Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Ride Notes for October 25th, 2014

Some people climb Mount Everest without oxygen (which is stupid), and today I chose to ride two hours through Tucson and the Arizona desert without water (which is equally as stupid). Perhaps I should give you the details…

2014-10-25

On Saturdays I usually have my long rides, which means that I typically try to ride for more than 40 miles. That being said, I have been on the email list for one of the local cycling shops, Sabino Cycles, for a couple of months. Their shop organizes weekly rides on Saturdays and Sundays, and I have never gone riding with them for two primary reasons:

  1. Their rides usually start around 6:00am
  2. They provide almost no details about their rides

Both of these reasons have usually been show-stoppers for me, because I have never been what you call a "Morning Person," (I usually go to bed around 2:00am and get up around 8:30am), and I don't like the idea of going on a ride that I know nothing about.

Note: Their emails usually contain information like, "This Saturday we'll ride our north route, and we'll leave the shop at 6:00am." That's almost nothing to go on, so I emailed the guy who organizes their rides to see if he could provide a map of their course routes with his emails. He replied that they like to change their rides, so he would prefer not to send a map. On a different occasion I have tried to explain to people who work in their shop that they would do better to at least say, "This Saturday's ride will be along Sunrise Drive through the Catalina Foothills, and we will probably ride somewhere around two hours or 30 miles depending on the pace and the weather. How hard is that? OK – I'll get off my soapbox.

Anyway, this week's email provided one piece of useful information: they were going to ride part of the El Tour de Tucson course, which I plan to ride next month. Their email said that today's ride was starting at 6:45am, which is somewhat closer to reasonable for me, so I set my alarm to get up early and ride with their group.

Unfortunately, I am who I am, so I was still wide awake and working on my computer at 3:00am when Kathleen got up to check on me. She asked if I was still going on the ride, to which I replied "Yes," and I eventually climbed into bed around 20 minutes or so later. Of course, that meant that it was quite the shock when my alarm went off at 5:45am. When you're working with only two hours of sleep, you make bad choices (like going on an early morning bike ride) and you tend to make mistakes (which I will get to later).

Nevertheless, I forced myself out of bed and I shuffled off through the house as I grabbed my gear and got ready to leave. I had set some things out the night before so I wouldn't be stumbling through our bedroom in the dark while Kathleen was sleeping. That helped out, but I still had some things to put together for today. I loaded several packets of Gu and a Cliff Bar into my bicycle's panniers, and I prepped four water bottles filled with Gatorade. I had wanted to hit the road by 6:00am because I knew that it would take a half-hour to get to the location where everyone was meeting, and I wanted to hit a McDonald's along the way to pick up an egg-white McMuffin to carb load for the ride.

Note: I missed my departure goal by a few minutes, but not by many. I stopped by the McDonald's according to plan, and this is one of those McDonald's stores with two drive through lanes that feed into one for expediency. As I pulled up, someone spoke over the intercom and asked me to wait while they took the order of the person in the other lane. I said, "No problem," and waited my turn. But after the other car had finished, there was a long pause after the next car pulled forward in the other lane. After a few minutes, the anonymous intercom voice took that car's order. Once it had pulled forward, the disembodied voice started to take the next car's order. By now McDonald's had wasted several minutes of my time and I didn't think that I would make the ride. But I was trapped in the drive through lane by several cars behind me, so I simply pulled forward. When I got to the window, the person started to rattle off someone else's order, and I explained that she had completely forgotten about me (and ostensibly everyone else in my lane). She profusely apologized, and I replied, "No worries – these things happen." I picked up my order within a couple minutes and got on my way.

It was still early in the morning, so there was little traffic, and as a result I sailed through Tucson and I arrived at the rally point near a coffee shop and bakery with a few minutes to spare. There were 30 or so cyclists who were there and ready to go, so I hopped out and started to get my gear ready as other cyclists arrived. I had worn a set of regular shorts over my cycling shorts, with the intention of stripping off the outer shorts before the ride. I had also set out one of my cycling jerseys the night before, so I reached into the back of the car – only to realize that I had failed to pack my cycling jersey in the car. (This was mistake #1.)

I thought to myself, "That's okay – I can wear the t-shirt that I'm already wearing, and since I don't have back pockets in a cycling jersey that I can use, I'll just bring two water bottles with me instead of four." It was then that I realized that I had also failed to bring the four water bottles that I had put together before I left the house. (This was obviously mistake #2.) All of those items were sitting safely and uselessly at home, so I thought that my chances of going on this ride were pretty much shot down in flames by my self-imposed fatigue and the terminal forgetfulness which was plaguing me as a result.

Nevertheless, I walked over to listen to the pre-ride briefing by the ride organizer, and as the group or 40 or 50 riders took off, I walked back to the car and weighed my options. I thought that I could call the whole affair a bust and head home, pick up my jersey and water bottles, and do some other ride. But I wanted to go over this leg of the El Tour de Tucson route, and I didn't want to miss this opportunity. Eventually I resolved to go on the ride without water. (This was mistake #3.) My reasoning was that I had several Gu packets, and I could stop for water if I needed to. To that end, I packed some cash and my debit card into my bike's panniers, just in case I would need them.

