Friday, July 15, 2011

Methow Training Week, Day 6

My last big day and my last road ride.

I wanted to ride back up the Chewuch again but also wanted something a bit different than an out and back. On my last trip I'd started by riding to Twisp, then heading north. Since I'm in Twisp this time, I wanted to avoid highway 20 as much as possible and leave the Winthrop-Twisp eastside road to the end, thus making a loop out of the ride.

A document I found on the web piqued my planning interest. The mention of our "local Alp d'Huez" really got my interest. Nothing like a challenging climb to make me wanta go do it!

I wanted to get at least 60 miles so adding up the various distances (here to Winthrop, Winthrop to Chewuch turnaround, Falls Creek side trip) it looked like I could get it all together.

To get the loop started I headed north on Hwy 20, but took a parallel side road (old Twisp-Winthrop highway?) for a couple of miles. Then I turned off the highway and headed up around Twin Lakes. A nice diversion with a minor climb.

This brought me right down to the bridge at Winthrop.

On through town and north on the East Chewuch Road. This is also the road to Pearygin Lake State Park. All my maps showed East Chewuch Road joining the West Chewuch Road a few miles outside Winthrop but also showed that it continued up the east side of the Chewuch River. I made an on-the-road decision to follow the pavement to its end on the east side. Which it did in just a few miles. However, there is a paved road that goes east and uphill - exploration for another day.

I retraced my route to the bridge, crossed the river, and headed up river on the paved road. This is a very gently rising route with a few very minor hills thrown in so I could cruise along. To my surprise there was practically no car traffic. My experience has been that there would be at least the occastional vehicle, but this was a slow day for cars.

At 30 miles on my trip meter I stopped for a snack and a look at the Chewuch River.

Then back down-river to the Falls Creek road and my big challenge. On the way up I'd passed Falls Creek Campground and a signed trail indicating Falls Creek Falls. Ah, that's why it's named Falls Creek - it has a falls!

But I was too zoned to stop and take a side trip, just wanted to get going uphill.

My directions had said steeper at the start then easing off so I was thinking "Use your triple; spin, spin, spin." It was pretty steep at the beginning, actually for about 1.5 miles and I did use my triple a bit.

Then it just leveled right off and straight across the valley was the falls! After a moment to look and capture photons I was back on my bike and headed uphill, slowly.

Within 100' or so I came to a cattle guard which I walked across. Generally I'll ride them but this one was pretty beat up and I was moving so slowly that I didn't think I'd have sufficient momentum to carry me across.

This "flat" area was very short lived: it merely took me around a corner and over a 1-lane bridge that crossed Falls Creek, then the road kicked back up to triple chain wheel again. By this time I'm doing mental calculations: 4.5 MPH it's gonna take a couple hours to go 8 miles.

Then it eased off to relentless but steady climbing. No triple but no big chainwheel either. Just up and up and up.

From the directions I figured that I'd run out of pavement in 8 miles. However, 8 miles came and no pavement end, so I kept going. Big black clouds were gathering and it was getting cooler as I continued to gain altitude. Finally I just stopped at 9 miles, took a short break, and headed back downhill.

Now I hafta talk about the road itself. Even though paved it's pretty bumpy. There are sections missing along the sides and in some places the undergrowth has come right up to the edge of the pavement filling the ditch with plants. And there are lots of patches: asphalt patches here and there and bigger patched sections of this blackish material with a small layer of loose gravel/sand on top.

And then there are the cow "pies". It looks like a herd of cows with diarrhea have been using the road. No, not nice little piles but long splotted trails of bovine fecal matter. Mostly dry, but the occasional moist one.

So you can see that I really didn't want to go whipping downhill as fast as I could coast. If I did there's a good chance that I'd get my teeth rattled out, hit a chuckhole, and slide downhill through a bunch of cow poop. Not a pleasant image.

So, more mental calculations: 20 mph average downhill is still gonna take me almost a 1/2 hour. That's a long time to be squeezing the brakes. And it was a long time; my hands took turns going numb and I kept shaking them out.

I stopped for one last look at the falls then finished my descent back to the Chewuch River Road. From here it was just keep my head down, keep those pedals spinning, and battle the headwinds back into Winthrop then down the east side road to Twisp.

As I was posting this route on Map My Run, it revealed a posted ride to me that showed the pavement ends at 12 miles up Falls Creek. Ah yes, another time.

Methow Training Week, Day 5

Day 5, it's drawing to an end.

