Adventures in life and photography out West

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Get Ready for the Ride!

New friends from California and Texas.

New friends from California and Texas enjoy dinner in Gunnison, one of this year’s RTR host towns.

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.

Sangre de Cristo Range towers of the highest sand dunes in North America, just northeast of Alamosa.

Sangre de Cristo Range towers of the highest sand dunes in North America, just northeast of Alamosa.

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 resident Bob Roll had the cycling seminar croud in stitches after the second day of riding in 2013. Roll rode for 7-Eleven and is now a cycling commentator for NBC Sports

Durango resident Bob Roll had the cycling seminar crowd in stitches after the second day of riding in 2013. Roll rode for 7-Eleven and is now a cycling commentator for NBC Sports

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.

The Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park.

The Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National 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.

Entertainment awaited the riders in most towns, like these dancers in Salida.

Entertainment awaited the riders in most towns, like these dancers in Salida.

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.

Me with the new RTR Tour Director, and all-round great lady, Renee Wheelock.

Me with the new RTR Tour Director, and all-round great lady, Renee Wheelock.

 

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!

 

 

 

Regrouping

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.

I did get on the track.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

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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.

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Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.

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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.

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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.

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Betsy, the Tour Assistant.

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Renee, Community Relations Manager.

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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.

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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.

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Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

Wow, that was fast!

Riders roll into the Missouri Heights aid station on the first day of Ride the Rockies.

Riders roll into the Missouri Heights aid station on the first day of Ride the Rockies.

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.

A sculpture greets RTR riders at the Aspen Art Museum.

A sculpture greets RTR riders at the Aspen Art Museum.

Donald Lewis leads up the climbs on the way to Aspen

Donald Lewis leads up the climbs on the way to 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 author shows off at the top of Independence Pass.

The author shows off at the top of Independence Pass.

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?”

Donald Lewis takes in the snowy view on Independence Pass.

Donald Lewis takes in the snowy view on Independence Pass.

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.

View of the Scratch Labs food truck with the "Backbone of the Rockies" looming behind.

View of the Scratch Labs food truck with the “Backbone of the Rockies” looming behind.

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.

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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.

The author at the overlook to the Red Cliff Bridge.

The author at the overlook to the Red Cliff Bridge.

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.

Riders are held up by the State Patrol on Vail Pass after riders went down on the east-side trail.

Riders are held up by the State Patrol on Vail Pass after riders went down on the east-side trail.

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.

Revolution Smoothy.

Revolution Smoothy.

Dr. Allen Lim doing what he loves, feeding cyclists real food!

Dr. Allen Lim doing what he loves, feeding cyclists real food!

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.

A rider rides the bike path over the Lake Dillon Dam.

A rider rides the bike path over the Lake Dillon Dam.

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.

With a view like this, selfies are only expected.

With a view like this, selfies are to be expected.

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.

Paddle boats invite visitors to bob across the lake.

Paddle boats invite visitors to bob across the lake.

Donald Lewis enjoys attention from rodeo Queens in Grand Lake.

Donald Lewis enjoys attention from rodeo Queens in Grand Lake.

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.

A rider climbs toward Medicine Bow Curve on Trail Ridge Road.

A rider climbs toward Medicine Bow Curve on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider stop briefly to recover from the long climb, but start up again quickly, due to high winds and chilly temperatures on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider stop briefly to recover from the long climb, but start up again quickly, due to high winds and chilly temperatures on Trail Ridge Road.

Rider roll past snow banks at the high point of Trail Ridge Road, about 12,200 feet.

Rider roll past snow banks at the high point of Trail Ridge Road, about 12,200 feet.

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. 

New, again

  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. 

Not easy

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.