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!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Days 4-7: The Rest of the Story

There is simply no way to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line after riding 466 miles in just over 34 hours of riding over 7 days, while climbing 30,301 feet (the equivalent of riding from sea leavel to the summit of Mt. Everest).
Guess I kind of left everyone hanging after my post on Ride the Rockies Day 3. Between the lack of internet access and time and energy to write, I wasn't able to post for the rest of the week. When I left you we had finished riding from Hotchkiss to Gunnison on Day 3, racking up 223 miles over the first three days (17 hours and 28 minutes of riding) while climbing 16,840 vertical feet, including the relentless climb over Grand Mesa on Day 2.

Climbing Grand Mesa with Woody, who I met on my first RTR 10 years ago.
That night we got pounded by a thunderstorm at the campground at Gunnison Middle School. Fortunately I stayed warm and dry in my new REI Camp Dome 4 and Marmot sleeping bag. Unfortunately I left my sleeping pad in Woody's car and the ground was a little hard. Fortunately, Woody's wife, Lora, was waiting in Crested Butte and I was able to get it from her the next day. :)

Day Four: Gunnison to Crested Butte (27 miles, 1,391 vertical feet)

The next day was short (but all uphill, "recovery" ride to Crested Butte. I decided to get an early start, hammer out the miles and enjoy the day in CB. I rolled in around 10 a.m. (maybe my earliest arrival ever!), got camp set up and headed to the Team Bar2Bar rally point, The Eldo. With the motto "A sunny place for shady people" we knew it was our spot.

Team Bar2Bar at The Eldo (from left): Me, Pam the Pilot, Paul the Pilot and Woody.
We hung out there most of the day, partying it up with other riders and the locals (CB has a great small mountain town vibe) then moved across the street to the Wooden Nickel for dinner. We hit the beer tent for a couple after dinner then headed back to camp to get some rest for the longest day of the ride.

Day Five: Crested Butte to Salida (103 miles, 5,689 vertical feet)

Fortunately the Day 5 ride began with a 17-mile downhill. You can practically "cut your chain" (as Woody likes to say) and coast the whole way back to Gunnison. After a big breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy and french toast) to fuel the long ride ahead (102 miles and 5,689 vertical feet), Woody and I met up with Paul the Pilot for the brisk ride down the valley to Almont, where the long climb up Cottonwood Pass began.

That's Woody on the left, riding in his signature Hawaiian shirt,
and Paul the Pilot on the right.
I love riding Cottonwood Pass. Climbing nearly 4,000 feet in 40 miles, it starts with a moderate 1-2% climb 21 miles along the Taylor River to Taylor Park Reservoir, offering stunning views of the Matchless Mountains reflecting off the lake.

Taylor Park is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in Colorado.
The final 14 miles of the climb are on hard-packed dirt road through evergreen forests and white snow-covered peaks to the summit at 12,126 ft. The grade gets a bit steeper, especially towards the top (which is usually the case with mountain passes). I was struggling a bit with residual pain from the long hours in the saddle and had to stop frequently and get off the bike, but I made the most of it and enjoyed the surroundings.

After a quick descent down the pass (which is paved on the East side) into Buena Vista (pronounce B-you-na by the locals) we finished the day with a tough ascent of Mt. Princeton on tired legs. Thanks to this little detour (there is a much easier and ore direct route into town) we arrived in Salida just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour at The Vic.We have started derisively calling these little detours and tough climbs "Chandler Bonus Miles" in recognition of the current ride director's penchant for inflicting unnecessary pain at exactly the wrong times on the ride.

The obligatory "summit sign" pic at the summit of Cottonwood Pass.
By the time we got to the school, set up camp an got cleaned up it was 9:00 p.m. Paul the Pilot called it a night and Woody and I headed out for food and fun. We ran into our friends George and Tegan, a father/daughter team we met several years ago on the ride, and found a nice spot to eat on the patio but due to our late arrival and dinner we missed the beer tent altogether, a more common occurrence these days with all the Chandler Bonus Miles (and my advancing age?). We managed to hit one more spot after running into Julia and Adrian, RTR friends from Salida, who to us to the Rivers Edge. Great spot with a patio overlooking the Arkansas River. We didn't try their food but the beer and ambiance was perfect.

Day Six: Salida to Canon City (65 miles, 2,313 vertical feet)

We found a good campsite location at the school in Salida, within walking distance of the Patio Pancake Place, our traditional post-partying at The Vic recovery meal. Even though there wasn't much of a party this year a good breakfast is critical. Since we were so close, Woody suggested we go to breakfast before packing up camp, which worked beautifully.

