Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Feb 27, 2013

Making lemonade

You don't know what you've got till its gone. Truer words were never spoken. We cursed the Turtle - the slow speeds, the door that wouldn't lock anymore, the new creak the developed every trip. Every time we loaded up our gear, we hoped for the best - reaching our destination! Most of the time we did - but not without stress and drama and Nick spending lots of times fixing crap. Or the engine was running so hot the interiore of the RV reaxhed over 100 degrees. Nick frequently drove with his left foot in a boot and his right foot in a sandle because of the heat from the engine and the cold air leaking in. But the conveience of the home on wheels outweighed it all. We could drive to the campsite and unload everything and just be comfortable. We had a quiet, warm and dry place to sleep. A private bathroom (so important!) And the ablility to cook. All of it worth the hassles.

We were so lucky this trip. Doesn't sound like luck to have our RV die but... Out of all the places to croak - the parking lot of a U-haul store is pretty damnable lucky. We drove a lot of quiet back roads on our way to Tucson - because the engine was acting up and we couldn't go more then 40 mph. Not speeds to take the interstate with! But the hazards of back roads include no cell coverage. If we'd broken down there... It would have been a long ride to the nearest town! Or we could have made it outside of Tucson before trouble started. Then we would have been stranded neither here nor there - in sight of 24 Hour Town but unable to get there. Talk about stress! I am not sure what we would have done in that situation.

So now comes the hard part. Trying to replace the turtle. We have a list of things we need based off our impromptu camping adventure at 24 Hour Town. Quiet - warm - dry - sleep - a bathroom - cooking. That and being able to get all our gear safely stowed! Doesn't sound easy on paper or in reality... And we may be car camping for the next 24 hour race on the schedule!

Feb 24, 2013


We left Tucson just as the snow was moving in and got home to more snow! Yes, I was laughing when I saw the blizzard warnings for Mt Lemmon and higher elevations in Tucson. I did see some of the snow photos on Facebook after we got home and I wasn't laughing anymore. They got a lot of snow down there! Luckily - or so I thought - we'd missed it all. But when we got home, there were several inches on the ground and more in the forecast. Good thing I had another recovery week scheduled...

With winter storm warnings scrolling and not feeling like spending time in the garage just yet, Nick and I decided it was time for a hike. We loaded up the Osprey Packs with snowshoes and headed for the hills. Nick's idea of hiking is more like bushwacking, so nearly four hours later, we finally found ourselves back at the car. A good way to spend a snowy, cold day. Lots of pictures....

The snow was deep up in the mountains!

I'd be stopping to put those snowshoes on pretty quick!

Knee deep snow! Not gonna be riding outside anytime soon...

Gold Camp Road on two feet - a different view!
Blowing and snowing - winter is here at last.

A tunnel of trees somewhere in the woods...

Feb 23, 2013

The Learning Curve of 24 Hrs in the Old Pueblo, 2013

Wow! What a race this year. It was close between the top five teams until midnight, then an even tighter duel for second as noon approached. As expected, Nat Ross and Rebecca Rusch began building a lead quickly. While they may have looked back a few times, it was a fifty minute lead as they finished with 20 laps at 12:17:05. Our race for second was much closer. After moving up from fourth and prying open the narrowest of gaps, we found ourselves in a seven hour race and evenly matched. I think it was our experience with 24 hour racing that allowed us to eke out the narrowest of margins over Kevin and Beth Utley. Cograts to all the Co-Ed Duo teams (29 started this year! Huge field for Coed Duo.) The top five teams.....
The King and Queen of Pain - Nat Ross & Rebbeca Rusch - 20 laps, 12:17:05
Learning Curve - Nick and I - 20 laps, 1:02:55
That's MR and MRS Utley to You! - Kevin & Beth Utley - 20 laps, 1:04:07
Spidey Buzz - Chris Alstrin & Laura Anderson - 19 laps, 12:46:53
Summit Velo - Kyle Stamp & Stephanie Jones - 18 laps, 12:10:40

