24 October, 2011

Evergreen Singletrack

The kit-less Sam K. at the top in Evergreen.  It's October, we're riding, hence the smile(s) 
 Ah yeaugh, Saturday was riding with Kenny L.; today was riding with Sam K.  Incidentally both of these fine peeps are not only my buds and teammates but they-we-also roll on 29ers.  I'm sooo glad that when I had the opportunity to by a new bike I chose the 29er.  Was thinking superhard on some closeout 26er dual boingers but the 29er's rolling inertia on dem big wheels makes going forward that much more funner (yeah I know it's grammatically incorrect but then again I am a science teacher).

Sam K. is a cyclocross nut.  He came in seventh on that last cross race we did together at Monarch High School whereas yours truly was 29th (getcha sum!).  Even though Kenny, Sam, and I started out as road racers, we hang up the skinny tires once mountain bike season hits (aka the WinterPark series starts).  Today, even though I was 15 minutes late, he waits and we meet up on the main drag in Evergreen and head off to Dedisse Park.  I've known this park has existed but never rode it.  Apparently it's pretty righteous as it also connects to Alderfer/Three Sisters Park via the climb near Evergreen Lake.  From the get go, it climbed and climbed and climbed.  About a third of the way up I had to peel off some layers and the day was shaping up to be another picture, postcard, perfect day here in Colorado in the Fall.   Sam had the local knowledge of  where the sweet singletrack was hiding as evidenced by the occasional hiker we'd see on our climb to Alderfer.  Since there weren't too many hominids perambulating this day, we took to quasi-blasting the downhill to Alderfer in a way where we could've stopped if we saw hikers.  Once back in Alderfer we hit the downhill of the gnarly climb we took to get here this morning.  Rode the road back and we parted ways.  Before we left, Sam was gracious enough to spot me some calories since I spent quite a bit of energy hanging on to him on the climbs.  I love riding with people with skill and it's a bonus when they're also your teammates.  Technically we could ride for the local race team but we've established some camaraderie with our Natural Grocers Racing homies; so we fly the Halloween colors as kindred spirits.
October 24th and we're still riding...

Was not looking forward to the 6.9 mile climb in the headwind to get back to my truck.  It was mighty painful but I was going from the endorphins and Clif-shots (our sponsor) from Sam.  Once back at my truck the Cateye read:  29 miles in 3h 1min. 

So what did you do today?  Did you make the most of it?  I'm on break.  I have to be super selective in gleaning what I can for recreation yet be compliant enough to be Soccer Dad.  All in all it's a pretty sweet combination as long as there is a semblance of balance (Daniel-san).  Speaking of making the most of it, a cold front's coming in Tuesday night and with it, it's bringing snow.  Come Tuesday I want to be fairly rode out without having to touch the rollers.

Shoot.  I think I'ma get a ride in with my college roommate tomorrow if I can figure out a time and meeting place...

23 October, 2011

Hello October Break!

This cow was scratching the top of its head on the side of the walkway when we got there.  That's Kenny across the way.
 October Break arrive and envelope me with your sweet arms of non-work, no fighting students, no belly-aching teachers, no needy pupils, absence of alarm clocks, with time to read recreationally.  Today's Friday, the day before my school's October Break.  Other than being completely frazzled and time mismanaged at work, the break arrives nonetheless.  It arrives as my mental state's on the verge of collapse with our district (as well the State really) functioning on a deficit (we all knew this is year two of "suck" as opposed to rebound), a new schedule my circadian rhythm's all cattywampus from, and juggling the schedules of three active chilluns, it tends to make one Cycling Dad's trajectory o'recreation and mental health kinda wacked!  Sweet Melissa's attending her cousin's wedding in Texas for the weekend and I get the privilege to hang with my two remaining kids.  Maricel has soccer almost the same time Mason has swim lessons so she's spending the night with Gramma.  This evening, the Moose and I are chillin' on my bed.  He's so pooped out he just fell asleep before I could read him a book.  Gramma, being the ever-awesome Gramma, agreed to watch the Moose and Maricel (after her game and swimming) so I can go ride with one of my teammates who lives nearby.  Gonna bust a 29er ride with him.  Speaking of 29er, did another cyclocross race on my 29er in Boulder last weekend and came in exactly underneath the apex of the bell curve:  35th out of 70.  It was a real fun race, with a "maze" portion and one barricade that had a notch where people were bunny-hopping it at speed-including me.  The sprint to the finish line was on pavement and it ended with me having a nice cushion from Mr. 36th place.  I looked back a couple of times to make sure I wouldn't get passed at the end.  Had that $hit happen before and I felt flummoxed for letting my position drop by one at the last possible minute.

The Murphy's Law of Weather-To-Outdoor-Recreate-In is in effect, which states: as the bourgeoisie toil at work the weather shall be accommodating and purty; whereas said bourgeoisie's days off will consist of cold weather complemented with precipitation.  I have cold weather gear.  I ain't scared; but it's a deal breaker if the temps hover near-freezing.  Everything's cold then, including your Willy and toes and when that happens, it's time to stay indoors.  Got frostbitten once at A-Basin skiing with Jay.  On my my nose and near my cheek.  It was weird.  Yeah.  Ski season I is sooooo looking forward to you too.  I wanna ride with another teammate who just moved near the area.  He's an excellent 'crosser and mt biker to boot but I ain't gonna ride on wet trails peeps.   My boy Hez-chilly's going to Moab with his familia this weekend.  Nice.

Saturday is a wee bit cold but glorious for a Fall Day in Colorado.  Talk about the phenomenon of synchronicity.  My brother just recently made the switch to tubeless.  Today, before I take my son to swim practice (he's kicking butt by the way), as I load up my 29er to go riding with my homey Kenny L. and notice that both my tires are flat from all the goatheads that gravitated to my tires in my last cyclocross race.  At the rec center I call Kenny and tell him my tires are flat and he suggests I by some Stan's sealant to make my tires tubeless.  How cosmically hip is that?  Once I get to Kenny's he performs his magic and voilà (not more than 7 minutes later) I have a tubeless wheelset.  It also helps to get a UST compatible wheelset.  I have the Mavic C29 Crossmax.  Excellent design but a smidge heavy as a 700C, mountain bike wheelset.

Off we go to get a 3 hr, 35 mile ride in Boulder that consists of traveling on roads to hit some singletrack.  We meander around Marshall Mesa which goes over some private ranch lands and open space.  Kenny too has a 29er, a Gary Fisher Superfly.  Nice ride, also tubeless.  Oh yeah and it's a hardtail.  We can't believe how awesome today is weather-wise. 
Our view of the Flatirons from Marshall Mesa-ish.  Yes it's October in Co.
On one of our stops, a rider states that he saw some of our teammates in today's previously raced Interlocken Cyclocross event.  We used to have a very distinctive color scheme back in the day:  orange/light purple/white kits.  Now we're Halloween colors.  Oh well. We ride at tempo, cruise over rocks and the occasional cow patty and my tubeless wheelset's hanging tough and not losing any pressure although I did have to pump it up once when we were on the bike path.  Holding air nicely now.  The ride gets interrupted by milking cows loitering on the singletrack doing their niche as a primary consumer.  They're huge beasts and what resounded in my mind was:  I'm glad I'm a vegetarian.  Looking into that creature's eyes with that kind of mass and still knowingly consume it does not compute in my head.  I won't hold it against you though if you're a flesh eater (with no soul, selfish, artery clogging, ego-centristic species elitist). 

After I get my kids from Gramma, we travel home in order to do some familial bonding over a DVD only to find a tractor-trailer has overturned on our highway back home.  The jumbo-tron over the highway said, "Accident ahead, expect delays."  We sat for at least 40 mins.  It sucked.  I tried to snap a picture of the vehicle on its side with my cell phone.  See if you can make it out.
The median-barrier letterboxes it but see the cab on the left and trailer on the right?
 It's almost surreal because of the lights from the emergency vehicles reflecting off the cab and trailer like a billboard at night.  Once home, we hunkered down on the couch with Doritos and Dr. Pepper in hand to watch the 4th installment of the Shrek series.  Very cool movie both visually and of its plot.  At the end we all clapped with silly grins on our faces due to its wondrous audio-visual performance.  Kid friendly with some sly adult stuff.  Highly recommend it to y'all family types.  This is a good start to the Break.  Let's hope the new weather front isn't too harsh.  

