Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kansas City

NVM, don't like what I wrote in hindsight. Gonna take a few and re-write it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

That Time of the Year

So this week marks the 11th year of my cx racing history, feels like I just wrote the 10th anniversary diatribe. I registered for USGP Ft. Collins to start my season. Which is a race I have wanted to do for a few years now and am very excited to be apart of. Gonna rant a little bit now.

Coloradans think they are some ungodly force of nature in the athletic scene (I hear it constantly in the shop). Ever since I have moved here I have been told by everyone who races that I will be dropped, beaten and decimated because Colorado racing is that much harder. Now I hate to be a naysayer but I have raced a few CO races before in my day and while it sucks to race from 9000 to 12000 feet that is literally the only part that is harder in my opinion. The racers aren't faster, the elevation and terrain is just different. Stick a Colorado native on the Lawrence river trail in the middle of July and he won't know what to do having to stay in his big ring so long while his shorts turn into a humidified mess.

But I decided to look at the upside of the matter and registered for the category 4 race. Eff it. No one knows me here so I can't be called a sandbagger if I destroy and I can't be called worthless for my experience range if I suck. The truth of the matter is that I knew it would be a helluva lot easier to ride through the 4s than the 3s and I'm not getting a good starting position anyhow, noone knows me in the ACA and I'm not buying a license until next year. So I might as well have some fun before I get kicked out.

So here's to toeing the start line 1 more season, jumping some barriers, and hopefully being called a sandbagger. Ring an imaginary cowbell for this overexperienced cross junkie who is still hanging out at the back of the pack.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Bike and Some Other Things

So I've been doing some things here in the old colorful Colorado. Lemme tell ya about them real quick.

Last weekend Neta got her first taste of a 14,000 foot mountain with me. We did Gray's Peak at 14,2oosomething feet on Sunday afternoon. The weather forecast said we have a 0% chance of rain for the day so we took off way late, stopped in Evergreen for breakfast and finally hit the trail maybe by noon. My goal was to have the summit to ourselves because if there is one thing I hate it's sharing my hard earned summits. We totally had the summit to ourselves and spent a solid hour just basking in the thin air and sun, it was a show trying to get up the mountain with the whole world of tourists trying to come down from wherever they decided they should turn around but once we were there the mountain was empty... it was gorgeous and pristine.

I literally just recovered from the effort of 7 days ago though. I have now done the Grand Canyon, the highest peak in AZ (13ish), and many more smaller 12,000 foot peaks in the same pair of TNF trail runners all year. And they gave up the ghost about 5 hikes ago. My calves were wrecked and I got a crazy end of the season cold from the sustained impact to my body and low oxygen intake and was laid up for almost 2 days straight. Which was a mega bummer because the weather was perfect all week and I spent my off days watching cheezy netflix movies instead of ripping singletrack on my new bike.

On to the new bike. I finally pulled the trigger last month on a new mountain bike after spending the majority of the summer borrowing bikes from sales reps and coworkers after my Giant broke. After riding pretty much every platform available to me this summer I had a pretty good idea that I wanted a 5x5 26" XC bike. The rebel in me felt terrible since I have been on 29" wheels for sooo long and preached the good book to soooo many riders. I almost felt like a hypocrite and weighed deeply my options, not for my own benefit on trail but solely to save face on the bikes I've hated on for so long.
So I ended up getting a smoking deal on an Australian spec Specialized Camber Expert 26er. The Camber seemed like the perfect bike for me at 120mm of travel front and rear with some cheech 10 speed parts and decent boings on either end. The bike is technically supposed to fit between the Epic and the Stumpjumper FSR levels in the Spec lineup. But I saw it as a different beast after I rode all 3 back to back. The Camber does not get the patented Specialized "Brain" on any of it's models, regardless if it's the $1600 comp or the $8300 Carbon Pro. In theory the Brain is cool, I realize that all suspension bikes need a platform shock to pedal anywhere close to efficiently and the uber adjustability coupled with the moron proofness of the brain is excellent for the masses. But I kind of understand how suspension works and don't mind messing with it so the brain just is not my cup of tea. It makes the downhills less cush and the uphills feel like you are on your old hardtail with some ridiculous linkage that does nothing.

