Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pain on the Backside or Choose your Poison

yep,  the start is the easy part.

Once upon a time, I was an overweight programmer with a little used Mountain bike and a desire to make a change.  It started with lunchtime visits to the gym in the basement where I worked and eventually graduated from the excersize bike to the mountain bike and then one day I thought I would stop by the old bicycle shop on main street which was full of old bikes in the offhand chance they might have a road bike.  There was a 1980's era Centurian Lemans in it that was priced at $100 and I bought it.  My last 10 speed was one I found in a snowbank and this one was much better than that as it had index shifting, although it still had the downtube shifters.  Anyway, to cut to the chase,  that Centurian was the first bike I began to seriously roadbike on.

It was on that bike that I road the backside of Usery Pass for the first time.  It was a 12 speed and was not geared for hills but I made do.  I remember slaving up the backside of Usery pass and thinking that the hill went on forever as I slowly made my way up the grade that did not look as steep as it felt.  I remember getting to the turn around the nob and thinking I was at the top and then dealing with the disappointment of finding more hill behind it,  and then after another corner or two, the victory of cresting the hill and the chance to catch my breath.

Saturday I got to introduce my Son's to this great experience since the winds favored riding the loop clockwise.  I got to hear their frustration at the hill when they were not quite halfway up.  I got to push my older son in an attempt to catch up with my younger one who had decided in his anger at the hill to ride faster.  I got a passing roadie to ask him to wait for us and the boys got a break to get a drink and remuster the resolve.  This was just above the parking area for the area the mountain bike community calls 'NRA'.  At this point the hill is pretty much in the bag as it slowly gets less steep from there.  The boys for some reason did not believe this.  They only saw more hill and did not notice that they were not breathing as heavy, or riding faster.  Near the last corner my youngest just about stopped and wouldn't go on but he pressed on around the corner and got to taste the victory and enjoy the slow descent on the other side thanks to the headwind.

I'll take a headwind going down a hill anyday as opposed to on the flats.   The boys did just fine.  We managed to get an extra mile and a half in today.  I was hoping we would get more but we were extremely busy this Saturday.  Next Saturday we'll try and get around 25 miles in, and the Saturday after, I hope I can get them up to 30 and then we'll call it good and head off to El Tour the following Saturday.  I got the day off so I think  we're going to go down the day before and I'll show them Mt. Lemmon,  and then, perhaps we will actually make it to the Bike Expo/Registration before the last 20 minutes when everyone is putting everything away unlike just about every other year I have ridden it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

They Conquered Kong.

Good morning good readers.   The saga of our quest for El Tour de Tucson's 40 mile ride continues with a few new twists!  It's funny how there really is no good time to train sometimes.  Our Saturday today has the kids doing something throughout the day.  Next week will be just as bad for me.  So the early bird must get the worm before he gets too busy.

The boys were amazingly easy to wake up just before dawn.  Usually during the week it is really tough to get them up.  We had a really busy time of it getting everything together and also installing one of my speedometers on my youngest son's bike.  I promised him I would do  it in the hopes it would motivate him.  It did mostly.

When we finally got to Walgreens it was around 7 and I knew we would need to do this loop in under 2 hours if we were to get my boys to their first gig this morning at the church.  I kind of figured at this point the chances of being late were pretty high but moved forward hoping it would work out.

My youngest son took great relish in calling out how far we had gone as we began our 6 mile climb up to Usery Pass.  I am proud to say we stopped a lot less this time and there was zero whining.  We saw several packs of riders cruise through as we neared the top of the pass one guy smiled and made a crack about child abuse which was funny because they were a lot more jazzed this week.

Near the top my youngest gave me his coat again.  Not too long after I snapped the above picture I dropped his coat.  I told them to keep going (since they were only going about 20 mph I figured I'd catch up quick).  After retrieving the coat I peddled like a madman and had almost caught them when my pump came loose.  So,  after retrieving the pump, I peddled like a maniac again,  and this time I caught up much to my son's amazement.

 My oldest son conquers King Kong

We didn't have a glorious tailwind this week on the back side unfortunately.   Still the boys did good as they were looking forward to dropping down Little Kong.  We managed about 10-12 mph most of the way and stopped at the bottom of big Kong to shift them into their granny gears and down some cookies and gatorade.  Then we attacked the hill (which holds 9% for a good stretch).  I told the boys to go as far as they could and they could walk from there.