Today is trail running (and swimming, of course). On my last training week here I'd made the mistake of "running" to Slate Lake. Big mistake. The trail goes just about straight up so there was no running. And coming down was so hard on me that I had sore legs for days afterwards.

This time I wanted something more gentle. I knew that the Twisp River Trail (TRT) goes along the valley kind of paralleling the road. I knew that the valley didn't rise too steeply so that seemed like a good option.

The main issue for me was access and where I wanted to be. On my Slate Creek mis-adventure I'd gone on the TRT for a short distance, so I knew it was that far down the valley and that it went both directions. But I wanted to start farther up river to see some new country.

The Forest Service TRT information indicated access at Scatter Creek, so I elected to start there.

My geezer pass was useful as the access point is a fee area. Once again I was convinced that it's the best $10 I ever spent. One advantage of advancing age!

A short spur trail took me right up to the TRT and the intersection for the Scatter Creek Trail. The directions were well-signed so I started out.

This was a classical Eastern Washington drainage bottom: the occasional area with moisture filled with lush growth interspersed with areas of open timber. Since it's still spring like the air was filled with the smells of these plants. Most of the flowers have bloomed and gone down in the valley so the main color is green.

The trail in the first couple of miles is quite technical - narrow with lots of rocks and roots and ups and downs. In the wet places I walked because the growth totally obscured the path and I didn't want to trip on an unseen rock and break something.

After those 2 miles the trail really opened up. At North Creek it came right down to the road and crossed the creek using the road. Then back up into the trees.

From here it was just a short distance to an unsigned fork in the trail. Both looked good so I took the right-hand fork. This started me up a long, long climb towards North Lake along the North Creek drainage. On my way up I met a solo hiker coming down and that was the only person that I saw the whole day.
Without a target location to turn around, I just kept my eye on my watch and turned around in 1:24 (my goal was to run a total of 2:30). This trail was a mix of really good trail (even though relentlessly uphill) and mixed technical terrain. There was even a wild stream crossing at an avalanche slide.

It was a pretty narrow stream but running swiftly down a steep avalanche area. And I didn't want to get my feet wet by wading through. Some kind soul had put a couple of logs across but they were too small and slick to walk on so I crabbed across with my feet on the lower one while using the upper for balance. It worked OK; I just got one foot wet.

The lower log moved around as I walked on it, so when I returned I piled a few rocks around one end to stabilize it a bit more; worked great.

I turned around at 1:24, had an energy bar, and pretty much reversed my trip up to return to the car. Time back was 1:08 so I judged it pretty well for 2:30.

My new Nathan hydration pack is really getting a test on these runs. I love the way it rides on my back and I've had fluids left over after my 2 trail runs here. It's not been hot, but it looks to me as if the capacity would be sufficient for this amount of time in much warmer weather.

Plus, I got to see some great scenery and smell some great smells and hear some wonderful sounds.

Methow Training Week, Day 4

No swimming today. I drove to Patterson Lake, got out of my car, and just felt too tired to get in the water.

So, with the extra time, I elected to return to Twisp via Elbow Coulee. We run on a section of this road for the Sun Flower Relay, but I didn't realize that the road goes through the hills from the Patterson Lake area to the Twisp River valley. Always good to know these things.

My plan for the day was more off-road, cyclocross riding, this time with gears.

Returning from Wolf Creek the previous day, I'd made a car foray up the Bear Creek Road. Right at pavement's end I saw Lester Road heading off into the hills. I looked very tempting so I consulted my maps and decided that this would be my next CX ride.

Turned out to be a good choice.

My maps showed a nice loop heading up Lester, then past Campbell Lake and returning via Davis Lake where I'd pick up the paved road and ride back uphill to my car. Sounded like a winner.

So, after my non-swim morning I did my usual work/eat/get ready thing then loaded up my bike and drove up to the end of the Bear Creek pavement. Boy was I glad to have some gears; the road really kicked up in a few place, but before I knew it I was up in a high valley with gentle terrain.

None of the intersections were signed so I stopped at each one to consult my map and figure out which way to go. I cruised down past Campbell Lake, noticing that there were 3 cars parked there. Where the people were I had no idea because I couldn't see them out on the lake and it didn't look like hiking country to me.

Just past the lake I rode through a herd of grazing Black Angus cattle. I'm always a bit wary around these animals because they're BIG and I certainly didn't want one kicking up its heels too near me. They seemed just as wary about me, however. As I pedaled by they lifted their heads from grazing to give me a stare.