Team Bar2Bar mates The Hankster and Jenny Flip Flop
The ride to Canon City follows the canyon down the Arkansas River, mostly descending at 1-2% with occasion flat to 1-2% climbs, but is an easy ride. Well, except for the weekend recreational traffic (note to staff: probably not good to do this ride on a Friday) and the nasty climb up to the South Rim of the Royal Gorge known as "The Wall."

Looking down on the Arkansas River from the Royal Gorge Bridge.
I experienced The Wall on my second RTR in 2006 and knew what was coming. Not sure if that made it better or worse. It didn't help that I had a blowout in my rear tire on the steepest part of the climb and had to stop and change a tube in the heat of the day. Fortunately Woody stopped to help and it was a relatively short process. However, getting started back uphill on The Wall took several tries! The payoff for this ridiculously difficult climb is the ride/walk across the Royal Gorge Bridge. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience I have experienced twice!

The overnight in Canon City was possibly the most pleasant surprise of the week. Arriving at the Royal Gorge Brewery in the heat of the afternoon (topping 100F) we attempted the usual Team Bar2Bar tactic of waiting for it to cool off before heading to set up camp. It soon became clear, however, that the heat would not dissipate. That's when somehow Paul the Pilot pulled the rabbit out of a hat and found a triple double room (yes, three double beds) at a motel within walking distance of the beer tent. The proprietor even picked us up in his truck and drove us to retrieve out luggage, then back to the hotel.

Aptly named, the Parkview Inn Motel overlooks Veteran's Park, the site of the overnight party. And given that it was the last night of the ride we were ready to party until the band stopped playing and the beer stopped flowing. So we did.

Woody wears his Keen cycling sandals everywhere. Even to bed!
Day Seven: Canon City to Westcliffe (48 miles, 4,068 vertical feet)

The final day of Ride the Rockies 2015 was, in terms of vertical feet to miles, the "steepest" day of the tour. Thank goodness for the good night's sleep because the climb out of Canon City through Florence past the Super Max Prison (home to folks like the Unabomber, the Shoebomber, the Oklahoma City bomber and Sammy "The Bull" Gravano) and into the foothills was tough. But the real challenge was yet to come.

 Around mile 25 the grade started to increase and the next 12 miles up Hardscrabble Pass were a grind. Tired legs, heat in the 90s and a two-mile section of 8+ percent grade were about enough to do me in. But there was no stopping here. I mean, people do. Their legs, back, or brain give out. It's tough. The mental games definitely set in.

Slogging along at 4 mph I realized that meant it would take three hours to reach the top. I had told my wife we'd arrive between 12-1 and it was 9:00. At this rate, I'd summit around noon -- if I didn't stop. But I had to stop. Sometimes once every five miles, sometimes every mile. Just to get off the bike. So I pushed harder and got it up to 6 mph. Then it would drop back to four. Then a stop. Sometimes just for a minute or two. In a future post I will talk more about what it takes to tackle an extended climb of 20, 30, even 40 miles climbing 4,000-6,000 vertical feet, like we did on RTR 2015. But it's time to wrap this post up!

Me and Woody at the final Aid Station of RTR 2015, at the top of Hardscrabble Pass.
Once we reached the top of Hardscrabble Pass we had a mostly downhill/flat 10-mile coast into Westcliffe. At this point, however, everything hurt. And the road was rough. Every bump sent a shock to the "five points" -- the places your body connects to the bike. Two feet, two hands and... yeah, no need to belabor the point.

Leslie once again rescued me from the painful experience of riding home on a bus by meeting me in Westcliffe. Love you, Babe :)
But then the The Cliffs came into view, backed by the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Range (at the after party I heard someone describe it as a Hollywood movie backdrop). As we rode through Silver Cliff, then Westcliffe family, friends and locals lined the streets, clanging the traditional cowbells. I found out later the cowbells were provided by the Custer County Cattlewomen (who dug my Team Beef jersey).

The Custer County Cattlewomen provided cowbells
for spectators at the finish line in Westcliffe!
The Cliffs definitely provided a great welcome reception in a setting unequaled on any of my previous eight RTRs. The views, the brews, the band were all fantastic. That is really what I think (oh, by the way, which one's Pink?). Riding across the finish line is always a bittersweet experience.

Moments after crossing the finish line with the Hankster.
The ride is over! The ride is over. Time to say goodbye, or a hesitant "until next year" always wondering if there will be a next year. 

Ride on!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Days 2-3: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

The view from the LeValley Ranch hunting lodge was a bit ominous this morning.
I woke this morning to the sound of thunder. How far off I sat and wondered. Actually it was the sound of rain on the roof of the hunting lodge at LeValley Ranch. But most likely this meant our bikes were getting wet in the bike lockup area 7 miles away in Hotchkiss. At least we were warm and dry thanks to the generous invitation from my rancher friend Robbie LeValley to stay at her ranch's hunting lodge, Team BEEF was treated to a Homestead Natural Meats steak dinner, hot showers and beds last night. It was a welcome respite after yesterday's ride!

