SO, A friend and colleague of mine, Olivia Damge, came into our office the other day all excited. She had a great idea for a podcast about bodies, body types, body image. It started with the common complaint among athletes that clothes don’t fit. Apparently, American clothing companies don’t deal with athletes.
Olivia is an athlete, a “girlie-girl,” a student and a coach. I know this because we talk. If the average American saw her on the street, they would really have no idea how to feel. The young lady is clearly muscled, something that is not often encouraged. Many insecure men would begin making judgements and assumptions right there, even here in active, athletic Colorado. Olivia is not shy about eating, as she knows what it takes to build and maintain muscle; also very off-putting if a guy is insecure. She is very secure in herself and doesn’t really care what these folks think. But this does not mean she doesn’t face challenges in life.
This all started one day when the two of us were comparing notes about buying clothes. Being athletes, regular pants don’t fit normally. The thighs and butt are generally too small if we base fit on waist size. If we compensate for our legs, the waist gaps; not a great look. With shirts, shoulders and arms are too snug, while waists and midsections are too loose. I get crap for wearing shirts that fit my midsection, then bulge at the shoulders and arms. I will wear Lululemon “dress” pants A) because they stretch in the seat and legs, and B) because my wife likes them (this shuts down any other argument, BTW). Then there are those who make assumptions about my insecurities and possible dietary “supplements.”
This all leads back to something we in the Recovery world say often: You don’t know the battles another has faced. I can’t judge another person’s insides based on their outsides.
People will see athletes and say things like “you don’t have to worry about what you eat.” This is a silly statement. Athletes are constantly mindful of the food we eat as we know that it effects our performance, mood, sleep and our general health.
I’ve heard people make ridiculous assumptions, most often about women, concerning looking fit and healthy: she must have good genes. While genetics plays a role, dedication is more often what makes an athlete and the athletic body.
Many athletes run into trouble with eating and eating disorders as a result of society’s old-school assumptions, again particularly female athletes. Skinny is better. But it’s not! Starving does not lead to better running, vaulting, riding or lifting. Most often, it just feeds into insecure men’s notions of how a female “should” look.
This gets us to the next portion of this eventual podcast: what is an athlete’s body? I race on a bicycle, but do not have the typical cyclist’s body. I look very much like the former bodybuilder/power lifter/CrossFitter that I am. This body works wonderfully as a hockey goalie. This body is not great on my bike headed up big climbs. That does not mean I’m not an athlete or even not a cyclist, it just means other bodies are better suited for climbing. I was not the size needed for an offensive lineman or a rugby “prop,” though I played both positions. I lift fairly heavy weights, but I don’t wish to put on the weight needed to be a competitive power lifter. Again this does not make me less of an athlete, just not a competitive power lifter.
I have friends who are Highland athletes and strongman/woman competitors. They do not look like marathoners, cyclists or clothing models, and they shouldn’t. None of those more slightly-built athletes could pick up and carry 300 pounds for 100 feet in 60 seconds any better than a power athlete can run a sub-four minute mile. This does not make one or the other any more or less athletic. The average person, however, will make judgements of athleticism based on the body types.
So this is how it starts. This is primarily Olivia’s project, though I hope to contribute, as I obviously have plenty of thoughts on the subject.
In the mean time, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
Fits and Starts
It has been a long time since my last post. No real reason. Have not felt motivated or that had anything of real value to say. I hope what I say now, right off the top of my head, isn’t too terrible
A friend of mine once pointed out that by working in the recovery and rehab field, I would be surrounded by the disease of addiction all the time. There is good and bad to that. The bad is obvious: I see the trauma, the destruction and the horror that is part of the disease. In fact, last week, someone I knew through this job relapsed, lost his job and house and took his own life. He was young enough to be my kid.
The up side is that I will run into people who look so much better than when I first met them that they are all but unrecognizable. We had an alumni picnic this last weekend and it was just exactly what I needed to help sooth the heartbreak of loosing the other soul.
Addiction is a horrible, horrifying disease. It’s so powerful that it effects not only the addict, but everyone around him or her who the addict loves. It’s a brain disease that changes how the addict processes pleasure, memories and reality. It uses the very processes that evolution gave the brain to find food, find shelter and find mates and turns it toward only finding the substance. It’s a nightmare, except most of the time, the addict can’t find a way to wake up.
This is also why it is so joyful and miraculous when someone manages long-term recovery. We have beaten death. We have taken our brains and our lives back. We have found a way to live without the substance that our brains thought we could not live without, but we were not going to live with.
I suppose the things that were necessary for my day-to-day existence became tools of joy: my bike.
When I started this recovery journey, I could not afford car insurance, much less an actual working car. I used the mass transit around my home town, but it didn’t always run when I needed it. That’s when I bought my first bike, a Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike. It would was rigid. It was heavy. It was all mine.
I rode to work in cold, rain, heat and humidity. I rode to work, to rugby practices, to school and even to the grocery store, once in a while. Eventually, I rode for fun. I even found friends who rode.
Years later, I discovered this was actually helping re-wire my brain. Exercise, in general, helps repair the damage caused by substance abuse. It helps mind, body and spirit. It creates communities, it sets positive examples. It saves lives.
Just a thought.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
A Reason to Hope
I have not made a secret of being in recovery. It’s been a long time since I was in the desperate, dark place that is rock-bottom addiction. It is so hopeless, so difficult. I would do anything, and I did. I did what it took to get a better life. If you have read Lance Armstrong’s War then you may know that many cyclists came from a similar hard, dark place. The author makes the comparison between the socioeconomic circumstances of European cyclists and American prize fighters. I would say it was more comparable to American football players: desperate and willing to do anything to make life better.
Lots of people, people who look as I do, feel such athletes should shut up and perform. After all, they are making extraordinary money. Do you know the desperation? Do you know their background? Do you know what it’s like to be that willing? And isn’t that the point of America? Isn’t that the dream we were taught as children? Work hard, do whatever it takes? I can’t condemn others for doing what they felt they had to.
And now, when these same folks are in a position to influence, a position to possibly help others in need, others who are in the same circumstance that they were once in, we condemn them. We criticize and insult. We hate them for achieving what we could not, what we would not do, what we felt we didn’t have to. They sacrifice what we are unwilling to and we hate them for it. We are the hypocrites.
Pro Football Hall of Famer, Howie Long, once stated that there was never a day when he did not wake up in pain. Many bright and amazing humans sacrificed everything to have a better life; to give those they loved a better life. They sacrifice their bodies. They sacrifice their brains. They sacrifice their future health and comfort for our amusement. How many of these people do we hear about who get huge paydays, then buy a house for their mothers, for their siblings, for their families. How dare they.
Ndamukong Suh is judged for his bad behavior on the field of play. He stomps, he spits, he does what is expected of him. Did you know that in 2011, Suh bought replacement equipment, all of their pads and equipment, for Frederick Douglass College Prep Academy in Detroit. Did you know Suh has his own philanthropic foundation, or that many athletes do? What bastards.
Now I could expand this analogy, but you get the idea. We can’t, or at least should not, judge people for reaction to circumstances of which we know little or nothing. I have some other ideas about from where this vitriol comes, but that’s another column.
Have fun, don’t judge. I’m going riding.
Once a year, for three weeks, there is no news. There is no Trevor Noah. No movie premiers. No baseball. There is only the Tour.
I have tortured my family with the bike races of Europe for a while. The one with which they are most familiar is the Tour de France. Three weeks, 21 stages across France and , occasionally, neighboring countries. I try to explain that,with Paul and Phil, it’s more than a race. It’s an experience, even if we never leave our own home.
