The award ceremonies for the LT100 are on the Sunday morning after the race, starting at 7:30am. We set our alarm for 6am to have a chance for breakfast and start re-packing Clifford. 

We joined our teammates and our most wonderful crew members at the award ceremony and after receiving our buckles we had one more chance to record a team moment before everyone headed off in their various directions. 
Our plan for the day was to pick up Bruno from Breckenridge adventure camp and then head over Hoosier Pass one more time to camp in the Salida area on Sunday night. 
Picking up Bruno was exciting for us, spending three days away from him had seemed like an eternity!
We arrived in Salida area and found a wonderful quiet camping spot on the Arkansas River at Brown’s Canyon. The landscape in this area was very different from the Leadville or Breckenridge area, almost desert like. 

 
   In fact, we found our first cacti of the trip here.  

  It was a beautiful sunny day, in fact it was scorching hot. If our vehicle was modern, I could tell you what the temperature was, but the only digital numerical display Clifford has is his clock. Let’s just say it seems desert scorching hot. At least until the late afternoon thunderstorms brought hail and rain upon us. 
The next morning we drove into Salida, a quaint town that appeared to have lots of character without the touristyness of many Colorado towns. Here we found Bruno a Ruffwear Front Range Harness, our current last hope of reducing his tendency to pull when on leash without resorting to a halti harness. Bruno was possibly less excited than we were about our purchase, but Robin and I were both optimistic within minutes of putting it into use.

 
After our stop in Salida, we pointed Clifford toward Gunnison, Crested Butte and Gothic Road. We had high hopes of the scenery and the trails our next destination would provide. Again, the drive provided scenery that ranged from beautiful to really stunning. The high plains around Gunnison had me looking for John Wayne and his men, riding their horses in search of the villains.  
Crested Butte looked nice, but we pressed through toward our destination. The road climbed into Crested Butte Mountain, the resort centre built just north of the old town. Once we had passed the resorts, the perfectly smooth paved road turned to gravel. Clifford seems more in his element on the gravel back road than the four star resort road. 
As we got further and further on Gothic Rod, the surface became more and more challenging. The potholes and general unevenness meant that we crawled along in first gear, for the tall load on Clifford require for us to be extra careful. Here we also encountered our first climb that required a second effort before we made it to the top. 

 
Once we arrived in our planned camping area, we found the four official camp sites occupied. This was not a crisis, for dispersed camping with Clifford can be quite pleasant. We drive a short distance from the “campsite” down the rod and pulled in at a trailhead parking area, assessed it quickly and decided to make it our home for the next couple of days. 
The beautiful warm sunny weather had followed us all day, but as we were setting up, the weather once again turned nasty. This thunderstorm was more intense than any we had experienced previously. The lighting and the thunder were intense enough that even Clifford was trembling. Once again, we encountered hail, this time in conjunction with high winds. 

We bundled up inside Clifford and waited it out as evening turned into night the next morning would likely bring blue skies and sunshine. It is Colorado, after all.  

LT100 – a race to return to relaxing

Yeah, we raced our bikes last weekend at the LT100, and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. It’s one of those things where you leave everything out there and once the next day rolls around you don’t really want to relive all the moments over again.
After camping at Turquoise Lake for four days, we had rented a house in Leadville for three nights for the race to provide us with some good sleep, washing and laundry facilities. We had set up a play camp for Bruno in Breckenridge for the time we had the house, so we dropped him off after we departed Turquoise Lake and before going to the Leadville house. What’s a few more mountain passes for Clifford anyhow, he’s quickly becoming a veteran of the mountains.

We set up at the house on Thursday afternoon rather painlessly, for it was the same house as we had rented two years ago in our first Leadville Trail 100 adventure. After we had unpacked the necessities from Clifford to the non-mobile house, we settled down for some television. After nearly two weeks without any TV, it didn’t seem like it was any better than I remembered.

