2017 Moab Red Hot 55k Race Report

“Dude. What happened?”

I remove myself from my shallow moving meditation, “What?”

Look at your leg!

And so I do:

Starting from mid-thigh, it looks like I’ve managed to scrape a four inch wide section of my skin until the top of my ankle.

Road rash par-excellence.

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2/6/17 – 2/12/17 Training Journal

What else does a newly tuned up bike need, except a nice MUD BATH! In typical @longrangerjustin style, I literaly ran across town with all my bike gear in my @ultimatedirectionusa Fastpack 15 to catch a bus to Golden to pick up the Sherpa Bike aka Surly Ogre aka Adventure Buddy from @goldenbikeshop, and took ‘er on a 50+ mile curcuitous route back home featuring some nice gravel roads, a LOT of climbing, and a little bit of unavoidable slop- but I’ll take it, as it’s February and I’m riding bikes in a #cyclocross skinsuit #onesie, and life’s pretty good while riding bikes. Oh, and I got this amazingly dorky bright orange safety construction hard hat helmet thing to further enhance my visibility on the road. I actually think it goes well with my UD Fastpack- and beard! Thanks to @goldenbikeshop/@bentgate_mountaineering for helping me get a bike rolling as I get through all the not so fun accident stuff. Be good to your bike mechanics!

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1/23/17 – 1/29/17 Training Journal

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1/16/17 – 1/22/17 Training Journal

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Making the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Even Greater: Rollins Pass/Argentine Pass

The GDMBR in yellow; alternative in red

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is without a doubt one of the preeminent off road touring routes in the US/Canada. Now that I’ve ridden the route essentially twice and have done some extensive touring within Colorado, I can’t help but think how one could enhance it.

Personally, I enjoyed my time more when the route stuck close to the actual Continental Divide, rather than opting to drop down into a relatively easy going valley or basin to gain some mileage towards the end goal (finishing!). I always greatly anticipated gaining the summit of the passes, then rocketing down. Knowing Colorado a little more intimately now, it’s a shame how much of Colorado is missed with the relatively easy path the GDMBR takes.

The GDMBR has many goals, and one of the most important one is to get a heavily laden bicycle and rider (cyclists on a mountain bike, pulling a trailer) eventually to the end of the route. If the route is too long, too hard, and/or with too many Divide crossings, it’s just never going to realistically happen for a good majority of people. If we throw these constraints out of the window, and focus on the goal of staying as close to the Divide as possible, while also keeping the route terrain somewhat similar: gravel roads to 4×4 trails, we start drawing out something a little different.

Below, I’ll be describing a route that takes you off the official GDMBR just before Ute Pass, and rather takes you up and over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, parallels the James Peak Wilderness as you travel south to Idaho Springs, then brings you back west to go up and over the Continental Divide again at Argentine Pass, finally depositing you once again onto the official GDMBR in summit county. It circuitous and it’s a whole lot of fun .

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Longs Peak November: Trough Direct to SW Ridge


Slowly, I roll to the gate. The Park ranger sees me from afar and returns to me only a tired stare. He himelf walks slowly to the entrance booth, not resting his gaze. I now roll towards the booth even slower, nervous.  I feel as if I’m performing a border crossing, rather than just entering a National Park. The guard just continues his stare – his eyes looking right at mine; the rest of his visage saying absolutely nothing. I offer a hello, but get no reply. Meeting him at the booth, he continues his vacant look. Is he looking at me, or past me? I don’t know, but  I hand him the entrance fee I just made change for at the coffee shop in town that I stopped at to regain feeling in my hands and feet after making that chilly descent into Estes Park. Having climbed out of town, I’m much warmer now. Unseasonably warm. Finally,

“Oh. Day Pass. Map?”

I accept, and that’s my entire interaction with this guy. It’s also the first time I’ve ever paid for entrance into the Park in my 5+ years of visiting it. It feel almost wrong. Some things, I ponder, shouldn’t be bought.

