Five thirty in the morning and I’m headed in the darkness to the small town of Paia on Maui’s west side, across from the legendary windsurfing mecca of Ho’okipa beach. The Fuji road bike is assembled and ready for the ride that starts here, climbs up country through the ranch towns of Makowao and Kula and into Haaleakela park. I plug in the headphones and I’m off, go team!
I feel good. I break throught the first twenty minutes and get into a rhythm, slowly leaving the ocean behind. My support vehicle, Ryan on his Honda Rebel, has decided to tag along for the entire journey. The sun comes up over the east side of the island and I catch a glimpse of the incedible sunrise. Up country Maui is a world unto itself, far from the beaches and tourists, it is a land of cattle, cowboys and sheep ranchers tucked underneath the shadow of the volcano I’m about to climb. Glimpses of unparalleled beauty here, flowering vines entwined in barbed wire, sheepdogs chasing their flock through rolling grasslands, estates with flawless Japanese gardens roll past.
An hour has taken me through the two towns and I stand at the Haleaakela park sign, my first break. The approach is done and now the true climb begins. I try not to think about the twenty two miles left. I still feel strong but the first fifteen miles has me sweating and legs feeling it. Time for the mental games to begin, trying to take chunks out of the miles by aiming for smaller goals, the next sign, the next switch back. Fueling and drinking as much as i can, I begin the endless parade of switchbacks up the flanks of the volcano. There are markers on the pavement for bikers like myself, indicating the elevation and giving instructions when to eat and drink. Ryan putters by me and waits every half mile to give me a towel as I am drenched in sweat 2500′ feet and climbing…
At 5000′ the road breaks out from the lowland trees and ranchlands and into the steep grasslands, two of the four unique climates that I will go through. Here the switchbacks tighten and my first real battle against fatuige begins. Altitude hits me and I’m sure I’m dehydrated even though I’m drinking as much as possible. My speed slows and I have to take a break, surprised at the effect of the altitude. I’ve already eclipsed my max vertical for a single bike ride and the road is relentless, up up up. Ryans’ cheerful exclamation “only seventeen miles to go!” are welcome but his voice seems farther and farther away. The view are stunning and surreal, looking down on the beaches and towns, but there is work to be done seventeen miles to go and another 5000′ feet of climbing. The bike is too small and brain is starting to find reasons not to do anymore of this silliness, but I push upward until the switchbacks mellow just a bit, savoring every extended section of road that doesn’t have a hairpin turn in it. A parade of rental cars passes me up and down, occasionally a fist pump out the window or a incredulous look. Allez allez allez.
Passed the lower ranger station stopped on the grassy lawn and spawled out for a bit, staring into the sky and wordering how the hell I’m gonna get up the last 2500′ vertical. I can’t seem to eat enough mini snickers or drink enough water. Up above the clouds soar up and over the rim of the volcano. The summit crater looks tantelizingly close but still 12 miles away. At 8000′ the clouds roil and churn. The land is shifting into a beautiful but barren moonscape, lava and sparse plants, reminiscent of the terra high up on a fourteener. I hunch down over bars, and deperatley try to find the mental zone where the pain fades, jabbering mind quiets and all that exists is the white line you are following and the sound of your own breathing. Final push, here we go.
I’m talking to dead relatives now. There is no escape from the sheer exertion I have put out and my mind is rebelling and legs are screaming. I cycle through happy thoughts to get just one more peddle. Cheeseburgers, milkshakes, powder skiing all are temporary cures for the pain. I crawl upward through the clouds whipping over the summit and down into the lee side of the volcano. The tempeature has cooled and the breeze is welcome. Trying to figure out how I can lash my bike to Ryan’s motorcycle for the rest of the way. At 9000′ up, the only option is to finish this ride so I don’t have to come back and do it again. I hate my bike with a absurd ferocity at this point. I feel like a bear at the circus riding the little bike around the ring. Get me off this thing.
