I got back from the desert last Sunday and frankly, I should have stayed out there. Its been cold, wet, and sometimes snowy for the latter half of this week in Boulder. Should make for some cold water at this weekend's Sprint race. They claim the water is 53, but it really hasn't even gotten that warm in the last 3-4 days. The camp last week took place in Fruita/Grand Junction for 3 days, then another 3 days in Moab, Utah. I have trained in Grand Junction before as I was there for over 3 weeks in 2006 for family stuff. However, I had yet to do two of the rides we did: Douglas Pass and the Grand Mesa.
Douglas Pass is an out-and-back ride from Fruita (for us) with a turnaround at the summit of Douglas Pass (8800 feet). For anyone that did the Desert Sun race back in the day, it includes the majority of that bike course. You spend the first 20 miles rolling through the desert before making your way to more "Colorado-like" terrain on the second half. The real climbing takes place over the last 4-5 miles, but you ride a false flat for a long, long time before then. The return would normally be a quick one, but we were greeted with strong crosswinds to end the day. At any rate, it kept us honest. Bring lots of water, there's nothing out there.
The second ride was up the west side of the Grand Mesa. We started the ride at the base of the climb below the town of Mesa and continued up nearly 5000 feet to the west side summit of the Mesa. You could ride down the other side and climb back to the top via the east summit. This will likely be an option we will take up next year, but it all dependent on the warmth of the weather in May. We had coffee and snacks at the Blink cafe in Mesa which was fantastic. Stop in and tell them I sent ya!
One last thing about this ride is the speed of the descent. It has long, open striaghtaways on good roads and many people reported seeing their fastest speeds on a bike EVER. I hit over 50 mph while braking.
The final ride of the trip is the loop that goes through the Colorado Monument. I opted out of this ride since I've ridden it countless times and I wanted to get one last swim in before we left for Moab (Moab pool is closed). However, it really is an amazing ride that takes you through one of the most unique spots in the country.
Additionally, while in Grand Junction we had several swims in the new Mesa State College Pool. The College built a brand new, 40-million dollar facility that includes a beautiful new 50-meter pool. On several occassions we had the whole place to ourselves. The staff was very friendly and accomodating to us and the general public drop-in fee is 5.00/visit.
After my trip to GJ in 2006 I told everyone that the training there was solid, but the swim facilities were the missing link. Well that sorted that in a big way. The final push might be getting them to set it long course once and a while when its not the summer months.
Off to Moab.
I wasn't really sure what to expect with the training in Moab. My only experiences in Moab have been camping, hiking, and mountain biking. And that was years and years ago. In fact, I had not been to town in ten years before last week.
While we were there we did three primary rides:
First: We did a short, late-day ride along the Colorado River to Potash. We did some paceline work here and just generally had a good time checking out the scenery and riding on the flat for a change.
The second ride we did was my favorite of the whole trip: The La Sal Mountain Loop. This ride takes you along the Colorado River, then up a 4000+ foot climb with some sweet sections of gravel, switchbacks and broken road before dropping you down to the South side of town. If you summit it from the South you get a nice climb that locals call "The wall." I really wanted a chance to ride it in the other direction, but that will have to wait for another trip.
The final ride we did was in Canyonlands Park on the Southeast side of Moab. This was one of the shorter rides unless you were one of the folks that rode back into Moab (another 35 miles). Next year we plan to make this a long ride by rolling from town to the park, ride the park, and ride back. Should end up being nearly 100 miles with some good climbing.
Its a fun area of the country and while its known for its mtn biking, you can definitely get some good road riding in. May has got to be one of the best months to be there, but book early because even the shantiest of motels was full while we were there. Camping is a great option and something I would likely do if I went there on my own.
I took it pretty easy this week so hopefully I can go alright in my first race since January. 20 men are toeing the line in the pro/elite race so it should be a hammerfest. Thankfully, its not too long of race.