Idiots in the Desert

I grew up in Arizona, and I can attest to the fact that there is no shortage of creeping, crawling, and slithering things which simply cannot wait to kill you. So when I saw the following video, I posted the following synopsis on Facebook:

"You know, there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity; and for the record, this guy was nowhere near that line - he's just way, way off into the stupid zone."

In the video, this guy says he does "Crazy Things."

Um, no... I have to disagree. He may be crazy, but what he does it just plain stupid. There's simply no other word for it.

One day, I bet this dude earns a Darwin Award.

The Midnight Ride of Rob McMurray

So, I went out for a late-night ride on my mountain bike last night... I left the house around midnight, and my route took me through some of the desert on the northeast side of Tucson.

FYI - It's a little unnerving when a whole pack of coyotes starts sounding off near you when you're by yourself with nothing but a single headlight to keep your bike on the narrow path. Just sayin'...

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Perhaps a midnight ride wasn't my best idea.

 


PS - The coyote image is from Michael Frye, who has even more amazing artwork on his website.

Snakes in the Lane

I saw a four-foot rattlesnake in the bicycle lane during one of my cycling laps around Saguaro National Park today, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

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On the one hand, he's not riding a bicycle; but on the other hand, he's not in a motorized vehicle.

I think he gets by on a technicality.

Cycling Perspectives

I was watching a video about last year's 104-mile El Tour de Tucson cycling event, when they interviewed the guy in this photo...

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This cyclist is 86 years old, and he was riding the full 104 miles as he has done every year for the past 33 years.

Surprised smile

I have officially lost every opportunity for whining about how hard that ride was for me...

PS - Bonus points for this guy's cycling jersey from the 160-mile Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day.

El Tour 2015 - The Day After

I posted the following to Facebook, but I thought that it would be good to repost here...

How I spent my Saturday - riding 104 miles around the city of Tucson with 9,000 other people from around the world. This year I abandoned my usual habit of riding for time and I tried to simply have fun with it. Sure, it took me a lot longer than last year, but this year I didn't want to sell my bike when I was done...

2015 El Tour de Tucson

Ride Notes for El Tour de Tucson 2015

A year has passed since my last adventure riding in the El Tour de Tucson, so it was time for this year's ride. 2015 marked the 33rd anniversary of this annual event, and once again I signed up to ride the full 104 miles. If I was going to subtitle this years ride, I would call it "The Ride That Almost Wasn't," but I'll explain what I mean by that a little later.

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This year there were a couple of big differences from my ride last year, the biggest of which was that I rode with my friend Kevin, with whom I had recently ridden the 100-mile Cool Breeze Century. Kevin and I had been discussing the ride over the past few weeks, and I have been riding with a different philosophy - ride to have fun.

This may sound strange, but for the longest time I had been hating my rides. Seriously - I hated all of them. Of course, that is an untenable situation for someone who wants to be a recreational cyclist, so I had to figure out what was wrong with the way that I was riding. After some self-examination, I determined that my problem was simply that I was always racing the clock on each ride, and I was always trying to outdo my previous time. So a couple of months ago I decided to stop racing the clock, and I discovered that I was enjoying [sic] my rides a little more.

With that in mind, Kevin and I agreed to ride at a comfortable pace, and to stop for more of the Support and Gear (SAG) stops along the way. That being said, the El Tour de Tucson is an extremely well-supported ride with SAG stops every 5 or 6 miles, so we had plenty of opportunities to rest and refuel.

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One of the bright spots about this year's weather was that it promised to be warmer than last year, which was literally freezing before the race started.

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The 104-mile race starts at 7:00am, but seeing as how neither Kevin nor I wanted to race the clock, we agreed to meet at the starting point at 6:15am. (That was a whole lot better than last year when I got in line around 5:00am.) I woke up early, double-checked my pre-race cycling checklist, packed the last of my gear into the car, and headed across town to meet Kevin. As I drove across town I could see that the weather seemed to be pretty close to predictions, which meant that I wasn't going to freeze this year. (That was great news.)

