Spin The Doctor Enduro

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Bike events are rad if you have not figured that out by now. If you’re a mountain biker and have not experienced any sort of cycling event, I think you should do so before seasons end. This past sunday, a bunch of Crested Butte locals, and a few others got together to take on the 2nd annual Spin The Doctor Enduro. It’s a timed race from the start of the Doctor’s Park downhill, to the Doctor’s Park Trailhead. It’s by far one of the best downhill rides in the Gunnison Valley.

I’m not that great at downhill riding, but I love it. People say it comes with time, and I hope they are right. I decide to test my limits on my Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail 29er. I arrived at the trailhead a little late, around 11:30am and missed the group shuttle to the top. I was a bit happy about that however, as it was a good excuse to ride up to the start of the race. It took a good hour and a half to climb to the top, but it was a welcoming site to see Justin Varaljay (event director) and the crew.

The climb up to the top of Doctors. Its pretty darn steep.

The climb up to the top of Doctors. Its pretty darn steep.

I got the OK from Justin to cruise down the fast open field. I pushed myself, but not nearly as hard as I had wanted. It’s been two years since I’ve been on Doctor’s Park, and I decided it was not a great time to hurt myself. I still pushed it, making sure I wouldn’t take ages to finish. I’m new to this type of racing, but I’m guessing that enduro racing is going to be taken over by cross country racers in the years to come. These races comes down to seconds, and each little bit of uphill will make or brake your race.

I rolled up to the finish with a bunch of super rad folks cheering me on, what a great event. The best part was the gathering afterwards. We ate dogs, drank some Mirror Pond, and chatted about bikes and life. I can not wait for next year! For the results and more information check out Westelkproject.com

Mikey, one of the volunteers rides down in style on an old school Intense M1.

Mikey, one of the volunteers rides down in style on an old school Intense M1.

Summer’s Almost Gone.

I grew up listening to The Doors, actually I was obsessed with them in  high school. The unique sound of Ray Manzarek on the keys, and Morrison’s stage presence and poetry drew me in. Obsessions come and go, some stick for a while, some not so much. Which got me thinking about how obsessed I am with bikes and that I know this obsession is to last a lifetime. It’s funny how life brings you to new places, introduces new things, and connects you with new people. I am sooooo very grateful to have found my home in the Gunnison Valley. It started with education but has turned into a whole lot more. This is what the bike industry wanted right? Its ok, I have accepted it, because I love every bit of it, the people, the adventure, the beauty. 

This has been an unforgettable summer that started in Arizona in April, where at the time it was not quite summer yet in snowy Crested Butte. I fell in love with Arizona, the warmth, the desert, and the trails. Summer continued with a few races starting in Utah, followed by Gunnison, Salida, and the Colorado Trail. In-between, life was filled with many laughs. Through pain and bliss, summer has quickly come to an end. The days are getting shorter, the nights get colder, and soon golden aspens will be accompanied by snow capped peaks.

The end of summer does not mean the end of bike season, and I’m going to make the most of it. It’s not very often I get to ride new trails around Crested Butte. I must admit — I love buff, smooth singletrack, and Crested butte has a lot of that.  Saturday I decided to ride the Para Me y Para Te trail just south of town,  a trail that has been on my todo list for some time. It was the perfect time as I needed to prep for some hike-a-bike that the Vapor Trail kindly has to offer. This ride was special because it exposed me to a different perspective of the land around me. I usually don’t feel so eager talk about a trail, but there was something special, it was a day where everything felt right.

The day started with me waking up far to early, but nothing a little coffee couldn’t fix. I hopped on the bike and made my way to the Green Lake Trail. I figure this would be a good test of my new XX1 drive train. It’s still a transition for me as I parted ways with a whole granny gear and my legs are still adjusting. Anyways that is an entirely different story. I started at race pace, but soon was taken over by the hike a bike. If I were racing, I would push it, but I decided to relax and enjoy the ride.

