Monday, August 31, 2015

wind out of the south

While we had had a pleasant cool-down the week before, hot temperatures have returned to northern Utah, especially on Saturday as a constant wind blew in from the south, bringing heat and dryness with it.  There's a lot of weather activity building out over the Pacific, however, so that may bring moisture and cooler temperatures our way soon (and then hopefully lots and lots of lows/troughs for snow in the winter).  Regardless, it was definitely warmer for our MTB ride than it has been for us lately.

We got on the trail a little before 9:30 a.m. and even though 10 a.m. seems to be the go-to start time for Park City guided MTB rides, we really didn't see that many people out on the trails.  There were a bunch of dog walkers at the start - including one wonderfully trained off-leash standard poodle who, when he saw me coming, got off the trail and sat down without his owner telling him - and then just a few MTBers heading up the sagebrush switchbacks of Ramble On while we were going down.  What we did have a whole lot of was that wind: gusty and hot, not cooling at all.  It was in our faces for the outbound portion of the paved bike path; I had unrealistic hopes that that meant we would have a tailwind for the return.  (Spoiler:  it was not to be.)

Motoring down Valderoad

Although I had a couple of spastic bike handling moments, I rode pretty well: staying right on H's wheel for the climb up the My Nemesis hill and moving pretty well through the newer section of trail (not quite "flowing" but close-ish), although the middle step of the Staircase was a bit of a struggle.  H, of course, looked strong even when his rear wheel spun a bit in the middle of Hammerhead (he needs a new tire, obviously.)  When we finished the dirt track, heading back towards town on the paved bike path, I was dismayed - but not surprised, not really - to note that the wind had shifted enough that we had a bit of a headwind, warm and gusty.  (Seriously, tailwinds are more elusive than unicorns.)  It made us thirsty, pedaling uphill into the wind, so thirsty that we had to drink our post-ride beers in the parking lot, rather than waiting to go to the picnic spot.  It's important to stay hydrated, y'all.  We drink beer for science.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

herbie goes hiking

On Sunday, H was eager to get out on his road bike (his work schedule has been pretty frantic lately and he hasn't been able to ride as much as he would like) so Herbie and I went up to Millcreek Canyon for a hike.  We had never really been able to take B hiking because she didn't care for other dogs; I was interested to see how Herbie might do.  Millcreek Canyon is off-leash on odd-numbered days, so I knew there would be lots of dogs all over the place.  Since Herbie is both part basset hound and also new, I would be keeping him on-leash so he wouldn't run off.

Hiking is thirsty work 

I decided to go up Bowman Fork for this first hiking foray.  The trail, while steeper in spots than I recalled, is hard-packed dirt, very comfortable for walking, and mostly shaded, at least as far as we were going to go.  There is also a nice stream along the trail for much of the way although I brought a water bottle and collapsible bowl for Herbie.  B used to be fussy about where she drank and I didn't know if he would be too.

View from White Fir Pass

We got started a little after 8:00 a.m., parking in the small lot across from the road to the Terraces picnic area.  We started meeting dogs right away.  I was a little nervous about it at first, not really knowing how Herbie would react, but he was overjoyed to meet everyone - both people and dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs ... he liked them all, trading sniffs to say hello and then continuing to tow me up the trail.  The only times that he didn't seem entirely at ease were when a pack of five dogs were interested in him all at once and then, later, when a less-friendly dog showed her teeth to him.  But there was no growling or snarling or fighting, which was great.

Ready to keep hiking

We stopped at what I think is White Fir Pass.  I'm not sure how far that pass is exactly: I didn't bring the GPS and the guidebook says it's only 1.5 miles from the trailhead, but it felt further than that.  Herbie happily had some water and dog biscuits and then we headed back down, making more dog friends as we went.  We ended up meeting some 35 different dogs all told.

This is such a dorky photo - I love it

The hike took us about 2.5 hours.  Herbie would have kept going for miles further - we do need to do some leash training because he does pull a bit, especially when he wants to go see another dog - but as we perched in the back of the car for my post-hike beer, he sat calmly, and then laid down, and then put his head down.  And by the time we were headed out of the canyon, he was sound asleep.  He seems to adhere to Newton's First Law: Herbie in motion stays in motion, but Herbie at rest stays at rest.

