Monday, April 27, 2009

One Man's Demons

To speed or not to speed, that is the question.

At times when it seems everyone is my judge, and my tasks form an impenetrable black wall before me, when my head hangs low and my heart wallows in meaningless sorrow. These are the times to feel the wind on my face. To force the pedals to do my bidding. To flee the clutches of civilization and grasp the freedom of the road with both hands as I hear the gentle hum of wheels caressing the pavement. To breathe freely the desert air on a sunlit morning. To stare across the tops of mountains and desert canyons bespeckled with cacti raising their arms to the sky in ceaseless worship. To gaze down on the beaten hill, master of me no longer. To feel the wind rush past as I forget the signs and limits and release myself to the higher laws of gravity and inertia. To raise my head and declare I have done something. In a time when all seems unfulfilled and wasted. I have climbed the hill though my legs are fatigued, though my breath is short, though I have had a flat tire and been abandonned by the group to seek my own glory, I have conquered.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Of Climbing and Babysitting

Today was the day I needed a 200k because in 3 weeks I'll be riding a 300k. A pretty hilly 300k actually. The plan was to wake up around 3 AM, ride out to Kearny, get back around 1 or 2 and go to the Company picnic. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Particularly if you have a family. My wife had a meeting at the church at 10 so that changed that. Where there is a will there is a way though. It is possible to cycle in ones backyard, even inside ones home theatre for that matter. This is the story of my solution to this very problem.

It was a beautiful morning with temps in the 40's as I headed out of town. I didn't wear arm warmers or a wind vest or anything like that and I probably should have. I managed to pedal hard enough to keep the cold off. My heart rate monitor kept reminding me to pedal a little harder. In the dark I tend to let off a bit and it was good to get the reminder.

My hub light shone through the darkness as I turned onto the Apache Trail. Dawn was about to start but my light shown bright and lit the way. I was able to hold 15 mph or so most of the way acrossed Apache Jct and slowed as I hit the hills as I left town. I got passed by the ocassional car. The beauty of getting up at 4:30 for this route is the light traffic. in an hour or two this highway would have boats, motorcycles, RV's, Sports Cars, you name it. Before 7 though it's only the occasional fisherman pulling his boat.

The descent to Canyon Lake was cold. Especially when I hit 40 mph in the last stretch of the hill. Fortunately it was over before I started shivering. I hadn't sweated that much climbing the hill due to the chill. I was pleased to note that the temps by the lake were warmer.

The destination today was not Canyon lake though. The 300k in a few weeks has a lot of climbing and so today I was out to train on the hill known as "End of the Pavement". It' goes from Tortilla flat out about 4-5 miles to where the pavement ends in the middle of nowhere. It is a hill which stays between 6 and 9% most of the way up and is a good solid burn. Today I am pleased to see that although I have been pushing it harder than normal I still have strength to do the hills. I am pleased to note that I have gotten my time for climbing this hill down to just over half an hour. Before it was 40-45 minutes. Some of that is lost weight and some is that I am a much stronger rider this year with that pedal technique I have been working on.

The end of the pavement

It's a beautiful morning to be climbing. I hardly even break a sweat though I am working hard. I manage to not use my granny gear and I am proud of the fact. This hill seems a lot less intimidating than it used to. I am using it as excersize these days rather than a gigantic feat to be accomplished.

Turning around at the top I am eager to see if my light holds up on the descent. It is light out of course, but I want to see if speeds near 50 mph will cause problems with my generator light. I hit 50 and I am pleased to say it did fine. It is good to go for Cochise this fall (the back side of Mule Pass is a really fast descent I understand). Interestingly enough, when I went down again after my repeat with the light off I actually didn't hit 50. I guess that means the drag on the generator hub is negligible or the winds were different.

Usually when I do a repeat on this hill I am slower the second time around but today I am powerfull. I could have done a 3rd repeat but I had to get back for my wife. I am surprised this morning as no one has passed me. Not even after I did my repeat. I wouldn't see anyone until I was climbing out the last hill around 8:30. Usually this area has a lot more cycling activity.

