Photo Cred

Monday, December 24, 2012

Going Glory-Taylor

...That's the text I sent to Erica from the parking lot on top of Teton Pass.  I try to let her know where I'm headed when I ski solo, and figured that she would understand my intention to spend the morning skiing the two crown jewels of the Teton Pass area.  Turns out she had no idea what I meant.

I'll have to work on that.




Despite getting a later start than I had intended, the Pass lot was empty when I pulled in.  It's been so busy this year that I assumed I would be in a crowd hiking up Mt. Glory, but instead I ended up breaking the bootpack.


Things were pretty well scoured up high, with Twin Slides getting well-loaded.


Frosty head on top of Glory.

Of course, having the opportunity to break trail up Glory meant breaking trail back down, too...




Pretty darn powderful turns up there.  Even the luge-track in Coal Creek had 4" of pow on it.  Sweet.




The guys at Wagner Custom built a pair of GoFast ski mountaineering boards for me last spring--lightweight little things to help me keep up with Z.  Of course, my season ended so abruptly that I never really got to ski them, but I've been LOVING them this year.  It's really fun to be out on something so light and nimble.

There are certainly lighter rando-race skis out there, but I guarantee that these ski better and will last longer.  And they don't come with a lycra suit or a pair of faerie slippers.

They're definitely not powder boards but they ski super well, and paired with the chipmunks from ClimbingSkinsDirect (still the best skins I've ever used) they make the uphills pretty fun too.  Can't wait to get them up into the alpine where they're meant to be.

In any case, back to skiing.  I was once again granted the opportunity to break trail up Mt. Taylor.  8" of light, fluffy new snow was easily skinned through and the wind that had blasted me on Glory was easing up, with occasional patches of blue sky through the storm clouds.




And then standing at the top, having broken trail uphill...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's The End of The World As We Know It?

I mean, I still feel fine.

Apparently the Mayans were wrong.  More likely, they weren't forecasting the end of the world at all.  Maybe we're just not all that good at interpreting their message.  Or maybe they just got tired of forecasting and went exploring.

In any case, it was good to wake up yesterday morning and see that the world was still spinning.

Still feeling a bit slow-in-the-brain as I transition from a string of work to some time off for the holidays.  Thursday being the first "day of rest" was interesting--I woke up feeling like my skull was stuffed with wool, with a little marble rolling around in there somewhere trying to keep things under control.  It wasn't until I got to the top of Mt. Taylor for a late-day ski lap that the wool cleared out and the marble started to feel more like a bowling ball.


A little windblast to engage my brain.
I spent most of the morning stumbling around the house trying to remember all of the things I should be doing instead of stumbling.  

All as a result of a week spent teaching a professional level 1 avalanche training seminar for NOLS instructional staff.  What a great community to work with!  Totally engaged, energetic participants with an overactive drive to get shit done.  Couldn't ask for a better setup, except for the lack of sleep.

My typical schedule looked roughly like: wake up at 03:30, brew coffee, prep classes/do paperwork for a couple of hours; get dressed at 06:00 and warm up the truck; arrive at the NOLS base a little before 07:00 for breakfast with the crew; teach, ski, thump on the snow; dinner at 18:00; home around 19:30 for some family time; repeat...

Not much sleep to support a whole lot of activity, but I loved it.

It all came together with ski tours in the Park.  We had been getting blown around on Teton Pass for a couple of days, but my group's day on 25 Short was all sunny powder.  As Andy Bassett put it, "At least the view doesn't suck up here."




Fun day.  What a place to live.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Singletrack Dreams


There has been an interesting transformation in my brain this year--never before have I been neck-deep in powder skiing (okay, maybe knee-deep) and found myself dreaming of racing bikes.  I mean, the turns are REALLY good in the Tetons right now, but visions of anaerobic singletrack are floating through my head.  Kind of like sipping Glenfiddich while dreaming of High Life.  Both satisfying drinks, but very different and not often consumed together.

In that vein, Erica and I sat down recently and came up with a schedule that will hopefully work to balance my competitive itch with family time.  A bunch of ultra races (too many?) peppered with some shorter stuff.  The NUE changed up the rules this year; now we have to race in 5 events to compete for the series championship!  That's quite a few miles to fit into a 3-month season, especially when there are limited event options in the western half of the country.  (There a few races early-on that make it look more like a 6-month season, including the True Grit 100 in March, but with everything under snow around here until late spring it's hard to see myself ready to race that far before June.)

In any case, here's what I came up with:


I'm hoping to add in some racing in Lander as well; word is they're going to expand the Jurassic Classic beyond just the one event.  So much potential there!  And the Breck Epic stage race is high on my list, but that's going to take some financial wizardry.  It just fits so nicely between Pierre's Hole and the Point2Point, and looks amazing!

Of course, this assumes that I am actually able to get into all of these races.  (The PCP2P sold out in 4 minutes this year.)  Part of the win at High Cascades was an entry into this year's race so that one should work, but for the rest?

Sitting at the computer with credit card in hand 10 minutes before registration opens...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Full Moon On Glory

With a blanket of new snow in the hills, I was stoked to get out for a lap on Mt. Glory after work on Monday.  "After work" ended up being later than planned, so by the time I finished the bike commute home with Rue and threw my stuff together the sunset was burning over the Big Holes.  I drove away from the house knowing that near-dark was about to be full-dark.

Alpenglow on Mt. Taylor gave way to starry skies by the time I parked the truck up at Teton Pass, but a full moon rising gave out plenty of light to launch up the bootpack.  Cruising up the bootpack felt great--after the first tree band it was just about like any other day in the winter.  Fun to mix up the winter exercise routine--can't ride rollers every day.


AOOOOoooooooo....

A light wind and cool temps kept me motivated to transition quickly at the top, and then it was powder turns all the way to the bottom!

In my dreams.  

