Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Monday, May 30, 2011

224 mile Death ride in a day on the Road bike, Colorado's San Juan Skyway loop by bike

This is a one day road bike ride (aka the Death Ride version) on Colorado's San Juan Skyway loop. Starting in Dolores Colorado; Dolores > Mancos > Durango > Silverton > Ouray > Ridgeway > Telluride > Dolores.  224 miles and around 20,000 feet of elevation gain in over 19 hours
Every other day of the year I race and ride a singlespeed mountain bike. Two days prior to the ride a friend talked me into doing the Death Ride again instead of the KTR. I had done it in the past clockwise but this time we would go counterclockwise.  I hadn't ridden the road bike for over two years so I dusted it off, replaced the tires (Same ones from RAAM a few years earlier) and we started at the Dolores River Brewery at 4:30am. Brutal head winds which really slowed down my progress but overall a great route for a road bike ride.

Due to the high winds forecasted there was some debate whether we should postpone the ride but the following day was the only other option and it was going to be much colder so we started anyway.

Kiviok and I battled headwinds all the way to Durango but still made good time.  In the crowded metropolis of Durango it took as long to get food and stand in line for the restroom at McDonalds as it would have going to a higher quality establishment which burned a bunch of time.  Then some guy asked me how to get to the airport and then didn't believe me when I told him numerous times in several different explanations which cost more time.  I was happy to get out of town again climbing the popular Iron Horse route over Molas pass to Silverton.  The climb was good and there was some tailwind or headwind depending on which direction the switchbacks were facing.  Downhill was crazy with the wind swirling and switching directions.  I had to slow down because I felt like I might crash.  The views were spectacular.

Kiviok had to pull out at Silverton which I had never seen happen before.  He was obviously not feeling well on the climb and was totally bummed.  He had a tough week of hard training.  Obviously too much.  He waited there for his wife to pick him up.

I was feeling good so I resupplied with water and Gatorade ate a lunchable and pressed on over Red Mountain Pass and descended down to Ouray then to Ridgeway.  This section was beautiful and Ouray is a very picturesque town.  In Ridgeway I stopped at a Coffee shop and had a veggie breakfast burrito which was great.

Leaving Ridgeway I was making great time.  At the Dallas Divide climb things slowed down considerably.  The wind had dramatically picked up at noon just like the forecast predicted.  I was in my lowest gear standing during most of the climb.  Even though this wasn't one of the big mountain passes it worked out to be the toughest climb that day.  There were no trees to block any of the wind.  When I stopped to take a picture the wind was blowing me backwards down the hill.

There was no reward when I finally reached the crest and started to descend.  The wind was so bad that I had to still pedal with considerable effort down the hill.  I was looking at the elevation graph to make sure I was still going downhill and it showed I was descending but it didn't feel like it. There were broken limbs in the road and an aspen tree.  Looking at the trees getting rocked by the wind I started to worry about one landing on me.  Then it started to rain but there was not a cloud in the sky close to me.  Rough section that day!

After the turn and climbing toward Telluride the wind was still horrible but was more intermittent.  In Telluride I resupplied and grabbed a pizza slice at the Conoco station and immediately started the climb to Lizard Head pass in an effort to beat the sunset to the summit.  There were a lot of elk alongside the road in this section.  I never could figure out why the grass is so much tastier there as opposed to the millions of acres of nation forest nearby.  I arrived at the top of the pass just after dark.  It was brutally windy and cold.

After two elk ran directly in front of me in the dark on top of the pass I became skeptical that I had sufficient light to spot wildlife on the descent.  That became a non-issue on the descent since the wind was blowing so bad I couldn't get going a high speed anyway.  The descent was cold and it rained lightly until I hit Rico.

After Rico my wife Dani showed up to follow me to Dolores.  How cool is that?  The extra light was great.  I could see the numerous limbs on the road from the wind.  The last section required continued effort even though it was mostly downhill due to the constant wind.

I arrived in Dolores around midnight.  It was great to be done even though it was an awesome ride!  Just after finishing the rain really started coming down.  Glad I missed that!  Legs still felt pretty good at the end but the neck mussels and hamstrings were a bit sore and I was glad to get off the saddle.

