Sunday, June 21, 2009


Father’s Day is one of those Hallmark holidays that can throw people into a tailspin.

Valentine’s Day might get all the press for its negative impact on the self-esteem of the unattached, but Mother’s Day and Father’s Day arrive with heavy baggage for many.

I’m not one of them.

My dad, Wally, was one of the good guys. Oh, he could tear it up at the Elk’s or Vet’s Club from time to time, but on the whole, it would be hard to ask for much more in a father.

He held a steady job and supported his 6 children. Maybe we didn’t live in luxury, but if we needed something (which, you know, is actually different from wanting something – a distinction that seems to be lost on many these days), we had it. The financial support was just the beginning, of course. The emotional support is what was priceless and irreplaceable.

My dad died in September 2000. He was 80 years old and lived a full life. But on the anniversary of his birthday (May 27) and on Father’s Day, as well as all the other holidays throughout the year, I miss him.

That’s all. No drama, no trauma, no unresolved issues that keep me from living my life. Just a little blue feeling and melancholy “missing.” So, if your dad is still with you, give him a call. Both of you will appreciate it.

Ride report for June 20 & 21:

We rode the Blue River Century on Saturday. It is only the second year the ride has been held, so it is still really small – probably not more than 400 (and likely closer to 300) riders. It is a fund raiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and since one of our dear friends just had a double mastectomy last week, raising money for cancer research and outreach/support programs for those with cancer is a cause I can get behind.

Fatty gave a review of these iPod headphones the other day. It seemed like a great Father's Day present for Phil; since I'm a great believer in the "one for you, one for me" school of thought, I got a set, too. This was the maiden voyage - they worked great!

The ride began in Keystone, then headed toward Steamboat Springs. We had a sweet 20 mile flat/slight downhill, before making the turn to Ute Pass. Ute Pass is a gradual, but steady 5 mile climb. Beautiful views – even with the rapidly forming clouds which obscured the higher peaks.

Then it was back to Dillon, around the reservoir, over to Frisco, then on to Copper Mountain, before beginning the climb up Fremont Pass (on the way to Leadville).
The threatening clouds began to drop their moisture about 3 miles from the summit of Fremont. We got damp, but not soaked – had a snack at the aid station, put on ALL of our clothes, and headed back downhill. We rode back to Keystone, where we had 3 options for the finish – ride to Montezuma, ride to Arapahoe Basin, or ride to the top of Loveland Pass.
At the Fremont Pass aid station - brrr!

Actually, there was a 4th option, and that was the one we chose – head back to the car, load up our gear, and avoid the imminent downpour. We rode 92 miles in just under 6 hours – we decided we didn’t need to be heroes and go for the “big wow” finish in Loveland.
And, man, are we ever glad we bailed out. The skies opened up and it rained – hard and steady – the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening.
This morning when we got up (we stayed over night in Copper Mountain), it looked miserable: the clouds were thick, dark, and low hanging.
We checked the weather report for Golden and saw it was supposed to be sunny and in the high 70s. We quickly packed up and headed home.
Today was the nicest day we have had to ride all season – honestly. The first day of summer was the first day it seemed like summer. We did a 3 hour ride with plenty of climbing, then came home, ate like linebackers, and started catching up on chores. All in all, a good weekend on the bikes.
Rex, enjoying Phil's flower pots.

The proud gardener. The flowers look great!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Movies - Some Hits, Some Misses

Now that we are able to do our long rides outdoors, our volume of movie watching has decreased. We still have 2 or 3 indoor seesions each week, though, so while we are still making our way through 24: Season 2 [yes, Kim still annoys me] & The Sopranos (Season 2), here are some of the other movies we've seen in the past month:

Workout May 18, 2009:
Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School [2005]
This film compiles an all-star cast to tell an emotional story about life, love, and destiny. Frank Keane is a man who has been in a deep depression ever since his wife passed away. One day while driving, Frank sees an accident.

