Monday, November 14, 2016

Life Lately

This fall has been great here in SoCal. Yeah I'm sad about the lack of rain, and concerned for the nature with the increasing state of drought we are in, but on a day to day basis, it sure is nice to ride bikes in the sunshine, hike mountains and work on the yard.

One of my favorite things this fall has been spending time with the amazing female athletes who live in Southern California. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by women who are both incredibly physical strong as well as strong in character, who push my on my bike and mentally. Sometimes being a professional athlete can feel isolating/lonely, but I've learned this year what a difference it makes to get out and ride/hang out with these rad women.

Wednesdays have been for riding all the miles with Jess.
This week we cruised through De Luz, on the most beautiful country roads you wouldn't expect to find in San Diego, devoured a sticky bun bigger than my face, and drank about 10 bottles in 97 miles because it was HOT out there! Jess pulls pretty much the whole time when we ride, but I feel extra cool riding with her because we can be twinsies (at least for another month :)

Best bakery stop on a ride to date!
Spending time on the ground outside the gas station because you are 85 miles in and hot and thirsty!
Last Thursday I got to shred mtb with Lauren, which meant laughing till my abs hurt, and all the crashing!
Thankfully the trails were empty, because we were a tornado of ridiculous!

Add caption
 Saturday I got to ride in the Laguna Dirt Fondo, a 50 mile ride supporting the middle and high school mountain bike teams. I've ridden with these kids a few times, and it's seriously the most inspiring thing to ride with little future shredders. There were also quite a few rad adult shredders there, somehow I ended up riding with the leaders for part of the first 25 mile loop, and HOLY COW were they going hard. A stop at an aid station put me off the back of that crazy group, but I had super shredder Brandon to ride with to the start finish and then spent the second 25 mile loop either alone or passing/getting passed by some of the 6 guys who actually did the whole 50 mile option. The highlight of the ride was going down Art School/TNA at the end still feeling fresh and giggling with glee. I blame Menso and Carl for the fact that at this point a 50 mile mountain bike ride doesn't feel like enough to wear me out. It was hard to resist the temptation to keep riding after finishing the dirt fondo, but Sunday's hike scared me just enough to be a good kid and go home to rest.

I didn't even know I would get a finishers trophy! Everyone should come out for this event next year!
AAAAAaaaaannnddd Sunday I got to hang out with one of my favorite team mates, Nikki and her boyf Nic, and bag Gorgornio peak, FINALLY! This hike is advertised as the hardest of the SoCal peaks, so I was pretty intimidated by the 18 miles, 6,000ft grind, but it went by like the blink of an eye.

The two most memorable parts of the hike were meeting ranger Fisher and drinking root beer floats after. Ranger Fisher was blocking the trail about 4 miles up checking permits, you have to carry one to hike in the Gorgornio wilderness. He had the biggest biceps I've ever seen in person and a lack of sense of humor to match. We spent quite a bit of time imagining how Ranger Fisher keeps in such good shape in the wilderness, bench pressing and dead lifting logs. He also assured us that eventually everyone would get lost in the wilderness... a foreboding warning that fortunately didn't come true on Sunday!The root beer floats were as epic as Ranger Fisher's biceps. We stopped at the Mexican Restaurant in Forest Falls to use the restroom and somehow ended up with huge cups full of ice cream and root beer as well as an entire can of whipped cream. Oh and Nic ordered fried ice cream... We are the healthiest ones! 
Post hiking I couldn't help jumping on my bike to explore some new to me trails near Yucaipa. I love riding in new places, late afternoon temps were perfect and the trails in Crafron hills didn't disappoint! Neither did the views of mount San Bernardino! 

Hope everyone in SoCal is making the most of this crazy warm fall. One day we might get rain... One day. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Possibly The Most Epic Shuttle Ride in CA

View from the Plunge. I couldn't get enough of the blue hills in the background! 

 This past Sunday we completed what is quite possibly the most epic shuttle ride in California, a mountain bike ride consisting of 87 miles, 12,000ft ascent and 18,000ft descent. The route consisted of 4 awesome South Sierra trails, Cannell trail, Just Outstanding trail, the old Keyesville Classic DH trail and Kernville River trail. With only a few miles of pavement, and one sustained climb all day, this has to be the most glorious combination of rides around.

The inspiration for this ride struck this past summer, when Menso and I were driving Van Diesel around, en route to nationals in Mammoth by way of a few fun southern California trails. On the way up hwy 395 from Big Bear to Mammoth we stopped to camp at elevation on Sherman Pass. The following day I shuttled Menso on Cannell trail and then we ghetto shuttled (when you drive up, ride down and then hitch hike back to the car) Just Outstanding after. After JO, as we soaked our legs in the Kern River we talked about the possibility of linking all the good trails in the area together, an idea I thought was ridiculous at the time.

Fast forward a few months, the XC season over, I'd been doing a handful of epic rides, and suddenly I felt up for such an excessive ride. So I begged Brendan and Allie to help shuttle, Menso put together a spreadsheet of the route to estimate how long it would take, and we picked a date everyone was free. On Saturday Menso dropped off water and Clif snacks at the halfway point (the only downfall of this route is lack of water and food after stage 1 of 4), and then we all met up at Pizza Barn in Kernville for calorie loading.

