Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Fall Tour de St. George - Part I

Alright, it's been almost two months since the ride, long past when I want to have these things posted. So here goes.

Leading up to the event, I went back and forth as to whether I would do the 80 mile course, or man up and attack the 100 mile ride. The 100 mile course was the same as the 80 mile ride, with two appendages early on that added the extra 20 miles. Herein was the problem, the extra mileage was early in the ride, and well before the two real climbs in the 80 mile course. Not to mention, the extra 20 miles had its own chunk of climbing that I would have to deal with. Long story short, once a buddy backed out of the race that was pushing me to do the 100 miles, and I knew I had the El Tour de Tucson coming the next month, I figured I would take it a step at a time, and be content with the 80 miles for St. George.

That said, I did hope that I would have a decent showing for only doing the 80 mile route. Of the over 500 participants that signed up for the event, about half signed up to do the century, and ~100 were signed up to ride the 80. Now, I know that these events are not 'races', and there wouldn't be much to brag about me opting out of the century ride to put in the measly 80 miles, but I did hope to place at least in the top 25% or so of those doing my ride. Again, this is knowing that the fast riders were actually being real men and going the further distance, but it's good to have goals, something to push you, right? I figured that as I finished in about 6th place ('about' because that is what I recall when the results were posted, but the results link on the website do not currently work) for the 30 mile ride in the Spring Tour de St. George with ~100 riders earlier in the year, this should be a good goal. (I am operating under the assumption that faster, more experienced riders usually go further distances, and I was not much more experienced. Nor was I an any better shape. So moving slightly down the curve would seem appropriate.)


As I figured, the ride started out chilly. What I didn't plan for, was me being a few minutes behind schedule in getting to the race, and starting a few minutes behind the lead group. My loving wife, supportive kids and myself didn't get to the school in St. George where the race was starting until 5 minutes before the start. This didn't leave much time for me to actually get dressed, go over the bike, eat something (oh yeah, not the best idea to only have a granola bar for a breakfast beforehand), and get to the starting line along with everyone else. I did what I could, but still was a little uneasy as I realized I was the last person out of the parking lot.

Luckily, I was able to catch the last of the crowd before they were getting through the starting line. That said, I wasn't too late, but I was still much later than I needed to be as I hoped to see how fast the lead group would take off on the outset of a century ride. But nope, I would just be playing catch up to those going at my pace. At least this way I got to pass a few people that understood things like 'pacing yourself' or 'hey guy whose never done this distance with this much climbing, don't be a fool'. Yup, I passed all of those folks.

(Just after the start, and still cold.)
After a few miles of winding through a few subdivisions of homes, and a quick stop to double check that my back tire wasn't flat (just glad it was nerves that had me over thinking that it might be, and that it actually wasn't), I was on the open road and starting to relax. About a mile or so before the 80/100 course split was finally decided that I really should just do 80 (I'm the guy that says 'Yeah, I told myself to be content with 80, and that is what I told my wife so she knew when to come pick me up, but if I'm feeling good maybe I'll just do the 100.'), and was happy to make the turn. At this point the slow incline pushed up a bit more for a short hill. It wasn't too far along that I passed an older rider, and noticed he was quick to latch on my tail for the rest of the ride up. To be honest, I was kind of flattered that someone would actually think it would be better for them to get behind me rather than go around me.

On the downhill side the guy passed and said 'I should probably take a turn out front' at which point I was happy to let him lead, and take a minute or two in his draft. During this quick interchange I was sure to notice two things (1) he had to be in his 50's or so and was thus a bit older than I was, and (2) looked like he did this much more than I did. (Of course, I think anyone with a road bike that is wearing a kit that is going over 10 mph rides more than I do. And if they are going under 10 mph, they probably still ride more than I do, they are just taking a break for whatever reason.) Based on his speed and his apparent age I was sure to take back the lead after a couple minutes. Before we knew it, we had a few more guys on our line and had a good speed leading up to the first rest spot. 'I'm gonna stop a get something to eat,' the older gentleman yelled 'you can keep on if you want.' 'That's okay, I need to stop as well,' I replied. My late arrival to the event afforded me no time to use the restroom and I knew there was no need to carry the extra water weight any further.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A New High...For Now???

San Gabriel Bike Trail
This past weekend a buddy and I decided to get some extra miles in, and thought we'd venture out to a new ride. In hopes to be training for the Fall Tour de St. George, I figured the San Gabriel Bike Trail would be a good test. The trail is approximately 38 miles long from north to south, with the north end starting alongside San Garbiel Canyon Rd at the base of the mountains north of Los Angeles and heads south along the San Gabriel River all the way to Seal Beach.

As we are now into fall, the morning are colder now than they have been. The good news was I just picked up some arm and leg warmers and I was excited to try them out. However, as we were quickly out of the car and onto the trail we wondered if maybe we should have worn our full finger gloves. Luckily, the sun started to come out and things started to warm up not too far into our ride. That said, the arm and leg warmers were welcomed apparel for the entire day.

The Ride Down
We started about 3 miles or so south of the top of the trail, and thought it best to do the main part of the ride before coming back and hitting up the last 6 miles. The way down was great. Flat, with a small bit of down hill as you made your way down to the ocean. We were even able to get a quick view of the sun coming up over the mountains as we passed the Santa Fe Dam Nature Center.