By this point the riders had been gone for several minutes, and as I hopped on my bicycle and sped after them, I realized that I had neglected to take off my outer shorts, so I was still wearing a set of shorts over my cycling shorts. (Crap. Crap. Crap. And that makes mistake #4.)

The group was far out of sight as I pulled onto the main road, and for the first mile or so I had to deal with the thought that I might not actually be riding the same route as the rest of the group, which meant that this ride might be a complete bust – again. I decided that if that scenario turned out to be true, I would simply ride for a bunch of miles and then turn around so I would at least salvage something of a decent ride out of my debacle.

As I sped down the road trying to locate the group, I noticed that my GPS was trying to tell me something. I read the status message on my GPS screen, which was telling me that it detected that I was moving – but I had never hit the 'start' button on the GPS to tell it that I had actually started my ride. (Dude? Seriously? Is your brain even working? Apparently not, and this was mistake #5.)

Shortly after I discovered my failure and hit the start button on my GPS, I remembered that I had brought my cellphone with me, where I have an app that I use as a backup GPS. Of course, I had packed the cellphone into my bicycle panniers, so I hadn't hit the start button on that, either. (Which brings us to stupid mistake #6.)

Somewhere about the two-mile mark I thankfully caught up to the group. Shortly after I pulled into the pack, someone had a flat tire, so the entire group pulled over while three or four people worked on the bike and quickly changed out the tire. As I was waiting, I noticed that the part of my GPS screen that should be displaying my heart rate was blank, and then I realized that I had failed to put on my heart rate monitor. (Um, that would be mistake #7, I guess.)

To be honest, the heart rate monitor is simply for curiosity – I don't need to have it, but it's kind of cool to look at my statistics after the ride, so this mistake wasn't all that bad. Anyway, I remember thinking to myself earlier that morning that I should put on my heart rate monitor before I left the house, but then I thought, "Nah, I'll get that later." Now I was several miles into the ride, and I figured that my heart rate monitor was probably sitting at home with my cycling jersey and water bottles. As I was mentally kicking myself for my never-ending comedy of errors, I suddenly remembered that I had put my heart rate monitor in the pocket of my shorts – the same shorts that I had failed to take off before I started the ride. (OK – failing to realize that I had the heart rate monitor with me the whole time is obviously mistake #8, but do I at least get credit for remembering to bring something? Does that negate one of the mistakes that I already counted?)

As I was putting on the heart rate monitor, one of the other cyclists in the group humorously remarked, "You know, you're not wearing a pretty cycling jersey like everyone else." I laughed and replied, "Yeah, it's sitting at home – with my water bottles." She laughed and said, "At least you remembered your helmet." (Taking everything else into account, it seems like a minor miracle that I didn't forget that, too.) Once the cyclists changing the tire caught up to us, the group took off again.

This was my first time riding in a group, and I was pretty happy that my pace seemed to be on par with the majority of the riders. That being said, there were some cool things that I noticed during the ride – most of the riders were great about calling out "On your left" as they passed, and they were great about pointing out hazards like debris in the road, approaching cars, braking for stoplights, etc.

I also learned that it was extremely bad to be stopped by a red light – because the group will be a good half-mile beyond you by the time the light changes in your favor again. However, the group's organizers were great about pulling the group to a halt now and again to let the group reform. This turned out to be extremely advantageous at one point, because I was somewhere between several groups of riders that were strewn across a mile or so of territory, and I pushed hard to catch a yellow light – which turned red as I cleared the intersection – thereby cutting me off from the group behind me. However, I was far enough behind the group in front of me that I lost them when they turned a corner at a subsequent intersection. In this section of town there were cyclists from all over who were making their way through this particular intersection, and I couldn't be sure which cyclists were part of the group that I was following. I took a guess and turned a corner, but I didn't see anyone that I recognized. By now I was thinking, "Oh great, I'm a good 15 miles from where we started out, I've never been in this part of the desert before, and I have no water." There were several houses around, so I wouldn't be completely out of luck if something went wrong, but as I zipped along I suddenly heard someone yelling, "Hey!" from a side street. As it turns out, our merry band of cyclists had pulled over to regroup again, and someone thankfully recognized me well enough to stop me from absent-mindedly riding past them as I sped off into unknown desert lands.

This turned out to be somewhere around the half-way mark of the ride, and it was mostly uneventful for the rest of the way back to the bakery. There was one big hill that we had to climb, which I don't think will be on the El Tour de Tucson route. A bunch of the riders had a hard time with it, so I was thankful that nearly all of my normal rides are hill workout rides.

I should point out that I also had to learn another riding skill: what to do when you're boxed in. I was riding faster than a small group of cyclists in front of me, but as I caught up to them, two cyclists pulled up on my left side and prevented me from passing. I tried to signal that I wanted to pull out, but the cyclists didn't pick up on that. (Which was probably due to my bad hand signals instead of any error on their part.) I decided to simply slow down, drop behind the gaggle of riders, then I pulled around the left side and pulled ahead.