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I made it across town in short order, and I pulled into the parking lot at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) shortly after 6:00am. TCC is near the starting line and has ample parking for lots of participants, so several cyclists were getting their gear ready as I parked and started to prep my gear for the day. I had loaded all of my equipment onto my bicycle, and as I was putting on the last of my cycling clothing I made a horrific discovery: I was missing my cycling helmet. (This is why I referred to this day's race as "The Ride That Almost Wasn't.")

Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, but in this specific instance it was imperative; the race mandates that all riders wear a helmet in order to participate. I mulled over my options, and I did a quick estimate to determine how long it would take me to drive home, pick up my helmet, and drive back. I might have been able to get home and back by the 7:00am start time, but as I was deliberating what to do, Kevin called me. I explained the situation, and after he had a good laugh at my expense, Kevin said that he could wait for me to get back before starting. I mentioned that the timing chips on our race placards do not start until we physically cross the start line, so starting a few minutes late might not be that big of a deal.

However, as the two of us talked, I saw that Kathleen was trying to call me, so I put Kevin on hold and answered Kathleen's incoming call. She found my helmet lying on the counter, and she was asking if she should bring it to me. Thankfully Kathleen already needed to be on that side of Tucson around 7:00am, so the two of us set up a place to meet somewhere near the start line. Once Kathleen and I hung up, I switched back to my call with Kevin, and I explained the arrangements to him. Kevin said that he would wait for me near the start line for me, then I locked up my car and pedaled over to Kevin's location.

After Kevin and I met, the two of us rode over to the place where Kathleen and I had agreed to meet, and she arrived around 6:40am. She quickly handed off my helmet, (see the following photo), then Kathleen headed off to her appointment while Kevin and I got in line for the race. (Note: I'm wearing a lot of cold weather gear in the following photo, but as the day grew warmer I slowly removed all of my cold weather gear.)

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It was already 6:45am by the time that Kevin and I got in line, so we were understandably pretty far in the back. But still, neither Kevin nor I wanted to race, so our place in line meant little to either of us.

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An unintended bonus from my earlier debacle meant that Kevin and I didn't have long to wait when we got back in line. (Which was a good thing since the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees.) After everyone had sung the National Anthem and a few kind words were spoken by the event dignitaries, the ride officially began at 7:00am. It took several minutes for the back of the line to start moving, but once we began to roll everything progressed in an orderly fashion, and we were on our way.

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Here's a time-lapse video from the Arizona Daily Star of the race start; Kevin and I are in there somewhere... (We're on the far side of the street at 1:13, but good luck finding us!)

A little over a half-hour into the ride we hit our first adventure of the day - crossing the Santa Cruz River, which was thankfully dry this year. Nevertheless, it's always amusing to see hundreds of cyclists hand-carrying their bicycles across the dry riverbed. Although one of the best parts of this experience it is always the Mariachi band on the far side of the river.

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Kevin and I rode through southeast Tucson along with the thousands of other cyclists who were participating in the 104-mile course, and yet we were able to ride close enough together to carry on a conversation as pedaled our way through the first several miles of the race. We met a lot of interesting people along the way, too. One of my favorites was a nice guy from the FBI who was riding his first century ride; we met up with him on the Houghton Road climb and East Escalante Road, (which are the last parts of a difficult climb to the highest point of elevation and we dropped him).

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Thankfully I train on the east side of town all the time, so I ride Houghton Road and East Escalante Road several times a year. Another great part about hitting the highest point of the ride is that we get to ride downhill for several miles on Freeman Road.

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About 3½ hours into our trek we reached the half-way point of the ride, which is also the second river crossing. We also took this as an opportunity for a short break, so we rested up, refilled our water bottles, and ate a few snacks. After that, we were back on our bicycles.

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The next obstacle on our ride was the steepest climb of the day - East Snyder Road near North Rockcliff Road. Although it's the steepest part of the course, it is also thankfully one of the shortest climbs - perhaps only 200 meters or so. (But still, every year dozens of riders have to walk their bicycles up the hill. Neither Kevin nor me, though. Hehe.)

There's not much to say about the next couple hours of riding; we took advantage of a few rest stops, one of which was serving Eegee's frozen drinks. (Those were totally worth stopping for.) Once again - I hated the ride up La Cañada Drive, though.