Somehow I failed to look at the spreadsheet in too much detail, and was genuinely shocked to learn Saturday night that the ride had 14k ascent and was close to 90 miles. Those stats coupled with starting at 9,200ft after less than 7 hours of sleep put me back in a place of doubting I would complete the whole ride, but unreasonable optimism/stubbornness wins out more often than not, and I woke at at 5:00am with the guys to start what I was now worried would be an epic suffer fest.

Sherman Pass, photo taken by Brendan MUCH later in the day.
The 'A-group' as Brendan called us, those who choose to attempt the whole epic shuttle, consisted of Menso, Dom from UCSB, Vinney and myself. We rolled out of camp at 5:30am with headlights on in 30 degree temps and soon found ourselves at the lookout at Sherman Pass, with a clear view of Mt Whitney surrounded by pink early dawn.

Then we hit the dirt! Cannell trail is a 26 mile playground, beginning with some seriously fun whoopy, bermy, twisty, joyous descending. But pretty soon the fun was broken up with some soul sucking climbs, at 9,000ft climbing loose steep trail isn't the most fun. I struggled a bit with the altitude, adjusting to riding with a heavy pack, and having not consumed coffee in the morning a general feeling of deadness between the descents.

The first 10ish miles alternated between short climbs, broad meadows we had to cross and swoopy grin inducing descents. The ground was crunchy frozen, and a few puddles on the trail were icy around the edges as well. We all bundled up at the start though, so besides frozen toes I was toasty warm. The southern sierra is incredibly pretty, and seeing it in the fall was kinda special. Meadows were bright gold, the fir trees towered over us and the rock formations took my breath away. Lack of memory space on my phone prevented me from taking many pictures, something I really regret now.
Another pic from Brendan, of Karl on Cannell. Pure back country goodness right there!
The last 6 miles of Cannell is an out of this world descent, dropping something like 5,000ft on beautiful, fast, smooth single-track with this stupid good view of Lake Isabella and the valley below. Similar to the feeling I had descending the Whole Enchilada I struggle to concentrate on the bike riding because the view was too distracting. Eventually I stopped, deleted a few apps off my phone to clear up space and took a few pictures. Then I commenced shredding! At some point I realized that we had been descending so long that my brakes were on fire, so I had to switch from constantly feathering my brakes to letting go for short periods hoping this would help cool them off. The tail is crazy fast though, and it was still early in the day so I was trying to be conservative and not kill myself on stage 1!

At the bottom, after many exclamations of OMG THAT WAS AWESOME!!! I stripped off my warm layers, dropped them at Dom's car (parked at the trail head) and rolled into town to find coffee. The majority of the pavement on the ride was the pedal into Kernville connecting the bottom of Cannell to the climb up to J.O. The boys had stopped to tend to a slow leak in Dom's rear wheel, so I had time to scarf down an apple turnover and 12 oz of coffee at Big Blue Bear. Starting before sunrise in 30 degrees kinda threw me off, and I didn't really eat or drink for the first 3 hours of the day, so the pastry and coffee were like heaven.

After a nice respite we headed off to climb Old State Road, a 4,000ish ft gain to get to the top of J.O. This route choice by Menso was a stroke of genius, Old State Road turned out to be the most pleasant smooth dirt road in the history of dirt roads, and the hour and 19 minutes it took to climb it flew by. On the way up we chatted about ADD, bilingualism and philosophy... we are intellectual like that, haha.

And then we hit Just Outstanding, a trail that very much lives up to it's name. Fourish miles of pumpy, swoopy, dh glory under a dense, low canopy of trees, this trail is my idea of what heaven is like. The tail drops 2,000ft with only one or two little ups, and at one point you ride through this tunnel of Manzanita trees that feels super spooky cool! I started before the boys, who stopped AGAIN at the top, under the assumption that they would catch me. I wasn't descending at 100% because I brought the Edict which doesn't have a dropper post. Consequently I was getting stabbed in the ovaries every time I got behind the saddle, and backing off a bit relieved me from the abdomen beatings. The boys didn't catch me though, so I rolled onto the fire road at the end shouting for joy to no one but the trees.

Once we regrouped Vinney decided to head down the fire road because he wasn't feeling it and our group was reduced to 3. The original route included the entire Wagy Ridge trail plus a climb out back to the top of Wagy, a little backtracking and then continuing on Wall st trail to the Keyesville DH (Dutch Flat trail). After a few setbacks, a later start than originally planned and some calculations about our estimated finish time we decided to nix the little loop. The best part of Wagy Ridge is the first mile anyway, and we were still hitting the 4 main stages of the day that make the shuttle epic.

Wagy is another must do trail in the southern Sierra, with some super fun swoopy, roller coaster like rollers, where you get just enough speed going down to carry you up and over the next rise. After the turn off on Wall St trail we had some climbing and then we hit the water stash and met back up with Vinney! This called for a sit down kind of stop to eat, and drink the cokes Menso ingenuously stashed. After only eating the pastry, a gel and some shot blocks in the first 65 miles of the day, the cokes and Clif granola bars tasted amazing! I was still feeling really good though, and completing the ride started to seem attainable at this point (in my mind I kinda always assumed I may not make it to the end, esp since the last trail was the most physically demanding). Vinney decided to call it a day here, and descended back to the car via the paved hwy, with an epic headwind the whole way... not much easier than what we did!

