Monday, November 22, 2010

Tour de Tucson, the two faces of Tucson cycling.


El Tour was absolutely awesome with one ugly exception.  First things first though, for an 8 year old 40 miles may as well be 100.  They have a shorter attention span for one thing.  Then there is the fact that finding a bike with usable gearing in a real event for kid's that size is really hard, although it is getting easier.  Fuji appears to be offering roadbikes in that size now without the suspension forks like my kids have.  I am quite satisfied with the lads now that all is said and done.  There were lows and highs but surprisingly few lows actually.

The expo is always fun, though my boys attention span wasn't quite up to it.  Josh lost his T-Shirt somewhere and we had to go get another one, bless the good folks at PBAA who wouldn't let me pay for another one but made him promise not to lose this one.  Despite my best efforts the boys were too jazzed to get to bed early but did eventually drift off.

The one thing I really like about the shorter distances is being able to see the 109 milers and the peloton cruise by in the morning.  The boys opted to stay in the nice warm hotel room but I went out and watched.  I made the unfortunate discovery the night before that the tape mechanism on my video camera was thrashed and I would be doomed to what I could get onto the SD card in lower resolution and 10 second chunks.  It still worked out alright though as you can see in the video at the bottom.  It's always a rush to see the pro's cruise by as a giant mass ready to consume all before it.

I spent the morning getting everything ready and preparing,  it still seemed like we waited forever for 10:30 to roll around so we could meet the guy I offered to give a lift to the 40 mile start, and head up there.  I don't like starting a ride that late in the day but I understand the safety aspect of waiting for the faster groups to pass before launching all the guys riding at lower levels out onto the course.  It was tough to keep the boys contained and make them sit down for a peanut butter sandwich before heading over to the start line.

Despite being only a forty mile event there were nearly 1200 people there and it was an impressive throng.  We lined up in back and there were several youthful riders and groups back there.  The boys were funny once we finally were able to start several minutes after the first guys went out.  We started off at a walk and the boys kept trying to get into their toe clips but ended up walking some more.  At long last we were clipped in and picking up speed.  I was pleased the boys climbed the first hills strongly and even were passing people.  I constantly had to remind them about proper passing etiquette but I suppose that is par for the course with 8 year olds.

I had forgotten most of the hills along Rancho Vistoso  but the boys were patient with me and didn't get upset with my constant "You know,  I think that this is the last hill before our long downhill stretch" comments.  I even got a chance to shoot some video once the group broke up a bit.  It was still a pretty steady stream of riders though,  I think there was only one time that we really were on our own for a mile or so.

Heading down Moore my elder son pulled ahead and so on Thorneydale, advising my younger son to stay to the right, and keep riding until he saw me,  I bolted off to catch the eldest and make him wait.  I finally got him sighted and was pushing hard to catch up at 25 mph+ to catch him when all of a sudden I am heading into the side of a large grey dually pickup driven by a sailor talking Wilford Brimley type, as I go up onto my front tire and vear sideways out into the lane.   He is dropping F-Words a dozen a sentence on me when I comment on his driving skills out of pure "you almost killed me" adrenaline.  Suddenly,  I am surrounded by cyclists swooping in for the attack and Wilford informs them what he thinks of El Tour in similar fashion and spouts off about having to feed his calves up the road.  He begins to get out of the truck,  like some old fat guy is going to take on 1000 fit cyclists.  no offense to old fat guys of course,  I just don't like the vocal ones of this sort that perhaps have a bit too much attitude for their own good.  Even if they look like kindly old grandpas.  Cooler heads prevailed of course but I left with the parting comment of having to take care of my babies too and caught Joseph.  Thank goodness he made it past this weed of a human being alive.   I suppose I have now finally seen the darker side of the Tucson cycling scene.

Getting ahead of the younger one gave me an opportunity to get some more video of course so that was the bright side of having to speed ahead.  Going down Tangerine the boys hooked up with a 10 year old kid from eastern Arizona and became fast friends.  We'd meet his family when they caught up just as we were leaving the rest stop at the bottom.  I filled up everybody's bottles and grabbed a cookie while the boys were taking care of the results of their appropriate hydration. 

Heading around Airline road,  I make the observation that the guy on the back of this year's tour  jersey has his shorts right over the middle pocket.  It's a terrible location for a banana.  Later I saw a guy with his windbreaker stuffed back there and that was bad too, looking like he actually won a race with a full set of depends on.  Glad I didn't buy it this year.  Funny no one caught that before it got into production.

