Thursday, June 30, 2011

Muddy Wednesday

Date: June 29th, 2011
Distance: 20 miles
Song of the Day: Neighbor - Band of Horses

So things did actually get a bit muddy. The guys I go riding with can seem to plan for the life of them. The Monday ride got moved to Wednesday because of people dropping out. Then the ride got moved from Grand Ridge back to Duthie because of rain.

That wasn't really a big deal for me. I still rode out through Grand Ridge. I love the trails there. A bit technical but not too bad. I am also getting better at those climb at the begining. Less spin-outs, less pushing, more awesome. Despite the rain the trail wasn't bad. I almost thought it had less mud on it than when I rode through last week. The bog on the far side of the ridge was about the same muddy slop, but no worse.

I was a bit late when I got there, but I met up with Sean and Andy and we did a couple of turns around the park. I didn't crash this time, so I am pleased with that. My rib still hurts a bit, especially when cranking up a big incline. That is just life, in my opinion.

Afterwards the three of us met up with Douglas where he works. Our kind host even provided some burgers and hot dogs. Mmmmm. It was really nice to sit out and watch what we could of the sunset and shoot the breeze. A good way to end the afternoon. I hope that we get more chances in the future to do the same and more people out to partake.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dirty Tuesday

Date: June 21st, 2011
Distance: 22 miles
Song of the Day: In the Meantime - Spacehog

Well I said there would be more rides this year. So you get to read more boring re-caps of what I have been doing. After the long ride yesterday I wasn't sure heading out again would be such a good idea. My legs were feeling much better than I thought they would. Why not get back on the bike then?

So this afternoon I rode out to Grand Ridge again. I took the trail to the top. Lots of tight switch backs. I am getting better at it though. The last time I had to stop around a lot of the steep hairpins. This time around I only spun out once and had to hop off.

After hitting the top I cruised down the back side of the ridge. I have done the back side once or twice, but never gone all the way out. Wow, that was a lot of fun. Really my kind of trails. Lots of nice juicy single track. The best part is that it is through lush forest. On a hot sunny day, it is so beautiful. Highly recommended.

Well, at least until you get to the swamp. There is a big section at the bottom that is just a mud bog. Some kind people have put planks across most of it. I don't mind getting dirty, but I was hoping to keep my shoes from being soaking wet. The last bit through the swamp was covered with a boardwalk. I suppose that is only half finished. I am excited to see that complete because from there it is just a couple of switch backs up to Duthie Hill Park.

At Duthie I met up with some of the crew I ride with on Thursdays. I have only been to the park once before a few months ago. This time around, it was about like I remembered it. Lots of nice fast trails. Good flows and cool jumps.

At least when you do them right. I followed a couple of the guys down one trail and didn't look where I was going. I hit a big drop and ended up going endo. I landed on my head, which fortunately I had my helmet on. Please note kids, wear a helmet. Actually, hitting my head wasn't bad. It was my ribs hitting my stem that hurt. It is still a bit sore now. At least it was on the opposite side from the ribs I hurt on the way to Rohija.

After that the guys and I went out for burgers in Fall City. We sat by the river and skipped rocks. Watched the sunset. It was a great end to the solstice.

One final note, since it is the first day of summer I am happy to see my summer legs coming back. No I don't mean all muscled and tan, though they are that. I mean covered in bruises, cuts, and scrapes. Wounds heal, but memories last. Never be to afraid for your life that you forget to live it.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Snoqualmie Tunnel Ride

Date: June 20th, 2011
Distance 102 miles
Song of the Day: I Think Ur a Contra - Vampire Weekend

I heard the other day that the Snoqualmie Tunnel was going to reopen. Apparently they even fixed what was wrong with it. I am still unclear who coughed up the money. On the state park website it lists the "official" opening as July 5th. On the other hand a shuttle service between Cedar Falls and Hyak starts up on July 1st. So it must be open before that. Even though it is more than two weeks from the real opening, I figured that I would check it out and see if they had opened it up. I mean, if it is fixed, why bother to lock it up again?

With that in I headed out today from Issaquah. To start with I headed to the Issaquah to Preston trail. Nothing really special. It is a route I take a lot. From Preston I rode down into Fall City. I know that I could take the Preston to Snoqualmie trail, but low and behold that doesn't actually go to Snoqualmie. You can take a single track trail over to the Snoqualmie Ridge development, but well, I have learned to avoid things called "Ridge". Also you have to do the crazy daredevil downhill along the Snoqualmie Parkway.

