Monday, November 15, 2010

Moab--the Mountain Biking Mecca Part One

Ok, ok.  I get it now.  For all these years I kept thinking, "Moab can't have better biking than Grand Junction!  We rock!"  But after finally, finally getting to ride there this past weekend, I can honestly tell you that Moab has one thing we never will:  miles and miles of slickrock.

Unlike the name implies, slickrock is super grippy.  So much so that you can bike down it with no fear of a tire slipping.  See?

This picture was taken on the Circle O trail, which is part of the Moab Brand Trails right off of Hwy 191 by the "Chuckwagon" Bar M entertainment area.   Starting on the Bar M trail (which is really a dirt road for the most part) you head counterclockwise out to the Bar B trail.  The Bar B is more technical than the description claims.  It's quite rocky in places, with lots of possible tire traps!  Be careful!  From the Bar B you join back with the Bar M briefly, and then down to the Rockin' A on your right.

The Rockin A is all slickrock.  So super cool to ride!  You follow the concrete stain and stick to it.  Don't veer off because you'll end up running over cryptobiotic soil!  It's alive and you will kill it if you get off the trail.  The stain is there for a reason.

The Rockin A had some techincal moments, but was a lot of fun.  Just up and over and around rocky sections, down a few ledges, up some steep stuff.  Finally you run into the Circle O, which adds 3 more miles of slickrock riding.  In all this time we saw 1 other person out on the trails.  Crazy!

At the end of the Circle O you once again join the Bar M and head down some fun whoop-de-whoos.  A few miles of pedaling take you back to your car and (hopefully) the beer that awaits you.

The Brand Trails offer something for everyone--the Circle O would be fine for someone as an introduction to slickrock.  They wouldn't be able to ride it all, but they could get a feel for it in a relatively safe environment.  The Bar M is great for beginners, and the Rockin' A and Bar B offer something for the intermediate/expert.  There is even another one called the Killer B that is EXPERTS ONLY!  We didn't venture to it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A month of no blogs...but a lot of training

Wow...i didn't realize it had been a month since I'd posted anything.  I guess I've been too busy biking and running to think of writing.  This weekend is the weekend of the Moab Other Half Marathon.  It's a 13.1 mile run along the Colorado River in Moab, UT.  The red rock formations and cliffs, along with the river, should give us plenty of awesome views as 2500 of us runners trudge down the road to Sorrel River Ranch and every runner's favorite prize:  beer.

I never thought I would be a runner.  Seriously.  Running was not one of those things I ever planned to do.  I wasn't good at it the one time I had to do it in college (just ask my roommate!).  I loved mountain biking, hiking and skiing and thought those would suffice.

Last fall I was looking for something that I could do in the winter.  Skiing was fine, but it was only 1 or 2 days a week.  I had to find something to combat the winter laziness.  My friend L, at work, asked if I would run the Moab Winter Sun 10K (6.2 miles) race with her in December 09.  I thought, well, I could walk that if I had to...  So I agreed.  The date that she asked me was about 1 year ago today.  Maybe a bit longer.

I started running 2 miles...then I went a little further.  Then L tricked me and took me on a four mile run that I thought was only 3 miles!  We ran our first race together (not L's first, but my first and her first with me), the Harbert Lumber Girls on the Run 5K.  Girls on the Run is a fabulous organization that works with young girls to get them interested in running, good health, and postive body image and self esteem.
Here we are at the finish:  Not so bad huh?  My face isn't flushed, we're color coordinated...we look great!  Time to keep training...soon I was running 4 miles with no problem, then 4.5...then 5.  Near Thanksgiving we ran a local prediction race.  These are awesome races because the fastest person doesn't win!  You predict, ahead of time, your race time and whoever's actual time is closest to their prediction wins!  (No watches allowed on the race course).

Finally it was time for the Winter/Sun 10K.  We goofed around with Lynn's fiance, posing for pics before the race:

It was cold out!  Still, those warm-up pants were tried and true and I knew I could race just fine with that hat and gloves tucked in my sports bra ;)

Lynn hopped up around the "10 minute mile pace" marker while I stayed back at the "12 minute mile pace" marker.  Everyone around me was laughing and joking.  The atmosphere was so relaxing!  We took off, jostling for space, watching for baby jogger strollers, and heading downhill towards the town of Moab.

The Winter/Sun was an amazing race.  The views around were of red rock, the sun peeking in through the clouds, and a wave of people in front of me.  I ran all but about 20 yards (up a really steep hill) and made it to the finish in 70 minutes--2 minutes faster than I expected!  You can tell though, that that race wasn't so easy towards the end:
I was tired!  The last .2 miles, around the track, I tried to speed up to beat 70 minutes, but I ran out of steam.  Still, we did it, and it was so much fun.

This past week has been a bundle of emotions.  I haven't slept well, L has been missing her son (he just left for college) and we have both been agitated and grumpy.  Finally though, the weekend is here!  We are leaving tomorrow afternoon to head to Moab to pick up race packets, check in to our hotels, and eat our pre-race Mexican dinner.  (that's really L's superstition, but I'm happy to oblige).

I am still anxious.  Everyone keeps saying, "It's just a run."  But it's not just a run.  I've spent the past six months working towards this goal.  I got to 8 miles and stopped to rest for a backpacking trip.  I came back, got to 8 again and sprained my ankle.  Now I've made it to 11.5 trail miles which, to me, has to equal 13.1 road miles.  Most of this I've run by myself.  Even when L and I run together she is usually a football field ahead of me.  Running is a solitary sport and the thoughts in your head will either propel you foward or push you to the ground.

I've learned a lot while training for this race:  Biking is still the most amazing sport ever.  It's a recovery sport, a low-impact sport, a confidence building sport, and a sport that is made better by long runs that make you even more confident!  My biking has improved 100% this year.  Just ask my friends who haven't seen bloody legs from me this year!