The Camber came stock with a Fox Triad in the rear with the pro-pedal and lockout option. I've used all of the settings on all of my favorite trails now and can honestly say that as a trail bike if I leave the bike fully open it rides like a dream up and down. If I switch on the pro-pedal it will easily hold it's own against the Epic on the uphills and punish it on the downhills. In fact the bike has the same parts spec as the 26" Epic comp from 2011 but weighs a full pound less because of the minimalist in line linkage and loss of the brain cartridge. Which brings me to my last point, the bike weighed 27.10 lbs with Shimano 515 pedals and a bottle cage bone stock. So it's a damn light bike for something that wears a $2500 pricetag. I intend to keep tearing it up on this rig til next spring and then maybe going to an SJ FSR with an RP23 as a brain replacement, but until then I am loving this budget lightweight bruiser.

So here's to new summits, new bikes and other things.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things That I Can't Get Enough Of

I'm gonna start this post as of today and move on backwards through time... but consider it a reverse order recap of my time in the front range the last 2.5 months.

While I was on my bike Monday morning around 7.30 a.m.ish I received a text from Joe Fox..."Haynes and I are heading your way do you have xxx and yyy, we need it for our adventure." I owned partial parts of x's and y's but none of what they were specifically looking for and none of which I could have available to them that day already having 40 miles out from my house on the bike and headed to work. So I assumed after telling them "not really" they would keep on trucking towards their adventure... 3 days on the continental divide trail. But lo and behold mere hours later I had two of my best buds standing front and center in my Specialized concept store... albeit a bit out of their element... and asking route questions to anyone who would listen.

Their route looked tough, they were looking at HUGE miles 2 days in a row and I respected them... almost more than before for taking it on. But when I mentioned that I had Wednesday and Thursday off their eyes lit up. "Maybe we can get my dads house in Vail Wednesday night," was all that I heard Joe say. And from then on I was stoked.

So Wednesday morning I drove past Leadville to the road closure at Independence pass (where the USpro cycling challenge was charging through). I unloaded my bike and prepared to climb and climb and climb to their campsite to watch the pros suffer up the climb that I had just accomplished. But for some grace of god I only had to climb up to 11,000 feet when I heard Jeremy yell out in my direction. They were coming off trail at the same time that I was crossing their path... thank god.

Once we met up everything was good, their bivys were stuffed, we watched the pros roll by and headed straight to Vail to hang out at the spa.

Now I'm sure their legs were cooked from the riding but mine equally felt like bricks. I only brought my roadbike with me to ride to the bars in Vail, not anticipating the Indy road closure that I had to crawl up before. The day before I attended a Specialized dealer event and rode a handful of the cheechest bikes man could fathom. I had the privilege of railing an sworks Epic 29...(underwhelming with the new SID, couldn't get a hold of the bike on the downhills and felt like a hardtail that weighed 3 lbs too much on the climbs), an SWorks Stumpy (amazing bike that felt like an Epic that worked in the steeps and could air it out downhill although the HA was about .5 degress too steep to inspire) and an SL4 Tarmac that killed the downhills on 50mph decents.

Bike reviews done... we chilled, drank and lived like kings in Vail. I might write some more recaps later but this whole blog is starting to get un-inspiring. I'm feeling a bit too lazy to keep it for my "own memories" since my own memories always sound better as fish stories 3 years later and a bit embellished.

So Cheers, Thanks for reading. I'll be back. Love, Slater

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Front Range Livin'

It's strange to think that less than a month ago I woke up under a tree in Moab staring up at the sky with the river overflowing to my right and the portal trailhead situated nicely to my left...homeless and unemployed.

Less than a month later and Neta and I have both landed full time gigs making more money than either of us has ever made before (not saying much). I'm slingin' bikes to the masses at a new Specialized concept store in some uber nice suburbs and I still haven't gotten over the ease that these people seem to have spending money on bikes. Roubaixs that will no doubt sit in garages until next years MS150 or Ride the Rockies comes about fly out the door pretty darn regularly. It's mega fun just showing up to work and talking about bikes in a city with such a huge outdoor consumer base. I rarely have to turn a wrench or build a bike since I literally have last years pro Europe BMC wrench back in the shop doing things that I didn't even know were possible to bikes and regaling us with stories about Big George during the down time.

Neta and I have a pretty big condo all to ourselves too... to fill up with all the furniture that we don't own. My helpful suggestion to Neta while looking for a place was that we might want to consider a 2nd bedroom so she doesn't have to look at all my gear flying around. Score 1 for the mancave/bikeroom.

