Thursday, July 28, 2011

What a ride! Vacation/Nationals Mann style. Continued Again

Others have told me that we are crazy for the things we do.  Most of the time I feel like they are wrong.  This time though, I think we were definitely crazy.  The sort of crazy that you find when you have that wild, crazy, passionate love.  When your whole being swoons for something.  That kind of crazy is what had it's grip on The Mann Show.  Technically it still does, but now that we are home and not on the road anymore, it is more like that short period of time after some amazing sex.  Metaphorically speaking, I am laying here looking up at the ceiling and basking in the afterglow...

Day 7 Tuesday July 19, 2011

The morning came all too quickly.  When I got out of the tent I looked around on the ground to try and figure out what it was that the deer had been gorging on.  I couldn't find anything out of the ordinary.  Though I don't know what "deer crack" would look like, if it exists you can certainly find it in Campsite 3 on Corral Canyon Road outside of Sun Valley, Idaho.

After preparing some coffee and breakfast we packed up camp and headed out for our ride.  We had debated not riding again in Sun Valley.  We were feeling the pull of Crested Butte.  That amazing destination that we make it to all too seldom.  We have this amazing long distance relationship with Crested Butte.  After the high adventure on Monday we were both ready for some more enjoyable single track and less HAB.  In the end I decided that it seemed unfair to leave Idaho without at least a second ride.  The drive to Crested Butte was supposed to be some 728 miles or nearly 13 hrs.  That is one heck of a drive.  Likely not going to happen all at once which meant we were going to either lose a day of riding, or wind up splitting the drive and riding somewhere in the middle, the sort of compromises that we just don't want or like to make!

In any case we rolled out in good spirits hoping to find a bit less adventure and more fun.

Soon the dirt road gave way to single track.  The climb was much more reasonable than the previous day's fare.

I wound up only having to HAB a short section near the top where the chunky rocks kept me from putting down the necessary power to propel myself up the steep incline.  The views were quite excellent... 

...and I always enjoy being able to point out where we started the ride.  :)

Once at the top of the climb, well it wasn't really the top as I had continued past our turnoff before Allison yanked me out of my climbing stupor to show me that we were supposed to have turned right, we started a most excellent single track descent.

The Sawtooth Mountains were breathtaking and the trails were fabulous!

After some ripping fun single track descending, we climbed some more.  The plan for what would happen next was congealing in our heads.

We enjoyed this second day of riding in Sun Valley but the call of our beloved Crested Butte was too strong to resist.  We decided that after the ride we would get some food (wanted to try the other pizza joint in town, the second one was better IMO) and some coffee (Java on Fourth is very very good) in Ketchum and then head south.

We bid farewell to Idaho but again didn't know where we would lay our heads to rest.  I can assure you that rest was needed.  I was fairly tired after the 3hr 45min bike ride, not to mention my lack of sleep due to the deer frenzy the night before.  Some discussion took place around stopping off in Grand Junction to check out the Ribbon Trail but it didn't really strike a chord with either of us.  We had our hearts set on high alpine single track.  Meanwhile the little TDI hummed southbound.

We stopped on the north end of Salt Lake City and Allison whipped up some salad to fuel us.

We stopped somewhere near Grand Junction to fuel the car for more driving.

My memory is a bit fuzzy after that.  I don't remember where I asked Allison to take over driving.  I had been awake for almost 24hrs.  I simply couldn't stay awake any longer and was afraid of making a mistake.  The deer were kind to my weary eyes and didn't jump out in front of us, but that didn't ease my nerves.

I have to be honest though, I worry about Allison driving under these conditions.  When she did take the wheel though she was a rockstar!  She kept the little TDI pointed in the right direction as I took a little nap and the sun rose.

She informed me after my nap that I had missed an amazing sunrise.  I was content with having snagged an hour of sleep!

After I woke we were driving past Blue Mesa Reservoir and we spied this fellow enjoying his breakfast.  He didn't let our passing bother him and it was incredible to get the opportunity to see such a beautiful animal up close. (albeit from the safety of our car)

So technically it was a new day.  Though due to driving all night and not sleeping more than an hour, I will arbitrarily end this very long day of the trip with the reward of our all night efforts.

Pulling into town with the sun rising over Mt. Crested Butte.

We had arrived in nirvana.  The plan: don't sleep till night time, eat, set up camp, enjoy the first day in Crested Butte.  What better way to celebrate our arrival than to enjoy breakfast at Izzy's and coffee from Camp 4!

Don't worry about the "Closed" sign, the photo was taken in the evening on the day we were leaving.  Izzy's was open on this wonderful Wednesday morning.  A note however for future trips is that Izzy's is closed on Tuesdays.  I don't think I like Tuesdays anymore.