The Homestead Beef steaks were amazing. Ribeyes, no less. Thanks, Robbie!
Yesterday was tough. As tough as I remember from my first Ride the Rockies 10 years ago (and I'm 10 years older!). The day started with a 30-mile gradual (1-2% grade) climb out of Grand Junction to Mesa, including some nice bike path and a few miles on I-70. But once you get to Mesa, actually just before Mesa, the climb ceased to be gradual. The next 20 miles are all steep (6-8% grade) except for some short stints of relative flat (2-4%) near the top of Grand Mesa. Few climbs I've done in Colorado (and I've done all the major passes and Mt. Evans) are as relentless.

Dinner at the ranch was the perfect way to recover from the Day Two ride. From left: Woody, Flip Flop Jenny, The Banister and Paul the Pilot 1
But the really tough part of the day came after a fast 20 mile descent into Cederedge, Colorado. The final 20 miles of our 95-mile day rolled through some beautiful cattle country but included a couple of nasty climbs on tired, stiff legs. At this point in the ride, everything hurts -- feet, back, shoulders, hands and ... well, you can probably guess. I think the ride director has sadist tendencies and likes to inflict punishment on others. :)

Today's ride wasn't much easier. Well, the ride was not as tough but the combination of rain and cold at the start, a nasty headwind riding up the valley, tired legs and other physical issues (see above), it was hard. One of the toughest days I've had on a bike. But it's done and tomorrow is a short 30-mile ride to Crested Butte. Planning to get there before noon and allow plenty of time to relax and rejuvenate for the longest day of the ride on Thursday.

Overlooking Morrow Point Lake. Beautiful views today but much pain to experience them!
Got here to Gunnison and enjoyed a couple of Black Butte Porters and a Guacamole Burger with bacon and pepper jack cheese at the Gunnisack Cowboy Bistro Restaurant and Bar. Got to the campground just in time to set up my tent before a rain/hailstorm swept through. Think I'm going to stay right here inside my new tent, warm and dry, for the rest of the night.

Good night, sleep tight and ride on!


Monday, June 15, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Day One: Just Two American Citizens Exercising Our Right


Day One of Ride the Rockies 2015 began with waking up in a tent city. Not that unusual expect we were at the Bluegrass Festival in Palisade, not Colorado Mesa University, where the ride starts. After enjoying a few too many Dirty Hippies the night before we decided to forego the mandate from the ride director to be at the entrance to the Colorado National Monument by 9:00 a.m. and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. We figured if they tried to stop us from going we'd just pay the entrance fee and ride as "just two American citizens exercising our right to visit our national monument!"

When we finally hit the road at 9:45 a.m. and found our way onto the course we were definitely DFL. We hit the park entrance around 10:15 and the ranger let us through with our Ride the Rockies wrist bands (foregoing the $5 fee for cyclists). We caught another rider shortly after Aid Station 1 and eventually overtook a dozen or so more before the first Team Bar2Bar Aid Station in Fruita -- the Suds Brothers Brewery.

Riding the Monument is an experience. The views are amazing but there are places where one wrong move could send you off a 1,000 Ft. cliff. It made my knees week to even look at times. Eyes on the road!

Team Bar2Bar, from left: Woody, Hankster, Beefman, Flip Flop Jenny, Pam the Pilot and Paul the Pilot.
After a Red Monkey Butt Amber at Suds Brothers we rolled the final 15 miles back into Grand Junction and met up with the rest of Team Bar2Bar at the Kannah Creek Brewery. Liquid carbon-loading is an important part of the recovery process on Ride the Rockies! We rounded out the night with dinner at the Rockside Brewery and a beer at the O'Dells Beer Tent listening to a local band.

Today's ride is a brutal 94-mile excursion featuring more than 7,000 feet of climbing over Grand Mesa, ending in Hotchkiss. But the reward will be worth it as we enjoying our home-grilled steaks at my friend Robbie LaValley's ranch near Hotchkiss!

Ride on!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 starts tomorrow! Wait. What? How did that happen?

