Above is my backyard this morning. Below was my backyard yesterday afternoon. (Don't ask about the kids eating peanut butter and Dorritos - I can't explain it.) I'm glad I got in a good mountain bike ride yesterday.
I had a fantastic ride today up on the Frank trail, mere minutes from my house. But I made a grievous error by forgetting my camera, sorry for no photos. Even though the hills look pretty dead, the grass is coming up to add a hint of green and I regret not being able to take some pictures of it.
My objective was reverse Frank. Frank is the nickname given years ago to a collection of trail segments that makes for a really good ride. Frank normally starts at Canyon Glen Park (up Provo Canyon a ways) then climbs up and makes it's west over to the mouth of the canyon. I wanted to ride it in reverse, as is commonly done. I've done it before, but some talk of the trail over on Rick's blog got me excited to ride it again.
I started from my house and rode up the water tank road (above the Orem Cemetery). At the base of the last climb, I took a left onto what is normally the end of Frank. I revved up for the first steep, short slope, but I botched the attempt. Grumble. Not how I like to start a trail ride. I pushed up the steep part and got riding again. I've done this climb before and I knew it is pretty steep with a final pitch that gets even steeper. I made it close to the summit before I ran out of air. I was hoping I was in better shape, but it's clear I need to gain some more fitness before I can clean this section. The rest of this "ridge" section was very enjoyable as it rolls along.
As a side note, there is an easier way to start reverse Frank. If you finish the final climb on the road, and continue on it north, you'll see a trail forking off to the left. There is some climbing, but it's moderate. Still, the "official" reverse Frank is worth some pushing because after the first climb you ride some sweet single-track instead of a dirt road.
I rolled past the junction where the easier trail comes in on the right, and then a bit further, the trail taking off to the left that I took last year that turned out to be so nice. I continued up until the left turn for the new trail that was cut in a year or so ago. It bypasses a nasty, eroded and step spot in the original trail. It's entertaining as it weaves through the brush. I almost missed the left turn for the even newer trail that essentially parallels the new trail but is a bit higher on the hill to avoid the one spot in the new trail that is just steep and loose enough that it's tough to clean on a bike. The newer trail is thin and a fun challenge to stay on. Back in the trench of the old trail I huffed and puffed along. I was disappointed in myself that I ran out of gas again and stopped. After a short breather I continued on to the altar.
The altar is a 3' pile of rocks at the intersection of 4 trails. Straight ahead is the Great Western Trail (GWT) as it makes it's way to the top of Dry Canyon and eventually over the saddle of Big Baldy. Left is a really fun trail that takes you over to Dry Canyon above the grey cliffs. Right is down the GWT and is more of Frank. This is also the summit of the ride (Frank). I turned right and started my downhill run. It's a bit rocky but I really enjoy ripping down this section. More loose rock that usual (my hat's off to those who can climb this thing!), probably just normal for Spring, but still a good time.
I hit the road and thought about going back (west) to drop into the race track (a fantastic trail circuit above the new Timpanogos Park), but I decided to stay on Frank so I pedaled to essentially the end of the road and jumped on single-track again. This section descends a rocky ridge west of Johnson's Hole and it almost always puts a big grin on my face. Bike rattling, chain slapping - just ripping down through the rocks.
Below Johnson's Hole there's some technical fun and I could see a whole bunch of runners. I thought about continuing down to Canyon Glen Park, but I don't think the runners coming up the trail would have appreciated that so I went with them along the pipeline dirt road. It's mostly flat and a fast ride. I had to dodge runners, but it wasn't bad. When I arrived above Timpanogos Park I decided to take a lap on the Race Track, but I took a wrong turn and came up a gully to start the ride instead of coming in the usual way, but no big deal.
The Race Track is a wonderful mix of trail riding features. You have some moderate climbing, some dips through gullies, some windy turny stuff and a few rocky spots, but mostly it's smooth single-track. I did my lap and as I was just getting off the course when my wife called to tell me she was coming up the access road. In less than a minute she met me and I did another lap with her. I'm glad she decided to get out for a ride - I enjoyed riding with her. We got on the paved Provo River trail and took it back to 800 North then took city streets back to our house.
