Sunday, July 28, 2013

Monarch Crest Trail

I really don't recall where I got the idea this past winter/spring to ride the Monarch Crest Trail but it definitely became a "must do" for the summer.  If I had to guess I found a video on it on YouTube while digging for LT100 MTB racer videos earlier in the year.  At any rate it was something that I wanted to do and was able to fit into the training schedule this past weekend.

I decided to not do the Shuttle Option for a few reasons.  Scheduling for one and well, it just didn't fit in with the plan that I was hatching.

We stayed in Monarch over the weekend and I left from there early on Friday morning riding up the 5.5 miles to the Monarch Pass Summit where I caught the Monarch Crest Trail (Continental Divide Trail) headed south.

While the ride up the pass was a chore once I got on the single track the fun started and really didn't stop.  I still had about an hour of uphill gain once I hit the single track but there were enough rollers here and there to provide a nice break every so often.

One of the first great views in the morning.  Looking northward towards Monarch Pass.  The single track is clearly visible.

From the same spot on the top of the crest looking south.  Super trail.
After two hours of riding the fun really started as the trail began to drop in elevation.  I had a great surprise (and ego boost) while after six miles on the trail I caught up with a group of guys who I had seen trailer their bikes to the summit.  First they asked where I came from quite surprised then they realized that it was me they passed as they were driving up the pass and I was riding up.

After passing them the trail just kept on going and getting better.  At one point I felt like I was riding on a carpet as the single track trail was just super smooth dirt but sooner than I was anticipating I found myself on a double track jeep road which was still fun but still not quite the same.

The way the trail drops and turns it is hard to visualize exactly where you are if you had studied the maps.  I was flying down the dirt road and saw what I thought was a gravel road and parking lot through the trees a bit.  I had already done the first ten miles of the trail and was at Marshall Pass Road way before I was expecting to get there.

  Marshall Pass.  The ride is going by way faster than expected.  Just a little pitch left until The Silver Creek descent.
After Marshall Pass the road and single track both started to gain altitude again.  It was steep but not that long and then before I knew it I was at the Silver Creek trail and my last big drop of the day.

Silver Creek Trail.  You can still see how great the trail is.

Riding down Silver Creek was probably the most technical and challenging part of the day.  I had a spill lower down as I went across a bunch of exposed roots and the bike sort of slid out from under me and I couldn't get my cleat free quick enough.  A little rash on my left leg and knee was the extent of the damage fortunately.  Nothing major but after that I decided to be a little more careful.  Towards the bottom the trail crosses an old mining area and you are riding across nothing but talus and scree and for me it was just a little too sketchy to ride so I walked the bike a little bit through that section.

A video that I found before my ride of some guys going down Silver Creek.

Soon enough the trail turned into a stream for lack of a better description but it was a blast to ride down and in until the jeep road, CR 202.

The dirt road to 285 was longer than I was expecting but it was fun to ride as I was able to just spin in my highest gear and move.  Once on 285 the ride, at least the fun parts were over.  It was time to go back to work and do some training riding.  As soon as I hit highway 50 again in Poncha Springs I had 13 miles of up and a couple thousand feet of elevation to gain.  My goal was to ride it as smoothly as possible, keep my heart-rate at MAF and just finish the ride.

In the end I had a great ride.  50.02 miles, 8084 feet of elevation gain and I was out for a total of six hours and twenty minutes.  It was a great ride and a huge confidence builder two weeks before the LT100 MTB.

All I can say is that if you are a mountain biker I highly recommend this ride if you ever get the chance.  I also recommend setting up a shuttle option wither with High Valley Bike shuttle or do it yourself.  The extra riding on 50 just isn't necessary unless you are really training for something.  The trail itself for me was perfect.  It challenged me all day and really pushed my technical skills but it never got to the point where the I got stressed out and the ride stopped being fun.

The rest of the weekend was running... the final touches in training I guess.  Saturday was a short but steep run in the mountains above Monarch.  Sunday was a sixteen mile run broken up into four segments, four miles at MAF, three miles in zone four, six miles again at MAF then another three miles in zone four.  A tough run but intense.

I guess now is the time to taper and rest?   Wow... Walking Asia tonight I was thinking and trying to believe or conceptualize that in three weeks my quest for Leadman will be settled one way or the other but I have to be honest, I can almost feel that trophy in my hands now.  Nothing to do now but play it out.

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