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Last Sunday morning was our annual fall colors ride on Old Flowers Road. Ten people showed up at the 9:00 am start time with three additional people getting an earlier start. I did a really bad job of taking photos on this ride. If other people want to post photo links in the comment section, that would be great.


The only photo I have is the one below, taken with a timer. In hindsight, I wish I would have had everyone closer to the camera. Also, I’ll work on getting all of the names correct and correctly spelled. For now, left to right:  Doug ?, Dave Newman, Bob ? Todd Singiser, ?, ?, Steve Douglas, Mike ?, Doug ?, Scott Ellis, Ron Kennedy, Carl Ciacci, me.



The group ended up splitting again, with five rolling the dice on weather and doing the White Pine climb. The rest of us chickened out and headed back. Turns out the weather cooperated. I do find it interesting that there are days that I just don’t have the spirit to take weather risks, while on other days I’m the first one to say “let’s go!”


Another thing I find interesting is that there are some people that will ride great, no matter what equipment is under their bum. The shining example from this ride was Carl Ciacci, a former Villanova racer. His trusty steed for the day was Frankenbike II. Frankenbike II cannot be classified as a light-weight, ubertechnical marvel. It is, however, a glorious piece of work.


As the name suggests, the Frankenbike family is assembled from the parts from other bikes. Yes, bike grave digging that would make Boris Karloff proud. To be classified as a Frankenbike one of the rules is that if parts must be purchased, the total cost of the final product can be no more than $50. The financial limit is one of the things that makes building a Frankenbike fun.


Carl and his brother constructed Frankenbike I, which I haven’t seen, but can imagine it is a classic. I’ll try to talk Carl into posting all of the particulars about Frankenbike II and also send me a side shot of it so I can post it here.


Do you have some bike parts that could live a new life? A Frankenbike in your future?

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Active public trail users, see the community post on the issue of horse poop and shoes at this thread.

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Q. I want to follow your 26-week training plan for my Ironman event from your book “T[raining Plans for Multisport Athletes|].” I do have a few questions, if you have a few moments to answer. I understand if you’re buried and can’t answer all individual training questions for people that read your books and columns.


Basically, I am trying to set up a nice schedule for a day to day routine, like you have outlined in your book. I like to be able to associate dates to particular workouts so that I can mindlessly go about other things. I have this set up in Excel (because I don’t see an online version of the 26-week plan) and was just curious about how I can adjust a few things. The largest issue currently is due to some family circumstances (a death), and some personal issues. I should be in my second week of training; but I am not. Is there any way to reconcile that?


Also, how can I snowboard and ski all winter and still train for an Ironman!? (I’m LOL, but serious too…)



Want my cake and eat it too




A. Hey dessert person, the short answer about questions is I will answer e-mail questions if I have time and most of the time they become blog or newsletter columns (like this one). Once I have to start looking at the details of anyone’s training plan, then I charge a consulting fee or I will look at them as I have time – which can be one to six weeks out depending on what I have going on at the moment the question comes to me. The lucky ones hit me at a low workload time and can get more detailed questions answered quickly.


#1 - For you, the easy answer is to take a look at either the 13-weeks to a 13-hour Ironman or the 13-weeks to a sub-13-hour Ironman training plan (both available in the easy-to-use electronic format as well as the book). You need to already be doing the volumes shown in the first week of the training plan and have had a rest week prior to beginning week 1 of either plan. That’s where you want to be going the few weeks before your big race.


#2 - The second step is evaluating honestly where are you “now” (now can be literally now, or in a few weeks when you work your way through the family and personal issues). Begin the 26-week plan at the point where you are “now”. (I don't have the 26-week plan loaded onto Active Trainer yet, so you'll have to use your own Excel spreadsheet for now.) This likely means starting at Week #1.


#3 - You can use the 13-weeks to a sub-13 plan for the last 13 weeks before the race or use the last 13 weeks of the 26-week plan. Either way, you’ll need to chop out a portion of the 26-week plan – probably taken out of the middle.


Yes, you can still do some boarding this winter – just be sure you can do #1.


Hope that helps.



