Monday, July 30, 2012

Trip Report: A Very Epic Multi-sport Out-and-Back or, How We Pulled Off the "Mt. Adams Bike-Ski-Epic

A sense of adventure is in the Kona rider's blood.  For me, that sense of adventure is applied over a wide range - from disciplined winter training regimens and traveling the globe to race in a coordinated spandex outfit, to scheming up awesome adventures with my best friends over a cold beer...  

While my teammates are off riding across the Gobi Desert in the Mongolia Bike Challenge, I caught a little adventure bug of my own.  Needing a mental re-charge after a long cross country race campaign, it was time to set aside the interval training for something a bit more novel, perhaps something that had not ever been done before.  As if I hadn't had enough "goal-seeking" this year...I needed to pull off a big one, albeit one that could be pulled off over the course of a single day...  

The plan:

  • Ride mountain bikes from Trout Lake to the Bird Creek Meadows trailhead, carrying climbing and ski gear on back 
  • Climb Mt. Adams
  • Ski down
  • Ride home
Again...perhaps it was first completed long ago by a gristly mountain-man on 3-speed clunker and wooden skis, but having grown up in Trout Lake, I've never heard of such an account.

In all, a 47-odd mile journey, nearly 12,000' of climbing, fit with a dusty 17-mile climb with 40 lbs on our backs, clouds of blood-thirsty mosquitoes, roving troupes of mountain goats, glistening snowfields, and lots of sunny blue sky.  

Prepping the gear at my folk's place in Trout Lake
Some intricate packing to stay light, yet prepared enough for a big-commitment day

Realization setting in...

Trip Participants (l-r): Spencer Paxson, Sarah Butsch, Fred Paxson - making fun of ourselves for what we had lined out for the next day... 

Ready with the gadgets to document the trip...indeed, I couldn't resist bringing the Garmin to capture a little data.  I'll be the first to admit I have the cyclist's "data bug".  For all you other dorks out there, I recorded HR for the moving time of the trip.  If you've ever been wondering what the hrTSS score is for a long day riding, climbing, and skiing a big mountain, mine was about 430.  For reference, that is roughly equivalent to 1 (only 1??!) really hard day in the Tour de France.

Bike Snob would say: Contraption Captain
Sarah ready to go at 5:00AM

The journey at daybreak!
The half-way point looming in the distance, a mere ~23 miles off...

Approaching the end of Phase 1 - Bird Creek Meadows trailhead after 17 miles and 3,500' of climbing.  The mosquitoes became worse and worse, requiring that we ride at a solid tempo pace just to keep our blood!

Transition to foot-travel at Bird Creek Meadows

Instant gratification - Hellroaring Canyon Overlook within 20min

Ready to hit the snow, our climb route obscured by the tree in the stop Sunrise and the base of the Mazama Glacier

Sarah rocking the chains across the snow to Sunrise Camp

Still climbing...Cresting the top of the Mazama Glacier

Just below Piker's Peak (False Summit), a BLM survey marker delineating the Yakama Nation Boundary

And just after 7:00hrs of moving time, ~10hrs total trip time, we reach the summit. Mt. Adams, ~12,300'
beginning the journey back down

Dad showing us how it's done on the way down from the summit.  The snow was atrocious for the first 1,000' vert on a direct southern aspect, but it improved to fast, rippled corn on a more easterly aspect by about 11,000' 

Rolling back over the Mazama - be mindful of large bergschrunds and crevasses!

Down towards the traverse below Suksdorf Ridge

Every last drop! a little low on water by the end of the day

back to Terra firma

...the summit quickly shrinking in the distance during the fast cruise back to Trout Lake Valley

and back home before sunset, cold beer and lots of calories waiting
Certainly...a day well spent

Saturday, July 14, 2012

3 for 3

If I could transmogrify my last three years worth of results at US Mountain Bike Nationals into a blackjack hand, I'd be winning.  Three of a kind, all 7ths.

As in blackjack, these last three attempts at national glory, I have been actively involved in determining my own success, or failure, based on negotiating a series of typical challenges, not limited to: steep hills, rocks, roots, mud, dust, heat, switchbacks, drops, etc.  Unlike blackjack, of course, mountain bike racing is more dynamic. There may not be any mathematically-proven formulas to indicate the best decision in any given event, but there are simple equivalents to 'hit', 'stand', 'double', 'split', or 'surrender'.  Once you get down the basics, that's when you understand why so many say that it is more mental than physical.  At Sun Valley this year, I played a good hand on the physical test, but a weak hand on the mental test.  

I've got to say, standards and expectations change, and this third consecutive seventh was more frustrating than glorifying.  The 2012 Nationals Championships in Sun Valley was arguably the hardest and fastest in recent years (on account of it being a big Olympic year), but I was keen on something better.  I hit my mark, but was looking for another breakthrough.  A quick look back...
The breakthrough, Nationals 2010 - Granby, CO - 7th place

The confirmation, Nationals 2011 - Sun Valley, ID - 7th place
Leading the first climb in 2011

The..."enough of this business, where's the top-5!?, Nationals 2012 - Sun Valley, ID - 7th place...again

Three 7s is still a solid hand, but not good enough for me to cash in!  Consistency is good, but I definitely feel that I am overdue for a stellar result.  After burning so many matches chasing the World Cup this year (not just the racing, but the travel and logistics), my engine is strong, but my mind is in need of that boost that comes with riding at the front of a race, that gratification of stepping onto a podium...more leading, less following!  In some ways I feel I have delayed this opportunity by jumping into the deep end of the pool after only minimal preparation with the water-wings.  At Nationals I felt myself racing somebody else's race, racing on the defense, following, and it held me back.

One week later, after an invigorating work trip to San Francisco and recovery from the Nationals Weekend, I'm back to business in Missoula, MT for the penultimate race of the 2012 Pro XCT Series is in Montana this weekend.  Time to ante up!

Awesome and inspiring to see friend and contemporary Sam Schultz take his first National Championship title - the first championship title of the "new guard" - way to go, Sammy!
My wonderful, ever-supporting parents journeyed out to Sun Valley to check out the race
Kona purple haze on the rock garden mid-race