01 December, 2017

I October Break Ergo I Am

Oh damn! Oh damn! Well folks after another challenging yet fulfilling quarter of HS Chemistry teaching, my inner child--Mikey, let's say to remain anonymous--is crying for attention. He wants some sun, he wants some ride time, he wants some Moab! Don't get me wrong, my lovely wife--if I were to use a us as a Venn Diagram--has a A LOT of overlap with what we find endorphin releasing activities; but she just got back from her October Break that she spent with her brother (me brah in-law Drew) at Universal Studios Orlando, specifically the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was so missing and jealous of her luxuriating/vacationing/chilling time when I was freezing my hambones off during one of the earliest snowfalls/freeze warning CO had in a while. When she got back, my compass of OCD and completeness was recalibrated I started to think about what Billy and (two-thirds of the homey trinity) break would look like. We leave tonight and I am sooo Jonesing to go. He's an adjunct prof teaching Computer Science so I have to wait (boo-hoo!) 'til he's done teaching then we bail to Parachute. Home of some sweet peaches and that much closer to the Mecca of mountain biking. In fact, we're also heading to Saint George to do some Gooseberry Mesa and some Zion NP. Got a Go Pro to act as an audio-visually chronicler and witness to what will be dubbed as Operation Later Homie.

Day 1, Operation Later Homie
My novicity with timed shots from the Go Pro

 We made it to Moab after we left late Monday night. Dare I say, Billy and I rode Slick Rock enough times that it's no longer on our radar of trails to ride. You know what is? Hymasa and Captain Ahab. Can never get enough of that trail. Today, what made it especially remarkable was the bluebird blue skies and temperatures that greeted our arrival in this magical town. When we left Parachute, the mercury was right at freezing and as we  accelerated westward we watched the outside temperature climb and climb commensurate to the elapsing miles. It eventually hit 71ºF as we parked in a freebee parking right near the Amasa trailhead. I made a Go Pro video of it.
It's kind of jumpy so don't expect any Cecile B DeMille quality from it. What the video doesn't capture is how amazingly difficult and technical it is even when the scenery is sublime and dreamscapey in such a way we have to pinch ourselves that we're here let alone doing what we love to do most (with our clothes on): mountain bike (okay I enjoy skiing too). It's like Mars out here (that is if Mars had oxygen, water, an atmosphere, not as far from the Sun, had a shorter calendar year, and wasn't quite as cold but yeah; it'd be the same it it wasn't for those things).

Okay not really but it's really red with all these geological eroded formations from when the world was just a wee baby (but not a flat earth you flat-earth losers) and these stunning canyons cut from our lovely Colorado River. It's not unlike the Sonoran Desert where my brother lives; except it doesn't have quite the numbers of quartz wearing, cosmic antennae channeling, turquoise bolo tie wearing, vegans. What you do have are some serious off-roaders (both the pedaling and internal combustioning type) and eurodorks that are amazed by scenery they don't quite have in their Vaterland. I remember the first time I was in New York City. I would stare in dumbfounded amazement at the skyline and its art deco meets gothic meets high density residential meets historical/cultural intersections. I couldn't really come to peace with it because I just couldn't digest its data. Like Art I appreciate it; but don't understand the processes it took to get to that juncture of existence. Moab's scenery does the same thing. It leaves me in a state of wonderment, gratitudement, physically spentment, and awement. Just happy to not only spectate in its glory; but to participate inside its sphere of hip-ness with other weirdoes (minus rude a-holes that litter or are just general coal rolling a-holes, you know who you are) that have the same Venn diagram of overlap as I. We finish the ride in about two hours and Mr. Helios is still smiling at us.
can't make it back before the shutter clicks
I want to keep on riding whereas my brah-Billy, wants to do some programming to keep ahead of his work schedule. I appreciate that so we bifurcate due to different objectives. I do a second ride up Pipe Dream. Now I can feel the efforts of Captain Ahab as I climb and climb and climb. After an hour and 8 or so miles of tight, bumpy singletrack (not very technical), I say, no mas (which means "no mas" in Spanish). After I shower we hit Gilibertos No. 3 off of Main St. I had the Shrimp BK (Sonoran regional food preparation, hmm, I said Sonoran again) burrito. Why? Because my Garmin said I burned 1000 kcals. Man did that ever hit the spot, complemented with pickled jalapeños, pico de gallo, and two different types of hot sauce. In the morning, we take Operation Later Homie to La Verkin, Utah home of Zion NP and Gooseberry Mesa.