09 October, 2011

The Seasons Are Kind Of A Big Deal

hello snow, it's been awhile...

Living in Texas for a couple of decades has desensitized my awareness-and therefore my (mental) sequential progression-for the seasons.  In Texas, it'd be Africa hot for months then boom, one day it dumps freezing rain (and all the hayseeds crash their dualies)  and I realize Fall must be here.  Living in Colorado, near 9000 feet (2700m), when the season changes it's a sensory experience.  It gets colder, the colors on the trees change, especially our Aspens that slowly tell me a progression towards Fall's coming, and eventually it snows and I realize I didn't harvest enough firewood. 
Happened moments before I got there
normally this is a two-lane interstate
Yesterday galvanized my transition (mental, paradigm shift to prepare for winter in the high country) to Fall as I drove to Grand Junction for my daughter's elite soccer team's game.  Grand Junction's a couple a hundred miles away going over-or under-the Eisenhower Tunnel in Summit County and Vail Pass.  Yesterday also had a Winter Weather Advisory because during my travel there it was also going to be dumping 5-10 inches (12-25cm) of snow.  Took the Tundra instead of the front wheel drive Camry because you need 4 wheels powering once the snow/ice crud accumulates on I-70.
Took some pictures of people who didn't prepare as they should have driving-wise.  Normally, I-70's a two laner but as we negotiated one of the many hills, this one on the way to Frisco from Breckenridge was particularly difficult for a front-wheel drive Honda Fit that got sideways trying to grab onto the snow.  We parted like the Red Sea to get around it.  Thank you four wheel-drive.  Living at our elevation, the bare minimum's all-wheel drive but to really negotiate the record breaking or the wicked one-day dumps, you also need clearance.  A pickup truck accomplishes both; furthermore you need the bed to haul firewood.

The forecast at Grand Junction was 55°F, partly cloudy with little wind.  It was actually quite pretty, with a tad bit cold thrown in to remind us it's Fall.  Maricel's team won 2-0.  Exciting to watch but not particularly looking forward to drive back home, especially if it's snowing again on Vail Pass (which it was).
partly cloudy and 55° F in Grand Junction
Snapped this beauty with my cell phone as we were leaving Grand Junction and heading towards Grand Mesa.
not bad for a cell phone, no?
Sunday morning, I get to survey the snow Mother Nature left us to recharge our well and to make our property aesthetically pleasing for me due to yesterday's (driving) trials and tribulations and my inordinately long, daily commute that make's the trade-off of mountain living digestible.
our Aspens from our backyard
Knocked out my first race of the season doing a 'cross race on my 29er which performed downright admirably.  Finished 29th out of 75.  Not bad for really not doing a whole lot of training this year.  My next 'cross race is this Sunday, the 16th in Boulder.  Should be fun.  Hopefully it won't snow.  Renewed my amateur license and I'm ready for 2012!  So these pictures are my visual reinforcement of Fall so now I have to gear up for my Auditory welcoming of Fall...

...which is the listening to sacred, choral music (Melissa reminded me of this recently).  I used to perform music in both symphonic band and choir and used to sing Handel's Messiah back in the day.  But what really made it endearing listening to sacred choral music was when I was stationed in Germany.  My friends and fellow airmen and I did a lot of skiing in the Alps.  My friend had a real nice 5 series bimmer and when we'd drive back to base from say, France or Switzerland, he'd always pop in Handel's Messiah.  Cruising the autobahn at night looking at all the gray bleakness of the snowtopped mountains and exfoliated, silhouette of  trees made the music (especially when the brass and screeching sopranos kick in) that much more ominous and brooding (the Fall/Sacred Music association).  The auditory clue that started my Fall connection was Melissa digging a radio broadcast of some Bach sacred music.  She researched their playlist and concluded it was Bach's Saint Matthew Passion.  We reserved it at our public library and it's made its way onto my iPod and iTunes library (rest in peace Steve Jobs), where it's currently resonating in my head.

Hello again Old Man Winter.  I don't particularly like the way you malinger here until May and knockout our electricity when you unleash your super heavy, wet, spring dumpages.   For now, it's alright and skiing's a'knocking with our WinterPark passes ready to be used up for some darned sweet family entertainment.

22 September, 2011

Miscellaneous ramblings related to (Map My) riding, work, music, and Google Earth.

My 29er locked and loaded.
Work has really interfered with my recreational abilities, especially with my inability to express myself via the written word (which I suppose is a form of catharsis/therapy). One especially cool thing I've done cycling-wise my experience cycling the Monarch Crest Trail. Don't know if has world-wide appeal in cycling circles but for top ten cycling things to do in Colorado, it's single digit up there. Come to think of it a local's top ten things to do out here would be cycling in Moab and/or Fruita, skiing off-piste in one of the many I-70 corridor, climbing (road biking) up Mt. Evans, honeymooning in Crested Butte (and hanging with Dave Wingo), riding Trail 401, hot springing it in Strawberry Jack(s) Hot Springs, making turns in Steamboat's champagne powder, to name a few but to NOT do the Monarch Crest Trail would be a definite downer.
Singletrack for the next 34 miles.
this and singletrack?  pinch me
Broke out the rollers to find cycling time in the legs. Being soccer dad, prepping for the day's lessons, and trying to be a good Dad (emphasis on TRYING) makes for difficulties in outdoor cycling. Rollers at least make the legs pretend it's cycling. Did the gambling themed extreme rated trails-i.e. Blackjack-out at Pine Valley Open Space. It was difficult for a first timer. The downhills are so steep and technical it's better to ride the downs than it is to walk your bike risking low speed damage to yourself negotiating, walking down.

At work I'm still working through my lunch so's I can minimize work at my house. I absolutely hate doing that.  Work is sucking the life out of me lately and I'm a big fan of the hypothesis of the The Symmetry of the Universe as it applies to my exaggerated parabolic leg of work with nary a scant of a recreational trajectory balancing it out.  Yuck.   Equilibrium where is (I know it's "are" but I'm trying to make a point) you?

Lately, music with lyric's not particularly exciting to hear except for maybe some older TV On The Radio or my public library's offering of the Double CD of Bruce Hornsby's (and the Noisemaker's) Bride of the Noisemaker, and the new Flaming Lips' redo of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  I actually purchased the latter of the three aforementioned.  For the redo, If you're a fan of both The Lips and Floyd it really is a sonically hip rendition of Pink Floyd's LP while retaining the alternative, sonic near-kooky expansion inherent of the Lips. 

On the jazzy, piano-trio side, I've been grooving to the Brad Mehldau Trio's The Art of the Trio Vol. 4 - Back at the Vanguard and your favorite artist pushing-jazz-to-new-frontiers aka the free jazz artform...Ornette Coleman!  Specifically his 1961 gem The Art of the Improvisers.  Not at all experimental sounding like his Free Jazz LP but it actually has a conventional sounding just slightly unusual bop edge.  Just bought another jazz CD from an artist named Ignacio Berroa entitled, Codes.   Gonzalo Rubalcaba an amazing, Cuban, jazz-pianist in his own right produced this Blue Note gem.  Pick it up people.  Seems like the more stressed I am the more I gravitate towards Jazz.  Here's my cosmically, unrealistic hypothesis of why I find Jazz so attractive (at least lately).  Jazz was born/created from the historically beleaguered, mistreated and misunderstood African-American experience trying to find a voice once they could stand on their legs as a sentient, art-producing community.  This awful burden transmutates and is interpreted circa the 1950-1960-ish jazz scene producing America's most sonically potent art form.  As I stress from work, the struggle from their music makes it that much more translatable to me at a near personal, empathetic level.   That's my hypothesis and if you don't concur there's a 95% chi-square confidence analysis where you can probably kiss my...   