There were some good powder turns, but there were also extended stretches of snowy bushwhacking peppered with bedrock.  Fortunately my body and my Wagner Custom board held up just fine.  It would be unfortunate to end my season this early.

Better bootpacking than snowboarding, but it's all fun under a full moon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nordic Thanksgiving

For years I've been hearing about a massive, 5-day nordic ski party that takes place in the woods around West Yellowstone.  It seems most of my friends have been; Erica even joined the fray a bunch of years ago.  But I had yet to toss myself into the mix, perhaps intimidated by tales of 9-year-olds inevitably skiing circles around me.  This was the year to see if I could hang in a crowd of nordorks from all over the country.

And what better time of year to do it?  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, with the focus on surrounding ourselves with friends and family and being consciously grateful for the wonderful lives we have.  Way back in June, Jacki challenged us to commit to reserving a huge cabin together with a big crew of friends for the long weekend, and it all flowed from there.  Erica and I drove up on Wednesday evening (late, as usual,) feeling a bit intrepid about the lack of snow but encouraged when we drove into a nice blizzard around Island Park.

We arrived to a bouncing house full of 11 adults and 5 kids (most of whom were staying there.)  Wow.  It would have been sweet to add the families' dogs to the mix, but with it being a vacation rental...

Despite our late arrival, we were still able to be somewhat helpful with preparing chicken enchiladas, and were definitely helpful with consuming them.  And we even remembered to drop the turkey into some brine before tossing off for the night.

Out on the track with Erica, Mary, and Nils.

Thanksgiving day was fantastic: nice, mellow morning with Erica and the crew.  Some went out to attend skate clinics, while the rest of us drank coffee and succumbed to the childrens' entertainment.  Mary, Nils, and I finally rolled out of the house at noon to get some skating in ourselves.  The valley level had about 1" of snow on the ground, so all of the grooming was up on what the locals referred to as "The Plateau", maybe 1000' higher and 1-2' deeper.  "The Plateau" had a 15km track out to Black Bear Canyon, a ~10km loop-ish Whiskey Trail, and another little spur that was reserved for clinics.  Picture fitting 1000+ skiers on three tracks...

That's right, 1000+ skiers!  Imagine finding so many athletes who are so passionate about a sport with so little sex appeal!  Kind of like endurance mountain biking...

The first 2km were a bit crowded, a bit sporty weaving through the human slalom, but beyond that everything mellowed out.  We three skied the out-and-back to Black Bear Canyon (30km, more or less) which felt like a pretty good accomplishment for the season's first day on skate skis.  Gorgeous, sunny day, friendly people, cold air.  So sweet.


Once back at the truck I jammed down to the house to pick up Erica (who had graciously volunteered to prepare the turkey and get it in the oven) and drove us back up to The Plateau so that we could get our own Thanksgiving skate together.  By the time we started away from the truck most of the other skiers had cleared out--good fun, and pretty darn fast on an empty, firm track!

Then it was back to the house for laughter, turkey, thankfulness, stuffing, kids' performances, beer, more thankfulness, wine, more turkey, stories, sweet potatoes, another helping of thankfulness, salad, and some Schnapps of questionable quality called Ullr.  And then there was pie.


A little bit of ice makes tomorrow feel a little bit better.  Mary has IT band issues; I'm still dealing with the blown ankle.
(Stacy, Darran, and Tavis in the background, putting the house back in order after pizza dinner.)

Friday and Saturday held a whole lot of the same.  Start the day slowly with coffee and breakfast, head out around lunchtime to skate (when most skiers were coming back down to town,) crush myself on the track (~50km on Friday, and another 30km out-and-back on Saturday,) come home for a hot shower and big family dinner, watch kids' performances, stumble to bed.

Erica and I managed to find eachother toward the end of the day on Friday for another brief skate together, and then on Saturday she finally got up the guts to jump into a clinic with Mary, Nils, and Stacy.  Of course she loved it, came home raving about how much more efficient she could be with V-2 and with a bunch of teaching ideas for the future.  The perfect end to a fun vacation.

Snuggling in bed with Erica and Rue on Sunday morning felt pretty good.  After opening the skating season with 110km in three days and driving home Saturday night, my brain was about as sharp as a marble until the coffee kicked in and blueberry pancakes were consumed.  What can I say?  My body is tired and my feet are sore, and I can't wait to do it all again next year.

Thanks for a fabulous weekend everybody!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3 At The 'Ghee

I was feeling spunky and a little stir-crazy this morning, so I taped up my ankle good and tight and loaded my snowboard gear into the truck for a foray up at Targhee.  Our snowpack is slowly growing and overall warm temps seem to have helped solidify a base.  Photos and stories were of honest-to-gawd powder up there!  I had to see for myself.

There were rumors from Thursday of a line of 100+ people skinning/bootpacking/whatever up the mountain, but despite my relatively late start there were only a handful of others.  Definitely a variety of personalities--lots of flavor.


It was good to see others up there.  Some may complain about the backcountry getting crowded, but I love seeing how earning turns is catching on!
The skinning was firm and fast, with only a light wind blowing across the upper ridge.  My last foray into the backcountry felt clunky and awkward (and sticky) but today started to feel normal again--I was able to hit a smooth stride and felt pretty good on the ups.

The signs at the top crack me up.  Seems like a wide spectrum of possible consequences.

And the riding was indeed honest-to-gawd powder!  Fast and soft, and I (amazingly) didn't hit a single rock.  Not that there weren't any out there, but with some decent route-finding it was no problem.

The snow in Chief Joseph Bowl was pretty sweet--slightly consolidated pow on a solid base.

Good enough, in fact, to crank out three top-to-bottom laps and feel good about it.  I was starting to feel rubbery by the top of the 3rd up, but never questioned whether it was worth it.

I felt as haggard as I looked nearing the top of lap 3.

