Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm still such a roadie

Rather naively, I stuck with my commitment to do the King of Burlingame MTB time-trial today. I figured it hadn't rained in a couple days, so things should be drying out, right? Never mind that 12" of rain has fallen over much of the area in the last couple weeks.

I didn't treat this quirky event with much priority. I even slept well the night before, which proves I wasn't stressing over it despite it being my first cycling event of the season. I did stress over which bike to bring though. I had never ridden there before. Would it be rooty and rocky? Would it be a doubletrack speedfest? Any hills? I opted to bring my new Gary Fisher Superfly.  I've heard the course favors roadies. We'll see about that...

I get there in time to pre-ride just the first segment of course for my warmup. It was about 30F out. Ice on mud puddles, frost on everything else. After riding in temps around 80F for four days last weekend, this was a real shock to the system. I found the start line and began this heinous descent. Much of the next mile I rode went downhill and had water flowing down it or across it. Oh, it was chocked full of table sized slabs of rock too, often at angles that weren't in the direction I wanted to go. A roadies dream? I was going to KILL myself on this stuff.

I started my warmup with 25/28psi in the front/rear tires. I found that wasn't going to do it. I stopped to reduce pressure to where I thought the tires would conform better to the greasiness. I still have cheep Hutchinson tubeless ready tires mounted. They have stiff sidewalls and do not possess the supple characteristic I like in tires. Later I would learn just how low I went.

My brake rotors disappeared into a couple of the water bogs. There was shit lurking in there too. What if I failed to take the same line at TT pace and hit something? I have an Italian trip coming up soon. I can't afford bone breakage. I didn't wear booties to warm up. Others did. Smart. My shoes filled with iceberg water. By the time I made it back to the starting line just before my roll-out, I couldn't feel anything below my ankles. What a way to start a TT.

The fastest guys like Alec Petro and Jonny Bold were the first to go starting with number 600. I was number 612, so that meant I was six minutes back since one went every 30 seconds. I did not know Kevin Hines was there, starting well behind me. He signed up late and was put further back in the queue.

I get my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! and nearly biffed in the first greasy turn in front of everybody. I just wanted to get this over with in one piece. I cleaned the first mile during my warm-up, but do you think I could clean it when seconds count? Heck no! Very frustrating. About the time I reached the bottom of the gnarly stuff, I hear brakes squealing behind me. A few minutes in and my 30 second guy already is catching me? No, it was worse than that. It was my one minute guy, who I think was Arnold Roest. I started bumming, as how could anybody put a minute on me in the first mile of a seven mile TT? He passed me briefly, then we got to a short gravel climb and I promptly dropped him. Roadie power to the rescue. But the roadie friendly sections of the course were few and far in between today. Arnold and I traded places a few more times along the course.

Magenta is TT course, yellow warmup loop, red cooldown

The course pops out on pavement very briefly in two places. Both places, dismounts are required and you must enter the pavement on foot and then remount once on pavement. This is to control entry speed in case any traffic is coming. When I started riding on pavement and popped up to big ring (yeah, I imagine JB never left the big ring), I couldn't wind up my speed. My tires were so soft I felt like I was still riding in mud.  In the quag, they were bottoming out on everything. I was constantly cringing. The tires did not cut through, and those Stan's rims never let out the most minuscule of burps. After the race, I measured my tire pressures. 22psi front, 19psi rear! That is just nuts. Nuts that I felt the need to go so low to stay upright, and nuts that I didn't have a pneumatic catastrophe.

Right near the start. Course is a stream.
Scavenged from DL Sports Photo

With a mile to go, Arnold was still right behind me, but then we hit a series of high speed (for Arnold) bridges with muddy root traps in between them. This stuff just weirds me out. I ran out of roadie power sections to keep him behind. Arnold was on a daulie though, which might have helped on the choppy stuff. I regretted not bringing my dualie. After a week on my dualie in Arizona, riding my 29er in this stuff was like I forgot how to ride.  Arnold passed me for the last time. At least I gave him a good carrot to chase in a few spots. I figured I was anaerobically limited on maybe 25% of the course at most. The rest of the time I was skill limited and on the verge of soiling my chamois.

The finish appeared at last. I came hoping for sub-30 minutes. I barely broke 33 minutes. I thought surely the other times would be off too. They were. A little bit. Alec Petro was still there lamenting that he missed beating Jonny Bold by seconds. Then Kevin Hines came flying through on full after burners. WTF! He started six minutes behind me and finished not more than two minutes behind me. He handily took the overall, beating JB by at least a minute I believe. Kevin knows how to find traction. Comes from years of moto competition.

This is just all wrong. Hill Junkie doing a downhill TT?

Out of the expert field, I came in 14th overall. The registration max'd out at 150 riders. Too soon to say if 14th will hold overall. I was mostly hoping to get a quality 30 minute interval in, but given conditions, it didn't really go down that way. I can do Mt Ascutney in 28 minutes. I suspect some riders that beat me today would find Mt Ascutney really hard. It is hard in terms of hillclimbs, but I find it so much easier to bury myself on Ascutney than risk life and limb in a greasy TT like today. The tech factor is a great equalizer. Riders less fit but with high skill can rule a course like this. I'm bumping into the same kind of apprehension in technical ski racing too. I can hold my own on the climbs but get slaughtered on descents when they get scraped down to ice.

Part two of my day was to hit Arcadia Management Area on the way home. This huge preserve is chocked full of singletrack, some of it quite technical. I've only ridden here once before, about 10 years ago. The only thing I remembered was Mt Tom, the part south of Rt 165. It was a mile or so of slickrock ridge riding. I wanted to be sure to hit that, but for the rest of it, I was going to wing it. I did pull some GPS tracks from the web, but they didn't tell me what type of riding each trail was.

Arcadia GPS Track

Arcadia was no better than Burlingame in terms of water. It was flowing down everywhere. I did eventually find some good singletrack that was dry, but most of the doubletracks were just a mess. I didn't want to get my feet wet again, but that was a hopeless cause.

Arcadia. I had hoped to avoid this after the TT.

I rode mostly on the north side, but crossed over Rt 165 on Mt Tom Trail to ride the ridge. It was scarier than I remember it. Again, I was thinking Italian trip. No breaky bony. At one point I hear voices, see two ropes tied to trees and then drop over the edge. Must have been 60ft straight down at that point. A young couple was repelling below.

Dry, but all rocks. This is Rock Trail.

