Saturday, July 28, 2012

Colorado Trail Race 2012

This is my fourth attempt at this beast. I think this is the one. Not sure why but I just feel incredibly calm right now. I know that there are only a few things that I can control (like where my heart rate is, how much I eat, how much I drink, etc.) and that I just have to let the other things go. In years past I have not done a good job at all of controlling the things that are within my power. I feel much more disciplined right now. This year I will not start over my head. I'm going to emulate a turbo diesel motor.  Or...Tippy the Turtle. 

We will leave from Waterton Canyon at 0600 on Monday and the adventure will begin. Here are some links where you can follow along. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sleep Apnea?

I hear it all the time from doctors and nurses or people in the health care industry. Usually it's said in disbelief as they look me up and down. "You're on CPAP therapy?" "But you're in shape." Yes. Apparently I'm an anomaly. I WAS always told I was special as a kid.

Right after college, I began to sleep more at times when other people were out enjoying life. After work I would take a 2-3 hour nap. On the weekends I would sleep all day long. It's no surprise why I was single for so long. Once in a while someone would ask me about it and I just figured it was because I was such a hard worker and say, "Look man...I'm leaving it all on the field at work." After I met Heather she would say, "I've never met anyone who sleeps as much as you do." I would come home from work and simply NOT be able to keep my eyes open. I could fall asleep sitting in a chair and be out for days. Heather would have to physically shove me in order to wake me up for dinner.

I know I had sleep apnea for years before Heather finally made me go to 2 sleep studies. If you ever get the chance...those are great fun. Nothing quite like sleeping in an unfamiliar setting with all kinds of wires hooked up to you monitoring your every move. There's also someone in the other room watching you on camera and as professionally as they presented themselves to you earlier, they are now laughing their ass off as you toss and turn, get tangled up in said wires and scratch and rub on various parts of your anatomy. There is also sound for them so they hear any snoring or gasping and I'm sure even the random fart being produced from your body which I never have been known to have an issue with. My first study indicated that I did, in fact, have many apneas during the night and was not getting restful sleep. My second study was to determine how many liters of supplemental oxygen to put me on (because they found I was only getting about 70% of what normal people get).

About a year ago, Mountain Flyer magazine did an article on a guy riding for Ibis who had sleep apnea. I can't recall his name but I'm pretty sure he was more of a cross country racer. I don't know that I know anyone who does more ultra/endurance racing that suffers from the disorder. I've talked for years about wanting to ride Tour Divide. It wasn't until a few weeks ago when I realized that I might not be able to do that. I suspect (and hope) that when doing something like CTR, I will be able to cope. I expect to be pretty groggy and worry a bit about making a mistake that results in an injury because I'm so tired but all I can do is be careful.

I've been on therapy for a few years now I guess. Sometimes I still take a nap but it's not often and there's even times where I can't fall asleep for a quick nap. In 2008 and 2009 I was not on therapy when I raced the Colorado Trail so I didn't know what good sleep felt like anyways. In 2011 I was on it but that was a rough year and after quitting before night one, I never knew how going without therapy truly felt under those circumstances. There are times when I will run out of distilled water or forget to clean the parts of the CPAP machine and go without it. I never bring the CPAP along on vacations because, for me, the supplemental oxygen is the biggest piece and it's probably easier to drag a dead body along than lug that machine anywhere and we're never doing much more than lounging by the pool and sipping on cocktails when we go somewhere. This will be the first year that I will find out how it feels to go without it for this long and after such big efforts during the day/night. I realized this when I woke up this morning and thought, "If this was Tuesday morning of next week, I'd be hoping to cover 100 miles today." Only difference is that on Tuesday morning I won't be quite as recovered as I was on Monday. Each day it will become more apparent. I'm excited to get going. I've never been this calm before the start. I never considered the sleeping issues before. They've made me a bit nervous. Jon Jones is an MMA fighter and I once heard him say something about being nervous before a big fight. It was something about being nervous and having butterflies but that it was ok because all he had to do was get them to fly in formation. That's all I gotta do. That and hope that I don't unintentionally fall asleep somewhere. If you're reading this and doing the CTR this year, please wake me up if you find me dead asleep anywhere along the route (under a nice pine tree, on a rock, and especially in the parking lot of a City Market).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

4 more days.

