One would assume, having entered the ‘real world,’ I would play less make believe.
Yet, the only consistent pastime at my four big-boy jobs has been the jotting down of ideas, all of which are undergirded by childlike dreams, into random google docs. At 4:00 PM, when the gods of productivity clock out, leaving all of their minions to work another hour, I have made it a habit to dutifully edify my soul’s dreams in the comforting space of an open document, filled with links to hikes, bike routes, races, and blogs of people who have completed all of them. Consider it my way of resisting the temptation of spending the final hour of my day scrolling on Amazon (free craigslist for me….when I do succumb to the pull) or through emails to people sitting twenty feet from me. The end line has changed – grizzlies.adams.edu to alamosa.k12 to maine.edu to lakecounty.net to adams12.org. ….(wow….that is too many)…. but the ethos has remained unscathed. A quick search in my Drive will reveal titles such as “Ryan and Christie plans,” or “Training Camp 2016” or “Epic Bike routes.” Folders with titles such as “Bike Across Colorado Trip” or “Bike Across Minnesota Trip” are squeezed between “Honor Choir Ideas” and “Grades.”
My yearning to experience Colorado, to go on adventures, to feel a sense of purpose as each cent of the day is invested in an “official” undertaking, even if it is for a make-believe team sponsored by a make-believe website (….wait a minute…), all while juxtaposing long training rides with relaxing campfires or total silence for three, sweaty hours on a bike with meaningful conversations with my wife in a cozy, clean sleeping bag, can all be contained in a single phrase in our house – “training camp.” What is ‘training camp?’ That’s hard to answer, to be honest, because, like many of my child hood dreams, they have remained just that – a figment of my imagination. By God’s providence, various events and distractions have always put these trips on hold. Turns out a display of deft hyperlinking skills of GPS route files, apres-skis sites, and potential campground – and, get this going so far as to actually SHARING said documents with my wife through google – has not resulted in any official Seder-Skier training trip.
Fasterskier.com reports: “The Seder-Skier.com Ski Classics Team summer training camp was this past week in the high mountains of Colorado. Many hours were logged, technique was casually addressed, books were consumed, as were copius amounts of bran flakes, burritos, and coffee. We’ll see if it pays off in fitness gains come the Equinox 100k Challenge, but nobody is holding their breath.”
Could you tell that was a fake press release? See, I just have too much fun playing make believe.
I’m probably getting a little to ‘wordsmithy’ (Doug Wilson would be proud) as I regale you with the historic context of training camps in the lore of our marriage. You are likely more interested in the raw data – what I did, how hard my heart was pumping as I did it, etc. Well, first, since this is a blog, I figured I better a lay a little bit of background. That way, maybe you will appreciate everything a bit more – and realize it isn’t just working out that gets the heart pumping in life.
Last fall, we purchased the SederSkier Sprinter 2000 – a 2005 Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter Van. As we handed over the largest sum of cash I’ve held at one time to strangers in a dark parking lot in Grand Junction (it wasn’t that bad), I felt a little bit like I was signing a contract which would allow a doctor to saw off my right arm. We proceeded to drive away in our treehouse on wheels, another quintessentially adventurous leap typical to the Christie-Ryan union. (My favorite of these adventures has its a label which would make the producers of ABC’s “Lost” proud – The Maine Experiment – it almost sounds like a secret government FBI document/file.)
Devoid of standard amenities, this was and still is not, your standard Boulder, Colorado, 100k sprinter van. Unlike those rigs, complete with a steam room, wifi, massage parlor, 72-inch plasma, and custom storage for that $5,600 roadbike, our van’s primary luxury is a built in garbage disposal which doubles as a cute canine companion. Enoch, (a name which hopefully, by linking with the man who never tasted death in the Bible, will carry a prescient weight) in his (their? what is the pronoun for our van?) original state, came equipped with a twin size bed that would dislodge from its precarious position and crash to the floor if you drove too fast over bumps, along with terrible excuses for insulation, which sat behind a thin piece of poor excuses for a walls (which were slowing peeling off)……and that was pretty much it. All fall and winter, if it was -3 outside the van, it probably was -5 in the van, unless you passed gas in the sleeping bag, a tactic not advised for those wishing to love their wives in accordance with Ephesians 5.