And last but not least I've been spending a bunch of time on the bike. My ride to work is right at 10 miles on m.u.t.s. so it's pretty easy to pile on the road miles. I have to drive whenever I want to get my mtb on which is kind of lame but the riding on the front range is still as stellar as ever so it's always worth it. Been riding a bunch with baggy shorted, big hit freeride guys and as I've been telling myself for the last 4 years, I need a bigger bike. The Giant has been rad and I can ride laps to the top of the mountain while those guys push but once we get going down I have to dial it wayyy back. Found a nice sized dent on the Giant's seatstay today, no idea what from since it hasn't taken any big hits but I'll probably keep it around to race on since it's resale is gone and just buy a bigger Pitch or Enduro to attempt to destroy on the trail rides soon.

That's the haps here on the ol' front range. So here's to the suburbs, the riding, being gainfully employed and in a house.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Long Term Stability

Surprise! I'm moving again, to a state with more and bigger mountains and with easier access to home. A longer ski season and still temperate enough to ride all the time.

I've told a few people thus far and the resounding question has unanimously been, "What are you going to do there?"

I didn't realize it for a few weeks (okay maybe months) but I always answered the same. "Well ultimately I want to climb the Diamond on Long's Peak this year, I heard the casual route only goes at .10- but it looks like there's a direct variation that seems a touch shorter and more straightforward that goes at .11-. Also I really miss having a real cyclocross season. I never realized it before but I really enjoy being able to participate in that sport for at least 10 weekends/year. Also I really want to ski better more consistent powder days than AZ is offering... I mean the resort here is great for what it is but I think the possibilities on bigger hills with bigger backcountry bowls are way better for where I'm at right now and maybe even learn to telemark... I mean that's where the real adventure is at."

Did that sound like a big old jumble of ideas that might spew out of a 12 year old's mouth when asked to write about what they are planning to do on their summer vacation in a short essay? It hit me probably a week ago that the majority of my life planning sounds like some variation of the above ramble.

I struggled with the idea for a while, wondering how long my adult self can keep up this charade before succumbing to the ideals that the majority of my peers have already devoted their lives to. You know the whole job stability, reliable car, nice place to live thing. I guess those things could be nice, but at the end of the day I don't see myself being able to pour that much energy into such meaningless things for at least a few (to ten) more years when I already have so much energy being devoted into making sure I get into the backcountry and see the world as often as I do right now.

I think the thing that made me realize this the most was a news article about the economy and the hardships that kids who graduated in my class are having to endure. I was reading about kids my age having to take jobs as part time waiters (GASP!!!) and move back in with their parents after failing to obtain jobs in the field of assistant sports management recordkeeping and racketeering which they had so wisely chosen to do their masters in. Which I honestly blame 1000% on their own laziness. The young, fit and willing can literally show up anywhere in America and work somewhere for something and somehow manage to pay rent.

A year ago I didn't even know that I would be in Flagstaff, I knew I had life goals for the next year of my life. Mainly those goals were to get solid on 5.11, begin to work 5.12, bag some desert towers and ride some epic singletrack. Check, check, check and check. All of which I accomplished after showing up jobless in a city 1000 miles away from home with no connections and just asking real nicely if I can sling lattes part time and maybe sell some backpacks and North Face jackets.

So where am I going with this?

1. I am moving again and have goals for the next direction of my life.
2. Said goals pertain to nothing but my own well-being and happiness
3. I don't understand why my generation is making such a big deal out of a bad economy when there are things to see and a great excuse to stay poor and untethered.
4. My perception of real life might be a bit skewed from the status quo

So here's to the young, the dumb, the waiters who for some reason moved back in with their parents, new mountains, longer powder seasons and the Diamond (that's a real thing and I am looking for a partner in crime for it)

Monday, March 28, 2011

This is Bat Country

I was somewhere near Nevada, maybe 20 miles from the border, when the drugs began to take hold. I remember feeling light headed and then suddenly there was a terrible noise all around. Like Jim Morrison’s nails clawing down a bottle of Jackie D trying to keep the lizard king alive while Janice Joplin screeched and howled at him about dying young. Bright lights abounded, blindingly searing over the blank desert mountain ahead while I thought to myself, “Fuck man, this can’t be Vegas already. I’m still an hour out.”

