Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Koko Trail, Day 1: Loma to Westwater Ranger Station (44 miles)

Before I go into the details of the trip, let me tell you a bit about how the trip came about...

Chris and I have been wanting to do a multi-day bikepacking trip for quite some time. In November we attempted to do White Rim in two days, had our bikes and gear packed up, and got stopped by 6 inches of unexpected morning snow. After Chris's first trip on the Kokopelli trail last year, we talked about doing the trail as a three or four day trip... one day far off in the distance. Both of us thought we'd get White Rim done first, see how it went, and then get bigger from there. After all, White Rim is only 100 miles and fairly nontechnical. Soooo... Chris emailed me at work two weeks ago, said our friends Bill and Nicolette wanted to do a three day, self-supported trip on the Kokopelli and had asked us to come. Was I interested? Umm, ok, why not? (as I've come to realize, if you ask me to do just about anything... out in the world... the quiet, quiet, world... while I'm surrounded by tattling 1st graders, I will most likely jump at the chance without much thought). Before I knew it, Memorial weekend came, and we were heading off with packs of gear and bikes loaded. Wait. What? I agreed to what? My furthest bike ride was... ummm... maybe 30 miles before this?? Sh*t

Day One shall be forever known as The Day Of The MudBikeMonsters.

After waking up early in the Super 8 in Fruita, Bill, Nicolette, Chris, and I ate some hotel breakfast, and drove to the trailhead in Loma. The morning was a bit hazy, with obvious rain threats in the skies. The temperature was coldish and I huddled in the car with all of my warm clothes on for as long as possible.

Finally we rolled out of the parking lot onto the familiar road leading to Mary's Loop. We were all pumped up, and super excited to ride. At this point, I'd resigned myself to the fact that I was going to do this, and it would only be harder if I had a bad attitude about it. So I got excited and Chris and I took off down the trail. We would stop now and then and look back for B&N (how they will be known now so as not to type their names a million times).

After waiting for a while at some point, they caught up and we realized that Bill had been going to battle with his paniers. He would continue this battle the entire ride, but he got much quicker at fixing them on the fly.

The Kokopelli Guide Book calls the first 13 miles "the most technical and singletrack-intensive of the entire trail" and "fast & exciting." I would agree with the technical, intensive, and exciting parts. I have a bone to pick with the "fast" part.

It took us 6 hours to do these 13 miles.

And not because of the technical aspects of the trail.

Because of the mud.

Once on Troy Built Loop, the clouds opened up ever so slightly and we got drizzled on.

After seeing the cloud that we were headed into, Chris and I both put on our rain jackets only to have the rain immediately stop. Bah. Lucky for us (ha), the rain came back in a little bit more of a drizzle. This is when the problems started. The dirt compound that makes up the trail, apparently, when mixed with water, turns into a wet cement type mixture and makes your bike look like this:

And your shoes look like this:

When that happens, hubby hikes his own MudBikeMonster up a hill, turns around to laugh at wife who is basically going nowhere with hers, then slops down and carries hers up for her:

I have the sweetest husband in the whole world. He would haul my bike up many a brutal hike-a-bikes on this trip, much to my sheer amazement and delight.

Anyway. After the mud slog up the hill, the rain stopped and we had to take time to clean the now hardening-cement-mixture from our bikes. Chris found an old piece of truck. I used a piece of wood. Our goal was to get them rolling as the sun had now come out and we didn't want to lose any more time on our first day. Soon we got them rolling and we limped them down to Salt Creek where we took another cleaning break. In all, we estimate we must've lost at least two hours to the MudBikeMonster alone. There's nothing better than hearing your bike make a whiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrr sound instead of a ccrrrunchcrunchcrunch sound.

We were excited to get our bikes running. Then we had to hike our now slightly mud-heavier bikes up a big hill. That was fun -- ummm, not. Beautiful for sure though. I've never seen such pretty flowers.

Luckily at the top the trail opens up and we had a great time blasting down the dirt path paralleling the highway. Soon we climbed up a road and stopped part way up to eat some lunch. I laid down, happy to be flat as my back and shoulders were not pleased to have this pesky thing called weight on it. A warmish subway sandwich and pringles never tasted so good.

