Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays from Driggs, Victor, and Teton Valley, Idaho.

May your days be filled with family, friends, fun, and love. 

And may peace and authenticity fill the world.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teton Valley Winter Mode

We're getting into full-on winter mode here in Teton Valley, Idaho now.  Below-zero temps at night, crisp sunny days, a little snow, and holiday get togethers beginning to fill the weekends. We've dusted off our winter recreation toys and stoked the fireplace.

We're also remembering how to drive on icy roads. This is the view coming into Driggs from the south last week, and  shows what our roads will look like for most of the next four months.  Helps you understand why we all ski, ride snowbikes, and snowmobile.

Speaking of which: we could use more snow for downhill skiing and snowmobiling, but conditions are nearly perfect for snow biking at the moment.  Enough white stuff for a base yet not too deep, and cold nights to keep it all firm. Bridger is digging it, too.

A recent work trip to Salt Lake City shows the lack of snow along the Wasatch Front. This was a morning hike along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, done in running shoes, in December. Nice, but not normal. Ski resorts are a little worried.

We're less than two weeks from Winter Solstice, and the sun is far to the south these days. It's producing some phenomenal, luminescent orange sunsets here in Driggs. Of course, it happens before 5pm now, but that's o.k.

Here's to early winter fun, cozy nights, and ushering in the holidays with friends and family. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rolling Through November

September and October felt like summer here in Teton Valley, Idaho. Then, the first week of November, we went straight to winter. No mud season, no time to grow our winter coats...just lots of cold and snow. As in below-zero temperatures a couple of mornings, already. It's all good news for Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole ski areas, both of which will open this coming Thanksgiving weekend.

A couple of work trips to nearby cities has helped ease the seasonal transition. We escaped to Boise for a few days of meetings, and enjoyed some sweet singletrack on the side. At only 2,800 feet elevation, Boise has mild winters and great shoulder seasons, plus fun downtown happenings. It's always cool seeing the Idaho State Capitol building, too.

Like Boise, Salt Lake is about a half day's drive from Driggs. It's my old stomping grounds, family & friends are plentiful, and I often have work there. Yesterday, I escaped for a lunchtime bike & run with cousin Brent. It was simply spectacular, with green grass in the valley, snow-capped peaks, and warm blue sky. Lots of like-minded souls were out and about, soaking it in.

Did I mention it's winter in Driggs? Bridger doesn't mind. In fact, I dare say it's his favorite season. He's nearly 5 years old now, and I've never seen him more hyper than he was after last weekend's big snowfall.  This early snow is a great base for a winter full of backcountry ski & snowmobile outings, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fantabulous Fall

Ahh, fall. As hoped, it's making up for the crappy spring we had...and then some.

A colorful hike up Coal Creek last week led us from warm, to classic autumn, to snow up at 9,000 feet.

Bridger found a big "view" rock, so I joined him for a break in the evening sun.

And best of all, the mountain biking continues. Every nice day is a bonus now, folks...enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Leaping to Autumn

At times it feels like my blog is a bit weather-centric, but mother nature plays a major role in Teton Valley, Idaho life. City folks roll with it by going to malls, movies, major sporting events, and sitting in traffic; here around Driggs, it's all about what we can do outside on a given day.  Hence, the weather factor.

It changed as dramatically as I've ever seen this week. Over the course of about 48 hours, we went from this (Palisades Reservoir)...

...to this (my deck).  Weeks of 80+ degrees and nearly perpetual sunshine gave way to three days of snow, and cold.  Leaves were barely changing color, and suddenly had 5" of snow on them. Shorts & sandals gave way to fleece & boots. Oh boy, here we go.

It did clear up in time for Saturday's MooseCross cyclocross race, and subsequent Oktoberfest in Victor. I raced, but don't have pics to prove it yet. Let's just say I saw a new maximum heart rate, and also had a blast. About 200 racers showed up, and at least that many spectators. Big numbers for a small town. Hats' off to my good friend Dave B and Victor Velo for making it happen.

We're now hoping for a couple weeks of classic Indian Summer weather. A chance to smell the leaves, feel crispness in the air, hear the elk bugling, and generally slow down from summer's frenetic pace. Plus, there's football...and views like this up Teton Canyon.

Bridger has been loving the snow and cooler temperatures. Ahh, the joyous flexibility of our canine friends. Just shake the snow off your back, and keep going.

I am a Hemingway fan, and his memorial over in Sun Valley poignantly reads: "Best of all, he loved the fall; the leaves yellow on Cottonwoods, petals floating in trout streams; and above the hills, a high blue windless sky."  Here's to Autumn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Summer in September

It just doesn't get any better than September in the Tetons. Truly. Warm days, crisp nights, blue skies, colors popping, elk bugling...somebody pinch me.

