Sunday, June 28, 2009

You don't need an adventure race to have an adventure!

You don't need to adventure race to have an adventure; this Saturday's ride was absolute proof of that. Dave from Redstone organized the ride, which was billed to be an all-day death march, 6 - 8 hours of riding. Eight brave souls showed up for the ride (Lee, Brian, Dave, Doug, Rob, Don, Jesper and me).

Me and 7 fit guys head out from funky little Jamestown - not a bad view!

The plan was to ride a large sampling of the trails up near Jamestown in the Roosevelt National Forest, starting out along James Creek, heading down Bell Gulch, around Gold Lake, up and along a ridge line with views of Gold Hill and then down, down down back to Jamestown. Despite a few obstacles and a major mechanical, the plan was realized almost to a T!

Jesper and I have done the ride along James Creek many times. It is an old road that has been closed to motorized vehicles for years, becoming more and more single track every year. In the spring and early summer, one section of the trail is usually covered in water. We've had a lot of rain this spring and the result was that a significant portion of the entire trail was under water.

The one section that is often wet was a raging river. Most of us opted to climb up over a steep scree field to get around it. Yay - the adventure had started!!

We usually ride this section, but not when it has white caps! (photo cred Dave Chase)

Jesper and Rob crossing the scree field

Dave decided to forge through the water, practically freezing his nuts off in the process (that water is COLD!).

Dave opting to take the creek route while the rest of us scrambled over a scree field

It wasn't easy either way. We rode along the trail/creek for awhile, the deafening sound of the supercharged creek filling our heads. It was a hot day, so the splashing and wetting of our feet felt good. The trail eventually crosses the creek and ordinarily this can be easily walked (and sometimes ridden). Not this day. Jesper and Dave waded into the creek, at this point a raging river escaping its banks. I walked in until the water was knee deep. Dang - It was COLD, so cold my feet hurt! The current was also amazingly strong, even at knee-deep depth. I watched as Jesper and Dave struggled in water almost to their waists to make their way toward the middle of the creek (er, river).

Jesper forging into the raging creek

It was pretty clear to me that, at my size, I would not be able to cross the creek without being swept downstream, probably losing my bike in the process. So I headed upstream to the slippery log that lays across the creek. Some of the other guys were there and already crossing it.

Doug crossing the slipperly log

Jesper and Dave soon abandoned their attempt to wade across the water and joined our group, deciding the log was a better option than the creek. I've crossed the log before, even wearing my biking shoes and carrying my bike. But this time, the water was so close to the log and moving so fast it made crossing on the log 'seem' more sketchy. Since half the guys were already across the log, we implemented a little team work to get the remaining bikes safely over. Then the rest of us walked or scootched our butts over the log. Yay - more adventuring!

Making me feel like I was on tightly honed adventure racing team! (photo cred Dave Chase)

I checked my Forerunner - we had gone about 3 miles in one hour. Scree fields and raging river crossings tend to slow a group down! We continued up, up, up, finally reaching the top of the first big climb of the day (there were more to come). After a little snack, we took off, or at least we tried to take off. Lee made it about 50 feet before a rogue rock bounced up and completely sheared his derailleur off! The part was jammed tightly into his cassette. Oddly enough, his replaceable derailleur hanger wasn't bent in the teeniest bit. As the guys tried to extract the derailleur from the cassette, I kept going to let the front of the group know that there was a major mechanical and that Lee would be turning around to walk his bike home.

Lee was BUMMING, not so much because of his bike being broken, but because he was having such a good time and the day was so pretty - he hated the idea of not being able to finish the ride. Jesper, Doug, Don and I hung out and ate some more, waiting for Dave, Brian and Rob to rejoin us. Imagine our surprise when the group came into view with Lee riding along! Brian had masterminded an amazing zip-tie repair that allowed Lee to ride, albeit with only 3 gears, but it was still riding. Our group of eight was still intact!