Panorama at the junction of  Green Lake Trail and para me y para te Trail.

Panorama at the junction of Green Lake Trail and para Me y Para Te Trail.

Mt. Axtel through the pines.

Mt. Axtel through the pines.

Whetstone Mountain, West face.

Whetstone Mountain, West face.

I made it to a clearing that showed just how big Whetstone Mountain really is. It’s just a big rock, high up in the sky.

Skyland and The Club in the far far distance.

Skyland and The Club in the far far distance.

And then I looked down, showing me how small we really are on Earth.

Carbon Peak, you look so epic.

Carbon Peak, you look so epic.

After some hike a bike came a fun steep downhill. My bike and I rarely are on the same page in this aspect, mainly because I suck at descents but today we were on the same page. Oh and I never realized how epic Carbon Peak really is. Wondering if it gets enough snow to ski?

Carbon Trail, with the Anthracite Range in the background.

Carbon Trail, with the Anthracite Range in the background. Sweet sweet singletrack!

The Castles.

The Castles.

I got to Ohio Pass, and decide I wanted to sit back and relax at Lake Irwin, I climbed up through the old Irwin Townsite, found a good spot, and laid back.

Lake Irwin.

Lake Irwin!

Although the Autumn Equinox is not until the 22nd of September, it will start to feel like fall before we know it. Get out there and enjoy it.  With the end of one activity comes another, and although I have found my true obsession in biking, it’s always such a great change to bring out the skis.  Feed your need while you can.

(i)photos of the week

I have not done photos of the week since the winter, but I can’t think of a better time to start it back up. The flowers have nearly faded in the high country, and soon we will welcome beautiful golden aspens.

Flowers, with Ruby and Owen peaks in the background.

Flowers, with Ruby and Owen peaks in the background. Dyke Trail.

Trail Riders #401

Trail Rider Trail #401

Home made french onion soup, yum!

Home made french onion soup, yum. Thanks Lindsay!

Texans get front row parking anywhere. Don't Judge.

Texans get front row parking anywhere. Don’t Judge.

401 With Gothic and Mount Crested Butte in the distance.

Concentrated Bowie

Concentrated Bowie

Rainbow outside of Gunnison, Colorado.

Rainbow outside of Gunnison, Colorado.

South face of Mt. Crested Butte.

South face of Mt. Crested Butte.

Top of Strand Hill, Teocalli Mountain in the background.

Top of Strand Hill, Teocalli Mountain in the background.

Sunset on a stormy night in Crested Butte.

Sunset on a stormy night in Crested Butte.

Until next week.

Minnesota on my mind.

So I’m in Minnesota until Monday, with no access to a bicycle. It’s a bit tough for me but at the same time, it’s good for me. My last post shared how much pain I was still in, so this weekend of drinking beer, sunbathing, and relaxing may just be what the body needs. I just need to remember to stretch in between beers. If I can’t bike I need to get my bike fix somehow. I decided a few days ago that I’m going to attempt my first fat bike race this winter. It’s quite fitting actually as the Arrowhead Ultra is in Northern Minnesota.

I figured I would start the process now as it’s going to take some time and money. This gear list is specifically for the Arrowhead Ultra and it seems pretty standard for an ultra fat bike race from my what I have gathered so far. I’m doing this so I can figure out how much stuff I will actually need, here we go.

MANDATORY GEAR (from race start to race finish):