When I got back to the lot, I saw Colin Reuter and crew loading bikes up. Guess they had the same idea after the TT, although they actually rode with somebody that knew where the good stuff was, something Colin said I would not have been interested in because it was "technical." Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps DaveP had the right idea this weekend by logging major road miles Saturday and Sunday. With three more days of heavy rain coming up this week, I think next weekend will be a roadie weekend for me. Overall, my weekend was pretty good. An hour off-road Saturday and another four hours today add up. Need to focus more on the short intensity side of things though. My riding hasn't entailed much of that the last couple weeks. I think the highlight of my weekend was picking up a Clover machine cup of Kona from Starbucks on the way home today.

This is more like it! Mt Tom ridgeline.

More Mt Tom

Mt Tom near the repellers

Coming down Mt Tom on southern end

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tucson vs. Durango

I have some time to kill on the flight back from Phoenix. Yesterday, I sent an email out to a contact for the observatory on Mt Hopkins. I figured it was a long shot, as I was quite sure I left my camera on the car when we drove away from our starting point in the village of Amado. While waiting to board our plane in Phoenix, I got a call from this person. She reported a summit worker indeed found a camera at the summit. I need to close the loop with the worker to establish that it is mine by uniquely identifying the fanny pack contents. They will then ship it out to me. There certainly is hope for humanity.

I think this trip was my best yet to Arizona, and I’ve come here many times now. Other than losing my camera and some issues with Dave’s bike, the trip exceeded our expectations. The weather was as good as it gets in Tucson. In another month, it will be getting too hot. Earlier this winter, it was unusually wet. We scored a perfect four days. Our bodies held up well too. Averaging nearly five hours per day of rigorous off-road riding this early in the season is a solid confirmation of base fitness. How many Americans can do any type of physical activity like this at 47 years old? I definitely felt like a kid again these past four days. Play all day, eat all night.

Tucson riding ranks right up there with the best spots this country has to offer. Strangely, in most mountain biker’s minds, Tucson does not make the list. I think riders just don’t know. There is as much riding here as there is in Durango, Sedona or Moab.

So can one say Tucson is better than Durango? That is like saying Chardonnay is better than Merlot, or Starbucks is better than Dunkin Donuts (ok, this last one is true). There are distinct differences between Tucson and Durango. You have air to breath most places in Tucson, although not as clean as high country air in Durango. You ride Tucson in winter/early spring, which is typically dry. Durango is ridden in late summer when monsoon thunderstorms are daily deals. Both offer unique scenery, the stuff glossy calendars are made of. Both cities have vibrant mountain biking communities that build and maintain trail systems for our sport. The city of Durango does have much more charm than the sprawling metropolis of Tucson. You can spend a week at either city and do daily epic rides and not repeat anything. In my opinion, the two compliment each other very well since they are best ridden at different times of the year.

Two trails stand out from this trip. The Bug Spring Trail (Bugs) on the flanks of Mt Lemmon offered some challenging terrain and mix of great scenery. I’d definitely work this five mile trail into an epic loop again. The other stand out was the Brown Mountain Trail just north of the Tucson Mountain Park. Again, this loop offered some extremely challenging terrain that was just doable enough for Dave and I for it to not be a slog fest. I love ridge riding. Even though this ridgeline was only 400-500ft above the valley floor, you could see in all directions from the peaks, affording fantastic views of TMP and the Santa Catalina’s. I’d work this trail into another ride again someday too.

Brown Mountain Loop

As long as I can turn pedals over rocks and dirt, I plan to keep going back to Tucson every year or two. It is a perfect place to hit as ski season winds down in New England and weather is still on the messy side for epic road or off-road riding. I rationalize this trip as “spring training,” but the fact of the matter is, it's just plain fun to break away with mountain bikes once in a while. Other’s pay exorbitant fees to join organized spring training camps in the south western part of the country. I’d rather go with free-form structure and plan rides that no doubt provide similar training value. It is like getting the training value for free. We had way too much fun to even realize our bodies were being pushed beyond the normal envelope several days in a row. We saw hundreds of roadies over the four days, many with Power Taps, no doubt fixated on achieving “numbers.” Our numbers were measured in smiles per mile.

Tour of TMP

Our journey to singletrack snobbery is complete. The bikes are packed, boarding passes are printed. Monday will seem empty without a ride.

Sunday's ride entailed a tour of the mountains west of the city, in and around Tucson Mountain Park (TMP). It has been over ten years since I last rode in this area, and many new trails have been built since. We planned to hit many of them.

We parked at the new trailhead parking area near Hidden Canyon trail. This one was so new that I could not find maps or GPS tracks of it. A few locals raved about it, one review said it was a hiking trail, a Fred I thought. Turns out Dave and I must be Freds too, as this trail degenerated into a hike-a-bike. We rode it counter-clockwise. Perhaps it is easier to ride the other way, but our descent was a handful too.

We picked up another trail that headed north out of TMP towards the recently built Sweetwater trail system.  Scott Morris has said many good things about these trails. I found good GPS data for the system and put a loop together that encompassed most of the trails with minimal repeating.

A bit of road brought us to Sweetwater. The trails did not disappoint. It had just the right mix of climbing and chunkiness. Some parts flowed with considerable speed, others required focus to avoid tangling with cacti. I expected heavy traffic at Sweetwater, but we encountered only one large group.

The Brown Mountain loop was next. It was getting warm, well into the 70's, and a single Camelbak was probably going to fall short if we committed to Brown Mtn without a refill. Fortunately, there was a local park with water along the way. We planned to ride up paved Gates Pass Rd, then bomb down the other side on dirt. Midday, there were a lot of roadies coming over this small mountain pass. We summitted, only to find the dirt descent to resemble a cliff plummet. Neither of us were in the mood for that, so we bombed the paved switchbacks on the west side to resume the dirt route further down. I've driven over this before, but never ridden it.

The lower Brown Mtn loop was typical Tucson fare, just nicely doable. It gained a good portion of the altitude needed to reach the ridgeline. Some stiff switchbacks brought us to the first peak. The ridge trail crested many peaks, each offering great views in all directions. A few steep switchbacks forced dismounts. After a mile or two of ridge riding, we reach the last peak on the south end and began dropping down an insane series of switchbacks. Dave handled these much better than I did, cleaning nearly all of them. At least neither of us crashed. The rocks here are like dagers poking up out of the ground. All sharp, all the time. And if the rocks didn't get you, the cacti surely would.

Leaving Brown Mtn to the south, we went through a camping area. There was more water there, so we topped off again, even though our plan was swing back past the car by this point to get more fuel. For some wierd reason or another, I was going strong today. It is not like me to ride many hours with minimal calorie intake without bonking. At the campground, Dave noticed I had a piece of plant growing out of my arm. A thorn embedded deeply, taking part of the plant with it. I pulled hard on the thorn. It failed to pull out, breaking off instead. They are barbed, designed to not pull out easily. That is going to give me trouble later I'm sure.