On Friday, the LT100 riders meeting took a couple of hours of time in the morning, including some classic Ken Chlouber moments (I always seem to shed a few tears during these, even when I know what is about to be said). After the meeting, Robin and I headed to the house to prepare our bikes. It seemed somehow unlike us to not have had the bikes cleaned, lubed and ready to go much earlier – almost like the race wasn’t the first priority on this iteration of the event. It was almost sad to empty stuff out of Clifford to live in the house for a few days. Not that I minded warm showers and clean laundry…

Friday afternoons afternoons we delivered the box with our bottles and other nutrition to our support crew who were staying at Sugarloafing campground. I recall there were ten bottles of Roctane and close to twenty Roctane gel packs in the box. Our most wonderful crew members were going to be there for us at the Twin Lakes area on our way towards Columbine Mine and again on our return from Columbine Mine towards the return to Leadville.

The evening before the race was pretty relaxed, Robin prepared some chicken, rice and some veggies for us to fill our bellies, we also shared a bottle of red wine. Why change habits that have worked for you?

Race day, Saturday, alarm went off at 4:30am. We had some scrambled eggs, rice and salsa for breakfast. I had a lot of breakfast. This is my thing before long races and that works for me.

After eating, we packed up our bikes, got dressed up in our chosen kits for the days and headed out. Two years ago, we had ridden to the start from the house, but it was dark and cold. It also took twenty minutes. This year, we had chosen to drive downtown, park (one of our team mates had offered us parking at his rental house) and ride two minutes to the start corral. Fantastic. Except…half way to downtown, Robin realized we had forgotten our start bottles at home! We turn Clifford around, go get the bottles and get to the start area a little later than we had envisioned.

Robin and I scrambled a bit to get to our respective start corrals and settled in, waiting for the shot gun that would set us off on the course.

The gun went off. We raced. We finished.

bazu-6770139 bazu-6780782

It was a tough day as expected, and even tougher for Robin as she suffered some completely unusual challenges with nutrition. Her finish time certainly did not reflect the “dig deep” effort she put forth, for I think most of us would have called it quits after visiting the medical tent midway through the race.

For me, looking back, had I trained as I planned since the Dirty Kanza, the time result may have been different. However, I left every bit of energy on the course and finished in 9h39 and something. A long way from my sub nine hour goal that I had set for myself last year. But somehow, after DK200, training and the LT100 race itself seems somewhat anticlimactic and the result shows it.

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After the race, we had very little to no energy left for any post race celebrations. It was off to bed early after a little food and one beer.

Now we are going to enjoy a little non cycling holiday. Our plan is to head towards Crested Butte for a few days of hiking and relaxing. We’ll see how that goes next time….

 

Leadville

After enjoying the Buena Vista area for a few days, we headed to Leadville on Sunday. Our plan was to camp for four nights at Turquoise Lake and follow that with a three day house rental in Leadville. Luxurious, yes, but with a big mountain bike race on Saturday, it seemed like the right choice. Get a week and a half worth of laundry done, prepare our bikes for the race and get a few good nights of sleep.  
We set up camp at the Molly Brown campground Turquoise Lake Recreational Area. Once again, the campground did not disappoint. In fact, it was most awesome. Large sites, quiet and a lake with beautiful vistas all around. Most importantly, Bruno gave it a solid two paws up.
 After setting up, we headed to the lake for some frisbee action with Bruno. After another warm day, he enjoyed the refreshing lake.

The campground was rather full, partly due to Leadville’s Boom Days taking place that weekend and partly with the Leadville Trail 100 racers starting to arrive for the race, now only six days away.

We spent most of Monday relaxing, with some hike/swim/play time for Bruno. Robin and I both got out for short loops on our bikes, just enough to remind the body why we were her at elevation of 10,000+ feet.

One of the main catalysts for our adventure has been the Leadville Trail 100 mounting bike race. Robin and I competed at this event in 2013 and a few days after finishing that event (body forgets pain quite quickly) we had decided to come back for a second time in two years time. In the meanwhile, a large group of our Toronto-based Lapdogs Cycling team members had qualified or otherwise gained entry to this event. As a result, we have six representatives of our team (plus quite a contingent of family members) here for the LT100.