All told, a fully worthwhile trip into the hills.  I saw a bunch of friends up there and got to share some fine pre-Thanksgiving turns.    Then I got to come home, play ball with the dogs, and snuggle in (with the dogs) for a post-riding nap.  Not bad.

Now we just need it to start snowing on West Yellowstone in time for the big nordic ski festival...






Monday, October 29, 2012

...And Then There Was Snow

One weekend we're riding damp singletrack, the next we're riding moist powder.  "Moist" isn't a descriptor typically associated with quality snowboarding but it sounds better than "soggy", which is what the snow felt like on Sunday.

We saw a bunch of snow and cold temps last week, burying the singletrack too deep for tires but still shallow enough for running.  There were reports of high-quality powder up on Teton Pass on Thursday and Friday so I figured I would scope it out later in the weekend.  Maybe 24 hours too late.

I spent the bulk of Sunday at Pioneer Park with Dave Bergart, staking out the nordic track for the season and cleaning the summer's bramble out of it with a brush hog.  Once we had the track in reasonable condition (and realized it was hours past lunchtime) I scrambled home, stuffed a PB&J in my mouth, put Rue in her cave for a nice nap, and loaded the truck with the tools I would need for taking advantage of this season's first snow of sufficient depth for making turns.

I failed to make note of the 50° temps or light drizzle at my house.  Or the bare ground in my neighborhood that had been 2" deep in snow 24 hours earlier.

Never let obvious clues stand in the way of a bad idea.

Up at the Teton Pass parking lot the typical bro scene was chattering away, but instead of stories about sick air they were going off about how good the snow was next to that one tree.  Hmm.

Refusing to lose my ill-advised ambition I threw on my stuff and headed south.  (Knowing the quantity of jagged limestone beneath the snowcover of the roadside Mt. Glory hits I chose to seek out the grassy slopes of Edelweiss Bowl instead.)  I dodged piles of dog poo out the service road toward the radio towers, and the top of the season's first run.  It's been months since I felt the freedom of carving turns in fluff, and it will probably be a few more weeks before I feel it this season.  




How to describe the turns?  How about "embracing the suction of a million tiny water droplets."

Forging ahead, I stepped back into my approach skis and started up Edelweiss.  The brave soul who put in the skintrack thoughtfully avoided the inevitable bushwhacking and log-hopping in the woods by cutting switchbacks straight up the gut of the bowl.  Given the quantity of grass and brush exposed above the soggy snowpack, this seemed like an entirely appropriate choice in current stability.



And the turns?  Much like the last run, with more brush.  I typically save bushwhacking-on-snowboard until really late in the season, but it appears that this season will be book-ended by it.


The water droplets on the lens are from stuffing the camera deep into the snowpack on a poorly-executed turn.  It wasn't raining that hard.

No, the brush wasn't actually that thick.  The turns required more effort than normal to keep things headed downhill.  Which was fine, given that the goal of the whole thing was to get a workout.

And at the bottom of the bowl, after wallowing in soggy snow and my early-season cynicism, I realized that I loved it so much that I skinned back up for a second lap.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Saturday Morning Rush

The weather changed around here this weekend, but not so much that the riding season is over.  Word is that the Targhee area is a total mudfest, but I can tell you that the trails around Victor are SO good right now--tacky and fast.

Saturday morning was overcast and damp.  What better time to ride a trail called Rush Hour?  I was actually a little surprised at the quantity of vehicle traffic on Highway 22 below, but there wasn't a single other person in the woods.

Mega thanks go to Teton Valley Trails and Pathways and to Trail-Machine Wendell (and all the other volunteers!) for the development of Rush Hour--what a rad addition to our system of easy-access singletrack!  Let's get rolling on Happy Hour!

Hope you enjoy French pop-rock...









...By the way, if you're enjoying this whole bloggity-blog, I figured out a way for readers to receive emails when there's a new post--look in the righthand column and Follow Via Email!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cyclocross? Psychocross?

The Stats:

  • ~45 minutes of racing
  • Fairly flat course (it's in a city park--what do you expect?)
  • 4th-place in the Masters 35+ division
  • # of Wrecks: 1.5

Great turnout and a fun scene at MooseCross this weekend!  Victor Velo hosted the 4th Annual two-day festival of cyclocross racing on our beauty of a course at Pioneer Park in Victor.  (It's right down the street from the house--usually I just think of it as a fun obstacle course to ride with our dog.)  I spent the weekend helping make it happen, and figured that I may as well jump in for one of the races.


Fortunately the "Masters" division doesn't require mastery of this whole cyclocross thing, as I had only a microscopic clue of what I was in for.  I wasn't the only dude out there on a mountain bike, but there weren't many of us.

The Fitzgerald's team put a good showing at the start line--lots of orange and green and black.  And see the guy with the big white beard?  He smoked me for the first few laps.  Fortunately I can pedal my bike with some semblance of speed.  Unfortunately a large part of this whole cyclocross thing doesn't involve pedaling a bicycle.

Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to jump off your bike, carry it over a variety of obstacles, and then launch yourself back into the saddle, all while operating fully anaerobically?  Having never learned this vital(?) cycling skill, I watched the race leaders pull further and further away as I fumbled about getting my tender bits situated back in their rightful place atop my seat before the next dismount.



Speaking of dismounting, I thought I was actually decent at getting off my bike and running until I was shown otherwise shortly after the groovy-fun banked turns in the above photo.  A high-speed straightaway took us into a hard right turn and a "run-up".  (Big mound of dirt with railroad ties embedded into it.)

The setup was good, my speed felt right, I had my right leg ready to take the first running step, and as I launched myself forward off the bike my left foot stayed firmly locked into its pedal and everything went to shit.  Facefirst with a mouthful of dirt, struggling to get my foot out of its damn pedal with my bike laying on top of me.  Definitely lost some time on the leaders in that one.



