Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Christmas

I headed up to Sundance last week for my first skate ski day of the year and to pick up a nordic season pass. I was all ready to pay what is already a comparatively high price for the pass when the nice lady says, "you know if you get a season pass for the chairs it counts for the nordic center as well." Tempting. Very tempting. I told her that I'd mull it over while I skied and let her know before I left. While skiing, the following scenario played through my mind a dozen times:

5:45am - wake up
6:00am - leave for work
6:05am - arrive at work
2:00pm - leave work
2:30pm-3:30 - skate ski
3:30-5:00 - snowboard
5:15 - arrive home to happy wife

Okay so the schedule might be a little ambitious, but the possibility is quite appealing. Maybe I could try to throw in some snowshoeing on the same day to make a triathlon out of it. I couldn't help myself. A few days later, Wesla was surprised to find this show up in my stocking:

Santa pulled off a pretty nice stocking stuffer and somehow got my picture and everything. Unfortunately for Wesla (and conveniently convenient for me), she couldn't even question me about it in front of the kids without blowing Santa's cover.

I have a feeling that I'll be spending a lot of time up at Sundance alone this winter since I don't know anyone in the U.C. that skies (either the fat kind or the skinny kind) or snowboards. If you are from 'round here, participate in any of these activities and need someone to ride with, shoot me an email to set up an online date.

The possibility of skate skiing and boarding in the same day raises an interesting choice of apparel question. Depending on the whether, I'll sometimes dress for skate skiing similar to the way I'd dress for a cold-whether bike ride. In other words, I look a little something like these guys:

How much would you give me if I skated in my spandex (or "MANdex", according to Tony) and then went snowboarding without changing my attire? If the pot gets big enough, I might actually try it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh Canada!

I hung out with the Canucks up in Calgary over the past few days. A couple of things I learned about Canada while I was there:

1) A one dollar coin is called a "loonie" and a two dollar coin is called a "toonie." It's a little tough to take their money seriously, to be perfectly honest.

2) Not every radio station plays Rush non-stop. This was a bit of a disappointment for me.

3) The TV stations do play hockey non-stop though.

4) Everyone really does say "abowt" rather than "about" (this isn't just limited to movie parodies and hockey announcers).

5) Calgary is a nice city. Reminds me a lot of SLC, in terms of climate, nice people, cleanliness, and urban sprawl. Their downtown area is bigger and seems better planned though, and it has a river running through it, which I think is a pre-req for qualifying as a really cool city. Our mountains make up for our lack of river though. Here's part of the city:

6) Calgarians don't seem very concerned about keeping roads and sidewalks clear of snow. They seem to accept it as a part of life. It snowed on Sunday and the most roads still had snow on them when I left on Tuesday. Makes sense to me though. After all, I wouldn't try and towel off in the middle of a rain storm, so why clear the roads in the middle of a Canadian winter?

7) The Canadian Rockies are pretty spectacular, and the town of Banff is like Park City, only in a location that is about 100 times prettier. The visibility in this pic of the Rockies is poor due to the snow, but it's better than nothing:
I almost forgot how much fun snowboarding is. Boarding in Sunshine Village (just outside of Banff) was one of my best boarding days ever. You know how some of your best riding days ever have been while riding alone, where everything seems a little surreal? Kind of like that. The snow was good, even though the base was lacking a little. Thank goodness for rental boards. It really has me looking forward to the day when we actually get some snow, assuming that day ever comes.

Here are a few more pictures from my "work" trip.

The powder didn't suck:

The wildlife didn't seem to mind my intrusion:

If anyone is looking for a nice anniversary spot, check this place in Banff out:

Think about it. You are now the best husband ever for choosing such a romantic getaway, and you get some of the best mountain biking, skiing, and/or boarding on earth. Not a bad setup.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Visit to Nassau and Mangrove Cay, Bahamas

The mountain biking trails around have been in near perfect condition. So perfect, in fact, that it's almost a shame that I missed out on riding the trails for a while during my trip to the Bahamas. Okay, so that is a BIG almost.

We spent a few days at the Bahamas' mega-resort in Nassau doing some work-related stuff, which I must admit was just about the most amazing man-made place to sleep that I've ever seen:

The scenery while walking from our room down to the beach looked like this:

After a few days at the mega-resort for the conference, we boarded a 15 minute flight to a tiny island called Mangrove Cay (pronounced "Key"), which is part of the Andros chain of islands, which is part of the 700+ islands that make up the Bahamas. Before I get to Mangrove Cay, it's worth mentioning that the airline that took us there would only accept cash. That's right, CASH! I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I felt a little uncomfortable entrusting my life to an organization that only accepted cash. What's more is that the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at required that you wire cash before you arrived. I felt like I was involved in some illegal cash money laundering operation. Fortunately, the airline got us to and from Mangrove without incident, and the B&B was friken' awesome.

The arrow in the picture below points to the spot we were staying at:

Mangrove Cay was as opposite as could be from the Mega-resort in Nassau. Mangrove Cay only got electricity in the 1980s. The people lead a very simple life. These kids lived next door to the place we stayed are growing playing on the beach most of the time:

I met this guy one morning on the southern port on the island. He says he's lived his entire life on Mangrove Cay. Although the island itself is 10 miles long by 20 miles wide, the only part of the island that is inhabitable is the half mile strip that is closest to the east beach because further inland is completely infested with Mangrove Trees (thus the name), which means he's lived his entire life on about 5 square miles. He couldn't have seemed happier:

The stay at Mangrove Cay offered some great recovery time:

And the recovery time was much needed after all of the hard-core training we were getting in using the bikes that Mickey (the owner of the B&B) let us borrow:

As Chad has previously pointed out, the best way to see a new city or place is on a bicycle, and we got to see a lot of cool things while traversing the island on two wheels:

Apart from a lot of laying around, we rode out to quite a few "blue holes" for some snorkeling. The blue holes on Mangrove Cay are a series of underground water-filled caves that occasionally break through to the surface, both inside the island and also just off of the beaches (think of them as the places that Caribbean pirates would hide their treasure). The mixture of fresh and salt water make for a perfect place for marine life. In one blue hole off the coast, we must have seen over a thousand fish swimming around in the coral. In another inland blue hole, I was swimming alone while Wesla was taking a nap and a four-foot long version of one of these follow me around for a few minutes:

That's a barracuda, in case you don't recognize it. Apparently, it's quite common for them to follow humans around, mistaking us for sharks that will leave behind some scraps of food for it to scavenge for. I also saw a sea turtle swimming around in the same blue hole.