Even though I conked out a few times, it was a really good ride. It felt great to be out riding the mountain bike on these fantastic trails.
Postscript: The FSA XC-300 wheel I had been running kept popping tubes (because the rim strip had peeled back exposing some spoke holes) so I switched over to the wheel I built. I put the cassette, brake rotor and rim tape on it last night. I'm happy to report it didn't collapse and cause me to break my hip (nothing but love, Kenny!).
Bonus: Map of the Provo Canyon race track trail
Todd is a food crusader. He attacks beloved staples of the American diet with a religious zeal. While I may be able to dismiss some of his claims, he makes a lot of good points which have been nagging at my conscience. Today I took a HUGE step towards healthier eating - you may want to brace yourself. I was looking for a snack at the store and I spotted the Fig Newtons.
I love Fig Newtons and I consider them one of the healthier things I eat. But I saw a healthier alternative and I actually bought it:
Yeah, I can't believe I made this jump either! I couldn't believe how much better I felt - it was amazing! Although they did give me gas.
Last Friday I did the Suncrest south side climb with JE, so today for my lunch ride I decided to give the north side a try. I'm pretty sure the last time I went up Suncrest was Fall or Winter of last year. My legs felt tight on the first few steep sections and I wondered if I should just bail out on Mike Weir drive like last time. But when I got to the turn off my legs felt OK so I kept climbing. Then I came to the dreaded S-curve - an unrelenting >1 mile climb at 10% grade. Mark has needled me a few times about my triple so I determined I wouldn't use the granny gear. In fact, I was going to try to not go lower than 3rd gear. I settled into a rhythm after a 100 yards up the S-curve and felt OK. I wasn't setting any speed records, but I was happy I made it in 3rd. The last steep pitch is another 10% grade, but with confidence gained from the S-curve I motored up it to the 4-way stop. 1375' of climbing in 35 minutes. I wasn't spent so I continued straight through the intersection to reach the summit. This section hits a solid 12% for most of the slope and I was surprised I cranked it out in 3rd gear as well (although I should have used 2nd gear for a better cadence and not some much pressure on my knees). 1500' of climbing in 40 minutes. I zipped down and back to work in 12 minutes hitting 46 mph (I could have gone faster, but speeds over 50 mph make me uncomfortable). I felt good and was happy to see I can still do some sustained and fairly steep climbing without imploding - and in a larger gear than usual.
And happy 35th birthday to Mark, my frequent riding buddy - ride long and prosper!
I met Mark at the BST trail head near the Hoggle Zoo for a dirt ride. I pulled my bike out of the car and the rear tire was flat - fixed it. Mark arrived and headed up the trail, but my bike wasn't shifting - idler cog on the derailer wasn't turning but I got it going again with some lube. I caught up to Mark, who was waiting for me, and off we went. Didn't get too far before the chain broke - the chain was new as of two weeks ago - fixed it with a quick link. OK, so maybe that snow and mud ride did some damage to my bike. I was getting a bit annoyed and hoped that was the last of my mechanical problems. But it got to me a bit and I kept expecting something else to break with ever odd sound and steep spot. Fortunately the bike worked fine after the chain repair.
It's been a while since I rode the BST and Mark showed me a few fun alternate routes and offshoots. At Dry Creek we decided to go up until we hit mud, which was pretty far, given that it's only March after a heavy Winter. As we turned around Mark greeted 4 riders, 2 in Kuhl kits, that he called the Monday riders. (Only now, after some blog surfing, did I figure out the 4 riders were KDay, Tolbert, Alex G and Dave Welsh. I'm embarrassed I didn't recognize at least KDay since I read his blog and have seen photos of him there. Yes, I'm socially inept.) Then not far behind was Chris Fox hot in pursuit.
We rolled down Dry and then took the streets over to City Creek to ride some more dirt there. We rode up the BST and then kept going on the trail up City Creek. Part way up some guys on the road shouted to us that the trail is closed. Huh? OK, well back down we went. No sign at the junction. How do you close a trail to bikes but not post a sign? Lame. So I didn't feel too bad about poaching it.
Back on the street the Monday riders caught us and we rode together for a while. Nice (fast) guys out enjoying the dirt like us.
Coming back we ran into Bob and chatted for a bit.