(Views like this are part of why I ride)
It was good to see the number of people that use the trail. As expected, the numbers grew as the morning went on, and we got closer to the water.

(Andrew leading the way)
(Almost there)
(At the beach. One can get an idea of the size difference between myself and Andrew by looking at our bikes. I consider his long legs the reason for him being faster than me. I am sure there could be NO other reason.)

The Ride Back Up
The ride back was good, but I was worn out. I am sure I should have eaten more before, and maybe even during, because I was more than over it with about 12-14 miles left. I was sure to finish the ride, which included the additional few miles just north of where we started. I was kicking myself for not doing this when we first left, but hey, live and learn. Andrew was great in trying to keep me motivated. That said, it didn't work. Instead I just felt bad for him needing to waiting for my slow butt as we rode along.

All in all, a good ride, and one I knew I needed to get under my belt in preparation for the Fall Tour of St. George. It is couple miles longer, and more like 4500 ft of climbing instead of under 1000.

(Some folks rocking a mud run of some sort.)
(Almost the end, Andrew is ready for more.)
(Almost the end, almost the end of me.)
(Overview of the trail.)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vegas Baby, Vegas!!!

Back to My Old Stomping Grounds
A little over a week ago my wife and I took our kids and headed out to Las Vegas for a wedding reception for a friend of ours (this was a planned wedding, they just happen to be from Vegas, nothing crazy here). So I took it upon myself to bring the bike and go for a ride where we had lived for five years before relocating to Cali.

After inviting a couple guys that ride in the area and asking where they would recommend, I came across a ride out by Lake Mead that looked enticing. River Mountains Loop is a 35 mile loop around the mountain that stands between Las Vegas and Lake Mead with about 2500 ft of climb to it. Pretty good ride considering most of Las Vegas is relatively flat and boring, and this looked to be fairly scenic, so I knew this would work out well.

The morning started out great. It started out pretty flat, with some down hill switchbacks to get you closer to the lake's level. It was during the first part of the ride, I realized the obvious, I need to work on my corning. With that said, I wasn't about to spend much time doing it here. The trail isn't overly wide, and many of the turns on this portion of the trail had significant drop offs as this part of the trail had been built up to keep the ride more of a gradual descent. They were still fun, but all I could think of, am I wasting a good chunk of my downhill coasting!? This is going to kill my average speed. (Truth be told, I was really hoping to beat the few guys' Strava time that I followed on this loop and I was sure they were used to the trail, and thus my taking it easy was only hurting my overall ride in comparison to theirs.)

(Lake Mead in the morning)
When Riding a Loop, What Goes Down Must Come Up
Now, though I had worried that I might be losing some precious time taking it easy on the few switchbacks early on in the ride, I also knew I couldn't push it too much on the flat section along the lake. There were a couple Stava segments on the climbing out from the lake up into Boulder City that I was specifically targeting to tackle, and see how I stacked up to the others. This may not have been much climbing to some, but it was a good climb for me (about 8.5 miles long with over 1400 ft of vert).

I couldn't remember exactly where it started, so I was a bit apprehensive that I would either start pushing it too hard too early, or maybe I would start pushing too late. The funny thing is, when it comes to me pushing it, there probably isn't much difference in the speed that I go. And really, I knew that if I pushed too hard I would be dead in a couple minutes and I'd be just as slow. So it really was much ado about nothing.

Just to Make Me Mad
So, at some point I realized I must be starting the climb cuz well, after all, I was going up. Again, the climb didn't really feel overly steep at any part, and it wasn't, but I did start to feel it on the 2nd half as I hadn't ridden as long of a hill in my short time riding. As you get into Boulder City you are practically riding up a wash, which the trail take you out of occasionally as the wash is not tall enough in places to go under some of the roads that cross over. Not a big deal, see a dead end sign ahead, look for where the trail turns out of the paved wash, turn and continue on the trail. Right? Well, that is no big deal, unless you see the dead end ahead and follow the trail in the wrong direction. Which I did.

It wasn't too long after I had taken the wrong turn that I started to wonder if I had gone awry. The trail turned into a side walk as I road up a hill into Boulder City. "Surely, this isn't what I remember seeing on the map. But where else could the trail go? I saw the dead end. Better ride some more, I'll find it." Luckily, this didn't last too long. I reached a small park in Boulder and stopped and searched for the trail, back on the other side of the freeway. I made my way back onto the trail, took the correct turn, and continued up the hill. I came across a sign that said "Loop" but it was unlike any of the other signs marking the trail so I continued on. Then I was worried I missed my turn, started to ride back, and then thought, "Don't get off on another tangent again." So I turn back around again and caught up to some other people I saw cycling together.

They turned onto a normal road, and I was sure I was off the track. But by this time I figured I had killed any chance at a good time for the Strava segment, so I thought I'd catch the fellow riders. I pushed hard and caught up to the group of five.

"Does this connect back up to the trail?"

 "Yes, just up here a little bit. Hop on."

I hopped in behind the 2nd rider and stuck with them for a couple miles once we were back on the trail. Unfortunately, my calves starting cramping up a bit and I thought it best to let them ride on as stretched for a minute. At least now I was back on the trail.

