Saturday, December 10, 2011

Little hike up Dry Creek trail no. 43

This morning I hesitated when deciding between whether to pull on the bike tights and ride the bike or go hiking in the Lone Peak Wilderness area.  I opted for the hike, specifically up the Dry Creek trail that begins in Alpine, just above Lambert Park. 
I only made it to about 7,700 ft., not too far above horsetail falls, but it sure was nice to get out for a couple of hours, get some exercise and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

    Horsetail Falls (white spot in middle of picture)

Meadow at the Junction to N. Mountain Trail No. 42

Looking back into Alpine

Next time, I'll get up a little earlier and see if I can make it to Lake Hardy or go to the saddle that overlooks Tibble Fork and Deer Creek.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lake Mountain, Butterfield Canyon and Pole Line Pass

One of my favorite things to do on a bike is to find good, long, sustained climbs where you can get into a rythym and just climb, climb and climb some more.  I've honestly been a little jealous of everyone who is training for the Crusher race that's coming up soon as that course is appealing to me.  I will probably have to put that one on my calendar for next year.  For those of you who are training for this race here are a few good climbs that I've done recently that I'd recommend.

Lake Mountain

This one starts on the SW side of Utah Lake.  It's about 20 or so miles round trip and around 3,300 vertical feet of climbing, all on gravel/dirt road.  The lower 5 or so miles are at a fairly gradual grade and then the last 5 miles to the summit are more challenging with a steeper grade and more rocks and generally rougher road.  The summit has several radio or TV station towers on it and it gives you a great view of Utah Lake to the east.  The other nice thing about this climb is it dries out fairly early in the season.

Butterfield Canyon

Previously I had only done this climb on a road bike and it was fairly brutal due to some of the very steep grades.  Recently I climbed this one on the mountain bike and it was nice to have the extra gears.  The road that starts up Butterfield Canyon just west of Herriman is closed to vehicles.  The bottom half of the road portion of the climb is mellow for a few miles and then it gets nasty steep.  You do get some relief after the ~ 20% grade section, but for the most part, plan on it being steep all the way to the saddle where it turns to dirt.  At this point you can either keep going straight (west) and drop down the dirt road (it eventually turns to pavement) which will lead you to Tooele or you can go North on the dirt road that climbs to just above 9,000 ft. and overlooks the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine.  The view at the top is well worth the effort.

Near the top there were still some drifts on the road as of about 10 days ago.  By now I'm sure they've melted enough to where it would be completely rideable.

Switchbacks on the dirt road portion. 

Pole Line Pass

I've been itching to get up American Fork Canyon and ride some of the trails up there but last I checked they are all currently closed due to wet trail conditions.  The next best option is to climb the dirt roads that are open.  I parked at Tibble Fork Reservoir and went up the North Fork road, then turned off at the Baker Fork.  Right now there is still snow about a 1/2 mile from the top of Pole Line.  If you start at the bottom of American Fork Canyon and ride up to Tibble, you'll get in some extra vertical.

Looking south at Timp after the Baker Fork turnoff.

This is near the top of Pole Line Pass.  Still some snow and debris on the road but it shouldn't be long and the road will be clear to the top

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rick's Hell-O-Ween Ride 2010

One of my favorite things about riding bikes is the fun we have on group rides.  Rick put on his annual "Hell-o-Ween" ride on Thursday night that included a race to the top of the jeep road (above the shooting range in the Timp foothills).  We had a good turn-out as you can see by the group photo.  Lots of good costumes and laughs.  The post ride breakfast at Denny's capped off the night. 

Miles (cockroach), Sam, Brandon, Kris and Nate K.:

Justin T:

An intense pose by Mr. Rico:

Dave B. and Dan Z.:
Phast Dan (winner of the race and the cash):

Brandon, Sam and others ready to drop down into Dry Canyon:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 LOTOJA Classic Race Report

Pre Race

With this being my first Lotoja, I struggled mentally in the days leading up to the event with devising a meaningful plan or strategy for the race, mostly due to the fact that I hadn't even driven, let alone ridden any of the roads on the course that went 206 miles from Logan to Jackson*.  Fortunately, several weeks earlier before the mountain bike and Park City Point 2 Point consumed my entire focus, I consulted with previous Lotoja veterans like Nick and Miles and they both gave me some good advice.  For example, Rico coached me on how to be fast in feed zones, to try and stay with the leaders and to avoid being stuck alone on the long, windy flat sections.  Miles I remember told me to avoid getting stuck at the back of pacelines because of the yo-yo effect and to just pedal dammit (just kidding, I believe that comes from Grizzly). 

