Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Swiss miss-ive

A few weeks ago Adam and I attempted to do the Switzerland Trail (see Swiss Recon). We got stopped by snow, so I took a second go at doing the entire route as an opportunity to test some gear and work out a recent knee issue I had developed. The Switzerland trail can be divided into four segments that look something like a backwards "L". Three of these run north/South and the last cuts West to connect with the Peak to Peak Highway.

After rolling by Spruce Confections to fuel up on espresso, I headed to Boulder Canyon and up Four Mile Road. Instead of continuing to Sunset, as Adam and I did, I hooked left on Logan Mill Road to do the three main portions of the Switzerland Trail. Logan mill eventually connects to Sugarloaf Rd, via the Escape Route. There are a couple of unmarked turns on this road, so I was happy to spin a few miles with another rider who knew the way. Chris was from Boulder and planned a slightly different route. After I told him my plan Chris had mentioned that the northermost portion of the Switzerland Trail, wasn't really CX bike territory given that he had turned back on this full suspension rig. This was the potion under snow when Adam and I ventured up here last, so I didn't know what to expect. However, I was out for an adventure so I thought I would take my chances and turn back if need be.

The first leg of the trail was all downhill into Sunset. On a mountain bike you could probably bomb down this thing pretty fast, but the rough road, many rocks and CX tires meant I had to keep things pretty slow and pick a good path if I didn't want to completely wreck my wheels. As it was there were more than a few times I would have pinch flatted if I wasn't tubeless.

Leg two runs from Sunset to Gold Hill Road, and is the segment I had ridden previously. I ran into no snow and no other riders on this gorgeous sunny day. What I did see were more than a few motorbike folks and people walking their dogs.

Leg three runs North from Gold Hill Rd almost to the town of Ward, CO. It's the part that Chris had warned me about. Surprisingly, the first couple miles of this leg were the smoothest part of the trail I had yet encountered. This didn't last though. There is a fork at one point where a sign indicates the main road dead ends. It was here I saw the moto folks coming back - I suppose it did end for them. After 1/2 mile or so on this section I came to some reasonably long stretches of talus that you need to ride over or walk. I'd certainly prefer my fatter 29er tires, but I didn't have 'em and made do. No flats, nothing too scary, and I made it just fine with the 35c tires. What's "too difficult" is pretty relative. There are plenty of places I'll get off and walk, where other folks feel fine to ride.

There is, however, a very brief segment at the end of the trail (perhaps 75 yards) where you will have to dismount any bike. This little connector trail hooks up with Sawmill Road for a brief stint before you pick up pavement into Ward. This was my first time in Ward and it was nice to see that the general store seemed to be a haven for cyclists. Several were leaving, and several others were lounging on the veranda. Of course, all were on svelte road bikes. From Ward I picked up the Peak to Peak Highway heading South to find Gold Hill Road. I headed on the rolling road - crossing my previous path on the Switzerland Trail - into Gold Hill for a stop at the general store. This was my 1/2 way point at 50 miles and I added water to my bottles and  a tiny bag of malt vinegar and sea salt chips to my belly.

Back in the saddle I continued downhill on Gold Run Road to reconnect with Four Mile. The steep descent meant it was quickly time to turn back up and begin what seemed like the longest climb of the day. I climbed  up to Sunset and hooked left to retrace my steps on Leg 1 of the Switzerland trail so that I could finish the last segment that goes West to the Peak to Peak. This entire stretch is uphill and seemed to go on forever. It wasn't so much the elevation or the distance as the slow going on the trail. Of course the payoff included some great views.

The Peak to Peak took me through Nederland and on to Magnolia Rd where I planned to head off the hill. The toughest part was deciding whether to stop in Ned for a little Caffeine fix. I might have helped, but I decided to pass and just continue on. I had been looking forward to the downhill into town on Magnolia, but  I didn't know was that it's still rolling hills for a while. Only after this do you get a screaming descent for the last 4.5 miles. Fortunately those miles are paved as you build up speed quickly and there are quite a few sharp turns. There are also some sandy patches which can put an end to a day quickly if you're not careful. The many curves meant I had to stay on the brakes a lot and couldn't open it up and fly.

The remainder of the route down Boulder Creek and following bike paths home was inconsequential and familiar. I was sad to see that my elevation was so close to 10,000 ft (9971 by my Garmin) but there are no hills anywhere on the way back to my casa. (Strava robbed me of another few feet and only shows 9921 - bastards!) Something about climbing 10k seems like a magic threshold that is more than the missing 29ft.

Overall a good day and a great route. If you're in the area and looking for a century with some big hills and rugged miles check this one out - just find another 50ft hill somewhere to make it an even 10k.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Audio trippin - AntiEpic and underground races

Ben interviews me about my experience in the AntiEpic, opinions on rides and choice of gravel weapons.

Listen to internet radio with Mountain Bike Race Minute on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, April 9, 2012

AntiEpic - trip report

The AntiEpic gravel grinder. This race really rubbed me the wrong way (see below).