(Looking back towards Vegas from the trail)
The Rest of the Ride

Now I was back on the trail and through most of the climbing. I actually caught back up and passed some of the group before they were off in another direction. (Small victory for feeling like a wimp when I had to pull off to stretch.) The rest of the trail was great. Mainly rolling hills or flat, with a few quick steep climbs to get you out of your seat. The great part was that I got back to the van just as it was starting to really warm up.

I was also happy to see that while I did have a few detours, and even was off the trail for the main part of the ride I wanted to track, I had done fairly well in the other segments of the ride. I was a bit quicker than the friends I follow on Strava (again, none of us are that fast), so at least I will be able to smile when talking with them as my first time riding was faster than their best time riding.

This is a great trail, and one I can't wait to get back to.

(Screen shot of the ride)
On Another Note

As I knew I would be doing the ride solo, I also took the opportunity to try listening to music when I ride. (I am not a big advocate of this as where I normally ride there is enough people on the trails that I want to be sure I am aware of my surroundings. This is even more so the case when I ride on the road.) But I knew my early morning ride on this trail should provide a good opportunity to try it out.

Here are my findings, which I kind of figured would be the case going in: 1) I'm not the biggest fan - Music is great, and I love it. But riding is a time that I can have to myself for peace and quiet, and can think (hard to do when I have three little energetic kids at home that love to play and make noise). 2) When riding make sure you have the right music - My phone does not have the biggest selection of music on it, so even though I grew up listening to Green Day, I wasn't in the mood to hear it for most of the ride. And music should match the ride. I really need to put together a playlist for there ever to be a chance for music to accompany me on a ride again. 3) When it is the right song, it can motivate you - I did find this to be the case at a couple points when I was feeling good on a climbs, or flying on the flats. However, when I get to that miserable, not happy place on a climb, where you ask yourself, "Why am I doing this!?", I personally do not want to have music playing as it becomes only one more thing to get mad at. (This is in addition to things like the road, my legs, the sun, the lack of sun, the wind, gravity, and pretty much life in general.)

I am not sure when I will break out the headphones again for a ride. I am sure there may be some secret place in my riding that it can take me to another level, but until it finds its place, it just doesn't fit me. The road, and being outdoors offer so much to take in on their own.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Bit of Inspiration, Pt II

So Where's Kenny?
This was the point I started to get concerned. "I'm going to go find Kenny," I told his parents as they nodded and smiled. I hopped on my bike and was off. Luckily, it wasn't long before I found him. Just off the paved road I met Kenny atop the last hill on the dirt trail, just as he was walking his bike up the last part. "KENNY! I thought you were dead."

(Kenny's not dead! They didn't kill Kenny!)
Kenny's Not Dead
Kenny was not dead. But Kenny had taken a spill down the hill for some extra thrill. (Maybe too many Dr. Seuss books with the kids starting to make itself known on that last sentence.) "Kenny, you okay, what happened?"

"I couldn't brake and lost control of the bike." (Something along those lines anyways.) Kenny had done fine on his ride up the mountain. But on his way down the handle bars turned the brakes straight up, making them too difficult to reach, which left Kenny subject to the will of the mountain. Going fast down the steepest section of the ride, until his front tire found that one "catchy" spot that had him flying up over the handle bars and stumbling to a halt. Chalk one up to the "glad I had a helmet on" club as Kenny was able to brush the dust off him, rinse off the bloodied scrape on the inside of his elbow. (Side note - In him telling me this, I suddenly felt much better that he had the water bottle I had given him to take on the ride. It did come in handy. Great forethought on my part.) Anyways, with his shirt dirtied, and a little bumped up he was making his way back on the trail.

After a quick once over of his bike, I told him he should take my bike and finish strong. To which, he did. I hopped on his bike and tried to keep pace. It wasn't until after we got back that I realized his rear brakes were somewhat engaged the entire time I was riding and probably were for at least the portion of his ride after his wreck.

Kevin was a Runnin'
Seeing him coming in from the ride, both his parents were happy to see Kenny was in good spirits, and even more important, he was in one piece. But Kevin, Kenny's dad, couldn't say much as he had a race to run. With his earphones put in, and Kenny back, Kevin was off to the races. 

To give some perspective here, Kevin was starting in last place, a ways behind anyone else. Not only that, Kevin was probably the second oldest guy in the race. In fact, the only guy that was older, shouldn't even count. I had seen this guy before the race, and I recognized him from last year. He showed up, not saying much to anyone, and had the face of, "I'm ready to kill this triathlon." This is fine, and I am all for it. It did look, however, a little of out place considering this was more of a just for fun sort of event, with most people just coming out to try and remember when they had any semblance of the agility and endurance they had in their youth. So, besides the guy the guy that looked like this was the sort of thing in his sleep, Kevin was the oldest.

I will admit that as Kevin was doing the run my mind turned to food, and I lost track of time. I think they may have even given out the awards as he was still out there running. Needless to say, I didn't see Kevin when he finished. The funny thing he would tell, was that no one really see when he finished. See, the run was an out and back sort of a run. Before Kevin made it to the turn around marker he had seen the last of any other runners. In fact, when he was around where the turn around point was, the volunteers taking numbers and telling people to turn around had already packed up and left. Kevin ended up asking people around where he figured it must have been if that was the point that others turned around. Luckily, other people in the parking lot had been there earlier had seen others running before and were able to help him out. But, though feeling a bit forgotten only half way into the run Kevin continued on. He continued on to find that this would be a consistent feeling at the finish line as well. No volunteers were there. Luckily, a passerby, seeing Kevin coming up to the line, knew at least enough to where a stop watch was that was still running so he could record his time.