*It's just now starting to dawn on me that this race covers some serious ground, including going through three states (Utah, Idaho and Wyoming)

These nuggets of advice I'd later find valuable, but I still felt uncertain and only had a rough idea as to how I'd approach the race as I lined up at the start early Saturday morning.  That being said, pretty much my goals for Lotoja were to
  • conserve energy by using the pack to my advantage,
  • be alert and stay with the leaders in my group as much as possible without blowing up, particularly on the climbs and 
  • be very effecient at the feed zones (not hang out for a 1/2 hour buffet lunch like I did last week at PCP2P).
Logan to Preston

The start was cold.  I don't know the exact temperature, but it was low 40s maybe upper 30s.  We had 55 riders in our 35+ Citizen Cat 5 category (numbers 20XX),  We rolled out at a leisurely pace at 7:07 AM, about 30 minutes after dawn.  After a short distance through the city limits of Logan, one of the racers stood up and started pedaling away.  Two other riders went after him, but they were quickly absorbed back into the pack a few miles later.  I'm thinking he was just messing around and trying to warm up, but who knows.

I positioned myself about 10 riders back.  This was a perfect spot as the guys in front of me were anxious to set the pace (about 22-23 mph) and took take turns on the front.  I graciously let each of them rotate in front of me as they pulled us along.  After a while though, they took notice that they were doing all the heavy lifting while the rest of us glided along and so they began dropping back further into the pack.  I ended up on the front a few times, but no longer than a minute each time.

At the Preston feedzone, I didn't stop as I was packing extra water so that I wouldn't have to refill until Montpelier.  Only a handful of others had the same plan and so our small group of savy* racers pedaled out of town together past the first feed zone.  Shortly thereafter, I was fiddling with my beanie cap, trying to remove it from my head and off came flying my sunglasses.  I instinctively stopped quickly (almost got hit by a rider following me) and flipped around and found them shattered in pieces on the road.  Have you ever ridden in the sun all day without sunglasses?  Yeah, it's not very comfortable on the eyes.

*I would have never thought of this on my own, this came from Rico.

Rollers and Climbing Strawberry Canyon

There were a few key decisions I made during this race that I believe made a difference in my finish time.  The first happened after I stopped for my sunglasses and decided I would go all out in order to bridge the gap that had opened up.  I buried myself to catch the pack ahead that consisted of the lead riders in my race and about 40 women who'd started before us.  I ended up latching on just prior to the short descent after passing by Foster Reservoir.  If I had not caught the group, I probably would have been left to ride alone on the rollers leading up to the climb up Strawberry Canyon, and I think losing the leaders early like that would have been tough mentally the rest of the race.  Instead, I was with the leaders of my pack as we started climbing up Strawberry. 

I felt pretty comfortable at this point and noticed those around me were starting to fade a bit, so I upped my pace a little and pulled away from the pack up the climb.  There was one guy ahead of me that had snuck away earlier, but I kept him within sight and made sure he didn't widen the gap.  As we neared the false summit, I must have faded a bit as a group of guys from my class, mostly Autoliv riders, caught me just prior to the feed zone. 

One thing I'm learning is you have to be alert in these races.  My issue was I got caught up in a conversation on the climb with an acquaintance that I was passing and I wasn't paying attention to the group behind, plus I wasn't focused on going hard near the top of the climb, partly due to the fact I didn't know where the top was other than I had a rough idea of my elevation position from my Garmin.

As it turned out, I was fairly quick* at the feed zone, taking just a quick pee break and then I was back on the bike within 3 minutes and descending to Montpelier.  My split into Ovid (just before Montpelier) shows I was in second place at that point in the race, two minutes behind the leader.