A bit of climbing and some really cool rock formations later we arrived at the top of the classic Keyesville DH, aka Dutch Flat trail. Once again I rode off the front because Dom and Menso were descending considerably faster than me, and Menso needed to stop and stretch at the top. This trail dropped 2,000ft in 4 miles of steep DG, with some tricky rock sections thrown in. The view took my breath away a few times, when it looked like we were about to ride off the face of the earth, with Lake Isabella still the gem of the vast expanse below.

I was surprised to not get caught by the bottom, so I rode in circles and waited, still feeling good but battling a gut ache from eating only ride food like gels, and dreading what stage 4 had in store for us. When the boys finally arrived Menso was looking pretty cracked. Dom and I cruelly joked for a large part of the day about enjoying seeing Menso suffer, but it was only something to celebrate because we were both used to getting our butts kicked by him. We rode out to Kernville River Trail on the Keyesville XC course, KRT is a right had turn on the far end of the course. At the turn off Menso decided to bail to the road as well, blaming a painful hamstring/not wanting to further injure himself.

And then it was just Dom and I, cruising the 16 remaining miles to the car parked at the bottom. The river trail was 100% punishment, so it wasn't much of a cruise, every fun, fast DH was rewarded with a kick in the face steep, long climb, most of which were sandy to boot. I resorted to steady forward progress, dialing it back a bit to guarantee I would survive to the end. Although my head and body felt great, my legs weren't able to put out as much power for the last 10 miles, so concentrating on just moving forward was all I could really do. Somehow the trail kept going up, every corner we rounded revealed MORE up, up up up. BUT eventually, finally, we came to the final intersection and MTBproject promised us it was all down hill from there (although it wasn't, there were 3 more little awful climbs).

And then it was over! The longest, most epic mountain bike ride of my life, one I originally thought I wouldn't be capable of finishing, was over! What a feeling that was. It would have been a bit more exciting had our whole group survived to the end, but we already have plans to go back and do it again... so maybe we can capture the satisfaction of surviving such a crazy big day with everyone soon!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sufferfest Dirt Fondo

This was a total random spur of the moment race/ride that I only really signed up for because I saw an ad in a printed bike publication and thought, why not?! (Am I the only person who still sees events in those printed local newspapery things and makes decisions based on them?!) I had never been to Pedaler's Fork before, and never ridden dirt in Calabasas so it seemed like a good opportunity to do something new/ride with new people. Plus I always heard the food at Pedaler's Fork is out of this world good! And double bonus, there was a cash prize for the first male and female finisher... so that may have been motivation as well :)

Well the Pedaler's Fork did not disappoint in being the cutest restaurant on the planet, and at only an hour and 15 minute drive from Silverado, I was already stoked when I arrived. It did rain a bit as I was sitting in the van getting kitted up, but the rain stopped for the start, and the first hour of the ride was glorious.
Our route and elevation. The loop to the left was the first loop. 
The whole ride was 45 miles made up of two loops, both of which began at Pedaler's Fork. We started with 3 miles of road out to Millennium trail, and when we hit the dirt we were greeted with some awesome switchbacks and a pretty hefty climb. The ride was advertized as a 'gravel/dirt fondo' so a lot of people brough cross bikes, including me. I also happened to bring my race hardtail because the gearing on the cross bike scared me and since I wasn't sure what the weather was going to do. I was pretty stoked on my choice to ride the Felt Nine because the gearing was easy enough that I rode all the switchbacks all those cross nerds had to run :)

The initial climb earned us this amazing descent on a sweet smooth/narrow strip of dirt benched into the hillside, just ripping down to a random dog park.

Now I'm used to dudes passing me on descents, in pretty much every mass start event I do, I climb hard and then get passed a bunch on the descent by dudes who rip. This time there was a very strange turn of events and I was passing dudes on the DH! Not just dudes on cross bikes too!

When we hit the road though I was kinda lost so I sat up and let some of those dudes catch me back, haha. I followed a group of three guys for the next portion of road out to a fire road where there was much course confusion due to missing flags at the turns (rumor has it hikers pulled the course flags?!).

It began raining when we were on the road, a light sprinkle that was just enough to turn the dirt on the remainder of the first loop into thick clay that did NOT like bikes. I have never ridden in conditions like this, so initially it was SUPER frustrating to have the clay pack up so much on my front tire that it literally stopped my bike and no amount of watts could force the bike forward. I would stop, wipe the mud off my tires, start riding again and within 30 seconds come to a complete halt again. I think the most frustrating part was that visually it LOOKED like the trail consisted of primo hero dirt, so inviting and tacky looking, but in reality it was just 2 inches of wet clay. For a little while riding in the grass on the side of the trail worked, but eventually that wasn't an option either and we all ended up shouldering our bikes and walking, clay caking up on the bottom of our shoes with each step. There was much swearing, until we had walked so much that it got ridiculous, and then the swearing and frustration turned to laughs and humor. Thankfully the fire road was littered with dudes walking or stopped wiping off their tires, so I was not alone in the suffering. We weren't even done with the first loop...
At some point we were able to pedal again, but the bike was so caked in clay that it felt like I was riding with a handful of brakes. Also I just have to say I was pretty pleased with my CrankBrothers Candy 11 pedals, even with cleats and pedals caked in clay I just hopped on, pushed down and pretty quickly I was clipped in, didn't have to waste any time cleaning mud out of my pedals. Thanks pedals, for being so freaking awesome!

When the fire road of clay from hell finally spit us out on pavement I was overjoyed. Also lost, again I let some dude catch me so I could use their sense of direction to not get lost.