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Last week I told you I’d take a photo of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker from the city of Loveland. Below is that photo. The two peaks are in the center of the photo, with Longs on the right.


This photo is taken from the east side of Lake Loveland, looking west toward the Rocky Mountains. The photo was taken on my phone, so no zooming. From this location, it is a 39-mile drive to get to the trail head and then a 7.5 mile hike to the top. Traveling on the earth, the top of the mountain is only 46.5 miles away. It looks further away.


From the Front Range, it looks like if you would stand on top of Longs, you’d be standing on top of the world. Once on top of the peak, it does feel as though you are on top of the world.


A magnetic attraction for some of us.

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Longs Peak claims a life

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Sep 13, 2009

Just three days after our group made it safely to the summit of Longs Peak, and back, a man fell to his death near the false Keyhole.


Several of us commented on Tuesday that we were surprised more people didn’t suffer significant injuries on the mountain. In the times I’ve climbed the mountain I’ve seen people clearly unprepared for:


•     the endurance required (making it to the summit is less than half the battle, getting off the mountain in a fatigued and oxygen-deprived state is a serious challenge)

•     weather changes

•     recognizing when they are beyond their physical, mental and emotional capabilities

•     the upper body strength required

•     the balance and agility required

•     the significant dangers that the mountain can present at any moment (lightening, snow, ice, high winds, etc.)


Unfortunately the climb is portrayed as relatively easy, because so many people are able to make it to the summit. The climb is not easy.


While fear can be something that hampers your growth and can keep you from reaching your potential as a human; fear can also save your life. That kind of fear deserves the highest form of respect.


Our group was also tricked by the false Keyhole and fortunately, we had the wherewithal to stop, retreat and find the colored egg markers on a path lower than where we were heading. We saw a young couple on the mountain that day, where the woman was panicked and crying on the climb towards the false Keyhole. The man was telling the woman she would be okay and encouraging her to continue pressing upward. When they saw all of us going down, I believe they somehow decided to follow. Perhaps their gut-instinct or fear told them not to continue up.


We’ll never know.


My condolences to the family that lost a loved one on the mountain.

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On Tuesday of this week, I climbed Longs Peak for the fifth time. It’s still a tough climb.


Longs Peak (14,259) and the neighboring Mount Meeker (13,865 ft.) are both prominent in the skyline west of the Northern Colorado Front Range area. I’ll try to get a photo tomorrow morning; but for tonight you’ll have to imagine two massive peaks perched high above peaks in the Rocky Mountains, dominating the western horizon. Cities lying east of Longs Peak rest on the Front Range at a humble 5,000 feet, plus or minus.


Longs is the only “fourteeer” in Rocky Mountain National Park and is listed in the book “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.” The peak draws the interest of both serious technical climbers and the enthusiastic recreational hikers as well. Know that if you attempt to hike the peak in a single day from the trailhead outside of Estes Park, you’ll need to be ready for a round trip from the ranger station that a park handout advertises to be some 13 to 15 hours.


The biggest challenge is to summit and get yourself below treeline before the afternoon thunderstorms arrive. For this reason, most people try to begin climbing by 3:00 am.


Based on previous experience, we decided to meet at a store on the west side of Loveland and carpool. My alarm went off at 2:30 am and I met four others at 3:30 am. We drove to the Longs Peak Ranger Station and met two other people. We started the hike at 5:00 am, each person with a headlight or flashlight, a pack full of fuel and around 120 ounces of water.


The first hour of the climb is in the dark. In the next hour, the sun is pushing its way up the eastern horizon, the makings of a beautiful sunrise. By this time, we are above treeline and making our way to one of the traditional rest, fueling and bio-break stops – the trail split to Chasm Lake and the continued trail to the top of Longs.


Below is a shot of the gang (Scott Ellis, Tony Meneghetti, Ed Shaw, Scott Rees, Pete Graham and Doug Pearson). Directly above Ed’s head is the eastern face of Longs Peak, known as The Diamond. Technical climbers can often be seen roping their way up this vertical rock.