He investigates the scene to see if he can help and meets a dying stranger, who tells Frank that he was headed to a dance school in order to reunite with a woman he loved many years before. Frank decides to attend the dance school, and becomes involved with a variety of people.

This is an unassuming little film that kept us entertained during our workout (run-time is about 1 hour 45 minutes). For such a little movie the cast is remarkable – John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Donnie Wahlberg, Marisa Tomei, Sean Astin . . . and more! There really isn’t much dancing, but a nice story and some characters that I actually didn’t mind inviting into the house for 90 minutes.

Pour a nice glass of wine, curl up on the sofa, relax and enjoy. Recommended - 3 stars out of 5.

Workout May 28, 2009:
Transporter 2 [2005]

Driver and muscle for hire Frank Martin returns in this sequel to the 2002 box-office hit.

Jason Statham scores another one for the world of outrageous, high-action cinema. There's a juicy villain and plenty of scenes with "The Transporter" fighting crowds of guys with everything in sight (the best being the fire hose scene). Audiences are in for a wild case of deadly serums, smooth suits, and villains.

Perfect 90 minute run-time for our high cadence workout this morning, but I did not find it as entertaining as the original. Beats watching the Channel 7 weather and recaps of the Nuggets Game 5 playoff loss to the Lakers . . . but don't run out to rent this one.

2 stars out of 5 - mostly because, hey, let's face it - Jason Statham is a hottie!!

Workout June 16, 2009:

Bullrider [2005] [run-time 88 min.]
For anyone who ever wondered about the adrenaline rush that comes while you're sitting atop 2000 pounds of thrashing muscle and fury, this film offers an adrenaline-pumping look at the life of a professional bull rider. The members of the Professional Bull Riders Inc. (PBR) put their lives on the line in the name of entertainment, and every night they work could be their last.

This film follows the top three riders on the planet as they prepare to take part in the world championship and vie for the million dollar prize. Both in the arena and out, these modern day gladiators never allow their determination to waver - even for a second.

This is related to Adrenaline Cowboys: Eight Seconds to Glory, which we watched during Ty Murray's improbable run at the title on Dancing With the Stars.

The film features Adriano Moraes, a Brazilian cowboy looking for his 3rd world title; Mike Lee, the new kid on the block; and Justin McBride. The life of a professional bull rider makes nearly every other professional athlete look pampered. These guys only get a paycheck if they compete (and place). Playing hurt is the only option for most of them - torn biceps, dislocated shoulders, concussions and broken noses/cheekbones/eye sockets/legs . . .

Willy Nelson was speaking the truth when he said "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys."

Falls nicely into the "Inspirational Sports Movie" category we fall back on during many of our workouts.

I don' think I'd rent it to watch if I was lounging in an easy chair, but perfect to keep our minds occupied during a workout. 2.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Less than Eight Weeks . . .

It seems like only weeks ago that we were beginning the “8 months to go” Leadville Trail 100 MTB race countdown.

After seemingly endless hours of cycling in the pain cave - watching enough movies to put us on the NetFlix VIP list as well as causing us to revel in the wonders of Body Glide
and A&D ointment (if you don’t understand, be thankful) – we have passed the “8 weeks to go” milestone.

Our training schedule for the next 6 weeks (the last 2 weeks will involve tapering) will typically include :

- core and flexibility workouts twice a week (about 45 minutes each session);

- 1 easy recovery ride during the week (between 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on what else is scheduled for the week);

- 1 intense interval session (60 – 90 minutes);

- 1 hill session – either hill repeat intervals or a long sustained climbing effort performed at just under our lactate threshold (60 – 90 minutes);

- 1 long (3 to 4 hour) mountain bike ride on the weekend; and

- 1 long (3 to 6 hour) road bike ride on the weekend.

This weekend we’ll ride the Blue River Century on Saturday (7,680 feet of elevation gain & 3 mountain passes).