I had now logged four hours riding time, and it seemed hitting new material called Robles was looking iffy. It meant at least another 90 minute commitment. Dave was fading, and we had bike to pack up before it got dark. We decided to work our way back to the car through TMP instead, randomly hitting bits of singletrack in the maze that makes up TMP. We rode the length of the Yetman wash, which most avoid, but downhill it is not too bad. I swiped a prickly pear, and a thorn pierced my shoe and skewered one of my toes. I was able to pull it out through the shoe. Thank goodness this one did not break off. I couldn't believe how much of the thorn was bloody. It went in deep. My legs were a bloody mess at this point. Four hours of riding on the west side of town, sometimes off the main path, will do this.

We finished up with 43.5 miles in 4.5hrs riding time. The vast majority of it was technical singletrack. Beats you up pretty good. For the four days, we rode 192 miles in 19.3 hours with over 20,000ft of climbing. Other than losing my camera yesterday, it was a pefect trip to pack in some serious off-road volume. The weather finally cooperated for this trip. There was too much snow to come up the back side of Mt Lemmon, but Dave and I both agreed Mt Hopkins to the south beats the Mt Lemmon climb any day. I'm already thinking about when I can come back here to ride stuff we didn't get to on this trip.

Brown Mtn ridgeline

Brown Mtn descent

More Brown Mtn ridge

Dave cresting Hidden Canyon ridge

Sweetwater. With very wet winter, the desert floor is green.

Sweetwater buffness

Somewhere in TMP

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mt Hopkins for Brunch, Fantasy Island for Dessert

Some more good riding today, but not all was good. The plan was to head south towards the Mexican border to hit possibly the best hillclimb in Arizona, Mt Hopkins. Then on the return to the B&B, we'd ride all of the Fantasy Island material. Despite confirmation that essential riding gear was packed, Dave double checked when we were well on our way to Mt Hopkins. No shoes. Well that sucked, just took away our margin on getting in a full Fantasy Island ride.

We started the Hopkins climb around 10:30am. This climb is over 19 miles long, gains 5500ft, most of it on a one lane dirt road at 8-9% grade. This was my third time to climb this beast, Dave's first.  The sky was cloudless, temps cool around 65F to start. We established a solid tempo pace, something I wasn't sure I could maintain non-stop for 2-2.5hrs. The prior two times I've climbed Hopkins, I cramped before reaching the summit. It sucks cramping on a monotonic climb. There is no recovery.

I've also nearly frozen to death heading back down both prior times. This time I brought enough layers along to avoid the frigid descent. It seems to always be windy and about 30 degrees colder up top than at the bottom. We started seeing snow around 6500ft. A little above 7000ft, we both capitulated and put some of our long layers on. Davie continued first, forcing me to chase. He was whining earlier about his legs being toast, which was pure bull. Tried as I did, I could not close the gap over the remaining 700ft vertical. The finishing grade tops out at 24% for a good bit. It basically terminates on a huge rock outcropping at the summit, on which a multi-story observatory structure is perched. I was pleased to see Dave barely able to stand gasping for air at 8500ft. I was in the same sorry state. It took me 2:25 to reach the summit, probably a PR, but I don't ever race pace Hopkins.

The wind was calm up top and it was not as cold as I expected, maybe 50F. You could see 100 miles in all directions. It was my best view yet from this summit. I took a bunch of pictures, put the wind shell on, and got ready for descent fatigue. The plummet is non-stop switchbacks and blind corners. You never know when a car might be coming up. Duing the climb, we encountered only an ATV on the long dirt section, and a car near the summit on the last paved bit by the observatories. One truck was coming up during the descent.  That's what I like about this climb, we pretty much have it to ourselves.

Mt Hopkins climb, starting from Amado on left.

It took 55 minutes to reach the car. We loaded the bikes, then hit the road for Fantasy Island back in Tucson. We had to go out of our way to fuel back up on Starbucks, of course. It was mid afternoon unloading the bikes at the Fantasy Island trailhead. Refilled Camelbak. Check. Restart GPS. Check. Grab fanny pack with camera. Uh, oh. No fanny pack. Think real hard. Did I leave it on the car and drive away? I went ballistic. [Wreckless comment removed - HJ] You see, I also had the B&B key with contact info in there with the camera.

We decided to bag the Fantasy Island ride and flew, like 90+ mph back to Amado to see if camera might still be in or along the road. It wasn't. No surprise. That was a new camera, the one I planned to take to Italy in several weeks. It will cost $500 to replace, if I can even find another LX3. I finally found a small camera that took decent photos, and I lose it.

We went back to Fantasy Island, now with the sun low in the sky. We planned to hit what we could. I had a shit load of angst to burn off and all-out hammered. Wish I could bottle some of that up for my next race. Dave had no idea what he had gotten into. I had planned to ride mostly the techy stuff close to the Irvington trailhead, but somehow I ended up on the Valencia loop I wanted to avoid. It is fast and featureless. It was all good, as not much of Sunday's ride will be buff. I pretty much stayed in the big ring, at times dodging cholla cactus at 20+ mph. Nearly crashed myself twice. I actually started enjoying myself and stopped dwelling on the lost camera. The sun set around 6:35 and then we hit Rez Loop. I thought surely we'd be popping out in complete darkness with no lights. That added even more motivation to hammer. It gets dark really fast after sunset in the desert. I don't know why. I've learned this on my many visits here now.

We made it back to the car with no more than a few minutes of useable light to spare. We covered about 18 miles in 1.3hrs, an impressive average speed considering how tight some of the stuff is and the penalty of biffing in a catus forest. The one possitive of riding it this late was there was nobody out there. We saw one other rider. It was pretty much all ours to hammer.

Fantasy Island track. We didn't have enough daylight to hit
Burro, Christmas Tree or Bo's.

As of publishing this post, nobody has called the B&B yet. I really don't expect to see that camera again. I had taken some great photos from the climb too. I brought an old compact camera for backup. Figures that I'll need it now. All I have to show for today's riding are boring GPS tracks. Turns out Dave forgetting his shoes in the morning was nothing compared to driving all the way to Amado again to look for a camera that had slim to none chance of still being there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tucson "Spring Training" Update

Thursday, AZT (Bellota, Bug Spring, Molino)
Two epic days down, two to go. Thursday's plan was to hit a 62 mile figure eight loop, almost all on dirt. The ride didn't go quite to plan, but there were zero disappointments. Since Arizona does not participate in Daylight Savings Time, there is a three hour time differential here. We were up wicked early, almost two hours before breakfast was going to be served. This gave me ample time to run two gallons of water and food up Mt Lemmon to roughly the midpoint of our ride. There is no potable water on the route, and I'd rather not deal with a filter. The water drop was about 2000ft up and only 16 minutes from the B&B we're staying at.