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Longs Peak Radical Spirit Quest (Self-Powered Longs Peak Project Month #4)

Gerry Roach’s Longs Peak Radical Slam as described in his 14ers book: top out on 7 summits in the Longs Peak area: (Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm, Mt. Lady Washington, Battle Mountain, Estes Cone), topped off with 50 push ups at the trailhead. I’m admittedly pretty terrible at push ups, and this has always been the crux of the day (if one can believe such snobbery).

The thought popped into my mind to do the Radical Slam as my October tick for my own Longs Peak Project (The Longs Peak Project: summit Longs Peak each month of the year, via a different route). But let’s change things up just a little bit. My Longs Peak Project is going to be self-powered from Boulder: I’m riding a bike, rather than driving a car the 40 miles from the end of town to the Longs Peak trailhead. That may not sound much, but it’s 6,000+ feet of elevation gain roundtrip tacked on to actually summiting the peak. To put that in perspective: you basically double the elevation you gain summiting the peak by starting in Boulder. FUN!

Also, I’ve actually done the Radical Slam already this year (including the bike approach/retreat). Why not do it the hard way: start with the lowest peak, and work up from there, counter-clockwise? That way, you’re well through the day when you need to tackle the toughest technical part of the route, and the highest summits on the list.

That’ll also keeps you honest – you know how easy it is to skip Battle Mountain and Estes Cone, and head straight to the trailhead, ticking off merely a Longs Peak Grand Slam? Easier than eating three breakfast burritos at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park aprés doing the full-meal-deal Radical Slam, that’s how easy.

To add to this all: let’s also do this in the Fall (Oct. 30th), when the days are short, cold, and very, very windy, rather than on a perfect summer’s day. The chances you’ll become benighted are in your favor! Nothing is funner than descending the Loft Route than descending the Loft Route in the dark. Think you have a hard time finding Clark’s Arrow? What if you’re looking for it under a new moon with a failing headlamp?

Finally those push ups, hmm: how about we do a set of ten on each peak – on the very top of the peak, rather than just at the end? We’ll get 70 in, rather than the textbook 50. That will give me a little time to recover from the last 10, which may exceptionally imbalanced arms could use (talk to me about how many pull ups I can do in day!). I say the compromise I’ve set up is about fair, yeah?

The stage is set, the challenge… accepted? The bike chain is lubed, and the alarm has been programmed for some unrealistically early time. Are you ready, set,



Golden Gate Dirty 30 50k Race Report Up

Dirty_30_2016-smHead on over to the Ultimate Direction Blog to read my Golden Gate Dirty 30 50k race report. Somehow, I managed to also bicycle 300km that same weekend, since you know: 50km just ain’t enough.

Thank you Ultimate Direction for your support, and giving me a chance to be a brand ambassador. Thanks to everyone behind the Golden Gate Dirty 30 for putting on an excellent event.

Longs Peak Radical Slam Duathlon

L -> R, Top -> Down: Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm Peak, Mt. Lady Washington, Battle Mountain, and Estes Cone!

What a difference a few weeks makes. Last month, we seemed to have just flown through the window for a Winter conditions ascent of the Notch Couloir. Since then, the temps started rising precipitously. When I rode back to Longs Peak last weekend, most of the snow had already melted. Incredible.

On this day, I was considering going for a Longs Peak Radical Slam, which is a challenge outlined in Roach’s 14ers book: tag Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm Peak., Mt. Lady Washington, Battle Mountain, and Estes Cone in one go. I’ve done it once before, but didn’t ride up and back in the same trip. So that’s what the challenge for today was. The meat of it all was the 20 miles – mostly off trail to tag all these peaks. Riding up always takes a little bit of the spring out of my step, and the ride down usually is an experiment in mental suffering and fatigue. But I got a rep. to keep, ya know.

My day started with a 3:00 am wake up call, and I was on the road by 3:36 am after eating… something. I think I just stuffed my face full of peanut butter and called it good. The bike ride up was pleasant and uneventful, although the sun seemed to rise so early, I had a slight bit of anxiety that I was going to get to the trailhead, “too late” – whatever that means. Seems I PR’d my ride up – a ride I’ve done now on this exact route more than a dozen times. Not sure why that was – maybe a great tail wind or something  –

Or maybe it was those tri bars I have rigged up onto my 45 degree swept back Jones H Bars. The Dork Factor, in other words.

