Ride Notes for October 9th, 2014

Since today was a typical Thursday, I went for my usual ride from my house through Saguaro National Park (SNP) and then home again. I had the day off from work, so I was able to head out whenever I wanted. Since we have had some recent rainstorms, the temperature was much lower than it has been in previous weeks, which meant that I could ride in the middle of the afternoon without feeling like I was riding through a furnace. (Actually, it was fairly cool for the entire ride – the average temperature was around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which might be considered a prelude to winter riding in Tucson.)


As I mentioned in my blog from two days ago, there is currently a construction project underway on Old Spanish Trail. That annoyance had traffic backed again on my way to the park, which added to my ride time. Recent rain in the area had washed sand onto the road in a few places, and it also meant that the odors wafting my way from the various horse-owner properties was more pungent that usual. (Enough said on that.)

In order to help curtail the wrist pain that I have been enduring on my recent rides, I tried wearing my wrist braces for today's outing. My theory was that the wrist braces would help to keep my wrists from bending, but what was actually happening was that my hand positions were forcing the metal splints out of the wrist braces, so by the time I had arrived at SNP I removed the wrist braces and switched back to my cycling gloves, which I had wisely brought with me for this exact situation.

Another interesting item of note for this ride is that I was trying out a new bicycle mirror. I mentioned in earlier posts that I had to remove my existing mirror from my road bike, and I did a bunch of research to see what a good replacement would be. The mirror that I chose had great reviews on Amazon, and I think that it lived up to its reviews quite nicely; it was easy to install, it was large enough to provide decent visibility, and it stayed in position really well.

I made it to the park in good time, but I was forced to wait several minutes at the park gate for some out-of-state tourists who were asking the park ranger what seemed like hundreds of questions. (I really wish there was a separate lane for cyclists to enter the park. Darn.)

As I entered the park, I passed by several cars within the first few miles of the park, and unlike previous rides I never saw them again. One car in particular raised my ire – I wish that tourists would refrain from stopping in the middle of the road to take photos from their car windows. There are plenty of pullouts throughout the park, or they can pull off to one side rather than blocking traffic and creating a safety hazard for cyclists. (Grr.)

There was a bit of a headwind as I headed into the region of the park that I affectionately refer to as "The Three Sisters," which is an obvious hat-tip to a trio of volcanoes near where I spent part of my childhood in Oregon. In this case, I am referring a series of short hills in SNP that lead up to the Cactus Forest Overlook. I usually try to build up as much speed as possible before hitting the first hill, but the wind stole some of my forward momentum, and I was thankful that my bicycle's Shimano 105 drive train allowed me to downshift quickly under load as I crested the series of hills near the overlook.

Climbing the big hill on Riparian Ridge is never an enjoyable experience, but I intentionally took advantage of the situation to continue working on my "push-me, pull-you" pedaling technique. As a result, I climbed the hill a little faster than normal, and I tried to negotiate the hill in a higher gear than I would typically use.

As I made it to the Rincon Mountains Overlook, I was surprised to see a huge Gila Monster crawling across the road. He was around one foot in length, and even though he was slow-moving, I couldn't get out my cell phone fast enough to get a good photo of him. The best that I could get is this photo of him hiding in a Prickly Pear cactus beside the road:

I had to stop for the construction on my way home, and unfortunately all of my setbacks during the ride kept me from meeting my one-hour goal for the ride. That being said, I missed my goal by a mere two minutes, so I'll get there one of these days.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 3:01pm
    • Distance: 16.9 miles
    • Duration: 1:02:05
    • Calories Burned: 659 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 823 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.3 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 58.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 67.8 F
    • Minimum: 64.4 F
    • Maximum: 73.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 155 bpm
    • Maximum: 174 bpm

Ride Notes for October 7th, 2014

As with most Tuesday and Thursday rides, today was another ride from my house to Saguaro National Park, completing a single loop around the park, and then heading home. I left a little early for this ride because a storm was fast approaching, and I wanted to get out and back before it hit.


The ride to the park was mostly-uneventful; the only bad part to it was that a construction project had traffic backed up along Old Spanish Trail, which added to my ride time. When I arrived at the park, the gate guard knew me (as most of them do) and we chatted briefly before I headed off into the park.

