several (many, many) corners. The cool thing is the big tires just plow right over the scrub oak and sage brush. Anyway, I had fun and am looking forward to many more races and improving my technique and time. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wimmer's Sherwood Hills

What began looking like a mudfest turned out to be a relatively dry, spongey and fun XC race. When I arrived around 10:00 most of the talk was about tires getting hung up in the mud, deraileurs clogging and talk about whether or not to ride. By the time my group pushed off around 11:45, all was well and I'm glad I stayed.

Many of the usual suspects were noticably missing, but that did not effect the competition or level of excitment. My group was only 5 strong and I was able to finish on top of the podium. I was in 3rd place in the over 50+ group when my 2nd lap finished, so that made me feel real good. My teammate, Bill Dark, came in 2nd so we had a good day. Other Mad Dog riders had mixed levels of happiness topped off by KC & Chris Holley taking 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the Pro divisions. I'm always amazed when someone rides faster than them because when I so on training rides with those two, I'm maxed out and they are barely breathing. How can people ride that fast!

Overall I'm a little amazed with my conditioning at this point in time. My time on the bike and total mileage is lower than last year, but, I feel better and I'm racing stronger. Go figure. Maybe it all the rest and recovery I'm getting - hopefully that won't come back to haunt me later this summer. My plan is to start Lynda's 100 mile PR program on May 19th in preparation for Leadville in August, so that should pick up the mileage and bike time. That ought to make my wife real happy. In the meantime, I'll do a few more ICUP races and the Soldier Hollow/Sundance series and see how things work out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

White Rim

Horse Thief Canyon in the morning.

Riding along the Colorado to Hardscrabble in the canyon's shadow.

The back side of Hardscrabble before Potato Bottom.

Roundng one of the many finger bays on the White Rim.

The approach to the Shafer Trail from the Potash potty.

Ellen just before the top of the Shafer.

When the climbing is done, here's your reward. The Shafer Trail from the top.

Dudette and dude.

I forgot to mention the desert flowers were just starting to pop! Gorgeous.

Last Saturday, Ellen Guthrie and I rode the White Rim Trail under a cloudless, sunny sky, and a minor blow that varied from a tailwind to White Crack and headwind to the end. The conditions could not have been more perfect. Yes, there was a lot of sand, but that's the WR. We rode in the opposite direction of the RAWROD crowd which came down Shafer's, and met up with them at White Crack. We both picked up 2 bottles of water from their sag wagon, and that was it. I still had over 3/4 of my 100 oz Camelback full, and food to spare, when we finished! Because it wasn't hot, I guess we could have made the whole thing unsupported.

Our total riding time was 9:06 which was real good considering this was the 1st long ride of the year for Ellen. A 1st for me was cleaning the entire route for what I think is the 1st time ever. Typically, Hardscrabble has a nasty soft section on the steepest part of the climb that always does me in. Not this time. Someone has come in and filled in the soft sand hole and the climb is now ridable. I hit 175 bpm by the time I got to the top, but I made it non-stop, without a dab. Yahooooo. Another 1st was I beat Ellen on a climb!!! That little waif always kicks my fat ass whenever the trail/road kicks upward, so being in front was a real treat. I'm going to enjoy it while I can - I know my glory will be short-lived.

The climb up to Murphy's was interesting and a little more painful than I remembered. The last left turn was a little loose and almost bucked me off, but I was able to keep my balance. And the ledge just before the summit was a challenge. Since it was smoothed out a few years ago, the ledge has been a no brainer and somewhat of a letdown. As I got closer to it, it became apparent a slight ledge had reappeared and just hitting it straight on might not work. What was interesting is gravity took me to the left edge of the road, then back across diagonally to the right edge, through a narrow smooth section, and then back to the left to the top. I'm certain if I had hit this straight on I would have fallen, or at least dabbed. As it turned out, I made it, but there was nobody on top to cheer me on. When we came down the backside toward White Crack, I felt sorry for the others that had to still climb Murphy's. It looked much harder to me climbing from White Crack. My hat's off to the RAWROD dudes and dudettes.

Before we started, my one concern was riding Shafer at the end, but that proved to be no problem, relatively speaking. From where we started at the top of the Mineral Bottom Road, the Potash potty was 87 miles in with the 2.6 mile climb looming ahead. It was still sunny but much of the climb was now in the shadow of the canyon wall. I found a comfortable, smooth and steady pace and did the climb in 36 minutes, no dabs. Now I have a number to shoot for this fall when I do it again, and I'm in better shape. Counterclockwise worked out well for us and I would not hesitate to do it that way again. The ride back on 313 was a bit of a drag since we had a headwind and all the fun was done. When we got back to camp, Rob Westerman had the Brats ready for us and we settled into a nice, chatty evening with their kids, Doug Davis and Scott Tolly. A perfect end to a perfect day.

This was a memorable weekend, and one that came at a good time. Ellen was a great riding partner and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Thanks for the fun day Ellen.