I've learned that I am capable of things I never thought possible.  Last week I ran a route that, 2 years ago, I had trouble biking without being absolutely exhausted.  I've learned that I am not the same person I was in 2007.  Then I was a smoking, junk-food-eating, maybe-once-a-week-yoga-doing girl.  Now I am a mountain biking, trail running athlete!

I've learned that good shoes, good surfaces, and ice make all the difference.  Then again...if you have good shoes and a good surface (Not asphalt and concrete) you don't need ice ;)

I've learned what fuels my body best at 7 a.m. and when to refuel with PowerBar powerbites and electrolyte tablets.  I've learned that it IS possible to run in 100 degree weather in the desert.

If I can do this, you can too!  Or not this, but any goal you have.  You can do it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Joe's Ridge: I conquered it!

There it is...and there I am, terrified, yet making my way down, Joe's Ridge.  This trail out at 18 Road in Fruita (ok, probably not really in the city limits, but you get the point) has terrified me for probably 2 years now.  From this perspective it doesn't seem overly steep or loose, but when you are riding down it it seems like the steepest trail ever built.

Let me back up a bit.  The 18 Road trails combine some desert single track, like that seen here, with little patches of single track through tiny junipers and pinyon pines (you can see some in the background).  There are some great intermediate trails like Prime Cut, Kessel, and parts of Joe's.  There are longer more difficult trails like Chutes and Ladders and there are mind-blowing terrifying to even think of Expert Only trails like Zippity-Do-Da.  It's a great place to ride if you have the time to get out there.

After a nice ride up Prime Cut (it's the most fun way to get to the top unless you want to ride up the gravel road) we crossed the gravel road and followed the single-track to the intersection.  Here we took the right fork, crossed a campground road, and headed towards Joe's Ridge.  There is only one other intersection you need to remember:  After crossing a wash the trail will start to climb.  One portion will go straight ahead, but there will be another portion of trail turning sharply up and left.  Follow that one.  Eventually you com to a very nice overlook.  From here, if you've never ridden the trail, you might want to walk down and check out what's ahead (see photo above).

There isn't anything technical to this portion of the trail.  There are no rocks to really get in your way, no ledges to worry about...there is just a very narrow steep trail.

Once you conquer that portion, the rest is fun!  Still narrow, but not quite as steep, you cruise over more hills and make one more climb, then head back down to the campground road.  From here you can turn left and ride back up about a mile through the campground.  This will take you to the place where you originally crossed the campground road and headed down Joe's.  Turn right, then right again and you'll be on Kessel Run, the most fun portion of single track at 18 Road.  You bomb down this for about 3 miles, then turn left and make one tiny climb back to the parking lot.  What a fabulous afternoon ride!  (about 1.5-2 hrs)

Here's a view, after the final climb on Joe's, of the whole roller coaster ride:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Delightfully Exhausting Labor Day

As all long weekend should be, Labor Day weekend was thoroughly exhausting.  We left GJ fairly early Friday morning (and by fairly early I mean 10:30) and headed up and over to Snowmass Village for the JAS Festival.  More specifically we were there to see Wilco, a fabulous band lead by Jeff Tweedy.  Since the concert didn't start til 8 that evening, we had plenty of time to take a gondola ride up the Elk Camp lift with our bikes.  You know us--we don't go anywhere without the mountain bikes--especially not to a mountain without them!  We tackled the Government Trail which, even with the gondola ride, still involved some climbing, and then rode up a second time on the gondola to bomb down another trail--Snowmass Way.  It was dusty, dirty work but hey, someone had to do it.

Me with dirty legs after our Snowmass ride.
Of course the concert was fabulous.  We danced around for several hours to Wilco's crazy lyrics, fast beats and occasional purposeful discord.  The next morning we headed up to Aspen and over Independence Pass to Leadville and on to Frisco--one of our favorite towns to visit in the fall.  The views going up and over the pass were amazing!
Heading down Independence Pass
Frisco for us means visiting friends and biking some fabulous woodsy trails.  I love GJ biking with all its rocks and dust, but there is nothing quite like the smell of a great forest when you're biking.  I love the shadows, the trees towering over head and the thrill of whipping around switchbacks just barely wide enough for you to turn through without hitting your handlebars.  We biked our favorite Frisco trail--the Peninsula trail around Lake Dillon.

 and then the next day got up and biked a three hour lollipop with our friends that put us high on the Colorado Trail near Breckenridge.  Last year that ride almost did me in...this time I was much faster and was smiling almost the whole way!  (Except for the dreaded long slow ascent from the ranch...ugh.)  What I can tell you about this trail is that it starts off of Tiger Road by the Dredge.  Parts of it are called:  The Power line, Blair Witch, the Trench, and then there's of course the Colorado Trail itself.

all in all a fabulous weekend!  Oh right, as if all that biking wasn't enough, on Monday my friend Alice and I headed out for one last trail run before the BF and I headed home....4 days of fun...for some :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer's almost gone!

I have to give credit to Richie who said, over here that she was eeking out the last bits of summer, for this post. Seriously where did it go? We were still getting snow on May 1 and now, on August 13, we're getting 51 degree morning temps. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful for biking and trail running and all that...but I could have used a little bit more heat. I love sitting on the balcony with the sun just drenching me in warmth. Still, it's been a great summer! Let's recap:

1. We started the summer with the fabulous bike trip down to Durango/Cortez...when it was still too cold to camp, but not too cold to enjoy some awesome biking:

2. That was followed in July by the annual backpacking trip. This year's trip took us into the Uncompahgre wilderness for 4 days and 3 nights of solitude.

3. Then we rounded out the summer with what is becoming our annual trip to Crested Butte...complete with 4 days of biking bliss!