Then on Sunday we’ll head over to Leadville and get some time and a few more miles at elevation.

We’ll probably ride the Mineral Belt Trail and a loop around Turquoise Lake on our mountain bikes, with a detour to ride (and hike) the Power Line section of the race course. Yikes!

After all the whining and anticipation, it is almost upon us.
Are we ready? If we aren’t ready now, will we be ready in 8 weeks?

Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chain Suck . . .

Saturday Phil and I went to Buffalo Creek for a truly great day of mountain bike riding.

The wildflowers were gorgeous!

Well, okay – mostly truly great. Because there were a couple very unpleasant episodes of chain suck that nearly ruined the whole adventure.

As I noted earlier, Phil just picked up his new Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon (WB II) bike this week, and was quite anxious to take it out for its first ride.

With all the rain we have been getting in Golden, Phil was really skeptical when I told him riding at Buffalo Creek would be fine. He was sure it was going to be a soggy muddy mess.

But Buffalo Creek’s trails are quite sandy; and where they aren’t sandy, they are comprised of pea-sized decomposed granite gravel. Riding out there after a big rain is actually a lot of fun, because the moisture gives the trail a more tacky texture, and you can keep your wheels from spinning out even if you lack basic technical skills – like me!

So, we unloaded the bikes – and had to borrow a tire pump from the folks who were parked next to us – thank you! The day would have been ruined otherwise, because Phil’s tires had about 7 psi . . .

Then we got on the trail heading to Gashouse Gulch. Phil shifted, I heard a “thunk” and saw he had dropped his chain. Assuming it was no big deal, I proceeded on.

After waiting about 10 minutes at the trailhead, I realized there was a problem, and rode back downhill to find him. He was working to release his chain from where it was tenaciously lodged between the back of his cassette and his spokes.

To quote the great Sheldon Brown:
Chain suck occurs primarily when downshifting under load from the middle to the smallest chainring. The bottom run of the chain may not immediately disengage from the middle ring, and can get carried upward until it wedges betwixt the chainwheels and the right chainstay.

This jams the crankset. Since you probably wouldn't have been shifting to the granny if you weren't already climbing, the sudden lock-up of the drive train deprives you of what little momentum you had, and you are very likely to stall and fall.

Chain suck is commonly caused by bent chainring teeth, dirty chains, or, occasionally, burrs on the teeth of new chainwheels.

In Phil’s case, he would find out later that a slightly bent rear derailleur was the source of his trouble, but we didn’t know that at the time.

After working at it for close to 25 minutes, Phil got his chain untangled, and we were off.

Conditions were perfect and we had a great ride . . . until we were about 1 mile from the top of the last climb of the day, and Phil was thrown to the ground by the evil chain suck monster.

It looked grim for about 30 minutes, but ingenuity and some good old-fashioned brute strength freed the chain. We wrapped up the day just before the rain moved in.

When I shared the following analogy with Phil, he just sort of grunted and rolled his eyes, but I think it is valid, so here you go:

Your first ride on a new bike is quite similar to your first sexual encounter with a new partner.

You have been anticipating the day for some time – weeks, maybe even months. You want everything to be perfect.

And it rarely is. There are almost always small “mechanical” problems that take some time and patience to resolve.

That patience, however, will be rewarded in the end. Phil’s love affair with WB II got off to a rocky start, but I think it will all work out . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon

Or . . . Wife Beater II.

He’s serious, folks.

In the effort to go into his 50th year holding the household records at the Bob Cook Memorial Mt Evans Hill Climb and the Leadville 100 MTB Race, Phil is leaving no technological advantage unexplored.

His new Sampson Diablo road bike has proven to be a fast “devil,” as the name warrants. Phil is climbing well and tearing it up when we go on training rides.

To keep his advantage when the course calls for singletrack rather than pavement, he brought home a new trophy this week – a beautiful, potentially sub-20 pound, Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon bike. Reviewers love it!