Today I did a 2.5 hour ride in the sprinkles with 2 hill climb intervals of 30 minutes a piece. The plan said to climb each one at about 153 beats per minute and then take it up to 162 beats per minute towards the end if perceived exertion wasn't an issue. I was breathing heavier at 162 but no discomfort at all (until I rode by the recent cow elk road kill).

The weather has been a bit odd lately. A month ago we had fires and really hot temps then we had about 4 days in a row where we didn't see the sun at all and it poured day and night and now things have cooled off at altitude with more typical storm activity. We had one small window open tonight while watching television and Heather was wrapped up in a fleece blanket. I have actually considered bringing a full down jacket instead of just a vest but it's rare for me to get cold and I hope to be moving and generating some heat and not laying there like a cadaver.

Tonight I bought $50 worth of batteries. One set of Lithiums was for my SPOT unit and another for my GPS with 4 sets of 123 batteries for my light ($10 for each set!!!!). I decided to buy that many and bring them along because I've had difficulty finding them even here. These are fairly typical camera batteries and I thought they would be more readily available. Tonight I walked up to get the mail with the light that I plan on using. I have not ridden with it at night yet. Probably should get out and try it but, at this point, I think I'll wait until Monday night to see how it is while riding because even if its not enough light, nothing I order will get here in time anyways. I think it'll be fine. I like riding at night. It's quiet, cool, spooky and you generally see more critters than in the daylight. I'll have to get pictures of the light and the mount tomorrow. The mount is bad ass! Even after this is done I may order one up just to have it because its so fawkin cool! I'll show you in the morning.

Heather and I took the dogs for their evening walk tonight and were talking about pick up options. She does not have the summers off anymore so this could be interesting. I really won't know until I get into this thing. I have hopes of where I can get to on days 1 and 2 and if that happens then it means that day 3 will be very painful and slow. In 2009 I rode from about 7 in the morning until about 6 that night and covered 50 miles in that same area and that's what popped me. I'm looking forward to seeing that area again but, this time, if everything goes as planned, I'll hit it at night.

So excited right now!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I don't know that I've ever posted what I bring on a really long ride. It's not because I'm trying to hide anything. I've pimped my gear list from others and, over time, ground it down and swapped things out to what works better for me. It's not the lightest load of junk but I'll share and hopefully help someone else get things sorted.

Front roll bag is made by Carousel Designs. It holds a bivy and my sleeping bag. The bag is always a North Face rated at 45 degrees. The bivy for this trip is going to be an REI Minimalist but there are times when I take my Outdoor Research one. The OR bivy has poles that help keep the fabric off my face and I trust it 100% in a torrential downpour but it is heavier at about 2 lbs. The REI bivy weighs about a pound I think and it's acceptable in rain and I don't have all that many issues with condensation.  I have not decided if I am going to bring a sleeping pad or not. If I do it will be an 1/8" closed cell foam pad from Gossamer Gear thats trimmed down and weighs maybe 2 oz.

Gas Tank bag is from Revelate and it carries food that I can eat while riding. I usually just buy stuff at gas stations and then take it out of the package and throw it in so I don't have to sweat unwrapping things and dealing with trash. It's nasty inside that bag.

Rear saddle bag is also from Carousel Designs and it holds my clothing which consists of:
-Craft long sleeve base layer.
-First Ascent fleece hat.
-Some really old Bellweather arm warmers.
-Simms mittens that are convertible and made from Windstopper material.
-Pearl Izumi knee warmers.
-One pair of socks (I use some tall wool socks at night or when it's cool and my trusty Mountain Flyer Olefin socks during the day).
-First Ascent down vest.
-Marmot Precip rain pants that I have cut off just below the knees.