From here we continued on through Rabbit Valley, got passed by a lot of dirt bikers and 4-wheelers, and even crossed the Colorado/Utah boarder. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I've never crossed a state line on a bike before, and I was super happy to see a sign (otherwise I would make one myself).

At this point the pesky rear disc brake rub that I had gotten "fixed" earlier in the week came back and between that and a dry MudBikeMonster chain, I felt as if I was fighting the bike with every pedal stroke.

We stopped and lubed the chain, but I was getting tired and the rest of the day is sorta a blur. I remember cruising through to the intersection with the paved road at Westwater and feeling a little worried about what the rest of the trip would entail. I tried really hard not to look up at the LaSal mountain range, knowing full well that I had to go through those to get to my destination. But then we hit the paved road and amazingly life started looking up.

There's nothing like a few mile decent on pavement to perk up anyone's attitude. Chris and I flew down the road, perking up, holding hands, excited that we were so close to our camp for the night.

Soon we found the ranger station. Found water. Found bathrooms. Found camp right next to the calm, but quick moving river. I immediately took of my shoes, laid down flat for a few minutes, muscled up the energy to get up and put my feet in the cold river. Life was good. Chris set up our tent and B&N set up theirs, and soon my superb tour guide/husband had dinner started and a bed made. We hung out, ate some amazing chicken/rice/veggie burritos (YUM), recapped the day's MudBikeMonster events, and soon crawled happily into our respective tents. Luckily for me, I was bunking with the guy who even brought graham crackers, nutella, and marshmallows for easy s'mores. It was sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Then we passed out in our tents.

Ok, Chris passed out. Bill apparently passed out. Nicolette struggled to sleep. I slept, but had severe leg cramps every time I'd try to move, and probably didn't sleep more than a few hours total.

But I made it through day 1.

A hard day 1, made even harder by the MudBikeMonster.

But I made it.

Farthest and longest mountain bike ride of my life. And I was supposed to get up and repeat for the next two days.

Somehow I was still smiling.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Memorial Day adventure? Check

150 miles on a mountain bike? Check

15,000 ft of climbing? Check

Exhausted, sore, hungry, swollen, numb? Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck

Kokopelli Trail, self-supported, in three days? CHECK!!!!!

More pictures, stories, and snide comments on an amazing trip after I get a little sleep and perspective.

Dang my butt and knees hurt.

(one question I'm wrestling with and need to get out of the way: Who do I respect more? The mad beasts that do this in one day... or the simple genius who turns around after 45 minutes? Hmmm?)

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Today was the Lookout Mountain Hill Climb.

Before today I've climbed Lookout twice (on the road -- I've done a few more times on the mountain bike trail). Once in the freeeeeezing cold a few Januarys ago... it took me around 45 minutes to go 4.5 miles. The second was last week, while on antibiotics in between the first plague and the second plague that weekend. Chris, Bill, and I spun up it in about 40 minutes, but this time... gasp... it was fun.

So those two experiences put me on the start line of the race this morning at 9 am.

For once the women went off before the men, which allowed Chris to actually see me start a race and take some pictures. The Cat 4 Women's group was much larger than I expected -- no results are posted yet so I'm not sure how many were actually there.

After a quick miss of a girl falling at the start, the rest of the race went off nicely. Teammate Nicolette was there after originally planning not to be, so it was great to have someone to warmup with, chat at the starting line with, and freeze my butt off on the way down with.

We started together, but got gapped from each other by a few girls at the start and I wasn't ever able to catch back on her wheel. She's a strong climber and, despite never really riding her road bike very much, she did a great job and was quickly gone. I was left to fend for myself, passing girls that immediately imploded after their hard starts, but never really able to bridge up to a group which I know ended up hurting my time at least a bit. I kept a few rabbits in sight and tried not to let them go. My arms immediately cramped up (same thing happened at the TT on Wednesday -- not sure what that's all about, as I've never had my arms cramp up before) and my eyesight started to go a little weird despite not pushing all that hard, so I settled into a rhythm that was easier than I had planned. Eventually the eyesight got better and I was able to push harder and get more into a racing rhythm. I passed some girls but knew the main group was up the road too far to catch. At some point a girl passed me and I didn't want to let her away. I kept her within 10-15 ft the rest of the climb despite her efforts to shake me a few times.