These were the accommodations for the past season, and to me, it felt like heaven on earth. I loved the sense of adventure of being in the van, sleeping wherever and whenever – even on the interstate as we drove home to Minnesota. There is a unique sense of pride pulling into a race venue, USSPC emblazoned on the side, in “Enoch” (did I mention this van is going to never die….). It all seems so official. Like maybe this ski team dream is real.
Scraping my skis in the City Market parking lot (future sponsor), sitting in the middle chair with the feet up between marathon races at the Alley Loop, book and oatmeal in hand, or tucking in for the night as the thermometer drops below O degrees (fahrenheit for all of you European followers…ok…the rest of the world, I get it……) is all “part of the experience.” It is like boundary water canoeing – only for skiing. A week after a race where I narrowly missed the top of the podium, a friend and I were skiing together and he said something along the lines of, “Well, I know you like your van, but it probably isn’t ideal for pre-race rest – compared to the local racers who got to sleep in their own beds that is.”
How dare he say such a thing! I rebuked him as I covered Enoch’s ears.
This summer, the goal was to bring a bit more Madison Avenue to our accommodations. Seeing that I am about as useful of a tool for DIY projects as a typewriter is for a standard earthworm (Dave Berry would now be proud….which writer is next?), I researched, read blogs, devised a plan (I guess I did some helpful work) and put forth the plan to my dad. In the world of DIY projects, he is more like Pele. Or Johannes Klaebo. Mmmmmm….maybe Jackrabbit Johansen. (A little more Scandinavian sensibility and less barbie doll looks). Enlisting the help of my dad and father-in-law, Enoch got a major facelift: wall-to-wall bed in the back (with plenty of room for another queen mattress below), a nice counter and drawer area, super thick insulation behind repainted walls, a working solar/battery and functioning shore power set-up, a Thule (free craigslist) cargo box, a Thule bike rack (craigslist….not free), and a re-bolted middle seat (baby-Seder will now be safe). We also found some excellent “ad-ons” on free craigslist and various thrift/antique stores which were just waiting to be tested – most of which had to do with coffee. They will make appearances later on.
All that was left to do was organize a training camp….or, what most people would simply call, a camping trip. Not here – everything has a distinct, focused purpose. Training camp. Are we getting ice cream? I suppose (protein/recovery….not too different than yogurt, right?), but make sure you find the best deal, bark until you get the biggest two scoops, and look for a flavor you won’t find anywhere else.
And so, with that proper introduction in place, let’s get to the parts you really care about:
Note: The first two ‘days’ of the training camp were actually spent in Leadville, but I wrote them in on account of the fact that they included some awesome workouts which went along with the general theme of pushing myself for a short, mini-block of time. We also had to take a side trip to Frisco for an appointment, and, though we stopped at home before heading out for good, by including those days, our streak of sleeping in the van was extended. Thus, in reality, the camping trip was more of a Thursday night – Monday afternoon….but the training camp was roughly 8 days.
AM – 3×10 min + 1 x 5 min (3-4 minute easy skate recovery) L3 skate rollerski. Hard efforts were completed on the uphill portions of the Mineral Belt. Easy/recovery was completed on the downhill. 2 hours and 15 minutes of total skating.
PM – 1 hour 50 minute easy bike ride around Leadville
This was my second hard (L3 and above) ski workout of the summer. My body is still learning the difference between skiing “fast” and skiing “hard.” This is different from running, and with that sport as my background, it has taken some getting used to. While fitness gains are great, I’m more concerned with improving my technique and balance. If I can improve those aspects on rollerskis, I give my engine a space to play when the snow falls. Having made the conscience decision to reduce my time on rollerskis – I want to intentionally diversify and mix things up through running and biking – when I am on rollerskis, I look to challenge myself in specific ways.
AM – 2 hr run – up and down Mosquito Pass, starting at the beginning of the gravel on 7th street. Had to walk a few sections on the uphill. (picture above)
PM – 90 minutes of very easy DP in Leadville.
This has been on the bucket list for Leadville routes for quite a while, and I finally just went out the door and did it. I took only my phone…and my dog….Though, my phone ran down to 2% battery at the top, so I shut that off after getting a few pictures. I couldn’t believe how shredded my quads were on the downhill portion of this run. It was three or four days before the feeling of tenderness to the touch finally receded.