I would definitely recommend this as a bucket list ride.  If not one day, take your credit card and do it in three or four days which would still be difficult.  It can be done faster than this but I took time to check some things out and was not riding at a race effort.  There is a race on this loop as well and a three day tour also called the Death Ride. http://www.deathridetour.com/about.php
Overall the ride is not as tough as a 24 hour mountain bike race solo effort in my opinion but it is still very difficult.

Check out the stats:


What I took:

On the bike:
3 water bottles
2 tubes
Adapter to fill tires at a gas station
Put on my mountain bike seat (since that's what I always use)
CO2 cartridges
Tire levers
Velcro straps
Light on my bike (Aye-up 6 hour)
Garmin 705
Rechargeable external Duracell USB battery for Garmin (Get at Wall Mart)
Feeder bag by stem for energy food
Feeder bag by seatpost for trash
Jando frame bag.  These are sweet!  Take the weight off your back!
Extra parts: Bolts, cleat and screws, zip ties, duct tape
Small bottle of chain lube
Blister pads
Phone in a waterproof bag
Driver’s license
Cash & credit card

For me:
Rain jacket (strapped to the bike stem)
Arm warmers
Knee warmers
Wool socks
Warm gloves
Summer gloves
Clear glasses
Head beanie

Fuel I started with and consumed throughout the ride:
3 bottles of HEED
1Tube of Hammer Gel
2 Honey Stinger chews
3 Honey Stinger waffles
6 Advil
3 Natural enzymes
12 Endurolytes

Fuel I purchased during the ride:
2 Egg McMuffins, water and some Powerade in Durango
1 Lunchable, water & Gatorade in Silverton
1 Veggie breakfast burrito, water & Powerade in Ridgeway
1 Slice of Pizza, water & Gatorade in Telluride

4:30 am start in Dolores

Sunrise just before Mancos
McDonald's in Durango

1st pass
2nd Pass
View toward Silverton from Molas pass

Lost of snow still
3rd pass, Red Mountain

Motorcycle went over the side on Red Mountain, they just winched it up on the trailer from down below
Cool shot of Ouray

Waterfall between Ouray and Ridgeway

Coffee shop in Ridgeway
Ralph Lauren's ranch outside of Ridgeway

Riding to the other side of those mountains

Not a pass but was tough with the wind that day
Telluride is in the distance

4th pass, in the dark


Monday, May 23, 2011

Mountain bike ride around McPhee Reservoir in Dolores Colorado

Did a local 67 mile ride around McPhee reservoir on Sunday.  The recent snow made the singletrack trails to muddy to ride so we stayed on the graded roads except through Sagehen where the normally cool trail dropping down to the river was a mudfest.  The rest of the ride was very scenic and pretty mellow sticking to the graded roads circling the lake.  Kiviok and I started from my house through the town of Dolores on 145 and 184 to the turnoff for the reservoir.  Then through Sagehen down to the lower Dolores river to Bradfield bridge.  Normally we take the trail up along the lake to Dry Fork but that would have been muddy.  A big climb up to Salter Y then past the pump station and onto the Boggy draw trail back to the house.  Lots of wildlife!  Singlespeeds geared 32x18.
Stats http://connect.garmin.com/activity/87653055 
Left the house at 9.  I'd fix it up a little but I needed some new parts for my bike
Riding through Dolores
Road next to the lake on the way to Sagehen
Kiviok carrying his bike through the mud

Mud!!! Kiv's bike standing by itself
Couldn't even ride downhill, there was to much mud on this normally great section dropping to the river.  I resorted to dragging my bike by the seat for a bit
Cleaning up

Washing the bike in the Lower Dolores


Which way should be go? Bradfield bridge, the 2500' climb up    
Nice few of the mountains
Boggy singletrack
67 Miles

