Super-Duper Heil Ranch

Ski Magazine published an editorial a while back where the writer was ticked-off about living in Boulder. Sure, it was tongue-in-cheek, but it was pretty accurate. And it’s true, Boulder doesn’t have a doughnut shop anywhere in town! That’s why it was funny. The truth is that everyone in Boulder is pretty much lame in comparison to someone else. The town, and even the county, is so full of extreme athletes, you can hardly throw a stone without hitting someone who climbs 5.14 or kayaks class V+ or holds the current U.S. pro cycling title. In general, merely competent athletes aren’t even also-rans in Boulder.

Topo map for the Super-Duper Heil Ranch ride. Only the read portion of the route was a repeat. I went into Boulder on the blue route and returned from Lyons on the green route. Unfortunately my topo map software is too old to include the trails at Heil Valley Ranch, so just imagine some twisty route between the end of the blue and the beginning of the green segments. Total route (dirt included) was about 60 miles.
Topo map for the Super-Duper Heil Ranch ride. Only the red portion of the route was a repeat. I went into Boulder on the blue route and returned from Lyons on the green route. Unfortunately my topo map software is too old to include the trails at Heil Valley Ranch, so just imagine some twisty route between the end of the blue and the beginning of the green segments. Total route (dirt included) was about 60 miles.

Case in point: Yesterday I had a rare day off while Jess had to work, so I decided to go for a long mountain bike ride. I’m not a big fan of driving to trailheads, but there really aren’t any trails very near the house. This is unfortunate, because there’s plenty of amenable terrain. Nevertheless, I decided to try riding the new Picture Rock trail that opened last year connecting Heil Valley Ranch to Hall Ranch in nearby Lyons. For years Super Hall Ranch has been a standard ride where you leave from Boulder and ride to Lyons before tackling Hall Ranch. Of course you ride back when it’s all finished, with perhaps a stop by Oscar Blues for beer and a burger.

My plan was a bit more ambitious because I was going to leave from Lafayette and combine Heil Valley Ranch with Hall Ranch and a lot more road. The first 15 miles went by pretty uneventfully, landing me at the Amante Coffee in North Boulder. On the weekends, this is possibly the most popular rendezvous spot for groups of cyclists (road and mountain alike), heading off into the mountain roads west of town. While I was sitting outside enjoying a mocha and some biscotti, up rode a former coworker, and current domestic pro cyclist, Tom Zirbel. You may have heard of him. We had a nice chat. He’s house shopping with his girlfriend between training and racing. Yesterday he was doing some motor pacing, where you ride fast (really fast if you’re Tom) behind a motorcycle.

Shortly thereafter, one of Tom’s teammates rode up, and since I’d finished my drink, I started up the canyon towards the trailhead. After a mile or two of riding, I was about to catch a pair of road cyclists when Tom’s teammate passed me like a bullet shot out of a gun. I looked down for a minute, and when I looked back up again he was about a mile down the road. Grant you, I was on a mountain bike with 2.4″ knobby tires, but I was still doing around 20 mph. Another minute later, I heard a motorcycle closing in on me. Tom shouted to get on (the pace line), and for a second I thought about doing just that, but there was no way. Even on the road bike it would have taken everything I had available to hang for even a mile.

After another 8 miles, I’d reached the trailhead just off Left Hand Canyon Road. From there, it’s about 2.5 miles of rocky climbing to reach the upper loops. Part way around the loop you then come to a junction with the Picture Rock trail that takes about 5.5 miles of almost exclusively downhill riding into Lyons. The new trail is a bit rocky at the top, but turns into some really fun singletrack in the latter half. There are even a few colorful bits of art (if you can call a rusted old bullet-riddled car art) to check out along the way. There are also a bunch of deer. Clearly they’re quite accustomed to people, because they weren’t the least bit fazed by my presence.