Heading home I notice I have an extra 15 minutes or so, so I climb Usery Pass as a short side trip. Before I got home I would have 5200 feet of climbing in and around 80 miles in. So, with me at home my wife took off and I dug the rollers out of the garage onto the back porch.

Riding rollers with legs that are a bit fatigued is a rather delicate proposition. I came off once but managed to catch myself on the chair. I grew bored and looked at my watch. I had been on the trailer for just over 10 minutes! Aughhh! I commited myself to ride until I was finished with the album that was playing on my MP3 player and made it two songs into the next one using the old "just one more" lie on myself.

Seeing as I still needed another hour or two to finish my needed training for the day I put the fork mount onto the trainer and hauled it into the home theatre with the dlp projector on the cieliing. This makes the whole wall my tv. I decided I would pump the surround sound up and throw spiderman in the dvd player. I needed something a little exciting to spur me on. It worked. I managed to even do some higher intensity through the more exciting parts and ended up getting an extra hour and a half of training in before the hip started to twinge and I decided I had pushed my luck far enough.

I don't know if it added up to 200k or not but it was a good long workout. It was even a fairly intense workout. They say if you want to ride fast you need to train fast. It seems to be working for me. Sunday my quads didn't have any of the hammered muscle feeling to them surprisingly enough. This using all the muscles in your leg thing must have something to it.
Things are looking good for May 9th. I might even get a tolerable time but my goal is just to finish injury free.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Wet Bandit

I had this awesome ride planned for Saturday, I was going to ride to the end of the pavement with the Brumby's! The weatherman said scattered light showers and 53 degrees in the morning. I figured that was doable. Around 9 PM a guy from my church calls and reminds me I volounteered to work out at the welfare farm on Saturday. DOH!

Hmmm, I need a training ride, Hmmmm I said I'd do it. So I pulled a reeses peanut butter cup. I decided I would load some shoes and rain paints in my rack trunk and ride out to the farm and then make it into an 80 mile loop using Arizona Farms road down near Florence. I'd lose out on some climbing but it would still be a good ride. Besides, with rain in the forecast perhaps they would cancel the farm thing.

Morningtime showed dawn approaching and dry pavement outside my window so I at a PBH sandwich loaded up the bottles with some of Paul's cheap Maltodextrin mixture and I was off. It wasn't too long before the rain hit. It was around this time that I noticed the temperature was 43 degrees and the wind was howling. I was a bit late getting to the farm as you may well surmise. If I had known it was going to be this raining I would have at least put the front fender on. I am running 28C tires so the back fender doesn't fit through the brakes. I impressed the people who were waiting there to tell people it was cancelled though.

I made it a whole 8 miles into my intended route before the wind and a bit of a twinge in my knee turned me around. I figured 46 miles in the wind and rain is still an acceptable ride, and no one would necessarily call me a wuss. Besides I was babying my knee right? And so went my rationalization as I enjoyed a bit of tailwind heading back towards civilization. I decided I would pull a Floyd Landis and try a few miles extra going up baseline before I headed in so I could make it an even 50. Floyd says you can always do just 1 more when you are training, do that little bit extra.

There was a long string of riders on baseline and I knew quickly what it was. There was a charity ride taking off from the Two Wheel Jones bike shop which had 20 and 30 mile options. I figured I wouldn't do it as it did not fit into my training plan. Within minutes I found myself on the course, a bandit if you will. A guy passed me and I asked him if I could draft. I actually didn't draft him far. We ended up riding side by side and talking most of the way as 4 extra miles turned into 10, into 15, and finally into 30 extra miles added on to my roate (plus several hills). I am proud to say I kept up despite having 40 miles in my legs and a pair of shoes, a rack trunk, and a rack on the back. I determined I would donate to the charity when I got back.

