Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “Cycling in Colorado

Stoke the Fire

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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.”

What?!?

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.”

Amen.

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.

Eggie goodness in a muffin cup.

Eggie goodness in a muffin cup.

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.

Chocolate, date energy balls from Bicycling magazine.

Chocolate, date energy balls from Bicycling magazine.

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.

Skratch Labs chocolate-chocolate chip cookie!

Skratch Labs chocolate-chocolate chip cookie!

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . right after this cookie!

 


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.


One More Time!

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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.

Walt Hester - Maroon Bells

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.

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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.

Copper Flowers

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.

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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.

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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.

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Longs From Rock Cut

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.

Farmers' Market

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.

Amplified Soul

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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.

Pro Wmn at Horsetooth

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!

Ride Organizers

 


Excitement Begins

After almost 500 miles through wind, snow and heat, we still smile!

After almost 500 miles through wind, snow and heat, we still smile!

Been back from vacation for nearly two weeks. My weight is coming down and I’ve received invitations to two of my three big rides for the season. I’m so excited, I just want to get out and hammer!! But I shouldn’t.

After a season dogged by knee pain, I’ve realized a few more easy rides would not be that bad for me. For the last 18 months or so, it’s been all hammer all the time! While that’s great for the cardio system and a great deal of fun, it can lead to over-use problems. I’m in good shape and have at least three months to my first organized event. Now might be a good time to back off the intensity, just a bit, until the knees feel better.

If you are having these issues, I suggest the same. Also, spend some quality time with a foam roller, massage ball or if you can afford it, massage therapist. Sometimes the problem has to do with the sliding tissues in the front of the legs adhering to each other, creating uncomfortable conditions, including the pulling of the knee cap into the joint.

Also, this is the best time of year to have that bike fit re-assessed. Find a reputable dealer and fitter and spend the money. It will result in long-term savings as you won’t have to spend as much on doctors, PT’s and pharmacists. Those long, ambitious rides will be more comfortable. I was grinding up from State Bridge, Colorado, last season, during day four of Ride the Rockies and was considering the sag wagon. Luckily, my fitter from Boulder’s SportsGarage happened to be on course and made a small but pain-relieving adjustment that allowed me to finish the day, as well as the next two. Get it done ahead of time and it won’t throw doubt and pain into your favorite rides and tours.

For more ideas, go to Mobility WOD for more instruction as to keeping the knees happy and healthy. You can also pick up Dr. Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard” to have a reference on hand. The book helps athletes take care of a wide range of movement issues, making for happy muscles and joints.

The Santos Tour Down Under begins next week, kicking off the Pro Cycling season. The best news out of this may by all about the women. Many of the big World Tour events are adding women’s events to the line up. The Amgen Tour of California, The USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the biggie, The Tour de France will add women’s events this year. Last year’s women’s event on the final day of the men’s race proved so popular that more stages have been added. This is the best thing to happen to women’s cycling in a long time, and hopefully will continue.

On the personal side, friends of mine invited me to ride the Triple Bypass with them. If you don’t already know, the Triple Bypass is a bucket-list sort of ride. It is 120 miles over three big mountain passes from Evergreen, Colo. to Avon. For the truly hard-core, the organizers, Team Evergreen, added a second day: the same route, only backward! I will save that for another year.

The wonderful Liz Brown of Ride the Rockies contacted me this week, so I will once again, be riding this week-long tour of the Colorado high country. RTR is not the toughest, but is the oldest and most popular of the Colorado tours. RTR celebrates its 30th ride through the mountains and will announce the route at a party in Downtown Denver on Saturday, February 7. If you want to find out early, go to http://ridetherockies.com/.

The route announcement party runs $40 dollars on line, $50 at the door. It’s a great time and I plan to record a good bit of it for a future post.

So get out and ride. Bundle up or spend some quality time with your trainer. The season will be upon us before you know it.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.