Once again this year I expect to ride a majority of the miles alongside my buddy Woody, who I met on my first RTR in 2005. Woody's wife, Lora, is the daughter of one of the founding members of Team Bar2Bar!
Every year its the same thing, only every year seems to pick up speed. In early February you register for Ride the Rockies and wait an excruciatingly long month to find out if you get in. Then the notification comes but it still seems like a long time until June. Then it snows in April and May and you don't ride as much as you had planned and suddenly it's June and the ride is just days away.
Then the haunting questions set in:
  • Did I train hard enough?
  • Will my body hold up for another weeklong ride in the Rockies?
  • How will I keep my iPhone, Garmin 810 and new Ivation Bike Beakon charged all week?
  • Where did I put my tent?
One of the best parts of RTR is meeting back up with friends from previous years like The Hankster and Flip Flop Jenny (so named because she rides the entire route in dime store flip flops).
I think I have the answer to the last two but won't know about the first two until the ride gets underway. Day Two should be a pretty good indicator -- 96 miles and 7,631 feet of elevation gain climbing from 5,000 feet in Grand Junction to 11,000 feet at the summit (6,000 feet in 20 miles!). We did this climb on my first Ride the Rockies in 2005 and it is rough. More than 500 of the 2,000 riders were unable to complete the climb and had to SAG to the top. One of the major reasons was heat and it looks like it's going to be another hot one this year with temps in the 90s on Monday.

But that's what makes Ride the Rockies epic: long days, big climbs, screaming downhills, and cold beer waiting at the finish line. I can't wait!

This will be the first post-retirement for Paul the (former) Pilot who retired from United Airlines shortly after last year's ride.
Stay tuned to the BEEFMAN blog for updates and lots of pics throughout the week.

Ride on!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Training: Rain Delay

One week ago I posted optimistically about kicking my Ride the Rockies training into high gear. My plan was to ride to and from work several days this week (a 50-mile round trip). Then the rain came, and kept coming, and hasn't stopped yet. Actually it's is supposed to turn to snow tonight and tomorrow, which would make it the second straight snow on Mother's Day here!

One perspective is to truly be prepared for Ride the Rockies, you should train in all weather conditions. After all, last year on Day One we encountered thunder, lightning, hail and snow! But I have no plans to go out riding in the snow tomorrow morning. I personally believe in avoiding adverse riding conditions whenever possible :)

So this week I hooked my bike back up to my CycleOps Fluid2 Indoor Trainer and logged 57.5 miles in a variety of workouts mixing up intensity and spending more time in my third ring (yes, I ride a triple and will be very glad I do when we tackle the Royal Gorge climb on Day Six!). That brings my total to 791.5 miles since January 1, compared to 1,315 by May 9 last year. But my legs feel strong and I logged my fastest ever 10-mile time on the trainer this morning (27:35. 21.8 mph).

That little bump starting at mile 50 is a steep climb up to the south rim of the Royal Gorge on Day Six. 
According to Google Earth , the climb is nearly 750 feet in 2 miles!  That's an average grade of 7.1.
Hopefully I'll be able to get outside to ride sometime again soon. There's simply nothing like riding on real hills to prepare for riding on real hills!

Ride on!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Kicking Ride the Rockies 2015 Training into High Gear

How can it possibly be May already? That means Ride the Rockies 2015 is NEXT MONTH! Holy cow. Time to kick my training into high gear!

I'm testing a new training idea this year, focusing less on logging miles and more on building strength. For the past two years my goal has been to ride 2,000 miles between January 1 and the start of RTR. I fell just short of that goal in 2013 with 1,863 and only made it to 1,625 last year. This year I didn't set a mileage goal.

As of April 30 I have ridden 734 miles since January 1, all but 85 of that on my indoor trainer. My guess is I'll break 1,000 by the end of the month and end up around 1,200 before June 13. Instead of just racking up miles I have been adding variety to my workouts, both on and off the bike.

On the bike I have added in one day a week riding in a higher gear (literally) at a lower RPM (60-80) for a shorter ride (I usually try to keep it between 80-100 RPM on the trainer). My hope is this will build leg strength to help me get up the steep grades of Grand Mesa and Royal Gorge climbs, which routinely get above 8% grade.

It's not too late to add this 30-day Ab/Core Challenge to your training routine. In 30 days you will feel a noticeable difference in your core strength. 
Off the bike I have worked on building core strength. Last year I struggled with back, shoulder and hip pain throughout the ride. My hope is building core strength will help my body cope with punishment of riding an average of 66 miles per day for seven straight days! I started with a 30-day Ab/Core Challenge my daughter gave me (above) and kept going after I finished it, adding in burpees, push-ups and this routine (below) my friend Anne (aka the Feedyard Foodie shared with me (which she got from her daughter!).

As much as I abhor doing core strength work I think it is really paying off. I'm up to a 4:00 min. plank and can definitely tell a difference. On my rides to/from work this week I could feel my core engaging more and my legs felt strong even with the reduced miles and lack of riding outside on actual hills! I also noticed that my body posture on the bike has improved and I can hold myself in a "power position" longer.

I do plan to start riding outside more in the coming month. After all, May is National Bike Month and there is no better way to prepare for Ride the Rockies than actually riding in the Rockies. In fact, I'm headed out the door right now to enjoy a sunny Sunday ride along the Front Range :)

Ride on!