When we rolled into the Pedaler's Fork parking lot at the end of loop 1 it was pretty clear not very many people had any desire to complete loop 2. I think they all though it would be more hiking in clay. I was too dumb/stubborn to call it a day though (I didn't drive all the way to Calabasas to ride 20 miles!) so I rolled out of the parking lot alone to attempt loop 2.

Well I pretty much immediately got lost and spent about 10 minutes riding in circles looking for course markings, and then consulting strava, where I had downloaded the map ahead of time, but had a hard time finding it.

Eventually a lone rider appeared, the last person to decide to ride the whole Fondo! I don't remember this guy's name (I am a major ass, but I met so many dudes yesterday... it's so hard to keep track of them all!!) but he basically saved the day because his garmin was able to tell us on the fly if we were on course! Without this dude I would have been out there ALL day looking at the map, questioning myself... I am so lucky someone behind me choose to do the whole thing.

Photo cred: Derek's ridic video :)
Anyway, we climbed a HUGE hill, I hit a sweet jump and before we knew it we were back at the Pedaler's Fork! After the huge hill (which was very steep, so thanks again Felt Nine for having such low gearing) I found out I was in 5th place overall, out of 6 but who cares, so I tried to ditch the dude whose Garmin had saved the day, but then I got lost, again, and had to wait for him, hahahahaha. In the end we finished together 5th and 6th of the 6 total people who did both loops (more than 100 people started the ride... 6 finished).

And then I drank a coke, ate the most amazing veggie burger of my life and hung out with Derek (the best mechanic team Ridebiker ever had!) and Roger from Kenda... it doesn't get much better than that!

All in all it was a pretty epic day for a 45 mile 'race'. Between the 3 miles of hiking with 20 extra pounds of mud on my bike, to being lost pretty much the whole time, it was the perfect combination of physical and mental challenge that made such a short distance such a sufferfest. Oh and I got stung by a bee in my butt because I thought I would be cool and rock baggies, which meant the bee flew up my shorts, got stuck, panicked and stung me. As if my butt wasn't big enough already! Thanks baggies.
Why yes, I did steal this from instagram... hence the very poor quality. This is the 'podium' shot... hahaha
I didn't take any pictures because I was busy being lost and trying to conserve cell phone battery and also covered in mud, but I'm kinda bummed now because the scenery was out of this world. Also I've seen pictures from Dirty Kanza (I think in 2015) where the riders have all shouldered their bikes and are walking through a field and I totally had a moment where I felt like I was there... but I didn't have 200 miles to cover. Something about moving so slowly and knowing how far you have to go/not knowing how long it will be muddy makes you feel equal parts despair and panic, I can't imagine that feeling in a 200 mile race!

Moral of the story, add this dirt Fondo to your list of Must Do events for next year! It was a blast, I think because of the suffering but also because there were so many cool people there. There's something about suffering with a big group, sharing a ridiculous mud filled hike a bike heavy day with a bunch of randos who also thought it was a good idea when we started in the am!

Huge thanks to Pedaler's Fork and Sufferfest Brewery for putting on such a fun off season event and getting me out to Calabasas to ride, finally!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Quick Weekend Recap

This past weekend was exhausting, the kind of weekend that I need a whole day to recover from. That wasn't in the cards as I woke up at 5:25am to ride to a sub job in the rain yesterday. How did I manage to teach and train full time before?! ha
But this past weekend was also amazing. So amazing I didn't stop to take pictures (because I never really stopped at all). As I am currently procrastinating doing things I should be doing, here is a quick recap of the weekend!
Friday night I found out that this past weekend was the Warrior's Society Vision Quest, a 55 mile mtb race through the mountains I live in. Although I haven't really been too interested in participating in the event before, it seemed like a great idea at 10pm on Friday, so I packed a camelbak and set out bike clothes to poach the race starting at 5:30am. It was too late to pay to be a legit racer, but spending the day communing with all my favorite people in the mountains seemed like the most fun Saturday, and Brendan said it was ok if I wasted the morning pedaling :)
I left the house at 5:30 (to not get in the way of the official start) and was climbing Black Star in no time. The route took us up Black Star canyon to Main Divide, down Motorway trail, up Maple Springs, to Santiago Peak, down Holy Jim trail, up West Horse Thief, and then down Trabuco trail. I had a blast saying hi to all the riders as I cruised along Main divide and then loved every minute of the newly groomed Motorway! Climbing Maple meant more chatting and hanging out with rad mountain bikers, and I met the raddest dude from Czech on the final push to the peak. Then before I knew it I was hiking up West Horsetheif and was greeted at the top by crazy friendly faces and within an hour I was at the finish line.
I have always wondered how I would fare on the VQ course, it always seemed hard, like the type of race that would break me, that one could fall apart on and end up limping in to the finish. To my pleasant surprise though I felt amazing at the end! The human body's ability to adapt to training is incredible, and I guess all the long rides with Carl paid off!
After I crossed the finish line (in 6 hours 15 minutes) I had to pedal to Felt and Brendan put me straight to work washing metal for more deck raining welding. We worked kinda late into the night which made bed feel incredible when we finally got home.
Then Sunday I woke up early again for the Non Dot Advanced clinic in Santiago Oaks where I got to mentor a ton of amazing riders on the techy sections of Grasshopper trail. It took a bucket of coffee to get me going, but I can't explain how fulfilling it is to teach skills clinics, and this one was over the top good.
I am so so lucky to live in a place where I have the opportunity to teach mtb skills, and not only was the Non Dot crew so so on point with how they ran the show, but the clients who participated in the clinic were the most fun group!
Post clinic Brendan and I took care of some business, did more welding, and then crashed at 8pm, which is a very good thing because 5am Monday came much sooner than I wanted it to :) I just can't stand how good and full the weekend was though, and I want to remember stuff like this for a long long time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

I'm Feeling Lost...