Riding in the rain sucks. Riding in the wind and rain is even worse. When you have someone to talk to though it is not as bad. The 'Official' riders collected poker cards along the route to see who got the best hand when they got back. Since I was a bandit technically I didn't take any cards. I didn't want to use anything I didn't pay for.

Around 4 miles from the end I flatted and told the other guy to go ahead. I figured I was soaked to the bone, it was windy and raining, and I wasn't about to patch that tube under these conditions. I found the piece of glass in the tire, pulled it out and put in the new tube. One of the support cars pulled up and the guy got out to come help me. Funny enough it was one of my boy scouts from back in the day. Andrew pulled out the frame pump and pumped up my tire while I shivered and watched. I am glad he was there. Not that it is any big deal to pump up a tire with the road morph but it is a lot faster with a floor pump. Besides, within 2 minutes of my getting on the road again the clouds let loose and it was dumping on me hard. I'm glad I was on the road and not stooping over a frame pump without my jacket on (I had draped it over my brooks saddle to protect the leather, I forgot to put a plastic baggie on it).

I forgot which corner the bike shop was on and since I was freezing and would freeze worse upone stopping I elected to come back and make my donation when I was warm. I pushed as hard as I had strength on the way home. I eventually got there and had itchy feet as I warmed up in the shower. For me itchy feet means I was really cold and the tissues are having issues warming up. Though it is spring it was definitely a winter ride. I just learned a scout troop from a ward in our church building got stuck in snow up at Reavis Ranch in the superstitions so yeah, it was a long wet cold ride. I ended up with 75 miles. Not too short of the 80 I had originally planned on. In fact, given the conditions, that was probably a little better given the wind and all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Surprise Evening Commute

I worked until after 6 PM last night. The crux is I missed the bus. My wife said she would meet me at the price and main park and ride so I took of around 20 after and picked up a planet bike superflash at the corner bike shop. I have always wanted to buy one of these as I have heard they are unbelievably bright. They are. I could use this thing as a red flashlight. Anyway, I snapped some pretty pictures of Camelback mtn at sunset and I thought I would share them. The headwinds were atrocious but at least the scenery in the evening glow makes up for it. My wife didn't recognize me cruising into the parking lot with the top buttons of my shirt undone and my sleeves rolled up, of course there was the helmet bandana and weird mirror as well.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

El Tour de Phoenix

In the predawn hours a large group of Wanna Be's line up at the front of the gold section at El Tour de Phoenix. Some of them are sufficiently prepared and ready to be the wagging tail at the back of the platinum pack, and some of them flatter themselves and will be a danger to themselves and others. Unfortunately you will not be able to tell the difference until things get hot and heavy whaling down University at 30+ mph like a swarm of humming bees shot out of a cannon.

I of course am not among the wanna be's this morning. I don't think I could hold 35 even in a paceline. I stand at the end of the platinum area assisting in collecting passes. Well, actually I don't collect any passes. I just stand next to the lady collecting the passes. Perhaps I am the bouncer. Yes, I am the bike patrol bouncer ha ha! Ready to pick up the unruly wanna be like a skinny spandex clad toothpick and thrust him back into the gathering masses all hoping for a touch of glory, a chance to shine, A chance to not have to wake up in the middle of the night to get a good spot in the queue at El Tour de Tucson in 8 months.

Around 6 am I am noticing my little 4.5 mile warmup ride to get up here from the house is starting to wear off and I am shivering occasionally. at 6:20 the platinum section is almost full and I ask people to make room for more of the priveliged few. Those that have proved themselves. We gather and soon Sterling's wife is singing the national anthem. Soon the tapes are dropped and the group is off. Slowly pouring out of the shoot like water cresting a dam. Slowly it peaks over and grows increasingly fast as it wears a larger hole in the top. Then a minute or so later the gold group and the masses are given there chance to strive for glory.