Saturday, May 14, 2011

White Rim in a day, 102 miles on the singlespeed

Last Weekend Kiviok and I did the annual White Rim in a day 102 mile ride outside of Moab Utah on singlespeed mountain bikes.  Normally that weekend we would do the Kokopelli Trail race KTR but this year I was recovering from a rib injury and Kiviok from the flu so we decided to skip the KTR and instead do the White Rim.  This was my 7th time doing the White Rim and 5th one day ride.  Both of us used 32x19 gearing on 29rs.  See Garmin stats at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/86155888

I rolled out of Dolores and met up with Kiviok at 5:10AM and we continued to Moab where we ate breakfast at Zak’s.  After eggs and bacon we drove out and parked down the Mineral Bottom road at the top of the big climb out.  I like parking there because, when riding clockwise, you knock off the lame 14 mile road and 8 mile pavement section right away and at the end it’s nice to know the vehicle is just at the top of the steep Mineral Bottom climb.

We ended up having to go back to the vehicle twice to get something we forgot.  The second time it was for the Canyonlands Entrance fee.  The official start was just before 9:00am.  When we actually got to the entrance 20 miles later we were informed that about 60 miles into the route the road was impassable due to the green river’s high water level.  After talking to another Ranger (2nd opinion) it appeared that currently bikes could get around the closed section but if the water level got any higher bikes could not pass either.  In true renegade fashion we decided to go for it anyway.  Anyone who has been on the White Rim knows that once you drop in on the Shafer switchbacks there is no way out on a bike until the end 102 miles later.

The weather was great and the ride was fantastic as usual.  Great majestic views.  There were a lot of bikes going the other direction on the multi day trips, motorcycles and 4wd traffic early in the ride but nothing after about 30 miles.  We ate lunch on Murphy’s Hogback which is always my favorite spot.  When we finally arrived at the flooded area it was pretty unimpressive.  While it was obviously impassible by automobiles it was easy to portage around on the bike in a couple of minutes without even getting our feet wet.  On the remainder of the ride we encountered a small sandstorm then climbed the always painful Mineral Bottom Switchbacks up to the finish.

We loaded up and headed to the Moab Brewery for Beers and dinner.  I arrived back at my house in Dolores that night around 10.  Full day!

Check out this video of the ride stuffed into 18 minutes and pics.

White Rim in a Day, Moab Utah, Singlespeed mountain bikes, wriad from Shawn Gregory on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

12 Hours of Mesa Verde 2011, 3rd place finish in the singlespeed solo class

Photo credit: http://www.wildcatstudios.com/
I just finished 3rd in the singlespeed solo category at the 2011 12 hours of Mesa Verde race last weekend in Cortez Colorado.  115 miles and 13,601 feet of elevation gain.  While I was hoping to repeat my previous years win it wasn't in the cards.  I gave it my best shot considering the challenges and issues I dealt with prior and during the race but in the end I was just happy to finish and still end up on the podium.  I can honestly say “that is the most pain I have ridden through that I can recall”.  Kevin Thomas and Steve Reiter really road a strong race and were faster to the finish and I'm sure they had their own mishaps and challenges throughout the day that they overcame to finish on top.  I setup my bike with a Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire in the rear and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tire in the front and they performed great!

The race started out well for me.  After involuntarily having a significant amount of time off before the race with a cold then a rib and upper body injury from my crash three weeks prior my legs really felt good and it felt great to finally be able to let them loose.  I wondered if my legs felt good because I just hadn't been able to ride fast for a while so anything would seem better or if I really was riding faster after the long break.  I led the first 60 miles or so with a pretty good lead but watched it slip away mid race.