Crashed for the car ride home

Sunday, August 23, 2015

round and round we go

After putting Herbie in the crate with some snacks, water and his nylabone, we headed out for a quick breakfast (at the Cottonwood Heights Cafe, now on Highland Drive) and some MTBing.  We were early enough that the temperature was fairly cool (plus all the smoke in the sky kept the sun from being too strong).  While the bike path was busy - and the roadways full of cyclists riding the National Ability Center's Summit Challenge - we didn't encounter a soul on Round Valley's trails until halfway through our ride.  I haven't been doing much but walking Herbie (which is still 3-4 miles a day but not running) so my legs felt less strong than they have; H has managed to get back on his road bike a decent amount this past week, however, so he was riding pretty well.

We paused for a moment, as we always do, before starting up the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks.  A tour guide and two guys got in front of us while we were standing there, so we gave them a few minutes before starting up.  I told H that he'd catch them no problem.  Hell, I caught them!  It was at the second of the two switchbacks I am still unable to ride, a very rocky one that gave H a tumble once.  The two guys were standing off to the side of the trail as I hiked my MTB up (their guide was out in the underbrush, taking a leak).  One of the guys asked me if I was with "Portland."  It took me a second to realize that H must have spoken to them and then I said yes, to which the guys replied that they were from Bangor, Maine, here for a banking conference.  I grinned at them and remarked that it was tougher to ride so far above sea level and they both laughed, admitting that t hey were struggling with the altitude.  I promised them that while they still had some climbing to do, the worst was behind them.  And then I got back on my bike and showed them how it was done.

Making my way up #15 of sixteen

The trails were busier for the second half of our ride and there was a stiff headwind for the final grind up the paved bike path back to the truck.  We knew we needed to get back to let Herbie out of his crate so we had our beers quickly in the parking lot and ate our sandwiches and snacks as we drove over Guardsman Pass (choked full of clueless people who thought it was okay to park in the middle of the road) back to home.  When we let Herbie out, after nearly six hours in his crate, he was none the worse for wear and happy to take a 3+ mile walk with me.  To top it all off, Real Salt Lake finally  won a game that night - so it was a very good day all around.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

herbie, maybe

After we said goodbye to B at the end of December, we decided that we would try to take a break from being dog owners for a while.  We weren't sure how long we would last - we were only dog-less for three months between losing H's first dog Y and bringing B home - but we thought we should give it a try, take advantage of not having to hurry home after work, go away for a weekend without booking a kennel.  We did okay with that for a while ... until one of H's co-workers, who volunteers for a local rescue group, started emailing him photos of new arrivals to the rescue.  We hemmed and hawed for a while, then completed the application and underwent the home visit.  Last Saturday, we stopped by one of the rescue's foster families and brought Herbie home with us for a test run.

Herbie loves belly-rubs

Herbie is a 2.5 year old mutt, part basset hound/part who-knows-what.  He is equal parts cute and funny-looking, with short legs (but not as short as most bassets).  He doesn't have those long basset ears or droopy jowls. I think he looks like a dachshund on steroids.  He is super-sweet and friendly; whenever we walk, he is just positive that every person he sees wants to be his new best friend.  He apparently likes other dogs too as he went to daycare while at the foster home.  He loves walks and has yet to be tired out by them - those little legs move really quickly.  Those legs don't move AT ALL when he doesn't want to do something, however.  That's when Stubborn Herbie comes out, in all his basset hound glory.  (He is small enough at 38 pounds that we can pick him up and move him, so being stubborn only gets you so far.)


He's pretty smart - has learned the phrase "you wanna go outside?" already - and we have already learned not to leave food unattended.  For the first couple of days he wouldn't jump up on the furniture but now, since he is acclimating and relaxing a bit, he'll hop up on the bed, wriggle around and then give a look that says, "Now what are you going to do with me?"  He unabashedly sticks his nose into any gap in any fence we walk by and he is definitely a city dog since he prefers to walk on the sidewalk rather than grass or dirt.  He doesn't like plush or squeaky toys (thank goodness) but loves one of B's hand-me-down nylabones.

More snoozing (he's a good sleeper)

The first few days with Herbie haven't been completely glitch-free, however.  He had an upset tummy, likely due to stress and a change in dog food, so the first day he was home alone (locked in the mudroom, thankfully) was a bit messy when poor H got home from work.  Since then we have been crating him and that seems to be working a bit better.  A neighbor has told us that he hears some barking during the day although when we come back in the house, Herbie sits quietly in the crate, waiting to be let out.   It is important that he is comfortable being home by himself and not stressed by it.  His former family had a stay-at-home mom and so this is all brand new to him.

Those eyes!