From Fall City it was out on 202 and then to hook up with the Snoqualmie Valley trail. That ends at the Tokul Road tunnel and doesn't pick up until the bridge over the Snoqualmie River. So it was a few more miles on blacktop around Mill Pond. After that it was 25 miles of gravel rail trail up to the top. Also 2,100 feet of elevation gain. I must admit my legs were aching pretty badly on the way up.

Then when I got there, the tunnel was closed. I know that I could have hucked my bike over the fence. Also the chain was just bolted to one of the gates, so if I had an adjustable wrench I could have opened the tunnel early. That wasn't really the point though. I wanted to make see if the gates were actually open without having to commit a kind of crime. So I didn't take a role through the tunnel. The one thing I didn't see though was evidence of what was fixed. The tunnel looked pretty much the same. I guess I will have a few more weeks before I see what has changed.

After that it was the long journey back home. I did make one stop in Fall City. I grabbed a burger at Small Fryes. Oh, and a shake. They make really great shakes there. It was just the thing I needed to make the last 15 miles home.

I am just hoping my legs aren't dead tomorrow.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Echo Valley Race

Date: June 11th, 2011
Distance: 31.2 miles
Time: 3 hours and 3 minutes
Song of the Day: Nutshell - Alice in Chains

Race day. The first thing I should explain is that the "valley" part of the Echo Valley race is a misnomer. There isn't any racing around the valley at all. All of the racing is done up on Echo Ridge. The only thing in the valley is the start of the race. From there it is a 2.3 mile climb up the fire road. I had sacked out in my van at the top parking lot, so when I got up I had to bike down to the start. I was glad the finish was at the top though. Racing down the road would have killed me I think. Hairpin turns on gravel roads while going super fast do not make a good combination for me.

I watched the 60 mile group head off at 9:00, and waited for the 30 mile group to show up. Roger, the guy putting on the race, gave us our instructions. Once the race started, we would make our way to the top. From the upper parking lot we would do two loops around the various trails. The finish would be all the way at the top near the main aid station. In total we would be doing about 30 miles.

At 9:30 the pack of knobby tired cyclists was off, and what a blazing start it was. Right uphill! The climb wasn't as bad as I thought it would be though. The pack started to spread out pretty quickly. I even found myself passing a few people. So I thought things were going well. I was worried I was going to go too fast and end up bonking somewhere along the way. Whenever I felt like I was struggling though, I just thought it couldn't be as bad as getting to Nkuringo.

Once at the top, the race course spread out all over the ridge. Some of it was single track, some double. In most places the path swept over the shoulder of each slope. The sky was almost cloudless and you could see the valley laid out below for miles. It was a beautiful day to be riding. I don't think my thoughts about Nkuringo were far off either. The place really reminded me of my time in Southwest Uganda.

The only section that I thought was tough was the trail known as "The Shoe". It was all single track, so all the little bushes and plants were whipping me in the legs. Plus there were a few points where it got pretty technical. Also one point where it was basically too steep to ride. I am sure a few of the racers did it, but everyone I saw was pushing their bike up that section. Not that I really minded having to push. That is all part of the challenge as far as I am concerned. The thing that got me was that this portion of the trail began and ended at the same place, so the net elevation gain was zero. For some reason though it just felt like so much more uphill than downhill. It didn't help that once you climbed back up to where you started the section, you still had to go half a mile back to the upper parking lot to begin the second lap.

I did stop for a couple of minutes at the aid station. I drank up a whole ton of water and Nuun. I also ate half a Clif Bar. It was a good thing I did, but I probably should have done a bit more. About half way through the second lap I felt the energy draining out of me. I did have the rest of the Clif Bar, but trying to eat one while riding along on overgrown dirt roads is not easy. I think next time it would be better to get one of those gel packs. After a few minutes the energy did start to kick in and I was able to keep going.

I even felt really good climbing out of The Shoe and racing to the top. I even passed a few people on the way. Making those climbs is hard, but apparently I am good at it. I finished the race with a time of 3:03. I am pretty happy with that. Sure, it isn't winning any awards, but for only a week's notice I don't think it is too shabby.

After finishing I then spent the next ten minutes sampling all of the food and drink options at the aid station. I was parched and ravenous. A big thanks to the volunteers who were helping out. That stuff was a big help in making me feel normal again. Another big thanks to Roger and the guys for putting this on. I had a blast and I hope that there are many more races to come.


More Training

Date: June 9th, 2011
Distance: 57 miles
Song of the Day: Fair - Ben Folds Five

Well, I am all signed up for the Echo Valley race. I am really excited about that. Endurance mountain bike racing really does sound like something right up my alley. Plus my new bike is all set up and running like a top. So I took it out today to do a bit of training.

