Halfway

Halfway through the year and halfway through the Transcendence Series . Back in February when I was getting organized for Stories, this poin...

Feb 28, 2011

2011 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo Race Report

Second Place Co-Ed Duo
The story of the 2011 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo was not just rider vs rider and team vs team but riders vs the elements. With an outline writ in wind, the tale quickly turned into what will be known as the Arizona Hurricane. This race did not start between midnight and 2:00am like most 24 hour races, but at 5:30 pm as waves of mist, fog and rain were driven across the desert by gale force winds. By Noon on Sunday, Team TopoFusion/Gooney Riders of Scott Morris and Eszther Horanyi proved themselves strongest physically and mentally, covering 18 laps at 12:02. Nick and I finished second, one step higher on the podium, with 18 laps at 12:58:24. We had a solid race despite the adverse conditions, a few miscalculations, and one late exchange. In third place, Las Chupacabras with Jill Hueckman and Erick Lord completed 17 laps at 1:06:05. All the athletes who persevered into the rain and wind should be proud of their achievements and success at the 2011 edition of 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo!

Feb 27, 2011

Adventures on the Road

Home at last! And this year getting home was the adventure. We left Tucson Mountain Park with plans to return next year and do some more exploring. Nick was getting a little antsy to move on and I was getting tired of having pointy plants shredding my legs. So we packed up and bolted with plans to maybe ride in ABQ on the way home. The Back of the Pack racing team had given me some info on some good riding just north of ABQ. Everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly with the traveling until we turned off of I-10 in Demming. Then the Turtle started acting up. After almost the entire trip of a well behaved, "fast" moving Turtle, that 48 miles on back roads between I-10 and I-25 were a nightmare. Twice, we almost stopped dead in the road as the Turtle chugged and sputtered. Even the auxiliary fuel pumps didn't help. Finally it started behaving a little better in Hatch and we got on the interstate heading north. There was still some chugging and sputtering, but things were looking up. So we decided to stop for an early dinner in Socorro. Nick had been craving a steak for the last week and there was a decent steakhouse in Socorro. We had a really good dinner and were ready to get back on the road.

The Turtle wouldn't start! It just sputtered and the engine would not catch. Nick tried a few times, but nothing worked. We had fuel, we had battery power, but the engine was not making the connection. We've had some issues like this in the past, but nothing recently. Back then, changing the fuel filters seemed to work. Hoping that was the issue again, Nick crawled under the Turtle and replaced one filter - perfectly clean. The other filter was in even better shape. That wasn't the problem. Trying the engine again and still no luck. Last resort, Nick hits it with some engine starter. Finally, after an hour of stressing and worrying that we would be stuck in Socorro for a few days, the engine slowly gasped to life. So much for riding in ABQ! The sun was already going down and it was dark as we rolled through town.

Nick drove as far as he could, figuring that we would make good time in the dark. As noted from the trip down, the stretch of I-25 from Santa Fe to Pueblo can be pretty windy, so we were hoping to get through most of that in the nighttime stillness. We got to Raton, then had to stop. Despite getting up at a decent time (we were thinking that we could ride in Lake Pueblo State Park, since we hadn't gotten to ride in ABQ) and hitting the road early, we hadn't managed to hide from the wind. Going up Raton Pass, the Turtle was pegged at 30MPH. On the flats between Trinidad and Aguilar, we were only doing 45, pedal to the medal because of the wind. And it went downhill from there. The wind intensified and soon Nick was driving with the steering wheel at a 45 degree angle - to go straight. Our speed had dropped down to 30mph as the Turtle was buffeted by the winds. The cars and semis weren't going much faster! One semi passed us pretty fast - we got to watch his tractor blown about 5 feet. I swear the left rear wheels were off the road for a while! After that, we stopped in Walsenburg and holed up in the KFC/Taco Bell there. Watching the awing of the gas station swaying in the wind wasn't encouraging to get back on the road. Watching semis creep down the hill on the interstate didn't help either. But the wind didn't seem to be dying down and we were only two miles from home! So we decided that even if we had to go 10mph, we would start heading north. The truck stop had gotten busy while we were waiting - a lot of semis and campers had decided to wait out the wind as well. But we were moving again - albeit slowly.