But to hell with it.  Rolling through the finish with beer in hand it felt pretty good to have done it.  Maybe not entirely successful, but  I was glad to have taken part in this painful, bizarre form of cycling competition.  (Unfortunately it turns out that racing cyclocross is not recommended for people with busted ribs.  I didn't end up racing on Sunday.)

I'll have lots to think about working on before giving this whole thing another shot.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Riding the Pole

Despite the busted (bruised? cracked?) rib from a blown corner on Rush Hour (the close-to-home-quickie-ride) a bit over a week ago, I was feeling all antsy yesterday and went out for a lap on my favorite trail.  Pole Canyon is steep, unrelenting, and gorgeous.

The trip back down is pretty fun, too.

I also decided to initiate a movie-making career, inspired by the fall colors, cool lighting, and taking a break from focusing on my heart-rate monitor.  (Racing season is largely over for me--back to just-for-fun riding, and a bit of showing off our local trails.)

Turn it up!




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who Knew the Jurassic Was This Rad?

The Stats:
  • ~20 miles
  • 3000' of climbing
  • 1st-Place Singlespeed, 1st-Place Overall
  • 1:38 to the finish
  • # of Wrecks: 1 (I took an opportunity to ride my bike straight into a Juniper Tree on the best descent of the race.  Oof.)

Wow.

I mean, really.  Wow.

When did Lander, Wyoming join the world of kick-ass singletrack mountain biking?  Lander is renowned for easy-access sport-climbing, and I've known for years that it's a secret source of great road biking.  But I was pleasantly shocked this weekend by the awesome dirt riding that has been quietly developed by the cycling community over here in the last few years.  Really damn fun.

Lander Cycling put on the inaugural Jurassic Classic mountain bike race this weekend, showcasing its trail network at Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks.  As my buddy Evan put it, it's reminiscent of the riding in Durango--cool singletrack and doubletrack through Sage, Juniper, and Piñon Pines.  Just sandy enough to drift the corners, but rarely enough to really bog down.

And the race was sweet!  Just a great community event.  Lots of friends from when I was teaching for NOLS full-time, and a really cool vibe.  Like everybody was just excited to have an event on the local trails, and everybody was there to have a good time, stoked to see the 50+ riders turn out to race.  They were joking that there were probably more volunteers than racers.  Cool.

As a nice culmination to this season's efforts at not getting stuck in the pack at the start of my races, I took off from the line harder than usual and found myself leading!  After recovering from a momentary panic I embraced the lead and kept it in high gear.  (So to speak.  "High gear" is relative on a singlespeed.)  Evan was chomping at my heels for the first half of the race, but I was able to pull away on a sandy climb and rode the rest of it solo.

It was really fun to forget about conserving energy for the 4th or 7th hour of the race and just give 'er.  (As my Canadian friends like to say.)  My heartrate was way up above where I could let it go in a long race, but for a late-season 20-miler?  Forget about it.  Keep it pegged, and if it starts to hurt peg it harder.  What a great ride.


Erica was waiting for me at the finish with our new family member Rue (a rescued black lab/mystery mix with a cinnamon roll corkscrew tail.)  Kisses, hugs, and a cool full-circle feeling: 1st-place overall finishes in my first and last races of the season.

The awards ceremony was a pleasantly low-key wrap-up to the whole affair.  One-of-a-kind awards made with old cogs and chainrings, somebody's pre-teen daughter announcing through a megaphone, lots of laughter and ribbing.  And burgers and beer at 10am.

Really damn fun, indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chasing Mr. Smith

The Stats:

  • 54 Miles
  • ~6000' of climbing
  • 3rd-place Singlespeed
  • 4:20:25 to the finish
  • # of Wrecks: 2 (I've decided to start including a "wrecking" stat, as that seems to be part of any race for me.)

Relaxing in "camp" the night before the race.

Waking up the morning of the MTB Marathon National Championships was actually pretty nice--I was camped in the parking lot, so with a 9:30am start time I rolled out of the back of my truck at 7 and had a leisurely morning of methodically going through my race prep routine.  Pretty different than the morning of a 6am start.


The butterflies were raging when I pulled up to the line with Carey Smith and the rest of the lycra-clad, über-fast singlespeed crowd.  Once the whistle blew we cruised off the line, surprisingly taking it a bit easy up the brief opening climb, but that was not to last.  My goal for the race was to stick with Carey as long as possible to see if I could compete.  As it turned out we had a group of 6 or so who rode together for the first few miles, but after that it shrunk to Carey, Cody Peterson, Ryan Voss, and myself.

Somewhere around mile 6 I could feel that we were racing harder than I had ridden all season, and when I looked down I saw that my heart rate was pinned WAY higher than it had been all season.  So I faded off the pace, realizing that I needed to ease up if I was going to finish.  Ryan was apparently feeling the same thing, so the two of us ended up riding most of the first half of the race together.  He was even there to watch me launch over the handlebars upon stuffing my front wheel into a boulder-strewn dry creekbed-crossing.  That was exciting.

The riding between Bend and Mount Bachelor was once again unbelievable--this place rivals Moab as a mountain biking destination; the amount of ridiculous-quality singletrack that has been cut into the forest around here boggles the mind.  And the Marathon course was exquisitely laid-out to maximize the singletrack fun with little in the way of doubletrack connectors.  SO FUN!

Back to the story--I managed to open a gap ahead of Ryan shortly before the half-way point, but knew he would keep it from opening up too big so I couldn't let off the gas.  I kept it hot, pushing through every obstacle and passing the riders ahead as efficiently as possible.  (The passing game got to be kind of a pain; the way the race is structured every division goes off independently, with 3-minute intervals.  We were the 8th wave to start, so we were endlessly passing riders throughout the race.)  

