Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bad back

Awoke with a bad back. I guess I did overdo it yesterday.

Fortunately Sonja, my yoga teacher, let us do some lower back exercises and that loosened it up a lot. I was totally unable to do any seated forward bends though.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Trail Run - Spooner Summit to Snow Valley Peak (12 miles)

Following the morning's exertions on the bike a trail run may not have been the smartest thing to do in the afternoon, but that's what we did. Sienna pulled out due to a nasty fall from her horse leaving Tony and me to do the run.

Looking at the map it seemed like a gradual climb up the Rim Trail to Snow Valley Peak, though we would be going from 7,200ft to 9,200ft. In the event, it felt like running uphill, with various degrees of stepness for 6 miles. It was pretty tough and I had to have more spells of walking than I would have hoped. I'm afraid I slowed us down a little, Tony seeming very fit.

After a while we broke through the trees to get some views of the lake.
Carl on Tahoe Rim Trail climbing up from Spooner

After several miles we came upon patches of snow. The first of these were horizontal but we still trod gingerly since it became clear that the snow had a tendency to give way underfoot without notice or cause a sideways slip.

After about 4 miles we came upon Mike, an intern at work who I mentioned the run to. He's a proper cross country runner but despite that told us to look out for the patch of snow he slipped on. We saw it a mile further one, a good 12 inches of slip. Hald a mile later we saw a proper 20ft of slip and realised what he really meant! The patches of snow were quite icy and angled so were easy to slip on. Here's Tony near one such patch...
Tony on Tahoe Rim Trail (late may 2006)

And here's Tony from near the top of Snow Valley Peak...
Tony near Snow Valley Peak

We couldn't get right to the top because the snow got a little deep but we were only a few hundred yards short. I don't much like the top much anyway, it's full of radio masts and the like...

snow valley peak (9,200ft)

Running back was fun. 6 miles but down hill all the way. I used to not like running down hill but now my legs are a bit stronger it feels almost as good as cycling down hill. Ultimately though, I was pretty glad when we reached the car. An excellent run.

Cycling Ebberts Pass - Death Ride Training

Scott had some free time early in the morning, when most people are asleep. I arrived at their place at 5.30, put my bike in Scott's truck, faffed around a lot, and then we got under way (with coffee).

It's already light at 5.30! The drive up towards Ebberts was awesome. Mountain roads, fast flowing rivers and spring greenery.

We parked up a few miles from the start of the big climb and got started. I felt the need to lose things and faff a lot before we got started - must have been the early hour.

We rode uphill for a few miles, wearing with lycra arms and legs, long fingered gloves and a windproof. It was still chilly though, and we looked forward to getting out of the early morning shadows of trees and mountains.

The first few miles uphill were really just to get the legs moving and don't really count. The 'official' start of the climb was at a cattle grid. I didn't see any cattle though so perhaps it is to keep bears out!

Past the grid, the road takes a sharp turn up hill but fortunately it's only short. The rest of the climb is much more reasonable with only short sections of road ahead visible at any time. An excellent place to ride a bike and the climbing warmed us up a bit, as did the early morning sun as it came out.

We came across one section of the road which was covered in rock fall gravel and stones. Ebberts Pass has only been open for a few days so this was probably new. I tried to remember this spot for the way down, which I knew would be considerably faster.

Near the top we hit the snowline and came upon banked up snow at the side of the road. My camera failed me but one shot was of me holding my bike overhead and still not touching the top of the snow wall! As well as being walled in, the road narrows towards the top of Ebberts and in a few places, small streams of water crossing the road had turned to thick ice. I tried to note that for the way down too!

From the top (8,700ft) we headed down the back side of Ebberts but I was much more careful than usual. An Ebberts descent could easily reach 40mph but with ice across the road it didn't seem like fun. What's more is that over the top of Ebberts the scenary in the distance turned into a winter wonderland with snow still everywhere in this high mountain valley. I'm pretty disappointed to have lost my photos of it. The most notable thing about the descent was the cold. I thought my chin and was going to completely freeze! (no need to send a scarf Mum, I won't wear it on the bike!).

You can see from the race profile on the Death Ride that you don't lose all your height gain when you get to the back of Ebberts, so the ride back to the top isn't so bad. However, you do see longer stretches of uphill than you did on the way up from the other side, so mentally you need a bit more focus.

