New Year’s Resolution, One Month Early

1 12 2008

For the past six months, my job has taken a huge chunk of my life away from me. While I wasn’t working 12 hour days, it sure felt like it since I would see my girls for only one or two hours at night. Many times, I wouldn’t see them at all since I was on the road dealing with traffic when they woke up, and attending other functions around the Phoenix area by the time they went to bed. And while the absence of my girls from my life was leaving a huge whole emotionally, I was also suffering physically. The added commute time directly subtracted from my daily exercise time. And, while over time I didn’t have to commute two and a half hours per day, every day, I was not very motivated to exercise on the other days either. So, over the past six months, I’ve gained 5 pounds about an inch in the waist, and lost far too much fitness. As a result, I’m most likely in the worst shape of my life. 200811302324.jpg

This is a far cry from three years ago, when I was in the best shape of my life. Three years ago, I completed El Tour de Tucson in 4 hours and 58 minutes. Fast enough to qualify as a Platinum rider. I then ran a half marathon, only to be hindered by a sore knee. I easily had enough juice at the time to complete the run. Slowly, family life took control of my life requiring more and more time. This is natural, and now I can see why and how so many middle aged parents gain weight while their kids grow up. It’s happening to me now. But, I’m not going to let this continue!

First thing on the list was to take care of the job. Check.

Next, I need to get back to the thing that had me fit enough to do 110 miles in one day, and still be ready for more: bicycling.

This is where I start my New Year’s resolution a month early. I can’t start this early enough. I miss being on the bike often. I’ve managed to be on my bike only once a month at best recently, and I have always been painfully reminded how much I miss using my own power to get my butt around town. This is the time of year to do this, and the time is now.

While my new office doesn’t have an official bike setup, they are very open to the idea, and I’ll figure out a way to get back to one of my favorite things: bike commuting. BIke commuting is what dropped my weight from 240 pounds to 195 pounds. Bike commuting is what helped me gain enough fitness to finish el tour in personal record time. Bike commuting is what gave me balance in my life. I am going to start commuting by bike once again…finally!

Cochise County Cycling Classic XXI

18 10 2008

I can’t believe that the time for the 4C (Cochise County Cycling Classic) has come around already. It seems like only yesterday I was beaten down by the harsh winds and crazy hills and struggling to pull my butt across the finish line. Wait, why am I doing this event again?

This year, I thought I would have enough time and motivation to get back into cycling to be able to finish the 92 mile trek across the backroads of Southeastern Arizona with minimal trouble. I have been going to the GABA rides, lately, and getting in a few full weekend spins in under my belt, but I haven’t put in anything near the 92 mile I needed for this event. I knew I was in for some pain at the end, it was just a matter of how much I could endour.

The ride out was a tad wet, as the rememants of a hurricane were making their way across the gulf and into the desert. I was trying my best to stay with the lead group at this early part of the ride beause they would help block the wind at least until the ride started to go up into the hills behind old town Bisbee. No such luck this time. It turns out that I’m in the worst shape of my cycling life. I couldn’t even manage to keep up half way to the uphill portion of the course. I was so tempted to turn off onto the 45 mile route. I knew that if I couldn’t even keep up with those guys, I was done for the day. I reluctantly journeyed up the hill with a monster headwind while climbing a mild 4 or 5% grade. I actually made some progress on some people, so I started to feel a little better about myself. Then came the 8-10% part of the course. In my very early days of cycling, I hated hills. Then, I grew to love them as they made me stronger, and I could finish them off without too much pain. I wasn’t at the point of hating the hills, by then, but I really wasn’t looking forward to this one either. I took my experience and knowledge and kept riding up the hill at my pace, and mine alone. The trip through the Mule Pass tunnel on bike is always a little freaky, but this time wasn’t so bad. I guess I am just used to it by now. Once the big hill was over, it was time for the big giant downhill. This part of the course made the uphill so worth it. I flew down as fast as I could, I wantedt o enjoy the ride down. Unfortunately, head and cross winds made it difficult to catch the 50 mph milestone I was trying for. My top speed down that section was 45 mph. Not too shabby, but I’d been that fast before.