The ride down to the bottom of the course was mind-blowing: full-speed descending through huge bermed corners, rolling whoop-dees, gaps, you name it, all on a hardtail race bike--sporty for sure, but oh-so-fun.  Then the climb back up was actually super fun as well--technical, rocky sections but overall relatively low-angle climbing so I could turn it over fairly fast.  I was definitely fending off some serious cramping but figured that with less than five miles left to an uphill finish it would be more fun to just accept that I was in for a half-hour of pain and keep charging.


Whoa, dirtboy.  You need a shower.

And then I cranked through the finish with a couple of geared riders and it was over!  Sure I had hoped to place better than 3rd, and hoped to beat 4:15, but I had so much fun racing this thing that it was hard to feel anything but stoked about it.  What a ride.


On the SS podium with Josh Krattiger, Carey Smith, Cody Peterson, and Ryan Voss. (L-R)


P.S.--Huge thanks go to my magical mother-in-law Acy for helping to make this trip happen.  You rock!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Quel Fiasco!

The Stats:
  • ~70 miles
  • ~14,000' of climbing
  • 3rd-place Singlespeed, 14th-place overall
  • 6:41:55 to the finish

Holy crap, what a saga.  Where to begin, where to begin?

At the beginning, I suppose.

The Park City Point2Point has a history of having the course markings jacked-up by local riders, so this year they decided to use spray chalk to mark the course.  Then it poured rain on Thursday night.  (It hasn't rained here since early June!)  So they went back out on Friday and re-marked the course with more chalk and some orange marking paint.

When I went to bed on Friday evening the moon was full and the stars were out; it looked promising for a gorgeous race day.  I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning to lightning flashing and thunder rolling and rain falling on the roof.  Sweet.  I spent the next 2 hours listening to the storm sitting over us, and presumably pounding Park City too.

Dan and I drove up to Park City in driving rain at 5:15, and sat in the car at the Round Valley parking lot for an hour waiting to see how the weather would progress.  It all started to break up just before 7, so race director Jay held a meeting with all of us racers to decide what to do with the race.  The Round Valley loop was out--protecting the clay-based trails from getting trenched to destruction by 300+ racers.  We could postpone until Sunday to see if the weather was more promising.  Or we could go ahead and race with the understanding that if the lightning returned we would be pulled off the course.

We chose to race.

So sometime around 8:15 we cranked around a very abbreviated 2-track loop at Round Valley and onto absurdly rain-greasy pavement to get us onto the singletrack to Deer Valley.  (Multiple riders down on every pavement turn.)  Having a mile of pavement that early in the course was tough from a singlespeed perspective; I spun all I could but still got passed by a huge mass of geared riders, and then spent the next 6 miles of singletrack working on passing them all back.  Brutal.

Shortly after entering the singletrack Corey Larrabee locked onto my wheel and we ended up riding the first half of the course together.  (Corey's an SLC local who is well in the lead of the singlespeed division in the Utah race series.)  After my flat tire and missed turn at last year's race Corey and Mike Shane stood above me on the podium, so I was definitely motivated to race hard against him this year, and it was really fun!  So fast.

Riding through eerie fog at the top of Deer Valley I started feeling antsy and cranked up the pace, and all of a sudden I was alone and never saw Corey again.  The course started descending into the forest and I had a ball whipping around turns and romping it up.

Maybe 10 minutes later I caught up to Dax Massey in first, and rode with him until the descent into Park City.  I've been working on my downhilling this season, and feeling good about my speed, but when that downhill started Dax was gone!  I mean, where did this guy learn to ride that freaking fast?  It wasn't even something that happened gradually; he just disappeared.

And he was totally out of sight at the Park City aid station, so I knew I had some time to make up on the climb up to the Mid-Mountain Trail.  Surprisingly Dax came back into view about 10 minutes up from the aid, but I couldn't quite get onto his wheel.  I was closing on him while we climbed, but once the trail started going downhill on the traverse to The Canyons he was gone again.  I would close on the climbs, and he would disappear on the downs.  Shit!

My last hope was that I could catch him on the final nut-kicker climb above the finish at The Canyons, but he had put enough time up on me during the long descent from Mid-Mountain that I never saw him.

I felt like I put in a good performance at the P2P this year, gave it my all on the climbs and the descents, and ended up rolling in about 3 minutes behind Dax.  Maybe next year...

Unfortunately the saga was far from over; the race this year was super fun, and then really disappointing.  Jay came up at the finish and told us that we had cut a portion of the course.  I still have no idea when it happened, but apparently Dax and I were in a group of 7 or 8 guys that missed a hairpin turn.  The problem is that the course continued up the hill a little ways over so we didn't know we had missed anything and then we were following markings again.  More shit.


Sometimes you don't even see the kick coming until it lands square in your crotch; I certainly didn't.



Disappointed at the news, and confused about where we went wrong.

The upshot is that Shannon (the other race director) went out and rode the section we missed in 16 minutes, so he and Jay decided to add 15 minutes to our times and give us the finish.  That seemed like a bummer for Corey since it put him in 3rd-place just a few minutes back, and it's impossible to know how long it would have actually taken Dax and me to complete that portion of the course after 40 miles of riding.  So I pitched the idea of making it a 20-minute penalty to give Corey the win and Dax and myself 2nd and 3rd respectively.  I mean, Corey rode well and completed the entire course; Dax and I also rode well, but will never know our full-course race time.

Personally, the bigger bummer is that NUE Series rules dictate that any racer who doesn't complete the entire course is automatically declared a DNF for that race--no exceptions.  Thus, I am no longer a contender for the NUE singlespeed division; I needed to finish the P2P as my fourth race this season.  It's clear that Gerry is probably going to win the series again, but I thought I was a contender for second.