I'm really looking forward to (not particularly excited mind you) the cycling season next year.  After all the stuff that went down with my family (I suppose it's still continuing) it took me away from the cycling arena temporarily enough that it makes me miss it.  I'm trying to do some constructive training in a way that it doesn't lead to burn out.  I don't know if doing the hour of power should be in my early season regimen but damn it sure is fun.  I need to be doing LSD kinda miles but at my stage in life I'm at the point where I have to take it whenever I can.  I kinda want to do the mountain biking marathon events but that all depends on what kind of off-season endurance training I can muster.  Running doesn't seem to bother mountain biking muscle training.  In fact, I want to do some Winter 10ks if it's allowable.  I want to shoot for a sub-hour Turkey Trot in Dallas at sea level, the distance being 8 miles.  With the 29er underneath me the novelty to race is resurfacing.  At the very beginning I was still a bit chicken to really let her rip thinking the bike's a bit fragile to really thrash it like I do my Yeti; but now, knowing where the center-of-gravity is on her, I mostly let her rip.  On occasion, the mentally perceived additional height of me on the cockpit of the 29er flowing over the really technical stuff throws me the mental left hook where I think I have to slow it down (thus second guessing my abilities to kill it).  It's a learning experience but for the marathon events I think it will be an advantage (if I race the sixty year-olds).  Tight switchbacks I'm learning to negotiate with the bigger wheels and its desire to go straight at high speeds are somethings I have to adapt to.  I really have to emphasize the body english over the tricky bits because of the rolling inertia once I get her to ramming speed.

Since I'm on this completely random tear, here's a MapMyRide Google Earth of one of my favorite rides near my house.  The Pleasant Park-HighGrade Loop.


24 July, 2011

Oh-My-God Road aka Virginia Canyon

'Tis Sunday morning. Another cathartic TdF is about to be under wraps with my boy Cadel Evans finally taking the win after so many close calls and crappy teams not designed for him to win the tour. Rode and ran to my satisfaction and now I'm listening to the Oliver Nelson sextet's The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse, 1961) drinking french pressed Kenyan Roast (and ingesting particulate solids of the bean). If you have no inclination for Jazz (straight ahead, bop, hard-bop, circa 50-60's AMERICAN jazz) can I suggest you pick up John Coltrane's My Favorite Things ? No question mark in the title. If you don't like that after a month or so of listening you might have right-brain aesthetics issues you might need to correct. Life can't be sweeter with the week I just had (I don't need much to keep me grinning).
Yesterday after corner marshaling the Mt Evans-Bob Cook Memorial-Hillclimb I was so baked from standing in the sun stopping cars from running over competitors, yelling at my compatriots for non-numbered riders trying to poach the course (we actually pay to shut down this road for this event, otherwise I wouldn't care), collecting tossed water bottles, cheering the slowpokes on...etc. I was too tired to ride with Kenny. So when our Natural Grocer's Boss Mr. T. came cycling along and told us we're done, I asked Kenny L. do you still want to ride? Thankfully he said yes. The day before he was scheming up a cool off-road with some on-road route that would take us over Oh-My-God Road to Central City and back to Idaho Springs. As volunteers we got the usual post race schwag but this year the T-shirts are cooler and we got a free sandwich from a local restaurant (being a vegetarian I gave my fleshy parts of my sandwich to Kenny). So after eating a Clif-shot and the lettuce, cheese, and bready parts of a sandwich and putting on a clean kit on a sweaty, stinky, warmed-over body (I especially love putting on form-fitting bib shorts on said stinkiness) we're off to ride in 95°F (35 C) temps. Here's an interesting description about this route Kenny chose from TrailCentral.com:
About This Trail: Oh-My-God road was once a major link between Idaho Springs and Central City. This road was critical for many miners bringing supplies to there camp by horse and wagon in 1865. Once the railway included stops in both cities the traffic along the road dwindled signifigantly.Along this road a great deal of mining activity took place, some ruins still remain to this day and add to the history you get to see while riding this trail.
Trail Description: The road is a well-maintained dirt road. There is a short paved section at the top, and the county is paving one mile of the road per year. Along the road, you will see many service roads branching off. Some of these go to national forest land, so feel free to explore. HOWEVER, some of these go onto private land with signs like this. We don't want to be responsible for anybody getting attacked by dogs, or shot, so please make sure you know where you're riding! The bike shop in town, Mountain and Road Bicycles (303-567-4666), carries an excellent map of the area. If you are planning on branching off of the main road, make sure you have a map.

Here's a link, to see the map as well as the profile.
Here's the video, thanks Map My Ride...

I especially like the if you are planning...have a map part. It was a rather fun exploratory ride for future references. The drag about the slight detours was usually after we bombed a downhill and we figured we went the wrong way, we had to 180 it and climb back out to retrace our steps. Kenny climbed in the big gear to get a power workout, I just pedaled to get over. We got all manner of friendly hints of NOT to ride your bike at Blackhawk, instead walk it to save the fine from the local po-po. We saw some abandoned mines, investigated its innards, and moved along. The weather was a little on the warm side but tolerable. After we bombed Central City Parkway we traveled on a little known (at least to us) bike path that paralleled I-70. It dumped us on the far eastern edge of Idaho Springs but what a cool path we saw and what amazing scenery we witnessed at the the top of OMG and Central City. There was some cool information a local gave us as we were filling water bottles up at Freedom Valley Resort. We also saw the town of Russel Gulch. A "town" in various stages of disrepair. Had that old, near ghost-town feel I witnessed riding around Jay's cabin in NM. High alpine mining towns are cool best witnessed with homies on a bike. Cool loops near Nevadaville we can explore on the 29er because the roads are sometimes unpaved out here in the old mining towns of Colorado. All of this information will be stored and used in late season or early season stuff when we need to pile on long-ish pedal rotations to get the body primed for (XC) race abuse and quality saddle sitting, gabbing with friends time.
Afterwards I meet up with the rest of Team M to celebrate mother in-law's birthday with some quality dinner components complete with imbibitions. Man what a most excellent way to end a most satisfying week. If you weren't listening, to recap: soccer with kids, listening to the TdF with my favorite winning, riding solo, riding with Kenny, celebrating mother in-law's b-day, and free socks and Clif products from our sponsor (thanks Kenny) make for a glorious week in this particular life. Mine...so there.

22 July, 2011

22 July

Since I don't have cable or dish I get my TdF fix by going to Velonews' live tour coverage via Mr. Pelkey on the internet. It is terribly addicting and really, that's the only reason why I'd subscribe to cable or dish is only for the month of July. Today's the 19th stage. Speaking of which, I have to say chapeau! for Tommy Voeckler. Hope he podium finishes. He's gonna light the fire for French cycling for the next couple of seasons. Chapeau to Tom Danielson and the other N. American Ryder Hesjedal. Tommy D might have a more than top 10 finish! Yeah! Go fellow Coloradoan!!!!!! The French people, if they were like Americans with winning Superbowls and Stanley Cups, would set cars on fire, loot urban areas and topple cars over because a Frenchy won the iconic L'Alpe D'Huez today (except Dallasites, they know how to celebrate without vandalism, just ask any Miami Heat fan, don't ask Cannuck fans).
Got my mountain bike back from the shop, just some adjustments to my hubs (loose), and dotting the "i"s like shortening an un-aesthetically long brake cable and shortening the steerer tube on my fork for the custom dial-in.
My bud Chip bailed for our planned road ride today so instead I check out my new and dialed-in 29er on a mountain loop out here. The course is an eighteen miler with about 2500' of climbing. The kicker was it was in 95°F temps. Completely yucky with no wind (and therefore no evaporative cooling). I park about a mile out and warm up towards the climb. The Mt. Falcon climb is where testosterone laden people like to PR the climb to the finish line: the sheltered picnic table. It's a three mile climb but it's kinda steep with just a shade of technical. Completely exposed and sandy at places. Since I'm technically a fat-ass for being four weeks off my bike (not consecutively), I slap it in the granny and go chilly-chill. As I enter the parking lot there's a downhill so get a nice head of steam heading into the ascent into the singletrack.
Of course there's a guy in front of me and sensing my head o'steam as I line up behind him on the skinny singletrack, it officially becomes a race (for him!). I see him pick up his pedaling cadence and he pulls away. Fine, it's like an inferno and if I pick up my pace I'ma have to pull over and puke so I just go chilly-chill, not breathing too hard. With my chilly-chill speed I eventually catch him on a technical part where he's near walking speed and I announce passing on your right and I fly up the same rocks my six year-old could've maneuvered. Kyeeot damn that testosterone. If I was the slightest bit fit I'da tried to crush him actually (kyeeot damn that testosterone!).
I brought my camera to take pictures but I was in the flow. If I were to stop I would stop waaaay too long to regain my internal temperature regulation but I don't, so I suffer all the way to the top parking lot, with my heart beating in my throat, where I eventually take the break.
I snap this (the only) picture on my way down to Lair O'The Bear and a gal passes me as I'm putting my Camelbak on. Usually this is the route people take to connect Mt. Falcon with LOTB. It's a long downhill so I don't pedal I just flow and I eventually catch her on the road. So I asked you want some company for LOTB or you flying solo today? She says yes (for company) and we climb to the singletrack. Once we get to the singletrack I ask if she wants first chair and she's off and bombing the downhills (being the egotistical guy I don't let her get too far away but she's cruising nonetheless). She gets a mechanical: her saddle comes loose. I carry my 4,5,6 triangle hex and while she tightens up the seat adjustment fore and aft bolts I ask if she races and sho' nuff she does (hence her bombing and ascending skills). After we leave LOTB it's a road downhill on highway 73 back to Morrison where we both parked.
Great ride albeit a hot mother scratcher of a day but with a nice surprise of riding with someone new that has skills. My 29er was an even more dialed-in champ and tomorrow after I corner marshal the Mt. Evans (Bob Cooke Memorial) Hillclimb, my homey G, Kenny, and I are going for a mountain ride to Blackhawk from Idaho Springs. Kenny pilots a Gary Fischer Superfly. Chilly-chill of course flying the Natural Grocers colors because that's how we roll (literally!). 29er love. Please go away now adipose tissue...