We're staying at Bed and Bagels B&B, perfect for bikers. Proprietor Sharon is an avid outdoors type too and is cool with our bikes in the house or in back by the pool. the view of the Santa Catalina's from her driveway is sweet. The top 2000ft or so is still white-capped with snow, which means the Mt Lemmon Control Rd up the back side is almost certainly impassible by bike right now unless riding studs. We came here to get away from that, not seek it out.

Bikes went together well. We were rolling on epic #1 by 9am. Temp was fast approaching the 80's.  The ride begins with a bit of pavement to base of Reddington Rd, where a stiff initial 1500ft climb on jeep road awaits. Once we reached the height of land, the route followed a number of jeep roads swinging out near Chiva Falls, which we saw from a distance. Dave's bike fubar'd on him while climbing Reddington Rd. The derailleur pivot let loose and it pivoted all the way forward, rendering shifting useless. This was a rental from Souhegan Cycles back home, and it appeared a prior mishap sheared the nub off that keeps the derailleur pivoted rearward. The hanger was toast. This really blew. We got it going by tightening the retaining bolt super tight and relied on friction to keep it there. This was a funky Santa Cruz Superlight hanger, and we thought the odds of finding one after the ride were near nil. We pressed on.

We soon reached the Arizona Trail (AZT), the section called Bellota Trail #15. We could ride it to Mt Lemmon, but not south, as that was wilderness. This stuff was sweet, mostly buff, 12" ribbon of singletrack. We followed many miles of this, crossing back over Reddington Rd, then climbing moderately. I knew from Topo'ing this route that a ball buster of a climb was coming up before reaching the Mt Lemmon Hwy and our water stash. I had no idea what we were in for.

Our flowy singletrack eventually reached a point where there was no way out but up. Up a friggin wall. The trail degenerated into a full-on hike-a-bike that would put the powerline run-up in Ironcross to shame. I think it took us an hour to cover the next two miles. Sweating profusely, we both ran out of water before reaching the drop. This was four hours into the ride. We both refilled our 100oz hydration packs.

Now it was decision time. It took an hour longer to reach this point than I anticipated. The original plan was to ride up the Mt Lemmon Hwy to pick up the high side of Green Mtn Trail, but it would be even more brutal riding rated as "extreme" on The Map, and I had planned on going back over the big hike-a-bike we just finished so we could finish the ride on the famed Milagrosa Trail. Neither of us wanted to slog over the wall again, as what we hiked up would almost certainly entail lots of down-hiking as well at our skill level. So we cut out the Green Mtn extension and Milagrosa. This meant our final decent back to the B&B would be on pavement. Not the end of the world, as that decent rocks anyway.

Davie was starting to feel it climbing six miles up Mt Lemmon. Think we gained around 2000ft on pavement. We found the trailhead for our return route, the Bug Spring Trail, or locally called "Bugs." What I didn't know is that this too involved a rigorous hike-a-bike initially, several hundred vertical feet. At least the path was well manicured. Many hikers here. One group said another group of bikers was just ahead of us.

We finally reach the high point. This couldn't have come sooner, as we were five hours into this ride and I was beginning to get cramping spasms. Fortunately, the descent was almost all downhill, and it was uber steep in many places. Dave either is more skilled, has bigger cojones, or both. I wussed out in a few places. Skidding over embedded rocks marginally being able to control speed makes me feel my age.

Bugs crosses the Mt Lemmon Hwy and becomes the Molino Basin Trail on the other side. All of these trails are part of the AZT route.  This offers miles more of riotous descent. Scared myself silly on some of this stuff. This was surely the right way to end this ride, other than the last five miles of Mt Lemmon Hwy back to town. Don't need skiing to keep the upper body tough. The last hour descending was non-stop pounding. Ended up with blisters on my hands.

We rolled back to the B&B totally depleted. The ride went 56.0mi with 7000ft of climbing in 6.3 hours riding time. We quickly showered and sped off to nearby Sabino Cycles in hopes of scoring a derailleur hanger. They didn't have one, but called across town to AZ Bicycle Experts, a small local shop. Amazingly, they had one, but we had about 12 minutes to get there before closing. We just made it. Neither of us could keep our eyes open much past 8pm, so lights were out before 9pm.

Reddington Rd climb

Bellota Trail #15 with Rincons in the background

Dave descending bony section of Bellota

Climbing on the Catalina Hwy (Mt Lemmon Hwy)

Still snow on upper portion of Bug's

Dave on Bug's slickrock

HJ coming down Bug's

Friday, AZT Near Sonoita
We pretty much decided after Thursday's deathmarch that we'd have to back it down a notch on Friday. The easiest ride I had planned for the trip was another section of the AZT near the Mt Wrightson wilderness. A section locals rave about runs from Box Canyon to Pistol Hill. The whole loop I had planned entailed lots of paved and dirt road riding with 35+ miles of AZT singletrack for 62 miles total. Trimming this back, we hit just the portion from high point near Box Canyon to Rt 83 crossing. This cut paved riding to 12 miles, gaining about 1500 ft, with 25 miles of singletrack return.

The forecast took a turn for the colder with slight chance of rain. Cooler is better. Makes water last longer. Rain is not good. The soil is more of a clay base in this area. The slog up Rt 83 kind of sucked, but not any worse than road riding. I knew there would be copious reward soon.

Our clear blue skies quickly faded. Dark clouds nearby were spewing rain, but it was unclear how much of it was reaching the ground. We were riding around 5000ft above MSL for a while, and it was much cooler up here than in town. Rain would have utterly sucked. I didn't bring any clothing contingencies with me. Davie was a little smarter and at least brought arm warmers.

The next 10 miles heading back to the car were a giant roller fest. Drop 200ft into a gully, climb back out. Repeat about five times. This finally gave way to more persistent elevation loss. A black cloud moved overhead, we felt a few sprinkles but it never rained.  We came upon some guys shooting big guns from the back of a pickup in the middle of nowhere. Hmm, lots of that goes on here. Went by some of it on Reddington Rd the day before. I thought the trail was going to wrap around right behind the backstop of their firing, but no. The trail was rerouted through a nasty cactus infested wash. This was the only hike-a-bike section on this ride. I wondered if it was re-routed to avoid a spandex clad turkey shoot?

A bit of bombing down the only piece of doubletrack brought us back to singletrack. This section was what we ride for. It was five miles of gradual downhill, big ring speed fest, often at over 20mph swooping between prickly pears. Couldn't but help grin the whole time. We got back to the car with 37.3mi, 4000ft of climbing, and 3:44hrs riding time on the GPS. Still had lots left in the tank after this ride. Saving it for Saturday, when we have a double ride planned. 10+ hours of riding for our first two days is a great start for this trip. Hope to score another 10hrs the next two days.