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When we were around 10 miles or so from the end, Kevin asked me how close we were to my time from last year, to which I replied, "Last year I had already finished the ride an hour and a half ago." (That seemed somewhat demoralizing for Kevin.) Nevertheless after 8¼ hours we rode across the finish line, and my second El Tour de Tucson was over.

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Kevin and I riding towards the finish line.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 7:02am
    • Distance: 104 miles (103.5 miles on my GPS)
    • Duration: 8 hours, 17 minutes (6 hours, 58 minutes on my GPS)
    • Calories Burned: 3,502 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 3,209 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.8 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 78.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 65.6 F
    • Minimum: 35.6 F
    • Maximum: 95.0 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 143 bpm
    • Maximum: 175 bpm

When I arrived home, I posted the following synopsis to Facebook: "How I spent my Saturday - riding 104 miles around the city of Tucson with 9,000 other people from around the world. This year I abandoned my usual habit of riding for time and I tried to simply have fun with it. Sure, it took me a lot longer than last year, but this year I didn't want to sell my bike when I was done... "

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UPDATE: A few months after the ride, one of our local television stations put together the following video. There's a bit too much advertising from several of the corporate sponsors, but apart from that it gives a good overview of the event.

Ride Notes for July 22nd, 2015

Today was a fun day of mountain biking with family members, at least for a little while. Here's the scoop: my wife's relatives were hosting a family reunion at the Tanque Verde Ranch at the base of the Rincon Mountains, (which is an awesome place), and one of the activities available to guests was an hour of Mountain Biking.

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There were four of us who decided to go mountain biking today: my brother-in-law, Mike, and I are both road cyclists, so mountain biking sounded like it would be a little different from our usual routines; one of my nephews, Nate, likes to go mountain biking when he's back home in Washington state; and my son-in-law, Curt, is a fan of a myriad of outdoor activities (namely surfing).

We showed up at the cycling office at the ranch around 6:45am and met with Chuck, who was to be our guide for the day. After some basic fitting of cyclists to full-suspension mountain bike frames, we took off around 7:00am. Chuck took us through some easy trails at first to get everyone acclimated to their bicycles, then he navigated the group to a small track which the ranch has created on its property. The track is a small oval with lots of bumps and high-berm corners. Chuck had each of us make several passes around the track to get used to working with the full-suspension systems on the bicycles, and then we headed off into the desert.

Our route primarily consisted of extremely narrow paths between rows of cacti and other pointy plants, which kept everyone on their toes. At one point I had to mention to Curt that he shouldn't brush up against the cholla cactus, because they have a tendency to break off and painfully attach themselves to people. We also traversed a lot of small hills, and Chuck took us to one particular hill where everyone could jump off and get a little air under their bicycle.

After riding around for a while Chuck asked if we'd like to go on the harder trails, and everyone agreed; sometime around that decision the injuries started to happen:

The first mishap was when Curt flipped his bike trying to cross a small wash. (Note: Curt was wearing his GoPro camera at the time and managed to get that on video.)

The later mishap occurred when we were climbing a hill over some rocks, and my left leg slipped off the pedal. Since I was pushing hard with my legs to climb the hill and over the rocks, this meant that I had nothing to slow the speed of my right leg as it pushed down hard on the remaining pedal, which spun the empty pedal around and smashed broad-faced into my left shin at full force. This hurt more than you can possibly imagine; I went from a 0 to 10 on the pain scale instantaneously, and I immediately formed two golf-ball-sized welts on my shin where the pedal collided with the bone. I quickly pulled to a halt, exclaimed something a little more dire than "Oh Crap," and it took me a couple of minutes to get myself together.

I walked my bike to where the rest of group was waiting and announced, "I'm done for the day." I explained what had happened, and by now the contusions on my leg were so large that everyone else thought that I had broken my leg, and the swollen areas were the bone jutting out. I assured everyone that my leg wasn't broken because I could put weight on it, but I didn't want to risk injuring it again, so my day of cycling was over.