Home at last! Interesting and fun trip - it's harder then it looks to go RVing in Tucson, especially when you're under 55! Still working on that race report and some more photos.

Feb 25, 2011

Exploring Tucson Mountain Park

It has definitely been a chill few days since the race. After playing tourist on Monday, we headed back down to Cactus Country RV for two nights so we could relax, sleep in and get some chores done. After racing for 24 hours in wind, rain and mud, we desperately needed to do some laundry. Three loads of clothes later and all the cycling gear from the race was was clean. Although I am still not sure all the mud is out of one set of bibs... Next order of business was showers! Talk about a much needed treat! We had a basic plan - ride easy at Fantasy Island on Tuesday, then head west to Tucson Mountain park for the rest of the stay in Tucson. The ride on Tuesday was very easy - we were both tired so the pace was pretty slow. The good news is it is harder to get lost when you are riding slow!

Then Wednesday, we met up with fellow Xterra racer, Christine J. She was happy to take us for a ride on some of the trails in east TMP. There was some fun, technical riding there - all shadowed by giant saguaros.I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the trail so I didn't end up in a cacti! Nick even got buzzed by a hummingbird! We rode about two and half hours, meandering around the east section of the park. I am sure I would have gotten lost without her guidance! It was a nice change from the fast, flowy riding of Fantasy Island. It was also really fun to be able to ride with Chris and chat with her outside a race environment. There is so much riding on the east half of the park - I think we might have hit about half of it.

Our home for the next two nights was the Gilbert Ray CG, inside the park. It was perfect - away from town, campsites separated by cacti so it was quiet. Well, mostly quiet.. The coyotes were going crazy last night, yipping up a storm several times. They were pretty close to camp too. We did get another good ride in on Thursday, attempting to follow the trail map the campground host handed out. Not so successful with that one - we did get lost a few times. Nick tried following a jeep/ATV trail and that turned out to not go anywhere. But we also found a few really fun sections of single track. I think it might have been more fun had we been going the other direction - downhill with rocks is always better then uphill - just ask Nick! Finally, after following some unmarked horse trails, we made it back to camp. With nothing else on the agenda, it was time to sit down, relax, read a book and eat some veggies. There is plenty more exploring to do in TMP, but that will have to wait until next year....

I will post some pics as soon as I get power back to my computer.

Feb 23, 2011

Out on the town - 24 Hour Town!

 
Nick setting up camp

While I still have not had a chance to write the race report - too much to digest to get it done right now - it was still an awesome weekend in 24 Hour Town. At least when the sun was shining and the wind wasn't howling! Nick and I rolled in on Thursday and got an awesome pit site near the transition tent. We got everything set up nice and neat and made sure there was room for our solo friends from Texas. That was the hardest part of the weekend - ensuring that our little kingdom was not conquered by neighboring racers! We also had a decent view of the Option from camp, so we were able to watch riders practicing the drop throughout the day. I had time to practice my photo skills - can never resist a good sunset, sunrise or an artfully framed cacti! This time I even got a few really good full moon shots. The sunrise photos never come out quite as nicely - I've struggled with that for the last three years. But besides photos, there were some good times in camp.


Sunrise race morning - those clouds would linger..

*Cruising into a solo pit on a pre ride with a cheerful "hey guys!" is a good way to get the Should we know her? Did we party with her last year and not remember? confused but polite response. Mental note to self - last 24 Hour Race the Back of the Pack gang saw you at was 24hr COS - as a support person! In civilian clothes... Sorry guys....

*Beer is aways a good icebreaker. Show up with a 12 pack of a good brew and even the serious racers will grab a chair and chill. Wine does not seem to work as well...
 
Sunset Friday night
*The second best is coffee - especially at 2:00 am race morning or 7:30 Monday morning when it's freezing out!
 
*Dry firewood also works well - especially on a cold, wet and windy day.

*Bad weather doesn't only affect the race - it really puts a damper on the all night partying that is common at this race.

*In the battle of wind vs easy up tents, wind was the hands down winner. All the tents on Solo row came down early and there were quite a few in the dumpsters after the race.

*Those chains we needed for the Turtle last year to get to town? They made great weights to keep the tent in place.

Welcome to Town under a full moon
*Some camp decorations work better then others - the Beer Tree was awesome!