The main thing I left Mangrove Cay with is a greater appreciation of the simple things in life. The locals were as happy as could be, even though their possessions were about as basic as you can imagine. While I'm not planning on giving away all my possessions and moving to Mangrove, it did make me realize that all of the crap I have doesn't mean anything without family and friends to enjoy it with.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

...You might be a roadie

Now that daylight savings time is over and "daylight wasting time" has arrived, I've had a good chance to think back on the season of riding. It's been a good year, and most importantly, I'm not sick of riding at all.

With the season winding down, I started to get curious about the number of miles I've ridden this year. I have a bike odometer that has a first setting for my mountain bike and a second for my road bike which accounts for the different tire sizes.

I checked out the cumulative mileage the other day, and I have to admit that I was pretty proud about what I saw. Not because of the cumulative mileage I logged, because it really wasn't all that impressive. No, instead I was proud of the fact that I logged significantly more miles on my mountain bike this year than on my road bike.

This is despite the fact that I logged quite a few road miles during our never-ending spring (snowing in JUNE!?!?) while the trails were covered in multiple feet of snow. This is despite the fact that road miles are at least twice as easy to pile up as mountain bike miles. This is also despite the fact that I threw in quite a few trips around the Alpine loop this summer on the road bike.

And the difference between road and mountain miles wasn't very close, and it would have been even greater if I had bothered to hook the odometer up to the Superfly I've been riding for the past month-and-a-half, during which time I haven't even touched my road bike.

So it got me thinking. I know a few self-proclaimed "mountain bikers" who seem to be on their road bikes nearly every time they go on a ride. I'm issuing a word of caution that this is a very slippery slope to find yourself on. I'd even go as far to say that if you live close to the mountains like those of us here in Utah do, and you log more miles on your road bike over the course of a season than on your mountain bike, then you need to seriously consider the possibility that you may not be a mountain biker at all. And you know what the alternative is, and it is not good. That's right, you might be a roadie.

By the way, miles logged while commuting to and from work do not count toward becoming a roadie.

All this talk about being a roadie gave me a great idea for a new book. It's called "You might be a roadie" (c). Here are a few sample entries:

1) if you log more miles on your road bike than on your mountain bike... you might be a roadie.
2) if you wear spandex to a casual mountain bike ride with friends... you might be a roadie.
3) if you wear a full team kit during a casual mountain bike ride with friends... you REALLY might be a roadie.
4) if your yearly road race schedule consists of more than an occasional hill climb, you might be a roadie.
5) if you wear an HRM on casual mountain bike rides with friends... you might be a roadie.
6) if you even own a power meter... you might be a roadie.
7) if you tear off the visor immediately after purchasing a new helmet... you might be a roadie.
8) if you shave your legs... you might be a roadie.
9) if you shave your legs more than twice a week... you REALLY might be a roadie.
10) if you meet up with friends for a ride and utter the words "I have to go slow because it's a recovery day"... you might be a roadie.
11) if you own a set of aero bars... you might be a roadie.
12) if you own an actual time-trial bike... then forget about it.
13) if you ride the trainer more than once per week during the winter... you might be a roadie.
14) if you EVER ride the trainer during the summer... you are definitely a roadie
15) if you talk about pedaling circles/squares/triangles in a non-joking manner... you might be a roadie.
16) if you cause a pileup because you can't clip into your pedals... you might be a roadie.
For the record, I've been guilty of violating quite a few of the above items, so don't feel like you need to defend yourselves. Shoot, if my former self (3-4 years ago) knew how often I currently wear spandex, my former self would probably light my current self on fire. This list could go on forever, so feel free to add the Nth entry for the "you might be a roadie" in the comments.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The best medicine

Lately work and life in general has gotten pretty busy. For a while there, I started to question a lot of things, include whether my job really was the best job imaginable for a hack like me. I was grumpy around the family. Not coincidentally, I hadn't been riding much at all this past month. Fortunately I made it out on a lunch ride just before the snow started to fly. I got back to the office and soon realized that life was good again. It was suddenly apparent that I did indeed have an awesome job for a hack like me. It's no wonder so many people hate their jobs. I'd probably hate my job too if I didn't get out on my bike every now and then.

As much as I love everything about riding, I'm getting really excited for winter. The sight of the snow has me itching to dust off the skate skis, the snowboard, the snowshoes, etc. It's no wonder so many people hate the winter. I'd probably hate winter too if I didn't have these activities to look forward to. I'm starting to see recurring theme here.

I'm heading to Calgary for work in a few weeks (just after Wesla and I get back from another work trip to the Bahamas - it's tough, but somebody's gotta do it). I think my packing list for Calgary will include: 1 change of clothes, laptop, snowbibs, jacket, snowboard. Banff is calling my name.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A couple of discoveries

I found a few new things these past couple of days. As is usual, what is new for me may very well be old for everyone else.