I think my braggin’ days may be over!

Phil bought the bike from Golden Bike Shop, then hounded Thane, our friendly wrench, to get it built up in record time.

This newborn doesn't have to sleep in the garage - Phil spent half the winter cleaning up his shop just so he'd have the perfect shrine in which to worship at the carbon altar.

It's the little details . . . [Santa Cruz head tube logo].

Ergon grips - keep your hands happy!

Shimano XTR shifters.

A carbon water bottle cage, for goodness sake!!

Stan's No Tubes ZTR Race wheelset. Nice!!

Lots of controversy at the bike shop over which tires to run, but Phil is trying out the Continental Mountain King 2.2.

Phil spent several weeks test-riding saddles to find one that didn't make him miserable. The WTB Deva finally beat out the competition. Phil now has this saddle on his Sampson and his "old" Santa Cruz Blur MTB, too.

He went with a Rock Shox Monarch 3.3 for his rear shock.

Race Face cranks. [Lighter than Shimano XTR cranks - and they are pretty, too!]

Shimano XTR rear derailleur.

Magura Marta SL disc brakes. [the "racer's buddy"!]

Pretty no matter which direction you're looking . . .

Magura MD 100 front fork.

A truly beautiful bike - we'll take it out and get it dirty at Buffalo Creek this weekend - whee!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Elephant Rock Century circa 2009

I lived in Colorado during the summer of 1989, staying with my sister Barb while I worked as a summer clerk at a downtown Denver law firm.

One of my most vivid memories from that summer is riding the Elephant Rock ride. It was held on the grounds of the Air Force Academy, just north of Colorado Springs. It snowed; and rained; and bone chilling sleet blew sideways and knifed through my jersey.

My sister, brother in-law and niece and nephew rode with me that year – we did the “family” ride. Hmmph. Whoever plotted the course didn’t have an 8-year-old boy on a bike with 20-inch wheels in mind. As I recall, the route was all uphill – except for the screaming downhill that was so steep it freaked out my nephew and he had to walk it.

Fun times.

Notwithstanding that inglorious introduction, in the intervening 20 years I have ridden the Elephant Rock nearly every year – at least 15 times, I think. I have ridden in 105° heat, torrential rain, wickedly painful hail, and wind, wind, wind.

Yesterday Phil and I headed out for another go at the Rock.

Usually, the earlier you get on the road, the less likely you’ll get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. We were moving a little slow, though, so we took off at 730 am.

The crowds were thick, but not as bad as I’ve seen in other years. The problem is that all the courses share a few miles, and the riders doing 7 miles aren’t used to riding in a crowd – and the riders doing the 100 miles aren’t used to riding with unskilled riders – bad things can happen.

Pikes Peak in the background - clear skies in the morning, but dark and scary as the day wore on.

We made it through that mixing zone unscathed, and starting ticking off the miles. We managed to catch up with a group of about 7 riders coming out of the first rest area and we hung on to the back of their train until they turned off for the 62 mile course and we took a left onto the 100 mile route. We cooked along at 20 – 22 mph for that section – sweet.

Having enought Porta-Potties - priceless!

The wind picked up as we headed off on the extra loop for the century. I was nearly blown off the road 3 separate times. Good luck and a little bit of bike handling kept me upright. Those demon side gusts are not my friends.

Phil rode really well. The Wife Beater (WB I, as we call his Sampson) is paying dividends. He is able to put more power to the pedals and is much more comfortable overall on the bike – it all translates to speed and confidence.

That said, I also had a great ride. We finished in under 6 hours – I know that is a personal record for me. The temperature was just a bit cool (mid-to-low-60s, with a cool wind), which probably helped some. I felt fine when we finished, not completely cooked and miserable, which has been my experience on more than one occasion after finishing the Elephant Rock.
We wore our Hawaii jerseys in honor of Lowry's birthday - happy birthday!

