Too much stuff going on, not enough bloggy time… here are the cliff notes…
At humbug hill, I followed the orange signs with the black arrows. Turns out they weren’t the right orange signs with black arrows .. there was a trail maintenance crew on dirt bikes using nearly the exact same arrows as the the Breck 100 event. And their paths crossed and dozens of racers, including the pack that I was in, went off course following those errant arrows. After 2 years of dealing with the bullshit of Warriors Cycling’s over-priced, under-staffed, under-organized events, I am glad to say good riddance to those asshats. Never again will I fork out over $200 to race on a course that the organizers can’t even bother to mark properly.
At least I got some great hiking and family time in the Rockies before my next journey began….
Move to Portland
Packing 5 bikes, 3 pets, 2 humans and a full house full of stuff into a moving van towing a hatchback plus an SUV across 1200 miles of America … an adventure for sure. Japhy was not pleased with the 2 days of driving that lay ahead…
But we arrived safely and managed to stuff our pets and possessions into a tiny suburban apartment outside of PDX.
The Rose Gardens
Mount Hood and the skyline
The Marine Layer
and Japhy zooming by
No pics of the three greatest parts of Portland though … my job and my commute. My weekly training schedule is now completely dominated by my daily commute of ~30 miles and 2200 vertical feet round trip. Split into two rides per day, it adds up to pretty great default base miles. A lot more frequent than my training in CO (10+ times per week, instead of 4 or 5) and my commute takes me over the Tualtin Hills every day so I rack up some massive climbing miles. Instead of infrequent, hard workouts, I’ll be shifting to very frequent steady tempo/climbing work with almost very few days off for months at a time. We’ll see how that affects the fitness.
And finally the FOOD. Fort Collins nearly destroyed my tastebuds with it’s bland uninspired restaurants but Portland is possibly the most vibrant cuisine culture I’ve ever experienced. I’m going to need to have a good paying job and high mileage training to afford eating all the wonderful food that abounds in this city!
Ever since my tires touched dirt at Lory State Park and the adjacent Horsetooth Mountain Park, I’ve dreamed of racing these trails. These are real MTB trails with technical singletrack, long brutal climbs, hike-a-bikes and just tough rocky fun stuff all around.
So when Overland Mountain Bike Club announced the first running of the Horsetooth/Lory event, I was stoked. The event, at first unnamed, came to be know as “40 in the Fort”
There were some tough competition for a local race capped at 150 riders. National junior champ Skyler Trujillo was there along with lots of strong local guns. I felt a good solid 90% all day long, never really feeling great but always feeling good enough to keep the pace high. Climbing Timber trail on the first lap, I was in 4th and had no interest in keeping the pace of the 3 leaders. I fell in and out of that slot all day long, eventually finishing up with a 4th place overall. The major climbs – Timber, Mill creek, Towers and Stout – seemed to come in rapid succession and I felt that the majority of the trail time was climbing. Indeed the 38 mile course showed about 6k vertical according to my Garmin! And the descents were brutal too, big techy drops and loose rocks made you work just as hard on the way down.
The only real reprive were the Valley Trails which offered some very familiar smooth swooping singletrack and a chance to mentally regroup.
There were definitely a few mandatory hike-a-bikes on the way up – I tried to granny gear up the climbs on the first lap but found it faster to just grind it out in the 32T and run anything that got too steep. There was even a descent that I ran on both laps, the big staircase on the Spring Creek trail. Dismounting is not my normal style and I’ve ridden all of this stuff before when I wasn’t racing but during a race you’ve got to minimize risks, conserve effort and do what’s fastest.
It was a great day on the trails and I was really grateful for the 7am start time .. it was getting HOT up there, especially climbing up the exposed 20% grades on Towers. I’m glad the Overland club put this event together and my only sadness is that I probably won’t get to race it again next year (Jeez, moving to Portland in 2 weeks and already feeling nostalgia for CO …)
.. well actually it was the Firecracker 54 this year. And not because I got lost off course They actually switched it up a bit, removing the Iowa Mill climb and and fall-line descent, adding 2 new sections of singletrack and making a longer doubletrack loop out at Humbug Hill. Overall, I liked this course a lot better than last year’s version – although I’m sure there’s a way they could avoid running so much ATV-rutted doubletrack in favor of singletrack! Oh and there was MUD..