Feb 19, 2013

The Death of the Turtle

We knew the Turtle was having issues. From the fan clutch locking up to a loose spark plug wire and worn points, the engine was really giving us fits the whole trip. (I say us, but Nick was the one who really had to deal with it - crawling under the engine on the rocks at the RV park or trying to get something just right while jammed between the seats and the engine.) He had spent most of the four days we'd been down in Tucson trying to get it running right and nothing was working. He would make one adjustment and it would be better for a while, then something else would act up.Thursday morning, he made some last ditch adjustments to the timing on the distributor while I was finishing up food shopping. Our hope at that time was to just make it up to 24 Hour Town, race, and deal with it after the race.

Heading North on Houghton Rd and things looked promising. The engine sounded better, we had a little more power and we were starting to get hopeful again. Then we hit the hill right after the Pantano Wash. The engine started shrieking and shaking like crazy. There was a creak, a bang and a plume of smoke gushed from the exhaust pipe. Not good! We lost all power, the oil pressure plumeted and it was clear the turtle was in trouble. We were getting honked at by other drivers - both for the pathetic lack of speed and the plume of smoke. Before we could make the left turn onto Tanque Verde, the oil pressure dropped again and the engine started stalling. Three times in a row as we struggled through Tucson traffic, the engine stalled. Nick was able to restart it all three times, but it was pretty obvious. We weren't going to make it to 24 Hour Town. At least not in the turtle.

I was both navigating and trying to find a U-Haul store at that point. Amazingly - there was a location on the road we were on - at least that's what my phone said. And we hadn't passed it yet. I'm scanning the street names and numbers, looking for the U-haul sign. We're getting close, but the turtle was getting increasingly sluggish and the oil pressure was completely gone. Then we reach the right number - but the U-haul sign was gone and the building was all boarded up. Hearts sank - now what? We had no options left. But then - salvation in the form of a white and black billboard a block down. U-Haul!!!

100 yards from the driveway, the turtle stalls again. And this time we couldn't get it started. I'm not sure how Nick managed it, but he wrestled the dead turtle into the driveway and then a parking spot of the U-Haul store. And it was truly dead - oil was spewing everywhere and it wasn't starting at all.

The turtle's final resting place... Neatly parked in the U-Haul lot

There was a lot of crap to unload, pack up and reload prior to getting to town!
I don't know how we managed it, but we even found the U-haul location where the manager was a mountain biker and understood the plight of two riders desperate to get to a major race. He rented us a van and agreed to let us leave the turtle there until after the event. Two hours later, we'd emptied out the turtle and packed up the U-Haul van. Man! There was a lot of shit in that beast - both for racing and for living! But we still had to figure out how to manage the race without the comforts of the RV. A tent, small heater, cot and portable stove from Walmart did the trick and it was time to finally think about riding our bikes.
Our new home for the weekend...

Gear puking! 24 hour gear scattered around camp.
We picked the name "Learning Curve" because of the progression we've made in our racing and the things we've learned in the last five years. Little did we know the learning curve back to tent camping without the RV was going to be steep and quick!

Feb 18, 2013

2013 24 Hrs in the OP

Another year, another fun time in the desert. This was a great race this year - a nail biter till the end. The King and Queen of pain defended their title again, finishing 20 laps about 12:17. It was a close race for second with several lead changes through out the day - at one point only 2 seconds separated second and third! Nick and I battled back from a flat tire to clime second -also completing 20 laps at 1:02. Once again the bridesmaids (third year in a row!) Beth and Kevin Utley made us work - the final gap was only two minutes after 24 (25 really) hours of racing. They came in at 1.04 with 20 laps. Like I said - some really fast racing this year in the Co-Ed Duo. The top three teams all did 20 laps, with 4th and 5th doing 19 and 18 laps. The level of racing has risen so much in the last five years. The first year Nick and I did this race - we got fourth. The number of laps we did then would only have placed us 8th this year! It's awesome to see the growth.

