Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Northern Exposure: Fairbanks Days 1 & 2

I'm going to try and do some quick posts about my trip to Alaska.  Yesterday morning I arrived in Anchorage.  My flight got in at around 12:45 AM local time.

Anchorage, AK framed by the Chugach Range, 12:45 AM 
It was definitely weird to go to sleep on a plane at dusk and wake up a few hours later at dusk, but I really didn't think that much of it.  I shacked up in a hotel by the airport for the night, and went to sleep.  The next day I grabbed my rental car and headed north.  I had the option to fly directly into Fairbanks on a few flights totaling 14 hours of sitting in a plane, or flying five hours directly to Anchorage and driving seven hours to Fairbanks through Denali National Park.  Obviously, I took the latter in high hopes of being able to see the highest mountain in North America.  Unfortunately my plans were foiled by the weather.

Denali South Viewpoint. There should be a huge mountain there. 
Denali North Viewpoint.  Again, insert mountain here.
Not quite dejected (the scenery was still pretty amazing, I drove a bit into the National Park proper and stopped by the visitor's center.  There were some pretty amazing mountains there.

Hanging glacial valley much?
 One of my favorite parts of being up here is how low tree line elevation is.  I did some Google recon on it last night and the tree line elevation in the Chugach mountain is around 2500 ft.  Compare that with approximately 11000 ft in Colorado and 9000 ft in Montana.  This is primarily due to how far north Alaska is.  There aren't many trees that can grow up here anyway, and those that can grow can only grow at the lower elevations.  It makes the mountains here, although they are for the most part much lower than mountain in Colorado, look much more impressive.  Denali itself has approximately 17822 ft above tree line.   There is no mountain in the entire Lower 48 that is even as high as Denali's above tree line elevation.

So much space above tree line.

And again.
After passing through Denali, I proceeded north along Highway 3.  There were some road works where the road was completely gone.  I drove through seven consecutive miles of dirt roads on the highway.  Only in Alaska...

This is a highway.
On my second day here, I went to work, and went for a little bike ride afterwards.  I had posted up on the Alaska forum on MTBR and some guy PM'ed me and offered to let me use his Pivot Mach 4 and to show me around some trails while I was here.  Obviously I accepted.  We rode the Esther Dome Singletrack today.  It was pretty much exactly like the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake, but a lot shorter.  I had a great time, and I'm looking forward to the Fairbanks Cycling Club Tuesday Night MTB Ride tomorrow.  It will be about 3 hrs of riding from 7 - 10 PM with no lights.

Sweet singletrack on a sweet bike.

Birch trees a-plenty.
That's all for now.  I have to go to bed even though it's still light out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

February & March Part II: BC, NV, & UT

It's May now, so quite frankly I barely remember February and March.  I know I went to British Columbia for about three days.  Fernie, BC to be specific.  It was pretty rad.  I have never been to western Canada, but one of the mine's I am responsible for is in Sparwood (just north of Fernie), so I'm looking forward to visiting there more.  Since it was late February, the first day I was on site it was about -1C, but the next day it was -34C.  The day I left my beard froze on the approximately 50 m walk from the rental car facility into the airport terminal because it was -36C outside, which may be as close to the Celsius/Fahrenheit crossover temperature as I think I've ever been.  I try not to complain too much about the weather, but that was damned cold.  I didn't spend too much time in Fernie, and the trip was kind of last minute because it happened approximately 36 hours after I got back from Italy.  Fernie is in a narrow river valley surrounded by pretty damn impressive mountains.  Right now they have a rental unit, but are in the process of buying a unit of their own.  That means that I have two weeks in Fernie sometime in my future.  Which likely means a ton of mountain biking, so I'm pretty damn excited.

Just a little taste of Fernie, BC.
I got back from Canada on a Saturday afternoon, and left for Elko, NV on a Sunday night.  There's nothing much to say about Elko.  It's in the middle of nowhere.  There is some pretty cool national forests around it, so since we had some time, we took some time to explore some of the trails.  There was also a mine, with super muddy roads.  We got to drive around them in out small-on-the-outside Fiat 500L.  It was pretty rad.

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Ruby Dome District would be a pretty cool place for backpacking.

Fresh cut trail with half a hundred switchbacks.

Valley views.

Some interesting metamorphic rocks.

Muddiest Fiat ever.

The reason why.

Got to drive through the Bonneville Salt Flats and decided to stop and take pictures on the way back.

Big view.
I got back from that trip late on a Friday night.  The next weekend I headed to St. George, UT for my first race of the season, the True Grit Epic.  It was pretty rad.  I ended up having a big crash on a fast section of singletrack resulting in some broken parts and a scraped up leg, but I finished the race in not last place in the Pro/Open 50 mile class.  I bought this picture, taken on the Zen Trail, after the race.  It was taken by Crawling Spider Photography, a creepy name for some people that do pretty good work.

Zen Trail was freaking rad.  I could ride stuff like this all day.
Two weeks after True Grit, Mrs. Geology, KMill and I went to Moab for the 92Fifty Training Camp.  Moab is really cool, and you should go there.  I don't have any pictures, but we rode a ton, and I got to see most of the new trails that have been made in the eight years since I was last there.