The Feedyard Foodie's Daughter's Core Workout

Cardio 5
1 min. wall sit
30 sec. rest
1 min. burpees
30 sec. rest
20 crunches
10 pushups
20 crunches
1 min. of lunges
30 sec. rest
1 min. of burpees
2 min. rest 

1 min. wall sit
30 sec. rest
1 min. burpees
30 sec. rest
20 crunches
10 pushups
20 crunches
1 min. of lunges
30 sec. rest
1 min. of burpees

2 min. rest

3 min. of shadow boxing

1. Plank until you can't plank anymore
2. Switch immediately to leg raises as long as possible
3. Finish with crunches until the 5 min. are up 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My 30 Day #ProteinChallenge Results

May 1st was the final day of my 30 Day #ProteinChallenge but it certainly won't be the last time I focus on getting enough protein in my diet. I think it is safe to say the past 30 days changed the way I will eat for the rest of my life. The biggest "aha moments" for me were learning that I have been under-consuming protein, significantly, and particularly at breakfast and lunch.

As I shared in my last post, adding protein at breakfast and high protein snacks throughout the day helped keep me feeling full all day long. I felt like I was eating constantly but making better choices in all areas of my diet, not just protein, to ensure I am getting the nutrients my body needs to function properly.

The first five days of the challenge are simply keeping a journal of what you eat.
The key for me was keeping track of what I was eating. I used the MyFitnessPal app to log all my meals, snacks, drinks, etc. After doing this consistently for the first five days of the Challenge I found myself being mindful of the foods I was eating and the essential nutrients they provide per calorie.

The Protein Challenge provides several tools to help you track your food choices, including a food journal (pdf) and a protein cheat sheet (pdf) that lists the protein content of a wide variety of choices including meat/eggs, fish/seafood, nuts/seeds, grains, dairy, and beans. This list of "on the go" protein snacks helps me get more protein into my diet throughout the day. The site also has some great tips for dining out and getting more protein at every meal.

By the way, it's not too late to do the 30 Day Protein Challenge. The daily e-mails begin the day after you sign up, allowing you to start whenever you are ready!

Next up on BEEFMAN: Training for Ride the Rockies kicks into high gear!

Ride on!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Taking Control of my Nutrition with the 30 Day #ProteinChallenge

I captured this selfie on a recent tour of a large dairy farm in Colorado. I know it looks like I super-imposed myself into the photo but it's all real. Well, except for the (don't) "Eat Mor Chikin" sign. I added that :)
Have you heard of the 30 Day Protein Challenge? Like most other 30 day challenges the 30 Day Protein Challenge is designed to help you make a positive change in your health. But unlike the others there are no burpees, planks or crunches involved! Nor is this challenge restrictive like all the "detox" or "cleanse" diets (my body does a perfectly good job of cleansing itself, thank you!). In fact, the 30 Day Protein Challenge encourages you to eat MORE of the foods you love, like beef, eggs, and dairy products.

I started the 30 Day Protein Challenge on April 1 but you can start any time. It begins that day after you sign up! On Day 1 you will begin receiving daily e-mails with easy-to-follow instructions for taking the challenge. The first five days are simply keeping a journal of what you eat and how you feel. On Day 6 you get to start adding more protein into your diet. This is when the fun begins!

One of things I noticed when journaling (I am using MyFitnessPal) is that I was under-consuming protein at breakfast and lunch but getting enough at dinner (research shows spreading protein intake evenly throughout the day may be the most beneficial for overall health and wellness). So my focus in the second week was adding more protein and breakfast and lunch. 

For breakfast, I've added a lot more dairy products, specifically Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and chocolate milk after my morning workout (I love the new Fairlife Chocolate Milk with 50% more protein and 50% fewer calories). I also love to scramble a couple of eggs with some leftover steak for a high protein, low calorie start to the day.

I like to grill up an extra flat iron steak on the weekend so I have leftovers for breakfast during the week. Flat iron is an economical and easy-to-grill cut of beef that makes great leftover steak and eggs!
The biggest change I have noticed so far is that I feel less hungry at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and when I do, I reach for some beef jerky, nuts or other high protein snacks. As a result I feel less hungry when I get home from work and am less likely to grab a handful of Wheat Thins (I'm addicted) or other high carb snack before dinner.

But probably the best benefit of doing the challenge is becoming more aware of what I eat vs. what I need. I find myself saying, do I really need that donut, bagel, cookie or whatever goodie my colleagues leave laying temptingly around the office? Actually what I say is, "Do I really want that or another glass of wine with dinner?" :)

So join me in taking control of your nutrition. Sign up for the 30 Day Protein Challenge today!

Ride on!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

I WON THE RTR LOTTERY! Wait. What Did I Win?

