A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cycle Oregon 2017 Cancelled Due to Wildfires

Forecasts call for more hot, dry, windy weather and an increase in smoke from new and existing fires along the Cycle Oregon 2017 route.
With all the media attention focused on Houston this week I completely missed the fact that Oregon is on fire. That is until I received an email announcing the cancellation of Cycle Oregon 2017, set to begin one week from today. "Oregon is in crisis," began Cycle Oregon Executive Director Steve Schultz in the email, citing these alarmng facts:
  • 44% of the acres burning nationally are in Oregon,
  • 50% of the firefighters nationally are in Oregon and Washington, and
  • 8 of the highest trained wildfire teams in the U.S. are in Oregon. 
According to the email, the heaviest fires are in South Central Oregon, essentially encompassing the 2017 route. At this five of the seven days are impacted by fires and smoke with air quality levels ranging from unhealthy to hazardous. As a result, Steve and his team, along with the Oregon Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, and others, were forced to cancel the ride.

I can't image the disappointment Steve and his team must be feeling. The years of planning, all the moving parts coming into place, hundreds of volunteers, food vendors, port-a-potty purveyors, etc., seemingly all for naught. But clearly they were left no choice.

I also sympathize with the riders who have been training for months, many planning to travel from around the world next week to Oregon. I am not one of them, choosing to do Ride the Rockies as my big ride this year, but I know the feeling of anticipation leading up the the big event of the year. Hard to imagine getting the news one week out. But the decision was made with everyone's safety in mind, especially the riders.

Smoke from a small fire near Glenwood Springs on RTR 2007.
I have experienced much less severe conditions on Ride the Rockies, encountering a small fire on my first RTR in 2007 and circumventing the Royal Gorge fire on the 2013 ride (making it the longest in RTR history)! 

Smoke from the Royal Gorge fire in 2013, seen from Canon City.
But neither of those situations threatened the safety of the riders. They were able to reroute us around the Royal Gorge fire. But in this case, even alternate routes are affected, according to Schultz. 

I hope the disappoint fades quickly and look forward to next year's route announcement!

Ride on...

Daren

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ride the Rockies 2017 Days 6-7: Montrose to Gunnison to Salida and the finish line!

The final two days of Ride the Rockies 2017 were a mix of easy cruising and tough climbing. The final day's climb over Monarch Pass (elev. 11,312') was the longest (and highest) of the ride, climbing nearly 3,000 feet in nine miles, but the 23 mile descent into Salida was truly all downhill and flew by. Just like that, my 10th RTR was over.

From left: me, Hankster, Jonny Rocker and Flip Flop Jenny.
Crossing the finish line is always bittersweet. The feeling of accomplishment is fulfilling. Then suddenly it sinks in. The ride is over. No more pain and suffering through long climbs. No more adrenaline rush screaming down the backside of a mountain pass at 45 mph. No more sitting at the local brewery telling tall tales of the day's ride. I will miss it all.

No more camp to set up or tear down, backpacks to carry to the truck, smelly port-a-potties or shower trucks. OK, some things I won't miss!
I met this guy on RTR a few years back and always look forward to seeing his smiling face. Somehow I managed to catch him here looking serious but you can still see the famous Hankster grin trying to some out!

Day 6: Montrose to Gunnison

The ride out of Montrose towards Cerro and Blue Mesa Summits was very typical. I have ridden this stretch of road three times and all I remember is the headwind blowing down the mountain. But my legs felt fresh from the recovery day ride from Ridgeway to Montrose and after we dropped into the Curecanti National Recreation Area we were greeted by a nice tailwind that blew us around Blue Mesa and up the Gunnison River to our destination.
At Blue Mesa Summit. From left: me, Jenny, Woody and Jonny.

Woody and I at the Bay of Chickens on Blue Mesa Reservoir -- an RTR tradition!

At an aid station. From left: Jenny, Kevin, Lea Anne, Jon, Julia, Don, Woody and me.

Enjoying some local brews at High Alpine Brewing Company. From left: Dennis, Lea Anne, Hankster, Woody and Jonny.

The Hankster at High Alpine Brewery. Best sign on the ride!

Jonny Rocker pours from the growler at the final campdown.

