Sunday, March 25, 2012

Owl's well that ends well.

Ok,  first let me apologize about the no picture thing.  I haven't got around to finding/buying my summer fingerless riding gloves and so I was wearing full size gloves and pictures were a major pain.   Second,  I have to take back everything I ever said about the accusers of Floyd Landis being way off base about how testosterone works.   Oops,  I should probably qualify that before everyone thinks I'm a rando doper.  Fact is my natural testosterone is extremely low and learning that it is a heart disease risk at my age I finally gave in to the doctor's suggestion.  I've known this for awhile actually  and am kicking myself for not acting on it sooner.   I actually look forward to starting big rides again now.  My motivation and energy are way up,  and my recovery is much better.

But,  as the new prescription only plays a clinical role in this brevet and no one likes reading about someone elses performance gains,  let me get on with how the ride went.  I can't say I was not without trepidation Saturday morning at 5:30.  I wasn't entirely happy with my time on the CG 200 in January and I definitely was not happy with how much of a strain the last 30 miles were.  I'd arranged to carpool with Carlton since he was on my way anyway and driving back after a long ride alone is as interesting as watching paint dry.  I got off a little late due to nearly running out of gas and having to buy some new sunglasses but Carlton was pretty cool about it.  As it was we ended up getting to the start with plenty of time.

The Az Rando scene has come a long way in the last 8 years. I was the only one of the original crew from 2004 there and Roger informed me I had the lowest RUSA number which I found quite amusing never having considered 2408 a low number.  My how times have changed.  Change is good although I miss seeing a lot of the old crew around these days.    There were several riders there that rode the High Country Brevet last year there though and it was nice to be among the riders on this one.

This would be my first ride of the year devoid of warm clothing other than my full fingered gloves which are now all sweaty.   It was a fantastic day as far as weather went,  albeit with some headwinds.  Carlton is of course faster than me but he held back a bit for the first 45 miles or so to pull this not quite as strong wheelsucker along.  Winds were a bit annoying as we worked our way through rattlesnake pass and around the Marana airport but by the time we got to the frontage road,  we were roaring along at 25-26 mph and I have to say it's about the fastest I've covered that stretch.  What a difference being fresh makes on negotiating that stretch.  Up until Park Link road we had pretty much kept the recumbents in view but after making the turn,  David had to stop for something and the other recumbent slowed up to wait for him.  That was the last we saw of them.   Interestingly enough we did not catch the tandem on the ride up Park Link nor on the Pinal Parkway.

I found it interesting that depending on your prespective the owl had 3 ears at one point.   Park Link was interesting in that the traffic was nearly non-existent and it never looked like it was climbing unless you looked at your computer and saw that indeed speeds were decreasing and that you would finally end up with a 2% grade as it slowly climbed more to get up to the parkway.   I have to say having a riding partner is nice,  even when that other partner is stronger and stretches you a bit.  After turning onto the parkway Carlton took off as the hills got steeper and I had no issues with that.  A man and his hills is a special thing after all.   My main goal at this point was to try and make it so Carlton didn't have to wait too long for me at the finish.

Park Link road joins the parkway right where it starts to stairstep up to the summit before dropping down to Oracle Jct. and I have to say it was nice not to have to spend 15 miles of straight road climbing the parkway watching paint dry.   About halfway to the summit Pete passed me.   I would see the gang at the control at the roadside table though and I didn't leave too much after they did.  I had to adjust my seat a bit as I had a knee that was complaining and had to take care of a speedo wire that had been rubbing on the tire.  Oh,  and there was a rubbing brake I had to readjust.  So,  after all that I was off.