And now...summer is coming to a's time to prepare for half-marathons and Labor Day concerts; time to wax the skis and prep those quad muscles for long days on bump runs...time to start looking for a Halloween costume and time to pull out the soup recipes...I do believe Fall is on its way!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Which is better? Group training or solo training? This week's rant...

I tend to be a soloist when it comes to running. I like to go at my own pace, do my own thing, say my little mantras to myself and enjoy the peace that comes from focusing on nothing but my breathing and my next mile.

When it comes to biking I could go either way. Sometimes it's fun to bike with someone else. You can revel in each other's successes when you make it over hard ledges or drops, stop to catch your breath together while looking down on the Colorado River, and you've always got someone there in the unlikely event (or in my case, the likely event) that you crash. Although, in my defense, that hasn't happened this year. Excuse me while I go find some wood to knock on.

Here's why I bring all this up: At work right now we are currently all battling it out to win this "fitness challenge." We all have groups of 3 and we get points for every time we work out. (1 point per work out). If you work out with one of your team members, you each get 2 points. The whole idea being that, for most people, it is more motivating to work out with someone than alone. For many people, I'm sure this is true. Maybe I'm a sour puss.

Now, I had a great time biking with my friends this weekend in Crested Butte. That was a blast! And I have fun biking with my friends here too. Usually the majority of us can agree on a time and place and, if we can't, well, we just don't bike together. But this fitness challenge thing is throwing a wrench in the works.

Here's what I mean: Yesterday one of my running buddies (I call her that because we sometimes do run together and we are training for the same races and plan to go to them together.) was planning a run with our other friend, E. She says to me (the injured one) "You should come bike while we run so we can get double fitness challenge points." I figure sure, an after work bike ride on a mellow paved trail will be nice...I'll do like a time challenge... "Ok, sure." Then I ask, "What time are you guys going?" "Oh around 7." WHAT????

I mean, I know it's cooler then, but this is the point where I want to say, "Nope, nevermind." I like to work out after work. By 7 p.m. I've washed the dinner dishes, put on my comfy clothes, and am relaxing on the couch. That's NOT when I want to be loading up the bike. But since I'd already agreed to go, I stuck by that. When I got there, one friend had already run a few miles and was just raring to keep going as soon as E showed up. So before I could even get my bike off the roof, they were gone! WHA? Like I didn't expect us to all hang together for very long, but really? So of course I crank the bike up to its highest gear and leave them in the dust...I bike the entire 8 mile loop, the turn back in to find them and end up doing about 2 slower miles trying to half-way talk to them and encourage them as they finish their run. Then we all get in our cars and go home. So...i got in a very light work out at a time when i could have been home and I didn't even get any girl time or friend time or anything? Maybe I'm being petty.

Maybe it's just this particular group of people...even when we try to run together, we aren't running legs are short and I'm slow and so I run by myself and they turn around once in a while to make sure a mountain lion hasn't grabbed me. Hence the reason I prefer to run alone.

Even with biking I have mixed emotions. If you have a good group and everyone gets there on time, then it works great. Mountain bikers spend a lot of time stopping to catch their breath, take pictures, everyone catches up and chats before moving on.

Still, with running, I often times like my solitude. I like moving at my own pace. I like not looking ahead and thinking, "Man...I wish I could catch up and be part of the conversation." Maybe, like I said earlier, I'm just a sour puss when it comes to group runs! I guess in the end all I'm saying is, "If you want to run together, then let's run together. If you want us to start at the same time and then finish somewhere in the same 15 minute stretch and perhaps see each other in the distance to wave...I'll just go it alone thanks."

So there you have my rant for the week. Swimming and biking this weekend! What do you have planned?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lung busting climbs and jaw dropping views

The 401 Trail
It's amazing how one view can make you forget that awful lung-coming-out-of-your-mouth feeling. That's exactly what happens when you reach the summit of the famed 401 trail in Crested Butte. Driving out on the Gothic road you pass the tiny research "town" of Gothic and head higher up the rutted jeep road into the forest. Camp grounds and bikers dot the roadside. If you have the opportunity, running a shuttle is probably the best idea for your first 401 ride. Park a car at the end (located at the hard-to-miss sign indicating Rustler's Gulch or something like that) and then drive on up to a tiny patch of a somewhat flat parking area on the right side of the road. Even the view from here is enough to make you curious about the ride:

From here it's a bit of a climb on a jeep road up to Schofield Pass. If there is a bright side to this climb, it's that it's not technical and it does give you a bit of a chance to acclimate and warm up your legs. You can pedal slowly and concentrate on sucking in what little oxygen is available while also checking out some amazing views. Take a break at the pass before heading off on the single track on the right side of the road (appropriately labeled "401 trail"). I'm not gonna lie, the next part of the climb (which some books claim is only about a mile) is hellacious for us low landers. Literally I just have to try to make it to the next flat spot. Most of the trail is rideable, it's just a lot of climbing without much oxygen. Still, once you reach the meadow you get this view, and you're almost done!

The next time you take a break you get this view and you're really, I promise, almost at the top of the climb.

What comes next is a mix of mind blowing downhill fun mixed with a few terrifying moments of portages, steep exposed hillsides and narrow switchbacks. Oh, and more amazing views...the singletrack really isn't any more narrow than any other singletrack, but it does traverse a steep mountain hill. So while there aren't cliffs, per se, the right side does slope down pretty steeply and if the flowers aren't blooming on that can be a little intimidating.

Still, soon enough you've reached lower ground and you can cruise around wooded switchbacks with ease, hands cramping from holding the brakes, back screaming from you standing for several miles...mouth in a wide grin the whole time! When you hit the double track you can continue even further down the 401 through some bogs and mosquito laden territories, or turn right, head down the hill and cross the creek. If you've shuttled, your car and beer will be waiting. If you haven't, bribe the strongest person into riding back up the road to get the car while you stand around saying, "Man that was awesome!" to anyone who will listen.