We cruised back the easy way. I was pretty spent - I'll blame it on the road ride Saturday. I'm not going to complain about being tired from riding sweet dirt. A small price to pay.
Friday I rode a loop over Suncrest with JE. He brought his TT/Tri bike, and as I suggested possible routes he liked Suncrest so off we went. A bit of wind from the north kept it cooler than the bright sunny sky suggested. JE did fine on the south side climb up Suncrest - it seems his TT/Tri bike with a double has pretty standard road bike gearing so he had some low gears for the climb. We chatted about various cycling subjects including triathlons (I almost got to do a Tri last year and I'm registered for the Salem Spring Triathlon this year). It was good to meet JE for the first time and do a ride with him.
Mark called me as work was wrapping up and I met him for a nice ride in the south west end of the valley. Mark did some intervals and I tried to keep up with him, but I was lacking oomph from the ride a few hours earlier. Still, it was nice ride and great to get out again.
Saturday at 10 am I joined the Utah Velo Club for a nice 47 mile ride around West Mountain. The promise of Spring brought out a good crowd - 35 cyclists. It was a nice sunny day, but colder than it looked - I don't think the temperature hit 50 for the whole ride. I was a bit late getting there and the main pack left a few minutes after I arrived. I joined some other riders to catch them. After catching the main pack and regrouping at the 10 mile mark, I wanted to at least ride with the medium speed riders so I moved up. The group I started with wasn't going quite fast enough for my taste so I tried to bridge up to a faster group before the gap got too big. I worked for 2.5 miles before I finally caught two other rider who had dropped off the group I was chasing. I rode with them to the 20 mile regroup spot. I wasn't blown, but I was concerned about how much energy I had chewed up with the ride only close to half over. I got in with a group going a nice speed, but a couple of us tried to catch the fast guys - it was a fun effort, but futile. We settled down and just rolled along at a moderate pace. At the 30 mile mark I decided to just take it easy on this last leg. At a 4-way stop there was some confusion as most riders rolled through it but one new rider stopped and Randy crashed into the back him - it was low speed so no injured people or damaged bikes, but it was spooky. I moved around a bit at first, but settled in with Randy and we rolled it back to the start. I pulled most of the time and it was nice to do those 27 miles at an even, sustainable pace (about 19 mph) to put in some good base miles. Back at the start I bought a big chocolate milk and chugged it down on the drive home (if it's a good enough recovery drink for Kenny, it's good enough for me!).
After I got home, Jolene and I went for a little cross country skiing up American Fork Canyon. She wanted to get in one more ski and I agreed it was a good idea. There's still a lot of snow up there, but it's melting fast on south-facing slopes.
We came across some snow caves - probably built by some boy scouts.
The Granite Flat loop was fun. The snow was pretty much Spring corn with icy stuff in the shade, but it was OK to ski on. We took the road down and that was a wild ride. It was all "whooped up" from the snowmobiles and the corn snow was fast. We both laughed all the way down as we were barely able to control the chaos of skiing through a minefield of bumps. Jolene fell once and I can't believe I didn't fall - I had a half dozen close calls. We ended by skiing down the tubing hill - it was much nicer to descend with easy snowplowing.
I'm really enjoying getting out with the weather improving, as the flurry of activities the end of this week shows.
This billboard went up along I-15 last week, right after that short thaw followed by another snow storm. I pass it every morning on my way to work. I feel like it's taunting me. Cruel.
But there are signs of Spring, if you squint and have an active imagination (which I do!). I've been out on some dirt recently, and mostly it's been good, but not always. Such is the early Spring riding gamble.
I got out for a nice short ride with Mark yesterday after work. I was going to ride at lunch, but got a call from a friend who was up this way and we went out for lunch. As work was winding down I resigned myself to just going home and taking it easy, since I'm tired from not sleeping well the last few days and I think I picked up the cold my wife has. That would be the sensible thing to do. But Mark saved me. He called from home just as I was wrapping up the last few tasks. I jumped at the opportunity to ride - it was so nice outside. Sensibility is not really my forte anyway. I rode toward him, he rode toward me on 13th West and we met and had a nice hour ride - east on 123rd, south on the frontage road to the prison, west on 146th, then north on the Jordan River parkway trail (just to mix things up), then we parted. I rode back to work, changed and drove home. The ride was invigorating and relaxing at the same time, and it improved my mood for the evening. Ah, the simple joys of cycling.
