Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not verifiably insane...yet

When one stays up late swearing at the computer trying to install a new networking card, One wakes up late and misses their commtue. Well, I didn't use any of the 7 'deadly' words but my wife says senseless angry babble is still swearing so I guess I was. I had a pretty good head of steam going and in fact found it difficult to go to sleep or even settle down and get back to my happy place. Anyway, that's besides the point. The point is that when one misses their morning ride but still need some miles it is up to the afternoon to get them in.

It starts to stink when there is a heat advisory for the afternoon. Add a headwind to the first half and a tailwind to the last and you have a recipe for a really hot ride. A headwind as you are working harder, and a tailwind as there is not as much cooling breeze for you. It was 113 degrees during my ride. I worked fairly hard for 40 minutes and then headed back in. I did see a couple out there riding their bikes, they were just tooling along though. Probably pretty smart. I found that with soaking my hat in the canal and splashing water on the front of my jersey I could get by, but it was a losing battle so I am glad I didn't have to be out in it any longer.

I don't know how effective training in the heat is. It definitely was not my fastest ride, but it was something I figure. I got a lot more benefit mentally and physically than if I hadn't gone out at all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Top of the World, Devils Canyon, and Flat-ulence

August changes the first flat of many

I don't get a chance to ride with other folks much. I mean I ride with the brumbys and all but that is more of a pack riding thing. I don't ride with small groups much. Bruce and August were intersted in riding the High Country Brevet in August up in Showlow (hopefully they still are after today!), so when they heard I was going on a 100 mile training ride this morning they asked if they could latch on. I am not one to say no to riding companions (time goes so much quicker that way) so we were going to meet at my house at 3 am. Yes, you read right, 3 am. I'm training for Cochise after all right? Although realistically speaking, here in the desert there is a very good reason many of the creatures are nocturnal. Still, we would have our share of the heat by the time I hung my bike up for the day.

August at Gonzales Pass

Bruce overslept so it was just me and August heading across a very dark and still Mesa. It wasn't voted Forbes most boring large town for nothing. I ended up using the hub light at the last minute as I figured we'd be in the dark for a few hours and it sure is nice to have all that light on the road. I mean I can see lizards and other small creatures scurry in my light, even spiders. If you have to travel in a bubble of light in the night, it's nice to have a large bright bubble.

Bruce met us at Mountain View road just before we got on US60. When we all took off we made good time heading out US60. It was still really dark as we cruised out towards Florence Jct.. We were able to get a good line going on the side of the lane as there was only an occaisional car that went by. Things went quite well, until August had a flat. Not just any flat mind you. This was a everyone duck for cover flat. One of those where you don't need to yell about it since everyone already heard. He had a rather large hole in his tire and the threads had ripped apart. We booted it with a piece of old inner tube and a dollar bill. It would turn out that the tire was just shot. With the threads being broken the thing bulged pretty bad even with the boot. As we finished the flat fixing process (in which I, trying to be helpful, popped another tube...Ooops..heh heh. Did I do that?) .

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The sun was just coming up when we passed through Florence Jct. and headed up into Gonzalez pass where we would hang out a bit for August. By the time he got to us he had another blowout. We figured if we put a new tube in, he'd at least get to the Arboretum and maybe even Superior where he could get picked up by his wife. Judging by the fact there is no car in front of my house I am pretty sure he made it back safe.

Picket Post mtn.

Bruce and I hung out at the rest stop in Superior refilling our bottles and listening to the rest stop lady regail us with tales of vandalism and how we should not expect that rest stop to be open in the next day or two. This is unfortunate as this little rest stop is a very nice place to stop and pause a minute. Anyway, after we made sure August was ok we took off to climb the hill of the day and arrive at the top of the world.

This is Bruce

The climb makes no pretense of lulling you in and coddling you up into the heftier parts of the hills. No Sir! With Devil's canyon it is 7% right in your face man! You start the climb and settle into your pace as you begin a pretty long climb (10 miles actually). The Top of the World is at 4600' so there is some good climbing involved. We would climb a little faster than the temperature was rising so we hit a spot with 79 degrees and hung with that temperature to the top.

