Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day and Night where the pavement ends.

Snow on Four Peaks
This week I have had two rides which were quite different but on the same pavement pretty much. Monday's was to the End of the Pavement above Tortilla flat on a cold blustery day, and the other was on a balmy evening in the dead of night.
I had the day off Monday and decided I would take a good training ride in the morning, and work on organizing my Dad's study contents into boxes for processing once it comes time to clean my Mom's house out. I determined that rather than ride up into Apache Jct on a slight grade, I would drive out to where the serious climbing started and go from there.

The drive out was beautiful as there was a lot of snow on the mountains from the Superstitions to Four Peaks. Once the bike was on the road I realized two things. One, snow means cold. Two, it was windy, real windy. I'd even go as far to say as it was a bitter wind coming down out of the mountains as I struggled up the Apache Trail fighting it. I can't say I felt horrible spunky. I couldn't tell if it was just my lack of fitness (which is getting better bit by bit), or if the cold and wind was just that bad.

Snow on the Flat Iron

I popped up over the first hill and found myself freezing as I dropped in to Canyon Lake. The wind was really roaring. Along the lake road that I usually cruise along I found myself struggling into the wind. The only saving grace to all this was I thought I might see some snow up at the top of the hill above Tortilla Flat.
The climb into Tortilla flat wasn't too bad. I did have to pedal very carefully as I tried to work my way across the creek that was flowing really good so I wouldn't hit any potholes and discover how long it would take a wet cyclist to go numb in these conditions.

The climb up to the end of the pavement was brutal. I was going anearobic in my lowest gear most of the way up. I wondered if it was that I was out of shape or if it was the wind. I haven't climbed that hill in over a year at least so I really can't judge. I just knew it was brutal. It seemed like I fought into that wind a long time. On one of the switchbacks near the top I turned so the wind was at my back and it pretty much blew me up to the next turn whereupon the pain would come back in full force.

Snow by End of Pavement

Before I got to the end of the pavement I did in fact see snow. The patches that were left were melting fast as it was in the low 40's. The wind chill was well below freezing though. By the time I got back to the car I was pooped. I really hope the mining country century is enough to get me ready for the Prescott 300k.

Tortilla Flat at night.

So, fast forward to Saturday. I had to campout with the scouts on Friday and Saturday so Saturday morning and afternoon was a big no go for training. After my daughter's piano recital I had to take my boys to see Tron Legacy at the cheap theatre as I had promised to do that and I don't think the movie will be there next week. So, 9:30 PM arrives and I still need a training ride. The Mining Country Century is the week after next and this ride is a critical training ride so it was going to be a good night for the generator light.

At 10 PM I told my wife not to stay up for me and I headed out the door. It worked out pretty good that way actually. I managed to pass all the bars while they were still open and on the return they were all closed, so that minimized drunks. I decided to do the whole Enchilada from my house to the end and back which would make it a nice Metric Century with almost 4000 feet of climbing. That's about 2/3s of the climbing on the Mining Country Challenge which I think will be enough to let me finish. I won't finish fast but I'll finish.

Traffic was sporadic going through town out into the east valley and climbing up towards Lost Dutchman state park. After I passed the turnoff for the park though, traffic all but died. I think I saw 4 cars over 3 hours. The sounds of the desert came alive with crickets chirping in the brush on the side of the road. With no moon the sky was dark and I could see the Superstitions and numerous cholla and saguaro cacti sillouetted against the starry background. Behind was the brown glow of Phoenix but it was dimming with every pedal stroke.

Your's Truly

I was just on the border of sweating and my windvest was working wonderfully as I controlled my own personal climate with the zipper. I kept pretty good time up the hills as my generator light generally stayed pretty bright. One or twice it dimmed slightly but that wasn't much. I did have a spare light I could use but that light causes my bike computer to flatter me rather severely so I leave it off if I can.

Dropping in to Canyon Lake I hit several pockets of really cold air. Fortunately these were not the norm. Far across the lake I could see the lights of the Marina, and other than a few cars parked along the side of the road, there were no signs of life. There was the gentlest of breezes and I found myself cruising along through the night with my light brightly illuminating all before me. Crossing the two bridges was a bit sureal as it is odd to see only the beams of the bridge shining brightly against a black backdrop. On the second bridge an SUV came up behind me and I got a little apprehensive but he would stop at the Marina and turn around.

Last time I was in Tortilla Flat at night there was only a streetlight and two vending machines lighting things up. Sometime since then they had put red lights on the trim of the buildings. I thought maybe they hadn't closed yet but there were no cars there and the interior lights were out other than the neon beer signs inside the old Saloon (after all the old west was big on neon beer signs you know).

I discovered that the end of the pavement seemed hard the other day because of the wind as it was much easier to climb this time around. I was breathing hard, but not outside of my aerobic range. At one point I heard an owl hooting and then a bit later he flew through my headlight and freaked me out a bit. He did it again further up the hill (or maybe it was a relative of his) but I didn't freak out that time. I wonder if I was rousting out little snacks for them to go eat as I passed.

The EOP hill is always a beast which is what makes it so good to train on for these hilly rides. At night it is big enough to put you in that Zen climbing state where you forget how far up you are and how far you have left, there is only what you see in your headlights and the shortness of breath and the burning in your legs. Oh, I forgot to mention that thousand stars above your head in all their splendor. Stars aren't something that are that impressive down in the valley, up here on the hill out in the boonies, they are something to look at. I have seen the milky way up here in the past but couldn't make it out tonight as there was a slight cloud layer.

I actually felt pretty strong on this ride. Amazingly so. After telling a guy and a girl in a car how deep the water was at the crossing at Tortilla Flat I would head into the second to last climb of the night which I popped right up and headed over to the big hill out. After the steep section at the bottom I was starting to feel just a bit of fatigue. I really wouldn't feel tired though until I was cruising down University. I figured I would have a tailwind but I had a crosswind and all I could muster was 19-20 mph with the muscles in my left leg screaming for mercy. I had been pedalling in a certain position with my left leg tonight to figure out the optimum position to eliminate knee pain and my leg had finally tired of doing that. I had no knee pain but the muscles used to hold that position were pooped.

So, 4 hours and 22 minutes for 62 miles at night with nearly 4000 feet of climbing. I won't say it's my best time, but it is definitely not my worst by a long shot. It was a good ride. I'd even say it was worth the sleep deprivation.

Be honest, does this triangle make my butt look fat?

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