My first son was a ways ahead of us when I started out with the younger one.  I told him I'd be happy if they made it past the stop sign since that's where the first one stopped to walk last week.   I was amazed to see my boy ahead pass the stop sign and keep pushing strongly up the hill.  I talked to my nearest son about setting intermediate goals on this hill.  Mentally telling yourself you'll make it to the stop sign,  then the next power pole,  then the speed limit sign,  and after that..... the top.  I stared on in amazement as they passed each mark and kept going.  Just before the top we caught the front son and I was just able to get far enough ahead of him to snap a picture as he hit the canal bridge at the top.  But wait,  there's more.

I kept up with the congratulations and atta boys as we moved down the road and then a few of the riders that had been approaching from behind caught up to us and asked me how old they were.  I confess I about burst my jersey zipper with pride as I said they were 8.  This led to an interesting conversation.  Turns out one of them was a cycling coach and had a junior cycling team.  He said the age cutoff was 10 years old for racing but they were welcome to come train with them if they wanted to in the meantime.  Interesting...  I might have to mull that one over.  My only issue is we don't ride on Sundays and a lot of races are on Sunday.  I guess we have a few years before we have to worry about that though huh? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The boys climb the pass...

 The boys ascending the hinterlands 

There is a pretty standard training ride around here that is well loved among roadies.   I have included it in a number of blogs.  I've ridden it with scouts,  I've ridden it in the pouring rain, I've ridden it in the dead of night, I've ridden it in the raging winds, and I've gotten heat exhaustion on it in the steaming dregs of summer.  Until today though I have never ridden it with my sons.  A few weeks back we nibbled at the skirts of the frontside of Usery and since then I have speculated whether or not my boys could in fact make the whole loop without a catastrophic tantrum born out of boredom and exhaustion or even a full stop due to a complete inability to keep forward momentum.  So,  can a pair of 8 year olds do the usery loop?

 Proof Positive, a sign, a thirsty boy, and a smiling Dad.

Seeing as some have finished the El Tour De Phoenix short course in the past it must be possible.   I figured we drive to the Walgreens outside of Las Sendas and do the mini-loop which everyone knows and loves.  As we pulled up there were three or four other sets of cyclists getting ready to go Mountain Biking.  Seeing as one of my boys had slicks on (and the other one got his in the mail when we got home), mountain biking was not an option today.  The boys were to get their first taste of a big hill.  Well,  ok so it's only a 6 mile gradual climb of 600 feet, it's still a daunting task for an 8 year old.  Every few miles they would stop for a drink (I have no issues for them stopping for drinks since they don't ride so well with one hand yet).  Towards the top they got a little discouraged and I had to keep helping them along.  The top of Usery plays mind games with you as it has a bunch of false tops.  I am pleased to say that after stopping to take a picture they made it to the top and I shifted them into their big rings on the front.

 Not ANOTHER picture Dad!

I didn't have the heart to tell them that 20-22 mph wasn't that fast going down the backside because we had a headwind.  They really didn't care,  they just had a ball rounding the knob at the top of the hill and then gazing in awe and wonder at the valley far below and asking me if we were going ALL the way down THERE? 

 Granite Reef on the Salt River, w Red Mountain behind

I found it highly amusing that after we turned the corner we were going almost as fast as we had come down the backside because of a wonderful tailwind that blew us along down the bush highway to Granite Reef where we would stop for their final "airhead" break before they would attack Kong.  We actually hit 26 mph heading down little kong into the river bottom.  My son's say that was their favorite part.

The woods are long and dark and deep but.......

Both of them had to hike a bike Kong (which I had planned on).  I was pleased to see my one son made it 3/4 of the way and he only stopped as his chain came off.  My other son ended up climbing about half of the hill.   Just between you and me,  that's a bit better than I did the first time I tried to climb it.
 Dig that stylish jersey.

Final damage?  We went 17.3 miles, climbed 870 feet, in about an hour and forty minutes of riding time (we did stop a bit though and ended up at around 2 hours elapsed time).  Not bad for 8 year olds.  I think they will do fine on the 40 mile route at el Tour.  The hills they climbed today are much worse than anything on that section.   Maybe I should volunteer for bike patrol?  I am a bit of a crossroads.  I don't want to jeopardize my son's finishing but we all know I will end up stopping to help people anyway so I'm thinking of riding as bike patrol officially but I'm still on the fence.  What do ya'all think?  Should I just enjoy this event with my sons, or should I try and do 2 things at once?

Guess who got new gloves this morning?