Reaching the top we paused for a bit and tried to remember where those bad icy patches and rockfalls were to be found. Scott explained that the one rule was, "no falling off". Pretty soon I nearly broke this rule. With the shadows across the road the ice was hard to see. The first I knew of the first patch was when my back wheel kicked out sideways. Fortunately my relexes seem to have learned to let go of brakes, which I did, and things straightened up as I cleared the first band of ice, seconds before going over the second one, increasing speed on this steep downhill. Past the ice I scrubbed off some speed and remembered to continue breathing.

The descent was warmer than our first and the early morning light made for some excellent views of green trees and rushing water. Near the bottom we came upon some cyclists heading up the way we'd come. It's a quite smug feeling to know that we were finishing around 9am while they were getting started! One among them was Scott Door from bsgettis in Carson.

An excellent ride out. 35 miles in all and maybe 3,500ft of climbing. The spring is awesome around here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

BBQ with Scott, Amy and Sam

Amy and Scott invited me to their place for a barbie. Very chilled out, excellent food, beer on tap and Sam on great form.

The only catch - plans to be up at 5am for a rideout with Scott.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Da Vinci Code

Dave called and asked if I'd like to see the Da Vinci code at the cinema with them. Quite a good film and I didnt sleep through it, so that was good.

We went to eat at Chillis afterwards. It's a nice place with good food, especially if you are in the mood for a veggie burger. I even brought half of mine home for another day!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cycling kingsbury-Luther (Snowed Off)

I headed out to meet Scott at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade about 5:40am (!). It was windy and cold and you couldn't see much of the mountains.

I was a bit late so i tried to make up some time but I was heading into the wind so it was tough as well as cold. A few miles out from Kingsbury Grade the snow came down hard and icy. I got a call from Scott and he turned around to meet me about a mile out from the Grade. I was quite relieved, I had been mentally preparing for him to say something like, 'it's a little cold' but instead he suggested we turn back. As we headed back, looking for an alternative cycling route for the morning, the snow got more widespread and bigger, though less icy.


After a short time we gave up and headed back to Scott's house and then for a coffee at Pony Espresso.

It's funny to get such weather at this time of year but it's nice to live in a mountain region where anything is possible. Scott said there is only one month of the year that he hasn't seen snow.

Here's my neighbourhood a little while later with Kingsbury in the background...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Diamond Valley Road Race

A windy afternoon to be doin a couple of laps around the 11 mile Diamond Valley loop.

The race started fast and I felt that my inexperience was not helping to keep the pack together. After a few minutes I had stepped it up and we were all together again for the Carson River Road descent. I managed to stay tucked in and relaxed and started to try and sit up to use the wind for braking instead of my brakes. Using brakes in the pack can be unsettling.

The descent ends at a Stop sign, followed by a right turn and a sharp hill climb. Last race I got dropped by the pack here so I worked hard to make sure that didnt happen again. I took the corner a little faster (the crit racing has improved my cornering) and I got moving quickly towards the bottom of the climb. Staying with the pack I managed to get up the first climb, puffing heavily and thinking it not good to let the competition know I was struggling. The second climb was easier. Dropping down the back we got a paceline working and hauled it into the wind.

The second lap felt easier, especially the climbs. Into the wind again and another paceline. A few miles from the end I began to wonder how the finish would go. The paceline was still working but at some people people would stop circling and then would be a good moment to get a good position.

About a mile out, the paceline stopped and the race was on. At first it seemed just about position. One of the slower riders made an early break for the front and a couple of us followed. The smart racers pulled in behind us! We picked up the pace as we neared the last hill and then the finish line. For some time we were riding 3 across at the front. I heard later that the guy on my right had tried to stand in the saddle but his leg gave out. All I knew was that Andrew and Allan cruised past me about 200m from the line. Then Scott appeared. He had apparently been on my wheel for a while. He had a sprint left and got his wheel over the line before Andrew and Allan. Very impressive timing. From where I was sitting i thought he'd come in third but no, he'd got first place.

I came in 4th. 1 place up from my last Diamond Valley race. Satisfying to make an improvement but I'm looking for a win now. Though I am working towards this mainly by 'hoping' rather than putting in hours on the bike, so I hardly deserve a win!

Back to Scott's for a couple of beers at the end.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Buckeye & rain

Awoke at 8.30am after a huge sleep. Got stuck into Stephen King and made a bit of breakfast and then the rain set in. I had planned to see how far I could cycle Tioga Pass before they finish clearing the snow off the road (which goes to Yosemite) but the rain was pretty convincing and I gave up on the the idea and came home instead, having spent a pleasant if slightly chilly morning reading in my tent. I even made some coffee in my tent without burning it down, which was a major plus.