First, I was on a quick afternoon ride on Friday on the portion of the BST hat starts just below Bridal Veil Falls. After trying a few trails to the left that didn't really go anywhere, I took the main fork to the left that starts after crossing Squaw but before you start the descent. After the first few steep switchbacks, I took a sharp left (rather than continuing straight to the clearing), which turned into a pretty cool trail that traversed the mountain and had some interesting rocky sections. It looked like it had some really good potential, but I had to head home before I fully explored it. Anyone know where this trail goes?

Second, this past Thursday evening, I had the choice of watching The Office or going on a night ride. Of course, I opted for the latter. The next day, after listening to my wife laughing about the episode I missed, I decided I wanted to watch it after all. We don't have a DVR, so I started searching for it on the InterWeb. I expected my options to be: 1) pay $4 on iTunes; or 2) download a pirated version from some nefarious website. To my surprise, I found that allows you to watch every episode for free. Ya, I realize that I'm the last person to find this out. You do have to put up with a couple of 20 second commercials, but nothing too bad.

So for the past while, the only time I watch TV is for The Office and for sports. The Office because it's pretty funny, and sports because it offers instant entertainment with no long-term commitment. Most of the other shows these days seem to require a weekly commitment, which I'm just not willing to give to a TV show. Now as the days get shorter and colder, I'll probably eventually succumb to an occasional ride on the trainer down in the basement. Every year I tell myself I'll occasionally ride through the winter, but that's easy to say when it's a balmy 40 degrees outside, but tougher to do with it drops into the 20s. So while riding the trainer, I think I'll try out some of these shows I've heard about by watching them for free on the networks' website.

The problem is that it's been so long since I've watched anything, I don't know what is any good. I've heard about a show called Heroes and another one called Lost. I don't know what either of them is about (although I'm guessing that "Lost" is about someone who got lost), but I've heard people say they are pretty good, so I'll probably give those a try. Any other recommendations for what else I should watch while suffering on the trainer this winter? The options are pretty wide open, because it looks like nbc, cbs, abc, and fox all have posted full episodes. My only stipulation is that I won't watch any of the reality shows/competitions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Vernal Roundup '08 - The Walking Park Criterium

In my previous post, I alluded to the main highlight of the Vernal Roundup. The "Vernal Roundup Walking Park Criterium" was an event that will likely never be matched, at least in terms of the sum of its awesomeness and stupidity.

A bit of background is required here. Mark (the local host of the Vernal Roundups) has a quirky hobby of converting his little kids' thrift store bikes into "kick-A" chopper bikes. We'd all take turns riding these bikes around his garage while tinkering with our big-kid bikes. A couple of Mark's creations are nearly impossible to ride without breaking out into laughter.

Chad decided that the bikes were so "kick-A" that we needed to put them to good use. And of course, there is no better use for a bike than to race it. The best place to race these bikes was in the neighboring "walking park", which included various options for a short criterium loop. In order to level the playing field (since some of the bikes were much faster than others), the crit would be a four-lap time trial, with each lap being ridden on a different bike.

Ryan raced first and recorded a respectable time. Here he is on the lap-2 bike. This bike obviously has one distinguishing feature. That's right, it has some sweet full suspension (Click on pics to enlarge):
From Vernal Roundup 08

Mark, the local kid, set the new best time. Here he is, also on the lap-2 bike:
From Vernal Roundup 08

I went next. The lap 1 bike was a pretty standard kid's bike, and was also the fastest:
From Vernal Roundup 08

Here I am on lap 2:
From Vernal Roundup 08

Here is the lap 3 chopper bike. The lactic acid is building by this point:
From Vernal Roundup 08

An finally lap 4. If you look closely, you'll notice that the training wheels are still attached.
From Vernal Roundup 08

You have no idea how blown I was coming down the home stretch of lap 4 on this bike. It's physically impossible to sit down on this bike, and each revolution of the pedals propels you approximately 1/2 a foot. Try as I might, I could not quite match Mark's quick time.

Finally, Chad was up. He went out of the gates quick, setting a new best time after lap 1:
From Vernal Roundup 08

He was on his way to a new best time split at lap two...
From Vernal Roundup 08

... when our night was cut short. If you look closely, you'll notice a set of headlights just to the side of Chad's left hand. That would be a police car coming to break up the party. The gig was up, the fuzz was onto us. The most disappointing part about our run-in with the cops (other than not being able to see Chad ride the training wheels bike) is that we didn't get a close-up picture of the expression on the officer's face when he got a good look at the shenanigans we were up to. It's been a while since I've been "busted" by the fuzz, but for some reason, it seemed like a fitting end to the Vernal Roundup Walking Park (i.e., no bike riding allowed) Crit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vernal Roundup '08

Since I can't ride due to a cold I'm nursing, I may as well write about riding. A few weeks back, the annual "Vernal Roundup" was held. When all was said and done, we went out on 10 separate rides, logged 300 miles (100 per day), and had 10 inches of rain fall on us (all stats have been rounded up, of course).

Here are a few of the highlights:

Here's my first experience riding over a teeter-totter, which was scarier than I thought it would be. I felt like I was about at the end of the 8-inch-wide plank by the time it started coming down, and then it all came slamming down at once (click on each pic to enlarge):
From Vernal Roundup 08

Red Fleet Reservoir:

From Vernal Roundup 08

Chad paid for this yard sale for the rest of the trip:
From Vernal Roundup 08

A lot of good 1-track in Vernal. Ask the owner of Altitude Cycles for details on how to find it:
From Vernal Roundup 08

When the trails are too sloppy, the roads around Vernal offer some good riding as well (good for a road ride, that is):
From Vernal Roundup 08

As with any group, we were prone to doing stupid things that we would never have done as individuals. Like riding the Rojo trail in a torrential downpour, for example. Fortunately, the stupidest rides have a way of becoming the "kickassiest" (term coined during the '08 Roundup) rides:

A lot of the Rojo trail quickly turned into a river...
From Vernal Roundup 08

... some of which was deceptively deep:
From Vernal Roundup 08

The water on the lens for this group shot pretty much sums up the trip:
From Vernal Roundup 08

The only way to wrap up the kickassiest ride ever is with a sequence shot of Chad headbanging to AC/DC during the drive back from Rojo:
From Vernal Roundup 08
From Vernal Roundup 08
From Vernal Roundup 08
From Vernal Roundup 08

...And you haven't even seen the true highlight of the trip yet. Check in tomorrow for that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

That's my girl!