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What a ride! Vacation/Nationals Mann style. Continued.

With previous huge races (mostly ones that I had to watch last year from the sidelines) we always seemed to have some sort of post-race negativity.  Even races where things went well, there always seems to be some sort of issue, at times that something was related to the finish position but often it had to do with the challenges of travelling or some other thing.  Maybe it is like some sort of post traumatic stress disorder, where the build up of the race is over and all you have left are questions about how to improve and where to go from here.  Whatever the cause or issue, we are definitely learning lots about not just training and racing, but what to do after the race.

Last year after World Championships we took a day to enjoy Quebec City after the race and it was very rewarding.  This year after Nationals we Mann sized that concept.  We didn't have a plan (imagine that!) but we did have a full week of vacation time and everything we would need to spend that time in the woods/mountains crammed into the little white TDI.  So immediately after watching some Short Track action we headed North and paid for a camp site next to Red Fish Lake.  We had a map purchased from the Specialized dealer in town and had some trail beta for a good back country loop.  We didn't know what to expect for the next day, let alone the next week, but we were prepared for whatever might come up...

Day 6 Monday July 18, 2011

While attending SDSU Allison and I went on an organized camping trip with the Recreation Center.  I am pretty sure we got some sort of credit for the trip.  It wasn't the most amazing getaway, but there was one thing that I remember the instructors/leaders saying, "Camping is all about good food."  I took that message to heart.  Monday started out with Allison's Amazing Oatmeal and a Jetboil full of local coffee.  Money.

We packed up camp as we did not know where we were going to sleep that night, but we had no intention of paying for a second night in that location.  We drove a short bit south to a day-use spot near the river, next to Hwy 75.  The plan was to have a fun ride and then cook some food.  We had discussed options for what to do after that, whether we would drive North into Canada, West to check out Oregon, or make a long trip South to return to our beloved Crested Butte but we were far from settled on what the next leg of our trip would look like, only that we were looking for stellar trails and free camping.

The ride started with a 1 mile spin south on 75.  We turned left up a dirt road toward Boundary Creek.  The real adventure started here...

The trail was good and steep.  There was some dead fall that forced us off the bikes, offering a chance to catch our breaths.

Allison mentioned near the top that we had ridden less than 5 miles, and had climbed over 3000 ft.

We were both still feeling the effects of the hard race weekend.  The views kept us distracted, at least a little bit.

After a bit of hiking up a wicked steep single track we topped out on the Casino Lakes Trail.  There was still quite a bit of snow in places.  

The descent was quite interesting.  Every time I stopped to wait for Allison to hike down a section I thought to myself, "This is extreme back-country chunk!"  Allison wasn't having the best time of things.  She was having to hike both up and down sections of trail, and I think maybe having the backpack on contributed to her going over the bars at least once.  I was struggling with my rear tire, it kept leaking down and I really didn't want to put a tube in it.  It seemed to leak faster when I stopped to wait which was frequently.

Finally near the bottom of the descent I decided to put a tube in it.  As we were laboring to put a tube in, a nearby tree crackled, and then crashed to the ground.  I looked at Allison and asked, "If a tree falls in the woods..."  Definitely makes you think twice about widow makers in the forest!

The last five miles or so of the descent really changed character.  We started shredding and trees whizzed past as we sped down the single track.  When we reached the bottom we already had 2.5hrs of ride time and we knew we had a long climb ahead so we filled our packs.  

Honestly we had no idea how hard things would get.  I dubbed the next 1500 ft of climbing on Little Casino Trail "Up Down Splish Splash".  The trail zig zagged across a rushing stream.  We would go through a BB deep crossing, climb straight up the far bank at an un-ride-able steep pitch, level off for just long enough the get on the bike and clipped back in, then drop back down through the stream followed by another un-ride-able steep pitch...  and so on.  I have no idea how many times we crossed that stream.  The repetition wore on us.  I kept begging for some real elevation gain.  Even if it was HAB.  Just to keep from having to cross that darn stream again!

Finally it happened.  We emerged from the repetitious stream crossing into a wide meadow.  Then the trail disappeared.  The map had forecast this.

"Route vague" was definitely what we encountered!  It amazed me that several times a well worn and reliable looking trail would simply vanish leaving us hunting for another section of trail to follow.  My GPS track showed how I hunted around for trail, found it, then was again lost, and again.

Little Casino trail might also be known as Big Confusion.  Honestly it was not that bad, it definitely added to the adventure!  Once on the trail again the final climb began.  This section was pretty brutal.  The climb was at first fairly steady, then it consisted of wicked steep climbs and short false flat sections.  It was like a giant staircase.  The climbs were almost ride-able in pitch, but when you add in the many loose fist-sized rocks it left us both doing quite a bit of this...