The fast part of the downhill is fairly long, but then it levels out into a more gradual downhill, where you can pedal moderately and still get some good speed going. It was here all alone, just me, the bike and the road where you can achieve bike nirvana. Hearing the sound of the wheel rolling on the road at a speed of 35 mph is sweet music. And having to put as little effort into generating that sound is icing on the cake. After coming down from that high, it came time to tackle the second half of the course. The long road home, riding into headwinds no matter which direction you are going. My legs were pretty much spent by this time, so I just decided to go at the best pace I could, and try not to hurt myself. I eventually flatted, and recovered. It took nearly 4 hours after reaching the turnoff at Davis road to reach the finish line. Not a good performance. The last 20 miles on highway 191 were done at 10mph or less with a 30 mph headwind howling at us the whole time. I eventually made it to the turn off that was 6 miles from the finish. I took a break and sat down with an old man and woman who were there to make sure all riders were safe. They sat me down in a chair, held my bike, offered me some water, fruit and candy to make sure I would make it to the finish line. The old woman offered to drive me to the finish, however I felt bad in doing so after having ridden so far, and come so close to the finish under my own power. She said she would drive me a half mile to the end and drop me off so they wouldn’t know. But I would know, and I in the future, I could not, in good conscience, tell my kids not to cheat if I did so myself. I turned down her generous offer and rode for 6 more miles of tormenting winds.

I eventually made it to the finish line, tired and dehydrated. As soon as I checked in with the event officials for my time, I plopped on the grass, and laid there, for at least 30 minutes. My legs were sore, I needed water and fruit, but knew that I wouldn’t be able to stomach them. I must have worried my brother, who finished with no problem. I mean, I looked and sounded like I was going to be sick. I felt like it too. I found something at the Circle K to get me hydrated and give me a little energy until I could make it to dinner. After a while, although I was still sore, I was able to walk, and felt much better in general. At least good enough to have some food.

In all, the 4C event is a good ride to see how well you will do in el Tour de Tucson; it is a much tougher event considering you are battling all the elements on your own. I know that I won’t be doing all that well this year in el Tour, and will probably switch to a shorter route for my own sanity and safety. So, until el Tour, ride safe

Another Mini Vacation

23 06 2008

Originally, I had planned to take a short trip to Portland over the weekend of the Seattle to Portland bike ride. It’s a short trip over the course of a weekend covering the 200 miles between Seattle and Portland. I rode this event a few years ago, and I have been eager to visit Portland in the summertime again ever since. However, the cards didn’t play out in my favor this time around (probably something to do with the rest of the family wanting to go too), so I’ll be rescheduling my summer bike trip around the Taylor House Century. This will let me and the family take a short break from the blistering Phoenix area heat for at least a weekend and it will let me get in some miles so I can try to get ready for next year’s El Tour de Tucson. I am sooo out of shape.

Pushing the Pace

21 11 2007

I rode in El Tour de Tucson again this year. I have ridden El Tour 6 years running now. This year, I participated in the bike patrol helping people change flats, and providing some basic medical attention. Luckily, I only needed to bring my mechanical skills to the event. Since I was not riding to see what my fastest time would be, I brought along my small point-and-shoot camera for the ride and recorded what I could. I was in store for another unforgettable day.

El Tour de Tucson is my favorite cycling event of the year. The true magic of el Tour happens at the river crossings, both of which I tried to capture in this short video blog entry.

Bike Friendly?

18 09 2007

Today was the first day of our vacation. It started out well, even though we did put off the packing to the last minute. Getting out of Phoenix was more work than it should have been, but we managed to make it to our first stop, Flagstaff, AZ, by 5pm. Our hotel was right off the freeway, and we were checked in fairly quickly. The first thing I decided we should do in the col mountain air was to go out for a short ride to dinner. I unloaded and assembled the bike trailer as expediently as I could. Things were chaotic in the back of the van as all our luggage was piled everywhere. I was very eager to get out for a ride after a few hours behind the wheel. I think the kids were just as anxious to have a good time.

 I noticed right away that the main street we were closest to wasn’t at all bike friendly. I found a bike lane close to the hotel, but it was pretty small. Once we got going, we also noticed that Flagstaff drivers weren’t all that friendly towards bikes either. It was like we were trespassing on thier roadway. I had heard good things about cycling in Flagstaff and I was extremely excited to give it a try, but my first go around at cycling in Flagstaff, at least near the NAU campus, wasn’t very good.

At least I know the cycling will get better in Colorado.

Going for a Bike Ride with Dad

26 08 2007

On a rare cloudy, rainy day in the Valley of the Sun, I decided to take my two girls out in the neighborhood on their bikes. We had a good time exploring and just enjoying the cool breezes when there is usually a hot sun…

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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