Day Two, Operation Later Homie
We arrive La Verkin, UT but there's a caveat-my boy Billy has to skype his computer science class from our hotel room at 1600h so we do a fun, pump tracky, single track in the JEM riding area in Hurricane before that time commitment. We fire off 10 miles of smile inducing, endorphin releasing speed racering in this talcum powdered singletrack whose features rolled, pitched, and yawed us to giggletown. The trail's names were: Goose Bumps, Cryptobionic, and Deadringer. I highly recommend these trails for you especially if you have a significant other who loves mountain biking but doesn't really like technical, exposed stuff.

01 October, 2017

Post end-of-the-world ride.

Are you jealous yet?
Last day of September...must be Fall in lovely Colorado!
can you see the fog in the distance? still gorgeous weather...
Not going to blast y'all with a bunch of pictures of leaves changing; but, would like to tell you about my oh-so nifty ride today with two of my fave homies and a new friend I met on said ride. In Golden there's a wee, remarkable eponymous bike shop  that sponsors a ride called The Great Bonk.  Unfortunately with the rains as a portent to Fall, alas The Great Bonk 2017 edition was canceled. That didn't stop my friend Kenny L (aka Kenny Lanhammer, the Lanhammer, the Volvo dude), from creating a version of his own called the mini-bonk. It too would take place in Golden. The routes started from White Ranch (ouch) to Mountain Lion (double ouch). Has been ages since I saw--let alone rode--with Kenny and Austin.  Fortunately for us, Austin still has sangria in his system from this trip to Barcelona (they're voting on whether or not to stay with España this Sunday) so he wouldn't tear it up too bad on the ascents. When I received the invite from Kenny, needless to say I had to go. Weather might've been a problem but it wasn't. Waking up early too; but it wasn't. Being possessed by Satan before I left the house could've happened too, but it didn't-so off we went! Karen was at her XC meet with her team. This might be too much information, but as cyclists--especially before hard efforts/events--'tis oh-so important to bust out a boom-boom. It's good for activities where you don't have to spend precious energy digesting, instead that energy can be used for pedaling and steering and talking shite with your friend. Not only did I boom-boom once; but twice. I call it Operation Stage Two. Oh yeah...

0800 here in Colorado's rather chilly, chill-chill so i started off with a wind-proof vest along with knee and arm warmers. Peeled 'em before I started climbing. Austin said, "That's what you get when you get dressed in the shade." Yup, it was warm but I kept these items in my Camelbak-which would prove to be fortuitous as the day progressed. The weather as we climbed smelled of Fall and it was crispy in my nares. The wet, downed leaves and the soil, along with a smidge of humidity, reminded our senses of the previous days' rains as we rode up and over. The rocks were wet too so that made us fairly vigilant of traction so we wouldn't biff it and hurt ourselves or our bikes. Absolutely love the changing of the seasons and couple that with a bike ride with one's homies? As Gollum would say: preciousss (or as I would say, "Self, dat's precious)

Ben caught us we were ascending Belcher. As we rode up in our little spheres of influence (and fitness) we rendezvoused at the first bench. That's where I snapped this quadlie...
Look at the blue skies in the background! L-R: me, Austin, Ben, and Ken

At this point we could've taken a longer, not-so-much climbing route to get to Mountain Lion; but I suggested we take the more direct, nastier climbing route. At this part of the ride, the weather started to get cold. That's when I donned my arm warmers as we hauled ass over dirt roads filled with puddles in the potholes as we avoided the washboard surface and oncoming traffic on the tight switchbacks.

