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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, GO!

I love my puppy, and my hubby, and my anniversary present.

And not in that order.

This week I took Turbo to the dog park to run while I rode my bike. On that trip, I realized he is a budding triathlete like his daddy. He rode in the car, he ran several miles around the dog park, then finally he swam in the murky water. Unfortunately I left the camera in the car and didn't get pictures of his awesomeness, but I can tell you that at one point he ran so fast down the hill after me, that his collar flew off! He's a speedysaurus. And cute. And furry. Speed Racer.

On the way home, he was so tired and hot, he rode home with his face in the air conditioner like this:
Chris is currently kicking the Colorado Trail's butt. I miss him like crazy but couldn't be more proud. He's got some rough trail ahead of him still, but even if he had to stop tonight, I'd give him a huge hug and brag about him endlessly to people who probably don't care. Speed Racer.
Anniversary Present
Our 4th anniversary is next Wednesday. Yesterday I went out to get the mail and received my anniversary present from hubby. After much searching and extreme hinting, Chris ordered me my very own cycling cap. This idea has been in the works since last summer, when we realized that getting pregnant wouldn't come easily for us... because we also quickly realized that by the time "trying" turns into a "baby" we'd practically own a pregnancy test company.

So, what's my cycling cap?

Predictor Lotto.

Yep, the one cycling team that (used to be) sponsored by a pregnancy test company.

It took some searching, but Chris found one to order for me. Yesterday I ran out to get the mail, and as I was walking back in, excited to have the package that Chris told me I could open, the phone rang. It was Chris from Buena Vista. I not only got my present, but it was a million times better because I got to open it while on the phone with my favorite person in the world. He's currently working on the other part of my anniversary present... finishing and rocking the Colorado Trail Race. If all goes as planned, I will be racing at Winter Park on Saturday without him there. I've never raced without Chris there. But with the cycling cap and my single speed stem cap, I will be... Speed Racer.

On a side note, I do not love rattle snakes. But I do love fellow cyclists who flag you down before you run over one. This rattle snake was definitely not...Speed Racer.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?
I really want a pink Yeti ASR, although really, I'd be super happy with any pink bike that fit me correctly.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?
While I love my Bluebee, it does not really fit me, nor is it pink... therefore, no I do not have the coveted dream bike. As for working toward it, I am the bread winner in the family now, so unless teachers start making a heck of a lot more in the near future, I'm pretty sure the dream bike will be a ways off. Unless someone wants to donate one to me...

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
How sad is it that I can think of several bike routes I would NOT want to ride every day, but have a hard time coming up with one that I would... Perhaps Kessel Run in Fruita? That one is always fun.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride to do for the rest of her / his life?
I wouldn't expect anything less of Fatty.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrow minded?
I ride both and it really depends on the day which I prefer. Generally I prefer mountain biking, but I do really really love doing the time trials on the road bike.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.
Mmm, no.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?
Mmm, no. Me swimming and running isn't a pretty sight.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?
I'd have to go with ice cream. It's not that I'm so married to the bicycle, but more so that I'm not that married to ice cream. There are several other desserts that catch my eye instead...

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.
What squeeky toy is on your bike? If you do not have a squeeky toy on your bike, what is wrong with you?
Aero bunny! She's awesome...

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?
Cry. Then hide behind Chris. He's a more tasty bear snack than I am, I'm sure.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

Meredith (Your husband may not tag people, but I have no shame)
Ali B.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

14er number 14: Huron Peak

Wednesday, Chris and I completed 14er number 14!

We chose Huron Peak because we had a hard weekend of riding, and Huron Peak is advertised as one of the easiest 14ers. In fact, it is the second shortest 14er in the state at 14,003 ft!

The plan was to climb Monday or Tuesday, leaving many days for Chris to recover before the Colorado Trail. One thing lead to another, and after a very very productive day of house cleaning on Tuesday, we decided to climb on Wednesday instead. We headed up very early on Wednesday morning to the trailhead that is about 20 miles past Leadville. We left home at 3 am and were starting out on our journey by 6:30.

One of the coolest parts of this hike? We got to take our bikes along and do a mountain bike approach. There is a 2.5 mile 4WD road that leads from the teeeeenyweeeny town of Winfield to the trailhead. The Element probably could've made the drive, but it would've been slow going and nerve wracking. Instead of putting ourselves and the E through that, and rather than adding another 5 extra miles of walking, we brought along the mountain bikes.

Around 6:30, we packed ourselves onto the bikes and we rode up the road while Turbo ran. Going up the road wasn't super awesome, since I didn't have my bike shoes so my hiking shoes kept slipping off the tiny little pedals. I never quite realized how much I rely on my bike shoes and clipless pedals until this trip. Each bump would launch my feet, make them slip, or jar places that aren't meant to be jarred. I walked most little steep sections, but we still covered the road section in less than a half hour instead of the hour it would've taken to walk it. We stashed our bikes in the trees and then headed off on the trail by foot.

The views from the trail were spectacular. The Three Apostles were beautiful as the sun lit them up.