Mt Wrightson from the AZT

Dave on AZT with ominous clouds on the view

HJ on the AZT

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I love riding in 35F rain going sideways

You probably think this is going to be a rant, or at least I'm being facetious. I'm not. I really don't mind heading out when most regular people cower inside. True, the weather over the past three days disrupted plans to get some distance work in. A five hour ride when it is raining, windy as heck and 35F would suck and is probably foolish. So you have to roll with the punches and at least get some intensity in. Shorter, intense, sub-glycogen depleting rides let your body generate more than enough heat to stay warm.

High tech clothing helps too. Pearl Izumi AmFib tights perform marvelously in pouring raing. They are not water proof, but use some of the most hydrophobic material I own. They hold air, not water, so maintain a thermal barrier against the elements. Lobster mitts and a windproof balaclava help out with those extremities. Neoprene booties over plastic baggies can keep the feet dry for hours. I do not ride a fendered bike. I use only a flamingo rear fender to keep the derriere dry.

Rain at or just above freezing is the most challenging weather to train in. Any colder, it turns to snow and that is ok. Any warmer, risk of hypothermia is greatly reduced. So when you go out to drill it for 90 minutes, you really don't notice how misserable it is. Just pray you don't get a flat.

So what is the best part of riding in 35 degree rain going sideways? It is what makes nice weather special. Tucson is looking extra special right now:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Season Finale

Been tough week. My company announced another round of payroll trimming. My immediate group should stay very busy through the summer, so I'm not too concerned yet. Other segments in the RF design business are picking up though. Should I ever find myself on the wrong side of a corporate "right sizing," it would provide an opportunity to consider a move. Right now, I think the only state I would consider moving to would be Colorado. There are jobs in my line of work along the front range (Boulder/Denver/Colorado Springs), but not in the more interesting places like Durango or Gunnison.

The good thing that happened this week is my son Aaron graduated from Naval basic training in Chicago on Friday. Aaron will spend the next several months in school in Pensacola, FL. As far as bases go, it sounds like a pretty nice place to spend some time. I have not mountain biked in Florida yet, one of six states I still need to hit. I now have a good excuse to head down that way with Cathy, hit Louisiana and Mississippi too.

Travelling to Chicago and back was a disaster. Never again will I fly Delta. First our connection out of Detroit was delayed. Then when we finally boarded the plane, the pilots weren't ready. We pushed back only to sit another better part of an hour. About an hour into a 39 minute hop to Chicago, we knew something wasn't right. Circling over lake Michigan. Then we land. The deal was, nobody on the plane knew where we landed. It was not O'Hare, and nobody told us we ran out of fuel and had to stop in Milwauke to buy gas until after we stopped. Now it was getting friggin late and I was getting pretty ornery. The flight crew could not tell us when or if we were continuing to Chicago. They said O'Hare was closed, which I later learned was not true.  They told us if we de-boarded, we might be left behind if the plane got clearance to leave.  I had to leave for my son's graduation at 6:30am, so I started thinking maybe I should de-board, rent a car, drive to Chicago, and forgo what little sleep I might have gotten anyway. We did get fuel and eventually clearance to take off again. But some belligerent passengers would not sit down, thinking waiting in line for the bathroom was more important. Don't know why. We were only on that friggin plane for several hours with the fasten seat belt light on the whole time. So the pilot starts screaming to "sit down now or you will be removed from the aircraft!" Yeah, a pleasant flight. The trouble didn't stop when we got on the ground. We waited forever for the Dollar car rental shuttle bus to pick us up. We saw all the other outfits go by on at least three rounds. I did not have their number. Another passenger was waiting for Dollar too. So we ask an Avis driver if Dollar was running or not, and the roll of his eyes said it all. He said get on, I'm not supposed to do it but I'll take you there. Nice guy, got a tip from me. I guess you get  what you pay for. Hertz, which I use for business travel, was about 3x more expensive. The other guy waiting for Dollar started talking about his Delta experiences lately. He came in late from Memphis. He said five trips in a row now have been disasters, and never again. I would think three bad experiences would be more than enough.
Rain started moving into southern New England early on Saturday. After sleeping in to recover from sleep deprivation, I had to make a choice between heading north to ride on roads or heading north to ski. DaveP was still interested in skiing, so we decided to risk Waterville. It was very warm, with temp around 40. There was zero snow on the ground driving up Rt 49 to the ski area. Even around the village, conditions looked pretty abysmal. But the north end had good cover. The wind storm from a couple weeks ago did a lot of damage though. It hasn't snow appreciably since then, so the trails were littered with tree debris. Some areas were nearly black with pine needles and bark, other areas covered in chain saw dust. The snow was typical Weston slurpee snow, totally saturated. The cheap fluoro I put on did little to achieve glide, and the dirty snow immediately killed what little glide was there. Oh well, this was going to be our last chance to ski this season, so might as well make the best of it. We went right for Cascade, an 800ft climb. I drilled the last half of it, deeply anaerobic. Felt good. Dave was never more than a few seconds behind me. We bombed down Lower Snows, hoping to climb Swazeytown/Beanbender, but WV did not clear the trees out of it. We had to turn around.

Heading back up Lower Snows, we encountered a man in the woods, on the ground, clipped into his classic rental skis. He was hurt and couldn't reach to release his skis. Terrific. None of us had a cell phone. English was not his primary language. He went off the trail into a tree. I think he tried to catch the tree and possibly dislocated his shoulder. He was writhing in pain, but was able to stand up and walk some. He was going to attempt to walk back down if we carried his skis, and we would call the Nordic Center at the bottom so they could meet him with the snowmobile. I don't think the guy understood where his car was parked, or at least failed to properly communicate it, as it was not at the Livermore Rd trail head. So that killed a half hour in the middle of what started out as a solid workout. You can never really get going again after something like that. This tough week just wouldn't end. Next we crossed over, hit Tripoli, Osceola and Moose Run before finishing. Tripoli was in pretty nice shape, but slow. Dave drilled that 800ft climb, leaving me to struggle alone as he pulled away. We caught up with Steve who was out on patrol just as we were finishing. Long story short, Steve picked up the injued guy, he went to the hospital, and his wife would get him from there. Steve has seen a number of dislocated shoulders, and this guy had all the classic symptoms. He said the folks at the Nordic Center were just discussing that morning how they made it an entire season without an injury. It was a great workout with lots of intensity. Good King of Burlingame TT training. We skied 32km, 2610ft, in 2.2hrs. It turned my legs into jelly.