The kids shot up rattlesnake pass like it was nothing, passing several walkers.  I don't blame the walkers, this is a really hard part of the ride once you are at 90 miles and the headwinds are really taking their toll.  Just before the turn onto Silverbell the lads stop for a drink, and a bunch of team in training lady's have me take their picture.  After cycling between 3 or 4 cameras I turn around and the kids are gone.  Apparently they ran out of patience.  I catch them fairly quickly as they are stopped at the intersection waiting for the officer to wave them through.

The boys would each go through a low point between here and the end but a quick bribe of candy bars with a strong finish motivates them.  My older son pulled ahead on the frontage road and I let him go.  If we hadn't  held him back he probably would have finished under 4 hours easily.  As is he ended up at 4:07 and my youngest came in 4 minutes later.  The evening was fast approaching and it was really pleasant sitting on the grass waiting out the hour until the shuttle came to pick us up.  Fortunately the good folks at the bike check said they would hold our bikes out when they packed up all the unclaimed bikes at 6 to be claimed on Monday morning.   We ended up finally picking up the bikes around 7:30 and after having the local raving derelict inform my boys about wishing on a star and having Santa give them anything they wanted we were off.  I found his instructions a little ironic as it was obvious he either had some disappointed wishes, or else he didn't aim too high.

We made a quick stop along the frontage road so I could change out of my cycling clothes and let my son jettison some unnecessary waste which he stepped in..... barefoot... when my other son pushed him.  He had to smell his brother all the way home so I guess justice was served although unfortunately I also paid.  All in all it was pretty close to a perfect day despite a few unpleasantries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

They're ready.

The last picture I showed you of this spot would have had those boys up to their chins in water.  It is late fall in the desert and the great thirst of the valley below is somewhat abated and the river is held back to store water for next summer.  My sons are still not too disappointed.  Our turnaround today has them getting distracted by some guys on the shore catching little guppies with nets and my boys decide that they must do it too.  As this was our turnaround I should probably fill in the rest of the ride.

Today had the grand distinction of being the last Saturday before El Tour de Tucson.  If we were doing one of the longer distances we probably would have slacked off a little this week but since we are doing the 40 I thought it would be good to get another 30ish mile ride in with some moderate climbing.  We mixed it up this week by adding mileage on both ends of our loop.  We started at Red Mountain Park to get us a few extra miles at the start and end of the ride,  and would add a brisk jaunt through the rollers east on the Bush Highway along those wonderful new stimulus shoulders.  Mmmmm Stimulus shoulders.  It didn't help my friends keep their house,  but boy it sure put some nice shoulders on our beloved Bush Highway.

So I had to coax my son with ADHD up the first long hill a bit (he gets a little intimidated at the beginning of these long rides) but after we got over the top he got into it.   My other son suddenly decided he was scared of going fast and so we descended the backside of Usery pass at a tepid 17-20 mph. 

Turning right at four corners was a new thing for them as was the wonderful world of rollers.  I was much relieved to find my son that was scared apparently had no qualms about zooming down one side of a gully so he could zoom up the other side.  They handled the rollers amazingly well.  They didn't even give me too much whining around the final several corners before we got to the "Water Users"  area where Salt River Rec puts the tubers in the river during the summer.

This was our destination today mainly because it happened to be where those wonderful stimulus shoulders stopped,  but the fact it had a cool little spot to go down to the river didn't hurt either.  The boys needed something to break the ride up a bit and this did quite well.

We did have a moment or two on the way back,  particularly when after a good long ride we were back at four corners again and they realized we still had all that way to go to get to Kong.  I finally got the youngest to drink his gatorade (always feed a grumpy mood in ultra cycling,  figured it would work here too).  Pretty soon we were bombing down little Kong and they were getting jazzed about climbing Kong.  The youngest did it today and the oldest had to walk a bit but I figured that was OK.  It's tough to climb a steep hill like that at the end of a tough ride.

They ended up with 30 miles with over 1000 feet of climbing.  Most of the 40 mile El Tour route is downhill or fairly flat so I think they will finish strong.   Excitement will help a lot I am sure.  In any case, they are ready and so am I!  I just hope they don't run out of shirts for us folks that can't get down to the expo before Friday afternoon (grumble grumble,  a few years back, despite having registered 6 months previously they ran out, meaning that the folks that registered late got my shirt!  They did eventually mail me one though).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Friends in Low Places

Riding up Ellsworth the other day I found a little,  well,  I guess he wasn't that little by snake standards, fella feeling a little left out in the cold on the side of the road.  Knowing what it was like myself to recieve the cold shoulder once in awhile I determined I could not leave this poor guy all alone in a cruel cold world.  It would be cold blooded indeed.  Of course,  a person in bicycle clothes is not necessarily dressed to be a snake handler,  still I kept my cool.  While my friend chilled out I searched the bushes for a long stick to help our friend cool his heals in a safer place.  Having found a stick I gently prodded it under my friend hoping he wouldn't lose his cool and freak out.  Fortunately he was out cold and I threw him into the bushes to sleep it off.

