Tour of the Tucson Mountains XXI

29 04 2007

An entire year has pass since my last attempt at the Tour of the Tucson Mountains, as a lot has changed. For one, that whole incident lead to my subsequent purchase of a second bike. This new bike is sleek, fast and red, everything I’m currently not. It’s been loads of fun riding the second bike only on days when I’m not going to leave it anywhere. It rides so smooth, except for the occasional seat post creak, it’s been the most awesome bike I’ve had.

As my bike has changed for this year’s ride, I have have also changed. Changed for the worse as far as cycling goes. Since I made it to platinum status 2 years ago, I have been struggling to get back to that level of fitness. It may be that I was never really at the level I thought I was, and I was just having a good day.  But I don’t think you can ride that far that fast (109 miles in 5 hours) and not be in decent shape.  Today was another reminder that I still have a long ways to go to regain my fitness and to re-achieve my platinum status.

I have been to so many PBAA rides now, that I have gotten into a good grove as to getting things ready ahead of time, and wheeling to the start. Since I am still a platinum rider (even though I feel I don’t deserve it), I was able to get a few more winks of sleep, and pull up with plenty of time to spare in getting a spot (it gets crowded even in the platinum section). The start was uneventful, and went of like so many before this one. However, I had not ridden in a group in so long, I was rather nervous at the start. Would I not clip in right and slow other people down (and get them angry at me)? Would I fall and cause some one else to crash? Would everyone just rush past me because I’m really slow compared to everyone else? Well, I was relieved to find out that none of those things happened to me. I kept up with the group at the start; I clipped in calmly; and managed to not slow others down. This was a mark of an experienced rider, even if I have been off the bike for a bit.

As the pack made its way to the frontage road, the first main stretch of the course, I couldn’t help but remember what happened last year, and the time in the ride in which it did happen. I don’t remember the exact spot, but I just instinctively knew when I had passed that point. After that, I mostly concentrated on the group in front of me which was hauling some pretty good tail. These are the parts of rides I enjoy most. Having to “muscle” for position, being aware of every single person around you, and just enjoying the whole sights and sounds that go with a fast moving group.  The frontage road is not very smooth, and as such, the main pack I was in stretched and compressed frequently. I thought this was making some people twitchy, because soon there was a crash right in front of me. I swerved right, hoping that I wasn’t cutting off someone, and tried to catchup to the people who were in front of the crash. A friend of mine, Jose, was in that group. For the next few miles, I would barely hang on to their draft. All the while, I was already in my red zone (that area you know you can’t sustain for more than a couple minutes, if that). I decided that my time in this group was done, and I backed off. We were now at the foot of Rattlesnake Pass. I climbed up with the standard sensation of burning in my legs. I didn’t want to hurt myself so early in the ride. I saw the main group go up the pass; it was like watching footage from the Tour de France.  Once I made it to the top, the main group was clearly out of sight, this time for good.

I trudged along for a while, finding a draft if I could, but otherwise, just going at a reasonable pace. Eventually, my friend Jose joined the group. He had managed to stay on longer than me.

The ride up Silverbell road is never fun, no matter if you do it first thing in the morning, or early afternoon (as in the Tour de Tucson). The road is just shot to pieces and needs to be replaced.  Anyways, after we do our time, we get to the previous year’s detour, that has now become a permenant fixture of the event. It’s hilly, but really not all that bad.  After a few minutes of huffing and puffing in order to stay with the fragmented group if people around me, I realized one important fact: I still had a fully functional handlebar.  I was almost kicking myself at my pace given what I had done last year in the exact same spot with less stability. 

Eventually those hills I was climbing were crested, and I was allowed to coast down for a short break. Last year, I couldn’t do more than 15 mph for safety’s sake; now it was a much more natural 25 mph. I enjoyed this section of the course a whole lot more than last year.  Although, there were a few people who didn’t enjoy it all that much because for some reason they bunched up too close together and crashed. Again, in front of me, I avoided the crash this time by swerving left. I hate to see people get in a crash. I have been far to close to so many these days.

The next milestone approached in the form of the intersection of Ajo and La Cholla. Here is where my ride ended last year. I had used my front brake so much, that I had inflated my front tire due to excess heat. My tube just exploded. This year, I was a little nervous in that now I made it to this point with no problem. But, even with a turn that is not a favorite, I cleared it and headed west to experience the part of the route I missed last year.

The ride to Sandario road went so fast. By this time, we finally got a brake and were aided with a slight tail wind and a downhill. By now, I also found my sustainable pace in the form of a 150 bpm heart rate. Usually when we ride out to the Ryan Field area, it feels like a long ride. This time, it came up rather quickly.