I will get a full race report plus some back dated posted from the adventure up in the next days. And an adventure it's been!

Feb 15, 2013

Time for the rematch!

For the last four years, Nick and I have been taking a winter pilgrimage to sunny Arizona for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. Each year, we've done better and gotten more dialed at the insanity of duo 24 hour racing. The first year - 2009 - we surprised ourselves and placed 4th, finishing 16 laps. Nick and I each did eight laps that year. In 2010, we moved up one more step to third with 18 laps. Nick did 10 laps and I did 8 laps. 2011 took us to second, knocking out 18 laps again under some pretty challenging conditions, with each of us riding 9 laps. Heading into 2012, we were hoping to finally get the top step, but facing a killer duo of Rebecca Rusch and Nate Ross, it was another second. But with a solid 19 laps under our tires, we were happy with that second. So what will 2013 bring?

For the first time, we get to face the exact same team in the battle of the Co-Ed duos. Previously, the winning team was different each year. Not this time. The King and Queen of Pain (Nate and Rebecca are coming back to the desert with one goal in mind. Defend the Co-Ed Duo crown from last year. With Nate lapping me on the sunrise lap last year, I'm not sure it was much of a race after the first few hours last year. Maybe this year it will be a real race - a true rematch in the desert. Nick's fitter and fast faster then last year. I've made some good gains as well and we have more experience with the 24 hour races. Can we keep the gaps close and make Rebecca and Nate ride the entire 24 hours this time? That is the goal. And since 24 hours is a long time, anything can happen. As usual, we will race to the plan and stay focused on ourselves. And may the best team win this rematch!

Feb 13, 2013

Into Saguaro

That's where we decided to ride - the Arizona Trail
After dealing with the Turtle all morning, it was finally time to ride. We decided to head someplace new this time - the Arizona Trail. We had found one trail head on our explorations yesterday and Nick was eager to see where it went. That and getting out of camp would let use see if the repairs had helped the way the Turtle was acting. (For the record, they hadn't.) we got to the parking lot off Pistol Hill road and took a deep breath. Time to ride our bikes and get away from the stress of a malfunctioning Turtle! We opted to head north, knowing we would hit Saguaro National Park in about four miles. We planned on turning around at the boundary, then going south for a while. At least long enough to get the time we wanted to ride in.

Well, north we headed, on a fun, twisting chunk of single track. Cactus all around, with the trail darting and diving around among the prickly pears and barrel cacti. Absolutely nothing hard, but it was fun to be out, in shorts finally, enjoying the sun. We crossed a few washes, another road and were expecting the national park boundary to be pretty clear and marked with "no bikes past this point signs." About 3.8 miles into the ride, we came across a big sign just off the trail, with maps and all kinds of info on it. It looked pretty national parky to me, but the tire tracks kept right on going. So we decided to keep on riding.

A mile or so later, there's an old windmill just a head. We round the windmill and meet a guy kneeling just off the trail with his camera out. At first, I thought he was taking a photo of the windmill. But as we rode by, he shouted after us something about putting us riding on the park website. Huh? Are we in the national park and not supposed to be riding - despite all the tire tracks in the sand? So we turned around - and he's still there, taking photos. Nick asks why he's taking pictures for the park website since mountain biking isn't allowed. Turns out the guy was a park volunteer out hiking. And he was more then happy to see us, nearly bubbling over with excitement to be able to tell us that the trail we were on, the Hope Camp Trail, had just been opened to MTBs last November. And that we could connect to the AZT nearly all the way now. Such a difference in reception the what we normally get at home! So we turned around again and rode the western terminus of the trail. Hey, it might have been an old road, but we were in a National Park - and we were allowed to ride our bikes!
Camp Hope windmill, Saguaro NP

At Camp Hope in Saguaro NP - happy to be out in the sun and on some trails
Photo - the happy park volunteer out hiking

Feb 11, 2013

Dreaming of a Trouble Free Turtle.

