Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Gunnison and Crested Butte

Both these places were brilliant very close together (about 30 miles) but as different as different could be.

We camped at the Tall Texan on the edge of Gunnison and immediately headed up the road to Crested Butte to get something to eat and to see what was happening during the bike festival weekend.

The place was buzzing with bikes of every shape and size and a whole load of people in fancy dress having just completed a 'chainless' race.
The next couple of day were spent exploring the Black Canyon of Gunnison and running and riding around Hartman Rocks just outside of Gunnison. The Black Canyon was stunning, Hartman Rocks more high desert and more hot wind and dust, but good fun. I liked Gunnison it was a small ranching town with a university and a growing outdoor culture. It just felt very 'right' if a little empty - maybe the college being out gave it that feel.
Garmin on the run ride Bike here  Run Here

Then we moved up to Crested Butte for a few days, it was a wonderful place mixing hippy culture with mountain life. The ranchers, the ski bums that never left, the bike bums that have just arrived, the rafters, kayakers,  everyone, just got on and had a fine old time in a beautiful place.

The riding and running weren't bad either. MTB Run


Then on to Ken's house in Telluride and his and Samire's unending hospitality. For three days we were spoiled, great breakfasts including the very best Japanese breakfast I have ever had, good company, an entertaining walk with a wild flower expert and a fun fun hike up above 10000 ft and into the snow line. 

I loved Telluride it had a bit of everything. The skiing was obviously big business the infra structure was there to support it, and the town was small, politically active, left wing and entertaining. The hike we did involved along drive up a very rocky dirt road to the trailhead. It started well enough with a beautiful walk through the trees and up alongside the river. The steepness of the trail combined with the elevation meant both Sarah and I were soon out of breath and despite Samire's opinion that she hiked slowly she was soon out of site. We climbed on until we came to a river crossing. A crossing that normally had a log laid across the stream as a makeshift bridge. On his day there was 15 ft of water to dance over on stepping stones or as both Samire's and Sarah chose to do to simply hike through. This should have been our warning but we were too stupid to heed it. 10 minutes later we were seeing snow at the side of the trail and 10 minutes after that we were clambering over our first easy snow. We soon came to a steep section of snow only about 15 ft wide but involving some big steps up.

Despite some misgivings we all made it across and from then on it was a case of hiking a short distance, scrambling over snow for a short distance until we got to the waterfall which was very noisy and very beautiful, but the way to the lake was blocked with snow on a camber for about 10 yards. It was clear that this obstacle was one too many so we sat down less than 1/2 mile from the lake and are our lunch before returning to the car. When we got to the car our adventure was not over. A note on the windshield said 'passenger side front tyre flat :('

Sarah read the manual while Ken and I did the hard labour. 45 minutes later we had the spare in place and everything back in the boot (sorry trunk) of the jeep.

After a couple of tries we got the tyre replaced in Montrose on our way to Gunnison where we set up camp at the tall Texan campground.

And so it began

It all arrived ok and took less time to unpack and reassemble than it looks.
Days 1 & 2

So after several delays being bounced to later flights and endless sitting we collected all the bags including the new reinforced bike bag. I guess tomorrow i'll find out if all that effort and padding did its job. We negotiated the hire car depot and left $500 lighter than planned well the small SUV was not going to carry all our crap let alone Linda and Jacquelyn. So a few hours later than we set off, you got to love crossing the date line, at 10.00pm we checked into a holiday inn in Colorado Springs ate a burger in TGI Fridays drank a Fat Tyre and crashed heavily. The next morning saw us drop a Whole load more cash at REI and set off for Z Lazy B Guest Ranch, which is to serve as a base for the next few days. Well a base when we aren't sitting in or riding around the Enchanted Forest. We spent a day dodging wild fires and playing with cruise control as we inched our way towards McGaffey and the 24 hour mountainbike race that would be the first of the summers planned adventures.
Turns out that American 'rock' stations are just a bit rubbish and the rest of the radio is either talk shows or country. So I have an apology to make to Celia when I see her next. Cruising through New Mexico to good 'ol country is perfectly acceptable. I 'm guessing it isn't going to transfer well to my living room or the earphones round the green belt but here we just keep switching to the next country station when the reception fails.

The Race

We got to Z Lazy B guest ranch late on Thursday, turns out it is not just a mile from race site but about 7 miles. We were so late we went straight there and then had to turn around and go into Gallup for something to eat. We eventually got to bed about midnight. Bob was due to join us the next morning and when he hadn't arrived by noon we set off for the metropolis of Gallup which seems to consist largely of fast food outlets, food shops and casinos. On the way though we met Bob already hard at work being a greeter. He had failed to find Z Lazy B in daylight and decided if he went and hung out at the race site we would turn up eventually. He was right of course. Later that afternoon we pitched our tents on our 'primo plot' and by 4:00 we were all hard at work, Sarah and Bob handing out the race packets and me doing the greeting, relieving people of $5 'donation' towards search and rescue and giving them the shpeel 'no fires or you are disqualified and escorted from the premises, watch out for bears and mountain lions. Where are you from? Which kind of camp do you want uber quiet, kind of quiet, or noisy?'

We worked 4-8:30 and headed back to the cabin for a bit of supper and not a lot of sleep. Sarah was up again and on shift handing out more packets at 8:30 the next morning. Bob and I got to the campsite about 10:00 put the bike together, got a little organized and changed before heading down to the race briefing.

The place was beautiful dry hot windy and very very dusty. We had clearly pissed off some of the locals, one who complained we were too close to the stock pond, and he was right but the organizer had all her permits approved so what can you do? There was another who kept driving by and gunning his 4x4 when we were doing the greeting just so we had to stand in his dust.
The race began as advertised at 12:00 with a road and double track roll out before hitting the single track. 