I'll be riding at lunch today - gotta squeeze in a ride before this new cold front moves in.
Update: I did ride at lunch and ran into (not literally) Todd. We rode a few miles and had a good chat along the way. Along Highland Drive, near the Chevron, a little dog that was with some kids ran over and gave chase but I warded it off with a big shot from my water bottle - hit it square in the face. It was funny to see the dog stop in it's tracks and close it's eyes as the big blob of water hit it right between the eyes. I'll probably never had such a perfect dog shot again. At the Chevron Todd split off to head home via Suncrest and I zipped down the hill back to work. It was a bit windy, but nice and warm.
sweded films made this strangely endearing, low-tech recreation of several Star Wars scenes. I dig how they used every-day things to make the props.
A few posts ago I mentioned Phun, a free 2D physics simulator. The kids and I have been playing with it almost every day. We keep thinking of new machines to build or just silly "what if" things to try. I made a game to catch bouncing balls. But some people have made some truly amazing things - check out this tank:
The BST was so fun yesterday, I wanted to do it again today. I wasn't free to go until after noon. Partly because I got my new FSA XC-300 wheel setup (put on a tire and new cassette) on the Prophet with a new chain. Not the best day, weather-wise - lots of grey clouds with a forecast for rain/snow. But I went anyway. Here I am, the rider-of-many-bright-colors:
I climbed the paved road to the water tanks above the Orem Cemetery and jumped on the trail. Some dark clouds were rolling my way, but for now it was cold (around 40) but otherwise OK. I chugged up the first dirt climb and got pretty winded but kept going. At the small water tank above Northridge I saw a car and a guy with a bike, but I wasn't sure if he was starting or finishing so I kept rolling.
More climbing and I was annoyed at myself for being so slow and out of breath. But the trail was sloppy in spots and my tires were loaded with mud so maybe it was the extra weight and drag. Regardless, I kept rolling and stayed out of granny (my personal challenge to myself).
I crossed the Dry Canyon parking lot and started the next round of climbing with a light snow flurry. I wimped down to granny last time, but that wasn't going to happen again. I did OK until the end - it was muddy and steeper and it hurt, but I topped it in 2nd. Now the trail would be flatter, but the snow was coming down heavier:
After the exposed section I met Erin (local Pro XC racer and now road racing at Lindsey Wilson College) going the other way. We chatted for a bit, then another rider rolled up - it was Brad from back at the small water tank. Erin headed off and Brad and I continued on.
Unfortunately the snow was melting when it hit the ground making the trail muddy. As we descended we encountered more soup than I care for, but we had gravity on our side. At the end of the trail we kept going on the dirt road so I could show Brad the road that goes to Battle Creek Canyon.
My intent was to reverse course and take the BST back. But as we made our way to the trail, Brad broke his derailler hanger. He had a spare and installed it. As we started up the trail the going was not easy. My tires were caking up with mud and it took a lot of additional energy to keep rolling. After not very far I pulled the plug and decided to take the road back. Brad was back down the trail a short distance reporting that one of his derailler idler cogs was not turning. If there was any question that bailing was the right choice, that answered it.
We flew down the hill, getting chilled by the cold air and snow. Made our way to my house where Brad hosed off his bike and I changed out of my wet, muddy clothes. I drove him back to his car and he came back and loaded his bike in the trunk. Here's what my bike looked like (notice the snow build-up and mud):
And, yes, I highly recommend a good mud ride to break in new drive train components. I'm sure this one ride halved the life of that brand new chain. But on the plus side, it did shift nice.
Next week it looks like sunny weather, but I think I'll give the BST a few days to dry out before I ride it again.
I got all fired up by Rick's report that the BST north of Dry Canyon was mostly dry. So after I missed my weather window for a lunch ride I decided to give it a ride after work, if the weather wasn't horrible. I left work late (6 pm) and dinner was ready when I got home so I ate and now it was getting late and isolated grey clouds dotted the sky. But in a fit of defiance I decided to go anyway. I stuffed some extra wind/rain clothing into the CamelBak and rode out of the garage.
