Important Rules of Bike Commuting

  1. Always carry rain gear.
  2. If you forget rain gear, you will get rained on.

Or so I’ve heard.

Biking Sports

Aches and Photos

I think my body is taking a hard line “no volleyball” stance. Biking is friendly to my joints, whereas volleyball gives me the gait of a 70 year old knee replacement candidate (ah, hello future). I currently must play volleyball with two ankle braces and a knee brace — all braced injuries are volleyball injuries, the most recent of which was a partially torn MCL in summer league outdoor volleyball in June. I also managed to tweak my back playing last week. That tweak has gotten consistently worse over the last week and now I can make no sudden movements.

I should really quit playing volleyball.

But I won’t.

Anyone know a good massage therapist/chiropractor/PT?

Also, the Copper Triangle photoset is up on flickr. You can thank my useless back for the quick photo turnaround.


The Copper Triangle Recap

Short version: It was awesome!

The longer version: It was a consensus among our group that we all felt awesome yesterday. And it’s true, I had a great day on the bike.

The mountain air was quite cool when we rolled out, but I quickly warmed up as the climb up to Fremont Pass began. The grade starts out easy at 3 or 4 percent then kicks up to an average of 7% for about 4 miles. Maybe I was distracted by all the people watching, but I was having a great climb. I soon found myself passing those people who had maybe started out a little too fast. I caught myself tapping my handlebars to an unknown beat and whistling a little tune. But I quickly stopped figuring that might be annoying to some. Among the people highlights was a guy in a ruffled skirt and a biker on some sort of modified recumbent contraption.

Rachel found me at the top of the steep part of the climb and we rode together to the first aid station at Fremont Pass. The other girls rolled in soon afterward.

Copper Triangle - The Girls at Fremont Pass
Catherine, Hilary, Keelin, Me, Rachel, Tracy, and Ali at Fremont Pass

After filling up on our share of the fantastic food offerings (fig newtons rock!), we started the descent. With mostly downhill and some easy flat, including 5 miles of hard-packed dirt in a construction zone, we were soon starting the climb up to Tennessee Pass. I would go so far as to call this pass “easy.” This is horrible, but I took a certain satisfaction in sitting in my middle chain ring for the entire climb while I passed people I could tell were at their limit. The event organizers surprised us with a small uphill jaunt to the aid station. Happily, that hill kept the station from being overly crowded. Soon the whole crew filtered in.

Next we headed toward Minturn. I apparently hadn’t studied the ride profile closely enough, because I was caught a little off guard by the climb right before Minturn. But the climb was relatively short and at a mild 5 or 6 percent grade. We then cruised through Minturn (thanks cheering spectators!) and down into Vail. We fueled up and filled up, then headed to the hardest climb of the day, Vail Pass, which we hit as my odometer read about 64 miles. I was feeling the heat as the temperature had reached 90 degrees and the sun was full on. Three of us climbed together for a while chatting with people. I found a great groove, especially after a cloud hid the sun, and soon was at “the wall,” a super steep section (14% incline) after the road turns into a bike path. Here it was dodgy for a stretch as many people were walking their bikes. The last few miles passed quickly, and I found myself at the top of Vail Pass with only 6 miles of downhill into Copper Mountain left.

Copper Triange - Me at Vail Pass
Me at Vail Pass

The girls rolled in shortly, we ate more food (of course), and most of us gathered to cruise to the finish together.

Someone asked me if I thought maybe I had trained too much for the ride. I could have done the ride with less training, it’s true, but, as it was, I did the whole ride never even flirting with my limit. I was well within myself the entire time. In fact, at the top of Vail Pass, I felt like I could have gone another twenty miles. Sure, I was happy to roll into Copper and enjoy the finish, but I felt my legs had more in them.

So what now? The Rist Canyon Road Ride and Hill Climb? A destination ride?

