Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tossing my hat into the ring...again

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When Mother Nature gives you tons and tons of snow…register for a wintry, freezing death march…err…race. That’s right, register for a race. What kind of race you ask? The fabled Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon.

The Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon is entering its 24th year this winter and it always draws a crowd, mostly from Northern New Mexico and Colorado. I have wanted to do it since I got into endurance sports but the first year I wasn’t ready for the challenge and last year I was running the Lost Dutchman Marathon.

The "Quad" consists of 4 parts; road bikes, running, cross county skiing, and snow shoeing.

Bike: Racers begin with a 13 mile draft legal road race through the streets of Grants, NM and then begins the 1,800 foot climb to the end of the paved road that heads up Mt. Taylor. The route takes you from desert cactus to ponderosa pine.

Run: At the end of the paved road, bikes are racked and racers must run the next five miles on gravel roads. The road generally starts out dry but usually turns to snow pack. This part of the course will climb another 1,200 feet in elevation.
Cross County Ski: Runners then turn to cross-country skis to challenge the next 1,200 foot climb of the mountaineering ski course that covers two miles. During the final yards of this course you must face the notorious "Heart Break Hill" that lays waiting for weary racers.

Snowshoe: The remaining one mile climb on snowshoes gains 600 feet to reach the 11,301 foot summit of Mt. Taylor where a person can see for over one hundred miles on a clear day. And then...The race is only half over. You must reverse the four events and race the 22 miles back to the Start/Finish line.

How cool is that?! This race was not in my plan for the year but fellow Outlaw “Mr. Walnuts” sold me on the idea. How, you ask? He posted a query on our team message board asking who was racing the Quad this year. I posted that I heard it was harder than the widely feared Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 Triathlon. Here is the response that won me over:

“I would agree with Barry in that the quad is a lot tougher than a 1/2 IM. X-C skiing and snow-shoeing up the steepest parts is a real b**ch. One year I burned up so much energy on the uphill that I decided to take my gloves off on the downhill. After several crashes on the downhill ski portion my hands were frozen to the point that I had to have someone remove my X-C shoes and put on and tie my running shoes for the downhill run leg. Fun stuff.”
Fun stuff indeed. You know you want some of this…but unless you come to New Mexico you’ll just have to wait for my race report. Be looking for it shortly after February 17th.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

And the next day you are just plain CHEAP...sort of

Tyvek Jacket, yes indeed, my #2 great joy in running P.F. Chang's Rock-n-roll Arizona Marathon last weekend was my plain white $8 Tyvek jacket. My #1 joy of course was running the event with Wife...

Ok, a brief interlude here...she calls me Sweet Baboo so I can hardly keep refering to her as Wife. I'm not prone to terms of endearment, I'm more of an action guy, however, I'll dub Wife "Flutterby" My dear reader may never figure this one out and even Flutterby will have to scrutinize and dig deep into the mists our our first days together but I assure you all it is tied to a descriptive comment I made about her that she found quite endearing lo these many years ago.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

For those of you not in the know Tyvek is a brand of spunbonded olefin, a synthetic material made of high-density polyethylene fibers; the name is a registered trademark of the DuPont Company. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or any other sharp object. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek, but not liquid water, so the material lends itself to a variety of applications...including my stupendously wonderful marathon jacket.

So as much as I'd love to go on about my super great Tyvek Jacket, that is not really the point of my post. The point of my post is the fact that my Tyvek jacket cost $8...and I jealously guarded it throughout the marathon...I safeguarded its transportation home...I carefully washed it, dried it and placed it gently upon my running cloths chair until I was able to wear it again on my next run. As a matter of fact...I'm looking fondly upon it right now thinking what a splendid time we will have together during my long run tomorrow!
I have a $100 limited edition print from a famous local artist...signed by her...and I don't have a clue where it is. I have a $500 suit sitting in my GARAGE...for the past YEAR because I was going to take it in for alterations but had to set it down quickly to adjust one of my bikes that was sitting slightly askew and was in grave danger of being scratched by my pump.

I should really take that suit in one of these days.

But it's EVEN more than that. About two months ago I finally bought new tires for my car because two of my exceedingly bald tires finally blew. I tried to get them repaired but the dealer just looked at me like a Koala bear was crawling out of my nose.

I'm a professional man...people at work call me "Doctor"...I wear 3 year old blue jeans and race t-shirts on my free time and at work...Oh the shame...
I sort of have a "uniform." I have two pair of corduroy pants for winter, two pair of chinos for spring and summer, one pair of brown leather shoes and an old tweed jacket that I wear year around, if I must. I keep all these clothes at work, in my filing cabinet, they are about 3 or 4 years old and fit well when I was about 50 lbs heavier. Fear not, I do wash them from time to time. I carry my limited selection of shirts, similarly aged, to work in my fanney pack along with my lunch. Since I bike to work I just wear gym socks...since I'm already wearing socks when I arrive at work...I just keep wearing them because I would look stupid biking home in dress socks...right?