Mountain Lion's in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  We got a bit led astray from the our memory of the last time we rode here. After a bit of trail mapping we got back on our path. Holy molee I forgot how gnarly the rocks are here. The rocky, wet singletrack with roots and sharp, slabs of rock creates ledges that tests your ass-behind-the-saddle confidence were a'plenty. I spent alot of energy scanning and analyzing (and braking on) how I was going to enter and exit these bits of technical, potential head-over-heels catastrophe type things with minimal steering. Needless to say, once we finished Mountain Lion Austin and I--the hardtailers--were done. We were physically beat. I suggested we ride the paved road back into Golden. Kenny and Ben hit the singletrack once we parted ways climbing the brutal climb back to White Ranch. After a rather long, preying mantis-style tuck (wearing my vest and knee/arm warmers), Austin and I made it back and headed over to Cannonball Creek Brewing Co.  This is where the most satisfying part of the ride-the conclusion, happened. As the beer attenuates one's social viscosity, Austin and I talked about why we arrived in Colorado. He too is a transplant and has Texas roots. We mitigated our reasons for why we are here: skiing, the sunny days, cycling both on and off road, the weather, and healthy, gastronomic vibes Denver emanates to whomever has their receptors on. As I ponder even more, the whole Colorado racing/cycling thing wouldn't have been this spectacular without the presence of a catalyst-Kenny. I met him in 1997 as a long term sub at Scott Carpenter Middle School in unincorporated Jefferson County as we both sat in the principal's office. He said, "Hey man, if you're into cycling you should come ride with some of my friends on the Vitamin Cottage cycling team." Then lo and behold, after an infinite amount of permutations later on my timeline o'life...Here. I. Is. 

The thought of replacing kilocalories with beer--at this particular junction of the day--seemed like a great idea; but now, that buzz rocked my alcohol intolerance mightily. Before that buzzkill arrived (in the form of a headache), it was nice to cogitate and self-reflect on how we precisely arrived here. Kenny and Ben finally showed up (Ben crashed near the end) and the viscosity dropped from 10W-30 to 0W-20 (the W is for wassup bitches!). The weather held out (it would rain later) and man, the beers and our conversations really punctuated the end of a righteous time outside, soaking up the UVs shared with one's (cycling) brethren (as our sore muscles quietly grumbled). When it was all said and done, 5451' of climbing and 32 miles (prolly 4 on pavement).

17 January, 2017

A Miscommunication Leading to Rather Auspicous Affairs.

Estrella Mountains, Arizona.
It's winter here in Denver so we were itching to bail somewhere warm to ride without cold weather gear.

Lem in action!
It started out as a simple miscommunication: Kevin told me that an airline company from Denver was having some majorly cheap, one-way fares. A couple of days later, my ex-roomie Grant told me that he was thinking of flying to AZ to do an early season mtb race. He never told me which race it was, so off I go checking which weekend I didn't have my most amazing kids AND an XC event from the offerings from The Mountain Bike Association of Arizona. What event fit the bill? The McDowell Meltdown (that wasn't the race Grant was thinking after I booked it). A 44 mile, marathon XC mtb race. After I VM'd Grant my intentions and got no response, due to my impatience, I went and booked the flight. I didn't take my bike because of the largess of my older brother letting me use his sweet Ti Rigor Mootis. Hells yes, a triple chain ring, 26" tubeless wheelset (baby!) with yours truly piloting this retro sweetness. After I booked the flight and made sure everything was okay with crashing at my brother's house (including my teammie Kev and ex-room dog, Grant) I told Kevin and Grant, and voila, The Three Stooges were AZ-bound.

Getting ready for an ass handing! L to R: Kev, me, Grant
Have I mentioned how awesome my brah and sis in-law are for letting bike trash hangout at their house for the weekend with bikes and gear (and stink) to boot?  And, my most badass wife for being my complicitor? Yeah, I'm thankful.

Been checking weatherunderground and it's not beach weather clothes in AZ for this event. In fact, it's going to be cold and rainy with intermittent sunshine, hence the picture shows us with arm warmers (not shown, base layer). Our flight's delayed, so we call Trek West in Phoenix to tell them of our setback and to please stay open so we can retrieve Kevin's rental bike (a DS Trek Fuel EX 8 or sumpin).  Brandon from Trek, stays late and we retrieve the bike; and, he offers us beers because we're starting our vacay. Thank you Brandon, you're awesome and I can see why you run the shop. Kevin and I will pay it forward (somehow). So Lem, Kev, Grant, and I gather our gear and we're off to the races in Fountain Hill in Kevin's rental and we register as competitors. We're not itching to line up front because we're unfit, CO boys grateful that we can do an early season race. We don't have nearly the legs the AZ boys do because they are in the heyday of their season while we are in our nascent part of 2017 (along with the snow and cold temps that comes with living in the rocky mountains). I do admit though, the road patron Byron's, still organizing World's aka The Hour of Power every Saturday whenever there's not a foot of snow on the road-regardless of temps. And. It (Worlds). Is. Hard. 