We hiked through the trees for quite a while, then through fields of wildflowers, and finally through the last rocky pitch to the top.

Chris and Turbo bounded up the mountain while I lagged behind. My legs and body were definitely not recovered from the hard weekend and I was feeling quite sluggish. It was a "keep putting one foot in front of the other" kind of day for me.

We made it to the summit at 9:30, where we enjoyed some sandwiches and Turbo had his SummitBoney. The clouds were rolling in, but while we were at the top, we had absolutely perfect weather. I think it's one of the first summits that I've been on where I didn't have to put on at least my windshirt. There was little to no wind and bright, beautiful sunshine. We spent a half hour on top with the summit all to ourselves. On our way down, we'd encounter a few groups heading up, but by this point the clouds were building and dark and we were glad we were on our way down.

We took our time down for the most part. We enjoyed the fields of wildflowers, trickling streams, and peacefulness that always waits for us around 12,000 ft.

By the time we got back to the trees we could hear thunder off in the distance so we walked more quickly back to our bikes. It felt wonderful to sit on the bike and give our ankles and knees a rest. We got to cruise back to the car while Turbo happily ran alongside. His endless energy always amazes me (although at the moment he is zonked out on the couch after getting to swim and taking a bath today).

By the time we got back to the car around 1:00 it had started to sprinkle. We had hiked/biked nearly 11 miles and bagged our fourteenth 14er. We stopped for some delicious lunch in Leadville at the Golden Burro, aka Brass Ass, before heading back down I-70 to home.

One more summit picture to add to our poster! I would recommend Huron as a first 14er for anyone up for the challenge. The trail was really easy to follow and it's not crowded.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Super D-elightful Weekend

(kinda long with not many pictures -- yet)

Lots of riding in Winter Park this weekend with a cross country race on Saturday and a downhill race on Sunday, but as the title suggests, it was simply delightful.

We drove up late Friday afternoon and stayed at our friend Michelle's family's place in Frasier (just outside of Winter Park and the finish for Saturday's race). Upon arriving in Frasier, Chris and I were hungry so we decided to ride our bikes down to a local pizza place (always tasty). We cruised down the neighborhood and into town and then ate a lot of tasty pizza. After pizza we decided to stop by the Safeway for some Ben and Jerry's to take back as dessert for the weekend. We ran into an old college friend coming out of Safeway and chatted with him for a little while. We rode back up the big hill to the neighborhood and came across the best part of the weekend.

A bear.


As we cruised around a corner, chatting about the weirdness of running into this friend, we both stopped. There, only 20 ft in front of us was a black bear crossing the road. This is about how the following conversation went:

Chris: That's a black bear.
Me (STUNNED): Yep. It is a black bear.
Me: Is it going to eat us?
Chris: Nope. Black bears don't eat people. We'll just give it its space and it'll continue on its way looking for food to eat.
Me (holding the Ben and Jerry's): But I have food in my hand. Maybe it'll eat me.
Chris: It doesn't want anything to do with that, it wants trash.
Me: Trash? Over Ben and Jerry's? Wow. Stupid bear.
Chris: Oh. I have a camera!
The black spot in the middle is our bear friend, now named Fernie. It was dusk, so a good picture was nearly impossible to catch. Plus, by the time we remembered the camera, he had scampered off into the trees.

Meanwhile the bear stopped, took a good look at us, then as Chris said, continued on its way. We watched it as it walked up to the house that we were standing next to, managed to quickly find the trash can, stand up to knock the trash can over, take the lid off, and then eat the trash. Haha. It was AWESOME! Chris is very calm now seeing bears, which is amazing. If I were alone, I would've totally freaked out.

After being amazed at the bear, we rode the rest of the 1/2 mile to the house and saw lots of deer and then a fox ran in front of us. I decided that Chris is some sort of nature-whisperer because the nature just seemed to flock to us. I wanted to see a moose, as they are known to hang around where this house is, but I didn't. Boo.

But the bear was pretty cool.

And very cute.

And it didn't eat me.

We hung out with our friends the rest of the night, giddy from our bear sighting, then had a nice sleep in preparation for Saturday's race.

Saturday -- Winter Park Race #3: Valley Point to Point ... aka Valley Point to River to Point
Saturday morning, Chris made our group a delicious breakfast and we headed over to the base of Winter Park to start getting ready. Chris took off on his warmup as the rest of us hung out and slowly got our stuff together. Nicolette and I headed out on a warmup shortly after and rolled up to the start with plenty of time to spare because we wanted to get in the front of the pack this time on the line.

The race started up the normal dirt road climb, which is always painful, but I put myself into a steady gear and it wasn't too bad. My legs were definitely tired from a good week of riding, but they fell into a groove and settled down fairly quickly. Most of the girls took off pretty quickly up the hill, which I've learned isn't anything to panic over because most of them tend to hit a wall part-way up and fall back. My personal style is to maintain the pace that I start at the entire way up, no spikes in speed at the beginning to have to recover from later.

