Zen On Dirt

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Never let a taper get in the way of a good adventure

Well, I guess I went and jacked up my ankle during the Ouray 100. I’m self diagnosing it as anterior ankle impingement and/or a stress fracture in my lower shin. ¬†Either way, I haven’t walked more than a mile for two weeks.

But at least I can ride dirt roads? Yay bikes!

Still, it sucks.

I got a lot of ‘I knew you could do it!’ and ‘I never doubted you could do it!’ after finishing Ouray.

But I always knew I could do it (barring serious injury or accident). If there’s something that requires very little motor skill or coordination, just a whole lot of determination and stubbornness, I got that shit. Finishing Ouray wasn’t really the top goal – finishing it without getting hurt was the top goal. That was the goal that I was uncertain about.

Did I reach my goal? Not really looking promising. I’m sort of kicking myself right now. Stupidstupidstupid.

Running does not reward stupid.¬†The pain started with 11 miles left of the race, about a mile left from the second to last segment. At the time, compared to how bad my feet hurt, it didn’t seem that bad, and I wasn’t about to quit with that little to go. I was hoping that it was just a freak little bit of pain.

It wasn’t.

But on the plus side, the two weeks before the race were pretty awesome.

Scott and I headed out for a loop on the backside of Princeton. It was a weekend day, and weekend days take a little creativity to get away from crowds.


The idea was to connect two ridges without actually having to go to the summit of the 14er.


The weather never really looked promising, but while it pounded Antero, we seemed to be in the clear. Still, we stopped to check the radar every once in a while. There was no easy way down from where we were, and we had no intention of getting stormed on.


We definitely lucked out. No doubt about it.


For a weather pattern that was dumping heavy rain on the Scamp daily, it had the courtesy to wait until we were down and back home. Then we watched the rain move in over the ridge that we were just on…

Somewhere in there, I got a new bike! A real purdy Salsa Woodsmoke. It (as is standard with most of my bikes) took a little while to get built up and dialed, but when she was ready, I couldn’t wait to take her out on some trails.


The last time I’d ridden this trail, I’d completely fallen apart. I don’t remember the details of why, but there were tears, there was getting upset with Scott, and there was a lot of bike pushing. Maybe it was the new bike, maybe it was a better state of mind, but this trail is beautiful.


I definitely cleaned some climbs that I remember pushing, and the only time I missed rear suspension was when we were bombing down the jeep road at the end. But I’m pretty sure that the snacks I can fit in the framebag for that bike more than outweigh the disadvantage of not having a squishy rear end.


We discovered the Captain Burger foodcart had moved on from its St Elmo location. Scott was crushed. The potato salad and San Pelligrino from the Princeton Hot Springs store did little to make him feel better.

Throughout all this, the Colorado Trail Race was going on. And somewhere in there, the Hansons showed up to camp with us. I’m generally not big on dot stalking, but Chris Plesko, who at the time was leading the race on his single speed, was nearby, so we all opted to go for a little Colorado Trail ride and see if we could run into him.


He looked…rough. We’d find out later that he hadn’t eaten in 12 hours. Ouch. I’ve done that race twice…don’t think I ever need to do it again.

With the weather looking iffy for the Ark Valley, it was time to move on. Plus, Ouray was in a week and a half, it was time to start making moved in that general direction. We opted for a stopover in Gunnison, because well, we love Gunnison and some of my very favorite people live there.


We were able to coax Rachel out for a mid-day ride at Hartmans. Just an hour and a half, we all remembered that there can be a lot of mountain bike magic made in 90 minutes.


And the sunsets there! I love my mountains, and Gunni is sort of in the mountains, but I do miss the big sunsets of the desert.

I set up an ‘I want to do all the things with all of the people’ day for our first full day in the Valley. It started with laundry. #ScamplifeChores

But then we made our way up valley and met Kurt, who happened to be rolling through town, up at Lake Irwin for a little run. Tapering, I called it. I was tapering.


We went up to Scarps Ridge, stayed on it past the normal mountain bike descent, and cruised up to the high point. I had every intention of coming back down on trail, but Scott was having none of it. And Kurt wasn’t really on my side for a “normal” run. So we went down a different ridge without a trail and looped it around.


It was pretty rad. Most of Scott’s ideas are. Except when they’re not.

We finished with a jump off of the Lake Irwin rock. All runs should finish at a lake.


We had a quick turnaround with a PB&J sandwich and met up with the Hansons for a ride on Snodgrass. It’s such a lovely little trail, and the flowers were still amazing.


I do miss the riding in CB. We would have ridden longer, but I’d set up a camp dinner date back in Gunni, and I was tapering. Right, I was tapering. Uh-huh.