The climib to Oracle is a bit like the ride down the frontage road in that you can see the hill next to your destination but it never seems to get closer.  The difference here though is you are climbing and every so often the grade steepens as you stairstep up to Oracle.   Just when you think you are at the top you turn a corner,  find more hill,  turn another corner,  find more hill.  Then finally you get to this awesome sign that says 11 miles of 7% grade.  The cake is a lie folks.  When I rode this hill before I was minus an altimeter, but still thought the grade seemed a little lackluster.   Having now had something to give me actual data I was disappointed but not surprised to discover that 7 actually meant 5,  and that would only be in a few places not much longer than a half to 1 mile.  Much of the other was 2% and with a headwind you had to pedal to maintain 18-20 mph in those spots.  Still,  it was much better than climbing into the wind.

Turning onto the road to San Manuel I was amused to see that my pessimism about a flat ride into town was not unfounded.  A set of giant rollers loomed before me with grades upwards of 10% for short stretches.  my legs were a little fatigued at this point and were not too happy with having to put out this kind of power but I kept at it.  After all,   everyone hurts on climbs,  some just go faster.

After finally hitting Webb road I kept expecting to see the lead riders coming at me and not seeing them I thought perhaps they had already come and gone but about 1/4 mile from the turnaround I saw the lead guy coming out.  Followed shortly by Carlton as I nearly got to the end much to Carlton's surprise.   I figured I was only about 15 minutes behind them.  At the gas station I found the tandem and Pete finishing up their break and preparing to head out.   Having hot foot and an appreciation for the finer things in life,  like a shady sit on cool cement at a gas station on a warm afternoon eating a popsicle,  I held off for a few minutes after getting my receipt and filling my water bottles.  I nursed water from my bottle while I let my foot rest out of the shoe for a bit.  By the time I was done I had used all the water Pete had left behind and was off to face the looming hill that lay before me down on Webb road.  Temps were in the upper 80's and it was a bit warm.

I kept expecting to see those recumbents before I hit Webb road but didn't and began my 1200' climb up Webb and annoyingly enough,  the Mt. Lemmon hwy.  I say annoyingly enough as that was my second "Cake is a Lie" moment of the day.  I held steady most of the way up but about a mile or two from the top the 10% rollers started.  I must say I thought of the recumbents at this point having been there myself.  There's nothing like trying to pedal hard when you feel like you are upside down.   I kept telling myself once we turned off of Webb we would be heading downhill having driven it in a car and for some sick reason remembering it that way.   Of course one's memory of driving something in a car and one's memory of riding something on a bicycle are two very different things and the rollers continued on up the ridge which wouldn't have suffered anything if the road had gone around it.  Personally I think folks back in the day loved to torture horses.  Or maybe they were just lazy and just built the road straight through come what may.  That being said,  it was a beautiful ride through scrub oak and small meadows.

Of course,  what goes up must come down and we were over 2500' above the finish line so drop we did, heading out of Oracle.  Of course the wind would have none of that.  It was in here that I really wished I would have had a bit more time to put on Aero bars the night before.  I think I lost roughly 10-15 minutes to the headwinds and my wrists would have been much happier had I had them.  Even so,  I figured if I could  average  20 mph I could be back to the car by 4:30 and figuring Carlton would finish around 4 he shouldn't have to wait too long for me.

I won't bore you with the details of a windy ride down to Catalina,  it was just a nice ride of speeding up on the steeper parts and slowing down to a hard pedal on the less steep.  After turning onto Ranch Vistoso I got caught up by a guy who had just ridden up to Saddlebrook and back and had a nice talk with him.  It was in here we passed Pete and as he said he was Ok we pushed on until he turned off of Moore road and wished me luck in my endeavors on Tangerine road.

At this point looking at my watch I realized I could beat 4:30 if I pushed and was quite pleased to find that there was energy in those legs.   I was able to keep it up around 22-24 mph most of the way down Twin Peaks despite the headwind and rolled in at 4:28, around 37 minutes behind Carlton.  Not quite the 30 I had hoped for but on the other hand he had not forgotten his aero bars.  It would likely have only been 30 or less if I had not.