 The Takeaway
There is so much that I enjoy about seeing Kevin and Kenny coming out to race. I'm not sure I will capture all of it, but here are two things that came to mind as I admired their efforts.

1) They weren't worried about other people. They understood that they were out there to race against themselves. Sure, Kenny was able to feel confident in his abilities as he was keeping up with everyone until he took a spill on his bike. But even when he did take the dive, he kept a positive attitude and kept going. He hadn't sen the course before and was excited to finish what he started. Kevin was the same way. I may have been tempted to pack it in by the time Kenny finished his ride, seeing how far ahead everyone else was (which included a good portion of the teams that were already done). He simply put on his headphones and started running. The great part was, even though he could see others may have forgotten about him and left their stations (i.e. the turnaround point), Kevin actually had his fastest run for a 5K. In fact, the race is a bit further than a 5K, so he must have been even faster than what he had been comparing his time to.

2)  They remained positive and were excited for what each other were doing. I am sure this can be found amongst most members of any team, constantly pushing each other, and showing excitement when the other person finished his part of the race. But I am sure this was even more real, and lasting, as it was a father and son routing each other on.

I won't get too gushy and sentimental here, so I will suffice to say that you could see that they were there for the right reasons. The reasons most of us that show up and do these sorts of things. We know we are there to compete against ourselves, and really enjoy the journey of preparing for something and being able to say you stuck with it to the end.

(Kenny, Kevin, Casey, Daniel, Steve, myself)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Bit of Inspiration, Pt I

General Thought
I am not sure if anyone other than myself will ever read these postings, so I guess I could care less about what I write here. It's my place, so I'll write about what I want to write about. However, for the time being, it seems as though the writings will be based on, or at least have something to do with my various cycling adventures. With that said, this should be about the great experience I was able to witness during the Scout Triathlon I have previously written about.

Kevin and Kenny
(One excited dad, and one 'trying-not-to-be' excited son)
As I've mentioned in the previous posting about the event, the triathlon was put on by some local scout troops that are predominantly made up of young men from my church. Due to scheduling conflicts (football, 'I'm just too lazy', etc), Kenny was the only boy from our ward that was going to participate in the event this year. He had recently been riding his bike more and thought the triathlon sounded like a fun event. His dad, Kevin, also had started running recently in effort to get back into shape, and thought the same thing. After talking with them a few times about the event we came to the conclusion that Casey would be the swimmer for their team, and our team. (For this reason I am sure Casey swam twice as fast.)

(Teams 712 and 713 waiting for Casey)
Early Warning Signs?
In picking up Kevin and Kenny for the event, Kevin mentioned he needed to tighten Kenny's handlebars as they had come loose. In getting to the lake and taking the bikes off the rack, it seemed that the bolt may have been stripped or something, but either way, it was not getting any better with the tools we had with us. I was a little worried for Kenny, but knew the route and realized that the real trouble would be getting up the mountain as he had only been riding his cruiser bike around a fairly flat neighborhood.

I also noticed that the bike he was riding did not have a place for a water bottle. In effort to be a good boy scout myself (I was an Eagle Scout after all, though that was almost half a lifetime ago), I brought an extra helmet and water bottle, and even a plastic bag he could use as a backpack in case he needed it. (NOTE: If I were really thinking I would have thought to bring my CamelBak pack I usually wear when I'm mountain biking. So, not such an Eagle Scout move on my part.) Anyways, Kenny was a good sport and actually agreed to take the water along with him. though I'm not sure if he wore it on his back or carried it like shown in the picture above.

The Ride
I won't go into the ride much here, as you can read my post for how things went for me. I will just point out that I kind of felt old/dumb as I noticed most the other people on the trail did not have water with them. It was only a 30-40 minute ride, maybe they wouldn't need it. Maybe I didn't need it, and I should just man up and think about hydration afterwards. Was I that old that only I needed water part way up the mountain. And was I making Kenny carry a water bottle in a plastic bag on his back, which only added more weight, for no reason? Well, I was at least playing it safe, right!?

The Wait
I got down the mountain and saw Kevin and his wife, Caleen, waiting for their son to come down. At this point I was grateful for one thing. Kenny did not pass me on the ride. I don't have much in life, and I've only been riding a little here and there for a year, but I was glad my pride didn't have to take a hit that a boy that had just started riding, and hadn't ridden this bike, didn't beat me on a trail he had never ridden before.

We watched as others started coming in, and I told them it could be a while, as I was sure Kenny was starting to experience what I had warned him about, it being a steep trail up and all. And I am sure he had to walk more than I did. But after waiting a few minutes, I started to think about Daniel finishing his run, and me needing to be there to finish it with him, so I left. Once Daniel and I came through the finish I looked back over and I noticed Kevin and Caleen still waiting, wondering where Kenny was. By this point I imagined that everyone else had made it through the bike portion of the ride. "So, where's Kenny?"

