21 July 2014

Stardate 2014.553

Shut up, Legs!  Just keep pedaling!

Another Day Up High

Hi, girls and boys! Snowcatcher and I put in another ride up Vail Pass Saturday. Little did we know the Courage Classic was taking place as well. In a roundabout way, we were part of another sanctioned ride, which was kind of fun. The Courage Classic is a 3-day, 155-mile charity ride through mountainous Summit, Lake and Eagle Counties, Colorado. The event benefits Children's Hospital in Denver.

East side of Vail Pass, I-70 Corridor

The ride up the west side of Vail Pass into the hazy atmosphere was a grind as usual. I felt kind of guilty riding by riders who had 80 miles on their legs whilst I had a whopping 5. Nonetheless, good spirits filled the mountains. I always enjoy pedaling on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide through the subalpine and montane life zones. In this area, the lodgepole pine of the Atlantic side have given way to the lush spruce forests of the wetter Pacific side; everything is bushy, large and green.

Stafford Creek, east side of Vail Pass

Many, many moons ago, I learned about dictionaries and how to thumb through them for word info. For many, many moons, I've wondered if Vail had a definition. Well, after many, many moons, I finally opened a dictionary (it was tough at first) and perused the meaning of Vail. As it turns out, the former sheep ranch turned mega ski area and year-round resort has a meaning after all, "to be of use or profit." World War II skiers from the 10th Mountain Division brought lift skiing to Vail and Aspen. Hmmmm... in all honesty, I don't think these famed skiers of the 10th Mountain Division ever dreamed Vail and Aspen would become what they've become.

Close to the summit of Vail Pass, Snowcatcher and I parted ways and I continued on over the pass and down to Copper Mountain Resort, sharing the bike path with numerous bikes.

Looking west across Copper Mountain Resort toward Vail Pass.

At Copper, I picked up a bike path and headed north toward Frisco. The day's haze never did lift and I think perhaps fire smoke from somewhere in the west was visiting us.

13,852 foot Crystal Peak, 13,950 foot Pacific Peak and some Copper Mountain ski runs from Tenmile Creek.

On a side note, along the way the path dissected an avalanche chute (actually a handful of them) that hadn't completely melted out. It was a good example of the dangers of backcountry ski travel and slides. Buried within it are rock and woody debris. People caught in slides often not only suffocate, but are beat to death by wood and rock debris picked up by the slide, as well as being bounced over undulating topography and tree stumps. As a backcountry skier, it's kind of spooky to think about.

Avalanche runout zone with the Blue Banshee for scale

Embedded avy debris

Rounding the northern apex of the Tenmile Range, I headed east along the bike path that leads to Breckenridge Ski Resort. The path is lined with purple and red flowers while 12,933-foot Tenmile Peak and 12,805-foot Peak 1 loom above. My ride too quickly ends when I make the turn south and meet Snowcatcher at the Summit County High School.

12,933 foot Tenmile Peak and 12,805 foot Peak 1 oversee an aging fence from simpler times.


16 July 2014

Stardate 2014.540

One and Two

Here today, gone tomorrow, another Double Triple Bypass has come and gone. This was the 26th year of the Triple Bypass, and my sixth time participating in it. The Triple Bypass travels from Bergen Park, Colorado (~7,800 ft) to Avon, Colorado (~7,400 ft). The route is about 120 miles one way, with four mountain passes providing 10,990 feet of climbing over 92 miles; the remainder is mostly downhill to Avon. The ride originated when a handful of Evergreen, Colorado, cyclists did it for fun. It's become a major cycling event in the state and draws riders from all over.

I see me!

At the end of each Triple, I proclaim never to ride it again. Quite simply, it's very painful to those of us who aren't paid to ride every day or who have a hit-and-miss ride schedule. Even in good shape, it hurts.

Three years ago, the Double Triple Bypass was spawned. The Double is a two-day event in which you ride to Avon on Day One and ride back to Bergen Park on Day Two. Easy enough? Yeah, right! Even though I vowed to never ride the Double Triple again, I was on it. I've tackled the Double Triple three years now, and I'm claiming one out of two. My age and increasing inability to recover overnight shows more each year, my legs often turn into useless wood stumps, sometimes I cramp too much, and probably worst of all, I'm beginning to get chicked (passed by a girl) more and more! Sorry, but it's a guy thing. The latter completely destroys a guy's mental health. So, no, I don't think I'll ride it again – HA!

Day One

Snowcatcher and I groggily stumble out of bed. It's 3 a.m., and we would like to be in Bergen Park by 4:30. Going through the motions, we make it to the car and hit the road. Soon after heading into the foothills, I-70 comes alive with vehicles sporting bikes. Our pre-dawn excitement escalates. Hair on fire, we quickly roll into the Bergen Park staging area.