At the oposite trailhead, in Lyons, my day’s mileage was at about 34 miles (about 10 on dirt). When I packed for the day’s ride, the pantry was bare. Normally we have a few Clif Bars sitting around, but there just wasn’t anything to bring on the ride. At that point, I was super hungry, so I found a little pizza shop in Lyons and gobbled down their lunch special (2 slices and a fountain drink). My legs felt pretty good, but my butt was pretty sore. I have a long-term rant about bike shops not selling seats properly. There’s no good way to tell if a seat is going to work well for a rider unless you log some time atop it, preferably on your own bike. Therefore, my seat is less than ideal, and after a few hours and 30+ miles, so is the comfort level of my derrier.

At any rate, I needed to get home to shower and meet Jess for Good Friday service at church. Since I wasn’t wearing a watch and have no cyclometer on the mountain bike, I wasn’t sure what time it was. Nevertheless, the sun was out now, so I could tell it was well past noon, maybe 3:00.  I would have to pass on Hall Ranch and just ride back to Lafayette instead. I took a slightly different route, and made it back to the house by about 5:30.  In total, it was about 6 hours on the bike and about 60 miles of riding for a pathetic 10 miles per hour average. I’ll have to ride Super-Duper Heil Ranch again some day and see if I can improve my time.

The Emperor’s New Shoes

Dave recounts the details leading up to a good-karma moment at REI where he recently purchased a new pair of rock climbing shoes. Let’s hope this purchase sates his rampant gear lust for at least a week or two.

After giving Jess a hard time about letting her old rock shoes get too worn out for a resoling, I turned around and did the exact same thing. I’d had my old shoes resoled once a couple of years ago, and the new rubber certainly made a difference, but somehow I neglected things until one day I discovered a hole worn all the way through the rand and into the leather beneath. It looks like someone needs a spoonful of his own medicine. The shoes are still functional, of course, but now another resole is right out.

The worn La Sportiva Cliffs alongside the venerable La Sportiva Mythos in uninspired brown-colored leather. Notice the small holes in both toes of the blue Cliffs.
The worn La Sportiva Cliffs alongside the venerable La Sportiva Mythos in uninspired brown-colored leather. Notice the small holes in both toes of the blue Cliffs.

This is a real bummer because rock shoes are notoriously difficult to fit, and I really like the fit of my old La Sportiva Cliffs. They fit like a glove, and unfortunately, they smell a bit like a locker room. At least there’s one benefit to a new pair of shoes. I’ve been apprehensive about getting a new pair for some time, as my first pair of climbing shoes was a complete disaster. They were a pair of size 5.5 Boreal Lasers that induced immediate bouts of hammer toe. They climbed quite well, for about 2 minutes, until the pain became so unbearable I couldn’t stand on anything. Of course I tried every trick in the book to coax just a bit more stretch out of the unlined leather shoes, but there are limits to everything. I eventually gave them away to one of Jess’ co-workers for her daughter to use. It’s no wonder my next pair was a flat-footed comfy shoe. While the Cliffs aren’t a high-performance shoe, they are certainly comfy, and they’ve served me well for almost 10 years! I can only hope this new pair lasts as well as the Cliffs.

We’ve been sitting on a 20% off coupon from REI and our annual dividend since they came out last month. The dividend isn’t all that big because we like to buy our outdoor gear from a variety of different stores, but it’s nice to take advantage of the two together when you plan to buy something expensive. I’m a bit miserly regarding some purchases, and I definately think $130.00 for some shoes a bit ridiculous. After trying on quite a few different shoes and sizes, I’d settled on the Mythos from La Sportiva. The fit is actually a bit similar to my old Cliffs with a slightly different toe box. I kept trying on slightly smaller sizes looking for just the right fit until REI ran out of shoes. The size 40 (euro sizes) was the smallest the salesman could find. It felt pretty good, but I would have preferred trying on the next smaller size in order to really make certain that the 40 was the right size for me. I also discovered that my right foot is a bit larger than my left foot. I don’t recall this being the case in the past, so maybe it’s a side effect from the bad sprain I suffered last year from a climbing fall. (Read the blog post here.)

