About jwookieone

Gunnison Valley resident with a almost rabid need to be outside. Love to walk, bike, ski, backpack, camp. Addicted to easy and short or long hard adventures out in the woods, sage and snow. Feel compelled to push myself to see what I am capable of

3 months and counting

Just hit three months of Sobriety!

It really does get easier. Something about the habits getting interrupted really makes it less of a hair trigger kind of choice. I used to get frustrated and go straight to getting numb, it was so easy. It feels good to be clean and sober, but it still isn’t easy. Things I have noticed is how much clearer my thoughts are, how much better I am at talking, I am better at my job, I am a better parent too.

Also things haven’t gone as I had hoped, I really thought when I got sober I would have more time, or perhaps there would somehow be more opportunities to fill the void left from being numb with other more positive things. I envisioned riding my bike, being outside more as taking the place of the chemicals. I am still trying to make that happen, but that is one reason why as a busy parent it was so easy to get into the bad habits to begin with. You are kind of stuck around the house, and it is so easy to get numb when you can’t do a whole lot else. Again it was easy.

That was one part of my choice to be sober, I wanted to stop always looking for the easy way through. I love doing hard things, so why was I taking the path of least resistance in everyday life? Turns out life is hard, parenting, being a husband, is super challenging and I am often at my wits end just doing the everyday stuff. I really didn’t want those feelings and it was kind of nice to make them feel more remote, less sharp, muted. That also didn’t help deal with any of what was causing life to feel hard, I am not suddenly full of solutions, but I am no longer hiding them from myself.

Growth is painful, difficult, and a long road sometimes. That is another thing I have committed to with this choice, to try and be the best I can be. Not just on the bike, but in everything I try to do. Everyday is a choice, I am choosing to evolve as much as I can. It is very sobering to say the least, but I hope my life is worth the effort.

18 Hours

my El Jefe

I will admit that as much as I love bikepacking, and camping in general, I don’t get out that much. In fact I probably do as many bikepack races as I do regular bikepacking trips. There are a lot of factors in that equation, but mostly it comes down to time. I am aware of that deficit and I am working on getting out more whenever I can make it happen. Thankfully I got to do just that this past Sunday evening, Grandma was coming to town and we hatched a plan to get me out!

the ole Gunny Spur of the CT

I spent Sunday morning getting my gear in piles, my bags on the bike, food prepped, in between doing a few chores and hanging out with my family. Finally I got the bags packed, bottles filled and at 4:30 in the afternoon I started out of town and climbed up into the sunny sage covered hills. It was fairly hot, but the breeze was blowing and it felt great to be pedaling. I took it easy, and kept reminding myself to keep taking it easy, as I climbed higher and got farther away from town. Signal Mesa was quiet with only one motorcyclist passing me along a stretch of dirt road, he was super kind and even held a gate open for me as we leapfrogged briefly.

Snow….but not enough for mid-May

After just 2 hours of pushing and pedaling I was getting into the aspens, most of our spring riding season we are kept in the sage for wildlife closures and it is always special to get up into the forests. Flittering in between sage, aspens, and dark timber, is a magical zone that I cherish. There was water flowing, a few patches of snow in the deeper trees, barely any human tracks to be seen. Elk jumped away at the sound of my shuffling feet, grouse fluttered and grumped as the sun slowly set. I had no where to get to, no destination in mind, I was just wandering about loosely looking for a place to camp. I walked about watching the elk and then moved on, giving the elk a bit more space, finding a nice spot in a stand of aspens.