I had a busy day at the office yesterday and completely forgot it was selection day for the 2015 Ride the Rockies lottery. The e-mail notification came at 9:28 a.m. but I didn't see it until around noon, when the Beefwife texted, "You're in! Check the lottery status!" So I checked my e-mail and there it was, sure enough, there it was: I WON THE RTR LOTTERY!

Wait. What did I win? 

Being selected means I also get to add to my RTR gear collection. I love the design this year. May have to get one of these Primal Wind Jackets!
Being selected in the 2015 RTR lottery means I get to pay $500 to ride 465 miles with somewhere around 33,000 feet of climbing (according to my calculations). Not exactly a Powerball type payoff but I feel lucky nonetheless because it also means I get to hang out with my friends from Team Bar2Bar (Paul the Pilot and his crew, Flip Flop Jenny, Hankster and Woody) for a week, visit some cool Colorado mountain towns, and take in some amazing views of the Rocky Mountains peddling along at an average of 15 miles per hour :)

Paul the Pilot is once again serving as Captain of Team Bar2Bar and this year he's bringing along a couple of crewmates!
Being accepted for the 30th Anniversary Ride the Rockies also provides a lot of incentive to get up in the morning and work out (as I am about to climb on my Cyclops Fluid2 Indoor Trainer). My belief is that the amount of suffering on the ride is directly inverse to the amount of training you put in (more training = less suffering). I plan to take a different approach to training this year, however, after suffering a lot on last year's ride (with back, shoulder and hip pain). I'm going to focus less on accumulating miles and more on building core strength and conditioning. I'll share more on my training routine in the coming weeks.

If you got in, stay tuned here for training tips and insights into the route, towns, camp sites, hotels, bars, etc. If you did not get in (whether or not you registered) feel free to come along for the ride! It's always an adventure.

Ride on!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Registration Deadline is Sunday at 5 p.m. Mountain!

I just registered for Ride the Rockies! If you are still on the fence, the deadline is tomorrow (Sunday, March 1) at 5:00 p.m. Mountain time. I have to admit it was an exhilarating feeling to hit submit and commit to training for and riding in what would be my ninth RTR, if we are selected in the lottery (I signed up with my friends from Team Bar2Bar). We will find out this Friday, March 6, if we are among the 2,000 riders randomly selected.

That little "bump in the ground" is Grand Mesa, the world's tallest flat top mountain.
What we never know for sure is how many riders apply. I have been selected all eight times I have registered over the past 10 years. So I am either lucky or there just aren't that many people who get turned away. My theory is that the increasingly tougher routes over the past several years (especially last year) may have scared some people away. That and the grossly overestimated elevation gain of more than 40,000 feet on this year's route may help our odds!

My first visit to The Vic in 2005
I do hope we get selected. This year's ride, the 30th Anniversary of RTR, should be a great one. The first two days are essentially a repeat of the first two days on my first RTR in 2005, including the brutal climb up Grand Mesa, considered one of the toughest climbs in the Rockies. While the Mesa doesn't look that imposing from this angle (this after the descent on day two of RTR 2005), it is a "long and relentless climb."

Other highlights include stops in Crested Butte and Salida, two of my favorite mountain towns with distinctly different vibes. Between the two is Cottonwood Pass (12,126 ft), a tough climb on a packed dirt surface (fortunately the downhill is paved). The overnight party in Salida always includes shutting down The Vic (bar at the Hotel Victoria).

At the summit of Cottonwood Pass on RTR 2008
Then there the brutal two-mile climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge, rewarded by a ride across the wooden Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest suspension bridge in North America. hanging 856 feet above the raging Arkansas River below. It's a rush, to say the least!

At the Royal Gorge Bridge on the final day of RTR 2006
I'm even looking forward to a return to Westcliffe, an unplanned part of the 2013 tour, when the Royal Gorge fire forced a long detour through Silver Cliff and West Cliff, on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range. it's a beautiful spot to end the ride!

Riding "Woody Style" at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on RTR 2013
Now comes the wait...

Ride on!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Are You Getting Enough (Protein, that is!)?

UPDATED 4/1/15 -- Join me in taking the 30 Day Protein Challenge during the month of April!
The 30 Day Protein Challenge is an exciting, easy-to-follow plan to add protein-rich foods to your daily life. It focuses on feeling satisfied and energized after meals, which could lead to less snacking and eating out of boredom. It also helps you understand how the foods you eat affect your mood.

Start the Protein Challenge today and you'll receive a quick email every day for 30 days - each containing a goal for the day plus great tips, advice and inspiration to help keep you dialed in for the entire challenge.

What are you waiting for?! Take control of your appetite and kick start the benefits you'll get from balancing your protein consumption.

