Saturday, July 31, 2010

Raising kids outdoors

I spent a great deal of time outdoors when I was a kid.  When I was 5 or 6 years old, living in Texas, I used to go squirrel hunting with my dad in a pecan orchard that belonged to one of his friends.  While living in Germany, our family did a lot of volksmarches and other hikes through the countryside.  Many of the places we lived allowed me to walk out the door and straight into the woods.  It was a pretty terrific way to grow up, and to the extent that I'm able, I want to pass that on to my children.

In many ways, it turns out to be easier said than done.  But I'm getting used to the fact that hikes are always slower with two kids in tow, and they never last as long as I'd like.  A mile is a long way for a four-year-old.  And Colorado can be pretty hot in the summer, especially for a 9-month-old strapped in a baby conveyance apparatus.  So in general, I'm really proud of my kids for the way they're handling it.  Sometimes, I even think they're having fun.

In early July, we went to the Rabbit Mountain open space near Lyons and did a one-mile hike.  The terrain wasn't easy for little legs, but it was really pretty out there.  We got to identify some flora and saw lots of butterflies and bees.

Rabbit Mountain Open Space

Twice this month we went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and walked around Lake Mary.  It's a very flat trail, about a mile long.  But at this time of year, the prairie landscape heats up quickly.  They have a great visitors' center with a museum which discusses wildlife, the Cold War, and the efforts to clean up the byproducts of the chemical weapons which were once manufactured at this facility.  They have an area set up for children to make paper crafts, which is a great way to cool off after a walk around the lake.

Craft area at the RMANWR

There is also an educational room with lots of animal skins, bones, and other things for kids to explore.

Bee tree at RMANWF

I believe that this Bee Tree allows them to locate their honey in O(log n) time.  The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster has one just like it.  The bees enter and leave through the tubes running from the tree to the wall.

Today we went to Estes Park to go fishing.  We went to the Lake Estes Marina to rent rods and got everything else we needed there, including licenses.  There is a $5 fee to bring your vehicle into the recreation area, and it is possible to pay for that inside if you don't have cash to pay at the entrance.

Fishing at Estes Lake Marina

We didn't stay long and didn't catch anything.  The water was too choppy and it was after noon by the time we got there.  I had hoped to rent a kayak and take my daughter out on the lake, but time didn't allow for it.  My youngest started getting fussy and a storm was brewing to the west, so we packed up and called it a day.  But it was fun nonetheless, and I think we'll be purchasing our own gear to do some fishing closer to home.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I rode 100 miles yesterday

The Sunrise Century was yesterday morning. I got up at 4:30, started riding at 6:40, and was done 5 hours and 43 minutes later (5:28 of actual riding time). It was a lovely ride, though the first half of the day was overcast and, at times, quite chilly. The folks who volunteered to help at the aid stations did a fantastic job. And the food at the finish line was great.

This was the first time I've ridden from Nederland to Ward - in the past I've always ended up going the other direction. It was just as brutal as I feared it would be, but enjoyable nonetheless.  I may be missing a few small details of the course (official description is here), but this is basically the route, starting at point A/G:

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My pre-ride breakfast consisted of maple & brown sugar instant oatmeal with dried mango & berry mix, cashews, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and banana slices mixed in. It probably would have tasted a little more... normal, shall we say, if I'd left out the dried fruit. It was quite good, anyway, and provided lots of energy for the ride. Off-hand, I'd guess it had about 800 calories.

Whenever I think about Detox tea, I always think of stoners preparing for job interviews. But I ended up with a box of the stuff and have been drinking it after long rides. It seems to help flush out the lactic acid from my system to help me feel less achy the next day. So I had a big glass of that stuff after I got home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More suburban wildlife

Bull snakes are quite common in Colorado, and this year there seem to be more than usual.  Earlier this week, I saw another one on the trail while riding to work.  It was probably around 4 feet long.

Bull snake on the bike trail

Bull snakes are pretty good to have around, though it can be alarming to come across one if you don't spot it soon enough.

This morning, as I sat drinking coffee, I saw a pair of foxes in my back yard.  They were pretty scrawny and were looking for food.  One of them came right up on the deck while the other stayed a little farther back.

A pair of foxes in my back yard

I had to chase them off so they wouldn't bother our cats.  I didn't know how they got into the yard, but I imagined having to open the gate to let them out.  That turns out to have been fairly naive, and as soon as I opened the back door, they had no trouble making their exit.  One leaped clear over the back fence, while the other scrambled through a gap where the fence is broken.

I had no idea that a fox could perch atop a fence like a cat.  But one of them did just that, once it got to the other side of my neighbor's yard.  It sat there watching me for quite a while.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend training rides

The last two weekends I've been trying to put in some more miles on my bike in preparation for the Sunrise Century on July 24th.  This has taken me on a couple of beautiful routes which have some overlap on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, being CO-7 and CO-72 between Estes Park and, roughly, Blackhawk.  