Bottom of Devil's Canyon

Before going riding with me Bruce emphasized I could leave them at any time and go ahead. Bruce and I are actually fairly evenly matched as far as speed goes. I don't think he will have any trouble with the ride in August. I found myself working hard to stay with him at times. We may have had to stop for flats but in the long run I think I got a better workout for having ridden with him and not gotten lazy than I would have otherwise.

Crags in Devil's Canyon

For being such a long climb it didn't really seem that long. I think it was probably the great scenery and having someone to ride with that made it go so quickly. It was a nice climb and the traffic was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Spires in Devil's Canyon

At the Top of the World there is not a whole lot. There are a few old stores with barbed wire in front of them, some houses and trailers off in the scrub brush and trees, and a man selling "low carb" jerkey on the side of the road in front of the "Top of the World" trading post. We were mostly concerned with stopping at the top of the hill, stretching, taking a picture or two and then rocketing back into Superior for a visit to the Circle K. The air up at 4600' was noticeably cooler than the desert below but we had to get back before the inferno known as the valley got into full swing.

Top of the World

Spires in Devil's Canyon

The descent was wonderful until I started to have funky bike wobbles. I have descended probably hundreds of hills at 40+ mph but never had a problem. This morning, I kept thinking it felt like my back tire was flat since it seemed like it was hitting the cracks pretty hard. This led to me tensing up my arms just when I should have been relaxing them at the first sign of shimmy, and before I knew it I had the tacoma narrows bridge wobbling, shimmying, and waving under my butt at 42 mph. We were just entering the tunnel and all I could think about was getting the bike stopped before I did a face plant or the cars behind us ran me over. The bike was shaking all over as I slowed down. It seemed like forever as I did the funky jiggle through the tunnel looking for a place I could crash where I wouldn't get run over. In the end I saved it, much to the relief of Bruce who was behind me. Needless to say I took the rest of the hill slower while I tried to relax my arms so they wouldn't do it again.

Devil's Canyon

It was starting to get warm down in Superior and pouring the rest of the bottle of water over my head was quite refreshing as it was really cold. It was a quick ride over Gonzales pass. Just before Florence Jct. Bruce hit a wineglass in the road and shattered it. It was quite impressive and I couldn't help but shout Mazeltav! Unfortunately down the road he had a blowout which was probably fallout from that very incident.

By the time we got to Gold Canyon it was in the mid 90s and Bruce tried the ice in a sock trick and I must say when I tried it at his urging a ways down the road it was quite effective. I downed a couple of strawberry milks at Gold Canyon and then we were off after Bruce made some repairs to his seat bottle holder.

Up near the end of Broadway road Bruce's tire was showing signs of imminent flatting and he decided he was just going to cut short and head back to his car back a few miles so we parted ways. Since he took the sock I started to notice it was getting hot. 104 degrees to be specific according to weatherunderground.com. That's a toasty temperature to be finishing a 100 mile ride in. To make matters worse the winds had shifted and I had a 15 mph headwind all they way through Mesa. I managed to keep a good speed but the last few miles were a bit of a hot slog.

I had originally planned on getting back around 10 so I hadn't brought sunscreen which I probably should have. One thing that did go right is I hydrated well and weighed in right were I was before I left so that was good. I would end up with 103 miles with a 16.3 mph average over 6 hours and 19 minutes with 4061 feet of climbing. Not a bad mornings work really. What more can you ask for? A long road, a big ascent serenaded by songbirds, cold water, ice, and a pleasant person to talk to while you ride. It doesn't get any better than that really.

Back to the superstitions

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mountains, Lakes, and Old Friends

Sunrise on the Bush Highway overpass on the beeline hwy.

I am not going to write a lengthy blog entry tonight. It's late and I lost a lot of sleep Saturday due to my waking up 3 AM to get a ride in before we drove up to Flagstaff for my 20 year high school reunion. The pictures kind of tell it though.

Though it was early, I did see a few other cyclists climbing Usery. The temp was 81 degrees at 3:30 am. I found a spot that was 73 just before dawn over near the lake but that was a strange pocket of cool air and not the norm.