A home on wheels is good if it actually goes some where. It seems that every time we think about getting away the Turtle acts up! I love the cozy bed, warm furnace and fresh meals everyday but Nick having to crawl under there every other hour gets a little tiring. It's a charming beast and gets plenty of compliments (?) every where we camp. "Its so cute!" "How old is that thing?" Things like that. And no one cane mistake our camper for another team at a 24 hour race. Yes, the Turtle is great and we've been super lucky with it so far. But....

We're thinking its time for an upgrade. Something we would have done already if not for the slight issue of money. It takes a bunch of that stuff to get into a really nice setup. And that's something we just don't have right now. Every trip, we sit steaming in the cab, talking about what we want to upgrade to. A nicer, newer Class C that actually runs well and isn't older then us? Or maybe a trailer or fifth wheel with a pickup. There are pros and cons to both styles of camping and we have discussed them all. Its all about the same cost - more then what we have, but it hasn't stopped us from dreaming. One of these days, a weekend getaway will not involve Nick crawling under the camper and getting all grimy!

Tucson Bound

Every trip has a theme and this was no different getting to Tuscon. Wind, noise and slow. Dealing with one is hard - two headache inducing. All three? Plus a turtle that is acting up? Stressful beyond compare.

Just south of Las Vegas NM - the engine starts acting up. The fan will not disengage and is stuck running. It sounds like a jet engine in the cab and our already slow pace becomes a crawl. We ended up taking side roads as much as we could since 40 was our top speed. That meant for some scenic driving and a very quiet first night on the road. But it also added to our stress on the second night. We were on the really quiet roads between Socorro, Reserve and Safford, AZ. The engine was dragging, using more fuel then normal. And the gas stations in the little towns we passed were all closed. We turn off the "main road" onto NM 78 and Nick suddenly asks "how much further?" Its about 70 miles to the next big town on the map. Uh oh - we are really running low on fuel! The auxiliary tank runs dry about 20 miles out and the gauge for the main tank is hovering on E. This is getting nerve wracking! The last thing we need is to run out of gas on some tiny road in the middle of nowhere! Luckily, we made it - on fumes alone, I'm sure.

Our stopping place for the first night - a scenic pull out on NM Highway 14 south of Santa Fe
Then it was time to get back on the interstate for the last leg of the journey. Approaching I-10 from the north looked like a snake of lights slithering across the darkness of the desert. And we were soon going to be joint all that traffic - at our stately 40 mph! At least it wasn't for too long. First rest stop and we were done for the night. Time for a break in our home on wheels. I must say - I-10 rest stops are not as quiet as back roads pull outs. But it was a parking spot for the night. And we would be in Tuscon, raring to ride in the morning! Vacation time with a little race in the middle of it....
Who wants to spend all day replacing one of these? The seized up fan clutch. Fingers crossed....

Feb 10, 2013

at the end of the turquoise trail

This time, when we rolled thru ABQ, we were prepared with some trailheads that offered some promising single track. We had taken hwy 14 down from Santa Fe, eliminating the eastward backtrack on I-40. And with the way the Turtle was acting, staying off the interstate was a good idea. Just south of 40, we found a ranger station for the Cibola national forest. Perfect! We could stop in, get a map and some info then be ready to ride! Try again - closed. Why would a ranger station need to be open kn a Saturday when people might actually stop in looking for some help? Oh well.