Oddly, another guy was looking at the same shoes, and was complaining that he really needed a bigger shoe for his left foot than his right. We had about the same size feet, so when a pair of 39.5 Mythos appeared in the women’s section, we took turns trying on both sets of shoes. Ultimately Steve and I ended up swapping the left and right shoes from the two pairs. It’s a pretty good fit; very snug, but not at all painful with just a tiny bit of space near one of my little toes. After trying on both pairs in rapid succession, I got to the point where I had to look at the label to tell them apart. The laces are so adjustable, I felt more difference from adjusting the laces than I did from the shoe. I bit the bullet and purchased a mixed pair of 39.5/40 Mythos that I hope will fit even better in the future than they did at the store. When all of the various discounts and credits were applied, I got the shoes for about $85.00 (tax included). Not too bad for a new pair of rock shoes. Of course, the real test will be unleashing them on a climb and seeing just how well they fit after a little break-in period, so I’ll have to post an update in a few weeks.

Snow Day! (plus catch-up)

So Dave tells me that you guys don’t want to read long messages about much of anything, especially Twilight. (Except Emily. Thanks, Emily! I know you’re asking yourself why I’m blogging and not finishing Breaking Dawn. Never fear—I’ll get there.) Anyway, let me catch you up on our lives, in reverse chronological order. With as few comments as possible.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The city of Boulder is closed. Roads are closed. It took Dave and me an hour and a half to get home from work at 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. Blizzard!

Dave shoveling.
Dave shoveling.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dave and I went rock climbing in the Flatirons. Almost everyone we know headed to the Flatirons that day—something about a beautiful Saturday at the beginning of spring in Boulder that draws you up there. We climbed part of the first flatiron. One pitch was enough for me, for starters. Dave led wonderfully and it was lovely to be outside and healthy again!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I got sick on Tuesday, March 10, and finally stayed home from work to go to the doctor on March 16. She prescribed two inhalers and a Z pack of antibiotics. My voice went wacky and I could sing a whole octave lower than usual. (Cool!) Although I wasn’t healed on my birthday, I was well enough to really enjoy opening presents (thanks, family!) and eating dinner. Dave sweetly agreed to help cook homemade noodles, homemade spaghetti sauce, and homemade chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream icing. Yum!

Dave cuts noodles.
Dave cuts noodles.
Sauce atop noodles.
Sauce atop noodles.
Is that spaghetti sauce in the corners of my mouth?
Is that spaghetti sauce in the corners of my mouth?

Friday, March 13, 2009

We’re playing music from the Leonard Bernstein opera Candide in band, so I went with my friend Jehanne to see the CU Opera performance. It was terrific! What talented people. The orchestra was wonderful and the set was both creative and very functional. The singing was amazing. I had always wanted to eat at Khow Thai, on the hill, which we did beforehand. Yum! I had green curry with tofu.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dave went to Fault Cave with a few other people from our grotto. I stayed home to work on the Parish Visitor.

Graffiti in Fault Cave.
Graffiti in Fault Cave.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Church, followed by a baby shower for our friends Erica and Adam, followed by a book group that Dave and I have both joined with several other couples from church. Our first book was Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi, by Donald Spoto. It was terrific and we had a great discussion, so we’re reading another Spoto book for April: The Hidden Jesus: A New Life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

We went caving down near Colorado Springs, to a cave called Huccacove. Dave and I had been there before—in fact, we attended a cave rescue seminar there. It’s a fun, kind of sporting cave without a lot of decorations. It was a beautiful day outside, although it did snow a bit while we were driving from Cave of the Winds to Huccy’s and then again a little bit when we got out of the cave.

Dave in the cave.
Dave in the cave.
Pretty formations.
Pretty formations.
Cave bacon!
Cave bacon!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

We headed to Ouray again with Gretchen and Andy for our last ice climbing trip of the season. I always miss it when it turns into spring, even though I’m always looking forward to mountain biking. We were afraid it was going to be too warm to climb! It was warm, but the ice was still solid. That made for a wonderful trip!