History, hysteria, geography, linguistics and athleticism; what more could you want from a show. On stage 12 we see the 21 switchbacks, the Dutch Corner, the names of the hero who have ridden Alp du’Huez in the past.
While a few Americans ride the Tour, Tejay Van Gardener, Tayler Phinney, Lawson Craddick, they will not likely be huge factors. That doesn’t matter. There are young athletes with courage and heart and legs from all over the world; Froome, Quintana, Nibali. It’s a spectacle of pain, suffering and ultimately, glory!
My poor family have to put up with the broadcasts, the voices of Phil and Paul, the background noise of the crowds, me getting excited about the action and the landscapes. But they are pretty tolerant. I hope yours is, too.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . right after the stage.
Are we having fun yet?
I seem to do my best writing on the road. Literally.
As we roll down I-80 toward our mountain home, I remember why I first wanted and rode a bike. It was all about the fun. Rolling through open lots, off of curds and down steep hills, it was all fun and that was all that mattered.
Years and years later, I’ve raced downhill, cross country, dual slalom, time trial, triathlon, cyclocross and track sprinting. But while I get competitive, it’s still about the fun.
I brought my old ‘cross bike, set up for gravel, with me on our trip back to my old home town. I had finished my TT season the week before, so I had no real reason to bring a more competitive bike. Swooping around the streets and through the parks of my old home town was just a ball. I trued to encourage others to ride with me, but things just didn’t come together. No matter. Not everyone finds riding as much fun as I do.
The trick for most of us is finding or making the time for fun, then finding the activity that suits us. My friend, Mindi, likes knitting. That would make me crazy but that does not matter. It’s therapeutic for her. My dad can spend all day sitting in a boat, drowning worms. Again, for Dad, it’s meditative.
Cooking, fishing, walking or riding, it’s really up to you. Find your bliss. Find what brings you joy. Share it if you can. Find ways to bring people you love together with your passion. If you are doing it for the love of it, you really can’t go wrong.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Movement and Recovery
I came into recovery, like so many, with extremely low self-esteem. The joke in recovery is that I didn’t think much of myself, but I was all I thought of. While I entered my 12-step fellowship immediately, it took me years to realize that one good habit I brought with me would serve me and my recovery for years to come.
The founder of The Phoenix, Scott Strode, states that something happens when we partake in athletic endeavors early in recovery. As we begin achieving goals, our self-esteem improves. As this happens, our identities shifts. We are no longer defined by the substance or disease that nearly killed us. We are no longer addicts. We become people in recovery; Survivors.
This is not an automatic event, not a switch that is thrown. This attitude takes time. It also takes more than movement. Exercise is not a replacement for the 12 Steps or therapy. Exercise is an adjunct, another tool in our recover toolbox. This, as it turns out, is something with which most addicts, in recovery or not, can identify; if one is good, more is better.
Exercise can by meditative. When one is hanging off of a rock face, forearms pumped, grip wavering, all one thinks of is the next handhold. The same is true with swimming or cycling or running. Just get through the next movement. This keeps us in the here and now in ways that we had not been capable of in the past. We don’t worry about the mistakes of the past or the mysteries of the future.
Similarly, movement can be a form of prayer. Perhaps there is an issue, a problem or challenge that I will take onto the bike during a long ride or even a walk with my family. The movement seems to lubricate those parts of my mind that help me solve the issue. I could explain the science, but then you would click on to something, anything, else. Just trust me on this.
Movement, exercise, athletics, can also promote fellowship. Many addicts, myself included, isolated in the latter stages of the disease. Shame and resentment drove me away from family and friends. Like the 12-Step programs, finding groups of like-minded people to share this experience helps us to break out of that isolation. We build friendships instead of walls. We relearn how to be a part of a community, instead of a part from. This promotes that sense of belonging that we craved but seemed incapable of before. It also begins to promote accountability. Like exercise, if one feels obligated to show up, one is more likely to follow through.
Exercise improves the bodies and brains of people recovering from addiction. It is also so much more. Our minds clear and our spirits are lifted as we lift more, run faster and climb higher. We feel better about ourselves as we encourage others to reach their goals. It’s another recovery tool. We can never have too much of that.
Let’s Get Started
The year has begun anew. Lots of folk have made resolutions, earnest declarations that, this time, it will be different. This year, I will lose weight, I will eat better, I will stop drinking, write letters, join the gym . . . etc. Some may have already fallen by the wayside. The problem is not the feeling or desire. It’s the execution.
“Stop the yo-yo resolutions,” says my wife/partner/fellow wellness enthusiast, Kendra. “People make many different resolutions and set themselves up for failure. Make one promise to yourself and commit.”
Don’t think of your resolutions as a litany of “should.” Think of things you really want to do. Make a promise to yourself. Say to yourself “I want to . . . ” Then make goals rather than resolutions.
This year, I want to race more. I only participated in one real, sanctioned race this past year, so that should not be too hard. I have a list: a couple of individual time trials, a few velodrome TTs and a few sprint tournaments. This year, the mere rides will be “if funding allows.” I love Ride the Rockies and the Triple Bypass, but they will be down this list of priorities.
Making change is challenging. Our brains are wired to stay the course. We find something that feels good, chocolate, sex, new cars, heroin, and the reward center and emotional center conspire to make memories fooling us into believing, “I need this or I will DIE!” It sounds absurd, but that is what goes on. That is why smoking is hard to give up. This is why it’s hard to get off the couch and into the gym. This is why we are in the midst of an opioid crisis.
But here’s the thing; this same part of the brain can be used for good. Strenuous exercise floods the brain and, specifically, the pleasure center, with dopamine and endorphins, attaching to the same receptors as those less healthy activities and chemicals. This is the source of “runners high.” But it does not stop there. After a while, you form a new habit, you may even knock out some goals, which reenforces this new, better behavior. After that, you may begin seeing results, and that really hits the reward center.
But there’s a catch. You have to decide, or realize, that you are worth it. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to take time for yourself. Our daughter told us of a YouTuber who says, “I lost 25 pounds once I stopped fat-shaming myself.”
Make a goal that you are excited about. Eat one new vegetable, find a yoga class, find a workout partner, just one thing. Then, set a time period, say, by next weekend. Make it matter. After you knock out one, then make another goal. Make it measurable, I want to lose one pound by next Friday. Make it challenging without being outlandish. Recruit supporters. If you have good friends, they will want you to succeed and may even jump in with their own goals. Soon, the successes will pile up, creating a virtuous cycle that you will want to continue.
I recommend two books, “Spark! How Exercise Will Improve the Performance of Your Brain” by John Ratey and The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*** Down and Rise to the Occasion” by Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall. Both are good for understanding our brains, how they help in our athletic pursuits and even help build better, stronger, more resilient brains.
Next time, I hope to interview the ride director for the epic Colorado ride, The Triple Bypass. In February, I will speak to the new director of Ride the Rockies and Peddle the Plains. I also hope to finally speak to “Mr. Shimano North America.”
Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
My wife and I were out walking one Sunday, as we often do. We were discussing what comes next. Our little girl is not so little anymore, at 16. My wife has been in health care for more than 21 years and I have been into healthy living since I was a kid. Between the two of us, we have lots of knowledge and experience. And we both love helping.
My wife is an RN and I have a Certification of Addiction Counseling as well as a CrossFit Level II certification. I’ve been in recovery from addiction since 1989, have been a personal trainer, spinning instructor and lifting coach. We both spend a lot of time reading and researching, trying to learn more to help our community. We also want to keep setting a good example for our girl.
This represents something new, for us. I will still write a lot about cycling, but there will likely be more about exercise, in general, and how that plays into better mental health and wellness. My wife will likely contribute about other medical benefits, also with the idea of feeling good, from the inside out.