Tidy Camp

I built a small fire, cooked my dinner and listened to the incredible quiet of this place. It was so fantastic to feel so relaxed. No hustling, no sleep deprived pushing to get “somewhere”, no where to be but here. I find myself often missing the call of adventure and the drive to race, but I also often forget how perfect just being outside, traveling under my own power can be. After eating my simple dinner, I remembered that there was a lunar eclipse happening! I went for a short stroll just as the moon slipped out from behind a cloud. It was so freaking cool. What a show! Watching the light and color change on that giant rock made me feel so small, so lucky, so grateful, and also made me think deeply about so much all at once. I later crawled into my sleeping bag with many thoughts to digest.

my phone does this no justice

In the morning, I made my coffee and breakfast in the comfort of my bag. Without any thought about speed or urgency, I had my gear all packed up, my fire totally drenched, and my little camp erased of my occupancy. I took the longer, slower way home wandering about, taking roads I haven’t been on in a while. I took lots of pictures. I felt awe at how beautiful this world is, how wonderful it is to have such an expansive backyard. I also felt a bit of shame in my humanity, and wondered are we really going to destroy this incredible planet we call home? It is a deep and loaded question and I often am confronted by the potential reality in it. I want my daughter and her possible children to have this opportunity to explore and marvel at this amazing world. I really do wonder if the selfishness of us all is going to change all that?

big country

Eventually the roads and trails led me back to town and my driveway. It was great to be home with my family. I drank more coffee, ate more breakfast, and shared tales of my time in the woods. I can’t wait to head out and do another quick overnighter, it was so incredibly satisfying. I also encouraged my wife to make plans to do something herself, as well as scheming on how to pull off taking my whole family out there on bike. I would also like to encourage everyone to look for opportunities to get out there, under your own power, without any huge goals or destinations, just go. It is so good for your brain, mind, soul, and is fantastic practice for bigger and perhaps loftier goals. It is also a great chance to reflect on ourselves and our place in this world, I know I have much still to digest. Happy Trails!

popping!

Story of an FKT

In 2012 I competed in the Colorado Trail Race. During my planning for that year’s race I got a bit obsessed about the current record holder’s time of 4:03:20. While I had completed a few CTR’s by then and had managed to go sub-five days, Owen Murphy’s time seemed impossible. I stared at his time splits over and over again, eventually taping a photo copy of them to my top tube for the ride. I was just off getting 2nd place in the Tour Divide the year before and I thought that level riding was outside of my grasp, I thought that too was impossible. The 2011 TD gave me the confidence to see what I could do out on the CT.

I trained harder than ever for the CTR, I rode a lot and smart, I hiked a lot, I ate very well and tried to get good rest. I prepped my gear and bike perfectly. I was so ready physically and mentally, and I was hungry for that suffering. I started the race in my usual fashion of just plugging away, trying to not make mistakes and keeping the throttle on as much as I thought I could sustain. Still I was walking when it got hard, trying to save my legs. One thing I noticed studying those previous time splits, was that in the second half of the ride I wasn’t that much slower than Owen. My goal was to keep it reasonable, then go all out at the end.

Somewhere around the dreaded Cochcetopa Hills I kept doing my math, I did it a million times in my head, it looked like I was almost even with the record splits. While only just over half way through the race, I gave it everything I had. I rode stuff I always walked in the past. I walked as fast as I could when I could no longer sustain riding. I didn’t take many breaks, I didn’t sleep. I got deeper into a zone I had experienced before, but not quite like this. I was all out crushing myself.

In fact I turned myself inside out in that last 200 miles. I went so hard I didn’t know who I was at times. I would think of someone I knew and then I would be thinking from what I thought their perspective was, thinking about their kids, wife, dogs. I would realize this and it was bewildering and unnerving to say the least. I had only me to check on my mental and physical state and I wasn’t really too trustworthy just then. I hadn’t seen another racer in a while, and I wasn’t making eye contact with too many hikers at this point as I knew I was twitchy AF. I just stared at that tiny line on the GPS that was the route and kept moving forward.

I rode the last section from Silverton to Durango almost completely in the dark. It was so hard to keep my eyes open, my bike on the trail, and my head from imploding. I don’t remember all that much, what I do wasn’t much fun at all, it was dark and scary. I rolled across Ethan Passant up on Indian Trail Ridge. He was laying in the trail, also delirious. He asked if I wanted to pass?! Will never forget that. I told him to get up and lets get off that 12,000′ storm magnet of a ridge. We eased down Sliderock trail and then Ethan started to ride hard again till we hit Flagler Creek, he stopped, laid back down and proclaimed he was taking a nap. I looked at my watch, took in the warm low elevation air, (I felt much better about leaving him here at 8,000′) and told him I was gonna wrap it up. Swear he was asleep in seconds.