We boogied back down the valley, just making it in time to have Rachel and Jefe come join the Hansons and us for dinner. I made cheesy potatoes, Rach brought a salad from her garden, Jefe brought snacks.

The sky put on an amazing show.


#Scamplife is great for all the adventures and all, but really, it’s nights like these that make it so worth it.

With Ouray six days away, I knew that it was getting to be high time to start resting. But I was in CB, and I’m a firm believer that you should never let a taper get in the way of a good adventure. And Rachel had all day to ride, and Kurt and his friend Kristen wanted to ride, and Scott always wants to ride, and I wasn’t about to miss out on that!

We opted for a very mellow and relaxing 403/401 loop. Okay, that’s a lie. There’s nothing really mellow or relaxing about a single mile of the route, except for maybe the ride out from Gothic.




It ended up being an adventure. Scott got stung by a bee and started getting sausage fingers. Luckily (?), he had to be back in town for internet and work by 2pm, so he was going to have to bail after 403 anyhow…not just on account of his fat fingers. Kristen also had to work, leaving Kurt, Rach, and I to finish 401.


CB locals, and a lot of non-locals poo-poo this trail. I know I sure did. But day-um, it’s fun. No other trail has quite the distance of high-speed, skunk-grass, flower fun. Plus, we rode it really fast because the weather was moving in and we didn’t want to get soaked.

We got soaked. What started as a sprinkle at the Snodgrass trailhead turned into a full-on deluge while we bombed down the highway. When we got back into town, I pulled out my phone to see a text from Scott: You might want to wait a bit, raining cats and dogs in town.


Still, it was nothing that a set of dry clothes and a burrito from Teocalli Tamale couldn’t fix. It was over six hours of riding – seemed like an appropriate place to start a taper for a running race from. It had been three amazing days in Gunnison County and I didn’t regret a single energy point that I’d spent.

If I’d known that I’d spend the two weeks following Ouray on the couch, I’d probably ridden and run more leading up to it, and I definitely wouldn’t have felt quite as bad about delaying my taper to the very end.

I guess, in the end, weeks like this is why I don’t place all my focus on racing. If I had, I would have missed out on entirely too much fun. The Fun Meter definitely would not have been pegged at high. And I would have been slightly bummed going into Ouray, and I’d be even more pissed off at my ankle now.

But it’s okay. Injuries happen. This too, will heal. And as soon as that happens, I’ll make sure the Fun Meter gets pegged once again. And hopefully, I have the brains to never sign up for another 100 mile slog through the mountains. As amazing as it was…


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Mountain biking, mountain running, and mountain adventure FOMO

Earlier this year I was hanging out with Justin Simoni, aka The Long Ranger (if you haven’t been following his Highest Hundred attempt here, you should. He’s 36 peaks into his self-powered, self-supported attempt to ride to and climb the highest 100 peaks in Colorado. It’s the most bad-ass thing going on these days, IMHO.), when he mentioned that when he did his Tour de 14ers, he’d spent the majority of the winter running and felt that his bike riding fitness had suffered.

I, in my head, called bullshit. Running makes you fit. Fitness is fitness. Who cares if it’s on a bike or on foot.

And then I went to go ride Canyon Creek with Kimberly, Nate, and Nick, and I understood the Long Rangers’ laments. I suffered real bad like on the massive climb up to 12,000+ feet. Fitness is great and all, but if you don’t have the muscle to turn the pedals over, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good.


I’ve seen it in the way my pants fit. My quads have shrunk. My ass has grown. It really is two entirely different muscle sets.


The good thing was though, it didn’t matter that I was hurting. It was just a big day up in the mountains with friends. And that’s cool no matter how you feel.


Even Nick breaking his frame clean through couldn’t completely ruin the day. Put a damper on it, sure, but he was able to splint the chainstay with a tire iron and roll very gentle out the final 8 miles. And the moment we got back to the van, the skies unleashed and poured. It was fantastic timing.

But I had learned my lesson. If I wanted to actually continue to ride bikes with any level of grace and joy, I had to actually ride bikes. I know. Duh. I’m a mountain biker dammit!

But Trish and Ryan were back from their workweek in Carbondale, and somehow Trish had gotten infected with Nolan’s fever. So it was pretty easy to convince her to to do a traverse of Princeton, especially since Scott and Ryan agreed to run a shuttle for us. Boys are the best!


We ran into a brown-capped rosy finch near the ridge who was putting on an impressive display of might. I think we might have been near her nest, so we kept going so that she wouldn’t worry too much.