 On Tuesday morning we me up with our teammates for a pre-ride of the Columbine Mine climb (and descent), one of the more famous sections of the 100 mile long event. This climb is approximately 1200 metres in vertical elevation and takes us mere mortals close to two hours to climb. This climb takes you up a typical Colorado fire road with the scenery changing as you gain elevation. The first half of the climb is a steady climb through beautiful aspen forest and as you gain elevation, the aspens give way to coniferous trees of various sizes and shapes. Finally, once you reach around 2/3 time point, you reach the tree line and enter the high alpine meadows.

  

We all enjoyed the climb at our own pace, gathered at the top for a team picture, and commenced a descent back down the same way as we had climbed. The LT100 is an out-and-back race, and the turnaround point is at the top of the Columbine Mine climb. This particular climb and return descent represents 20-25% of the total time we will spend on the race course this coming Saturday, hence a pre-ride makes sense, as long as you don’t leave it to the days immediately preceding the race.

 While the racer type people were racing, the supporting LapDogs family members were surveying the sites for race day support and also, more importantly, taking care of Bruno. He seems to be very good at adapting to new situations and from all reports it sounds like a he he had a great time while Robin and I were riding.

After the ride, we all went out for a group meal at the Tennessee Pass Cafe (epic hamburger), enjoyed a few laughs and some good stories as a group. After the meal, Robin, Bruno and I headed to the grocery store for some staples and then back to camp, now all of us quite tired. We spent a few hours relaxing and by 9:30pm, everyone was ready for bed. Actually, Bruno had been ready for a while…

 Next time – preparing for ten hours of racing

San Isabel National Forest

After restocking on groceries and beer, we departed Frisco for our next stop – Collegiate Campground in San Isabel National Forest, just outside of Buena Vista. Our route took us through Breckenridge and Alma up over Hoosier Pass (elev. 11,539 feet). The climb up to the top was steep and littered with a few switchbacks. This was the first the climb Clifford needed to revert to 1st gear at times. Needless to say, the four way flashers were busy.  

 Once we arrived in Buena Vista, we chose to pass through town and head for our campsite in order to get Bruno and us some quality hiking time.  

 Once set up, we headed out for some hiking, swimming and frisbee throwing.  

 During our stay at Collegiate Peaks, the weather was mostly fantastic, but a short but intense rain storm forced us indoors for one meal.  

 This was also the first time during our trip that Robin and I had a chance to ride our bikes. This is apparently significant as there is some sort of a race coming up soon.  

 The two days’ stay went quickly, and in addition to hiking, playing and a little riding, we all enjoyed some good relax time.  The days were warm, but the nights were cold, with morning temperatures just above freezing. It was apparent Bruno was getting cool by morning, as he wanted to climb into bed with Robon and me. Sadly, Clifford’s downstairs bed is barely big enough to accommodate two people, let alone two people and a dog. Thus, it was democratically decided that I should sleep upstairs to allow Bruno access to the warm bed downstairs.    

 On Sunday, it was time to pack up camp and point Clifford towards Leadville. Before making that short but scenic drive, we stopped in Buena Vista to pick up some food for Bruno and a sleeping bag for me.  

  Next time – Leadville!

 

In to the mountains

We last left off somewhere in Fort Collins, Clifford with his newly refreshed propane system thanks to the good folks at Rocky Mountain Westy. 

  By the time we departed RMW and had the propane tank filled, it was close to 6pm. We had planned to be at our campsite at Collegiate Peaks for this night, but with the unscheduled activities of the day, that wasn’t going to happen. Thus, we aimed for Frisco, where we hoped to camp in the shore of Lake Dillon. 

It was a warm day. In fact, well over 30C warm. By now, Robin, Bruno and I had all somewhat accepted the non-AC environment of Clifford, so most of the concern was for Clifford and how he would do in the busy stop and go traffic through the greater Denver area and then on the long climb on Interstate I70 toward Frisco. Needless to say, I spent these hours repeatedly glancing at Clifford’s coolant gauge, hoping to see nothing out of the ordinary. 