As I was entering the park, I passed another cyclist who appeared to be completing his first loop around the park and starting on his second time around, (although I found out later that he was on his first pass, too). I passed him near the first big drop that is only a few hundred yards into the park, and I didn't seem him again until several miles later. There were several cars making their way through the park, and I carefully passed them all as I completed the first half of the loop. As I made my slow ascent up Riparian Ridge, a few of those same cars passed me, only for me to pass them when they pulled off the road at the Riparian Overlook, and then they leapfrogged past me as we all headed to the Rincon Mountains Overlook.

The cyclist who I had seen near the entrance caught up to me as I was cresting the big hill of Riparian Ridge, and we rode together for the next mile or so as we discussed how the ridge is always difficult no matter how well you feel like you are riding. As we approached the Rincon Mountains Overlook, he was clearly riding at a slightly faster pace than me. I tried to keep his pace for a while, but I eventually fell behind. That's okay – perhaps I'll keep up with him some other day.

That being said, I was consciously trying to negotiate every part of the ride as fast as possible, with the hopes the I would finally hit one of my two primary goals for this route – either to complete the park loop in less than 30 minutes, or to complete the entire ride in less than an hour. For the most part I was riding strong for the day, and as I completed my loop around the park I thought that there might be a chance that I could exceed one or the other goal.

Unfortunately for me, by the time I made it to my exit off Old Spanish Trail near my house, the traffic was a mess and I couldn't cross the two lanes of cars near our neighborhood. With that in mind, I was forced to continue down Old Spanish Trail. As I reached the intersection with 22nd Street, I still couldn't cross traffic, so I had to ride through the intersection, pull off to the side of the road, wait for traffic to pass, cross the road into the local shopping center, then ride around it and into our neighborhood from the opposite direction.

When I arrived home and looked at my ride statistics, I had completed the entire ride in less than a minute over the 1-hour mark, so I clearly would have arrived home in less than an hour if I had not run into the traffic problems on Old Spanish Trail. That being said, when I looked at my time for the park loop, I had missed the 30-minute mark by ten measly seconds. Darn, darn, darn. I missed both goals by just a few seconds, so perhaps I'll hit one the next time.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 4:35pm
    • Distance: 17.0 miles
    • Duration: 1:00:56
    • Calories Burned: 612 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 824 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.7 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.7 mph
    • Average Cadence: 63.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 75.8 F
    • Minimum: 73.4 F
    • Maximum: 78.8 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 152 bpm
    • Maximum: 173 bpm

Ride Notes for October 4th, 2014

As I have done many time in previous weeks, I made plans to get on the road by a certain hour, but my plans didn't work out that way. I hoped to be on the road by 10:00am, but it was well past 11:30am by the time I finally got on the road. My late start also meant that the temperatures were considerably higher than if I had made it on the road when I had originally intended, and that made parts of the ride a little uncomfortable at times.


The reason for my late departure time is easily explained: I recently installed Bontrager Bzzzkills in the handlebars of my road bike in order to help cut down on road vibrations. (These are something of an experiment at this point, but I really hope that they help out.) However, by installing the BzzzKills in my drop handlebars, I lost the only mirror that I had, so I spent a long time in the garage trying to see if I could come up with another way to attach a mirror. My efforts yielded no success, so I reluctantly got on the road with no mirror. (Which made me very nervous throughout the ride.)

I needed to get in a long ride for the week, but I was nervous about re-injuring my hands and wrists. With that in mind, I intentionally took it easy on today's ride, and I did not attempt to beat any of my earlier ride times. I have been averaging almost 17mph for my most-recent rides, but for today's ride I was averaging closer to 15mph. In addition to backing off on my speed, I also cut the length of today's ride a little shorter and settled for a 40-mile ride instead of my usual 50 to 60-mile ride.

I began my ride by riding to Saguaro National Park and completing a single loop around it, and then heading out to Pistol Hill Road, and coming back by riding down Houghton Road (instead of my usual route of Camino Loma Alta and Old Spanish Trail). As I mentioned earlier, it was a fairly warm day, and the temperature was hovering around 97 degrees as I rode through the National Park. As I completed my loop, I stopped at the hydration station to refill my water bottles, where I bumped into another cyclist who I see on the road fairly often. I commented that I usually see him somewhere near Pistol Hill Road, and he asked if I was headed that way next. I said that I was, and he encouraged me to be careful since the day was still growing hotter. I thanked him and wished him luck as he headed off toward his next destination, then I got back on Old Spanish Trail headed south toward Pistol Hill Road.