(I've really got to get to the point on these stories, but they end up longer than I thought. And I want postings more than once every other week)...TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's Kind of a Tri Thing, Pt II

(Me, pumped, waiting for Casey)

On the Road Again
So after I took the time out to take a quick pic and NOT turn on my Strava, I noticed a couple guys pass me, and thought I better get back after it. Back up the trail I went, after the guys that had just passed as I was playing the part of a tourist on vacation, taking pics of the scenery. The switch backs were over, and there were a fell hills to climb before getting to the camping area that is about half way up the mountain. The first hill may be the shortest of the three between me and the camping area, but it is also the steepest. Up I went, and off the bike I went, needing to take 15 steps or so at the steepest part before I could get back on the bike and continue riding. (The part of the trail is fairly compact, so I will be back, and I will be able to ride through that part SOME DAY!) I didn't even mind that I had to walk the bike here for a few steps, most people did. The problem I had was that I had a couple young kids run their bikes by me while I walked mine up. We had more climbing to do and needed to pace ourselves, didn't they KNOW that!? I am sure they did, but they were half my age (Man, that feels REALLY bad to actually be able to write that now) and they could go for days.

Luckily, I was able to tackle the next couple hills on the bike, and may have even gained a spot or two back in the process. I made it through the camping/picnic area, crossed over the paved road, and got to the best (or more like worst) part of the trail. As I rode past a power line tower, the road turned to the right and back up again. This time, the trail had extra powder from the recent leveling of the road to clean out the overgrowth. Once again I felt like it was one of those dirt bike shows on TV where all these riders try and go up this super steep hill, in effort to see just how far up they can get before they have to bail. As I approached the hill I could see guys walking their bikes up, and I kept working my bike up to where they were already walking. "Yeah, gonna get further than they did. Keep going, keep going, keeeee, ah crap, I'm spent." And back to walking until the road gets to a point that you can get back on the saddle again.

A couple more hills and I was to the top. The downhill portion was fun, but I am still working on just letting the bike do its thing under me, and keeping it full throttle. That said, I was happy to report I only had one person pass me on the way down. Again, this was a kid. Their bodies heal faster, and they don't worry about going to work on Monday, so I was okay with that. Besides, I gained some ground back on him when we got to the paved road on the way back to the transition point.

Off He Goes
Daniel was waiting and ready to go as I rolled back into the parking lot. He took off running, and I had two thoughts. 1) How far back is Kenny? 2) What is that smell because it is making me want to puke!?

1) Kenny would end up being back a bit, but that is a story deserving of its own post. And as such, should be my next post.

2) The smell ended up be the Tommy Burgers truck getting our lunch ready. I knew I would be hungry in time, but the mixture of them prepping the greasy, delicious burgers, added in with the chili they make to go on them, was almost enough to make me puke. I quickly dropped the bike and put some distance between me and the truck.

In He Comes
After waiting, looking for Kenny for a few minutes I had to get back over to the end of the run. As we did the triathlon as a team, we were supposed to finish as a team. They asked each of the teams to run the last 100 yards or so together. Casey had left, and so I walked and waited. This I would do, walking a bit further out every couple of minutes, telling myself I had rested a little more and thus would be able to run the rest with Daniel when he came through. I will admit, I didn't go far.

Finally, Daniel was in sight, and we were off to the finish line. Daniel had had a good run, and I am sure only gained ground on those in front of him. (At least that's what I'll tell him.)  

Surprises, it's Prizes
Seeing as we were just finishing our burgers (now feeling much better, they hit the spot), they were ready to announce the winners so we stuck around. Not surprisingly, the overall winners were a few lean and mean teenagers that killed every leg of the race. However, to our surprise, we did end up getting 3rd in the adult team category. I will admit, we were a bit surprised as none of us had really trained for the event. And though there were probably only 15 or so teams we would have been competing against we never thought about beating anyone. With that said, I felt the fool to find out we had missed 2nd by 18 seconds. All of the sudden that stopping to take a picture was coming back to bite me. Doh!!

We anyways, we didn't take home any major winnings (this was Scouting fundraiser after all), but I was stoked to be rocking my medallion!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's Kind of a Tri Thing, Pt I

This weekend was a sport triathlon that is put on by several local boy scout troops in the area. As I have been involved in the Scouting program here for a bit, this was my second year to participate. As I am not a runner, never want to be a runner, and hate to even think about running (unless I'm playing basketball), I was sure to get a couple buddies and make a team. 

The Course
Let me start by saying, the bike part is the hardest part of the race. I say this not because this is the part that I did, but this seems to be what those that participate in the race have to say.

The race starts off with a 400 meter swim in Castaic's lower lagoon, with a quick run up to the transition point in the parking lot for the bike. The ride is only a 5.5 to 6 mile loop, with ~1000 to 1100 ft. of climb in it, but it is steep and the dirt on much of the trail's climbing sections is loose. Once back from the ride, there is a 5k run to finish the race part way around the lower lagoon and back. The run is pretty flat. 
(Me with my bed/helmet head, Casey keeping it modest, and Daniel)

The Race
The race was off and Casey was killing it in the water. I say that, but I have no idea. They were too far away for me to see when they started, and once they started I went to get my bike and be ready at the transition point. But within a few minutes Casey came running up and I was off. He had made what appeared to be good time, with only about 10 or so guys in front of him. Thus, he must have killed it.