20 July, 2011

The NW passage

'Twas a sobering three weeks and now Team M forges ahead towards the Pacific Northwest. I'm all plumped up from all the eating from Texas and now we officially beginneth our holiday trek. You know what being on holiday means: if'ns I sees cupcakes, I be eats the cupcizzles (or Doritos or Fish & Chips...etc.). Let out another notch on the belt people!
Not really. I'm not letting myself go but it is vacation and I do need to decompress a bit. We stay two nights in Boise, ID. On the way to Vancouver and on the way back. Stayed at this cool, rebuilt Travelodge, aptly named Modern Hotel and Bar. Pet friendly of course, with hip(ly) designed rooms, live music and a bar (no false advertising here). Yea!!
Vancouver! Stayed at the Sylvia Hotel (pet friendly of course!) located in Stanley Park. We arrived on Canada Day.
This is the official day where all Americans have to say, aboot and ootside and any word with letter O, as if it were umlauted 50X during the day for a free Canadian flag and pin that I have to say, I'm wearing proudly. It's basically the Canadian Independence Day. Celebrated Canada by walking to Granville Island from Vancouver to partake in said festivities. You may use a bridge to walk/drive to Granville (as opposed to ferry); we walked...
heading back to Vancouver after a loong day's worth of celebrating and people watching...
Vancouver's pretty hip, clean, and serviceable. Vancouver also has some major traffic snarls so heading around by car can be a biscuit at times. Got the opportunity to talk locally to my Cajun brother Rory. He's picked up just a hint of a Canadian accent after living there for three years. Granville Island was an oasis of people watching, eating, listening to music, drinking Granville Brewery's brews, and experiencing a different country (albeit some things were similar) celebrating their day. Charlie, our one year-old Golden Retriever, was a big hit with the pedestrians (wet Charlie after playing on the beach) whenever I'd wait outside for the girls to shop.
Vancouver's celebration this evening included fireworks. Here's a shot I took from our Sylvia Hotel window.
Here's another shot at night in this vibrant town I took from our strategically located window.
Next day, saw the Capilano Suspension Bridge. High, arboreal suspended walkways between trees or scaffolded onto granite cliffs surrounded by a rain forest. Who doesn't like that? I guess people who don't like high, arboreal suspended walkways between trees or scaffolded onto granite cliffs surrounded by rain forests.

Whidbey Island, WA
(specifically Coupeville, WA)! Decompress, decompress, and more decompression people. Check out the house and location of the house we rented for a week to do nothing but read, beachcomb, nap, run, nap, watch the Tour de France, nap, repeat and rinse! The water (in Camano Bay when)at high tide came right up to the house almost. Nutty but (my) awe (was) full!
Here's our rental home for the week. Notice the Colonial Revival-esque era, Cape Cod styling with gabled roof complete with dormers...
Here's what I mean when I say the water comes up to the house.
This shot I took from our kitchen at sundown over looking the backyard and Camano Bay (which is part of Puget Sound).
This is where I opened my (The) Glenlivet, sweet Melissa purchased for me at the Duty Free Shopping at the Canadian border. In addition to Canada Day's fireworks we arrived on the 4th and I actually purchased fireworks and sparklers for the kids. Not to worry all of Team M still have ten digits.
The kids beach combed shells, made sand castles, played chase with Charlie and climbed steep sand cliffs where I graffitied their names high onto the bluffs next to other people's names etched with a sharp stick. Everyday was a new day doing this (as if it was their first time again) and they loved it while the adults read and sat on their butts on deck chairs looking at Mt. Baker in the distance and the lights at Oak Harbor in Camano Bay. Here's the cache of sand dollars Maricel scored on a particularly good day of beachcombing...
One day Team M (plus mother in-law) minus me went whale watching while I stayed behind with Charlie. When I went to pick them up at the ferry in Anacortes (Fidalgo Island) I arrived early and parked the car down the pedestrian walkway. I was expecting my Dad to come walking down the hill or come around the bend. As I kept thinking about him and all the vacations we took and the good times associated with it, it brought a smile to my face. I think about him all the time. Picked up the cell and dialed my Mom to see how she's doing. She misses him dearly (married 46 years, I'd miss my mate too).
Before I picked 'em up I parked Melissa's 4runner and Charlie and I went photogeeking at this landmark called Deception Pass Bridge. It's where Captain Vancouver (hey we just left his eponymous city!) entered and was deceived by the depth of these turbulent waters as he navigated into Saratoga Passage from the Strait of Johnny Fuca.
Here's the span of it...
Here's what you're walking over (it was super windy and the sidewalk was waaaay too narrow)...
We made a quick detour to Olympic National Park before we checked into the University Hotel in Seattle. Olympic is huuuge so we had time to only check out Sol Duc Falls and Lake Crescent inside this magnificent, old growth rain forest. On my hike to Sol Duc I was snapping away trying to achieve picture one-ness with nature. Here's one of the many picturesque streams on my hike towards the falls.
Here's my attempt at art by keeping the shutter open for an inordinate amount of time to make the water look dreamy...
Here's the actual Sol Duc Falls...
Seattle now. We went first to the Sculpture Park to checkout the Seattle Outdoor Art exhibits. I really dug this metallic tree.
After that we went to the Seattle Center. Built for the World's Fair in 1962 it now houses (just to name a few) the Experience Music Project, the Science Fiction Museum, and the Intiman Playhouse. These three buildings were juxtapositioned and all three had different hues of metallic plates adorning their shells. Oh and the Space Needle's there too.
Here's the reflection of the Space Needle off of the plates of the Experience Music Project building.
Next stop, Seattle's Pike Public Market. Yeah it's touristy but I never tire of people geeking and soaking up the local flavor (literally and figuratively) of a region that's completely novel and is a significant deviation from my habituated, daily, surroundings (Colorado still kicks a$$ by the way). If the Pacific Northwest were to take a chi-square test on its Pacific Northwesterly charm it would pass with 95% confidence and the null hypothesis can kiss me arse (in my bastardized statistical interpretation)! What we really appreciated other than the accommodating weather were all the talented street musicians pedaling their wares.
There was a Beatles knock-off band complete with a left-handed bass player (minus Ringo: peace and love); and a duo called The Jaded Optimists where they both played the guitar. In addition to their guitar playing talent, the dude played a washtub bass and the gal played a saw. Awesome-ness.
They played in front of the original Starbucks (for their elite-ness sweet Melissa and mother in-law got a rechargeable gift card created only at this location). What wasn't awesome was their AM sounding-recorded-in-a-bathroom-quality RW/CD we purchased but at least they earned their money and can eat that night. Saw the Mirror Man too. All of this and a picnic at the wharf? What else is there to do? Oh yeah, the Aquarium baby.
Long live the Pacific Northwest region and Team M! The Pacific Northwest, before we witnessed just a small sampling, always placed this picture in my mind of rugged, glaciated, expansive, coastlines with craggy shorelines (Pacific Plate-Ring of Fire) that butted up to rain forests where the population never strayed too far from its Native American origins (i.e. art, design, clothing) still rang true when we arrived. What a magical region. Could probably live here if I can get over Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to lack of UV radiation during winter.