As we started to approach our starting/ending point for the ride, I had been riding for nearly two hours with no water. Along the way I had consumed two packages of Gu to keep my electrolytes up, but there's little moisture in those. (Actually, Gu makes the inside of your mouth kind of slimy, so I usually wash them down with water). With that in mind, I didn't want to have another package of Gu, but I could really tell that my lack of water was beginning to take a serious toll on me. It was extremely difficult to climb small hills which I normally would zip over at a pretty good pace. As a result, I understandably dropped towards the back of the group, and I spent a lot of the time simply tucking my head down and continuing to pedal even though my legs were starting to scream out for some desperately-needed hydration. (Seriously – you can tell when this happens; it's not a good feeling.) As one of the other cyclists observed, "Sometimes you have to pretend that you're 'Dora' from Finding Nemo and 'Just Keep Riding… Just Keep Riding…'"

We were probably a half-mile from the finish when we stopped at a red light, and another cyclist in the group pointed to the empty water bottle cages on my frame as he asked, "Dude – do you need water?" I knew that we would probably finish the ride in the next few minutes, so I laughed it off and said, "No thanks, I think I'm good for the last part of the ride." Another rider replied, "You just need some coffee and a pastry," to which I enthusiastically agreed.

A couple of minutes later we pulled into the parking lot near the bakery, and as I unlocked our car, I remembered that I had some leftover coffee from earlier that morning – which I downed in a single gulp. Once I had my bicycle secured, I walked over to the bakery, where I proceeded to buy an enormous cup of iced tea and a mini-éclair, because I earned that darn éclair. (And I consciously wanted some sugar back in my system.) Once I had downed both of those items, I hopped in the car and I headed home for the day.

My moral to today's story? I need to put together a checklist before I do another ride like this in order to make sure that I don't leave any critical items sitting on the counter at home. (And yes, it would probably be better if I got more than two hours of sleep, but I can't count on that – my body just isn't wired that way.)

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 6:54am
    • Distance: Somewhere over 31 miles (see notes)
    • Duration: 1:52:53
    • Calories Burned: 1,214 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,283 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.2 mph
    • Peak Speed: 32.5 mph
    • Average Cadence: 73.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 63.5 F
    • Minimum: 55.4 F
    • Maximum: 77.0 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 155 bpm
    • Maximum: 174 bpm
Posted: Oct 25 2014, 14:14 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 24th, 2014

I decided to to a mid-day ride today because sunset is getting earlier and earlier each day, and since I can make it out and back in roughly an hour now, it makes for a decent lunch break activity. By the way, I normally ride my 17-mile course from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I was busy with work yesterday so I skipped my ride.

2014-10-24

The temperature was unseasonably warm today. We've been having temperatures in the 70s, and for some reason it was up in the 90s today. That impacted my ride a little, but that being said, I was a little off my norm during this ride. I'm still not sure what it was, but my normal level of energy just wasn't quite there.

I could tell early on that I was riding slightly behind my usual pace. One thing that I noticed during the ride was that my heart rate was above my normal average; I'm not sure if that was the cause of my slower pace or a result of something else that was wrong. In any event, I was dangerously close to my maximum heart rate as I rode up the big hill on Riparian Ridge, so I broke with my normal tradition of staying on the top chain ring of my drive train and I downshifted my chain ring. I only did that for a hundred yards or so, but still – I briefly felt like a failure. This is, of course, ridiculous – my bicycle has gears for a reason, so I should use them when I need to.

In the end, I completed my ride around Saguaro National Park in 33:36, which was 3½ minutes behind my best pace for the park, and I finished the full ride about 4 minutes behind my normal pace. That wasn't that bad, really – it was still considerably faster than I used to ride, but I can't help being critical. Although I should mention that I lost a minute or two on today's because of tourists who stopped their cars in the middle of the road, which can be a real pain when you're sailing along at 25mph or more.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 11:54am
    • Distance: 16.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:06:09
    • Calories Burned: 785 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,152 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 15.3 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.7 mph
    • Average Cadence: 63.0 rpm
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 165 bpm
    • Maximum: 181 bpm
Posted: Oct 24 2014, 16:37 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 21st, 2014

I don't have many notes for today's ride – it was pretty straightforward, and I rode my usual 17-mile trek around Saguaro National Park. My legs had been a little tight after last Saturday's ride, but I stretched out well before the ride, so I felt pretty good throughout today's ride.

2014-10-21

That being said, there were a few too many cars going around the park today. They are required to go 15 mph, which can be pretty inconvenient when you're going 25-30mph. Even worse is when the cars stop in the middle of the road with their doors open. (Argh.) That being said, I still manage to politely say "Hi" to everyone as I pass them by.

There was a family in one car which I passed in one of the flat areas, then they passed me on Riparian Ridge, then I caught up to them as we passed Javelina Rocks and they pulled to one side for me. (That was a nice gesture.) I zipped past them, and I didn't see them again as I sailed through the rest of the park. (Which stands to reason since I'm able to ride faster than the 15mph speed limit for that section of the park.) I left the park and was cruising down Old Spanish Trail when they passed me again; they honked and waved, and I waved in return – but there was no way that I could catch them since they were probably travelling at 40mph or so.

