Monday, May 23, 2016

AES Aspen Asphyxiation 2016

Saturday morning the alarm was supposed to go off at 3 AM but I woke up at 2:57 AM and turned it off before it would have a chance to wake up the wifey.

True to form being that I work in the IT world and am technically always "on call", my phone rang at 10:01 PM the night before with an issue that I would need to take care of. Meh. So much for a good nights sleep.

I was already loaded up and ready to roll, I just was waiting for Marcus to make his way to my place from Chandler. He rolled up and we got his loaded up then we made our way to the McD's to hit up a little bit of food, then the easy drive up to Flagstaff for a 7 AM race start. Made it to the Safeway and did some usual pre-ride activities and such. Talked for a bit with a few guys I knew (Joe, Brian, Eric) and then finally got to meet "Angry" Ray. Thing is, he's not very angry (unless you're a bike crank I guess). I was expecting a middle finger salute, but got just a firm handshake and a smile.

Saw some other riders that I "knew" strictly from reading blogs - but I was a bit too anxious to intro myself. My introverted self being in full effect in this case.

We got started and had a neutral roll to the start of the Elden climb and before I knew it, we were off. I watched the fast group take off and I settled in for a long but manageable climb up Elden road. Marcus hung for a bit, but eventually I dropped him but I knew he would come around. We were going to ride our own rides but would be together most of the time. Right now I do the big climbs a bit better but he rocks the DH and our normal flatish terrain paces are about the same. It worked out pretty well. I was really happy that I was able to keep Nancy and Brian in view the whole time.

Ended up at the top with a beautiful view

From there, fun descents and more beautiful trails:

Once we got to AZ 89 we made a pit stop for water and ran into a bunch of riders including John S who was out doing his own big ride with some overlap of our route. He was having a bad day, but we still got to talk about a few things. He took off in front of us and we were a bit behind him but we had acquired a follower - a guy who was doing the route but didn't have a GPS or cue sheets from what I can tell. He would stop when we would, and follow us the best he could, but he was starting to lag behind and eventually Marcus and I made the decision to drop him at one of the gates where we waited five minutes for him. We just couldn't let this guy impact our ride anymore. The decision weighed on me for the rest of the day, but I knew that there were riders behind us and a busier section of the AZT where he might find help if he needed it. All of that to say that if you are going to do these races, have your crap together and be responsible for yourself. 

We passed John for the last time as he stopped to take some photos of us - here is the one he got from me. Thanks John!

We battled some winds when we were out of the trees but it wasn't terrible. We got to the Walnut Canyon area and eventually to Fisher Point:

After that, there was a bit of climbing to do but then the trail relented and we had quite a few fast flowy miles as we approached I40. Good stuff. Then we were back to climbing a bit, nothing big, but the day was getting long and we were getting ready to be done. 

In true AES fashion, there were a couple of kicks to the nuts as we approach town and are actually right next to roads that would get us back to town... only to turn right and do some pipeline climbing and descending into a crappy headwind. Then another decent climb to get back to some trail on Elden. Finally the end came and it was a quick a smooth cruise on road back to the Safeway. 

There was a decent group of riders still hanging out so Marcus went in a grabbed a few beers and we talked about the day and gave Ray a hard time about the end haha. 

All things considered, I was really happy with the day and my performance. For me, these events are always about finishing. I think for most people they are. My previous ITTs have always put me at either dead freaking last or very close to it. Of course people are always DNFing these so just finishing is good enough for me. But this time Marcus and I came in middle of the pack, so I am super stoked about that. AES AA Results

Can't wait to do more of these events in the future. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Aspen Asphyxiation "race" this weekend

One of the key aspects of prepping for the AZTR 300 is getting out and pushing limits. All of the AES rides fit the bill. These aren't your typical rides. They look innocent enough on the surface - big but manageable miles and elevation gain... but just looking at the numbers doesn't do them justice. There are usually decent chunks of HAB, weird route choices, and general route WTF moments and shenanigans.

