Thursday, July 31, 2014

Consider upping the fitness ante with road biking; it's working for me, but it's still hard!

Here's Steve, circa Spring 1986, doing a citizen race in Boise.
Pleasant Valley Road. What a nerdy helmet, eh? 
Just a young lad at the time ... ha!  
I'm a happy camper at the 3rd summit, with just one more to go ...
Mack Lyons is on the left. 
These two 4 Summit riders are stoked! 
Hi all,

For this week's tip, I wanted to share my fitness training experience over the last few months in preparation for the 4 Summit Challenge, a 72-mile, super-challenging mountain road bike ride in Cascade. I hope that by sharing this information some folks might benefit or have more ideas or recommendations. The game-changer for me has been upping the ante on road-biking for my overall fitness regime. I've lost 20 pounds since March, and I'm riding stronger than I have been in more than 10 years.

I successfully completed the 4 Summit course on Saturday in about 6 hours, including rest and food stops. The best riders finished in 4.5 hours. But this wasn't a race. It's a recreation ride -- so I wanted to make sure I had fun. Getting into the best shape possible prior to the race was part of that strategy.

The ride is truly a mental and physical challenge. It involves more than 6,000 feet of vertical gain and loss, featuring tough climbs to the four summits and thrilling descents in the wooded and gnarly mountains east of Cascade in the Boise National Forest. The paved roads are pretty darn smooth on the course, with a few exceptions, so on the flats and downhills, you can really zoom.

My inspiration for doing the ride was that two of my friends wanted to do it -- Mack Lyons and Paul Hilding. Mack rode the 4 Summits last year. Mack and I ride mountain bikes on a regular basis with a bunch of guys from Boise. One of those guys, Steve Schneider, said the 4 Summits ride set Mack apart. "After he rode the 4 Summit Challenge last summer, no one has been able to stay with Mack on the hills."

Mack is a really strong climber. That motivates all of us to try to keep up: Plus, I used to love to ride long distances on my road bike when I was in my late teens and 20s. I used to ride Lolo Pass from Missoula at the drop of a hat. I rode the 230-mile Tour of the Swan River Valley (TOSRV West) in two days several years in a row. After college, I rode centuries in Oregon and Colorado. When I moved to Boise, I rode the Hays Century Ride and hammered up to Bogus on a weekly basis. But then I bought my first mountain bike in the fall of 1986, and that opened up a whole new world to me. The 4 Summits ride would be the longest road ride I've done in about 25 years.

Get yourself a nice road bike to get excited about road biking. This
model has an aluminum frame and carbon fiber fork. I had them put
three chain rings on the front crank and climbing gears in back.
Most road bikes only come with two chain rings in front and a
flatlander-style gear set in the back. That won't work very well
 for steep mountain roads.  
Another inspiration for me was the fact that I turned 55 last year. My resolution was to try to drop some pounds and get in better shape. Last spring, I kicked the training into high gear.  