I punched it up that endless last climb half convinced I could see Ethan and Jesse just behind me and I went hard. I stayed on the gas all the way down that also seemingly endless decent, repeating “no crashes, no mechanicals, no crashes, no mechanicals”. I rolled into the end, the dark and quiet Junction Creek Trailhead. I looked at my watch and it was 5:38:AM, I did It!!! I broke 4 days, just barely but I did it! I gently sat down on a parking curb, ate my last rice crispy bar and drank my last few sips of treated water. There was not a soul awake or around. It felt strange and almost empty. My washed out brain wondered if my spot tracker kept tracking, would anyone believe me, there wasn’t a single witness to this crazy ride that I thought was impossible.

Later a couple folks sleeping in their respective cars waiting for their family or friends to finish, awoke and chatted with me. After over an hour my friend Mitch pulled up out of no where, threw my bike in his truck and took me to his house for a shower and my first breakfast. I was a shell of a human and reality wasn’t connecting with my brain, but my body was starting to hurt something fierce, but I was saved!

My FKT only lasted a one year as the course changed the following year to include the Tarryall Detour, a longer and harder route. When I think about this effort I am still proud of how hard I worked and focused on something I wasn’t sure was possible. As it goes with any record or FKT, it was beaten and on a harder and longer course, in 2015 Jesse Jakomait broke 4 days, 3:20:44, going north, and 2016 Neil Beltchenko broke 4 days, 3:19:50, going south, amazing efforts and no one has touched those numbers since….

2 Months Sober, Goals on the Horizon, and Living Now!

It seems like so much longer than 2 months without anything harder than coffee and it has not been easy! Still I am so thankful for this turn I took on the path of my life and am happily staying true, but it is hard. There is no off switch for the brain, no little reward for gettin through a hard day, rough week, or a shitty night. The other side to that is I am far more connected to my emotions and where they try and take me, I am processing rather than covering up or putting away my problems. That all feels really good, really solid, and setting the scene for good living.

Part of that good living has been putting some goals on the horizon and blocking the dates off on the calendar. I was on the fence about the CTR this year, it was conflicting with a family vacation and work and after 9 finishes it was hard to make it a priority in my busy life. The other day I was checking out the routes I made for this year’s Gunny Loopy Loop and realized that was looking too good to miss! So I am aiming to ride the Biggie Loop and that is going to be great prep for my next goal, the AZT800. The 800 has been on my bucket list for way too long, over a decade, and it is time to give it a go. A lot of my why for not lining up yet for the 800 has been fear, and it feels good to know I am ready to face that and give it my best.

Another part of my life is appreciating the wonders of what is right now. A lot of that is spending this spring and summer doing rad stuff with my family right here in and around Gunny. We are putting more emphasis on getting outside, going camping, hiking, Bikepacking and the like. My daughter is blossoming and I am so excited to show her more of the wonders of being outside, moving our bodies, and exploring both of those awesome things!

Salida 720 done and so done

Yesterday I rode for 11.5 hours in the Salida 720 bike race on the Arkansas Trail system right on the edge of the great town of Salida, Co. Like most races in the last 3 years since having a child, I went in to it extra nervous as I was undertrained and under-rested as usual! Plus this course had a reputation of being techy and hard, that didn’t stop me from signing up to race my Why Cycles El Jefe single speed, cause I am that guy.

This race fell right on my birthday and that motivated me to not only race, but use the event to raise money for local food security through the Mountain Roots Backyard Harvest Boxes. I have a thing about eating, (I love to eat!) and have had to chose between eating good food and paying bills in the past and wanted to pay it forward! The Backyard Harvest Boxes are locally grown fruits and veggies that are sold weekly throughout the growing season and the 100% of the money I raise will go towards buying as many as possible. I am competitive while racing, this pushed me even harder to try and get as many laps as I could to raise more money.