For several years the Elephant Rock was my kick-off to the cycling season. Looking back, those were the years I really suffered!

We have ridden 4 centuries already this season, as well as some other 6 to 7 hour efforts. The Elephant Rock just felt like any other long work out – nothing epic about it – and that is exactly what I hoped for.

Convert to Skirt guys at one of the aid stations. Interesting . . .

So, I think our fitness is really good right now. The focus is going to be on doing more intense efforts and more back-to-back long rides (going hard and long both Saturday and Sunday). Climbing and work at altitude will also be critical.

Right now Phil is at the bike shop picking up Wife Beater II (his Santa Cruz Blur XC Carbon - Sweet!!. . .) Photos and specs to follow. . .

Running on the Sun - Movie Review

I know there are few of you out there who think Phil and I are completely nuts. Getting up at 4 am to work out, giving up the simple pleasures of red wine and a leisurely evening meal . . . all in pursuit of a really ugly belt buckle and a fleeting sense of personal accomplishment.

Well . . . I have news for you.

We're not nuts. But these guys . . . yeah. A couple sandwiches shy of a picnic. Absolutely.

Running on the Sun (2000) [98 minutes]:

Forty competitive runners present themselves with the ultimate challenge -- a 135-mile voyage through Death Valley to the peaks of Mount Whitney. Director Mel Stuart and his crew follow these men (two of whom are handicapped runners who've lost limbs to land mines) as they confront blistering heat, violent windstorms, and one of the most grueling courses imaginable in a competition that is more about each runner testing his own physical and psychological limits than the prospect of winning (there is no prize) or physical conditioning (a doctor who helps coordinate the race informs them, "I don't think there's a thing about this that's good for the body").

The "Badwater 135," equivalent to five back-to-back marathons, eschews the trappings of traditional races.

There are no cheering crowds. There is no monetary reward. There is little media attention or applause. Often, there is no end in sight. Instead, the runners rely on themselves for motivation, comfort and determination.

The only tangible prize, awarded for completing the race in under 48 hours, is a belt buckle, a coveted symbol of achievement among ultrarunners.

The body weathers extreme environmental conditions throughout the race. Runners are constantly challenged with temperatures ranging from 38 ºF to 125 ºF, 50 mph heated head winds, two 5,000-foot climbs, and a finish line located 8,400 feet up Mt. Whitney in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Most competitors will run, walk and crawl for two continuous days and nights to reach the finish line.

With every passing mile, runners face increasingly greater risks of dehydration, muscle strain, vomiting, sun stroke and kidney failure.

One of the most insidious ailments, though, are the hallucinations. Racers have been plagued by visions of UFO's crashing into the road, giant chasms opening up in the highway, and phantom detour signs.

One third of the competitors will fail.

But for the most persevering runners, a great personal victory awaits them at the finish line. After 135 miles, the runners have completed a mythic journey, overcoming the obstacles of nature, fellow competitors and, most of all, themselves.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to push yourself to the limits, this film is a must for you to see.

Workout June 4, 2009: We had an interval workout today – but it didn’t even feel like work watching what these runners were going through. I truly can’t imagine participating in this event – the cut-off is 60 hours!! It makes the Leadville MTB Race seem like kid-stuff! Training for a 135-mile run through 120 degree heat takes a tougher constitution than I have.

One of the quotes that resonated with me came from a 68-year-old man competing in the event. He said that each time before he does a big race he sets lofty goals. But as the event progresses, his goals get more realistic.

At the time of the interview, his only goal was not to throw up on his own shoes.

Brother – I hear ya. At some point during each Leadville 100 I’ve had the same goal.

The film also shows the pressure on the competitors to continue long past the point where a rational person would call it quits.
This article explores the same theme in relation to marathon runners.

