Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Race Report: Desert Rampage. Intermountain Cup mountain bike race series race #1

Last weekend was the season opener for the Intermountain Cup series in Saint George in the southwest corner of the state.  A large Revolution/Peak Fasteners team turnout made for a fun weekend of racing and riding, that is, after I got over my nerves.

This would be my first attempt at racing in the Expert Women category. Five years ago when Drew introduced me to racing, I started in the Beginner category.  Later that year I moved up to Sport, skipping the Women 35+ category.  A couple of years ago I was doing really well in Sport, but last year, probably due to lack of focus and a lot of time spent in the West Desert for work, my top finish was 8th, well into the bottom of the pack.  I needed a goal for this year.  A reason to get on my bike when I would rather pick out a new bedspread or a hundred other things that sorta-hafta be done, but really don't. Thus, my upgrade. 

Drew and I drove down on Thursday night, staying at a large VRBO rental home that Jim reserved for the 14 of us.  It felt a little like college: hanging out, eating pizza, sharing showers.  Nice flashback. The bikes had somewhere to hang out too.
Bike fest


I pre-rode the course twice on Friday.  I new I would be nervous for this first race, but I didn't really expect to feel sick-to-my-stomach nervous an entire day before the race!  Studying the course and talking through it helped, and by race time the next day, I felt a lot better.  Whatever lay ahead would be a learning experience, right?

Drew and I both did two laps of the course, but my new category starts about 8 minutes ahead of his.  There were an awful lot of racers on course at one time.  Nearly 300 bikers on a 6-mile loop makes for a lot of passing and getting passed.  There are a couple of ravines in the course where passing is impossible, but for the most part we could do our thing. 

Drew, on course.

It was a good race for both of us; Drew placed 13th of 38, which I think might be one of his best short race finishes.  I somehow managed to pull off 4th out of 11 by keeping a steady pace, passing a gal that was a stronger climber than me on the downhills, and holding off another competitor in the second lap.  I think I might have cost myself a podium finish by entering an off-camber section of the trail at a bad angle and skidding out. Oh well, that's racing.

Lucy, in blue, accepting her 4th place ribbon.

After the race, lots of teammates stuck around, enjoying the warm weather and cold beers/chocolate milk.

Saturday night consisted of a pizza buffet at the flop house and a required run (by that I mean drive, since Jen's suggestion to walk was met with loud protests from our tired legs) to Nielsen's Frozen Custard.  Sunday, we woke to rain and cloudy skies, so we picked the sandiest, slickrockiest trail we knew, Church Rocks, for a group ride before heading back home.

Drew, Chad, Doug, and Jim on Prospector Trail near Church Rocks.

All in all, a great weekend complete with better than expected results.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Will drive south for dirt: part 2

Day 5: More dirt


 See those smiles?  Those smiles are because of this:

Desert singletrack: smooth, then rocky, then gentle, then steep, but always a blast.  On night #4 of our trip, after the piezookie, we drove the 30 odd miles to Boulder City.  We stayed at the historic Boulder Inn, built when the dam was being constructed in the 1930s.  It has been nicely restored and we felt special staying where professional road cyclists stay during their spring training camps.  (Did George Hincapie ever lay his head on our pillows? I can only dream.)  The hotel had a great breakfast included in the price of the room and we recommend staying there if you are ever in Boulder City.

Boulder City was created to house and feed the constructors of the Hoover Dam (then called the Boulder Dam).  Today it seems its main function is as a tourist stop for visitors to the dam, but more recently the town has made great improvements to a canyon just on the edge of town called Bootleg Canyon.  There are miles of mountain-bike trails and tricks like bridges and teeter totters, and a zipline.

We visited the Hoover Dam a few years ago, but didn't have bikes.  This time, we came prepared to ride the Boulder Canyon trails.  We put in about two and a half hours on trails called: Middle Lake View, Upper Lake View, Girl Scout, Caldera, Boy Scout, Skyline, and East Leg. 

Here is a two minute video to give you a feel for the trails.

If you want to see where we rode, you can check out this GPS track in Google Maps.  I forgot to turn the GPS off so you get the track of us driving around town, looking for a pizza place to eat, too. 

My bike looks tiny in this picture.  It feels tiny because it is so light. 

Darn cool rocks too.  Most of the trails were over altered volcanic rocks that I intend to investigate more next time we return. 

After the ride and lunch we pointed the car in the direction of Flagstaff, Arizona.  To get there, you must cross the Hoover Dam.  A new gigantic bypass highway is being built so that traffic will not have to wind down the canyon to the top of the dam and cross on the dam.  This thing must have taken some engineering.