I started out strong on the bit of pavement before the dirt turn off. Last year I passed a few guys on the first section before we got to any of the climbs, but last year I started a bit further back in the pack. Right as the trail turned up I passed a couple of kids before the switch backs started. Just before I reached the top switch backs I realized I had made a major mistake, and I was mad...I forgot to start my Strava!

Much can be said about the pros and cons of Strava, but for me it is predominately pros. And this would be the first time that I would actually be racing the entire loop, and I was excited to see how I stacked up once the race was over. I will admit that I wasn't very far into the ride when I remembered, but without the first climb, I felt like the rest of it would be worthless to have. Well, now I REALLY was just riding it to have fun, and I may have not pushed quite as hard as I could have. Okay, I probably did, but I like to think things would have been different had my Strava been going.

Picture Time
With the annoyance of not turning my Strava on I decided that I should at least take a pic of the view, seeing as how this wasn't going to show up anywhere for others to critique me on. So, here's a shot looking down over some of the switch backs:
(I lost a couple spots taking the pic, but it was worth it.)
Okay, I wasn't thinking this was a two part-er, but I want to get this posted and it is running long...[To Be Continued]...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My 1st Event - Santa Clarita Half-Century, Pt II

...So where was I...oh yeah, I had to pee.  It wasn't like this was something I just realized. Right before the ride started it hit me. I was so worried about staying hydrated I was sure to drink plenty the night before and the morning of the ride. Add in the nervousness that comes with going on my first ride, and it all made sense.  But I thought when it hit, "I can't go now, I'll miss the start of the race. Once I get going the feeling will go away."

Unfortunately for me, the feeling did not go away. As I continued to ride the feeling got more poignant. I kept wondering just how mad people would be to see a rider pulled off to the side of the road (still in town mind you) taking a quick leak. As we got out of town I knew I was about 10-11 miles in, and there was a SAG station around mile 18. I was going to do all I could to try and forget about my bodily desires, and focus on riding.

A Little More Encouragement
At the edge of Santa Clarita the ride takes you on a winding back road to Acton. At the start of the road to Acton I was still around a good number of riders. This was new road for me on my bike as I had only driven before the race to see what I was up for. I was glad to see that I was doing well on the climbs, at least considering the company I was in, and it pushed me forward. In fact, on the second or third hill out of town I was the most pumped as one guy looked over and said to me as I passed him and a few others climbing up the hill, "You're a monster!"  

I felt like a monster! I was passing people climbing some small hills, but they were the only hills I had ridden up to that point in my short cycling career, and they felt good. (I will admit here that I know I am not a good climber. When I ride with guys, road or mtn, I am one of the slower ones. I know that the better riders were well beyond me at this point, and most were probably doing the century that started an hour before we did. But it still felt good to be passing people.)

Settling In
After a few miles there were fewer people. I passed a couple more and finally made it to the first stop where I was able to, well relieve myself. I topped off my water, and took an extra minute asking a volunteer to re-pin my number to my jersey as the sun had come up and I took my jacket, as was back on my way. I was not planning to stop here as I wanted to make my only stop in Acton (the half-way point), but nature called and took a few minutes of my time. 

So adjustments made, I was back on the road, and back in pace with a few individuals. Never close enough to do any drafting of them, or them off me, but making a decent time to get to town.

Once in Acton, I made a quick stop just to grab a couple orange slices, top off the bottles again to make sure I had enough liquid to get me home, and I was out. I had to make up for lost time on the first stop.  I knew that this would be my least favorite part of the ride. (Or at least I thought it would be my least favorite part.)

Coming out of Acton, I was about half way through the race in terms of distance, and probably had climbed almost two-thirds of the total vert. Here, however, I knew it was a slow and steady climb for the next five miles. The gradient honestly would be laughable for serious riders, but for a guy just getting onto a bike riding five miles with gradients ranging mostly from two to seven degrees, at a point that was towards the end of the longest distance that I had ridden up to that point, I knew I just had to keep my head down and keep riding. The not so good news was there was no one close around me. No one to push me, no one to take turns pulling with. The good news was I knew after the climb there would only be a couple short steep climbs left in the ride. The rest would be downhill or flat. I just settled in and tried to find a rhythm.

Bringing It Home
By the time I reached the top of the hill I actually caught a group of four guys. They appeared to be working together up the hill (of which I was most envious), but I had caught them on my own. I will admit one of the guys kept turning around and talking to the other three up the hill, pushing them on. He could have left them in the dust going up the hill, and did once they hit the top.

Regardless, at this point I knew I earned the fun that was coming. About nine miles of fun riding down hill only broken up by a couple quick, hard climbs. About seven of the miles had gradients between the two to eight degree range. This allowed me to get some real speed on my bike for the first time, getting up to 48 mph (so says Strava). Then it was pretty flat the last 15 miles to finish out the ride.

As I thought before, that the hill coming out of Acton would be my least favorite part, but that would probably come in a close 2nd to the numbness that set in in my nether regions between miles 38 and 45 on the beat up, boring road back into town. 

Then came the worst part. I had planned out the ride, scoured over the map multiple times prepping myself to ride the 50 miles. But, just as I thought I was close to the final stretch, I was the arrows point in a different direction for a small detour that would add another mile or two to the ride. I was over it by this point. I was tired, I was hungry, and mainly I had told myself I only had so far left. Now, I had to add more distance to the ride. I made the turn, did the extra portion (though I didn't see anyone else doing it), and was glad to be greeted by the best looking cutest looking family a guy could ask for at the finish line.

