Wild Basin Trail

I had a nicely-timed rest week before a big trip to Indianapolis for racing, so I decided Whitney and I would go camp up in RMNP. Regardless of what she thought. So the week before, I rode up to Estes Park to procure a backcountry permit, and to actually talk to the people at the Backcountry Office about what sites are still snowed in, what conditions the trails are in after the flooding, etc. It’s strange, but pleasantly old-school, that not all that information is available on the RoMo site. You can definitely look at maps and sites and restrictions and rules and trails and all that jazz, but the real-time conditions on snowmelt, as well as the backcountry site reservations/vacancies, are only available inside the small office. I rode out there, talked to a lady ranger who helped me figure out where to go, and to Wild Basin we went the next week.

We saw marmots, gray jays, black squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and a few rare human sightings. More awesomely, after seeing their footprints all winter crisscrossing the Rockies, I finally laid eyes on the elusive snowshoe hare. Their back feet are gigantic. Also, I saw a pine marten for the first time ever. Cute weasel guy, who’d just as soon gnaw on my arm if given the chance.

As for the fishing, well, Thunder Lake was almost completely frozen over, and Ouzel Lake wasn’t biting. So I didn’t catch a thing, and didn’t even have Whit try her hand at casting the fly rod like I’d hoped. She didn’t care too much, as she had made three new fluffy rodent friends.

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Whereabouts hilarabouts

I backpacked up in Rocky Mountain National Park two weekends ago. Whenever I deviate from my previously submitted whereabouts, I need to update the anti-doping authorities with where I’ll be. Generally I’m headed up into the mountains, a cell-reception morass with very few actual addresses.

I’m not sure anyone is actually reading these things when I send them to USADA, so I figured I’d post the gem here. I’m supposed to give times and locations, which can be a bit difficult when you’re camping, waking up to sunlight, not looking at a clock for three days, and only vaguely aware of where you truly are at any moment. Here’s what I told them:

I leave today after work, at 1pm, driving to the Wild Basin Summer Trailhead, at 40°12’30.6″N 105°33’59.1″W, aiming to get there by 3:30pm. Hiking the Wild Basin Trail toward Thunder Lake, stopping at the Pine Ridge campsite (see coordinates below).

Upon awaking and making some coffee and hot chocolate, and maybe eating a Pop Tart or two, we’ll continue our hike at roughly 9am toward Thunder Lake, ditching our camping gear at the North St. Vrain campsite before continuing on to Thunder Lake. If you do come test me then, be aware you’ll need snowshoes to get up there. Rangers said there’s still a lot of snow once the trail gets steep. After fishing at Thunder Lake, from maybe noon until 4pm, we’ll hike back down and make dinner at camp, and then sleep.

Sunday, we’ll wake up when the sun hits us, head toward Ouzel and Bluebird Lake at possibly 9am, do some more fishing, head back to check out Ouzel Falls and Calypso Cascade before getting to Tahosa, our campsite for the evening. Stars are supposed to be beautiful up there.

Monday, we will wake early, head back to the car, and drive back to Boulder for regularly scheduled activities (work/training per Whereabouts) by 9am.

Pine Ridge backcountry campsite – approximately 40°12’01.9″N 105°35’16.5″W
North St. Vrain backcountry campsite – approx. 40°12’29.3″N 105°37’02.7″W
Tahosa backcountry campsite – approx. 40°11’57.1″N 105°35’32.2″W

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Matrix Track Cup

I went down to Dallas, Texas, for a bike race. On a velodrome! Whoa! Haven’t been on one of those since November! It was an omnium, of sorts.

Kilo
Literally, without a doubt, the absolute worst-feeling kilometer time trial I’ve ever done in my life. I couldn’t physically go hard enough. Normally, this race for me is basically go as hard as I can for 70 seconds or so. This means I’m not really thinking about too much, other than “go hard, go hard, go hard, stay on that black line”. During this kilo, however, I remember thinking about my aerodynamic position, and thinking about the way I was holding my bars, and then these thoughts made me think, “How can I be thinking about anything right now other than staying near the black line and listening for the bell lap signifying one to go?” I wanted to be pedaling harder. My lungs felt fine, but my legs just wouldn’t listen to the signals my brain was trying to send their way. So all I could do was stay as aero as possible and pray the damn thing was over soon enough. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear my time was 1:15 (an atrocious time for me), it felt that bad. I didn’t hear — and subsequently didn’t even ask — what my time was. Didn’t help much that they forgot to add me to the start list (there was a glitch in the Matrix Track Cup), and so I got thrown into the first heat, and did that full-bore effort with practically no warmup, rushing to get the correct gear on my bicycle. Miraculously, I finished 6th. The time was bad, though not terrible for the poor, windy conditions: 1:10 or 1:11 something. The only guys who beat me were the sprinters (four of them were national/international-level sprinters), to whom I wasn’t too concerned about losing. So I went from feeling terrible, to terrible-but-humored? It was a weird morning session, that’s for sure. Either way, I knew I was way out of shape, and wouldn’t be able to do the things I normally do when racing. I’d have to be smart.

Flying Lap (250m TT)
Warmup was much better this time (i.e. it was existent; they remembered to put me on the start list for this race). I did one of my better times, good enough again for 6th. And again, that included the sprinters. So again, I was pleased. Normally I’ve already blown the omnium after this first race. So this was new territory for me. Actually standing a chance in the overall, for once.

