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It has been snowy and cold on the eastern front range of Colorado. Instead of going for our typical Sunday bike ride, a few of us decided to go snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky is just west of Loveland and can be reached in about an hour by car.


When we arrived at the park gate, it was snowing and the wind was blowing. The park gate attendant advised that we not go to the higher trailheads due to blowing snow and icy road conditions. One of the trails she suggested was the Bierstadt trail, beginning at the shuttle parking lot.



Five of us took off aiming for a three-hour trek and found a nice mix of trail conditions. Some portions of the trail were packed from the previous day's use. Other parts of the trail had a combination of fresh snow and wind-blown snow. In the shot below, I'm heading onto part of the trail that had fresh snow.





When we reached Bierstadt Lake, the wind was howling across the frozen surface. We stayed in the cover of the trees that surround the lake. Below is a fun shot of the trees next to the lake. The wind had painted a white stripe of snow down the trunks of all the trees.





When we started our day the temperature on the car thermometer said 18 degrees. We were all dressed for exercise in snowy conditions, so the temperatures seemed fine as long as we kept moving. We stopped a few times for food break, for photo-ops or to defrost a Camelback mouthpiece; but there wasn't much standing around. Below is a shot of Jim Damman, Diana Hassel, Eric Houck and Scott Ellis on one of those Gale-requested photo-op breaks. (Thanks gang.)





We were finishing our day just as the trails were getting busy. We were all surprised how many people were heading into the park to snowshoe or ski at about 2:00 pm in the afternoon. Maybe they were starting those New Year fitness resolutions a little early?



Whatever your New Year's resolutions might be, I wish you the best for 2008. I hope your resolutions live well beyond the first two weeks in January.



Cheers ~



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Any fun? Had a blast!

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 27, 2007

In my last blog I wrote about riding in the snow. Lucky for me, I have riding buddies that like to pile on the clothes and ride outdoors in all kinds of weather and conditions. Yes, we all have our limits; but just when you find your personal limit, someone else has ventured out in worse weather and said, "Not that bad..."


That written, Ron Kennedy commutes to work and he commented on Sunday that 5 degrees Fahrenheit is the coldest temperature he's ridden in and he got cold. I'd imagine so.


Ron and the gang that rode last Sunday are seen below in the post-ride glow:




Left to right: Todd Singiser, me, Ron Kennedy, Kent Winters, Scott Ellis and Steve Douglas



Riding on snow-packed trails that have seen hikers, runners, skiers, dogs, bikes, sun, warmer temperatures alternating with colder temperatures makes for an interesting outing. The trail started out relatively hard packed. As the day progressed and the sun warmed the snow, it got softer and more like riding in sand.



I will admit there was a freak-out factor for me. It seems completely unnatural to ride my bike on a slick surface with unpredictable patches of ice, some visible and some not. Steve and Ron are experienced snow riders and they seemed completely comfortable. I, on the other hand, needed significant self-coaching. This, as Steve points out in his blog, comes in the form of literal self-talk "Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!" and the self-saving scream. These screams, yells and various other verbalizations are very helpful. Just as weight-lifters yell and grunt when lifting a heavy weight, I verbalize to get over obstacles, avoid end-os and somehow manage to clear a technical section of trail beyond what I think I'm capable of doing.





Try verbalizing during your mountain bike ride (or other challenging sport like snow running, downhill skiing, etc.) sometime, let me know if it helps.



Because other riders were completely comfortable, it is humanly possible to ride snowy conditions relatively fast and relaxed. Okay, that's all I need for inspiration - humanly possible. I'm a human, it should be possible.



I know, I know, there are multiple problems the last two sentences in the last paragraph, but that won't stop me from giving lots of things a shot. I won't be trying to run a sub-four-minute mile anytime soon; but I can get pretty good at riding my mountain bike in snow, I'm sure of it.



You're a human, I assume, what's possible for you? Any new plans or goals for the New Year?



PS...Thanks to Steve for the photos. Check out his other snow photos from past rides.



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Are you havin' any fun?

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 26, 2007

Holiday greetings to everyone. I fully intended to post on Monday, but the day got away from me.