I usually never stop at the rest stops anymore because I am always trying to do my best and fastest time. This time, I knew I wasn’t in the greatest of shape, and in order to finish the ride, I needed to stop and get some water and a banana to help me from cramping. At the rest stop, I came across another friend of mine: Chris. Chris and I met on a GABA ride long ago, but only began to keep track of each other when he saw me bike to work when we both worked in the same building. He was busy telling someone of my exploits from last year when I actually pulled up. I didn’t recognize right away him because he lost some weight. But, after he told me that, I was a little proud that my story is being passed on to others.

Riding up Sandario was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I know this road is the mental tough block to get over in that it’s so boring and straight. If you’re lucky you’ll get a tail wind to help you out. I didn’t. However, as I was plodding along as best as I could, I saw and heard another rider come up behind me. This happens all the time…heck I even do it…ride up to someone and get a rest in their draft. Then, some more guys came. We had a good little group going, and I was in front doing all the work. I didn’t mind, but then when I tried to start a rotation, they kept following me back. No one wanted to pull. There was no way I was going to make it to the finish line at that pace with the wind at my face, I needed a break. They were nice about it, because they were tired too, but after I moved to the back, I eventually dropped off. I just didn’t have the power in my legs to conitinue at that pace, even with a draft. It didn’t help much when the guy in front of me wouldn’t keep the same pace as the group.

I made it to Avra Valley road. I was pretty beat, and it was getting hot. I needed to finish soon. The day before, I had signed up my daughter to do the kids 1/4 mile kids ride. I was looking forward to watching her ride with other kids. This motivated me to keep going.  I only wish it was enough to motivate my legs, because they were still sore and didn’t want to continue.

Soon thereafter, I made it to the finish area. I had completed my journey in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Pretty slow, but still not at a snail’s pace. One thing that caught my attention as I was crossing the finish line was the announcer was providing rider information as we crossed the finish line. I heard first my number, then my name and the city from which I had registered. It was pretty meaningless because it was being done for everyone who came across, but I still find it odd to hear my name being said in public. At least she pronounced it correctly, and didn’t call me “Sal”. But, now that I had finished my ride, I was eager to see my daughter in her very first event.

My family weren’t waiting for me at the finish line, but, at least I arrived before they did. But, I was eager to see Eliana ride her event, and I wanted to get some rest and not feel so crummy when everyone arrived.

Eliana’s event started with a little confusion, but we eventually found her number at the starting table, and pinned it to her back. She was a little stoic at this point, taking in the crowd and the procedure we were subjecting her to now.  I think she was a little intimidated as she held my hand without question.
I walked her to the start line, and tried to reassure her that she would be ok, and that I would be out there with her.  She saw a guy dressed as spiderman, and said she was scared. I quickly distracted her, and we and the rest of the kids were sent out of the gate. It was kiddie bike meyham as many of the kids still hadn’t quite gotten the hang of stearing yet.  With Eliana’s mom taking pictures, I was trying my best to calm Eliana and get her to pedal at a little quicker pace.  It was here that I realized that I am a bike nut, and that I shouldn’t push her to go too fast yet. She should go at her own pace. So I backed off, trying to encourage her to go faster.  I only wanted her to go faster because all the other kids were ahead of her. I just wanted her to keep up. But, this was just a fun ride, and I know I was having fun. In fact, I was holding back tears of joy, I was just so proud to be a dad and to share my life and activities with my family.

This year’s ride was much different that last years. I finished, with a fully intact handlebar. But, I the part I actually enjoyed the most was walking along side Eliana, sharing her first timid moments among other kid riders in her first ever cycling event. I can’t wait for the next event.

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It’s Been a Whirlwind Week

29 04 2007

A last minute trip to Oregon has really thrown a wrench into the works that are our normal schedule.

First, I wasn’t able to exercise as much as I wanted. Yeah, the hotel had an exercise area, as does the workplace I was visiting. However, I was so busy and tired, that I hardly had a chance. I started off well, but I fell off the deep end really quickly.

Second, the mere fact that I was not present for my children on a daily basis made things really difficult for them. Without me to invoke discipline and fun, the family unit as it was became a shell of what it was prior to my departure. I think Eliana and her mom had a fight everyday, as both children were competing for the attention of one single parent.

Third, with all the fighting and running around she was doing, their mom didn’t have a chance to go exercise herself. And, with all the yelling and screaming going on, I’m sure she didn’t have the energy to go either.

But, as I returned, all was normal once again. Except that as soon as I arrived from Oregon, we left first thing in the morning for Grandma’s house in Tucson for a fun filled day of bike ridding…

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Good Girl Points

15 04 2007

It has been quite a while since I implemented the Good Girl/Bad Girl Point system for Eliana. Over all, it was a resounding success, however, it did have it’s consequences.