In the mean time, check out the new Giro d’Italia route. Mount Aetna and Monte Zoncolan are among the climbs of this year’s Giro. The real history, however, will be made right out of the gate, as the first stage will be an individual time trial in Jerusalem, and the next two stages around Israel. This will be the first time the Giro starts outside of Europe. Just something else to look forward to.
So have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!
Just real quick
Not a lot of time, today. Let me just say, I have some reviews based on taking stuff out on multi-day rides in the last six weeks. I write about the beautiful Ride the Rockies, but did not hit upon the equipment.
I also hope to talk with Wayne Stetina about the newest Dura-Ace wheels used to win both the TdF and Le Course. Hopefully, we may get some insight on the latest in Shimano equipment, beyond the gorgeous top-of-the-line stuff.
In the mean time, have fun, be safe. I'm going riding.
The Rest Day
It’s now been a couple weeks and I have had a bit of time to reflect on the 2017 Ride the Rockies. I stick by my assessment I made to one of my fellow riders; I think our brains work similarly to those of mothers. If we remembered all the pain as well as we remember the pleasure, the food and scenery, we wouldn’t do it again.
I wrote after our third night, a short spin around the Ute reservation west of Durango. The next day was the hardest. We pushed for 84 miles over Coal Bank Pass, Molas Pass and Red Mountain Pass, about 7,792 feet of climbing. After an easy roll-out from Durango and the thrill of the narrow gauge rail road, the road tipped up. The next 20 miles was almost all up hill. We laughed as we came upon the Purgatory Ski Resort. “This is Purgatory, I’ll take it.” Then the road tipped up again.
The first pass, Coal Bank, was the steepest of the day at an average of 5% with pitches of 8%. After a very short descent, riders head up Molas Pass, relatively short at eight miles, and again an average of 5%. These were enough to sap the legs. Plenty of vistas to enjoy both on the climbs and the descents. Riders dropped down into the old mining town of Silverton, which is also the finish of the Iron Horse Classic race.
The last climb was not the longest nor the steepest, but as the last climb and the highest, it took riders all their will and energy to finish the 11,018-foot ascent. The view and the venders made the ride do-able. My legs burned, my body was protesting most of the way. After stretching and taking a few photos, it was back on the bike for a thrilling 14-mile descent into Ouray.
Fast, worn, serpentine roads with lots of traffic and no guard rails was quite the experience. Luckily for me, still sporting the scars of a high-speed crash from last year, a lumber truck paced many of us out of the mountains. Riders had multiple opportunities to pull off and photograph the beauty that we wished to remember. That is the point; the joy of seeing Colorado by bike.
A small aid station full of happy, friendly residents awaited us in Ouray. Many riders decided that this was far enough for the day, and took rooms here. My riding buddies and I hammered the last 13 miles into Ridgeway. This was the point where I really understood the challenges of putting together this annual tour.
Imagine 2,000 tired, hungry cyclists cruising into town, sporting the thousand-mile stare, finding that much of the amenities were spread out over a square half-mile, or at least that’s how it felt. I was so short of energy that when our luggage handlers put my bag a mere one isle over from where I had expected it, I was nearly reduced to tears.
The beauty of having been a journalist is that I was able to find at least a little poise. I young man from the Good Samaritan Shelter tent, whom I had met earlier in the week, spotted me and gave me some food and helped look for my bag. Once I got some calories,found my bag and got my massage, I was able to enjoy Ridgeway. The view was the first thing we noticed.
The little mountain town set up entertainment in the middle of their town park. The town, itself has made the transition from mining to art. Lots of public art, galleries and little eateries bordered the park, allowing riders to stroll easily to alternative dinner options. This would be a short night for many of us, after a punishing, though picturesque day.
Day five was a relatively easy, though pretty warm day. Former cycling pro, Olympic medalist and big-hearted fund-raiser, Nelson Vails, led a few riders to a special breakfast in Ridgeway before all embarked on the 33-mile ride to Montrose. While there was an option for riders who had not suffered as much the day before, an additional 19 miles and a small climb, many simply took the opportunity of a recovery day. All of my riding buddies stayed together on the mostly-downhill ride. This also gave us plenty of time to sample what Montrose had to offer.
Montrose is not usually what tourists seek out, but with it’s charming downtown and enthusiastic festival, I would consider returning some time. It’s out on the Western Slope, north of the Sneffles Range, just southwest of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
The sixth day had a few climbs, but it was the descent and long false flat into Gunnison that I remember. We followed the river and Blue Mesa Reservoir into Gunnison, making for a relatively easy day. There were plenty of rider trains along the route. Cruising between the last two aid stations, we averaged about 28 mph. It was a beautiful thing. I had the chance to test some wildly-deep aero wheels. The whole day was great.
Gunnison has some great restaurants. All were full of hunger riders that Friday evening. El Paraiso was our choice. This was also the third time I had eaten here. It was for good reason. Everything was tasty as could be, including our sopapillas for dessert. As always, the host town had activities set up, but we had one more hard climb ahead, and a long drive back to the real world.
The high-point of the RTR was waiting for us on the final day. Half the day was just the warmup. We rolled for 33 miles to the base of RTR’s final climb, 11,312-foot Monarch Pass. The pass averages about 5.2% with a maximum grade of 7% for 10 miles and 2,750 feet of ascending. It was unmatched in beauty. We had lots of time to enjoy it after seven days of riding.
After the top of the pass, it was literally all downhill into Salida. Once again, the tour rolled into Salida amid sunshine and the FIBArk whitewater festival. Again, Salida was all-in, hosting the finale for Ride the Rockies. Their park was jammed full of venders, great causes and riders looking for food and shade. The only thing that could have been better would be if my buddies and I had more time in town. Salad has always been a great host.
Renee Wheelock put on and admirable tour for her first RTR effort. I don’t envy her position, having to deal with cranky, hungry, tired riders, though I have a feeling she took it in stride. I look forward to seeing her and the rest of the RTR crew next year.
Next week, yes I am giving myself a schedule. I will review some of the equipment I got to use this year. Until then . . .
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
On the Ride again
So here we are. Three days in to the 2017 Ride the Rockies and we are already telling ourselves, “I survived this much, I can keep going.”
This is saying something. Wednesday morning, the mobile RTR community will tackle More than 83 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing from Durango to Ridgeway, Colorado. The first day was 93 miles, all into a headwind, including the climb of 10,856-foot Wolf Creek Pass.
While the riding is challenging, many of us do it for the memories and friendships we acquire along the route. I met Greg and Donald on the 2015 ride. Last year, I got to ride with Donald, again, and we were able to introduce one another to our spouses. This year, Greg returned to the Ride from the much flatter Dallas area. We are eating and joking and have the time of our lives on bikes.
We’re also meeting both new and old RTR friends. I’ve found all three of the ladies who helped run the ride last year, one of whom is riding this year, rather than organizing. We’ve been helping Clark, the smoothie vender make a little money. Clark is always quick to help out, extend a little credit, when we’re tired and a little spacie coming off the route. We’re making new friends like the young lady with the space/polka dot kit. And then, there is the scenery.
While the climbing is tough, the long hours on the bike gives one lots of time to reflect on Colorado’s natural beauty. Tree lined highways and grand vistas are around every curve. Historic architecture decorates each stop along the route. The towns hosting the ride go all out to entertain and feed the worn and occasionally dilirious riders. What more could a rider ask?
The current situation, as I’m writing, is that I’m on a sleeping pad in Durango, preparing for the long climbs of Wednesday. So . . .
