Ride Notes for August 12th, 2014

Today was supposed to be one of my “Short Days,” meaning that I would ride my usual 17-mile trek from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again. But I had the day off, so I decided to ride a Metric Half-Century (50km) from my house to Colossal Caves and back.

2014-08-12

This past Saturday the same ride had taken me a little over two hours, and I was hoping that I could improve on that and complete the ride in less than two hours. Sadly, this was not going to be possible. I discovered as I started out that I was riding into a stiff headwind all the way to Colossal Caves, which ultimately added six minutes to my total ride time. (Actually, it probably would have added more, but I intentionally rode faster than normal on my way back from Colossal Caves to make up for lost time.)

That being said, the strong headwind made climbing a lot of the hills on the road to Colossal Caves very difficult to negotiate, and I found myself having to downshift a lot to compensate; periodically I had to downshift while riding downhill just to fight the winds that hit me in the face as I crested the various hills that exist between the 10-mile and 15-mile mark on my way to the caves.

As I mentioned the other day, I have done this ride often enough to recognize most of the scenery along the way, so today I completed most of the ride with the screen turned off on my phone to conserve the battery. (Note: I turned on the screen once I hit the 10-mile mark so I could see how close to the caves I was getting, because the terrain between 10-miles and 15-miles contains the worst of the hills, and then I turned it off for the ride home.)

As I rode through the bottom of a wash at the 10-mile mark, I noticed a cow chewing its cud behind a fence off to the right of the road. I mustered up my best cow impression and I called out a friendly “Moo!” as I passed by, but she simply eyed me with contempt, as if to ask, “Why does everybody do that?”

On my way back from the caves, there is a certain point where I pass a sign which reads, "Tucson - 10 Miles." I have to admit, it is momentarily demoralizing to realize that you are on a bicycle in the middle of the desert and 10 miles from town.

Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 31.2 miles
  • Start Time: 9:43am
  • Duration: 2:14:56
  • Average Speed: 13.9 mph
  • Peak Speed: 33.6 mph
  • Altitude Gain: 2,152 feet [See Below]
  • Calories Burned: 1,726 kcal
  • Starting Temp: 90 degrees
  • Ending Temp: 94 degrees

Note: Something appears to be seriously off with the altitude gain computation in my GPS application for my phone. I have done this ride several times, and the altitude gain is always well over 1,800 feet. For today’s ride it said the altitude gain was 387 feet, which was totally bogus. When I analyzed the GPS data from my ride in an external application, I got the 2,152 feet that I listed above. So something is definitely amiss. Grrrrr.

Ride Notes for August 9th, 2014

I took it somewhat easy today - Saturdays are supposed to be my long days, but I had a bunch of items on my "Honey Do" list that needed to be done, so I simply rode a metric half-century (50 kilometers / 31 miles). I might have considered adding Saguaro National Park to my ride in order to add another 8 miles to my distance, but I realized sometime after I left the house that I had left my annual pass for the park at home. Which is just as well, since I had told Kathleen that I was only riding 30 miles - from our house to Colossal Caves and back.

Overall the ride to Colossal Caves was not that bad; I've made the trek a few times, and I'm getting to know the road a little better. This means I'm learning when to push myself a little harder, and when I should reserve some energy for bigger obstacles in my future. For example, I know that the 15-mile journey from my house to Colossal Caves has a slight gain for the first 4.5 miles, then it's downhill for a few miles, then it's mostly flat for a few miles, and the final five miles are mostly uphill (with the worst near the end). All of the uphill & downhill parts of the trek remind me lyrics from the song "Spinning Wheel" from the late 1960s: "What goes up, must come down." Except it's the other way 'round: "What goes downhill, must go back uphill again." This is a sad reality of topography.

2014-08-09

There was a bad headwind on my way back, and that undoubtedly added a few minutes to the ride, which was unfortunate because I was striving for an even two-hour ride for the 30-mile distance from my house to the caves and back, but I arrived home 8 minutes behind that schedule. Not for lack of trying, though. For example: a guy passed me around the 20-mile mark, but I was able to catch him over the next six miles as we got to the part of the ride which meanders uphill from Jeremy Wash. He turned off into Saguaro National Park as I continued homeward, so it's entirely possible that he was reserving his strength for the "Widow Maker" hill in Saguaro National Park around the 3.5-mile mark. I ran out of water when I was about 1.5 miles from my house, which wasn't too bad. I knew that I was close and I had a bottle of Gatorade waiting for me in the fridge, so I didn't attempt to hold anything in reserve.