I forgot my camera this weekend, so here's the Mountain Gear picture of my tent.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mountain Warfare Challenge - 10k run

[Note: Race photos are not mine, they are just low resolution copies which are available from www.brightroom.com I hope they don't mind me using them here. If you want good copies you'll need to get them from Brightroom.]

On race day I awoke to a bright and sunny day, had a leisurely camp breakfast and then stowed my gear in the car. I took the long way out of Buckeye heading north to 395. This long way was actually shorter than returning to Bridgeport but was on dirt roads for some miles. A beautiful drive though, looking down into the valley and beyond to the snow capped peaks which are about 20 miles north of the entrance to Yosemite.

The race was the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare training challenge with its low point of 6,800ft, climbing swiftly to 7,800ft in the first mile or so. I hoped sleeping at 7,500ft would help but perhaps the fact that I live at 4,750ft was pretty beneficial too.

As I arrived I gradually got to meet all the folks from work. Libby, Brent, Tony, Ron and Dave. At the starting line I also met the oldest competitor, John, who was 72 (very impressive!). In the starting chute I decided to head towards the front with Dave, Ron and Tony because although I wasn't feeling overconfident I was well aware of the frustration of being held up by the pack at the start.

As the race started we headed out on the road downhill - this surprised me a bit since I knew we had a lot of uphill to do and wasn't keen for it to be longer than it had to be. The uphill trail soon started and the pack started to spread up. The first section is steep and pretty soon a lot of people were walking. Running slowly and taking small steps I was still able to make ground on the walkers so I continued on a bit. Before long I started to reflect on the laws of physicals, well of physical exercise anyway, relating to the conservation of energy. I figured some of these walkers were saving themselves, so I too decided to walk a bit on the steep stuff - though at times I didn't have a lot of choice, the going was very tough. After a while I got past Ron, who altough fabled to be not a runner was doing pretty well, though anyone who takes his circuit training classes knows not to underestimate him. I was most comforted as I climbed, to still see Dave Adams just a short way ahead. I run with Dave sometimes and he's extremely fit so I was very pleased to still have sight of him.


The second mile was my slowest (and Ron said similar later too). It wasn't as hard as the first mile but it was hard enough that you couldn't really recover but only continue to suffer from the first mile. Somewhere during this second mile was the supposed 5ft wall climb. It was perhaps the biggest 5ft I've ever seen, much more like 5ft 10, followed immediately by the need to step in tyres. After that, downhill for a while, back the way we'd come, and good to say hi to the folks on the way up.

The downhill ended with a water station and another pretty rough climb. Through a low tunnel crawl and on for another mile or so to a hay bale climb and a low crawl. Then downhill all the way to the finish. I noticed I was able to fly downhill faster than some others so I made up some ground here. Lots of people were wasting energy putting the brakes on, so I sailed past. Another low tunnel crawl and downhill to the finish.

One of the guys I had overtaken on a downhill stretch had wised up and I was failing to catch him much, but when we hit the tarmac I was surprised to find I had a sprint finish left in me, so the last 50 yards was a blur. It was very satisfying to sail past him and for him to realise too late that I was flying. He came back well but I pipped him to the line and then turned to apologise and shake hands.


Ron looking similarly serious...

My time was something like 54.30, which seemed ok. When the results were posted I was pretty thrilled to be 4th in my agegroup and 36th overall (out of around 250). Chatting to Ron later over a beer we were thinking about how the race had gone. I said I felt I had a bit more and regretted a bit my thoughts of conserving energy by walking on some of the hills.

The others did very well too. Libby was first in her age group, Dave 3rd (though Dave was the quickest of all of us), and Ron 2rd. Brent doesn't run much but got a good time and Tony was disappointed to only match his last year's time but on such a course, that is a feat in itself.





Team Shot...
Team shot - Left to right, Tony, Dave, Ron, Brent, Libby, Carl

And John, the 72 year old, finished around 1:25 or so (first in his age group!)...

Split times, from my GPS were:
9:40; 10:55; 8:31; 8:36; 7:59; 7:08

The 10:55 is very disappointing but to have the legs left at the end to run 7:08 down a steep hill was quite satisfying.