Last Sunday we went mountain biking on snow-covered trails. That was a first for me. Before Sunday, I had ridden on a few snow patches within a frozen dirt trail. Last year I rode up a service road in about four inches of snow. Neither of those snow experiences compared to this past Sunday.



I didn't get any photos, but one of my riding buddies Steve took photos. When he has a chance to download and post them, I'll set up a link.



Unfortunately for my riding buddies, I had a song stuck in my head. When I get a song stuck in my head I can't quit singing (poorly) the one or two lines of chorus that keep revolving into consciousness.



Although my singing could use significant improvement, I think the message from the song is good:



Are you havin' any fun?

What y'gettin' out o' livin'?

What good is what you've got

If you're not havin' any fun?




The lines come from a Tony Bennett song titled "Are you havin' any fun?" that Safeway is using on holiday commercials. Also, Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello did a duet remake in 2006 that is good.



All of this brings up the real question...what about you?



Are you havin' any fun?



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Estes Video for Belle

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 17, 2007

For those of you that don't know it, I'm working with Active Belle on her Get Active goals for 2008. While we were riding to Estes yesterday, my husband Del recorded short video footage for Belle.

Some things to take away from the video and my previous post on accomplishing a year-long goal:

–It is easier to accomplish goals if you have supportive family and friends.

–Setting goals with friends will get you to workout when you don't feel like it or the weather is sub-optimal.

–Peter recently had his thyroid removed and accomplishing that Estes goal kept him motivated to get healthy ASAP.


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I've written about a group of us having a goal of the "Ride to Estes Park Challenge" in previous columns.



Over the weekend, four of us decided to "bag Estes". The challenge for this month was road conditions. Due to recent snow storms, the road in front of my house remains totally covered and snow-packed. The main city roads are clear, but the road shoulders vary between clear, snow-packed and ice.



Loveland sits at roughly 5,000 feet and our goal destination, Estes Park, is directly west at roughly 7,500 feet. The good news is riding to Estes is primarily a steady climb at a gentle grade. This means it is relatively easy to stay warm going up.



The bad news is the roads are intermittently clear and snow-packed, depending on if a particular section of road gets any sun and what the wind does in that section of the canyon. Recruiting a ride back down the canyon is a must this time of the year because the road conditions and temperatures make it dangerous to descend.



Due to family commitments, Todd Singiser had to ride on Saturday. He decided to ride his mountain bike and go "the back way" which is less traveled than State Highway 34, "the front way." On Saturday night, he reported that he made it, goal accomplished.



He also reported that his toes got cold and he required a warm-up session in front of the fireplace at Drake. The road from Drake to the top of the Glen Haven switchbacks, around 10 miles or so, was completely snow-packed and the winds are ferocious at the top.



"Wear your fur-lined shorts, shoes and sunglasses - you'll need ‘em."



Sunday morning Scott Ellis, Peter Stackhouse and I decided that if Todd made it on Saturday, we could make it on Sunday. When we left my house on mountain bikes, it was 21 degrees. The sun was out and warming up the air temperature to about 30 degrees, but the ground snow and wind kept the feel cold. That is cold, but tolerable.



We decided to go up Highway 34 and perhaps have better road conditions than Todd. We were all glad that we rode mountain bikes rather than road bikes because sections of the road were not road bike suitable, even the front way. The mountain bikes make for a slower trip, but getting that nice, long aerobic ride in this time of the year is one of the benefits.



We did successfully make it to Estes and agreed that this trip won the "most difficult road conditions" award. We did agree that we have ridden to Estes in colder and windier conditions, but this one was tough due to the road.



Pam and Kirk Leamons were the smart ones, they bagged their December Estes trip on the 1st.



There are three other riders seeking that December goal. I'm hoping Diana, Jo and Lee all make it. If they make it, nine riders will get the infamous trophies to be revealed in another blog.



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Sub-Aerobic Training

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 14, 2007

One of the most popular activities this time of the year is the well-known, but seldom discussed, sub-aerobic training. It seems those that use this format of training discuss tips and techniques among themselves, but are somewhat hesitant to share specific workouts publicly. I will give you some insight on this less than ground-breaking activity.