And for the data-minded:

  • Avg. speed: 14.4 mph
  • Max speed: 44.9 mph
  • Total distance: 79.59 mi
  • Riding time: 5:31 (not including stops)
  • Elevation gain: 5912 ft
  • Max incline: 14%

Update: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great the support for this ride was. The aid stations were packed with excellent food and drinks. The entire ride was well-staffed and organized. We even had our own mini-lane on roundabouts. Thanks to the ride organizers and the volunteers.

Also, lots of props to my crew (Team She-nanigans). I’m lucky to have so many fun, supportive, adventurous friends. You all are bad@$$es.


Final Preparations

As I write this, the Copper Triangle start line is just over 24 hours away. This past weekend I did my last “big” training ride to keep the climbing legs nimble. In this area, “long” plus “climbing” usually means a trip up Rist Canyon. My route (similar to this) took me over Rist Canyon, through Stove Prairie, Buckhorn Canyon, and Masonville, and ended with a little extracurricular climbing on the dams and some bike path meandering for a grand total of about 60 miles.

Me at the top of Rist Canyon

I must stop at the “summit” every time. This time I captured the moment.

I don’t think Rist ever gets easy only easier, but, there’s a definite satisfaction in the grind of many miles of constant climbing. And, even though I think I may be taller and weigh more than the average euro pro cyclist, I climb decently. I think that’s one of the best things I’ve gotten from all of the Copper Triangle training — discovering the lure of climbing and knowing that my body can do it for longer and longer distances.

And then I went barrelling down this.

Shot down the west side of Rist.

Where did the road go?

Notice the sign: 12% grade. With significant use of my brakes, I still hit 42mph. Yikes. As you can imagine, climbing what I call the “backside” of Rist isn’t any easier than the “frontside.” It’s only about 1 mile, but it is steep. I would like an inclinometer to take an official reading of some sections.

Oddly, though I was out on a Saturday morning on a very popular route, I saw very few other cyclists. Usually there’s at least a couple cyclists I can engage in a race they don’t know they’re having.

There’s really not much to note for the rest of the ride. I flew through Buckhorn to Masonville, and, without a headwind, the climb to Horsetooth Park and then up to the dams was fairly easy. That first south dam wall is always jarring, though, and especially after 40+ miles.

So, am I ready? I guess. After being worked up about the ride for the last couple weeks, this week I’ve found a sense of calm. I’m sure I’ll be nervous the morning of, but right now I’m excited to get out and tackle it.

My legs don’t like to stop once they’re climbing, but I’m going to try my best to capture some of what I see.


Le Tour Withdrawals

I had settled into a nice routine during the Tour. Watch until I had to go to work. Ignore the Internet all day so as to remain ignorant of the result.* After work and after my ride, settle in to watch the TiVoed action. Fast forward through what I’d already seen. Stop on the interviews. Cheer for the Garmin-Chipotle boys.

It was a good routine. And now two days out, I still have acute withdrawal symptoms. So to assuage the withdrawal, here’s a list of Tour de France moments that have stuck with me.

  • Will Frischkorn in the break on Stage 3 (in which he finished 2nd). I may have been leaping around my apartment yelling, cheering, and willing him to the finish. It was awesome.
  • In the last 5k of Stage 9, Ricardo Ricco riding away from everyone like they weren’t moving. At the time I watched incredulously. A couple stages later he was thrown out for doping, but in that moment, without knowledge of his stupid, doping ways, it was an amazing thing to watch.
  • Marcus Burghardt is a bad@$$ (yes, this guy). How many times did he lead out Cavendish — going all out, head tipped to the side, cranking out the speed, stringing out the peloton behind? He was always there. It was nice that he got to pick up a stage win as well.
  • Danny Pate‘s post-Stage 15 interview. A tough mix of immediate post-race raw emotion — fatigue, disappointment, and attempt at perspective. To me his result was impressive, but for an elite cyclist, it can’t be easy to try to be happy with 3rd when 1st was so close.
  • That one dude who actually put the food wrapper back in his pocket. I like to think the left behind water bottles get picked up by spectators. But all of those wrappers that get tossed about? Egads. Can someone tell me that they have a team of cleaners for that? Anyway, so yes, I appreciated when I saw what I believe was the only shot caught of a rider safely storing his wrapper in his jersey pocket. Thanks Juan Jose Oroz. (And for helping me put a name with the action since I had forgotten it.)

