Thursday, February 24, 2011

Night on South Mountain...

Octotillo and Towers

It is shortly after 6 pm.  I am standing in the parking lot just inside the entrance gate to South Mountain regional park.  I have to pick up my brother at the airport after 8 PM,  but now I have time to fill.  The Coy Mistress has waited patiently in the car all day.  She is excited.  I have taken bicycles up the mountain before but thus far, she has not had that opportunity until tonight.

With little ado we are off climbing the light hills which wander among the desert hills and pass the historic building of the inner park entrance constructed many years ago when this area was made into what would become the largest city park in the country.  Traffic is light and I am occasionally passed by a car but mostly it is the setting sun and the falling hush of evening keeping me company as we move up past the turn to San Juan.  San Juan will come later if there is time.

Into the main climb and I am feeling amazingly strong.  Much stronger and faster than I was last time I climbed this.   I'm a lot lighter now,  and I have been doing a lot more hill work as of late.  It is an enjoyable climb as I start to warm up and as I move through the saddle I start to breath heavy as the grade increases for the next mile to the first crest.  Above the tower lights come on and are not particularly radiant as the sun has not completely given over to night yet.

 Radio Towers

After a few rollers I am at the bottom of the first of two final hills.  Two rather steep final hills.  I work my way up and have to stand for the last bit as the grade gets steep.  The glow of sunset is nearly snuffed out.   There is only enough light left to sillouette the cacti and Ocotillo against the sky as I pass by.  After a quick picture I am into the last throws of the climb and the grade has shot up to 10% and I am breathing heavy.  Soon it is over and I am at the top looking down at the lights of Chandler and the many couples who have driven up to see the lights.    Above our heads the blinking towers reach for the sky and scream their messages in inaudible waves to the masses below.

As I turn off of the radio tower road I am suddenly surrounded by the calls of Coyotes out among the rocky hills.  It is a pretty cool moment.  Coyote calls all around,  the stars above,  and the city lights below.

At the Lookout before I drop off the mountain I stop to look at the city lights spread out to the horizon out in the blanket of night somewhere.   Cacti and desert brush are sillouetted against the lights of the city.  As I drop off the mountain I look up and Orion is tip toeing across the tops of the radio towers in a celestial game of hopscotch.

My light glows brilliant as my descending speed increases.  I am conservative though as I don't ride here often and I have never descended this at night.  Far behind I see the light of the cyclist I passed up by the towers coming down behind me.  He won't catch me but he passes when I stop to consider going down to San Juan.  I have 25 minutes to kill and I decide to see how far I can get.

The road is closed to motorized traffic and the stars shine brilliant above as I place the glow of the city to my back.  The road has some cracks in it but overall it is in good shape.   I do not make it to San Juan,  but I do get over 3 miles down before I turn around and head back up.  First I turn off my lights (except my taillight).  The glow of the city illuminates the road well enough for me to climb without the aid of a headlight.  It is only me,  the sounds of the desert and the mighty hunter in the sky looking down on me.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When your one can hear you spell.....

So,  once upon a time, in a desert far far away, there was an area on the side of a mountain known as the Hawes trail where good old Mountain Bik'n boys had their fun in the dirt.  All was swell, until one day.... someone thought that would be a great place to build a collection of ritzy housing developments.  How ritzy are they?  Well you know it's a high class area when they don't spell things like the common folk,  for instance,  take the word park.  That's just a good old joe term for something quite simple right?  Not a lot of places to go to make the word park sound glorious right?  Well,  you just don't know nothin man!  Take a look at this fine example of the sophisticated possibilities for this seemingly common word---

Desert Foothills Parke

I didn't realize what a country bumpkin I was until this morning when I chanced upon this parke' .  I knew folks in this neighborhood were pretty flush but I didn't know they had there very own parke'  .

Then,  after I had finished my first trip up to the top and was on my way down the other side I stumbled upon the high and illustrious "Pin Cle Poin".   I think it's french or something.  Kind of felt silly riding past all these ritzy digs on my bicycle.  I felt like I should maybe be styling a suede seat, a sealskin tire, or a mink helmet or something like that.

The famous "Pin Cle Poin"
After climbing bottom to top three times I figured I ought to get my white trash keister out of this haven of exotic and sophisticated spellers, and make my way over to do some repeats of the backside of Usery Pass (yeah I overslept again,  it's been a rough week)

The Amazonian Mountain Maidens of pedalling fury.