Now that it's May and I've barely traveled since the beginning of March you'll be back to your regularly scheduled race reports.  Except for some more interesting surprises coming up in June.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

February & March Part I: Italy

It's been a crazy 2014 for me so far.  In January I did a fat bike race up around 3000 m in Como, CO.  It was rad, and fat bikes are also rad, if you live in an area that get sufficient snowfall.  I do, so I could totally justify buying one.  It's definitely on the bottom of my list of future bike purchases, though.  I suppose I'm lucky enough to have friends with fat bikes.
Como, CO.  Fat bike racing at 3000 m.

The venue.

My borrowed Borealis Yampa. A carbon fat bike that rode just like a regular MTB.
I participated in the 4 person relay with teammates Jonathan, Les, and Brian.  We won that category, mainly thanks to a blistering lead-out lap by Brian.  Since that race was the Colorado Fat Bike Championship, I suppose that we are the 4 person relay fat bike champions of Colorado.  Special jerseys are in route...

No that long after that I found myself lining up for a month of traveling for work.  First up was a week long maintenance trip to a mine in Safford, AZ.  I had a semi-chance meeting with Tom McD in Phoenix, and, since he had a spare bike with him, I managed to sneak in my last ride of the month on the McDowell Mountain trail system.  It was pretty fun.  Smooth and ripping fast desert singletrack.  Two days after getting back from that trip, I was on another plane...

DIA with snow.
... to Italy.  I never thought I'd really get a chance to go across the pond, let alone basically for free because I was visiting the head office of the company I work for.  It was a pretty cool.  I spent 2 weeks in Pisa (where the office is), and traveled everywhere I could.  When I say "I," I really mean "we" as I went with two of my coworkers.  We traveled overnight through through Philly and Munich.  When we arrived in Pisa, we immediately walked into the center of town to try and find some towers.  We found them (it) after a few hours of walking.

The River Arne.

It definitely leans...
Just a Tower peaking around a corner.

My favorite picture of the day.
We spend the week at work learning about our equipment, and how the company in general works.  The next weekend we found our way to a train station, and ended up in Florence.  That was probably my favorite part of the trip.  We walked around for a long time, ate the best steaks of our lives, drank in a bunch of bars and clubs, then walked around some more the next day.

Of course when I saw a bike shop, I had to visit.

Duomo group selfie.


Fantastic stonework.

Inside the dome.

I climbed this tower.

Top of the Tower.

Best steak ever.  4 cm thick and as raw as is healthy to eat.  Sold by the kilogram.

After somehow making it back to Pisa, we worked for another week, then headed home via a 300 km/hr train to Rome.  I liked the fast train, and really wish the US had more of these.  They totally make sense given how huge the country is.  If you take a train from Chicago to Denver, a distance of 1600 km, it takes you 18 hrs on the California Zephyr.  The train we took to Rome would do it in 5.5 hrs.  When will this country every come into the 21st Century?


Entrance to the Forum 

One Centurion wearing Timberlands, one in period sandals.  The one in sandals was playing with an iPad.

The Wedding Cake.

Vatican City

Forum ruins.

My favorite picture/spot from the whole trip.  Trevi Fountains at night.  Taken on my cell phone.
The next morning, we were on a plane to Philly.  Our plane was delayed at the gate due to mechanical issues (something with a temperature sensor).  We sat there for three or four hours and watch two planes arrive and leave from the gate next to us.  By the time we got to Philly and through customs we had about five minutes to make it completely across the airport to our Denver flight.  Needless to say we didn't make it.  The airline put us up in a hotel and gave us some food vouchers.  My parents ended up driving down into the city for a surprise dinner at our hotel.  It was cool to see them.  The next morning we were up super early for our flight back home.  It was a good thing that we had all taken the next day off work to sleep because we ended up not getting back home until about 2 PM the next day.  Much sleeping was done.

Tune in soon for some bike racing reports...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Big Classic

Sometimes living in Colorado is great.  This weekend our Big Classic ride saw temperatures in the mid 60s by the time we reached Boulder.  We did a ton of climbing, and I got to see some pretty cool views.  Sometimes, though, it isn't so great.  While my friends back east were enjoying cold, calm rides in the woods, I was fighting very strong headwinds at around 9000 ft.  I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed it.  I'd also be lying if I said I didn't.

We left The Shop early in the morning and began heading northeast.  The plan for the day was about 65 miles of dirt and paved roads totaling about 10000 ft of vertical on our mountain bikes (because we're, you know, mountain bikers).  This ride could just have easily been done on a cross bike or a properly equipped road bike, but it makes sense to break out the full knobby tires if your goal is to ride them fast.  Horses for courses and whatnot.  After the first hour the wind, which had been blowing at the start, died down a bit, and we soon found ourselves in Boulder.  Well, when I say we, I mean that I made it to Boulder probably 15 or 20 minutes after the rest of the group did (I may be mostly acclimated to the elevation, but I don't have big mountain legs yet).  One of our number turned back to make a shorter day, and we picked up one more for the climb up Sunshine Canyon.  Just to give some perspective: Most people (roadies) only do the paved part of Sunshine (5.7 mi, 6%, 1699 ft of gain), and that's considered a solid ride.  Something to do after work on a Tuesday.  We were doing the whole climb all the way up to Gold Hill (9 mi, 6%, 2938 ft of gain).  More accurately we were doing the whole climb all the way to the Peak to Peak Highway (16.3 mi, 4%, 3809 ft of gain).  It was a lot of climbing.  Once I hit the dirt sector, the winds kicked back up again, and by the time I got to Gold Hill, I had all the clothes back on that I had removed down in Boulder.