I was trying pretty hard to get 8 laps, the rules state that riders can’t head out on their last lap after 6:PM, or hour 11 of the race. That meant doing each lap under 1 hour and 35 minutes. I was doing pretty good until lap 6 when I just hit the wall, my hands just couldn’t handle the pounding and my back started to seize up and my times slooowwwed down a bit. I got in a solid 7 laps and managed to win the solo single speed class and put in the second best solo ride on course! I also raised over $1500 for local food security, so much winning!!!

Today my hands are still so sore, my legs and back are too. So long as my body can handle it, I am going to keep trying to pay it forward with every big ride or race I do. I have a long list of things I want to help out and I am very excited to keep it up, so stay tuned for more opportunities to #ridewithjefeb and we can do our best to make a difference.

Link below for anyone wanting to give to this round of helping other’s out!https://mountainrootsfoodproject.app.neoncrm.com/np/clients/mountainrootsfoodproject/donation.jsp?campaign=16

Sobriety, Turning 3, and Trying to Train

I have managed to stay 100% sober for a whole month. It isn’t easy. The funny thing for me is I don’t miss being stoned or drunk, it has been great to have a clean head and body. I miss giving myself a treat for getting through the day, or a buffer for being social, giving those up is what is hard. Working in bike shop and talking with folks is not easy for me at all, it taxes my ability to make small talk and chat. At the end of the day I feel drained and empty, and like I gave all myself to everyone else. Normally I would treat myself to a drink or a puff to reset things and start over again, bike rides are a better option, but not as easy to pull off regularly. Think this is why I was drinking and smoking so much.

My wonderful daughter turned 3 this past weekend and it was a lot of fun to see her blossoming and enjoying the celebration of her birth. It also meant lots of family in town, a pretty big party with lots of new people and that is not a comfortable place for me to be. Again I would normally be draining beer after beer to distract my mind from the awkwardness that exists inside me in such situations. I would also be numbing myself to help forget that I wasn’t out riding my bike. Walking around Crested Butte on a beautiful day just to have something to do, felt like torture It sounds and feels selfish to admit that. I also really wonder if trying to race bikes is just asking too much of life right now.

I did get out for a quick ride yesterday. It was my first ride in the warm spring sun on dry dirt, and it felt magical. It really is hard to describe how wonderful it feels when I pedal. So much angst, pain, and frustration melts away. I feel more balanced, more confident, more free and happier. It is the best therapy in the world for me and it is so easily accessible and basically free. I am always trying to find ways to get out more, as I am such a better person and more likely to enjoy doing other things, when I get a little pedal time. Yet life is tricky and even being gone for just over an hour is a sometimes a stress on my family. I really want to give everything I do in life, everything I have, it is more difficult to pull off than I ever thought it would be. I am doing my best and that is all I can do.

Salida 720

I saw that this race was on my birthday, April 16th and that got me excited, enough to overcome my reservations about doing such a hard and intense race after being off the bike for a couple months. About the same time a friend posted a Facebook fundraiser for his birthday and that got the wheels turning. I really have been wanting to do something beneficial for the world while out doing what I love to do, pushing myself on the bike. The format of a lap race made things click into place to raise money tied into how many laps I can manage. 

I then thought about what who I wanted to help. I want to help almost anyone that needs help, but food security really felt important to me. -I truly believe that everybody deserves to eat good nutritious food, regardless of their position in life, the choices they have made, or who their parents are.- We all have made mistakes in life, had set backs, accidents, etc, but for some that ends up meaning not getting enough nutritious food to eat. So my goal is to raise money to pay for locally produced food to help out anyone in need. 

To get involved all you have to do it let me know how many dollars you’d like to commit to for every lap I complete in 12 hours, I am aiming for 7, give or take one, I hope! For example committing 1$ per lap, if I get 7 laps that would be 7$, 10$ per lap at 7 laps would be 70$. I won’t send collections after anyone if they over commit, something comes up, etc. 100% of this money will go towards Mountain Roots’ Backyard Harvest boxes, these are locally grown fruits and veggies that are sold every week. They cost about 25$ each and I hope to buy as many as possible to help folks get good local, low carbon footprint food. Folks can message me here by commenting below, messaging me on Facebook, or emailing me, etc before April 16th. After the race I will connect with everyone and collect the money via Venmo, or PayPal, or cash.