Parting Shot. Dog is my copilot (at least sweet Melissa's). Charlie always, eventually made his way up front...

26 June, 2011

Three Weeks

I'm in Texas (or was)-where the weather's absolutely miserable- because of my Mom and Dad. Dad passed away peacefully at the house on the 17th of June with all of his family around him. After Dad finally came home from the hospital under the auspices of hospice care, we talked to him, read to him, doing everything we could to keep him comforted in his final days. In fact, our hospice nurse Denise, was so exceptional she seemed as if she was a part of our family whenever she was present. Quite an armada of (his circle of) friends came by and visited.

It's remotely bizarre-no, it's pretty damn bizarre--the preparatory work ensuring a funeral, internment/inurment/columbarium, and a memorial service-to go accordingly and timely. My brothers and I and our respective families are here doing the legwork so my Mom doesn't have to. Thankfully and appreciatively the funeral home as well as Mom and Dad's church we dealt with were superior in their relationship and services to us.

It's also especially cool how the community of friends and family are rallying around Mom and our family in our time of distress. The previously mentioned community brought so much food for us everyday it seemed like Thanksgiving. Been running with sweet Melissa to keep my personal growth to a minimum (although I'd say I'm losing).

Extended family and friends are starting to arrive in town so the house is getting packed. My next door neighbor's a class act and my Dad's first cousins are a hoot. One of the wives of the first cousins came in from Canada, she-Grace (there's a reason she has that name)-was a class act too. Listening to what they did back in the Philippines as teenagers/college students was educational for me. It painted a lively, contextual, historical picture in my mind of their interactions when they conversed as family members, friends, as well as their complicitous tomfoolery growing up (including some juicy gossip about them provided from my cousin Gerry). The most interesting history was how they lived and survived in the presence of the Japanese occupying forces in the Philippines. When family members are also your friends that's a major bonus kids!

My family came in on the 17th. Team M's quite the group. Have I mentioned how my family is righteous? The whole is better than the sum of the parts. Their behaviour and support speaks volumes of their personalities.

Dad's memorial service was exceptional. Mom wanted to have it at the church they've been attending for the past three decades. Not much of a religious kinda guy but the Reverend Gary Mueller had such presence and a command of the English language I was actually quite impressed with his reverence and relevance towards my Dad I felt I was in a sacred establishment. I can see why he's the leader of this congregation (as well as his support staff of equally amazing Reverends like Revs. Alice Coder and Melissa Hatch). Of course when your older brother eulogizes your esteemed father, it's difficult to keep your emotions inside. He-my older brother-spoke elegantly about my father: an exceptional father as well as an exception husband to my most amazing mother. My brother's speech and Rev. Mueller's presentation left quite an impression on me afterwards I think often about it. The pictures my brothers and I chose for the visual part of the memorial service got me choked up too. My father was quite the handsome fellah back in his heyday. I kid you not when I say he's the Filipino version of Clint Eastwood. Saw five dear friends at the Memorial Service too: (in no certain order) Jimmy, Kev-leb, Brent--collectively the Rajun' Cajuns--Brian (a teammate when we raced for Plano Schwinn) and Grant, my college roomy and once-upon-a-time complicitor. Good, loyal friends they are...It's the little things that creep into my brain that remind me of my Dad, that get me lachrymose. For example, after setting up Dad's bookshelf speakers in my home, I played Beethoven's Ninth and it reminded both me and Melissa of how much he loved listening to (classical) music. The randomness of items or events that evoke remembrances of my father...

My part of this journey began right after school got out on the sixth of June and we just arrived in Colorado last night-the 24th-after 13 hours of driving. The record high was 111°F (44°C) when we drove through Amarillo. Have y'all ever been to Amarillo during the summer? I bet after the Spanish word for Yellow, the runner up for the name of this town was Caliente. It's not finished yet. Some more items need to be attended to in my Mom's estate and we're-my brothers and our families-going to ensure that it flows seamlessly within the best interests of Mom. Sweet Melissa created a list of things to do to get my Mom's affairs in order. A little daunting because of my world class procrastination skills.

Rode Saturday the 25th-to begin my routines (and burn off the potential energy forming around me middle) and to place some modicum of mental sanity back into my mellon. Felt good to ride in Colorado away from that insufferable heat of Texas (although I miss my brothers and my Mom). Busted out a 31 miler on my 29er where 2/3rds of it was on roads and a third was singletrack. Back to the bidness of being Cycling Dad with episodes of traveling to Texas to helps out me Momma. Gonna try to participate in the Colorado Road Race Championships if I can do it without being pack fodder, otherwise who cares right?

If you're reading this and you have parents that are getting up there in years, you should consider getting the ball rolling in the eventuality of their passing with dignity with their estate in your hands as opposed to the State's. Just saying...

And another thing, don't be a dick to your parents. If you're a teenager you probably can't help it (like yours truly as a teenager) but maturity goes a long way (even if some parents--or you!--temporarily lack this). Be the good son or daughter to your folks unconditionally even if they might not be exhibiting rationale behaviour. Thankfully my Dad had a long, meaningful life where he and my Mom traveled and were surrounded by people who loved them and visited them often. My parents sacrificed and planned their estate in such a way their son's have it better than them. I'll never forget that and I'ma pay it forward to my kids and family to plan a retirement that's beneficial to Team M. You'll regret petty behaviour towards your folks (because you or they held a grudge, and they pass unpredictably quick), then you're stuck with some irreversible dumb $hit you could've avoided simply by taking the high road. Took that advice and I'm eternally grateful.

Have I mentioned how righteous my extended family members are?

Like my brother said in his eulogy, Dad, we love you and we're going to miss you.

29 May, 2011

The Beginning of Summer (A Story within a Story)

This was written on the 24th of May:
Technically it hasn't started but it has gotten off to a distressing start. My Dad, for reasons I'll keep to myself, was in the hospital for a specific malady when they found a much more serious condition that might be causative to the original malady (ies). Haven't been in the mood to write since this happened. It's difficult to see your Dad-my musical, personal, comedic, familial, and paternal guide-being weakened by age-related, health paroxysms. But since then, I've completed the Santa Fe Century with my good friend J; in fact, I've posted his report on the previous blog entry. Here's what I came up with-on the 14th of May-before the condition of my Dad superseded the priority to write.

The reason why I’m here’s for the Santa Fe Century. Haven’t done any high volume miles this season so what better reason to hang out with my dear friend Jay of multiple decades in a cosmically hip place like Santa Fe to ride, catch up, and decompress from another end of an academic year (aka working my ass off!)
The road trip down to Jay’s cabin (aka ADMACO) was uneventful and sonically blissful. It was a cold and foggy start in Colorado so I handpicked music aligned to the unpredictable, quasi-mysterious, gastronomically adventerous, Georgia O’Keefe-ey, geo-socio-political state of being known as New Mexico. First one up was Miles Davis’
Filles de Kilimanjaro
. The first and last songs are memorable. In Felun Brun when Miles’ trumpet kicks in it is so understatedly powerful and strong it just cut through all the cold and fog that was settling in Sedalia…

Six hours later, nearer to Jay’s cabin, the sights I was so accustomed to as a 20 something undergrad when Jay, our friends and I would take refuge from the pressures of being said 20-somethings were foggy. But once I started rolling through Pecos, NM the memories of times at the cabin came slowly into focus. One of them was the tiny Church...
...The roads sure seem a lot narrower than what I remembered but the trees and the spatial orientation of the landmarks I used to remember where still there. Coupl’a houses got bigger but by and large this area of NM is still largely unchanged.
Jay has a log book in the big room where guests would remark on the day they were having as vacationers. Saw some entries I put in when we went mountain biking (like back in the mid-nineties) and it made me laugh from a majorly by-gone era. This is the Cowles city limit sign almost directly in front of the house (which is up a steep-ish hill).
Here's the vantage point looking at ADMACO from the city limit sign.
At Jay’s I gave my bike the once over and rolled for about half an hour getting my legs warmed up for tomorrow. This is what greeted me after the fog and cold I left Colorado this morning...