The ridge up from Grouse Creek was a little scramblier that I had expected. I had a moment of ‘I’m skeeerd’, but I made it though. It also reminded me that there was a lot more to Nolan’s than a very long, high-elevation slog. How would this ridge feel after having already gone over three peaks, probably late in the afternoon? I think f-ing terrifying is the correct answer.


I had a variety of tracks to choose from for the descent. One from an unknown human who had completed the Nolan’s line, and one that I had drawn in from various online data. From the top, given that the weather was looking iffy, we opted for the ‘scouted’ line down.


This was a mistake because I’m pretty sure that the track I had belonged to Ted Mahon’s run, and he got stormed off the peak and exited the ridge sooner than he’d wanted it. The descent was horrendous. Trish christened us #TeamFlawlessNavigation.


I couldn’t have been that bad, because when I proposed a traverse of Yale two days later, with the boys available to run our shuttle again (boys are great!), Trish agreed yet again.


I think I lured her in with the promise of plane wreckage from a crash in the 60s (?) on the other side. Ryan started behind us and caught us halfway up.


Scott started ahead of us, but forgot his walking stick in the car, so he went back to get it. We all reconvened at the summit before dropping off our separate directions.


I managed to take us down the wrong ridge about halfway down, and then I got us stuck in a mass of deadfall near the bottom, but we did find the airplane wreckage PLUS the perfect log to cross the creek at the bottom on. #TeamFlawlessNavigation.

The two outings definitely drove home that you could have the most perfect track for Nolan’s, but it isn’t going to do you any good, at least if you want to move at any appreciable speed, if you haven’t scouted the route. Our deadfall debaucle? We were 50 feet from the track, mucking around in the trees. Track was in an open avy chute. We had no idea that those 50 feet would make a difference.

Then add darkness to the mix. Yeah.

Ryan picked us up at North Cottonwood trailhead, and we all headed to the Viking Burger foodcart in BV for lunch, then group laundry at the laudromat, then ice cream. Trish and Ryan know how to do it right.

And their dog Dexter is super cute too.


Unfortunately, they had to go back to make their Fun Tokens in Carbondale. So I went back to reminding myself how to be a mountain biker. We opted for Rainbow Trail. Lots of bang for the buck, and we’d be back in time for our lunch date.


It pretty much kicked my ass. I had to eat all of Scott’s snacks because I’d failed to bring any of my own. Runners might not eat, but mountain bikers definitely do.

Our friend, John Schilling (picture taker) was getting ready to do the Colorado Trail Race and was on his way to drop is car in Denver so that he could go back to Durango for the start. He’d contacted Aaron W for lunch on the way, and we’d gotten ourselves invited to the party.


Aaron was just back from his massive American Trail Race, where, as far as I can tell, had gotten fairly epic’d while having a huge adventure. This guy retraced our steps on the CDT two years after we did it, did it a full month faster, made it look good, and kept touring afterwards. So it sort of made me giggle to hear his stories of getting crushed by a route.

We sent Schilling off to Denver, also about to partake in a huge adventure, and went to go have beers with Janie and Jimmy. Janie was just off of a insanely fast Trans American Bike Race, one that I had closely blue-dot stalked. She also had had a massive adventure.

I wanted to have a massive adventure! All these people were doing big, cool things, I wanted to do big cool things. And I knew (felt?), rationally, that Nolan’s was still too big of a bite to take. But there had to be something.

Ouray? Should I do Ouray?


Playing in the Mountains

Well, I guess I went ahead and did the Ouray 100 this past weekend.

And I’m sort of sitting here wondering where the heck the fitness and motivation came from to pull off 44 hours of wandering through the San Juans, because the last time I checked this blog, I was firmly on the ‘I’m not going to race’ side of life.

So I figured that actually going through the photos from the last month might shed some light onto the evolution of bad ideas. And, you know, I like to at least pretend to keep this little corner of the Internet updated.

First up was Mt Hope with Scott. We stare at this mountain from our Twin Peaks camp incessantly, but it hadn’t quite made it to the top of the priority list until now.


At 70 feet shy of the benchmark of 14,000 feet, the peak doesn’t really get a lot of attention from most people.


Hope Pass is used by the CDT, the CT Collegiate West route, and the Leadville 100 run, but no one actually goes up the mountain to the side of it. Colorado is only as crowded as you let it be…


We had the top to ourselves and opted to head down a different ridge in order to make the route a lollipop instead of an out-and-back. If there’s one person who hates out-and-backs more than me, it’s Scott.


