Wednesday, March 25, 2009


A bad landing with the Karate Monkey at Summerset, poor packing/delivery on my Paramount, and some parts procurement issues have given me two damaged bikes to deal with and a case of the "fuck it"s this week.

The Karate Monkey will rise from the ashes once I get a second set of Midge bars next week. They don't take direct, high-velocity contact with the ground well. On a related front, Shimano has decided that they neither need to make nor stock inner chainrings for the nice used set of XTR cranks I just picked up. 5-bolt 24 tooth chainrings must not help the bottom line. I'll find one, hopefully soon, so I can USE the crank rather than just looking at it.

The Paramount has me a bit more concerned. The bike was packed up and shipped back to me in a different box than I shipped it down in. This appears to have let something lightly, but repeatedly tap against the point of my set tube lug, and deform it so that the seat post no longer fits. I'm still working through the claim process with UPS, but I'm not holding out hope. This means that I don't get to race at Kent Park on Sunday, and any other fast road races/rides are out for me as well.

It's now slightly over a month before TransIowa and I still haven't ridden a gravel metric, let alone a full century or longer. I'm getting more concerned with my chances of finishing, not only due to lack of riding, but due to attitude. The only thing that's keeping me going right now is the commitment that I made to the organizers by signing up. I owe it to them, and to someone whose spot I'm occupying to go and finish. We'll see how it goes. At this rate, I'd be just as happy cruising around the rest of the summer on the Long Haul Trucker all bagged out as I would be racing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ramping up

About 45 days before TransIowa and I'm finally starting to ramp up my training. The 4 days I spent riding in Tucson were on a road bike, but the hills and climbing have transformed my legs into something much better than they were at this time last year, and better than the week before I left. After a few days off, I've gotten back into the groove with some mileage on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Not as much distance as I'd like, but it's better than nothing. I'm hoping that I can substitute shorter, intense rides for longer less intense efforts. I'm going to have to start getting in metrics and some longer rides just to get used to being in the saddle and practice fueling the machine. While I'm not completely happy with my preparations so far (especially compared to some other people I know), I think I still have time to get there. Here's hoping that everyone else's TI prep is going well, and I look forward to seeing you in May, or even sooner.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Weather looks nice this weekend, and I should have the mountain bike back together by Sunday, so I'm heading out on Sunday March 15 to ride the CIRREM race route that I didn't get to ride on the 8th. Anyone else up for riding it in better conditions this weekend?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tucson - Day 4

I woke up drained, but not sore from Thursday's ride. We headed out to IHOP for breakfast and then back to Kirby's to change for the day's ride. The original plan was to ride out to, then up Kitt Peak and come back into town. General sentiment was that we would head out there and see what happened. My plan was to ride out, do as much of the 12 mile climb as I could and then ride back into town. We met up with Lou at Starbucks near the campus again. After a brief discussion, we decided that a 60 or 70 mile loop back up through Gates pass and back into town sounded more reasonable. The climb up Gates pass was a lot better for me this time around. Some complaints from my legs made me decide to spend the rest of the day in my big chainring to give some of the muscles a break. After the descent we regrouped and headed NW for some sprint and paceline work out through Tucson Mountain County Park and north to Avra. As we turned west back towards Tucson, yesterday's effort, combined with the today's ride finally caught up to me and I fell off the back of the group. I followed West Picture Rocks road down into a valley and up a small climb through Contzen Pass. On the descent, I noticed a sharp corner sign out of the corner of my eye. As I came up over a small rise I had to hit the breaks hard to make the first of the two 90 degree corners that popped up. As I was getting ready to make the second one, I noticed 4 of our group sitting off to the inside of the corner. I pulled over to see if everyone was OK. Pig had taken the corner a bit too fast, and his back tire washed out as he was going through the second corner. He and the bike were ok, although they both left a bit of themselves on the pavement. Other than a flat tire, the remainder of the ride in was unremarkable. Pig, Sergey, Lou and I stopped at B-line for a quick drink and a snack before heading back to Kirby's. We ran through the showers, grabbed some food, and drove up to Phoenix for dinner with Kris' wife Jenny at her aunt and uncle's house. We had a great meal of salad, grilled corn, steaks and chops, some great conversation and a good time. It was well worth the drive up and back. A huge thanks to Dennis and Jenae for hosting our motley bunch.

