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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prolytes: this stuff works

I've had issues with cramping up in the past.  Like last year on the 1,000 Warriors Race when both quads locked up so hard I nearly fell of the bike and then as recently as a several weeks ago while pre-riding the PCP2P course, both hamstrings locked up.  Anyone that has experienced severe cramping during a race can attest that they can essentially end your day once they set in.

I was in the LBS and they recommended I try Prolytes, which is a concentrated liquid solution of the electrolytes potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride and sulfate.  The directions say to mix Prolytes with your water or sports drink and I'm sure that works fine (I need to try it out), but I was told you could also simply squirt a few drops under your tongue, which appealed to me as I would rather not be mixing, measuring, etc. more than I have to.

The real test came for me a few weekends ago when I was fatigued and struggling up the south side of the Nebo Loop with the sun beating down on me and I was sweating profusely.  I started to feel the cramping coming on.  I immediately popped out the Prolytes bottle and squirted a few drops under my tongue.  Seriously, I'm not kidding you, within a matter seconds the cramping subsided and I continued on without any further problems.  Since that ride, I've been using it routinely on my long rides and I haven't had even a hint of cramping.

So there you go.  Try it out and see for yourself.  Hopefully it works for you too.

Monday, July 19, 2010

MTB around Timp

I've been wanting to ride around Timpanogos on the dirt for a while now and Saturday I finally had my chance.  Here are the route details going clockwise starting from Provo Canyon:

  • 6:15 AM start at Nunn's Park in Provo Canyon
  • Union Aqueduct Road
  • Dragon's Back
  • Water Tank Road
  • Betty to the Altar
  • Lament to Dry Canyon
  • Curly Springs to Battle Creek Canyon
  • Mostly hike-a-bike up Battle Creek to the intersection with the Great Western Trail (GWT)
  • GWT single-track around the north side of Timp
  • Bailed onto the Timpooneke Road to avoid the rocky trail below Julie Andrews Meadow
  • Salamander Flat
  • Snow Gage / Horse Flat to summit
  • Aspen Grove
  • Pavement back to Nunn's Park

I finished at 11:30 AM and total ride time was about 4 hours and 15 minutes. Total vertical ft. was 5.8K. 
My overall impression is that this was an awesome ride with the exception of the hike-a-bike that followed this crossing of Battle Creek (just after dropping down Curly Springs*).
*Curly Springs was a good climb, not too many steep sections and only a couple of spots where I had to put a foot down due to loose rocks.

This hike-a-bike section of the trail (about 1 mile) mostly goes straight up the mountain and is littered with loose rocks. Even in spots where the grade levels out, the trail is narrow and deep making it easy to catch a pedal.  Not too fun.

The alternate route instead of Curly Springs and Battle would have been to continue climbing from the Altar, up and over the saddle of Little Baldy, traverse the head of Dry (mostly rough going) and then climb up and over the saddle of Big Baldy.  I've ridden from the Altar, around Little Baldy and about 2/3 of the way across Dry and there are definitely some rough spots that require frequent dismounts, plus the elevation gain on this route would be about 1,000 ft. more.  So either route has its pluses and minuses depending on what you prefer.

Here's a picture of a nice meadow I encountered just before the NW corner of Timp.  I was pretty tense crossing this as there were bees buzzing everywhere.  I thought for sure I'd get stung, but luckily they let me pass through.


My favorite part of the ride was topping out at about 8,600 ft. on the NW corner of Timp and the trail that followed, which quickly turned from sagebrush and meadows to lush forest single-track underneath a shaded canopy of aspen and old growth pine and fir.  I stopped for a break in one of these groves (while eating a giant flour tortilla) and just soaked it in.  I would have stayed longer, maybe even taken a nap but the deer flies were attacking me.**

**I've discovered spandex doesn't provide much cover from insect bites given the location of the many bites I received.  So, don't forget your repellent like I did if you do this ride.



I mentioned I bypassed the trail before and after Julie Andrews Meadow.  I've ridden this section once before and wasn't in the mood to get kicked around by the rocks on the descent from the said meadow, so I opted to take the Timpooneke Road instead .