Around now I have clearance to go get in line. I manage to weedle my way in near the end of the shoot and am not starting dead last. I am probably just behind the head of the silver group. We work our way out of the shoot and then the speeds pick up and in no time we are cruising down University at a nice 25 mph or so. I work around a few pacelines. A few people drop off here and there. I help to close a few developing gaps. I see another bike patroller up ahead. We pass around four of them riding together. It is a beautiful morning.

We sped down University and then about 6 or 7 miles in I spot an accident off to the side of the road. A policeman is sitting next to a lady down on the pavement. I stop. I must assist. I am bike patrol. So, seeing as the police officer was taking care of her I called up the event officials and gave them the scoop and checked on the details of getting her bike picked up for her riding companions. I mention I got hit by a bus three weeks ago but now that I think about it that's probably not that comforting but perhaps it creates a distraction fromt the pain? Ok, maybe it was a dumb way of showing empathy but hopefully the intention was appreciated. I gather details to fill out my report. She hit a water bottle dropped by what I can only assume was a wanna be. Someone who made others pay for his/her platinum achievement. A hollow victory indeed. Get the crap out of the paceline if your going to drink doofi! Finally the event official pulls up to collect the bike and get me out on the route again. I have been stopped for around 20 minutes. I am surprised to learn there are around 10 people left behind me. I figured I was in dead last. The Ambulance pulls off and I am off behind it at a safe distance.

I discover that the paceline was hiding a fairly stiff headwind at this point and I push on. Occasionally I try the drops but I find the reduced oxygen intake slows me as much as the wind did. My drops are too deep. I have new handlebars on the way but they won't be here until next week. On I push turn onto Alma School. What is this? A rider? I slowly approach and as I pass she latches on. Being the fine and polite lady that she is she asks if I mind. Being a gentleman I do not. We move along passing a few more riders as we turn onto Mckellips into the wind again. Just when the wind got annoying, the two ladys that were at the accident pulled by and offered to tug us along. They were fast.

I was very appreciative of their effort. We passed people faster now. These ladys must have been up close to the Platinum group and deservedly so. Turning up onto Hayden I offer to take a pull. I think I am doing Ok at pulling the pace but I am burning matches. Finally the lady in blue in a way to spare my ego says I shouldn't waste my strength since they will be dropping out at the hospital up ahead anyway. I am hanging onto their tails for dear life. I don't know if they were really that strong or if they were just in a hurry to get to the hospital but HOLY ACCELERATIUNG AMAZONS BATMAN! About a quarter mile for the turn on Osborn to Scottsdale Memorial they dropped me. They motion to the confused officer directing traffic that they are leaving the course on purpose. With the turn they wander off into forgotten roads and have left the seekers of glory winding their way along the course. Yes, even the folks at the back are seekers of glory my friends. The seek for the great accomplishment of finishing. Whether it be the 50 something, the clydesdale, the newbie, the weekend warrior. They are all bent on finishing. Perhaps none of their friends are cyclists. Monday morning an water cooler talk will be centered around so and so who rode 72 miles on Saturday, ON A BICYCLE, of all things.

I am passing people regularly now. Asking the occasional person changing a flat if they are OK and being told they are good go ahead. I start asking every person I pass how they are doing. We are not yet to the halfway point or the hills, and so the answers are uniformely positive. It is a beautiful morning. I enjoy riding beneath the shady trees that line Hayden road in spots. I continue to spy riders up ahead and slowly pass them. I am feeling strong. I am feeling really good. I am developing an inflated ego. I enjoy talking to people as I pass though.

Soon we are on Shea and I am passing folks faster now. We have a spunky tailwind and it is a beautiful climb up Shea. We alternate between 1 and 2 % grades and I am keeping 15-16 mph. Folks are still fairly positive. I elect to skip the aid station since I still have a bottle and a half of Paul's Cheap Maltodextrin mixture juice in the bottles and I feel no hunger. We move up into the buttes and folks are getting out of breath and the responses get more varied. On man tells me to ask him again in 20 minutes as we spy the top a mile ahead at the top of a five percent grade. Others pant out a meager "fine, you?" and then more panting.