Hit the wall harder than I ever had in my life. Staggered into the visitors center and collapsed on the first bench I could find, curled up in a fetal position and passed out for a half hour. Nothing left at all. I’ve never been so tired in my life, unable to sit up for twenty minutes. Voices fade in and out, Ryans, tourists. Like any big mountain climb getting up is only half the battle, I have no clue how I’m gonna get down. I feel like dog poo. Sat up finally and realized that the summit was another five hundred feet up another half mile. I look at Ryan and shake my head. He laughs and nods, knowing I have to finish the ride. A nice lady from Breckenridge stops and lets me know she saw me on the way up. I remember her, she mouthed the words your crazy as she went by. She gives me two bannanas and wishes me luck. Force myself to stand up and wander around the visitors center and listen to the ranger talk. The crater is so big that manhattan could fit inside it, growing two inches a year away from the lava source. It is amazing and barren, a place not to be lost in.
I recover amazingly fast. The bannanas help and my body seems to adjust to the altitude pretty quickly. Compared to how bad I felt just a little while ago it is night and day. I break no land speed records for the last half mile to the actual summit but I make it. The clouds break and we get great views of the Big Island’s 13000′ foot volcano. Ryan and I get the obligitory photos up top and turn around for the descent. All downhill now. It is done. Kind of like hitting mushroom rock in EV. Glad I did it, more glad I never have to do it again, but what a challenge. I push off for the downhill and the miles clip past, somewhere in the middle of the descent I start laughing like Stewie from Family Guy and name my bike Silky for its superoirty on the downhill(I’m still a tad loopy) Only one scary moment coming down. I hit a hairpin too fast, laid on the breaks and Tokyo drifted towards the opposite gaurdrail. I stop, reassess and proceed with a little extra caution toward the beaches and towns where I belong. I give myself a passing grade, maybe not an A but sometimes passing is enough…Aloha
We are coming down to the wire with the training as the slide toward ski seson nears its finish. To me it’s the most impatient time of year, waiting for the first big storm to erase the six months of off season. I know that the lifts are open at certain areas, but I’m not one to hit the strip of death. Hopped up college kids and eager early seasoners looking to drive you into the trees isnt what skiing is to me. Don’t get me wrong the passion I respect, the chance of injury I don’t want to deal with. Do I sound like a jaded local? I am, admittedly. I’ve paid enough insane rent and nine percent sales tax over the years to qualify. If you do go be careful, watch your nine and six o clock and I’ll see you all at the end of the month.
So what to do now? Keep training and choose somewhere warm to finish the wait if you can. As important as the physical training is, mental preperation for the seven months of skiing is equally important. Even the most die hard skiers know its a long winter, and stocking up with some memories of warm sand and lapping ocean is a good idea.
I’ve been in Maui for a week now, and my brain is saturated with perfect beach sights, beatiful girls and turquoise ocean, but now I’m restless. I can feel the pull of the season and I catch myself looking out into the ocean at the far away storms and wonder if its headed for our neck of the woods. At 39, I’m still as captivated by the cycle of the winter season as I was fifteen years ago.
Inspired by the xterra race hitting here on sun I’ve decided to put the EVI training to the test. Looming over the island of Maui is the immense volcano of Haaleakela, rising from the ocean to 10000 feet above sea level. It has been called one of the most grueling bike rides in the world. And dammit I’m gonna do(try) it. The acid test of the EVI training school.
Let’s make something clear. I’m not a road biker. I don’t shave my legs, my forearm are larger than toothpicks and I don’t own any Postal Service jerseys or spandex shorts. But sitting outside my door is a carbon fiber steed that I rented today and its waiting for me for tommorow at five am. Can a gorrila on a bicycle get up the Maui monolith? I don’t know. I do know what I’ll be thinking of to put the miles, the screaming legs and the cars of gawking tourists and the heat behind me. Three feet of blower in EV on a Tuesday morning….Aloha
After a weather hold, training is back in full swing, with a sweet dusting up on the Gore Range for inspiration. Feeling pent up after days of rain / snow? Had two Red Bulls and don’t know what to do with yourself? Can’t find any moose to chase? Try this bike ride to work off some off season angst.
