2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   CYCLING ON THE MINERAL BELT TRAIL
& PARTS OF THE LT100 BIKE COURSE

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10

 
"I suppose it is beyond any reasonable expectation  
but what is the fun of living without a dream to chase?"
 
~ ultra runner Gary Cantrell AKA lazarus lake AKA laz
 
 
Every time I read Gary's quote I marvel at the fact that not everyone has dreams to chase. Some people just seem to exist and have no purpose or desire to learn new things, set challenging goals, test their limits, or seek adventure.

That way of life seems unreasonable to me.

Not only would I have no fun but I also don't understand the point of living without dreams (goals) to chase! My entire life has been one of seeking to attain new goals, stretching myself both physically and mentally. It's how I'm wired. And I'm not just talking about athletic pursuits or travel, which are the focus of this web journal.


View of Mt. Massive from the west side of the Mineral Belt Tail

Sometimes "adventure" is involved, sometimes not, but my goal is always to learn or do something different or at least better. Jim's a lot like that, too.

One obvious way both of us have demonstrated our goal-seeking nature has been through 30+ years of endurance running and racing. Since we can no longer run ultra distances because of deteriorating knees, we have shifted to long-distance hikes (me) and bike rides (both of us, but particularly Jim).

Although these activities are currently not competitive, we still enjoy achieving new distance, speed, altitude, and other athletic goals we set for ourselves.


View of Leadville, Mt. Elbert, and Mt. Massive from the Mineral Belt Trail; climbing
those 14ers, the two highest peaks in Colorado, is a challenging goal each time
we are here and I plan to climb them again this summer -- at age 62.

The photos in this entry are from various bike rides we've taken in the Leadville area recently. Jim doesn't like to carry his camera when he rides so the pictures are ones I took.

This is a good place for us to ride. We have easy access to the multi-use path (Mineral Belt Trail) that loops around the town for almost 13 miles and the many additional miles of dirt forest roads and paved county roads. Some of the roads we've ridden are on the LT100 bike race course.

JIM'S BIKE TRAINING

I wrote about Jim's transition from ultra running to ultra cycling in a recent entry.

In this entry I'll give you an update on his training and show you photos from several of the routes we've ridden in or near Leadville.


Jim gets ready to ride on Lost Canyon Rd. (FR 398), which goes to Columbine Mine.
This is part of the LT100 bike race course.

Jim bought his new Specialized Stumpjumper 29er mountain bike on July 23.

Since then his mileage has jumped significantly compared to the distances he rode on his old Trek mountain bike and my Tricross cyclocross hybrid. He loves his new bike and has several new goals, including riding the 109-mile Michelson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota in one day and possibly competing in some organized cycling events this fall and winter.

In the last three weeks he's ridden 52, 99, and 78 miles with single rides of up to 32 miles. He wants to get up to at least 50 miles a couple times before tackling the Michelson Trail.

Above and below:  ready to ride on Lost Canyon Rd., which is very shady in this section

Jim tends to follow a hard-easy schedule like we did when we ran -- each long or hard ride is followed by one or two rest days or easy rides.

As he builds up his endurance and stamina he may incorporate some back-to-back hard/long workouts, again mimicking the types of workouts we did when we competed in foot races. "Doubles" -- doing long or hard workouts two days in a row -- help teach your mind and body to keep going when you're tired.

MY BIKE TRAINING

My favorite exercise is still being on my feet, not on a bike. I much prefer to go for a long hike in the mountains than to ride my bike on roads, trails, or bike paths. But I do that, too, to help preserve what little cartilage is left in my knees.

Above and below: pretty daisy-like flowers on the east side of the the Mineral Belt Trail

For me, the hardest part of cycling is just getting out the door. Running and walking are so much easier for me to get psyched up about; I'm always ready for a hike!

Funny thing is, as soon as I finally get moving on my bike . . .  I usually enjoy it.


Bright Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers brighten a sage of field along the bike trail;
the view is toward Mosquito Pass and Mt. Sherman, a 14er to the east of town.

Above and below:  asters blooming along the Mineral Belt Trail

Since I spend a lot more time walking/hiking than cycling my bike mileage is much less than Jim's.

I don't even keep track of the miles I ride or walk in a training log any more. I used to be very anal about record-keeping for 30+ years of running -- not just distance, time, and pace but also where, when, weather, which shoes, etc. I was a numbers freak for over three decades.

Above and below:  branch of Tennessee Creek off CR 9, part of the LT100 bike course

No more.