I know I haven't posted for a while due to life getting in the way, but sometimes, an out-of-shammy experience happens that simply must be documented.

My 4 year old was saying her prayers tonight, and out of nowhere, things got irreverent really quick as she let one rip, rather loudly and longly for a four year old.  She paused in the middle of giving thanks for her trampoline, and then she says, "sorry, my butt wanted to say something."  I lost it.  Couldn't help myself.  Who could?  She lost it too, and we laughed all the way till "Amen."  
More posts about some ShammyTime to come (hopefully).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bike Sizes

Although nearly all bikes have some level of beauty, it's well known that some bikes are more beautiful than others. What is less well known, or at least less well documented, is that some bike sizes are better-looking than others. I give you the authoritative guide on mountain bike sizes:

Small: A little too squatty, sort of like the bike was built-up and then smashed. Add 29 wheels, and it starts to get ridiculous. What makes you feel even more ridiculous is when Mrs. Holley easily passes you on one of said small 29er bikes (although this begins to feel more normal/expected after the first few times it happens)

Medium: A thing of beauty. Heavenly angles separate the front and rear triangles. In fact, if a form of deity were to design a bike, it would be a size medium. Add 29er wheels, and it really becomes the perfect bike.

Large: Still a pretty good bike size. The angles aren't quite as heavenly as a size medium, but it can still result in a stunning bike.

X-Large: Somehow, some of the fastest guys I know ride X-Larges. However, it doesn't change the fact that X-Large frames are too angular and awkward to possess the same level of beauty as a Medium or even Large frame.

Those are my thoughts on frame sizes. I'm not afraid to take on these kinds of tough topics that nobody else is talking about (usually because they're not worth talking about). And if it wasn't obvious already, I just happen to ride a size medium frame.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lance Shows Some Love for the Kazakhs

After being kept in suspense for weeks, Lance pulled the completely unexpected move of joining team Astana. Although it was tough to pinpoint any reason why he'd make such an arbitrary move, I think Nikolai Proskurin, the "Federation deputy chief" (whatever that means) of the Kazakhstan cycling federation finally nailed it down:

"If people say that they want to join this team, it is a sign that they must hold Kazakhstan in great regard."

Yeah, I'm sure that's it.

Pobre Contador. There's only one person in the history of cycling that could make a winner of all three grand tours take a back seat, and that person just joined the team that Contador happens to be on.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Addition to the Family

Saturday evening, we welcomed a new addition to the family. We had been "trying" for a while, but with no luck. We were about to start looking into alternatives, but fortunately things worked out just before we were about to spend quite a bit of money on one of the alternatives. She was finally delivered this weekend, and she's perfect and well proportioned, although she's a bit on the light side, especially for her height. As is common, she may even lose a bit more weight soon after delivery. Although Wesla struggled with the delivery, she's doing better now and is currently at home recovering. The new arrival needed a little bit of love and care right after the delivery, but she's also home now and doing well. I know you're excited to see pictures, so here she is:

I told you she was beautiful. For now, we're just calling her "Superfly" (a bit pretentious, I know), but we may come up with a different name for her soon. She's already faced some pretty rough patches, but has handled them flawlessly.

As with any family that grows too large, some of the older and less loved family members are placed for adoption to make room for the newer members. Or maybe a better analogy is that I'm marrying-off the older family members (in exchange for a "bride price", of course). Let me know if you are interested in a Gary Fisher Paragon, size Medium. It's pretty well tricked out. You may also remember it as the fatcyclist's "weapon of choice." Here is a fairly recent pic:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

At Least You're Not Married to THAT Guy.

You know that informal list you keep to demonstrate to your wife that there actually are other guys who would be much worse to be married to than you? I can't be the only one who has a list like this, right? Well, a few months ago, I found out from a few friends (hi Jim and Marie, if you're still reading) that I'm "that guy" for Jim. They didn't sugar coat the fact that Jim uses me as the guy Marie would hate to be married to every time he reads my blog. I'm glad I could help you out, Jim.

It's my stance that as cyclists, we should all be proud of being "that guy." In fact, we should strive to provide good material for other cyclists. For me, one the of the best things about the cycling blogosphere is that it provides almost unlimited "that guy" material. That's why cycling bloggers should at least make mention of all big races and rides - so that it can be used by other cyclists to justify the next big ride to the spouses of said cyclists.

The key is to understand how to properly utilize the list. You can't just come out and say "at least you're not married to THAT guy." It's too obvious. Instead, you need to drop subtle hints, preferably while you are washing the dishes, or doing something else that demonstrates what a wonderful husband you are. For example:

Spouse: Are you planning on going on a ride tomorrow (with the tone in her voice that means "you better not be planning a ride tomorrow, because I've been stuck here with the kids all week")
You: No, most of my friends are racing Leadville this weekend.
Spouse: What's Leadville?
You: It's a 100 mile race in Colorado, a four day trip. Sounded like a lot of fun, but I decided to pass (i.e., you tried signing up, but didn't get one of the coveted spots).
Spouse: (speechless for a few seconds, while she contemplates how she got so lucky as to be married to you instead of to one of your friends) Well, you should at least try to get a quick ride in.