First, it was highly subjective, but between parents, it makes it all the more difficult to maintain consistency.

Second, I had a board to write down her daily total of points, but

Third, she was in school most of the week, so I never really had to award any points until the weekend. By then, it seemed a moot point in that it seems that even to her, I was just making things up.

Eventually, we stopped referencing the points as Eliana had snapped out of the extremely terrible behavior that had lead to the system’s inception in the first place.  Although I think she wants that structure even now as she has mentioned the points more often recently, I may have to give this a second try and address these little shortcomings.

I never thought I would…

15 04 2007

… be married: As a fat kit, and a fat college guy, I didn’t have a whole lot of luck with the ladies. I guess i had a few friends who happened to be girls (women), however, I think they may have felt safe with me because I never tried to hit on them, or I was just not ugly enough to be in their circle, but fat enough so they would never date me. Not sure about that, but it only takes one, and I was lucky enough to find one who could see past the fat. Now, she doesn’t have to imagine any more.

… be a Father: I am not even 30 years old, and I have two awesome kids. How cool is that?! But even so, it was only a little over 3 years ago that I was initiated into the parent’s club. It hasn’t been easy, and at times I have been wishing for a little reprieve. There’s a lot to this Father business that I never would have thought about my parents thinking as I was growing up. It’s my time to learn I suppose…

… be the first of my family to graduate from college: I never really considered this an accomplishment since attending and graduating was a goal of mine since early high school. But, as I have been free from homework and final exams for more than 7 years now, I am still the only official college graduate in my immediate family. I guess I am more amazed that I have come so far removed from my grandparents who never attended high school.

… ride my bike so far: The first time I rode my bike to work, I lived about 1 mile from the site. It took nearly 20 minutes to get home. I was hopelessly out of shape, and not accustomed to taking my bike further than my neighborhood. About 2 years later, with a newer and faster bike, I was able to navigate the Rocky Mountains for 370 miles on a week long voyage. Two years after that, I took a trip from Seattle to Portland in 2 days. I have circled Tucson’s perimeter of 110 miles 5 times since I started that 1 mile bike ride home from work.

… be skinny: It has been quite a long time since I weighed more than 200 pounds. So long, in fact, that I now have only pictures to remind me just how fat I was since all residual feeling (like thinking your butt is still large) is long gone. I still have a belly, but over all, I am in the best shape of my life, and I hope to maintain this state of health through more diet and exercise.

…work at Intel (and IBM): It has an honor to work at two great cultural icons of technology. With the long history of IBM, and the short but hugely influential history of Intel behind me, I truely feel as if I am standing on the shoulders of giants. The day to day grind and office politics sometimes blurs my (and other coworkers) perspective of just what it means to work where we do, but I still go into the office everyday feeling so lucky.

… travel to the other side of the globe and come back: As a child, I would watch certain programs on TV of far off lands and think that those were places that I would never be able to visit in my lifetime. A prime example was Washington DC. When my Science Bowl team won a trip to WDC in high school, my parent’s told me it was a trip of a lifetime. I had no reason to doubt them. However, several years later, on a trip to Raleigh, NC, my girlfriend (now wife) drove up to Washington DC for a short trip. I also never thought I would leave the country and fly to South Korea. Or New Zealand for that matter. Both trips were awesome. However, growing up in the lower class ghetto neighborhood that I did, I never though any of this would be within my grasp.

… still be living in Arizona: Having my eyes opened up during college, I desperately wanted to get out of Arizona and see and experience other parts of the country and the world. I had managed to escape to Colorado for a couple of years, only to be sucked back to Arizona. Not that there is anything wrong with Arizona. But, just like any other place, people want to see and experience someplace different.

… take a yoga class: My parent’s never taught me or my brothers about other cultures or ways of thinking. They may have been more open-minded but still the thought of some weird eastern body poses as exercise seems beyond their realm of experience, and thus, out of mine…until now.

Now that I am on my own, I have been free to try all the things which I could or would have never tried before. I have taken it upon myself to learn things that are strange and new to me and see what fits my beliefs and characteristics. To this end, I have done, and will continue to do things I never thought I would have done based on my upbringing.

Telling the Truth

12 04 2007

Last night, as I was taking Eliana and Annabelle to the Gym. I loaded them up in their car seats, and strapped in only Annabelle. I realized that I had forgotten my membership card inside, and quickly ran to get it. Annabelle’s seat is quite high, and Eliana is able to safely get in and out of her seat, so I didn’t fasten her seatbelt.  I also left my ipod, phone and wallet in the center console, since I was only running into the house for a second.