*Question:  Is being quick at the feed zones okay and not considered "attacking"?  I would consider attacking at a feed zone to be riding hard through a feed zone and not stopping while everyone else stops.
Montpelier to Afton

Bob, my father-in-law, was my support crew for this race.  I was glad to see him waiting for me and he quickly swapped out my bottles and gave me a new flask of vanilla PowerBar gel, a Coke and a small orange juice.  In three minutes I was back on the bike and pedaling away. 

This section of the race was tough for me.  For a while after Monteplier I was alone and struggling to keep an urgent pace.  I've found that when I don't have someone pushing me, particularly on the flats, that I tend to get lazy and sometimes without realizing it, I slow down.  As we approached the Geneva climb, a rider that I know caught up to me and that was what I needed to get me going again.  I made it up and over the summit and on the descent I was with about 15 riders in a loose pack going almost 50 mph.  I rode with this group for another 5 miles until I got dropped.  I just couldn't hold the pace they were pushing and I was spit out the back. At this point, I looked down at my Garmin and I still had 100 miles to go.  It was the lowest point of the race, especially because there were several riders in my category in the group of 15 that had just dropped me.  I stopped at the next feedzone for about 5 minutes prior to the KOM and that seemed to rejuvenate me, although near the top of Salt River Pass, I noticed my legs were not generating much power.  It seemed like maybe I was not fully recovered from PCP2P.  I was sure glad when I topped Salt River Pass and hit the downhill.

The rest of the way into Afton was fast.  I didn't realize it, but apparently a guy was drafting behind me for several miles on this stretch.  As we neared the outskirts of Afton, he came around and thanked me for pulling him.  I was a little surprised, not knowing he was there, but it made me feel good that I could be of service to a stranger.

Pulling into the feedzone at Afton, I couldn't find Bob, so I made my way to the neutral support table.  They didn't have much......and I'm not sure what the thought was on the green bananas, oh and those orange GU chomps are disgusting.  I ate one piece and chucked the rest of the pack in the garbage.  Luckily as I was going back to my bike, Bob arrived.  He apparently got stuck in traffic.  I loaded up and was off again.

On to Alpine and the finish in Jackson

Despite the annoying rumble strips on the road to Alpine, I enjoyed this part of the race, probably because I was with a fast group of riders.  The group was fairly large at first and then as the pace quickened, it thinned out to 10 or so of us.

It was during this portion that I was impressed at how some people like/prefer to ride at the front of the pack and do more than their fair share of pulls.  Me on the other hand, I'm perfectly happy sitting in and letting others battle the wind.  I suppose a strong rider naturally ends up at the front setting the pace as otherwise the average speed would drop to a slower than acceptable pace for the said strong rider.

Anyhow, I rolled into Alpine and once again Bob was no where in sight.  Crap!  I made my way to the neutral support table and filled up my bottles, had a couple of orange slices and then off I went.  I still had an engergy bar in my jersey pocket from the previous feed zone and I was able to take a GU from someone on the side of the road, but I was bummed that I didn't get my Coke and my last flask of apple PowerBar gel as that was supposed to give me a boost on the last miles into Jackson.

As I pedaled out, I wondered where I was in relation to the other riders in my category.  I hadn't seen anyone for a while, not since Salt River it seemed.  I figured I was at least 10 riders back, so really my focus became to finish strong, give it my best effort and hopefully I'd come in around 10:30.

The rollers in Snake River Canyon started to wear on me.  I was with a group of 10 or so riders and we were going at a good pace.  I noticed my left foot started to swell and go numb and it became painful to pedal.  I was glad when we came to the last feedzone so that I could walk off the pain in my foot.  The rest of the group pedaled on, but I stopped, got off the bike for a minute and fueled up.

Back on the bike.  For the next 20 minutes, I put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could.  I could see a group a 1/2 of a mile ahead and figured I needed to catch them.  As I closed the gap, I was feeling pretty good about myself and this effort.  Then as I latched on, I was disappointed when it wasn't the group I thought it was.  They were running a slow pace and so I continued pushing forward.