Odyssey, quest, journey, jaunt
While we all took nearly the same route, the personal journeys were quite varied . We all froze in the early am 28 degree start and we all battled a viscous wind,  but some elected to take a shorter path (100 mile route), some added a bit extra to stop and resupply food/water (+3 to Deer Trail), some wrestled their flat tire demons (at least one guy had 7 flats), and I'm sure there were also plenty of inner demons battled in the gravel arena.

After a 4am wake up, 15 minutes to get in the car, and a quick stop in Boulder to pick up Adam, we were on the road to begin our journey. The temps dropped from 40 at my house to 28 at the race start. I wore what I had and it was thankfully just enough. While the sun was supposed to shine bright all day, I checked on Larkspur, Kiowa and Deer Trail and the weather prophets predicted it would not get much above 60 for the high. This was just within  range to wear my leg warmers and long sleeve jersey all day. I had purchased a Jandd seat bag which gave me room (2-3 L) to store extra food then later stuff my jacket in there. While I didn't overheat, I did freeze a bit in the morning. With my warmer gloves on and lighter pair in a pocket I had numb fingers for the first hour or two. Long after my fingers returned I began to feel my right toes. My left ones were slow to catch up - it took about 60 miles for them to reappear.

I lugged a camera around for 161 miles and took only 1 fuzzy photo at the start. 
The group did a neutral roll out for the first two miles to where the official end was supposed to be. Then Ben gave the word and the actual race began. The lead group was cranking fast and I didn't make any attempt to keep up. I rolled casual for a couple miles chatting with Ben before getting into my own pace. I still kept the lead group in sight for the first 40 miles but slowly fell further and further behind. A few folks passed me, some of which I caught later. A few other folks from the lead group began to slow to their own paces and I rode with some of them and overtook others. I had planned to mostly ride at my own pace and not deliberately spend too much time making this a social ride. It didn't take much effort on my part for this to be the reality of the day.

This blows
The route began by heading East and then curving North to a high point where we turned back due East to head towards Deer Trail. The due North segment flew by. The road was in near perfect hardpack condition and a slight tailwind made it easy to push well over 20mph without much effort. As soon as we turned East, however, the casual ride was over and the battle begun. The rest of the day was spent fighting a solid headwind or cross wind. This added tremendously to the effort involved to push through this route. The wind can be incredibly demoralizing. I'm honestly not sure whether the headwind is harder than the cross winds. I had done the pre-ride with Ben a month before and two other rides out here solo, all of which avoided any serious wind. There is only a very small segment of the entire route that has trees to abate the gusts, but I was thankful for their brief respite.

The hardest decision I made to prep for the route was whether to stop in Deer Trail. This would allow me to just bring three bottles and carry less weight, but added three more miles and one more hill climb. I figured about 20 minutes to be added. I really didn't want to lug an extra gallon of water and don't enjoy riding with a pack, so I elected to stop. It was a good call - I would have needed the break and the facilities regardless.

Since Deer Trail is at about the 80 mile mark, I planned to reapply my chamois cream here. Sadly it was nowhere to be found. (I did find it on the dashboard of my car at the finish.) Let's just say I did A LOT of standing for the last 60-70 miles and sitting back down on the saddle was really starting to hurt. My legs were certainly tired from pedaling, but in the end (pun fully intended) the AntiEpic really chapped my hide.

We did have some news that the snow earlier in the week had left the three-mile B road in "VERY" muddy conditions. Luckily the wind and sun of the last few days had dried it up nicely. The surface was soft and a little sandy so it was a little slower, but honestly it was pretty tame.

Difficult to swallow
Food was an evolving interesting thing on this ride. I went with my normal rice bars and waffles on the hour and gummies every 15 min between. This worked well for ~125 miles. Then for some reason it just got harder to eat. The gummies, which really only take 3-4 chews and 10 seconds to eat, began to taste awful.  I'd endure about 5 minutes of them somewhat dissolving in my mouth before swallowing. Chewing the rice bars or waffles seemed like energy I could't spare from the pedals. I knew I needed to keep eating though and I did - up until the last 45 minutes. At that point it just became en effort to get to the end. Another rider I was near or with from mile 60-about 115 mentioned being in "survival mode" beginning at Deer Trail. I wasn't quite there (probably a few hours from that) but I didn't feel too far off.

There was brief tease near the finish. The technical route ended about two miles from where we parked. The last 1.17 miles headed to this line are due North (ergo the only tailwind in the last 100 miles of the route). So I'm not sure how fast the wind was blowing but that list mile - at a slight uphill - went something like this: Pedal twice, stand and cruse for 1/4 mile, pedal twice, stand and cruise, look down at computer (27.4 mph!). Then I rolled up to an empty lot :( I know what happened. They're at the parking area. I could swear I heard weeping and a violin at that moment. It's only two miles and it's mostly downhill but it couldn't go fast enough. I had been out for 12 hours, and the heat of the day was fading fast making that wind colder and colder.