Finally we reached the top and descended back down Boundary Creek.  It was a fast fun descent and I called out to Allison that "I could have just ridden up and down this trail all day and been mostly happy!"

After 5 hrs of ride time on the Garmin (good thing I had the 705 for navigation this day!) we got back to the car and set about making a delicious dinner.

After stuffing our faces we headed south.  Along the way we stopped to drop off some garbage and ran into some really cool locals who said that we had to go ride more trails in the area.  They confirmed that the trail suggestion we had heard of from the bike shop was indeed worthy and that we should be able to find camping on Corral Canyon Road and we could do the ride from there so we continued south.  It was after dark when we set up camp and hit the hay so we were not so sure of our surroundings other than that we could hear the nearby creek.

Unfortunately I didn't get much sleep.  It turns out we set our camp in the middle of some deer feeding frenzy.  It was wild.  Deer were grunting and farting and gnoshing on something all around our tent.  I tried several times to scare them off but they kept coming back and making all sorts of noise.  Crazy animals.

Finally sleep came.  I would need every bit of it for the coming days' activity!!!

To be continued...

Monday, July 25, 2011

What a ride! Vacation/Nationals Mann style.

Day 1 Wednesday July 13, 2011

Drive from home to Southern Utah.  We spent Tuesday night packing the tiny TDI with all the bike racing and camping gear that we would need for the 1.5 week long vacation.  The drive started super early.

Coffee to go, time to party!
We weren't in a big hurry, I set the cruise control on the TDI for maximum fuel efficiency and we stopped frequently as we wanted to be super hydrated for the upcoming race weekend.

Lots of time spent looking just like this!

One of the stops was on the side of the road in the Virgin River Gorge.  Driving through this tiny corner of Arizona is a good analogy to what my life is like...  I seem to spend the majority of my life at cruising speed, rushing through a vast seemingly baron desert landscape that is only interrupted by fleeting moments of awe inspiring beauty.  If I look closer though, the desert landscape contains a great deal of beauty and inspiration, it just takes a different perspective to appreciate.

TDI loaded to the max!

We drove up to Cedar Breaks / Brianhead to just take in the view.  No matter how many times I have been there, it never gets old or tired.

Always cool to see Marmots.  We don't have those in the desert climes of Socal!  :)

We will be back for our 11/11/11, 11k ft. with the Stone 11th birthday bash for my beautiful wife.  Promise.

We arrived at the house with plenty of time to kit up and go for a spin.

Not sure we could ask for a better first stop on the trip.  The energy of this place is so overwhelming.  The color of the earth, the sculpted shapes.  I was already winning.

I laid down on the crimson earth and tried to digitally capture some of the colors surrounding me.  Allison and I passed her sizable camera back and forth like a pair of hippies sharing a joint.  Each taking our turn sucking in the light reflected from the canyon walls, filling our lungs with it, not wanting to exhale, trying to ingest as much of the view to maximize the high.

As we sped back down the single track we both felt energized.  Ready for the next leg of the trip and for the weekend of racing.

Day 2 Thursday July 14, 2011

Another early morning.

Someone had turned up the blow off valve on the pressure cooker though and I was feeling some stress.  My mind was racing on an unknown course in the dimly lit morning.  I wanted familiarity, I wanted speed, I wanted a result.  My brain was buzzing with the pressure of competition.

I was bursting at the seams, not unlike the little white VW I was piloting through the desert.  The relaxed pace of the previous day had sublimated over night.  Fuel consumption and velocity were higher as the anticipation of the race seemed to be building overhead like a thunder cloud.

Arriving at the race venue we checked in at our hotel and I was finally able to start illuminating the path ahead.    Riding the course for the first time I was automatically analyzing every detail, identifying key areas, and burning the race line into memory.  Some of the pressure of the race started to lift as the veil that had shrouded the course was removed, revealing challenges that would surely make race day frustrating and challenging adding different stresses to the equation.

A nice dinner on the town with fellow racers helped to ease the tension and anticipation...

Day 3 Friday July 15, 2011

Early in the morning riders converged on the course for the final course inspection.  Marco, Brandon, and I collaborated on our one lap preview of the next day's challenges.  Near the top of the climb as Brandon and I chatted about race tactics a fox trotted onto the road maybe 10 yards ahead of us.  He led us up the climb, looking back occasionally and marking his territory as he went.  I am sure he wasn't happy with all these people rolling through his 'hood, "What is with all the traffic these days?!"

After a trip to the local market we set about grilling a feast of a lunch with the mountain mocking us from the other side of the river.  Good fuel is certainly a pre-requisite for battle.

Dinner was prepared similarly before it was time to retire for the night and rest for the early morning start times.