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Rollin’ with Wheelock
Grand Tours have begun, one-week tours and the Spring Classics have come and gone. For mere mortals, like me, the cycling season has just begun. Without a doubt, the biggest of the multi-day rides in Colorado is Ride the Rockies. I had the pleasure of speaking with the tour’s new director last week.
Renee Wheelock was the Ride the Rockies tour intern when I first met her in Gunnison, the start of the 2012 RTR. In the intervening years, Renee has climbed to the position of Tour Director.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said about her promotion. “It’s a unique perspective that allows me to provide some leadership.”
Wheelock started in March of 2012 with RTR as an intern, helping out where ever she was needed. It was just a single season before she moved into the role of Community Relations Manager, and three more before landing on the big saddle. But change is nothing new for Wheelock.
“I’m from all over,” she says.”I was born in California, lived in Tucson, moved to Australia for a while and went to college in North Carolina.”
After earning a degree in Elementary Education, Wheelock took a bike trip across the country when she first discovered Colorado. After finding energy bars in the convenient stores, she decided Coloradans enjoyed the lifestyle she wanted. But spearheading Colorado’s premier tour is not all sunscreen and wind through your helmet.
“We are already gathering ideas (for the 2018 RTR). Usually, we start up again between August and October, talking with the communities, taking trips to meet with them. In December we start working out the details of the route, organize the Route Announcement Party (which happens in early February). As a team, we all have different projects, but it’s all a small team.”
She adds, “I think it surprises people when I tell them there are only three people working full-time. This is a full-time job and it takes all year to put an event like this together.”
Wheelock pointed out that her degree has been helpful in running RTR.
“When you look at teaching, it’s planning and adjusting on the fly. Teachers also tend to be pretty detail oriented,” she says. “When I was teaching abroad, I also discovered my passion for the outdoors and fitness.”
Adjusting on the fly has been a hallmark of Wheelock’s time with RTR. In 2012, the route was detoured on the last day to avoid smoke from wildfires around Horsetooth Reservoir, west of Fort Collins. In 2013, the route detoured again, creating the longest RTR route in its history. This time, the Royal Gorge park was in flames. Then, in 2014, the first day saw snow on Berthoud Pass, a closure by the State Patrol, and a huge sag with help from the Winter Park ski busses.
“We always have contingency plans,” Wheelock points out. “The beauty of the event, with such long-term partners, makes it special and rewarding when we see all hands on deck to make it work.”
Wheelock plans no major changes with RTR this season, though, one new thing will be a mobile app, which should promote even more of a community spirit within the tour. Wheelock acknowledges that at 32 years in, it’s getting hard to create new routes. In fact, riders have seen much of this year’s route before, but not all at once.
The 2017 route visits many of the towns and cities that Wheelock saw in her first year. Alamos, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Gunnison and Salida were all on the route in 2012 and 2017, though not in the same order or direction. Riders will travel over the east ascent of Wolf Creek Pass, this time. Riders can enjoy a short ride through the Southern Ute Reservation on the third day, then head north from Durango on Day Four over the picturesque Million Dollar Highway through Silverton and Ouray toward Ridgeway. The next day, riders head a short way into Montrose, with an optional “Challenge Loop.”
“Each day gets better and better,” says Wheelock. “Some riders might take the day in Durango off, but (the route through the Ute reservation) is beautiful.”
Wheelock continues, “The day into Montrose is quick and downhill, and the challenge loop, there’s not much traffic. The towns have all really come together.”
The last day between Gunnison and Salida includes the ascent of Monarch Pass.
“You never know how you will feel from one day to the next,” says the director. “Monarch is a slow, steady climb. Climbers might feel dog-tired, or they might feel really strong after six days of riding.”
One way or another, riders will likely enjoy the first Ride the Rockies under Wheelock. Her passion and that of her staff and army of volunteers, should create yet another beautiful tour, and years-worth of memories and stories. Hopefully, we will have Renee to thank for years to come.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going trainer . . . for Ride the Rockies.
I restarted my life writing about the emotional connections we make with food. I was a sophomore in college and was forced by the university to take a composition class. I wrote about my maternal grandmother’s funeral and my best friends wedding and all of the food, friends and family. It’s funny to look back and continue making the connections.
I met my wife years later, though we both attended my buddy’s wedding. My wife’s family is Jewish and explained early on the basis of all Jewish holidays: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat! Now cooking is something we do with our teenage daughter.
This morning, my little girl and I made Liegé waffles from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas. We made cowboy cookies from the Skratch Labs web page last night. Now the kitchen is full of sweet goodies in celebration of the “cobbled classics.”
Food is a big deal, to me. My early memories involve dad cooking oatmeal and mom making monkey bread. I remember my dad’s mom, Gramma Marge, cooking bacon. Her whole house had the familiar, savory smell on early Sunday mornings.
I irritated the day lights out of my step-dad when I made banana, egg white, protein powder shakes as a teen. I irritated my step-mom when I ate dozens of her chocolate chip cookies, leaving none for the rest of the family. My wife now buys chocolate . . . and hides it from me. I can’t really blame her.
I love cooking for my family and friends. I would occasionally make lasagna for friends. I loved collaborating with friends in the kitchen. I truly enjoy making treats for my Courage Classic teammates and, every so often, for random strangers on group rides. It’s how I bond. It’s how I create memories.
The side benefit is I know what’s going into my jersey pocket and what, precisely, is fueling my ride. I recommend finding a cookbook or web page for your own ride treats. You know what you like. Find a recipe and customize it. You will enjoy the snack all the more. If it gives you a chance to connect with a loved-one, it’s all the more sweet . . . or savory. Whichever you prefer.
Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding . . . With homemade cookies.
I Have Issues
So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a …
Source: I Have Issues
I Have Issues
So there are two, diametrically opposed trains of thought within cycling, these days. These are the stealthy fitness and the showy fitness. The first has been around for a while, and the second, a more recent event linked to our modern, mobile, social media age.
For as long as there has been competitive cycling, there has been stealth fitness. This is best illustrated by an e-mail that was circulated about a decade ago, and attributed to one of Chris Carmichael’s CTS coaches. The old e-mail stated that cyclists were the biggest fitness liars and stealth trainers. We say one thing, but it quickly becomes evident that we mean something completely opposite.
We say “This is a no-drop ride.”
We mean “As soon as the first hill comes, I will grind you into dust. I will attack every hill, I will contest every town-limit sign until you are left in a weeping heap on the side of the road.”
We say “I’m not in race-shape.”
We mean “I’ve been spending every waking moment on the trainer/rollers. I have more miles in my legs than the Interstate System.”
We say “I’m not feeling it, today.”
We mean “Hope you have your race wheels on, cause this is going down.”
My personal favorite, “This is my beater bike.”
We mean “This bike was made of Unobtainium. The frame was blessed by the Pope. It is lighter than a fart and more expensive than a divorce.”
This has been the prevailing attitude for generations of cyclists. Everything is very secret. Every play is close to the chest. Sunglasses on cyclists were not to protect one’s eyes, there were to hide any tells, hide anything that might indicate fatigue. Or, possibly, hide just the opposite. Exhibit A: Lance fakes being tired during the ’01 TdF stage of Alpe D’Huez. Lance and the Posties pretend The Boss is suffering, prompting Jan Ulrich’s Team Telecom to drive the pace to the base of the storied climb, basically tricking the German team into doing all the heavy lifting for the day, before the Texan’s famous “Look” and the trademark attack to grind Ulrich down and eventually win that Tour.
But these days, there is another cycling saying. It makes secret training much more difficult. “If it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen.”