Day 3 – First day of camping!
AM – 2.5 hour mountain bike up Homestake Road
PM – Off – We spent the afternoon in Frisco, going to various shops, reading books, taking naps, etc. We also splurged and went out to eat, the first time in a long time that we have taken ourselves out on our own dime. For camping, we spent the night along highway 9, north of Silverthorne. There is a spot along the river where we stayed probably five years ago. The whole evening was a bit of a drag, as we were hoping to not pay for any of our camping (we would discover the next morning that we could have parked for free at the start of the trail we were planning on using on Day 4!!!), but there was a very fun thunderstorm to cozy up to through the night.
Day 4 – Night on Cottonwood Pass
AM – 2.5 hour rollerski (1.5 DP + 1 skate) in Frisco
PM – 45 minute run at the top of Cottonwood Pass + short hike with Christie
While Christie and Ajee did a short hike and then napped, I double poled up the Frisco recreation path and back. Christie had a doctor’s appointment, which is what we were sticking around Frisco for to begin with, and I added some skating time while she was there.
Then, a quick stop home to answer emails, do some work, pack up, and drive out to Cottonwood Pass. Upon our arrival at the top of the continental divide, a thunderstorm and dark clouds moved in. We walked to the lookout spot, but Christie was feeling pretty fatigued from the long day. I took Ajee on an absolutely stunning run atop the divide. It was all along a ridge – fantastic views. My quads were hurting a bit from the Mosquito Pass challenge, so I was not going particularly fast; it is an area I’d like to explore a bit further another time. Deciding to run was more about getting Ajee’s zoomies out than any particular workout purpose.
Once I got back, I felt the totality of a van/hippie/revitalize spirit byway of a soak bath. Christie had heated up some water for me, and by soaking a towel and squeezing it over my head, a shower effect was perfectly recreated. We ate some grub, cuddled up in the bed, looked out at the incredible view, and fell asleep to the pitter patter of rain on the van. This was one of the coolest locations I’ve slept at.
Day 5 – Cumberland Pass and the Travel Perc…
Tin Cup/Cottonwood Pass
Morning is only a happy greeting if it contains blue skies, mountain views, a perfect road, and coffee. As you can see, we had three of the four. Using the TravelPerc, a $2.50 garage sale purchase, handed down to us from whomever attended the Leadville Lutheran church prior to 1973, required a small learning curve. You can see here that it plugs into both a 120v standard plug in and a 12v car plug in. Despite it’s age – or, if you are someone that believes things ‘aren’t made the way they used to be made,’ BECAUSE of it’s age – the TravelPerc fired right up and got to work. Christie was a little nervous we would start to burn the van down if we let it percolate for too long and she decided to unplug early.This would be our grave mistake, as the coffee I drank at the bottom was more of a brownish, stevia flavored water. It was enough to get the engine primed, however, and set us up for a great day of exploring out of Taylor Park Reservoir.
A word about that area – this is basically WE Fest for side-by-siders. Well, maybe WE Fest is WE Fest for side-by-siders, now that I think of it. Poor analogy (now Doug Wilson is NOT so impressed). Anyway, there were a lot of side-by-sides out there. Families, kids, guys, gals, people with hats, people without hair, people with way too long of hair – everyone was on a fourwheel, dunebuggy, jeep, etc. Of course, their toys were hauled up and over the pass in some monstrous camping/truck setups. I normally marvel at the amount of “camper-watching” (as opposed to “people watching,” an activity typical while at Starbucks or the Twin Cities mega-mall) which takes place all across Colorado, and this was certainly that, albeit of a slightly different color. I’m guessing the nordic skiers who follow my blog are feeling their blood boil a bit as they read this, wondering what sort of consequences the environment will feel because of all that is being described. Let it be known that I came to ride my bike, and ride my bike I did.