Camera in hand, Snowcatcher goes to work while I prep the bike. Minutes later I hit the lights, clip into the pedals, bid Snowcatcher farewell and disappear into the early dawn darkness. It's my favorite time of day, and I settle in for a 16-mile grind. Little red lights flicker in the distance, and I wonder what the riders are focused on. It's erie quiet, just the occasional heavy breathing of a rider, or the light hum of chain and cogs. Juniper is the first pass on the day's docket. It's straight up right out of the shoot for 16 miles, topping out at 11,140 feet. That's 3,340 feet of vertical morning wake-up! I greet the summit with a sigh of completion.

After dropping The Lizard off at the start line on Day 1, I typically shoot the sunrise from Lookout Mountain before trying to meet up with him in Idaho Springs to collect his winter gear and his lights.  This year, I had a super moon setting opposite the sunrise, and this was shot number 99800 on my 2008 Nikon D300!  Just 200 more shots to reach the 100,000 mark!

All the work to gain elevation is for moot. For now, it's a 16-mile descent to Idaho Springs, elevation 7,500 feet. It's cold descending at 30 miles per hour, and I'm eager to reach lower elevations and sunlight. In Idaho Springs, I hook-up with Snowcatcher. She takes my cold weather gear and riding lights and makes sure I'm eating something. All around us the spectator activity is awesome – cowbells, hooting, hollers – all riders are cheered on; it's nothing but positive energy. I absorb it while I can. I'm only 32 miles into the ride, and the push to 12,000 feet is about to begin.

Snowcatcher supplies me with Fig Newtons – awesome food! However, I know I need to drink and eat more. At 42 miles, I wing into the Easter Seal Camp aid stop. Food, water, music and the blue room; it doesn't get any better than that.

The base of Loveland Pass is just 14 miles away. But, there is a cost – lots of sweat while reeling in the sky! The ride into Georgetown is easy going, but laidback suddenly ramps up at the west end of town. Stepped road and steep bike path await from here to Loveland Basin Ski Area. This section is difficult for me because it's mostly up. Yet, there are some small rollers thrown in for sport. Rollers are too hard on my legs. I prefer to settle into a long consistent climb. Well, I got what I wished for. From the ski area to the summit is four miles of consistent climbing to above treeline and culminating on 11,990-foot Loveland Pass. This is the halfway point, with more than five hours in the saddle.

I slam two Cliff Shot gels and it begins! This is my realm. I slink into the saddle and find a good pace with the occasional out-of-the-saddle climb to complement different parts of the leg. I also love to be above treeline. Everything is ticking, and despite monsoonal flows, the weather is holding out. My favorite person greets me on the summit, and I delve into more Fig Newtons. It's always energizing to see Snowcatcher.

After a quick call to the gravity gods, I point the nose down and accelerate toward the switchbacks of the Arapahoe Ski Area, followed by the long, straight descent to Keystone Ski Resort. While leaning into the first set of switchbacks... SHAZAAAM! I just got chicked! This can't be happening. She's even in a wedge position, an aerodynamic but not overly stable position on a 16-pound bike. Wow — you go girl!

Descending Loveland Pass

The next stop on the docket is Summit County High School for food and drink. There is a catch though, Swan Mountain. This is not an alpine pass, rather a pass over a ridgeline. However, the final climb to the ridgeline is super steep, and I've been known to cramp a bit here. Fortunately, I have no cramps today. The descent is fast, too, emptying straight into the aid station. This is my favorite rest stop because of the vibe. Tired or not, at this point you know you've probably got the cat by the tail. The setting is somewhat idyllic because you're surrounded by beautiful high peaks. Rest stop volunteers were playing Christmas music as well. Snow – that's all ski resort folks think about – snow and the holiday season. I like snow, too! At this point, I'm 77 miles into my ride, and the morning is aging.

"Cold doesn't bother me anyway!" Extra points if you can name the film!

I rarely get to see a dandelion prior to full bloom!

Onward ho... the route now follows bike path all the way to Copper Mountain Resort, then over Vail Pass and down into the Vail Ski Resort. It's turned out to be a beautiful day with afternoon storms not quite materializing. My legs are tired, and I've had several more SHAZAAAMs. Nonetheless, the ride up 10-Mile to Copper Mountain and Vail Pass is stunning, as usual. I dig deep to make Vail Pass. Snowcatcher is waiting, and we have a little break. Bidding farewell, I begin a high speed 11-mile descent to East Vail. This is one of those descents that leaves a rider with an ear-to-ear grin. Today does not disappoint.

I didn't shoot many wildflowers this trip, but couldn't resist this one near the top of Loveland Pass.