What now? I’ve attempted to pick back up my usual NPR morning routine. But, I don’t know, the Marketplace Morning Report with Scott Jagow just isn’t as entertaining as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen attempting to talk around a passing shot of a nature break.

* It’s not easy for a web geek who is a web developer by trade to avoid the Interweb.


Crazy weather, crazy person

Note to self: Try not to so poorly misread a storm ever again.

Thursday night I headed out to ride the dams. I noticed dark clouds in the north, but figured if I cut out part of the ride (not going north for some extra miles before hitting the dams) and headed directly west then south I would miss the storm. Can you guess where this is going? Yeah, I was totally wrong. All was well as I went over Bingham Hill and headed south to the first dam. Within a mile of turning south, a stiff crosswind was hitting me from the west. I looked over to see a wall of heavy rain sweeping down out of Rist Canyon. But I could still see blue sky ahead, so I soldiered on. Another half mile, and I felt the beginnings of rain.

I began to weigh my options. Turn around with the best option being to go back over Bingham? But then I still didn’t have any decent shelter options since I was 7+ miles from home. Or keep going and hope to at least make it to the top of the first dam where there was a bathroom? I decided to continue on. It just kept getting worse. By the time I reached the bottom of the first dam climb, the clouds were on top of me, and the rain was getting more intense. Thunder was overhead, and I could see lightening striking ahead of me.

I’ve never climbed that dam so fast in my life. It went something like, climb, climb, oh god, climb, oh god, oh god, faster, faster, come on, come on, oh god, climb, climb, bathroom!, yes!. The entrance to the shelter area was down the road, so I opted to hop off, throw my bike on my shoulder and scramble down the grassy embankment to the bathroom shelter.

I crowded into the shelter with a guy with the same idea. Not two seconds later it started to hail.

I had time, so I chatted with the guy. It slowly dawned on me that the guy might be somewhere in the range of friendly crazy to certifiable crazy. Among the stories he told me in our (roughly) half hour of chatting:

  • He rode in the Tour. Yes, THE TOUR. He crashed, though, and thirty riders rode over him. He’s not sure how he survived.
  • He liked to train with hard tires so he didn’t have to worry about flats. He was an engineer and basically invented these tires. He doesn’t have the patent, though.
  • The mafia was after him when he lived in Utah. So, he said goodbye to his lovely wife and house and headed to Argentina.
  • He was in Argentina only two days before la policia woke him to haul him to jail for second degree murder. Apparently, he was set up by his brother and a friend. Luckily, he had another friend who managed to get him out of the country.

Soooo…this is where I started to wonder if I should worry about this friendly crazy person. I mean, I can appreciate a “story teller,” but now I was thinking I should get out of dodge. The bulk of the storm had passed to the southeast, so I dumped the water off my seat and made preparations to leave. I said my goodbyes and headed down the wet road.

By the time I got home, I was soaked, water was sloshing around in my shoes, and I was covered in dirt and grit, but I was home, and I had quite a story. I also realized my threshold was higher than assumed. I pushed it up that climb way harder than I ever do, and didn’t feel that bad. Sure, adrenaline probably had something to do with it, but it makes me think I need to push my limits more.

Wish I could have got my shoes dry before my ride the following morning though.


Copper Triangle Recon

Last weekend, the ladies (and a couple husbands) and I headed to the mountains to do some Copper Triangle recon. The mission? To scout the terrain to perhaps allay our nerves and to enjoy the Colorado mountains in the summer.

We arrived mid afternoon on Saturday and decided to check out Vail Pass after setting up camp at Black Lake. So we geared up and made the quick descent down the west side to Vail, then flipped around and started the ten mile climb back up. Descending is not exactly a great warm up, but my legs finally settled into their fate. It’s mostly a mid-grade steady climb save for a couple spots where the engineers decided against paying attention to gradient. Or maybe they wanted to see how fast cyclists could flip through a whole chainring of gearing. I noticed my front tire was soft about three miles from the top, but decided to ignore it. Yes, this is highly recommended by the professionals. But, I made it. It wasn’t an easy climb, but it wasn’t Rist Canyon (the local climb by which I measure all other climbs), so there’s that.