The course wound through the usual downhill sections at Winter Park, which are fast but require some paying attention to lines as some tend to lead you into trees. I passed a few girls on the descent and was pretty much to myself by the time the course started to climb back up the mountain. I was climbing well and cleaning roots that usually knock me off my bike, so I felt pretty good. I could see Nicolette up ahead of me each time the course would allow for a good view ahead, so my goal was to wind my way up to her somehow. She's quick and strong though, so catching her was no easy feat. She was having some shifting problems, so eventually on the climb up D4, was I able to catch onto her wheel for long enough to have a quick chat. Unfortunately for me, next up is a pretty technical descent on WTB and she dropped me for good there. My descending has improved a million fold over the past year, but I am still more tentative than I probably need to be in a race.

At this point I yo-yo'd with another girl for a little while before dropping her on the next climb. Somewhere in there was a nice, long and fast dirt road descent where I was convinced I had gotten off course. I pedaled hard, but perhaps not as hard as I would have if I wasn't thinking I'd have to turn around at some point. I could see Nicolette and another girl up ahead at one point on the road but after turning a corner I couldn't see anyone. I convinced myself they had turned off onto a trail that I had missed. Eventually though, I saw the marshals and I was on the right track. Phew. There was no way I was climbing back up that sucker!

The rest of the course was very familiar as it wound through the woods leading to the Frasier finish. I remembered from last year how jarring the end of the trail is, so I wasn't looking so forward to that. I was pretty much by myself except for the occasional fast beginner men passing me. Some were really nice, others not so much, but either way I was content with how I was riding. Could I have gone faster? Perhaps. My first half was quick for me, the second half made me feel the effects of that effort. My goal going in, however, was to see how hard I could push before I cracked, so I was happy with how I was doing. Last year this course took me 2:09:33 and my major goal was to a) beat my time from last year and b) to beat the 2 hour mark. When I passed a course marshal at the 1:45 mark, he told me there were 4.5 miles to go. I mentally did the math and wasn't sure I could do the flatish, but jarring 4.5 miles in 15 minutes. That'd be really really fast for me. But I wanted the 2 hour mark, so I turned on the jets and was FLYING.

Then came the interesting part.

The morning of the race and the night before, Chris and the other veteran boys had warned everyone of a hidden bridge on the course that tends launch racers. There is a tight right turn, with a bush on the inside, and on the outside of the turn is the bridge over a stream/creek. People tend to come into the turn too hot, not knowing the bridge is there, then launch themselves off into the water.

Ok. So I already thought I'd passed that bridge. And when I passed it, I was proud of myself for not launching off it. I believe I even cheered.

Ok. So I was wrong.

There was a guy on my tail as I had the jets turned on trying to get my two hour mark. I knew I was maybe a mile from the finish. I came around a right turn, with a WAY overgrown bush on the inside, and...well...damn. There was a bridge. With a creek. And I was going way too fast to stop myself. I grabbed the brakes and slid partially to a stop, teetering on the edge of the bridge. The guy behind me slammed on his brakes too and I didn't want to swerve in front of him and take us both out. So there I went. Right into the drink. I'd slowed down enough to know I was going to fall the three feet into the creek on my left side, and I thought long enough not to put out my wrist, elbow, or foot to break my fall. I took the fall directly on my left shoulder and butt. The nice guy paused long enough to say "WOHOA! DO I STOP?" when I yelled that I was fine, he kept trucking. I pulled myself out of the water (and yes, the cold water DID feel really good after being so hot), put my bike back on the bridge, got myself back on, and kept going. I looked down on the GPS and my race clock was at 1:58. Dang. After the fall I was soaking wet and really really frustrated (and my bike was shifting on its own), but I cranked it back up and pushed as hard as possible to get to the line. I convinced myself that there was a girl behind me and I muttered to myself (yes, out loud), that if a girl passed me because I fell off the f***ing bridge, I was going to be ticked. I got some involuntary air off a bump, squeeled a little, then headed to the finish.



I missed my 2 hour goal. That minute was absolutely soaked up in the crash, which was stupid, so I wasn't terribly pleased. On top of that, my shoulder hurt. When Chris came to greet me at the end I could help but throw my bike into a tree and cry. Silly girl. He immediately checked my collar bone and surrounding bone structures, but when I told him it wasn't sharp pain, just dead muscle pain, we knew I'd be fine. I think my ego was bruised more than anything.

We waited for the rest of our group to come through the finish and after downing some advil we rode the 10ish miles back to Winter Park. My shoulder hurt like heck riding back, but as the advil kicked in it was doing better. Turns out Chris got 3rd place in his Expert group! I was so proud of him and excited to see that he'd done so well. It's always fun to watch him on a rigid single speed beat out a bunch of full suspensioned expert gearies. He never stops amazing me. Nicolette ended up with 3rd, less than three minutes ahead of me. I was in 4th. Again. It had been a good race, and in retrospect, a lot of fun. I am once again very happy to be within minutes of Nicolette. That's a huge improvement for me... and, if I would've stayed in beginner, I would've had first place by 13 minutes. So that made me feel good too.