I guess Snakes just don't do so hot when it is 45 degrees out despite what Midnight Oil said about the western desert (or perhaps they meant celsius).  For that matter,  without a wind vest and full finger gloves,  neither do I.  The weather man said low 50's.  Apparently his definition of low fifties and my thermometer's definition differ.  Anyway,  it was a chilly morning.  Aside from the snake it was actually a very smooth and steady ride around the foothills of Usery Mtn.  I opted not to climb up to McDowell today since time was short.  It was a good ride albeit a little underdressed.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Rescuing the motorcycle with the bike.

My personal cycling life has been in a severe depression the last few months. Probably since my Dad Died I think. Don't get me wrong, I have loved doing the rides with my sons, and I think I am getting closer to finding good ways to motivate my oldest daughter without getting really frustrated from the whining. One of the greatest regrets of my life is not keeping up on cycling with her and I don't think it is too late, but it will be a hard road to getting her in shape and excited to cycle again. That's not what this post is about though.

I have been in a bicycle depression. I have not been commuting by bike, I have not been able to train since riding with my kids is not fast enough to challenge me unless I am towing my youngest on the trail a bike. I maintained my commitment to support the August Brevet but I did not want to be there. Whether it is jealousy or something else, I kind of resent that whole deal as it is not a part of my life right now and it feels like there is a piece missing. I have been suffering a bit feeling that my fitness is falling. Stumbling upon a youtube video that showed me topping the hill on Shea during the Tour de Phoenix pains me as I know I was about as close as you can get to Platinum shape without being platinum. My time would have got me platinum last year. At the time I knew it would be my last hurrah for awhile in the back of my head.
I believe it is worth it in the long run to spend the time getting my kids up to speed on cycling and that I am investing in something that will pay off big in the long run. It hurts right now to miss that other part of me though. I do think I am slowly getting back a bit. I rode my bike to vote earlier this week, and I also rode my bike to pick up my motorcycle where I had left it after I fixed the flat our van had and drove it home (the bike rack I built for the Motorcycle needs a few refinements but it works so far). I am starting to get motivated to squeeze in some bicycle time for me when I can. I think I am adjusting at long last and I do not resent my bicycle anymore.

I got a bit of a chance to escape this morning though as the boys need a rest day before Saturday (at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). I asked my wife if she could get the kids to school while I take an hour ride and she said yes. So, after I downed a few pieces of toast and a glass of water, I tucked a few CO2 cartridges and my lipstick pump (my backup, too small to get the tire to full pressure but enough to get me out of a situation) in my seatpack, pumped up the tires, searched for my sunglasses, remembered to put my contacts in, strapped my helmet on, and left. Of course I was not out the door when I wanted too but seeing as I was at work by a quarter after nine it worked out.

It has been weeks, if not months, since I was able to open up the engine and let loose. By the time I was out of the neighborhood I was steaming along like a charger with a lion at his heels. Gingerly I took the turn lanes and worked my way up towards Usery mountain. I was going uphill but stayed above 15mph. I was a spirit set free from a thousand nights of darkness. I could feel my breath start to accelerate the further I got up the hill but I did not slow, I had a moment of freedom and was not going to squander a second. I could ride slow with the kids and would get more of that than I needed, now was the time to release, to push the envelope, to see what was lying dormant beneath weeks of repression and depression.

Turning up towards the pass I move in front of a racer in full kit further down the road. knowing I am a cyclist on the physical rocks, I expect him to blow by me but I wait, and wait, and after a surprisingly long time he passes me before we get to the stoplight where I catch him again. He turns. I am hurting but I hit the hill and though I slow somewhat I am still thrusting every last ounce I have into it.

I turn down McDowell and force myself along with the same intensity as I accelerate up to 30mph. Halfway down the hill I fly by the racer who is spinning down the hill, likely resting between intervals. I don't care, I am riding my own ride and what a ride it is. I have a tailwind but the wind is strong in my face as I pedal down the hill. Turning on to Power I find I am at 17.6 mph for an average and I know I can push it over 18 before I get home.

I squeeze the speed out despite the stoplights which are determined to box me back up. I am cruising at 25 mph between lights and as I pull into our neighborhood I have averaged 18.3 mph having climbed 450 feet over 16 miles. Were I to be able to sustain that I would have gold at El Tour, but I have not trained the distance, nor is it my goal at this time. I am content. I will ride El Tour, albeit 40 miles, but it will not be for me but for my sons and their goals. I will enjoy it. I am greatly relieved to know I have not lost everything for my sacrifices. Things are well today. Someday it will likely be my sons and daughter pulling me.