  • Minus-20F degrees sleeping bag or colder rating. Colder than -20F almost all previous races. If you skimp here you are foolish. And we will not allow you to skimp. So do not skimp. Fool. 2011 it was -42F on trail. *I have a 0 degree bag, but that wont cut it. *Need to get a new bag*
  • Insulated sleeping pad. *Check*
  • Bivy sack or tent (space blankets/tarps do not count). – *Check*
  • Firestarter (matches or lighter). *Check*
  • Stove. *Check*
  • 8 fl. oz. fuel at ALL times (either gas, alcohol or 2 canisters of propane/butane 100 g. each or 12 Esbittablets). *Check*
  • Pot (min. volume is 1 pint) *check*
  • 2-qt (64 fl. oz.) or just under 2 liters, insulated water container. (Yes, Camelbacks count) *will need to figure out a way for the water to stay in liquid form*
  • Headlamp or flashlight. Suggest minimum ~100 lumen good for 12 hours/bike or 20 hours on ski/foot. *Check*
  • Flashing red LED lights, both on front and back of sled or bike (or on backpack if skier). Everyone have at least 10 square inches of reflective material on front and back of the person for this race. Two lights total are required, one on the front of the bike, sled or racer (runner or skier with backpack), one on the back of the bike, sled or racer (runner or skier with backpack). Each light must have minimum three flashing red LEDS. Keep ON ALL THE TIME. HIGHLY IMPORTANT….THIS MAY WELL PREVENT YOU FROM BEING HOOD ORNAMENT ON LARGE FAST-MOVING SNOWMACHINEs. *need to figure out, but not very expensive*
  • Whistle on string around neck to call for help, because your mouth is too numb to yell. *ohhhhhh Whistle*
  • 1-day food ALL times (3000 calories) (tip: pound of butter or jar of peanut bar 3200 calories). *I love food*

That’s mandatory gear, not all that bad. It’s very similar to the ITI (Iditarod Trail Invitational) which is the ultimate goal.

RECOMMENDED GEAR:

  • Extreme conditions mittens, head gear and outerwear. *need to get some mittens, already have my eye on some*
  • Down sweater, spare undershirt/socks etc.*mostly check*
  • Over-boots, Gaitors.*need to figure out aswell as different shoes maybe*
  • Duct tape, vasoline, sunglasses, lipbalm, moleskin, ibuprofin, etc.*check*
  • Map/compass/gps. Real outdoorspeople don’t need GPS though. Reflective vest good idea.*need to load GPX track and find a good map*
  • 5,000-7,000 calories of food, preferably items which remain chewable at way below zero and colder.*this is going to be fun, finding cold friendly food*
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Improved cell phone coverage especially on course highpoints makes carrying phone smart. Preferably off and in a warm spot to so it works, use for emergencies. *I love my technology*

This is obviously a basic list of what I will need, but I still want to keep it simple. I’m not going to get caught up in bringing gear I don’t need like I did on the Arizona and Colorado Trail Races.

I also need to get a Fat Bike, I have two in mind currently. The Surly Moonlander and the Specialized Fatboy. Both bikes have a wider tire width which is what I specifically want, especIally when biking in Colorado. I really like the Moonlander’s burly steel setup. It’s been around for years and has a good reputation. The Fatboy has yet to be released, and it’s a lighter setup. The new Specialized fat bike ground control tires are very intriguing. Bottom line, I’m going to buy the bike that is the least expensive, and I believe that will be the Moonlander.