We enjoyed some lunch/dinner in Winter Park before heading back and enjoying a leisurely evening at the house in Frasier... which included another dinner and lots of Ben and Jerrys.

Sunday -- Winter Park Race #4: Super Downhill... aka Super D-elightful
Sunday morning brought some very sore moments in the Frasier house. Melissa had crashed pretty hard on Saturday and was hobbling around pretty good. My shoulder was feeling less than stellar, as was the bruise/welt on my butt. The rest of the gang was sore enough from the 19 mile race the day before, but some wonderful breakfast burritos got all of our spirits up and we were totally psyched for the gnarly downhill race... yo.

This race is new to the Winter Park series this year. It cost an extra $20, but does factor into the overall series standing. A lot of people chose not to do this race. But in the end, they missed out on a great time. We planned on pre-riding the course all together the morning of the race, but because we were a bit pokey getting out of the house in the morning, Chris had to jet to do his pre-ride since his start time was more than an hour earlier than mine. The rest of us took the lift up (after a gut-busting hillarious moment of Nicolette and I trying to load our bikes onto the full-speeding lift for the first time) and rode the 5.5 mile course together. The course workers got a kick out of our team riding together, as nearly everyone made a comment about us and our squeeky toys.

The pre-ride was not fun. Not fun really at all. My quads burned almost immediately as I stood to descend, and my shoulder hurt with every bump. Keep in mind that this is a pretty technical 5.5 mile descent down the Winter Park ski hill. I often thought about Chris riding this on his rigid bike, as my fully suspension Fuel wasn't even enough to make it feel nice. When we got to the bottom we sat and relaxed and waited to watch Chris finish his race. We got to the bottom about has he probably started, so he would be down in 20ish minutes. We watched the pros come flying into the finish and marveled at how fast they could take the hill. Not long after, Chris came down, looking a little slower than I expected, but he didn't have any blood or evidence of a crash, so I was happy. He said he pretty much cruised down, told me of a few spots to watch out for, and sent us on our way up the lift again (this time they slowed it down so it wasn't nearly as funny to watch). We sat at the top and watched a few groups do their le mans style start (running to your bike and then riding).

Pretty soon it was just us girls up at the top. They started the beginner and sport women together, and between our two groups there were only 11 riders. In typical and wonderful girl fashion, we chatted and giggled and had a great time. We all figured out how old everyone was, and soon realized that most of us didn't have to compete against anyone else to podium in their age-group due to the lack of people. Nicolette, Melissa, and I were the only girls in our 20s and Melissa was riding beginner. She automatically won that class. Nicolette and I were the only ones in our age group in sport, so we automatically came in 1st and 2nd. The rest were older and got their positions worked out for the most part. And we still had 10 minutes before the start.

After the not so super fun pre-ride, it was great knowing I was going to podium and get some good series points no matter what happened. There wasn't the pressure there to ride dangerously fast, although I still wanted to have a good time. On the course, I went fast. Much faster than the pre-ride, so I think that made the course feel more smooth. Also, with all of the other classes having gone before us, they probably smoothed it out a bit too. The race itself was SO MUCH FUN!!!! I giggled the whole way down. I couldn't believe how fun it was. The technical obstacles made it interesting and the few uphills provided a good respite for my burning quads. The course seemed to fly by and in 30 minutes I was down at the finish, and most importantly, I was in one piece. No crashes for me.

At the end, Chris told me he happened to be the first on the scene of a girl knocking herself unconscious, and that was why he rode pretty tentatively. He was worried about her, and by proxy worried about me, so he took it pretty easy. He knew if he told me that before I raced I would be a nervous wreck, so he saved that one for after.

Again, I was less than three minutes behind Nicolette. Again, she is a much better and experienced descender than me, so I was pleased. Plus, we'd get to stand 1-2 on the podium together which was really fun. Overall, our team seriously cleaned up on Sunday. Chris got 3rd, Nicolette got 1st, I got 2nd, Melissa got 1st, and Scott got 2nd. Erik had an awesome time but a huge class, but he got us some good team points anyway.

Less than 20 girls raced the downhill, so I feel pretty happy that I was one of a select few who had the guts to try it. It was a blast and well worth the extra $20 to race it. I now have a silver medal to add to the trophy shelf. While I won it by process of elimination, I feel I totally deserved it for even participating at all. If given the choice, even a year ago, to ride a 5.5 mile technical downhill -- in a race no less -- I would've laughed and not given it a shot. The girls we raced with were so fun and it was refreshing to be with a group of girls out simply for a good time.

The aftermath
After eating in winter park we headed home and had a great night. We treated ourselves to a late dinner of biscuits with honey and wine.
Our wine from last night. Bought in honor of our bear friend, Fernie.

Tonight we will be making a super deluxe cheese fondue... with more wine. My shoulder is still sore, but no major damage done. I'm sure I jammed it good and tweeked some muscles. Nothing terrible, just naggingly annoying.

Our friend Michelle played photographer this weekend and got some awesome shots of the races. When she passes those along I will post them.

