Friday, June 13, 2014

SUMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Let's be honest. We moved here for the winters. We stay for the summers. Yeah, yeah, I know summer in the Northwest is magical blah blah blah. But until you've experienced a mountain summer, well, you just haven't lived.

When there are outdoor concerts almost every night of the week and the river beckons just blocks from your house and the mountain singletrack calls your name on your lunch hour...

All you city-folk can have the city. I'll be right here, enjoying my mountain bliss for the very short months of glorious summer here at 7700 feet.

(we'll talk again next spring when the ski area is closed yet it is still snowing incessantly.)

I guess that summer kicked off with the Growler bike race. But it rained/snowed/snained the next day so NO. That was not summer.

The next weekend? THAT was summer. And while most folks are sitting back on their patio, cracking open a cold one, I'm all, let's take 4 5-year-olds (and 1 3-year-old) on a 3 day raft trip! Hell yeah! Let's do that!

So we did.

It was crazy hot and the river was crazy fast. Also, those little girls had a crazy amount of fun.

As did I. Is there anything better than floating down the river to the accompaniment of giggles and silly jokes?

I think not.

The two waterfalls we swam in didn't hurt either.










Then there is this. Crested Butte in the winter is magical. Crested Butte in the summer is OFF THE HOOK. AND IT'S ONLY STARTING. The wildflowers aren't quite out yet, but everything sure is green and that sky? It sure is blue.

I love when I have meetings in Crested Butte. The singletrack is so delicious.
 
AND I get to ride with Sarita!

It's 30 minutes of traffic-free driving to Crested Butte from my house and it always astounds me that millions of people drive that just to get to work. I drive fairly inconsistently for work and when I do? I end up in Crested Butte.

I will admit that was a total humble-brag but dude. It never fails to astound me. Seriously. I am blown away EVERY DAY.

When I can't make it to the trails in CB (or even the trails at Hartman for that matter), I take the paddleboard out on the lake.

Not cycling, I know. Also, not full of adrenaline.

But. BUT. Full of core strength and peace and lots of conversations with myself.

And sore shoulders the next day.

I love my lunch hour.


And here's what I'm really talking about. Besides multi-day raft trips and going to theater camp and science camp (in the mountain above Crested Butte. Dude. Really??), this girl is mountain biking in her spare time. Sort of. She's on a new, ferociously pink mountain bike and she's learning...the brakes, the gears...it's a process. But considering we live 10 minutes from trails she can ride, she will have the opportunity to learn.


 What happens when Brian and I actually get to ride together for once?

We encounter thunderstorms on the Aberdeen Loop. GAH.

If you remember, we rode the entire loop last year in a big thunder and lightening storm. I was reluctant to repeat that experience, especially since I grow more afraid of lightening every year. So we rode to the trailhead and...turned around.

I was not super sorry about it. I love thunderstorms from the safety of my house but not while riding my metal frame bike in the middle of nowhere.

We did manage a 24 mile day on the singletrack during which I crashed spectacularly and basically rode like crap.

Good thing summer has just begun.


And then, you know, Crested Butte.

There's a reason it's a mountain biking mecca.

Because dude. MY LUNCH HOUR. THIS.


Oh yeah. I rode with Kenny, my Pilates instructor. During the ride, I crashed spectacularly...AGAIN. This time though, it was on a completely benign section of trail and I have no idea what happened.

Excuse me while I knock some freaking sense in to my head. UGH.

Summer in Gunny means the I Bar is open for business. Every Tuesday night, you'll find us biking the entire 1 mile to the I Bar Ranch for bluegrass, burgers, bonfires and good times.


Summer also means school is out. Awesome for the kids, not so much for the working parents.

Hazel has spent her time in theater camp and science camp but those don't even begin to cover every day. Lucky girl, she gets to spend many days with me while I struggle to work and balance the demands of a 5-year-old.

I mean, lucky for me too but it can be really hard to focus when your kid is sitting on your shoulder. Literally.

She does motivate me to get outside and enjoy all of the amazing activities we have 5 minutes from our house. Like paddleboarding on the river during lunch.

I have so many plans for this summer. SO MANY.