MARCH - Wendy and I took a 10-day whale-watching and sea kayaking vacation in Mexico in late February. I got some kind of stomach bug that led to the loss of the first eight pounds. When we returned to Boise, spring riding was beginning in the Boise Foothills, and I hit the trails with gusto. I wanted to keep those pounds off! My pointer Huck runs like the wind out there in the footies when it's cool and breezy. So fun to watch! Love that time of year!
  • I alternated mountain bike rides with the Cartwright 3 Summits Ride ("the dump loop") on my road bike. 
  • I tried to go spinning at the Y several times a week at noon. Over a period of weeks, I found myself pushing higher gears on the spin bike.  
  • At the summit of mountain bike rides, I'd do 100 crunchers to strengthen my core. 
APRIL - Mack, Paul and his wife, Stephanie, and I made the commitment to ride the 4 Summit Challenge. Stef reserved a sweet RV campsite at Lake Cascade State Park. Now we had a goal to shoot for. I was (gulp!) puckered by the challenge that lay ahead.
  • I blogged about roadie events and clubs in April. I started to think about trying to do a Metric Century or full Century for the Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. 
  • I continued to mountain bike a ton in the foothills and tossed in some longer road rides in SW Boise, rides that I call City to Farm. If you need ideas on road biking routes in the valley, pick up my Boise Road Cycling Guide.  
  • At the summit of the mountain bike rides, I worked up to 200 crunchers. 
MAY - Mack, Paul and I did our first significant road ride of the year. We zipped out to Swan Falls Dam from Overland & 5-Mile via Cloverdale. We put in 50 miles on that one. We were all very spent afterwards. Stephanie came out to Kuna to pick us up at a Mexican Restaurant, where we were pounding food and beers. 
  • I started to ride to Bogus on my road bike every so often. That ride helps you get stronger as a climber, and it definitely works your lungs as well. 
  • I tried to ride steep mountain bike rides whenever possible, such as climbing Hard Guy, Stueby's Death March or Watchman. 
  • I cut out my favorite cocktail, Black Russians. Limited those to special occasions. 
JUNE - I rode the Metric Century in the Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. This ride was 64 miles, including riding into a headwind along the Snake River on the way to Marsing. Despite my training, that ride still totally kicked my butt. I felt that I needed to work harder to be ready for a longer ride with much more vertical than the Blue Cruise. 
  • Did a big hike in the Pioneer Mountains ... 12 miles and more than 3,000 feet of gain. 
  • The cool month extended the mountain biking season in the foothills in terms of after-work rides. 
  • I continued to alternate rides on the road bike. 
JULY - I worried about the impact of spending eight days floating and camping on the Salmon River in Central Idaho. I was gone on vacation July 9-16. I tried to lay off the beer on the raft in the afternoons or at least reduce the intake. 
  • On Saturday, July 19, Mack and I rode from Boise to Horseshoe Bend to Emmett, which involves two summits, Horseshoe Bend Hill and Big Freezeout. That was a 60-mile ride. We felt pretty worked after that one. It was my first big ride after being on the river trip. We had a week to go before the 4 Summit ride. 
  • On Wednesday, July 23, I rode the hardest part of the 4 Summit course, the Landmark grade and the backside of the Big Creek Summit grade. That's about a 40-mile ride. It was helpful to know what gears I would be riding in on those grades. I felt I was ready. 
So really, the big difference for me this year has been increasing the road-biking component of my training regimen. By doing gradually longer and longer rides, I increased the amount of calories burned and built endurance. I still enjoyed mountain biking several times a week to exercise my puppy and me. I hope to ride a century later this summer to keep the momentum going.   

I asked a few veteran road riders about their thoughts:

This is what Tom Platt of George's Cycles had to say: "I think road cycling is a better way to attain a base level of fitness and is also a better mode for weight management plans. The rider maintains a consistent (and slightly lower) heart rate versus mountain biking which keeps things more aerobic. This is important in building general fitness and for fat-burning plans.

"We generally start the year getting all of our base mileage on the road (which also corresponds with the weather and trails). Later I like to mix in mountain biking partly because it is fun but also acts like mini-intervals, accelerating the heart rate for short periods during climbs and allowing for recovery on the rollers and minor downhills.

"I think road riding helps your mountain biking by building endurance fitness, and the mountain biking makes you more powerful and helps in climbing ability on the road."

Kurt Holzer, Boise lawyer and active rider and racer: "Riding on the road is far more a Zen experience. It's more about the endorphins. Going long and deep into the endurance reserves like long-distance running. My adrenaline comes in the racing part of it, but that’s a small portion of my overall riding.  Many more miles of rolling along chatting with friends. My greatest pleasure is being part of St. Luke’s Sports Medicine cycling club rides. Over a 2- or 3-hour ride you can talk about families, vacations, books you’ve read, home projects, politics, cooking, whatever as the miles go by and the scenery changes.  

"From an older weekend warrior athlete perspective, there is no question that the way the body makes energy for those steady state road efforts has great health benefits. Obviously riding of any kind  is good for you, but those long days in the road saddle are generally the one that I feel translate more to skiing fitness etc."

A couple of concluding thoughts:
  • Pick up a nice road bike. It'll get you excited about riding on the road.  
  • Build your mileage slowly.
  • Sign up for an ambitious bike event(s) and make that your goal. 
So there you have it! In the blog comments or on Facebook, please share your opinions with me about road biking for fitness and training, or other things that you do that build endurance and burn off the fat. Thanks!
  • On Sunday, Tamarack Resort will run their chairlift to mid-mountain so people can enjoy the Super G Trail and other mountain bike trails in the area. Lift fees are $40. USA Cycling members get a $10 discount. 
  • There's a 12K trail run in the Boise Foothills on Saturday. Sponsored by Bandanna, St. Luke's and Idaho Nordic. 
  • Next big road biking event is the annual Bogus Basin Hill Climb on Saturday, Aug. 16. Sponsored by George's Cycles and Fitness.  
  • Check out the Idaho Statesman annual photo contest winners. Results were announced today.   
- SS 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Try the new Round the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin; Plus 4 Summit Challenge