Toward the beginning of the second lap my grip came loose after the turn onto Lemon Head.  I was still able to ride but I couldn’t pull on the bars during the climbs which started to take a toll on my legs.  This perplexed me because I had actually used a torque wrench to check the bolts on the grips prior to the race and they were fine.  I thought I could make it through the lap and tighten it in the pit because it was only moving with moderate force.  My lap time was still looking really good but about half way through as the grip got looser and looser I decided to try and fix it so I didn’t crash and also to save my legs some abuse.  After digging my tool out of the bag the bolt appeared to already be tight and I just had to finish the ride with a loose grip and extra leg effort.  That was disappointing since I just burned a couple minutes messing with it and getting no benefit.  My plan would be to grab my backup bike and try and recruit someone to try and fix the problem while I was on my next lap.  During the remainder of the lap I tried to go over every possible cause for the problem.  The en-cap was missing so maybe it popped out and the end of the carbon bars was damaged.  Toward the end of the lap while looking at the end of the grip it appeared that it wasn't installed all the way on properly because I couldn't see the end of the bars.  After pulling into the pit and checking things out my theory proved true.  I ended up loosening and moving over my brake lever twice to allow the grip to move far enough on to clamp to the end of the bar.  Luckily Dan Durland came along and helped me out.  Looking at how far the grip was overhanging off the bars (1/4"-3/8") it’s hard to believe it even held in the first place.  After getting the grip on properly after losing a significant amount of time I rolled onto the trail to continue the race.

I was still in first and the lap stated out okay.  Midway through it however I started feeling pain and began to slow down.  During the Fourth lap my legs really started cramping up which usually never happened to me except in really hot races on climbs toward the very end but this was not even half way.  It was getting hot out but this was unusual.  I surmised that maybe I was using my legs more than normal to compensate for my lack of upper body strength due to the injury.

In the fourth or fifth lap Kevin Thomas flew by me and I ended up 2 minutes behind him at the end of the lap.  The next lap I tried to step it up and felt it was going well but on the second half my kidneys and back were really hurting on the rocky sections because of the jiggling which slowed me down considerably.

After that I entered survival mode.  I tried to get off and walk up some hills but the pain was almost worse.  At the start of my seventh lap I knew that Steve Reiter was 11 minutes behind me on the prior lap and given my previous laps poor time he had to be currently less than that.  Up till the seventh lap I had been able to ride through the cramping and just deal with it.  But during the seventh lap it was obvious that I had to stop and give my legs a break after suffering through a flat section if I was going to ride the climbs ahead.  Every bump really hurt my upper body and just pedaling hurt my legs.  I laid there for around five minutes and saw Steve Reiter ride by which I already knew was probably going to happen unless he was feeling as bad a me.  As bad as I wanted to I couldn’t get up and chase him right then and I had to let him go.  When I did get started I was able to ride all the hills up to the Moki Climb where I had to hike up it which I had never had to do in any of the three previous 12 hours races.  I suffered through the technical rock section on stinking springs and it was obvious then that this was going to be my last lap with the time cutoff approaching to quickly.  I knew that Paul Adams was somewhere behind me but I wasn’t sure how far.  At Hang bone I couldn’t see anyone who was in striking distance behind me across the canyon and was comfortable that I could hold my position for the remainder of the lap.  Entering into the finish I could hardly walk through the building.  It turned out Paul was under two minutes behind me at the end just knocking at the door.  If he had known how close he was I'm sure he could have pulled out a strong finish but maybe I could have reached deep inside and mustered up the strength to keep him behind me. ????

In the end I was happy to still finish on the podium.  Last year I was able to squeeze out the win with Kevin Thomas coming on strong at the end.  This year it was Kevin's race.  Kevin is really a strong rider and it was a consolation that the rider who ended my six race winning streak is the same guy who won the Vapor Trail 125 singlespeed.  Kevin road off the trail first overall then got passed by a geared rider on the flat pavement back to Salida, one of the toughest races around, much tougher than the Leadville 100.  I knew Steve Reiter would dish out some serious competition as well.  He has finished in front of me in the past and was riding strong in Gallup and really put in a great effort at this race.

Immediately after my crash three weeks prior while I was laying on the ground unable to breath and I distinctively remember Kiviok say "you just opened up the door for some competition at the 12 hours of Mesa Verde". Maybe so, or maybe it was the heat or the lack of training before the race from the injury.  Could have been from hardly eating anything during the race or not enough liquids or just having an off day.  Maybe my grip problem but most likely a combination of everything.  Anything can happen on race day!

Check out the video on my blog of the crash.  It is a couple of posts below this one.