Anyway,  I felt a ton better after this ride than the last one.  After a pint of ice cream two fruit drinks and a litre of water later I felt even better.   Carlton was not doing as well.  He'd had to stop several times on the way back and even so didn't feel so hot.   We ended up getting back to Chandler shortly after 5:40 which was a lot faster than I had expected.  I would end up getting home around 6:20 or so and was quite pleased to find I had enough energy to do the laundry to get myself out of the doghouse for forgetting to arrange a babysitter while I was gone (my wife had a meeting and I promised I'd find a sitter).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

and the results of the gen light drag test are........inconclusive.

First off I must say I did not get the 100 miles in that I wanted to last night.   Second,  I did take the opportunity to test the difference in drag among my light configurations,  Handlebar lights + headlight,   Gen light turned off with handlebar lights and headlight,  and Gen light turned on with aforementioned lights turned on.

The testing ground was the front and backside of Usery Pass.   The front side to record a slower rolling speed and the backside to record the faster.   In the end it was a lot of trouble for not much information, yet I did glean enough to make an educated decision I think.

I must say it was a beautiful night albeit a little chilly.   If I had known how chilly it would be at the end of my testing I would have worn the full jacket from the start so as to make it an even test across the 6 trials.  My current light setup consists of the following-  2 Planet bike 2 watt  superflashes,  a 3 watt princetontec headlamp, and a killer generator light using the Shimano hub and a homemade light circuit made with 3 Cree leds (wicked bright)  and a circuit borrowed from a fellow Randonneur of Southern Arizona Randonneurs fame who few people get to ride with but on occasion he has slowed down and I have ridden with him up in the pines on the D3M permanent.

So,  I know you are curious about the results.  Interestingly enough, going down the front side there was only 2 seconds difference between the normal wheel and the gen hub when it was turned off (I'm kind of glad at this point I didn't blow the extra dough on the Schmidt hub,  I'll eat that extra second every 2 miles).  On the backside there was roughly 9 seconds difference but I think some of that can be attributed to the generator light creating more drag because of lost aerodynamics,  since that comes into greater play at higher speeds.   9 seconds over 4 miles still isn't too bad.  We are still only talking a few minutes difference on a hundred mile ride.

Now,  for when the light was turned on.  The bike actually was around 45 seconds faster on the front and 15 seconds faster on the back.  What you ask?  This spits in the face of physical laws of energy transfer and friction and drag yada yada yada.   Well,  it is funny you should ask.  You see,  before I started the last set of tests with the gen light on I made an interesting discovery.  The front brake was loose and as a result it had been rubbing since the spring was able to twist it sideways.   I must say I am amazed a brake that is rubbing lightly can cause that much drag.

The light can't be creating too much more drag I figure,  and surely the drag with the light off is not enough to ditch the comfort of a super bright and battery-less headlight for the longer rides.  I also wonder how long that brake has been like that.  Was it that way last week when I did the long ride out to Sycamore creek?  Was it there when I tried to hold on at the race a month ago?  Was it like that for the Jan 200k?  The Mt. Lemmon 200k?  Hmmmmm,  perhaps I haven't been as much out of shape as I thought?

In other news, after midnight, there was an unusual amount of four wheelin Jimmy Bobs and their long necks  coming back from a long day of buzzing through the desert on their various machines of choice.   One car whizzed by me at what had to be 80 mph or more  as they honked.   I kept an eye out for their dead carcass when I descended the other side of the pass but lady luck must have been with them.    Despite all the bozos and boozos it was a beautiful night and with the full moon shining, the lights got turned off on the climbs (not the taillights of course).   It was just me,  the moon,  the road,  and innumerable silhouettes of Saguaro Cacti,  Mesquite, and Ironwood trees.   More than once I could hear Coyotes wailing at the moon just off the road.   It was a  good night and I was glad to have been out and enjoyed it despite the high idiot count.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Roy G Biv