So we stopped at the first trail head we came to. With no map and really no idea lot where we were going, we opted for a quick out and back ride. Just enough to loosen up the legs before a full day of sitting. The trail we found (coyote canyon - I think) was a multiuse bike/motorbike trail. Not quite double track but not quite single track. It meandered up and across a dry creekbed - mostly smooth but with a few little rock gardens. Tacky and flowing, it was the perfect find for an easy day. There were plenty of other trails peeling off in all different directions, but we stuck with the "main" trail. At least the trail thar had the most tracks in it. It was really easy riding with a gradual uphill. After about 20 minutes of steady pedaling we came to a freshly re-routed section. There was still tape flagging where the trail was going! That section was the most fun - still loose and rocky from the construction, with some fun little tetchy sections. Too bad the rest of the trail hadn't been like that! That would have been really fun! At the top of the climb, we decided to turn around. The wind was picking up and it was starting to get cold, with some ominous clouds moving in. It was a fun but chilly descent back to the camper, with grapple pelting us as we finished.
The technical section of the trail - having some fun before the long drive

Nick finishing out the re-routed trail. Don't let the blue skies fool you!

We will be back. There was a lot of potential there for a few days worth of fun. But we need to get some maps to make the most of it. Not just "here's a trailhead" app on my phone!

Feb 7, 2013

Panic, er Rest Time

Ack! It's that time again. After two months of hard workouts on the bike with a few well needed rest days, the expected happened. I couldn't finish the scheduled workout. I had all the best intentions when I started the workout, but knew how fatigued I was on the weekend rides. I'd already dicussed matters with Coach Adam so was prepared to call it early. It's just disheartening when I start a workout knowing I might not finish. The first set went well - numbers where I wanted them to be. Then the second set. And while it started well, things went down hill in a hurry and I knew I was done. Ugh. I felt like I had done twice as much as I had and was sorely disappointed. I wanted to end the training cycle on a good note.

I've only called workouts a few times in the past so I'm really not worried. Now is the time where less is more and resting means getting sharper and giddy to ride. It's just the mental uncertainty for the rest of the season. If I'm suffering this much with this workload, how will I handle getting ready for the other big races I have planned? I know I shouldn't worry - but its hard to banish the demons. Each time we push the boundries of my workout load,I learn a little more. I've tolerated a lot these last few months and with some really good numbers too. Getting stronger means testing the limits both physically and mentally. Knowing when to rest is also just as important as the physical stress and being okay with resting is where the mental strenght comes in.

Feb 6, 2013

Legally Illegal

So, on February 1st, the Manitou Incline finally became legal to climb. Not that trespassing was much of a deterrent to the herd of hikers and fitness enthusiasts that flocked to the fabled railroad ruin on a daily basis... The lure of testing one's self on the steep and uneven staircase was too much to ignore. And the numbers were swelling on a weekly basis during all kinds of weather. Having trained for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon on Barr Trail many years ago, I was surprised by the cult like devotion some people have for the Incline. Granted, I remembered the actual railroad, so I wasn't as fascinated. I also considered it off limits for many years since it was private property and with posted no trespassing signs. Well, those no trespassing signs are gone and it's perfectly legal to hike up the incline. It only took an act of Congress to complete, as well as cooperation between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.

Breaking the law - legally!
That said, Nick and I will probably continue breaking the law when it comes to the Incline. Why? Because the posted hours (which no one really listens to anyway) state that the trail is only open from dawn to dusk. Doesn't do us much good when I'm working late and don't get off until after the sun goes down! Besides, there are other rules that will surely be ignored - like only hiking up and taking Barr Trail down. We see more people hiking down the Incline - which would honestly scare me - then coming down Barr Trail. And don't get me started on dogs... Lots of people hike will their furry friends and will continue to do so, regardless. I think it's really cool that the Incline Friends were finally able to get their beloved trail open. After doing it a few times this winter, I finally understand the attraction. It's a really kick in pants and nice way to get in a hard workout, no matter what the weather. In fact, many of my friends consider the cold, snowy days "Incline Conditions!"