Feb 22, 2011

Playing tourist at the Biosphere 2

For the last three years, we've seen the ads for Biosphere 2, hyping it as a really cool place to visit. So we decided to take our day off and play tourist after the race. I have to admit, I was a little curious about the whole thing, having read about the Biosphere experiments years ago. I also wanted to know why it was called Biosphere 2 - was there another one built somewhere else? (Answer to that question, Earth is Biosphere 1, Duh.) Nick was also really interested in the science - like how they sealed the sphere, things like that.


It was interesting - we learned a little about the Biosphere experiments, how it was built and how the people who were living in the Biosphere survived. We got a tour of the different biomes in the building - the rainforest, savanna, marsh, desert and ocean. Seeing the rain forest in the middle of the desert was bizarre! Now, it's a giant greenhouse where the University of Arizona and other researchers go to perform large scale, long term experiments on the effects of water and such on plant growth. One of the experiments they were just setting up will be here for ten years. There were poster boards of the different experiments that had been done all around the human habitat area of the Biosphere and some of them sounded pretty interesting. It was cool to see, and now we don't have to wonder anymore!
Biosphere 2 - human habitat and farm area - the rainforest green house slopes off to the left.

Feb 21, 2011

Prelim Report from 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo

The 2011 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo was another successful race for Nick and I. There were a few goof-ups and one late exchange, but it overall a strong performance. While we did not meet our lap goal, we still preserved against the Arizona wind, rain, mud and a rouge cactus to claim second. We completed 18 laps, finishing at 12:58. Scott M. and Ezther H. of  Topo Fusion Gooney Riders won the class with 18 laps, finishing at 12:02 and Jill H. and Erick L. of Las Chupacabras finished third with 17 laps at 1:06. I will have a full report after we get home.

Feb 18, 2011

Pre-ride in the Old Peublo

Well, the pre riding is done and there is nothing left to do but wait until noon Saturday. And people watch. That's always a hoot! It isn't that hard to figure out how to park three cars without taking up that much space. At least you would think! Seriously, it was a good refresher on desert riding, getting out on course again. We mostly had a clean run for the preride and everyone we met on trail was super cool. I had forgotten the twisty flowing speed of the trail and quick dips and dives around the cacti. It didn't take long to remember the lines and rocks in the trail. Nick rode his single for the pre ride, so if he need to race on that he has the gears down. I took a few trips down the option, just to build up some confidence. And it was as fun as I remembered. We also did both the Bitches and the new Skip the Bitches section of single track. And I know what I will be riding come Saturday. I love the ladies, but...

Feb 16, 2011

Fantasy Island Fun


Bike Route - Sure there is!

Okay, so I had a different title for this post, but it wasn't quite proper. So I settled on a more mundane description. But Fantasy Island, in the South East section of Tuscon was lots of fun over the last few days. We rode pretty much every trail and did a half decent job of not getting lost. We also manage to avoid most of the cacti, with only a few spines getting into my wrist. Nick's arms were sliced up from all the friendly trees surrounding the trails and we both have done a great job of working on the tan lines!


The long sleeves help with avoiding the thorns...

The first day, we parked at the southern entrance and tried to get to the north entrance. At that point, we had no clue as to the names of the trails or the general layout of the park. We just knew that most of the trails were one way. Full of enthusiasm to be riding in the sun, on dry trails, we set off into the cacti. Fantasy Island south is made up of fast, flowing trails with gentle banking on most corners. There are plenty of dips and dives through washes and around cholla. A perfect introduction to desert riding. We took a few detours off the main trail, then things started getting loopy. We had gotten into the rockier, hilly start of the north half of the park, but the trails were crazy. Without knowing names or land marks (oh look, another cactus!) we got totally turned around. In more then a few places, we were going the wrong way on accident - although the annoyed stares of other riders might have been a tip off. Eventually, we found our way back to the Turtle and to safety.


Nick and Nate discussing the next trail choice

The next day, we made plans to meet up with Nate from CTS for another fun filled day of avoiding cacti. We rode from the RV resort to the south entrance and managed to not get lost riding to the north entrance. I had spent a while studying the online maps before we left so felt a little more familiar with the park. Nate showed up ready to roll and we plunged into the desert. The goal was to have fun and not get lost. Well, we definitely had a lot of fun, but still got a little lost. This time we didn't ride any trails the wrong way, just got a little turned around on the outer sections. But fun - just dodging through the cacti, enjoying the banked turns, fast short descents and carefully switch backed climbs. We met a couple of other groups out enjoying the perfect weather and everyone was cool.  