How it ended up:
Distance: 53.5 miles
Time: 3:24:24
Ending feeling: I HAVE to do this again!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My 1st Event - Santa Clarita Half-Century, Pt I

The Idea
So, about a year ago I got my road bike, and after a few months of riding shorter, easier rides (10 to 25 miles) I started looking at different events that I could participate in, that would also give me something to work towards. By this time it was towards the end of the year, and the start of a new year would bring my busy season. (I am an accountant. Not the lame, boring, stereotypical accountant that you are picturing in your mind. Just a lame, boring, non-stereotypical accountant that, well, may not be far off from what you originally were picturing. Your mind may have had some guy in a white shirt and tie behind a computer. I, however, sometimes wear a blue shirt. Heck, sometimes even a PINK or PURPLE shirt. Yes, I have little girls.) Because of my busy season, it would mean that riding in an event would probably have to wait for summer. But, seeing that the city I live in (Santa Clarita) was holding its 5th Annual Century Ride, I knew that I could slip away from the office to get in the 50 mile ride even though it was just two weeks before the filing deadline.  
(The photographer's site was down so I couldn't event buy any prints to put in the blog.)

Skipping Ahead to the Pre-Event
Like I said, it was busy season and I had not really trained. In fact, I had only ridden more than 30 miles maybe two or three times before the event, so I wasn't sure how things would go. A couple friends were going to ride the 50 miles with me, but bailed just before the event. So when I showed up, I was solo. 

Having never been part of an organized ride before, I had no idea what to expect. I had barely bought my first kit just weeks before the event, so when I showed up I was put back by the number of people all pro'd out with their matching getup and game day faces on. (Side note: Shortly after getting my bike a friend told me he saw me riding one Saturday morning. He knew it was me because, as he said, "The guy was riding a nice Bianchi and was wearing gym clothes...I knew it HAD to be you." After that comment I started to realize when I was riding that the person that stood out on the trails riding was actually me. Everyone else was wearing cycling garb. So finally, I manned up and put on some bibs.)

Before the start of the ride everyone was riding around, making final adjustments to their bikes and gear to make sure things were perfect, and I knew so little about fixing my bike that I wasn't even sure I'd get through a flat tire as I hadn't even changed one to date on my bike. With it being as cold as it was that morning, I was starting to think I should just pack it up and try again another day. 

After a minute or so of talking myself into the ride while I sat in the warm van I got out, grabbed my gear and started riding around on my bike in the parking lot. "Just do what the other guys are doing, and act like you've been here before," I thought to myself.  Luckily, as we were lining up to start the ride I noticed that there were a few other people that no more ready for this than I did. 

A Ray of Hope - Gary
As I stood waiting for the event to start I realized there was a guy five feet to my left that had the same bike as I did, and was standing alone. His name was Gary. Turned out we were pretty similar. Not only did we have the same great taste in bikes, Bianchi Infinitos, but he got his bike only a month before I got my bike. It was also his first road bike, and he had never ridden over 40 miles before. Where we differed is that is had more time to ride than I did, and he had done most of the climbs before, whereas I had only ridden most flat trails around town. Luckily for me, I did have one thing that MIGHT help me in trying to ride with Gary: I was over 30 YEARS YOUNGER! As most riders can attest, age can't always make up for experience. And being in my early 30's was different than being in my early 20's. Back then, even though I wasn't the most athletic, I never needed to worry about getting sore or tiring out. However, as Gary and I were in the same boat with just starting to ride as a way to trick our bodies in thinking that we weren't really exercising, I thought maybe I wouldn't be the last one across the finish. And if I was, hopefully I wouldn't be alone.

The Ride
The ride started and we were underway. Gary and I visited with each other, both going rather slow. Gary told me a couple of times that I could go ahead, but I wasn't sure how I would do on the hills or on the length, so I thought it better to pace myself at the beginning. Besides, this was the part of the ride that has roads closed, and a police escort in parts.

After a mile or so of Gary and I riding along, I lost Gary going around a corner. We were both going rather slow, but managed to pass a group of 10-12 people, I on one side and Gary on the other. The only problem was, Gary never made it around the group this time. I waited for a couple minutes, going rather slow (did I mention we were going slow), and then realized that if I were going to ever pick up the pace maybe now was my time. And maybe Gary was wanting to ride alone. (There were plenty of police at the corner blocking traffic, so I knew that if Gary took a bad spill going three miles an hour around a large turn, after having gone one mile, there would be plenty of help. So, no, I did not leave him stranded.)

So off I went. I had plenty of people in front of me, and all of them were starting to scatter out. So, one by one, or small group by small group, I started passing people as we rode to the outskirts of town. I was feeling good and the riders were getting spread out thinner and thinner. Now I only had one thing holding me back. I really had to pee!...[To be continued]...

A Little Extra Motivation

(San Francisquito Creek Trail)
Some days it's fun to get out and push yourself to new limits. Go at it solo, and just push and push some more. You don't have to wait for anyone, nor do you have to feel bad because someone is waiting for you...Okay, that is not me. I actually enjoy riding with people. I don't mind waiting for any of my friends when we ride. And to be honest, I LOVE riding road with guys that are faster than me. They push me harder to ride than I push myself. With that said, last weekend I found myself riding solo.