Points Race
I wanted to win this, but my lack of fitness and requirement for sprinting on short rest meant I realistically wasn’t expecting to win. Top 3 was surely attainable, though. I managed be one of five guys who went two laps up, but I just don’t have the pop this early in the season for me. So I was nabbing lots of 3rd-place and 4th-place sprint points. Good enough for 4th, just a point or two out of 3rd. I was pleased with my final lap effort, when I was able to come around Stefan Rothe (teammate in my National-Championship-winning team pursuit last year) and race winner Zack Allison, but that only ended up being for 3rd-place points; there were two guys off the front I wasn’t even aware of. Nevertheless, I was happy to have pointlessly sprinted past the guys above me on the leaderboard, because surely doing something like that will matter later in the season.

Elimination
God, I hate this race. I actually won the thing last year, but that doesn’t prevent me from strongly disliking it. This year, I rode conservatively and stayed at the front. As the laps ticked by, every other one punctuated by a clang of the bell, I was off in dreamland, trying to replay the points race we had just done. There was some confusion about whether I had lapped twice (another glitch in the Matrix: they had scored me as being only 1 lap up), so I was riding at the front, staying tucked as much as I could, replaying us going up a lap in the points race, twice. And both times I was with the other 4 guys. How could they have not scored me going up that second lap? Suddenly, guys started swarming me and I was zapped out of my daydream and back into the Elimination race. Steven, the guy I drove down to Texas with, was still in the race with me and 6 other guys, when he decided he was done-zo, and pulled himself out. I didn’t realize when he pulled out, and was thinking he was still in the race, and was at the back, and would be the next rider pulled when we came through after the bell. Sadly, that was not the case. Since he pulled himself out, essentially, by no longer being with the group, the actual next rider to be pulled would come from the group, and essentially Steven AND someone else (me) would then be out that lap. I was trying to listen for my name or number, but didn’t hear them. I did, however, hear Steven’s name over the P.A. system, and figured they pulled him, I was still in, and unless someone’s yelling directly at me to tell me to pull out of the race, I would stay in it. Did I mention this race is really dumb? So there I was, still racing for 5th place, and then 4th place, and ultimately nabbing what I thought was 3rd, only to find out I was actually pulled for 6th or 7th (can’t remember which it was). Horrible, horrible race, this Elimination. At least we didn’t all crash like often happens at World Championships.

4k Pursuit
Oof, worst pursuit since I was a Cat 3 at Northbrook, basically. (Though, to be fair to myself, it was windy and everyone’s times were slower than last year’s). But still, I crawled. And got beat. That’s the worst part. The guy I was paired up with, fast 24-year-old Zach Allison from Fort Collins, beat me in an event he really shouldn’t beat me in. He put in a solid time, but mine was nowhere near where it should be. I guess, though, it was right where it should have been, considering my training, or lack thereof, this year. Too embarrassed to even post the time I got. Congrats to Zack, though, who pretty much controlled all of us this weekend. He’s got some spring road legs going, for sure.

Scratch
I needed to walk away with at least one victory. And my abysmal pursuit sure didn’t earn me that win, so I knew I had to race smartly in the Scratch if I wanted to finally beat all these guys. I also knew that my kilo, somehow, was faster than everyone else’s. So the plan was to sit in as much as possible, and go really hard, as late as I could. It worked. I took 1st with a solidly-timed attack with 4 to go, redeeming my morning deplorability, sending myself back to Boulder with a renewed enthusiasm about training and track racing. 2014, here I come.

Other notes

  • We again stayed with my good friend’s parents. Sadly, this year we were somehow much busier, and they were, too. So our paths barely crossed. Bo was at a golf tournament all weekend and wasn’t even at home, and Patty had lots of work and a Friday night party to attend. But their place is huge, cozy, perfectly located, and even with them not even being there, they still managed to deliver some fine southern hospitality. When they come visit their daughter here in Colorado, I’ll be sure to actually spend an evening with them.
  • We passed through Colorado Springs on our drive back at 1am Monday morning, and immediately were transported into The Fast and the Furious, or perhaps 2 Fast 2 Furious, or maybe Fast & Furious, as all of the sudden we were on I-25 amid hundreds, literally hundreds, of souped-up Honda Accords, Nissan GTRs, Subaru WRXs, and sundry other color-clashing, off-white-headlight douche-mobiles. We were in a rented Dodge Charger, which is like a sedan version of a sports car, so maybe people thought our American muscle was OK and they gave us a pass. They certainly didn’t like the pickup truck that they started harassing by cutting it off, slamming on their brakes, waving their middle fingers in the air (to alert the pickup truck driver what their IQ was, as well as how high they ranked on the Total Douchebag list). Glad no one crashed us out.
  • One of the more bizarre track crashes I’ve seen happened with <40 laps to go in our points race. Mat Stephens (whose wife would go to the hospital on a stretcher later that night — bad weekend for the Stephens fam) crashed in the middle of turn 1. I was 30 meters behind it, so I had plenty of time to go uptrack, as you do when you have plenty of time. Why? Well, logic dictates that things that crash high on the track will ultimately slide down, so you always want to ride above the crash. However, as I diverted myself from the sprinter’s lane up toward the rail, Mat Stephens’ bike actually attached to Ian Holt, and Ian/bike began slowly moving uptrack. Like, the handlebars hooked on Ian’s bike and Ian, while remaining upright, dragged the bike sideways toward the rail, toward me. It was harrowing for a couple seconds, but Ian ended up keeping it up, and eventually going downtrack with Mat’s bike still a part of him. Strange. RIP Ian’s rear disc wheel, which got gouged in this whole process.
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