Nick studying the map - it helps a little
Finally, today, Nick rode and I ran. I just did the main loop, named "Lone Cactus." By the end of the run, I was wondering why they called it Lone Cactus - after all, there were plenty of the plants to go around. That and other sharp vegetation. Everything has thorns or spikes or something sharp in Arizona - that is my opinion! I also got more scratches on my arms running then I did riding! After the run, it was time to head up north. We will behave and wait. After all, 24 Hour Town doesn't open until tomorrow. We found an nice, "high class" RV resort to call home for the night and will make the trek to town in the morning.

Notes from the Road

This time, we were the slowpokes on the interstate, but that meant there was plenty of time for people watching. It's pretty funny, the looks we get as other drivers pass. Here you have the old, slow Turtle and people are expecting a couple matching the turtle in age. And nope! Two young "kids" manning the controls... But as Nick was driving, I had my pencil ready for my travel observations...

*Where would we be without billboards? How else will I know that the world's largest prairie dog in only 40 miles away? Seriously, the billboards do make traveling easier, at least anticipating where food and gas might be next.

*Inspection stations only work if they actually inspect something....

*You don't get much rest at a rest stop sandwiched between the interstate and an active train track.

*Trucks like driving at night - easier on the eyes then dealing with the sun...

*Safety Corridor - a fancy way of saying boring road that people like to drive fast on, so we'll make some extra money here...

*We know you're jealous of the Turtle, but please, don't stare. And it's not like you can't see us from miles, so a little space is nice.

*You can tell the target age for the RV Resort by the number of grab bars in the shower rooms!!

I'm sure there will be more - the Turtle seems to attract a lot of attention!

Feb 15, 2011

The Travelin' Turtle!

Last year, the travel challenge was the snow and ice from Raton south. We were creeping along at 10 mph, having trouble seeing the road and eventually faced the exciting task of getting the chains on the Turtle. This year, no snow and sunny skies. But we faced an equally insidious challenge to the trek. Warm temperatures in Colorado and New Mexico in the winter mean one thing - wind. The poor turtle was pegged, chugging along at 40 mph or slower on the hills to the north of Santa Fe. We were fighting a losing battle with the wind as we kept going slower and slower and slower... I have to admit, I've driven that section of I-25 a few times and it has always been windy. It shouldn't have been a surprise! But this was a blow the Turtle across the road wind. It didn't matter what direction we were going either. The wind was a constant companion. But once the sun went down, the air was calm. Nick even set a speed record in the Turtle - 68mph!

Feb 14, 2011

CTS Night at the Races

Carmichael Training Systems hosted the third set of "Friday Night at the Races" over the last month and it's been a blast. Like the November-December, the Computrainer races brought athletes of all abilities together to ride hard and have fun. The races also provided some motivation to ride hard and keep training in the sub-zero weather that had been hanging around. To make things even more fun, Jayson had figured out how to start all Computrainer pods at the same time. So unlike the first races, we weren't just racing the seven people on the same computer. We were racing the entire room and with nearly every computrainer taken, there was some stiff competition.

January 21 - Time Trial Day. There was both a TTT and ITT this day, with the team event coming first. We were set up into teams according to rows in the pods, with the front row in each pod racing the back row. The race was on one of the flat courses, so strategy and drafting played a huge role in the times. Finish time of the third rider on each row counted. My team worked together well, but did end up dropping one rider, finishing with just three. After the team event, it was on to the ITT. This was on a more rolling course and the drafting was disabled to make it a fair race against the clock.

January 28 - Crit Day. We raced two different crits, then a one mile sprint to the finish. I have a love-hate relationship with the crits on the Computrainers. It's alway hard, fast paced racing with lots of steep climbs and quick descents. And there in lies the issue. The bar end shifting on the Tri bike is not really suitable for that kind of riding, especially indoors. So I'm a little slow on the uptake and eventually just end up sticking it in one gear and killing myself. This time especially, as I kept making up ground on the climbs, then falling off the pace on the descents. I could never escape enough to stay away!

