Zen On Dirt

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

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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.

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

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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.

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We definitely lucked out. No doubt about it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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But…advennnnnture!

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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.

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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.

Thanks.

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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