I finished up the dirt portion of the ride by hopping on the Snow Gage trail then Horse Flats to the summit and then dropping down Aspen Grove.  I like Snow Gage.  It had some good climbing, good scenery and not too many rocks.  It was a bit soft from the 3 or 4 horses that I encountered, but still in reasonable shape.  Aspen Grove is fun too.  It still has need of a trail crew to clear some of the loose rocks on the lower portions, but it has improved from 2 or 3 weeks ago when I rode it last.

So there you have it.  A sweet ride around Timp on a 29er, all before lunchtime.  Speaking of lunchtime, I think we should incorporate this into one of our lunch rides in the fall, maybe on a Friday.  I'm sure at the lunch pace, we could be done in 3 1/2 hours.  That would simply require a shooting range start time of 10:30 ("early lunch") and then we'd be back at our desk by say 2:30 (no need to shower of course).  Something to think about.  I'm getting antsy already for the fall lunch rides.

Monday, June 21, 2010

American Fork Canyon - Pole Line Pass Loop

I got an early start this morning and rode up the North Fork Road* from Tibble Fork Reservoir to Pole Line Pass.  I don't particularly enjoy climbing on double track, but often it's the best option for a long, sustained climb on the mountain bike.

*One of these times I'd like to come up the North Fork (not on a weekend**), camp and explore some of the abandoned mining sites that are in this area.  From looking on a topo map, there are lots of them.

**Early Monday morning has got to be the perfect time to ride this road.  I didn't see one ATV the entire ride.  I imagine on the weekend, it's a mess.

At the top of Pole Line (at the spot of the above photo), I hopped on the GWT (Ridge Trail 157) and headed south.  The trail was in great condition until just north of Forest Lake where I ran into some snowy patches on a north facing forested slope and had to dismount to avoid the muck.

Here's Forest Lake as seen from 157 with Mary Ellen Gulch to the left and Mineral Basin to the Right

A bit further south on the trail I ran into more snow and it was back to hike-a-biking.  I was amazed at the determination of some trail biker, who was obviously hell bent on passing through this portion of the trail despite the snow, ice and mud.  I had a hard enough time crossing carrying my 20 lb. bike and couldn't imagine trying to make it on a heavy trail bike, especially given one slip on the ice would certainly result in a 100 ft. tumble, bike and all.

Once back on the sun facing slopes, the trail was dusty dry.  On the descent below Mill Canyon Peak, the trail bikes and runoff had chewed up/left a bunch of loose melon sized rocks on the trail that made the descent tricky.  Is the trail always in that condition or just early before trail work is done?  I would think a crew spending a 1/2 day could really improve this portion of the trail by moving some of the loose rocks.  Note:  I did my part and move a bunch of loose rocks from the middle of the trail.

I finished up the dirt ride by continuing on 157 to the Alpine Loop summit parking lot and then returning back down the road to Tibble

Friday, June 18, 2010

Great Western Trail - Altar to Dry Canyon

A while back I read Dug's account of riding around Timp and ever since I've been dreaming of doing that same ride.  Before I do the whole loop in a day, I'd like to pre-ride portions of the loop that I haven't ridden so that I have a better idea of what to expect.

After work the other day I rode up to the Altar and then continued on the Great Western Trail (GWT), making my way up to the saddle of Little Baldy.  I've decided this is one of my favorite mountain bike rides.  If you haven't ridden it, you should.  You'll love it too.  Here's why it's awesome.  It's a long, sustained climb on single track that alternates between rocky technical terrain, including quite a few sizable tree roots, to smooth, tacky dirt that winds up the mountain under a canopy of old growth pines.  There are some steep switchbacks thrown in the mix that I enjoy trying to clean.  And near the top, before the Little Baldy saddle, your hard efforts are rewarded with this incredible view (looking south to Provo Canyon and Utah Lake):

After the Little Baldy saddle, the trail continues to gain elevation as it traverses across the head of Dry Canyon.  The level of difficulty is high on this stretch due to many tree roots and the loose, narrow trail that has some exposure.  Expect to do some hike-a-biking.

I was hoping to have enough time that evening to complete a loop by dropping down Dry, but I was running out of daylight and wasn't sure how much further I had until the turnoff.  I ended up playing it safely and turned around just prior to where the GWT crosses over this wash* that empties into Dry.