Final ski of the season

I really wanted to get a five hour ride in this weekend, but five hours in 35F rain going sideways is not much fun, and I had too many other things to do. When you can't get the volume, you must go for the intensity. Sunday I went out from my house on road bike and hit nothing but the short, steep hills that I live in. I got in numerous 1-2 minute deeply anaerobic efforts. That turns your legs into jelly after a while too. In 90 minutes, I never got cold, and my feet even stayed dry despite pouring rain and deep water flowing across many roads. The combo of Market Basket baggies inside of Performance neoprene booties works awesome.

Dave and I head to Tucson for four full days of trail riding this week. Have three of the days mapped out, leaving one day to plan on the fly. The rides range from 50 to 62 miles with 5000 to 10,000+ feet of climbing. There's a chance we could do a dirt hundred miler one of the days, a back side over-the-Lemmon route on fire roads. Depends if enough of the snow melts up top. Current forecast is showing 0% chance of rain Thur-Sun and temps hovering around 80F. Tucson has had one of the wettest winters in recent history, so the desert should be very alive.  I've been to Tucson many times now, lost track how many. Tucson has a vibrant mountain biking community with huge tracts of federal and state land. Many trail systems have been built in the last five years. Most of what we plan to ride will be new to us. We're bringing dualies, looking forward to hitting some of the more technical terrain there. Here's a synopsis of what is planned so far.

Tucson Mountain Park (TMP), Brown Mountain, Sweetwater
and Robles just to name a few trails/systems in this 50
mile route. TMP was the first place I rode in Tucson over
10 years ago.

Many trails represented here, including AZT, Milagrosa, Milino and
more. The loop in the foreground was essentially the SSUSA course.
This 62 mile ride finishes with a 5000ft singletrack plummet back to
the B&B we'll be staying at. Plenty of brutal terrain in this ride.

Out on roads, back on AZT (Arizona Trail). Starts in lower right,
climbs 2000ft mostly on paved roads to AZT in upper left, then
35 miles of mostly buff singletrack back to car with gentle downhill
bias. Also about 62 miles.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flawless Right Out of the Hill Junkie Basement

Going into the weekend, I had high hopes of taking the newly built up Superfly to the Cape for a first date. Even though the snow was gone locally, there is still much frost in the ground here. The local trails won't drain until the frost is gone. This will take at least a month in shady or north facing areas. It is bad etiquette to ride muddy trails, and I don't enjoy it anyway. It trashes the bike.

The Cape, on the other hand, stays warm enough to not develop frost in the ground. The sandy soil base drains extremely well. Mud rarely exists on the trails I'm familiar with. I knew parts of the Cape had gotten some snow last week. I thought surely it would have melted on Saturday when temps rose into the 50's. So when I got up to check webcams and the NEMBA forum, I was crushed to still see snow from the Bourne Rotary webcam and see reports from Otis that there was 4" of hike-a-bike snow on north facing slopes. One way or another, I was riding my new bike, but not in snow and not in mud.

Poking around a bit more in the NEMBA forum, a rider reported the "Exit 7" trails were fine. This was much further east on the Cape than Otis. I hadn't ridden there before, but my desire to break in the new bike overruled the extra 20 minutes or so to drive there.

Just like at Rangeley the day before, a fine spring day was expected everywhere Sunday morning. I loaded up the xD and split early. As I approached the Sagamore Bridge, I was dismayed by how much snow was still on the ground on north facing slopes. I thought surely I'd be riding in some snow, as Exit 7 of Rt 6 was not that far away. I pass the Trail of Tears Exit 5 with plenty of snow in shady spots. My attitude was turning pretty sour.  But in two more exits, the snow diminished. Not disappear, but close to it. Optimism returned.

It was already quite warm heading out, maybe 40's. With bright sun, just knee warmers would have been adequate. It took me a bit to find the trail entrance. There is no designated parking area, no signs. I headed in along Rt 6, noting many singletrack spurs to my left. When I reached the far end of the property, I started following a narrow singletrack loop that had been raked or blown free off all organic material. In fact, about 90% of the trails here had been cleaned. I have mixed feelings on this. The organic material, oak leaves and pine needles, can help control erosion. On the other hand, cleaned trails lets you rail singletrack. And rail I did. This stuff was boat loads of fun. Steeply rolling in many areas with G-out drops. Cleaned trails meant you didn't have to scrub any speed into turns. In fact, most of the turns were gently bermed so you could really lean the bike over.

Superfly on raked Exit 7 trails. Not a hint of mud here.

So how did the bike work? In a word, flawless. I did not have to make even one adjustment. It was 100% dialed, right out of the box so to speak. I did dawdle in my neighborhood a few days prior to get fit adjusted right. But everything else worked perfectly on the trail. Most notable was how stiff this bike is. Everything from wheels through frame. There is zero bottom bracket flex, something that bothered me when I test road a Specilized S-works 29er. The Superfly is 100% purebred racing machine, not an all-day New England rocks and roots epic machine. The bike handled as nimbly as my Dean 26" hardtail. It climbed extremely well, better than my Dean I'd say. I suspect longer contact patch on rooty and rocky surfaces help smooth out some of the choppiness that tends to spin out the rear tire while climbing.

I rode over 15 miles of singletrack before popping out on the road in search for other bits of trail. I found some singletrack in Dennis Pond Conservation Area, then headed south towards Hyannis to ride a bit long the coast on pavement. The Hutchinson Toro tires I have on the Superfly right now are not particularly fast on pavement, but they did hook up well on buff singletrack. For the morning, I rode about 32 miles in 2.9hrs with temps climbing into the 50's.

Exit 7 trails are upper left portion of track. Other bits of singletrack
were found on both sides of Rt 6.

This is my best new bike build yet. I'd say it surpasses my experience when I first road my Dean Ti hardtail over 9 years ago. Having three opportunities to ride big wheels last year, I pretty much knew what to expect regarding how they roll over stuff better. What exceeded my expectation is how efficient the Superfly feels. Sure, it is my lightest hardtail, but the stiff frame and wheels make for lightning quick power transfer. I have a feeling this one will be a keeper.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


What a weekend to be outside! This year's Rangeley Lakes Loppet was in stark contrast to when I last did this race in 2008. It was near blizzard conditions in '08, and this year you could see a hundred miles in brilliant sun. Course conditions were as dramatically different too.