I won’t send collections after anyone if they over commit, something comes up, etc. Also I plan to keep this going with future events so if you can’t contribute now, there will be future ways to Ride With Jefe! 

Pedal Therapy

This winter has been rough. I was sick over and over for almost the whole month of November, that crushed any fitness I had, and depleted the bank account as well! When I got back on the bike in December I was trying to train and prep for the Fat Pursuit in January. I didn’t have much time to ride, so I was attempting to make the most of it with short hard rides, intervals and all that jazz. I didn’t realize at the time how messed up my lungs were, maybe I had bloody Covid in November?! Cause every time I went hard it really felt like I was going to sufficate. There were a couple rides when I was out in the coldest part of the day, the wee early morning, testing my systems while also trying to improve my fitness with hill repeats and I seriously thought I was going to pass out. Thought I was going to be found a day later frozen block of exhausted lung matter.

I managed to get to Idaho for the Pursuit and keep it together enough to finish ok. It was hard tho and mostly type two fun. Lots of snow, blowing snow, low visibility, good amount of hike a bike and it kinda crushed me, again. It also made me rethink my goal of ITI, if this was hard to smile thru, Alaska might make me break down completely! After the event I was tired, the early morning rides and late nights with my child who doesn’t like to sleep, all took toll on my being. I was deep down tired. I was also a bit depressed. I was unsure about my goal of ITI and the stress of getting ready for a much shorter and less exhausting race was immediate in my head.

The training, traveling and racing was stressing out my little family. I no longer knew what I was doing with all that obsessive energy. I also started working more to get us back to making more money than we spend. All this left me with not much energy and little time to ride. I just didn’t have the motivation to get up early to get in an hour or two before breakfast, morning chores, and then work, not without a goal in mind anyways. Not riding made me more depressed, I was wallowing in my sad state. Work sucked, home life was at times stressful, I was not getting enough sleep, and I was not getting out. I started drinking more and things just got dark and glum.

Finally I had enough of my shitty head and I stopped drinking, I got sober, 100% sober. I quit my job and went back to the bike shop. Even though it is late winter, or really mud season for us at 7700′, I got out for a decent ride. Things were getting brighter. Today I got out for another mud slinging mess of a ride. The Sandhill Cranes were circling and hollering overhead. Redtail hawks were peering at me from their tall perches everywhere I looked. I stopped at the top of my out and back climb and just crouched and listened. I could hear coyotes howling a couple draws over from me. I felt more alive than I have in quite some time. While I can still feel the void of not having a goal pulling me along my path, I felt much less lost and not like I am squandering my time.

Life is sometimes really hard and now it is far more complex than it has every been for me. My life is intertwined with that of my wife and daughter and that is irreversible. As much as I love them at times I do reminisce about how easy it was to pick a goal and chase it and how fullfilled that would make me feel. I often wish it was easier to combine the love of my family and the pursuit of my individual dreams. I really didn’t think it would be this hard when we decided to have a family, and I do not regret that choice, just sometimes wonder if it could be different. Regardless of all that thinking, wondering and wishing, getting out there and pedaling my bike was the best therapy I could ask for and makes all the hard things easier, and I do like hard things!

What’s Next?

Starting to feel a bit recovered from last weekend’s Fat Pursuit up in Idaho. It was a taxing 125 miles through the snow globe. So much wind, fresh snow, and warm temps made it a difficult trudge and that made this old body hurt. It was a good time up there, seeing friends, making new ones, pushing my mind and body, learning so much, and being outside in winter is always special.

I got asked a lot during the race weekend, “Hey Jefe, What’s Next?” As an endurance athlete, I get this a lot. Folks are curious, they want to hear about some wild crazy hard ride that is out there. I am usually cooking something up and setting my sights on a target down the road. Right now I am actually 100% not sure what is next. I didn’t answer truthfully to most folks, as right now it is time to find more work and that racing is gonna have to take a back seat for a bit. I just didn’t want to go there, so I just evaded the question. I am a bit embarrassed to be honest, I wish I was focused on training for the next thing.