So,  I notice there are quite a few people climbing the other side of the pass.   Come to think of it,  there are a lot of female type people climbing the backside today (um,  perhaps I could reword that).   At the bottom is a global bikes truck with a mechanic out tuning up some girl's bike.  Yup,  I'm pretty sure this was the "Girls Gone Ridin'"  ride I had stumbled my way into the middle of.  What a day to do repeats.  Most cyclists of the female persuasion are very nice people (with the exception of the one that called me a moron on the indian bend bike path when I was with the scouts a few weeks back).  All of them seemed to be in good spirits despite the occasional rain shower here and there.

I didn't mention the rain did I.  One of the reason's I had a tough time getting out of bed was the weatherman said the rain was going to be coming down in sheets and the wind would be blowing nanny's through the air with umbrellas, and other mass carnage.   So,  figuring the Brumbys would not be out anyway I stayed in bed a little extra.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up and found dry pavement outside!   At least all the good folk on the brevet would get to start with good weather.  We got a good 3 hours of fairly good weather.  Whats a little rainshower here or there?

I decided to call it quits when I hit 3000 feet of climbing and got ready to glide all the way home down the big hill between the top of Usery pass and my house.   Hmmm.   Hill isn't too spunky today.  I was only able to hit 17 when I should be well over 25.  What?  What's that you say?   I can't hear you with all this wind in my ears,  oh, maybe that has something to do with it.  Yup.  I toasted my legs and hadn't counted on the strong winds that fought me all the way home so I did get a better workout than I had intended.  What's the only thing worse than rain and strong headwinds?   Rain and strong headwinds when you have 240 miles ahead of you. 

Incidentally,  I should add that I have signed up for the Route 66 300k.   I guess I will be doing some brevets this year after all.  This stuff just gets in your blood.  I need a good epic ride in a bad way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Casting off the shackles.....

The last few days have not been conducive to cycling much less life.  Work has reared it's head in most parts of my life.  Deadlines approaching, multiple projects trying to push their individual versions of code into the system at the same time.  Checking, and double checking and removing and adding others code from mine.  Critical issues abound.

I had determined this morning I would take a long ride before starting work to make up for the late night.  Well, I made the mistake of checking in before I left and before I knew it it was 2:30 and my daughter had returned from School and I still had issues to watch,  though the lion's share of the work was behind me and moving into someone else's bucket.  Still,  I rued the fact I hadn't gotten out for a ride.  There was pressure inside this cooker and the steam had to come out.

Around 7:30 my wife told me she could put the kids to bed and sent me out into the night.  what a beautiful night it was.  No wind,  the air was still and 60 degrees.  Gotta love 60 degrees after 8 at night.  I needed to drop all this stress and a rather large dinner in the hill country.  I decided I could get 3 repeats of Las Sendas in and back before 10 so I went for it.

Climbing at night is peaceful.  Yeah your sweating,  yeah your breathing hard,  but it is just you your breath and the night.  You are more aware of your body and your mind is free to contemplate the universe out there in the night.  The slow speeds of climbing are conducive to  states of mental sightseeing.  The mind wanders here and there as your body climbs up through the night.  Occasionally it is disturbed by the cars but in general, the brain can slowly take a breather and let the body do the work.  One can worry about what the sound of one hand clapping is (it's a zen thing I'm told).

The end reward of course is a good healthy tired and a pretty view of the city lights from up on the side of the mountain.  Tonight I can actually see a brown cloud over Phoenix despite it being night.  Yikes.  Glad I live up in the east valley.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Save the knees!

Q-Factor.  Nope I'm not talking about some goofy grown up musical with Muppets gone wrong,  nor am I talking about a show where a right wing conservative talk show host gets a little happy, wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more.   Nope I'm talking about space.  Which space you ask?  Seeing as this is a blog about bicycling it likely is not hyper space, or inner space, or anything like that.  Nope this is the space between one's feet.  Some poo poo the idea of Q-Factor being a major player in bike fit.  I admit I have not thought  much about it until now.  As many of you fair readers may know,  I have struggled over the last few years with a left knee that is a little contankerous.  At the behest of my Orthapedic doc I went and got a $400 dollar bike fit and pedal stroke coaching session which increased my speed dramatically and did help a bit but the pain was still there although not so pronounced as before.  More recently you know I have been experimenting with shims under the cleat to angle my foot a bit and you know that this has also helped.  But the other day I read something interesting on the internet (yeah I know you can't believe everything you read on the internet) and it seemed to strike home.