My pace for the day was right about average for me; I was just shy of 17mph for my speed, and I completed the ride just a couple minutes over an hour.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 4:45pm
    • Distance: 16.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:02:03
    • Calories Burned: 681 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 821 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.3 mph
    • Peak Speed: 32.3 mph
    • Average Cadence: 61.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 70.6 F
    • Minimum: 68.0 F
    • Maximum: 73.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 159 bpm
    • Maximum: 177 bpm
Posted: Oct 21 2014, 10:45 by Bob | Comments (0)
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More 511th Stories - Why I Love Coffee

I arrived in Fulda, Germany, in January of 1988, which was in the middle of a German winter. In case you ever wondered just how cold that can be, please take my word for it – German temperatures plummet during the winter months. I had barely completed in-processing for the 11th ACR and picked up my TA-50 from Regimental Supply when the 511th was deployed to Wildflecken for a few weeks. I had some experience with snow camping as a Boy Scout when I was younger, but this was my first experience sharing an 8-man squad tent far out in the German woods for weeks on end. As soon as that deployment had ended, we were deployed to Meissner for a couple of weeks, and then I was deployed somewhere else along the border for a couple of weeks, etc. (By the end of 1988, I had been deployed for 40 of the 52 weeks.)

But I noticed one interesting thing about each of my winter deployments: one squad member always seemed to get up before everyone else every morning to face the cold alone, and he made the coffee for the rest of the squad. Everyone loved that guy, and I decided that I wanted to be that guy. It wasn't because I wanted to be liked by everyone; it was because this guy's act of daily self-sacrifice brought a brief moment of joy to an otherwise miserable moment in everyone's lives.

I don't think that anyone ever asked the original "Coffee Guy" to take on the dubious honor of climbing out of a warm [sic] sleeping bag and venturing out into the snow to brew a strong pot of joe for his fellow comrades-in-arms; I'm sure he simply thought that everyone else would like to wake up to the wonderful aroma of caffeine gently wafting through the tent. By the time I had arrived in Fulda, the self-appointed role of coffee steward had been assumed by SGT "Heave" Mauer. (Note: Everyone in our unit had a nickname; mine was "Fred" because of Fred MacMurray, and you can probably guess where Heave got his.)

Heave was a good guy, and he usually hung out with an assorted collection of ne'er-do-wells (Skip, Duncan, Sleazer, Punky, etc.) They had all been in Fulda long before I was assigned to the company, which made me "The Newbie" during the first six months or so of my tenure there. Despite my branded status as a new guy, Heave was always nice to me – he taught me a lot about how the 511th worked, how to organize a deployment, how to keep your vehicle combat loaded at all times, and how he got his nickname.

It was fairly early on when I noticed that Heave was making the coffee every morning, which I attributed to his "nice guy" disposition. But as the months wore on, I realized that a little bit of effort on his part made a big difference for squad morale. I know that it sounds like a line from a bad coffee commercial, but there is something about waking up with a warm cup of coffee that helps start your day with a better attitude.

Heave was "Old School" about his coffee making; he used an ancient, WWII-era portable Army stove – the Aladdin M-42 – and a beat-up percolator to brew his demitasse. Heave's style showed an extra level of dedication; his particular method was a long process which required patience and persistence. As the winter months gave way to spring and summer, I slowly lost my newbie status, and somewhere along the way I started to join Heave during his morning java routine. I'm not what you call a "Morning Person," so getting up when the world was still dark was a bit of a sacrifice for me. But I thought that Heave's efforts were a noble cause, and if he could do it every day, perhaps he could use some company.

Heave continued to use his old-fashioned brewing methods, but I'm not so antiquated – I started to drag my Mr. Coffee machine with us when we deployed to the border, and I'd plug that into the generators that we used for the radios. I could make more coffee in less time, but nevertheless – my approach to coffee-making was cause for repeated scorn from Heave. He would ask me where was my devotion to tradition, and I would be forced to admit that I had none – I simply wanted some caffeine to start my day.

I formed an emotional attachment to coffee during the winter months, because it was the only thing warm that I would have all day. We were usually deployed somewhere along the East German border, and we generally ate MREs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, we were frequently forced to eat those cold, so coffee was almost always my only source of heat for the day. I would fill my metal canteen cup with java, then I would wrap my fingers around the cup and let the warmth seep into my body while I inhaled the wonderful fragrance that is adored by coffee lovers everywhere. I would eventually drink my cup of coffee, of course, but I would do so with a sense that everything was going to be okay.

I think that it was sometime around the end of my first year in Germany when Heave's time in the Army was up, and he headed back to the United States. But I kept the tradition going after his departure – and I continued to get up every morning and make the coffee for everyone else as we headed into another German winter. I may not have used Heave's methods, but I don't think that mattered to anyone else. No one criticized my technique; everyone was simply happy to have coffee.

My morning ritual consisted of crawling out of my sleeping bag at zero-dark-thirty, getting dressed in subzero temperatures, heading out into the pre-dawn blackness, firing up the generator, and brewing the first pot of the day. I'll be honest – no one else was up at that hour, so I usually filled my personal thermos with the initial fruits of my labor, and by the time I finished brewing the second pot of coffee, some of the remaining squad members would start to drift out of the tent. By my third year in Germany, I had amended my morning routine slightly: I purchased a pair of propane heaters, so I would get up in the morning, light the heaters to take the initial chill out of the air for everyone else, and then I would head outside to make the coffee.