Most of the course was well-marked, but I've spoken with a number of people who missed that turn in their pre-ride and anticipated it being a problem, especially with the rest of the course continuing up the hill 30 meters away.  It just sucks to blow my series standing as a result--I'm definitely struggling with that outcome.


Chocolate milk starting to make things better...

Okay, now I can deal.

So I'm bummed.  But with 24 hours of reflection I can say that I loved this race.  The course is truly amazing, and the rain made the dirt wonderfully tacky and fast.  The competition was strong.  I just wish the day had wrapped up as well as I thought it had before I heard about our wrong turn.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hey, There's The Beef!

The Stats:
  • 25 miles
  • ~3400' of elevation gain
  • 2nd-place overall (1st Singlespeed, but we didn't have our own division.)
  • 2:06 to the finish

Finally, a race that felt like I could race!  After my DNF at Pierre's Hole and a lackluster performance in New Hampshire my confidence was pretty low heading into the Park City Point2Point this coming weekend.  I mean, I love competing in these long races, but if I'm unable to really compete for some reason then why bother?

Enter the Teton pASS Kicker: 25 miles of amazing singletrack racing.

Well, maybe 20 miles of amazing singletrack racing with 2.5 miles of pavement at the start and again at the finish.  More on that later.  I managed to get close to the front for the start this time.  (Not terribly difficult with only 40 or so racers.)  So, after the pack spin up Fish Creek Road to the trailhead the singletrack was just fast and fun--not fighting to pass other racers who I'd stuck myself behind.

I rode with fellow Fitzgerald's Bicycles teammate Gabe Klamer for the first half of the climb up Philips Ridge.  (On the team he's known as Fiddee Cent--how do I get a nickname?)  Gabe is riding super strong this year, and was actually able to carry on a conversation as he led me up the Ridge singletrack.  Or, he was able to carry on his half of a conversation; I mostly just grunted.

About halfway up Philips Ridge I started feeling a bit spunky so I squeaked past Gabe on a short stretch of doubletrack, washed out on a switchback but recovered myself, and rode the rest of the climb in the front with Gabe as my shadow the whole way.  Then we romped through the Ridge Trail-to-Arrow Trail stretch at the top.  Rolling, winding, rocks here and there--ease off the brakes and let 'er rip.  Muy bueno.

My high point of the race was riding through the Aid Station at the halfway point (run by Sarah--thanks!) and seeing Ben Aufderheide (the machine) about 50 yards ahead.  I had been pushing the pace with the knowledge that Gabe was somewhere right behind me, but seeing Ben there gave me a short-lived extra bit of gas in my legs. Ben has been winning just about everything he's entered this year, and I've never even seen the back of his jersey.  So to be within striking distance at the top of the big climb was shocking, but pretty exciting!

And that was the last I saw of him.  Whether or not he even realized I was there is unknown, but he disappeared up the trail and my legs chose to temper the pace.

I managed to put a small gap on Gabe in the Arrow switchbacks, which helped me feel better about staying ahead of his full-suspension ride on the Philips Canyon descent.  I've been warned for years about how rough and technical the Canyon is (I had never ridden it until the race.)  Whatever!  I had a blast!  Sure, there are some technical, steep, rocky sections but they're all rideable and the rest is just roaring fast and way smoother than the Ridge trail.  There are even a few log-rides over the creek to get the adrenaline pumping that extra bit.  (They're all optional, but faster than the wet-crossing options.  Sick.)

The singletrack ended with me having held my lead on Gabe and about 90 seconds back from Ben, according to some friendly spectators.  I've been working this season on my mountain-bike-aero-bars-time-trial (MTB TT) position for pavement racing just like the 2.5 miles to the finish-line.  I don't actually have aero-bars on my mountain bike, but the position makes a huge difference in my ability to spin/coast on smooth terrain.  As I don't have an option to "shift up" on the singlespeed, and I fully spin out at around 20mph, being aerodynamic is key.


Somewhat more aerodynamic in the MTB TT position.  Gabe's just chilling in his big ring.


Regardless, Gabe calmly rode up next to me after about a mile on the pavement and without anybody threatening from behind we spun in together.  He graciously sent me through the finish ahead of him, with some justification about me having ridden the mountain bike portion of the race ahead of him so it wouldn't be honorable to take the second-place finish away from me on account of my lack of a derailleur.  What a guy!


Stoked at the finish!

We ended up 2:30 back from Ben, which felt pretty good given his performance this season.


Fitzy teammate (and my neighbor) Dan Abraham raced on his singlespeed too.

With the exception of the pavement at the beginning and end of the course, this was a high-quality singlespeed race.  Hell, I would rate it as a SICK new race all around.  What a freaking blast!  Great climbing, fun romping through the woods, and a ripping descent, all on phenomenal trails.  Damn.  Some of the most fun I've had racing all season.  It was pretty fun to just open it up and go all out for a couple of hours without having to worry about saving some energy in the tank for 5 hours later.  Might have to add a few cross-country races to the calendar next year.

And now I have some confidence heading into the P2P this weekend--I actually CAN race!  Now if I can just keep my focus on having fun down there, and riding my own race...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where's The Beef?


The Stats:
  • 100 miles
  • ~10,000' of elevation gain
  • 3rd-place singlespeed
  • 19th-place overall
  • 8:41:19 to the finish


"Where were you out there?"

It's a fair question.  Several singlespeeders posed it to me after the race, and I've been asking myself the same thing ever since.

I mean, my brain knew I was supposed to be racing.  I had awesome accommodations...



...I was well-rested and well-fed, my race-prep was thorough, and after reassembling my bike it was mostly riding well.



(I made the mistake of going for a new chain without checking the wear on my chainring--not a great match, but other than making a racket it seemed to be pedaling fine.)

It was a beautiful morning at the start line, with a heavy dew in the fields and clear skies overhead.