We are hoping to climb Huron Peak on Wednesday as our last 14er before Chris heads out on the Colorado Trail Race. Should be another fun week of perpetual Saturdays for the Pleskos.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I am no longer a "The Wall" virgin

After lots of hiking last week, my legs have finally recovered and this week has brought lots of riding.  

On Tuesday, Chris and I rode to Golden, then back via the Clear Creek path (?), up through Arvada, and we stopped for a delicious cookie snack at a bakery.  In all, we rode about 32 miles in 2.5 hours.  It was a fun, relaxing, middle of the day ride.  I've always wanted to ride to Golden from our house, and now I have.  I was surprised at how easy it was!  Plus, throw in a tasty cookie and you've got the makings of a nice ride.

Wednesday night brought a group ride with the gang.  We had a really good showing -- about 8 of us rode Lair 'O The Bear near Morrison.  We rode this trail a few times last summer and each time I suffered pretty hard.  While it's only about 12 miles in total, the first few miles are a good steady climb.  The top has some great rolling terrain, then more climbing until the end.  Last summer I was awfully proud of myself for finally riding to the very end instead of turning around early as I was accustomed to doing.  Last night I realized just how far I've come in the past year.  I climbed strong and wasn't even out of breath when I passed the tree that I'd thrown up on two years ago.  I felt good and could usually keep our fast guys in sight.  Before I knew it we were at the turnaround spot, and I still felt fresh.  It was getting dark and since I am sans-contacts until I get around to ordering more, I could only see clearly about three feet in front of my face.  I took the descent easy and enjoyed hanging out, talking, and riding with Melissa.  By the time the ride was done, I was ready for dinner, and enjoyed having *most* of our group back.  It was an awesome ride and I couldn't be more pleased with my progress.  I can't wait to go back to that trail, it has to be one of the best in Jefferson County. 

Since Chris has had a few hard days on the bike (while I rode a rockin 12 miles yesterday, he rode to the trail and ended up with over 50), he decided that today would be an "easy" road day.  Feeling good coming off of last night and looking forward to some good cross country and downhill racing this weekend, I decided to tag along.  I may be getting a lot stronger and becoming a better overall rider, but Chris's easy days are still usually big days for me.  Since we rode to Golden earlier this week, I decided it would be fun to head the other way and hit Boulder.  Chris rides to Boulder often and I've never made the trek.  About an hour and 45 minutes later, we were on the north side of Boulder about to enjoy an awesome lunch at our favorite Boulder restaurant, Murphy's.  We both had some burgers and delicious little desserts. Mmmmmm.  Yummm.  Murphy's never disappoints.  After stuffing ourselves full, we headed back south towards home.  To get home, we'd have to go over "The Wall."  As a front range rider, it's amazing that I've yet to go up The Wall, and just the idea of it made me very nervous. However, as we got to it and rode up it, it really wasn't that bad.  Sure, my leg muscles were burning toward the top of the climb, but it really wasn't as bad as I'd made it out to be in my mind.  And the best part... once you are to the top of The Wall, it is basically all downhill to home.  In total, we had ridden 42 miles and about 3.5 leisurely hours.  

We've had three awesome days of riding.  This summer of perpetual Saturdays really does suit us well.  I go back to school in less than a month, but when I go back, at least I'll know I took advantage of every day that we were given.  Chris is riding incredibly strong and is looking fit and ready to tackle the Colorado Trail.  His calves are looking more ripped than I've ever seen before and he, at least currently, has the perfect attitude to conquer the TrailBeast.  We'll both be racing this weekend in Winter Park, then perhaps one more 14er next week before he heads off on the CT.  Somewhere in there we probably need to finish painting our basement so I can finally post pictures of it...  Hmmmm...    

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two MASSIVE mountains in two days: Part 2

After waking up early on Wednesday morning, we fixed some breakfast of granola cereal and mini-muffins. We put on our warm clothes, packed up the car, and headed out on the Mount Elbert trail around 5:45. We had hoped to get out on the trail earlier than the day before after seeing what the weather had done. Somehow, in very un-marni-like fashion, I was able to get up on schedule! Shocking!

Chris and I were both sore from the Massive climb and were hobbling around for the first few miles. Still, in our hobbled state, we were making awesome time. The trail, which overlaps with the Colorado Trail for the first mile or so, was beautiful. It was steep, for the most part, but the trail was amazing. Route-finding was never an issue, and while the trail was steep, it was soft and well-groomed so it made for a pleasant walk. Turbo bounded along as usual and showed no signs of his exhausted self from the night before. We met, talked to, and passed a few groups of people that headed up the trail before we did. Everyone was very nice and impressed to see Turbo climbing his eleventh 14er. All of our sore kinks were worked out within the first few miles and soon we were all climbing strong and fast.

Between 13,200 and 13,900 ft there is a fairly steep climb up the ridge that includes more rocky climbing than before (although still class 1). We moved up this ridge quickly, turning around now and then to look at the beautiful views of the Leadville valley below. We had lucked out, the weather was absolutely perfect! Not a cloud in the sky, we knew we'd at least get to hang out the summit of Colorado's highest peak once we got to the top. There would be no summit-tagging today!

