28 October 2013

The Triathlete's Garden

Last winter a triathlete moved in a few blocks away 

He bought a large home in the Washington Park area of Denver with a landscaped front yard. The first time I was introduced to him he presented himself as an Ironman athlete who most certainly planned to train and plan for more races that coming summer. He listed off his target races, mentioned that he was a single Dad with shared custody, and generally chatted about how much he enjoyed training.

All the while he chatted, I kept picturing that big home with the garden. Why had he bought that house? Sure it was four blocks from an excellent location to get in the running miles, but it was possibly too much to manage solo. I have always thought there should be a kind of designated housing for Ironman athletes. Some sort of complex with big garages, bigger kitchens, comfortable beds, a nice bath to shave the legs and no gardens to tend.

I watched that garden die over the summer. Weeds growing tall between the dead branches not removed in spring and plants not tended to in summer.  I pedaled by that garden on my cruiser bike to and from yoga and zumba class, watching it wither in neglect. A clear sign that the owner had other priorities. The training must be going well, I thought as the weeks passed, surely his A, B, and C races had come and almost gone by now.

Then one day in mid Fall that garden got ripped out. The occasionally mowed grass patch remained but the flower beds were torn up. Gone. There is no place in a triathlete's life for flowers. No putsing in the garden for an Ironman. Life is about a strict schedule of run / bike / ride, laundering of lycra, concocting kale smoothies and selecting recipes from the Feedzone cookbook.

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from watching others. I watched that garden throughout the spring and summer months as I myself headed out on long bike rides, traveled to week-long stage races, and spent hours writing on a computer. The garden became a symbol of a lifestyle. I confess I am a garden putser, so my own garden survived the brutal months of life as a road cyclist/fan. Now I too am paying the price.

"No I won't be at the race this weekend, I am painting my garage." I've been saying that for 2 months now, because it took me eight full days (there goes the weekend) to prep (the worst part of all!) and paint my garage and house trim. Add to that some gutter cleaning and repair, fence mending and painting, patio and brick repair - and you have a "former" cyclist who is happy to barely make it to yoga class twice a week.

I have always said we can be really good at three things at a time, with an additional two things marginally okay, another one or two half-assed, and then sadly neglectful of the rest. Yet most of us attempt to try to master about 6 things and fake all the rest, hoping no one will notice.
  • full time job
  • home-owner (with a well-maintained home)
  • parenting
  • married or "in a relationship"
  • athlete on a training schedule (with "goals")
  • healthy eater 
  • consistent dog walker
  • blogger/photographer (person with a time consuming hobby like bike racing)
  • community involvement/volunteering 
  • social critter (friends and extended family)
  • remembering to call your Mother
If you are successful at all eleven of these responsibilities - well I don't know you. Nor do I want to because you are too perfect and will only make me feel completely unaccomplished. I didn't even mention relaxation, or church (church - are you kidding me - it falls during the Cat 35+/4 race), or house cleaner/toilet cleaner or person with enough extra time to twitter their life away or read everyone else's posts on facebook.

I admit I am part of a new social subculture of people who are "facebook fakers". I am seriously expecting our formal greeting to be officially changed to - greeter: "How are you?" reply: "I posted it on Facebook." I live in fear of someone responding to me, "Well, I posted it on facebook, you didn't read my post? I am clearly not a priority to you." Oh but you are you are, I missed your post because it was buried under the hundred's of other political / must see video posts by other friends who are of no more a priority than you. I promise.

I simply cannot keep up with everything.  My garden is still growing! And my house is painted!

Do I get some brownie points for that? This is why I suggest not having a dog, child, wife, husband or mother; never signing up for that epic cycling event; and never owning a home or garden. Life sounds downright miserable at this point so perhaps giving up documenting a life on Twitter, Facebook or on a blog is a better choice. I gave up on the latter - blogging.

You see this was a long story about why I have not been blogging much lately. But hey - my house is now painted and I felt that wonderful all over body buzz (on par with having completed a century ride) after working the ladders for 9 straight hours yesterday. I hope that paint job lasts for three years, because next year I plan to ride my bike A LOT.

I want to go to France. They have this bike race called the Tour de France and it happens every July. Right smack dab in the middle of the summer!

I think I'll blog about it.

18 October 2013

Boulder Cup Cyclocross

I went to another bike race last weekend

This race day included an UCI sanctioned race at the end of a long full day of racing. A day which also had a huge turnout for most of the amateur categories. As is typical of early-season cross races in Colorado, the weather was perfect (last night we had our first snow in Denver).

My complete album of photos can be viewed here: Pedal Dancer Images - Boulder Cup, Sunday  (or in slideshow). See other photos from fellow photographers at 303Cycling here. See the Boulder Cup Race Results here.