The Snodgrass Trail
If you're feeling especially spunky after your 401 ride, you can add the 3.5 mile Snodgrass trail later in the afternoon. Again, it's best to have a shuttle so you can park one car down on Washington Gulch road. Otherwise some poor soul is going to have to climb back up the paved road to get your car. However, if you're staying in condos out on that end of town, this isn't really an issue. The Snodgrass trail parking is right where the Gothic road turns from pavement at the edge of town to dirt. You'll see a parking area on the left with a gate, sign, and ladder thingy over the fence.

Here's the thing: The Snodgrass trail requires about another mile of if you aren't ready for that after your 401 trek, save this for another day. After the initial climb, you come to another trail head and sign. Head down, not right. You'll climb a little more, cross a creek (if you're daring you'll do it on the bike), and finally come to a little lookout point before heading down for about 2.5 miles through the woods.

It's tight quarters in here, but man is it fun! Keep those hands at the edge of your handbars though...trees will snatch them if you aren't careful.

There are tons of other rides to do in the area including the Upper Loop, Strand Hill and Strand Hill bonus (formerly Farris Creek) and still others that I've never done like Reno/Flag Bear and Doctor's Park. Crested Butte is a mountain biker's least until 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. when the rains start!

We stayed about half an hour away, camping on the Taylor Reservoir road. If you're into camping, you really can't beat this area. You can take the Jack's Cabin cutoff road and save yourself some drive time each day. There are probably 10 different camp sites on this road, most of which take reservations at .

Check out the Brick Oven pizza place in town for some awesome pizza or the Wooden Nickel for dinner. Just remember to always always have a raincoat!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Just a quick update on the injuries...What I can only assume is some sort of peroneal tendonitis in my ankle is healing nicely. I have rested and iced since Thursday evening. I've also been keeping it elevated a lot of the time. All of this seems to have helped, even if it's made me a little stir crazy...I can walk almost pain free now!

In order to overcome the restlessness I did an ab/upper body work out on Saturday. This required no standing and therefore was not a danger to my hurt ankle. While not the most exciting activity, doing crunches in the living room, and lifting weights while sitting, it did at least give me something to do...

Then today my friend A and I went to the local pool to get in some sun and lap time. I haven't been swimming in years! It's harder work that you might think. We shared a lane and I got in 13 laps of various strokes...freestyle, back, side, you name it! I'm tired tired tired now. Still, it felt good to know I was still being active and not doing any damage to my ankle. That I know of.

A trip to Crested Butte soon will provide some much needed biking and after that I'll get back to training for the first half marathon. For next year I'm thinking...the Highline Hustle Triathlon sounds good!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Plagued by pain and frustration

First, let's get one thing straight: Mountain biking is my favorite sport. I love the challenge of it, I love how easy it is to see success and I love how, this year, I'm not crashing! Still...running has become my second favorite sport. I love to run alone on long runs, and I love running trails with Lynn and Elissa. There's something about just running and meeting each and every goal along the way that gets in your blood...the endorphins kick in, the adrenaline gets going, and you just feel so's crazy and it feels wonderful.

It feels wonderful until, like me, you wake up the day after a long run with aching hips or shin get a sore knees 2/3 of the way through a run, or and this is the most bizarre, you wake up in the middle of the night with pain from a strained PELVIC JOINT. Yes. It's happened to me. Right now I'm dealing with some sort of tendonitis on the outside of my left ankle. It was getting better after 3 days of rest and then, like any runner, I went running. Let me stress that while running, my ankle did not hurt. I thought well great! It's getting better! Oh no. It was just toying with me. I woke up this morning and the pain was back, just as bad as Monday. Ibuprofen, ice, elevation...all seem to help a little, but MAN walking is painful. This is my foot, at my desk, in a slightly awkward position with a giant piece of ice under my ankle.

Look I understand that in running injuries are going to happen. I get that. It's a lot of pounding and blah blah blah. But do I have to get EVERY injury? Granted I only get them very briefly (the issue with my IT band lasted 2 runs), but still. It's frustrating when I want to train for the half-marathons and I can't.

On the other hand, it's a good excuse to go for some long bike rides! Maybe this weekend I'll bike here:

(Thanks for posing Tomas :))

I guess I just needed to rant. I've got a big bike trip coming up and more than anything I do not want this ankle to still be hurting. So I'll be good and I'll rest it and I'll sit at my desk in bizarre positions so I can ice it. Better to take a few days off now than a month off later.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Failes Creek Trail, Big Blue Trail and Falls Creek Trail--Uncompahgre Wilderness: 24 miles

4 day/3 Night Backpacking Trip in the Uncompahgre Wilderness

Day 1: Be prepared for a long one! Failes Creek to the Big Blue Trail
Standing here by the wilderness sign, I've no idea there are 3 more miles, on top of the 7 we've already done, in front of me...

Every adventure has some learning experiences, and this trip was no exception. It was still wonderful and beautiful and I'd do it again. But next time, I'd know a few more things that would help me and the BF out!

Day 1 started off great. We spent the night at the Little Cimmarron campground about 4 miles from the trail head. There were no other campers there and the place was well kept--even had an out house. We started from the Falls Creek area(despite what the sign at the end of the road says, it's 20 miles to here, not 14), heading north/northeast on the Failes Creek trail. Our destination was the Big Blue Trail, 5 miles and 1 ridge away. Failes Creek is a great little trail--mostly wooded with adequate water supplies in the first 2-3 miles. Make sure to have both a GPS and a map and if you are in any doubt about where to go, follow your map! Stay on a north/northeast route and on a trail and you'll be headed the right way.