Anew

The beauty of a new year is the ability to reset. Reset goals. Reset attitudes. Reset our bodies and minds. The last year was as crazy as the one before and I see no sign of it letting up. So I’m buckling up for another great ride.
Fun little segway, I just received my invitation to the 2015 Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. This year the kickoff to the training season is Saturday, February 7, at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. Last year, the route was a bit of a loupe, beginning in Boulder and heading west and eventually north through Steamboat Springs, before returning to the I-70 Corridor and Golden. The year before was a swing through the Southwest, ending in Colorado Springs. With the major roads of Northern Colorado repaired, for the most part, and awaiting the return of the Pro Cycling Challenge, perhaps RTR will follow suite.
One of the great things about the route announcement is that it creates a tangible path to a goal. I have hit the peak of my winter weight and look forward to the return of longer evenings and longer rides. The route announcement is a solid demarcation between the preseason and preparatory phase and the active, sport specific training phase.
I plan to focus a bit more this year, as I have several big goals in mind. I want to Ride the Rockies again, run the Estes Park Half-Marathon with my wife, enter the Mount Evans Hill Climb and possibly the Double Triple Bipass. This is all on top of the Courage Classic, my favorite annual ride. I hope to train for it using the CrossFit Endurance template, as well.
If you haven’t read my ranting a about CFE, yet, let me quickly sum up: CrossFit Endurance takes the basics of CrossFit, varied high intensity movements, as well as emphasizing skill and form work, to get the most out of a short workout. I should get as much training as I need in about 10 hours a week. I will probably log more time than that as the weather warms simply because I love riding. You get the idea. Right now, however, I’m still trying to take it easy.
Along those lines, I am reading “Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete” by Jef Mallett. Mallett is a cartoonist with a daily strip called “Frazz” and a contributor to Velo and Inside Triathlon magazines. He is humorous and spot-on I his depiction of triathletes, how we think, how we eat, how we live. It is just the right read while waiting for the snow to melt.
I have a lot of projects in mind, so my head is going a lot faster than my typing. Look forward to the coming season. Make plans. Stash a little bit of money for travel and dream fast, lite dreams.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding . . . Soon.

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A new life

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“This is my first organized ride,” says the guy on the next sleeping bag over.

We’re in the relatively plush ballroom in Steamboat Springs after the longest day of Ride the Rockies and the place is pretty quite, as most are out enjoying the sunshine.

“Oh yay? What possessed you to do this ride for your first?” I ask, expecting some kind of self-help related story from the forty-something. What Chris White shared would be a lot more than most would overcome in a lifetime. To a degree, I suppose you could say, this is his second lifetime. He intended to make the most of it.

“I was in a car accident that killed my grandmother,” White said, “I broke my neck, C2. It’s commonly called the hangman’s break.”

White suffered two heart attacks in the hospital as a result of the trauma. After that, the heart issues, combined with some bad habits and a stressful career, combine to do more damage.

“I was a chef for a private club. I worked for Duke University and University of North Carolina for a combined 10 years,” White explained, “I was offered positions in Hawaii and Denver. I chose Denver.”

A chef’s eating schedule is erratic, at best. It gets interrupted and chefs will make quick and bad eating decisions. This lifestyle can quickly devolve into poor health and obesity. If a heart is already damaged, stress can make matters worse. White’s heart became enlarged and developed an arrhythmia. He suffered congestive heart failure in his mid 40s in 2011, requiring surgery. After he took steps to restore his heart beat to normal, White realized he had a second chance.

“I could restore my heart to the condition of a 20-year-old, if I wanted.”

And Whited wanted. After recovery, White took steps to take control and lessen stress. He discovered road cycling, or fell in love with it, while volunteering at last season’s USA Pro Challenge final stage in Denver. While watching the event, White met sprinter Peter Sagan’s personal assistant. 

“She was so impressed with my story that she took me to meet Peter. After all he had done, all he accomplished, he stood up and congratulated me.”

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Shortly after, White decided he would go all-in.

“I moved to Deckers for the altitude training and fly fishing,” White explained, “I work for a little mom-and-pop place, now.”

This after working as a banquet chef for the Denver Country Club. His eating has changed, as well.

“I realized I had to have the right food for energy. With clean living, exercise and diet, I lost 120 pounds in 17 months.”

White credits his new routine, including eating breakfast regularly and a lot of two-wheel time.

“I’m usually up about 5 or 5:30 am. I make my power breakfast and am out to ride by 6:15.”