GPS Track

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tucson - Day 3

Despite the humor in the house, I think everyone had a bit of concern about today's ride, an 80-ish mile trek out to the top of Mount Lemmon and back, 52 of which was the ascent and descent of the mountain itself. We made our way to IHOP to fuel up, double checked everything on our bikes, and then headed out to meet PJ and Lou for coffee. Just before we left, Pig glanced down at my rear cassette and asked me what I was doing. My race bike is set up for the flats of Iowa, so my smallest rear gear is 23 teeth. A look around showed everyone else running 25s and 28s. Since I didn't bring a spare cassette with me, this was going to probably make a long day even longer. We took off around 10:30 so that the temps at the top of the mountain would be a bit warmer by the time we got there. The ride out to the base of Mount Lemmon is a straight flat run from the edge of town. We ran a fairly up tempo double pace line to the base of the mountain and mile marker 0. After the first 3/4 of a mile, I already knew I wasn't going to be able to keep pace with the rest of the motors in our group. I yelled goodbye and settled in for the trip into the pain cave. About mile 3 or so, I passed Bobo and motored on, but by mile 6 he had caught my wheel and continued ahead of me. There's not a lot to say about the climb, other than it was steady, beautiful and painful. I found myself tapping my shifter and wishing that it would drop down one more gear. When it didn't I up-shifted to the 21 or the 19 and stood on the pedals to build up a little more speed and give my legs a bit of a change up. I opted for no headphones to make it a mental training day as well. This left me with a soundtrack of three Theory of a Deadman songs running through my head for the next three hours. I recall stopping for brief food and rest breaks at mile markers 8, 13, 17, 19 and 23. By mile 17, I had to break out the windbreaker due to the wind and the temperature drop. At a rest point at mile 23 a woman asked to get my photo with her 91 year old father. I felt sorry for the guy having my exhausted mug in a photo with him. At mile 25 I caught a reprieve as the road turned down towards the ski resort. I saw Pig and Rich pointing the way to the restaurant. Unfortunately this was at almost the peak of the mountain, and resulted in riding the steepest part of the climb (over 12% grade) as my body was at its weakest. I soldiered on for the next mile or so, briefly glancing down and seeing my speedometer read 4.5 MPH while I mustered what little energy I had left to make it to the restaurant at the top.

I stumbled into the restaurant, collapsed in a chair at the end of the table, and ordered a cup of coffee. From everyone else's accounts, I looked like I had a run in with a bear (or worse) somewhere along the way up. It also sounded like there was some doubt that I was going to even make it to the top. After a turkey sandwich and some warm potato salad, it was time to make our way back down. We made the quick steep descent back into the fork in the road, and started the short climb out until the real descent could begin. Sergey and I had chatted earlier and had decided we'd take it easy on the descent and avoid any potential issues. The "ride" down was fast, windy and cold. Temps at the top of the mountain were around 48 with winds gusting to 20 MPH when we left. Sergey and I kept our speeds checked to a max of 35 MPH. I hit a large rock at 25 MPH around mile 8. I managed to stay upright and pulled off to the side while the air hissed out of my tire. The rest of the ride down was uneventful. We took a minute to regroup at the bottom and then rode a fast double paceline back into town. Showers, and some well earned food, drink and ice cream finished out the day. Everyone hit the bed pretty early to try and rest up for Friday's 125 mile excursion to Kitt Peak.


GPS data - Total feet of climb is way off for some reason.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tucson - Day 2

Got up around 7 AM, ate some breakfast and then headed out to meet Lou for coffee at the Starbucks in the UofA campus town area. Looks like there is an electric cable car that runs in the area, but it wasn't going on Wednesday morning. Plan was to head out towards Starr Pass and Gates Pass for a 40 miler with some extended climbing to warm ourselves up for Thursday's run at Mount Lemmon. Once the rest of group arrived, we'd head out for an afternoon ride with them. I opted to give my new road shoes and pedals a test, figuring that a 40 mile ride wouldn't cause me any issues if the fit was off. At 10 bells, we took off at a reasonable but deliberate pace.