Sub-aerobic training is most popular among La-Z-Boy® owners. They, however, certainly do not have the corner on the market. If you do not own a La-Z-Boy®, in no way should you feel like you cannot participate in this activity.


Build volume slowly


Just like other forms of training, your sub-aerobic training volume should be built slowly over time. Most of the time, it is time itself that takes care of this.



Begin with steady efforts



A good way to begin your training is to sit in any comfy chair, with your feet up. Another option is to totally recline on the couch, floor or, of course, in your La-Z-Boy® if you happen to be an owner. Once you fall in love with this style of training, you can invest in the high-end equipment.



Add some intervals and volume



After you have successfully checked off a few days, or weeks, of steady effort and low volume you can increase volume and/or intensity. Lucky for you, this is one of the few training methods that increasing volume and intensity at the same time is possible.



Adding more volume is obvious. Simply increase your couch, floor or recliner time. If you add intervals, it is much easier to increase volume. For example, break up your couch, floor or recliner time with easy walks to the fridge. Be sure to alternate which hand opens the fridge door so both sides of your body get a balanced workout.



Hang time



In sub-aerobic circles, one of the most popular discussions is hang time.



"What did you do yesterday?"



"Spent time hanging around the fridge"



"How about you?"



"I hung around the cupboard."



Sign up for an event



This time of the year is peak season for events. In some cases you are required to bring something with you to the event and in other cases you can simply show up. It is best to show up early to get a good spot.



Position yourself near the buffet table and spend some hang time. Remember, adding intervals can increase your volume, so consider walking away from that table on occasion. Be certain to remain sub-aerobic when doing so and it is best to avoid any stairs.



When you repeat your stroll to the buffet table, there is a good chance new items have been added. This is good as it allows you to add more hang time to the evening.



New physical condition



If you use these simple tips to increase your sub-aerobic training time, you will achieve a new physical condition that causes jaws to drop. People will be astounded at your physique.



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Top-Shelf Champagne

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 11, 2007

This morning there was champagne powder blanketing the city. This top-shelf champagne powder is one thing that gives Colorado ski resorts world-wide fame. If you are a skier or boarder, you live for the chance to have first run through thigh-deep powder. It literally feels like you're floating on air while you travel down the mountain.


This nine-inch tall Fat Tire microbrew is sitting on a table in my backyard. Within the last week we've accumulated about ten inches of snow on flat surfaces. Some of the mountain resorts have collected several feet of fresh snow.




Years ago, skied quite a bit. These days I don't ski much at all. I suppose that experience and my basic love for the outdoors is what gives me a preference to be outside rather than inside on a snowy day. Today was no exception.



It was about 22 degrees when I headed for the park. Similar to skiing, if you have the right clothing, being out in the cold weather is no problem and really loads of fun. Without the right gear, being out in the cold means being cold. I hate being cold.



I love the person or people that invented Gore-Tex®. (I'll have to research that one day.) I own several pieces of clothing made from Gore-Tex® or a similar product. I've had coats and pants made from the stuff for years. More recently, my favorite running shoes are lined with Gore-Tex® -- Pearl Izumi's syncroSeek trail shoes.



I didn't move nearly as fast as my running partner, but that's okay. I'll take 22 degrees and snow over an indoor hamster run on the treadmill any day.








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Mechanical Resonance

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 7, 2007

I have to admit that I snuck out on Wednesday for a mountain bike ride. I knew snow was heading our way Friday and through the weekend. With temperatures in the 40s and the trail in great condition, I was a happy camper.


The particular trail I rode has some significant sections of rock gardens. It has been just recently, in the past two months, that I am able to ride all the way through the rock gardens.


I was reminded on Wednesday, that successful rock garden riding is never a guarantee and that getting ever so slightly off of my preferred route can bring about disaster.



On one of the downhill sections, I was carrying some speed. I missed my preferred turn, which put me into an area where the rocks happen to throw me into oscillations. These oscillations are not a problem unless they match the natural frequency of the system (me and my bike).



First, let me describe how this feels. I am bouncing along and traveling through the rock garden, and slightly gaining speed. The bouncing up and down begins to take a rhythmic feel. At first the rhythm is somewhat relaxing and I think "No problem it is good for me to ride non-preferred routes to increase my skills."