Breakfast often consists of a breakfast burrito with plenty of fresh spinach, oatmeal and fresh fruit. White likes a salad with beans for lunch, post ride. His ride is usually 30-60 miles on the roads between Deckers, Woodland Park and Sadalia, Colorado. White embraced the new life style, and while he lost lots of weight, he gained a bit more than he expected.

“I’m able to process stress better on the bike. Time doesn’t exist,” he explained. “I also have epilepsy, and through cycling and exercise, I’ve been able to manage the stress and triggers.”

So now, the chef who should have died years ago has a new life and wants to share it with others.

“If you can identify your triggers and manage them, you can live a life free of seizures and medications,” but he was quick to add, “not always, but sometimes.”

The anti-seizure drugs given to epilepsy patients can make them lethargic. This can quickly snowball into obesity, especially in children and adolescents. White hopes to help kids see cycling as a possible alternative to medication.

Thanks to his new found love of riding, he has also found new friendships. White entered Ride the Rockies alone, but he quickly found he would not be lonely.

“I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with 2,000 people so quickly,” White smiles a dimpled grin. “It’s an instant feel of family. Everyone is in this together. Everyone has a unique story. There are people from all over the world. Everyone, I believe, is on a personal journey but having this many people together with the same mind set is truly amazing.”

In the five days that we are together, White makes friends easily. He has a warm smile and personality to match. He charms the Jamaican ladies at a little taco stand in Steamboat Springs. He easily converses with frame-building legend Kent Ericksen, founder of Moots cycles and his own brand, Ericksen Bikes. White makes friends with the traveling yoga instructor, even receiving an invitation to teach some cooking. Nothing would compare, however, with the evening in Avon. White shared his big goal with me.

“I’ve signed up with the USA Pro Challenge Experience. I would like to ride with Chris Carmichael’s team and do all seven stages of the Pro Challenge.”

I met Carmichael during last year’s RTR and thought, what ever I could do to help White would be good. Carmichael was the Cycling Seminar speaker in Avon on the ride. I spoke to Carmichael, hoping he might remember me. I explained that White had a story that the coach needed to hear. Carmichael gave me his card to give to my new friend and explained he, White, needed to hurry. Space was filling fast.

I saw White moments later and pointed him in Carmichael’s direction. He returned nearly in tears.

“He said they’re going to work with me on the fee. He said they want me on the team. This has changed my life.”

After a lot of hugs, I reminded him that he did the work. This was the happy payoff.

White has a few more things he wants to do. White would love a lighter bike. He would like a bit of new technology. He would also like to find balance. It will all come. He’s not afraid of the work. White has done so much so far. Blood work looks great and he feels it is all due to his work on the bike. For the price of near death, he has been given a new life and a new purpose.

“I spent years after breaking my neck and the hear issues trying to figure out why I was here,” he explained. “I think that God put me hear to help kids with epilepsy. I feel the mind is so powerful that if you believe and you have faith, you can overcome anything.”

Chris White is proof positive. Very positive.

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Moving Forward

So, I’m a little wiped out and getting pretty inconsistent with my posts. Sorry. It’s hard for me when I don’t have an editor asking me where the hell my column is. I still hold out hope that I will work into some consistency as I go.

I headed up Lookout Mountain outside of Golden, Colorado, last week. The climb has long been a yardstick for locals. Tommy Danielson is credited with the fastest ascent of the five-mile climb from the pillars just west of US Hwy 6 to the gates at Buffalo Bill’s grave; I believe it’s something ridiculous, like 15 MINUTES. For mere mortals like me, the 32 minutes it took me was blazing fast.

Generally speaking, locals like to time “Pillars to Post” from the stone pillars at the bottom to the sign announcing the grave at the top. Officially, it’s 4.55 miles. It averages 5.4% with a maximum grade of 6.8%. Riders like to cut it into thirds – pillars to where the road curves under the big School of Mines “M”, “M” to the Windy Saddle and the steepest section from the saddle to nearly the sign at the top. The ride is nearly always windy and the views are nearly always spectacular.

The descent is fast and technical. Be careful when riding in spring. I carry scars from misjudging gravel in the tight curves. Once back in Golden, refreshment options are plentiful. It’s worth the suffering.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!

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The pillars at the start of the Lookout Mountain climb.Image

The view from the Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum Gift Shop at the top. You can see the entire Denver metro area.