The stop and go in the heat was worrisome, but the radiator fan seems to keep the temperatures in line. Once traffic thinned out and started flowing somewhat regularly, it was time to commence the climbing. 

The long climb toward Loveland pass (over 11,000 feet altitude) was a mix of third and second gear efforts, where in the steepest parts we were moving at barely over 20mph (32.6km/h). At the slower speeds, the radiator fan would be on much of the time, for the speeds were not high enough for sufficient cooling flow. 

It was a slow crawl, but we succeeded. We actually even passed some slower vehicles, as cray as that sounds. The only part of Clifford that had true challenges on the ascent, was his flasher relay. The long continuos periods of four way flashing as we crawled up the slow lane if the interstate seemed to ever hear the relay and force us to turn it off for a minute or so before it word work again.   

  We arrived in Frisco as he sun set, and we’re happy to find a camping spot for the night. We set up camp relatively quickly (we seem to be getting more used to the routine) and had a quick bite of dinner and maybe even a beer before heading to bed. Next morning, we woke up to beautiful Colorado sunrise. A cold sunrise, but easily better than the scorching heat of the previous day. We did a little morning hike with Bruno on the shores of the lake before packing up and aiming Clifford towards Buena Vista and Collegiate Peaks campground. On our morning hike, we saw another Westfalia across one of the lake inlets and instantly recognized it as Babe. Our friends’ Peter and Andrea and their Westy Babe had also arrived in Frisco on the previous day and we were happy to see them.   

  We left Frisco and headed for Hoosier Pass on route to Buena Vista. By now, Clifford was a veteran of the mountain passes, so we had confidence for our journey to the top. Our success was never in doubt, but it took a number of first gear efforts to get up steep inclines and hairpin turns. It was all worth it.

  Next time, camping at Collegiate Peaks.  

go Clifford go!

The third day of our journey had us travelling into Nebraska. This is a state we have traveled through many a time, but as it is so close to Colorado, we had never really taken the time to do a any discovery. This time was going to be different – when you travel in Clifford, every day is full of discovery…  
After spending much of our time on interstates, ducking vehicles traveling 20+ miles per hour faster than us, we decided to hop on to the historic highway 30, which runs parallel to I80, beside the Union Pacific Railroad. This highway, called the Lincoln Highway, is historically significant due to it being the first transcontinental highway to be built. Through Nebraska it was scenic and oozed history. 

  
We stopped in Gothenburg (not Sweden) to visit an original Pony Express station from 1854. I’m always amazed by how recent white man’s “history” really is in parts on North America. But I won’t digress…

  
We spent our third night of this journey at Lake Ogalalla Recreation area, where we had an absolutely beautiful campsite by the lake, allowing Bruno ample swim time before it was time to settle in for some rest. 

  
The morning departure of our fourth “travel” day was fairly smooth, and we rolled out towards Colorado at 9am. 

  
Clifford had developed a slight leak in his propane system, and we wanted someone to have a look at it. We thus decided to detour by the good folks at Rocky Mountain Westy in Fort Collins for a diagnosis.  

  
To get to Fort Collins, our Garmin recommended we continue on I80 all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then south to Fort Collins. Without putting much more thought into the route, we pointed our nose towards Cheyenne. 

  
We discovered something interesting about our chosen route as we pressed west. The last bit of I80W through Nebraska climbs. And climbs. To add to the joy, much road construction means single lanes, but with reduced speed limits of 65mph. Wait, we can go 65mph on a flat road at sea level quite comfortably, but at 5000 feet of elevation, headwind and climbing, out speed was reduced to as low as 35mph at times. With a single lane on the interstate, this quickly formed some looking queues behind us. 

We made a quick decision to get the heck off I80 and take some back roads to Fort Collins. Awesome grassland prairie views, rolling gravel roads and not another vehicle to be seen anywhere. Absolutely epic. 
  