Ride to Red Sndstone take a left and head to the Piney Lake tun off. Take Piney Lake Road up seven miles to the Lost Lake turn-off. Take a right and continue for another couple miles to the turn off on the left hand side of the dirt road to Lost Lake. Enjoy the next stretch of technical downhill punctuated by technical uphill single track (I won’t lie, I carried my bike up some of it, ok most of it) to the lake. Take a break at Lost lake and continue around the lake to the biker’s right where the trail then picks up again heads down then up and down again to the Red and White pass road. This section is awesome with fluid single track through aspen and evergreen forests, as well as sections of rocky technical single track that keep you on your toes.
Exiting out to the dirt road, climb on the road south towards the top of Red and White Pass a couple more miles of four wheel drive road. The road was muddy in spots, and some of the puddles were road wide, but avoidable. Passed an overheating jeep on the way, go mountain bikes! At the top there is a sign for the Bueffer Creek trail. Leave the dirt road and head south on the less worn four wheel drive road that continues south through the pasture(after enjoying yet another stunning panoramic view), this turns into clean single track and is super fun. White knuckle this seemingly forever as the trail drops towards the Valley, looking for the left hand unmarked cut off lower down the trail. This is the cut over to the North Trail, another section of nice single track perched on the side of the steep hillside. Continue this down to the North Trail trailhead to complete the loop. The entire loop is about eighteen miles, with the initial climb of just about two thousand feet. However with the added climbs in the different sections, I would say the total is over three thousand feet of climbing.
I’m an intermedate biker and to me this was a combination of cyclecross, adventure biking and good ol’ cross country mountain biking. Technical up and downhills, big climbs, fast downhill sections and unrideable hike with bike sections make this a complete ride and a hell of a lot of fun. Take some food, water a warm layer( as the top of the ride is over ten thousand feet) and definitely a good repair kit. My friend Dave P blew a chain and would have been screwed if we didn’t have another chain and some quick links (a must have). The view are unreal and late Sept is the perfect time to hit it up. The best part is afterwards you can justify eating whatever you want and sitting on the couch doing nothing for the rest of the day. I ate three carmel apples and entire wheel of brie, fell asleep watching MNF with a clear conscience. Enjoy!
The recent below freezing temps allows me to bring up something i’ve wanted to talk about for quite a while…thermal training and weight loss. I first came across the concept reading Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Body. If you haven’t read it yet and you’re interested in fitness, it’s worth a read. Specifically, he has a section about weight loss and training in cold weather and the benefits this has on excelling fat burning and building muscle. Without getting into too much crazy scientific detail, the introduction of cold exposure can change the way your fat cells are responding to physical activity. From Ferriss’ book (pg. 127):
Not all fat is equal. There are at least two distinct types: white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). WAT is what we usually think of as fat, like the marbling on a steak. BAT, in contrast, is sometimes referred to as “fat-burning fat” and appears to be derived from the same stem cells as muscle tissue. BAT helps dissipate excess calories as heat. In a nutshell: cold stimulates BAT to burn fat and glucose as heat. In other words, cold might help you increase the amount of your “fat-burning fat.”
So, scientific gobbly gook aside, train in the cold, it will help burn fat and increase muscle mass. Get to the point of shivering, then get warm and finish your run, bike, climb, hike, whatever. The weather right now is perfect too, cold in the early morning, relatively warm in the sunshine, cool as the sun goes down and in the shadows. Take advantage and burn some extra fat while you’re still able to enjoy it outside, especially since everyone else is hitting the treadmills at the gym. Weaksauce!
That said, be careful, 30 minutes is plenty of exposure, then it’s time to put a jacket on and not be an idiot. As usual, we’re not responsible for you losing a finger or worse due to frost-bite.
Welp…it’s snowing. A lot. Wolf Creek opened today with 12+ inches of pow pow on the ground. But we’re still training around these parts. We’ve got some posts backed up the pipeline from the past couple weeks, which we’ll probably share in one comprehensive blog with a big photo gallery and training tips…coming soon.