Osprey Talon 22 backpack:
-Tool/repair kit and first aid stuff.
-MSR water filter (some go lighter here with tablets or other devices but I've had Giardia twice now but not since using this filter so I don't go with anything else).
-Water bladder (think this is a 2 liter version).
-Mavic rain jacket. This was a purchase I made about a month ago and almost threw up when I handed over the credit card. Best rain gear I've ever had. Each time I ride in rain I feel less sick about buying it.
-Foldable Platypus 1 liter bottle for the dry stretches (which it appears there might be a few of those this year).
-Enough food for me to leap frog from town to town until Buena Vista. From BV to Silverton every one will have heavy packs and all available space on board will be stuffed with food.
-Bandana. These are really handy for lots of things but this year I anticipate that it will see tons of use wrapped around my neck after being dunked into ice cold streams/rivers to help with the heat. I didn't wanna upset Crips or Bloods so I'm reppin' gray like my beard.

For technology I have an Etrex GPS unit, my SPOT device, my Polar heart rate monitor/computer, iPod Nano and my iPhone. This year Heather has a new job and does not have nearly the flexibility that she's had in the past to come pick up my tired ass when I call so there is a good chance that I will be pedaling back to Woodland at least some of the way because I'm broke and don't have enough cheese for hotels to wait for her and would rather see some more cool stuff and even if I could afford to stay in a hotel for 2 or 3 days who wants to sit around in rotten spandex?

Feels like we've been here before.

I started going through my bike last night and finished it up this morning. It didn't need a whole lot. This is it packed with enough clothing in the saddle bag and a sleep system up front to keep me out there indefinitely. I just call it Blue. I took the drivetrain off the other bike (Shaft or Johnny Cash whichever you prefer) which is in sad condition right now just hanging in pieces from a hook in the garage after some serious pillaging. This is the first time this bike has been built up geared. I love the cable routing compared to the Orbea. Top tube cables present a problem when running a gas tank bag and there's more housing to deal with. I always had shifting issues when running fully loaded. This bike shifts excellently. I ran the front housing a bit longer and looped it around and then under the roll bag and then there's barely any housing back at the rear derailleur. Very little friction in this system. 

I am running a straight up 3x9 drivetrain. I do have some very minor issues with getting all the gears because stupid Shimano decided to keep up with the Jones' and go 10 speed so my new front derailleur is a bit narrower. I decided I'd rather have 32x34 with no rubbing and sacrifice the 42x12 or 13 or whatever it is. I think it'll be fine. I also get all the stupid climbing gears but, oddly enough, I haven't ridden anything but the middle and big ring since changing from the singlespeed. I'm sure that time is just around the corner. 

Nothing you haven't seen before. I use my heart rate monitor religiously and have become very strict about dialing the effort back as soon as I see 155.

I loves me some clean bikes.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Todays was the second time I have had to do this particular workout in the last 11 weeks and I hate it. I love doing long 40 minute climbing intervals but these stupid short sprint ones just blow me to bits. I do these on an easier climb and the workout looks like this: Ride for 30 minutes at under Zone 2 to warm up. Then do a 15 minute climb at upper zone 3 (I love this). The second and third 15 minute intervals are bursty. You start and work the heart rate up to about 160 (for me) and then at the top of every minute you shift to a gear that puts cadence under 50 rpm's. Then you sprint all out in an effort to bring the rpm back up to 95ish and you end the interval when you can hit 95 or after 10 seconds. I always use a gear that forces me to go the whole 10 seconds. These are incredibly painful for me.

The interesting thing for me is that this is very similar to a workout a bunch of us used to do on floor trainers in the basement of a place I was renting back in St. Louis. Can't recall how we decided it would be a good idea to do these but we called them 20/40's. After a thorough warm up, we would then do 20 seconds at 120 rpm's (maybe 53X17 depending on time of year) and then spin 40 seconds in an easier gear at with no specific rpm. I think we would only do this one time and then we would do 3x5 minute intervals (2 cogs up this time) at 110 rpm's. The two workouts are ironically similar.

One thing I have learned about training for ultras is that there is a lot of time spent training that upper end of fitness and I never used to do this in 2008 or 2009 when I first started. In 2011 I started putting things together (after many discussions with some friends who were willing to help me) and hired LW Coaching and saw how they combined both top end and bottom end to build a complete machine for going long distances.