*I later realized from reviewing my GPS track that after crossing this wash I would have had one more gully to cross and a bit more climbing before reaching the meadow where the Dry Canyon trail intersects with the GWT.  Next time I'll keep going and try dropping down Dry.  I've heard the upper Dry descent is sketchy in places, but I don't mind dismounting and walking the bike down in places if I need to.  If anyone has come down this recently, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Going back down the mountain on the same trail I ascended was still really fun.  I was glad that most all of the hike-a-bike sections were rideable with the help of gravity.

Now, I'm even more excited about riding around Timp after experiencing this taste of the trail.

Oh, and here's a nice meadow that sits just below the GWT at the top of Dry.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Take a left instead...

This morning I wanted to try a new route, so I started at the Indian Hills trail head and rode on the dirt until I could hop onto Squaw Peak Road and then rather than staying right to go to the lookout, I went left and continued on the dirt until I had to turn around, a couple of miles past the Rock Canyon Campground where the road started to get messy from the melting snow.

Here are some pictures.  I can't think of many better ways to spend an early June morning.  Our mountains here along the Wasatch are simply incredible.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guns, Bikes and Pain

Last night was the Soldier Hollow Biathlon.  It was fun to get out and try something new.   

The course started on the pavement for a short climb, followed by another short climb on some grassy double track before turning into mostly downhill single track for the rest of the lap.  At the end of each lap (we did 5 laps), you'd shoot five targets with the pellet gun in a prone position.  If you didn't miss any targets, you would then ride straight to the next lap, but for every target missed, you'd have to ride a penalty lap.  Typically I would miss one of the 5 targets but I think on one lap I missed two.

I have no idea how I finished as the race was fairly chaotic, but I certainly wasn't near the front.  I was still feeling sluggish and sore from the Monday ICUP race and multiple crashes (check out this video of my second one) and didn't feel like sprinting too hard off the line.  Plus, read on and you'll see my other excuse for not wanting to kill myself.

Here's the trophy* that each of the category winners received:

*isn't that a road bike? 

I got skunked on the raffle this time, although they had some great prizes they gave away including an ipod, a set of Crank Brothers pedals and a nice wooden/stainless steel floor pump to name a few.

Group Ride up AF Canyon

I won't go into much detail, but I will say it was a great morning for me on the Alpine Loop.  I rode with the fast guys and was able to hang with them until just after the Tibble Fork turnoff when Rick attacked and I was quickly dropped as we started climbing the steep grades up to Pine Hollow.  As the group pulled away, I just kept a good steady tempo right at my threshold.  I wasn't really paying attention to my time until at the last hairpin turn, I noticed I was in good shape for a PR.  I ended up at 58:04, six minutes faster than my previous best.

You'll have to check out the entertaining write-ups that Rick, Mark and Adam wrote on their respective blogs.

Here's the group at the top:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Video of my crash at Draper ICUP

With more and more bikers using cameras while they ride, there was a good chance my crash on Saturday would be captured on film.  Sure enough, it's up on youtube. 

Couple of observations on the video.  I mentioned the first rider came around on my left, but the video clearly shows he came on the right.  Don't know if it would have made a difference, but I remember him calling "on your left" so I was maybe moving right.  It doesn't look like either of us ran into the other, it just looks like we got too close and something (I believe it was our bars) got tangled up.  Also, luckily I don't believe the other guy was hurt and I'm glad the riders behind me were quick to react and dodge me or it could have been a big pile-up.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Draper ICUP Race Report 2010

In case you didn't witness it, there was a huge turnout Saturday at the ICUP Draper race at Corner Canyon.  We had 25 people that finished in my category, Sport 35-39.  Also, 28 were in the Sport 30-34 class that started 30 seconds ahead of my group and another 37 in the Sport 40+ that started 30 seconds behind my group.  Let me save you doing the math.  That's 90 guys bunched up on the first section of single track anxious to start racing.  The holeshot was of course fast, but then after the start lap we came to a grinding halt underneath the bridge and I noticed some ahead of me had to balance against the tunnel wall to avoid clipping out of their pedals.  To make matters worse, a bit further up the trail, there was a guy with headphones leisurely enjoying his Saturday mtb ride and as near as I could tell, he was completely oblivious to the fact that a race was on and that he was holding up everyone.

So, needless to say, I was rearing to go once we hit the first short lower fire road climb.  I geared down and  went as hard as I could, knowing I'd get enough of a recovery once the single track started again.  Despite my attack, Miles was right there following me and we passed each other back and forth several times on the first lap.