As I huffed up the roads heading to Dry Canyon, I got a side ache. Hmm, do you think eating 4 pancakes with syrup, 3 strips of bacon and 2 glasses of milk could be the cause? Ya, I was stupid for wolfing down dinner then immediately riding.
Still, I was climbing pretty good all the way to the parking lot. And I perked up when I hit the single-track. (Trails give me a little rush.) I was climbing OK, but slowly slowing down. Near the top of the climb I was disgusted to see I was in granny - lame. I do this climb all the time in higher gears. I'll blame it on the pancakes.
On the exposed section of the trail it was almost dark but I had switched on my homebrew helmet light - still, I was having a hard time seeing well. A good amount of rock and dirt have sloughed down the uphill cut making the trail pretty narrow in spots with loose rock scattered about. It got my full attention. I felt like I rode it kind of timid and that bugged me. I'll blame that on the poor light conditions. (Yes, I have an excuse for everything.)
I came to a few muddy spots, but as Rick reported, they weren't bad. I've seen these a LOT worse. One year the horses had been through and post-holed it into swiss cheese at least 1.5 feet deep. I did OK, but clipped out a few times. I made it out to where the trail drops, then turned around because I wanted to see at least some of my daughter's basketball game.
Coming back it was now dark. The helmet light did OK, but the spot is too tight (just as Dave H. cautioned - I'll mod the light to give me a wider spot). I failed to climb a few not-very-hard spots and that annoyed me. No excuse this time - I was lame.
Several times I spooked deer grazing on the hillsides. I hit the downhill and felt good as I rolled it pretty smooth.
Back at the parking lot I couldn't resist the temptation of just a little more single-track so I jumped back on the BST heading south. There was one patch of snow, and a few muddy spots, but nothing too bad. There's a trail that doesn't get much use anymore that drops off the BST and connects back to the dirt road going up to the Dry Canyon parking lot. It's a fun little trail and I rode it pretty good, even with the loose rock. There's a pole fence near the end that's new - I guess to keep motorized stuff out - there was a trail around it to the right.
Near the dirt road my phone rang. The basketball game had been moved to another building. I zipped home on the streets, changed, jumped in my car and caught most of the 2nd quarter and all of the 2nd half. Sadly, they lost, but they played well - I was proud.
My new Schwinn jersey arrived today. I like how it looks. I'll be sure to wear it the next time I ride with Mark. He deserves some hassling for being down riding in short-sleeves in AZ this week. :-)
Update: Good thing I rode last night because the foothills got a skiff of snow overnight.
The weather has been pretty nice (above 50 degrees) the last 3 days so I've gone on a road ride at lunch each day.
Day 1 was a 13 mile ride in Draper with a stout climb up Rambling Road.
Day 2 was a 10.5 mile ride in Draper with some climbing, but trying for a semi-recovery from Day 1.
Day 3 was a 15 mile ride south to Thanksgiving Point (Lehi) via the I-15 frontage road, then a few miles on the Jordan River parkway trail and the return via Redwood Road and 146th South. This is an entertaining route, but it has one flaw: the trail by the wind turbines is under construction. Actually, they're putting in a pipe for the irrigation canal and I hope it also means they will be repairing this section of trail which was washed out a few years ago and it's been a dirt trail since then. It would be nice if it were paved again. I hiked my bike around the dug up area and got my road shoes all muddy. No biggie - I'm used to mud from mountain biking. It was fun to get the speed up coming down Redwood.
The forecast doesn't look good for the rest of the week, but I'll take my bike and hope to squeeze in some more rides.
BONUS - Check out Phun, a free, easy-to-use 2D physics simulator (sandbox). Watch the video on the home page to get an idea what you can do with it. I've had fun just throwing things around, crashing stacks of blocks, drawing weird shapes to watch them fall and making simple machines. My kids have had fun with it too. I challenged my 13-year-old daughter to make something that moves and she came up with some clever designs.
It was near 50 today (Saturday) so Jolene and I decided to ride our mountain bikes from our house up into the foothills to see if there was any dry dirt to ride. We climbed the steep, paved road above the Orem Cemetery to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) trailhead. The BST was dry so we decided to see how far we could go. It was dry all the way up the first climb, then we hit this patch of snow and mud:
It'll be at least another week before these areas that don't face south dry out.