I tried an experiment for today's ride: during my time in the military, I had something of a ritual on the days when I would to my long distance runs, (e.g. 10K races or half-marathons), where I would have scrambled eggs about an hour before the run, and I would take aspirin before I started the run. With that in mind, I tried something similar: I scrambled three eggs for breakfast and ate those about an hour before the ride, then I took a mixture of migraine medicines before heading out (aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). I also had a package of Gu right before the ride, and I had another package at the 15-mile mark. In the end, I have no idea if any of this helped.

Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 31.1 miles
  • Start Time: 10:50am
  • Duration: 2:08:28
  • Average Speed: 14.5 mph
  • Peak Speed: 30.8 mph
  • Altitude Gain: 1,808 feet
  • Calories Burned: 1,764 kcal
  • Starting Temp: 90 degrees
  • Ending Temp: 94 degrees

Ride Notes for August 7th, 2014

Today was one of my “Short Days,” meaning that I would ride my usual 17-mile trek from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again. That being said, I did something different today – I have always ridden solo, but today I rode with David, who is an old friend of mine from high school.

2014-08-07

I have to mention that the idea of riding with someone else had me worried for two primary reasons:

  • What if he rides faster than I do and I can’t keep up with him?
  • What if he rides slower than I do and he can’t keep up with me?

The second concern seemed less-likely, but I didn’t want to hold up someone who was way outside my range as a cyclist. As it turns out, my concerns appeared to have been for naught, as we seemed to ride at a similar pace.

There was one great advantage to having someone else with whom to ride: as we rode up the “Widow Maker” hill on the back side of the park, we talked about guitars for a lot of our journey, which helped to take my mind off my normal thoughts for that part of the ride. (Note: I am typically thinking something like, “I hate this!!! Why am I doing this to myself???”)

That being said, as we stopped at the hydration station near the entrance to the park, we met up with several other cyclists who were all lamenting about the infamous hill on the back side of the park. With that in mind, David needed to take a couple of breaks during our ride around the park, which I completely understood; this can be a very taxing course, and I needed to take a few breaks during several of my earlier attempts.

Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 17.0 miles    
  • Duration: 1:40:00
  • Average Speed: 10.2 mph
  • Peak Speed: 31.9 mph
  • Altitude Gain: 919 feet
  • Calories Burned: 909 kcal

Ride Notes for August 5th, 2014

Today was one of my "Short Days" for cycling - I've been trying to get into a regular riding schedule where I take it easy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and ride just 17 miles. (4.5 miles from my house out to Saguaro National Park, around the 8-mile loop, and 4.5 miles back home.) This has slowly become my "default ride," and I ride around the park often enough for the gate guards recognize me when I arrive. There were a few more cyclists on the road today, which was a nice change. Usually I seem to be riding alone, and that is due to the fact that I will start a ride when the temperature is well over 100 degrees, when most cyclists won't dare to ride. (Or maybe they're simply smart enough not to leave the house. Hmm.) That being said, the temperature was hovering around 100 degrees when I left home, so it was something of a surprise to see other cyclists on the road.

Today was my first day back on the bicycle after my 100K ride this past Saturday, which had depleted almost all of my energy for the rest of that day. With that in mind, I was a little nervous about how my legs would hold up during today's outing, and surprisingly I didn't seem to be suffering any lingering ill-effects from my self-imposed abuse the other day. That being said, as I was making my way around the park, I could tell that my pace was a little better than usual, so I decided to press a little harder when possible, and as a result I completed the 8-mile loop in 34:47, which beat my previous personal best by a little over 2 minutes. This also bumped me up to 4th place (out of 107 riders) on MapMyFitness for the Saguaro National Park loop. Of course, that statistic only accounts for the riders who bother to upload their times to MapMyFitness; I'm sure that there are plenty of better riders who don't upload their times. Still, it's nice to know that I'm riding faster than somebody, because I usually think that I'm riding pretty slowly as I slog my way up some of the bigger hills around the park.

But that being said, I always cycle around Saguaro National Park in the middle of my ride, whereas many cyclists drive to the park and simply ride around the 8-mile loop. I'd like to think that the people who are riding faster than me are also riding a few miles before and after their ride around the park, but I can never be sure. Still, my overall time for today's ride was 20 minutes faster than I did a month ago, so that's something for me to be happy about.

Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 17.0 miles
  • Duration: 1:10:30
  • Average Speed: 14.5 mph
  • Altitude Gain: 1,243 feet
  • Calories Burned: 964 kcal

Ride Notes for August 2nd, 2014

I rode a metric century (100 Km) today, although that wasn't my original intention. I had planned to ride 50 miles (twice from my house to Colossal Caves and back). That being said, when I looked at the weather reports yesterday, they all predicted that thunderstorms would descend on Tucson at 10am, which meant that I should leave the house around 6am in order to have plenty of time to complete the ride and get home. Anyone who is familiar with me knows how much I hate mornings, but I'm pretty good with late nights, so I hatched an odd plan - stay up all night, and then go on the ride. That probably wasn't the brightest idea, but it's what I decided to do.

I managed to get on the road by 6:15am, and by the time I had finished 50 miles several hours later, the storms hadn't started, and I hadn't reached the point of muscle failure, so I decided to tack another 10 miles onto the ride. Once again, this may not have been the brightest idea, but once I started around Saguaro National Park, I was committed to the endeavor. In the end, my cell phone died, which I used for a GPS, so I'm not exactly sure how many miles I went over 60, but I'm certain that I hit my 100 km goal. Just the same, when I finally arrived home after four-and-a-half hours of riding and no sleep in 26 hours or so, I was more exhausted than you can imagine. Even so, today's ride pales in comparison to my friends who just finished the RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day).

I usually ride in the afternoon and evenings when there are few cyclists on the road, so it was pretty cool to share the road with dozens of other riders. If I didn't hate mornings so much, I might actually enjoy riding at that time of day. Apparently I wasn't the only one making mutiple round-trips to Colossal Caves; a few of us passed each other a few times. (Note: some of the better riders are still passing me on the bigger hills, which reinforces my need to work on my climbing skills.)

There was one major annoyance on my first trip to Colossal Caves: bugs. Millions of them. No exaggeration - there were millions of bugs (which looked like flying ants) in huge swarms along the 10-mile trek from Saguaro National Park to Colossal Caves. They were hitting me everywhere: they stung as they hit the exposed skin on my arms and legs, they were sticking to my clothes, they kept hitting me in the face, etc. I could see that the bugs were affecting the other cyclists on the road based on their erratic swerving to avoid the bigger swarms. Thankfully the bugs were mostly gone by the time I started my second 20-mile run out to Colossal Caves, so the second trip was considerably better than the first.

Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 62.24 miles
  • Duration: 4:33:00
  • Average Speed: 16.7 mph
  • Calories Burned: 3684 kcal

A Short Ride on a Hot Summer Day

I thought that I would take a quick 9-mile ride today in the 100F+ afternoon temperatures just to see what that was like. (Spoiler alert - this was a dumb idea.) My friend Keith had done a similar ride several years earlier on the hottest day in Seattle history, and even though he admitted in hindsight that it probably was a bad plan, sometimes experience is the best teacher - so this is a lesson that I had to learn for myself.

It is a measured 4.5 miles from my doorstep to the guard shack at the Saguaro National Park, which makes it a fairly easy 9-mile ride round-trip on a good day, (with the option of adding an additional 8 miles if you ride through the park itself). There is only 250 feet of elevation change from my house to the park, so I can generally average about 15mph without too much effort.

I use CycloMeter on my Windows Phone to track my rides, and it uses the Windows Phone "Zira" text-to-speech voice to announce each mile that I have travelled, every 10 minutes that I have been riding, and every 100 calories that I have burned.

CycloMeter

With that in mind, here is the conversation that ensued between my Windows Phone and me during today's ride:

  • Leaving the house:
    • Me: Hmm... it's a little warm. What's the temperature?
    • Me: [Looks at the Weather Channel app.]
    • Me: 101 degrees, not too bad.
  • At the 0.5-mile mark:
    • Me: Let's just casually glide between these speed bumps and the curb, shall we? No sense beating up the bike.
  • At the 1.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 1 mile.
    • Me: Yeah, yeah. I'm aware of that - I know right where I am.
  • At the 1.7-mile mark:
    • Me: OK - quick break at the Houghton Road stoplight. Time to hydrate.
  • At the 2.0-mile mark:
    • Me: There's the road that marks off 2 miles from my house.
    • Zira: You've ridden 2 miles.
    • Me: Um, yeah - didn't I just say that?
  • At the 2.5-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've burned 100 calories.
    • Me: Cool. Is it me, or is it getting warmer?
  • At the 3.0-mile mark:
    • Me: This was a dumb idea. I hate this hill.
    • Zira: You've ridden 3 miles.
    • Me: I must remember that this big hill with the turn is the 3-mile mark.
    • Me: (Didn't I tell myself that the last time I rode this way?)
  • At the 4.0-mile mark:
    • Me: This was a really dumb idea. It's pretty hot out here. How much Gatorade do I have left? Where am I?
    • Zira: You've ridden 4 miles.
    • Me: Oh, that's where I am. This was a really dumb idea.
  • At the 4.5-mile mark:
    • Me: OK - I'm at the guard shack; time to turn around. Should I stop to refill my water bottle? Nah, takes too long.
    • My Evil Subconscious: Hey, as long as I'm here, should I enter the park and add the 8-mile desert ride onto this?
    • My Good Subconscious: I hate you. Shut up.
  • At the 5.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 5 miles.
    • Me: It's really hot; did I mention that already? This was such a dumb idea.
    • Zira: You've burned 200 calories.
    • Me: Well, that takes care of lunch.
  • At the 6.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 6 miles.
    • Me: I'm almost out of Gatorade; I should have filled up with water at the park entrance. I'm such an idiot.
  • At the 6.7-mile mark:
    • Me: I should be at the 7-mile mark!!! What's up with this stupid GPS??? There's the stupid road that's 2 miles from my house!!!
    • Zira: (Silence.)
    • Me: Oh wait, wrong road; there's the correct road up ahead. This was a dumb idea.
  • At the 7.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 7 miles.
    • Me: Shut up. No one likes a smarty-pants. Why is it so hot?
  • At the 7.3-mile mark:
    • Me: Must catch the stoplight at Houghton Road...
    • Me: Must catch the stoplight at Houghton Road...
    • Me: Must catch the stoplight at Houghton Road...
    • Me: Caught it.
  • At the 7.5-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've burned 300 calories.
    • Me: By the time I get home, I will have burned off breakfast and lunch. How's my blood sugar? Is it crashing yet? Perhaps I should have eaten more?
  • At the 8.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 8 miles.
    • Me: Why does my Gatorade taste like I boiled it? Maybe a black water bottle was a bad idea.
  • At the 8.5-mile mark:
    • Me: Who put these stupid speed bumps here???
  • At the 8.9-mile mark:
    • Me: I'm right by the house!!! Why doesn't this stupid GPS say 9 miles???
    • My OCD Subconscious: You have to ride through the neighborhood to pick up the extra 0.1 miles and make it an even 9.0 miles.
    • My Hindsight Subconscious: You actually fell for that? You're an idiot.
  • At the 9.0-mile mark:
    • Zira: You've ridden 9 miles.
    • Me: I'm done!!! Throw bike in garage... Grab water bottle from fridge... Pour ice water in my hair and drink the rest... Jump in shower... Why is this tap water so warm??? I haven't even turned on the hot water!!!

That's pretty much how the whole ride went down. Just in case you were wondering, the starting and ending temperatures for the ride were both 101 degrees.

Did I mention at any point that this was a dumb idea?

Dear Unknown Pickup Truck Driver

Dear Unknown Pickup Truck Driver,

I'd like to personally thank you for failing to see the bicyclist (me) in the clearly-marked bike lane and nearly hitting me. I flipped my bicycle to avoid running into you, so your brain-dead vehicular maneuver restored my belief that some people are too dumb to operate a car. Next time, try hanging up your @#$% cell phone and watch the road.

As luck would have it, I was riding to the hospital where my wife works as a nurse when this mishap occurred, and she used Tegaderm to bandage everything. (Although that was after the painful experience of scrubbing all of the dirt out of the wound.)

On the positive side, this was a great test of the brakes on my new bicycle. (FYI - The brakes work really well; maybe a little too well. But as they say, any landing you can walk away from...)

I should also mention that I'm very fortunate that minor bumps and gashes were the worst of my injuries; I was foolishly wearing neither my helmet nor my gloves when this happened. Both hands were a little bruised and my right arm had several nasty-looking scrapes, but nothing was broken. (And I have learned my lesson; I will always wear my helmet in the future.)

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