Dave climbing a hard, thin, mixed route.
Dave climbing a hard, thin, mixed route.
Jess belaying with the river raging (okay, flowing) behind her.
Jess belaying with the river raging (okay, flowing) behind her.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mid-February, but warm enough to go mountain biking! We headed up to Heil Ranch. It was so fun to be back out on the trails, although it didn’t take too long for me to poop out. It was a lovely day in Lyons, but kind of overcast with a chilly breeze on our side of the mountain. Still, the first mountain bike ride of the season puts a grin on my face.

Call Home Before the League Game

I just want to set the story straight. I mean the story Dave told a couple of posts ago, in It’s a League Game, Smokey. Here’s my side: I needed the car, because I had book club that evening. Book club doesn’t start until 8:15 p.m., when the group’s kids are asleep. So I don’t tend to get home until 10:45 p.m. As you may know, and as Dave mentioned, we only have one car. But since Dave has an EcoPass, it’s no problem for him to get home on the bus. He likes to sit at the Laughing Goat and putz around on his laptop after work, so he assured me he could take the Jump home from the downtown bus station. I met him at the Goat after work and hung out for a while before heading over to pick up my friend Becki. I said, “I’ll be home at 10:45. See you then!” We had a really good evening: we’d read Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody, who wrote the screenplay for Juno. Nobody really liked the book, but we had a lot of thoughts about the stripping underworld, as well as what was wrong with the book, since most of us liked Juno.

Anyway, I dropped Becki off and skipped dropping off my library book because I’d said I’d be home at 10:45. I walked in the door right on time, but it was clear that Dave wasn’t home. No lights on. “Weird,” I thought, and went to do the dishes. He still wasn’t home when I finished, so I was starting to get a bit worried. I turned on the computer so that I could check the bus schedule. Since he wasn’t home yet, he had clearly missed the last Jump. However, the Dash had one more route out to Lafayette that was supposed to arrive at 11:46 p.m. I decided to wait up and drive over to the Park N Ride, which is about half a mile away, to pick Dave up. He picked me up there once, unexpectedly, and it was really a pleasure. So I picked up Twilight, which I had just started. Our friend Emily is passing around the series, and it was my turn. I left for the bus stop at 11:35. It was a little spooky to be sitting in a deserted parking lot reading about vampires near midnight, but I persevered. The bus arrived right on time, but Dave didn’t get off. Now there was no way for him to get home, unless I found him! But I couldn’t drive to Boulder and look around, I thought.

Of course, by then I was so nervous I could hardly drive the half mile back home. I kept wildly alternating between “he can take care of himself; he’s very resourceful” and “anyone can be hit by a car!” I walked in the door and tried to imagine how one actually calls hospitals. What number do you call? Do they have a number for nervous wives, where you can just check the name without feeling like an idiot? The thing about fear is, you stop caring so much about looking bad. Once, in a cave, several of us were slightly lost, and instead of carefully looking around for the “elephant trail” that dozens of feet had scraped up, I frantically insisted that our friend Pete blow his emergency whistle. Needless to say, I was utterly humiliated once we were found (only minutes later) and scolded for not being responsible cavers. But in the midst of the panic, I would’ve done anything to be found.

Anyway, I didn’t call the hospital. Instead, I tried our friend Elijah, who sometimes catches up with Dave at the coffee shop. Mind you, it was midnight, and I hated the idea of waking him—but I called anyway. He didn’t answer. So I looked up the phone number for the Laughing Goat, swallowed hard, and called. A woman answered. I tried to explain. “I can’t find my husband,” I gulped, “and I know he was there. Do you remember a guy typing on a laptop?” “Well,” she said, “everyone in here has a laptop.” (I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now. There are nine patrons and eight laptops.) I tried to explain that it was a silver laptop and that Dave has brown hair, glasses, and a gray jacket. He sounded kind of familiar, she thought, but…

In a panic, I squeaked out a “thank you” and hung up. About a minute later, the phone rang. It was Dave, who said that he was at the King Soopers at 287 and Baseline. I wound up there once, when I accidentally took the Erie Jump instead of the one to Lafayette. “Catch the wrong bus?” I asked, voice quivering. “I didn’t catch the bus,” he said. “I’ll pick you up right now,” I said. “Are you still dressed?” he asked? “Yes!” I said, and got in the car. When he got in the car, he told me his side of the story, the refused EcoPass, the quixotic walk eleven miles home. His raw inner thighs and foot blisters. His insistence on principle. (“It’s a league game, Smokey!”) Those of you who are thinking “good for him! Stick it to the man!” have obviously never tried to figure out if the hospital has a number for panic-stricken loved ones.