19 May (new story). I'm finished with my duties as a teacher and immediately afterwards I flew to TX to help out my Mom and to see my two brothers who were rallying for Mom as well. Our cousin Gerry also came up from Austin to visit and help us. As we were cleaning up/de-cluttering our folks' house I came up on two unopened bottles of Glenlivet (12) hanging out where non-alcoholic possessions usually hangout. Aw deem. So (mathematically speaking): the boys + our cousin Gerry + an unopened bottle of (The) Glenlivet = cigars and a newly opened bottle of (The) Glenlivet in the backyard (for catching up, decompressing, and general shooting the $hit). Gerry likes his neat, whereas I nosed mine before I sacrilegiously put (distilled watered) ice into it.
Seeing my brothers-all together-was excellent. We haven't been together for several years so hanging out with them and Mom (although the reason was $hitty) was rather satisfying.

Back in Colorado, the weather is currently holding in the precipitation pattern so my "free" time to ride (in-between picking up and dropping off the kids from schooly-school) is going to be interesting. Do I ride in cold rain/snow or run indoors? Either option is not particularly attractive, although the half-marathon's coming up...

It's going to be an interesting Summer. Heading out again (with my son and our Golden Retriever) in early June to help out Mom as my brothers and I are staggering our times in Plano, TX. Melissa's sympathetic to my situation because she's cool like that. Gonna bring my road bike.

24 May, 2011

My friend, Jay's Santa Fe Century Report. Entitled "Sammy Ortiz"

This is a redacted excerpt (from me, the .PDF threw off my margins from the beginning of his text) from my homeskillet, Javier De Soto Santa Cruz de la Collier's (yes, that's his real name and don't let him tell you otherwise) post race report of the Santa Fe Century. It's quite and enjoyable read. Hope y'all like it as much as I did. But, here's the breakdown of Javier...

Synopsis of Javer de Soto Santa Cruz Real Madrid como esta usted de la Collier (yes, that is his real name and don't let him tell you different) and our friendship of two plus decades.
-As a graduate student Jay was a HARD cyclist (years of West Texas headwinds made him hard).
-Jay has an MS in Organic Chemistry with a minor in English.
-we laugh and drink a lot of beer together.
-he still owns the original Selle Italia turbo SLR saddle.
-his patent for sliced bread was stolen so that made him bitter about entrepreneurialship.
-a mutual friend of ours got me a life-guarding, summer job where I met the narrator of said story back in 1989-ish.
-our mutual love of: cars, beer, music, geeky science stuff, people who write well, and food (to name a few) made our Venn diagram circles (his and mine) mo' similar rather than contrasting.
-lastly, he has plead the fifth more than once with his episodes pertaining to jurisprudence.

Characters (in no certain order):
-Jay=first person narrator (omniscient no, but cool? yes).
-Elizabeth=narrator's homeskilletienne.
-Jeff Winchester=conduit o'cycling knowledge and narrator's friend.
-Sammy=phred, tool, poseur.
-Mike=yours truly.

We begin with Jay's background in West Texas as an undergrad beginning with his downward spiral that is cycling...
Second race – October. Again, Sammy talking to friends before the race, “I’m not racing today because I’m upset at how Darrin put this race together. He took the whole thing and just did it, cutting the rest of us out when we offered to help, so I’m not racing today.”
I began to see a pattern. And at the time, I was one of the new guys in the group, so I sought the advice from a higher power, a buddy of mine, Jeff Winchester.
“That Sammy guy?” I quered
“Oh, don’t even get me started on him! Man, he’s worthless!”
“Does he ever ride? Or does he just talk about it. Because he’s always got some excuse as to…”
“He’s either got an excuse, or he’s quit everything he’s ever entered. Don’t ever quit a ride. Because once you quit one, it’ll just be that much easier to quit the next one.” Such words became prophetic as I rarely saw Sammy out there riding – though he was always full of knowledge.
Santa Fe, New Mexico – Sunday May 15th, 2011, 6a.m. we stepped out of the car to go pick up our ride packets for the 26th annual Santa Fe Century. And immediately upon setting foot outside of the 4Runner, we felt exposed – to the wind and to the temperature, or lack thereof. A quick check of my phone revealed a temperature of 46 degrees, but that didn’t factor in the windchill.
And with the 30-40 mile gusts we were feeling I didn’t want to know what the perceived temperature was. Sometimes more knowledge isn’t a good thing.
I couldn’t figure it out – 6a.m., just barely dawn, and it was already gusting this badly and the secret to this ride is to get an early start so you can make absolutely as much progress as possible early in the day, cover as many miles as possible out of 100 before the winds do kick up (as they will) in the afternoon.
But at 6 a.m.?
“This is going to be an interesting ride,” I said to my riding compadres, Mike & Elizabeth.
And I hate wind.
Living in Lubbock as I did, you’re faced with it every spring. Brutal wind – the kind that turns the sky brown from all the dirt it kicks up from the outlying farms. And if you’re going to ride in Lubbock, you’re going to have to learn to ride in the wind. And while I did learn to hide from the wind, that doesn’t’ mean that I like it any better. In fact, having spent 10 years in Lubbock, I feel
as though I’ve already received my life’s allocation of wind. I’ll gladly take climbing over riding in the wind. Because while every climb has its section to offer reprieve, wind has a way of just absolutely being relentless and breaking your spirit.
We’ve had an unusually windy spring here in Denver this year, which has on more than one occasion hampered my training efforts. Knowing this, and knowing my vocal sentiments about riding in the wind, my friend & colleague, Jim asked me, “So what are you going to do if you get down there and it’s blowing like crazy?”
“Don’t even say that,” I said. I then went on to describe my strategy as far as getting an early start and covering as may miles as possible before the afternoon winds kicked up.
But here it was, 6a.m., and the sun hadn’t even crested Atalaya Mountain yet, and we’re facing a 100 mile day – that we signed up for, paid money for, and traveled clear to Santa Fe from Denver to ride. Any other day, I wouldn’t have gone out. Or I cut my rides down to 20 miles if it’s absolutely essential that I go out that day. Otherwise, forget it.
Because I hate riding in the wind.
The Santa Fe Century route begins by immediately taking you south out of Santa Fe along NM-14 to the town of Madrid, about 26 miles away. And last year, we hit Madrid in 1:25, averaging just slightly over 20 mph.
This year, with the wind gusting out of the south, as soon as we made that left onto NM-14, which turned us south, I knew we were screwed. And for a long time.
Riding out on the flat prairie, you’re quite exposed. And traveling at any rate of speed on a bike induces a windchill in & of itself. Add wind to that, and you’ve just increased your exposed windchill that much further.
Mike took off like a rocket, and cyclist upon cyclist passed Elizabeth & I, and what their secret I couldn’t even tell you as we were getting blown all over the place – our bike’s direction at times being dictated by the gusts which blew out front wheel haphazardly.
I just didn’t know if I could do it. 100 miles of this?
Why would I want to do this?
I couldn’t even answer the question. But there were other people out there, and I just kept heading south.
And if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would I?
Evidently so.
Another aspect about the Santa Fe Century is that because of its route, you have to make a decision relatively early as far as centuries go, if you’re going to bail from the 100-mile route and take on something shorter. And the way this route is laid out, you have to commit to cutting your ride to 50 miles before you even reach the first rest stop in Madrid at 26 miles. And I can’t tell you exactly how far that point was from the start, or how long it took for us to get there. But I can tell you that both Elizabeth & I stopped.
And we looked at each other, long and hard. Because there were a lot of other things I would’ve rather have been doing that day than riding in a gusting headwind.
“I’m fine, if you just want to go in,” Elizabeth said.
And I would’ve been fine too. I would’ve had no problem making that decision.
“I know.”
And we looked at each other some more. And we saw people making that left turn to cut their century ride short because of the wind. And we stared down that road.
“I have to go on,” I said. And it felt weird to say it. It’s like they weren’t even my words. “I have the Iron Horse in two weeks. And while I have no problem making this decision to head in, I have a feeling that I’m going to have a hard time living with this decision later. I need this workout to prep for the Iron Horse. And if I quit this, then it’s just going to make the Iron Horse that much bigger of
an obstacle to overcome. I have to do this.”
And I thought of Sammy Ortiz.
And Jeff Winchester, “Don’t ever quit a ride. Because once you quit one, it’ll just be that much easier to quit the next one.”
Such decisions are easy to make, but much harder to live with. I then discussed my revised ride strategy – how we’d just try & noodle along into the wind, but trying to make that left turn at Stanley, NM which turned us back north and put the wind at our back as soon as physically possible. And I tried to explain to Elizabeth how she could draft behind me, hiding from the wind to limit her exposure.
But the truth was that neither of us knew if we could actually pull this off. 100 miles in a day is hard enough, but in wind like this? That said, I don’t think either of us entertained the worst case scenario idea – catching the sag wagon in because we simply couldn’t make it. I have to believe that once we clicked back into our pedals and set off, that we truly believed that we would make it. And in just a few miles we had made it to the first rest stop in Madrid. I think it was good for our spirits to at least have made it to the first rest stop. Our next obstacle, wind aside, was that most of the elevation gain in the century occurred in the next two segments to Cedar Grove – the 1600’ climbed out of Madrid, coupled with what is usually considered to be the true crux of this route, Heartbreak Hill which rises toward the sky at a 17% grade over a half mile.