Phil’s "I can't quit now" strategy is to tell as many people as he can that he is going to compete in the Leadville 100 – that way he thinks he’ll be too embarrassed to “DNS” (do not start).

For me, having crew members out on the course is a powerful motivator – they are giving up their time and energy to support me – I don’t want to let them down by quitting.

Anyway, this was a very motivating - and somewhat troubling - movie.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Kinda Tired

Friday morning Phil and I got out for a South Table Mountain MTB ride before work – it was absolutely gorgeous. I have grumbled about our rainy spring weather, but it has left us with lush green hills. We spooked a big herd of deer and also crossed paths with the Colorado State Patrol Academy recruits who were out on a training run.

The mesa is a busy place at dawn.

The weather reports were finally in our favor for the weekend, too. The forecasts called for highs in the 70s with only a chance of afternoon thunderstorms (typical Colorado weather pattern) on both days.

We decided to make the most of it.

Saturday morning we took off for a mountain bike ride at Mt Falcon.

Mt Falcon hasn't gotten much easier since we last rode it in late October. It is still really really steep, some of the waterbars are really really tall, some of the switchbacks are just plain nasty . . . and I anticipate we'll be back to ride this bugger several more times this season!! It is great training for Leadville, since it is a tough, steep, rocky, climb.

The fun part, though, is the descent. We didn't turn around and bomb back down the Castle Trail – it is so steep and rough it really isn't much fun. Instead, we went over the top of Mt Falcon, then down the backside to Parmalee Gulch Road and Pence Park, then through Lair O' the Bear Park on singletrack – and that is great fun! It is swoopy and mostly downhill when you ride it from the Pence Park direction.

Pence Park Mountain Bike Ride - Colorado from Sq2shooter on Vimeo. [You might need Dramamine to watch this, but it is fun to see where we rode from another rider's perspective.]

Saturday night we stayed up past our bedtime to participate in our neighborhood movie night. We have a neighbor who bought a giant inflatable screen, and they set up a mini-outdoor theater several times throughout the summer. So far, I have never been able to stay up until the grown-up movie starts, but I always enjoy the kid's cartoon feature! (and the popcorn . . .)

Sunday our legs were a little bit tired, but we decided to try the Loop from Hell anyway. We loaded up the road bikes and drove to Bergen Park to start the ride – that saved us about 2 hours, round trip, and probably 12 miles of climbing.

There were at least a hundred other riders on Squaw Pass Sunday – probably more. It is always fun to see all the other riders – every shape, size and age is represented. I felt really good on the climb and made it to the summit ahead of Phil.

We bundled up (the temperature had dropped 20 degrees from the time we started) and enjoyed the downhill into Idaho Springs.

The sky clouded over fairly dramatically, and we had scattered showers as we left Idaho Springs. At the bottom of Floyd Hill I pulled away from Phil and was feeling pretty good about the day's ride . . . but at the halfway point he powered on by me and made it to the top at least 200 yards ahead of me. Drat!

As we turned to go back to Bergen Park the skies opened and we got caught in a pretty heavy downpour. Since we were only about 4 miles from the car, we didn't stop to put on our rain gear – we just picked up the pace and rode hard.

After drying off and getting cleaned up we headed over to meet friends for 9 holes of golf at Fox Hollow.


A nap was sounding like a better idea than a round of golf . . .

Once we got going it actually felt good to walk. Swinging a golf club helped loosen my back up a little bit, too.

As we headed out to the first tee box the clouds were building to the south, but it looked like the thunderstorm might miss us.
We watched a great lightening show for the first three holes, then on the fourth hole it started to move in – and we moved out! We got to the cars just as the skies opened.

A busy weekend, but lots of fun.

4 am came too early this morning, but we grudgingly rolled out of bed to head on down to the pain cave.

We got our core and flexibility workout done, and then got on the bikes for a planned 90 minute interval workout. My legs felt dead. I managed to go for an hour, then I called it quits.

This might be a long week . . .