Today I share the anatomy of a sand pit fall at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado. Known to be the location of the 2014 USA Cyclo-cross National Championships this January 8-12, and you can bet that this long stretch of sand will be included in the course. Sometimes I avert my camera lens when I see a fall, instinctively caring more about the rider, but for this one I kept snapping ...

All photos below by  Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer® click any image to enlarge

album of photos: Pedal Dancer Images - Boulder Cup, Sunday

Oh and Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) won the Mens UCI Elite race on Sunday.
Jeremy Powers  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

Full results Victory Circle Graphix Boulder Cup, October 13, 2013

I like this picture of Ryan Trebon
Ryan Trebon.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
And Jamie Driscoll
James Driscoll  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

And here is a nice one of VeloNews Tech reporter Leonard Zinn riding his Zinn bicycle. Leonard is a regular at the local CX races.
Leonard Zinn  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
And because I am a big big fan of Cosmo of Cyclocosm, for Behind the Barriers: How The Race Was Won: Boulder Cup.

08 October 2013

Cyclocross in the Mountains

Colorado Cyclocross

I went to a cyclocross race last Saturday in Frisco, Colorado. It was one of those days when I woke up excited to get the camera gear ready in the morning and pull out my warm boots, coat, hat and gloves. I knew a dusting of snow had fallen in the local mountains the night before and the aspen leaves would still be turning their golden color. I craved that perfect combo for a photographer.

With a warm cup of coffee in hand, I loaded up my dog in the car, turned up the music and enjoyed the drive up I-70 to Summit county. The scenery from the car window was spectacular along my route. My excitement ratcheted up a notch when I turned into the parking lot at the Frisco Nordic center to the sight of cars loaded with bikes on racks - that familiar sign that I had found the bike race.

I slung my camera and extra lens over my shoulder and approached. I heard the familiar sound of The Voice of Colorado Cyclocross, Larry Grossman, over the loud speaker and exhaled - all is right I thought, the race is in progress. I felt the sun on my shoulders and looked skyward. Where is the sun, the light, the barriers, the run-up? Where should I begin shooting a day at the race.

I heard the heckles, saw the down jacketed spectators with beers already in hand. I saw my familiar friends - Dejan, Shawn, Mike - those photographers who gather this time of year to shoot the races, to capture those racers whom I admire so much for showing up and racing in all conditions. The ones who make it look so easy while on course and yet so wiped out by the time they cross the finish line. Giving evidence that they gave their all.

I never know what I am going to capture on the day. I see so much through my lens, and yet I usually take away far more memories than photos, even though those photos end up totaling in the thousands (taking me hours to sort through later). The best times are when the CX racer is so exceptional that what I see forces me to lower my camera and give a cheer instead of pressing the shutter button. That happens frequently at a cyclocross race in Colorado.  

Here is a photo that captured the mood from last Saturday's Frisco CX. This coming Sunday I will be at the race in Boulder  (Boulder Cup, Valmont Park GOLD Flyer) (CX Calendar). See you there.

See entire album of 268 photos from Frisco CX here: Pedal Dancer Images

Yes - we live here; CX in Colorado.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw for Pedal Dancer®
More photos: (click any image to enlarge)

03 October 2013

Rest in Peace Amy

Very sad news today of Amy Dombroski's death

It was the sentence that once read, takes your breath away, so you read it twice, because it can't be true. It can't. But it is. Amy Alison Dombroski was killed in a bike accident today in Belgium.

I remember her smile, her friendly ways, and her amazing capabilities. Rest in peace Amy.

Amy Dombroski, photo taken on Saturday, 8 September 2012.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

Twenty-six years old, Amy was an American cyclocross racer for team Telenet-Fidea. Born in Jericho, Vermont, she split her time in recent years between Boulder, Colorado and Belgium.

VeloNews reported Dombroski killed in training crash which occurred as Amy was motor-pacing behind a scooter in Belgium and collided with a truck Thursday afternoon. The scooter driver was uninjured. VeloNews reported the accident was in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, which is outside of Mechelen, north of Brussels. Reports from Belgium report the accident was along the Werchtersesteenweg (N21) between Betekom and Werchter, southeast of Sint-Katelijne-Waver.

Amy had just returned from the United States to Belgium on September 30th.

Please read: Crossland: The gaping hole left by Amy Dombroski, By Dan Seaton of VeloNews, and also Remembering the Life and Career of Amy Dombroski, By Molly at Cyclocross Magazine. Or the (translated) solemn announcement on her team website.

It is almost unimaginable to think of her bright smile, youth, and promise taken so prematurely. And of the unbearable grief her family and fiance must be feeling. Life is short and too often fragile.

