Friday, July 18, 2008

How to impress a 13 year old.

Uinta National Forest sign.

Well, up until Tuesday the highest hill I had climbed was 2000' After Tuesday that figure would be raised to 2800'. Today I would blow them both out of the water. Upon leaving Arizona I had two rides I wanted to do while we were up here in Springville Utah. One was the Alpine loop (a ride I had been hankering on doing for a number of years), and the Nebo Loop. Originally I had thought the Nebo Loop would be the easier of the two. Then I compared the estimated climbing between the two and the Nebo route was not only longer but the hill was not quite double what the Alpine Loop hill was. The Alpine Loop would be the precursur.

Seeing as I am supposed to be working while I am up here, an early start would be necessary so I could be back before 9:30 Arizona time. This meant starting at 4:30 Utah time which would be 3:30 Arizona time. Early, but not bright. There was a full moon out which was nice but my lights gave out plenty of light for cruising along just above 20mph on the way out of town. It was definitely warmer this morning than Tuesday and as I entered Spanish Fork (pronounced Fark by the locals) the winds coming down Spanish fork canyon blew hard and fast across the road making my aero bars whistle in the darkness. Fortunately it was a crosswind instead of a headwind and as I turned west in Mapleton it would be a tailwind (the Utah Valley is full of these quaint little towns full of old brick houses). I made really good time down to Spanish Fork and discovered along here that I had forgotten to fill my water bottles. I had grabbed three trailmix bars but had forgotten water.

Spanish Fork it turns out, did not have a store on the route that was open and I would have to wait until Salem to find one. After a five minute stop I was packed with gatorade and ready to hit the hills which were just a few miles down the road in Payson. My wife was born in Payson and as I rode past the Payson hospital I wondered if this was the place but the building was too new so it must have been torn down or something. Around here the cue sheet was steering me to roads that just looked wrong but after a little riding along I noticed the baseball fields I had seen as I scanned the satellite imagery of the route and knew I was close to the road anyway. A mile or two down the road I would realize that the roads I had selected were not the main route but managed to get me on it nonetheless.

Payson canyon did not have the same abrupt change in vegetation that American Fork canyon did on Tuesday's ride. Payson canyon started out with scrub oak and trees by the creek. Foothills surround it, not cliffs. To all appearences it was a drab little canyon with a small creek in it. Looking up the canyon it looked hilly, but definitely not mountainous. Twilight was growing and I shut my light off. It wasn't light enough to get good pictures yet as you can see. Still, there were sections in this lower half that were just beautiful. Instead of tall cliffs, I had humungous Sycamore trees towering above me. Places along the creek they had built the road up with stone walls and it had a definite back east look to it. I startled several groups of Deer through here. Bicycles are awesome for wildlife viewing as they are by nature quiet machines. Of course I hadn't started really wheezing yet. Perhaps that is why I didn't see any deer on the steeper parts?

After lulling you along up the easier part of the hill, teasing you with views of hills that don't look that special, lulling you into a false security, the hill starts to ratchet things up a notch. The gradient steepens to 6% and starts to wind back through those innocent looking hills which as it turns out are actually pretty good sized. In fact, together they make quite a challenge, one behind the other. You climb to what you think is the top, only to round it and find the hill goes on, further up and further back. There is no view of any kind of "Big" mountains in here. Then the road starts some long switchbacks. This is serious now. There are sections peaking at 10-11%. Did the air just get a bit warmer? Is that a raindrop? Nope, just some sweat dripping off my cap. Soon I pass the 7000' elevation sign. That feels good. Feels real good since the hill started at 4400' or so.


A large hill is a metaphor really. Sometimes things don't look like they are ever going to end. You set a goal on what looks like the top only to find that was just a corner, or a dip, and you find yourself staring up at another hill even larger. There are those who deem the task to great and turn around, never knowing what would have been if they only pushed just a little more. There are those that push on, groaning under the pressure, turning the pedal one more time, pushing themselves for one more hill, enduring the experience but not enjoying it, these people are usually vocal about it and slow others down with them as they grudgingly move along. Then there are those that accept what the hill is. Realize that the hill will not change, but the change can come in them. They can press on, hear the birds, smell the pines, enjoy the breeze (not curse it), and find after all is said and done, that they have arrived at the top. The hill has not changed, but they have. Sure their legs are tired, their lungs heave, they totter as they stand at the summit, but they are there.

Is that Nebo? Really? All this to see that?