Day 4 Saturday July 16, 2011

With a 7:30am race start I rolled out to warm up in the cold misty morning air.  My energy levels were good and I was ready to throw down.  I had planned on extending my warm up to the last minute as I have been the top ranked racer for my age group and the defending champion plus the top four were supposed to get call-ups.  I was looking forward to getting a call-up, hearing my name announced before the start of National Championships!

I rolled through the starting area as I was warming up and Allison informed me that my name was not on the call-up list!  I was instantly confused and furious!  Allison looked up the rankings on her iPhone while I inquired as to how USAC could screw up while using their own rankings.  The issue was never resolved but I was able to battle for a spot on the front for the start.

A few deep breaths and we were headed straight up the ski hill on the "Start Loop".  I wanted to be near the front onto the single track to try to ensure I stayed close to the leaders.  I think I was third in my wave as we turned off the fire road, and we were already catching the tail end of the wave ahead of us.  We were less than 3 minutes into the race and the traffic was already thick with the also-rans of the groups ahead free falling back through the lead pack of my wave.

I fought for position and was feeling good until an unskilled racer from a previous wave came to a complete stop in the second (very small) rock garden blocking my progress. I dismounted and ran around but at least four riders went by and I no longer knew where I was at in the pack.  I twisted the throttle to ensure no more would pass before we entered the single track...

Then the real frustration started.  The course featured a single track climb that was fairly challenging to ride.  With no real passing opportunities available the "race" became a steady marching line of spandex clad bike pushers.  Pushers ahead were unwilling to allow riders to move through, tempers flared.  People pleaded with those around them, some yelled, some pushed.

One rider tried to force a pass on me.  He put his hand on my hip and pushed to try to make room for a pass.  I gave him fair warning that if he was going to push, so was I.  I then put my hand under his rib cage and shoved him off the trail.  His response, "I gotta give you props!  Good push!"  For once my extra upper body muscle mass came in handy in a XC race!

At the top of the single track climb was an alternate line that was a steep run-up.  I jumped off and passed at least 4 guys but paid the price.  On the double track I was red-lined and unable to make a decisive move.  I kept pressure on but was passed by a couple others, still no idea where I was in the pack.

At the top of the double track climb, the top of the course, I was suffering horrible and thought, "Your race is half over.  If you want a result you better get on the gas."  The descent was going good until I crashed on a right hand switchback.  I lost a couple spots.  One of them was definitely in my AG, he posts on MTBR and I knew that I had to get that spot back.  We hit the single track climb together but he slowly pulled a gap as we worked through shelled riders.  My mental game suffered a bit at this point as I knew I had no chance for a win, and was losing ground on the top finishers.  With no real possibility of gaining spots on the descent the climb was my only hope and I was hurting bad.  I battled, primarily with myself, and then rallied for the descent.  Not far down the descent the rider that had passed was on the side with a flat tire.  One spot lost, one spot gained, but I had no idea what spot I was in.  I crashed again, same stupid corner, but didn't lose any spots this time.

I did my best.  In the end it was good enough for Third.

Not the result I had hoped for, but a good result regardless.

Unfortunately USAC scheduled the SuperD practice for the same time as podiums so we only got one run on the SuperD course before we headed for a celebratory pizza dinner with the Gritters and Arochas...

Most excellent.

Day 5 Sunday July 17, 2011

Although I don't race many SuperD races I felt that I had a good shot at another podium spot.  The course had one brutal climb and I felt I could put in a solid effort.  After watching Allison's start I warmed up and waited for my turn.

I passed my 30 second man less than 3 minutes into the course.  I passed my one minute man shortly after that on the descent.  I passed one rider with a flat, and then another rider who I am assuming was my 1 minute 30 second man.  I had my head on straight and was tearing up the course.  I felt like I was winning the jersey. As I neared the last couple of switchbacks I felt my rear tire getting soft.  I tried to baby it, "Just get it across the line!"  It wasn't going to happen.  There was a course split where the CAT1/Pro/SuperD course broke off to the left uphill before the rocky drop near the finish.  My rear tire squirmed to the right, I leaned left and hit an overhanging stump with my left shoulder at speed.  The impact sent me flying off the track and into a bunch of deadfall/logs off the right side of the course.  I scrambled to collect myself and my bike then rode/ran the rest of the course.  9th place was all I could muster.  8th place, just four seconds ahead, turned out to be the winner of the All-Mountain competition.  Major bummer...

After eating something we watched some Short Track racing.

Following that Allison and I looked at each other and said, "Now we start vacation!"

We drove north toward Stanley, Idaho and set up camp next to Red Fish Lake.  Game on!!!!

I don't mess around when it comes to camping, vein busting efforts!

To be continued....