Ya man! Conquered the mountain! Courtesy Josh Howard 
Round the Mountain on the backside ... courtesy Josh Howard 
My friend Paul Pegorsch got a small badge of honor when riding Round the Mountain ... 
Wendy completes the loop near Pioneer Lodge 
GPS tracks of Round the Mountain ... ride it counter-clockwise
Vertical gain profile for Round the Mountain Trail
Hi all,

The new Round the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin is proving to be a bit hit with mountain bikers and hikers in the Treasure Valley. I've ridden it a couple of times now, and I really enjoy it. It's all singletrack. It's fast and smooth in places, rocky here and there, and it's got some super-fun downhill switchbacks banked corners, very similar to the Upper Drain Trail at Bear Basin in McCall.

Round the Mountain is a partnership project involving the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, Bogus Basin and scores of volunteers who helped work on the trail. Ridge to Rivers provided a sign at the trailhead that gives recognition to the many groups and local retail shops that helped out.

The complete Round the Mountain loop is about 10 miles in length. It features 1,230 feet of climbing and descent. I would rate it intermediate to strong intermediate. Travel time will vary, but it took me about 1 hour, 20 minutes to do the loop. It took us a little over 2 hours on Sunday with my partner Wendy.

The thing that's great about Round the Mountain is that it fully circumnavigates Bogus Basin in a way that no other trail has before. The trail snakes around the mountain mid-slope between the summit and the bottom of the chairlifts. The views are awesome. You can look out over the Boise Valley, Robie Creek, Idaho City, Garden Valley and points west toward Emmett. You can dream about skiing or riding down Paradise, Wildcat, Nugget or whatever when you pass by those slopes and let the fun memories of high-speed cruisers wash over your mind on an 85-degree day.

The trail itself was built with some fun challenges in mind -- you'll encounter some rock features near creek crossings, many nice but narrow wooden bridges, some fast downhill switchbacks with banked corners, and a few steep uphills. The trail pretty much stays on the same general contour all the way around the mountain, but there's lots of ups and downs.

Wildflowers are sprouting big-time along the trail. Bring your flower book.

Adding to this excitement is that Bogus has a barbecue deck open on weekends this summer, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with live music starting at 4 p.m. This week's featured artists are Possum Livin on Saturday and Jonah Shue on Sunday.

How to get started? Pick up Round the Mountain Trail #98 off of the Deer Point #91 Trail, which begins at the base area next to Deer Point Chair #1. You'll ride Deer Point for about a mile or so before you come to Round the Mountain. Follow Trail #98 as it winds around the mountain! It's about as simple as that. You will climb a few steeps at the beginning of Round the Mountain, and then the trail weaves out to the south flank of Deer Point, offering big views of the Treasure Valley. The trail crosses the Boise Ridge Road and then heads for deep woods on the Pine Creek Chair #6 side of the mountain. This is where you'll encounter the fun downhill switchbanks with banked corners. The trail contours around to the Superior Chair #3 side of the mountain and then climbs the grassy lodge traverse back to Pioneer Lodge. You can take the Morningstar singletrack downhill from there, or choose whatever route you like to the base lodge.

Because Round the Mountain is only 10 miles long, more serious advanced riders and trail-runners might want to consider the following add-ons:

  • Ride the Round the Mountain Loop and combine it with Eastside. The trailhead for Eastside is opposite to the Bogus Basin base area on the left side of the road as you come to Bogus. So it'd be super easy to jump on the Eastside Trail and enjoy an even smoother ride with fun obstacles and features here and there. Eastside is about 7 miles long, and then you climb back up to Bogus, and return to the ski area on the pavement. 
  • Add the Mahalo Loop for a little extra zip. After you've been on the Round the Mountain Trail for about 2 miles, you'll cross the Boise Ridge Road. Turn right at that point, and drop down to Forest Service Road 275C on the left. Ride 275C past a gate to the Mahalo trailhead. Ride Mahalo and ride the ridge road back to Round the Mountain and complete the loop. This would add about 6 miles to the ride ... Mahalo has a bunch of fun singletrack thanks to SWIMBA! and the Boise National Forest. 
  • Drop down from Mahalo and take the Dry Creek trail back to Boise
  • After riding Eastside, drop down Sweet Connie to complete the day
  • After completing the Round the Mountain Loop, at the Pioneer Lodge, take a left on Brewer's Byway, climb over to Deer Point Trail #91, and enjoy a ripping fast descent on #91. Remember that there may be people riding or hiking uphill on the trail, so don't get too carried away on the speed. 
There you have it! Enjoy Round the Mountain. Thx again to Ridge to Rivers for building such a gem.
On Saturday, I'll be riding the 75-mile version of the 4 Summit Challenge. Gulp! I've been training, and I think I'll be all right, but it's going to be a tough ride ... 75 miles and 6,000 verts in the mountains east of Cascade. Next week, I'll tell you all about it.

Registration is still open for this event, which has space for up to 650 riders. You can choose from the following:

  • Family ride - 8.2 miles
  • 1 Summit - 30 miles
  • 2 Summits - 50 miles
  • 3 Summits - 60 miles
  • 4 Summits - 75 miles
The great people of Cascade really roll out the red carpeting for this event. There's a great BBQ and beer party after the ride.
Hope to see you there!
-- SS 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here's a way to beat the heat and avoid the smoke: Cool off in the Salmon River

Jim Lafferty runs Split Rock Rapids between the two big mollars 
Putting on the sunscreen to start the river day ... Blackadar Camp 
My boys Drew and Quinn love the Salmon River ...
Quinn's friend Dakota is in the background ... 

Dakota and Quinn found a great cliff-jumping rock
at Swimming Hole campsite. 
Sun tarps help create shade next to the water's edge ... 
Shade is premium on a hot afternoon on the Salmon River. This is California Bar. 
If you're lucky, you might see some bighorn sheep!  
Black Creek Rapids ... left-hand run was smooth but steep 
Buckskin Bill's little castle 
Hi all, 

We just returned from a 7-day trip on the famed Main Salmon - River of No Return section in Central Idaho. I heartily recommend cooling off in the Salmon River this summer to beat the heat and to avoid the smoke from wildfires burning in the Garden Valley area and elsewhere in the region.  

Who go? The Main Salmon is arguably one of the best family wilderness whitewater vacations in America. And it's located right here in our home state in Central Idaho. You camp on spacious beaches with lots of shade afforded by tall stately ponderosa pine trees. You get to play on the river during the day, and then you can set up the volleyball net on the beach, play bocce ball, hang out and enjoy the scenery, and more. Plus, there's hot springs, history, and Buckskin Bill's, where you can buy fresh ice cream for your kids.

River trips are one of the cushiest forms of camping you can imagine. Instead of hauling all of your food and clothes on your back such as in backpacking, the raft carries all the weight. You can bring iced coolers with just about any food items you want, plus you can carry plenty of favorite beverages for the kids and adults.

As you're enjoying the float trip during the week, the members of your floating party bond and get to know each other on a much more personal basis. You will make lifelong friends on the river. And you will fall in love with the river canyon. 

The Main Salmon is best suited for families and intermediate boaters because the rapids are not as hard to navigate as they are on more technically challenging rivers. Follow an experienced boater down the river, and you'll learn a ton. But once you learn how to run a boat, you'll want one of your own. 

For the do-it-yourself boating community, the hardest part of getting on the Main Salmon River is drawing a permit. A friend of ours drew a permit for our group for this year's trip. You could still score a permit for this summer by picking up a cancelation on Check the site several times a day for the best results. 

The second way to book a river trip is to go with an outfitter. Idaho is blessed with a multitude of quality outfitters. As longtime businesses operated on Idaho's best rivers, the outfitters receive an allocation of permits for their trips. So you don't need to draw a permit to go with them. You just have to pay the trip fee, which is usually about $1,500 per person. Go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, and shop for an outfitted river trip. 

Another option is to float the Lower Salmon River below Whitebird to Hells Canyon. This section of river is a great trip for kids and families, and nothing more than a self-issue permit is needed. This is a 4- or 5-day trip, depending on how fast you want to go.

A trip on the Salmon River - River of No Return should be on the bucket list of every outdoorsy Idahoan. If you haven't done that yet, look for opportunities to experience this trip-of-a-lifetime. 
- SS