I spent my summit time tracing out the Nolan’s line in my head. ‘You come off of La Plata right there, then up Huron, over to Missouri, Belford, Oxford, I think that’s Harvard over there…’ Sticky ideas. Damn those sticky ideas.

Pretty much as soon as Meghan left the Sawatch, Melissa showed up for the better part of 10 days. She was firmly motivated for a good run at Ouray and was hanging out in the Leadville area for some quality acclimatization and training. We had some fairly crummy weather forecasts to work with, but Melissa is used to getting up early to beat Moab heat, and I guess even I’m willing to set alarm clocks for good adventures.


We opted for a loop on Mt Massive starting from the Fish Hatchery in Leadville.


Baby Ptarmigan!

We talked a lot about Ouray and the benefits of racing, supporting events that have awesome race directors who support gender equality, and committing to goals. But I still had zero intention of doing anything other with my summer other than keeping the Fun Meter pegged at high.


I was finally starting to feel good at altitude, something that I was convinced would never happen again after the rough start to the summer.


After taking a slightly obscure route to the summit, we headed back down the main trail of Massive. I find the people watching hilarious. Some people get upset with crowded trails (and I do too after a while), but in small doses, I’m endlessly amused by the humanity that chooses to try to scale these peaks.

We were reaching our 14-day limit at our campsite (we have a bad habit of getting stuck in the Twin Peaks area), so we packed up the Scamp and headed down valley. The weather looked better down there anyhow. Monsoons were in full swing. T’was the season for alarm clocks.

And if there’s anyone who will commiserate about alarm clocks with me, it’s Trish, so it was pretty great that the time of week had rolled around for her to have some days off and we found ourselves camped together at Browns Creek.


Between Trish, Ryan, Scott, and I, we couldn’t seem to settle on a plan for the next day. Trish was tired, Ryan was indifferent, Scott is scared of high mileage, and I’m not too into going into bad weather if I don’t have to. So we pondered our options for the better part of the afternoon until Melissa and Randy showed up, proposed an option, and we all said yes. Mostly because we were done with deliberating and wanted someone to choose for us.


When we woke up to rain on the Scamp, I may have grumbled some. If I didn’t have people outside waiting on me, I probably would have turned the alarm clock off and gone back to sleep. But that’s why you have running partners, right? Accountability? Or something.

After the appropriate amount of futzing, we were all headed up Browns Creek. The rain had stopped, and the clouds made it look like magic unicorn land.


We kept movement motivated knowing that we’d have to get up and over a 13,000 foot saddle before starting the fast descent into the trees. And it was pretty much supposed to storm all day long. We were getting lucky with our little bit of sun, and we knew it.


It became clear that our crew was made up of people who were much more into routes that involved more walking than running, more adventure than established trails. Which is really great for me, because running is really hard!


How we made it back to the cars without getting rained on is beyond me, but I thought it was pretty rad. Scott was wrecked after 16 miles, I was fairly to mostly tired. These girls are fast!


My little leggies were starting to get pretty toasted after all of the running, but FOMO runs strong with me, and recovery is for people who can’t think of anything fun to do.


Birds are great for recovery, because watching them is actually a fun thing to do when the knees ache.

Melissa had to head back for work in Moab soon, so we opted to gamble on yet another questionable weather forecast, one of those that predict rain starting at 9am. One of those forecasts that causes you to be less than deliberate in putting on sunscreen.


We opted for a Columbia/Harvard traverse. I loved the idea because it was a lollipop with a very small stick at the end, covered a chunk of the Nolan’s route, and was two peaks that I hadn’t been on.


Of course the sun came out and I could feel myself getting scorched.


We were warned by multiple groups (of men) coming the other direction that we needed to be very careful because there was a lot of snow to deal with. We thanked them for their beta.

The glissading conditions were great, and I’m pretty sure we made better time on the 1,000 foot drop off of the ridge to avoid the Rabbit Traverse than if there hadn’t been any snow. I need to start skiing again. Snow is fun.


Spirit animal. Likes lounging in the sun in alpine environments and stealing snacks.

The top of Harvard was hilarious, mostly because we heard it long before we saw it. People are funny. (The best advice I was ever given while working in the service industry.) And there were a lot of them.


Down was on well-established trail through a beautiful basin. There’s something to be said for not having to think about navigation, just follow the little ribbon of brown dirt and know that it will lead you straight back to your car.

But what’s the fun in that? After spending a good bit of time on the Nolan’s route in the past two weeks, I was getting excited about the idea of it. It still felt far above my pay grade, but I was getting to see more and more of it. Confidence levels that someday I might be able to pull it off were rising from the single digits into the low teens.

Buy day-um, those mountains are big.