On the second lap, things were going really well.  I got into a good rhythm on the upper dirt road climb and felt like I was gaining some ground, but of course was only guessing*.  Shortly after dropping down from the outhouse, I took spill #1 (yes, there's more) over the bars as my front tire hit a rock.  Luckily I wasn't going too fast, so after concluding the damage was only skin deep, I quickly hopped back on the bike.

*Don't you hate it when you don't know where you're at in a race?  I need to pay better attention and be sure I stay with the leaders next time from the start.  Then at least if I get dropped, so be it and I'll know it.

Miles and I met up again and traded passing each other back and forth.  It was honestly a ton of fun having that friendly rivalry going on**.

**I haven't mentioned this before, but Miles and I have a common experience in that we both have gone from being out of shape, fat, etc. before we started biking to dropping 50-60+ pounds and now we're racing mountain bikes this season for the first time.

Anyhow, as it turned out, I couldn't hang with Miles at the bottom of the lap and he went by me after the Silica Pits. 

Once I realized I wasn't going to catch Miles and there wasn't much racing left, I decided I just wanted to hold my place, not go down again and finish with my best effort.  The only problem was there were a handful of guys behind me that wanted to pass as I came out of the single track just below the holding pond.  I heard "on your left," but definitely no "on your right" as this other guy tried to pass me on the right at the same time, just I was turning right onto the gravel.  Pretty sure that will cause a wreck every time.  Sure enough......our handlebars got tangled up and we both went down. 

I ended up finishing 7th.  Even though I crashed twice, they weren't too much of a factor in my finish as the guys ahead of me simply rode stronger.

My wife took some good pictures.  She's been really supportive and has come out each week with our 3 boys to watch me ride despite being 9 months pregnant.  A big thanks to her.

Note on this first picture how Darren Harris (I think), who won my category, really wasn't very far ahead after the first start lap.  This is interesting, as I thought the leaders did their damage at the start, but maybe that wasn't necessarily true.

Some more random pictures at the start:
Expert men 19-29

Single-speed (Rick, Nick and Dave)

Expert men 40+

Sport Men 30-34

Friday, May 28, 2010

Night Ride Race

Last night a bunch of us guys who are basically addicted to riding bikes showed up in Draper for the Thursday Night Race Championship, organized by Rick.  It was simply a good time all around.  The weather was perfect with a full moon.  Only 5 bucks to participate.  Race pace climbing. Lots of quality competition.  Post race raffle and then some breakfast and good stories at Village Inn.

Brandon took home the champions belt and pink purse full of our 5 dollar bills.

(photo by Miles)

Post race raffle:

Can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Father and Son Time

Friday and Saturday was our ward's annual father and son camp out, something my boys and I look forward to all year.  We camped outside of Oak City (southwest of Nephi) at Oak Creek.  We had a great time.  By far the funnest thing for the boys was playing with sticks in the fire and watching things burn (like cups, bananas, plates, pine needles, a toy lizard, you name it).  Friday night they had a movie playing on the side of an R.V. but my boys didn't want anything to do with that....they just wanted to play in the fire.  Sound familiar*?

*Speaking of sticks and fires....when I was a boy, I practically burned down my Dad's farm shop because I thought it would be cool to stick my wooden sword into the wood stove and then into a 5 gallon bucket of used motor oil.  Yup, the oil caught on fire, melted the bucket and the burning oil spread.  The fire department arrived and put out the fire, but not before causing significant damage.  Sorry once again Dad.

Bike Ride
On Saturday morning, we hopped on our bikes and rode up the dirt access road.  I was especially entertained by my five year old pedaling away on his little Trek single speed.  The grade on the road was about 5% in spots, so he'd have to stand up to keep his momentum going.  He was actually a pretty good climber, very determined.

We had to stop here of course to throw rocks into the creek.

We climbed for about a mile and then they were tired and ready to go back down.  Here they are on the descent.