But first, I have to get through a week of teaching at the university, a 2-week Northwest trip WITHOUT BRIAN (I am sure I will die. If I don't answer my phone, I am dead.) and a work trip to La Junta. There better be a lot of summer left when all of that is over.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I would like the entire month of May back. Also: Many gratuitous pictures of bikes.

So. Do you ever get to the end of a month and look back and go WHOA?

Like really. WHOA.

And not only do you wonder where the month went but you wonder, would that month have been different minus the stress and the busy-ness and the chaos?

Yes, of course it would. And for that reason, I want the month of May back. From May 1 on...that's what I want. I would ride my bike more, watch the sunset every night, enjoy my coffee in the morning. I would take my kids on more hikes and more bike rides. I would sleep better and eat more real food. I would cut out the afternoon caffeine and load up on the water instead. I would be a better person.

Unfortunately, May 2014 is almost gone and I will never get it back. Instead, I will focus on June. June will be the month of radness. School will end (for me). I will skip less meals. I will ride and ride and ride. I will sleep more than 8 hours per night. I will be less cranky and more satisfied.

Yes, that is what will happen.

All of that said and noted, I did ride my bike in May. Mainly on the weekends, but the bike? It was used.

May for me started with a much-needed Growler Boot Camp put on by Griggs Orthopedics. Two days of riding, clinics, training and goodies FOR FREE.

You have to love this town.

On my registration, I noted that I wanted to work on my technical skills. So that's what I did. It was hard. I was the slowest in my group but my mind was blown. I came away with a few more skills and a little more confidence. My times are already faster than the end of last year.

Oh I love to ride Hartman. We are so so lucky to have miles and miles of single track out our back door.

I also got to ride with Sarita at Growler Boot Camp. Reunited on the trails again! I love riding with this lady.


I managed a few solo rides during the month of May, during which I focused on increasing endurance and fighting my own fears on the single track. This was the day after my niece was born. I was so happy!



 One of my rides ended up as a 35-mile solo venture. I listened to 5 podcasts and I reached a level of satisfaction that was sorely needed in a crazy month of work travel and skewed priorities.

That same day, I took my kids on a short hike. No one complained and everyone ate lots of hike treats (candy). It was one of my best days in a long time.

 I did mount up the road bike a few times. One of those days, I rode a leisurely 40 with Anna to Ohio City and back. I love my mountain bike more and more each ride but I miss the camaraderie of road biking side by side, stopping at landmarks and pedaling together. As the West Elk approaches, I will be on the road bike more and more.



And...Anna and I spent that same evening taking the kids rock climbing at Hartman.


Let me recap that for you. In one weekend, I rode my mountain bike 35 miles, I took my kids on a hike, I rode my road bike and I took my kids rock climbing. And I maybe drove 10 total miles in the entire weekend.

If that's not enough to convince you that mountain living is the best, then I don't know what is.

After a weekend of awesomeness, I was off to Grand Junction for several days of camping and science class with my students.

This is just one image from a very up and down experience that in the end proved its worth.

Promptly after arriving home from an emotionally exhausting trip with students, it was time to race the Growler. Miriam and Mark came out for their annual visit to the House of Chaos. Miriam and I managed a warm up ride on the trails behind my house, missing the pouring rain by mere seconds.


And then we raced. Never having really raced a mountain bike race before, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that 32 miles of technical single track would be difficult. I knew I would be tired. I knew I just wanted to finish.


I finished. With an even better time than I anticipated and I didn't feel completely emptied at the end. It was rough (the 4500 feet of climbing will get to you...) but the technical parts that I ride *sometimes* just made themselves in to walkable obstacles once I was too tired to maintain my confidence. I also learned that 350 people on the single track is a LOT. And that they ride uphill kind of slow. Given my strengths- climbing- I need to be in front of those people, not behind. Also, as in any long ride or race, mental fortitude will win the day.

Mental fortitude I have in spades. I need to leverage that more in the future.

It was a wicked fun day with several hundred of my closest friends. The race ended up at 40 miles and 4500 feet of climbing. Amazingly, my upper body is so much more tired than my lower body.

I realize that I touched on the difficulties during the month of May but you really just saw a ton of pictures of my bike. That is intentional. My bike saved me during the month of May.

Let me repeat that: My bike saved me.