We walked our bikes toward the ranch for a little bit, which was out of courtesy for me, but I informed everyone that it would be easier for me to ride than to walk. With that in mind, we boarded our bicycles and headed back to the shop at the ranch. Once we arrived, Chuck brought me a bag of ice and a crash kit, and I started to ice the swelling on my leg.

The following photo shows my injuries (on the left) and Curt's injuries (on the right); unfortunately the photo is from the front of my leg, so you can't see how high the swelling was at this point - all you can see are light shadows.

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Once we had returned our bikes to the shop, we met the rest of the family for breakfast, where my wife - the nurse - took one look at me and asked something like, "So, where did you hurt yourself this time?" After breakfast I headed back to our room, and after a couple hours of icing my injuries the swelling had disappeared; all that remained was a nagging pain in my left leg when I walked.

All that being said, despite the injuries it was a fun time. And my injury serves to illustrate why riders should clip in when mountain biking.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 7:00am
    • Distance: 7.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:03:57
    • Calories Burned: 490 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 182 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 7.3 mph
    • Peak Speed: 19.7 mph
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 85.4 F
    • Minimum: 78.8 F
    • Maximum: 87.8 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 133 bpm
    • Maximum: 163 bpm

Ride Notes for June 27th, 2015

Despite having ridden in temperatures over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the past, I appear to have failed in learning the important lesson that riding in extreme temperatures really takes a lot out of you. That was abundantly evident during today's 60-mile ride; even though I started early to avoid the hotter temperatures, as the day wore on I found myself suffering through the worst temps of the day, as evidenced by the following photo of my GPS when I approached the 50-mile mark of the ride:

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When I'm riding during the hotter times of year, I tend to arrange my rides in something like a cloverleaf pattern, where I am always trying to get back to the entrance of Saguaro National Park (SNP) in order to refill my water bottles. (I try to do that every 15 to 20 miles.) During this ride, however, I was still several miles away from SNP when I realized that I wasn't going to have enough water to get back.

With that in mind, I called Kathleen, and the following conversation transpired:

  • Kathleen: Hello? Where are you?
  • Me: [Panting.] I'm not sure; somewhere way out on east Tanque Verde.
  • Kathleen: Are you okay?
  • Me: I've just realized that I don't have enough water to make it back to my refill location.
  • Kathleen: Okay, I'll come get you.
  • Me: Oh no, I don't want to quit - I just need you to bring me some more water.
  • Kathleen: You realize that you're nuts, right?
  • Me: Yup.

And my darling spouse, being the wonderful person that she is, drove out to meet me and brought me several bottles of water so I could refill and continue my ride for another 10 miles.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 9:25am
    • Distance: 60.1 miles
    • Duration: 4:32:22
    • Calories Burned: 2526 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 2681 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 13.4 mph
    • Peak Speed: 33.3 mph
    • Average Cadence: 71.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 99.6 F
    • Minimum: 78.8 F
    • Maximum: 111.2 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 152 bpm
    • Maximum: 182 bpm

Sunset On This Evening's Ride

Sunset during this evening's 52-mile bicycle ride...

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Sunset Over the Desert

Which reminds me, I should point out that there are both good and bad things about heading out for a long ride in the evening; one of the good things is getting to see sunsets like this. However, one of the bad things is when you realize that you're seeing a sunset like this while you're still 15 miles away from your house, which means that in a few minutes you will be plunged into a darkness that will surround you like an encroaching evil, where you are never more than one menacing pothole away from certain death.

Did I mention that the light on my bicycle failed five minutes after I turned it on? It's a good thing that I was once a Boy Scout and I had a backup light; it was better than nothing, but it barely offered enough light to see the road.

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Just Before Darkness Fell,
(And I still needed to ride half-way to the far horizon)

That being said, I can see that I have digressed from my original thought... it really was a nice sunset.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 5:14pm
    • Distance: 52.5 miles
    • Duration: 3:29:01
    • Calories Burned: 1656 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 2181 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.8 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 76.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 83.7 F
    • Minimum: 78.8 F
    • Maximum: 89.6 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 144 bpm
    • Maximum: 175 bpm