I returned and found that my phone had switched from it’s default mode to showing the Google Maps application I have installed on it.  I also thought that the backlight had been on for quite a long time, as it was on when I left, and it was on when I returned. Putting 2 and 2 together, I realized that Eliana had grabbed my phone and played with it, and returned it to where it was as soon as I opened the garage door.

Now, I had no reason to be angry,and I wasn’t. I know that when I was a kid, I would do similar things when my parents left a toy or other novelty in the car with me. I calmly asked Eliana the question: “Did you touch the phone?”. She responded “No”. I asked again, and again. I was maintaining a calm tone the whole time because I wasn’t angry, I just wanted her to say yes. Each time I asked, she would not maintain eye contact with me.  So, after about the third or fourth time, I stopped asking, and I calmly looked into her eyes, and said “It’s ok if you grabbed it, just tell me”.  She then maintained eye contact, and said “yes”.

Now, this may have been a bad interrogation on my part, but this whole episode took less than 2 minutes to expire. I only hope that I didn’t coax her into saying yes when she still meant no, but this wasn’t like when I would spank her and have her apologize. This time, with the eye contact, I could tell that her “yes” was genuine.  It is my hope, that this simple little situation will help establish trust on a level that I have never achieved even with my own parents.

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A Merry, Merry Unbirthday Tea Party

11 04 2007

This past weekend, Eliana was invited to attend a birthday tea party for her classmate Catherine. The party was at a little renovated house near downtown Mesa, AZ called Mrs. Pott’s Tea Party. The house seemed out of place even though it seemed to have been built in the early 1900’s.  Due to scheduling constraints for the rest of the weekend, it was Eliana and myself (her father) attending the party. I have to admit that having grown up a typical boy, I was never invited to a girl’s birthday party, and I was curious to see how little girls behave at these partys.

To prepare Eliana for the party, we put her in a nice tea dress. We saw “tea party” and thought a nice “sunday dress” would be good for the party.  When we walked in the door, I was impressed by the colors on the wall. I then saw Cinderella greeting the girls and painting their faces.  I thought this was perfect for 3 year old girls. 

I don’t want to go into all the details of the party, but there were some fun games for the girls like “Put the Crown on the Princess”, and “Find the Disney Princesses hidden around the House”.  There were more parents there than girls (which I thought was a little weird).  And, when it was time for the actual tea party, all of us parents were corralled into the “Parent’s Parlor” and we waited out of site for the girls to finish their “tea” (either apple or fruit) and sandwiches.  There were three varieties, one of which was chocolate and peanut butter. I wanted to try and see how that would taste. I love when there is chocolate in my peanut butter.

The party did seem to be scheduled right at everyone’s nap time, so a few of the girls were cranky by the end.  So, before everyone left, there was a photo opp with Cinderella, and I tried to get as many good pictures as possible.  At the very end, only Eliana and the birthday girl remained. Cinderella danced with them both.  I enjoyed watching Eliana having a good time with the kid music they played. She eventually started to lift her skirt in the front like Cinderella was doing while she danced.

In all, I think this was an excellent way to spend a couple of hours. Eliana had fun playing with everyone, and I really think she enjoyed hanging around Cinderella. She was tired when we left, as were the other girls, but she is such a well mannered girl that she just said bye to everyone and hopped into the car.  She had a snack from a googie bag, but quickly fell asleep.

I like to think that she was dreaming of princesses…

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Sleep Early

1 04 2007

Last night was a battle of epic proportions. Annabelle had gotten tired a little earlier than normal and was obviously cranky, trying hard to keep herself awake by yelling, and running and shaking her head. She does this all the time, and it’s fairly amusing to watch.  Eliana on the other had had just finished playing with her friend who had come over for dinner, and was also starting to become cranky.  I don’t like to deal with cranky kids, so I sent everyone to bed. It was 7:20 pm.

Their “normal” bed time is 9pm.  That is very late when we talk to other parents.  Eliana’s friend’s bedtime is 7 or 8pm. The most often bedtime I hear is 8pm. I think we’re going to try to get an extra hour of sanity back in our lives by trying to put the kids to bed by 8pm instead of 9pm.  The kids sure weren’t wild about this idea either as they were just extra cranky. It took nearly 1 hour to get them just to stop crying. If there’s anything that drives parents crazy it’s crying for crying sake, which is what they do when they don’t want to go to bed.

After several attempts to get them to sleep, it came down to some bedtime milk to get them to calm down and sleep. It’ll be slow increments from here, but I think we can get them to sleep at 8pm pretty soon. Maybe even 7:30…

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