“But why couldn’t you call?” I asked, reasonably. “I didn’t pass a phone,” he responded. (I’m sure he thought, “reasonably.”) “But you could’ve left a message saying that you were going to walk home!” I insisted. “But I would’ve had to walk two blocks out of my way to get to a phone!” he exclaimed. “And our answering machine doesn’t always work!” True. But he still should’ve tried. And no, cell phones wouldn’t have necessarily solved the problem. I’ve heard plenty of people anxiously fretting “She won’t pick up her phone! I hope she’s okay!”

If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that one man’s principled journey is another woman’s evening of terror. Just call your loved ones if you’re coming home late!

Food and Exercise

I’m here to talk about food. Food and exercise. This afternoon I pulled on my running shoes and went for a jog. The whole time, I was thinking about how much I hate jogging—I can’t breathe, I immediately get a stitch in my side, my ankle hurts, my knees ache. I was also trying to remind myself that I feel really good when I get enough exercise. Generally, the crankier I am, the likelier it is that I haven’t been outside or climbing in the gym in a while. Make no mistake—I HATE the idea of exercise. I love to ride my bike—especially mountain biking—but it’s exhausting. I love to climb in the gym, but I hate postponing dinner to head over there after a long day at work. I love to ice climb, but I hate being cold. I love caving, but I hate worrying about how scared I’ll be. I love running about with friends, but I hate the idea of spending an afternoon playing soccer. I love swimming, but I hate suiting up and sliding into cold water. I hate jogging. Yes, I just hate it. But the easiest exercise to get in the middle of day is pulling on stretchy clothes, pocketing my iPod, and lacing up my really cool Adidas (bought when I was laboring through triathlons a few summers ago). Then heading out to the bike path near work and going ten minutes in one direction until—thank goodness!—my watch beeps and I can turn back. Luckily, I inherited some of my dad’s desire for a regular schedule, which has made it easier to get in the habit of exercising. In college and grad school it was Abs of Steel, every other day, for years. I still do exercise videos that Dad taped from the TV back in the 80s—Denise Austin and Basic Training: The Workout with Ada Janklowitcz. I also did Buns of Steel for a while, until I realized that building muscle in your rear means building your rear.

Anyway, I hate jogging. And I hate the idea that I get a bunch of exercise and then I have to do it again! I should immediately look like a movie star. It’s all well and good to be healthy (as always, The Magic Mountain comes to mind), but I’m already fairly healthy. If I’m going to kill myself huffing and puffing up the path, I want to be gorgeous at the end of it, immediately!

I also exercise because I LOVE FOOD. I love it as much as I hate jogging (maybe more). Dinner is a beautiful reward for a workday. Breakfast soothes the pain of having to be awake. Lunch is probably my least favorite, but at work it gives me time to read for fun and enjoy some leftovers. I’ve always loved to eat, but I have no appetite. I’m never hungry. I think I have a terribly slow metabolism and I eat because it’s finally time, hooray! So I simply must exercise. I’ve struck a happy balance with my body. I eat more than I should, but I don’t worry about what I’m eating, and I live comfortably with the results.

I’ve recently discovered that I love to cook, and I’m also learning that I like to garden. I love to eat vegetables that taste like they’re supposed to, and that have to have the dirt washed off before I can eat them. I’d love to learn to can and learn how to freeze things in useable quantities—so I could pull out carrots in the middle of winter for a soup or a stew. (Advice welcome.) Since I’m talking about cooking, I’ll mention that we’re having a dinner party tomorrow. Dave suggested that I make either Indian food or stir-fry, but I decided on blue cheese rigatoni and spinach salad, with pineapple upside-down cake for dessert. If it turns out well, I’ll post the recipes.