So we went back and tried the dirt service road. It was pretty dry all the way up, but has some wet spots and ruts. Good enough for mountain bikes. But once we reached the top, the road turns north and it was wet and sloppy, just like it is every Spring until a good stretch of warm days drys it out. So we went back down.
Off the side of the road I tried to get a little air. Weak, but I was just fooling around. I'm not a big air guy anyway.
Doesn't the landscape look nice? Dead and ugly. But Spring will work it's magic soon enough.
Just a short ride motivated by the hopeful excitement that Spring is coming. And even though the snow and muck stopped us, it was still nice to get in 2 miles or so on local dirt.
This (late) afternoon I met Mark, Ed and Bob near Trolley Square for a ride up Emigration Canyon. I was so excited to see 55 degrees, I went in just jersey and shorts (but I kept the toe covers on the shoes and wore full-finger gloves and I packed a bunch of extra clothing - I'm only partially insane). We made our way along the city streets and Mark showed us a nice little route through some quiet neighborhoods. Once we made the mouth of the canyon we were done with stop lights/signs and it was time to climb. Emigration is fun ride as it starts fairly mellow, rolls up and down along the way, and keeps things interesting with changing scenery and twists, turns and switchbacks.
Ed and I got talking as we rode only a short gap ahead of Bob and Mark. I spotted a turn-off and asked Ed if that was Emigration Oaks. He said it was and asked if I wanted to ride it. I've heard Mark talk about this side loop and it sounded interesting so I indicated I'd like to check it out. Bob and Mark decided to do it too. It's a pretty good climb with section reading a solid 12% on my cyclocomputer. At what looked to be the summit, Bob mentioned something about a dip so I didn't attack the summit. Good thing because it's quite a dip with a good climb on the other side (after passing Bart's house). After that it was mostly downhill at a pretty steep grade.
Rejoining the main canyon road we continued up. There was more snow the higher we went and it was getting colder. Where my cyclocomputer had read 55 down in the valley, now it read 41. I had been a little chilled before, but actually felt pretty comfortable. Now my arms were starting to get cold, but the summit wasn't that far away.
Bob took off to do an interval as the rest of us chugged along. Coming around a bend where I could see up the road at least 100 yards I was surprised to see no Bob - he was gone! How would it be to have that kind of power? I'll probably never know. Just before the first switchback Bob came down and rejoined us. But it didn't take long for him to lead out a big gap on us. He wasn't showing off or being obnoxious - he's simply a faster rider.
I had a good pace going and even passed one other rider. It just felt great to be on the bike cranking along. I felt good all the way up to the summit - no huge effort, just solid, steady pace that got me breathing heavy, but not too heavy. At the summit I put on all the extra clothing I brought - leg warmers, arm warmers, ear band and wind breaker. After a few minutes we headed down.
The descent was fast and cold. I was warm except for my fingers - I should have brought some thicker gloves. About half way down I got behind Ed and drafted along. I coasted many times and if I had to pedal it didn't take much effort. But Ed had been leading for a while so I decided to take a pull. Moving to the side I felt the full force of the air and wondered if this was such a good idea. But I moved in front and put some power into the cranks. It's fun to pedal downhill because the effort produces such high speeds. I hit 32 mph for a while. As the canyon got flatter, I kept on the gas. It was silly, but it felt so good to mash the pedals I couldn't help myself.
At the zoo I backed off and Ed and I made our way through the city streets. On a steep hill Mark let loose and went flying by. We said good-bye to Bob as he peeled off and headed for home. Not much longer we arrived at the place Ed and Mark work (where we started). An enjoyable ride with good company.
When I got home, my wife and I went out to eat at Wallaby's. BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, baked beans - I'm stuffed.
Performance had this jersey on sale and I ordered it tonight:
And another pair of these sweet matching socks (Jason gave me the first pair as a gift last year):
Yep, I'm going retro. But my bike is a Schwinn FastBack in the same colors so I'll be so color coordinated, it'll be frightening.