We finally arrived at Rocky Mountain Westy around 2pm, hot and a little beaten up from the nasty washboard gravel we had endured for the last 45 minutes or so of our gravel journey. Clifford headed into the shop for his spa treatment, comfortable amongst his cousins while Robin, Bruno and I relaxed in the customer waiting area, comforted by air conditioning and free wifi. 

  
The journey continues!

West of the Mississippi!

Our second “travel” day towards Colorado continued along the interstates, much like day one. We had by now become accustomed to focusing mostly on the flow of traffic on the right lane and less so on the speed limits. After all, our trusty GPS has indicated a max speed of 70mph to this point, and our usual travel speeds around 60-65 mph. As much as we both love driving, we are by now quite looking forward to spending time off the interstates once we get to Colorado. 
Crossing the Mississippi has become a a bit of a landmark on on our western road trips, sort of a sign of our arrival in the Midwest.  This time, it was Robin’s turn to be at the wheel for the celebratory crossing.  Clifford’s trusty 2.1L waterboxer is having to use most of its 90 or so horsepower to move us along at these crazy speeds. As a result, our average fuel economy is somewhere in the range of 15L/100km. Combine that with the approximately 55L tank, and fuel breaks every 300-320km are a rather frequent occurrence. This is somehow strange, for we are so used to driving our Touareg for about a 1000km before it requires to be refuelled.    Bruno has settled nicely in his domain. The rear cabin is really his space while we are on the road and he spends most of his time napping.   As a reward for his outstanding behaviour, we seek out mid drive dog parks for all of us to stretch our legs. Today’s dog park was in Iowa City, and it was 100% awesome. Acres of space, water stations and many other dogs to interact with. Bruno being Bruno, his interaction is usually limited to a quick greeting and an even quicker return to the frisbee retrieval game.   We finished the day’s drive just west of Des Moines, Iowa with a grand total of 728km of driving. A fantastic day of driving a nearly 30 year old van with no air conditioning. This being another quick overnight only camp spot, Robin had selected another KOA. The Des Moines KOA was spotlessly clean and our electric only campsite was far from motor home central and provided us with ample space, silence (except for birds, cicadas and thunder).   Speaking of thunder, the outdoor evening relaxation ended with us getting a very sleepy Bruno inside from the rain. Once inside, he quickly claimed his space.   Next, Nebraska!

Just like Willie Nelson…

We had planned to leave for Colorado on the Monday morning of the long weekend, giving us two more days of solid training days before spending three and a half days in Clifford en route to Leadville (Collegiate Peaks, actually, but more on that another time). Well, that kind of didn’t work out as planned, but it worked out in that we had a nice weekend, including some fun times and packing Clifford for almost a full Sunday. 

important stuff under rear seat
  
example of foody stuff – cupboard #3
    
wardrobe for bulkier items
  
his and her closet – efficient!
  
no shoes on floor!
  
Bruno’s domain. And his fridge.
  
all loaded up
 We finished Sunday packing around 9pm, had some dinner and collapsed on the sofa in front of the television. After an hour or so, it was time to get some sleep and prepare for a nice early wake up and final loading before departure. 

Usually, Bruno would wake us up by 7am, but he was fatigued from the weekend and we had to wake up the old fashioned way, with an alarm clock.  List of final to do items were reviewed, and Robin and I got right down to the important stuff- we fire up the Jura and sat down for our final super automatic coffees for the next four weeks.  Wait Robin keeps telling me it’s actually five weeks.  Or more?  Whatever, I’ll keep thinking of four weeks, I have trouble processing time periods longer than a month. 

After an hour or so with our coffees, we spent two hours finishing the final pack and finally headed down the road around 11am. 

Now, I’ve driven Clifford a fair bit in various conditions, but I’ve never laden him up quite like this.  I’m not sure if the engineers in Hanover ever envisioned a T3 Westfalia with as many bikes and other appendages hanging off of his periphery. Nevertheless, I had faith in the trusty, possibly as powerful as 90 horsepower, waterboxer engine. 

