Category Archives: road

oh, fire

http://www.youtube.com/v/0qqxjO5nr8k&hl=en&fs=1&
Those of you in the Los Angeles area need no reminder of the station fire burning just northeast of us. Here are some unbelievable photos from the ever impressive photo journalism of the Boston Globe. Note the helicopter in this one:

This National Forest has been very important to me over the years I’ve spent in Los Angeles. I’ve easily been there hundreds of times road riding, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, running, taking Angeles Crest as a shortcut to the 14….

Recently I was discussing with a friend how we seek out contrast. We were laughing that we had both done hikes in the desert (him in Death Valley, myself in Joshua Tree) to springs to see the greenery that arises from the smallest amount of water. Why go to the desert to see green? We didn’t really come up with an adequate answer, but didn’t feel the need to. There is something magical to experiencing that part of nature that refuses to be like the rest and finds a way to be itself in the harshest circumstances. And this explains what I love about Los Angeles: all of the parks and green space, the surrounding mountains; the places that feel the most un-LA. If I love these parts why not live in Missoula or Portland? Because of the contrast.

This doesn’t have much to do with the fire, and I’m sorry I can’t add anything to those discussions. I’m just taking the time to reflect on the spaces that are so valuable to me. Here are some previous posts from times spent in the Angeles Forest:

Gabrielino trail(mountain biking)

Strawberry peak loop(mountain biking)

Midnight Express ride (over Angeles Crest at night to Acton and back)

The running and road bike mountain bike shuttle trip

LA Bike Coalition article with photo of Echo Mountain

To Mt. Wilson on dirt with the cross bike

Crazy to think it won’t be the same for generations.

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the old, the new and the new old

Been awhile! I’ve got a queue of unfinished posts, including my first solo 24-hr mountain bike race, a cycling/yoga camp, the Big Parade walk, a trip to Portland and other mini-adventures. I haven’t been writing much at all.
This has not been the summer I thought it would be and and as September creeps up behind like a storm in the distance in the mid-west, I’m taking in all I can and delighting in the present. My racing schedule (am I a racer?) has changed, the biggest ones being not racing the Vineman full-iron and deciding to race the Furnace Creek 508 solo again this year. Why? I’ve been obsessing over Charles Bukowski and here’s a fitting quote:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

This past weekend I rode the Cool Breeze Century, which has a fun double metric option through Ojai. Camped the first night, hung out with some friends of friends at a swank beach house the night after (where I ended up sleeping on the floor) and did some trail running and swimming (cliff jumping! Yay!) before riding back to LA from Ventura via Potrero Rd and Westlake Village.

I love waking up at an unexpected new place this much:

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Tempeh and Quinoa salad on a ride

Rode the 138-mile Mt Shasta Super Century yesterday at the culmination of the AdventureCORPS Shasta CORPScamp. This was the post-ride meal!

I love Northern California! I take back anything bad I said about hippies in high school. Or last week.

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Santa Barbara, return

Ever want to just get away? Fortunately my bicycle has been taking me away for 25 years, since I used to sneak off on my BMX to explore bordering neighborhoods. Some people do this with long walks, movies, spas, alcohol, etc, but for me nothing is as effective as a change in environmental space via pedal strokes and rubber on pavement.

This past weekend I tried to organize a big hike that never panned out. Santa Barbara help had already been sorted with an ex-Angeleno , so I figured, why not ride? I rolled out of Los Angeles about 630pm through the misery of Westwood to the glory of the beach. Bumper to bumper traffic on PCH so I was splitting lanes as the sun was going down and the cool breeze was rolling in. What better ‘away’ could there be? It’s not a physical endeavor as much as a spiritual retreat, sometimes. Near McGrath State Beach I stopped to listen to the frogs and along a closed-to-cars road that parallels the 101 I turned off my lights to ride under the stars.

Rode some of the Grand Tour route and the Lonely Planet west coast cycling route, both in reverse. The quiet, rolling hills between Ventura and Santa Barbara at 1230/1am was just the physical space to open up and clear some mental space. Felt fortunate to be healthy and have the time for such an adventure. Rolled up to Stacy’s place (in the hills!) after about 105 miles at 130am. After waking her up we defrosted some brown rice and chickpea patties before I showered and slept for a few hours.