Sunrise over four peaks.
The sunrise was just to pretty to not take a few pictures of. Traffic was light and it was a perfect morning. I stashed a water bottle at the blue point bridge but I didn't need it as I had stocked up on water in the previous days and did fine most of the ride (4 hours, 2.5 water bottles and I didn't lose any weight over the ride so I did really well).
My faithful steed (so far) on the fishing platform at Saguaro lake.
I surpised a whole herd of Javalina (hows that for a tong twister) on my way down to Butcher Jones just after dawn. There were around 10 of them. It was kind of cool.

Faithful steed at Butcher Jones beach

Looking across Saguaro Lake from keyhole area.

I decided to ride down to both butcher jones and the boat ramps to get some extra climbing in. It was a beautiful day to ride down to the lake.

Riding along road next to lake.

Bush Highway below Dam

The cliffs along the bush hwy are always pretty and under the first rays of the morning make me wish I had brought the good camera. I was pleased that this time I did NOT get a wasp in my jersey coming down this hill (I have learned to zip up the jersey before descending in summertime).
Cliffs along Bush Hwy.

Edge of Civilisation near User Pass.
It was 90 degress when I got home. I managed to get 3400' feet of climbing in over 60 miles with an average speed of 15 mph. Not horribly fast, but not my worst time either. It was a beautiful morning.
The reunion turned out nice too. I wasn't a member of the popular crowd by any means. I was pleased to find I had friends of friends there and eventually friends I hadn't seen in 20 years showed up too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me....

All dressed out and ready to go.
I had to work late and at 6:45 I realized if I had 19 miles to ride home and if I didn't get to the parking lot before 8 pm I would be riding in the dark without lights. So, despite my near record time this morning and the legs I had run until they were dead this morning still recovering, I would need to make it back to the car in under an hour. A tall order for 19 miles with several hills adding up to over 350 feet of climbing. So, with my buff soaked and put under my helmet, a bit of water on the front of my jersey, and a waterbottle that was frozen solid I was off into the 100 degree heat to sweat myself back to the car in near record time.

A Monsoon storm brewing behind Squaw peak and the Phoenix Mountains
Turning onto the dreamy draw a large man in a hawaiian shirt is shouting F bombs at a lady in a car. He is really in a rage so I stop and stare. I don't do this out of curiosity. I don't want to get involved. I just want to show this big baby he is being watched so he doesn't do anything stupid. I hold my cell phone as he shouts something stupid about her leaving something on the printer. I think how terrible it is that people have to work for some idiot like this and wonder why don't they quit instead of letting this moron fire them. Then I think back to a boss like this I had awhile back. He finishes and storms off. She appears to be very upset. I hope she realizes that she is better off. Hopefully she finds a new job soon. It's funny how silly people look when they try to look tough by letting f-bombs fly. One or two make you look really mad. When you start getting into dozens a minute you are just silly and it loses it's effect I am afraid.

The clouds are beautiful though and I am soon climbing up past the Phoenix Mtns enjoying the cloud formations hoping one of those cells is raining on my house way out east.

Storm to the north.

My legs are burning as I hurry to beat the sunset. I climb the last hill and am pushing across the top of the hill and speed up to 27mph down the other side and hold it down towards Tempe. At one point a guy on a nice Cervalo time trial bike tucks in behind me. I'm going 25 and breathing hard but he holds on. I don't know if he is just cooling down or if he is enjoying the pull but he stays on for a few miles before pealing off just before the hill down onto Curry road next to Papago park wishing me good luck as he turns west. I check me computer and notice I have averaged 19.4 mph to this point. I have hopes of hitting a 20 mph average before the park and ride. I am hurting a bit but I still hold it above 20 heading back into Tempe. By the time I reach the park and ride I am at 19.7 mph and at 57 minutes and change. Not 20 but it's still a good time.

I'm not as bad off as I look. Just concentrating as I take the picture.

Back at the car.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mmmmm tastes salty....Ewwwww.....

