Bike to Work Day..err..year

So tomorrow, June 24, is Denver’s official Bike to Work Day. We have it a month later than anyone else because of perceived weather issues, so instead of cool with a chance of afternoon showers, it’ll be hot (92 degrees!) with a chance of thunderstorms.

Last year’s BTWD was the start for me. I biked 80 times last year, and I’m already at 100 for 2009 as of today (plus one day of running to work), helped by a shorter commute (currently 23 miles RT and occasionally only 10, as compared to 33 for most of last year). I’ve saved over 1,300 miles of driving by doing this and assuming an average of 30 miles per hour (which is probably high, given where I’m going to and from most of the time), that’s over 43 hours not sitting frustrated in traffic.

Everyone thinking about getting out there, go for it, have fun, and ride safe. And don’t forget about all the free breakfast stations scattered around town!


Ending the Season on Pikes Peak

I thought my skis had been hung up for the year after the trip to Quandary last month. Luckily, I was wrong. Carl emailed on Thursday looking for a partner to ski the Y Couloir on Pikes, which was in good condition thanks to all the cool, wet weather the front range has been receiving lately. We were after the East branch, which is on the left in this photo. It’s skied less frequently than the West branch due to a more difficult entrance and a rock band about 500′ in that frequently requires downclimbing. The reward is a more sheltered and aesthetic line.

It was another early morning at 4:45, although that’s relatively late for June skiing. The plan was to drive to the top, ski down, and climb back up. We were stopped a half mile from the summit by a thin sheet of ice on the road.

This was no deterrent though. We all loaded up and made the rest of the trip to the top on foot. There was a pretty obvious rain crust, and we all hoped our line was sheltered from the rain.

Everyone else was wearing typical black/gray technical clothing. I was a little brighter and more colorful.
The undercast was quite a sight, as it always is.

This is such an amazing place.
Despite getting up to 80 in town that day, things were a little different at 14,000′. A high around 30 and a cold morning with strong winds made it such that quite a few tourists probably didn’t bother to exit the train.

The entrance was exciting. Carl aired into it, and hopefully the picture of that will turn up in a day or two. Here’s me shortly after dropping in.

And here’s Caroline getting ready to drop. She was hesitant, but did fine.

Here’s a great shot Carl took from a little way down the line. So much fun.

Lucky for us, the rock band had a line on skier’s right that was filled in enough to ski through. It was a fun little high-speed maneuver.

Here’s Caroline enjoying the last couple turns of the day.

We stopped skiing when it stopped being fun. The snow was softening significantly and the terrain was flattening out, so we traded our skis for crampons and started heading back up.

Such a beautiful place.
It was cooking in the couloir – about 50F, very intense sun, and no wind. I found a mini under-snow waterfall at the rock bands, which told me it was time to get moving quickly. Free water in the snowpack can be very dangerous. In sections, the bootpack up had meltwater pooling in the footprints, small natural sluffs were coming down the rocks, and a couple ice- and rock-fall incidents telling us we should get out of there. I put a chunk of snow in my helmet to help cool me off and went.

We all made it out in good time. Here’s Caroline pulling herself out of the couloir. In about three vertical feet, it went from roasting with no wind back to 30F and windy. It’s amazing what a terrain feature can do.

I couldn’t have chosen a better way to end the ski season. Until October…

Elephant Rock 2009

Wow, what a ride. This year’s Elephant Rock Century Ride was this past Sunday, and it was a blast. Here’s a link to last year’s write-up, and here’s a GPS plot of this year’s course, all 100 miles of it (the course runs clockwise):

In the many months following last year’s debacle, I forgot about how miserable I was, and figured that my increased milage on a bike would make this a lot easier and more fun, especially riding the whole thing with Nate this time. I was sort of right. After I took over seven hours of moving time and eight total last year, we set our sights on a total time (including stops) of under 6:30. No official goal for moving time was set, but I had six hours flat in my head.

Saturday night, I had a good dinner, double checked all my gear, did some minor maintenance to the bike, and loaded everything up in the car. I did this because I knew that 3:15 the next morning would come all too soon. After the alarm went off, I got dressed, had breakfast, and triple checked that I had everything I needed. Nate slept through his alarm, so I picked him up and shortly after four in the morning, we were off to Castle Rock.

It was still dark and quiet when we arrived around five. It was time to slather on sunscreen, load up jersey pockets, and otherwise get ready. 5:30 rolled around, we reset computers, and we were off.

Right at the base of the first real hill, a sizable load of manure had been dumped in the middle of the road the night before, and tracked all the way up the hill by the cars that had driven it through the night. It was horrible, but over soon enough. We hit a nice section with gentle rollers and a solid tailwind as the sun came up, which made for a pretty good photo op:

Pikes was stunning in the clear morning with the snow of the past days, though it seemed to melt off even as the cool morning went on.

The rest of the ride went mostly well. The organizers rethought their aid station layout, which was far better than before. Last year, the first aid station was around mile eight, which was completely absurd. This time around, the first was at 14 (though we skipped it, as it’s still too early to be useful for anyone prepared to ride 100 miles). We stopped at a station at mile 25, where the restroom facilities were a solid 1/4 mile off the road. A little far away, but still welcome.