There was a vast rainbow of wildflowers out this morning.  A chill was in the air but not enough to matter,  just enough to lower water consumption.  The desert on all sides was speckled yellow with blossoming brittle brush as I climbed my way over the pass and began to count colors.  Speeding down to the Bush highway the yellow was joined by purple.  What were the purple flowers you ask?  Well I'll tell you....I don't know,  but they were sure pretty to ride alongside as I climbed up the hills of the Bush highway.   After Saguaro lake some very bright fuchsia shaded flowers started popping up here and there as well as some Orange flowers mixed in.  At this point I thought I had seen a lot of color but by the time I had climbed up the Beeline Highway to Sycamore Creek and come back I would find some beautiful cobalt blue flowers to round out our rainbow once I saw the red indian paintbrushes.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day to take a ride out amid the hills and wildflowers.   I woke up late so I missed the Brumby's and the Two Wheel Jones crew but figured I'd do some hills and went back up the Bush Highway to the Beeline and then over to Sycamore Creek and back.  Almost halfway to Payson.   There were a lot of cyclists out but I didn't get to chat anyone up.  Spent most of the ride alone with my thoughts,  the flowers,  the sun,  and the blue blue sky.

Incidentally, the latest news,  I have added another bike to the stable.   I managed to swap a bike I wasn't using with the bike I lent my father  in law many years ago that's been left out in the elements since then.  Why would I want a rusting old 80's era frame?  Well,  for one thing the rust wasn't too bad and mostly on the lugs where a little rust can be afforded.  Two,  those old frames didn't have straight drop outs,  they slanted a little.  Not a full horizontal slot mind you but still a slant giving a fella about 1/2 an inch or so of tensioning room if this said fella managed to take off the back brake, removed the shifters, derailleurs, and rear wheel,  and bolted a fixed gear wheel on.  Yeah it looks a bit ghetto but then again I am not in it to look like a hipster.  I am in it to train the leg muscles for the Grand Canyon hiking I will do later this year.

How will that work you say?  Well, I don't have trouble hiking out of the canyon thanks to those splendid quads cycling gives me but the muscles that slow me down when hiking into the canyon scream bloody murder the next day.  So if pedalling forward strengthens climbing muscles,  maybe, back pedalling to brake on a fixie will work the others.  As of Friday I can say that I am pretty sure I had the same sore muscles from riding the fixed gear as I did in the Canyon so I think the proof of concept is there.  Well see how it pans out.  In the meantime, riding fixed is a blast.

Time to Fleche things out....

Funny you should ask about the title.  Yeah I know,  usually when people make bad puns about that springtime tradition among randonneurs they are probably thinking up a team name or something corny like that.  Well, as it turns out,  despite my telling them that I haven't done a lot of riding lately,  I have been invited to join a team for Arizona's first Fleche.   Seeing as all of the team at this point is Mormon it looks like we are going to be team Mormon Battalion.  Named after that hardy group of folks who are credited with making the longest infantry march in US history as they crossed the southwest on their way to San Diego where they arrived shortly after the Mexican American war had ended dusty but no worse for the wear. 

Huh?  some of you don't know what a Fleche is?  Well,  let me illucidate.  A Fletch is a team event (yes,  Randonneuring does in fact have team events).   It covers at least 360k in 24 hours and at least 3 of the team must finish together.   All the teams arrive at the finish close to the same time and then have breakfast as they discuss their exploits before the time catches up with them and they drift off to exhausted sleep.  For some reason the French decided it has to be around Easter.  So, we have an Easter Bunny and apparently their version is a baggy eyed, sweaty, stinky cyclist.  I don't know why it has to be around Easter.  Perhaps it's an understanding suffering thing?  If so, I far prefer it to the practice of Crucifying oneself, wearing a hairshirt, or making a pilgrimmage on one's knees across I can't walkistan.  Ok, enough on various ways a fella can hurt himself in the name of devotion to something.   Although I suppose Randonneuring does have it's similarities as far as pain and discomfort go at times.