Once you start climbing the top of the ridge is fairly easy and quick to reach. Coming down seems never ending, and there's no good water on this side, so make sure to load up before heading up the switchbacks. Once you start to hear dirt bikes, you'll know you've reached Big Blue Road and the Alpine Trail. Crossing the creek here is fun, but just aim for the trail marker on the other side and you'll be fine. Take your water shoes!

From here it's a short 1.5 (ish) miles to the Big Blue Trailhead. Our advice, in hindsight, is to camp right near the trail head. By this point you've gone 6.5 or 7 miles and you won't find another campsite for about 3 more. We hiked on in, not knowing any better, and did find a nice spot, but we would have been happier campers if our first day had not been 10 miles of hiking!
This was our campsite for night #1. Those trees across in the center are on the other side of a small ravine--the creek is down a steep trail, but is accessible.

Day Two: Big Blue Continued
Day Two dawned cloudy. We had slept (or at least been in the tent quietly resting in the middle of the night) for almost 12 hours. Coffee and tea were calling us! As we sat on some nice logs looking down at the river below, it started to rain. We dove into the tent just as it started to pour. This was our worst fear...Will this be the day we have to hike all day in the rain?

Karma was on our side however, and about an hour later the sky cleared up and was beautiful for the rest of the day. We made this a short day, considering the length we'd covered the day before, and decided that as soon as we passed Slide Lake, we'd start looking for a spot. Slide Lake is interesting...but the "slide" itself is way more intriguing.

Soon we found a great meadow, complete with easy water access and a waterfall. We had a home. As a bonus, this spot, about 6.5 miles in, had a perfect copse of pine trees for a kitchen. We could sit in this little space, leaned back against a sap-covered tree, and stay dry even in brief rain showers.

Me in the "kitchen" at our camp spot for night #2. There are others just past this and then on for the next 2 miles or so. Lots of great views, water and trees.

Day Three: Big Blue to the Falls Creek Trail

Day three was by far the best day for views on our trip. We left our lovely meadow campsite and headed further up the Big Blue for a day of what we knew would entail quite a bit of climbing. As we climbed, slowly but surely at first, the views opened up before us. We saw great camp sites all along the trail, on the east side of the creek, and wide open meadows and mountains all around us. Soon we turned the corner and there it was: Uncompahgre Peak.

We continued climbing, at some points moving 50 steps forward and stopping, as we got closer to 12,000 ft. The trail is in great shape and is easy to follow (again, it's still helpful to have a map and gps and know where you're going). As soon as we turned onto the Fall Creek Trail (Ridge Stock Driveway heads further south; we turned west) we could see the saddle we were headed for. We took off across the meadow, gaping at the views, for what seemed like forever. There was no reason to complain, the trail was easy to follow, it wasn't too steep, and the views were just incredible. The air was getting thin, however, so we did have to stop a lot. What we should have been doing was eating...

Here's just one of the many views from the summit of our hike on Day #3, at 12, 740 ft.

**A side note: Camp before the summit. Hike in to right below, near the old shack, and camp down there. There is NO good camping on Fall Creek from the junction with Little Cimarron until you're within 3 miles of the end of your trip. If you wait, you'll end up with an 8.5 mile trip and some questionable tent sites...think sliding to the bottom of your tent...digging rocks out of the ground...

We continued on past the summit, heading down to what we thought would be a perfect and soon-to-be-reached campsite. The trail is downhill and covered with rocks. It's pretty slow going just because you have to weave around so many loose rocky spots. We did stop for some snacks, but we pushed ourselves far too hard. This was mostly out of necessity as we couldn't find a spot to camp! Everything was either boggy or uneven or rock infested. We finally did find what turned out to be a great little knoll. It worked for us because we have a small tent and were desperate. After being held captive in our tent for an hour by mosquitoes we were able to come out and enjoy a nice meal of chili mac and camp margaritas before turning in. This campsite is about 1/2 a mile after you cross Fall Creek down in the valley for the first time. If you can hold out for another mile or so, until the next creek crossing, there are great meadows for camping.

Day 4: Fall Creek to the car!

Day #4 was the most beautiful day of all. There were no clouds in the sky and it was too cold for the mosquitoes to be up when we were. At 11,200 ft there were ice crystals in our water at 7 a.m. Still, it was a lovely morning perched on our tiny knoll. We weren't hungry, but we knew we needed to eat, so we ate sesame snaps, a pay day, and cheese. We had gone 50 hours without seeing another soul, but we knew that was all ending soon. We packed up and headed out.

The Fall Creek Trail is great for hiking from this point forward. It's easy to follow, and the views are great. There are some rocky sections with "baby head" rocks to watch for, but it's relatively easy hiking. We enjoyed seeing others along the trail and talked about our newest strategies for our next trip...

* Stop every hour to take OFF the pack, rest, and eat. This will keep you from getting completely hammered. It's better to stop often than to get completely "destination focused" and forget to eat.

* Remember that everything isn't going to go like you think--especially on new trails.

* Falls Creek is not the best trail for camping...a better plan for next time would be: Hike Failes to Big Blue and camp right at the wilderness boundary. Hike up about 7 or 8 miles towards the summit/ridgeline at junction of Big Blue and Fall Creek. Day 3 will be up and over and about 4 miles down Fall Creek past the Little Cimarron Junction...then you have a short hike out on the last day.

* We need another Ursack. Right now we have 1 Ursack (bear proof) and 1 dry bag that we hang with odor-proof bags inside it. We think 2 Ursacks would be better.

So we survived! I only cut myself once, ran into 1 tree limb, came back with 1 horrible pinky-toe blister. It was a great adventure and I'm sure by next year we'll be looking for another one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taking a Break

In an effort to allow my shin splits and other running aches/pains to dissipate before our backpacking trip (which, for the sake of privacy and theft avoidance we'll just say is "upcoming") I took a break from running. Well, I tried to take a break. I suffered through a 6 a.m. trail run last Tuesday with Lynn and Elissa (not really was pleasant once I got over the fact that it was 6 a.m.) and then called a Time Out.