But, within a short amount of time I realized that I was gaining more altitude with each bounce and the rhythm was increasing. As I feel this oscillation beginning to become a problem, I can't help but think of the Tacoma Bridge disaster. (I know, I know, strange thing to think about, but that is what popped into my head.)



I'm thinking, "If I reach mechanical resonance, I'm going to go flying off of this bike and the result will surely require Band-Aids."



The entire scene seemed to go on forever, but probably only took about five seconds to unfold.



Luckily, I managed to avoid mechanical resonance and kept riding without putting a foot down. I can't tell you how I did it, only that it happened.



If you have not seen the disastrous results of mechanical resonance, you can see footage of the Tacoma Bridge disaster below the header "Film of collapse" at this link: . A longer, and color, video is here.



Have a good weekend and may you never reach mechanical resonance.



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No Goals

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Dec 4, 2007

A few weeks ago I went to a party hosted by one of my cycling buddies, Ed Shaw and his wife Janie. There were around a dozen cyclists there and most of them were accompanied by an enabler (as Eric Houck would say).


Hovering around the snack table, there was some talk of normal-people issues; but in all cases the conversation slipped into some old every-crack-in-the-road story about cycling.


Someone mentioned watching the amount of tortilla chips they were consuming because they didn't want to put on too much weight this winter. That goal race for 2008 is not that far away.


That lead into discussions about goals for 2008. Sledge Hanner (his military call name as a pilot) announced that for 2008, "I have no goals and I refuse to set any goals."



For every year that I've known him, Sledge has had at least one goal and probably more than one goal. The goal that I knew about each year was related to an Ironman race.



While the cyclists are busy talking about bikes, riding, goals, triathlons and food, the enablers are sharing stories about their respective cyclists. Actually, it was more like commiserating with each other.



When it was time for dinner, everyone loaded plates with great food and found a place to settle in. During dinner, Scott Ellis casually glances across the table where Sledge is seated and says, "Sledge, you know that having no goals is really a goal. You have made it a goal to have no goals for 2008. The way I see it, you have a goal."



Mid-burger bite, Sledge's face went blank.



"Thanks a lot Scott, you've ruined it for me."



Even people with no goals have a goal...



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My email on Friday said if the temperature is at least 25 degrees on Sunday morning, dry roads and minimal wind the group ride is a "go".



I was out of bed at 6:00 am doing chores and pacing back and forth in the house. There was snow on the ground and heavy fog. I'd look out the east windows to see what was happening outside, then to the west windows. They way our house is situated, we can't see outside the neighborhood from any window in our house.



This continuous pacing always brings the comment, " think the weather is different in the backyard than it is in the front?"



No, I don't think it is, but I hope it is. I hope there is some glimmer of chance that the group ride can "go" today.



At 8:15 am I called my riding buddy Scott to see what the weather was like in Johnstown, about 13 miles east.



"It's sunny and 25 degrees here."



"No kidding?!"



"I'm not kidding. I can see the mountains and everything."



On occasion a storm pushes up against the mountains and gets stuck, taking longer to move away from the foothills than the plains. This was one of those storms.



We decided to call our other mountain biking buddy Todd and go for a mountain bike ride. With chilly temperatures (20 degrees at my house at 8:15 am) we decided the trails would be warmer than the roads and less dangerous.



Shortly before 9:00 am Peter and Lee show up from Ft. Collins (about 12 miles north) with road bikes and say that the roads north are dry. Apparently the snow began about half a mile north of my house.



Bruce rolls up on his road bike and says it was 25 degrees when he left home and it's not too bad. I suppose that is a matter of opinion, but to all of us it seemed not too bad.



In my driveway, left to right, are Peter, Bruce, Lee, Scott and Todd. Notice the snow on the rooftop next door and some remaining in my driveway.





Since Todd came sans road bike, Scott, Todd and I headed for the trails. Bruce, Peter and Lee headed out on the road.



In the photo below Scott and I are getting ready for the trails. I'm glad I have hot water in my hydration pack.





This shot is Todd and Scott walking up one of the snowy/icy sections of the trail. There were only a couple of trail sections that we needed to hike due to ice and snow.





It ended up being a great day on the bikes!



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