...But for now I'm not going to stress about it.

Off season can be rough for me, it's hard to go from a life of extreme structure, always being on the move and knowing what I should be doing all the time to rest and then unstructured riding. It's also strange for someone who once upon a time was working and racing, so always super busy, to all of the sudden to have so much free time. Add to that some personal emotional struggles (mostly it's getting lots easier and my head is back in a functional place) and I've felt a little like I'm floundering lately. 

What I've learned in the past 4 weeks though is that maybe it's ok to flounder for a while. My life has always been about doing as much as possible all the time, but maybe it's ok to only sub 2-3 days a week, work on the house, go on some adventures and take things day by day. I still start to freak out when I don't feel like I got much done on any given day, but I know this season of life won't last forever so I'm going to try to make the most of it and enjoy it. 

So, for this weeks edition of bad decision rides (on a Thursday because I subbed math on wednesday and loved every minute of it) Carl and I spent the entire day riding all the way across the San Gabriel mountains and back. It's been a vision of Carl's to ride from LA to Wrightwood and back, and since the temps in the valleys were supposed to exceed 100 degrees yesterday we opted for fulfilling that goal over our previously planned north San Diego ride, with the idea that temps would be much cooler at 7,000ft (which they were! I was too cold at some points). Here is an uncropped screenshot of the route... so you can see all the tabs I refuse to close on my laptop :)

And a photo essay of the ride.

We began by climbing hwy 39, which had basically no cars and was nice and shadowy cool at 7:30am. This road takes you from just over 1,000ft to over 6,000ft in one shot, which meant that in the first 2 hours of our ride we only covered about 25 miles, but 1/3 of our total elevation gain. We made a quick stop at Crystal Lake for water, the first of three extra credit spurs which helped wrack up an insane amount of elevation on the day, and thoroughly enjoyed the portion of 39 which was closed to cars.

At the top of 39 we turned right and continued to ascend to 7,900ft at Dawson's pass, and then on to Big Pines (basically Mountain High Ski resort), loosing about 2,000 ft total on the way. This is where we hit our second XC spur of the day to the top of table mountain for lunch. After PB&J and another water refill we rode BACK up to Dawson's pass, which was kinda a huge grind, but the views and the knowledge that every climb after that was less than 1000ft long made it a bit easier. Also it was only about 70 degrees and we only saw maybe 4 cars!

After we summited Dawson's for the second time it was all about rolling ups, super long descents and more scenery. Highlights included this rad double tunnel...

...and a stop at the biker bar at Newcomb's Ranch for cokes. This stop occurred at mile 80, and what I really wanted at this point was a snickers, something about protein when all you are eating is gels, but soda had to do the trick. We figured the next 'store' at Redbox was going to be closed, which it was, so I spent the next 20 miles thinking about what snacks would make the grumbling in my stomach go away.  

A lot of this on the 20 mile stretch to Redbox. So much of this range has burned in the past few years, but it kinda seems like part of the life cycle of the mountains. 

At Redbox we took a right for xc #3 on the day, climbing up to Mt Wilson peak. Honestly I am still shocked we did this. I had figured I would be too tired by this point when Carl suggested it in the morning, but neither of us felt too bad so we grabbed another 1000 ft and some more incredible views. At the top I decided that I HAD to have McDonald's fries and an ice cream when we got back to civilization at the bottom of the LOOOOONNNGGGGG descent in front of us. 

And that's exactly what we did. In La Canada we found the first McDonald's and I devoured a medium fries and soft serve, and it was glorious. At this point we had covered 120 miles, it was about 90 degrees and we had 20 miles to go to get to the car... in heavily trafficked roads with lots of stop lights, kinda the polar opposite of the first 120 miles. 

We managed to make it back to the car in one piece, feeling pretty dang good all things considered. And that's that, a new ceiling found (in terms of combined elevation and distance) and a complete day wasted pedaling a bike just for the love of seeing remote places, pushing the quads up looooonnnng hills and being outside. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Post Moab Adventures

Southwest Utah is my current favorite part of the country. I still don't feel like I've traveled enough to have seen all the good corners of the US, but for now I am obsessing with and wanting to return to the Utah desert (this summer I was obsessed with Vermont, and in the past Colorado's Rocky mountains, Montana's Bitterroots and Idaho's Snake River have all captured a place in my heart).

Last Sunday night (well 2 Sunday's ago now) I drove to a Boon docking spot (basically a loop of gravel road where it is ok to camp for free) just east of Capital Reef National Park and spent the night freaking about about the van tipping over from the wind! The wind howled and the van shook and without Brendan there to assure me that all would be fine my heart raced because I was certain that the wind was strong enough to do me in.