Part way up the steeper ridge, I realized that I had worn through the heel of my SmartWool sock and was starting to now get a blister on my heel. Luckily I'd brought an extra pair of socks, so after I changed the one sock, I was ready to go again. This annoyance has prompted me to start looking for new hiking shoes. I need something that won't rub my heel raw... because that's not so much fun.

We made it to the summit just before 9. We were standing on the top of Colorado! After feeling SO sore from the day before, I had mentally given us only a 30% chance of actually making the summit on this day. Somehow we'd made it, overcome the soreness, and actually ended up feeling really good. The view was amazing. We pulled the battery out of the camera again, warmed up it, quickly put it back in, and were able to get more pictures on the summit! That dead battery sure came through for us afterall! I was even able to snap a few more pictures on the way down.

We chatted with some people at the top, and sat and enjoyed our sandwiches, goldfish, and heath bars. This summit day was much nicer and relaxing than the day before. We spent almost an hour on the summit and then got cold enough to start heading down. We had our down jackets on, but there was enough wind that I was starting to get pretty cold.
Looking at where we were the day before -- Mount Massive

We started to head off the summit and ran into our friend Nicolette and her dog. She had told us that she was planning to climb Elbert Wednesday as well, but after seeing the bad weather the day before, we wanted to get on the trail earlier than she was planning to be up there. So we met her at the top, snapped a few pictures (Woohoo!) and then headed down.

As we stopped to take our jackets off, she caught back up and we were able to hike the rest of the way down together.

Turbo was very happy to see his friend and they were super cute bouncing along the whole way down.

We made it back to the car around 12:30 and we parted ways with Nicolette and her pup. Chris drove us to I-70 where we stopped and got our traditional ice cream snickers before heading down the road. I drove us the rest of the way home and we proceeded to eat, sleep, and sit on the couch for the next few days. We were both pretty sore after our two-day adventure, but it was well worth it and we had a great time.

Since this trip, we've both started riding our bikes more seriously in an attempt to get ready for our two-days of races this coming weekend in Winter Park. Yesterday we had a great 30 mile road ride from home, to Golden, then back home via a delicious bakery in Arvada. Tonight we will be joining the RATM crew for a Wednesday night ride. For once it sounds like there will be a decent showing, so I'm looking forward to the ride. Chris has already left so he can ride there and ride a few trails on the way to the group ride.

It seems my Christopher is back.

Chris is preparing to do the Colorado Trail race in a few weeks and I'm preparing to be glued to the Spot-Dot once again. He will do awesome and I can't wait to watch him be the first ever single speed finisher!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two MASSIVE mountains in two days: Part 1

Early this week, Chris and I cilmbed Mount Massive and Mount Elbert. 14er number 12 and 13 for us, numbers 10 and 11 for Turbo.

After pushing back our plans because of weather, we headed out of town Monday night and parked at the Mount Elbert trailhead outside of Leadville. We got in just after dark and rolled out the Hotelement in fine style. We all slept fairly restlessly, of course until it was time to wake up, so we finally rolled out of the car Tuesday morning around 6. We drove the few extra miles to the Mount Massive pull-off and started our hike around 6:45. Just as we started to walk away from the car, I pulled out the camera to take a picture. Then I realized we didn't charge the battery and it was super dead. Crap! We were both really bummed since it was the beginning of a fun, beautiful, two day adventure that would include two summits. Our favorite thing is to get a picture on the summit so we can put it on our poster in the dining room -- an awesome record of our 14er trips together. Obviously we both stressed a little bit and didn't start the climb out in the best of moods. Quickly, however, we both realized there was nothing we could do about it, and decided to proceed with better attitudes.

Mount Massive was, in my opinion, the most beautiful mountain we have climbed yet. At 14,421 ft, it is the second tallest peak in Colorado. Unlike any other peak that we've climbed, there were spectacular panoramic views the entire way up, not just at the top. With the slowly melting snow giving definition to the ranges surrounding us, the view became even more amazing with each step. This climb and the views actually brought tears to my eyes a few times. I couldn't believe we were actually up there, seeing that. Too bad I didn't have a camera to try to capture the beauty.

We climbed the Southwest Slopes route which ended up being about 10.5 miles and around 4,000 ft elevation gain. Parts were steep, and there was a pretty good boulder field right above treeline, so our legs and lungs were feeling the push right away. As we popped above treeline, the route finding became a bit more difficult, but luckily Chris has eyes like an eagle and can spot cairns a million miles away. About 3/4 of the way up, we began to see some dark clouds far out in the distance. Chris and I both know, and strictly abide by the "be off the summit or the ridge on a mountain by noon during the summer in Colorado" rule. It was only about 10:00 but it was clear this would be an interesting weather day to say the least.