At around 11 miles into the hill it changed a bit. The constant steepness let off a bit but instead came in sections of steep and less steep as the road slowly made it's way up the hills along a ridge heading towards Mt. Nebo. The first mountain I saw was really bald mountain but I thought it was Nebo and was dissapointed at it really. It didn't look like that big a deal and was nothing compared to Mt. Timpanogas from Tuesdays ride. Then I turned another corner or two.

Aha! Theres the Mountain, funny not seeing a thing that big until now.

I had trouble trusting my odometer in here. It kept saying I had 8 or 9 miles to go and yet I could see the mountain right there! I would spend the next 9 miles stairstepping .5 - 1 mile hills of pretty steep grades. These drops and climbs would add extra altitude to my total climbing. It was getting a little discouraging seeing the odometer and the mountain right there. Of course, around one of the turns I ran into the 9000' sign and that perked me up a bit. I was getting tired now. I had climbed around 5000 feet all told and I was feeling it.

Of course, the air wasn't any easier to breath up here either. I would keep hill hopping for the next 3 or 4 miles and then, sure enough, right at 40 miles like the route sheet stated, was the summit.

Mt. Nebo from near road summit.

One happy fella.

All in all this was a 5000 foot hill. It was a real piece of work I tried to get a picture of me and the sign but there was nowhere to set the camera for a timed shot. I don't know of many bigger hills out there folks. I think it will be a long time before I top another one like this. I suppose the Mt. Lemmon ride in November should have similar climbing though, so perhaps it won't be too long.

Mt. Nebo from Road Summit

Of course, what goes up must come down. I had a few hills to cover in the first few miles, but aside from that it was 20 miles of 30-40mph bliss, slowing only for the hairpin turns of course. Somewhere around 8000' a bee flew into my helmet and I coasted along hoping he would fly out soon. Of course, when you think a bee has landed on your head you start imagining things. I just knew I could feel him crawling around up there getting ready to flip out and sting me. I was happy I had my cap on. After giving him ample time to fly out I could still feel him up there. Or could I? Upon stopping I discovered that he had in fact flown out and that the last bit could be chalked up to "Theres a bee on my head aphobia".

Looking way down on Utah Valley (Payson, Spanish Fork, Springville, and Provo)

I kept going down. Even if you are cooking down a hill, a 20 mile hill takes a long time to go down. Granted it's a lot longer going up but it seemed like I was descending forever. It turned out to be around 30-40 minutes but that can seem like a long time when you are barreling down a mountain with your eyes peeled for potholes. I could feel it getting warmer. Climbing up I had basically kept the same temperature all the way up (63 degrees). But getting back down to Payson the temps were in the 80's. I was warm. Not hot, but not necessarily comfortably cool either. Seeing as I was pushing my ETA a bit I phoned and told my Nephew to let D'Net know I was in Salem and would be home in a half hour or so.

Climbing up into Mapleton I took a parting photo of the mountain as I turned my head for home.

Upon arriving in the driveway my Nephew asks if I rode all the way to Payson. I told him I had, then I climbed the Nebo loop and rode all the way back. He was incredulous. He had thought I was going to drive over to the bottom of the hill and ride it from there. Anyway, 80 miles is pretty impressive I guess. The elevation is what I am feeling satisfied with though. I have done 80 mile rides and longer. I have never climbed a hill like that. I now have a new definition of what a big hill is.

6600' of climbing +

14 mph average speed +

5 hours 40 minutes riding time. +

= One tired Paul

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For the strength of the hills

Mt. Timpanogas (not my picture, My camera was broken I discovered on the ride)

Well, visiting my sister in Utah and needing to do some hill training I packed my bike into the back of the van when we left Mesa. I had my sights set on two rides, both pretty stiff climbs. One I did this morning. Not being able to sleep I was up at 3, Well, being in a state that uses Daylight Savings time that would be a more sane 4 am. So, in the darkness, I raided my sister's pantry taking two trailmix bars and snarfing a handful of Craisins I figured I could supplement my energy stores at the first gas station. Assembling my bike after taking it out of the van I discovered that my headlight was flaking out on me. I wouldn't get it fully fixed until I stuffed some roadside foliage into the battery case to keep the batteries from shifting on the bumps.

There were two weak links in my plan this morning, the first became apparent as I shot down the road into the night (my Sister lives at the top of a half mile 5% grade hill). It was cold out this morning and I left my leg and arm warmers in Mesa. The second weakness I would not realize until I was down the road aways, and that was that I forgot the tire pump. So I hoped I could extend my 2000 mile no flat streak 65 more miles.

