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.
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.