The pictures don't really give you a sense of the scale of the thing. It is grand. 
So then we were in
 yes, that's Arizona.
That night we stayed in Flagstaff.

Day 6: transit
We checked out Flagstaff briefly the next morning.  Nice looking town with a lot of snow since it is at such high elevation (~6900).


But then it was back on the road again via Route 66 before turning northeast to drive through the Navajo Indian Reservation and into Monument Valley.
Going this route from Vegas to Moab was not the most direct, but neither of us had been through Monument Valley, and I really, really wanted to go.  It was so worth the extra couple of hours.  There had been snow recently, which only added to the incredible beauty of the landscape. You can click on any of the pictures to get a larger view.

On the north end of Monument Valley you cross the San Juan River at Mexican Hat.  Just north of the "town" is this rock called Mexican Hat Rock and behind it is Raplee Ridge.  Good thing Drew was driving, because I was in awe. 

Raplee Ridge is in the Monument Upwarp in southeastern Utah. It is a long, narrow, folded anticline that formed about 70 million to 50 million years ago.  The folds are just so visible!

After the third or fourth photo stop. Drew convinced me we needed to make tracks to Bluff to try to tap into a wi-fi network in Bluff so Drew could try to trade some work days around.  We ate fry bread, of course!  When in Rome...
Eventually, through a desert covered in snow as deep as it has been seen since 1972, we made it to our condo in Moab.

The original plan was to spend a couple of days mountain biking in Moab, but because of the aforementioned record snow, there was no dirt to be found.

So instead I had plenty of time to sew new covers for our patio furniture.

And they look dang good if I do say so myself. 


So that was days 7 and 8. On day 9 we headed home and two hours later Drew left for work.  What a great American road trip!
Note: this post is being brought to you from our automobile on Interstate 15 by using my phone as a modem.  Now this is mobile blogging!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Will drive south for biking; part 1

Drew being the senior captain that he is, gets everyone's first choice for vacation bids: late February.  OK, maybe not our first choice, but with 8 days off together, who's complaining.   We decided to road trip a big loop through parts of the Southwest.

First stop: Saint George to get in a quick pre-ride of next week's mountain bike race course.  It was our first time on dirt since November, and even with rain threatening and chilly weather, we had happy bikes and big smiles.  Also helped that we serendipitously ran into our Buzzard friends and had a tasty dinner with them.

Day 2: the search for more dirt.
Sunday we bolted from soggy Saint George and headed for the Strip.  Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Mojove Desert is where we sought the sun and dirt.

We drove straight for the Blue Diamond trails

and got in a good 3-hour ride to cure our stationary-bike trainer blues.

 Things sure are spiny in this part of the world. Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia.

After the ride, we headed for our hotel.  We got some strange looks as we wheeled our bikes through the casino lobby at Planet Hollywood, but it was fun to stay on the Strip and enjoy a nice meal ...

and wander in the indoor shopping mall.  Everything in Las Vegas is so fake, it is real.

Neither of us likes to gamble. In fact, we think it is a stupid waste of time and money.  But since we had just spent too much on dinner, I decided to try to win some money back with a dollar.  After figuring out how the slot machine works, I put in $0.50 and won $3.25.  That was enough for me.  It took us a while to figure out how to cash out though.

Day 3: Rain and Ride

It rained most of the night and some of Monday, but we did manage to get in a short ride just before it got too dark to navigate the cacti.

Most of the trails were pure sand, but near a place called Muddy Springs, it was super muddy.  Guess we should have figured that out.

That night we gorged like the carnivores we really are at one of those Brazilian steak houses where men wander around the dining room with a large skewer of meat, slicing a hunk off for you if you chose to feed.  We rolled out of there.

Day 4: Time to work on those technical skills
Unbeknown to us, friend Brad had recently moved to Vegas, and through the magic of Facebook, he discovered we were in town.  He and his friend John offered to show us some trails near Red Rock Recreation Area called the Cowboy Trails.  Oh what fun!

That is until Drew fell the wrong way down a rocky slope and came back up with a little less skin.

The trail ends at an overlook with a great view of Las Vegas

The trails were so fun we had to go back and ride them again after Brad and John went home. 

For two mountain bikers who have been snow bound for months, this was a beautiful site indeed.

Good rides deserve to be capped off with good beer, food, and a piezookie at BJ's for dessert.  
Our next post will continue to log the adventure. Stay tuned.