The course was very pedally with no significant hills but a few long gentle drags made a bit harder for me by the sand and the fact that my lungs were mildly complaining about the altitude. The first lap went well apart from the finding myself sitting at the back of a line of mainly single speeders consisting largely of back of the packers and while it was nice getting a bit of a tow and having some company it did mean eating an awful lot of dirt, until I got my puncture. I fixed it easy enough but lost quite a lot of time.
The rest of the lap was pretty uneventful. Pretty dusty loose singletrack rarely more than 12 inches wide. I stopped, drank, eat a gel, grabbed a handful of trail mix and headed back out. The second lap things had settled down some fewer people were visible and for large sections I was alone. It was then I realized the camel back bite valve was dripping, not a huge problem, but something, which came to annoy me some. 

The climbs were hurting more than they should given that they barely qualify as climbs at all and I became aware that altitude was making sure I didn't really recover properly from every effort and even riding and drinking became a real effort. After 2 laps I stopped and changed clothes. The baggy shorts and the dripping gu brew were beginning to chafe. I ate some more and went out again. The weather was warm, dry, windy, and the dust was blowing everywhere. The riding was very good. Never particularly challenging either physically or technically or at least it wouldn't have been if the race was at sea level, as it was at 8000 ft and every gasp
Of air containing at least a teaspoon of dust I was beginning to feel it. Not least in the backside and the shoulders. 
Riding the Kona on the road ( and I hadn't done enough of even that) does not prepare the arse for the constant slapping riding pedally singletrack gives it nor does it prepare the upper body for being trapped in one of two usable riding positions for a long period of time. I made it through 50 miles in around 6 hours and at about 65 miles or 4 laps decided to call it a day.

Bob made up some food; Sarah was working the timing tent. I ate, changed again, chatted and chilled (quite literally) before turning in for a few hours of restless tossing and turning. The fact that I'd bought new lights dragged me out of bed at about 2:00 for the first of my night laps. I was having a blast. The new lights were stunning, a big step up from the old lumi's and I battered around the course, some people I caught, some caught me, with some I even had what was the closest thing I had to a ' race ' all day it was just plain good fun until the second puncture. Fixing a puncture in the dark is never fun and usually leads to a bit of a chill and this was no exception except it was kind of fun. Maybe a dozen riders came passed and every one asked if I was ok, whether I needed something, all except on young lady who rolled passed caught me in her head torch and said 'Ah Dang it!' brought a smile to my face. I'm assuming it was a sympathetic comment aimed at me but who knows. I lost my rhythm had got a bit more chilled. I found the ride back to camp hard. Lap 5 done, the idea of calling it a day was already forming in my head and I went into camp sure in the knowledge that I was going out for one more in the dark, that it would get light while I was out there and that lap 6 would be my last. And so it proved. Whether it was mental or general fatigue I just could not get myself going at all. I was cold but moving too slowly to warm up properly and my arse really really hurt. I didn't hand the chip in just in the off chance that I might change my mind but once I was changed out of my cycling clothes and had no other clean dry kit there was no chance so by 6:00 am I had finished my first 24 hr race. I guess that means really I only did an 18 hr race. The rest of the morning was spent eating and drinking chatting and cheering and frantically trying to warm up. 

The entertainment was provided by '29 and single ' Citlalli an entertainingly loud and friendly young lady riding a 29er singlespeed with a crew of at least 4 friends and relatives who had their crewing duties off in a big way. One would ask her what she needed in the way of food, one saw to any clothes changes while the others sorted the bike. It was remarkably smooth and prompted Bob to comment ' after watching Sitlalli's crew work you should sack us we are pretty crap'. She had had a big off sometime in the evening or night and had broken both brake lever mounts as well as scuffing both knees. Somehow her crew had designed a quite stunning bodge with zip ties supplied by the on site bike tech. Not only did the bodge hold she got up in the morning taped her knees and rode another 2 laps to finish with 7. A quite remarkable achievement all things considered. The day eventually warmed up and we sat cheering on the last remaining riders on the course. We conducted a very rough straw pole of the bike being ridden and came up with the rather surprising discovery that geared full suspension bikes were the most common ( at least the most common still moving on the course between 10-11am) this was somewhat surprising as I have never seen so many singlespeeds in one place before ever. Singlespeeds of all denominations rigid 29er or hardtail were in fact joint second, with geared hardtail. My favorite bikes out on the course were the Pugseys they were just cruising along having some fun a couple of them had stereos mounted somewhere and they'd cruise up behind you playing their tunes and you'd know they were coming and smile while looking for a way to let them passed with the least trouble. They were just plain cool unlike some of the serious 'wannabes' shouting 'wachyerback' as they screamed up behind you. Thankfully they were the exception and everyone else I encountered on the trail was polite, chatty and out to have some fun.

I had a great time I, despite Bob's protests had a great crew to whom I am very grateful and I left the arena tired, very sore arsed, very very dirty and winner of the 'travelled furthest ' prize.

I left my watch in the car charging for one of my laps and garmin says I did 83.54 miles. Enchanted Forest A lap needs adding to that total. Each lap was over 16 miles so with a bit of mathematical wizardry we calculate that I rode just over 100 miles and I have the clunes calosi to prove it.
I finished by saying ' glad I did it but not sure I need to do that again' however in the words of another friend 'the further away from actually doing it I get the more it I like the idea of doing it again.

24 hours later the saddle sores are still sore, I'm still washing dust out of my body, my nose bleeds every time I blow it, my skin is so dry it looks scaly and my lips are so chapped and chafed that even the best lip balm softens them for only about 5 minutes. 

Well worth the effort.