Fun times.  It won't be long and I'll have some new training partners to ride with on the dirt.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Alpine Loop Update

Snow is clear on the AF Canyon side until just above Salamander Flats:

Check out this large tree that fell on the road:

A week ago NOAA's weather data site near the parking lot at the top of the Alpine Loop recorded 22 inches of snow.  Today it's showing 11 inches.  Any guesses on when the trails will be ready to ride up there? 2 weeks? 3 weeks?  Can't wait.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ICUP Sundance Spin Race Report

Leading Up to the Race

Thursday night I raced the same Sundance course in the Weekly Race Series, leaving my legs fairly beat up from riding at race pace for near 90 minutes.  The next day, I packed the road bike to work with the plan of just going for an easy spin at lunch time to help recover in time for Saturday's ICUP.  As it turned out, I couldn't decline an invite from Rick S. to ride Squaw Peak during lunch.  I debated for a second on whether to go, as riding with Rick is usually the equivalent of a race for me, but I love riding Squaw and much prefer climbing to spinning* any day.

*Although I've read that doing a recovery ride where you spin easy is good for recovery, I really don't enjoy those types of rides.....feels more like a waste of time to me.

On the climb up Squaw, Rick was kind enough to keep the pace manageable, so we rode together, although  he was able to carry on an easy conversation, while I was limited to sentences of 10 or fewer words.  Before the 4 mile mark, I started to fade and he steadily pulled away.  Btw, Rick recently posted a time of 27:08 on this climb (i.e. he's fast). 

While we recovered at the lookout point, he gave me some encouraging advice.  He said, "you know, sometimes doing a hard, short effort before a race is the best thing you can do", or something close to that.

That night as I iced my sore calf, I kept telling myself over and over that Rick had to be right.

Race Day

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a race.  It sure was nice to feel the warmth of the sun on my face as I took my time getting ready to ride.  Here's a picture of the sky over Sundance (photo credit - my 4 yr. old son):

I made an extra effort to warm up my stiff legs by doing a dozen or so short climbs on the paved road.  I was one of the last ones to line up, but I felt pretty good after the warm up.  Rick's words kept playing over and over in my head.  I was just hoping he was right.

I was racing in the Sport 35-39 category with a total of 10 riders. Our race course was 2 laps, each approximately 7 miles and 1,000 ft. vertical.

Lap 1
At the start, Mark followed by Miles jumped out in front on the first climb up the paved road.  Here's Mark (center) and Miles (left):

I followed Miles in 3rd position as we started on the single track.  We chatted back and forth like it was the start of a lunch ride, while we pedaled the exposed trail at the south end of the course.  We had to pass several riders along this section from the group of racers who started ahead of us, which was a bit sketchy with the exposure on the passing side (I'm still working out the kinks on my passing skills).

At the steep double track after the chair lift (see below pic), I knew this would have to be my chance to put some time between me and Miles as I was pretty certain he'd gain some time on the windy descent. 

I was able to pull ahead on this climb and maintain a gap until the summit, although I wasn't more than 20-30 seconds ahead of Miles.  As I started the descent, I wasn't riding too smoothly around some of the sharp switchbacks, especially once I starting seeing Miles through the trees above and that he was closing on me quickly.  It wasn't long and Miles was riding my wheel and I had to let him fly by, along with Justin Thomas and one other rider.

Lap 2 and Finish

Just prior to starting lap two, I caught Miles and Justin on the paved climb, giving me a buffer going into the single track.  I felt my power starting to fade on the little short-effort climbs.  The steep double track was especially painful, even though I was in one of my smallest gears.  However, the other riders behind me must have been hurting too, as I was able to maintain my position to the summit.  I was grateful for a couple of fast riders from other categories that passed me as they kept my pace up as I tried to hang with them.

On the descent, I figured it was only a matter of time before Miles and Justin would catch me like they did on lap 1.  I starting planning in my head how I could battle it out on the last climb up the road to the finish.  I kept looking over my shoulder for Miles** but he never came.  Instead, Jason from Sport 30-34 blew by me at the bottom just after the dirt turned to pavement, partly I think because I'm such a pansy and was riding my brakes rolling onto the road and partly due to him leaving it all out there with a hard effort.  After he passed me, I was determined to catch him (for bragging rights I guess) before the finish line and turned myself inside out trying.  I passed him shortly before the finish.

**As it turned out, Miles unfortunately took a spill on the descent and luckily wasn't hurt other than some scrapes and bruises.  Despite the fall, he still hopped back on the bike and finished a strong 3rd.  Nice job.

Congrats to Mark on the strong ride and win.  He's going to be tough to beat the rest of the season.  And Miles all I have to say is this is going to be a fun season!

First podium for me!

Also, check out this guy's frame that broke in two spots.  Crazy!  Luckily it was while he was going slow on a climb (I bet it was on the steep double track).