The next recognizable section of the trail is The Boulder Field. As the name suggests, hikers must navigate a rock field with various sizes of boulders, from those the size of your computer printer to some bigger than a car. The next shot is looking across The Boulder Field toward The Keyhole, the near-hole formation silhouetted against the blue sky. 



I don’t have a shot of The Keyhole with people in it to give you a good perspective of the size. I’ll give you additional photo links at the end of the column.


From the ranger station to the start of the Boulder Field, the trail was a hike. At the Boulder Field, some jumping and scrambling was required. It is at the Keyhole where things get tough. Going through the Keyhole to the back side, you are typically greeted by wind. This is not welcome for several reasons, one of which is you need to negotiate a section of trail called the Ledges. Just as it sounds, the Ledges portion of the trail includes sections where you must face the wall of the mountain and keep your focus on the task at hand. Missteps here will include a long tumble down the mountain.


After the Ledges section, there is a transition climb to what is known as the Trough. Below is a shot of Doug, Scott, Tony and Ed getting ready to progress toward the Trough. Notice the red circle with a yellow center painted on the rock. These “eggs” mark the trail. 



The Trough is a “V” shape that includes fields of smaller rocks, sand and dirt to navigate. Many of the larger rocks are covered with the fine dirt and sand making the footing similar to walking on tiny marbles. The shot below shows the typical trail of rocks, over Tony’s shoulder, that we must navigate to get through the Trough. 



After the Trough is the area known as the Narrows. Just as it sounds, this area is narrow and extremely exposed. There are a couple of sections that I needed help getting up because I could not get hand and foot holds secure enough to lift myself up to the next section. A mistake in this section carries heavy consequences. My tactic was to look for the general direction of the next egg, then stay focused on the next 5 to 10 feet of trail ahead of me. That trail could be horizontal, at 45 degrees or vertical.


After the Narrows, it’s the Homestretch. This big slab of rock seems steeper than 45 degrees, though it could be the fatigue making me misjudge the grade. Most of this section is four-wheel drive (I’m using hands and feet to propel myself).


If you clear the Homestretch, you’ve made it to the top. We were up in just under six hours after leaving the ranger station. (We did stop several times going up, so this is not a continuous-movement pace.)

The top is a football field size area, made of big boulders. Below is a shot of us on the top, standing next to the rock that shelters the summit-sign-in canister.



After spending some 30-45 minutes at the top, we headed down. In some of the sections, going down is much worse than climbing up due to unsure footing on top of the rocks and ankle-twisting loose rocks. Add fatigue and altitude to the mix and you’ve got yourself a recipe for potential problems. Blood spattered on sections of the rocks is a callous reminder that the mountain can be unforgiving.


Focus, concentrate, vigilance…I kept telling myself.


The short story is that we did all make it down the mountain and to the safety of our cars about 11 hours after leaving them. The trip, however, was not without some physical payment. In addition to muscles crying from 7.5 miles of eccentric loading, some people got nasty blisters. Some blisters were patchable with a bandage of duct tape, other blisters forced the postponement of summiting the mountain. Scott Rees’s biggest blister stopped him short of the Homestretch and consumed the entire bottom of his big toe. When I saw the flap of dead skin covering his raw, pink skin underneath; the flap appeared to be about 1/8-inch thick – a good sized chunk of hide. He had more blisters, but this was the worst one.


I think nearly everyone had some blisters on their feet, though none as impressive as Scott's. I managed to twist an ankle in the Trough on the way back and had to duct tape it for stability. (I’ll show you how in another blog.) There were banged up knees, toes, arms and torsos from using the body as a brace to make another move or as a momentum stop.


This mountain can be cruel and unforgiving. It turns away people that are in great shape as well as those that don’t have the fitness that it takes to summit. As I wrote on my Twitter page, “I would rather be denied a goal due to fatigue, physical pain, weather or nutrition than fear (of starting, trying, being last, risking ego)”


How about you?


When is the last time you really challenged yourself?


More photos are available on this public Facebook page.  (You don’t need a Facebook account to view them, though my Facebook page is open if you want to be “friends”.)


Information about Longs is available on Wikipedia and on the National Park site.


More photos and a good route description are available on this site, 14ers, as well as others.