Looking down into the Grand Wash from the trail to Cassidy Arch.
Then after about 4 hours of real sleep I woke up, made oatmeal and van coffee with the camp stove, and then set off for first the visitor's center and then Grand Wash for a short hike. I've heard this is the least visited national park in Utah, so I was surprised to see about 20 people hiking in the Grand Wash, and more along the trail to Cassidy Arch. I combined these two small hikes, plus a quick detour to a higher look out to make 10 miles of hiking/running. The wash was impressive (and dry thank God), but the arch was the coolest part of the hike. I had no idea Butch Cassidy was a real person before this trip, and thinking about him hiding out under the arch was pretty cool. The scenery was pretty great the whole hike, lots of red and white rocks, beautiful green shrubs and a flawless blue sky. I found it strange at first when all the other hikers I came across were wearing long pants and jackets, but realized around 10am that I was the weirdo in shorts and a tee shirt because the temps never rose above 50 degrees like I had expected they would.

Cassidy Arch on the left and the Wash from it's floor on the right. 

After the hike there were petroglyphs to check out, U-pick apples to pick and apple pie to devour at the Gifford house. The park is pretty spectacular because it's in what they called a Waterpocket Fold, so even though you are in the desert there is this crazy valley (or fold) full of lush greenery, fruit trees and an old Mormon settlement. I could have spent a week there, hiking all the trails and soaking up the beauty but after I finished inhaling an entire pie to myself because off season and 10 mile hike/run, I jumped back on the hwy to drive up to Salt Lake City to visit Taryn-dactyl. Funny story, Taryn was driving up from Southwestern Utah as well from a weekend of backpacking and looking at Native American ruins, and she ate pie at the Gifford house about half an hour after I was there! We didn't have cell reception or it would have been an awesome rendezvous!

Gifford House. There were all kinds of other historic buildings I didn't take the time to check out... I'll have to come back!
Pie always tastes better after a long ride or hike!
And since I'm so far behind on everything I'm going to press on and include the rest of the trip! 

The purpose of my visit to SLC was two fold, I wanted to see Taryn, and I also wanted to ride my bike in Park City on hero dirt under a canopy of Aspen trees in all their fall glory. Unfortunately riding 318 miles the week before resulted in me coming down with a head cold, so that was less than ideal, but Taryn and I still rode 20 miles in the most perfect Park City wonderland of conditions on Tuesday. There was even snow on the evergreen trees due to a freak Oct snow storm. Between glowing yellow groves of Aspens, we would wind our way through dense dark sections of pines, and in some places the confetti like Aspen leaves on the ground and snowy pine trees were absolutely breath taking. Our ride was the perfect combination of cruising, flying down amazing Park City single track, and stopping to take pictures... until the sun started setting and it dropped below 40 degrees!!! 

Big time bucket list item checked off on this trip: seeing the Aspens during the fall when they are glowing fiery yellow and red! And double bonus was getting caught in a snow storm on Wednesday, when Taryn and I drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon to see Solitude Mountain resort, where the wedding on the year took place this summer (which I missed because of a bike race :( ).  I was dying to ride more on Weds, but feeling more sick each day, so we decided to take it easy... weird, I know. 
One more glorious mountain bike picture.. 
And I capped off the trip with a 7 mile hike at Kanarraville Falls on the way home! This was ANOTHER bucket list item in that I have always wanted to hike in a real slot canyon, and this one was not disappointing! The hike was half on dry trail and then half there was no trail, you just hike though the water in between two vertical walls of rock! It was warmer in Kanarraville than in SLC, but the water was ICE cold and for some reason I thought it was a great idea to hike barefoot once it got to the wet part (I wanted dry shoes for the last 1/4 of the hike). SO basically my feet ACHED the whole time I was in the canyon, but it was still REALLY really cool in there. The hike is right off I-15, so if you are ever driving to Salt Lake this is definitely worth a stop. 

The coolest part was how the narrow canyon glowed red in the morning as the sun streamed through the little opening at the top, it was pretty magical in there. 

Quintessential Kanarraville Falls picture. FYI that metal ladder hurts a lot barefoot in October when it is SUPER cold!

I hiked to here and then turned around. I think the canyon keeps going but I couldn't get up that last ladder barefoot. 

And then I drove home to Silverado to attend a dwarf citrus growing class with Brendan Thursday night! As much as I want to stay in Utah for a month to see all there is to see, I am also excited to be home, to work on the deck and plant the fall garden. There will be time to go back to explore the desert more, and seeing it in small snippets makes it even more exciting to me! 

Thanks for showing me all your fall colors Utah!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Moab Day #3: Gluttony

And on the final day in Moab, because I can't leave well enough alone and just relax a bit, I put the final nail in the I'm getting sick because I'm overdoing it coffin and rode twice. I couldn't just sit around while Nathan and Jeremiah rode Captain Ahab, and then I HAD to squeeze in Slickrock trail because I've never done it!

The second Ahab expedition was Much more enjoyable than the first because we took the advice of some randos I met on Saturday and climbed Hy Masa trail. That in itself was a great trail, never too steep, perfectly ledgy, just enough to make my broken down, sore body hurt just enough. Then Captain Ahab the second time was super fun. My hands suffered a bit, being sore from three days in a row of riding slickrock style ledgy trails. We talked about this on the way up, I had been trying to focus on having light hands and heavy feet, but it was super tough with so many step ups and 1 foot drops everywhere. We decided this was the one type of riding where you don't want to error on the side of light hands, and that it made sense that my hands hurt so much after riding so much Moab tech.

