Monthly Archives: May 2012

Out west – day 8 – Mount Lemmon

Today was another highlight day as I had the opportunity to drive down to Tucson and climb Mt Lemmon. I knew that I had no shot at getting the KOM on the short version of the climb after riding 104.5 miles yesterday and setting a new 25 minute power record taking the South Mountain KOM along the way. So I used Strava’s Explore feature to find a longer version of the climb that went all the way to the very top of the mountain. I figured that I had a shot at it if I just stayed steady at about 250 watts – well below my threshold power.

I felt surprisingly good at the bottom, though, and managed to average 273 watts for the first 7 miles of the climb before the average started to drop – particularly into a headwind 2 mile section of the climb towards windy point. It was dropping about a watt every mile as I struggled to maintain 250 watts. Then somewhere between milepost 15 and 16 up a steady part of the climb, I was looking at my wattage and it was down to 97 watts. I knew that I was still pushing about the same effort, but I also knew I was starting to struggle so I pushed much harder to try to get it back up to 250 watts. But the highest I could get it to was something like 175 watts. Then I realized that something must be wrong with my power meter. I’m hoping it is just a dead battery. This was very demotivating for me as I was relying a lot on the power average to push myself to keep that average higher – but the average started dropping quite rapidly with my current power output hovering around 100 watts eventually dropping to zero watts. So for the last 1200 feet of the first section of the climb and for the entire last section up Ski Valley to the high point, I just kept the elevation screen on and watched the dot get closer to the high point. I tried to use PRE to put out the same power, but I’m sure I had dropped below 250 watts by this time. It was enough, though, as I was able to set three KOMs on the climb – the full monte, and two shorter climbs at the end.

I was not in good shape by the top. I started late in the day (9:48AM) for this ride and had 18 miles of a gradual climb to reach the Catalina Highway where the official climb starts. I had two full bottles and a quarter of another bottle at the bottom – but I was completely out by the top. I did the last steep bit from the Irondoor Restaurant to the top with nothing to drink. Thankfully it was kinda cold at the top with temps in the upper 60s / lower 70s by the top and a steady wind blowing. Cold and very thirsty I asked one person to take my picture and then immediately headed back to the Irondoor Restaurant to refill water and get something to eat. I had only brought $10 with me so all I could afford was coke ($3) and cornbread/honey ($4.50). It was all I needed though as I drank several glasses of coke and doused the cornbread with nearly half a bottle of honey.

Irondoor Restaurant, an oasis in the sky
Cornbread with nearly half bottle of honey already gone

I stopped a couple times on the descent to get pictures, but by this point I really wanted to be done riding. I tried to push the pace on the descent but struggled to maintain 30mph on the flatter section and 40mph on the steeper sections. My max speed was 46mph – a little disappointing considering I regularly hit 50+mph on the steep descents in Birmingham. I kept the temperature screen open on my garmin and watched it rise through the 80s all the way to 101.2 by the start of the bikepath along the Rillito River. Fortunately, there was at least a little bit of shade on the bikepath and the temp on my Garmin dropped down to 98 by the end.

Here is a gallery of all the pictures I took … two of them were on the way up the climb while riding and trying to push 250 watts (the cactus picture towards the bottom of the climb and the rock outcropping next to the road)

Out west – days 4, 5, 6, 7

Thursday, Day 4 – sunset adventure with Josiah
After a fun hobo dinner over the campfire, Josiah and I set out on a sunset adventure. We took the new trail I found to the Bright Angel lodge and then connected with Hermit Rd, which is open only to shuttles and cyclists. I pushed Josiah up the big opening hill before we took a gatorade break at the first overlook point. Then we continued on eventually making it to Maricopa point, which is closed to cyclists. BUT, as we started walking our bikes along the trail, we realized there was nobody there! So we hopped back on and rode the paved trail all the way out to the lookout point where we got the picture and video below:
Josiah showing the view looking west … note we were able to ride to the edge of the canyon because Maricopa was empty!