That said, just yesterday, we decided to brave the cold (about 20 degrees) and step up our interval training with a bike, hike, bike combination sesh. 9 miles on the bike, starting from an undisclosed location in West Vail, out to the bighorn trail head in East Vail.
Roped the bikes to a fence post and it was 2 miles up the narrow and steep deluge lake trail to the second rock band for some photo ops and a brief climb. Fortunately, that trail gets the sun early and the snow was almost completely melted off by the time we got there. 2 miles down the damp, leaf covered trail to the bikes and 9 miles back to west vail, just in time to shower, scarf food, and get to work. Started at 1:15pm, back at the house at 4:15pm…3hrs round trip wasn’t too shabby.
What else is nice, the interval training really breaks up the monotony of an only bike or hike outing. Surprisingly, different muscles are being used between the two, especially on the steep down climbs out of deluge trail where you really feel the hammys. Without a doubt, a true knee workout. Coming from someone with historically bad knees, they actually feel good the next day, so don’t be scared to push it. Finally, the cold really impacts the lungs. Normal heavy breathing from the ride becomes a burning grasp for oxygen on every sip of air. Hurts for a bit, but then you get into a groove and it’s all downhill from there.
All in all, a good afternoon, if not an exhausting workout. Get out and get some. Mind the snow for the next few days, cuz next week will be sunny again…no excuse not to be out there. A special post on cold weather training will be up tomorrow, stay tuned.
Okay, so if we haven’t hammered home the point yet…you gotta get up to get down. Hike up, walk up, run up. Go up.
Anybody can take 12 hours to get up the mountain. But we’re training to get first tracks in EV on a powder day. So, now that you’ve hopefully been getting out and enjoying the colors as the leaves change, it’s time to focus on doing it faster. Climb like ya mean it.
We figured a good tester for speed might be something on the mountain, that way if you kill yourself, body recovery won’t be difficult or expensive. Berry picker, a classic, straight up, straight down, lunch at Bart & Yeti’s. Guides online peg it anywhere between 2-3 hrs. But that’s for Fatty McLawyer from Tulsa. You’re gonna do it in 2.5 hrs, round trip. Basically, it’s anything short of a trail run uphill and the occasional jog downhill. Turn off the brain, get the legs pumpin’ and go. Check back Monday for the next one…
Training Day 1. Our hike up Beaver Creek mountain started as a way to kill a rainy afternoon. It seems as if mother nature has put the keibash on summer, and evidently it’s time for mud season again. A perfect chance to get some material for our new series of posts about training for ski season, walking uphill! The first 20 minutes were terrible, breathing hard and thighs burning, wondering why we do such things. For the exercise, dammit! We eventually got into a groove and started to enjoy the surroundings and rapid ascent away from the cookie cutter Bavarian village.
Fast forward to a snow covered mountain and walking through endless glades, we began to see the hype on BC tree skiing. A couple feet of powder to cover the fallen trees and stumps, and this could be epic. STEEP doesn’t being to describe the surreal drops and slalom like courses set up through the forests. Nature’s finest. Dreams slowly faded as we passed through open clearings and new power lines being erected. The panging of a metal stake being driven into the ground by hand broke the otherwise silence of our hike.
Past the last signs of civilization, we began the final ascent up a steep ridgeline and towards the lake. Stopping every 10 ft. and foraging like bears on the local thimble berries and raspberries – we were eating well at a snail’s pace. Hands and faces stained red, the sugar rush kicked in as we walked along Beaver Creek, which was flowing at a pretty good pace for this late in the season.
At the end of the hike, the lake didn’t disappoint. A reflecting pond at its finest, our group sat and stared for a bit before the rains came. We went to check out the falls and then circled around the lake on what appeared to be a seldom used path. The south side of the lake had some interesting foliage, almost transporting us to the PNW with hanging moss and mushrooms abound.