The reason for my Time Out was because I noticed that weight was making my shins hurt more. When I carried my bike downstairs, my shins, which hadn't twinged for days, hurt. When I carried in what must've been 25 lbs of groceries or something, they hurt. So it stood to reason that carrying a 25-30 lb backpack might make them hurt...I wasn't sure, but I also wasn't taking any chances. So, no running. I took 3 days off completely: No running, no hiking, no nothing. Saturday I went out for an early morning hike (wearing the trail runners of course) but it was so hot and the trail so bumpy that I didn't really attempt more than 5 minutes of running. I enjoyed the hike and was able to actually look around at my surroundings instead of straight at the ground!

Sunday I biked Rustler's Loop. Sure it's only about a 45-50 minute ride, but that's enough to get your heart pumping fast and put a grin on your face! I had work to do or else I would have ridden longer. Today I was grumpy. Well, if I'm being honest I was grumpy all weekend, except for when I was biking. I finally had had enough. Still not really willing to risk our trip, I headed home at lunch for a 20 minute walk/run. Hey, 20 minutes was all I had and it was better than nothing!

I really did feel better. Even just 11 minutes of running interspersed with walking felt great. After our trip I'll come back and get started training again for the first of two half marathons: The Mount Sneffels Half Marathon. If you check out the route map, on the hand-drawn map you can click on each mile marker to see what the area looks like there. It's beautiful! I'm SO lucky to get to go run this 13.1 miles...even if I'm next-to-last I won't care because I'll have spent 2+ hours jogging, walking, huffing and puffing, in this beautiful stretch of Colorado. At the end, I hope Lynn and I look like this:

But I"ll probably look more like this:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Western Rim...a new favorite?

The BF says to me yesterday, "If you could bike anywhere around here tomorrow where would it be?" I said, "Western Rim." Who wouldn't want to spend hours looking at this view?

I think I'm getting comfortable with this trail. Last year I took a bad endo (head over handlebars) off of a ledge right at the start of the gorgeous rim portion and I kind of froze up for the rest of the season. I improved a little, but I was nervous. This year I feel like I'm breaking through every time we bike there. Each time I've ridden something I didn't ride before and I've gotten more at ease with the whole trail.

If you've never been there, the Western Rim trail starts way out in Rabbit Valley by the McDonald Creek Trailhead. You can read some great directions here. When you start out I suggest heading straight over the cattle guard and up the double track Kokopelli Trail. You can follow this all the way to the overlook. You'll save some energy climbing this as opposed to Trail #2 which bears to the right over the cattle guard. Ride the Trail #2 back to the trail head for some awesome downhill!

From the overlook I suggest riding clockwise. You'll hit a huge sandy portion of the trail but after that it's almost all rideable. There are a few hills to push up and maybe a few ledges to walk over/around, but a lot of it is like this:

Fun single track close (but not often scarily close) to the edge of a cliff. You get this for oh 5 or so miles. Here's a challenging but fun little bit on the rim:

I suggest staying far left coming down this!

After that there are 2 hills that will require some pushing by all but the most awesome of awesome riders. Past this is MORE fun downhill over rocks and then you hit the slog...This is me, halfway through the slog:

I'm smiling because I found shade! The 3 miles or so of grinding away at the road takes you back to the overlook where you can bomb down Trail #2 almost all the way back to the car.

IF you decide to check out Western Rim you'll need a high clearance vehicle, or at least a Subaru to get out there ;) I also think, for your virgin Western Rim ride, it's best to have a guide! Happy riding!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Break Throughs

Well the weekend was spent looking out of the windows repeating, "It's still raining!" I won't bore you with the details of that. I will mention that (as seen on FB) I did in fact run 8 miles yesterday. But since I've written 2 posts about running, I'm skipping over most of that as well.

Last week after work the BF and I decided to head out to Lunch Loop for an after-work ride. Lunch Loop is one of the most technical areas for biking and I've struggled for a year with overcoming physical and mental obstacles out there. I assumed this day would be no different. We headed down the main trail and took a right on Pet-Y-kes and huffed and puffed our way up the trail. It was hot. I'd stop and pant and hear my heartbeat in my head...kathump kathump kathump...then I'd go again. The BF was way ahead of me because honestly we just try to get up the hard parts as fast as possible. Who can blame him for riding ahead?

I let a guy pass me and then tried to psych myself up. There was a piece approaching that I never ride. That's not an exaggeration. I've never ridding this. It's a part of the trail where the left side is exposed, and as you come around a curve on the very narrow single track, a big rectangular rock sticks its big ole corner right out into the trail. I'm always afraid I'm going to hit my pedal and go flying off the edge of the trail. For whatever reason this time as I approached it I just kept riding. I didn't look at the rock, I looked at the left edge of the trail. That way i'd be aiming for as far away from the rock as possible. I rode past it and was so excited and focused on that that I didn't make the next obstacle. Still, one obstacle down! I figured if i didn't ride anything else new that day , i didn't care. You can see in the photo above how narrow and exposed the trail is.

From the top of Pet-Y-Kes (after I'd gotten a few bruises and a scrape on some rocks, just to prove I wasn't invincible) we headed left towards the main trail, crossed it, and continued down High Noon. This is the fun part! High Noon is a great connector to the ridge and doesn't require you to climb up to Lemon Squeezer. There are 3 obstacles in a row: The first is a drop which rolls off. It's a big drop, but because it rolls it's doable. Then there is an up-and-over spot that I still have trouble with because I have to pedal up then try to get off the seat and back as far as possible as I go over. Finally there is a craggy, rocky drop between 2 big rocks with a turn at the bottom. I almost made this one before I chickened out that day. Still, I'd never even attempted it before! What was up with my confidence???