Sunday morning, we cruised down the east side of Vail Pass into Copper Mountain on our way to conquer Fremont Pass. Of course my computer stopped working sometime shortly after we rode out of Copper, so I have no real data on Fremont. I do know that the first couple miles were an easy climb, so I camped out in my middle chainring wondering when the grade would kick up. It eventually did, and I tapped out 4 miles of 7% grade. Fremont Pass is weird in that when you think you’ve summited, you haven’t. It feels almost downhill to the pass, but I noticed I was still working quite a bit. We all gathered at the anti-climactic top of the pass and cruised back down into Copper. After a stop at Starbucks, we climb the last 6 miles back up the east side of Vail Pass.

Then we “recovered” with burgers in Frisco.

No long rides for this recon mission, but I do feel better about what I’ll be doing in less than a week.


Things I’m Sure Of

I’m quite certain an old Nissan parked on a street in Fort Collins does not need a car alarm, especially a car alarm sensitive enough to be tripped multiple times (3:30am, 6:00am, 7:40am, 9:00am, 9:30am) by a passing bike or cat.

Some quick research tells me that the model in question, a Nissan 240SX, was last produced in 1998 which makes the car at least 10 years old with a value of at most $9500.



I’m Awesome

So awesomely clumsy, I guess, that I managed to lose not one, but both shoes off my feet on my commute home. It remains a mystery how I lost the first one as I was pedaling fiercely to get through a light before it changed. Then as I swung my bike around to grab it, the other fell off my foot.

Hopefully the sight of a woman in a skirt throwing down her bike and chasing after both heels scattered on the pavement was entertaining for the cars stopped at the nearby busy intersection.


The Copper Triangle (or why all I do is bike)

Remember that bike I mentioned a while back? Well, we’ve gotten very well acquainted over the last year. We’ve grown especially close over the last three months as I train (a term I use loosely) for the Copper Triangle, a 77 mile alpine ride over 3 mountain passes. My training regime consists mostly of riding as much as possible, or TitS (Time in the Saddle), as my friend Rachel calls it. Rachel I also “blame” for getting me into this as she suggested the ride back in January. I hesitated, but, with several other friends on board, I decided to go for it.

Much of the winter and early spring while I waited for longer days and clear roads was spent in spin class hoping to hang on to some of last season’s legs (results: mixed). Once the days were longer, I headed out. With my TitS training plan in place, I soon realized I would need a saddle upgrade. Ouch. So, the stock Etape saddle went aside in early May. Since the middle of May, save for a few vacation days, I’ve been logging 100+ miles per week. The last month, I’ve been in the 130-150+ per week range — including at least one 50+ mile ride a week (and edging this up gradually). This past week I hit about 170, logging ~60 on Friday and ~70 on Sunday. Of course I got a flat two miles from home on Sunday.

For the most part, I just try to get in as many climbing miles as I can, mixing in some flat miles to give myself a break. As we did last year, my Rist buddies, Tracy and Catherine, (also riding the Copper Triangle) and I once again completed our Rist Canyon series. Happily, we all noted that we were stronger riders than last year.

So how’s my training plan working? Well, I think. A ride that used to be hard last year is now a standard. On tough climbs I’m seeing my speed inch up, if only by 1 or 2 mph. In mid May, a fifty mile ride meant I didn’t want to look at my bike the next day. Now I’m mostly recovered the same day and ready to do at least a recovery ride the next day. The 70 yesterday felt way better than 50 did a month ago. I think I could have done 10 more, if I wasn’t bored (iPod died 40 miles in). And, frankly, all this riding does not hurt the muscle tone of one’s legs.

But my stomach still gets squirmy when I think that the ride is less than a month away.