Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mixing it up

After so much long distance running I was wiped out last year, physically and mentally exhausted. I needed a new challenge, something that would still get me physically exerted and high in the mountains. I bought a mountain bike. I then bought a second mountain bike, and I haven't looked back.

The bike I bought was far too good for someone with my modest abilities - a Specialized Epic World Cup carbon bike. So light I could pick it up with one finger. But when the snow came early last Fall I splashed out on the top end Specialized Fatboy Pro, an absolute beast of a bike and so much fun I rode it a lot over winter even on dry trails. The new exercise pattern is much more to my liking - when I travel for work during the week I go running, and at weekends I go out on my bike.

I quite like grinding it out on long, steady ascents - not the vicious little stingers that have you scrabbling your back wheel for traction, but the longer, lung-busting type that go on for ever. I recall the trip up to Georgia Pass from Kenosha Pass last November - 12 miles of solid, uphill on a steady gradient. This was perfect for me. I also recall riding Lair o' the Bear across to Mount Falcon - another solid 8 miles of continuous ascent. Fabulous.

Downhill is not so much fun for me. I am generally too scared of wrapping myself around a tree trunk or flying over the handlebars at speed. Unfortunately, I seem to be pretty good at doing both of these things with alarming frequency. I've suffered a few bruised ribs, but so far nothing serious.

It's been a great weekend on the bike. Yesterday I scaled Bergen Peak above Evergreen, CO. It was a cold start but the steady climbing warmed me up. It was a beautiful ride with great views from the summit. I thought the early start meant that I would have the trail to myself, but I caught 4 riders close to the summit and burned past them on the final steep, loose pull. I passed them still ascending while I was zooming down the singletrack.
View of the Falls

This morning I rode the big loop at Staunton State Park. Annoyingly I arrived at 6.30am to find the park gates locked. I had to wait 30 minutes until the park opened. The trails here are great. Apart from about 2 miles uphill on doubletrack the surface is spectacularly smooth and undulating. The climbing is steady up to the Staunton Falls overlook and, other than a few mud patches, the trail surface was pretty dry. I passed a single hiker in the first half mile and then saw no one except Elk and a herd of giraffe (I lied about the giraffe).
Profile of Lion Rock

The most exceptional part of this trail loop is the long ascent to the rock overlook followed by 5 miles of very fast, twisty singletrack descent. At one point I touched 35 miles an hour, which felt way too fast for me and my abilities. At one point I was going so fast I missed seeing a stream crossing and blasted through it before I realized. I got soaked, but stayed upright and then air dried in the wind as I sped back to the trailhead.
My Specialized Epic World Cup bike - love it!!!

Physically I feel a lot better for mixing up my exercise. The price I am paying is running speed and distance - I can't seem to be able to run as far and I am definitely slower. But I feel in better overall shape, so this is something I am having to live with. With the snow melting in the big mountains and the high level trails opening up, I might revert to some more high level weekend running, but for now, I am really enjoying the bike.
Staunton State Park trip

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