I was hard to tell if the BzzzKills were helping because the road is so awful at points that the only way to dampen the road vibrations would be to mount front shocks on my bicycle, but I just moved away from a bicycle with front shocks because they add too much weight to the bike. So I was forced to simply endure the pain. However, I did keep my hands moving around the handlebars so that I wouldn't injure my hands through repetitive stress on a single area.

Despite the rough roads, I am enjoying the road bike. I intentionally chose a bike that is better for hill climbing, and I sincerely appreciate the many ways that the new bike has helped out for both climbing and general speed. Because of the heightened temperatures, there were fewer cyclists on the road, but I passed a lot of the people who were out, and that's always a great feeling. (I hated being the guy that everyone else was passing a few months ago.)

My route to Pistol Hill Road was the same as always, but as I descended down the far side of the hill, I passed Camino Loma Alta and stayed on Pistol Hill Road until it became Mary Cleveland Road, which took me all the way to Houghton Road, which would eventually take me home. I had not ridden that route before, and I didn't really like it. For starters, the road past Camino Loma Alta headed over a rough-hewn bridge, which was painful to ride across. Then I had to contend with an uphill climb from the bridge, and then I spend a long time riding along Mary Cleveland Road in the bike lane with cars whizzing by at high-speed. This was sub-optimal, but the conditions were worse after I turned onto Houghton Road, because there was no bike land and barely any shoulder for the first several miles. This meant that I was now sharing the road with cars who were speeding past me at 50 to 60 mph and all-too-often missing me by a mere a foot or two.

I eventually made it to the two-lane multi-use road that runs parallel to Houghton Road, and I quickly pulled onto that. This road is part of Tucson's Loop project, and all of the roads that I have ridden on which are part of this project are great; they are well-paved, clearly-marked for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and far away from cars. The only downside to this part of the ride was that the path did not extend all the way to Mary Cleveland Road, and it had a lot of Stop/Yield signs whenever it had to cross the various roads throughout the area.

In any event, I cycled down Houghton Road to Irvington Road, where I turned east and rode to Harrison, and then I turned north to ride the last few miles to our home.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 11:36am
    • Distance: 40.9 miles
    • Duration: 2:46:03
    • Calories Burned: 1,561 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,786 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.8 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 64.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 95.2 F
    • Minimum: 75.2 F
    • Maximum: 100.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 154 bpm
    • Maximum: 179 bpm

Ride Notes for October 2nd, 2014

Today was an unimaginative repeat of my usual 17-mile course from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again, and I almost hit two of my goals on this ride: I completed the ride in just 33 seconds over an hour, so I'm dangerously close to my one-hour goal, and I shaved another minute off my personal best for the park, so I was just 5 seconds over a half-hour. That puts my average speed at 16mph for the park, which is about 2mph slower than the people who have the fastest times around the park, but it's a whole lot better than I used to ride.


This was my third consecutive day of riding for the week – I rode 14.2 miles the day before as part of my commute, although I extended at least 4 miles to my commute simply because it was a good day for riding. (However, I have a word of warning from yesterday's ride: cycling down Tucson's River Road during rush hour is not a good idea – there's no bicycle lane for much of the ride, and there's not much of a shoulder, either.)

That being said, I spent a lot of today's ride working on my handlebar technique so as to reduce the pain in my hands and wrists from my new road bike. Having done two fittings, I am suspicious of how I am gripping the handlebars, so I was consciously trying to force my hands to relax and not have such a death grip and the handlebars. In my several years teaching music lessons, I constantly told my students to relax their hands while playing in order to avoid injury, and now I found myself in a similar position – I had to learn to relax or I could injure myself. The trouble is, I'm on a new bike, so that's somewhat difficult since I am still a little unsure of myself. I read somewhere that most rider-caused cycling injuries happen during the first 500 miles on a new bike, and that is caused by a simple lack of familiarization with a new bicycle's capabilities; I'm doing my best to avoid being a statistic. Still, despite working on my hand technique, there's not much that I can do about the fact that the roads suck for part of my ride – I simply have to weather the bumps as best I can.