I want to keep track of my miles and my workouts, but now there is no hiding from my sea-level buddies who will join me on Ride the Rockies this year. My California friends ride every chance they get. One commutes through Orange County, while the other trains for marathon rides, like the Breck Epic and Leadville 100. Our friend from Texas is an Ironman. I’m a giant track sprinter who happens to live at 7,500 feet.
I can’t let these guys embarrass me in my home state, in spite of the fact that I out weigh each of them, some by significant margins. I’m Altitude Man. But I can’t hide the training, either.
I suppose it will keep me honest. They can see what I’m doing, and I see the miles they are putting in. It’s more positive, even inspiring. We can cheer each other on. Give each other kudos. We can recognize the efforts and the KOMs. We can act like teammates.
Of course, there are still the rollers . . .
Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding!
Stoke the Fire
So, I love food. Just in general. I have a sweet tooth, but I also love Mexican, Mediterranean and Italian. I love French pastries and cowboy cookies. I love breakfast.
I once dated a wonderful, beautiful, smart young woman, but knew it was ultimately doomed. It was getting to be late in the day and I asked what she wanted for dinner, thinking that we could go out that evening. She showed absolutely no preference. I started quizzing her on her favorite cuisine. She said, “I’m just not that in to food.”
By contrast, the first big family function I attended with the woman to whom I am now married, was Passover. It’s a big, really big, meal commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt depicted in the Torah, or Old Testament. I think it was her mother who informed me that the basis for all Jewish holidays was “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”
So it should be no surprise that a major part of my Instagram feed is the stuff I get to make in my kitchen. I spend a fair amount of time finding yummy stuff in uniquely athletic places. I made egg cups of two varieties today. One was based on a recipe from the fantastic Scratch Labs cookbook, Feed Zone Portables, the other I stumbled across on line. Both are easy, both are tasty, both recipes are great for active, age-group athletes.
I typically spend Sundays cooking. I get up early to make breakfast for my family. Today I made baked oatmeal with bananas and berries. I took the extra step of adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder, just so it wasn’t all carbs. I cooked up some uncured turkey bacon, as well. It was filling, tasty, and made my family happy.
Next, we usually get started on lunches for the week. Egg cups for me, and we usually make a batch of chocolaty fiber muffins for our daughter.
The first, a variation from Allen Lim and Biju Thomas, the minds behind Scratch Labs. I change the recipe slightly, so If you want the original, go to SkratchLabs.com, or go out and get ahold of the Feed Zone Portables cookbook.
Pre-heat oven to 350
Chop desired vegetables for a dozen cups
I will also find some lean meat, like a turkey kielbasa, left-over turkey bacon, if I’m lucky we’ll have some ground bison
Distribute these evenly into a dozen muffin cups. We happen to have the silicone muffin “tins”
Then add one egg-worth of liquid egg whites into each cup
Put in oven, middle rack
Bake for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5-8 minutes
For a sweeter option, pre-heat oven to 390
Mash three ripe bananas
Add two whole eggs, three more egg-worth of liquid egg whites and mix
In the muffin tins, place berries
Pour in egg/banana mixture
Bake, again, for 20-30 minutes, turning the tin every 5-8 minutes
I honestly don’t remember where that recipe came from, other than my Facebook feed. I look for great food everywhere. I read Peloton magazine knowing that they will have some great meal they discovered somewhere on their travels. I have a small sleeve on my book shelf of recipes I’ve found in Bicycling or Triathlon magazines.
When I travel, whether on vacation or on my bike, I try to find some local gem, like Pandor, a French pastry and breakfast place in New Port Beach, California. If you don’t know, there is a little pastry and coffee shop in the La Fonda Inn in Santa Fe. Some of the best cookies I have ever enjoyed were from the little breakfast restaurant in Hygiene, Colorado.
I suppose that the point of this post, more than anything, is to enjoy. The vast majority of us will not get to be pro roadies. We don’t have to season stone soup in order to be happy skeletons and climb ridiculous European roads like mountain goats. Most of us have jobs and families. While I want to drop some holiday weight, I won’t do it at the expense of enjoying my family and my life. I exercise lots, and very hard. I will stoke my engine. I will taste the flavors that this short, wonderful life has to offer.
I hope you will, too.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . right after this cookie!
Get Ready for the Ride!
Ride the Rockies has announced the route for their 2017 tour, and it’s a grand one. RTR will travel 447 miles and climb 37,337 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. The route includes some of the most stunning and legendary terrain the state has to offer, including the famous Iron Horse race route, Million Dollar Highway, Wolf Creek and Monarch passes.
If I seem excited, there’s a reason for it. In the ’90s, I had heard of the Iron Horse, a short and intense ride from Durango to Silverton, paralleling the narrow gauge railroad between the towns. I have dreamt of the climbs and descents for 25 years and so I’m very excited to see the route in person.
The ride begins in the San Luis Valley in Alamosa on June 10. If you can’t wait that long, you can bypass the lottery and sign up for the eighth annual Prologue, which begins with a VIP dinner on Friday, June 9, in Taos, New Mexico. The prologue ride, the next day, takes riders south from Taos, through stunning Southwestern landscapes to Rancho de Chimayo, where participants will enjoy a massage and dinner. It also includes a lift to the start line, back in Alamosa, on Sunday, June 11. Click here for more on registering and making a donation to the Denver Post Communities Foundation.
The ride, proper, starts with registration in Alamosa, on Saturday, June 10. Alamosa is surrounded by the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains, near the border with New Mexico. It features a short rail line that takes visitors into downtown from their community center, south of town. Just to the northeast of town sits the tallest sand dunes in North America in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Show up early and spend some time exploring the contrast of the dunes against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristos. If you are lucky, you may see some of the park’s wildlife, including elk and bison, at Big Spring Creek.
The first day takes riders out of the valley, west over the formidable Wolf Creek Pass. The pass climbs to 10,856 feet, and comes late in the day, at around mile 68 in the 93-mile ride. Total climbing amounts to 4,296 feet, but the pay-off is the 25-mile descent into Pagosa Springs and a dip in the natural hot springs that flow into the San Juan River. The ride came through here, in the opposite direction, in 2013, and will be a welcome stop after the long-day’s ride.
Day Two is a relatively short affair from Pagosa, deeper into the San Juan Mountains to the cycling Mecca of Durango. The route is 68 miles with 4,048 feet of climbing, spread over three bigger climbs, including Yellowjacket Pass at 7,800 feet, and a few smaller challenges. The route takes riders away from the highway at Bayfield for the last stretch through farmland outside of Durango.
Durango is home to writer, commentator, former cycling pro and all-round funny guy, Bob Roll. Roll entertained crowds during RTR’s last stop in his hometown back in 2013. He is expected to return again this year, hopefully with some of the same stories and a few new ones about his travels and experiences with the professional peloton.
Day Three is the loop day, this year. Last year’s loop was the decidedly non-relaxing, 78-mile, Copper Triangle loop. This year will be a much shorter 38.7 miles into the Southern Ute reservation with one notable climb, the 8,212 foot Hesperus Hill. It’s relatively steep, with ramps of better than seven percent, but it comes about 11 miles into the ride. The rest is a descending stair step back to Durango.
The short loop day encourages riders to enjoy a little more time in the host city. Durango, founded in 1880 to serve the San Juan mining district, is home to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Fort Lewis College, a cycling powerhouse, in their own right. The town boasts amazing mountain biking and has been home to such legends as 1990 mountain bike world champion, Ned “The Lung” Overhand and Missy “The Missile” Giove, world champion downhill mountain biker in 1994. The town hosted the first mountain bike world championships in 1990.