The gist was this,  folks who ride with their knee splayed out, often do this because their feet are too close together.  Hmmm.  To believe this cockamamy theory you would need to of course believe the silly idea that everyone's hips and feet were not identical and perhaps need different configurations of pedals and cranks.  What kind of crazy half baked idea would that be huh?  Well,  being the type of guy who occasionally opens his mind I entertained this idea and again revisited the idea of a product called knee savers.  Supposedly, by moving the foot out from the crank, the knee and foot get better alignment and the knee actually goes in.  Yeah right!  I'm going to move my knee in by moving the foot OUT..... yeah,  like that makes sense.  Still, not wanting to be called a Q-Prude I decided that perhaps,  on a dark morning, when no one was looking,  all by myself,  I might try one of these knee savers.  Just to keep an open mind you know,  then no one could call me Q-Phobic.

Friday night,  after the kids went to bed, and my wife was away with her Mom doing Scrapbooking girly things, and I was finally alone, I snuck out into the garage, pulled the large manilla envelope off of the work bench and pulled the odd little steel adapter out of the packaging.  Then I did something a little different.  I held it in my hand,  and searched for about 15 minutes for a pedal wrench.  Of course, since the fitting goes over the end of the pedal spindle it takes a larger wrench which I eventually figured out (hey it was late).   Then with a little tapping and a minimum of swearing I had the pedal off the bike and was working the fitting onto the end of it.  It was a tight fit but tight is good with pedals,  lets just say it is nicer to watch Tchaikovsky's holiday ballet then live it when your pedal suddenly pops off when you stand up to hammer a hill.   So I screwed the pedal in and left my bike in the garage overnight to get used to it's new Q-Factor orientation.

Climbing was in order.  Lots of climbing.  Climbing climbing climbing.   End of the pavement sort of climbing.  Uh, well, the alarm said end of pavement, but the snooze  said Usery Repeats (and maybe the cold morning had something to do with it too) .  Usery repeats it was!  Just for flavor I decided to climb through Las Sendas first though.  I am pleased to say that a trip up through Las Sendas to the very top will get you 400' of climbing and if you are me with increased Q-Factory, no knee pain.   Hmmm.  Can't believe it.  Better go try a few repeats on the backside.  So up the front and over the back I go.  I push it hard and still no knee pain.  On the second repeat my back is starting to twinge a bit but it is not the left side of my back like it usually is,  it's centered now.  I discover that if I sit on the front of the seat that this pain is greatly reduced.  Down and up for another repeat.

At 3444' of strenuous climbing in under 35 miles I was a poofed Paul.  I haven't climbed nearly that much since last July when I did the Dirty Mogollon Madness permanent with Mike Sturgill.  I am pleased to say,  that although by any stretch of the imagination my knee should be twinging after a workout like that, it wasn't.  In fact,  at times when it felt like my knee was splaying out because it felt natural I would look down and find that it was right where it should be.  Huh....who'd a thunk it?  Moving your foot out to move the knee in.  Crazy.  Anyway,  maybe it's still too soon to tell,  but I think the knee saver on the left pedal might be a keeper.  Even it does look a little Q----factorish.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cool city, get your Rando on.

Oh toe warmers of warmth, protect those oft neglected miniature digits within my shoes.   Oh leg warmers, work with your friend the tights to keep the legs and nether regions alive and funtional.  Oh wondrous microfleece jersey,  long have you waited in my drawer unused and neglected it seemed,  you did not fail me at lake Utah,  you did not fail me in the Grand Canyon,  I have saved you for this moment and now it is time for you to shine and trap my warmth deep inside.  Ski gloves of fatness, fight off the wicked cold that has descended upon our poor village and tortures our flora and fauna.  Oh skyline buff from scout camp long ago.....Skyline buff?  Yes,  skyline buff,  I have been sabatoged by a child of mischief who has lost my balaclava,  all is not lost for you are here to warm my face and ears.  Last of all,  helmet cover of goretex!  Many a dark brevet you have kept my head warm, through rain, ice, and wind.  Fail me not now for the temperature is dropping as we climb into Las Sendas.  Yea, the bike computer doth register 26 then 24 then 22 and now it has plummeted to 19 degrees!  Fail me not when the hill does and keep the toasty warmth within my soul through the wind and speed that lies between us and the warm home that awaits in the glow of dawn.  Lo,  it is not a lonely morning,  not a cyclist in sight but I am riding inside a vast array of friends who fail me not.