Here's an interesting point of note that I have discovered: I have been riding around Saguaro National Park for several months now as part of my weekly ride, but from my discussions with other cyclists in the area, I have learned that many of them use the 8-mile loop around the park to train for hill climbing. That wasn't really my goal when I started out; I simply wanted a good-quality road with less traffic. I actually hated the hills around the park, especially the 1.5-mile climb up Riparian Ridge. Now that I have been riding around the park for some time, I still don't like the hills, but I'm getting better at climbing them. Today was a good example – I used to average 4 to 5mph when climbing the ridge, but now I average 7 or 8mph. I'm still pretty winded by the time I reach the top, but the good news is that it's over faster as I get better at climbing. Switching to cleats has helped a lot; I consciously work on my "push-me-pull-you" technique when pedaling, and that makes a big difference.

I should mention that I completely messed up with my timing for today's ride. I knew that sunset has been getting earlier each day, but for some reason I still thought that sunset would be at 6:30pm today, so I planned to start my ride at 5:30pm. I actually got on the road at 5:39pm, but sunset was at 6:08pm – which was obviously 20 minutes sooner than I had expected. The setting sun may have treated me to a wonderful display of "Purple Mountains' Majesty" during the first half of my ride around the park, but the sun had set completely by the time I was cresting Riparian Ridge. There was still ample light for me to ride through the park, but I was definitely racing the fast-encroaching darkness as I rode home from the park. With that in mind, I've learned my lesson – I need to check the times for sunset a little better in the future.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 5:39pm
    • Distance: 16.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:00:33
    • Calories Burned: 623 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 823 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.6 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.0 mph
    • Average Cadence: 60.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 71.6 F
    • Average: 73.6 F
    • Maximum: 77.0 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 155 bpm
    • Maximum: 177 bpm

Ride Notes for September 30th, 2014

If you've been keeping up with my blogs (and why anyone would is beyond me) then you might have noticed that it has been a week since my last cycling-related blog. This doesn't mean that I went for a ride and failed to write about it – I actually took a week off, because I really needed to do so. Let me explain – I switched to a new road bike, and after my ride on September 20th, my hands and wrists were really hurting. I discussed my situation in detail in the blog that I wrote after that ride, but the pain persisted for several days. I knew that I could do permanent damage if I kept riding, so I took several days off to recover, and I took my bike back to the shop for another fitting. After several days of ibuprofen and ice packs, I was ready to try again on my regular 17-mile course from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again. All of that being said, my hands hurt a little bit after this ride, but the pain was nowhere near where it was the other day.

Overall this was a good ride – my time was slightly slower than my personal best, but not by much, and it was a perfectly acceptable ride after taking a week off.


I rode part of the way around Saguaro National Park with another cyclist, but that wasn't a planned event – I arrived at the park just before the other cyclist, and he queued up behind me while I was showing my annual pass and ID to the park ranger who was on duty (who knows my as one of his frequent fliers). I took a few seconds to store my things in my riding bags, which gave the other cyclist time to pass me at the park entrance. Once I started around the park, I appeared to be riding at his pace even though he was clearly a stronger rider, so I simply let him keep the pace for both of us.

However, he got stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle, and I don't wait for those – I just pass them when there's room. So I called out that I was passing him on the left, and I humorously remarked "Ugh – Tourists" with an air of feigned contempt as I passed the other cyclist. After I passed the car, I was on my own until I reached the large hill on Riparian Ridge around the backside of the park. I'm climbing the hill better than I used to, but the other cyclist managed to catch up to me over the 1.5 miles to the high point of the ridge. As he drew up next to me, I humorously quipped that I hate that hill. He agreed, but he said that he liked using that hill to work on his hill climbing skills. (Which is what I'm doing, of course.) Just to make sure that he didn't get the wrong idea about me, I pointed out that I was only joking when I made my earlier comment about the tourists since the park is actually for the tourists, and he laughed.

We rode side-by-side for the next mile or so and talked about cycling in Tucson, then I pulled behind him so we could ride through the wash before Javelina Rocks (which I wouldn't want to try next to another cyclist). That being said, he rode through the wash at a much greater speed than I felt comfortable to ride, so I fell behind him by a couple of hundred feet, and we extended the gap between us when we went through the next wash. I tried my best to keep his pace apart from riding through the washes, but we didn't line up again for the rest of the ride. Nevertheless, I made it home in just over an hour, so I have yet to meet my goal of breaking the one-hour mark for the ride.