We met up with Team Bar2Bar members at High Alpine Brewing Company and enjoyed some artisanal pizza and local brews before heading to the school to set up camp. After cleaning up we headed back into town for dinner and ended up the night drinking buckets of PBR tall boys playing corn hole on the patio at Timbers (with a private band all to ourselves!).

Day 7: Gunnison to the Salida (and the finish line!)

The final day began with a nice, steady 1-2% grade climb up Tomichi Creek for 34 miles before beginning the climb over Monarch Pass. I did this climb on my first RTR in 2005. I remember being terrified by the elevation profile of this day. The climb is a steady, relentless 4-7% grade for nine miles. I struggled a little on the steepest parts. At 40+ pounds fully loaded, the Beef Bike is a beast!

Team Beef at the first aid station on the final day! From left: Kevin, Jonny, Dennis, Lea Anne and me.

At the summit on the final day. It's all downhill from here! From left: me, Woody, Jonny and Jenny.

This speed and elevation profile overlay tells the story of the final day's ride!

Dropping into my granny gear for tough sections I spun my way up the mountain. Reaching the summit of Monarch Pass marked the end of the climbing. Though we often say "it's downhill from here," I truly think we could have coasted without peddling the entire way. But peddling along at 30+ mph isn't hard work!

We made our final unofficial pit stop at Elevation Brewery in Poncha Springs, about 4 miles from the finish line. Grouping up there, our team coasted across the finish line. We hung around for the closing ceremony to thank the volunteers, staff and Colorado State Police for keeping us safe throughout the ride and making it possible to tour the rugged Rocky Mountains on a bicycle.

Then came the hugs and goodbyes and the end of another adventure. So now the inevitable question. What's next? Jonny Rocker and I plan to check out other weeklong rides around the country. Please leave a comment with your favorites!

With that, I will leave you with our team motto: Ride fast and take chances!

Daren

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rides the Rockies 2017 Days 4-5: Durango to Ridgeway to Montrose

We are waking up in Montrose, Colorado, after a great afternoon/evening street party. The ride yesterday -- Day 5 of Ride the Rockies 2017 and day six of riding for Team Beef/Bar2Bar -- was a short, 34-mile, mostly downhill cruise. It felt great and my legs definitely needed the opportunity to recover the epic Day 4 ride over three mountain passes covering 84 miles and more than 8,000 feet of elevation gain!
The official Team Bar2Bar stop in Montrose.

The locals were out in force at the street party in Montrose -- including my long time friend Jeri!
The Day 4 ride from Durango to Ridgeway was one of the toughest and most beautiful rides I have done in Colorado. The scenery was as breathtaking as the altitude!

Climbing three passes on one day, two over 10,000 feet and one over 11,000, took it out of me. Actually, I don't think I ever had it. Starting out in the morning it was freezing cold and I feel like my legs simply never warmed up.

45 Miles of winding roads, steep drop-offs and three passes!

The summit of Coal Bank Pass (1 of 3)

The summit of Molars Pass (2 of 3)

Overlooking Silverton, Colorado.

From whence we came!
Too many times on the climbs over Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain Passes I had to drop into the ultra granny gear I had the guys at YAWP Cyclery put on the Beef Bike for long, steep climbs. That made for a very long day. But I was able to slowly make my way over all three passes and enjoy the ultimate payoff, the descent down Red Mountain Pass into Ouray (you-ray), Colorado. It was so worth it!
Finally! After hours of climbing we reached the summit of Red Mountain Pass (3 of 3)

Glad we stopped at the Bear Creek Falls overlook on the descent of Red Mountain!

This is a screen grab of the video I took on the descent. I will post it when I have more bandwidth!
My assumption is this is why it is called Red Mountain Pass :)

It pays to remember to look back every once in a while on RTR! According to my friend Jeri this is Mt. Abrams.
Today's ride also features three climbs, although must less imposing nature, reaching a max altitude of 8,717 feet on Blue Mesa Summit before a long flat stretch around Blue Mesa Reservoir into Gunnison.

Hard to believe tonight will be the final night of the ride. First it feels like RTR will never get here. At times on the ride it feels like it will never end. Then suddenly it's over. But not yet! TIme to saddle up.

Ride on!

Daren