My list is something I can use at a moments notice. Of course, the contents of the list are top secret. I would hate for it to be widely distributed. So please don't tell anyone that I'm posting my list here for the entire world to read. In no particular order:

***Chad - he's the fastest guy I ride with. Unfortunately my wife does not consider Chad a valid "that guy" because of his lack of kids. I normally couldn't care less if someone has kids, but in this case, I hope Mr. Hooptedoodle has some soon just so I can add him to the regular "that guy" rotation.
***Elden - Fatty mentioned in a recent post that he has a readership of around 10,000 people (which is only about 3 orders of magnitude more than mine). That means that there are almost 10,000 people who have used Elden as ammunition in justifying their next ride to their spouses.
***Sam - He just rode a sub-9 at Leadville. And although I'm not exactly sure what Sam does for a living, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with breasts. So while I have no idea what the details of his job actually entail, it certainly isn't difficult to spin this to your advantage.
***Brad - Way too fast for a guy with kids, and especially for a guy who is technically over-the-hill. And now he works at a bike shop, which almost matches Sam for being the dream-job, but could be interpreted by many wives as an excuse to play in a shop all day.
***Bart - I don't really know Bart personally, but what I do know about him is enough to earn him a spot on the list. He's married, has at least one kid, races mtb and CX a lot, I've heard that both he and his wife have real jobs, he's been one of the fastest guys in the state since he was about 3 weeks old, and when he's not riding, he's doing multi-canyon backcountry ski adventures. Sometimes the less you really know about a person, the better candidate that person becomes for the list.
***Ryan - he has kids and he's fast. The problem is that our wives have now met and exchanged cycling widow stories. Ryan may need to be deleted from the list unless he can provide me with some good new material.
***Fish - if you are limiting your list to only those who ride a lot, you have a gaping hole in your list. You also need someone to help you justify your next next bike-related purchase. Fish can be that guy. Just don't tell your wife the minor detail that due to Fish's extensive contacts in the bike industry, he's usually not paying the same amount as you are for big-ticket items.
***Sabrosa Jon - he's dang fast, he takes a pile of steel tubes and builds amazing bikes for his friends (certainly at a financial loss when you factor in time spent), and he has a kid. Prime candidate.
***Adam - he has like 25 kids and has ridden more all-weekend endurance races than anyone I know. And he manages to write a great blog on top of everything.
***The following are on the list because if you are fast and have kids, you automatically get a spot: Rick, Jon, Tony, Brandon, Spike, etc.

Don't get me wrong here, I know most everyone on this list pretty well, and everyone here is is a great husband and/or father. The trick is to convince your better-half that the people on the list ride a lot more than you do, and their wives don't seem to mind at all. Unfortunately, if your wife is anything like mine, she'll immediately see right through all the bull crap, and will be quite sure of herself that you pulled the wool over her eyes long enough to marry way up. I know I did, because for whatever reason, Wesla let me get away with way more than I deserved this past summer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No go on Baile del Sol

I had intended to race 12 Hours of Sundance last Saturday, but due to some changes in the bargaining positions of my wife and me, I had to pull the plug Friday evening.

Instead, Brandon, Spike (1-speed ICUP series winner), and I headed to Payson Canyon to check out the Nebo Loop trails. It was a bit chilly (i.e., cold as a motel bible) when we met at 6:00am, but we warmed up pretty quick as Brandon took us on an extended climb from the bottom of Bennie Creek to the top of the mountain via Shram Creek and a few other trails. I doubt I can remember the exact route, but I remember Sharm Creek, Lizard Lake, Jones Ranch, BlackHawk out-and-back to and from the campground, and finally down Bennie Creek to the car. The mileage wasn't huge, but we climbed something like 4-5k feet and we were home by noon.

The amount of amazing riding in Utah County baffles me. You could play in Payson Canyon all summer and not get bored. Combine this with Diamond Fork, the Timp/Cascade Foothills, the Alpine Loop and the Draper trails (easily accessible from Hog Hollow), and I can't imagine anywhere that has this much good riding within such a close proximity.

Here are a few pics from the Brandon's camera phone:

Brandon captured all of the the scenic photo-opportunities, including my stop at the outhouse:

Don't ask me what Spike is so excited about or what he's doing with his righ hand, but it's a little disturbing:

I'm not sure what I'm doing here, but it looks like I'm preparing to do some sort of Russian dance:

As you can see, the alpine singletrack sections were just okay:

Even though riding in circles for 12 hours at baile del sol sounds like tons of fun, Payson Canyon was a pretty good substitute.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Glutton for punishment

Remember all my recent talk about how great it is to ride for fun and not for the sake of racing? Well that was a bunch of bull crap. All of it.

Somehow, I've convinced myself that it would be a good idea to race the 12 hours of Sundance this Saturday. I figured my wife would veto the idea, but she had also been devising a strategy to go on a "book club retreat" the following weekend, and was in the mood to bargain. Given the number of Saturday mornings she's given me this summer, I would have been happy to let her go with no strings attached, but if I could get an entire Saturday out of the deal, I wasn't about to pass it up. Because that's just the kind of wonderful person I am.

So here I am, getting ready to do a repeat of the Park City Perfect 10. Except instead of trying to go around in the most circles for 10 hours, I'll be trying to go around in the most circles for 12 hours. And instead of being able to go as slow as I wanted to with no outside pressures, I'll be racing as a duo, so I may actually feel the need to try and go fast, and going fast at this point in the season seems to hurt even worse than it did back in June.