I had a good rabbit.

As we reached the 3 mile mark (of the 4.5 mile climb), I started thinking tactics. I was feeling good and felt like I could probably pass the girl in front of me, my rabbit from before, but decided that it was too close to the end to pass up a good finish-line push past her. So, I settled into a good rhythm a few feet behind her and basically drafted up the last few switchbacks. As the road turned flat/down for the final push to the finish, she clicked up gears and I immediately matched. I could tell she knew I was there now, and seemed to be getting annoyed. With each effort she would put in, I would put it in too. I thought of the millions of times we've watched road races and I know the sprint finish protocol... let the guy in front do all of the work as they try to shake you, then swing wide and sprint past them to the finish line. Sounded like fun.

And it was.

We were really cruising as we clicked up the gears, and the last right turn was coming up that leads to the finish which is on a slight hill. On the turn she took the inside, right line and I decided to surprise her and make my move. I took the outside line, swung past her, stood up, and flew to the finish. Too bad no one was around to watch the fun except for strangers who probably didn't care, because it felt awesome. I probably really pissed her off, and the nice side of me feels a little bad, but it made the whole race worth it. I ended up with a time of 31.something and I'm disappointed that I didn't make it in under the 30 minute mark, because I know I can do it. But the finish was the highlight of the race, and it was serious fun playing the tactical game. Even if it was only the difference between 29th and 30th place or something.

Did I mention that after that push I had to cruise over to a secluded area because then I almost puked?

That's a good effort right there! Can't be disappointed with that!

I already can't wait for next year. The race is short, slightly expensive, and they didn't even have so much as water at the top... but to me it was worth it. Nicolette had a great race and got up in 28 or 29 minutes. We hung out at the top for a little while, saw some preliminary results, and then piled on some clothes (but not nearly enough) for the freeeeeezing cold decent. It was great to have someone to complain to the whole way down! We stopped at a parking lot on the climb and waited for Chris, Shawn, and Bill to make their way up in the Cat 4 Men. While we froze our butts off, it was so fun to watch them mid-race and cheer them on. We quickly headed down after we saw them and hopped in her car with a full heater blast to warm us up.

As it turns out, Shawn got 3rd place with some beer, cash, and a medal as prize. Chris was not far behind him... less than a minute... and he crushed his PR for the climb with a 20.something finish. Chris also enjoyed the team tactical aspect of the race -- something I think we both could get used to! Bill did awesome and crushed his PR by 5 minutes or something. For having 3 of the 4 most ghetto bikes in the Cat 4 Men, our team kicked some serious butt. I'm proud of them!

Overall, the race was a blast.

I can't wait to go back and prove to myself what I really can do.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

17.5 days and counting...

Gotta love the arrival of May (even though it snowed today).

17.5 days left of school with kids.

I love my class but they are ready for 2nd grade... and there are good reasons I don't teach 2nd grade.

Tomorrow starts a whirlwind of testing to see if I actually did my job this year. We'll see how that goes, seeing as I only have 10 kids who have been with me all year because of the grade level changes and everything. The rest have been with me for six months or less. Should be iiiiiinteresting.

In other news, I rode the 4th Cherry Creek time trial last night. I rode the 1st, in crappy snowy/rainy weather, skipped the 2nd because of a work obligation, and missed the 3rd with strep/flu. This week I rode despite being super dehydrated and five pounds lighter from a weekend of puking from the antibiotics the dr put me on. I felt remarkably good, even in the wicked wind, and turned a 32ish minute race -- four minutes faster than week 1 and only roughly a minute off of my personal best. Not too shabby.

The best part of the night?

Driving my car down.

It's so fun.

I am in love.

Aaaaaannnndd... my honey bought me some little additional goodies to put in the E, 'twil be fun when they arrive. Thanks honey!