I had a lot of amusing experiences greeting the day before everyone else; here are just a couple examples:

  • I vividly recall one wintry dawn at the Schlossberg when I was trying to fill the coffee pot with water; I started to pour water from a five-gallon jug, and I had barely poured an inch of water into the carafe when the water froze in motion and clogged the mouth of the five-gallon jug. I grabbed another five-gallon jug and had a similar experience. Three jugs later and I had five useless water jugs with barely a few inches of water in the pot. I held up the carafe, and as I watched – the few inches of water froze before my eyes. I remember thinking to myself, "What in the world am I doing here?"
  • On a different frosty morning at our Wanfried site, I was drinking my first cup of the day as Duncan came stumbling out of the tent. He sauntered over through the snow and commented, "You know, it doesn't matter how old you get – whenever you wake up and see snow on the ground, just for a moment you think to yourself, 'Hey, maybe there's no school today…'"

It has been almost 25 years since the events of these assorted memories took place, but I still love a good cup of joe. I no longer have to drag myself out of bed in the hours before dawn and shuffle through snow to brew my coffee for the day, but the emotional attachment is still there. It's not about the caffeine anymore since I gave that up several years ago; there's just something about holding a warm cup of coffee in the morning that still makes me think that everything is going to be okay.

Posted: Oct 21 2014, 02:17 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 18th, 2014

It has been a little over a week since I did a serious ride, but perhaps I should explain. I've been really busy between work and school, so I put off my usual rides. (I rode 12.8 miles on the 13th, but that was commute riding – so I don't count that.) I caught up on all my projects, and my brother and sister-in-law came to town, so it seemed like a good time to get back on the bike (both literally and figuratively).

That being said, my brother-in-law – Andy – agreed to go on my normal 17-mile ride around Saguaro National Park (SNP) and then home again. I have two bikes, a second full set of riding gear, and I gave him the choice between riding my hybrid or my road bike. Andy picked the hybrid, although I did warn him that it was ten pounds heavier and the road bike was better at climbing hills. (I also told him that he might regret his decision.)

2014-10-18

I asked Andy what pace he normally rode at, and he said 12 to 13mph. I usually ride 16 to 17mph, so I asked Andy to ride up front and set the pace. (Actually, I didn't think of that until we had already ridden a mile. Darn.) Andy called his pace pretty much on the nose, and we made it to the park after 20 minutes or so. As we started around the park, I tried my best to call out the hills that we were facing. (After all, I have ridden there before.)

To be honest, I tried something of an experiment – I didn't change gears for this ride. For the ride out the park and the first 3.5 miles, I was in my second-to-highest gear, and from the 5-mile point in the park until I got home I rode in my highest gear. My idea was, riding in higher gears for most of the ride would force me to ride a little slower and that should help to balance out our pace. (That kind of worked; more about that later.)

For the most part, we continued around the park with Andy in front, although I had to zip past him at one point when we hit the hills that I call the "Three Sisters." (This was only because I knew how I like to manage my speed through that section of the park; I kind of felt badly about that.) We picked up speed for the couple miles that lead up to Riparian Ridge, but remember how I mentioned that I was trying to stay in one gear? I tried that when riding up the big hill on the ridge – big mistake. I pushed my heart rate pretty high and burned off more calories than I had eaten for the day, so when Andy asked to take a break half-way up the hill – I needed to load up on a pack of Gu to get my electrolytes back up. (PS – That worked.)

After we made it round the park, we headed home. Andy felt a little light-headed; I suggested that he was probably dehydrated. I had given him two 24-ounce bottles of water for the ride, so I asked him how much water he drank – which was 1/8th of a single bottle. (In contrast, I downed a full 24-ounce bottle.)

One last thing about this ride – there was a 20-degree difference between the low temperature (71.6 degrees) and the high temperature (91.4 degrees). I don't reacll ever having seen that much fluctuation in ushc a short ride before.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 10:18am
    • Distance: 17.0 miles
    • Duration: 1:17:02
    • Calories Burned: 558 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 826 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 13.2 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.6 mph
    • Average Cadence: 45.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 83.2 F
    • Minimum: 71.6 F
    • Maximum: 91.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 135 bpm
    • Maximum: 170 bpm
Posted: Oct 18 2014, 22:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 9th, 2014

Since today was a typical Thursday, I went for my usual ride from my house through Saguaro National Park (SNP) and then home again. I had the day off from work, so I was able to head out whenever I wanted. Since we have had some recent rainstorms, the temperature was much lower than it has been in previous weeks, which meant that I could ride in the middle of the afternoon without feeling like I was riding through a furnace. (Actually, it was fairly cool for the entire ride – the average temperature was around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which might be considered a prelude to winter riding in Tucson.)