Soon we are over the top and despite myself I am in the drops cruising down the hill into Fountain Hills. Hills Hills Hills. The Fountain is in fact surrounded by hills. There's Shea, 9 mile hill over near rio verde, and then there is the hill we are about to climb, the 7-8 mile climb up the beeline awaiting us. It is not a steep hill, it's just long. I am fortunate enough to get a green arrow as I approach the beeline and cruise through unhindered. This is probably the one intersection folks have to wait since the police have to let the highway flow, they are there to keep the cyclists safe (sometimes those wanna be's would kill themselves for the lust of platinum unfortunately).

I manage to grab the tug of a tandem down to the Verde River crossing. All is well. Passing them at the bottom I thank them. They have the harder climb ahead of them now. For tandems the faster descents take their toll on the climbs. I am climbing this hill faster than I ever have before. I believe I have a tailwind. I am cruising up the hill at 15-16 mph. It is true I am at a threshold pace but it is sustainable, I pant a little but not excessively. As I progress up the hill the answer to my queries of people grow more varied. Some say they are ok, others are fine. A few jolly souls are doing wonderful. Then near the top I spot a damsel in distress.

She holds her bike looking forlorn and doesn't think I can help when I ask as she thinks her bike is broken. I tell her to let me take a look and see what is up with it. Apparently she crashed on it and it feels funny and the chain is stuck or broken or something. Her derailleur is bent and has shifted the chain into her spokes which are bladed. I jiggle the chain backward as I turn the wheel slowly backward and get the chain free. The derailleur is rubbing the spokes. I try to straighten it but it is pretty stiff. Feeling like Dora the Explorer I go to my seatbag. Seatbag seatbag.... seatbag seatbag. Anything you need it will give directly to you. Seatbag seatbag. Hey kids! What item from the the seatbag will help Paul to make a bent derailleur useful? A shifter cable? Noooooo! An extra inner tube? Nooooo! A patch kit? Noooooo! A zip tie? Noooo! How about the Crank Bros. Muli-Tool? Yesssss! I adjusted her derailleur to stop before it hit her spokes when she shifted into the lowest gear. As we pulled away we noticed her brake was rubbing. Both her wheels were true so I deduced her brake itself had got twisted and I moved it straight again. I advised her to tell her mechanic she had a bent derailleur and the chain went into the spokes next time she took it in. I also advised her to ride conservatively from there. Who knows if the chain damaged the spokes and with today's low spoke count wheels there is less forgiveness for a broken spoke.

Another 1/4 mile and I was at the next aid station and the Bush Highway. I still had some of Paul's pure Maltodextrin Mixture so I elected to skip it. I sped down the road. Coming upon a water bottle in the road I play foot polo with it at 20+ mph and watch it fly up into the bushes on the side of the road. It would not do to have a distracted cyclists hit that and take a spill. My but there were a lot of dropped bottles today. Is it really going to hurt your time that badly to have an empty bottle on your bike? Doofie.

A rider in a flourescent jersey latches on to me approaching the blue point bridge. I didn't think anything about it until I spied his aero-bars in my rearview mirror. I inform him they are against the rules and are grounds for disqualification. He says he got into them by mistake. Hmmm. I am surprised no one noticed them sooner. That was about where I dropped him. Perhaps he let me go not wanting to get any more of my talk. I am a bitter man. My bike fitter told me to ditch the aero bars as my diaphram was getting crunched and they weren't doing me any good. We were specifically told to watch for aerobars though.

Quickly I am to the corner of Bush Highway and Usery Pass road. I get waved through by the officer there, I thank him as I have every officer on the route. I am amazed that I am not so far back they have stopped waving me through. I have not had to stop for one intersection. Just before the aid station a fellow is carrying his bike. He has snapped his derailleur in two. Before I can do too much for him the aid station bike mechanic (I didn't know they had such things but this is the Brumby's aid station and they do things right by golly!). SInce he is taken care of. I stop at the aid station to get a cup of water and a half a bananna before the hill. I have to use the restroom but there is a line and I am in a hurry. Why? I don't know. I'm bike patrol so I don't get an official time. I have already blown the gold deadline anyway. Perhaps I want to see what I can do. I am off to tame the beast. This is the hill I rode 4 times last week. I chat with people I pass as we climb. There is only one rider who passes me and then stays in view all the way to the top.