Lee's zip-tied derailleur

This is where the GPS tracks start to look like an etch-a-sketch doodle (although we never repeated any section either direction except maybe one little tiny connector)!

BLOG EDIT - I had a route posted here, but apparently it caused some controversy among the local ride scene. None of the trails we rode were illegal and all of them were on published maps. Nevertheless, I have removed the image to keep the peace.

We descended a super fun section to a point we had been to before and then pointed the bikes back uphill again for a grueling jeep rode climb I am all too familiar with, except it didn't seem so bad this time. Then we headed down into Bell Gulch on a trail that is labeled as a 'road' on the maps but has reverted to overgrown singletrack over the years. The descent just kept going and is the kind that makes you think, "Hmmm... I'm gonna need to do some serious climbing to get out of here!"

Jesper and I did something like this ride last summer. At that time, we continued on the 'road' west all the way to the Nelson Mine and then hooked back to the east to encounter Gold Lake. For Dave's ride, we took a spur trail almost directly south of Gold Lake and headed north up a stupid steep jeep road. Lots of hiking, which made Dave happy, although no one used his name in vain.

Jesper smiling even on a monster hike-a-bike! (photo cred Dave Chase)

We arrived at Gold Lake and cruised some up and down rollers at around 8,700 feet, hitting a ridge line trail I had not been on before. We stopped once again to put down some food and enjoy the fantastic views.

Not a bad place to take a break (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

After the ridgeline we had over four ripping miles of endorphine enducing downhill; rocky terrain through the woods and buff super-skinny singletrack through wide open meadows. The amazing beauty reminded me of how fortunate I am to live in this piece of paradise!

Skinny singletrack on a ripping downhill! (photo cred Dave Chase)

After over six hours out on the bikes, we were ready for a beer and excited chatter about the day's events. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day - great ride, great weather, great friends and a great adventure! Who needs racing?!?!?!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Riding Routine

I've been getting into a good riding routine lately. Part of it is that ski season is over, and when ski season is over, we ride our bikes. Part of it is that I LOVE LOVE LOVE mountain biking. Part of it is that I LOVE my new mountain bike, a Specialized Safire. Part of it is that I don't have to run as much as training for adventure racing since I'm not racing at all this year! And part of it is that I can't run much, as I am recovering from a case of Plantar Fasciitis, so I need to ride to get some exercise.

The Gurlz Ridez started up in April; I started getting out at least once a week for these rides most Thursday nights, dodging the excessive rain we got this spring The Gurlz Ridez range from beginner to advanced; sometimes the riding is easy and sometimes the riding is challenging. Regardless, the rides are always fun and social. I love seeing beginner riders take their riding to a higher level. I am inspired by being part of a large group of really good female riders on the advanced ride nights. I have found a great group of like-minded women through these rides and they have become my closest friends. The Gurlz Ridez are a good thing!

The group of advanced gurlz ready to tackle White Ranch (photo cred Tracy Emmanuel)

We used to hold the Gurlz Ridez on Tuesdays, but switched to Thursday to free up Tuesdays for the weekly Redstone ride. The Redstone rides really push me. I am one of the faster riders on the Gurlz Ridez, but on the Redstone rides, I am toward the back of the pack and working hard to hang on! Not many women come on these rides and most of the guys who ride are very, very good mountain bikers.

Me and a bunch of guys on the Redstone ride - there is another woman hiding behind me! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Dave Chase, owner of Redstone Cyclery, hosts these weekly rides and generally holds them up north in the Roosevelt National Forest. There is a lot of technical terrain up there, not to mention a lot of opportunity for massive climbing; in a 3 to 4 hour ride, we typically climb 4,000 to 5,000 feet over 10 to 15 miles. Despite the low mileage, the group moves fast! I am confident these rides are improving my riding, both uphill climbing (my bane - I have very good technical skills but want to be faster!) and downhill. I am worked on Wednesdays!

Sample section of not even the most technical of trails (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Profile from last Redstone ride - after a warm up loop, we ascended from 8,600 to over 10,000 feet, and then we got to go down it in the dark - Whoo Hoo!