Pedaled away from a coffee shop with 2 bottles of water in my pack, 1 water and 1 Sustained Energy on the bike, some bananas, a clif bar and dried cranberries (and well-caffeinated), with some tail wind, and made it back to LA in 5.5 hours. Riding hard on little sleep is a different type of spiritual experience altogether. Somehow physical exertion combined with mild discomfort and lack of sleep helps me focus? Anyone else experience this?

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Ebbetts Pass 8700ft

Near Markleeville, CA, on the Alta Alpina Challenge, 8 passes, 200
miles in the Eastern Sierra mountains. Beautiful! California, oh how
you amaze me.

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Palos Verdes loop

A classic road ride on a beautiful day. Max showed me some gems: low
traffic roads that meander through the hills.
The south bay beaches were BUMPIN. Then ran into some friends on a
group ride heading south on the beach bike path. I love random meetings!

~85 miles and home for lunch.

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Midnight Express ride

This past Saturday I did not ride the Mulholland Challenge as I had planned. Well, as I had hoped, but did not plan, therefore no ride. I can’t believe it is mid-April already!
I love that ride and the beautiful course. I rode it in 2007 and it remains firmly planted in my memory as the ride that showed me the potential I have on a road bike. In other words, I thought past riding events with only the goal of finishing them. Pushing myself for several hours (7 to be exact) was novel and surprisingly fun. This year I just didn’t have the miles in to make it worthwhile. Same with last year. Then I ran the checkpoint at the top of Decker Canyon where a SAG’ed rider took this sticker, literally.

Instead some friends and I rode the Midnight Express benefit ride for the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition. Meeting at midnight at Union Station, the ride travels along the Arroyo-Seco to the Angeles Crest highway. I love this route and have always wanted to ride it at night (someone even described this ride as ‘pretty much designed for you’, which I do not disagree with…). From Clear Creek we descended Angeles Forest highway for a shortwhile before beginning the climb up to Mill Creek summit (4910ft). This section has two distinct memories for me. One is when Morgan rode back from the Tour of Two Forests double (12 hrs) in Santa Clarita with Megan, Max and I behind as a practice run for the 508. The other is when I rode 60 miles along this route to a 32-mile road race where I then had my ass handed to me.

Sunday morning (~2am) as I descended toward the ‘bridge of awesomeness’ in the dark and cold (~35 degrees) with Michael, I was thinking about how smart Alex was for having tyvex envelopes for us to slip under our jerseys and how I was towing the line, albeit it knowlingly, of comfort and warmth in only a jersey, vest and arm warmers, when I flatted. Ever think, ‘Damn I’m so cold but as long as I keep moving I’ll stay warm?’ or ‘My hands are so cold I can barely shift gears’? So there we were trying to fix my flat with shaking arms and stubby fingers. Miserable? A little. But I’m glad I had the experience so I can draw on it when I am in worse situations. Because really, it wasn’t THAT bad.

A little while later we pedaled over the summit and had one final freezing descent to the Acton train station to wrap up the 50 miles. A few riders who had left early were huddled under some heat lamp-like lights (!?) and we all waited for breakfast. It was worth it. Thanks to the influence of Swarm! volunteers there were vegan pancakes, sausages and cinamon buns. Topped off with hot coffee. Yum. The plan was for the riders to get on the 7am metrolink train to Union Station. But on a beautiful morning, in the mountains, already dressed for cycling, why not ride back?

Michael and I took our time and cruised back up and over the two passes before each heading our respective ways. I got in a quick nap before we had people over at our new place for a chill Sunday potluck. Budge has some photos up here.

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Furnace Creek 508

‘Our 508-mile course serves as a dramatic forum for bicycle racing, personal achievement and self-discovery.’
-from the Furnace Creek 508 press release.

The Furnace Creek 508 is this weekend! I have written about it previously, when Morgan raced solo in 2005 when I was crew chief and when Brian, Megan, Max and I raced as a fixed gear team in 2006.

This year I am racing solo.