AM – Cumberland Pass Mtb ride (3 hours)
PM – 1 hour run on Trail 414/Continental Divide Trail
After reconvening at the van for breakfast together, Christie and I drove back up to Cottonwood Pass (we actually did a little exploring north on 742 first), and found ourselves a pull-off next to a hiking trail. We had hoped to hike together, but it stormed for the next several hours. Finally, feeling the need to get Ajee out for some exercise so that she, and consequently we, could sleep that night, I took her on a jog along the trail, puddles and all. Ajee was in absolute heaven, tearing through puddles, chasing squirrels, and periodically and regularly, though likely absent-mindedly, checking on her human to make sure he was coming. After a nice dinner, it was time for bed.
Day 6 – Climb up Cottonwood
Cottonwood Pass/Buena Vista
AM – 2 hour skate rollerski up Cottonwood Pass, starting at Taylor’s Resevoir (20k of distance, approximately 2,400 feet of climb).
It is always fun to arbitrarily position yourself underneath the weight of a self-imposed challenge, don’t you think? For Christie and I, I’m afraid these quests are starting to constitute the bread-and-butter of our marriage. Our partnership through various Seder-Skier endurance tests has led to shared experiences, and when you really think about it, a great litmus test for the depth of a marriage are inside jokes which are ultimately derived from shared experiences…..”hey, remember that time you SAG-wagoned me up and over the mountain pass and told the Swift trucker to watch out for your rollerskiing husband? ‘Don’t worry,’ you said, ‘you can’t miss him – he looks like a preying mantis trapped in 1.5 inch shorts.'”
The Cottonwood Pass challenge would be the centerpiece in this regard, for this summer’s training camp. The call: to ski from the start of the fresh pavement (about 1 mile from the Taylor Park Reservoir outpost) at the intersection of Cottonwood Pass and road 742, all the way to the top.
We figured an early start was paramount, as we wanted to avoid bothering the redneck traffic we suspected would quickly infiltrate the premises. Therefore, I awoke, energized, nervous, maybe even anxious, and started up Enoch and the TravelPerc. This time, with Ajee staring at me from the passenger seat, wasting hope – for a chance to accompany me – I let the Perc do its thing for a long time. We needed good coffee today. I was already starting to feel a little bit of the week’s training in my legs. Also, the memory of last year’s attempt from the east side, which ended in me keeled over only 55% of the way up the pass, was scintillatingly fresh in my memory bank.
I drove to the bottom, sizing up the grade and planning my pacing, and then parked the car at a little turn around by a national forestry map. There, I propped my feet up, slowly sipped my coffee, as I waited for Christie to join me. During the approximately 35-minute morning coffee time, nothing at this point could have separated this experience from what most married couples probably do on the deck at the lake every Saturday morning in June. We were relaxed, sipping java, and shooting the breeze on topics – and this is where the similarities start to end – from names for our kids (I remain serious for about three literal minutes on this topic before I start throwing out theologically significant names more appropriate for a pet goldfish than a first child…we must take into consideration, after all, Grandma’s ability to pronounce the baby’s name!) to the likelihood that Mo Farah could make a comeback (it’s taken some work, but Christie is up to speed and is a venerable conversationalist on most things sports ….Christie:”Now, remind me again – which one is the ON Track Club?”…slight pause as I roll my eyes and slowly respond:..”Dathan Ritzenhein. Boulder. The new shoes – the Swedish guy? Come on!”……..
Sometimes, we might get serious and talk about investments (“I found our dream property honey! It’s in Tin Cup!”), or a recent news article or theology topic. On this morning, with silence threatening, I would sporadically and sarcastically (with an ounce of heartfelt truth) summarize my feelings on the ensuing challenge with an explosive blurting, “I don’t know honey….I think I’m going to die.”
Alas, I did finally strap up the skis and bid farewell to Christie, who headed up to mile marker 5, the agreed upon first stop. The first five miles were the least steep. I knew, like on the east side, that it was important to not go too fast during the early, gradual section, as it would quickly come back to bite if I did. I was cold and decided to start with a long sleeve, a decision I immediately regretted. Some cows crossed in front of me at the start. Otherwise, for the most part, I had no interruptions for those first 5 miles. The few cars and trucks that did come up behind me at plenty of space to go around me.
I held a pretty steady V2 for the entire 5 mile chunk, and when I got to Christie, I quickly tossed my longsleeve, readjusted my helmet, and sped back off. Christie helped me/stopped to check on me about every 2-2.5 miles from that point on. I stopped for a quick swig of water – Propel – at just over 8 miles; other than that, I didn’t take anything in.