Across the ridge we went...easy peasy with just one stop to walk up a ledge. I was talking to myself. "Come on can make it down the hill at the end here. You almost did it last time. Just drop the ledge and go. Follow _____ (the BF)." This was the hill in question, from the top:

That's my buddy Andy riding down last year. No fear. A lot of people aim for the left side, then head right halfway down. The BF takes a more straight forward approach. He goes straight down the right side, drops a ledge and cruises to the bottom. No turns, nothing. Just aim straight ahead and go! So that's what I did. I dropped the ledge. By that point I knew he was at the bottom watching. "You got it! You got it!" I could hear him cheering and I knew there was no way I wasn't making it down the hill. I cruised to the bottom like it was nothing! Here's the hill from the bottom:

(That's Andy again. His bro took these last year.) You can see from here the difference in going straight down the biker's right (viewer's left) and going biker's left then right...

As I pulled up beside him he stood there with his mouth hanging open. "That was...amazing. It was beautiful! You looked so calm and in control!" I'm pleased when I accomplish any new trick or obstacle, but at Lunch Loop, well, I'm doubly proud of myself anytime I make it out of there without Life Flight!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Trail Running

Not the best picture, but not the worst place to get in a good run either. I started trail running because of shin splints. Nasty, tiny knife-like pain in my left shin right above my ankle. Leaving behind the neighborhood roads and heading for the hills (literally) seemed like a good move. It was, it has been. Yesterday the mid-80s temps and cloudy skies made the weather perfect for a trail run. I headed out right after work to Lunch Loop / Tabaguache and decided to run up Eagle's Tail, over to High Noon, then all the way across the ridge and down Kurt's Lane. It's really only about 3 miles, but it's 3 trail miles which, the way I figure it, is at least 4 or 4.5 road miles.

Trails present all kinds of new obstacles: rocks to hop over, sandy or rocky steep hills to crank up or run down, trees to snake past, and of course, bikers and other hikers all on a single track course. The first 20 minutes saw me running for 5 and walking for 2 repeatedly. I told myself if I ran up every hill on this trail I could have all the beer and pasta I wanted afterwards! So I cranked it up all 5 hills on Eagle's Tail and recovered in between. (I'd post a map of the area, but my map is old. Eagle's tail can be found by taking the main Tabaguache trail out to the first intersection, taking a right there towards Pet-Y-Kes and Eagle's, and then taking another right at the next intersection).

Once I was through the hills I only made one more stop on my entire 52 minute route. That was after running up the hill to the top of the ridge and was mostly because I was letting some bikers get ahead of me. The rolling almost-all-downhill section from the ridge top to the parking lot makes for fast time and tricky footwork. Still, you'll never hear me say that I hate running. How could I hate running when the hills and views around me are so amazing? How could I hate it when the whole 52 minutes is spent leaping over and around obstacles, taking my mind off any problems or issues I might have? If you run and you hate it, you should find a new sport. I run and I love it. Even when it hurts.

Today's weather is proving to be difficult for biking. Rain, clouds, rain, clouds...we might actually have to REST for a whole day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Running vs. Biking

It's a difficult decision these I train for the half-marathon in October by running, or do I mountain bike with the BF and consider it cross-training? Well so far I've managed to do both. I get in two-three runs a week and bike on the days the BF is off. My shins greatly enjoy the biking because it gives them a chance to rest and my ego enjoys the huge strides I've been making as well. I think my biking is improving because my legs are stronger, my endurance better, and my confidence in my abilities is growing too. My running is going well. I've got like 17 weeks to go and I'm up to 8 miles (this weekend anyway) already! I've got tons of time to enjoy my growing endurance in both sports.

My sometimes-running-buddies, Lynn and Elyssa, are super supportive as well. I'm way slower than them and yet when we run together they stop and wait on me. I can text Lynn and give her the breakdown on my run and even if I ran 3 miles in 50 minutes she'd say, "Way to go! You're breathing down my neck!" It's a good thing I have her to keep me motivated some competitive streak comes out and all I want to do is keep up with her on those trails! She'll be hitting her 8 miles on Sunday probably while I'm still at home reading the paper...but then I'll bike with the BF and drink beer and life will be good for us all :)

Still, when I'm doing one, I'm thinking about the other. When I'm trail running I'm thinking which line I'd take if I were on my bike. When I'm biking I occasionally catch myself watching trail runners with envy. (Then of course I hit a technical section and can't think about anything except cleaning the section and then I'm stoked and I forget about everything else). I guess having 2 sport loves is better than no sport loves, but it sure does make it difficult to choose some days!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cortez/Durango Biking

Who says Grand Junction/Fruita is the only place for good biking on the Western side of the state? I found out this weekend that Cortez and Durango have some awesome bike trails to offer up as well.

On Friday we drove down from our campsite at McPhee Reservoir to Cortez, stopping in Dolores at the Depot for some mighty good breakfast burritos. Yum! Phil's World is just east of town on 160. You'll see the fairgrounds on the right and directly across from that, just past the shooting range, a red road sign that says 30.1. Turn here. You'll see a sign directing you to a dirt parking area .1 mile down the road. The parking lot is on the right and the "start" of Phil's World is across the dirt road from the parking lot.

The cool thing about Phil's World is that you don't even really need a map. You go through a gate and a well-marked path says "start." At every intersection there is a laminated map telling you where you are and where to go. There are also wooden signs labeling every trail. However, if you want a map (and it's always a good idea to have one) they are available in town at the Kokopelli bike shop.