2014-10-09

As I mentioned in my blog from two days ago, there is currently a construction project underway on Old Spanish Trail. That annoyance had traffic backed again on my way to the park, which added to my ride time. Recent rain in the area had washed sand onto the road in a few places, and it also meant that the odors wafting my way from the various horse-owner properties was more pungent that usual. (Enough said on that.)

In order to help curtail the wrist pain that I have been enduring on my recent rides, I tried wearing my wrist braces for today's outing. My theory was that the wrist braces would help to keep my wrists from bending, but what was actually happening was that my hand positions were forcing the metal splints out of the wrist braces, so by the time I had arrived at SNP I removed the wrist braces and switched back to my cycling gloves, which I had wisely brought with me for this exact situation.

Another interesting item of note for this ride is that I was trying out a new bicycle mirror. I mentioned in earlier posts that I had to remove my existing mirror from my road bike, and I did a bunch of research to see what a good replacement would be. The mirror that I chose had great reviews on Amazon, and I think that it lived up to its reviews quite nicely; it was easy to install, it was large enough to provide decent visibility, and it stayed in position really well.

I made it to the park in good time, but I was forced to wait several minutes at the park gate for some out-of-state tourists who were asking the park ranger what seemed like hundreds of questions. (I really wish there was a separate lane for cyclists to enter the park. Darn.)

As I entered the park, I passed by several cars within the first few miles of the park, and unlike previous rides I never saw them again. One car in particular raised my ire – I wish that tourists would refrain from stopping in the middle of the road to take photos from their car windows. There are plenty of pullouts throughout the park, or they can pull off to one side rather than blocking traffic and creating a safety hazard for cyclists. (Grr.)

There was a bit of a headwind as I headed into the region of the park that I affectionately refer to as "The Three Sisters," which is an obvious hat-tip to a trio of volcanoes near where I spent part of my childhood in Oregon. In this case, I am referring a series of short hills in SNP that lead up to the Cactus Forest Overlook. I usually try to build up as much speed as possible before hitting the first hill, but the wind stole some of my forward momentum, and I was thankful that my bicycle's Shimano 105 drive train allowed me to downshift quickly under load as I crested the series of hills near the overlook.

Climbing the big hill on Riparian Ridge is never an enjoyable experience, but I intentionally took advantage of the situation to continue working on my "push-me, pull-you" pedaling technique. As a result, I climbed the hill a little faster than normal, and I tried to negotiate the hill in a higher gear than I would typically use.

As I made it to the Rincon Mountains Overlook, I was surprised to see a huge Gila Monster crawling across the road. He was around one foot in length, and even though he was slow-moving, I couldn't get out my cell phone fast enough to get a good photo of him. The best that I could get is this photo of him hiding in a Prickly Pear cactus beside the road:

I had to stop for the construction on my way home, and unfortunately all of my setbacks during the ride kept me from meeting my one-hour goal for the ride. That being said, I missed my goal by a mere two minutes, so I'll get there one of these days.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 3:01pm
    • Distance: 16.9 miles
    • Duration: 1:02:05
    • Calories Burned: 659 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 823 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.3 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 58.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 67.8 F
    • Minimum: 64.4 F
    • Maximum: 73.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 155 bpm
    • Maximum: 174 bpm
Posted: Oct 09 2014, 19:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Foul Language in the Military

Every few years during my time in the Army, some new regulation would get created by the Pentagon with the hopes of curbing profanity in the military. This was, of course, a ridiculous idea, since four-letter words are as ubiquitous in the armed forces as boots and bayonets.

No-Swearing

Nevertheless, as each new regulation was put in place, our company commander would read off the details of the new directive at a company formation. As he finished describing what could and couldn't be said in the future, some random GI from the formation would always respond vociferously with, "F---ing A, sir!"

Toy-Soliders

This immediately put things in perspective; the Pentagon could issue their silly, little missives from their isolated world (which had nothing to do with the real day-to-day life in the Army), while the soldiers who actually lived and worked and breathed the military would carry on like always – cussing and cursing when necessary.

;-)

Posted: Oct 09 2014, 12:23 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 7th, 2014

As with most Tuesday and Thursday rides, today was another ride from my house to Saguaro National Park, completing a single loop around the park, and then heading home. I left a little early for this ride because a storm was fast approaching, and I wanted to get out and back before it hit.

2014-10-07

The ride to the park was mostly-uneventful; the only bad part to it was that a construction project had traffic backed up along Old Spanish Trail, which added to my ride time. When I arrived at the park, the gate guard knew me (as most of them do) and we chatted briefly before I headed off into the park.

As I was entering the park, I passed another cyclist who appeared to be completing his first loop around the park and starting on his second time around, (although I found out later that he was on his first pass, too). I passed him near the first big drop that is only a few hundred yards into the park, and I didn't seem him again until several miles later. There were several cars making their way through the park, and I carefully passed them all as I completed the first half of the loop. As I made my slow ascent up Riparian Ridge, a few of those same cars passed me, only for me to pass them when they pulled off the road at the Riparian Overlook, and then they leapfrogged past me as we all headed to the Rincon Mountains Overlook.