Temperatures have literally felt like August recently. We've taken advantage, and done some epic mountain bike rides and other outings.  This is Joanne on pristine singletrack up by Elk Flats, en route to Garn's mountain. Incredible day.

My Jackson basketball team had its annual "Fall Classic" golf tournament at the Teton Reserve course in Victor, Idaho on Saturday.  Here are a few of the guys at the start, displaying the trophy I ended up winning for low score. Total amatuer luck.

It was a beautiful day to be golfing in Teton Valley, and catching up with these guys.  Some of them have been playing basketball together for over 30 years. I've been with them for 15 years now, and it's like a family.  This is Jere teeing off, with Paul & Tom standing by. Good times.

My swim stroke has been like a bad golf swing, so last weekend I attended a semi-private lesson with former U.S. Olympic Triathlete Barb Lindquist, who resides in Victor. It was held at the nice outdoor Teton Springs pool, and I learned a few things, for sure. Seeing myself on video was a bit horrifying, but helpful. Lots of practice time ahead.

Last week was also a big ride to Piney Pass with Dave & Michelle.  Good friends Steve & Kim showed up on their ATV with new black lab puppy "Carbon."  I like the fact that at least some mountain bikers and ATV enthusiasts can get along.

Sunday was our annual ride to the top of Garn's peak, high point in the Big Hole mountains west of Driggs. Jordan, Michelle and Joanne paused to take it all in, with Tetons glittering in the background.  How sweet it is.

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

LOTOJA Bike Race Report: Podium, At Last!

For the fourth consecutive year, I was part of LOTOJA - a 206-mile, one-day bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It's the longest USCF (united stated cycling federation)-sanctioned bike race in the country, comprises over 10,000 feet of climbing, and attracts top racers from all over North America. 

This year I entered the 2-Person Relay category with my super-strong cousin, Brent. Coming from a team sports background, the teamwork aspect appealed to me, plus we felt we could do well. From day one, Brent & I had our sights set on a Podium finish (top 5), and scheduled our spring & summer training accordingly.  For early season fitness, we did the Moab Xterra (May) and Boise Half-Ironman (June) triathlons, finishing within minutes of each other each time. Below is the conclusion of the Boise bike leg, where we literally rolled into transition right next to each other. Genes are a crazy thing.

By late June, we were focusing almost exclusively on cycling. Several climbing-intensive 70-100 mile outings built our base, and also our understanding of individual strengths. The photo below was taken on a brutally demanding Kamas-to-Hanna, UT training ride back in July, which really hurt but definitely catapulted my fitness forward.  There was also a Little & Big Cottonwood Canyon day, a Teton Pass-Grand Targhee day, Ketchum-to-Stanley, Emigration Canyon, and more.

Plus, a couple dozen mountain bike rides for me.

Brent has done more road biking than I, and without question has a deeper strength base. I worked my butt off this year to get to his level, and by the time Labor Day rolled around I was leaner than I'd been since college.  Brent was down to fighting weight & power, too. We divided LOTOJA race sections up between us according to ability and strategy, and prayed for no mechanical issues.  For final inspiration, we cued up Al Pacino's speech from "Any Given Sunday."  And then, we went out and fought for that inch on race day, for each other.  Which is what it came down to for a Podium spot.  

My brother Curt and friend Russ were both tackling LOTOJA solo for the first time this year (top photo w/me), and I enjoyed pre-race registration and dinner with them on Friday.  Saturday race morning dawned unusually warm.  I was riding the first leg, and awoke at 4:30am without an alarm. My system was ready, jumping out of my skin like a cat after a one-week taper. The temperature was 60-degrees, unheard of for Logan, Utah in mid-September...but no complaints! It dipped a bit right before sunrise, but was still high 50's when I stepped up to start with the 2-person group at 7:04am.  Here I am with Brent right before I rolled to the start.

It was nice to run into several people I know around the starting line, definitely a benefit to becoming a veteran racer.  A little conversation helped soothe the nerves, but that "edge" was still in my belly, raring to go.  I've never felt so ready.  I needed that energy immediately, because at mile 15 three racers went down ten yards in front of me and skidded sideways into my line. Suddenly I was a mountain biker again, bunny hopping sideways at 20mph without going off the righthand shoulder.  I was stunned, grateful I hadn't gone down, and pretty shaken up the rest of that first 34-mile leg into Preston, ID.  It's always a sketchy leg to get through, because the groups are so big, there is so much nervous energy, and this is everyone's "A" race for the year...but this year was worse than usual in that regard.