Upon pedaling out of Madrid, I accidentally clicked my left shifter. But when I did, suddenly realized that I had dropped my chain onto the smaller chainring in the front, thus affording an easier pedaling cadence than what I had experienced previously – I had been climbing the hills into Madrid in my big chainring.
“What the?!?? I’ve been running my 53 all morning so far?” I had neglected to drop it back down after motoring out of Santa Fe at the speed we departed.
“I saw that and thought, ‘Gosh, he’s awfully strong to be pushing that gear!” Elizabeth said.
So once realizing I had additional (and easier) gears that I hadn’t yet used, the 1600’ wasn’t bad to acquire as the foothills, depending on which way you were facing, did provide a bit of relief from the wind to the point where our direction wasn’t dictated by the front wheel reacting to the gusts. But conquering Heartbreak Hill, for me at least, would have to wait another year.

“That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” Elizabeth said as she saw the road rise steeply skyward.

Last year, I made it about 1/3 of the way up before stopping and walking the rest of way, as did Elizabeth this year. But this year, merely approaching it heading backinto a headwind was enough to immediately surrender defeat. Besides, we still had 60 miles to go in what was so far, an arduous day. As for Mike? He conquered the entire 17% grade in the headwind, then proceeded to single-handedly rescued helpless orphans from a burning building once at the top, and then put out the fire with his two water bottles before the fire department even arrived.

Mere mortals like Elizabeth & I can only aspire to be as great.

We skipped the rest stop a t Heartbreak Hill as it came before the monstrous climb and neither of us wanted to cool our legs before approaching that thing by stopping, so we soldiered on, descending into the Cedar Grove rest stop. This allowed me have the volunteers from REI take a look at my rear wheel, as it was feeling soft on the descent – and they replaced without delay using their own replacement tube. A classy move, and I’ll be a customer of theirs for life. But having skipped the rest stop at Heartbreak Hill, and using the rest stop at Cedar Grove to tend to a mechanical, I knew I was running low on fuel, but also knew the coveted Stanley rest stop was only 15 miles ahead.

And Cedar Grove marked the first of two essential left turns of the day, as it marked the southernmost point the route of the century would have us take. From here we would head back east into Stanley, and then make the left turn I had been dreaming about since Madrid – the one that took us back north, hopefully with the wind at our backs. Onto Stanley, and for the first time all day, at mile 50, we were no longer facing a direct headwind, but rather more of a diagonal cross wind. I motored as hard as possible to bite off these miles and make it to Stanly to turn back north, and ended up conversing with a couple of guys along this long straight stretch.

“This wind is relentless,” I commented.

“I’ve ridden this century 7 years now, and I’ve never seen it like this. How you can run a 100-mile course and face directly into the wind for 65 of those miles is beyond me.”

This guy felt my pain, though his misery evidently didn’t love my company because a few short pedal strokes later, his small group was gone. And my commands to the engine room for more power fell on deaf ears, because I hadn’t eaten. I was running on fumes and 7 miles out from the rest area. Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth had caught up to me.

“I’m not going to lie,” I said, turning to her. “I’m really hurting here.”

“I can’t say I’ve enjoyed too much of this day, myself.”

We were wounded. Though in the distance, we could see NM-41, our cross street, that dear left turn that would turn us back north. I checked the wind – still coming from the south, if only it would hold. And a few short minutes later, we pulled into Stanley – the two of us needing a rest stop like we’ve never needed one in our lives before. We were famished, our spirits beaten down by the wind.

But the atmosphere at the Stanley rest stop contrasted with us as it was light & jovial, reggae music playing, and the volunteers happily serving up Gatorade, sandwiches, cantaloupe, pretzels and oranges, welcoming our arrival. Not since the wild hyenas of Africa were featured on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom have you seen such reckless abandonment while scavenging. We ate everything that was offered and consumed massive amounts of Gatorade. It was our longest rest stop of the day, easily 30 minutes.

We fought for every one of those 62 miles to make it into Stanley. But what lay ahead of us was the long straight road back to Santa Fe that passed through Galisteo & Eldorado. Last year, I fought a headwind through this section the entire 41 miles that it was back to Santa Fe. This year, I could only hope that this was the left turn I had been dreaming about putting the wind at our backs as it was nearly 20 miles to the next rest stop.

And having been beaten down by the last 15 said, “I really need for this section to go well.”

Sometime after 12:30 p.m. by the time we left Stanley. We had been on the road for six hours and covered 65 miles. Yet there it was, just a few short pedal strokes later, we could feel it – the wind at our backs for the first time all day. What was a difficult section last year proved to be a heck of a lot of fun this year – rollers, but with a net downhill. So powering down the backside of one would help slingshot you part way up the next. I felt good, I felt strong. I passed countless
people on the upside of the rollers. I felt like my old self again and for the first time all day, remembered why I loved this ride so much. We gained a lot of ground back on that stretch 20-mile stretch which went by all too quickly.

Galisteo to the final rest stop at Eldorado is a net climb, culminating in a long, gradual hill several miles long that rises out of Lamy and continues on until just a couple of miles south of Eldorado. And while it isn’t hard and is completely ridable in contrast to Heartbreak Hill, it’s about the last thing you want to see at mile 82 into a century. And after blowing my legs on the previous section,
decided simply to noodle this section to save some of my energy for the fast trip back to Santa Fe from Eldorado.

“On your left…” I heard come up from behind me on the climb out of Lamy, so I moved over to the right to allow the female voice to pass when it continued, “…at some point.” As she wasn’t moving any faster than I was. To that point, it was the funniest thing I’d run across all day, and as tired as I was, shared a good laugh together with a stranger who was as tired as I was at this point in the day, trying to climb the same hill as best as possible.

Elizabeth led this section, chugging along like the cog train that she is despite the fact that she detests climbs, and we met back up at the rest stop in Eldorado.

92 miles. We were almost there, you could practically smell the chiles roasting in Santa Fe.

“We have just a couple of miles to go here, then we make a left onto I-25 for a fast shot across the interstate and back into Santa Fe.”

“I’m not counting my chickens until…” she said.

“We’re practically there, this section is going to go by in a hurry,” and in fact while we were motoring along I-25 again with a tailwind, I turned back to her & said, “Enjoy this feeling right here, because it’s all just about to be over.”

And we motored this section – as hard as we did the section from Galisteo to Eldorado, until finally we saw our Old Pecos Trail exit. Stopping at a light, we saw some police activity on our side of the road, but on the other side of the intersection – a couple of cop cars plus a motorcycle cop.

“I hope that wasn’t a cyclist that got hit,” Elizabeth said.

I couldn’t imagine coming all 100 miles in a century, only to be mowed over by a car with the finish line literally in sight. But once we got to the crime scene, we realized that it wasn’t a cyclist at all that was involved – it was an Amish family that had been pulled over for some reason.

“That has to be one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen on a bike! But that made the rest of the day completely worthwhile to see that.” And as brain dead as we were at 100 miles, we shared a good laugh over that one while quietly wondering to ourselves what in the world an Amish family could’ve done do have caused such a commotion with the Santa Fe police. That, and I never really pegged the Amish to be such scofflaws.

And upon finally arriving back at the 4Runner, found a note on my windshield saying how Mike had finished the century in 6 hours flat, to our 9. All these years Mike & I have been riding together (term used loosely), he’s still an animal with his worst day still being than my best.

Denver, Colorado – Tuesday May 17th, 8:38 a.m. – And when my colleague Jim approached me and asked me how it went, I was able to answer his question, “You asked me what I’d do if I were faced with a bunch of wind for the century – well, I guess I’d ride it.”