The cyclist who I had seen near the entrance caught up to me as I was cresting the big hill of Riparian Ridge, and we rode together for the next mile or so as we discussed how the ridge is always difficult no matter how well you feel like you are riding. As we approached the Rincon Mountains Overlook, he was clearly riding at a slightly faster pace than me. I tried to keep his pace for a while, but I eventually fell behind. That's okay – perhaps I'll keep up with him some other day.

That being said, I was consciously trying to negotiate every part of the ride as fast as possible, with the hopes the I would finally hit one of my two primary goals for this route – either to complete the park loop in less than 30 minutes, or to complete the entire ride in less than an hour. For the most part I was riding strong for the day, and as I completed my loop around the park I thought that there might be a chance that I could exceed one or the other goal.

Unfortunately for me, by the time I made it to my exit off Old Spanish Trail near my house, the traffic was a mess and I couldn't cross the two lanes of cars near our neighborhood. With that in mind, I was forced to continue down Old Spanish Trail. As I reached the intersection with 22nd Street, I still couldn't cross traffic, so I had to ride through the intersection, pull off to the side of the road, wait for traffic to pass, cross the road into the local shopping center, then ride around it and into our neighborhood from the opposite direction.

When I arrived home and looked at my ride statistics, I had completed the entire ride in less than a minute over the 1-hour mark, so I clearly would have arrived home in less than an hour if I had not run into the traffic problems on Old Spanish Trail. That being said, when I looked at my time for the park loop, I had missed the 30-minute mark by ten measly seconds. Darn, darn, darn. I missed both goals by just a few seconds, so perhaps I'll hit one the next time.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 4:35pm
    • Distance: 17.0 miles
    • Duration: 1:00:56
    • Calories Burned: 612 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 824 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.7 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.7 mph
    • Average Cadence: 63.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 75.8 F
    • Minimum: 73.4 F
    • Maximum: 78.8 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 152 bpm
    • Maximum: 173 bpm
Posted: Oct 07 2014, 21:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 4th, 2014

As I have done many time in previous weeks, I made plans to get on the road by a certain hour, but my plans didn't work out that way. I hoped to be on the road by 10:00am, but it was well past 11:30am by the time I finally got on the road. My late start also meant that the temperatures were considerably higher than if I had made it on the road when I had originally intended, and that made parts of the ride a little uncomfortable at times.

2014-10-04

The reason for my late departure time is easily explained: I recently installed Bontrager Bzzzkills in the handlebars of my road bike in order to help cut down on road vibrations. (These are something of an experiment at this point, but I really hope that they help out.) However, by installing the BzzzKills in my drop handlebars, I lost the only mirror that I had, so I spent a long time in the garage trying to see if I could come up with another way to attach a mirror. My efforts yielded no success, so I reluctantly got on the road with no mirror. (Which made me very nervous throughout the ride.)

I needed to get in a long ride for the week, but I was nervous about re-injuring my hands and wrists. With that in mind, I intentionally took it easy on today's ride, and I did not attempt to beat any of my earlier ride times. I have been averaging almost 17mph for my most-recent rides, but for today's ride I was averaging closer to 15mph. In addition to backing off on my speed, I also cut the length of today's ride a little shorter and settled for a 40-mile ride instead of my usual 50 to 60-mile ride.

I began my ride by riding to Saguaro National Park and completing a single loop around it, and then heading out to Pistol Hill Road, and coming back by riding down Houghton Road (instead of my usual route of Camino Loma Alta and Old Spanish Trail). As I mentioned earlier, it was a fairly warm day, and the temperature was hovering around 97 degrees as I rode through the National Park. As I completed my loop, I stopped at the hydration station to refill my water bottles, where I bumped into another cyclist who I see on the road fairly often. I commented that I usually see him somewhere near Pistol Hill Road, and he asked if I was headed that way next. I said that I was, and he encouraged me to be careful since the day was still growing hotter. I thanked him and wished him luck as he headed off toward his next destination, then I got back on Old Spanish Trail headed south toward Pistol Hill Road.

I was hard to tell if the BzzzKills were helping because the road is so awful at points that the only way to dampen the road vibrations would be to mount front shocks on my bicycle, but I just moved away from a bicycle with front shocks because they add too much weight to the bike. So I was forced to simply endure the pain. However, I did keep my hands moving around the handlebars so that I wouldn't injure my hands through repetitive stress on a single area.

Despite the rough roads, I am enjoying the road bike. I intentionally chose a bike that is better for hill climbing, and I sincerely appreciate the many ways that the new bike has helped out for both climbing and general speed. Because of the heightened temperatures, there were fewer cyclists on the road, but I passed a lot of the people who were out, and that's always a great feeling. (I hated being the guy that everyone else was passing a few months ago.)

My route to Pistol Hill Road was the same as always, but as I descended down the far side of the hill, I passed Camino Loma Alta and stayed on Pistol Hill Road until it became Mary Cleveland Road, which took me all the way to Houghton Road, which would eventually take me home. I had not ridden that route before, and I didn't really like it. For starters, the road past Camino Loma Alta headed over a rough-hewn bridge, which was painful to ride across. Then I had to contend with an uphill climb from the bridge, and then I spend a long time riding along Mary Cleveland Road in the bike lane with cars whizzing by at high-speed. This was sub-optimal, but the conditions were worse after I turned onto Houghton Road, because there was no bike land and barely any shoulder for the first several miles. This meant that I was now sharing the road with cars who were speeding past me at 50 to 60 mph and all-too-often missing me by a mere a foot or two.