A very enjoyable race, and a nice beer.

I finished the afternoon by returning to bridgeport to seek out the legendary Travertine Hot Springs (not my photo).

At the springs were 4 lads from the race, notably the french guy who had allowed the organizers to declare this was now an international event! They soon left and I was left alone to soak in these amazing hot springs, looks a little stalegtites in places where the hot water bubbled out. There is not cold water here at all, no river in sight, just a few natural looking hot tubs covered with a thick layer of grey sludge (which you also sit in). What an amazing place to sit and watch the sun go down whilst reading Stephen King's Bag of Bones. Great relaxation for tired legs. I was pretty careful getting out of these hot tubs on my own, since I have a tendancy to get light headed when getting out of hot tubs, but all was fine. There is no camping near the springs since this sulphorous landscape is on Indian land I'm told, and it somehow doesn't seem like an inviting place to stay, very hot and dry. So I headed back to Buckeye to pitch my tent in the woods again, at the exact same spot as yesterday. I dined on high carb split pea soup, bread and cheese. Nice!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Camping at Buckeye (Bridgeport)

Had a mad dash to get ready after work for a weekend's camping. I eventually got moving just before 6 and arrived at Bridgeport around 7.10pm in time for the pre-race carb-loading dinner. Dinner was ok and provided an opportunity to get a bit of local knowledge about local camp grounds. The one I had planned was at a nice spot in the woods near some hot springs. Unfortunately the river is so full at this time of year that the modest springs in the midst of it was completely washed out (Tony had warned me of this).

I eventually found the camping spot I used before, after several miles on dirt roads. I got my new tent up quite quickly, though I regretted that Mountain Gear had skimped on the pegs and there were not enough for the guy lines. Otherwise though, the Haven 3 is a great tent. It's green, feels HUGE and has a discrete back door (great escape route if a bear comes around the front!) and it weighs just under 6lbs.

I didn't sleep all that well and it was colder than I expected, though I should have thought it through, I was camping not far below the snow line at around 7,500ft. I was considerably more confident about bears during the night on account of my newly aquired bear spray (pepper spray which shoots 30ft for 7 seconds, it claims!).

I still find Buckeye to be an amazing place to camp, even without the hot springs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reno Air Center Crit Race - Alta Alpina vs Reno Wheelmen

Skipped out of work early for the inter-club criterion cycle race which started at 5.45 for the 'C' group. The circuit was 0.8 miles around an industrial park near the airport and was an excellent flat course with one tight turn leading to the finish straight.

We set off at what felt like a hard pace but harder for me was the cornering amid 40 or 50 other riders. I was yelled at a lot by one of the coaches for not pedaling in the corners. Partly this was fear of scraping the pedals but partly it was fear of bumping into someone else who wasnt pedalling. After being yelled at a few times I found that the coaches had a point, I really could jump a few places if I kept pedalling into the corners. It was still spooky to ride into a tight corner in a pack, with people very close on either side, in front and behind. Not pleasant.

The back straight was near the airport and was very windy so you needed to tuck in well to get pulled along by the pack, which turned out to be an art for the whole race. I wanted to be on the right hand side of the road for the straight to stay out of the wind but then get around to the left to take the corner fast.

With so many riders out it was hard to plan the race properly. The idea of a crit is to stay in contention and stay relaxed conserving all your energy for the first 30 minutes and then when they say "3 laps to go" start thinking about how you might win (I haven't figure that part out yet). One of the coaches suggested a good insurance policy was to move up through the pack so I gradually made my way up there and tried to tuck in (not easy).

As we circled the course every so often the starter guy would should "ten dollars", which I thought was some coded message to the Reno Wheelmen to pull some kind of break away. Alas I found out later that it meant the the first person over the line for the next lap would get $10! A good incentive to keep the pace up!

Coming into the finish I had a fairly good position near the front and the last corner is tight but a nice one to end on. I did probably my best sprint yet and came around 13th, which was pretty good given the competition. Word on the street was that the Wheelmen 'C' grade is like Alta Alpina 'B' but I don't really believe it, we have some tough 'C's too.

I got to the line just ahead of Christine, who organises Alta Alpina races. She asked me if I was going to ride with the 'B's next. I thought this was some measure of insanity since we had only just crossed the line and had one lap to warm down a bit. But sure enough, she lined up for the next race too, so I thought, after driving for an hour to get there I might as well do the same.