May was and is a difficult month emotionally for many reasons. And even if I didn't ride as often as I wanted or felt up to, just the thought of riding got me through many days. The seemingly innocuous acts of putting on my bike shoes and buckling my helmet became like entering church. It was contemplative and sacred. I knew that once the shoes and helmet were buckled, the glasses were in place, the gloves were on, then, THEN, I could just...pedal. And pedal and pedal and pedal. And whatever it was that occupied my heart and mind would be better by the end of the ride.

On the days I rode with others, the companionship revived me and motivated me. I will never stop seeking ride partners. They inspire me, they keep me grounded, they make me laugh. I am not an island in this infinite sea of life's difficulties and riding with others has doubly saved me.

I will end with this: ride your bike. You will feel better.

That's all I got.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Singletrack, baby

It is strange to begin cycling season without really having been on a bike for several months. As winter started, I was adamant that I would not spend my limited time on a bike trainer and I stand by that decision. My workouts were done on the skate ski track or the cross country track or at the ski resort. While this may not have made me a super fast cyclist, it did make for a happier me.

Admittedly, this decision may hurt me as we head in to the cycling season. Currently, I have only two events on my calendar: the Half-Growler mountain bike race over Memorial Day weekend and the West Elk Classic over Labor Day weekend. Both races attract a field of world-class cyclists who have most likely spent their winter on a bike trainer or hanging out at training camp in Arizona.

I am conflicted about this. I want to be fast but I don't know that I want to make the sacrifices to do it. And trust me, I know what that really means: I will not be fast. I will survive and I will finish. That may be in last place or it may not. I just have to accept that and be happy that I live somewhere that I can pedal- mountain, road or cyclocross- out my back door.

In the meantime, I am using the bike to feed my soul. My roots may lay in road biking, but mountain biking is probably the purest form of nourishment around here. With hundreds of miles of singletrack within a 30 minute radius, church is pretty easy to attend.

I work in Montrose once a week and it is often 20-30 degrees warmer there, meaning spring made an appearance there eons ago. About two years ago, they built a pretty fun loop of trails right outside town which makes for an easy lunch ride and fuel for my afternoon meetings.

See that blue sky??? Is that not the greatest thing EVER??

There is only one answer to that question.


Ok, so not all of my bike riding involves single track or skinny tires. We had a brilliant spring week in Gunny during which I rode my cruiser everywhere I needed to go. This bike has one speed- SLOOOOOOW- which makes it incredibly awesome.

While some trails in town were open, I felt the need to GO SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE. It could be because we skipped spring break this year due to work schedules. Or maybe it's because we haven't really gone anywhere since Christmas. Whatever. I need to GO SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE.

We claimed a three-day weekend in the Western Colorado desert as our own. Then, I rode places like this.


And like this. (Damn, I love me some Rabbit Valley riding. The Rim is such a rad trail).

Also, we have a babysitter in Junction which is so unbelievably awesome, it is awesomer than awesome. I am on a mission to find a babysitter in every town we visit ever.



We ended our trip with a little jaunt out to 18 Road. We had managed to avoid the madness of 18 Road on Saturday and Sunday and hang out there on Monday morning. I love to ride 18 Road, especially the Front Side Trail (and the Edge Loop, but that is a whole other level of commitment that I am not ready for in April). I do not love the amount of people- yeah, I'm from a town of 5000 people. Waiting until Monday was a perfect choice. I could ride most unencumbered by stopping for passing cyclists and I could get my power and uphill workout on by riding Front Side all the way to the road.

And it was 75 degrees and sunny. So you know. It was perfect.




Afterwards, I rode with this girl out Vegetarian Loop for a little bit. Given that we had snow on the ground in Gunny until about two weeks prior, she was a little shaky on the singletrack, but she didn't give up and we even got to explore an ant pile. BONUS!

I came home and promptly popped my road bike cherry for 2014. I haven't been on a road bike since- get this- Labor Day weekend 2013. Can you believe that?

Me either.

Ignore the glasses. My contacts are waging war on my eyes. The contacts are winning, which makes for a high level of frustration when cycling, running or basically doing anything in the land of sunshine.

We came home just in time to find out that Hartman Rocks, Gunny's world-class singletrack, has opened for the season. Then I got incredibly giddy. Because dirt. And blue skies. And good friends. And the challenges I set aside last season to work on this season.

And getting better-and faster- every day, even if the getting faster part isn't as fast as I once was.