I know, Schwinn went bankrupt in 1993 (after a merger with GT) and was purchased by bicycle mega-company Pacific Cycles (who also sells cheap bikes through Walmart, Target, etc.) and as a result the Schwinn name doesn't have the proud, independent American-bicycle-builder meaning it once had. I like to think my wearing Schwinn hearkens back to the Schwinn glory days. But mostly I just like the colors and design and that it matches my bike.
On another topic, it was time to get back in the saddle since I have recovered from the race and ride on Saturday, but since I got home after dark, the trainer was my only option. So more Biking Power(less), and yes, it was brutal. Thanks, Bruce, for the gift that keeps on giving.
After the race, and after we had recovered with some burgers, Jolene and I rode the nearby Zen trail. Chris and Kara Holley offered to show us the way, but they were with a fast group and we were too slow starting the climb - still it was helpful to see them in the distance and know we were headed in the right direction.
Zen starts with a climb up a double-track then turns into a rocky single-track. It skirts the edge of the cliffs and winds through boulders and rock formations. Plenty of technical stunts - some were too much for me, but I had plenty of fun on the easy ones and pushed myself to try some I didn't know if I could make. Here's Jolene riding between some rocks:
And a little while later, ducking under a rock roof:
The trail winds it's way through the rocks until it reaches the top of this inclined mesa-like formation. Here I am posing at the top:
The trail continues along the rim for a while like this:
Then it starts descending:
And crosses a patch of slickrock:
Then drops (steeply) into a gully. To continue on single-track we should have crossed the wash, but we were tired from the race and needed to get on the road, to get home at a decent hour, so we came out the wash and took a dirt road back to the car.
On the way home I got a text from Mark warning me that it was snowing big in Salt Lake Valley. Evidently the storm came in quicker than expected and we hit it around Beaver. The temperature dropped to 31 degrees and the wind was blowing then the snow started falling and it was a full-on blizzard. Since it was dark the view out the windshield looked like a starship going into warp, but with 10 times the number of stars. At times we had to slow down to 40 and even 30. The road was only wet at first, but then the snow started to stick - near Nephi there were a few inches on the road and it was nasty. We stopped in Nephi for a potty break and I chipped the ice off the headlights so I could see better. Ice had coated the van and the bikes looked like this:
But as we approached Santaquin it had hardly rained/snowed at all and the roads were just wet again, and even dry in central Utah Valley. Crazy weather for the drive home.
Friday Jolene and I drove down to St. George for the Desert Rampage, Intermountain Cup mountain bike race. We left Orem around 11 am and drove straight to the race course for a pre-ride. When we pulled in it was 75 degrees with a clear blue sky and lots of sun - that alone was enough to justify the drive.
Riding the course was like seeing an old friend - taking note of the familiar features and noticing a few little changes. We rolled it mellow and had a very enjoyable ride. Here's Jolene on the final downhill:
After the pre-ride we drove over to Red Rock Bicycles to register for the race and see if we could get the fork on Jolene's bike repaired. I wasn't planning on racing, but I was on a high from the pre-ride and impulsively decided to go for it. The shop didn't have the right part for the fork, but I found a bolt that would work for the race at the hardware store.
Then we went over to Jolene's brother's house. We had fun visiting with them and their girls and had a nice dinner. We turned in around 11 pm. In the morning we ate breakfast, got ready and headed over to the course. It was going to be another sunny and warm day!
Jolene's race started just after 10 am, but mine wasn't until after 12 pm. So I helped her get ready then took some photos. Jolene had a good race and finished 4th in Women 35+.
Soon enough it was race time for me. I'd been riding around to warm up then got in the start line at ten 'til. I chatted with some of the guys in my category including Brad Sneed, a fellow UtahMountainBiking.com racer, and Jim Wedge with team Revolution (the champion team last year). Last year this was my first Sport race (moving up from Beginner). I mentioned that I was amazed at the fast pace from the start. And as our group started, it was the same thing again. Maybe I'm wrong, but I was sure that if I went out that fast I'd blow up so I set a pace just under my anaerobic threshold and motored along. Of course this meant I was squarely at the back of the pack - just like last year. I think there were 3-4 guys behind me and more than 20 in front of me - talk about starting in a hole.