I rode out of Issaquah and up to Preston to drop some stuff off with a friend. Then it was back along the trail and a rode up around Grand Ridge. The first couple of switchbacks from the High Point trailhead were killing me though. I thought I was in better shape than that. I was really huffing and puffing.

Once I got up to the ridge, things got a bit easier and I was enjoying it more. I also started using my middle chainring. I am really glad to have that. On trails it gives me much better gearing ratios than the large one. I am still not sure the granny gear is so useful, but I can worry about that later.

The upper trails were all full of puddles and mud. It felt good to get out and get dirty. By the time I got back home I was covered in mud. I took a shower and washed the bike before heading into town.

In the evening I met up with the guys from .83 for another Thursday ride. I think it is the longest ride I have been on with them. I was a nice night for it, so I can't say that I mind. We ended up cruising over Beacon Hill and then down into Renton. Then back up the Duwamish and into Seattle. It was over 30 miles round trip. Despite being on my my fat tired mountain bike, I was still able to keep up with the group. Yee-haw. Hopefully that will keep me in good training for the ride this weekend.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Date: June 4th, 2011
Distance: 400 yard swim, 14.5 mile bike ride, 3 mile run
Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

I woke up far too early this morning. Especially considering I was up until 1:00 AM the night before. Still, I felt good for it being 5:00 AM. Plus it was a gorgeous day, finally. I got some breakfast and put my kit on before biking down to the state park.

When I got to the race start, I was in for quite a sight. I didn't realize how many people there were going to be competing. There were a ton of people getting ready. It was quite an array. I saw individuals warming up running biking and even swimming. I was one of the few without a full wet suit. So I stood around waiting for the race to begin and trying to keep my toes warm.

I started in with the third wave. The water wasn't that bad. At a balmy 58 degrees, the temperature was fine. The swimming was much harder than I expected. I used to spend all my summer days swimming in the lake. So I thought that would be one thing I was good at. My training really didn't prepare me for what I was doing. I ended up being passed by the following two swim waves. Still, I made it slow but steady.

From there it was onto the bike portion. That I did much better at. I had tuned my bike up the day before and it was running like a top. I am used to doing a lot of street biking. Stopping every mile or so for a stop light or a car. Because all the streets were closed off, I could just cruise. It felt so good.

Then it was off to running. Not really my favorite activity, and I was pretty tired by this point. I kept at it however. The night before I had been talking with my friend Chris about ski mountaineering. He mentioned that their motto was "Put on foot in front of the other and suffer." For some reason thinking about that really made me feel better. I wasn't worried about breaking any records. I just needed to keep going. I crossed the finish line a bit over an hour and a half from the start.

At the finish I grabbed some food the sponsors had out. I felt pretty good in spite of everything. I also talked with a guy named Roger from NW Epic Series. I guess he puts on long distance mountain bike races. That sounds really fun, so there may be more to come on that later.

From there it was a short bike back home. Then it was nap time.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Date: June 2nd, 2011
Distance: 400 yard swim, 17 mile bike ride, 3 mile run
Song of the Day: Pretend - The Bens

So I have been training for a Triathlon for the last few months. All of the work has been going well. Today it has come done to one full length dress rehearsal. When I started training two months ago, I really couldn't run a mile without stopping. I also couldn't swim more then about 15 feet. Then again the water temp at the time was 46 degrees...

Today the water temp was a brisk 57 degrees. I swam out to a couple of the buoys in the lake. I was surprised that I could actually keep swimming and didn't need to stop at any point. The past couple of swims I have been grabbing onto the buoys as a chance to catch my breath. The wind was up, which did hinder breathing anyway. It was kicking up waves on the lake that had me choking on water at a couple of points.

Once out of the water I got into my shoes as fast as I could. I was worried that my toes would go numb again. So I wanted to get on the bike as fast as I could.

For today I took my new Mzungu bike. It isn't the bike I will take on Saturday, but I wanted something that takes a bit more power to ride. Plus I just got it together and I wanted to test it out. I rode over the Lake Sammamish State Park and rode around on some of the trails. They are still pretty muddy. It feels good to get dirt on the new wheels. Woo-hoo. Then I took the Issaquah-Preston trail. More mud and dirt out that way. After that it was back to home.

I stopped in for just enough time to down two glasses of water. I forgot that the new bike doesn't have a bottle or a cage on it yet. Whoops. Then it was off to run. Another 3 mile tour around the neighborhood. So that was it. Basically a sprint distance triathlon, done. I feel good. I think Saturday is going to go well. At least if I can get up before 6:00 AM...