Before last weekend, I had only ridden up there once, and that was with a loaded-down touring bike on my first bike camping trip with my friend Jody.  It's funny how much the hills look different now than they did then.

July 5, 2010

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This loop starts in Lyons and takes CO-7 to Peak-to-Peak Highway.  There it heads south to Ward before heading downhill on Lefthand Canyon Drive and returning to Lyons on US-36.  It's a classic route in this area, so there's probably not much for me to add to what's already been said and experienced.  I get the impression, though, that most folks like to go up Lefthand Canyon rather than just descend it.  But I've never been all that concerned with doing things the way everybody else does.

When entering Lyons from the east, turn off of US-36 at the Post Office sign.  You will immediately encounter Sandstone Park, which has restrooms and a water fountain.  This is where I like to start.  Highway 7 is just a block or so west of the park.

The climb up CO-7 to Peak-to-Peak is long, but not terribly steep (5% or 6% in the steepest sections).  And it's absolutely beautiful, following the St. Vrain River through the Roosevelt National Forest.

Highway 7 out of Lyons

The town of Ward must have been settled by itinerant families from New Mexico, insofar as they do not like to bother with posting signs to label their roads.  But the turn for the post office is clearly marked, and that's the road you want if you're heading down Lefthand Canyon Drive.  Immediately after making that turn, I passed a place in the town of Ward which looked like it might be a hangout for roadies and a place to wait for straggling riding partners coming up Lefthand.  But I don't like stopping very much, so I didn't stick around to see what the place had to offer.

July 11, 2010

View Larger Map

This ride is nice for those with the capability of doing one-way routes.   In my case, it meant having my family drive me up to Estes Park, drop me off, and meet me in Golden a few hours later.

For the first few miles coming out of Estes Park, the road isn't very good.  But eventually the shoulder widens and the traffic becomes more sparse.  There are a couple of convenience stores along the way before you get to Ward.

Peak-to-Peak Highway south of Ward

There is a traffic circle shortly after descending into Nederland.  Taking the first right (highways 119 and 72, which overlap at this point) will keep you on course.  It also passes right by a visitor's information center which has a water fountain, restrooms, and maps.  Here I took my only rest stop for the ride while refilling my water bottles and checking with the attendant to make sure I knew where I was going.

The road that climbs south out of town is pretty bad (more traffic and a narrow, crumbling shoulder), but before long, Highway 72 takes its leave of 119 and turns left.  I hadn't been on that stretch of road before, and it was a real treat.  There is a nice downhill stretch running beside a creek and railroad tracks.  But the climbing isn't done until you get past Wondervu - with a name like that, you know the place is going to be on top of something tall.

CO-72 then rushes you down Coal Creek Canyon, which eventually opens up onto a beautiful scene of pastures and the western-most plains and a nice view of downtown Denver beyond.  Once the highway is out in the open, it intersects with CO-93.  A right-hand turn takes you over eight miles and a few hills to Golden.

When I drive to Golden to climb Lookout Mountain, I like to start my rides from the park along Clear Creek, so that is where I arranged to have my family pick me up.  While I waited, I sat on a bench and watched people floating down the stream in tubes and kayaks.

It's really only about 25 miles from Golden to my house, so I guess I could have just ridden home from there.  But the multi-use path along Clear Creek is frequently crowded and isn't always conducive to riding fast.  And I had really gotten myself in the mood for pizza.  So the family and I had the all-you-can-eat buffet at Woody's Wood-Fired Pizza before heading home.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Intro to sports nutrition

I came across a good article, Pre-season nutrition for sports, which covers the basics of sports nutrition.  It starts off talking about using the off-season for weight loss and tuning your body composition.  But while the title suggests that this is the main theme of the article, it quickly moves into in-season dietary topics.  These include pre- and post-workout nutrition; hydration; and why high-protein, low-carb diets are not a good idea for athletes.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Father's Journey - 100 marathons in 140 days for mental health awareness

The subject of mental health awareness and research is one which is near and dear to my heart.  NARSAD, or the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, is a non-profit which is doing some great work to sponsor researchers looking for cures and better treatments for mental illnesses.

Their site led me to  This man's daughter has been suffering from schizophrenia for at least 12 years.

In his words:
I would like to create awareness for the unfairness of mental illness,  how most people afflicted are really nice people and to raise substantial donations to hopefully help improve the quality of my daughters life.

My dilemma is how to create an event that would be interesting enough to capture peoples interest.  I'm not much of a singer or dancer and I can't do much in sports.

But I can run.  So on September 19, 2010 I plan to leave from Savannah, Georgia and attempt to complete 100 marathons in 140 days, crossing the country on foot and finishing in Los Angeles on February 6, 2011.

This event will be to benefit two organizations:  NARSAD, the largest charity in the world funding mental health research, and NAMI, the organization that supports families when they are dealing with challenges of having a family member or friend with mental illness.

What this father is doing is incredible, and his cause is worthy of support.