The Amy Dombroski Memorial (facebook page, in English)

02 October 2013

Colorado Gold

Changing Leaves - Fall Foliage

Fall has come to Colorado. The season when the nights are cooler, the skies crystal blue, and the leaves begin to fall. But not before they give us a tremendous show of color. Here in Colorado we may not have the variety of hardwoods to match the East Coast, but we have aspen trees, nicknamed "quakies" after the rustling sound of the small leaves, which turn brilliant gold in fall.

The aspen trees stand in beautiful sharp contrast to the green pine trees and blue skies of our local mountains. Tourists and locals drive to the mountains in fall to catch a glimpse of the majesty. Last Sunday I drove an hour and a half from Denver to the town of Breckenridge to drive and hike on nearby Boreas Pass. An easy but long day trip this time of year (because of traffic and popularity).
Location of Boreas Pass west of Denver, Colorado (click image to enlarge)
Boreas Pass is a dirt road connecting the town of Breckenridge to the town of Como 

Offering spectacular views, there are no commercial buildings or homes along the pass, just hikers and bikers. Closed in winter due to snow, driving the pass (which is well maintained) is nice because speeds are slower than on the paved roads through the more popular fall foliage destinations in Colorado.

Some of the popular roads to view the changing leaves in Colorado in fall include:

  • Marroon Bells (shuttle bus and fee may be required, more info)
  • Castle Creek Road (Rd 15)
  • Carbondale - Redstone - Marble - Paonia (CR 133) (McClure & Keebler Pass)
  • Independence Pass (Highway 82) 
Salida/Crested Butte
  • Cottonwood Pass - glorious on a bike, long section of dirt with pavement. (Rd 209/306, west of Buena Vista)
Estes Park (recent flood damage)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (dusk and dawn are the best time to hear the elk bugle)
  • Peak to Peak Scenic Highway (CR 72 + CR 7) (approach from Blackhawk or up Boulder Canyon)
  • Note: Road damage is extreme on the road through Lyons to Estes Park, and in Jamestown.
Steamboat Springs
  • Steamboat Springs - Buffalo Pass - Walden (CR 38)
  • Take the gondola up the ski area (or ride) and mountain bike down
Summit County
  • Boreas Pass (dirt road), with side hikes
  • Short hike to Rainbow Lake near the town of Frisco 
  • The bike trails in the area are still clear
Dates of changing fall leaves map from 9News.com (click image to enlarge)
The prime time for seeing the leaves change in Colorado is at the end of September or early October. Allow lots of time for traffic on the way home.

Late Season viewing (in October) is best in southern Colorado, including Telluride and Ouray, also Cripple Creek. There are several areas along the I-70 corridor where you will be able to see the golden leaves as you drive through on the interstate highway, including the cities of Georgetown and Vail.

Some of the leaves at higher altitude have already turned, it appeared to me that Guanella Pass, outside of Georgetown, (Rd 352) will likely turn this weekend. Also the mountains are expecting some light snow on Friday night which should make for wonderful photography (and fun racing at the Frisco CX race this Saturday).

Many of these paved roads are great for road bike riding as well, but perhaps not as enjoyable with the heavy car traffic during peak viewing weekends. Some of my favorite rides are pedaling along the Peak to Peak Highway (but this area suffered road damage from recent floods) and from Carbondale to Paonia, or over Independence Pass, or Cottonwood Pass.

There is a strong correlation between aspens and good bike trails 

It was fun to hike the side trails where I have previously mountain biked on Boreas Pass. The Pass is also home to three winter cabins for rent, part of the summit huts system (as opposed to the 10th Mountain division hut system). The huts are located on the summit of the pass. The weather is already much cooler in the mountains of Colorado and a light dusting of snow covered the surrounding peaks. Enough snow to highlight distant trails I longed to hike or explore.

Boreas Pass is located on Rd 10 and 33/404 between Breckenridge and Como, the journey is 20 miles (one-way). The road peaks at 11,493' (3,503 m) elevation. Just across the valley are five peaks over 14,000 feet. Called 14ers, they include: Mt. Lincoln, Bross, Democrat, Cameron and Quandary Peak. See a map of all the 14ers in Colorado. How many have you hiked? www.14ers.com/map

Fourteeners near Boreas Pass, see full map  (click image to enlarge)
CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) offers some tips on driving to see the changing leaves. Or read Fall Colors: Five Colorado towns that glow with the gold, by The Denver Post Travel. Boreas Pass has an Annual Boreas Pass Railroad Day in August.

Photographs I took of the changing aspen leaves on Boreas Pass last weekend:   
All Photos by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer® using my Pentax K-5 with one 18-135 zoom lens, no cropping or touching up. This is what I experienced, although I wish I could add smell and the sound of the quaking leaves for you. Thanks to @Biff_Bruise for the inspiration - via a tweet - to visit Boreas Pass last Sunday. (please click images to enlarge)

All this beauty within 20 miles!