If was feeling confident when I got to Gold Hill, it was the seven miles between there and the Peak to Peak that destroyed me.  The road goes just about due west, and with an estimated 30 mph wind with gusts up to some speed which stopped me in my tracks and made me put a foot down a few times, the nice circles I had been pedaling quickly turned into clumsy squares.  By the time I got to the Peak to Peak, I was ready to be done.  Luckily I knew that it was mostly downhill to Nederland.  In Ned, I found a cool coffee shop, and called the shop for a pick up.  I had about 15 miles of highway to cover to get back to the shop, and I knew there were a bunch of two to three mile long climbs in between.  Given that, the fact that the wind on the Peak to Peak is notoriously ridiculous, and the fact that I was running out of daylight, I decided that calling it would be the best idea.  Luckily, the shop owner's wife happened to be there to pick up the phone, and she volunteered to come pick me up.

Final tally, I got about 53 miles of the ride, and 8226 ft of climbing.  Next time I'll get the whole thing.  Maybe even do what Jon did and add in one more climb just for the fun of it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cyclocross Nationals: Photo Dump and News

Before I get into my photo dump, I have some news.  Since the fall of 2010, I have raced in the glorious colors of the Darkside, C3-Twenty20 Cycling.  I have loved every minute of every race and ride with my Brothers and Sisters of C3, especially since I was living in Maryland at the time.  Now, though, I live 1700 miles away from the C3 heartland.  As much as I would love to still fly the black, I am anxious to get integrated into my new community.  Through the magic of the Internet, I have gotten hooked up with a group of like minded ladies and gentlemen with whom I will be racing in 2014 and beyond.  This marks a bit of a change for me, as they are a mountain bike-focused team.  They enjoy long, hard rides in the mountains, and plan their seasons around events like the Breck Epic.  Henceforth I will be racing for 92Fifty Cyclery, a team run by one of the countries best endurance racers.  I'm looking forward to learning all that he has to teach and to making a bunch of new friends.

That brings me to my second piece of news, and it's something that I've been debating for a few months now.  I think 2013/2014 will be my last cyclocross season for a while.  It's certainly not because I have no more love for cross.  I was unsure about my reason why I felt this way before this weekend, but now I am not.  I have felt something has been missing from my cross season this year, and now I know that it was the people that I so loved racing cross with.  Cross is just not the same without my MAC Brothers and Sisters.  I think next year I will step back from cross for a bit.  There are some races that I would still like to do (the Boulder Cup weekend and MACISTAN ex-pat Jay Zorn's Cross of the North races come to mind), but I don't think I'll chase the Cyclo-X series like I did this year.  I'd like to extend my mountain bike season into October, and spend a lot of time hiking above treeline.  I will be back to a full cross schedule eventually.  Someday I'll have the speed to chase UCI points in the MAC and NECX and I'll make a vacation out of Holy Week, but not now.  Now I will enjoy my new mountains, post a ton of pictures to make everyone super jealous, and cheer from afar as I watch everyone spin laps around Charm City, Gloucester, or HPCX.  So... I'm really looking forward to getting to know all my new friends on the 92Fifty team.  From what I have seen so far they are all great people.  In fact, they roped me into the Colorado Fat Bike Championships in a few weeks, which we are doing as a 4 person relay.  Like the Marysville one, but a longer lap.  I'm really excited to do it.

Now for photos...

Auer, Sam, Bill, and I awaiting the Women's start and trying not to get blown onto the course.

Chicken man?

Compton is first through the off-camber.

Anderson second... foot out = flat out.

Anthony uses the top tube scoot technique.

Antonneau (had to look that up).

Gould  shredding the off camber with both feet attached to her bike,

Dennis shredding the photo area.

Maybe the first crash of the race?

Nikki right before the big dip sitting around 20th.

Nikki after the Belgian Stairs

Colt broadcasting live from a cold looking tent 
Compton onto the finishing straight to take her 10th title

Powers got a gap early and held it the whole race

Trebon was forever 30 or so seconds back

And Johnson was a ways back from him

Local Alan Krughoff had a fantastic day.

Local Danny Summerhill, not so much


Kerry Werner did both the D1 Collegiate race and the Elite... won the first and got 11th in the second

Lindine and Summerhill battled most of the day for 7th

Page got dropped by the Raleigh/Clement duo and solo'ed in for 6th

Powers sandwich

Sam O'Keefe (C3 and Middlebury College) on the podium in 2nd in the D2 Collegiate race

Compton sandwich