The 'B's race for 40 minutes + 3 laps and I was feeling tired at first. We set off at the back of the pack and coming out of the first corner we lost the pack and were left stranded in heavy wind. I thought 'these guys can really ride'. Christine remained determined and said we'd just pick them up next time around, and that's what we did. I learned a lot in the following 35 minutes and stayed with them all the way until the end (though I dropped off before the sprint finish because I was a lap down).

In every corner I went in hard, pedalled through and came out of the saddle as we hit the straight. A short blast of energy coming out of the corner kept me with the pack. A couple of times I surprised myself with how stable the bike felt and how natural it felt to rise out of the saddle and give it some to get back on someone's wheel. I'm really impressed with my LeMond Versaille. I was pretty surprised to have enough energy to keep up with the 25mph average speed the 'B's were putting in. I felt surprisingly strong and feel like I learned much more from riding both with the Cs and the Bs. I'm quite looking forward to my next race, though I am keen to try to win one of the C events!

I hadn't planned to stay to watch the A's but Mel from work was racing. The whole pack of A's were really moving. I was very surprised when a couple of them made a break early and made it stick for a while. Even more surprised to see that Mel had managed to bridge the gap on the back straight of one lap. It was a shame to see that the pack behind them suddenly started looking very efficient and working together. They managed to reel in the leaders with their 13 second lead. I saw Mel wisely sitting on the back of this pack of about 20 riders after being caught, recovering some energy. He had some left for the finish too and came around 6th I think. It's really a pleasure to watch the A's ride. They ride fast and seem to have more tactics to their ride. Very impressive.

A nice night out and a challenging new hobby with lots more to learn about.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gardnerville 100 mile cycle ride by Alta Alpina & Big Daddy

I arrived at Big Daddys Bike store in Minden just before 8am for the Gardnerville 100 mile ride (with around 8,000ft of climb). I was unsurprised but still impressed by the usual high standard of organization for Alta Alpina events. Sign ups were done quickly and food was on hand to carb up before the start and to fill your pockets for the day. During the whole ride, food, water and support were great. I wonder who paid for it all. The ride was free to Alta Alpina members and it was awesome, I would have happily paid to ride it with that level of support.

After a quick team photo we set off South down the 395 to climb towards lake Topaz at a relaxed pace. It was disappointing to see some much junk in the cycle lane on the 395 but I guess that's true of cycle lanes everywhere that car is king. It was nice to ride out with such a friendly bunch. My first camera stop was I guess at about 12 miles to snap Topaz. It was still a little cool at this time, especially descending towards the last stretch to Topaz so my extra Lyra sleeves were handy (they were fairly handy for descents all day in fact).
Lake Topaz

Just around the corner from Topaz we turned right to head up the long climb to the top of Monitor (8,000ft+). This "backside" of Monitor seems very dry and desert-like but it was pretty pleasant early in the morning, although the snow-line looked a long way up for a very long time.

Here's Big Daddy (Keith) himself getting stuck in to Monitor (note snow-line!).
Big Daddy Himself - climbing Monitor

Looking back down on the road we had climbed. It's not as scorched as it usually feels here but I think the photo shows the kind of dryness this side of the mountain is capable of. This is usually the second big climb on the Death Ride.
Looking back down Monitor

Approaching the snow-line at last...
Slow climb up monitor

Into the snow-line we even came upon a late season skier demonstrating some impressive skills given the conditions...
Late spring skiing!

A very welcome site at the top was the support vehicle run by Curtis, who organizes lots of the larger local bike events. There was loads of great food and I was pretty hungry by now so I'm sure I ate plenty and sat in Curtis' spare chair. Very gratifying to earn the opportunity to eat lots and remember the simple pleasure of drinking water when you really need it. Curtis played an excellent race and managed to be available to us on the top of Monitor, on the way up Woodfords, on the top of Luther and at the bottom of Kingsbury - not a bad trick when supporting a bunch of diversely skilled riders but always a very welcome sight.
Curtis doing ride support

Just over the hill was an amazing view. I should have plumetted down this descent ready for the hill the other side but I had to slow down to take some photos. Que bonitas las Sierras!
Top of Monitor Pass

The ride down Monitor was awesome. Very fast indeed, most of it done over 30mph with a top speed of 45mph. I wasn't very impressed when a huge RV overtook and sprayed me with water from somewhere near the back of the truck - I wondered what kind of 'water' and RV might be throwing from the rear and didn't like to dwell on it too long. In the end I braked a bit to let him get away.