It's all part of my desire to simplify my life and become more Type B. I'm still doing plenty of miles by foot and on my bike, and I often do them hard/fast to get my heart rate up, but I lost my desire to keep track of it all. Half the time I don't even track the elapsed time. When I do, it's usually not exact to the minute. Why bother if I'm no longer competing?

What a difference this is for me! I love the freedom from self-imposed "should's" that it gives me.

The only time it's a problem is like right now, when I can't tell you how many miles I average hiking or biking each week. I usually know what my longest recent hikes and rides are, though.

Above and below: CR 9A, another part of the LT100 bike course

My Specialized Tricross doesn't have a tripmeter on it like my Terry Isis road bike (which is at the house in VA when we travel). Jim usually wears our Garmin wrist GPS when he rides. Even if I'm hiking/riding at a different time than him, I often don't wear the GPS. The main reason I use it is to know the elevation.

Jim's still interested in knowing his times and distances when he cycles (and if he's ever able to resume running or hiking). That's fine whether he wants to train to compete -- or not. I'm just in a different "place" now.

CYCLING AT HIGH ALTITUDE

Since August is within the Colorado "monsoon season" with rain or thunderstorms many afternoons, we both usually get out in the morning for our workouts. A couple times when I rode in the afternoon I had to race home to beat storms:

I got sprinkled on only once, never drenched.

We are both getting acclimated to the higher elevations around the Leadville area. Being in Silverton several weeks helped. The valleys where Jim cycled were at or above 9,200 feet. I hiked up to about 12,300 feet when we were in the Silverton area and would have gone higher but there was too much snow.


Another cyclist rides past me on the bike path as I stop to take a picture of an historic cabin.


The trail goes through both open and wooded sections as it circles Leadville.


Part of the prosperous California Gulch mining area south of town; the bike trail is at the right.

Leadville sits at about 10,200 feet, the highest incorporated town in the Lower 48. We haven't been sucking air too badly here since we've gradually worked our way higher and higher this summer.

The lowest we can get around here is about 9,200 feet at Twin Lakes. The highest is the summit of Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet. I can hike up there (and plan to next week) but Jim can't ride that high because there aren't roads or trails he can ride to the summits of any nearby mountains. He could do that on Pike's Peak or Mt. Evans but the opportunity doesn't exist here.


View of Leadville from the south side of the Mineral Belt Trail


View of Turquoise Lake from the east side of the bike path

The highest he'll probably get on his bike is 12,600 feet at Columbine Mine if he rides his bike back to town after working the aid station at that location during the LT100 bike race on Saturday.

Most of the time we ride at elevations from about 9,500-11,500 feet on the Mineral Belt Trail and nearby roads. I can assure you that's a good aerobic workout.

MINERAL BELT TRAIL

I've written about this paved multi-use path in previous years' journals. It is a wonderful resource for residents and visitors. Jim loves riding on it, which initially surprised me until I realized why -- it's scenic and challenging but without the dangers of riding on the road or a rough trail.


View of the Rockies, Turquoise Lake, Leadville, and mining district from the eastern side of the loop


Old mine retaining walls along the bike path

The Mineral Belt Trail loops around Leadville and through parts of California Gulch and other formerly lucrative mining areas on the mountain slopes east of town.

The remaining pictures are from the mining areas.

One of the mining relics, as seen from either side on the bike path

Part of the Mineral Belt Trail goes through town but most is out in forests and meadows with great views of the valley and surrounding peaks.

The path is popular with runners, walkers, cyclists, and skate-boarders in the summer and cross-country skiers when it's covered with snow -- which is about eight months of the year at this lofty altitude! Spring and fall are very short seasons in Leadville.

Above and below:  distinctive "checkerboard" slag heap

The bike path is 12.6 miles long. We can access it quite easily from our camping spot at Jack's place -- it's only 300-400 feet away. It is so convenient that we both get out on it several times a week to ride and/or walk.

We both prefer to ride clockwise around the loop but we alternate it with CCW loops for variety.

Above and below:  retaining pond at one of the mine sites

While we're here I won't be walking the Mineral Belt Trail as much as riding on it.

When I walk I like to take Cody with me so he gets exercise, too. Because of all the cyclists the Mineral Belt Trail isn't a good place to walk a dog off-leash. It's not safe for the dogs or cyclists. I have to keep Cody on his leash when I'm walking him on the bike path. I prefer to hike on dirt trails in the woods near Jack's place, around Turquoise Lake, or up in the mountains where Cody can run off-leash; that's a lot more fun for both of us.

Meanwhile, both Jim and I do have fun riding on the bike path. Check it out if you're in the area.

Next entry:  volunteering for the LT100 bike race

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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