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.
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