I recently downloaded the MyFitnessPal app and started tracking my calorie consumption. As usual, I gained about 10 pounds this winter. The only problem is winter isn't over and I can't afford to gain 10 more! But mostly I wanted to start tracking my consumption of carbohydrates, fat and (especially) protein. After two weeks of recording everything that goes in my mouth I am embarrassed to admit that I, BEEFMAN, have been under consuming protein!

That's right, as much as I talk about the benefits of eat beef, I have not been eating enough beef, dairy, beans, nuts and other sources of protein. Part of the reason is because I underestimated the amount of protein my body needs every day. I had always heard that the recommended daily value (RDV) for protein was 50 grams, based on the average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet.

The first problem with that is I am not average. I am 6'4" tall, 225 lbs. (in winter) and physically active (I work out at least five times a week for 30 minutes, significantly more when I am training for an event like Ride the Rockies). When I punched this info into MyFitnessPal, with a goal to lose one pound per week, it came back with a daily calorie goal of 2,280! And that's to lose weight (the BEEFWIFE doesn't appreciate the fact that men do burn calories faster, especially big guys)!

The other problem is that is the RDV for protein is a minimum number. After doing a little research I learned about Accepted Macronutrient Distribution Ranges, or AMDRs. As it turns out the AMDR for protein is 10-35% of calories. According to this protein calculator my daily protein needs would be 77 grams at the low end (10%) and 269 grams at the high end (35%) when I set it to "moderately active." 

Recent research on protein has found that "Protein at around 25-30% of calories has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 80 to 100 calories per day, compared to lower protein diets." In addition, consuming higher amount of protein helps you feel full longer, reducing overall calorie consumption. So I decided to set my goal for protein at 20% of calories, or about 150-170 grams per day depending on physical activity level. That's a lot of beef! Of course, I also get protein from other sources like nuts, legumes and dairy products (love Greek yogurt and cottage cheese in the morning).

One of the reasons I am focusing on protein is that it is important to me to make sure I don't lose muscle mass as I age. Maintaining muscle mass gets harder as you age. There's actually a name for the condition: sarcopenia (like osteoporosis is to bone loss). As I age I want to maintain muscle mass so I can be physically active for a long time (I want to be one of those guys doing Ride the Rockies in my 70s!).

So the bottom line is I need to increase my protein intake and I'm trying to do it without turning to protein shakes, but it's hard. Seriously. It's hard to get enough protein while staying within calorie and fat goals, especially with plant-based sources of protein, which often come with more calories per gram of protein than beef.

With beef, especially lean cuts, I can get 8 grams of protein for just about 50 calories. Beef jerky makes a great high protein, low fat, low carb snack (I've been known to eat a whole bag for lunch!). I've also added Greek yogurt and TrueMoo Protein Plus protein fortified chocolate milk after workouts (real milk with 14 grams of protein per serving and the right amount of carbs for post workout recovery).

Have you used MyFitnessPal? Do you have a hard time getting the protein you need every day? Please share any tips you have (other than shakes and bars, I prefer real food!).

Ride on!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Ride the Rockies 2015 Elevation Gain Numbers are Way Off

UPDATE 6/12/15: Ride the Rockies has updated the elevation gain numbers to 31,217. That's more like it. As predicted, the original estimate from MapMyRide was about 10,000 feet too high :)

UPDATED 3/1/15: Ride the Rockies just posted the following update to the route elevation gain numbers on the RTR Facebook page:
For those on the fence about applying for this year's ride due to the elevation profiles, please note the updated data we are now able to report having just returned from a route recon / community trip where we met with local PD, CSP and CDOT: Day 1 - 2,952 ft., Day 2 - 8,000 ft., Day 3 - 5,583 ft., Day 4 - 1,458 ft. and Day 7 - 4,511 ft. We will not be able to provide data for Day 5 and Day 6 until later this spring due to road / pass closures. This data captured on our own Garmin suggests these stages will equal 4,700 ft. less of climbing than previously reported. Registration closes today at 5PM MST. Best of luck in the lottery - hope to see you this June! www.ridetherockies.com
Based on what I know about Day 6 from Salida to Canyon City (see below), you can take off another 3,000 feet, bringing the approximate elevation gain down to around 33,000!

When I first saw the elevation gain number for Ride the Rockies 2015, announced a week ago, I thought they were ridiculous. More than 40,000 feet in seven days of riding is a lot (nearly 5,800 average per day). Last year's ride, at 33,000 was the most of any of the eight RTRs I have completed and more than enough for me (average 5,500 per day over 6 days). As it turns out, the 2015 numbers, as advertised aren't just ridiculous, they are off. WAY off.

To their credit, I learned about the overestimation from a post on the RTR Facebook page. The reason for the error became clear when the ride organizers explained that they used MapMyRide to chart the course and estimate the elevation gain (MapMyRide is notoriously bad at estimating elevation gain).