I am now just a bit over a week out from starting and I'm cool as a cucumber. It's weird. In 08, 09, and 11 I was a wreck at this stage. I guess I'm either ready and I'm gonna finally put in a solid effort that's true to my abilities or something else.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recent Rides

It's been a bit since I've updated so I'l do a bit of that now. A few days ago I was supposed to do 40 minute hill repeats so I headed over to Buena Vista and rode them on Cottonwood Pass. I felt great. The weather was moving in so instead of doing 40 minutes and then waiting 20 to recover, I ended up just pulling off to the shoulder and waiting about 3 minutes and then starting the next one. I made it all the way up but I did get wet. 

Today I rode 6 hours. This is the first ride in about a week that I have not gotten soaked while doing. Finding places to ride around here is getting to be a challenge because a lot of stuff is still off limits. I wanted to ride Rampart Range Road all the way up to Indian Creek (38 miles) and then come back but, to my surprise, crews were heading that way as I made the climb and then found a Forest Service worker up at the top shaking his head at me. We chatted a bit and I thanked him for his efforts and for saving my small home and headed back down trying to figure out where to go. I rode up towards Divide and then back in towards Tranquil Acres. When you say that name around here people generally cringe. While there are some nice houses back there I think the stereotype is that folks live back that way to be off the grid. I counted 8 people that waved to me and that surprised me. Not because I think they're sketchy but because everyone is still on high alert here looking for strange people in there areas. Guys wearing lycra automatically qualify as strange. Even I know that.

I hooked up with a really worn out Jeep trail that was heading north which was where I wanted to be. I passed through some of the 717 (this is an amazing network of moto trails right outside of town that I would love to take a moto on but they scare me so instead, I make Brrrrrrraaaaappppp noises while riding my singlespeed). I saw one guy on an enduro and three others shooting guns further back in and that was it. I had ridden this road several years ago in the winter and eventually you enter into the area that was scorched by the Hayman fire in 2002. Even 10 years later there is still not much. I'm sure this area was incredible before the incident. This is looking due west.

Standing in the same position looking north. I would ride right to that mountain in the distance.

Eventually, I popped out at West Creek and found my back to Highway 67 which takes you right back to Woodland Park. I took my time eating Jelly Bellies and Sour Worms the whole way. Not too far outside of town I started thinking about how nice a cold beer would be. I looked at my watch and saw that I had been riding for about 5 hours. I'd be in town soon but I had to hit 6 hours. Then I thought I'd climb all the way back up to where I started the day and that would give me the 6 I wanted. Normally I love this climb but my legs felt like poop today. Everything was forced and I was crawling up. I kept changing the deal. "You can't walk. You can get a beer on the way home but only if you clean the entire climb." I cursed myself. I started burning matches by climbing pretty hard out of the saddle. In the end I made it but it was not pretty. I was all over that bike. At the top, I chatted for a bit with another Forest Service worker and took a picture of this weed before heading to town to claim my prize (Original Coors). Sometimes ya gotta drink a classic. It was glorious.

I am now almost 2 weeks out from the start of the Colorado Trail Race. The one thing that I have tried to complete on a bike in my life that has alluded me. Not just alluded me but spit at me, pushed me down, kicked me in the nuts, and called me balled (that's just wrong). Today I went back and forth a little bit on bike choice when I was really hurting. Is it stupid to try to do this on one gear? I don't know. I don't think that a piece of equipment (a derailleur, a cassette, or a shifter cable) is what has kept me from riding into Durango. It's been my fat head. This year I feel like I have not allowed the magnitude of it all to snowball out of control. I respect the whole thing but I just can't approach it like a total jackass anymore. We're getting a little long in the tooth for that sort of thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


 Right away, I see that I should have used the title "Commitment" because that is the topic at hand this morning of July 4th and not my mental fortitude because, clearly, the fact that I am right at 3 weeks from a very long ride on some remote and quite difficult terrain all but certifies that I am still off the reservation. Additionally, the fact that I have never completely sealed the deal on this whole trail with 27 gears and am fast approaching the time when I need to shit or get off the pot on either sticking with one gear or throwing a different drivetrain on might seem suspect to some. Wish I could explain it but I'm not sure that I can.