The last 10 miles were torturous.  I just wanted to be done.  My foot hurt.  I was out of energy.  My stomach was starting to act up and I was numb from 10 hours in the saddle.

Luckily I hooked up with a guy from my category.  I don't remember if he caught me or if I caught him, I think it was the former, but we rode together for the last 10 miles to the finish.  He dragged me along most of the way.  Near the finish, I thought about speeding up and trying to overtake him, but since he did all the work on those last miles, I figured that would be lame since we were not contending for the podium.  In the end, I finished at 10:33 or 6th place in my category, a result I'm happy with.

I can't explain the feeling of crossing that finish line after racing all day on the bike.  I thought of not just finishing the ride that day, but also all of the training rides, painful interval sessions, etc. that lead up to that moment.  It sure was a great feeling.  I'm sure looking forward to placing my sticker on my truck's rear window.  I will wear it proudly.  Yes I will.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Park City Point to Point 2010

The Start and Round Valley Loop

I was warming up 10 minutes before the start of the race when I suddenly realized I didn't have my timing chip on my ankle.  Doh!  I couldn't believe it.   After all of my meticulous planning, I'd left one of the most important items in my truck that was at the parking lot two miles from the start.  I worked my way back through the mass of racers who were nervously awaiting the start and pleaded with the first two people I saw, a young guy and girl who happened to be standing right next to their truck, to take me back to the lot to grab my chip.  They graciously agreed to help and before long I had my chip on my ankle and was back at the starting line.  By this time though, all of the waves of racers had already started and the start officials were about to disconnect the electronic timer equipment.  Someone yelled, "don't pull the plug yet, we have one more coming through." 

Within a minute or two I started catching the tail end of the last wave and proceeded to pass as many as possible, knowing that once we hit the single track, I'd have very few opportunities to move up until after Round Valley.  I hit the single track and for the most part, the Round Valley loop was pretty frustrating due to the bottlenecks on the climbs as a result of people not self sorting.  I complain, but it was probably a good thing because it forced me to start the race at a reasonable pace (especially since I really didn't warm up), yet on the other hand, it was almost slower than granny gear slow and I think I wasted energy later in the race trying to make up lost time. 

Either way, I was enjoying myself just riding in the early hours of the morning on my bike.  The weather was perfect.....not a cloud in the sky, the sun was coming up and it was a crisp 55 degrees out.  After all of the pre-race jitters and an entire week of nervously worrying about this event, it sure felt good to ride.

To Silver Lake and Bald Mountain Climb

Once I hit the wider gravel trail at the end of Round Valley and then the paved section of bike trail, I stood up and pedaled hard to pass another dozen or so riders before the single track climb.  This portion of the race was fun for me.  I was still fresh, the trail was fast and I was just having a good time.  I felt good climbing up Pipeline and Deer Crest and was holding back again due to a bunch up of riders in front of me.  I was able to keep up on my hydration and fuel and by the time I arrived at Silver Lake I had drank 3 20 oz. bottles and one flask of EFS gel.

As I started up the steep jeep road from Silver Lake I had two goals in mind.  First, I wanted to keep pedaling and second I wanted to maintain a pace that would keep my heart rate from spiking, which for me is right around 160-163 bpm.  I'd done this climb a few times and knew it was painful and could easily due damage to my race if I wasn't careful.  In looking back at my Garmin file, I can see that I did well for about 5 minutes in keeping my hear rate under control on the jeep road.  Then, as I hit the steep single track and switchbacks, I lost focus on my level of effort and I can see with hindsight that I was anaerobic for a good 7 minutes, certainly enough to push me over the edge and I cramped up and had to stop.  I think what distracted me was that I was so determined to clean that entire portion of the climb, at least I planned in my head to do so up to where we entered the trees (and then take a short break), that I didn't realize I was red lining it. 