I eventually made it to the two-lane multi-use road that runs parallel to Houghton Road, and I quickly pulled onto that. This road is part of Tucson's Loop project, and all of the roads that I have ridden on which are part of this project are great; they are well-paved, clearly-marked for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and far away from cars. The only downside to this part of the ride was that the path did not extend all the way to Mary Cleveland Road, and it had a lot of Stop/Yield signs whenever it had to cross the various roads throughout the area.

In any event, I cycled down Houghton Road to Irvington Road, where I turned east and rode to Harrison, and then I turned north to ride the last few miles to our home.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 11:36am
    • Distance: 40.9 miles
    • Duration: 2:46:03
    • Calories Burned: 1,561 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 1,786 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 14.8 mph
    • Peak Speed: 30.8 mph
    • Average Cadence: 64.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Average: 95.2 F
    • Minimum: 75.2 F
    • Maximum: 100.4 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 154 bpm
    • Maximum: 179 bpm
Posted: Oct 04 2014, 22:35 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Ride Notes for October 2nd, 2014

Today was an unimaginative repeat of my usual 17-mile course from my house through Saguaro National Park and home again, and I almost hit two of my goals on this ride: I completed the ride in just 33 seconds over an hour, so I'm dangerously close to my one-hour goal, and I shaved another minute off my personal best for the park, so I was just 5 seconds over a half-hour. That puts my average speed at 16mph for the park, which is about 2mph slower than the people who have the fastest times around the park, but it's a whole lot better than I used to ride.

2014-10-02

This was my third consecutive day of riding for the week – I rode 14.2 miles the day before as part of my commute, although I extended at least 4 miles to my commute simply because it was a good day for riding. (However, I have a word of warning from yesterday's ride: cycling down Tucson's River Road during rush hour is not a good idea – there's no bicycle lane for much of the ride, and there's not much of a shoulder, either.)

That being said, I spent a lot of today's ride working on my handlebar technique so as to reduce the pain in my hands and wrists from my new road bike. Having done two fittings, I am suspicious of how I am gripping the handlebars, so I was consciously trying to force my hands to relax and not have such a death grip and the handlebars. In my several years teaching music lessons, I constantly told my students to relax their hands while playing in order to avoid injury, and now I found myself in a similar position – I had to learn to relax or I could injure myself. The trouble is, I'm on a new bike, so that's somewhat difficult since I am still a little unsure of myself. I read somewhere that most rider-caused cycling injuries happen during the first 500 miles on a new bike, and that is caused by a simple lack of familiarization with a new bicycle's capabilities; I'm doing my best to avoid being a statistic. Still, despite working on my hand technique, there's not much that I can do about the fact that the roads suck for part of my ride – I simply have to weather the bumps as best I can.

Here's an interesting point of note that I have discovered: I have been riding around Saguaro National Park for several months now as part of my weekly ride, but from my discussions with other cyclists in the area, I have learned that many of them use the 8-mile loop around the park to train for hill climbing. That wasn't really my goal when I started out; I simply wanted a good-quality road with less traffic. I actually hated the hills around the park, especially the 1.5-mile climb up Riparian Ridge. Now that I have been riding around the park for some time, I still don't like the hills, but I'm getting better at climbing them. Today was a good example – I used to average 4 to 5mph when climbing the ridge, but now I average 7 or 8mph. I'm still pretty winded by the time I reach the top, but the good news is that it's over faster as I get better at climbing. Switching to cleats has helped a lot; I consciously work on my "push-me-pull-you" technique when pedaling, and that makes a big difference.

I should mention that I completely messed up with my timing for today's ride. I knew that sunset has been getting earlier each day, but for some reason I still thought that sunset would be at 6:30pm today, so I planned to start my ride at 5:30pm. I actually got on the road at 5:39pm, but sunset was at 6:08pm – which was obviously 20 minutes sooner than I had expected. The setting sun may have treated me to a wonderful display of "Purple Mountains' Majesty" during the first half of my ride around the park, but the sun had set completely by the time I was cresting Riparian Ridge. There was still ample light for me to ride through the park, but I was definitely racing the fast-encroaching darkness as I rode home from the park. With that in mind, I've learned my lesson – I need to check the times for sunset a little better in the future.

Ride Stats:

  • Primary Statistics:
    • Start Time: 5:39pm
    • Distance: 16.8 miles
    • Duration: 1:00:33
    • Calories Burned: 623 kcal
    • Altitude Gain: 823 feet
  • Speed:
    • Average Speed: 16.6 mph
    • Peak Speed: 31.0 mph
    • Average Cadence: 60.0 rpm
  • Temperature:
    • Minimum: 71.6 F
    • Average: 73.6 F
    • Maximum: 77.0 F
  • Heart Rate:
    • Average: 155 bpm
    • Maximum: 177 bpm
Posted: Oct 03 2014, 01:14 by Bob | Comments (0)
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