Anyways, here’s the quick rundown: I spent the greater part of the weekend up in Keystone with some friends – our annual “guys week” / bachelor party. We did some riding, some beer drinking, some whitewater rafting, some trail running/hiking, explored some old mines, some of us got in a final day of skiing up at Araphahoe basin. All around great time. But the 500 lb gorilla was lurking in the room all weekend – the Firecracker 50 on July 4th. There was no tapering or getting adequate amounts of rest for this one – just the promise of pure high-altitude pain.
I started off with my great friend Mike T who was visiting from Maryland (thats 0 ft above sea level). I wasn’t feeling super spunky but I kept going with the lead group despite my better judgement and cries from my legs to slow down. I hit the singletrack in 1st, and dropped to 4th by the end of the first lap … I was riding consistently and putting huge gaps on the descents but I just wasn’t climbing that well. Second lap, my morale faded on the big long road climb as the lead group of self-proclaimed “old farts” (Cat 1 40-49) passed me. I kept it steady and eventually saw one of my competition drop out with a mechanical, then slowly reeled in another .. my climbing legs were back. It just took 3 1/2 hrs to warm up! I pressed on hard to the finish and was using the downhills to my full advantage. Good thing too – I crossed the line in 2nd place with 3rd place (Matt Shiff) breathing down my neck just 9 seconds back!
My legs felt like crap the whole race but I kept it steady and just did the deed… and it paid off with a 2nd place! Mike came it a little ways back in 9th place with a bloody mangled arm and mumbling something about oxygen deprivation and vomiting. We spent the next few hours in the ER getting Mike’s arm sewn back together (OK it was just 5 stitches).
Great weekend with friends + high altitude pain + 2nd place finish = successful independence weekend (America, F yeah!)
Curt Gowdy state park in WY is a blast! Despite being just over an hour away, I’d never made it up to Gowdy and I’m glad I did today.
The Gowdy Grinder was probably one of the most technical MTB races I’ve done in recent years – super smooth and twisty singletrack with big chunky rock obstacles. So much fun. It definitely slows things down – average speeds were about 10mph for the race! Possibly one of the first events I’ve done where I was wishing for 26″ wheels due to all the tight corners and accelerations.
Anyways, the race started with a mad dash up a doubletrack climb and I went WAYYY too deep into the red zone to stay with the leaders. This being my shortest race of the year, the intensity was a bit of a shock to the system! I settled into 5th place for a while, took a wrong turn and lost 15 seconds and about 3 places. Eventually I caught back up and settled into 6th place with Adam right ahead of me and a small chase group behind me. It was cat and mouse for the second lap, I would reel Adam in only to fade and almost get caught by the chasers. The third lap was just trying to hold everything together and my legs were really fatigued from the past week of training. I held 6th for the final lap and just tried to stay smooth on the technical stuff without having to put out too much effort .. keeping momentum was the name of the game.
So 6th place in a competitive field on great trails, a $10 entry fee, a super-chill race scene and a beautiful windy high plains day. Can’t ask for more than that.
As much as it pains me to make this decision, this is just not the year for me to do the Colorado Trail Race. The timing couldn’t be worse – both Joselyne and I are set to start our new jobs in Portland in the begining of August – same week as the CTR. So that would mean moving across the country, starting a new job and doing a 5 day bikepacking race all at once. Not going to happen. The time and money required to even train for and prepare equipment for the race are daunting even without all the other stuff going on in my life at the moment. So the CTR is going to have to take a back seat to career and family…
This means a shuffling of priorities – my new “A” race will once again be the Breck 100. Hopefully I’ll redeem myself from last year’s navigational debacle and actually stay on course this year!
Once I get settled out in Oregon in August, I’ll make one last push for the Marathon Nationals in late Sept held in Bend.
Sadly no bikepacking or multiday racing this year … but having adjusted my goals as such, the Breck 100 seems like a sprint distance race now!
OK, I’m pretty fired up about this one so I’ll get right to the positive news before I start ranting
The good: I got 5th place in the Front Range 60. 6 laps on a fast 10 mile course. Felt great the whole time and got my nutrition and pacing dialed in. No mechanicals. Did I mention my legs felt great? I was crushing it. At the end of lap 6, I was ready for a few more. Race logistics were ironed out, registration line wasn’t too bad and there was watermelon, strawberries, oranges and free beer! And the decision to delay the Battle of the Bear XC race until later in the day meant less trail traffic (it was still not ideal but not atrocious like last year)
The bad: The race organizers made a horrible last-minute starting line decision that, in my mind, casts a shadow over the legitimacy of the race and maybe the RME series. Let me explain…
At the start they announce a “special treat” and call up all Pro racers (I assume that means anyone with a ‘professional’ status granted by a legit cycling governing body?) to the front. Keep in mind that no license is required for this race and there is no pro category. They let the pros go in front of the singlespeeders. And before you know it, all the top amateur riders are sitting at the starting line wondering what the hell just happened.