Friday, Day 5 – worst ride ever – Grand Canyon to Flagstaff
The views were great, but there was a lot of traffic, and the wind was horrendous. 20+mph steady headwind with gusts up to 50mph. Once I finally made it to Valle, I was hoping for a cross-tailwind, but instead it was just a nasty knock your front wheel sideways crosswind. As the road climbed gradually towards the San Francisco peaks, the wind got increasingly worse. Eventually, going across the Kendrick Park meadow, the wind was sustained at 30-40mph with gusts probably in the 60mph range. It is easily the worst wind I have ever ridden in. The only redeeming part of the ride is that after about a mile or two of descending from the high pt of 8046′, the road had bent enough to give me a tailwind. So I had a fast downhill with tailwind to end the ride. I made it to the Snowbowl climb turnoff ahead of Kristine, so after waiting a few minutes I headed up the climb even though I was tired and out of food. Shortly after starting the climb, Kristine drove up so I gladly called it a day – I had had enough of the wind. The views were great – see these pics from Hermit Rd in the grand canyon and much later in the ride approaching the San Francisco peaks.
View looking west from Hopi Pt at the start of my ride
The San Francisco peaks outside of flagstaff

Saturday, Day 6 – exploring Mummy Mountain and Camelback Mountain in Phoenix
We drove down to Phoenix later in the day on Friday arriving while everyone was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding. The next morning Josiah and I went for an hour long ride exploring the very cool canal trail and tunnels while Kristine did a 5K running race with her cousin, Kimberly. When they got back, my uncle Jim helped guide me through the canal tunnel system over towards Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain where I tried to find every way possible to get high up on the mountains. There were many mansions built into the side of the hill with super long, steep driveways but they were all gated-off private property. Still, the roads leading to the driveway were really fun with several steep sections.
Approaching Camelback Mountain from the west – praying monk on the left
Approaching the “castle” climb on Camelback Mountain

Sunday, Day 7 – South Mountain KOM and North Mountain KOM attempt – 104.5 miles
The ride down Central Ave to South Mountain was relatively easy with a bike lane for most of the way. The route when straight through downtown Phoenix, which was deserted on a Sunday morning. Most of the lights could be timed so that I think I only had to wait at one or two lights. This road takes you directly into the climb. The Strava segment that I had looked at was the one that started at the restrooms so when I passed a parking area that looked like it had restrooms, I drilled it. I was trying to maintain 350 watt average, but after about 5 minutes of this, my average started to slowly come down until I ended up with a time of 24’27” and a 324 watt average. I saw a sign at the entrance that said “Silent Sunday, no motor vehicles” which probably explains why there were hundreds of other cyclists climbing the mountain. It was motivating for me to always have people up ahead to chase. On the way back down, I explored all the side roads and lookouts enjoying the amazing views.
Right to left – Camelback Mountain, Mummy Mountain, Squaw Peak, North Mountain, Thunderbird, Deem Hills
View of the summit climb on South Mountain from the San Juan side road

Later in the afternoon I headed out to meet Uncle Bruce at the Deem Hills park to go mountain biking. Along the way I climbed North Mountain to see if I could set the KOM on it the same day that I set one on South Mountain. Unfortunately, the climb was far too steep and technical and it was all I could do to make it to the top without putting my foot down – ended up third on the KOM. To give you an idea of how steep part of the climb was – there was one stretch of the descent where I was leaned all the way back off the back of the saddle because I felt like I was going to tip over the handlebars if I hit the brakes too hard or hit a rock. Here are a couple pics of North Mountain:

Approaching North Mountain from 7th Avenue
View from the top of North Mountain looking south towards Phoenix with South Mountain in the distance

I continued on up towards Deem Hills and met Uncle Bruce for some awesome desert singletrack riding. We started out by climbing from the parking lot up to the top of one of the northern peak. The climb was pretty steep in parts – particularly in the tight switchbacks. I was able to ride a couple of the switchbacks but had to walk one or two of the others. The trails were rocky in spots, but not overly technical. You could have fun on both the climb and the downhill. Perhaps the thing that stood out the most, though, was all the different kinds of cactus and cholla with the trails clearly visible on the sides of the hills. After we finished riding, Bruce directed me on a much better route that involved a small climb up Thunderbird canyon followed by some very cool canal trails all the way back to 7th avenue.

Desert singletrack in Deem Hills
Deem Hills north climb, part i
Deem Hills north climb, part ii
The final switchback on the way up the north climb

Finally, here is a gallery of some other pics that I took while riding. They are mostly in chronological order with pictures from the sunset with Josiah first and my rides yesterday last – except for some reason the mountain bike pictures in the afternoon are before the road ride pics from the morning.