Thursday, November 3

Race Ready

The final race of the 24 hour season is fast approaching - 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, held over the end of Daylight saving every year. This year, it also marks the finale of the N24 - the National 24 Hour Mountain Bike Solo series. It's a new series this year, with three races joining forces to host solo riders and award the championship to the most consistant soloists. With Frog Hollow only days away, now comes the time for all races to make sure they are ready - double checking all gear and the plan. Most of these tasks should have been completed before leaving home, but it's always a good reminder. 

Lights - at this point, you have done a few night rides, ensuring that you know how to use your lights and that the position on both helmet and bars is correct. You should also know long the batteries last - nothing worse then getting halfway on a lap and having lights fail. Note on your master plan how long each light lasts and how many laps you'll be ably to get out of it. You can manage lights well on this course - conserving on the climb and then full power for the descent. 

Bike - no last minute maintenance here. All you want to do is make sure position is correct and you've got the spare parts you might need. Brakes, chain, tires - all should have been addressed prior to leaving. A good once over before the race is all you need to do at this point - bump tight everything - and then make any needed adjustments after the preride in terms of tire pressure. Check tire pressures regularly through the night as part of the between laps cleaning and matainance. The course is dusty this year, so cleaning will be important between laps. If you have a spare bike and a solid pit crew, you can alternate bikes and have a cleanish bike every lap. 

Clothes and gear - despite what the weather forecast says, it will be cold at night. I've woken up with frost on the ground at this race before and there have been some nasty rain storms. Make sure you have layers and enough clothes to last 25 hours. If weather does move in, having rain gear, spare gloves, knee warmers and a warm jersey will not be overkill. Not sure what to bring? Pack the closet. Remember, that the first half of the lap is climbing, followed by some fast descending and finally the punchy efforts of hurricane rim. Don't be afraid to bring a jacket with you and put it on at the top of the climb to prevent getting chilled. It's also a good idea to bring a warmer pair of gloves and a dry hat in case of a mechanical that forces you to stop. 

Food - Plenty of water and other liquids. It's hot and dusty during the day and you will need the water for more then just drinking. As far as food, the usual selection of race food, as well as some real food. Rating gels for 25 hours straight doesn't do well on the stomach. Salty, sweet and simple - the best for long racing. Food is the biggest area of personal preference in racing - what works well for one person may not for another. And there will be cravings for the strangest things at 2:00. 

The course is a fun one - and fast, with the fastest men taking about 45 minutes. The first half is a steady double track climb, with a few steep pitches and a couple of short descents. Pace yourself here and don't go too hard on the first climb. Then you turn onto the JEM trail and it's all downhill for a few miles. There's the infamous JEM drop, a series of tight switchbacks carved into cliff to reach the wash below. It's loose this year, with lots of dust. After JEM, there's a long fast swooping descent that is nothing but fun. A wake up call of a rock garden series after you cross the road - ledgy moves both up and down. The descent on this section harder then JEM - line selection has to be smooth to abide flatting. A brief respite of double track and then the Hurricane Rim trail - the hardest section in the race. Slabby rocks, tight moves - all next to a bit of a cliff. That's why you want to be a little more conservative in the first half! Save some energy for the last three miles. Once off the Rim, it's a half a mile of double track climbing back to the transition tent. Sound easy enough? Then keep repeating until the bitter end and good luck! The 2:00 AM demons will be lurking - twice at this race!

Wednesday, October 12

Hunting season

No, I don't mean KOM/QOM hunting season. I mean real hunting - heading out into the woods with a deadly weapon in the hopes of filling the freezer with meat for the winter. In Colorado, archery season kicks off at the end of August and goes through September, depending on the type of animal. Muzzleloader hunting is in the middle of September. And finally, rifle season for big game such as deer and elk started October 1 and depending on where you are, runs through November 20. Why are those dates so important? Because the middle of September through the middle of October is also prime leaf season and fall riding season. Riders from all over are converging on the mountain trails for the final alpine loops and golden singletrack. And most of them aren't thinking about the hunting season or the precautions they should follow to stay safe. That fact became quite clear last year during a late season trip to Salida and Fairplay. We met several groups of hunters, all decked out in their orange. And us? Nothing. I had to scrounge for something bright to wear for my long run.

So what should runners and cyclists do to be safe during hunting season? Hunters are required by CO law to wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange above the waist, in addition to a hat that can be seen in all directions. And the orange camouflage seen in the sporting goods stores doesn't cut it - it hast to be solid. And as of August, fluorescent pink is also a legal color for hunters - as long as they follow the same rules for the orange. Obviously, every state is different and these are just the CO rules. I would encourage everyone to research what is required in your area or where you plan to travel - some states also require hikers to have some amount of orange on their gear. Think about that - 500 square inches of orange in addition to a hat. That's a lot - and the bright Enduro baggies, helmets and bikes don't always cut it. Runners are even worse - with most clothes being on the sedate side of the color scheme. We need to take a cue from the hunters and make sure that there is something blaze orange in our riding and running gears during hunting season.

Blaze orange and Fluorescent pink - two colors highly recommended for wearing during hunting season.
 Here are some other tips for riding and running during hunting season:
- Know when the hunting seasons are and in what areas. Different areas of the state are open for hunting at different times.
- Be aware of other vehicles in parking areas and at trailheads. If there's an unusually large number for the area, there may be hunters around and you need to be aware.
- Make some noise like talking or using a bell. Sound travels and voices are a good clue that the movement isn't coming from an animal.
- Wear bright clothes. Reds, oranges and yellows are all good choices. If in doubt, getting a blaze orange hat or buff is never a bad idea. Even putting a blaze orange vest over your pack would help
- Along those lines, put away the tans and browns, and the white helmet. A while helmet over brown clothes and the rider having fun on the decent closely mimics a deer running away. If you don't have any other color helmet, tie some florescent flagging to your helmet to add some color.
- Don't forget about your trail dog! Invest in an orange vest for your puppy if you plan on taking him with you during hunting season.
- If possible, avoid riding at dawn or dusk during hunting season. That is prime hunting season and the low light makes it even harder to discern objects. Make sure you have lights if you are going out in the afternoon and might be caught out after dusk.
- Be courteous. While mountain bikers and trail runners have year round access to trails, hunters have small windows in which to pursue their sport and hopefully fill the freezer. And the tags and licenses are usually pricey...
- Check for closures. Some areas close trails during hunting season to ensure safety and provide for a better hunting experience. Make sure that your travel plans and riding plans won't be impacted by any potential closures.

Ready for hunting season? I am now! Same hat as in the prior photo.
Don't let the fear of hunting and hunters keep you inside during the prime leaf peeping and fall riding or running season. Just take some precautions to be visible. Common sense goes a long way in staying safe.