But indeed it was that wretched wino filled shit hole of a city I had such fond memories of. Time slipped through my fingers, what had it been? 1 year? The last 4 years of memories of craggin’ in Arkansas had been a trip in itself, likely never to be seen again from like-minded pirates. But less than 1 year ago I was throwing myself head first at god knows what desert mountain with THESE god forsaken stone bandits? And I somehow convinced myself I should come back…

Let me paraphrase, while these young wildabeasts that I was to meet were on spring break from the flatlands I decided to take a spring break of my own and head to the desert for a week to join them in their quest to bag crags and search out how much of the desert dust I truly have in my bones. “For research”, I told my boss. But in all reality it was for the same depraved state of being that we all venture into things that we are never too sure were ever good but we have somehow vanquished into memories of fondness and bliss, maybe due to the booze.

I had plans to see the week out of the back of my van. The party wagon quickly became transformed into a poor man’s desert palace, more luxurious than a night on the far side of the strip but mobile enough to invade those poor yuppie bastards should a band of us pirates decide to infiltrate their basecamp of high rises and $400 rooms.

I want you to feel the full effect of the back of the party wagon. I’m talking about two bags of the North Face persuasion, 35 quickdraws of the sport variety, 1 quilt, 2 thermarests, 2 ropes, at least 50 feet of assorted webbing, puffy belay jackets, Gore-Tex everything, half a dozen of anything I might want to snack on, rigged Christmas lights that never quite worked… Also, a fifth of whiskey, 30 odd beers, and at least 5 people shoved into the back at all hours of the night until I kicked them out screaming. “disperse you filthy animals and take your empties with you.” Not that I needed all of that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious gear collection the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

Regardless we cragged hard, I spent all of my days attempting feeble red-points on things well below a stone worthy Slater. But I couldn’t give up a grade! How could I! Less than 6 months ago I was redpointing hard 11! And now I have been relinquished to a shell of a climber with overgrown thighs from too new of a mountain bike and too great of a ski season, not remembering how to pull evenly on slopers and unable to make my fingers close around crimps. My feet jammed into the wall and slid, listening to $100 worth of rubber slowly disintegrating around my toes whilst I kicked myself, “you know how to place feet, now get on with this before you waste any more of your belayers time.”

Craggin up a chimney

Regardless, I spent my days cragging hard until an impending storm began to take place around the desert peaks. “TO THE STRIP!” exclaimed the small posse I had been cragging with for the last few days and goddamnit I was glad to hear it. “The strip at last. I thought you boys were going to make my fingers fall off and my biceps rupture to an inverted skeletal structure.”

Right in time for the biggest contradiction of spring break history we arrived in Vegas to see the storm in force. The cheapest room on the strip was procured at the Sahara and we set out on our venture. Tallboys of the Tallest varieties dangling from our mitts, spliff dangling from my compatriots mouth nervously looking around like he might see the fuzz at any minute, much like a young man would while emulating Clint Eastwood smoking a green bean at the family dinner table, “get that out of your mouth and don’t let me ever see it again young man!”

Penny slots was the cheer of the night, the waitress at the Belagio hated my hails from aisles away, “DRINK GIRL!” As she looked at us in dismay adorned in our gritty Carhartts, puffy jackets, sunburned faces and disheveled hair while ordering free PBR by the bucket, looking around the room at all the customers she might one day have and their nice suits. I couldn’t help but proclaim, “let’s get down to brass tacks, how much for the ape.” She handed me my drink and failed to return after that point of the night, luckily we were already blitzkreiged enough to be on such a swank hotel’s secutiry watch list and we didn’t last much longer after that. Tossing pennies across the lobby floor of a hotel that you can’t afford to stay, drink or gamble at just waiting for some poor sucker to pick them up while swaying side to side on one of the plushest lobby couches I have ever sat on is truly a great way to play “where’s the climbers” of security work.

And as we hailed a cab back to our own hotel, where the seedy and unruly were truly found I once again heard my close compatriot whisper into the cab driver’s ear, “less than $10 across town and I have a great tip for you.” Unfortunately that goddamn animal didn’t speak a lick of English. And as we arrived back to the great 1950’s staple of the strip I once again heard the same murmur but this time in my ear, “As your attorney, I advise you to take a hit out of the little brown bottle in my shaving kit. You won't need much, just a tiny taste.”

Vegas 2011.

(Dear Mom/Aunts/Whomever else is too old to have seen or read Fear and Loathing… It’s a play off a book/movie. So calm down, my generation gets that it’s not real)