Did they just decide to start a new pro category? NO. The pros were still in the Open age group categories but would have their times adjusted to match our ‘amateur’ start time 3 minutes later.
WHOA THERE BUDDY… let me explain how many things are wrong with this picture….
- There are generally no ability categories in endurance races .. only open age/gender groups. Part of the reason I like MTB enduros over highly categorized XC races is that everyone is on a level playing field and best rider wins regardless of what it says on your license (if you even have a license). Even their own website proudly advertises “No License Required”. This is a slap in the face to that ethic.
- If there are ability categories, fine.. let them be actual categories. Pros race pros. Cat1 races Cat1, etc. Don’t start dozens of people 3 minutes ahead of me and tell me we’re racing in the same category because you’re going to adjust the times.
- This ain’t a time trial, we’re racing against our fellow MTBers, not the clock. The pros started before us and were racing their own race .. they got the pacing and strategic benefits of racing against their competition. Not even close to an even playing field.
- Traffic. The first lap we were held up by the large SS field and lots of time was lost waiting for passing opportunities and many risks taken and matches burned in order to take those opportunities. The Pros did not have any of this to deal with (though we all had to deal with lap traffic towards the end of the race).
- The “surprise” aspect of this atrocious decision made matters worse. The pros were called up and the race officials proceeded to take an inventory of all the riders who had scooted up in front of the SSers. Watching this take place, I’m not convinced they counted everyone which means someone’s getting 3 free minutes. If they had planned this all along and could look at the plate numbers to identify pros, well that might be acceptable (but just make a pro category at that point). As it was, there was no way of knowing if everyone who scooted up front was actually a legit pro or if their number got counted or if their time got adjusted.
- It just complicates timing and leads to all manner of potential result errors. Here’s a crazy idea .. in order to simplify bookkeeping, why not start each category all at once and the first person across the line wins, the second person gets second, etc.?
Just a massively poor decision all around on the part of Warrior Cycling.
All I wanted to do was show up and race my bike against my peers, may the best man win. That is, after all, what we paid to do. Looking at the times of the guys ahead of me in the results, I have to wonder how much I was slowed down picking my way through the SS and pro fields? How much was lost in simply not being able to pace with my competition? Could I have stuck with the guys pulling 3:40? I won’t know .. not on this course at least .. I was not given the chance to find out. Somehow the organizers saw it fit to deny us the right to compete with our competition (huh?) based on our status and membership in an unrelated cycling organization.
As it stands now this crap just breeds some very strong resentment from the top amateurs, such as myself, who are amateurs by choice. I typically beat about 50-75% of the pro field in any given race and today was no exception. Most of them have day jobs just like me. What makes them “pro” and me an “amateur”? Only the fact that I have not pursued that status with the USAC due to its’ irrelevance to the type of racing I enjoy. Normally I could give a shit about category labels; I just want to race my bike against other fast dudes on cool trails and see who comes out on top. I’ve got a career and a family and “going pro” is just not on my radar. I wasn’t aware that my personal choice to “just race” would actually prevent me from competing on an even playing field with other riders in my category. Isn’t that what the Open category means? Pro and amateurs alike duking it out for top honors? Apparently not…
Ugh. Enough ranting .. I’m over it. I’ll continue riding hard, training hard, and working hard and competing against cool folks, amateur and pro alike. Hopefully on a level playing field next time.
Some times things happen that make you step back and reassess your goals….
Saturday morning, I woke up way before sunrise to get down to Lake Pueblo in time for the 8am start. The race venue was so poorly organized. The parking, registration and aid station drop were in three different places a few miles apart and the logistics meant that many folks were running late. I did my warmup anticipating an 8am start but was greeted by a line of people still waiting to register. Warrior Cycling – well I’m not gonna bad mouth ‘em but lets just say they could stand to improve their event organization skills.
Finally started around 9am. I got a call-up as last year’s champ in the M30-39 category so I rolled out of the neutral start in the front row. After the flag went down, we started hammering the paved climb to get position for the singletrack.
I entered the singletrack in second.. a little too fast but i was feeling good. I eventually settled into a loose group of the top 5 riders. Saw one of them on the side of the trail with a flat and selfishly thought, “Bummer.. better him than me”.