Hitting the stop sign at the bottom of the descent was a bit disappointing after so much speed fun but the ride to Markleeville, Turtle Rock Park and the junction at Woodfords was much nicer than I remember it from the Death Ride. Turning left onto Woodfords Canyon was the decision point to go for 100 mile ride instead of a 70 mile ride. The 30 extra miles didn't sound much but involved 2 more significant climbs. My resolve was solid, I turned left and got on with the 100.

After a while my knee was starting to feel not 100% so I took it a bit easy and had a couple of breaks. One was for a photo opportunity by the Carson River. Cycling is a great way to notice things like this.
Carson River

I was pleased to finally see stores I recognized and Sorenson's Resort just in front of my right turn at Pickett's Junction before heading up Luther. By now I realized I was probably the last of the 100 mile riders, the pack behind presumably opting for 70 miles and an early barbeque at Big Daddys.

Luther itself was less of a problem than Woodfords. I guess mentally Luther seems like a significant climb and isn't, and Woodfords seems like an insignificant climb and isn't! Nearing the top of Luther I plotted my path around a stick in the road only to realize too late that it was a snake. Had i realized earlier I would have given it more room! It looked something like this... (not my photo)

I was pleased to see Curtis at the top of Luther. As he saw me he fixed me a bagel with peanut butter and jelly (jam) and made sure I had water and fruit and cookies. I realized he'd waited around for me and had to get going to meet the rest of the group at the bottom of Kingsbury so I let him get on his way as I downed some fizzy drink and the rest of my food (well, the food in my hands, my pocket's were full too!).

Descending Luther was pretty fun and it was nice to know that descending to Lake Tahoe would mean that I would not lose all of the altitude I had gained (Tahoe is about 6,300ft). Pioneer Trail has a horrible road surface but it's a great way to avoid the traffic at South Lake Tahoe, so on balance, much safer and more relaxing to ride on, though I passed some riders from the group with a puncture (one of several I'd seen that day). I finally made it to the bottom of Kingsbury and had some more food and water from Curtis at the Exxon station there, and sat and chewed the fat for a while too.

Finally I had to face the last 3 mile & 1,000ft climb up over Kingsbury before descending 3,000ft the other side. The climb was pretty tough but felt quite short really. At the top I rested a little to get my legs ready for the big descent, I didn't want to be too tired on that. Setting off I was quickly doing over 40mph and eventually got to 48mph. I think my cornering improved a bit throughout the day following some advice from Big Daddy. It's pretty fun to descend 8 miles and 3,000ft all in one go but I felt I needed a little more of the road than was available in the cycle lane so I had to stay very aware of what was behind me. Kingsbury is pretty twisty so most people don't drive down it too fast so I wasn't really in anyone's way. I was certainly very nice to be coming down from the last climb of the day.

At the bottom it flattened out, which meant more pedalling, but it seemed to stay on a gradual descent for a while longer so I seemed to trickle along the last 7 miles to Big Daddies store. Although I was last there were still quite a few tired cyclists sitting around and I was glad of a seat and a couple more bagels.

I averaged about 13.2mph whilst pedalling (not including stops) and my maxium speed was 47.8mph (cool).

Awesome rideout and great organization.

Here's an outline of the climb involved...

Friday, May 12, 2006


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Criterion "Crit" cycle race - Easy Valley Rd

I rode my first Crit race today. I didn't know what a crit race was but I had a go anyway. We cycled around a 1 mile loop for 30 minutes and then someone holds up a board showing there are 3 laps to go, and we race to the line. The most noticeable thing about the 3 lap board was that nothing much changed - we still had 3 miles to go so nobody was making a break early.

I wasn't keen on cycling around corners in a pack of other cyclists and kept getting dropped off the back at the corners. Eventually I got the hang of it a bit. A kiwi guy called Gary made a break at about half a mile out but the pack reeled him in (I wish I'd gone with him). I timed the ending quite well and made sure i was with the front pack but as we neared the line I couldn't improve my position and some sprinter came past me, so i was 5th (again). It's funny because i feel like I could win these races but I'm struggling with race strategy and technical aspects. I think I might try to make an early break in the next race, since I'm so bad at drafting I only seem to get a marginal benefit from it anyway. At least at the front I can pick my position.