So this Saturday is the Aspen Asphyxiation ride. As always - my goal is just to finish. I'm usually DFL or close to it - I can't keep up with the cyborgs who crush these courses. I've never been able to get out on the actual race day, instead doing them as Individual Time Trials when I was able to get out there so it will be nice to meet up with some people I only know through Strava/FB, etc.

I managed to get my buddy Marcus to take the bait, so it should be a good epic day.

More info here: Aspen Asphyxiation

I'd also like to point out that the last 4 weeks really built up on me, I was getting more tired as each week went on. I'm pretty sure that's just due to my rapid buildup in miles/hours. I need to work on getting more sleep or naps.

I'm not going to be doing my commute by bike on Friday, though I did today. I'll probably get some short rides in Wed or Thursday. Or Friday haha.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Grind up Humboldt Mountain

I've never done this, but I've seen others do it in my Strava feed, so I figured it would be a great training ride. I was a little bit apprehensive about it; I just wasn't sure how my legs would be doing the day after a Friday commute. I know I need to get used to putting in good efforts on consecutive days, so I just had to go for it.

I committed to it and roped my buddy Marcus into driving to meet me and make the climb.

We started from the intersection of  Cave Creek and Pima and began the grind up Cave Creek which turns into Seven Springs Rd. It was a rude start to the day to be sure. It's not a steep climb but it is consistent. There are a few steep punchy climbs and descents to break up the monotony of the road grind. Marcus had to stop and stretch out and I slowed down and held up for him.

This is a true grinding training ride. No sweet singletrack... just roads and dirt roads and then a service road to the top. Having never done the route, we were trying to figure out which mountain we were going to the top of. Eventually, we saw a mountain way off in the distance with a bunch of towers/communication equipment on the top. It looked daunting to me to be honest. It felt like forever away. Keep grinding.

We ended up going through some really nice areas - neither of us had ever been back here via any means of transportation so it was cool to check out a new to us part of the state. I will take my truck back there and scope some stuff out for sure. Anyway, we kept grinding away and the towers would come in and out of our view.

We finally got to the service road 562 which heads UP UP UP. I knew it was going to be steep based on the elevation profile, and it was. It's cool though because the traction is abundant due to the asphalt surface. Just pedal and pedal and try not to blow up.

It took about 50 minutes to get to the top once we started. I was just concentrating on keeping my breathing in check and not let my heart explode. I did a good job of that actually. I ended up stopping to rest/wait for Marcus a few times. On my last stop, I was taking some pictures and Marcus said something and then kept going without stopping. He got a decent lead on me, but I was able to catch up to him on the final approach and then we were there. We were treated to absolutely stunning views of Horseshoe and Bartlett lake, plus an amazing expanse of mountains all around. We also rode into a cloud at the top - we were above them. Pretty cool.

We hung out at the top for a bit, but it was honestly getting chilly and we knew we were gonna get colder on the descent. Marcus led the way and flew down. I played it a bit safer as there are quite a few potholes on the way down, plus that's just how I roll anyway.

We got back down to the main road and began the return back to our vehicles. We thought it was mostly downhill, but man there were a steep couple of climbs that we had to fight to get over. The final return on the road was fast on the final down hill. I just couldn't catch Marcus. I was spun out on my 32 chainring. Marcus has a 34 so that explains that.

I know I mentioned I want to try to hit this every weekend, but now after doing it I'm not sure I can. It's a big time commitment with the drive, and it's also a big effort to try to do every week. I will try to get out regularly though.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

First triple digit ride of the year...

Yesterday had the distinction of being the first 100 degree day. No biggie here in the PHX. Just kidding, it kinda sucks. It's the price we pay for some pretty damn amazing weather the rest of the year though!

