Archive for June, 2012
Sunday, Day 14 – Flagstaff, AZ
Bike to work week kick-off parade, Garmin search and non-rescue, Lowell observatory Saturn rings
We slept in a bit on Sunday having a leisurely morning before Kip and I took all the kids on a bike ride down to the “bike to work week” kick-off parade and bike swap while Kristine relaxed at the house. We made it just in time to tag onto the back of the parade. Lots of people were dressed up in costumes, and there was a competition for the most creative human powered vehicle — the winner ended up being a bike with trailer adorned with butterfly wings that flapped as the bike was ridden.
One guy did tricks on his BMX bike that Josiah really enjoyed, including standing up on the back pegs of the bike and letting the bike coast downhill no-handed. When he started to pick up a lot of speed he hopped off the bike and started running beside the bike while the bike continued on alone. Then before the bike fell he grabbed it and hopped back on again. My favorite part of the parade was the Alpine Pedaler (see video) with up to eight people lined up in two rows facing each other pedaling hard to move the large vehicle. The driver navigated at the front like a stage coach. After the parade we went to the bike swap where we got two helmets to replace the kids old helmets. Analise got one that exactly matched Eliza’s new helmet.
After lunch at the Beaver Street Brewery, we headed out to look for my Garmin – driving along some of the forest roads that were part of the race course before parking in a shady spot so I could bike the rest of the way to the area where I thought the Garmin had fallen off. After nearly two hours of searching, I couldn’t find it. There was so much loose pine straw and tall grass in the section where it came off that it would have probably taken many people and hours and hours of careful scanning to find it since my search didn’t turn up anything. C’est la vie.
We headed back and had a really nice chicken taco dinner with everyone including Beth who was back from work. Frozen yogurt for dessert, but the real after-dinner treat was heading up to the Lowell Observatory to explore the museum and look through the 100+ year old 24-inch Clark telescope at the rings of Saturn. The kids loved it, although they were a bit tired.
Monday, Day 15 – Flagstaff, AZ
Road bike ride with Kip, Lowell Observatory revisited, primitive camping on the side of 12,356′ Agassiz feet
After Kip’s kids were off to school, Kip and I went on a 3 hour ride that headed out one of the more popular road riding roads – Lake Mary. On the way back in, we saw a HUGE bald eagle fishing in one of the lakes. Then we headed up a popular climb up the Campbell Mesa to the research telescopes for the Lowell Observatory.
Kristine and I took the kids to the Lowell Observatory where we took the observatory tour. Analise got to move the dome on the observatory and look through a telescope at the sun – the sunspots were really cool. Afterwards, it was a stop by Mama Burger and then on up to the Snow Bowl ski area for a real wilderness experience camping. Ironically, we were high enough up on the mountain gto get 2 bars of a 3G connection probably from a tower back down in Flagstaff. On Monday we hiked up to a meadow to watch the sunset and then look at the stars before the full moon came out. Then on Tuesday we hiked to some cool petroglyphs, where Josiah and I did some rock climbing to make it up high on the cliff in search of more petroglyphs.
Tuesday, Day 16 – Flagstaff, AZ to Los Alamos, NM
Meteor crater, transit of Venus, Snow bowl ski resort climb 2x
We started out Tuesday with the hike to the Indian petroglyphs before Kristine and the kids headed back to Flagstaff. I stayed behind to climb the Snow Bowl road a couple times followed by a nice tail-wind ride back to Flagstaff. From there we set out on the first leg of our trip back home to Alabama – driving to Los Alamos, NM where I had spent a little bit of time during high school on a two-week science camp.
On our drive, we swung by Meteor Crater where we used our solar filter glasses to watch part of the transit of Venus. It was hard to see at first, but eventually you could see the tiny dot of Venus making its way across the face of the sun. Every time we stopped for gas or food on our drive, we would pull out the solar glasses and check out the progress of Venus. Analise and I got to see it the best at a Sonic near Houck, AZ where Venus had moved to about the middle right of the sun. We stopped one more time a little before sunset and it was really, really hard to see but we think there was a tiny dot just below the middle. The transit of Venus in front of the sun won’t happen for another 117 years, so we felt really lucky to be able to see it.