So why was my body riding like I was out for a Sunday spin?  The race started with 20 miles of mostly fast-spinning roads and rail-trails.  Right off I could see Gerry Pflug and a crew of singlespeeders racing off ahead of me, but my legs just weren't interested in bridging the gap forward to them.  Try and try again, and I just kept dropping back.  I mean, after blowing up at Pierre's Hole I was planning to temper my pace in the early part of the race, but this was ridiculous.

It was so bad that after the race Gerry told me he thought I had missed the start!  Crap.  Ultimately I ended up in a pack of slightly slower riders, figuring that I could ride efficiently until the climbing started and then kick it up.

Then the comedy of errors began.

On a twisty singletrack, just after passing the pack on an uphill, I caught a pedal on a rock and went over the handlebars.  My waterbottle flew out of its bottle cage and the whole pack passed me back while I was pulling myself together.  Then a half-mile later I realized that my Cateye had gotten jacked-up in the fall so I stopped to fix that.  (I've come to rely on knowing my distance on the course to help anticipate aid stations/obstacles/the finish, and figure out when to push it.)

On a stretch of dirt road soon after that I reached back to pull my electrolyte pills out of my jersey pocket and managed to open the cap as I got them out, spilling the contents across the course behind me.  Sweet.

Didn't bother to stop and pick them up.

I caught and passed the pack on the next climb, but my waterbottle exited its cage again in a rocky section at the bottom of the following descent, and they passed me back while I retrieved it.  I lost a bit more time handing another rider a CO2 cartridge for his flat tire, but that seemed worth it.

On the next climb I was able to pass most of the pack again.  And then they passed me back when I missed a course marker and rode 100 yards off-course before correcting.  What the hell?

At this point I was pretty confident that I was well off the back of the singlespeed field, but I was also pissed off and fed up with the back-and-forth with the pack I had been in so I slapped myself around a bit and gave my legs a good talking-to about how we were 30 miles into a 100-mile race and they had better figure their shit out NOW!

And then everything got better.  My body woke up and I was able to charge into the course, cranking hard up climbs and keeping the pace strong--no compromises.  

I attacked the next hill, passed the pack and a few more riders for good measure, and that was finally the last I saw of them.

For the rest of the race, the hardest part was not having Erica there to support me and keep me informed about where I was relative to the rest of the racers.  It was a long stretch of riding solo, with only the music flowing into my right ear for company.  I kept telling myself, "100 miles is a damn long race; anything can happen in the next 50/30/15 miles.  Focus forward, pull them back in."  So that's what I did, to a point.

My body's resurgence to racing corresponded to the course becoming more interesting; we made it out of the bulk of the road riding and into the fun stuff: challenging East Coast singletrack--super twisty, lots of rocks and roots, little in the way of a view forward in the course--interspersed with fast doubletrack stretches.  Some mud bogs thrown in there as well, and a 40-yard long pond across the course that turned out to be thigh-deep.  (I chose to carry my bike over my head after riding until the water came up over my bottom bracket.)

I may have been back in the field, but damn I was having fun.

I caught up to Matt Ferrari just after the trip through the base area (where the 100K course ended and we headed out for another abbrievated lap.)  He was suffering, and just wanted to finish his 30th(!) 100 miler.  Now that's impressive.  He told me I had 3 guys ahead of me, including Gerry (with whom I had hoped to be competitive) but said he hadn't seen them in a pretty long time.

Honestly, the second lap pretty much flew by.  I felt like I was riding strong, and fluidly.  It wasn't long before I was passing 100K riders nearing the end of their race, which psyched me up but also made it a little weird figuring out if the rider I was reeling in was a 100-mile singlespeeder or not.  Coming into the last 5 miles I put in a big finishing push--gave it everything I had to see if I could pull into the top 3--and with a mile left it finally happened.  I rolled up behind Patrick Blair and he glanced back and said, "Please don't tell me you're a singlespeeder."  I wish I had replied with something witty or pleasant, but all I could muster was a grunt and a request to get by--not the smoothest greeting I've ever made in a race.

And that was that.  I spun my tired legs as fast as they could go, rear end bouncing up and down in the saddle, across the grassy ball field to the finish and a barely-squeaked-out spot on the podium.  (Actually, the podium went 5-deep in this race, but the 3rd-place finish will be more helpful than 4th in the series standings.)

I will readily admit that I was disappointed with my performance.  My trip to New Hampshire centered around the hope to compete well with Gerry and whoever else was leading the race, but it just wasn't my day.

To put a more positive spin on the race I'm trying to see it as good training for the Park City Point2Point on September 1st.  (Racing is the best training after all.)  Hopefully the Hampshire 100 worked to shake my body back into racing form and I will compete like I want to in my final NUE race of the season!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Big Weekend

And it begins!  Actually, it began with the Young Dubliners playing the Thursday's closing night of Music On Main--so rad.  I remember seeing these guys 10 years ago, and they still rock the house.  Even Erica loved them!  It probably helped that I was actually dancing, but she claimed to dig the electrified Irish music.  It was the biggest crowd I've seen at Music On Main, and these guys kept the crowd stirred up; bouncing up and down, violin-guitar duels--so fun.


So that was a pretty sweet kick-off to my weekend of adventure.

And now I'm in New Hampshire!  Crazy!  3 flights and a rental car, picking up my bike at FedEx, driving around in the dark trying to find Nils' parents' house on a rural dirt road outside of Hopkinton. Ultimately, despite an address snafu I was falling asleep in a comfy bed before 11pm.


Arriving in the dark didn't allow me to appreciate New Hampshire--this place is beautiful!  Humid, yes, but cool forested terrain and quaint towns connected by rolling state highways.  The Eddy's house is a cute passive-solar home.  Unfortunately they're out of town so I won't get to meet them, but that means that I have the house to myself.  I so appreciate the opportunity to stay someplace comfortable where I can cook my own meals and do my thing.