For example, the day five route, a mostly downhill 66 mile ride from Salida to Canon City is listed as 5,834 feet of climbing. That is simply absurd. True, it includes the steepest two mile stretch of climbing I have ever done tackled, up to the south rim of the Royal Gorge, but its not 5,800 ft. of climbing, even with the addition of Skyline Drive to the route this year. Not even close. We rode this route on the final day in 2006 and my Garmin Edge clocked it at 2,216 ft. I know Garmin is not infallible , but that's less than half the advertised gain! Conservatively, the MapMyRide estimate is off 3,000 ft.

The other obvious error is the advertised gain on day one. There is no way the ride around Colorado National Monument is 4,702 feet of elevation gain. We rode that route on day one of my first RTR in 2005 but I don't have a record of the elevation gain that day (didn't have a Garmin yet!). But according to a comment thread on the RTR Facebook page, "Ride the Rockies covered this same route five years ago (2010) at which point they (accurately) promoted it having an elevation gain of approximately 2.5k feet."  So there's another 2,000 ft. over-estimated by MapMyRide.

So the good news is that the 40,000+ estimate could be at least 5,000 feet too high. That's a lot better than last year when RTR underestimated the elevation gain by the same amount! That's right, this is not the first time the estimates have been off. Last year they estimated the route at 28,000 and it ended up being more than 33,000! That was just painful.

The bad news is RTR staff have said they won't correct the numbers until early May after they ride the course with GPS devices. Until then, your guess is as good as mine.

Ride on!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Ride the Rockies Route is Out!

The Ride the Rockies 2015 route was announce last night at the route announcement party in Denver. The 30th annual ride features a lot of familiar territory for me, including stops in two of my favorite host communities, Salida and Crested Butte. With 465 miles and more than 40,000 feet of elevation gain in seven days of riding, it will be a test of your intestinal fortitude as week as tolerance for pain in the "five points" two hands, two feet and one rear end!).

Here are some of my thoughts on the route:

Day One -- Colorado National Monument Loop (45 Miles / 4,702′ Elev. Gain). I did this ride on day one of my first Ride the Rockies in 2005. Its a scenic "warm up" ride with a fair amount of climbing.

Day Two -- Grand Junction to Hotchkiss (98 Miles / 9,069′ Elev. Gain). Day two is very similar to the second day of the 2005 ride, as well, only ending in Hotchkiss rather than Delta. The climb up Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat top mountain, is brutal. Maybe the toughest I have ever tackled. It certainly was in 2005. At 98 miles and more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain, this will be the toughest day on the 2015 ride.

Day Three -- Hotchkiss to Gunnison (78 Miles / 7,466′ Elev. Gain). I've ridden this route on a previous RTR (2010, I think). It's not terribly difficult but following the day two climb it will be tough enough! Lots of beautiful scenery.

Day Four -- Gunnison to Crested Butte (27 Miles / 1,458′ Elev. Gain). This will be a nice recovery day unless you are a masochist and go for the "Dirty 30" option (actually 35 miles) on dirt roads over Ohio and Keller Pass. Crested Butte is a beautiful spot to rest up for the remainder of the ride.

Day Five -- Crested Butte to Salida (102 Miles / 7,502′ Elev. Gain). The second hardest day on the 2015 route is a century ride including a tough climb on dirt roads over Cottonwood Pass. Hopefully you'll have enough energy to party that night in Salida, a perennial rider favorite. The overnight party in the park along the Arkansas River followed by some liquid carbo-loading at The Vic is a must.

Day Six -- Salida to Canon City (66 Miles / 5,834′ Elev. Gain). Forty-five of the 66 miles on day six are downhill but do NOT overlook the tough climb up the south rim of the Royal Gorge. It's the steepest two-mile climb I've ever ridden, hitting grades of 15-20%. But the opportunity to ride across the wooden slats of the world's tallest suspension bridge is worth it!

Day Seven -- Canon City to Westcliffe (49 Miles / 4,488′ Elev. Gain). Ride director Chandler Smith's sadist tendencies (its only a matter of time before he changes the name of the ride to "50 Shades of RTR") are showing in this mostly uphill final day. The steep 29-mile climb on tired legs will be tough. However, the views of the Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) range are amazing.

So, you may have noticed me say "you" and "your" a lot in this post. I am seriously considering not registering this year and heading to Iowa for RAGBRAI in July. I've wanted to do RAGBRAI for several years now and this may just be the year to do it. The 40,000+ feet of climbing is just silly for a 6'4", 215 lb. rider like me. Besides, I've ridden nearly every road on this route and I think it is time to branch out. But we have until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 1st to decide.

So, RTR friends, are you in or out?

Ride on!