It has been a long time coming! I wanted to race solo in 2005, but after riding a triple century I decided I was not ready. In 2007 I was burned out after the world’s hardest triathlon and the 760-mile Paris-Brest-Paris.

You pick a totem instead of a number


This race is different in that it is one stage. The clock starts when you roll out in Santa Clarita and does not stop until you reach 29 Palms. Can you sleep? Yes, but the clock is still running! The race offers no support, I am dependent on my crew, Morgan, Budge and Chris, that leap frogs and supplies me with food, water and anything else I may need.

The course (click for larger)


Why would I do something like this? Bicycles have been a part of my life since I was very young. When I was 7 I used to sneak out of my neighborhood and ride as far as I could- and still be able to find my way home. Once my neighbor found me 4 miles away and drove me home to tell my mom what I had been up to.
When I was 14 I started traveling the country to race BMX bikes. That progressed to traveling to ride BMX trails and skateparks. This is how I began to see the world. Within a month of getting my first road bike ($50!) I rode it from college to my mom’s house, 150 miles. I wore skate shoes and cut-off camouflage shorts and the idea of wearing a helmet didn’t even cross my mind. The following summer I rode 3300 miles cross-country. The 508 seems to be a natural progression.

How far is 508 miles?
San Francisco to San Diego or NYC to Columbus, OH

35,000 feet of elevation gain is greater than going to the top of Everest from sea level (see profile here).

There is a new route reconnaissance with excellent photos (some stolen below) and descriptions. Check it out!

The Trona bump before dropping into Panamint Valley

The mountains you climb into Death Valley- 210 miles into the race

The 13-mile climb up to 5,000 ft Townes Pass

Am I ready? It is hard to say. I have done a number of ‘long’ races this year from iron-distance triathlon to 100-mile mountain bike races and double century road events. But they have been ‘only’ 12-15 hours. How will I feel while crossing Death Valley at 2am? After a day of 90 degree heat, will I be freezing when it is 40 degrees and windy? When the sun rises Sunday morning and I still have 150 miles to ride, will I be happy about it? An event like this is about the journey, not the destination. It is not a race that you can go into saying ‘I’ll be happy when I am done.’ It’s the experience of the race that I am looking for more than having finished. Really, I look forward to the time I’ll have to think and what I will learn about myself.

A number of Swarm! riders will be out there racing and crewing. Brian ‘Emperor Moth’ is racing solo for the second year in a row and hopes to improve his 36-hour time. Megan is on a bad-ass all-girl fixed gear team-The Blue-footed Boobies.

You can follow the race’s webcast where photos, time splits and updates will be posted with surprising regularity. We are going to try to update my blog from the road as well. Please leave comments here and be sure to follow the webcast!

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Filed under 508, race, road

JPL Red Box shuttle ride

I got the idea for this adventure in the Spring when we rode out and back on Gabrielino. Lots of guys ‘shuttle ride’ this route. They meet at the bottom, pile into one truck, drive to the top, ride down and then drive back to the top for the first truck. Four additional motor vehicle trips on the narrow and windy Angeles Crest highway. Could we do this human powered without being irritatingly self-righteous?

(Cole took this photo. If you look close you can see the shadow from his mustache)

Easy. A group rides road 30 miles up Angeles Crest to Red Box (about 5000 ft elevation) towing mountain bikes. Another group trail runs 15 miles to Red Box. At the top group one passes the mountain bikes to group two who then ride the 15 miles of single track down to JPL.

To start I was up from 3am on 2 hours sleep and Max had stayed up the entire night. Brian rode out from El Segundo on his mountain bike (30 miles) and we met at JPL at 8am. I had posted the ride to Midnight Ridazz so we did not know who would show up. Our original plan was for Jack to ride road pulling the bikes with some sort of Rock Lobster rack, but that didn’t work out and Jack didn’t make it. Now Max is no slack rider, but he hasn’t been riding too much beyond commuting. Could he take 50 pounds of mountain bikes on the Big Dummy? Yes he can. With Michael on as support Max did an epic road ride with 50 pounds of cargo.