Anyways...back to commitment. I fear no commitment. I feel like that's obvious. I just celebrated my four year wedding anniversary with my lovely and kick ass wife. I'm not sure if she supports me in some of the things I do because she truly loves me or because it's a way to get me out of the house for a bit (still need to inquire about multiple receipts I happened upon from the "pool guy" the last few months that seemed suspect to me).

Another area that I have been very committed to for the last year is with regard to riding singlespeed. Last year in early August I said I was going to do it and see how it changed my riding. Again, my lovely and kick ass wife bought me a lot of the parts that are on "Blue" my current bike. I am fast approaching a year now and it's been a nice transformation. I know I am a better rider now. I do still go back and forth with some degree of doubt about whether bringing only one gear is a mistake and I know the week before the race will be filled with anxiousness about it but in talking to a friend of mine recently (who is a very accomplished singlespeeder and enduro racer with both CTR and a still current Tour Divide record under his belt to name just two) he said, "Trust yourself and your judgement. Nobody else knows your body better than you do." Clearly sage advice that one ups the Dalai Lama himself. Thank you Pivay.

This brings me to what really is the point of all of this drivel. Yet another journey of commitment that I am about to set sail on. I've given this one lot's of thought through the years but have never been confident enough to actually pull it off. What is is you may ask? Well it's not wearing flip flops for the next 12 months because I may find myself in a situation where I need to outrun someone and I can only do that hooked toe thing for so long before cramps set in. It's also not drinking water only because kicks serious ass.

No friends...this commitment is on another level entirely. I am seriously thinking about committing to growing a beard for a full year. I'm not talking about stringing together 4 or 7 days or any of that sissy shit either. I'm talking about swinging for the fences and leaving it all out on that field. I do have a few concerns with a beard and they are as follows: 1. I have this weird kinda cow lick thing going on in my right, under chin area. I get this sweep of hair that I have to tend to about once a week. 2. Genetically speaking, I don't know that I can grow the thickest/fullest of beards. Don't get me wrong, my face doesn't look like a yard of dirt with a few weeds thrown in but I seem to have a little spot at the corners of my mouth that doesn't quite fill in as much as I'd like but it might turn out ok. 3. I'm folically challenged up top and decided to throw in the towel years ago and either shave the dome or just trim it with no guard. I'm happy with this decision as I have been told that I have a head with good shape to it. I used to not know what that meant but over the years I have seen guys with funky shaped heads going bald and that's just a kick to the nuts after already having fallen down in the dirt. I cannot grow hair up top to compliment the beard so I'm going to have to grow things a tad longer (maybe another 1/8") and then blend the facial hair in because I don't know that I care for white dudes that are bald and sport the beard. Something about the transition between straight up shaved and beard just looks off to me unless you wrestle "professionally".

I'm going to give this some serious thought the next couple of days and if I go with it, I will pick the day and mark the calendar. I actually already have some stubble. Of course I will provide weekly photos and journal entries on how it's impacting my life along the way. Foreseeable topics include, grooming, food or valuables being lost in it, itching, increased respect or fear shown towards me from random strangers, offers to model underwear, facial sweating and things of that nature. I have mentioned this idea in passing to Heather and the eye roll grunt combination leads me to believe that she is not thrilled but I've never been good at interpreting the subtle female body language communications. It's a damn good thing I'm not a Praying Mantis or certain species of spiders and scorpions.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Back in the saddle

Yesterday I was supposed to do another long day at altitude. I was a bit iffy on if I could do it because it's taking me a bit to get settled again after being allowed to come back home after they lifted the evacuations. I had a route in my head that started in Bailey so I figured I go over and see how things went.

I parked right at the edge of town where the course hits 285. The Rustic Bar is also right there and it's a great place if you're ever in the area and want some grub or a cold beer. I started up 285 and included the small section of fire road that gets us off the zany highway for a brief reprieve from the idiots buzzing by. I giggled as I ticked off the miles and noticed all of the spots where I had to stop pedaling last year and lay down in the grave right on the shoulder from exhaustion. I bet I counted 9 spots where I didn't even bother to throw down a jacket. Two hours later, I was at the top of Kenosha Pass. Even though I was on the singlespeed it really didn't seem all that bad. I don't know what the fuss about.