The course wound its way to Black Forest, and then back to the north where the eventual rejoining of the 62 and 100 mile courses took place. The next while from here out was a complete disaster. I’m generalizing here, but if there’s an event with 62 and 100 mile options, most people on the shorter course are going to be newer to the sport, and less familiar with proper riding technique and etiquette. This proved accurate in this case, as a relatively small number of people who know how to ride met up with hordes who don’t, and who had 40 fewer miles on their legs; to top it off, the courses combined right before a long hilly stretch. Groups were riding 5-6 wide, taking up the entire lane (and sometimes part of the oncoming lane), with no one passing and moving back over to the right. The crowd broke slightly on a long downhill, and we were able to move past some of the mess.

Last year, there was a section that was under construction and in desperate need of repaving; this that section year was even rougher, despite the construction being complete. I’m not exactly sure how that worked out. There was an aid station at the end of it we planned on stopping at, but it was overflowing with 62 milers. We skipped it, and that was the end of the crowds. The final stop was somewhere around 83 miles, right before the final big hill. Last year this hill almost killed me. This year, I just cranked all the way up without missing a beat. Nate got dropped here, and I took off for the final stretch (which was rerouted since last year to a far better finish) trying to get my sub-6 hour rolling time.

To my great surprise, Nate caught up a few miles from the end. I don’t know how, as I was cruising at over 25mph, but we put the hammer down for the end of the ride. There were two forced stoppings, one due to an RV blocking the road, the second a block from the end, as cops were running traffic control. When we got the OK to go, I sprinted to the end, with my bike computer rolling onto 6:00:00. Thanks to starting my GPS timer exactly on the start line, I had one second on the clock of my bike computer, meaning my final rolling time was 5:59:59. Yes!
So, what happens to your hair after a six-hour hammerfest? That depends. Some people get a cool row of mowhawks:

While others just look disheveled:
We made it back to Denver just as the rain and hail started. I was beat, and had a rough Monday as a result. Good times, and I’m sure I’ll forget about the pain and sign up for the 2010 ride when that rolls around.

BikeDenver Metric Century Ride

This past Saturday, BikeDenver organized a group ride along Denver’s bike trail system. It was billed as a metric century (100km, 62 miles) and although it “only” hit 60 miles, it was still a long day full of fun. My legs in particular felt it, as by the time I got home I had done over 70 miles on my fixed gear bike

Here’s the route, starting at the lower of the two endpoints and heading counterclockwise. The northern endpoint is 17th & Vine, where the ride ended for beer and burgers at Vine St. Pub (which, as expected, was delicious).

The day started out at Gary’s house just NE of Wash Park. The flyers said show up by 8:50 so everyone could sign in and be ready to go at 9. We didn’t leave until almost 9:30, but that’s my only complaint. Here is roughly half the group, raring to go. In all, roughly 40 people showed up.
Here’s John from Denver Cruisers on an 8′ long cruiser. Believe it or not, he was in the lead pack the entire time.
This was the first stop. Assembled here is what started out as the fast group, but its numbers would steadily drop as the day went on.
The lead pack heading down a trail that I can’t remember the name of, but still fairly early in the day. The guy in the lead is Joe. I’m not sure how old he is, but he’s certainly up there, and was leading the fast group on a fixed gear bike.
A look back at the train of people.
Looking out over a small lake, photo taken in-motion on the bike. Not much later we hit the 470 trail, which took us to the unpaved gravel Highline Canal trail. The four of us here (three in the photo and I) would end up as the only four to make it to the end as the lead group.
Rolling along the gravel was tons of fun. Here is John (left) and Alex (right) on their cruisers, hanging up at the front. Amazingly, the leaders all day consisted of five fixies and two cruisers, and not a derailleur in sight.
Here we are going through Greenwood Village, where MegaMcMansions backed up to open space. I could see the towers of the DTC not far ahead, and got excited to get to Vine St.
This is the last time the lead group had any these kind of numbers. We waited and waited for the slow group, but they never showed up. We would eventually take off, and Alex got a flat shortly thereafter. It was a half-hour debacle fixing it, and just as we were about to go, the first of the slower group started to come into view.
We booked it, connected with the Cherry Creek trail, went through Cheeseman, and finally arrived for some delicious food and beer. After the burger, chips, and beer at the restaurant, I made up another burger at home, fell asleep by 9, and woke up starving on Sunday. It certainly was a great ride with great company.

No turning back now

Yesterday afternoon, I signed up for the Denver Marathon, taking place on Sunday, October 18, 2009. My goals are as follows: do it barefoot, and finish under 3:30. I hope to do this with 110+ miles a week on my fixed gear (just through daily commuting), one fast run, and then one long run each week. The long runs will be on weekends starting June 13 or 14 (since next week is the Elephant Rock century ride). I hope to do Niketown runs each week on the order of ~5 miles for my speed runs.

I have the photos from Saturday’s BikeDenver metric century ride mostly sorted, but Garmin’s software has me unable to get the track for the course loaded, hopefully that will be fixed tomorrow.