Wednesday, Day 17 – Los Alamos, NM
Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera, Pizza Timeout Express
Day 17 – Indian ruins at Bandelier National Monument
Kristine took the kids up to the Bandelier National Monument to explore the Indian ruins while I went on the best ride of this trip so far — a long climb from White Rock, NM up and over the side of the Valles Caldera down into the huge caldera from this supervolcano that erupted a long time ago. The climb was awesome consisting of some long gradual sections as well as some really steep sections, but the best part of the ride was being inside the massive caldera which is now a giant valley with mountains in the middle that are actually huge lava domes. On the way back down, I swung through Los Alamos and stumbled upon the Pajarito ski climb. This was a really steep 4 mile climb with amazing views of the Rio Grande river valley far below. The descent down this climb was the fastest of the trip with several 50+mph sections. Back at the hotel, I met Kristine and the kids where we walked down the street to Pizza Timeout Express for a fun pizza dinner and games.
Thursday, Day 18 – Los Alamos, NM to Tulsa, OK
Pajarito Ski Hill revisited, Drive to Tulsa
Before we took off on the long drive to Tulsa, I had a chance to ride up the Pajarito Ski Hill again, but this time I started all the way down at the Rio Grande River. The 18 mile climb went from about 5300′ to 9000′ making it an HC climb. It started out gradual with one steeper stretch, before staying gradual all the way to the base of the Pajarito Ski Hill where the road really kicks up for the last 5 miles of the climb. I was trying to go easy to save up my legs for the first day of Tulsa Tough on Friday, but an 18 mile climb is an 18 mile climb.
After finishing up the ride, we loaded up the car and headed to the Los Alamos science museum where we learned a lot about nuclear research and the history of the nuclear bomb. Very interesting and intriguing. Then we took a scenic drive through Santa Fe on our way to the very cool two-lane US highway that took us over to I-40.
That’s a summary of our trip, but the pictures below tell a much better story:
Great race today at the Barn Burner just outside of Flagstaff, AZ. This was by far the hardest race I have ever done – 104 miles of double track forest roads – some very bumpy, some very sandy, some very crazy, all of it a whole lot of fun! I was happy to finish 4th overall, but sad to lose my Garmin Edge 800 with approx. 25,000 miles on it.
Race Details – the dust bowl
It was a Le Mans start, which means you ran to your bikes mounted on bikestands or being held by your support crew. I opted to have Kristine hold my bike so I wouldn’t have to try and extract it from all the bikes jammed together on the bike racks. I ran kinda slowly because I don’t run well and because the terrain had some lava rocks and there were tons of people jostling together. I met Kristine behind the bikestand area, mounted my Garmin and took off running through the grass to get back to the dirt road. By this point dust was everywhere, and I was easily 100-200 riders back.
The first mile of the race was on some dusty, sandy rutted roads so it was really hard to see a good line and you didn’t want to get caught in the deep sand so I could only pass a few people here and there – but as soon as we turned onto the main forest road, the terrain tilted upwards on a long false flat. I passed probably 100 riders through here. At the beginning it was streams of riders that I was passing, but then it has started to break up into small groups – so I started to catch and pass these groups.
Lost water bottle
Right before the lefthand turn onto the next rutted sandy section, I latched onto the back of a fairly large group of maybe 10 riders. It was here that I realized that mountain bike racing requires a lot of trust/faith in the rider immediately in front of you. You are trusting that they are going to take a good line and not crash. This section of the course really emphasized that trust because there was so much dust you couldn’t see the ground in front of you – you could only barely see the wheel of the rider in front of you. It was at this point that I lost a bottle when the road unexpectedly dropped a good 2-3 feet into a rounded rut/hole. I wasn’t expecting it so my weight was forward and I ended up coming out of the hole doing a front wheelie. Luckily the ground was smooth long enough that I could get the rear wheel back down without flipping over the handlebars. Hitting the hole popped out my water bottle so I did the entire first lap on one bottle.
Not too long after the front wheelie, the group I was in came out onto another stretch of road which was much harder packed. I went to the front and tried to rally the troops, but I ended up dropping that group and catching one or two more groups until I finally latched onto the back of the lead group. I knew I had reached the front group because there was no more dust in front of this group. This was towards the top of the long gradual descent before the first climb. This part of the course was super fast, and we were absolutely flying single file trusting the rider in front of you to take a good line. For about five minutes, this was my favorite part of the race, but then I felt something hit my knee. I thought it was my only water bottle popping out of the cage so as we are motoring along I’m looking down and doing a double-take to see if it’s my water bottle. It wasn’t, so I continued staring hard at the wheel in front of me following his line. Then I glanced at my handlebars and noticed my Garmin was gone!!! I debated for another 10-15 seconds about turning around or keeping on going. I realized the Garmin was worth too much to just abandon – so I turned around and rode backwards on the course. It had been a couple minutes of fast riding since I had felt something hit my knee (which I assume now must have been my Garmin), so I had to ride back a long ways but I never did see it. It is quite an understatement to say that my motivation was completely gone by this point in the race. I was about to attack the Strava KOM challenge segment hard, and now I not only wasn’t going to be able to do that – I had lost my great position at the front of the race and given the leaders a good 5 minute head start.
