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!