This was my first time out in anything I would begin to call a mountain (and what the locals would likely just call a big hill) and I spent a lot of time looking at the houses and scenery as we headed towards Gates Pass. Part of the way out I had to stop to fix an issue with my chain. A pin had worked its way loose, and was causing the chain to pull my deraileur up. The pin was loose enough that I was able to push it back in with my fingers, so we pressed on. First clue that it was going to be a long morning. As we hit the base of the climb, my heart rate hit the 170s and I decided to back off a bit and wave goodbye to Lou, Kris and Rich. I kept soldiering on hoping that they would stop and wait for me on the other side of the pass. I had to stop again briefly to put my chain back on as it kept falling off the chain ring. Second clue. I continued the climb up towards the top of the pass, where I could see the gang waiting for me. About 200' from the top of pass, I heard a loud bang, and then suddenly I was stopped. I fell over trying to unclip and figure out what had happened at the same time. A quick glance confirmed that my chain had finally had enough. Since I didn't have a chain tool or a spare link with me, Kris called his cousin Kirby to come and pick me up before he headed to the airport to meet the rest of our group. While the guys continued on, I coasted back down the way that I came and waited for Kirby. A few minutes at Fallen Wheel bicycle had me fixed up, and I cruised back through the UofA campus to our home for the week. 26 miles or so for the morning.

Kris and Rich arrived about an hour later, having decided to head a different direction, and ending up with 70 miles for the morning. We ate some lunch and recovered while the rest of the guys unpacked and got ready for the afternoon ride. Since My mileage was a bit short for the morning, I took off for a 30 minute spin through town while we waited for Lou to show up for the afternoon ride. Around 3:30, we headed through town and then southwest towards Saguaro National Park. Lou, Kris and Rich pulled off at the edge of town so they could save something for Thursday's ride. I opted to head out for a loop through the park with the Pete, Sergey, Mark, Pig, and Pig's friend PJ. The loop through the park is an 8 mile one way road, that starts out with three miles of twisty downhill with some sharp rollers thrown in for good measure. Afterwards, there is a climb up out of the valley and then a generally flat ride back to the entrance. The climb out gave me a short taste of what might be coming on Thursday. Our loop done, we headed back into town, picked up the other three guys and made our way home. We showered and then headed out for some food and drink before hitting the beds early so we would be well rested for the Assault on Mount Lemmon on Thursday.

Photos from the rides
GPS tracks: morning afternoon

Tucson - Day 1

Woke up at 4:30 AM and left to pick up Rich and Lou to carpool to the airport for our 6:30 flight. A 2 hour layover in MPLS and a 3 hour flight to Tucson put us on the warm soils of Arizona around noon. The Tucson airport was a lot smaller than I was expecting. Evidently you're either flying into Tucson or leaving it (kind of like Des Moines). Snagged a rental car and headed over to meet Chris at Sabino Cycles. We loaded the bikes up, bought some sundries, and made a breakfast run to a nearby Safeway store. 30 minutes later we were at the townhouse we're staying at (thanks Kirby!!), putting the rest of the bikes together, and getting ready for the shakedown ride. We left around 4 PM or so for a ride out to Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Temps were in the upper 80s and we had a tail/cross as we headed SW out of town. The ride out was generally downhill, although it was hard to tell with the mountains looming off to our left. The excitement of being able to ride someplace warm hit just about everyone as we drilled it from the start and all of the way out to the park. I found myself off the back at multiple points, not being able to deliver any power to the pedals and my heart rate stuck at around 165 as long as I continued to pedal. I was definitely paying the price for the exuberance as we left town. The group took a breather at the park entrance so my heart rate could come back down to normal, then we began the ride back into town. Lou handled the pacemaking chores most of the way back while the rest of us sat in and recovered. My heart rate was averaging around 140 for the ride back in, which was a much better place for me to be this time of year. We arrived back to Kirby's around 7 and relaxed, stretched and rubbed the lactic acid out of our legs. A quick shower and a change of clothes and we met Lou for dinner and a couple of drinks at his hotel.

47 miles for the first day out here. Not having been on the bike since Thursday, my body was shocked by both the heat and the effort. I think things will be a bit more sane today. We have a morning ride scheduled with the four of us, and then a larger afternoon ride once Pete, Pig, Sergey and Bobo get into town. So far Tucson seems like an OK place. Lots of cactus, lots of dirt, sand and rock, and plenty of cacti. More deciduous trees than I was expecting. Aloe plants the size of a small group of children. Grass is a rarity here due to the arid weather. One of the best things so far are the number of bike lanes, the sign-age, and the drivers' ability to obey them. In town, we had a bike lane that was generally two bikes wide, and where it intersected with a right turn lane, we had the right of way to go straight. Quite cool, and we had no issues getting right hooked, despite heavy traffic.

Photos from the day.
GPS track