The Strava climb (1st climb)
Frustrated at not finding my Garmin, I went flying up the climb that started shortly after the stretch of trail where I couldn’t find my Garmin. It was the more technical of the two climbs on the course, but I didn’t care – I just flew past everyone no matter what line I had to take. By the top of the climb, the race was all blown apart and people were by themselves and no longer in groups.
The rocky technical descent
After the top of the climb, there was a short rolling section followed by the longer, rockier, and more technical of the two major descents. It started out super fast on a mostly clean but a few high speed rocky sections that you could roll over, but then there was a hard left turn on loose dirt that required clipping out for balance that immediately led into some nasty rocky sections that you just had to blow threw as there wasn’t much of a clean line. I went really slow through here on the first lap – getting passed by two riders, the second of which came by probably 10 mph faster just riding over all the big rocks I was trying to avoid. So that is when I learned that you can do that – just bomb over rocks at 30mph – the bike and wheels can handle it these days!
Once I reached the bottom, I continued passing riders all the way to the start of the second climb – the longer, steeper, and less technical stair stepper. In fact, I almost ran right into the back of a small group of three because I had been so intent on catching them that I wasn’t looking for turn signs. I caught them right at the turn and had to slam on the brakes skidding for some distance before stopping just shy of ramming into the last rider. I immediately passed them and continued passing riders all the way up the long climb.
The fast descent that gradually became slower
At the top of the long climb was a super fast steep descent. I didn’t have my Garmin, but it felt like I hit 50mph on this descent on the first lap. There was one clear, clean line between loose gravel/dirt and larger rocks on either side of the foot-wide line, but the line was clear, non-washboardy, and had no rocks in it — on the first lap! I almost wrecked here on the second lap because I tried to take it at the same speed as the first lap, but 1100 riders doing that descent on the first lap had loosened up soil on the clean line and created a bit of washboarding so that it no longer felt safe to go really fast. So each lap of the race, this descent got a bit sketchier and slower for me.
After the steep, sketchy part was a harder packed fast double track that went next to some sort of campground before turning onto the original national forest service road leading back up to the two-way Barn Burner entrance road. I flew through this part catching one or two more riders, and I heard someone yell out “ninth” as I made the turn in towards the barn.
The pit crew
At the end of each lap, you have to dismount your bike and run through the barn. Below is a video of me coming through the barn at the end of my second lap. You can see Analise waving the chain lube that I desperately needed because of all the dust/dirt on the course. My pit crew was just like a Nascar pit crew! Josiah would hold my bike, while Analise would hand me bars/gels/chain lub and Kristine would refill my bottles with gatorade. I would stand there eating and drinking whatever I could get down before Kristine finished with the gatorade. It was so awesome – less than 30 seconds to have two new bottles, a lubed chain, more gels/powerbars, and then off again.
The second, third and fourth laps
On the second lap, I was caught by a rider wearing a green Trek kit and the two of us worked together catching another rider to form a group of three. We worked well together all the way until the second climb where I rode away catching and passing a few more people on the climb finishing the lap in 5th place.
I rode the first half of the third lap alone eventually catching Derek Wilkerson who was in 4th place at the time. We worked well together catching and dropping the third place rider. Derek was a far better descender than me and had to wait for me after the descents. At the end of the third lap, I stopped with my pit crew to refill bottles and gels while Derek had enough to keep going.
I was so tired I figured I would never see him again, but a relay rider came flying by on the long gradual false flat leaving the barn. I hopped on his wheel and dug deep to stay there and soon we had caught up to Derek who tagged onto us making a small group of three. I was digging way too deep, so when we turned onto the dusty long descent I decided to back off and do my best to pace myself to hold onto a top 5 finish. I cramped on the Strava climb, stopped, went easier until I got caught by another relay rider towards the top. I was able to stick with him until the descent, but then he dropped me hard on the descent. I was caught by one more team rider on the section leading into the second climb, and he really lifted my pace again – but he flatted shortly before the start of the climb.
I went up the final climb knowing that I would need to go slow to keep from cramping again, but I continued to pass lapped riders many of whom were walking there bikes up the steep sections of the climb. I was able to solider on in a very easy gear to make it up the climb – but there were definitely sections I was wondering if I was going to have to get off and walk. I kept thinking that at any moment whoever was in 5th place would come cruising by. It didn’t happen though, and I made it up to the top, down the sketchy descent, and then turned on the gas one final time to make it to the finish line. It turns out that I was over 12 minutes ahead of 5th place so I could have taken the finish a little bit easier.