Getting down to the road along the railroad tracks I was in the industrial section of town and it smelled funny. The smell of progress was well, stinky fair readers. Of course, not too far down the road I would get to smell some of that old school smell too as I went past some farms. Despite the chill it was a beautiful morning and as I pushed a little the speeds hung around 19-20 mph which wasn't bad for riding in the dark. I selected the road down by Utah Lake and Geneva steel purposely to avoid all the traffic lights. My one worry was that it might be an old dilapidated road since the steel mill had fallen on hard times over 10 years ago. My fears were foundless though. One thing I can say for Utah is that the roads are typically wide and the pavement is good. I was afraid the drivers were going to be obnoxious but I didn't have a single honk. Perhaps that is because my route avoided most of the rush hour traffic.

Riding along in the dark I did make one wrong turn but I soon found my way over to University ave. It was a beautiful morning for riding, even when the wind did pick up. I knew it would as mountains tend to generate wind as the sun rises and sets due to differences in temperatures. Even so I made good time. I made my way past the old steel mill, still doing something as it was lit up. I don't think they make steel like they used to when my wifes grandfather worked for them. Across the lake I could see lights of a small town and I wondered at all the burgs that are springing up just like they are in my neck of the woods. Gas being what it is these days, I think there are some people out there that are in for some failed investments, but that is neither here nor there. The view of the lights was pretty and as I neared the end of the ride along the lake, dawn was peeking over the Wasatch front to the east.

I hadn't realized the climbing started in Pleasant Grove but soon found out that the Pleasant grove temple llit up on the hill in the distance would soon be below me as I continued to climb up the hill towards American Fork canyon. Or for those of you from that vicinity, American Fark canyon. I passed bus stop after bus stop full of commuters getting ready to go to work and kind of felt sorry for them in a way. Of course I would be joining them when I got back since I did have to work on this trip since I am getting laid off in October and every vacation day needs to be saved at this point. Around the mouth of the canyon I discovered my bike computer was flaking out so I reset it so I could get a good record of the hill around the corner.

This hill was really the crux of the ride. My brother in law showed me this hill a long time ago when he was engaged to my sister and he was taking us up for a hike. He mentioned how hard it was (of course the bike he rode was probably not the best thing for the task as I understand it). Ever since getting back into biking I have always wanted to give this loop a go. The official title is the "Alpine Loop" and it is a popular ride around here as I would figure out by the number of cyclists I saw out. I also saw a lot of people wearing jackets on their descent. I wouldn't see anyone climbing until I went down the other side. I don't know if that is because I have gotten stronger or just because no one was climbing this side this morning.

Entering the canyon is like entering another world. Outside the vegetation is sage and grasses (unless you are in a neighborhood then there are lawns and big green trees). Inside the canyon everything is green and a creek flows next to the road. Of course in Arizona we would call it a river, but those in wetter climes call it a creek. Sunrise had still not entered the canyon and the greens were accented in the twilight. I have to say, the desert has beautiful riding, but on the otherhand, cycling in the mountains is beautiful too. The cliffs the bottom of the canyon is, but later I would be looking down on them from far above.
The foot of the hill winds up through Timpanogas Cave National Monument. I have been up into the cave before and it is a good climb up to the cave, my kids are not up to it yet, but one of these days we'll nag them up to the cave (the trail is really steep but paved). Today though I had bigger fish to fry. The first 3 or 4 miles of the hill maintains a steady 3-4% grade, teasing you up higher. As you progress further up the canyon everything gets even greener but the grades increase as well. The top 7-8 miles of this hill stay above 6% the rest of the way topping out at 9% in a few places. Along here I stopped a few times to take pictures from what I now know is a broken camera but I did have hopes of capturing the scene to share with the readers of this blog.
There were still patches of snow up on Timpanogas and I would soon be looking down on a few of the patches. Pretty soon the vegetation was so thick you couldn't see any soil. Aspens started to mix in with the dougless fir, spruces, and Pine trees. The mountains surrounding me were magnificient and were reminiscient of the scenes of Austria one sees in the sound of music. The scenery definitely matched the climb. I have climbed steeper but I have never climbed a hill of this length and steepness combined before. By the time I got to the top of the hill my altimeter was reading 2800' climbed and that wasn't counting the climbing up through pleasant grove which probably added 2-300 feet or so. The top of the hill read 7400 feet. Not too shabby considering I had started the day down at 4000'.
The descent on the other side had a lot more switchbacks than the side I climbed up. I found myself having to use alternating breaks. If ever there was a hill that would heat up your rims from braking and pop a tire, this was it. A lot of the switchbacks slowed me down to 18 mph and that was with full use of the road. Slowing wasn't too bad though as I was dropping back into the shadows of the mountains and canyons and I was cold. Really cold.