I'll be racing with my pal Brandon. Since he's the faster rider, I wonder if he'd be up for riding 2 or 3 laps for every 1 lap I ride? Now that sounds like something I can handle! Waddaya say, Brandon?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Perfect weekend

The weekend started early - 5:10am on Friday morning, to be exact. I was meeting Brandon S. and his crew at 5:45am for some early morning A.F. canyon action on the mtb. We met up at the mouth of the canyon, and I'll admit I was a bit skeptical based on my initial impressions. Because I'm becoming a cross country mountain bike snob. The ride had everything that the snob in me abhorred - big travel bikes on big trucks, body armor, a helmet being worn backwards (inadvertently), 33 degrees at the summit (this has nothing to do with me being a snob, but worth mentioning), and yes, even the dreaded shuttle ride to the top.

To make a long story short, I ended up having the time of my life.

Brandon and I went off the front of the group so that we could retrieve the shuttle vehicle. Brandon and I went at a decent pace, but nothing crazy. The ridge trail system was in perfect condition. We got to the Mud Springs turnoff and I convinced Brandon that we should give it a shot since I'd never ridden it before. We climbed to the top and then bombed down what may be one of the best descents I've ridden. Perfect combo of fast stuff, twisty stuff, rocky stuff, rooty stuff, steep stuff rutted stuff, etc. Not as technical as Dark Hollow, but still a blast. We crossed Tibble and descended lower Mill. We drove to the top, grabbed the shuttle vehicle and drove back to the Tibble turn-off, just in time to see the rest of the group coasting in.

It was a good way to rid myself of CX snobbery. As long as people are having fun on their bikes and not bothering anyone, that should be good enough. Riding with these guys once again reminded me how much fun it is riding your bike just for fun (what a novel concept, huh?). It also convinced me to hang onto my full squish bike, which I had considered selling. I get the simplicity of 1-speed rigid bikes, but there's something really fun about bombing Mud on a full squish.

Here's a pic Brandon sent me from the ride:

The remainder of the weekend was filled with throwing a birthday party for the youngin' and another trip up A.F. for some Timpanookee+Joy to work up an appetite for the highlight of the summer, aka, Fish's Luau. Fish never ceases to amaze with his ability to cook and entertain. I'm getting hungry just thinking about the pulled pork, not to mention the chicken, beef, and sausages (or brats? My unrefined palate can never distinguish the two). The impressive thing is that he pulled it all off despite some serious drama taking place on the home-front, but I'll leave the disclosure of the details up to him. One of the coolest things about Fish's Luaus is that they have to be one of the largest gathering of bike riders outside of a race or organized ride. I'm almost surprised that a race didn't spontaneously break out during the event. Fish has quite the impressive group of friends (notwithstanding me being counted among them), and it was a great chance to catch up with old acquaintances. Thanks again Fish!

Go Lance.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Binge and Purge

Ever since the American Mountain Classic race, all I've been doing is binging on every type of delicious food imaginable. Bacon Burgers, Burritos, Beer Boiled Brats, Birthday Cakes, Buffalo Wings, Butterfly Shrimp, etc. It appears I have an affinity for foods that start with the letter 'B', although I've been doing my best to give equal time to other letters as well, eating plenty of ice cream, drinking soda, and even the dreaded chili cheese fries while watching football with the in-laws. It's been a delicious week, other than the fact I've felt a little crumby, with allergies and maybe even a hint of a cold setting in. Coincidence?

I've hardly touched a bike since the race. Not because I haven't wanted to, but there's a long list of to-do's that I've placed on the back-burner for a while. Last night, it was time to purge the toxins I'd consumed over the past week or so. Nothing better than tacky single-track to cleanse the system. I did one of the Timp Foothill Suckers - up the bypass trail (this trail still may need an official name), up Crank, down to the Alter where I worshiped Frank for a bit, down reverse Frank (or Betty, depending on who you ask), back down the bypass trail, and home. Today, we're resurrecting the lunch group for some additional cleansing on the Timp Foothills.

Riding with no race to "train" for is actually quite fun. You should try it sometime. Push as hard or easy as you feel like. Recovery? The only recovery I'll be doing this fall is while descending some leaf-covered single track. Intervals? Intervals are for suckas.

Here is a pretty good video of the AMC. That there's some nice 1-track:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

American Mountain Classic - Day 4

6am never felt so early as it did on Sunday. The previous night was yet another restless night of poor sleep. How is it possible to ride so much and sleep so little? My legs felt dead, heavy, stiff, sore, you name it. No big deal. I only had the most difficult stage in front of me, with close to 50 miles and over 7000 feet of climbing. At that point, I was in survival mode - just finish. I forced down some food and headed down to the staging area.

Stage 4 was a 24 mile loop that we would do twice. Each loop had over 3500 feet of climbing. We had actually ridden about 2/3 of the course during Stage 3. The course took us up the same paved and dirt roads toward Brian Head Peak, down the Lowder Ponds trail, and then skipped all of the flat/rolling fire roads of the previous stage. Instead, it went straight up the Sydney Valley road and up the same steep single track climb back toward the Peak (I think it's called the Bunker Creek Trail, according to UMB). Fortunately, instead of climbing all the way to the top, the course takes a right turn down the infamous "Dark Hollow" trail. Near the bottom of Dark Hollow, we hung a left at a scout camp, and the loop finished with a 4-5 mile climb back to the start/finish area. You can check out a low-tech profile of the stage here.

I figured I'd have plenty of time to take pictures during this stage, so I brought the camera along. Here are a few pics of the staging area and start.