February 4 - Mountain Stages. We did two races with mountaintop finishes, one with gently rolling climbs and one with much harder and steeper sections. I couldn't quite get away on the first climb, not enough to get the other riders out of my draft. Then one of the younger riders pulled a flyer and broke away. I couldn't catch back on. At that point, with the end of the race just around the corner, I sat up. There was another race coming up! And that other race was brutal, with a few 16% grades as we climbed from Lake Mead to North Shore drive on the Callville Bay TT course. Ouch! I've ridden past that road a few times, but never turned off. And now I know why. I was able to use the steeper climbs to escape from the group and this time managed to hold them off until the line.

February 11 - Stage Race, with a TTT, a crit and a road race. The TTT was on a rolling course this time, making the strategy and working together that much more important. There was a minor miscommunication among my teammates, but we soon settled in and just got nipped on the line. The crit was another hilly affair and after a few loops, I was popped. I couldn't stay in the draft and I wasn't able to make up the ground on the climbs anymore. That didn't leave much for the flat road race! Again, I tried to stay in the draft, but failed. And that was it, I was done. No more power in the engine room.

Jayson handed out prizes to the class winners at the end of every day. The goodie bags were pretty cool - with some Gu, Gu brew and Gu chomps as well as a waterbottle. He was also figuring out an overall champion using a points classification. Given that there were a few other riders who had shown up every day, I was surprised when he announced me as the series champion! I now have a cool CTS windvest in the new black and white colors! It will get well worn in the next season, I am sure.

Feb 7, 2011

Snow Ride

After reviewing all the options yesterday (incline, snowshoe hike, being lazy) Nick and I decided to brave the wind and chilly temperatures and play around in Stratton for a few hours. Nick just got me a set of bar mitts and it seemed like the perfect day to test them out. After all, I might need them in AZ this year! There was about two inches of slush on the roads, and we figured it would be a mud bath on the trails. But we had a pleasant surprise when we got to Stratton. Because it was still cold and the sun was playing hide and seek with some clouds, the snow had not yet melted. There was about two to three inches of fresh snow on the trails. Plent of hiker tracks, but we were the first riders. And as long as we stayed out of the wind it was a really good day for a ride. The traction was decent, with only a few really soft patches. The bar mitts worked great. it was below 30 and all I had on were my light summer gloves. And my hands were nice and warm. If I need to use them at Old Pueblo, I will not mind at all. Over the two hour ride we only saw two other riders, but the trails looked like a huge group went through. That was because of the loops and circles Nick and I were making. I think we rode Chamberlin Trail five times! But it was a decent ride and more fun then the trainer. A snow ride is always better then no ride!

Feb 2, 2011

Groundhog Day Resolutions

Okay, so I missed New Year's for the Resolutions! I've never been very good at making New Year's resolutions - it seemed kinda silly to me to flip a page in the calender and all of a sudden try to be a totally different person. Making changes takes time and it is hard - there will always be slip ups and set backs, no matter what the resolutions are. So I used the month of January to ease into things! Waiting until February also gave me more time to think about what I needed to improve this year.

A clean bike is a happy bike and happy bikes are fast
I need to spend more time with my equipment. No more getting home and leaving a muddy bike sit for days - it needs to be cleaned right away. Maintenance and knowing how things work is integral to racing at full potential. I have been bad about cleaning and relying on Nick to fix everything. I need to start doing more for myself. (Thanks Ascent Cycling for the quote)

Understanding why is key to achieving potential
Instead of just doing the workouts and feeling like I'm getting stronger, I need to understand everything about the training plan. What are the goals and how to best achieve them? Then after the workouts, I need to take the time to review and make sure that I accomplished what was needed for that session. No more training blindly - use all the tools available.

Improvement also comes with focusing on the little things.
I've talked about this before - doing the little things to supplement the swim-bike-run parts of training. Drills to improve form and power in the water. Yoga for strength and flexibility. Core strengthening to improve stability. Weights for general strengthening. Paying attention to unusual stiffness to prevent injuries. It all counts and it all matters.

Those are the big three. My Groundhog Day Resolutions. I'll update as to how I'm doing throughout the year!