After the boys took off I devoured an avocado, hard boiled egg, and a free yogurt from the hotel breakfast and then drove over to the Slickrock trail parking area. When I got there I sat in the car a while, feeling worn out and debating if this was a smart thing to do. The morning's ride put me at 308 miles for the week, and this was another 10-12 miles (not super long...). BUUUUT I was already kitted up and I'm not often in Moab so the drive to ride it all won out and soon I was pedaling up the pavement to the trail head.

Once i started the 'practice loop' I was sure it was a good idea to have gotten back on my bike! All the other trails we rode had been a combo of dirt and rock, which meant lots and lots of lifting your front wheel to get up obstacles and using upper body strength to ride off drops. Slickrock was a totally different trail experience though. This trail was pretty much ALL on one HUGE (like really really really huge) rock and it was more or less smooth! I could sit and pedal the whole time, which my very tired body needed! It was ridiculously cool how the trail just wound and twisted around the rocks, going up and down their faces. Sometimes it was VERY steep up, or very steep down but the rock was grippy so it was pretty much all rideable. I would see the white dots on the rock that indicated where you should go off in the distance going STRAIGHT UP a rock face and I would get stressed but then when I got there it wasn't that bad.

I did fall over backwards once on a really steep part that I was just a little too tired to produce the power necessary to climb. I don't remember how I landed but ankle hurt a lot and I had to sit there for a minute to shake it off. Now, an entire week later my ankle is still super swollen, so that's less than ideal. BUT it was really really fun and I now agree with all the websites that put Slickrock trail in the top 10 Utah trails of all time.

The only picture I got from the day is above. The rode was scenic, but mostly rock in all directions and I was just moseying along, but trying to keep moving so this 10 mile loop didn't take 3 hours :)

And then, as soon as I got back to the Van the heavens opened up and it rained like crazy for 2 hours. Pretty lucky to have squeezed in one last ride, and the rain was a great incentive to take off the riding clothes and be done with the trail gluttony for the week!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Moab Day #2: ALL THE TRAILS!!!!

On our second day in Moab Brendan, co-workers Nathan and Jeremiah and I drove Van Diesel up to the top of the Mag 7 trail network and rode down a bunch a really cool slickrock, ledgy, turny stuff together.

We linked together Bull Run, Arth's Corner, and Great Escape before Jeremiah and I split from Brendan and Nathan. It was SUPER fun riding with Brendan and half the people attending Outerbike (another shuttle had dropped them off just before we got there). I get a kick out of being out on the trail with a bunch of other bike lovers, hooting and hollering, giggling in the fun parts, and chatting up randos each time we stopped to re-group.

After that Jeremiah and I continued onto Gold Bar Rim, Golden Spike and ended by descending Portal trail. The whole ride took a lot longer than I expected, but the trails and views were spectacular, which I guess is par for the course in Moab. We did get lost a bit and ended up on Rusty Nail for a while, a jeep road with some super gnarly rock situations. It was frusty to have accidentally added some miles and climbing to the already slow progress of the day (sometimes slickrock riding can mean TONS of slow ledgy climbing where you are putting out a lot of watts and not going very far very fast) BUT we got to see a caravan of Jeeps drive through a section of road I had thought was impossible, so that was really really cool.

Without paint on the ground it can be impossible to know where the heck these trails go. 
The theme of the weekend was bright blue sky lined with puffy crisp clouds. I think we were the luckiest kids to have gotten to ride Moab on a weekend with 75 degree days. It also rained while we were there, but never when we were riding (well, except for the hail storm when I was on WE on Fri).
Add caption
Gold Bar Rim and Golden Spike trails basically took us along this awesome ledge for an hour. The geology in Moab is pretty mind blowing, I was stoked on views and cliffs the entire day!
To end the ride we descended Portal, which we were told is both the best trail in Moab and also the sketchiest because of the sheer drop off to the Colorado River. There were a few signs that told us to walk our bikes because it's too dangerous to ride (too narrow), but I absolutely LOVED the techy descent, and by this point in the weekend I was fully embracing the 'moab is magic' effect where you can attempt stuff that looks over your head because the rock is so grippy that it almost always works out. I may have also been screeching about how the Decree is the best bike ever each time I rode ridiculously hard, steep, rocky stuff and came out alive with both feet on the pedals. I kinda wished Carl was on my wheel the whole time because I rode some out of control stuff, and Carl would have been pretty stoked!

In the afternoon, after devouring a 1/2 off ham and cheese sandwich and nut butter filled Cliff bar I headed out for round 2, to conquer Captain Ahab. Sometimes when I travel I feel like a MTB project evangelist, spreading the word about how amazing that app is. This was the first time though that the app let me down. I choose to climb Jackson trail, because it looked great on MTBproject and it made a nice loop situation where I would get to hit a bit of Cliffhanger Jeep rd, and then Captain Ahab. Well Jackson trail was kinda awful, partly because it was washed away at the beginning, and partly because it was SOO steep at the end I had to hike with my bike for about a mile. To be honest it was also kinda not ideal because I was pretty freaking tired at this point in the week (by the end of the day I would have ridden 50 miles and the total for the week would by 296 miles). Anyway, being stubborn as I am, I kept putting one foot in front of the other even after I realized it wasn't the ideal way to get to the top of Ahab, and eventually I made it to Ahab.