Tony and me pretending to look forward to the stage:

The "peleton" at the start:

Tony getting ready to drop me:

The race started pretty mellow again while everyone tried to get their race legs back. It took me a while, but after the first 20 minutes or so, my legs were actually feeling quite a bit better than I had expected. Tony went out ahead as usual, but I was able to keep him in sight all the way until I reached the top of the dirt road climb. As we were funneled onto a short, steep, rocky single track to finish the climb, Lynda Wallenfels snapped this picture of me:

Yesterday on stage 3, I was able to catch Tony on the descent down Lowder Ponds going into the feed zone, so I hoped to do the same thing today. Just after this picture was taken, I was feeling the flow on the DH, hopping over rocks and carving the corners. And then I heard the dreaded hissssssss coming from my back tire.

I still don't know for sure what caused the flat because it happened on a completely straight and smooth section of the trail. I hopped off my bike and found the puncture. It was a 1/4 inch tear in the sidewall. My only guess is that a sharp stick jabbed the side of my tire as I rode by. I tried to position my wheel so that the Stans sealant would do it's work, but it never sealed. From there, it was a comedy of errors. I took my back wheel off (which seemed to get hung up by the chain more than normal), grabbed a CO2 Big Air and went to work. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the CO2 to properly empty into my wheel. Chad had a similar problem on Stage 2 and I think I ended up with the same faulty CO2 nozzle/valve thingy that he previously had. I gave up on the Stans and took off the tire and rim strip, emptied out the excess sealant and started to throw in a tube. I fumbled with the tube and tire for a while before I got everything properly mounted. I begged a hand pump from another racer, and I reached down to unscrew the valve stem so I could start pumping. To my surprise, the valve was completely missing from the tube. The stem consisted of an open passageway from the outside to the inside of the tube, which doesn't really help much. The thought of DNF'ing the entire race went through my mind. We were less than 30 minutes into the race when the flat happened and I'd been fiddling with my tire for 15 more minutes. My only tube was a dud, and not many more people would be coming by. A guy came into view and I practically threw myself in front of him on my knees begging for a spare tube. He was incredibly nice and reached in his pack for a tube, and then said, "shoot, you're a 29er, aren't you?"

"Yes, but a 26 is going to have to suffice", I replied.

He tossed me the tube and I stretched it into place around my big wheel.

While I was pumping and waiting for the tube to explode in my face, the guy says "Hey, aren't you Aaron Smith?"

"Yeah, that's me. How did you know?"

"I'm Tony's friend, Doug. He'll kill me if he finds out I'm helping you."

I laugh it off and say "Your secret is safe with me" (which it obviously isn't). "The race for first is over anyway. Right now it's about finishing and hopefully hanging onto second. Plus, Tony is the nicest guy around. I'm sure he'd have it no other way."

Doug chuckles and says "Tony's a lot more competitive than he lets on. Plus, you just never know what might happen over the next 5 hours."

I pumped the tire up to about 40 psi in hopes that I wouldn't pinch flat and we headed on our way. I figured I'd been stopped for close to a half an hour, but at the end of the race I compared my ride time to the elapsed time on my bike computer and figured it really took me about 24-25 minutes. Either way, I knew there was no chance of catching Tony plus making up the 16 minute deficit, but I did have a 2nd place finish to try and recapture. By the time I started riding again, I'm pretty sure that there was nobody behind me in the entire race.

On the way down Lowder, I snapped this pic of the valley below. It's not the best, but I was riding at the time:

I made a few passes on the descent and made it to the first feed zone without blowing out my 26 inch tube. I grabbed two 29er tubes and was on my way. I made a few passes on the climb up Sydney Peaks Road, and a few more on the "uper steep" (thanks Jon) climb up Bunker Creek, including Clayton Bell from Arkansas. I mentioned in my Stage 2 write-up that Clayton was the toughest rider at the AMC, and now I'm about to tell you why. I pulled up behind him and greeted him with a hello. He replied back, but sounded kind of weird, like he'd just gotten home from the dentist and his mouth was filled with novocaine. I asked if everything was okay. He responded that while descending Lowder, he reached down to unlock his fork, lost control, crashed and knocked out three of his teeth. Actually, I take that back. He only knocked out two teeth. He PULLED OUT the third tooth! I asked him why he was still riding his bike. He told me that he was going to finish. He'd come all the way from Arkansas to race, had already ridden 130 miles, and there was nothing he could do now about his teeth, so he was going to finish. Not only did Clayton finish, but he ended up winning his class. Just before I pulled away, I asked if I could take his picture, and he obliged. Caution, the content is somewhat graphic:

As I rode away from Clayton, I thought to myself, if Clayton can finish with 3 missing teeth, the least I can do is give it my best effort for the rest of the race. So I did. I climbed the rest of Bunker Creek, and started the descent down Dark Hollow. Dark Hollow is the most rocky, steep, rooty, crazy down hill I've ever ridden. In other words, it's a little slice of heaven. I passed more people on the Dark Hollow descent than anywhere else (remember though, that I basically started at the very back end of the race). It's not too hard to pass when most people are walking. I got fairly beat up on the way down with my hardtail and 40psi tire, but felt okay once I got to the bottom.

I climbed up the single track back to the start/finish area and came in with a somewhat dreadful 3:07 lap time. My lovely wife Wesla was waiting for me with a bottle and food, and she said that Tony was about 10 minutes in front of me. I was quite stunned, since I figured he'd be closer to 30 minutes in front of me. I did the math and realized that minus the flat, Tony and I could have been in a pretty close race. If I could keep up the same pace and avoid any additional mechanicals, I figured I had a chance to at least catch him during the second lap, so I quickly took off.

Up the roads, down Lowder Ponds, and through the feed zone, and no sign of Tony. By this time, I had caught and passed the 2nd and 3rd placed guys in our category, so my 2nd place was pretty secure. I figured if there was any chance of catching Tony, it would be on the descent down Dark Hollow. That meant I'd better give the last big climb everything I had. I dug deep and started to motor. It seems like when you take it easy, the climb goes by fast, but when you push hard, the climb seems to last a lot longer. This climb seemed to go on forever. I finally made it to the top and barreled down Dark Hollow. I took another good beating all the way down to the scout camp, but never saw Tony. All that was left was the 4 mile climb back to the finish line.