I came into Preston at the front of the 2-person group, but knew there were at least a dozen other really strong riders in our category. Brent then headed off for 47-miles to Montpelier, ID, including 3,000 feet of climbing up Strawberry Pass.  He hammered it, and pulled a couple of the other top riders up the climb with him.  He had to wait for water at neutral aid near the top of the climb, which cost us a minute, and then got caught at the ridiculous stoplight in Montpelier, which also cost us a minute or two...but still had us near the top 5 when I took the timing chip and started my 80-mile leg all the way to Alpine, WY.

It's always tough to get going again after stopping for a couple of hours, but I felt good. This was my money leg, with climbs up Geneva Pass and then the high point of the race and my favorite, Salt River Pass.  I started reeling people in, and soon passed the leading Cat 1 women and then one of our 2-person competitors.  In hindsight, I probably pushed it a little too hard up Geneva, but I loved the fact that I was killing everyone on the climb and went with it.

It felt like an individual time trial for the run-up to Salt River Pass. I knew it wasn't the most efficient way to ride, but I just never found a strong group to go with...so I kept my head down and the gas pedal floored.  I passed my brother Curt climbing the steepest pitch of Salt River (he and Russ had started about an hour ahead of us), and learned he was having severe stomach issues. Not good.  I kept climbing, crested the summit, and began the descent to Afton with a strong group of Red Burro Racing guys from Las Vegas.  Our paceline grew to 20 as we swallowed up other riders, and it started feeling sketchy to me again so I moved near the front. As we entered the final corner into Afton, someone bumped my wheel from behind and suddenly everyone behind me went down hard.  Two minutes later an ambulance headed that direction, and my nerves were frayed again.

Official race photography wasn't up to normal snuff this year, and we only came away with a couple of our own photos.  This is Brent during his final Alpine-to-Jackson leg of the day, looking good and going super fast.

I rolled right through Afton without stopping at the aid.  I had picked up a fresh water bottle from neutral support at the top of Salt River Pass, and decided to make my two bottles last the 50 miles to Alpine from there.  It got really warm and breezy through Star Valley, so my water fell a little short. I ran out in Etna, about 10 miles from Alpine. Ten miles doesn't seem like much, but when it's 80-degrees and you've got over 100 miles under your belt at race pace...I got pretty thirsty.  I absolutely emptied my power tank during those final miles, reaching for that inch with every fiber of energy I had, hanging onto a really strong group of 5 other riders in a perfect paceline, and rolled into Alpine completely spent and starting to cramp in my hips. My time for the 80-miles from Montpelier to Alpine was 3hrs 46 minutes, 4,100 calories burned, total climbing during that stretch was 3,300 feet, and my average heart rate was 164. I handed the timing chip to Brent, told him to catch one more rider for our Podium spot, and felt like I was going to puke and cry at the same time. About a gallon of water & gatorade brought me back to coherency again.

Brent absolutely pinned it on the final 47-miles from Alpine to Jackson. The rollers of Snake River Canyon suit his strengths perfectly, and he passed that other 2-person competitor to put us in 5th place.  About ten miles from the finish he proceeded to catch the 3rd & 4th place guys, and we were getting psyched. It was going to be a sprint at the finish, and unless your name is Mark Cavendish, Brent will beat you in a finish sprint. But alas, the cycling gods decided it would be too much excitement, and he flatted with 3-miles to go. Wisely, he decided to continue riding on the flat tire rather than stopping to change it, and we held on for that 5th and final podium spot. We were 2-minutes behind 3rd & 4th place, and only 1-minute ahead of 6th place.  After ten hours and 206-miles, it was that close.

Here's Brent at the finish. Notice the flat rear tire, and the determination.

So, while we were a bit disappointed at not placing as high as 3rd when it was so close, we were totally thrilled at making the Podium.  It's by far the biggest event in which I have made a Podium; it required immense preparation all year and heroic efforts on race day, including perfect crew support from Brent's wife Beth and son Haeden.  I will say that without a doubt, Brent is the guy you want in that fox hole with you.

We hugged like cousins, and commenced smiling.