Instead I got to find a job! It was amazing getting to be my daughter’s caretaker this summer and fall, I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything, butt only working part time didn’t put any money in the bank. Then I was sick for a good bit of November, in December the bike shop was super slow and I missed out on much work for a couple months. Bottom line is our finances are not good right now and my family doesn’t need that stress. I am not excited about my prospects for employment, but that is reality right now. Believe it or not but racing bikes doesn’t do anything to add to the bank account, even with an amazing sponsor it costs a good bit to do events!

I am still looking at a couple races this summer, still hoping for way to register for ITI in 2023?!?! For now the bucket list has to wait, while I buckle down and put some money in the bank.

Magic Mess

Have to admit that I am often a mess. I am full of anxiety and so much of it. I am stressed out and in general doing a poor job of processing my stress. Being a parent and husband is by far the hardest thing I have done and I do it everyday. All the adventures, races, all those cold, dark, scary epics seem easy in comparison. Partially because those were mostly dealing with me, and once I dwelled deep into my head, that wasn’t so bad.

I have also been in this head space of hurry up and get er done. Most of my racing was done with this mindset and it works well for getting from point A to B quickly. Still I wasn’t always “there”, in that I was looking for the next checkpoint, the next top of the climb, the next time split. Always hurrying along in racing, adventures, and in life too. This mindset has made life in many ways more difficult.

Right now I am training, or trying to train, for winter ultra’s on a bike. I have been captivated by winter travel for decades and the bike has lead me to wanting to take it to another level. The ultimate goal is the ITI in Alaska. I have been mildly obsessed with this ride for way too long and I am working on getting there next year. The path to this has been so long and I am now feeling glad that it is Now that I am getting close. In some ways this sounds silly, I was so much stronger in past years. I hiked, skied, and biked so much more, I was fit and strong, but I was still rushing through it all. One thing I kept reading about in doing winter ultras was folks saying don’t sweat. Don’t work so hard that you soak yourself, and stop as needed to adjust layers. As simple as it sounds it went against my entire racing experience of grit your teeth, deal with the discomfort and get er done. While there is still plenty of grit and determination needed, there is also this primary need to listen and be smart.

Thank goodness we can always evolve! It is hard, but I am rewiring myself in this process to be more attentive to my body, to listen to the winds, and to take action. Through the simple act of stopping to take off a layer before it is too late, or the reverse, I am changing my ways on and off the bike.

The other morning I was out for a quick ride while the girls slept. The stars were out and shining strong and bright. The air was cold, but my systems were working and I was warm, and dry! Normally my head is filled with disquiet for the first hour or so of a ride, all the noisy demands of life still intruding on my headspace till the meditative settles in. This morning it felt so great to be pedaling. Still I stopped for second to look at the sky, as it was calling to me. The stars were just amazing, it seemed like complete silence took over, I swear I wasn’t even breathing as I took it all in. It felt different out there that morning, I felt different. I didn’t want this short ride to end, I didn’t want to stop, and I somehow wanted to take my family along with me to experience this. I wanted to take the whole world with me to feel this. It really is impossible to explain how important and fulfilling it is to be out there, taking in this amazing beautiful world we all share, all while traveling along on a personal journey that means so much to me. Powerful indeed.

I have been reflecting on this and all the rest of my life, it is all rolled up into a huge ball! There are so many times when I feel desperate and feel like this path I am on is too much. I can feel the stress I cause my family. I need to be working more. It is so hard to balance it all and often I fail, but I don’t want to give up on this crazy dream. Moments like the one I had the other morning remind me that maybe it is worth the struggle, the problem is, is it worth the stress to my family? Hard to answer that honestly, and wish they knew how much it means to me. I really wish I could share the immense feelings I get while out there sometimes, I am hoping to find a way to do so in the future. Always more work to do, but we can make magic out of our messes if we focus and keep trying.