I'm going to try to switch these afternoon rides (except the commute home obviously) to mornings. We'll see. It's hard enough getting up early on the commute days. I guess it's not the getting up that is hard, it's the getting to sleep early enough. With one teenager and one pre-teen, they don't exactly go to sleep early like they used to. And something feels weird about crashing out before they do. This will be an ongoing challenge...

I thought I would lay out what my plans are right now as far as training. Mostly for reference for me so I can see what I was thinking at the time and how it's working out for me.

Right now here is my training plan:

Monday (PM) - Technical riding practice. Fairly steep and some steps and rough switchbacks. 45-60 minutes

Tuesday (AM/PM) - Commute to and from work.

Wednesday (AM hopefully) - Random dirt ride. This is to get the road bike feeling out and be on dirt. The riding is SO much different. This will be intervals if I'm feeling motivated, or just a spin around my local trail. No more than 60 minutes.

Thursday - OFF. Maybe a hike or walk around the hood with the wifey.

Friday (AM/PM) - Commute to and from work.

Saturday - Going to start to a fairly big climb (Humboldt) starting from Cave Creek Rd and Pima. 33 miles and 4k elevation gain. This will be interesting given the commute miles the day before. I need to get used to putting in good efforts on consecutive days.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yesterday I tried out another "less stops" and "kinda less cars" commute. I hit up the 51 at Grovers and took the bike path north which got me under the 101 and onto Reach 11. This took me over to Cave Creek Rd and Deer Valley. I proceeded north on Cave Creek. It was OK. I'm definitely not a roadie (though I am pretending to be one on these commutes) and having traffic fly by at 50 MPH was a little bit weird. Some sections were worse than others as there are places on the road where there is a 20 foot shoulder section. The other sections were the standard 3-4 foot bike lane.

This got be to Dove Valley which was a great ride. Nice road condition and more people on road bikes, but everyone was on the other side of the road going the other way. All in all a great section. I cut through the edge of the neighborhood and then made my way over to Dixileta which sees very little traffic except for the people leaving the dump site. This leads to a nice easy crossing of the 17 and then a little used (for now) frontage road which got me back into some neighborhoods for the final section to home.

Even though this is about 4 miles shorter than my other "long" commute ride, I think I prefer the longer one. It goes through some nice neighborhoods and isn't as isolated. It won't matter much, because I think the long way home is going to get cut once the temps get over 100. I'll just want to get home. 1.5 hours in the heat will be good enough. I'm really going to try to keep this up through the summer. We'll see.

I do need to get fitted on my bike. I didn't notice it when I had more stops, but when I have bigger chunks of just spinning, my positioning is off, and I experienced some hand numbness.

I'll get that taken care of soon.

Monday, May 2, 2016

It's been a while...

It has been a long freaking time (almost three years!!!) since I've posted anything. I have good reason to start again. Keep reading to find out...

I've been commuting via bike again twice a week. The shortest route I have is 23.5 miles. I have various options I am checking out to add mileage typically for on the way home. The first optional route I looked at checked in at 36 miles, but has a nice stretch along the AZ canal that means I get to avoid all vehicle traffic and stops. It's a slick setup, it's just too bad that it's a bit out of the way for me to get to.

The commuting thing has a couple of benefits. I get some good base training, at least six hours per week just for the commutes, with minimal impact to the family schedule. Score! This on top of my mountain bike rides will get me between 10 and 11 hours per week on the bike.

Why so much time on the bike? Well, first and foremost... I really need to get/stay in shape. It's a great stress reliever and it's great exercise.

Second, I need my butt in the saddle a lot as I have committed to doing the AZT 300 next year. Feels funny to type that, but this race has been on my radar for years now. After completing several AES rides and a solo overnight bikepack adventure, I feel like I just might be able to tackle this beast.

My only goal is to finish.

So much to do. My family knows my goal. A few of my biking friends know. Now it's out there on the internet...

More to come. It's gonna be a crazy year.