Now back to drinking beer, and eating food! 🙂

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The Pain

The Colorado Trail Race is almost three weeks past and since then the world has continued to spin. Nothing has changed for anyone else. But for me and maybe a few others this race is drilled in my head. I can’t stop writing about it, I can’t stop thinking about it, and can’t even stop dreaming about it. In my dreams I keep worrying about someone catching me and passing me. I dream about stubbing my toe on every damn rock in Sargents Mesa. I dream about finishing and how anti-climatic it was, but how the feeling was totally awesome. Anyways I should probably stop talking about it, so this is my last hurrah until next year.
The pain that I endured during the 5 days on my bike has really set me back, as far as getting back on my bike. I have had ridiculous pain in my knees.  From what I’m told my my meniscus is not getting enough blood flow. This happens when muscles around your knee don’t have anywhere to go — which in turn squeezes the veins and cuts blood flow to the meniscus. I’m not quite sure I believe it or not. Ice, arnica, and rest has only recently helped me stop walking like I’m 75.
My achilles tendon, which creaks like an old rocking chair, has continued to do so, on and off for a good part of a year now. It’s fine when I don’t hike my bike, but I tend to put myself in dumb situations like climbing Block and Tackle Trail, up Brush Creek Road near Crested Butte, or entering the CTR for that matter. Still rest, stretching, and yoga have yet to cure my ailing achilles.
My hands, ohhhh boy. After the Arizona Trail Race I experienced numbness caused by entrapment of the Ulnar nerve. What I understand is that this is very common for many racers participating in long multi-day races. Slowly the numbness went away with a few hand exercises I was told to do — but be warned it’s no fast fix. For the Colorado Trail Race, I experienced the same thing, but this time, it feels like I’m recovering from a broken wrist. The motion in my right wrist is far worse than the left. The strength in my fingers is very weak, especially my middle three fingers. To top it off, my pointer finger is bent, mimicking the position of gripping my break (this is kinda funny looking).
My toes were absolutely crushed, especially in the Sargents Mesa section. My bike shoes have too big of a toe box creating lots of movement. They also have very little stiffness and protection near the toe. Those two elements have killed both my right and left big toe nails. Also, the CTR created a wicked blister on my left big toe that had finally stopped pussing a week ago. Oh and the big toes are also numb.
Last but not least, I can’t remember eating so much food in a two week period ever in my life. The cravings I am having for junk food are way over the top. Gummy Bears, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Butterfingers……..Yum. Then you add Ice cream into the mix, Third Bowl has seen me far too often, Ice cream cookie sandwiches taste far to good for the price I get them for, and I can’t even stop eating home made shakes, which in turn keep me up all night because I’m so damn full. The cravings have slowly stopped. Luckily, because it was starting to really put a dent in my already small bank account.
All of this hardship you think would have me never considering a bikepacking race again. I told myself, “no way in hell am I ever doing this again” when I was on the trail. I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I seem to just block out and forget the bad times. Fortunately or unfortunately, the reward of such a race is so great, there is no stopping my inner drive from doing the Arizona or Colorado Trail Races next year. At some point throughout the winter, I’m sure I will heal up and be ready to go at it again, thats the beauty of time. You would think being a bit younger, your body would heal up faster? But thinking about it, the strongest riders are in the 30’s or 40’s and maybe their bodies have already gone through such agony that ‘The Pain’ is second nature. At any rate, I can’t wait feel normal on my bike again!

Gear differences…Colorado Trail Race vs. Arizona Trail Race

Now that I have completed the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) I want to go over my gear difference between the Arizona Trail Race (ATR) and the CTR. There are some obvious differences, I mean one race is in Arizona and the other in Coloado. But there are also many similarities and they are both ridiculously hard adventure races. I’m so very happy to be done with my adventure races for the year, but at the same time I super excited to start planning for next years Arizona and Colorado Trail races.

Arizona Trail Race rig
Colorado Trail Race rig

The gear you bring is so important, especially when dealing with scorching hot days, and freezing cold rainy nights. Lets start with my sleep system. For both races I carried a Revelate Design Sweet Roll. It packs down very small and is waterproof. This prompted me to carry my important dry items in the

My Sweet Roll is stuffed.

front, which included most of my sleep system. I use an older Big Agnes Zerkel 25 degree sleeping bag, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad (which I stored in my saddle bag as it didn’t need to stay dry), and a Marmot Alpinist bivy sac. The bag is a bit old and not quite at the 25 degree rating it once was, but it has worked well for both races. I was cold my first night in the Cataract section of the CTR, luckily for me it was the only night I was cold. The pad and bivy sac are extremely light. The bivy sac worked wonders in Colorado when is started to rain on me at night. It also dried very fast, which was important as my rig was already heavy enough. For next year, I think I’m going to get a new sleeping bag, I have to do my research but I’ll probably stick with a 25 or 30 degree bag, just something lighter. I also may just go without a sleeping pad. I used my pad every night in the AZT and CTR but one night. I really like not dealing with deflating and packing it that one night. I have a few things to mull over for next year, but in general it was a flawless setup.