From Vail the name of the game is to survive the roundabouts scattered along 17 miles of ride. Europeans use them as funnels; in Colorado they are for gardens and speed checks. They can be terrifying at times. Soon, I make the turn (1/4 of a roundabout) into Avon, cross the Eagle River, make a sharp left turn followed by a sharp right, rattle across a double set of train tracks and try to put on a, "I'm not tired look" across the finish line amidst cowbells and teenage cheerleaders. It's done, I'm hungry and I can't get enough of Snowcatcher's back rubbing. After a nice meal (part of the package), we walk the bike path along the river to our car. Day One becomes a memory.

Day 1 Finish Line in Avon

Day Two

Day Two started well with a ride in the early morning dark up to Vail Ski Resort. From Vail, the ride up the west side of Vail Pass is much steeper and longer than the east side. This is the side where we train, but training doesn't seem to matter today. Watching the early morning light ignite the Gore Range gave way to hard, out-of-the-saddle climbing. I felt good during the dark portion of the ride. However, by the time I summited Vail, my legs were gone. Meeting up with Snowcatcher on the summit cheered me immensely.

At this point, I knew the day was probably a fail. Yet I hoped the descent down Vail Pass and the 10-Mile Range might rejuvenate me a bit. Cold and tired, I met up with Snowcatcher at Frisco and regretfully called it a day. It wasn't so bad, within minutes I had a hot cuppa Joe!

2011, the first year the Double Triple Bypass was offered, I had no problem completing both days. In 2013, I threw in the towel at the same location as today. Obviously, I don't train well enough. I'm also getting fat and old and need to work harder and eat better.

See ya next year Double Triple Bypass!

Here are some stats:
Fastest year, east to west – 2008, 7:42:39
Slowest year, east to west – 2014, 8:44:40


09 July 2014

Stardate 2014.521

Looking up the East River at 12,519 foot Mount Bellview.

Ahoy mates!

July greetings! How about another training blog? My preparation for the Double Triple Bypass has been better than I originally thought. Most likely, I had a good winter fitness base from which to build, albeit it didn't feel like it. I've also spent more time on the mountain bike than in the past few years. This is a good thing, because I like mountain biking over road biking. Yet, all my events are on the road bike—go figure! Actually, it's been a good nuptial because I don't have roadie burn out.

One of my backyard trails.

I live adjacent to a National Forest and spend a lot of time in it. The result is mountain bike training at its finest. Moreover, Team Snowcatcher had a very successful MS ride this year. Thanks to all of you who donated to our/my cause. It has quickly become one of my favorite rides. The MS event also is a great measuring stick of fitness. I rode 102 miles on Day One and about 77 miles on Day Two and felt quite well. I was pleased. Sorry, but I have no MS photos. You'll have to redirect to Snowcatcher or Mrs. Micawber to see what I saw.

Onward and upward we go. Snowcatcher and I have spent more time riding at altitude this season, and Vail Pass has become our favorite workout site. On this trip, I went up once, descended, then went up and over again to Copper Mountain Resort. I rode down and around the northern end of the Ten-Mile mountain range toward Breckenridge Resort, where I hooked back up with Snowcatcher. Perfect timing I guess, the last 10 miles were spent battling small hail and rain. Once again, no photos were taken.

Crested Butte, Colorado

We spent the Fourth of July weekend in one of my favorite mountain areas – Crested Butte! Yes, I have photos! Enjoy! Why yes, the training went fairly well, too.

Can you say Lupine?  A typical summer day in the Elk Mountains.

Crested Butte considers itself the Wildflower Capitol of Colorado. Those are big words, for I know of some other hidden jewels as well. Nonetheless, if you hit it just right, Crested Butte might actually be on to something. This year, flowers are late following a very good/ deep snow year. The Lupine are in high gear.

It's the end of the line for a while.  We're just below Emerald Lake and Schofield Pass at about 10,400 feet of elevation.

In addition to riding bikes, we like to 4-wheel a bit and drive up to Schofield Pass. The Schofield Pass road is a 4x4 connector route to Marble, Colorado. We were stopped short of the pass by remnant avalanche snow and debris covering the road. Some 4x4 vehicles had made it across, but not many. I didn't even try. We knocked off a quick 8-point turn and headed down.

Heading back down from the avalanche debris field.  The Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness is in the background.

Schofield Pass is by no means a shortcut through the Elk Mountains. As the crow flies, posh Aspen is but 30 or so miles away, and several 4x4 routes allow access to Aspen from Crested Butte. However, the passenger car route boasts two or three hours of driving around the Elk Range to connect with Aspen.

Avalanche Lily growing in an avalanche runout chute, imagine that.

Avalanche Lilies were abundant. They are beautiful, delicate and a treat to find as they don't appear as frequently or as widespread as other species.

Results of a good mountain bike ride.

We got some energetic rides in, too. All you have to do to get the tell-tale of a good ride is look at your feet. Happy trails amigos...

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