At that point, I knew I wouldn't catch him and lost a bit of motivation. It was all I could do to climb those last 4 miles. I don't know if I've ever been that tired on a bike before. At the very end of the race, the course took us around a final corner where you see a quick descent down a grassy slope and into the parking lot where the finish line is. I can't describe how relieved I was to take in that sight. I cruised across the finish line with a second lap time of 2:51 and overall time of 5:58 and was met by my wife. After the congratulatory kiss, she asked, "Where's Tony?"

"I'm not sure, but he must be here somewhere, because I never passed him."

The results board was updated just as we checked it. At that time, I was the only one in my class with a finishing time. Tony was still out there somewhere, and I hoped he was okay and not in the back of a truck, since I hadn't seen him. We waited around for 15 minutes or so and I had to get back to the condo to grab some food.

We came back down for the awards ceremony and they still hadn't updated the results since we last checked, but I did see Tony. Apparently, Tony broke his chain on the second lap, almost exactly where Lynda took my picture above during the first lap. He left the trail for a minute or so to get a tool from a spectator, and while he was there I must have passed him. I spent the entire second lap chasing him when he was actually behind me for most of it. He also ended up flatting on the Dark Hollow descent, but I'm not sure if it was the first or second lap.

We compared the times we thought we had for stage 4, and we decided that I narrowly picked up the victory. We exchanged congratulations and shared war stories until our class was called to the podium. To our surprise, my name was called up as second place, and Tony was called as first. Here's the podium pic:

I was a little curious, but figured we'd somehow miscalculated and Tony must have edged me. The announcer congratulated us on a tight race, mentioning that only 7 minutes separated us. My curiosity grew. That meant that with his 16 minute lead going into the last stage, I could have only finished 9 minutes in front of him on stage 4, but I didn't see him cross the line in the 15 minutes I hung out after I finished.

The final finishing times for stage 4 were posted by the time we left. We checked the times, which just added to the confusion. I had crossed nearly 24 minutes before Tony. If I were a nice guy, a good sport, or not so uptight, I would have just left good enough alone. Apparently, I am none of those things because my curiosity got the best of me and I asked the timing lady about the situation. She pulled up her spreadsheet and saw that I had a 7 minute lead, but it turns out that she never re-sorted our category after stage 4, and the podium MC was just reading the names in the order he saw them. She apologized profusely, grabbed me a gold medal and a "class champion" jersey, and sent me on my way.

I can't say I was initially all that excited about the win. Instead, I felt a little bit petty for even looking into it, especially since Tony was probably the stronger rider. I guess the final results were inevitably going to be published here anyway, so I suppose it's nice that I was able to get another free jersey out of the deal (everyone got a finishers jersey as well). Either way, it was an amazing race, and a pleasure to duke it out with Tony day after day. Tony is a class act.

I wish that the race hadn't come down to a battle of mechanicals, but for two hacks like us, I guess it's almost inevitable that something will go wrong after that much brutal racing. I can't help but laugh about Doug's prediction that "you just never know what might happen over the next 5 hours" as he gave me his 26 inch tube. If not for Doug's generosity, who knows how long I would have been on top of that mountain. And if Tony hadn't dragged Dough to the race, Doug may not have been racing in the first place, so he wouldn't have been able to help me out. Oh the irony! Doug eventually confessed to Tony, and Tony jokingly threatened to make Doug find another ride home. Of course, I was more than willing to give Doug a lift. In case you're wondering, the 26 inch tube worked flawlessly on my 29 inch rim. It's still holding air on my bike right now, even after two romps down Dark Hollow.

The big guns kept it exciting to the brutal end. Tony had the chance to talk with Jeremiah Bishop after the race, and he relayed Bishop's account to me. Bishop said JHK was taking all sorts of risks down Dark Hollow and had a pretty good gap at the bottom. Bishop could occasionally see JHK's dust clouds on the final climb to the finish, which which gave him hope. He finally caught JHK before the finish, and JHK outsprinted him by a mere .2 seconds. Bishop hung onto the overall lead by 6 seconds. How is it possible for two people to be so evenly matched? I can see this happening on a road race where drafting plays a key role, but this is over 160+ miles of some of the most brutal trails I've ever raced. To put their speed in perspective, they beat living legend and recent 24 hour world champion Tinker Juarez by an hour. I'm almost embarrassed by how much they beat me by, but you can see that for yourselves in the results.

To wrap up, the AMC was everything I hoped for and more. Stage racing is a blast. In most one day endurance races, I doubt that you'd even know who you were racing against during the race. In a stage race, you finish the day, check the time gaps, make a note of who is who, and form a strategy for the next day. By the end of the race, I could recognize most everyone in my class, which made for fun competition. The tight race against Tony made it all the more memorable. I hope the race happens again, and I hope they keep the course the same so that previous year's finishing times can be compared. If the fasted guys in the country keep showing up, I think the AMC has the potential to be one of the premier endurance races in the country since there is nothing like it unless you go to Canada (Trans Rockies), South America (La Ruta), or Europe (Trans Alps). Huge thanks to Wesla and Mags for the support at the aid stations. I'm sure they had better things to do than sitting around at aid stations watching for Chad and me to roll by.

Sorry for the long-winded write-up, but it was a long race. This account is more for my sake than anything else. For next year, Tony and I have already talked about racing the Open class. Although we won't be racing directly against one another (he'll be in 35-39 and I'll be in 30-34), I'm pretty sure that I'll be checking his time and he'll be checking mine.