Back at the car I found Adam who had elected to do a slightly shorter 100 mile version of the course. Fortunately he hadn't been waiting too long for me and had been able to take refuge with others (I had the only keys to the car). All my energy was gone at that point and I got out of my kit and into dry clean clothes pretty immediately. I had on a heavy fleece, fleece beanie, and a windproof insulated jacket with the hood up but I couldn't stop shivering. I should have been plenty warm enough, but my body just didn't seem to be generating any heat. I said a quick hello to Ben and some other folks waiting around (Ben's wife Amy and Eric whom I met on the B road). Adam and I made a quick exit to get some calories and headed to Larkspur where we had spotted a pizza joint. A Greek-ish pizza with olives, artichokes, feta and pepperoni was probably the worst recovery meal I've had yet. We ordered the 18" but just eating the first slice felt like work. I made it through a second, but had to stop there till I made it home (by which point I began to feel slightly human again). Somewhere around 5 minutes after sitting on the couch I passed out. Then woke at ?am and stumbled into bed.

Previously my longest ride was 106 miles in the High Cascades 100. This was 161. I'm fairly amazed at how well I feel less than two days later. It may not have been the best idea to plan a multi-pitch climb that involves and uphill hike in, for the day after an event like this, but some how that's what I did. I was fine, and had a fantastic day. I really felt exhausted after the ride and pretty beat when I first woke up, but it didn't last  long. My current training seems to be working great, and while my muscles feel tired and won't be fully recovered for a week, the only pain I feel is in my face. You see, I neglected to put sunscreen on my face, so now I have this lovely raccoon tan/burn.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Friday Inspiration - The Grind

Friday Inspiration

Inspiration comes in many forms. Some whimsical, some exciting, others - a challenge. First Installation - The Grind.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain

I had been wanting to explore Soapstone Prairie Natural Area for a while. Since one of the longer sections of trail is closed from April 1-July 15 my ride on March 31 was a timed perfectly. I planned just over 30 miles and around 3 hours. 

The parking was easy to find and access with plenty of room. The SPNA website never mentioned a fee. Since the entrance kiosk was unmanned, and there was no signs for fees I was happily surprised to find that this was a free use area - not many places seem to be anymore.

I began heading East to connect with the Plover trail. This 7+ mile section is closed for a few months to allow for nesting. The trails leading to this were pretty fun, albeit mellow, singletrack. The Plover trail itself however, wasn't a trail so much as simply a gravel road on the plains. 

After rolling North on Plover, my route headed West. This was a fantastic trail that was almost entirely double track. Still the scenery was lovely. I began to catch up to a few recreational riders in this section. After a short wrong turn diversion, and correction, I saw them again as the trail entered the Red Mountain Open Space area.

The beginning of Red Mountain Open Space - looking South

The route - Ruby Wash - heads right down into that  canyon.

Red Mountain is a big change in scenery as you drop into Ruby Wash. It's the first real singletrack on the route I chose and the first area where a CX bike might not be a better option. This is even more apparent when you finish the descent and end up in the wash proper. for those not in the know this means you're riding on a dry sandy creek bed. It's not a ton of fun, and it is sluggish, but the scenery of riding through the canyon makes up for it (at least the first time). Along this South heading section of the route the trail was marked with nondescript little towers of rock held together in a wire shell. They're not always easy to see, but that's what you're looking for if you go here. The creek bed wanders and there are tire tracks all over. There are also several random side trails (some of which go nowhere) but the towers point the way.

The wash part of Ruby Wash

At the end of Ruby Wash it was time to head back East to reconnect with the car. This unfortunately meant I had to head up another wash (uphill this time). At some point I exited stage right onto a very clearly defined singletrack section. I wish I had taken some pictures of this section because it reminded me of Salsa's line "adventure by bike." I'm not sure if this was a sanctioned trail, as it had varying use and was unsigned, but it was prominent, nothing told me not to ride it, and it did connect with another main trail. (FYI - there are many different places where trails are clearly marked with signs that say "Not a trail.")

Back on the main trail, singletrack dominated the remainder of the route. The Cheyenne Rim trail was fantastic. The views were amazing and after one large ascent it was largely downhill. I couldn't help but think that I was on this trail in the right direction. The last mile to the car was double track but the other 6 miles were the highlight of the trip.

How Cheyenne Rim got it's name

sweet singletrack = more fun riding and less pictures

I hadn't found anyone else who had ridden here, so I wasn't entirely sure what I was in for. Now I know and I can say I would go back. I'm generally not fond of gravel on a MTB ride, and I could do without so much sand next time, but there were several sections of singletack that I missed on this trip which could be linked together to avoid a lot of the sand and most of the roads. There is very little technical riding in this area even on the singletrack, but what there is leads me to believe that this is still a lot more fun if you bring the 29er and leave the skinny tires at home. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

AE route finalized

The final route for the AntiEpic is up on the AntiEpic Blog! Take a look, sign up if you haven't already and get ready for the boot to hit your backside. 

You can download the route from Garmin or from Bike Route Toaster. I love the toaster for most things and use it all the time on the Edge 500, but sometimes it has issues with the edge 800. However, the toaster has a cue sheet tab that's damn handy.