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Ventoux, seems to challenge, “No trees can grow on my summit – what makes you think you can survive?”


Mont Ventoux is a legendary mountain in Tour de France circles. Part of its notoriety comes from the difficulty of the climb, boasting an average grade of 7.43% from the Bedoin side (the final 16k having an average of 8.9%) and a maximum of 11%. If the incline isn’t enough challenge, add the nice advertisement of “expect the last kilometers to have strong, violent winds.” (Venteux means windy in French.) So as not to disappoint, the mountain delivered the day we rode.


Ventoux became known worldwide when it played a role in claiming the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson. Tom died on the mountain in 1967, during the Tour, at the hands of heat exhaustion, dehydration, amphetamines and alcohol. From Wikipedia:


He began to wildly weave across the road before he fell down. He was delirious and asked spectators to put him back on the bike, which he rode to within a half mile of the summit before collapsing dead, still clipped into his pedals. Amphetamines were found in his jersey and bloodstream.


This year, Ventoux was touted as the decisive stage of the Tour and we weren’t about to miss it.


We left Baronnies and headed toward Bedoin, the most famous and difficult ascent.  The first part of our ride was pretty relaxed. As we got closer to Bedoin, we encountered more and more cyclists.


Bedoin was bustling, with people on foot and on bikes. After filling our bottles in central city fountain with cold, delicious water, we headed toward the summit. Our plan was to summit and then descend to a good viewing location.


I thought that climbing Romme and Colombiere was humanity madness. Really, that day was light training for Ventoux. The road on the lower part of Ventoux was crowded with people riding and walking. It was at least twice as crowded as Romme and Colombiere.


At one point low on the mountain, a few Gendarme  (select the word and then select “speak” for pronunciation ) set up a couple of barriers and began asking cyclists to turn around as no more cyclists would be allowed on the mountain. This particular effort, at this time, was fruitless as cyclists and walkers flooded past the inadequate barriers.


It was at this barrier that our group got split up and I’m not sure what happened to everyone else. I made a decision to attach myself to guide David Cooper’s wheel for two reasons:

1) He speaks excellent French.

2) He is an excellent cyclist and can navigate a crowd on a road bike as if it were a technical mountain bike trail.


As if it isn’t enough of a challenge to ride through a sea of cyclists, pedestrians, kids and dogs the Tour adds vehicles to the mix. Constant vigilance was critical, in order to navigate the people and keep an ear out for honking horns (cars, tour busses – the big ones, VIP vans) and the occasional sirens of emergency vehicles heading to who knows where.


About half way up the mountain, I asked (insisted) that David leave me and ride at his own, faster, pace. I would meet him at the top, where we would try to collect the group.


Ventoux is similar to Mt. Evans in Colorado in that you can see the tower of your final destination for quite awhile. While treeline on Evans is caused by elevation, treeline on Ventoux was caused by the systematic stripping of trees for shipbuilders. Erosion of the soil after the trees were cut down removed any chances for new trees to grow and exposed a stern, angry look.


Both mountains, Evans and Ventoux, seem to challenge, “No trees can grow on my summit – what makes you think you can survive?”


While we were struggling against the winds, trying to summit, Phil Liggett was telling television viewers that the gusts on Ventoux were 70 miles per hour. Within a few miles of the summit, the Gendarme were again setting up a barrier. This time they were allowing cyclists to pass through one side of the gate, until a bus load of reinforcements arrived. I suspect there was a certain time cut-off.


The new Gendarme (also Gendarmerie) now stood a line, arm-in-arm, and would not allow any more cyclists to pass. One cyclist in our group was not able to summit due to the cut-off.


Already past the barrier, it was one of those rides that I became steel-willed about doing. Coming this far, there was no way I wasn’t going to summit – even if it meant dismounting and walking because of high winds. Thankfully, I didn’t have to walk and found David and the rest of the gang, sans one, at the top. Below is a shot of David and I at the top. 


I think someone else got group photos at the top, but somehow I managed not to take a group shot. We didn’t spend much time at the top because it was cold and windy. We descended to Chalet Reynard, where we would spend the rest of the day near the VIP area, food and a big screen feed of the race. Perfect!