As we climb the responses get a little more negative. My favorite response was from a lady.

"How are you doing?"

"Well, except for my A** I'm doing pretty good".

Othere spoke of wishing they had trained more. A few people I stopped to point out the nob at the top of the hill and let them know they were almost there and it would get less steep as they progressed. I passed another bike patrol guy slaving away. I felt pretty good, and was pedalling strong as climbed the hill. I spared no expense. This was the last hill of the day and there was a good descent on the other side nearly all the way to the finish line. We crested and I got in the drops. Not to far past the top I got passed by a Brumby. I was surprised as I thought they were all long done. He was going at a pretty good clip so he must have stopped for awhile at the aid station.

Turning onto University there was a pretty good headwind. Yes it was a headwind but there were only 3 miles of headwind. That wasn't too bad. I passed the guy on the trike again, and steeled the legs as I was determined to finish strong. Slowly the last few miles tore away and I rounded the corner to be cheered on by the lady who had collected Platinum passes that morning. I passed several kid riders from the family fun ride and then I was in the finish shoot at Red Mountain park. I did some searching for where I could turn in my report and eventually hooked up with an official who would take it. Just after that I ran into Sheila and said hi. She gave me a quick hello and rushed off in a hurry. The PBAA folks are like buzzing bees at these events. There is so much to do and so few volounteers.

From here I sought out the cookies and the barbeque. I downed my bottle of gatorade, my hamburger, a chocolate cookie and a snickerdoodle sitting under a shady tree in the grass which was covered with old rabbit droppings. I didn't have the heart to tell all the riders that were lieing down in it, they were probably to tired to care anyway. My kids like to come by here and watch the rabbits out on the lawn in the evening, thats how I know what those little dry fibrous pellets were. Anyway, I was full by the time I got to the little bag of chocolate chip cookies so I shoved them into my tri-top (I wore it under my bike patrol t-shirt so I could stuff my gear into the pockets instead of wearing a rump pack) to take home to the kids.

I finished in 4 hours and 30 minutes. If you subtract 30 minutes for helping people that comes out to an even 4. That's 18 mph average. Alone undrafting with 2400 feet of climbing and headwinds that is not too bad I think. If I had ridden I would have come in with the gold guys since I would have had the benefit of pacelines. Anyway, it was a good training ride. My resting heartrate was up this morning so my body is working on recover which hopefully will be done by tomorrow. All this weightloss has really made me a better hill climber. I have 10 lbs or so to go and I will call it good.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cochise County Cycling Classic

I have decided to ride the Cochise County Cycling Classic this year in support of Douglas ARC (an organization that helps the mentally challenged of Cochise County). I have decided to rather than make a paltry donation and ride the ride, I have opted to make a serious go of fundraising for this cause. So, seeing as this should be a participation thing I propose the following- You donate money to this cause via the paypal button on your right, and I will carry your name all the way around Cochise County, the land of the brave Apache Chief Cochise and his fierce warriors. If you donate $5, I'll put your name on a list in my pocket. If you donate $15 or more Ill put your name on a sticker I will put on my bicycle (and I would totaly love to have my bicycle covered in stickers, you couldn't go wrong with that much good karma encasing your bicycle!). If you donate over $100 dollars (and someone please take me up on this) I'll sharpie marker your name on my helmet. So in case you didn't pick up on this, you fork over a few bucks, I do all the work. Sound good? Swell, click on that button and let me know your name and if you need a receipt (receipt may take a bit as I will need to get it back from Douglas ARC or Perimeter Bicycling Association of America).