I could tell that I would have been able to double pole the entire course, as I tried, just for kicks, to do it on some really steep sections (areas I knew were the steepest). I felt in good condition the whole way up, which shocked me. The only dismaying realization was that I don’t think I could have skated the entire way. Skating costs more, metabolically speaking, than double poling, and thus, as I got higher and as the road became steeper, it was – and is in general – much easier to ‘redline’ while skating. I tried to skate as much as possible, and whenever I felt my heart rate jack up too high, I went to the DP to calm it down. While this ‘slowed’ me down, it really kept me moving, prevented me from going over any physiological cliffs, and enabled me to ultimately conquer the beast ….and feel up for more at the end. When I arrived at the top, I was surprised at how little it had taken out of me.
Christie was happy to see me, and we joyfully regaled at various parts of the challenge, like we tend to do when we work as a team to do something silly. Then, I joked (only half-joked) about wanting an immediate shuttle to the bottom of the east side to conquer that section. Knowing me all too well, she bribed me away with a nice bowl of oatmeal.
PM – 1 hour run in Buena Vista – good pace on flat roads – Midland Road out and back.
After driving into BV, we stopped at the legendary City Market to buy some eggs, cheese, bread, and salsa. This enabled us to make a Mexican goulash for dinner, which Christie had ready when I returned from a fast run along a flat section of the Midland Road, right from our campsite. Before the run, we spent the afternoon creekside, reading books and keeping Ajee from trying to rescue whitewater rafters, which she showed a casual interest in.
Day 7 – Alpine Tunnels and a night at the top of Monarch Pass
AM – 3.5 hour mtb ride up to the Alpine Tunnels
The main goal of this ride was to scope out another section of the Tin Cup Loop, the route up to the Alpine Tunnels. The Alpine Tunnel connected the east to Gunnison, and the railway went ultimately from Denver to Buena Vista to Gunnison (and maybe beyond? Aspen? Can’t really remember). I have now seen Hagerman Pass, the Alpine Tunnels, and various other rail grade roads on my mountain bike. All of the ghost towns and former rail routes are a reminder of just how obsessed people must have been with wealth (of course….no one in the world is like that today, right?). The incredible dangers of constructing a railway over these passes is evidence alone that man will readily worship money and his thirst for it knows know quenching. It would have been interesting to board a train from here en route to Denver…but I’ll take my mountain bike for now.
PM – off/1.5 hour hike on Monarch Crest trail with Christie
Day 8 – Old Monarch Pass
AM – 3.5 hour mtb ride – climbed Old Monarch Pass (beautiful!)
This was a bit of a disappointing day, but it isn’t worth sharing the details. What is worth noting is that I’m so grateful that I was able to ride up Old Monarch Pass. This road is very smooth gravel, about a 4-7% slope the entire way, uniquely remote, and allows for great vistas of the west side of the the Monarch Pass area. I ended up basically time trialing the entire 9 mile climb, since, due to my communications with Christie at the start (and my lack of phone connection the rest of the way) it was essential for me to arrive back at the van at or before 11:15. If I didn’t, Christie was instructed to 1) start worrying, and 2) start down the NEW Monarch Pass towards Sargents. I made it back at 11:08…..and saved ourselves some headache…but I climbed around 3500 feet (maybe more) as a result of ‘searching’ for the right route.
The highlight of the day was a couple of craigslist finds and ice cream. An awesome free, new mattress, and a spendy, $3.50 camping percolator (just in case the TravelPerc gives out someday….I know, if you made it this far in the blog, you probably have a close personal connection with this character), to go along with a free pair of old wooden skis, which we’ll hang in the office. In case you made it this far, you deserve some ice cream, just like Christie did, for being my support staff the whole week.
PM – 80 minute DP back in Leadville
Upon returning to home, I went into beast-cleaning mode (I know…..relatives, family, you probably don’t believe this) and picked up the van (I even VACUUMED it!)…deep cleaned it, washed all of the camping cooking utensils, before —- BEFORE —proceeding to head out, with what energy I had left, on a casual DP.
All in all – it was a good “Training Camp.”