At this point, because of the uncertainty of his being able to tolerate being alone, we are still fostering him.  We would really love for it to work out because he seems like such a sweet boy, and we miss having a dog in our lives, but we need to make sure to do what's best for him.  We hope that means us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

rolling along

We hit the Round Valley trails again on Saturday.  H had been back east for work the whole week and he said he could feel the time spent at sea level as we pedaled along.  As for me, I had come down with a summertime cold starting on Thursday and was finding it difficult to focus amid all the sniffling and nose-blowing.  Summertime colds are stupid.

Coming out of Rambler's sagebrush switchbacks
Descending towards the start of the My Nemesis climb

Because we were trying to time things for an afternoon appointment, we got started a little bit on the later side, on the rail trail around 9:30 a.m.  We thought that the Park City temperatures were a little warmer than we thought they'd be but the light breeze was nice.  We didn't encounter many people on the trails for the first half of the ride; the second half was a little busier, as the local shops' tours made their way into the foothills.  I met one couple as I was straining my way up the Sweet Sixteen switchbacks; as I took a wrong line and gutted it out over the rocks, they cheered me on, "You can do it! You look strong!"  I'm pretty sure I looked anything but strong - wheezing and coughing and snuffling - but the sentiment was appreciated.

We paused for snacks at our picnic spot, watching several hawks dive-bombing the fields in search of small, furry prey.  It wasn't as clear as we like to see it - several Utah wildfires, plus the ones on the West Coast, are filling our skies with smoky haze - but it was still pleasant enough for a summer afternoon.

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 tour of utah - stage 7

Stage 7 (8/9/15) Park City to Park City, 78 miles with 7,806 feet elevation gain.  Continuing the trend of the last couple years, we did our ride at Round Valley before the final Tour of Utah stage.  Although we were a little later than we have been, there weren't too many people out on the trails (and no cranky trail runners).  The storm that swept through Friday night tamped down the dust a bit and there were only a couple of puddle-y spots to avoid.  As we left the Quinn's area, we noticed a couple of police cars blocking an intersection in advance of the race start; we rode up to them and perched on the guardrail for a bit, getting front row seats to the peloton as it whooshed out of Park City towards Wasatch County.

Not a Tour of Utah cyclist

The route took them out to Peoa and Oakley, through Kamas, Heber and Midway, before climbing up and over Empire Pass (a 10-km climb that averages a 10% grade, with a couple of pitches over 20%).  The riders then descended down through Deer Valley, reversing what they had just climbed the day before, taking a hard left into downtown Park City and ending with an uphill finish on Main Street.

That's right, I'm a cowgirl

There were an awful lot of people in town this year.  We took maybe a little too much time walking around and were unable to get spectator spots right along the barricade this year (thus the lack of photos).  We were able to watch the jumbotron (mostly) and the race soon got exciting, with local boy Tanner Putt making an early break on the Empire Pass climb, only to be sucked back in by a group of 9-12 riders, most of whom were solid GC contenders.  This group crested the summit together and then started the mad descent, but Brent Bookwalter soon distanced himself, careening down the mountain at speeds over 60 m.p.h.  We all thought Bookwalter was going to win the stage but Aussie Lachlan Norris caught him with 3 km to go; it was a wild uphill sprint to the finish, with Norris just edging out the American.  The rest of that lead group weren't too far behind - Michael Woods had a big crash just as they turned left onto Main Street - and Joe Dombrowski sealed the deal as the yellow jersey winner and overall 2015 Tour of Utah champion.

Stage 7 podium

Stage podium:  Lachlan Norris (Australia, Drapac); Brent Bookwalter; Natnael Berhane.  General classification: Joe Dombrowski; Michael Woods; Brent Bookwalter.  Sprinter: Brent Bookwalter.  KOM: Gregory Daniel (USA, Axeon Cycling).  Best Young Rider: Daniel Martinez (Colombia).  Most Aggressive:  Natnael Berhane.  Fan Favorite: Taylor Phinney. Team standings: Colombia; BMC Racing; Hincapie Racing.

ToU GC podium

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015 tour of utah - stage 6

Saturday morning found H back in the office and me out doing a loop run from our house, but by 12:30 p.m. we were packed and heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon to watch Stage 6 of the Tour of Utah.  They weren't going to close the road until around 2:30 p.m., so we had plenty of time to get into place; traffic was steady; there were lots of Ultimate Challenge folks grinding up the hill; and Tanners Flats was starting to get their party on.  It was great to see all the spectators out there, clinging to the roadsides to cheer the riders on.