I should note that just prior to cramping up, I ran into Fatty (famous local cyclist/blogger who's good friends with several of the guys I ride with) and passed him as I could tell he was hating life with his single speed on such a steep grade.  For a second, I felt pretty special passing him, but that lasted all of about 30 seconds.  I recovered and passed him again as he was walking the bike up the trail but then I cramped up again at the top of the climb and he pedaled on and that was the last I saw of him.

For the rest of the route until dropping back down to the Silver Lake aid station, I wasn't feeling too good.  The maxing myself out and cramping just destroyed me and I was struggling to recover.  I also was starting to feel pain in my side and my hands were hurting badly.

At the DV aid station, I hurried and swapped out my bottles and then pounded about 8 orange wedges.  I don't know why, but I crave orange slices whenever I do a long race or ride.

The Pain and Suffering Part

I knew it was going to be a long day when not 5 minutes into riding the mid mountain trail, I started to cramp again and not even while climbing.  I had to really back off and keep my cadence high to avoid locking up.  Luckily, though I made it up to the top of the Moosebones climb without further cramping.

By the time I made it to the bottom of the rooty, twisty John's trail I was starting to feel pretty hammered and knew I'd be running out of water before the top of the climb to Shadow Lake.  I carried two 24 oz. Polar bottles, but that wasn't going to be enough.  Like what I've heard from others, this was the toughest part of the race for me.  By now it was getting hot, I was rationing water, there was no shade and the climb was long and steep.  I had to stop a few times to cool down in the shade near the top of Shadow Lake.  I came so close to dumping my bike off the side of the trail and finding the source of that little spring that dribbled onto the trail.  Thinking of my wife and boys that would be waiting for me at PCMR was what kept me pushing forward.

After reaching the high point at 9,300 ft. about Shadow Lake, I was excited and felt a sense of relief for a few seconds.  You'd think descending to PCMR would be enjoyable, but not this time.  I was dehydrated, my hands felt like blisters were forming and I kept wondering why it seemed like I was getting the crap beaten out of me by my bike.  Suddenly it dawned on me that I had turned off my front shock while climbing a section of road near the beginning of the race.  Can you believe it?  I unknowingly rode rigid for a good portion of the race and it was terrible and miserable.  Enough to make me never want to get a rigid fork.  Once I turned on my shock, the ride quality was like the difference between butter and rocks.  It made me seriously think that maybe a full suspension bike wouldn't be too bad of a bike to have around (yes, Brandon you've got me thinking).

PCMR Aid Station

I was so elated to make it to this aid station.  My bottles and mouth were bone dry and I was beat.  I think I was sort of in a daze for a while.  I remember first seeing my 3 older boys yell "Dad" off to my right and then Rick S. quickly came up and handed me a wonderful cold Coke and started filling up my water bottles and asking how I was doing.  It was sure good to see my wife and 2 month old son as well.  I downed probably 10 cups of water and CarboRocket and probably 10 orange wedges.  I chatted with my wife and kids and some of the other racers and then realized that I had been there for a long time.  There was never any doubt that I would get back on the bike and finish, it just felt so good to be resting and drinking cold fluids that I sort of lost track of how long I'd been there.

Spiro and Mid Mountain Climb

Back on the bike, I actually felt pretty good and got into a good rhythm, although I still had to be careful as my legs would start to seize up occasionally.  The climb up the re-route started to wear on me and I had to stop a couple of times to gather up more energy.  I passed Dug back and forth a few times up until the aid station.  He actually was good motivation for me as I kept telling myself that if a guy could do this ride on a rigid single speed, than I certainly could do it on a geared Superfly.

The Finish 

I don't remember much about the last part of the race except that it was marginally fun as most of it was fast and I started to feel a proud sense of accomplishment that seemed to give me some extra motivation and energy to finish off the race strong.  I ended up finishing in 11:25.

Although I certainly didn't make my goal time, I think I've convinced myself that I should be pretty happy with getting the finish.  It was no small feat and something to build on, especially with this being my first MTB endurance event.

Also, I echo the compliments that others have made to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on such an awesome event. Well done.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Job = New Trails/Roads to Explore

This week I started a new chapter with my new job at Fusion-io.  I was at Omniture (now Adobe) for almost 5 years and will miss many things about that job, mostly the great people I worked with and rode bikes with.  I'll especially miss the daily lunchtime timp foothill mountain bike rides. 