The forecasts were all over the place for Saturday. Overnight lows ranged from 11 to 21, highs from 30's to 40's. One thing was common: the temperature would rise dramatically during the morning. I had prepared my skis with Toko HF Moly and HF Red. I feared how warm it was going to get, especially since much of the course is exposed to sun. On a whim Friday, I stopped at Zimmerman's in Nashua. They still had some Cera F left, on "sale."  Even on sale, that stuff still costs more than crack. They only had FC10, and since it was the really warm conditions I was worrying about, I decided to try it. I wasn't going to re-wax the with warmer base layers, so I was truly going to end up with a bastardized wax job. I applied the FC10 over HF Red. I used one pass of the iron, then brushed.

Dave P and I headed up the night before, staying at the Rangeley Inn. I got distracted when I packed my stuff and realized en route I forgot to pack windbriefs. Skiing in frigid temps without wind protection down there is a mistake a man makes only once. I was planning to wear just my race lycra, so the wind briefs were essential equipment.  So now what? I've read reports where people cover their face with duct tape to ward off frostbite. That wasn't going to happen! But I thought duct tape could turn ordinary briefs into fine wind briefs. Fortunately there was an open Auto Zone store in the last major town we were passing through. They had 99 cent rolls of duct tape. Perfect.

The Rangeley Inn must be over 100yrs old. It was all that was available within our price range. Our room had bright lights right outside the window, and the window blind dimmed the room to about half daylight it seemed. I could not sleep. At all. I doubt I got more than 30 minutes all night despite going to bed early. I "woke up" groggy as hell with a headache. I think not sleeping the night before an important race is worse than not tapering for it. I should have done a couple hammer rides mid week. Maybe I would have slept better.

What do you get when you put ecologically friendly toilets in 100yr old buildings with ancient plumbing? Disaster. Hill Junkie super stool stool struck again! One gallon flush toilets are worthless. They plug with even the most miniscule of deposits.  One gallon flush toilets that plug and don't shut off because they're broken cause ecological disasters. I couldn't get to the shut-off valve in time to prevent a flood in our bathroom. Then I had to wander around the premises to find a plunger. We weren't the only ones. Checking in the night before, somebody at the front desk was asking for a plunger. Glad we were checking out soon.

Not sure how cold it got overnight, but the snow was squeaky when we got to the venue. Not good. I waxed about 30F warmer than cold squeaky snow. I planned for negligible warmup. Putting skis on, I nearly wiped out! I never had slipperier skis! Even though the snow was still very cold, my skis were rocket fast. I guess even if you miss the temperature, pure fluorocarbon works. I skied about 1km, shed warmup layers, and lined up in second wave of 50km skiers. Since I didn't do the race last year, I got stuck there. I figured if we were the back 40%, I could line up front row. At the line, they announced the course was not 25km. It was more like 22km. I was bummed. I really wanted to ski a full 50k and break 3hrs here today.

The gun goes off, and I lose ground double poling. Doesn't matter that my skis are fast. I have the ab strength of a three year old. I settled in around 20th place as things got narrow. We were flying. The course was firmly packed sugary granular. When we got mostly rain down here a week ago, Rangeley got four feet of wet snow. It made a superb base. In fact, these was the best snow conditions I skied on all season, and easily the best Loppet conditions I've raced.

I carried a water bottle with me. Glad I did. The feed stations were weak. Very weak. No gels. Just dry cookies that went mostly into your lungs and tiny cups of HEED that were good for one gulp. That 28oz strong Gatorade mix saved my butt in this race.

The first lap went by blazingly fast. I passed so many people, mostly from the wave that went off five minutes ahead of me. The temp had risen to above freezing too. I was still feeling great coming through the start/finish for my second lap. Wish they had a visible clock there. It would have been nice to see my lap time.

Interestingly, when I hit parts that were becoming saturated with water from solar heating, my skis didn't stick at all. In some cases, they actually felt faster on the warmer, wetter parts. Crack wax at work.  I continued to pick off skiers in lap two, still mostly from first wave. I had no idea how I was doing other than I felt great and maybe I should be pushing a little harder. After bonking and cramping hard at almost all prior marathons, I didn't want to risk it here. I did keep looking over my shoulder for Dave P though. He beat me here by several minutes in '08.

I finished, still going strong, but there was no clock or anybody at the line to give me my time. The race was about 45km based on signage. I felt like I skied at a 50km pace and should have pushed just a little harder for a shorter race with less climbing and fast conditions. I had way too much gas left in the tank. No hint of bonking or cramping coming into the finish.

When results were posted, I finished in 2:44:46, which initially was good for third place in my age group. Later when results were posted on the web, I ended up in 5th place. There were some issues with results. I believe my time was correct, I remembered a couple numbers of people finishing just ahead and behind me for reference. I beat a couple guys that beat me by good margin in 2008 and was a much smaller percentage back from CSU guys like Andy and Frank. So progress is still being made.  My pace would have put me just over 3hrs had the race been 50km though. I finally finished a ski marathon without crashing. And the home made wind briefs worked perfectly for the cold start.

Dave finished about 10 minutes behind me. He had a mishap with other skiers about 2km in and ended up with a broken pole. A kilometer later, a non-racing skier sees him with one pole and yells "do you need a pole?" The guy was wicked tall, but a long pole is better than no pole. How cool is that? Total stranger out skiing gives up a pole to racer. Dave said this trail angel restored his faith in humanity. Dave returned the angel's pole after finishing.

If the nutritionals were lacking on the course, the buffet afterwards made up for it. Chili, brats, soups, and every kind of cookie imaginable. Coffee even.  Nobody left hungry.

You don't think about sunburn during cross country ski races, but burned I got. I have a nice stripe across my forehead where my CSU hat didn't cover.  This was easily my most satisfying ski race to date. Perfect weather, perfect course conditions, finished strong. This will probably be my last ski race of the season. I'd love to do Sugarloaf in two weeks, but hopefully I'll be enjoying more sun in Tucson on two wheels.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Got 'er done

My temporary 29" tires came today. I say temporary, as the five local bike shops I checked for Bontrager 29-3's don't have any in yet. I guess they are arriving soon. I was not going to let this hold back the completion of my winter project now that the snow is just about gone. So I thought I'd check out some Hutchinson Toro tires in the mean time.

You don't realize how much bigger these hoops are until you park
it next to a 26" wheeled MTB.

The Stan's based wheels are my first set of "tubeless ready" wheels. I have three sets of UST wheels, on which I've always mounted UST tires. Never burped a tire, haven't flatted in six years. Amazing when you think about it. I do always run Stan's sealant in the tires. TubeLess Ready (TLR) rims are not UST certified and likely have a different rim bead than UST rims, as some UST tires will not seat properly on TLR rims. TLR rims give you the option of running regular tube type tires as tubeless, sometimes with mixed results. I've read that Bontrager TLR tires work well with Stan's rims. Bontrager has a couple racy models I'd like to try.  There are only a couple other companies out there making 29" TLR tires, like Hutchinson.