The trail(s) are mostly rolling single track with a few uphill sections. Nothing brutal though. While they aren't the most technically challenging trails, there are a few spots where you get to drop and make your way around rocky outcroppings. Still, it's fun to just pedal and enjoy the downhill and the views!

We did the 8 mile loop which has you heading back to the trail head after Bob's Trail (I think). At the intersection with Adobo you'll head back. The whoop de whoos are unbelievable! SO fast and SO steep, but awesome fun!

On Saturday we headed to the Telegraph Trails in Durango after stopping by the friendly Durango Cyclery shop for some advice. We parked at the Horse Gulch trail head right off of 3rd Ave behind the Sonic. We started biking up the jeep road (a little steering is required) to the Meadow Loop trailhead. From here we headed out the Telegraph Trail, then turned onto Stacy's Loop, followed by Mike's Loop (which has some significant but short lived climbing). After that we headed downhill on a trail that started with a much fun fast downhill I was grinning ear to ear!
The picture at the top is from this set of trails and I must say I'll be back to check those out when the temps hit 100 here!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

18 Road in April

Well Sunday the BF and I headed out to 18 road for a ride. April and May are our busy months, what with all the mountain riders coming down to dry trails, so we headed out Western Zippity for something a little more off-the-beaten path. To get there, from the parking lot at 18 Road (ok, go to Fruita, head down whatever main street is, turn left onto something like Maple right by a big church and the school, then go until you come to N 3/10 road. Turn right. Turn left and go straight. Eventually you'll go about 4 or 5 miles down a gravel/dirt road and come to a very obvious parking lot with bathrooms. Stop here. Now, back to the trail...

From the parking lot you'll see a trail to the left of the lot (if you're standing staring at the side of the bathrooms that faces the parking lot...look left, you'll see a break in the parking barrier. Don't cross the road because that will take you to Prime Cut. This trail is right in the parking lot. It will take you down to the bottom of Kessel Run and out towards Zippity Do Dah (experts only) and Western Zippity. You'll go down a steep hill and see this:

Follow the arrows out towards Zippity. You'll go through a fence/gated area with a big cattle guard and up and down some hills. You'll eventually come to a fork, and you'll go left, which seemed odd to me, but whatever, that's the way you should go. This will give you a nice little patch of rolling single track for a few. Enjoy it! Next you'll turn right on a loooooong stretch of dirt road. Just take it all in stride, you've still got a ways to go! Eventually you'll turn right back onto some singletrack. There's a sign. It's pretty out there right now! See?

This goes on almost too long as you begin to long for something technical! Cross the road, continue...and then, looming see them. The switchbacks. You'd heard about them but thought surely they were the stuff of legends. No. These make those tiny hills on Chutes and Ladders look like ant hills. Up and up and up...steep ups. Still, pretty soon you're through it and you can look back down on them:

See where the top trail is and where the bottom trail is? The bottom trail curves right through the middle there to meet the top trail. Yeah. It does.

But see, then you get good views and soon after you do hit some nice downhill...head left at the little fork where Zippity Do Dah goes right and then just follow everything down...don't turn right again to head up towards Joe's! Cross the gravel road and then turn right on Kessel run for 3 miles of awesome downhill!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Biking Season is HERE!

It's here! It's here! The 2010 biking season! And you know what my favorite thing about spring biking is? Cows.

Aren't they cute? Look how that mama cow has bangs! And the little calf almost looks like a lamb...appropriate for Easter weekend!

You can find the free-range cows in Loma usually on the back side of Mary's (where Lion's and Steve's come in) or out at 18 Road if you ride Chutes and Ladders. This weekend I saw some in Loma by the east end of Moore Fun too. I just love riding past a bunch of cows as they stare at you...I don't know why, but I do!

Got in two great rides this weekend--Mary's Loop as a nice warm up on Saturday and a big ride at Lunch Loop today. Nothing new to report about Mary's except that the "obstacle" that apparently existed on the exposed single track near Pizza Point is gone. Everything is back to business as usual there.

Today's Lunch Loop ride was awesome. We headed up Pet-y-Kes because, let's face it, if you've got to climb for a while it might as well be on something entertaining! I made a few obstacles I hadn't made before--and on my first trip out this year! After numerous stops to catch my breath and one almost-biff between the turn off to Eagle's and the main trail, we headed down High Noon. High Noon can be found by riding Pet-Y-Kes to the main trail, taking a left and then immediately looking for a trail on the right by a tree. It saves you from having to climb even more to the Lemon Squeezer trail--unless, of course, Lemon Squeezer or Holy Cross is your goal.

High Noon has some fun drops--none of which I rode today, and then meets back up with the Lemon Squeezer trail for a short steep downhill (totally rideable, even in dusty weather, by sticking further right and avoiding the curve). After that you're headed up to the ridge. From there we dropped down the hill (ok, I walked down) and took the left trail over the rocks down Raven's Ridge. This ride is great, but can be challenging if you don't like drops or if you don't like knowing there's a cliff to your left. Still, it's fairly short, but going right will take you to the same places. We bared a hard right after the last drop and headed out on what I think is now called the Ali-Ali loop and then cut left out towards Miramonte. I discovered today that taking the RIGHT trail at the far intersection for Miramonte (after the big set of steps/ledges) is a much better idea than taking the left trail. While the left scares me to the point of barely being able to walk on it because of the amount of exposure, the right is no more exposed than Pet-Y-Kes and has almost no obstacles. It's completely rideable, gently rolling, and a great way to get around to the Miramonte Canyon trail. Back down the canyon, up the hill at the end, and back across the ridge for the fun fly down the main trail to the beer, I mean car.

Even though the weather hasn't been spectacular this weekend, the rain has held off and led to some awesome rides. The goal for this year is to just have fun and not get mad every time I don't conquer everything. Living to ride another day is sometimes better than trying that ledge I'm not sure about yet.