One last item of note – I mentioned in a previous blog that I'm trying to figure out the best way to have a mirror on my new bicycle. I really need to see the traffic around me, but the mirror that I used on my hybrid's handlebars doesn't appear like it's going to work for my road bike's drop-style handlebars. With that in mind, I tried out a helmet-mounted mirror on today's ride. OH – MY – GOSH. That was a terrible experience. I tried very hard to adjust to it, but I thoroughly hated everything about it, so I ripped it off my helmet within the first three miles of the ride. Ugh.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 4:16pm
    • Distance: 16.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:05:26
    • Calories Burned: 629 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 823 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 15.4 mph
    • Peak Speed: 28.0 mph
    • Average Cadence: 60.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 73.4 F
    • Average: 78.2 F
    • Maximum: 80.6 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 150 bpm
    • Maximum: 174 bpm

Ride Notes for September 22nd, 2014

I normally ride 10 miles on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I don't bother to write a journal entry for those days because they're mostly uninteresting rides. (The backstory is that on Mondays and Wednesdays I am taking an Advanced Networking class at the University of Arizona, and I bicycle for part of my commute and I take the bus for rest. So it's predominantly city riding through traffic and nothing to speak of.)

But that being said, today's ride was a little different in one import aspect – it was the last official day of Summer, and I knew that I was within a few miles of reaching the 1,000-mile point for the season. With that in mind, after I finished all of my commute riding, I switched into shorts and a t-shirt and I road a quick 7.7-miles along the Rillito River Park to put my mileage over the top.

As a result, I have concluded my Summer Riding Season with the following statistics:

  • Total Miles: 1,004 miles
  • Total Calories: 47,999 (my OCD friends will have a hard time with that)
  • Total Time: 72.6 hours
  • Average Speed: 15.2 mph
  • Average Heart Rate: 147 bpm

I think that was rather a productive Summer. ;-]

Ride Notes for September 20th, 2014

Today's long ride was a mixture of good and bad. Here's the situation: I replaced the hybrid bike that I have been riding for the past year with a road bike, and I did two short rides earlier in the week to build up my confidence on the new bike. With that in mind, it seemed like I was confident enough to tackle a big ride, so I planned on a 60-mile ride of twice around the Pistol Hill Rode Loop (PHRL) and once around the Saguaro National Park (SNP). (Although I learned from a previous ride that it is better to go around PHRL, then go around SNP, then back around PHRL the second time. That way I don't have to face the big hills in SNP after having ridden 50 miles.)


The first pass around PHRL was not that bad; the new bike definitely helps with the hill climbing, and switching from toe clips to cleats has helped tremendously as well. (No more toe pain, and more climbing power.) In fact, I completed this 63-mile ride on my new road bike in 28 minutes less than my last ride on my hybrid bike.

However – not everything about this was great. My new cycling gloves were too small, so that put undo pressure on the skin in between my fingers, so my fingers were seriously hurting by the mid-way point. But even more alarming was the fact that the pinky fingers on each had were starting to go numb during the ride, which is a sure sign that something major is going wrong. This could have been caused by the too-small gloves, or my hand positioning on the handlebars (even though I changed positions a lot in order to avoid this scenario), or it could be that the road is quite bumpy and I am used to my hybrid which has front shocks and fatter tires to absorb more of the road jarring, or it could be that my bike was not set up correctly when I purchased it so I was leaning too far forward and thereby putting too much pressure on my hands. It could have been any one of those reasons, or all of them. In any event, my hands were a sorry combination of pain and numbness by the end of the ride.

[UPDATE on 09/23/2014: The pain and numbness has lasted for several days after the ride; no ETA on a cause or resolution as yet.]

Here are some other small notes from the ride:

I took a bit of a break about the mid-way point to have lunch at the hydration station near the entrance to SNP. Since I have been routinely burning off everything that I have eaten before my long rides, I brought a Clif bar with me to eat. (Clif bars hold up well to the abuse of being stuffed in a cycling bag.) While I was eating, two cyclists dropped by, and I knew one of them from having met him at this same spot during one of my earlier rides. The three of us chatted about cycling for a while, and the two of them tried to dissuade me from riding the PHRL since there are so many inattentive drivers hitting cyclists these days. I thanked them for their concern, but bad drivers are simply a fact of life these days and we can't hide from them.