Soon I would be looking down on the top of Robert Redford's ski area, also home of the Sundance Film festival. Passing the ski area the road straighted out a bit and I was able to hit 45mph in one spot. A car kept trying to catch up to me but everytime they got close we would enter some more corners and I would leave them in the dust as bicycles are a lot more limber in the turns.
Descending Provo canyon was fun too. Despite Mr. Redfords strong opposition they widened the road up Provo canyon and they remembered to give it a wide shoulder fortunately. Pedalling after the freezing descent was interesting as I needed to fully warm up again before I started pedalling comfortably and faster. Dropping down the 7% grade in the sun was nice but the tires on the concrete made a funny noise which made me wonder if I had a flat developing. Off to the left I noticed 2 waterfalls cascading out of the granite cliffs. One I don't know the name of, but the other is Bridal Veil Valls, which I rode up to with my daughter, neice, and nephew a few years back.

Crossing Provo back to Springville I was plagued by stoplights. What is the point of having a hill you can break the speed limit going down if there are stoplights every 100 yards? I hit every one red thanks to all the students heading off to classes at BYU who were waiting to cross. One guy was sporting the "My pants are falling down and I think it looks cool" look. I kind of have to wonder at these types. Especially going to this school. Kinda pointless but hey, some people are gluttons for punishment.
Upon entering Springville again and about 2 miles from my sisters house I spied a Sonic Drive in and a little voice inside my head whispered thoughts of breakfast. Since I had really not packed enough food and I had pushed my luck getting over the pass with only a trail mix bar, I succumbed to weakness. After all, I did have time. I managed this ride in about 4 hours which I think is really good for me seeing as this route had about 4000 feet of climbing and it ended up being 65 miles. Yeah, I deserved a good breakfast. I would later find out the hill back up to my Sister's house clocks in at 5% for about a quarter mile, just enough to get warmed back up again.

Monday, July 7, 2008

fastest time.

This morning I got out on the commute and thought I would rip it up and see what happened. Saturday I was able to hang with the Brumbys until a bit up 9 mile hill heading up the Beeline highway and then I was promptly dropped with a heartrate that was through the roof. Another guy got dropped to with me. Either that or he was taking pity on me. Either way I had a riding buddy for the rest of the ride mostly. We cruised along up the hill with him mostly pulling and I mostly sucking up the draft on his rear wheel. I did take a turn now and then but I have to tell you, I started the day with sore legs from running with Josh on my back for part of the 4th of July 5k, and to make matters worse I had blown up trying to keep up with these yahoos. Of course it is my goal to hold on to them one of these days, and after two weeks, I believe it seems to be the hills that are the problem. I hang with them until we get to a hill and then I get dropped. The logical conclusion is weight. Weight is the number one factor to slowing on the hills so I figure I will work on strength but continue the 500 calorie shortages each day.

On a brighter note, all of this working to keep up has in fact made me faster. I pushed it all the way into work today and by the time I got in I had a time of one hour and eleven minutes. This is two minutes off of my best time on my recumbent but is the fastest time I have achieved on my upright. I averaged 20.5 mph which means I maintained speeds of 22-24 most of the way in. Not an easy task with traffic and stop lights slowing you down let me assure you! Anyway, seeing as I think I had a tailwind when I set the record with the recumbent this may in fact be the fastest I have ridden in. It is in fact the fastest on this bike though. I am looking forward to attacking the Alpine loop up by Provo Utah next week, and possibly even riding the Nebo loop just to get my fill of some nice alpine climbing and also to prepare me for the 200k I am riding in August up in Showlow to the New Mexico border and back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

FYI- RUSA 10 Year Anniversary

For any of Y'all that might be interested in getting that cool 10 year anniversary medal that RUSA is offering to riders who finish a Brevet on the weekend of Aug. 16th, I convinced Susan to let me run a brevet up in Showlow on the 16th of Aug. It will head out to the New Mexico border and back ranging between 6000 -9000 feet in elevation. It should be a beautiful ride. Come on out and ride and at the end we will have a barbeque in the park. Check out for details.