The gang is resting in a spot that we would eventually have to move from. Note the big screen in the top left corner. During the race, yes during, the riders later in the peloton would pause to look over their shoulders at the screen to see how the race at the front was unfolding. 


The hillside at Reynard.   


My Gendarmerie pal that kept late-arriving people from crowding in front of me. 


An excellent view of Contador as he was 6k from the top. 


For us, it was a long and hard day on Ventoux. After the riders passed and the course was clear, it was the completely chaotic trip back to Bedoin. Navigating the storm of people, bikes, cars, etc. post-race was more challenging than the trip up and one of our group accidentally took a wrong turn ending up in Sault.


After collecting the lone rider (I’m still convinced he was aiming to get more miles riding than the rest of us) we started back to the chalet. Unfortunately, the rental van broke down. Remaining calm and collected, Julie got the rental company to send a mechanic to fix the problem. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I would have had to deal with this on my own, had I tried to do a self-designed tour.


Ventoux, and the entire trip, was such a great experience that no one allowed a mechanical problem to spoil the day or the end of the trip. We were able to drive the van back to the chalet and enjoy an excellent final group dinner before packing our bikes and heading our separate ways the next day.


Ride time on the Ventoux day was 4:05, “out” time with bike in hand (not counting the van break down) was 10 hours, 7,272 feet of elevation gain in 47.5 miles of riding.


A big thanks to the Ride Strong team of David, Julie and Rob for making the trip a memory of a lifetime.

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I know there’s been a good break and several other blogs since my last France trip blog, but I promised you I’d post the final days and today’s post is Day 5, riding from Loriol-Sur-Drome to Mirabel-aux-Baronnies.


Before I launch into Day 5 ride details, I need to let you know that we have figured out that the elevation gains that I reported on Day 1 of the ride blog are incorrect. The third-party device download training journal used by Ron Kennedy (no, it’s NOT Active Trainer) incorrectly reports elevation gain. Ron went back and pulled elevations from Garmin Training Center. The GTC numbers match more closely what I reported on my Garmin device. Corrected elevation gains, feet:


Day 1: 6098

Day 2: 5984

Day 3: 7487

Day 4: 2294


The trip total is actually 33,358 ft., with that website being inaccurate to the tune of 17,167 ft. I think the numbers for the rest of the blog posts should be accurate. Now, on to Day 5…


Today’s ride required that we get in the vans first thing in the morning and drive a bit before starting to ride. The course was rolling today and the highlight for me was riding past gigantic fields of lavender. I had no idea that the lavender harvesting industry was so huge.


The smell was not overwhelming at all and I’m going to get a start of a French lavender plant for my house. My neighbor has a large lavender plant in her back yard and it is much different than the French lavender plant in a pot on her patio. More about lavender here.


The ride today was hot and somewhat windy. I didn’t take any ride photos today, I’m not really sure why. However, once we arrived at the chateau where we would be staying for two days, I did take photos there. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken significantly more photos of the places where we stayed because they were all interesting and nice.


The first shot is the back door of the chateau with Ed and Scott looking out of the window of their second floor shared room. Just below them on the first floor was the kitchen and indoor breakfast area. The outdoor breakfast area is featured in the second photo. The third photo is a small courtyard area between the back door and the outdoor breakfast area. Notice the old egg baskets and pails. 




Sandy Singiser is featured in the fourth shot, relaxing beside the pool. Over her right shoulder is the outdoor bar and dining area, complete with an open barbeque grill on the far end.


The fifth photo is looking down the long table of an “L” shaped dining arrangement. All meals began with wine and fresh bread. Additionally, all evening meals served in the chateaus were prepared from fresh foods. Eating meals prepared with completely with fresh ingredients was incredible.


Each meal ended with dessert. On this particular day, the dessert was raspberry gelato and an individual brownie made just hours before. 


The experience of staying in chateaus made the trip much better than staying in a conventional hotel.


Today’s stats: Ride distance 47.5 miles, ride time 3:24, elevation gain 4,223


Look for the next post, Day 6 – Mont Ventoux

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