And then I had to do A TON more climbing, haha. Kidding, but the 300 or so feet of ascent on Ahab were kinda brutal because of how tired I was. The first half of the trail seemed to be all uphill, each time you started to point down the trail would turn violently and send you straight back up the slickrock, in a steep, mean, you have to stand to make it sort of way. BUT Lower Captain Ahab was a freaking blast, flying down long stretches of pure dh on slickrock goodness, where each little up was a smooth rock ladder which you could sail up using the momentum from the previous dh.

It's pretty lucky for Captain Ahab and me that the trail ended in such a fun way because my tired and starving self was very happy at the end. I rolled to the hotel the Felties were staying in with a grin on my face, and very very tired legs.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant with good Yelp reviews but the world's slowest service that night and taco salad never tasted so good. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Moab Day #1: The Whole Enchilada Plus Xtra Credit

Since I've never ridden in Moab, my plan for the weekend was to ride as many trails as possible while the boys worked. On Friday this meant taking the shuttle up into the La Sals to ride the Whole Enchilada, a trail that's been on my bucket list for a very long time.

Due to recent rain the shuttle driver wouldn't take us to the usual drop off point on Burro Pass, as he said the mud would cake to our tires and make our day miserable. I decided to pedal up the trail from the drop off point until the caking happened, in order to get more riding in because I was pretty bummed at the prospect of not getting to do the WHOLE Enchilada.
Our drop off point, maybe 2/3 to the top of the WE.
So we go dropped off at the top of Kokopelli trail, and I was immediately in heaven. The first trail I climbed was actually part of Billy Keen, a newish loop trail I heard was built to bypass the kinda boring Kokopelli. BK twisted, dipped and wove through oak trees, which were at first green and yellow, but higher up turned to a glorious bright flaming red. There was a big, moist low cloud making the solo climb feel a little like I was living in a dream, and the trail conditions couldn't have been better. The clay dirt was the perfect combination of tacky yet packed down by all the previous tires that had traversed it since the storm.

Eventually I popped out into a wide open cow pasture and found myself climbing a rad weaving trail with lots of rock pile type jumps built up on the side. This turned into more weaving through trees but this time it was bright yellow aspens, who had shed half their leaves on the trail like confetti. I couldn't help stopping to take pictures every 3 minutes, thinking I would get the picture taking out on the way up so I wouldn't have to stop on the way down (how wrong I was, the views on the way down were incredible in a whole different way). I even went so far as to take my right glove off permanently because unlocking my phone was easier with my bare thumb.
This is what I always knew fall looked like, but have never experienced before this trip. 
Soon I came to a parking lot and then climbed a fire road that was absolutely exploding with color. I completely lost it when I turned back onto singletrack and rode right by a lake surrounded by yellow aspens and dark green fir trees.
This picture doesn't do the scenery justice because the low clouds drowned out the color in the picture. In real life it was an unbelievable sight. 
Then the trail really started to climb... a lot. I passed over a creek a few times, through a bright green mossy area that made me feel like I was in a fairy land, up a hillside next to an incredible scree field (yes Carl, you would have loved it!). Somewhere on the steep part, next to the creek, I ran into two rad dudes who were bike-packing from Durango to Moab. We chatted a bit and they let me know I was close to the top. This whole time I had been using MTBproject to know that I was on the right trail and to understand how much further I had to go. It took much much longer to get to the top than I though it would (prob from all the picture taking), although to be fair I had assumed I would only go as far as conditions were good. About 2 miles from the top I decided to just go all the way, conditions were still good and I figured I couldn't get this close without throwing everything I had at it. It was a little concerning that it took me almost 3 hours and there was still a lot of riding left, but I am incredibly stubborn and couldn't handle the idea of not making it.

I have no idea why this sign is backwards!
So after a good mile of pushing my bike up the final ascent, which was VERY steep, I made it to Burro Pass! And then turned around and rode back down haha. I was pretty pleased with myself for deciding to ignore the shuttle driver's advice, and to commit to climbing to the top both because the trails above our drop off point were so so fantastic, but also because the scenery I got to see as a result of pedaling 2,500 ft was mind blowing. When you live in Orange County any ride with big fir trees and moss on the ground seems like absolute heaven.
Yeah, so I stopped a lot to take pictures on the way down too :) This view was much more vibrant in real life... dang cell phone camera can't handle nature's glory!
The descent was wild fun. I am absolutely certain this is my new favorite trail, like of all the places I've ridden in my life, the Whole Enchilada is my #1 best ride. The 30 mile 'descent' includes everything from steep, loose gnar, to smooth bermed out twisty roller coaster, to jumps and flying fast real dirt trails through wide open meadows, all the way to ledgy  slickrock style, drop heavy tech at the end. And the entire time there was an out of this world view, first in the trees and across valleys to bright yellow aspens, and then over Moab with rock formations and big puffy clouds.
This is the view I couldn't keep my eyes off of, which made me almost crash a lot. How is this place even real? And how is there a mtb trail where I get to see this amazing view!?
I did get lost a few times, my phone wigged out and I couldn't contact Brendan to tell him I was alright despite having been out for 5 hours, and my bike was making some terrible noises because the wet trails at the top, and a brief hail storm combined with super dry, sandy trails below wreaked havoc on my drive train... but it was one of my favorite days on the bike. No intervals, no time limits, amazing riding and endless stunning views.

And I finished the ride right as Brendan wrapped up his Outerbike demo-ing making it the perfect first day in Moab.