Then I was on trail again. I had not ridden this section of the CT since 2009 and had forgotten how great it is. This is one of my favorite sections of the CT. It's got it all. Super techy rocks and roots, pines, flowy singletrack through crazy Aspens, some nice downhill, killer views, and wild flowers. Pretty quickly you come out to a fire road and cross it and begin the climb up Georgia Pass. It took me an hour to make it to the top of the Pass from 285 and I walked more than I remember in the past. Once at the top, my plan was to tag the summit of Baldy Mountain at 13,600' but weather looked sketchy so I decided not to. I wanted to take a different trail down and I found one that took me over the ridge to the north and dropped 5 miles back to a campground that was off that same fire road I mentioned earlier. For some reason, I had it in my head on the way up that I woud ride to the next "bowl" to the north and take a fire road that would put me on the Bailey side of Kenosha Pass. As soon as I hit the fire road I knew I was off and was going to now have to make the 4 mile climb up the other side of Kenosha Pass. I was a bit bummed at first but then thought the extra climb isn't gonna hurt me in the long run.

Soon I was doing the singlespeed tuck back into Shawnee and then Grant. Ah Grant. There's not much in Grant but there is a small yellow motel guarded by a mini-Collie and owned by a guy named Don. In addition to owning the motel, Don is the proud owner of a small shack out front that doubles as a mini liquor store. I stopped there because I was already at the 7 hour mark and said that if I didn't stop for ice cream in Jefferson that I would check on Don in Grant. I grabbed a cold one and chatted with him for a bit while watching the river flow by. Then I took off, made it back to my car an loaded up.

I took a lot of pictures on this ride. This is most of them. Towards the end of the ride I kinda hit the wall a bit and had to break out the big guns. Mostly, Mike and Ikes get me through the long days but once in a while I look to the Pistachios (in the shell). I can stand the bag up in my gas tank and reach in and get a handful and go to town. I find that cracking the shells and spitting them out helps pass the time. Once in a while I can spit a shell out and hit the top of the front tire and kick it up. Chicks dig it. Only problem is that once I start...I don't stop until they're all gone. Anyways, the pic of the PVC pipe in the ditch was marked as a waterline. I thought I was hallucinating. Upside down can of stain somehow attached to the contraption and all.

Get out and ride.

kenosha day from Chris Neumann on Vimeo.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another WC update

Well things are settling down for us here in Woodland Park. Depending on which way the winds blowing, we can either have clear skies or smoke filled ones. It's a little scary waking up in the middle of the night with smoke in the bedroom but we're getting used to it. We are not sure if sitting around the campfire with friends will ever be the same again (it's the smell) but time will tell.

Yesterday they were able to open up highway 24 which is great because something like 70,000 people come up and down the mountain every day for commuting or just to enjoy what we have (or had) in the high country. This morning, Heather is one of them. They were also able to allow residents back into Green Mountain Falls, Cascade, and Chipita Park. These are all really small towns that are just a few miles below us. I still can't believe that the only structure we lost on this side of the mountain was a small wooden shed. Unreal. I do have friends that stay in those towns and several of them are concerned about the amount of smoke damage that was caused.

The fire is now at 55% containment as of last night and that's amazing. If the fire had been started a few ridges over or in a different location all together, or if the wind and weather patterns had been different, we might not have a home at all anymore. Being from the midwest, I'm not used to this at all. We lived in Tornado Alley and although I've never seen one, I don't imagine people know about their homes being destroyed until after they return. Wildfires are so different. You can watch them on t.v. and see how they behave and move. Most know how much love and respect I have for movig water. The same river can be calm in one section, and rage in another. Whats more is that just a few feet from a whitewater section can be an eddy that flows back up the river. The river has so many different personalities. The fire seemed to be a lot like that. Relatively slow to progress (almost timid and shy) in some areas and prolifically angry in others.

So thankful to be home again.