Feb 4, 2013

By the Numbers

I've had the opportunity to use a power meter on my road bike a few times. I borrowed a power tap wheel for a few weeks last winter and have also had access to the computrainers at CTS. I loved the data with the workouts - the neat precise numbers that revealed so much more then heart rate alone. Coach Adam had been "encouraging" me to get my own for my mountain bike for the last few years. I always had a good reason why not - money, getting a new bike, swapping to 29er, and so on. It was only December last year when Nick and I got serious about looking into options for a power meter for my Fate. But just research - Nick was supposed to get his long desired trail bike first. So I was completely surprised when I found a new, fancy rear wheel and hub on my Fate.

So now, when its not 15 degrees out, I can head up to the trails and enjoy single track and sunshine - and still get the real data from all my workouts. I love seeing the numbers (when it's good) but also knowing that I've taken my training to that next level. But I also realized I can't be a slave to the computer. Unlike on the trainer where I can closely monitor the numbers and not worry, outside is different. I have to pay attention to my riding and the obstacles in my path. And when doing all out efforts, thats a lot to focus on! So the numbers and the analysis of the numbers has to wait. Its still just ride my bike and make sure I am still getting the technical stuff.

I haven't really had the chance to go for many long rides to see what happens at hours three and four into the ride. I can tell based on my heart rate and perception if effort when I start getting tired - seeing the power numbers will only confirm that. I'm looking forward to spending some time pouring over all info from the rides later this summer and comparing. And since the power meter is on the Fate, I'll still have plenty of rides without the data on the Era. I'll be able to take everything I've learned from riding with the power meter and translate into "old fashioned" numbers. As long as I keep the rides fun and don't become a slave to the numbers, that is.

Feb 1, 2013

Reflections on injuries

We take for granted so many things when it comes to riding bikes. "I'll always be able to ride." "I'm never gonna get injured" - that sort of thing. But we might not always be able to ride bike and injuries are part of the game. It's crap shoot every time we strap on helmet (and I hope you are all wearing helmets!) and head out on the roads or trails. When the injury happen, it's always more reassuring to have a grand horror story about an epic wipeout, but the truth is it hurts no matter what. And many times the injuries that derail a season aren't even to the legs. It doesn't matter how careful or defensively you ride - the monster is always waiting to pounce. It might not be this week, this month or this year - but some day in the future, something will happen.

I had my own injury scare this week. I talked about the crash a little already. It was one of this stupid, wrong place, wrong line in the wrong bike on easy trails, how the heck did that happen crashes. I didn't realize the implications till later in the week when I still couldn't get my sports bra off, roll over in bed or pick up my cat with my right arm. All of a sudden, being able to go out for a fun ride seemed worrisome and hiding in the garage was preferred. My legs were just fine, but the shoulder meant I was out of commission for so many things. No swimming for at least a week (still haven't gotten in the pool - the swimming motions doesn't hurt, but I'm a little scared.) We skipped out on bouldering even though Nick really wanted to go. And I haven't been back on my Mtb bike since Sunday.

I was lucky. Judging by my symptoms and the location of the pain, it was a grade 1or low 2 AC sprain. Like a sprained ankle, with damage to the ligaments supporting the joint, but in the shoulder - where the collar bone joins with the shoulder blade right on top of the shoulder. But it could have been much worse - this is a pretty common injury for cyclists and I landed hard on the top and back of my shoulder. I think I was saved from a really serious injury by one thing. Knowing how to fall helps a little, but I think most of the impact was taken by my backpack. Despite warm temperatures and hometown riding, I'd loaded up my Osprey Talon 11 with water, food and some clothes. After the crash, the pack was covered in dirt - a good indication that I landed hard on it since there was no sliding involved. Without that protective cushion, the entire impact of the fall would have gone right through my shoulder. And that might have ended my season before it started. It's a week later now and I am still icing three to four times a day. I still have significant point tenderness on the joint with reduced functional use, but the lines in my shoulder are coming back. I've also been keeping the shoulder taped so the joint isn't stressed. Its getting better, but I know its going to take some time to heal all the way. But I will take the small victories - last night, I was able to get my sports bra off without wanting to cry! And I was able to sleep on my right side without too much pain.