Good fun, and good to watch the As and Bs go around later, much faster.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Run/hike Faye Luther Trail (8.5 miles)

I needed some hill training so I set off to run the Faye Luther Trail. It was hard going. Even the gradual incline before the big climb, was hard because of several inches of sandy decomposed granite (DG?) under foot.

Faye Luther Trail - Spring 2006

The main climb was very steep for running but I persevered, though took the wrong path several times. At around 2 miles I came upon a rocky outcrop I was familiar with and continued on, running when I could but walking the steep bits. I crossed a couple of rivers before the path started getting vague as I approached the snow line. I decided to try and reach the snow but didn't make it. The path had vanished and the going was extremely tough. I slipped and slid my way back towards a familiar path, nearly falling over badly a handful of times. The DG was hardwork and there were loose rocks over it too.

Faye Luther Trail - Spring 2006

I was pleased to re-emerge at a stream cascading gently over some smooth granite (Kathryn would have loved it I think). A great place to sit and tip the DG out of my boots and wash my feet. It was a lovely spot, I wish I had bought my book and some drinking water. With 4 miles to run back I didn't want to linger for too long. Especially since, judging by the other wildlife I'd seen, I'm sure the Black Bears must be awake again by now.

Faye Luther Trail - Spring 2006

Faye Luther Trail - Spring 2006

It was a real treat running through the spring. I saw some interesting flowers, a lot of little lizards (very quick), chipmunks, hawks, and - running water in the sierras!

Faye Luther Trail - Spring 2006

Running back the 4 miles was nice too. Gradual downhill most of the way, with the added motivation of a water bottle stashed in my car.

I drank 2 litres straight down, and although that weighs about 4lbs alone, I was still 3.5lbs lighter than when I started. It's hot out here! But actually, not too hot today, thankfully there were clouds but you still get through lots of water it seems.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cinco De Mayo

Mexican Independence Day. Scott and Amy invited me around for Mexican food and beer. Sam was on top form. With a smile affixed to his face he showed me around the garden and we played at throwing stones. He's getting lots better at that sort of thing and high fives too. Cool.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Diamond Valley Road Race - 22 miles

Thunder clouds were rolling in but I drove up to Diamond Valley to see if anyone would be racing tonight. On the way i got stopped by the cops. I wasnt really concentrating and was doing 74mph on a long, straight, wide 55mph stretch. For the first time ever, being polite (and perhaps English) worked out and I didn't get a ticket. It was a worry because I have been keen to hang on to my UK driving license and didn't want to do a Nevada driving test and exchange my license for a Nevada one. This alone could get me an $800 fine.

On arrival at the race, I was pleased to see there was no lack of attendance or enthusiasm. Everything was very well organized, by a lady called Christine I think. It is her first season running the events and she's doing a good job. She got everyone to move in to hear her pre-race briefing, and everything went very well.

As the first race of the season the Bs, Cs & Ds were assigned 'mentors' to help with their racing. They were very much needed. Cycle racing is all about riding intelligently and conserving your energy. This means cycling close together and getting into a routine of taking your turn at the front.

Each time I got to the front i got shouted at because I broke away from the pack and made the next person work to hard. That might sound clever of me but it was very stupid. I found it hard to get the feel of just creeping slowly ahead before pulling over. I didn't much like riding so close to other people but I could really feel the difference in the slipstream, so I will have to get used to it.

At 3/10ths of a mile to the end, the front riders made a break. I had known for a couple of minutes what they were planning and was frustrated by how relaxed they looked as they prepared themselves. As they went I tried to follow and was surprised they didn't go that fast, though it wss fast enough to leave me alone between the group that had broken and the group behind. The next 2/10ths were hard. Coming up to the line an amusing chap who had been encouraging me throughout the race came past me, but not as fast as I expected, so I came back at him - he beat me by a wheel!

After the time trial, which I had entered as a 'D' rider and came first, I moved up to the Cs this time and came 5th out of about 10. I'm sure running 5 miles at lunch time and my more extreme attempts to lose weight have not helped my cycling but it's something to do.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cycle race results

Results are in for the cycle race (time trial) on the Alta Alpina website. I think it was about 15 miles so my time of 45:50 averages out about 19.6 mph and the top of the category D that I entered. Mel from work had the fastest time at 36.37, which seems to be about 24.5mph - now THAT is impressive.

Overall I was pleased with my time. I think it looks from the overall timings that I should be in Category C instead. Perhaps if I don't run 7 miles at lunchtime I would do better next time.