Unable to see the summit, or what weather might be coming over the other side of the summit until you are basically on it, Chris and I put our butts in gear and busted out the last 1200 ft of climbing in around an hour. We spotted the summit, and the clouds building behind it, and decided to tag the summit and quickly head back down to the relative safety of treeline. While we had brought delicious sandwiches, goldfish, and a heath bar to enjoy at 14,421 ft (and both were super hungry and ready for it), we made the choice to put off the snacks until we could get back down to at least treeline. When we got to the summit the weather was fine, it was the coming weather that wasn't looking beautiful.

We crossed the ridge over to the summit, and stood by the summit stick long enough to put on our jackets before heading down.

We decided to give the camera one last try.

I pulled out the battery, warmed it in my hands, and quickly put it back in the camera as Chris held out our summit sign. We turned on the camera, threw it into picture mode and held it out in an attempt to get a picture. There was no click and nothing on the viewfinder screen. Damn. Oh wait, the shutter didn't retract yet. It must be still on! We clicked a few more pictures and realized it was working!! Before it died, and after many screams of glee, I grabbed a few more pictures from the summit and turned it off so we could have the possibility of similar luck on Elbert the next day.


Then we quickly headed back down, hungry but satisfied, and we made it off the summit and ridge in plenty of time. We watched the weather build and move to our left right over Mount Elbert. We had debated whether to do Massive or Elbert first, and now we knew we had definitely made the right choice. We watched rain pelt Elbert and heard a few far off clashes of thunder over that mountain. As for Massive, we got a few spattering of rain drops, but other than that, our weather held off just fine. In an attempt to still expedite the descent, we found a few snow fields and Chris decided it would be fun to glissade/foot ski down them. As he skied down on his feet, I attempted a hiking pole glissade. It was not all that graceful and Chris ended up stopping my out of control slide more than once. Soon I ditched out on the steep slope, Chris helped me kick some steps across the snow and over to the trail, and I proceeded down the safe way as he went the fast way.

The rest of the descent was fairly uneventful, but absolutely beautiful. When we got closer to the car, Turbo decided to jump into a rushing river and Chris had to play superman and pull him out. Chris is our heeeeeeeeeeeero once again :)

Once back at the car, we finally got to eat our delicious sandwiches and treats while fending off millions of mosquitos. A very sleepy Turbo hopped in the back of the car and we drove back to the Mount Elbert trailhead. Once there we spent the rest of the afternoon reading, napping, eating, and watching a movie on the laptop. Chris made and awesome dinner of chicken burritos and we rearranged the car to make for a more comfy sleep in the Hotelement. After more reading we got to sleep about 9:00 so we could get up early for our adventure the next day.

Wednesday would bring us to the summit of the second highest mountain in the lower 48 states!

Would the camera work again?


Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Mount Evans Part Deux

As planned, Chris and I rode up Mount Evans for the 4th of July.

Each year our friend Erik puts together a group ride up Evans on the 4th. Last year Chris rode and I drove up as sag -- I hauled up everyone's cold weather clothes, water, played photographer, and even ended hauling a couple of people down. It's a hard ride to commit to, since the Firecracker 50 also lands on the 4th of July every year. We even pondered doing the Firecracker as a duo, which would've been a lot of fun. This year Chris and I struggled with which ride to do, since we both wanted to do both, but ultimately chose to do the Evans ride... mostly because of the fun social aspect of doing the ride with friends and then enjoying some delicious Beau Jos pizza after. Rather than riding the 26 miles from Idaho Springs as is par for this ride, I was going to start part way up at Echo Lake instead. This made the ride sound more doable for me, and would give me a good 15 mile climb, but still be able to have fun. Sounded like a perfect plan!

Originally two friends/teammates were supposed to join me from Echo Lake -- Scott and Melissa. However, Thursday brought news that they had decided to bail. A few other teammates were supposed to join but also backed out on Thursday. This put me on the fence whether to ride or not, as I would now be riding basically alone until Chris and Erik (who are much faster than me) caught and passed me. In the end I decided it didn't matter, and that I still wanted to ride to the top of a 14er -- now was as good of a time as any.

After hiking Evans on Wednesday, Chris and I were both sore (walking up and down stairs was a joke for me), so getting up on Friday morning to ride up Evans was daunting. However, we were both really excited and rationalized that the soreness would go away with riding, so we packed up early and got to Idaho Springs at 7:15 am (but not until after our weekly Starbucks date of course!).

We got to the parking lot and were surprised not to see Erik there yet, so we stopped at the bathrooms and Chris started getting ready. At around 7:20, Erik called and told us the surprising news that he had decided to bail on the ride as well. He and his wife had gotten home late from traveling and weren't up for the trek.

So, that left Chris and I to ride.


Unexpected, and a bit aggravating at first since we could've been at the Firecracker with a bunch of other friends instead, but after a few minutes, we both were pumped up again and ready to ride. Afterall, what can be better than standing at the summit of a 14,000 ft peak for the second time in 48 hours with your best friend in the entire world? AND having done it by foot and by bike would feel pretty cool.

