The requisite "best of" list for 2009...
Most memorable adventures:
5. All the moab trips. The Rim Ride, Kokopelli Trail Race, White Rim, and all the other great rides...always memorable.
4. The Sag-Bo training ride. This was the final shake-down before the Tour Divide, following nearly 300 miles of jeep trails, gravel roads, and Colorado Trail singletrack from Saguache back home to Boulder.
3. Arizona Trail 300. An incredible race on a phenomenal course, with rain, snow, frigid temperatures, many flats, knee problems, and serious racing. Setting a new course record was just icing on the cake.
2. Baffin Island. It was another great summer of mostly successful field work, neat new discoveries, many new questions, and a few too many close encounters with polar bears for my own liking.
1. Tour Divide. This'll be one that's tough to top in any year.
The best gear (most of these are gear-intensive activities):
5. MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes. These aren't cycling-related like almost everything else on here, but they do go along on bike rides some times, and they're so light I barely notice they're strapped to my back unless it's windy. And once off in the deep snow or steep, icy slopes, they do their job quite well.
4. Gore Alp-X cycling rain gear. This is the only rain gear I've ever had that's kept me dry through anything. And believe me, they've seen pretty much the worst weather you could throw at them in the western US this year.
3. Montbell Thermawrap UL jacket. It's orange, puffy, light, and has helped me through some very cold and dark times in many of the ultras this past year.
2. Pearl Izumi hike-a-bike shoes. I can't say much about these shoes, because they're not officially on the market yet, but I've spent the past year destroying them for the guys at Pearl, and they've been on my feet in every long ride done in the past 14 months. My feet have been very, very happy, no matter how much hike-a-bike there is.
1. Salsa Dos Niner Tour Divide bike setup. This was perfect - relatively light, very reliable, quite comfortable, and as durable as required for this sort of racing. Highlights - the Epic bags that still show almost no wear despite all the abuse they took, the wheels built by Mike C around White Industries hubs (which are still rolling smoothly after 4000+ miles), the Avid Elixir CR brakes, and the White Brothers Magic 80 fork. I'd put these same parts on again if I had to do it all over.
5. Not racing much cyclocross for the first time in many years. A nagging knee injury and desire to spend more time mountain biking up in the alpine were to blame.
4. Picking up running. Again, blame the knee injury.
3. Finding 1.0-1.5 million-year-old glacial deposits on central Baffin Island. They shouldn't be there, but they are, and they tell a neat story about the evolution of the continental ice sheets and subglacial landscape over the past 2.5 million years.
2. NSF funding. My PhD research on Baffin Island is now fully funded for the next 2.5 years!
1. How well my body adapted to the Tour Divide. The first week was a bit rough, but the legs got used to ~150 miles per day, the butt used to 16 hours in the saddle, and the engine got used to running on 6000 calories of gas station food. Not too bad. (Photo by Chris Plesko)
5. Yak Trax. They seemed fragile when I bought them, but I thought they'd last longer than 3 weeks.
4. Crank Brothers pedals, again. They never lasted long, their springs bend, the cleats wear out quickly, and I'm tired of having to replace them so often. I only have a few pairs left that are in ok shape, so it's almost time to replace them all.
3. Incessant mud. It seemed to be everywhere this year. From Camp Lynda in January to the Tour Divide in June, I think every long ride had more than its fair share (other than the AZT300...that mud was frozen). This took its toll on everything. (Photo by Chris Plesko)
2. Knee pains. There was a lot of physical therapy, bike fit adjustments, and frustration this year due to knees. And it's not all solved yet.
1. Maggie having to quit her job in Saguache. It should have been an awesome job, but sometimes the people involved are too tough to deal with. And I lost my great excuse to go hang out in one of the best parts of Colorado.
Riding on my favorite trails...
And the new bike, which hasn't yet seen enough use to make onto the 2009 list