Carbon frame, carbon bar, carbon post, even a little carbon
in the rear derailleur. Carbon has gained my trust.

Part of the idea behind the TLR system is to make the rim sidewalls short so the bead has no where to go when bottoming out the tire against the rim. This reduces burping (when you break the rim bead seal), reduces pinch flatting, and potentially makes it easier to initially inflate the tires. This also means it can be very tough to mount the tires, as there is no deep center channel to work the bead into.  I found the Hutchinson Toro's a little stubborn to mount, but not any more so than UST tires on UST rims. I added 1.5 scoops of Stan's sealant inside each tire. Then it was time for the test: can you inflate the tire with ordinary floor pump? I could! It was no different than inflating a tubed tire. It was that easy. The beads immediately snapped into place with about 40psi.

The Toro's are spec'd at 2.15" wide. I found the widest part of the tire was the casing, which measured 1.95". So they're kind of skinny. The Toro's use Hutchinson's hardskin sidewalls to resist cuts, which probably means they ride like solid rubber tires (not very supple). We'll see.

Shimano might obsolete 9sp drivetrains soon. I was pissed when
I couldn't get 8spd setups anymore. It's like inverse Moore's Law:
Each cog added in back cuts performance and life in half while
doubling the cost.

The bike currently weighs 23.7 lbs. Not fly weight, but quite a bit lighter than my little wheeled Dean Ti hardtail (which went back to Dean for frame repair four months ago). Different tires and swapping out the Hayes rotors for Shimano Centerloc rotors could get the weight down under 23 lbs, but I'm not really a weight weenie. Either you got it or you don't. Efficient tires are far more important than 0.7 lbs.  So here's the finish build spec. 
  • Frame: Gary Fisher Superfly, large
  • Fork: Fox F29 RLC, custom offset for Superfly
  • Headset: Cane Creek ZS-3
  • Wheels: Stan's Arch rims, 32 Wheelsmith DB spokes, Shimano XTR hubs
  • Brakes: Hayes Stroker hydraulic, 160mm rotors
  • Crankset: Shimano XTR
  • Shifters: Shimano XTR rapid fire
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano XTR
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR Shadow, traditional rise
  • Cassette: Shimano XT, 11-34
  • Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR
  • Bar: Easton Monkey Lite XC carbon
  • Stem: Thomson Elite X4
  • Skewers: Woodman Gator Ti
  • Post: Easton EC-90 carbon
  • Saddle: Terry Ti Fly
  • Grips: ODI Rogue lock-on
  • Tires: Hutchinson Toro, 29"x2.15" tubeless ready
Assuming I can find suitable tires, this will be my ride of choice for the Ironcross race this fall. There's a downhill plummet on that course that I've yet to clean on my Ridley cross bike. The lower gearing should allow me to ride more of the final run-up too.  More importantly, this is the bike I plan to bring with me to Leadville in August. Not sure how many folks there are riding 29ers. From what I've seen in the movie, my heavy dualie would be overkill.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dodging Bullets

During my geekiest years, my early teens, I delved deep into the realm of electronic gadgetry. Not the stuff you buy, but the stuff you could scheme up and build from scratch. This was back in the 1970's when environmentalism was not yet part of our vernacular. The township dump was about three miles down a dirt road from my house. It was nothing more than a side of hill that people just dumped their trash over. To me, it was a gold mine of electronic goodies. Many a small television set came back with me balanced on the bars of my bicycle down that bumpy road.

One day I'm up on the hill rummaging through the rubbish when a deafening blast and shot pelted my surroundings. Somebody just out of line of sight from me fired a shotgun in my direction. Amazingly, not one pellet hit me even though the thousands of Campbell's soup cans I was standing in were sprayed. I hollered, some dude around 20 years old with two hot chicks comes running up all apologetic. No idea what he was shooting at, but it freaked me out a little. Think all I went home with that day were soiled shorts.

A few years later, I matured into the west Michigan redneck party scene. Ever see the 90's movie Dazed and Confused? This movie precisely portrayed the late 70's in rural Michigan. I remember late one night, maybe after emptying a second keg, the guns came out. Little guns, big guns, even tiny Derringers. Guys and gals were shooting at everything.  What, you've never been to a party where everybody brings their guns out for a little fun at 2am? You missed out!  Actually, that weirded me out a little, and I didn't stick around much longer.

Seems everybody carried a gun back then. They probably still do in those parts today. I grew up with guns in the house. My dad to this day is an avid sportsman. I respected his guns and had one of my own when I was old enough.  The guns were never securely locked up.  Nobody ever thought this was reckless. It wasn't back then.  In fact, you were a freak if you didn't own guns. Kind of like iPods these days. My geeky colleagues tell me I'm a freak today because I don't own any type of MP3 player, iPhone or Crackberry. It is amazing how culture shifts over distance and time.

So this has been a big aside. The bullets I've been dodging this week are viral bullets. I've been training hard since the beginning of the year. Rigorous intensity four days most weeks. Last weekend tipped me right up on the edge of over-training I think. A general feeling of malaise took over my body. My voice was hoarse and it was hard to focus on my work. Couple this with half of the office being sick right now, I was highly vulnerable to picking up whatever was going around. I thought for sure Sunday night I was coming down with full-blown head cold. I started popping Airborne (not sure if this is anything more than a placebo) and made sure I got at least 8-9hrs of sleep. I decided the last Tuesday night Weston sprint race was not in my interest even though I started feeling better. But wouldn't you know it, it was like 50F and sunny and calm out at lunch. My planned recovery spin turned into an 80 minute stiff tempo ride. Couldn't resist. Bad Doug. But after a few nights of extra sleep and mega antioxidants, I think I dodged a bullet here. Let's hope so. I have high expectations at Rangeley on Saturday.

My first bike race of the season is just a few weeks away, then Battenkill a couple weeks after that. Last year at this time I was fretting over my fitness with so few hours riding logged. I may have similar hours this year, but more intensity. It is a quality vs. quantity thing. In my book, there is no sense in base miles. I have a 12 year base. I don't take a month off, and I can't put in 35hrs saddle time per week like Todd Wells does right now. 8-10hrs per week is about all I have time for.  Riding 8-10hrs per week at base miles pace, whatever that is, would cause me to lose hard earned fitness. I do much better if I get a few one-plus hour bouts of intense efforts in. Half of these have been on skis.  If you can't get the volume, you have to at least get the intensity in. That alone can get you 90% of the way there.  This routine produced a satisfying season last year, and I have confidence I'll come into this season in good form. Still no metrics to back anything up. No power meters, no hillclimb benchmarks, no HRM stats, and no coach. Quite liberating.