Well. I couldn't put it off any further. And frankly, I don't think it would have been wise for me to put it off another day. I commuted all the way in today. I didn't get a whole lot of riding in last week after we got back from Utah and by Monday morning I had been in a pretty strong depression for several days. Bicycling nearly everyday has allowed me to get off my antidepressants and so when I missed several days I think it led to a couple of really crappy days. Yesterday morning I forced myself out for 11 miles. Today I was back at it for real. I've had a bit of what I think is a problem with my sciatic nerve which is a pain in my butt going down the back of my thigh. Cycling seems to help it. I can't figure out what caused the problem, perhaps it was doing back flips into the pool Saturday night. I dared my 6 year old son to do a back flip off the diving board and he didn't jump back far enough and the diving board gave him a rasberry on his chest and chin as he dropped into the water. I felt bad and since I had dared him, I got on the board and executed my first back flip. I guess we both got our war wounds in the end.

Back to today's commute though. I haven't done a full commute in with it this hot yet. Not to mention I pushed it pretty hard today. I am working on developing power in the aero bars. With my increased flexibility from my hamstring stretches I have been doing, I have a much flatter back in the bars these days. It still has a curve towards the back but the front is flat. I used to make a big half circle with my back which led to neck pain and in reality, very little aero benefit. I am much better now. My current challenge is to try and get as much power to the pedals in the bars as I do sitting up. So far I am faster on flats or downhill, but any uphill however slight it is sees me going faster in the upright position.

Today I managed to stay at 23-25 mph most of the way accross Mesa which isn't too bad. It was warm but I was doing ok. Getting into Tempe though I was getting hot. In fact as I got closer to Camelback Mtn. my times dropped and I was losing the battle against the heat since I was working REALLY hard and the terrain tended to the uphill. It was in the lower 90s. Somewhere around Camelback road I started getting sweat in my mouth. My buff (really cool product with many uses, one of which helps wick sweat off your forehead) I was wearing was keeping it out of my eyes but the output of sweat was enormous.

I did manage to push out the last 3 hills but I couldn't have taken much more. Just at the spot I start my cooldown I got a flat, which actually turned into 2 thanks to a pinchflat. I am not looking forward to the ride down to the bus stop this afternoon in 110+ degree heat. I am going to fully dress out for the ride and couldn't care less what all the business types on the express bus think. It will be better than business clothes drenched in sweat and the desert dweller has to dress to the conditions. Now to go put my waterbottle in the freezer.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The best 30 miles of cycling on the planet (in my humble opinion).

The Alpine Loop has to be 30 of the best cycling miles on the planet. Even if you don't like hills the scenery is epic and takes one's mind off the suffering. From my Sister's house you wind up with around 65 miles and 4000 feet of climbing by the time you are done. Most of the climbing is done in one big hill.

Leaving Pleasant Grove and approaching American Fork canyon.

I was out of the house just after 4 am so I could be back by 9. It was a chilly morning but not too bad so I thought I would be OK. The temps leaving town were around 55 degrees. It was a nice ride down through the fields west of Provo. I saw one other rider who promptly dropped me after he got back on his bike after fixing a flat. I let him go as I was likely doing a much longer ride than him, and also on Saturday I did a pretty strenuous ride and I was pushing it to do this ride today 2 days later. The flat faeries paid me a visit right after. I elected to put a new tube in since I was in a hurry to get back before 9. I forgot to pick up my old tube though and felt bad about leaving it on the lawn of the industrial plant whose light I changed the tube under.

Just as dawn was peeking over the mountains I started my gradual climb through pleasant grove up to the entrance to American Fork canyon. Just before I got to the top of the hill a small group of cyclists pulled out ahead and rode off. I repeated to myself that I was riding my own ride this morning and it wouldn't do any good to blow up before entering the canyon and the big climbing. I stopped at the mouth of the canyon to take a picture of my bike with the national forest sign. While I was stopped a guy on a mountain bike rode by. I caught him pretty quick after I got back on the bike. I commented on the beautiful morning, and he commented on the wind. The wind was indeed howling out the mouth of the canyon but I figured that was just they way canyon mouths were. He said he was from Tempe originally when I mentioned I was from Mesa. He asked if I was going to the top, which of course I was. I pulled away and headed up into the wind.
Road near mouth of canyon
Spires and cliffs above road

Mountain stream by road.