Speaking of temps, Kevin and I train on single track snow whenever it's below freezing so as to not tear up the trail (i.e. starting off at 22º F, is a bitch); and, we did get some miles in over our Christmas Break.

last staging
Here's a parting present Kev's bike picked up
Once all 70-ish of us marathoners start (we're on the last) there's a bike in right angles to our thundering herd because of a snapped chain. Nutty. We were going chilly-chill, tempo speed but the testosterone poisoning got the best of me and once I saw an opening I ripped it. The course was fast and flowy and I succumbed to the moment (but mostly to testosterone). Once I was in a pack of similar fitness, I wanted to flex my averageness on a climb, so I kind of ramp up the watts and start passing. Lo and behold a girl passes me with some heat behind her. I match her speed and notice that she starts to fade so I pass her back up. I pick off the pack I'm in and start to settle as the sting sets in my quads. As soon as the downhill starts a dude on a DS rockets pass me and I try to stick on his wheel. Another climb starts and when I pass him I say some words of encouragement, and lo and behold! homegirl passes me back up and increases the gap. The hurt in my legs says chill. The next segment of road is slightly flat and mostly serpentine. The wind changes direction-towards my backside-and I slap it in the large chain ring and I pull away from the group trying to maintain 19 to 20 mph on this little segment. Note to self, unlike CO singletrack ripping where you can lay it down motoGP style in the corners, you don't do that technique here. One, it's kinda gravelly; and two, when you go slalom bumping/apexing in the corners you might just bump or apex onto a Saguaro or a nasty Cylindropuntia fulgida aka a mother scratchin' cholla cactus! That y'all, is what qualifies as supremely NO BUENO.  Grant passes me as I'm starting to get gassed and I can't hold his wheel. Eventually I finish the big lap of 33 miles and switch onto the 11 mile loop. At this point, I am cramping severely and the chump change, low mileage categories are starting to pass my low blood sugar, high lactic acidified legs-self. I eventually reign it in and go into self-preservation mode, barely hitting 10 mph on this undulating part of the course. I open up two Clif blok energy chews and eat all twelve cubes in less than 10 minutes, that's how hypoglycemic I was.  My hard charging college roommate finishes in 3:26 and Lem and he wait for me at the finish. I pass a couple more hominids on bikes before I finish in 3:34 and the three of us  wait at the finish line for Kev who finishes in 3:40. After crossing the finish line,  his legs lock up due to cramping as I hold his bike and we relive a scene from the movie Alien. Instead of the chestbuster scene, it's the gastrocnemiusbuster scene. His cramps are so intense you can see the spasms undulating on his calf. His effort, resulting in gastrocnemiusbuster punctuated our lack of fitness, and our singular desire to race. Great race course although I wish it had feed stations. I raced the 44 miles on two water bottles, two Clif blok packets and testosterone poisoning. Averaged 12.35 mph. Would tell you more but my Garmin $hit the bed.
All done. All smiles.Now onto our next adventure. That's my bro in the civies.
we race for this!
Later that evening we have a celebratory soirée. We pick up my Mom who knows that Grant and Kevin are going to be at Lem's. It's been at least a decade since Grant's hung out with my Mom from our younger, road racing days back in Plano, TX; and my Mom knows Kevin's one of my BFFs here in Denver who happened to help me through my divorce and introduced me to my loveliest of lovelies: my Karen.
On Sunday, with our weary, post race heavy legs, we hook up with Lem's AZ posse to put the final nails into our legs' coffins. Marc's the aspiring racer so he puts us in our paces with our legs a'screaming but damn was it fun chasing everybody out at F.I.N.S., Estrella Mtn, and The Secret Trail. Jack's a full suspension homie with skillz that shows us how technical's done. Here's the AZ posse.

L-R: Kev, Jack, Marc, Grant, me at Estrella Mtn

At the Sky Harbor Airport to head back to Denver, who do we see? Hez-Billy, thus completing a fortuitous meeting of the Homie Trinity.

To sum: I am grateful and honored to be surrounded by such competent, witty, flatulent, gastronomically hip, caring, avuncular, fit, funny, quasi-hardscrabbley brethren and sistren on this adventure!