And now it's race-prep time--filling bottles and Camelbak bladders, unboxing my bike and building it up, checking in for the race, hopefully getting a short ride in at the race venue.  Big pasta feed tonight, and early to bed before racing hard tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Surprise!

Holy shit!

So, I was super disappointed after dropping out of the Pierre's Hole 100 as a result of the diarrhea fiasco.  I felt better physically after sleeping away the rest of the weekend (and going to see The Dark Knight Rises with Erica on Sunday afternoon,) but taking myself out of contention for the NUE Series singlespeed competition really bummed me out.

And then this arrived in my inbox:

 
You better ride even faster than that in the Hampshire 100 if you are going to beat Gerry Flug!

Yup, that's right.....YOU ARE GOING TO NEW HAMPSHIRE!!!! 

We know how disappointed you were about Pierre's Hole so we want to help you get to another race!   All the details are taken care of, including lodging at Nils' parents house just 30 miles from the race.   All you have to do is get on a plane and pack your bike shoes.  (Oh, and minor detail....you have to pack up your bike for UPS but I'll fill you in on all the specifics).

Keep eating baby....you have a big race ahead of you!  We love you and are so proud of you.
Love,
Erica, Tom, Sheri, and Nils!  (And Mary and Blue too).

What???  I mean, I was there when our friend Amanda mentioned that the NUE had added a race in New Hampshire this year that would fit into my schedule, but I figured there was no way that it was going to happen.

SO STOKED!!!

I clearly underestimated Erica's appreciation for my drive to race, and her conniving motivation to make it happen for me!  And my parents and Nils and Mary...  Damn, how can I thank them enough???

So how did I celebrate my return to series competition?  I went to work.

No, that was BEFORE I celebrated by going for a smokin' hot ride on Teton Pass.  (Not that I was all that fast; it was just really hot and smoky.  There's a big fire burning outside of Stanley, and we're right in the path of its plume.)  What better way to prepare for a race with relatively little climbing than to ride the steepest grade around?

Now I'm all a-quiver with anticipation about this whole thing.  I've never flown anywhere to race my bike.  Hell, I haven't been east of the Mississippi since a family reunion on Cape Cod when I was 13.  (23 years ago!)  So many logistics zipping around my brain.  Fortunately Erica has taken care of the really hard ones.  What a wife!

Apparently I just have to ship my bike and pack my shoes and it will all be awesome.

Live free or die...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bummed


DNF at the Pierre’s Hole 100 this weekend.  Turns out that battling a recurring diarrhea-producing illness of mysterious origin for the week prior to the race doesn’t lend itself to pedaling a bicycle at high speed for 9 or 10 hours.  That sucked.

I felt okay for the first lap (Pierre’s Hole is a 4-lap course originating from Grand Targhee,) and was able to push a decent pace.  My body definitely felt a bit fatigued pedaling up the stiffer climbs—I just didn’t have much pop—but I figured that everything would wake up after a couple of hours of riding.  I rode much of the lap with singlespeeder Trevor Rockwell, trading the lead back and forth, a couple of minutes ahead of Gerry Pflug.   As we rode through the arch to start Lap 2 my goal of finishing under the 9:45 belt buckle cut-off looked like it was going to be within reach.

Rolling through Aid 1 just behind Trevor.
Photo: Sarah Hamilton

I opened up a bit of lead on Trevor through the middle of Lap 2, but once I got out to Rick’s Basin for the final few miles of the lap both Trevor and Gerry blew by me on the climb up Quakie Ridge.  They were riding really strong, and I just had nothing.  I kept grinding to the top, thinking that I might recover on the descent, but climbing back out of Rick’s Basin after riding down from Quakie was no better.  Lead-filled legs, and an overly-fatigued back and shoulders.

Trevor and Gerry had opened up a 6-minute lead on me by the time I got through the arch at the end of Lap 2, and I felt awful.  I got off my bike at the Aid Station and sat down in the dirt, trying to figure out how to pull my shit together.  Erica was volunteering at the Aid with the Fitzgerald’s crew, so I had a full team offering me every variety of food/drink that I could want, and an ice pack on the back of my neck.  Potato chips and water were the only thing that sounded good—interesting what seems palatable in that situation.  I ate a bit and rested in the shade for a couple of minutes while Jay P cleaned my chain and Erica packed a bag of chips for me to carry into Lap 3.

It was clear at this point that I would be no competition for Trevor or Gerry—I just wanted to finish the race.  Rolling into Lap 3 felt a little more lively, but things fell apart before long.  I had pretty much lost steam by the time I got out to Lightning Loop (maybe 2 miles into the lap,) and was fully cooked by the time I started the Colter’s Escape-Mill Creek descent.

This was the first time I’ve ever been too fatigued to race downhill.  Everything from my neck to my ankles just ached, and though I usually love this descent, bouncing down the rocky singletrack crushed me.  I gritted my teeth and slowly finished to Teton Canyon, and figured that if I couldn’t recover a bit on the spin to Aid 2 halfway up the road climb then I would call it.

No go.  It was all I could do to stay on the bike and keep pedaling slowly up the road climb. (It’s normally an easy spin—good opportunity to re-fuel and relax.)  Troy and Mitch handed me a Coke when I collapsed into a chair at the Aid, and that was it.  Big thanks to Mitch for driving me back up to Targhee, where I handed in my timing chip and ended my race.

It was really hard to bail out of my local race, especially when my season has been going so well.  An even bigger bummer is that this DNF takes me out of the running for the NUE Series title; had I done well at Pierre’s I would have had a fighting chance to win it.

After a nap, a small dinner, and a 12-hour night’s sleep I’m trying to focus forward on getting myself back into form for the Park CityPoint 2 Point on September 1st.  Lots of rest, some quality riding, and trying to gain back the 5 pounds I lost to last week’s diarrhea…