Wasted no time at the trailhead and simply changed from bike bibs into my running shorts in back of the Rangers Station. Did my best to remember the shortcuts up, before finally getting quite lost high up in the willows near the East Longs/Jim’s Grove Junction. D’oh!

The Loft Couloir was in fine shape – and mostly dry and really proved no problems in microspikes and an axe. I soon was on the exit ledges, and from there, I went straight up to the summit of Meeker, scrambling up the scruffy slabs and ledges. Even though the growth of lichen makes it slightly less appealing, there’s plenty of cracks to make the scrambling sound. Topping out on the summit block, I snapped a quick pic, then it was towards Longs, via Clark’s Arrow.

I know now exactly where the right gulley to descend down is, and away I went! Around to the west side of Longs, and straight up Homestretch. Took a breather on the summit of Longs (and another photo, of course), before retracing my route down Homestretch, and down some more towards Pagoda.

Although this route isn’t too technical, getting to/from Pagoda is probably the crux. Finding the right sneak through the cliffs isn’t supremely difficult. Some hints: when descending towards Pagoda, aim for the notch that’s created by the last ridgeline up to the summit of Pagoda, and the slight rise from its lowpoint – it makes an, “L” shape, like you make with you left hand with your index and thumb pointed at a right angle. You’ll run right into the sneak.

The correct gully will greet you with a cairn on top. The gully is quite beautiful, and spirals clockwise when see from the top. I stay to the left of the gully, and scramble down through its step-like ledges. Some of these ledges are higher than others, so you may find it easier to downclimb them, or simply jump! Once you get down to a section where the grassy ledges stop, and more looser terrain begins, traverse right (north), rather than continually going down, and you’ll pick up the scent of another series of cairns that will take you on a horizontal ledge system to the northern edge of the Keyboard of the Winds, where you’ll finally escape the ledges themselves. If you keep going downyou’ll most likely get cliffed out. Once out of the gulley, you just have a quick boulder hop up to summit Pagoda.

Descending Pagoda, the next goal is to actually get to the Keyhole. I retraced my steps, and took the gulley down right before this same cliffband I talked about above (no need to go back through the sneak). The scrambling here is somewhat slabby, with cracks to help you – and/or some loose terrain (but I’d rather stick to the slabs). You’ll cross over two small couloirs that you’ll swear are the Trough, until you get to the actual Trough, which is much larger. From there, you pick up the Keyhole route (and its bulls eyes), and onward! to the Keyhole.

From the Keyhole, I made a rising traverse to Storm Peak, where I slowly started to… fall asleep, even while scrambling up! I made it finally to the true summit, and passed out for a good 45 minutes. Old Man Justin, it seems. After waking up and feeling much refreshed, I glissaded down to the camp sites of the Boulderfield, picked up some water, and started my ascent to Mt. Lady Washington, just over on the other side. Felt wonderful, and descended towards Granite Pass for the weirdest of the highpoints: Battle Mountain, which sees little in prominence, but it’s part of the route, so whatever.

Onward east I went, cross country and surprisingly found a great line through the willows, then the bristlecones, to get to the lodegepole canopy, to attempt to hit Storm Passas close as I could (hint, traverse north more than you would think!). Got about 500 feet from dead center, which I thought was pretty alright!

Finally on a trail again, I powerhiked up to the top of Estes Cone, and with a sigh of relief, jogged back down to the pass, then back to the trailhead, which was mostly downhill, on trail, at a mellow grade. Ah!

Long day on the mountain! I started up from the trailhead at around 7:00am, and it was quickly approaching 8:30pm. I still had to ride back home! I again transitioned in back of the Ranger Station, and hopped on the bike, blinky-lights-a-blazin’. Another wonderful descent back on a route I’ve done so many times now, I could do it in my sleep. Nothing much to note, except the strange thought about how realistic this day would have been if I started with losing 5,000 feet of elevation gain getting to the trailhad, and would have to climb up 5,000 feet to get home. Yikes! Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Made it home at 10:15pm, enough time to shower and change and get to work the next day relatively well-rested. The Longs Peak Radical Slam Duathlon had been born!