Also, the Rincon Valley Farmer's Market was having their annual Chili Festival today, so that was a busy place. There are usually a couple dozen cars parked at the market as I ride by, but today there was closer to a hundred or so, with live music playing and the police slowing traffic at either end of the stretch of road where the market is located. It probably would have been great to have stopped and looked around, but I had too many miles to ride.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 9:37am
    • Distance: 63.3 miles
    • Duration: 4:10:55
    • Calories Burned: 2,024 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 2,787 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 15.1 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.3 mph
    • Average Cadence: 54.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 69.8 F
    • Average: 82.6 F
    • Maximum: 91.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 144 bpm
    • Maximum: 171 bpm

Ride Notes for September 18th, 2014

This was my second day of riding with my new road bicycle, and I'm still getting used to the differences. With that in mind, I'm building up my confidence, but I'm not going as fast in some places as I used to ride on my old hybrid. However, even though I was taking it easy on the faster parts of my ride, I was able to pick up the pace on the slower parts of the ride due to the design of the new bicycle, which resulted in another day of personal bests.


I completed the full 17-mile ride from my house through the Saguaro National Park (SNP) and back in just over an hour, which is considerably better than my earlier rides. (I completed my first ride around the park this past April with a time of 1:26:49, and today's ride had a time of 1:03:11.) A goal that I have been working towards is completing the ride in under an hour, and as of today I am a little over 3 minutes away from accomplishing that goal.

It was supposed to rain in the evening, so I chose to ride during my lunch hour. Riding at that time has an added benefit of fewer cars on the road and less cyclists. That being said, I need to look into picking up a better mirror for the new bike. I'm using the end-of-handlebar mirror from my previous bike, and that doesn't look like it's going to work with the drop-style handlebars on my new bike. I simply can't see the cars behind me, and that's a bad thing.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 1:20pm
    • Distance: 16.9 miles
    • Duration: 1:03:11
    • Calories Burned: 632 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,161 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.1 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.2 mph
    • Average Cadence: 57.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 77.0 F
    • Average: 78.4 F
    • Maximum: 82.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 153 bpm
    • Maximum: 174 bpm

Ride Notes for September 16th, 2014

It's amazing how much of a difference changing some of your gear can have.

If you read my blog from last Saturday, I mentioned that my feet were hurting during many of my long rides. I have known for some time that switching to cleats would be better than my existing configuration where I had been using toe clips for the past few years. Until recently all of my rides had been fairly short – 10 miles or less. But sometime this past Spring I decided to slowly increase my mileage, and by the end of Summer I was riding over 100 miles per week. As I did so, I occasionally made some upgrades to my existing bike, but I was still riding a hybrid – which isn't the best bike for hill climbing or long-distance road riding.

With that in mind, I worked it into our budget to replace my hybrid with a dedicated road bike, and I switched from toe clips to cleats. Today was my inaugural ride with my new road bike, and I chose to ride my usual 17-mile course from my house through the Saguaro National Park (SNP) and home again. I'm still building up my confidence on the bike, so it seemed as though I was riding slower than I would normally ride while I got used to the feel and controls of the new bike. But that being said, I still managed to complete the SNP loop 2¾ minutes faster than my previous personal best.


I attribute the increased speed around the SNP loop to two primary factors: my new road bike is 12 pounds lighter than my hybrid bike, and switching from toe clips to cleats. Both of these changes gave me increased climbing power, and as I get more comfortable on the new bike I would expect my hill climbing to improve a little more.

The only downside of my new bicycling setup is – I have been very spoiled with regard to road dampening. My hybrid has much larger tires, which absorb more of the bumps in the road that I encounter on my rides, and whenever the road grew too bumpy I would enable the shock absorbers on my front forks to absorb even more of the unnecessary abuse. With my road bike, I have none of those dampening features, so I feel every nook and cranny in the road; I'm just going to have to get used to that.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 4:38pm
    • Distance: 17.0 miles
    • Duration: 1:06:19
    • Calories Burned: 571 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,161 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 15.4 mph
    • Peak Speed: 28.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 58.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum:69.5 F
    • Average: 68.0 F
    • Maximum: 75.2 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 144 bpm
    • Maximum: 171 bpm

Ride Notes for September 13th, 2014

Saturdays are one of my normal long rides, and in keeping with that tradition I rode 63.3 miles, or 101.9 kilometers. This was my second or third time riding more than 60 miles within the past year, although I was in better shape on this ride than my last. That being said, today's ride was a little slower than normal for me; my average mph and cadence were both less than normal, although I'm not sure why.