(Please know that I occasionally go off on tangents. Usually I think it may give more background to a story, or it is to bring up something I find humorous. You, however, may find that my tangents are neither. Just bare with me, regardless of your thoughts. Someday, it will all come together and you will understand how amazingly my mind operates. If you keep reading my blogs for a while and still haven't figured it out, well then the secret is this...ah crap just realized my tangent was on a tangent...let me get back to the first anticipated tangent so I can get back to the original purpose of the posting...)

I am planning to do the Fall Tour de St. George in and last Saturday was six weeks and counting to the ride. I was thinking that I was going to do the ride solo, and planned to do the 75 mile route, in preparation of 111 mile El Tour de Tucson in November. Now it looks like my buddy Jared may now join me in St. George and he wants to complete the century. So, even though my normal partner in crime was out for the day, I knew I needed to get a good ride in even if it was by myself.

Back to Story At Hand
I left the house thinking I needed to get at least 30 miles in, and hoped to get closer to 40. I also planned to keeping it easy by staying on the trails in town, so off I went. I went out to the end of the trail on the east side of town (about 11 miles in) and turned around to make my way to some other parts of town when I came across Dennis, Lee, and Chris.

Another Tangent
So as I've gotten into cycling, I've hit up various shops in town and gotten to know of a few groups of people that ride together. Out of the big shop in town is the Velo cycling club. These guys are fast, these guys are hard, and for a newer rider like myself, these guys are intimidating.  In an effort to get some experience riding in groups, I met up with a 'beginner' or 'less intense' group of riders a few months back. That's where I met Dennis, Lee, and Chris.

Okay, Let's Stay on Target
As I passed by Dennis and Lee, and their small group I thought about it for a few seconds, and then decided to do an about face and join them for their ride.  I knew that they would be going a decent distance, but I also knew that they would be going a bit slower than even I am used to. (Did I mention, Lee is 79!!? Amazing that this guys rides 60+ miles one day, and 30+ the next day, each week!!!) 

Anyways, just as I expected the ride was great. I took a couple new roads I had not been on before, met a couple new people I didn't know before, and hit a new top speed in my short career of riding at 47.9 mph. I understand that may be slow to most, but I have no need to go any faster. Yet. 

Here are a couple other pics from the ride:
(Coming down Vasquez Canyon Rd)
(Evidence I was there)
And if there was any point that I was going to make with this blog, I guess it would be this. Riding with others can be great, particularly on those days when you need some extra motivation.  I ended up getting in 40 miles that day with the limited time that I had. I am sure if I was riding solo, I would have thought about everything else I could/maybe should have been doing, and justified ending much sooner. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What I Am & What I Amn't

My skillz

Allow myself to introduce...myself. I have been riding bikes for a little over a year. I started with a mountain bike that was bought as much to pull my daughters in a trailer as it was to get out on the mountain. After a few months I decided that since I was riding the paseos around town more than the mountain, due to accessibility, it was time to man up and get a road bike. From there, I really started loving to ride. 

I am a husband and father to a very beautiful wife (if I do say so myself) and three very adorable little children. Add to family time the amount of time that I put in to work and serving in my church and it is quick to determine that my riding time becomes very limited. As a result, I am more of a weekend warrior at best. With that said, I have noticed that based on my review of those that use Strava in my area I am somewhere in the middle of the pack. And I figure that is about where I will stay. So, if you are expecting a blog site about how I am killing every event I enter, and am the know it all for everything cycling I am sad to say I am not that guy. Thus, you won't ever see me in this group of guys (leaders of Stage 5 of the Tour of California coming into the final stretch, here in MY town!).

I think the first guy is yelling, "Shut up legs!"

I am, however, still someone that loves to ride very much. While more of my time is spent riding road these days I still make it a point to get out and ride with some friends that show me how mountain biking is done every so often. However, with the events that I have planned to do in the next few months, I probably will need to get a good number of miles under my belt on the road. 


Side note - I understand that it is probably offensive to most cyclists that I do not use the metric system. My response to that: 1) Deal with it, and 2) maybe I will switch over at some point if my riding gets good enough that I can pretend I know what I'm talking about and can back it up. Though I will admit it is nice to sound like I've done more because I've simply converted my miles to km's. 'Man, I road 100 km's today!' vs. 'I road 62 miles.' Well at my level of riding, that would be pretty good either way. But you get the idea.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Here We Go Again

So, I've been debating for quite some time about whether I should start blogging about my rides. It all started when I completed my first cycling event back in March, and LOVED every minute of it (except for about 15 minutes of it). I knew I needed an outlet, and actually have posted one ride report on a sweet cycling blog that is by guys that are both better writers and better riders than me. ( - check it out!) They were nice enough to invite me to write more regularly, and I may do so. However, when I write there it may be with more purpose whereas here I can feel free to write whatever I want and not have to worry about it.

With that said, I am not sure if this will last or not, but I will try writing again. Also, this blog will be more purpose oriented towards my cycling, (though I WILL NOT be held back if I desire to write about something else here!) but I will not delete my old posts. Consider it an added bonus for coming across my site that you can read about random musings from a couple years ago in my life. However you've found it, welcome to Evan's Corner.