The course rolls up and down as it heads to Keyhole Wash where I passed a few other rides. I stayed in the middle ring all the way up the first climb and passed a few more racers, a few in my category. Up ahead I could see Jim in the bright orange team jersey. He had 30 yards or so on my and I wasn't gaining on him, but I also didn't seem to be loosing ground. I was pretty winded at the top of the climb, but kept the speed up across to the downhill to Rock Wash.
Rock Wash contains most the technical challenges of the course. In the pre-ride I had cleaned them all and I was determined to make them in the race too. At one steep rock step-up where I usually slowed and took the easier ramp to the right, I was so focused on the racer in front of me that when he went straight up it I did the same. I was surprised and relieved I made it - here's the photographic proof (sheesh, it looks easy in this photo, but it's deeper than it appears and, trust me, it gets your attention):
(photo appropriated from zazoosh)
I cleaned everything in Rock Wash and even finished the steeper top of the climb in the middle ring to get on the final downhill section. I love this downhill section. It just flows so well. I felt like I ripped it pretty good, but I'm far from the fastest or gutsiest downhiller. It ends with a short climb and then a short descent to the flat section before the finish. I took it pretty fast in the big ring and made the corner through the wash then through the starting line to start my 2nd lap.
I was concerned how I'd do on the second lap. I felt I could bust out one lap, but would I fade badly on lap 2? I kept the big ring going until the first hill. And I was feeling pretty good through the ups and downs heading to Keyhole Wash where I spotted Jim again ahead of me. With Jim as my carrot, I increased my effort slightly and put little extra efforts here and there to gain some ground. By the top of the first climb I had cut the distance to Jim in half. I tried to push the downhill and down-shifted well at the entrance to Rock Wash to carry some speed starting this final climb. I pushed the pace and took each obstacle aggressively and after a few tenths of a mile up the wash I saw that Jim was close with one other racer between us. I kept a few bike lengths back as a cushion in case either rider faltered. Bad luck struck Jim as he got stopped by a tricky obstacle and the racer behind him stopped too. I called out "coming up" and they cleared their bikes out of the way just in time for me to go by. I was pretty excited that I was able to catch up to Jim and even pass him, but now Jim had me as his carrot.
I kept it in the middle ring and tried to push hard up the climb. On the steep top part of the climb I dropped into the little ring but kept the speed up best I could. I reached the top winded but pushed through the rocky traverse over to the final downhill. I felt sure Jim is a faster downhiller than me so I tried to push my speed. I caught up to another Revolution racer, Janelle, half way down. She was plenty fast but I could have gone a tiny bit faster if I could pass her. But this was all single-track so I just followed her down.
(After the race Jim told me he thought he had the perfect setup here with Janelle in front of me - effectively blocking me - while he closed the gap on me from behind.)
Finally the single-track opened into double-track up a short hill and I romped on the pedals - very nervous that Jim had closed the gap and was on my tail. At the crest I jumped into the big ring and let fly. At one point I took a quick glance back and saw a bright colored jersey which spurred me to romp on the pedals even harder. Another racer came up beside me, and I was relieved to see the familiar yellow and black of a teammate. Near the wash I took the right-and-high line in preparation for the turn into the wash crossing. I could hear another racer closed behind and just knew it was Jim. He was taking the middle-and-low line in an effort to stay inside of me. Unfortunately, as I had noticed in the pre-ride and previous lap, that line is very loose and with Jim's high speed his bike slid out and he went down. I don't know much more than that as I was 100% focused on staying upright myself. I made the final turn and hammered the last yards to catch my teammate and cross the line together with him.
Jim and I talked a bit after the race. It was interesting to compare notes and hear how he perceived events from his point of view. For me it was all about seeing if I could catch him. In my mind there was the very real possibility I wouldn't.
For this race, the first of the season with a long Winter of very little riding, I was pleased I finished in the middle of the pack (14 out of 28) - since last year I finished in the bottom third (25 out of 32). And I was very pleased I didn't fade (too much) on the 2nd lap. That means that even though I've lost fitness and form over the Winter, all is not lost!
It was also a good reminder of what is good about racing: a good course, feeling good on the bike, pushing my limits, staying strong through the whole race and enjoying the camaraderie of teammates and fellow racers. And summer temperatures in February can't hurt either!