Durango is also a short drive from UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde is a collection of about 600 cliff dwellings that were stumbled-upon by a pair of brothers who were searching for lost cattle in the area in the late 1880’s. While photographer William Henry Jackson had noted the existence of the cliff dwellings, and the Ute tribe of the area were certainly knowledgeable, it took the Wetherills to bring attention to Cliff Palace, and subsequently the many archeological sites of the park.
Day Four is the beast! Eighty-three miles with 7,792 feet of climbing over three passes; Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes. The day starts with the route of the Iron Horse Classic bike race, following the narrow gauge railroad north to Silverton. Riders will continue over the Million Dollar Highway, through the state’s ice-climbing capitol of Ouray, on to first-time RTR host town, Ridgeway.
Day Five continues north out of the former mining town of Ridgeway, on a mercifully short 32.4-mile, 490 feet of climbing ride to Montrose. If the legs are still fresh, riders can opt for the Governor Springs out-and-back challenge, adding 18.9 miles and 1,875 feet of climbing. It’s not mandatory, however.
Montrose is the gateway to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the backdrop to Day Six of this year’s RTR. Sheer cliffs give way to the Blue Mesa Reservoir as riders head east, 65 miles, to Gunnison. The ride will take cyclists over 6,691 feet of climbing, jammed mostly into the first half of the day. At almost exactly halfway, cyclists will be done with the serious climbs and will get a descent and a relatively gentle, rolling ascent into Gunnison.
At 7,703 feet, Gunnison has the reputation as one of the coldest towns in Colorado. The stop will be a welcome cool down on the penultimate day. Gunnison has hosted Ride the Rockies two other times in the last six years, including 2015, most recently.
The final day will seem like a visit to an old friend as RTR heads to Salida, once more. Salida hosted stops in 2013 and 2015. This year the small arts and outdoors community hosts the finale. First, however, riders must negotiate the fearsome Monarch Pass.
While Day Seven is not the longest, at just under 66 miles between Gunnison and Salida, the bulk of the climbing involves the ascent of the highest pass in this year’s ride. Monarch Pass crests at 11,320 feet at around mile 43. The pass is also the jumping-off point of the famous Monarch Crest mountain bike trail.
Salida, the final destination of this year’s Ride the Rockies, is home to white water rafting on the Upper Arkansas River, near-by hot springs and 12 of Colorado’s famous 14’ers. It is a friendly, creative, outdoorsy community and a great little town to host the final party of this year’s RTR.
This year’s Ride the Rockies also marks the beginning of a new era, as Renee Wheelock takes the helm. Renee was an intern with the organization when I met her in Gunnison in 2012. She spent four years as Community Relations Manager, and now takes the job of the tour’s director. Congratulations, Renee! If this year’s Ride the Rockies is any indicator, the tour is in good hands and I look forward to many years of great rides.
To register and find out more about this year’s Ride the Rockies, click here! You will find information about the host towns, maps of the route, information about lodging and other logistics, and information about the sponsors and supporters. I hope to see you on this year’s Ride the Rockies!
It’s the time of year when cyclists are evaluating the season past and attending to injuries, aches and new tech for the bike. I am lifting heavy and paying attention to the aches I have accumulated over a frustratingly truncated season.
I had the chance to test my health insurance, more than once, and the chance to truly appreciate ER doctors. I also have to say that I love good helmets, an ample supply of bandages and positive negotiation within a marriage.
In July, I found myself sliding across new chip seal on my way to a pancake fundraiser near my town. After an ER visit, many stitches and three chest x-rays, I slowed down for about four weeks.
In August, I found myself bouncing off of the boards on my local velodrome. I won the sprint, patched myself up, then won another match sprint before the race director told me that I was done racing. No new stitches, but an angry rib and an angrier wife, when all was said and done.
It’s been rough, honestly. I’ve never been good at balance. Life balance, that is. After the second crash, my wife declared an end to my season. At the time, it sounded like an end to all racing, and possibly cycling, EVER. This would never stand, and I think she had known it. I understand, to a degree.
I tend to go all-in. If I decide to do something, I want to be immersed. If I actually commit, this is the thing over which I tend to obsess. I’m not really a dabbler. This can cause problems, even neglect, in other areas. Occasionally, my wife feels she and our daughter fall in this category.
It does not help that she does not understand why any middle-aged person would want to compete in anything, much less ride a bike without brakes at break-neck speed in circles. It’s also not helpful, to my point of view, that the nearest place to compete, in any discipline, is more than 20 miles away. The velodrome, one of only two in Colorado, is an hour away. The big, competitive Olympic velodrome, which is covered this time of year, is more than 100 miles, about three hours, from us. I don’t dare to dream of getting there to merely train.
I realize that this is not something that is going to help my family, other than making me smile and satisfing my competition cravings. It will take creativity to pursue racing, of any sort. It will take a bit of thought and planning to strike a balance between the sport I enjoy and the family I love. This will cause bumps, but they are bumps I am willing to suffer. I’m sure that I’m not the first cyclist to have these issues. I will let you know if I figure anything out.
In the mean time, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . on the trainer . . . at home.
The rest of the story
When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .
We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.
Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.
Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.
Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.
Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.
This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.
The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.
Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.
Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.
After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.
We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.
Betsy, the Tour Assistant.
Renee, Community Relations Manager.
Liz, the Event Coordinator.
One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.
Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Wow, that was fast!
Well, The Giro is behind us, The Tour is ahead and my favorite ride, Ride the Rockies, is a pleasant memory. It is becoming more pleasant the further away I get. But, wow has this summer gone by quickly.
The ride began in beautiful Carbondale, just down the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen. Carbondale was a wonderful host, with Mount Sopris looming over the headquarters. Weather started out mild and mostly pleasant. Many of the faces I’ve seen in years past returned, like a sort of traveling homecoming.
Renee, Betsy, Liz and, of course, Chandler, the RTR staff, all worked like mad to keep the tour progressing smoothly. It’s amazing the amount of work they do, most of which we, as the riders, never see. They coordinate supplies for the aid stations, make sure venders have places to set up, and get there on time, help keep track of luggage trucks and shuttles to get riders in and out of the HQ and to the food and entertainment. And that’s just for the one week of the ride. Imagine the work involved just to get the rides organized and going.
The first day was relatively short, from Carbondale to Aspen. The 50-mile rout took us through Missouri Heights, a steep little climb on the east side of the valley. Lance Armstrong, the speaker in Aspen that afternoon, stated he hates the climb. I understand. The day, however, was beautiful and the skies remained clear almost to the end of the day. My riding buddy, Donald, and I made the turn into Aspen High School as the wind came up and the rain began.
Donald was one of three guys I rode with last year. The other two had work and training conflicts that did not allow them to make this ride. Donald, from Marin County California, had his wife and mother-in-law along, as well. The new arrangement allowed me to enjoy more of Aspen.
Aspen, tucked into the head of the Roaring Fork Valley and the foot of Independence Pass, was a quirky, artsy ski town many years ago when it attracted the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Edward Abby. Now, while some of the art scene remains, you are much more likely to bump into movie stars, rock stars or even the occasional star athlete. One such athlete put himself squarely in the RTR cross-hairs when the tour settled in: Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong has maintained a home in Aspen, along with girlfriend Anna Hansen and the couple’s children, since the cyclist’s glory days. Armstrong was instrumental in creating the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and advocated for cyclists in Colorado. Now, with the cloud of the doping era hanging over him, Armstrong, in his typical fashion, put himself infant of the crowd without flinching, to face the questions of sometimes adoring, sometimes resentful cycling fans.
Armstrong was calm and inviting. He took all of the slings and arrows, did not argue but even offered an apology for his part in the EPO era. Questions and critiques went on and on, but Armstrong seemed perfectly comfortable, never dodging a question or diverting blame.