 

life in the right lane
 
The first ten to twenty kilometres were tentative, to say the least. I had to get used to the new “balance” of the vehicle, for not only was there a lot more mass to deal with, but much of it was up high or hanging off the back .  As time passed, I became more comfortable with the situation, and before the first hour was up’,we had exceeded the speed of 90km/h more than once. Confidence was growing!

 

are we there yet?
 
By the time we where half way to the Canada-US border, I suddenly noticed I was going 110km/h down the 401!  Well, Robin noticed and alerted me, as I was busy talking to my mother on the phone. I had completely let go of Clifford’s reins and suddenly found myself above the speed limit. That didn’t last long, as I backed off to my more comfortable 95km/h and all was well. 

Another discovery I made very quickly in my newly accepted role of the keeper of the slow lane was the instability and buffeting caused by the turbulence of large transport trucks. If I got any closer than almost a football field length from a truck in front of me, the turbulent air would buffet Clifford all over the road, like a small dinghy I rough waters. Thus I kept my distance from the trucks in front.  Or, I tried to do so. That 100 meters or so, you see, is just about the perfect lot for a truck who’d completed their pass of us to slot in and join us in the slow lane, forcing me to drop back another football field in order to keep Robin and Bruno from getting seasick. Or worse. 

 

perfect road trip companion
 
Eventually, we arrived at the border in Sarnia and queued up, waiting to enter the U.S. at Port Huron. The wait wasn’t terribly long, and eventually the nice man in uniform invited us up to his booth and asked some questions. He was not so interested in the out and back format of the Leadville Trail 100 or whether we should run tubeless in our CX bikes’ tires at Rebecca’s Private Idaho. He was most concerned about the state of our salad, whether it was cooked or not, and even more so, about our two dozen eggs!  Robin explained how a salad is really “cooked” and then we donated our eggs to Uncle Sam and the uniformed mans kindly  let us enter his country. 

After few more hours driving down Michicgan’s wonderful (well, they were wonderful in the 70s) interstates, we arrived at our first overnight spot.  Not exactly mountains or scenic, but a KOA, kind of like a McDonald’s of camping. We arrived just in time to get set up, walk Bruno and and relax a bit before dark set in.  

Robin and Bruno getting “camp” ready
 

 

dinner time!
  
lights out

Day one completed – time for sleep!

6 days of hot water left…

In six days we will embark on a six week adventure in our 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia, Clifford. Every time I turn on the tap at home, I become more and more aware that Clifford will have no hot water. There are many comforts that Clifford won’t have. No Jura, no microwave, no king size bed. I wonder what I’ll miss most?  Will I miss anything? Will the magic of waking up in the gorgeous Colorado mountains eclipse all inconveniences?  

A picture from last year’s Colorado trip of one of our hikes.
 

Preparations continue at a furious pace. Clifford is at Georgetown Volkswagen getting the some final modifications…freezer tie downs, a solar power monitoring panel, LED lights strip wiring and more I’m sure (totally Jouko’s department). 

A couple weeks ago we emptied everything out of the van so we could inventory and reassess our supplies. 

Bruno and Jouko enjoying some guy time!
 

I hope we stick to our plan of “less is more” and only take the basics. Simplify! I think I’ll be happier with less clutter and more organization. I will be happy to finally start loading him back up and figure out where everything will go! 

 ~Robin

Testing 1-2-3

  A week before our big adventure begins. Just finished a heat-abbreviated morning walk with Bruno, now back home to prepare for our training ride du jour. 

  
It was kind of warm for our ride. We rode for five hours and a bit at a relatively easy pace, but the last hour was a little less fun as fatigue and a slow leak in Jouko’s rear tire played tricks on us.   

 A good recovery requires sufficient carbohydrates, fats and protein. This is Jouko’s secret recovery combination.  

   Sooooo….not only did Jouko have a nail in his rear tire, he had also broken a spoke at some point on this ride.  Never a dull moment!