I had planned on riding a double pass around the Pistol Hill Road loop, which would give me somewhere over 50 miles, but here's the way that everything actually panned out: I completed my first pass around the loop, and I made my obligatory stop and the hydration station near the entrance to Saguaro National Park. (By this time I had ridden a little over 27 miles.) While I was refilling my water bottles, I was contemplating whether I should ride the 8-mile loop around the park after my second pass of the Pistol Hill Road loop, but I hate doing that because my legs are pretty tired after 45 or 50 miles and I don't like facing the big hill on the back side of the park when I'm in that condition. Then I had an epiphany: "Why don't I ride around the park now and then make my second pass around the Pistol Hill Road loop?" This seemed like a good idea, and I was in considerably better condition for the park loop, but the long 7-mile ride to the summit on Pistol Hill Road was a pain.

Riding around Saguaro National Park

The temperature was pretty nice for today's ride. I have done several rides in 100F+ temperatures, so it was nice to have a ride that stayed around the mid-80s. That being said, for some inexplicable reason the temperature spiked all the way to 98.6 while I was riding around Saguaro National Park, which made the loop a little miserable at times. However, the temperature dropped back down to 90 degrees by the time I left the park.

"Javelina Rocks" – Not the scene of the famous Star Trek
Gorn battle, but it would be a good substitute.

Something weird happened on my way around the Saguaro National Park loop – I inhaled a bug. That might seem kind of funny in hindsight, but believe me – it was no fun at the time. I was coughing violently for at least a mile, and at several random intervals my condition triggered my gag reflex and I thought that I was going to choke. The thought running through my mind at the time was, "Oh great – I'm in the middle of nowhere and there's no one to do the Heimlich Maneuver for me." Eventually I simply screamed at the top of my lungs for several seconds and that seemed to clear my airway, but that was a terrible experience which I hope not to repeat.

My feet have really been hurting on my long rides, right around the ball of each foot. I have long known that switching to cleats instead of using toe clips would help alleviate that problem, but today perfectly illustrated why. Sometime around the 20-mile point my feet began to hurt – as they normally do – but as I thought about where they were hurting exactly and how they were bending on the pedals it dawned on me that the toe clips were forcing my feet to bend in a way that was unnatural, so I flipped both pedals over and rode the next 40 miles with relatively little pain. (The toe clips will be gone soon.)

Panorama from the high point on Pistol Hill Road.

Today was also an eye-opener with regard to keeping my electrolytes in balance and my energy up. I carb-loaded before the ride on ¾ of a waffle, and I carried plenty of Gatorade & PowerAde as well as several packets of Gu for the ride. It is suggested that cyclists ingest a packet of Gu about every 45 minutes or so, although I usually don't that often. I had a packet around the 15-mile mark, and another around the 27-mile mark, but sometime around the 42-mile mark I realized that my body had already burned off everything that I had consumed that day and my strength was starting to fade. I quickly downed another packet of Gu, and within a mile or so I had recovered.

On a related note, I weighed myself right before I started the ride and immediately after I returned, and despite consuming ¾ of a gallon of water during today's ride, I lost three pounds by the time I was done. (Of course, I put on at least a pound or two after I got home and drank another quart of Gatorade.)

One final thought – I was wearing another new Microsoft cycling jersey today. I felt a little conspicuous while wearing this particular shirt, as though Microsoft was some sort of corporate sponsor for me. (That being said, Microsoft actually bought the bicycle that I was riding as part of their "Stay Fit" program, so I guess they kind of are a sponsor.)


Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 10:24am
    • Distance: 63.3 miles
    • Duration: 4:38:16
    • Calories Burned: 2,079 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 2,786 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 13.6 mph
    • Peak Speed: 29.5 mph
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 80.6 F
    • Average: 88.4 F
    • Maximum: 98.6 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 143 bpm
    • Maximum: 167 bpm