So, at 7:30, Chris did another sweep of the parking lots for any unexpected friends, and then headed up the road. I drove up to Echo Lake and started around 8:20. I was the second person to make it to the pay station and the lady had yet to get her register in order, so I waited with the guy in front of me (on a mountain bike) for about 5 minutes. Once we finally got through I quickly passed him and basically had the first hour all to myself. It was so quiet and peaceful and absolutely stunningly gorgeous that within ten minutes my aggravation and soreness diminished and I thoroughly enjoyed every pedal stroke.

I made a point to drink as often as I could, but at least every five minutes, and I made myself stop and eat every 30 minutes. The first eating try was on the move, and at 11,000 ft, the whole chewing and breathing thing didn't work so good. From there on out, I made myself actually stop. It worked wonderfully and I'm proud of my improving self-maintenance on rides.

Around an hour into my ride a few people passed and then Chris. He passed me on a flattish part and I was surprised to see him. He looked to be climbing well. He asked me how I was doing (if I was struggling he would ride to the top with me), but I told him I was having a blast and he should keep going. He pointed out a curve up ahead that would be roughly 13,000 ft in elevation, and from there I was almost there. It was good to keep that spot in my sights and I was surprised at how quickly it came. When I hit the part near Summit Lake that always has road damage, I rode through slowly so as not to launch myself off the bike. Another pitch upwards and around a corner and I could see the top of the Summit house poking up on the peak above me. I knew I was almost there.

A bunch of switchbacks later and I could really see the end in sight. People were passing me, of course, but they were breathing really really hard while I wasn't out of breath in the least. I suppose our trip up 48 hours earlier put me on a better acclimatization curve than most people riding that day. My legs may have felt a touch heavier near the top, but otherwise my body
didn't notice the altitude at all.

Pretty soon I saw my mountain goat friends from our climb and they passed on the road right in front of me. I stopped the bike so as not to scare the babies passing behind the adults and I was able to get some pictures. Pretty soon some Harleys came roaring up behind me and I pointed to the goat about to cross the road so they would not hit it or scare it off, but it didn't seem to phase them. They blasted right through and the poor last goat had to turn around. Hopefully he found his family shortly after :(

A few switchbacks later and Chris came down to meet me. He was surprised to see me so close to the top. He turned around and rode the final 3/4 of a mile with me. I made it to the top in 2 hours -- including eating and photo stops. I was surprised that I went that fast -- at least fast for really sore me. Chris made it from Idaho Springs, twice my distance, in 2.5 hours -- WAY faster than me and a full half hour faster than his time last year.

Once at the top, we took the obligatory picture by the sign and then sat and had some snacks.

I put on my winter tights, warm jacket, wool cap, and an extra pair of gloves for the trip down and Chris put my knee warmers over his knickers as well as his wind shirt and winter hat. Despite the warm weather down below, descending at 14,000 ft is always chilly. Earlier, when I'd learned we were alone and would definitely have no sag, I considered leaving my warm gear behind -- afterall, I did not bring a good pack to carry the extra gear along with me. But, thinking about to my trips up and down Lookout Mountain, I remembered how freaking cold I always get on long descents and how it turns a fun ride miserable. So, I found a way to cram all of that into my tiny camelback and now at the top, I was quite glad I had.

The descent was fun. As always I went WAY slower than necessary. I still don't have the confidence that my road bike won't just explode into a million pieces past 30 mph, so that's about my max. Many people passed us, and poor Chris rode down at a much slower pace than usual. Slowly I learned to let go of the brakes, and I had a nice time. The few pitches up on the descent were painful as my legs had a chance to get cold and relaxed and then had to pedal again, but luckily those are few and far between.

I stopped at my car at Echo Lake and Chris ditched the warm weather gear and headed down to his original starting point in Idaho Springs. He, on the bike, just barely beat me down in the car, but beat me none-the-less. Needless to say, he was happy to pick back up his descending pace and enjoyed himself! We packed up the car and headed home sharing stories of our adventure.

For those who think a ride like this would kill an entire day, we were home, made food and fed, showered and relaxing on the couch by 2:00. It was an awesome day, with absolutely perfect weather (meaning no storms and very little wind). It would've been a lot of fun to have the camaraderie of our friends along to celebrate such an amazing day. It's not the first time we've been alone on a ride like this, and it surely won't be the last, but I couldn't ask for a better partner to share it with.

Chris is probably headed back to do the ride again with a now rested Erik, only this time he will probably be riding from home. I had so much fun that I'm incredibly tempted to repeat my ride from Echo Lake, but will resist and enjoy the opportunity for rest.

Next up for us? We've got a Mount Massive/Mount Elbert trip planned this week as well as an ascent up Pikes within the next few weeks. I have two weeks until a Winter Park weekend with a point-to-point race on the Saturday and then a downhill race on Sunday. In between all of that, we are still working on painting our basement and keeping the house in one piece.

On the ride I realized something very important. We may not be able to have kids on *our* schedule, but if I had gotten pregnant when we wanted to, I would not have experienced so many of these wonderful moments and adventures. We still, obviously, can't wait to have kids, but while we're waiting, we are enjoying every moment together.