The most disheartening thing the one-time world road champion told the crowd had an impact that resinated through much of the following day.
“If the pro peloton were to climb Independence Pass, they would all go over the top together. It’s not really that hard a climb.” Ouch. Another delusion of grandeur smashed.
Independence Pass was the first challenge facing Ride the Rockies on Day Two. From Aspen, the climb rises 4,193 feet over 20 miles. Riders pass waterfalls, aspen stands and, eventually, alpine tundra before topping out. Cruelly, the steepest pitches of the climb seem to be in the last 1.5 miles. But it’s all worth the effort.
The remanents of the cool, wet spring covered the mountain tops in every direction. Lots of riders took the opportunity to photograph themselves with their bikes on the tundra.
“Can you believe there’s still snow in June?”
When riders started down the pass toward Twin Lakes, they were merely a quarter of the way into an 80-mile day. The next twenty miles were a twisty thrill ride for those of us who enjoy descending. Back down through aspens and evergreens, past little shacks, former mine sites and tiny towns into the valley. Overtime we looked around we thought, wow, could this get any prettier? Then we took another curve, made another turn, and it was.
Riders headed north from Twin Lakes toward the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville. While the tour stopped here for the night four years ago, this time around, riders pushed on to Fremont Pass, past the Climax Mine and down another fast descent into Copper Mountain Resort. The arrival was none too soon, as the weather that had threatened on smartphone apps began to appear in the little ski village.
Rain and cool temperatures descended on the tour late on day two. Many riders had already made their way to tents, gym floors or condos. Though the weather arrived about 12 hours earlier than expected, boosting moral for Day Three: the Copper Loop.
Rider awoke with frost on bikes. The air was cool, but the rain had stopped. After getting coffeed-up, riders immediately began climbing. The second of three nearly-80-mile days came out of Copper, turned right and began climbing back up Fremont Pass. The north side of the pass is relatively steep, with stretches of up to 7.5 percent over the first nine miles. But this is about as bad as it gets for most of the day. Riders then plunge back down the south side of the pass, back to Leadville.
Riders skirt the north edge of Leadville, while headed west. The views of the states highest peaks made the content headwind a bit more bearable.
Riders toiled on through the wind-blown scrub brush, past the ranches to Tennessee Pass, the Camp Hale Memorial and the lovely and famous Red Cliff Bridge, where many cyclists, including myself, took the opportunity to stop and take a shot.
From there, We climbed Battle Mountain and plunged down through Minturn. We soon found the bicycle path that links Eagle and Summit counties. This brought rider through Vail and up the infamous Vail Pass path. The path had been used many times over the years to test fitness. The Coors Classic, Teva Outdoor Games and several times for the USA Pro Challenge. The Pro Challenge liked to use it as a mountain time trial, sending riders up one at a time. Beyond a certain point, this seemed only logical, as the path gets pretty narrow in the steepest sections.
The climb take riders about 9 miles through beautiful scenery up nearly 2,000 feet. The old Shrine Pass Road no longer allows cars, which is great as riders try to focus on not blowing up through the steeper sections. The road takes riders to the bike path, which can be tricky. While taken as a whole, the climb averages 4 percent, once on the path, rider dive under I-70, then face a 300 foot section at 8 percent. If you’re not looking for it, you will be walking this stretch.
The trees and peaks are the main attraction throughout the climb, with both sides of the valley slowly closing in as riders grind out this category 2 ascent. After another short, sharp section, riders come to a false flat, signaling the end of the real climbing. Riders wheel past a small lake and on to the parking lot of the pass.
Th east side of Vail Pass is only about five miles of asphalt bike trail, with twists, turns, wooden bridges and amazing scenery. The trail is built between the east-bound and west-bound sections of I-70. It can be tricky if you don’t watch your speed, as many riders soon found out.
The fast descent brought riders back to Copper Mountain resort for entertainment and the resort’s many eateries.
All along the way, Chandler, Renee, Liz and Betsy organized great entertainment, venders and aid stations. Many local venders, as well as many tour favorites, like the Flipping’ Flapjacks, Revolution Smoothies and Allen Lim’s Scratch Labs food truck.
Day Four was a re-ride of much of the route used four years ago. Rider headed east from Copper, down the I-70 trail to Frisco and the Lake Dillon Dam, then north out of Silverthorn to Ute Pass.
The route along Colorado Hwy 9 was a gentle descent until the base of the day’s only sustained climb. Ute Pass is about 5.2 miles at 5 percent grade, or a cat 2 climb. The summit offers views of the mountains to the west.
After the descent down the east side, the ride spent the next several miles on dirt roads that, this time around, were just packed dirt. In 2012, the road was a scary-deep gravel. The packed dirt was a pleasant surprise.
The dirt ended east of Kremmling, on US40. The highway took us through Byers Canyon, to a rest stop in Hot Sulfur Springs, and into Granby; a town the RTR has passed through or stopped in two other times in the last five tours. Riders headed north from there, along US34 toward the day’s end in Grand Lake. Riders, or I should say, my buddy Donald and I, wished for the end as the road began to roll with short, steep climbs and the temperature climbed to it’s warmest so far in this tour. But Grand Lake is idillic and friendly, making for a quick recovery and an eagerness to experience the isolated mountain town.
Day Five was marked on my calendar from the day the route was announced, back in February. The classic ascent of Trail Ridge Road from the West Gate is only about 22 miles at about 4 percent, but it is through some of the most spectacular landscape in the state. We started in sage brush meadows for about 9.5 miles, to the first aid station. From there, the road climbs for 17 miles at 4 percent, which counts as “HC,” or Beyond Category. This would have been challenging enough. When riders got past Milner Pass and above the treeline, the epic battle of will began.
As riders came over the highest continuous highway in North America, they faced horrible crosswinds, some clocked at 50 miles per hour. Over the 11-miles from the Gore Range Overlook to Rainbow Curve, no trees, no brush, nothing shelter the cyclists from the winds. While riders got a bit of a break from the howling winds after getting back down into the trees, the winds pushed riders all the way into Estes Park, where the town was awaiting their arrival.
The second half will post tomorrow.
Why not be happy?
Why not? Why not look for the good, for the beautiful, for the awe-inspiring? Why not appropriate the clouds, the rain, the snow? Why not be grateful for time with friends and family instead of dreading the time apart? Why not appreciate what we have right now?
I write this because, when I was in my teens and early twenties, I never imagined this life could be so good. I never thought that I would be married to this beautiful, loyal, loving woman. I never thought I could have a hand in raising such a thoughtful, smart, confident daughter. I never considered that I could work a dream job for more than a decade, fall into another career that allowed me to make a positive mark on so many lives. I never considered that I could be so healthy that I could ride the spine of the continent on a bicycle and enjoy it so much. All of this is amazing and today I am very grateful for it. What a life.
This weekend, I get to ride a short “Media Pass” ride ahead of the annual Ride the Rockies. It will be about 25 miles from downtown Denver, out along the Cherry Creek Trail to the reservoir of the same name, and back again. I get to see many of the great people who organize the event, whom I only see a few times a year, and there will be coffee. I love coffee.
This is all ahead of my favorite week of the year, when I tour Colorado with 2,000 like-minded people, including several cycling luminaries and a lot of amazing scenery. What could be bad?
I’m not suggesting that there are not real problems in the world. I’m just focusing on how good I have it today. No one is bombing my home, my work or my town. No one is kidnapping my child in a misplaced fit of religious fervor. I am not fleeing deplorable living conditions. As a dear friend once pointed out, if we all put our problems on a table and compared them to those of others, most of us would be happy just taking our own problems back. My problems are pretty small, today. I hope yours are, as well.