The Nuke’s Little boy with custom lime green accents.

As far as saddle bags go, I used a Revelate Design Viscacha for the ATR, and a Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Little Boy for the CTR. I was having issues with the Viscacha hitting my rear tire when I stuffed it full. For the AZT I put little in the saddle bag just a few clothes and my sleeping pad. It worked very well and it cinched down very small. I decided that I would purchase something a bit Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks, near the end of the ATR. We chatted about bikepacks and his side business. I bought a Little Boy Saddle Bag from him in June. It worked great for the CTR, but I didn’t really have enough to fill the bag. I cinched it down as far as it could go, however there was still a bit of play. This bag would work wonders if you intend to pack more things but I did not. For next year I think I’m going to ditch the saddle bag all together for a full frame bag. Both bags, however, were very strong and tough, repelled water and held up as they were intended to. smaller for the CTR. I rode with Dave Wilson, owner and seamstress of

The main compartment that can fit a lot of food.

I purchased a partial frame bag from Revelate Design (the Tangle Frame Bag) before the ATR, and also used it for the CTR. I absolutely love this thing. For the ATR I packed food and a full 3 liter bladder in it. Because of the heat in Arizona, it’s a good idea to carry extra water. This bag has won me over because of the side pouch which is just so convenient. In both races it carried my maps and cues sheet. My replacement sunglass lenses and my phone. For the CTR I packed a whole lot of food in the main section of the bag. Seriously, I packed way too much food. Near the end of the CTR I assessed my food, I still had 5 Tuna packets, a big bag of precooked bacon, huge bag of trail mix and other little snacks. I honestly never needed to really buy food as I packed the frame bag to capacity. You live and learn I guess. The seams and zippers held up great and I had no issues with water penetration when it rained. Like I said above, I might go with a full frame bag next year. It’s more convenient and it should keep the weight more centered on my bike.

The Jerry Can and Gas Tank.

I carried two top tube bags from Revelate Design, the Jerry Can (rear) and Gas Tank (front). I love both of these small bags, as the access is so easy. For both races I carried all my spare batteries, my Ipod Shuffle and headphones, sunscreen, chap-stick, and chamois butter. As for the Gas Tank, I filled that thing with snacks, it can fit soooooooo much… 4 Cliff bars, 4 protein bars, 10 fruit leathers, Emergen-C packets, and more. When the bag got low, I transferred a few snacks from my frame bag to the Gas Tank. They are also great bags for long day rides if you don’t want to carry a backpack. I can fit my rain Jacket in the Jerry Can, and I can adjust the Gas Tanks velcro to cinch it smaller. Overall, these are two great products.  I will no doubt be using these two bags again for next year.

On to the debate of the backpack. A lot of people like backpacks for races like these. It’s a convenient way to store water, and things you may need throughout the day, arm warmers/coolers, knee warmers, etc. Backpacks are also a convenient place to put a bunch of extra, unneeded crap making it feel like your carrying bricks on your back. I used an Osprey Raptor for the ATR, and I stuffed it to the max. On top of a 3 liter bladder, I put all of my extra things in the large compartment. By the end of the race, my back started to cramp, creating issues for a long time after the race as well. I decided to change it up for the CTR. I bought a Camelbak Octane. It a lumbar backpack that holds two liters of water horizontally around your waist. My thinking behind this was to keep the weight lower on my back. I also knew I would not need to carry as much water as it is plentiful on the Colorado Trail. It’s also much smaller and holds very little, alleviating the issue of carrying unnecessary items. I ended up storing my bike repair kit and a few other things. This was a much better option for my back. I will most likely be using this for the ATR next year for water storage. As far as next year’s CTR, I’m going to attempt to do it without a backpack.

The lumbar 2 liter bladder.