We nabbed a parking spot in one of the lower Snowbird lots and walked up to where the festivities were happening.  After doing a walk-through of the vendor tents, we again found a spot along the barricades across from a jumbotron.  It was 150 meters from the finish line but we would be able to see the approach and they were running the live streaming footage on the big screen so we could watch the race as it happened.

Crazy-hair up at the Bird

Stage 6 (8/8/15) SLC to Snowbird, 110 miles with 12,959 feet of elevation gain.  I love this stage.  It is such a monster - look how many feet they climbed!  The route was fairly similar to last year's: the start changed, heading out from right downtown SLC, then up and over Emigration Canyon and Big Mountain, through Morgan County to Park City, up through Deer Valley, over Guardsman Pass and down Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Then it was the heartbreak of that Wasatch Boulevard hill by the 7-Eleven, the slog up to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and then, to add insult to injury, the climb up to Snowbird.

A couple riders got out in front during the BCC descent, including Ben King who held his own until about a third of the way up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Then, with other General Classification contenders trying to stake their claims, Joe Dombrowksi broke out of the group and flew up the hill, definitively winning the stage and moving into the yellow jersey for the GC, a full fifty seconds ahead of previous leader Michael Woods.  Joe scarcely seemed to be working hard.  Actually, many of the early finishers looked like they were doing pretty well - I think the cooler temperatures must have limited the suffer-fest somewhat.

Stage 6 jerseys

Stage podium:  Joe Dombrowski (USA/Cannondale-Garmin); Michael Woods; Natnael Berhane (Eritrea, MTN-Qhubeka).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2015 tour of utah - stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

I can't believe that we just watched our sixth Tour of Utah.  What a great event this is continuing to be.  Last week, northern Utah hosted the Tour with mixed weather and good crowds.  There were fewer really big names this year - Chris Horner was riding but Tommy Danielson withdrew due to a suspicious doping result - but that didn't stop the fans from coming out.  Like last year, we were only able to attend the last two stages in person.  Here's what happened in the first five stages:

Stage 1 (8/3/15) Logan to Logan, 132 miles and 6,553 feet elevation gain.  To start things off, there was a KOM (King of the Mountain) in Logan Canyon at 7,799 feet. The route then descended around Bear Lake, climbed back up to Garden City and then a long descent back to Logan with a couple of circuit before the finish.  Stage podium:  Kiel Reijnen (USA, UnitedHealthcare); Alex Howes (USA, Cannondale-Garmin); Taylor Phinney (USA, BMC Racing).

Stage 2 (8/4/15) Tremonton to Ogden, 100 miles and 4,630 feet elevation gain.  The cyclists cruised the "Fruit Highway" in rural Box Elder County, then climbed Ogden Canyon (10% average gradient), circled Pineview Reservoir and then climbed the North Ogden Divide before descending into Ogden, again doing several in-town circuits with a finish on historic 25th Street.  Stage podium:  Jure Kocjan (Slovenia, Team SmartStop); Robin Carpenter (USA, Hincapie Racing); Brent Bookwalter (USA, BMC Racing).

Stage 3 (8/5/15) Antelope Island State Park to Bountiful, 109 miles with 6,400 feet elevation gain.  Unlike so many Utah locals, the riders actually got out to Antelope Island, then crossed the causeway, heading for North Ogden.  They did a KOM on the North Ogden Divide (again), then descended into the Eden valley, riding past Pineview Reservoir (again) and ending in Bountiful with two nine mile circuits that included a climb up the benches.  Stage podium:  Logan Owen (USA, Axeon Cycling); Brent Bookwalter; Edwin Avila (Columbia).

Stage 4 (8/6/15) Soldier Hollow to Soldier Hollow, 127 miles and 8,173 feet elevation gain.  This is where the climbing started kicking into gear.  After starting in Soldier Hollow, there was a KOM at Daniels Summit, then flattening out a bit past Strawberry Reservoir.  There was another KOM after a ten mile, Cat. 2 climb up to Wolf Creek Pass (elev. 9,300 feet), then descending into Woodland and returning to the start.  Stage podium:  Eric Young (USA, Optum); Dion Smith (New Zealand, Hincapie Racing); Jure Kocjan.