My brother Curt and friend Russ both finished as well. The smiles lasted all night over dinner and celebrating in Jackson, continued at the awards ceremony the next morning, and are still there today.  Thanks for a great race and lasting memories, cuz!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Late Summer Adventures

As summer winds down here in Teton Valley, Idaho, there's a certain urgency in the air. It's mainly about squeezing in final high country outings before the snow flies.  And so, I joined Joanne on a nice evening horse ride up South Fork of Teton Canyon the other day (I try to ride something other than a bike at least twice a year). We rode towards Alaska Basin, as far as time allowed, and it was gorgeous. Typically, signs of Fall are prevalent by late August, but not so this year. Wildflowers are still blooming, the grass is tall & green, and no colors on any leaves yet. I'm hoping this means we'll have a nice long Indian Summer.

This summer has also meant a lot of construction around Driggs. Specifically, a complete makeover of Main Street and Hwy 33. It's made life tough for local businesses and has chewed up a lot of bike tires, but is finally nearing completion. The finished product will be a big step forward; new pavement, sidewalks, landscaping, lights, and more. Come see it all next summer!

Of course, the past couple of weeks have also included a few bike rides, most notably the Star Valley Century last Saturday. It starts and finishes in Afton, WY, and is absolutely beautiful. This year's ride benefitted the family of a good departed friend, making it extra meaningful. I rode with my brother Curt, cousin Brent, and friends Todd Q and IronRuss. Here we are at the top of Salt River Pass, where much to Russ's chagrin I had just won our King of the Hill competition. Victory is sweet.

I took this photo after an evening mountain bike ride last week, and love how it showcases the uniquely Driggs combination of farming, the Tetons, and recreation. There's just something cool about starting a bike ride next to an Idaho grain silo, exploring stellar mountain singletrack, and returning to an amazing sunset with America's most iconic mountain range illuminated right before your eyes. It gets in your blood.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Paradise Found

The perfection of a Teton Valley, Idaho summer has a way of gobbling up the weeks. That, plus a lot of work lately (yes, really), has caused time to slip by between blog posts. So here we go.

The past few weeks have been filled with cycling, hiking, golfing, a family reunion, bbq's, horseback riding, and  lots of travel for work. The sun just keeps shining, with warm sunny days and cool peaceful nights.  It is oh-so-sweet.

The recent fun started with a LaBelle family reunion over in Sun Valley, Idaho.  We've been going there since I was a toddler, and it feels like a second home. My brother from New York, sister from California, and others from Salt Lake all came together for several days, and it was awesome.  Bike rides, bowling, ice skating, swimming, fishing, and relaxed dinners on the deck gave us all time to catch up, and made for some great new memories.

The Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake then consumed me with work for a week. But it was good consumption, as I love that whole scene. Lots of buzz out there about minimalist footwear, high-definition helmet cams, versatile lightweight packs, wicking materials, GPS advances, stand-up paddling, and more.  A trend I continue to see is casual outdoor style becoming more and more mainstream.  Button-down shirts are now often constructed with the latest performance fabrics; merino wool and cool-max socks are proliferating in department stores as well as specialty shops; minimalist footwear is seen in the workplace; etc.  It's been fascinating to watch this all happen over the past decade or so, and bodes well for the outdoor industry, which needs something to spur growth in the face of a computer-centric world.  And that's my work pronouncement for the week.

On a lighter note: in my work travels, mainly between Driggs and Park City, I'm forced to endure scenes like this.  It could be worse.  This is the Little Elk Creek drainage, along Palisades Reservoir in southeastern Idaho. Phenomenal sight.

Some great mountain bike rides over the past several weeks, too.  This is from an overlook on Ridge Trail, on the Jackson side of Teton Pass.  Simply delicious.

Enjoy the season.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Idaho Summer Perfection

For years, I've said it's a shame that any of us here in Driggs have to work at all in July.  It is simply perfect.  Warm days, cool nights, deep blue skies, smiles everywhere, beautiful scenery every direction, and recreation screaming to be had while it lasts. 

Rivers are finally calming and clearing now too, so fishing will kick in these next couple of weeks.  Add that to everything else going on - golfing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, bbq's - and folks around here are busy.

The high country is springing to life, with waterfalls like I haven't seen in years.  Trails are finally melting off up near the 10,000 foot level, so big Teton hiking loops are now possible.  Get up there and explore while you can.

The Teton Valley Mountain Bike Festival was a resounding success last weekend, and it was fun to be part of it. Festivities, group rides, new bikes to test, and mingling with great people under perfect weather conditions. This photo is from a group ride I helped lead around Rick's Basin, up at Grand Targhee.  It feels like you're in the Alps up there.

Have I mentioned that it's dog heaven around here, pretty much year-round?  Bridger enjoys July almost as much as we do, with plenty of creeks to cool of in during backcountry adventures. 

Be adventurous and cool out there, yourselves. And enjoy July!