Lights are another very important piece of gear on races like these, if you ride at night you will need lights. I bought two Fenix LD 20 Lights over the winter. I liked them a lot, they are bright enough at 100 lumens on high (which I rarely used), super light weight, and battery operated. However, during both the ATR and CTR, I had one of my lights fail on me. The light wouldn’t turn on. I replaced the batteries, took the thing apart, and even threw it. It brought upon negativity which is what needs to be avoided at all costs on a race like this. I even questioned finishing both races. Luckily I had my Black Diamond Spot headlamp as backup. I’m super happy I packed it for both races, if not I would have really struggled in the dark. I have already ordered and received my AyUp Adventure V4 Lighting System. It is a 2 light rechargeable lighting systems that comes with mounts and batteries packs. I know it will work for the AZT next year as long as I carry the necessary amount of batteries. But for the CTR I’ll need to figure out something else, in order for the lights to last long enough, I would need to carry a lot of batteries.

I road a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon HT for both races. I love this bike and it’s currently the only thing I have. I have wondered what it would be like if I had a full suspension for both races. I feel like the amount of beating I took was tough on my arms, back, and butt. I did however love it on any of the road sections, I felt like it was a small advantage. With the technology of these new full suspension bikes, I am leaning towards a full suspension for both races. I’ve been looking at the new Specialized Epics, and the Salsa Spearfish. I’m going to steer clear of carbon, so I’m leaning towards the Spearfish — especially with it’s new split pivot technology. The drivetrain was a 2X10 with 24/38 tooth chain rings. I had not issues other then a chain link breaking in the Taryall section of the CTR. For the AZT I used my stock Roval rims, they worked but I was excited to get a new set. I had Southern Wheelworks build me up a much lighter wheel. Hope Pro Evo 2 Hubs, with DT Swiss Competition spokes and Stans Crest Rims. They held up great and really reduced the weight of my bike. On those wheels I rode only the best, Maxxis Icon EXO 2.2 tires.

To be honest, not much was different in terms of gear for the two races. I carried much more water on the AZT and much more food on the CTR. Both were fit into my frame bag so the weight distribution felt the same. I am really going to try and cut some weight down for next year. Clothes I never used, food I never used, and a lighter sleeps system should all contribute to a lighter rig. I also just received and installed my new XX1 drivetrain that I will most likely be using from here on out. I’ll have to play around with front chainring sizes but I’m really looking forward to testing it out in the next few days.

Brand spanking XX1 Drivetrain.

Just Relax Already

The past few months have been a total blast, but with sacrifice. I’ve been on my bike a lot, training, suffering, and racing. Although Its only been three races, each one of them were the hardest thing I have ever done.

First was the Arizona Trail Race which was an amazing overall experience, but it was mentally draining. I dealt with a lot of negatives and they were tough to over come.  I did however, and my mental strength has made me a stronger rider. The Kokopelli’s Trail Race was next and it was very physically demanding. You can be in the right frame of mind but no matter what, 143 miles in one sitting will beat you up. The late 12:30am start time contributed to a very tough day on the bike. The Original Growler was the shortest race (65 miles) I have done all year and yet the most suffering I have ever experienced on a bike. A race like this is not easy and honestly shorter races are not my cup of tea, but the recently knowledge I gained from the previous races helped me finish in the top 25. Its funny that I keep signing up for such events, the positives are remembered, and the negatives are forgotten.

All of this racing has got me thinking why I truly started to love mountain biking… because its fun. Pain and suffering is rewarding but looking back, its not the reason I started to pedal up mountains and down through valleys. I love biking for the access and beauty.

The past three bike rides have put fun back in to biking. I’m so blessed to know so many great people in and around Crested Butte. It does not matter where I ride, how fast I get there, or who I ride with, just as long as I relax and have fun. Everyone finally has the itch to get on their bikes as the trails have melted off quickly in the past few weeks. This is our time before the tourist come. We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, embrace it.