For only the second time in my life, I’m on a cycling team. I joined as part of my track racing certification. A buddy of mine is on the team and he invited me to join and to get on the track. That counts as a win-win. I hope to actually race on Memorial Day weekend. It should be lots of fun. I hope to have some images from the event to show off in about two weeks.
Lots of pro racing going on, if you didn’t already know. The first of the season’s Grand Tours is about halfway through. The Giro d’Italia started in the Netherlands on May 6. Sounds funny, I know. The pros raced for three days before heading down to Italy. Bob Jungels of the Etixx-Quickstep team currently where’s the pink jersey of the race’s leader.
Meanwhile, in the US, French rider Julian Alaphilippe, also of the Etixx-Quickstep team, took over the lead of the Amgen Tour of California. World Champ Peter Sagan won the race’s opening stage in a sprint into downtown San Diego. American Ben King won stage two, then relinquished the race lead on The Queen Stage on Tuesday.
That’s about it, for now. Hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy a ride, and all of your days!
Have fun. Be safe. I’m going riding.
As I ready for bed and prepare for another week of work, parenting and training, I consider myself lucky. What a life.
On Friday, I start a new direction in my cycling. I start on the Velodrome. A friend told me nearly 20 years ago that track racing would probably suite my well. I’m built much more like a powerlifter, as I once was, versus the relatively slight road cyclist. I have arms that can actually support me, unlike elite roadies. The trade off is real roadies easily distance me in climbs. But, that is fine. I am embracing my build and trying to make the best if it.
This won’t change much of my summer. I will still Ride the Rockies in about eight weeks. I will ride the Courage Classic in July. In between, I will voluntarily be tortured over Trail Ridge Road by my cycling buddies. I will just spend Saturday mornings at the Boulder Valley Velodrome.
Fixed gears and a banked track will be new and exciting. It may even be something at which I can excel. We shall see. It’s never too late to pick up a new cycling discipline.
Within this new and fun exploit, I’m also trying to get help paying for my lifestyle. The web site and app Hookit helps athletes find sponsors and producers find athletic representatives. I get discounts on stuff I need and use, they get a little more exposure. I get Honey Stinger and Ryno Power supplements and, in turn, tell all of you what I think of them. It’s a win-win, as far as I’m concerned.
I have raved on about Honey Stinger products for a while. The Steamboat Springs-based endurance food producer makes energy gels, bars, chews and the like. I am particularly fond of their waffles, a sweet treat and very different product than any energy bar out there. I like the flavor and the energy kick of any of their waffles, but I’m a chocolate addict, so that’s what I enjoy most. The company has also started producing a gluten-free version of these treats, if that is something you are looking for.
My new favorite, however, is their protein bar. Having been a lifter for most of my life, I have had a lot of protein bars. Some are tasty, but way over the top in terms of sugar and calories. Others taste like cardboard. The Honey Stinger Dark Chocolate Mocha Cherry Pro protein bar is the best-tasting, best nutrition bar I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
The Honey Stinger bars offer 10 grams of protein per bar. While that might seem modest to the powerlifting crowd, it is great for cyclists trying to repair muscles in-ride without getting gastrointestinal distress that overly sugary products can produce.
Most of the sweetness of these products comes from, one guess, HONEY! And the Cherry Mocha also offers a bit of caffeine from real coffee. It’s a beautiful thing.
Still being, more or less, a power athlete, I like to get a bit more protein in my recovery products. Branch chain amino acids are the go-to product for such recovery. Ryno Power Recovery is just such a product.
It’s not cheap, but it is worth every penny. While my legs are still sore, they are able to perform. I can spend my morning doing high-intensity sprints, then turn around three hours later to do a heavy squat routine. The Ryno Power Recovery BCAAs allow me to keep pushing and keep getting results. For more details, visit rynopower.com.
I have to mention one last thing for which I am not receiving any kind of deal, but has still been very helpful. The FitBit, which I’m sure most people have already heard, is a fitness and movement-tracking device that, in the case of my Charge, fits on my wrist like a watch. It tracks my daily steps, calories burned, heart rate, sleep and resting heart rate. It allows me to better track the markers of my fitness of which I have never been able, until now. It all sincs to an app on my phone. The app, in turn, communicates with MyFitnessPal and other apps to help keep track of calories, weight-loss goals and more. It’s the product I never knew that I could live without.
I look forward to sharing my track exploits soon. I hope to review another app next week, as well.
Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
Today is the last day to sign up for RTR, my family is great and I have been a butthead. Not much of this is related to any of the rest.
Today, in fact, for only a few more hours, is the last day to enter the Ride the Rockies lottery. Unlike RAGBRI, in Iowa, the Ride the Rockies is limited to only 2,000 riders. It is such a popular event that a lottery had to be created to handle all of the entries. I hope, by the time my readers have received this post, all have had the chance to sign up. If you are one of the folks who read my last post, you know I’m a big fan and have figured out why. Good luck and I hope to see you out there.
I feel strongly that part of my job as an instructor, a generally fit guy and a father, is to set a good example. My friends and my family know I’m not perfect, but that does not excuse me from putting in the effort. So I get extra happy when my wife and daughter come to the gym and even ask for help. It’s fun having them around, even when I’m doing stuff that they would consider a bit crazy. The best example would be today’s workout; the CrossFit Open WOD 16.1 – overhead walking lunges for 25 feet with 95 lbs, eight burpees, another 25 feet of overhead walking lunges and eight chest-to-bar pull-ups. The fun part is that I had 20 minutes to do this over and over as many times as I could. I got through six times, by the way.
What my daughter sees is a man taking care of himself. What I explain is that it is also so I can be around longer and be able to do more with her and my lovely wife. I have been lucky to have this life. I didn’t realize just how much so until today.
We traveled back to Omaha over the New Year holiday to see my family and one of my oldest and dearest friends. While there, I thoughtlessly made fun of an ad for a gym that promotes itself with the tag line Lunk-free Zone. I had called the gym “Planet Fatness”. My buddy challenged me on this. He pointed out that I don’t know what it’s like to walk into a place and be intimidated by athletes and fitness fanatics, people who look like the people in the fitness magazines. He was right.
I don’t know what it’s like to truly struggle with weight. When I was young, I was a little chubby. When my father remarried to a very health conscious person, she adjusted our diets and made small tweaks to what we had around the house. Eating healthy was just how we ate, for the most part.
Meanwhile, my younger sister was living with our mom and her second husband, none of whom put the same sort of thought into what they ate. I actually looked forward to visiting as I got treats that I wouldn’t normally.
My sister got neither the habits nor the support that I did. Quite honestly, I didn’t think of it as support at the time. Perspectives change.
So in college, like many, I gained weight. I lost some good habits and explored some very bad ones. After some years of what I euphemistically called competitive drinking, I found myself nearly 50 pounds heavier than when I started college. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my big push to drop that weight took a relatively short time. I suspect, between my genetics and the things I was taught as a kid, it was pretty easy.
I realized, after watching the outstanding PBS documentary, “Fat,” that the cards were actually in my favor. And worse yet, I didn’t understand or appreciate how lucky I was and how oblivious I had been to the struggles of others. The irony is that I’m a recovering addict. You’d think I would have some compassion for folks who suffer from a condition from which most can’t recover and society sees as a will-power issue. I did not get it until today.
I’m going to try to be less judgmental, more compassionate. I’m going to work toward being more supportive and encouraging. I’m going to ask how I can help rather than assuming I know what works. One more thing I need to work on to be a better human. I’m also going to be more appreciative for what I have.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
One More Time!
Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!
The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.
The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.
Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.
From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.
For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.
On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.
This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.
Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.
As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.
Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.
Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.
The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!