Well, instant karma’s a bitch. 3 minutes later, about 7 miles into the first lap, My rear tire went squishy… but a shot of CO2 and the sealant worked its magic so I only lost a minute and about 20 places.
Five minutes later, hammering back up to the top ten, I flatted again. Not the squishy, slow leak, stan’s might seal it, type of leak – this was a sidewall tear. My invincible Maxxis Ikon EXOs were torn to shreds. After booting the tire and putting in a tube and pumping it up, I was on my way .. lost about 7 minutes and was now way back in the 100s.
The awesome singletrack which would have made for a fun flowing ride at the front was hell being stuck in mid pack. I had to dart off the trail into goatheads/cactus infested sand traps and sprint past groups of riders, recover, sprint again, repeat several dozens of times. It was frustrating to say the least to not be able to ride at your pace.
I finally fought my way back up to maybe the top 30 or so… was feeling good and ready to tackle the end of lap 2 when my tube was slashed by a rock. Game over. Even if I had another tube or patch kit, I was just mentally drained at this point so I ran the bike back for the final 6 miles, went straight to the car and drove home.
Frustration over mechanicals is becoming the norm for me over the past few years. It is coming pretty darn close to sucking all the fun out of racing. I barely have the time, money or desire to buy and maintain the equipment necessary to sustain racing at this level. The fact that I’m racing on a bike I bought in 2008 against folks lining up with the latest $6k carbon FS bikes is pretty telling. I can deal with that. I can’t deal with the fact that many of my races in the past 2 years have been lost due to mechanicals and “bad luck” in the form of flat tires (Let’s see, the last 12 months have seen six DNFs due to flat tires). All the time and preparation and sacrifice .. it means very little when 1/3 of my races are determined by my tire’s inability to hold air. Not a very fulfilling hobby as the costs keep rising, the risks of failing due to chance are high and the sacrifices seem barely worth it. Hmm maybe I’m just bitter about the weekend….
Well a change is in the works for myself and Joselyne. I recently accepted a position with Ecotrust in Portland, OR. We’ll be in Colorado through July then relocating to Oregon in the second week of August.
And yep I still plan on racing the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series and the CO Trail Race which will be a huge last hurrah in the Rockies! No more 24hr racing in the works though- Instead I’ll be looking at the marathon national championships in Bend and the CX season (the Pacific NW is nutty about ‘cross!)
Looking forward to lush green forests, muddy ‘cross racing, big rivers, volcanoes and all the great stuff Portland has to offer!
Three days up at the cabin in Alma, CO with some good friends. A few days off the bike and skinning up and exploring the mountain on the Tele skis …
… and a day at Vail (skiing the back bowls that we could see from our wedding)…
Now I’ve got to remember how to pedal a bike again.
Well my damned metatarsal stress fracture made sure that I could not train for the Moab Red Hot 33k as I had planned – but Joselyne was signed up as were 45 other Fort Collins trail runners so I made the winter pilgrimage to the desert to cheer them on and get in some mountain biking. The forecast was for cold, wind and wet but I remained optimistic.
The next day, I saw Joselyne and 350 other crazy trail runners off at Gemini Bridges for their 33K or 55K races. As you can tell, everyone was super duper psyched to be out in the 40F rain getting ready to run 20+ miles:
While they were out running to Gold Spike and Poison Spider Mesa, I hit up the Moab “Brand” Trails and some newly constructed MTB-only singletrack called Deadman’s which was fun flowing moderately technical and rocky singletrack (reminded me of hartman rocks in gunnison). The weather was 100% suck; steady drizzle, cold, 20+ mph winds. Still had fun though!
Rode up the Poison Spider Mesa trail to cheer on the trail runners. Joselyne did awesome; she came in about mid-pack with a time of 4:26 for a very technical, slickrock and hilly 33K. I won’t go through all the results of the Fort Collins crew but we had some great races including 4 top-10s in the mens 55k race and at least one top ten in the womens.
Next day, the sun finally came out for some Amasa Back action – one of the coolest trails I’ve ever ridden. The earlier rains packed down what might have otherwise been oppressive sand. Trail conditions were perfect and the light was spectacular:
I took a bunch of video with my ContourHD helmet cam but they are super-shaky and I need to stabilize the images, cut them into a proper movie, etc. I’m just too lazy to deal with processing them in IMovie at the moment so thats gonna have to wait.
Great weekend. I live for road trips like this.