However, change is good and though often disruptive and stressful, it brings fresh experiences and new challenges.  I'm looking forward to discovering new places to ride up in Salt Lake County near my workplace including what will be a longer commute on the road bike.  From my place to Omniture was only 15 miles or so and I got to where I could do that between 40-45 minutes.  My new commute will be longer at almost 24 miles one way and will include a bit more climbing as I'll pedal over Suncrest and then climb up Wasatch Blvd.  I like that I have the option of extending the commute ride up Big or Little Cottonwood.  As far as dirt riding, I don't know much about my options up that way.  I guess I can easily hit Corner Canyon on my way to/from work.

If anyone knows of good options given my new location, I'd be interested in some ideas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Long ride turned short

Ever had those days where the bike gods were not smiling down on you?  Well, Saturday morning was one of those days for me.  I was hoping to get one more big training ride in on the PCP2P trails.  I'd ridden from PCMR to the end of the course the day before since conveniently my family and I were staying in Park City for a few days on vacation.  I knew the pace would be painful since I'd be riding with single speedsters Mr. Rico and Mr. Zvirzdin, but some extra pain is what I needed.  We started at Silver Lake Lodge and immediately Dan and Nick set a brisk pace.  I was struggling to hang on once we hit the switchbacks on the Team Big Bear climb, but still managed to keep them within sight (barely). 

Near the top of Moosebones, we stopped as Dan announced he had a flat.  I started thinking in my head, "man that really sucks to get a flat so early in a ride."  Yup, you guessed it.  Not 2 seconds after thinking that, I heard the dreaded hiss of escaping air coming from my back tire. No worries, right?  The hole didn't seem too big and was on the bottom of the tread.  The Stan's should seal it right up.  Wrong.  Some of my Stan's came out but it wouldn't seal up.  No worries, no need to panic yet, right?  I'd put my extra tube in and we'd be on our way.  Wrong again.  My spare tube that I inflated with both of my CO2 cartridges had a hole in it.

Note:  I should mention that both Dan and Nick dug up an embedded sharp rock that we figure did the damage to both of our tires.  You should thank them next time you see them as quite possibly you could have gotten a flat on that same sharp rock that was positioned right in the middle of the trail at the bottom of a dip.

Meanwhile, Dan was not having much more luck as his tire didn't seal either and then his spare tube also had a hole in it.  Nick was kind enough to give him his spare tube.  300 pumps later (seriously) on the mini pump and Dan was good to go.

Back to me.  I decided I would try and patch the hole in the tube using Dan's kit.  So, I pulled the tube out and started searching for the hole.  The only problem is I couldn't find the hole and a patch kit is no good if you don't know where the hole is.  By this time, I was starting to get frustrated as the morning was ticking away.  I threw the tube back in and used the pump this time to inflate it, hoping that it would hold.  Well, it didn't hold.  In fact I spent like 10 minutes on the mini pump trying to get the pressure up past 20 psi, thinking all along that the pump was just slow.  In hindsight, I'm not sure why I didn't use the pump to inflate the tube while out of the tire as that would have helped me find the hole.  Oh well. 

As it turned out, I told Nick and Dan to go ahead and keep riding without me.  I then hopped on the nearby road and started walking back towards Dear Valley with the thought of fixing the bike and then maybe rejoining them at PCMR.  I quickly abandoned walking down the road as that was going to take all day and instead slowly coasted down on the flat tire.  Near the lodge, I connected back onto the dirt.  I pushed the bike for a bit and then grew impatient again and started riding once I was on the last stretch of service road.  This ended up being a bad idea as a rock popped up into my rear wheel, got caught in the spokes and snapped one of the little buggers.

At this point I was done.  I suppose I could have tried to get the wheel fixed at a bike shop, but as my luck was going that day, I would have probably snapped my chain, gotten another flat or maybe busted up my derailleur if I would've ridden.

Instead I went back to my family, took the boys swimming, rode the train in Heber and had a nice dinner on main.  Not a bad day after all.