Just past the cattle the road came to an end in a big turnaround! There was a gate with a posting about no authorized access beyond here. I could see a little path heading around the gate and through the bushes but it looked kind of gnarly and I'm a real CX weenie. Later I talked to a couple of people about it and was told that there's only a very short bad section where I was and then it turns into an unmaintained road. I was also told that there could be a lot of snakes there. The snake story left me with few regrets.

So, back through the cattle herd, past the lake and a return to my last intersection. At that point I elected to go more uphill to see what was ahead. Up, up, up until I got a great view downward to Campbell Lake. A little farther and I reached a high point and more map consulting.

At this point I could continue down, not knowing exactly where I'd end up and knowing I'd certainly have a long uphill to return, no matter what, when a kind soul showed up and helped me to decide.

A truck came up the hill and stopped just beyond me.

I walked over, introduced myself, and asked for some help. This was a local person, up to walk and glass for animals. He helped me to find myself on the map and also helped me to decide what to do next.

In the end I took his suggestion to go back down the hill I'd just come up then ride up to Cougar Lake and return down Bear Creek Road.

What a great suggestion!

After a short climb up from Lester Road I came out into a classic Eastern Washington high pine forested valley. A short side road took me over to Cougar Lake, a little gem tucked away in the dry hills of the Methow.

Then it was just a matter of controlling my speed and pucker factor as I pretty much was able to coast the rest of my route back to the car. Even though these roads were in good shape they still had plenty of pointy little rocks and chuck holes both of which I wanted to avoid with my wimpy tires and no-suspension bike.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Methow Training Week, Day 3

Today was scheduled for running. I've been a bit gimpy lately with a sore hamstring/adductor. It really flares up when I run hard surfaces (read streets) but not trail running. So, after last Thursday when I could barely hobble, I was really looking forward to extended time on soft surfaces.

As has become my habit I started my day with a swim in Patterson Lake. This time I did a circumnavigation of the south end of the lake. I woke up to light, threatening rain today and noticed surface raindrops a time or two when I had stopped for new sighting.

Then back for breakfast, a little work, and off to Wolf Creek in the middle of the day - trying to catch a bit of mid-day heat. Not much heat today, though. Up high it was even more threatening than down in the valley and it had showered pretty good sometime during the night or early morning.

This left all the bushes wet. Just 10 minutes or so into my run I encountered a couple hiking out in full, wet rain gear. I remarked that they must have hit some pretty bad rain, but was I ever wrong. It was the bushes!

I encountered my first set just 1/2 mile or so into the run and sporadically thereafter. The plant growth was pretty close to the trail's edge and with a load of rain drops it bent down, sometimes totally obscuring the trail.

Soon enough I was all wet from pushing through the bushes. The worst part was getting my shoes and socks totally soaked. My shorts and shirt dried pretty quickly, in between the wetting places, but my shoes didn't.

Luckily the temperatures were comfortable. Warm enough for my level of dress even though a bit muggy. And today there was no wind, so no wind chill to deal with.

I have to admit that I did think about how uncomfortable an unplanned night out would be under these circumstances. This thinking made more more than cautious than normal.

My plan was for 2.5hrs total running. However, given the great deal of uphill I encountered on the way out, I decided to go a wee bit longer, figuring that my return would be faster, what with more downhill and all. In the end I ran out 1:24, took out my energy bar, and started walking back while I ate it.

By the time I was about 2/3 of the way back I was starting to feel heavy legged. Even tripped over a rock once by not paying attention and flew forward onto my hands. Luckily no scrapes, no broken bones, just dirty hands. Time back was 1:13 so I did time it pretty well.

Back at the car I was really glad to have a dry shirt and my flip-flops so that I could get out of my soggy shirt and shoes.

This trail is every bit as wonderful as I remembered from 2 years ago. It starts out with a pretty good downhill to the creek then works its way back up the valley side, staying a 100 yards or so above the creek. Plenty of ups and downs, meadows, open woods, trail generally in great shape. Due to our extra cool spring there were a couple of very short boggy sections, easily bypassed. There's a great foot log crossing where a side creek comes in.

The return trip was everything I thought it would be: mostly downhill, with some short, steep (and walked) uphills, and slowdowns through the brush-covered sections. The final 1/2 mile or so is uphill back to the car, but I could smell the barn so it went by pretty quickly.