The grade steps up to 6% pretty quick once you are in the canyon, but to make things more livable, the beautiful trees and swift mountain stream start up. It's wonderful to be breathing heavy and sucking in the fresh air and the smells of the oak trees alongside the creek. Birds are singing in the trees on the side of the road and majestic cliffs tower overhead. Soon I will tower over the cliffs. Up ahead I spot a cyclists who I slowly catch up with. Right as I pass him and exchange a hello I see A great picture of the river and stop. When I start again I catch him fast as he has stopped at a picnic area to turn around.
Paul is loving life at 6% grade

On up the canyon I move on. I pass Timpanogas cave national monument (not a lot of cave to see from the bike but the scenery is still wonderful). On up the canyon. The creek amazingly enough falls at the same grade the road does and creates a load roaring as the water slams into the rocks in it's rush to reach the mouth of the canyon. I pass small picnic areas nestled into the small spaces between the road and the canyon wall or the river and the canyon wall. Soon I am at the fork in the road where the Alpine Loop goes. From here the road is one lane.
Mountain View
The road climbs up the steep side of the canyon.
The road clings to the hillside
Looking up at Timpanogas
Waterfall on side of road

Another waterfall on side of road

In here the road ramps up to a constance 8% grade. I keep moving the pedals around and notice I am catching up with one of the guys from the small group I saw earlier. By the second switchback I have nearly caught him but stop to take a picture of Mt. Timpanogas. Around the corner his buddies have been waiting for him and they turn around to head back down. I still have miles more of this before reaching the top.
Paul working hard at 8% grade
Mt. Timpanogas' north peak
The road bikers equivalent to single track.
Aspen Grove a half mile from the top.
Mt. Timpanogas

The road clings to the cliff face as it rounds bend after bend ever climbing higher into the alpine air and mountains. Now we are looking down at some of the shorter mountains and looking up into the tops of canyons on the side of Timpanogas. Soon we are back by the creek and into the forest but the grade does not let up. Corner after corner we climb through firs and aspen forests. I spot the occasional deer. One even has some antlers growing. I also spot a guy on a horse down in the forest as I get into the last mile of the climb. It's cold in the shadier parts of the climb. My thermometer reads 43 degrees at one point. If it weren't for the fact I was working pretty hard I would be cold.

Flowers near the summit

Finally I see the top and get there after stopping to take a picture of some of the alpine wildflowers. I stop at the trailhead at the summit to look for a garbage can where I might find a clean garbage bag tucked inside under the bag but there are no garbage cans. I will have to freeze on the coming descent.
The noble steed, with custom taillight (see previous blog entry for details)

A frosty Paul at the summit

The descent is beautiful and I stop several times on the way down to snap pictures. There are many unsigned hairpin turns and it behooves one to stay at a reasonable speed to avoid shooting off the edge of the road. There are other cyclists climbing up this side and I give each one a nod as they pass. This is a tricky road to descend as it is steep and the turns are sharp so one needs to be careful.

Dropping below majestic canyons and peaks I am rocketing through the lodges of Sundance ski resort (Robert Redford's digs). The road below is shaded and hits 9% as I speed down the road and slowly get colder and colder. A few more switchbacks and I am approaching the junction with Provo canyon where the sun is shining warmly. Provo canyon is warm but due to a 4 lane highway it doesn't quite have the same atmosphere and panache of the loop road that towers above it.
Mountains above the south side of the loop

All too soon I am back in Provo getting stopped by traffic lights and navigating through traffic. I pass a commuter who does an amazing job of keeping up. I think she has one of those electric bikes, then again, she just could be really fit and waiting for unsuspecting roadie snobs like me to intimidate with her ability to keep up on a frumpy commuting bike designed for short little jaunts. I eventually drop her after an embarrasing moment when I got in the wrong left turn lane not realizing both lanes turned left (fortunately they let me through). Soon afterward I am climbing the hill back up to my sisters house. It is now 71 degrees, a much different temperature than when I left this morning or even than I was riding through an hour ago.
Mountains above Sundance Ski Resort

In the end I climbed 4000 feet rode 65 miles in 4 hours and 35 minutes for an average speed of 14.4 mph. I won't brag that it is an awesome time, but I will say I am happy with it. I stayed strong throughout the ride and I was not expecting that since I pushed so hard on Saturday. I guess my eat anything that looks like food strategy on Sunday worked for recovery.

Tunnels in Provo canyon