Saturday, June 27, 2009

El Prieto Canyon

El Prieto Canyon is perhaps the best 2.5 miles of downhill singletrack I've ever experienced in my life (which includes many miles of trails around SLC, Moab, and Northern NM). It is also, conveniently, the closest good mountain biking to my house. It's 8.5 miles of pavement to the Rose Bowl, and then another 4 miles of singletrack to the trailhead (with 1,000ft of climbing in that approach). I could drive my bike to the trailhead, but it's a reasonably pleasant ride and I hate driving places to bike. It really saves me almost no time anyway, since it's a 20 minute drive to the parking lot, 10 minutes wrangling the bike, and another 10 minutes' ride from the parking lot to the trailhead, whereas it only takes me 50 minutes to ride there.

From the trailhead it's a 3 mile, 1,000ft vertical ride up Brown Mountain fireroad with next to no shade. I should mention that it was really hot today (90F). From there it's a little bit of fireroad before the drop in to El Prieto Canyon.

Once in El Prieto Canyon, it's a white-knuckle descent over rock gardens, around tight switchbacks, and through stream crossings. I have never cleared all of this trail, and doubt I ever will. There are a couple of rock-garden switchbacks that are just crazier than I care to be. Still, I continue to clear more and more of it every time I ride it, and today I only had to dab in three places. I did two laps of this as well as a 6 mile fireroad detour up to Brown Mountain, just for a little extra training.

View from Brown Mountain

Depending on the time of year, there are anywhere between 5 and 9 stream crossings (some of them dry up in summer). This is probably the tamest one; most involve rocky downhills and drops into the water. They're refreshing on hot days like today.

This is one of the more spacious switchbacks with a calm lead-in. Note the giant babyhead right in the middle of the ideal line through it, though.

I cleared this switchback for the first time today (on both laps!). The trail comes in from the upper left then switches back and drops down off of that rock ledge. It's always nerve-wracking to take a drop in the middle of a very sharp turn.

Alas, these pictures hardly do it justice, since I was enjoying riding it too much to stop and take very many pictures. Some of the best rock gardens are up to 50ft long and involve long drops so it's nearly impossible to stop in the middle to take pictures. Just take my word (and the word of pretty much the entire LA mtbing community) that this trail is nirvanna.

All in all I ended up doing 40 miles today with 4,000ft of climbing today. There's still a ways to go before I'm really ready for the Tahoe-Sierra 100, but the training is coming along nicely. I'm going to slay this race.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Angeles Crest Ride

I learned several things on my road ride today. In no particular order:

  • It is only about 14 miles and 2000ft of gain from my house to the Angeles Crest Highway (ACH).
  • After being closed at its midpoint due to slides for several years, the ACH is open in its entirety again, meaning we have access to the inner San Gabriels without driving all the way out to the Mojave!
  • I'm in better shape than I realize. The constant 5% grade on the ACH felt like a false flat to me; I rode comfortably up it at 12-13mph.
  • Yuccas are blooming! This is a rare event and I've never managed to catch it before:
Happy yuccas! It doesn't seem so great until you realize that thing is 15ft tall.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

REI Used Gear Sale

Oh wow. I just bought a pair of Marker Baron AT bindings for $6.83. They were returned for "missing parts", which means that seven of the mounting screws are missing. They are otherwise perfect, brand new, never before mounted AT bindings normally sold for over $350 on sale.

Sometimes it pays to live in SoCal where people don't know anything about outdoor gear.

Yes, it's silly to have bought these since my current AT bindings are just fine and lighter to boot, and the direction I really want to go is lighter weight with Dynafits, but $6.83 for AT bindings? I am not going to pass that up.

So Jeannie, I'll probably want to hit up a ski shop while I'm in Tahoe and get some mounting screws for Marker bindings...

UPDATE: Blast, they're too small for my boots! Well, I have two choices now: sell them or get Carie into AT skiing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Racing Revision

I didn't end up racing in Santa Barbara on Sunday. I spent all day Saturday shampooing the carpets, didn't get to bed until late, and didn't want to spend an entire day away when Carie's leaving in less than a week. Basically, I didn't feel like it.

Instead of racing, I spent the day in deep introspection. First, I realized that my goal of qualifying for Nats this year may not be realistic, and even if it is it probably won't be fun. I'm finishing mid- to front-pack in my division now. I have yet to finish top five in this division, never mind win a race (I finished top 6 in every race in a lower division, but still never actually won a race). It's the middle division in collegiate, perfectly respectable. If I move up to the top division, I will get my clock cleaned. I'd rather spend a few races in my current division in the fall and see if I can land on the top step of the podium before I spend my time racing people who's ambition is to turn pro.

I also realized that I'll be going up to Tahoe once for the Tahoe-Sierra 100 race and again a couple weeks later for the UNR race. Going up a third time would probably be imposing on Jeannie's hospitality.

Finally, I spent some time on Google maps and realized that it's not that far a ride to the trailhead for one of my favorite trails. I set out and discovered that it's 8 miles on road and 3 miles on singletrack, not a bad approach at all. It only takes about 50 minutes if I take it fairly easy, whereas it was a 20 minute drive before. Loading the bike into the car is a pain and I'll totally take a ride from home any day. I think I just figured out what I'm going to do on weekends when Carie is gone.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Race Pictures

The race photographers actually ended up getting some good shots of me. It's more than I want to spend on pictures, but they make me almost look good. I like the third one the best.

I race again this Sunday in Santa Barbara; I won't have to deal with altitude and hopefully can avoid nails, so I have high hopes.