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...