Our route back to the trail took us across a makeshift log bridge…an easy crossing, or so we thought. Here’s where it got interesting. From afar, someone in our group spotted “some wild donkeys, or a herd of something” just over the deep banks of the lake. With no saddles or voices to be heard, they weren’t horses, so curiosity got the best of us. We popped our heads over the bushes only to be face to face with a gigantic moose and her two calves. The cow snorted loudly at our encroachment and we backed off quickly to the edge of the water.
Remembering the infinite wisdom of Bear Grylls and our time in Alaska, we knew that the worst place we could possibly be was between the mother and her calves. Poor eyesight and a vicious protective streak, we weren’t messing around. So we waited, and waited…and waited for the family to move along. They were taking their time. Fast food drive through at Burger King, this was not.
They moved, and we moved…a few steps down the road. We followed moose tracks until dinner spot #2 meant the end of the road for us. With darkness beginning to fall, we had two choices: wait it out (and we were woefully unprepared to spend the night in falling temperatures), or navigate down the steep banks of the creek, side skirting the water, and rejoining the trail below where the moose could smell us. Our black ops mission seemed like the only logical thing to do.
The down climb over loose scree was as fun as it sounds. Dodging talus spiders and constantly on the lookout for Lord of the Rings characters, we thought we were pretty sneaky. A few near dips into Beaver Creek while swinging on tree roots like we were playing Atari’s Pit Fall and we were staring up at a steep hill of loose dirt to return to the trail. Our lead scampered up the hill monkey style and popped his head over the lip only to find a moose munching on grass staring right back at him. Not so sneaky…
On to Plan B. Traversing further down the hillside we eventually found a way out of the ravine that wasn’t directly into a moose’s butt. Up, over the edge, and into a Scottish peat bog, we were wet, and ready to get the hell out of dodge. Moose looking down on us from the ridge line, ready to charge, we took off running through the wetness. Perhaps not the best course of action, but nevertheless, what we did. We were thoroughly soaked after a quick sprint, and upon looking over our shoulders, we saw mother moose keeping a watchful eye on us all the way down…calves in tow.
The down climb was uneventful, if not beautiful, after our adventure at Beaver Lake. A few more stops at the thimble berry bushes, we made our way down just as the sun set on another good hike. Off to moose sized burritos waiting in Avon, promptly devoured as we reflected on a near death experience that could have turned out much worse.
Lesson learned, keep a watchful eye on your surroundings in the summer and the winter. Read up on local wildlife and have at least some idea what to do during an encounter.
Most importantly, get out and hike somewhere…there’s no gym exercise you can do to replicate the full body workout of climbing up and down, left, right, over rocks, under fallen trees, across slippery logs, and evidently, running for your life on some occasions. Gotta get in shape some how. Stay tuned for the more “training day” posts and we’ll give you some ideas on how to get there.
Squats, yeah, 100′s of em. Hip thrusts. Jazzercise. Billy Blanks Cardio kickboxing. Zumba!
This is EVI and we aren’t gonna give it to you like that. If you like flying down a mountain on skis, we’ve been training for it by going up. Walking, hiking, trail running, biking…doesn’t matter, but get started. Gaining 2000+ ft of vertical over 2-3 hours will get you in shape no matter who you are or how you do it. So how’s it gonna help?
- Lungs: check, gotta get that cardio pumpin’ ready for long skins and long descents.
- Legs: yeah, your quads always hurt for the first few weeks of ski season. Often forgotten is training the other half of your thigh, the hamstring.
- Sore knees and ankles: add strength with joints that flex better and work at off angles.
- Feel: Nothing like getting a feel for the mountain. Know the rolls, the dips, and the holes before you go. Especially important this year is finding out where the pine beetle kill has impacted your favorite tree lines. The Vail Daily has a great article on the epidemic, looks like 80% of lodgepoles will be down in the next couple years.
So what are you waiting for? September and October are training months at EVI and we’ll keep you posted on what we’re doing so you can do it too.
You gotta get up to get down.