At the finish (as you may be able to tell from the picture at the top), I was exhausted. It took a while to be able to get out more than one or two coherent sentences in a row. I sat on the gatorade jug for quite a while drinking chocolate milk and cokes.
Two final videos before all the pictures – the first is of my finish. Look at Josiah cheering me at the top of the video near the far track, Analise near the turn, and then Kristine filming the video. It was awesome to come through there and see my family cheering me on. Also, there was a cool dirt bike track next to the barn so that the kids could spend the hour and a half between laps riding up and down the jumps and around the berms. Analise is tackling one of the jumps in the second video.
Tuesday, Day 9 – Bike shops plus easy canal ride
It turns out that I was really lucky with my Mt Lemmon ride — today when I got ready to go for a ride, I discovered that a front spoke was broken. I had left the bike outside over night so maybe some animal had jumped through – or maybe the tension on one of the spokes just happened to reach the breaking point over night – or then again, maybe it was a gnome. In any case, I biked to two nearby bike shops carrying the wheel, but neither was able to have the wheel repaired by the time we are leaving on Thursday. I dropped off the wheel at the house and then headed out on an easy ride through the canals. By the end of the ride it was over 100 degF – hot!
Playground, shade, and water – I’m pretty sure a sign with those words doesn’t exist in Alabama or perhaps anywhere on the east coast.
Wednesday, Day 10 – Deem Hills revisited
I had so much fun on these trails on Sunday with Uncle Bruce that I wanted to go back at least one more time before we left Phoenix. That opportunity came today on the hottest ride so far of this trip. I got a bit lost missing a turn from one canal to another traveling an additional few miles out of the way. I had already drained three bottles of gatorade by the time I made it to the Deem Hills trailhead. Fortunately, there is a nice restroom / water fountain / shady place so I went ahead and refilled three bottles before hitting the trails. After exploring and climbing to the high point using three different trails, I was out of water again so I refilled one more time before heading back home. By the time I made it back to the house, I had drained all three bottles again – for a total of 9 bottles on a 56 mile ride. That doesn’t even count the water I drank directly from the water fountain when refilling my bottles!
My bike, the desert, lots of mountains, and an irrigation canal with water from the Colorado River all below the Deem Hills high point.
We went to Rubio’s for an awesome fish taco dinner, and then Josiah and I took off on a ride from Rubio’s up the sidewalk to the Thunderbird conservation area where we did some cool trail riding. On the way back we passed a mama roadrunner and her babies running across the road – one of the cutest wildlife encounters imaginable.
Even little guys gotta stay hydrated in the desert.
Thursday, Day 11 – Sedona mountain bike ride to Flagstaff
We left Phoenix today to head up to Flagstaff for the Barn Burner race this weekend. Kristine dropped me off in the canyons of Sedona so I could ride my mountain bike the rest of the way up to Flagstaff. I headed up the Schelby Hill Rd which is a 4-wheeler road over lots of really large rocks. Plus it climbs over 2000 feet so that by the end of the first hour, I had only gone 6.5 miles! At this rate, I wouldn’t reach Flagstaff until midnight. Fortunately, it was relatively flat across the top so that I could pick up speed. Still, it took over four hours to cover the 45 miles, which was a mix of jeep road, 4-wheeler tracks, singletrack, interstate (I-17), paved secondary roads, and lots of gravel national forest roads. The scenery was spectacular and I took a lot of pictures. I’ve included the best three below (the rest are in the gallery at the end of this post) -
View looking down from the Schnelby Hill vista
Super steep gradient on a trail that looks like it is heading to the Schnelby Hill Vista
Singletrack that parallels the Schnelby road
Friday, Day 11 – Flagstaff and the Barn Burner packet pick-up
You know that a race is going to be epic, when your ride to pick up the packet is over 40 miles long! I rode out to pick up my packet while Grandma Sandy looked after the kids and Kristine hiked to the top of the highest point in Arizona – Mt Humphries at over 12,000′ elevation. Earlier in the day, I had biked the kids on the Flagstaff urban trail system. We had lots of fun stopping at a playground along the way.
Josiah on the urban trail at a spot looking up at Mt Humphries where Kristine was hiking at the same time.
Playing on a playground alongside the Flagstaff urban trail
From my bike ride to pick up my registration packet …
Kendrick Peak – one of the tallest peaks in Arizona – the Barn Burner 104 circles the mountain doing 4 laps
Course markings ready to go for the Barn Burner 104 race tomorrow!
Highlight pictures from the previous four days – in reverse chronological order starting from today (Friday, Day 11)