“Don’t ever quit a ride. Because once you quit one, it’ll just be that much easier to quit the next one.”

Besides, if you go around quitting rides, then you’ll never get to exercise your imagination as to why some poor Amish family got pulled over in the dream state that comes around mile 100.

-courtesy of Jay (not used by permission either beetches).

p.s. it was just a smidge longer than a century

23 April, 2011

A Whole Lot of Nuttin' Going On!

My semester/year's ending as a high school teacher (I'm still coming back to a job next academic year). That's bringing delayed joy and an inordinate amount of planning in order to execute the worthwhile concepts in a timely manner and to give a final exam twice (not the same): mine and the district's. Lacrosse and soccer's in full swing (both girls have practice every day and my son on Sundays) so my base miles are pretty much non-existent. So how do I get a modicum of self-indulgence (relative sanity)? Oh and I'm also training for a half marathon too in early June; but, this Friday and Saturday I got in back-to-back rides: Friday off-road and today, on the road. Therapeutic baby. Therapeutic. I gotta get it when I can get it (it's probably the same mantra as a HS teenage boy, but for different reasons).
Drove to Maura's lacrosse game which was exciting! The score was tied with 30 seconds remaining and our girl won the face-off, marched it downfield and shot the winning goal. Awesome. Yelled myself into a headache. I wasn't a little league dad or anything but just hollering for our mountain girls.

I was satisfied with my performance up Mt. Falcon Friday. Mt. Falcon is a thousand foot climb contain in three miles where people go there to improve their PR. So if it's a guy, and they see a body up ahead, they'll race you 'til their eyes bleed. I try not to fall into that category but damn my testosterone producing testicles. Damn them! I was just moseying along, going a pretty good clip, listening to my iPod (some mellow Ben Folds tune) when out of the corner of my eye (you ever notice how your hairs on your neck stand up when you're getting eye-balled?) I saw a dude taking a breather on a switch-back and when I got within 100 meters he bolted. He bolted fast because he put a mighty gap on me but dammit I was determined to hunt him down like the dog he was. I placed it under the training category of interval training so let's go sucka! Sho nuff there's this spot of a rock garden that if you don't hit it mountain side and grunt it; or hit it near the precipice with body english and finesse (you have to time the 6 o'clock pedal strokes or your pedals'll hit a strategically placed baby-head), you'll have to dismount and walk it. He tried the near precipice but completely ham fisted it and had to dismount. That's where my 44 year-old arse finessed it and passed him barely breathing and not establishing eye contact (that's the dickhead roadie in me...). Once it leveled out, I put it in the middle-ring and rocked it like a meth addict with a fresh syringe. I was one with my Yeti and when that's the case a mental conduit originates from my bike and attaches to my medulla oblongata. That's when she starts talking to me: telling me to go faster, giving me hints to English my frame to accelerate through twisties, and scolding me when I touch the brakes. I tacked on the Parmalee loop at the top, twisted my fork travel to max and let 'er rip. Nobody else was on this part of the mountain, made it a power workout and kept in the big ring from this point forward. I forgot how steep it was and cleaned a rock chicane that usually makes me unclip one of my pedals. 1.5 hours and 9 miles later I'm back at my truck. Chased down and passed a dual-suspension guy on the downhill on my hardtail Yeti. I'm getting ornery in my advancing years.

Today, after the snow fell and Maura's sweet lacrosse game, I hopped on my road bike and fired-off 50 very uneventful miles in 3 three hours in gusty, cold conditions. I couldn't get the climbing I wanted because where I live it's still hovering around freezing and the roads are not clean. My all purpose miles for this week (which includes my running) is 63. Not impressive but I can eat a hearty Easter brunch tomorrow without worrying about caloric surpluses. For dinner, sweet Melissa made Pad Thai. Yum. Washed it down with Shiner Cheer.

On a musical side note I've been completely smitten by TV On The Radio and Lang Lang's Live In Vienna. If y'all have never heard of TVOTR they are a Brooklyn-based band that has LAYERS of sound. Kinda like the way Radiohead has layers of sound these guys have a very distinct, rock band falsetto harmonizing kind of thing that's so impressively and sonically unique you either love 'em or hate 'em. It's like a wall of sound with their singers busting out a falsetto on normal vocalizations with a boomy bass sound, accompanied by a swinging guitar and rock steady drummer. I have Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and their latest: Nine Types of Light. As for Lang Lang, not only is he a twenty something prodigy but this is his debut performance for Sony classics and by golly does he perform. The sound dynamics on this live CD (two discs actually) is amazing!!! You can't even tell it's live until the audience starts clapping. His encore is a couple ditties from Frédéric François Chopin and he slays. Chopin's probably my top three classical artists and so I discriminate when people play Chopin. Barenboim, Pollini, Szpilman are three who I think are superb and give me chicken skin and now I add Lang Lang.

Ite den kids, wish me luck on the Santa Fe century. I'ma do it with long time home skillet, Javier de Soto Lambrusco and will crash at his cabin in Pecos, NM due to his largess (minus the condescension).

03 April, 2011

Next to Last Day of My Spring Break

The first part of my Spring Break was taking my middle and youngest urchins 890 miles southeast to the lovely Dallas suburb of Plano, TX. I brought my bike to do some group rides but it was soooo cold (whereas the week prior it was in the 80s) and drizzly the bike stayed put at Mom and Dad's. That was okay though, it meant more hang time for the familia. Maura brought her lacrosse stick down and we played catch in-between rain drops, hung out with the parents and I made breakfast and dinner most days. I did manage to get 12 miles worth of running down there. The best day weather-wise was when we left back to Colorado-go figure. My eldest went on her first Mother-Daughter trip to San Francisco. It was great seeing my parents. 5 days was enough before we started to get onto each others' nerves. Goodbyes are so awkward. I kind of hate them. Waving goodbye as we drive away is not a natural phenomenon.

Coming back on a Thursday meant that I could make it to out our Natural Grocers Racing Team picture. It was on the same day held at a nearby crit. I would be financially irresponsible to pay for a one day license, chip rental, and race fee to get my butt handed to me when I can get base miles for free. Back in the day when entrance fees where cheaper I'da considered it but with gas prices going nutty and our sizable commutes I can't whittle away at our potential gas pool of money. I probably gained some mass doing some quality eating with my folks and kids and having not touched the bike in a week was not the recipe to race. The season's long and I've resigned myself to probably racing the bulk doing crits. Looking forward to when XC mountain biking starts up. Due to La Niña, the high country should be thawed out sooner than most seasons; and, I got the green light to get a new mountain bike this season. Seriously considering a 3x9, hardtail 29er. Did some research and to sum, what I found is this: a 29er is not an all-rounder but it is good enough for Front Range mountain biking. I can see its limitations at some of the WinterPark XC courses-especially the technical uphills; and, at Slickrock in Moab. I want the carbon rig but my wallet's not that fat. Realistically the aluminum version of the Flash 29er with a Lefty fork-that'd be the shizzle kids.

After the team pics we went out for a ride. It was Joe, Ben, Kenny, and my lame memory is slipping and two others (Brendan and ?). It was nice riding with Kenny again let alone race with him. I haven't raced with him in a while. We've done the same XC races but not in the same category like we raced in the IIIs so it was nice riding hard with him today. Seeing the racers and the race today inspired me to do more training (at least start with smart calories). I will pay more attention to leg, weight training seeing that I probably won't be in any shape to be competitive in 80+ mile road races but can hopefully fake sitting in a pack attempting to complete a crit. I do want to do the Colorado State Master Road Championships and the series at the State Patrol (track) come Summer.

Work starts Monday. That sucks. This Spring Break though was memorable in a way that I spent some quality time with the kids (as opposed to other Spring Breaks when we were hanging out). Really enjoying each others' company in a way that transcends the other times we spend just being physically near each other but not really interacting. We snuggle at night, talk kid talk and just like being next to each other. Not in the Brady bunch sort-of-way but in our sort-of-way that's intrinsically meaningful and not subject to non-family interpretation. Took Maura on her first mountain bike ride and she slayed. Mason did too (his second). They're both fearless and I really want to do more with them in that particular skill set. Right now they both love the things I find recreationally valuable (I'm a big believer in sound mind, sound body): skiing and cycling (not in any particular order). It can only get better (and more expensive too I suppose).

They're spending the night at Grandma's tonight and I already miss 'em...