All in all, my timing was impeccable. On the drive back to my motel the skies just opened up and it poured for a while. I'm sure glad that I'm camped in a motel room.

Tomorrow: back on the cross bike with Lester Road?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Methow Training Week, Day 2

Well, today was Washington Pass day, and I was kinda dreading it. All I could think about was the last time I did this ride when my back hurt SO MUCH on the last few miles to the pass. That didn't happen today, but I still worked really hard.

My day started with another swim in Patterson Lake, this time to the south. It was somewhat shorter than yesterday, but my excuse was the big ride ahead of me. It was very pleasant to be swimming along the west shore as the sun came up over Patterson Mtn.

Then back to my room for breakfast and getting ready to ride. Id didn't know whether there would be water at the pass so I left prepared for a long time without access to fluids (4 bottles). That was a wise move as the rest area isn't yet very operational. The snow has been cleared or melted out, but the bathrooms with running water are still locked up.

The photo montage in this post is from the rest area overlook first looking across to Kangaroo Ridge, then up into the cirque that forms the headwaters of Early Winters Creek, and finally the ever-stupendous Liberty Bell massif. The view from the overlook at the east and north faces of Liberty Bell is just breath-taking, always.

I expected head wind on the ride up but didn't have much. However, there was a lot of highway repair going on with a pilot car to lead us through so I ended up with 2 stops, both up and down, to get through the construction zone. However the climb up was just as hard as I remembered. At Early Winters campground the road just kicks up and it goes on and on and on...for about 20 miles. In the end my ride up (42 miles) took 3:15, including my road construction stop.

At the summit I enjoyed the view, took pictures, and donned additional clothing for the descent. I was really looking forward to a wind-assisted trip back to Twisp. Alas, this was not to be.

After only about 3 miles coasting I was stopped for the road construction and had a long wait. Got a chance to chat with an Irish guy who was headed to Mazama with his family for a vacation. Then the flagger made me get in the BACK of the pack for the pilot trip, even though I could go as fast as the cars in the pilot group. Ah, well.

Once we finally got going I really sailed along. BUT I had a HEAD WIND. Really unusual as the wind is normal down-river. For the steep stuff back to Early Winters I could still manage to coast 30 MPH or so but I was really buffeted by the gust wind. Using the guidelines here I would guesstimate winds of 40-50 km/hr with some really strong gusts. It really took the fun out of the ride back, just grinding into the wind, going 12-14 MPH most of the time. It was just absolute joy to get in the lee of something for 2 seconds and get some relief. Time back: 2:30, including my traffic stop.

I dragged my butt into my room and just collapsed. Then sucked down a carton of chocolate milk and got a bit of energy back.

Now I'm eating real food and feeling better. That bed is really gonna feel good tonight.

Tomorrow: Trail running on Wolf Creek.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Methow Training Week, Day 1

Yesterday was a bit hectic getting out of town and I didn't get here until 9:45 or so last night.

My plan today was to swim in Patterson Lake and try out my single speed cross bike on easy trails/roads.

After a good night's rest I was up and ready to hit the water by 6:30. The parking is a little funny at Patterson Lake with the big area reserved for cars with a Fish and Game parking sticker, so I had to use another spot just up the road. This was the same launching point I'd used when I was here 2 years ago: a short trail down to the lake with a quite decent cove to get into the water. NO ROCKS on the bottom, just coarse sand.

I swam a rough triangle - across the lake to the rocky cliff below the Patterson Lake trail then north almost to Patterson Lake Resort then back to my starting point. The only tricky thing is recognizing the launch beach from the water. Here's a map: Patterson Lake swim.

Back at my room I did a little work then prepped my bike for riding. Here's a picture of it as nobody but me has seen it:

It's all built up starting with a Nashbar frame and parts that I accumulated over months. Notice the purple theme. I gotta say, it's quite pretty.

Anyway, it rode really sweet. I rode a mix of single track and roads with some long climbs and some steep climbs. The bike handled like a dream. My only complaint is that it tends to skip a gear under hard load - and I can put it under hard load pretty quickly. My guess is that the chain tensioner needs some adjustment. I also had to loosen up the pedal release as they were really tight.

But I really liked the way that it handled bumps - way better than my TiCycles bike.

I rode for a couple of hours and was plumb tuckered out when I was done. It was HARD. Just wandered around the trails up by Sun Mountain and tried not to get lost.