Stage 5 (8/7/15) Salt Lake City circuits, 55 miles and 4,921 feet elevation gain.  This is a great stage for fans as the riders rush around and around within the city limits.  The course changed slightly this year: instead of climbing the 11% grade of State Street up to the state capitol, the riders had to climb the 20% grade of Wall Street and Zane Avenue up to the state capitol.  They did seven laps and it was won on the final stretch, with Canadian Michael Woods charging up the hill for his first big win AND the yellow jersey.  (And then minutes after the race concluded, a huge lightning and wind storm swept through the area.)  Stage podium:  Michael Woods (Canada, Optum); Sonny Colbrelli (Italy, Bardiani CSF); Kiel Reijnen.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


I mean, we aren't slackers exactly because we have jobs and we have been doing stuff, but I'm a slacker in that I don't have my Tour of Utah posts pulled together yet.  Soon - next day or so, I promise.  Please bear with me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

the running of the trail

In an attempt to understand trail runners better, I decided to go up to Alta Sunday afternoon and do some trail running myself.  Here's what I learned: running at elevations of 9,000+ feet is really quite a lot more difficult than running at about 4,500'.  I planned my route carefully, deciding to go up to Catherine's Pass via Albion Basin (i.e., the usual route).  But instead of going across the top of Catherine's Area to Supreme and then down the access road, I decided to retrace my steps back and then go out along the Summer Road.  My thinking was that both the access road from the peak of Supreme and the main trail through Sunnyside are fairly steep with loose gravel underfoot - challenging footing for a neophyte trail runner, especially one with not-so-good balance.  Even though taking the Summer Road back to the parking lot would be longer, it wasn't so steep and would be solid to run on.

I made pretty good time going up to Catherine's Pass but I must admit that I was unable to run any of the uphill.  The steepness of the trail and the elevation was just too much, even for so slow a runner as I am.  (I did still pass lots of people while walking, however.)  Once at the pass, I tightened my shoe laces and ran back down, gingerly picking my footing in the rockier spots.  The trail is mostly hard-packed dirt, though, which is wonderful to run on.  When I got back to the trail head, I turned right and continued down the Summer Road.  Which ended up being much longer than I remembered.  I ran the whole thing, getting back to the car just as some raindrops started to sprinkle down.

That night, I could definitely tell that I had done something different, hopping around on the uneven footing.  My hips were tight, which doesn't usually happen when I hike, and two days later, my quads and IT bands were still quite sore.  I really liked it, though.  Trail running is like MTBing for me in that I really have to concentrate on what I'm doing so I don't fall.  I like having my brain engaged like that.  Running and biking on trails is also so much more interesting to me than running and biking on roads.  I would like to incorporate more trail running into my regular exercise routine - I just need to do it enough that I don't need three days to recover from it!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

in which i can't think of a title but we went mtbing

H had gone for a road ride Friday night, one that was a bit longer than he's been doing lately.  He didn't eat anything before heading out and ended up bonking about ten miles out from home.  He made it back just fine but he was pretty beat for the rest of the evening and the next morning, he admitted that his legs were still a little fatigued.  Great! I said, let's go MTBing!  We got on the trail in Park City a little after 9 a.m. and I was hopeful that Round Valley wouldn't be too busy at that time; on the drive in, we passed field after field after field of youth soccer tournaments, plus the Park City Kimball Arts Festival was in full swing - maybe folks would be off doing those things and not on the trails.  As it happened, the trails were not crowded at all.  There were a few MTBers (we saw the same three-person tour group five different times), some dog walkers and a handful of trail runners.

I struggle with trail runners.  The general rules are: downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic, bicyclists yield to pedestrians, and everyone yields to horses.  But when I'm hiking/running, I always step aside for MTBers, regardless of who is going uphill, because it's easier for me since I'm on foot and not wrangling a bike.  On Saturday, as we were riding downhill towards Hammerhead, two runners were coming up; I pulled over but they waved me through with a smile.  Later, while we were going down the backside of Rambler, I pulled over twice to let runners come up the hill past me, despite their telling me I could come through, and then each of them thanked me.  But while climbing towards Rambler's sixteen switchbacks, I came upon two trail runners coming down.  It was a narrow bit of trail but easy for them to step off, and I was going uphill.  I didn't pull over for them and they yelled at me about it.  **shrug**

Cruising up the Nouvelle Loop

As far as the ride went, I felt like I climbed pretty well, while H was definitely riding slower than he usually does.  There also was no headwind for the final climb back to the truck which put me in a very good mood.  Since it was a beautiful day, we stopped at our picnic stop post-ride.  A hummingbird buzzed us for about a minute, checking out my pink watch and the red of the taillights and on the PBR cans.  And just as we were finishing up, a Nuaquos truck pulled up and handed us a couple of sports drinks.  They were just driving around, stopping at trailheads and giving out their product.  They took our picture - since we were looking all sporty, sitting in front of our dirty MTBs - and took off.  Our guess: they only took our photo since we were wearing hats and they couldn't tell how old we really are.