The last couple rides have run up against nightfall, so I have had the opportunity to use my lights and do some night riding. I LOVE night riding. There is something special about being out in the woods in the dark, whizzing down a rocky trail. It forces you to flow over the terrain and ride loose. Often, the group gets spread out and I find myself all alone on a section. Oddly enough, the effect is peaceful and not frightening.

Getting dark - almost time for the lights! (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Jesper does the Redstone rides with me (or I do them with him???). There are faster guys there for him to chase, so I think the rides push his skills too. We are lucky that the two of us can ride together at this level; not many couples can. The area we ride in is beautiful, offering incredible views of the mountains in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area; I love that Jesper and I can share in this beauty.

We have been riding on the weekends too, at least one day. Some of these rides have been LONG all day events. Some have been exploratory - finding new and secret trails to ride. Others have been more social. Last Sunday we did a fun ride with two other couples, once again up in the Roosevelt National Forest on the Sourdough Trail. Loads of climbing (over 4,000 feet) over 12 miles on a beautiful sunny day with good friends. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

Me riding through a rocky section on the southern portion of the Sourdough Trail (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Although I am anxious to get more running in too, I plan to keep this up - mountain biking 3 or 4 times a week - up all the way until ski season starts again. I love my riding routine!

Monday, June 8, 2009

'Splorin' with my Honey!

Jesper and I are bearing the fruit of my decision NOT to race this summer. Not racing is intended to allow me the freedom to ride hard and make my own adventures with Jesper, unencumbered by race day commitments, training plans and the motivation to not get injured (now don't get me wrong, I don't intend to get hurt, but I felt the need to dial back my desires to ride aggressively last year out of concern that I would let my team down if I got injured). So, free from these constraints, I've been riding more aggressively this year. This weekend, I also got to go adventuring with Jesper, exploring new and hidden trails.

I can't say where we explored or what trails we rode. All I can say is they were in the National Forest system, although hard to find and intentionally not well advertised. Jesper did his homework online and by asking around. He studied the maps and inserted way points into the GPS. He knew what the topography should like when we were in the right place. Armed with this info, he totally rocked the navigation and found everything we wanted to find!

We rode our SS bikes. I was initially questionable about this plan. This was going to be a lot of ride; over 5,000 feet of climbing and 30 miles if we were able to do the full route Jesper intended. Neither Jesper nor I have logged a lot of SS miles this year, mostly since I have been grooving on my new FS bike, the Safire. I had visions of me walking my bike more than riding it uphill. However, we must be in better shape than we thought. We rode all but the loosest and steepest climbs, which we would have walked even if we were in tip top shape.

The ride started on a forest service road and then cut to a fantastic single track trail on a ridge line.

Single track with views
Parachute Balls from some funky flower

The single track ended, but after some dirt road, we were once again on single track trail. We had been riding for over 2 hours and it had been awhile since breakfast. Time for lunch and an assessment of our progress visa vis the weather.

That was one of the best lunches I've ever had! Fantastic home made sandwiches made on fresh rolls with ham, salami, cheese and avocado. Chased with sugar cookies. YUM!

You know it's chilly out when you take a lunch break and keep your helmet and gloves on while eating!

As we ate, massive thunderheads were sprouting up all around us and we knew from checking the forecast that a front system was coming in. The temps dropped considerably down into the 50s and we donned jackets and knee warmers. Although we really wanted to continue, we also did NOT want to be caught in a frigid, hail storm, hours away from the car. Regrettably, we decided to cut the ride short due to weather and skipped finding the second secret trail we were looking for. We turned around and finished the ride under threatening skies.

Jesper clearing the tree/log pile with ease

Clouds building up as we high tail it back to the car (photo cred Jesper Kristensen)

Our final tally was about 20 miles of riding with 4,000 feet of climbing. We'll be back to find that other trail, probably on some weekend I WOULD have been racing!

Click here for more pics.