Brian and I set off on foot along the Arroyo-Seco to the Gabrielino. It’s a beautiful trail with stream crossings, boulders, canyons with full cover and exposed, dry ridges. I love it. Below Brian is picking some wild berries as the mountains we are about to run up loom in the distance. Yes, he is wearing his bike helmet. Said it was the easiest way to carry it.

Some switchbacks that we would soon be descending down.

Brian and I ran together the first 5 or so miles and then inevitably he dropped me. I ran almost all of the first 9 miles to Switzer Falls. There I begged some picnicing folk for water as I had run out about 45 minutes previous. The last 4 miles up were quite difficult, as expected. I hiked most of this section at a good clip and ended up at the top only 30 minutes or so after Brian; about four hours after we set off.

Brutal blister. I also rolled my foot as I was wearing some light weight running shoes. Duh.

Gabrielino is not an easy trail to ride down. For a number of miles the trail is between 1 or 2 feet wide with the mountain to one side and a huge drop to the other. Some sections are a little washed out (I like to bunnyhop them cause it’s easier than having to unclip and get off your bike).

We were back and forth with a group of three mountain bikers who were all really cool. They told us about a sweet swimming hole only a 1/4 mile off the main trail.


Brian and I were super tired and it was a tough decision. I think we made the right one. Cold cold water is a great remedy for aching muscles.

After 8 hours in the wilderness (just like a 9-5, only fun) we headed over to Pasadena to take the Gold Line to Chinatown. From here I had a short ride home and Brian, after buying some durian fruit, took the train back to El Segundo.

Max getting his well-deserved AdventureSnore.


Next time: I’d like to film this. It is so gorgeous back there and so accessible from Los Angeles. In my mind Sunday was a beautiful combination of DIY, adventure and wtf? Sure, there is an environmental component, but that is a secondary benefit to some friends getting together and thinking about new ways of exploring an amazing area and what is possible.

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Filed under hike, off-road, public trans, road, run

ride to the ride, but best not the race

‘No, Morgan, I don’t think riding 60 miles to a 32 mile race will affect how I do. I’ll be warmed up. I’ll drink some water, eat a little and in the race I’ll just stay in the pack.’

Mt Emma Rd, Northside of Mill Creek Summit


The next morning I woke up at 530am and rode over the San Gabriel Mountains. It was suppose to be over 90 degrees (unseasonably warm for even Southern California), but I was in the mountains early and feeling pretty good. Then I hit the headwinds. Damn. After about an hour of 4-5 MPH uphill into the wind my main concern was getting there in time. By now I was one a new road and didn’t know just how far off Mill Creek Summit was. What was cool was that I was riding the last half of Stage 7 of the Tour de California.
Finally I hit the 5000ft pass and hit the descent, which is always scary in the wind, and then I was within a few miles of the start of the Devil’s Punchbowl road race.

I saw (Emperor Moth) Brian as soon as I got there. He was stoked. I had 45 minutes till the race started. I drank some carrot juice, ate a little food, drank some water, took a healthy piss and headed to the start line with two full bottles and half a banana. Stay in the pack, stay in the pack. No problem. Dropped on the first climb. Fuck. Then I saw a dude with a full-facial tattoo in the feed zone. Dave Clinger? Is it that hot out? Bombed the huge descent, caught some people and convinced them that working together in headwinds is a wise move. Picked off a bunch of people. Rode past the start/finish into the second lap. Then it hit me super hard. I was starving and just about out of water. Miserable. Hot. Blah blah blah. ‘Bonked’. I went as far as to pick up bottles from the earlier race off of the road and drink what was left. Ugh. Another miserable finish of 2008! I am on a serious streak.

How’d Brian do? Well, he hit the turn after the huge descent and was waved forward (or so he thought), down the hill. The course turned right. He figured out no one was behind him, turned around and CAUGHT THE LEAD PACK. In telling the story to me he was complaining that no one was working hard. And that he pulled most of the way around the second lap. Was beaten out in the sprint. 2nd place. Sick.

South Pasadena with the San Gabriels in the distance

Looking South. The other side is ‘high dessert’
Joshua Trees!

Wheel Suck(er)

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