My car is closing in on 200,000 miles and, as already mentioned, I carry my little sack lunch daily and on and on and on...
My expendatures on tri gear, races, travel to and from races, nutrition, hotels that's another story entirely.

I should hang my head and say, "What a sad state of affairs I have entered"
But you know...and I know...this RULES!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pee R; My RRAZ Race Report

Oh...My...GOD! IF I had gone for a PR (personal record) today there is no way I would have made it had everything but my training been the same. However, I did set a personal Pee R...6 times...all before mile 18!

Today was my first run since December 10th when I had to stop at mile 6 of a long run because my foot hurt to bad. Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the third metatarsal of my right foot.

I was a good boy and did not run at all the entire time but I was able to keep up on my cardio fitness, somewhat, on the bike.

I went to the Doc's office last Tuesday and he declaired me healed and said I could start running I ran.

Instead of just hobbling around out on the course I took the opportunity to run this race with my wife. How often do you get the chance to run side by side with your love for her very first marathon?

Her goal was to run the event in 6 hours or less. She had planned out her race to actually get in a just a few minutes after 6 hours but was hoping to get in faster.

My goal was to run the entire marathon right by her side and be a good companion...oh, and not break anything.

I ended up running almost every step by her side. During my first three bathroom breaks Misty stopped with me but this was a no go, I was holding her back. During the next three breaks I just told her to keep going at pace and I would catch up.

I just kept running and talking and looking around and really had a good time. My feet started hurting and my quads were pretty sore but I felt amazingly good for not having run in a month and a half.

Calories burned: 5030

Min HR: 44

Max HR: 189 (don't know what that was about)

Ave HR: 122

26.2 miles 5:59:54...We Did It!

During the last 1/10th of a mile she started picking up the pace and then we held hands and ran, corssed the finish line together holding hands raised above our head in victory.

We even dropped a few people.

It was a great experience, I reccomend it to anyone.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I'm it and stuff

There is some game if literary tag going about the blogosphere. I first saw it on Run Bubba Run. I was tagged by Athena Diaries...a.k.a. my el wifeo.

This is how it goes:
1. Find the nearest book.
2. Name the book & the author.
3. Turn to page 123.
4. Go to the fifth sentence on the page. Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog.
5. Tag three more folks.

I would like to tell you the book nearest me is Martin Heidegger's Being and Time but sadly I can not lie to you...though it it totally within view of my bedside...REALLY!

Sadly, the "book" nearest me has a whopping 44 pages. It's "Preparing for Long Rides" by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association.

Next closest, "Road Biking, New Mexico" by Nicole Blouin.

"Now Eldorado is a community in itself. Try this neighborhood ride as a warm-up in early season - you may enjoy it enough to ride it twice. This loop begins at the Agora, a shopping center that serves Eldorado and the surrounding area."

I think a bunch of folks I read have been tagged already so I''l try some that I don't think have been.

Clydesdales have big...bikes, Run Fast, Do Good, and Lone Star are it!

In other news, this ultra cycling is making me ultra skinney...well, I guess that is a matter of perspective. Be that as it clyde-o-riffic frame weighed in at a svelt 208.5 this am.

I am 9 pounds away from an identity crisis! I'll try and stay calm for now and seek advice later.

Now, it's off to the P.F. Chang's Rock-n-Roll Arizona Marathon!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sexy Beast

Lately I have been swamped with Outlaws business and preoccupied with learning as much as I can to do well in riding brevets so I can make it to my goal of earning the Super Randonneur medal by riding a 200, 300, 400 and 600K brevet in one year.

So, here is my post, quick, to the point and worthy of serious envy.

I went out and bought a new bike specifically for ultra distance riding. It is Beautiful! The bike is a 2006 Lemond Zurich. It has a combo steel/carbon fiber frame. Folks at liked the bike as well. I took several pics but have not loaded them onto my lap top yet so I’ve yanked a picture off the web.

This bike is pure comfort and is also fairly light, fast and very responsive.

How comfortable you ask? I was able to take it out for a spin on my first day of ownership without a single issue. Did I mention that spin was 103 MILES?

Because of VERY adverse weather conditions the ride took me just under 7 hours to complete but I’m telling you, the only discomfort I had was fatigue in my arms. I did not put aero bars on the bike and I’m not yet conditioned to spend multi-hours in the saddle without aero bars.

During my ride I hit cattle guards and rumble strips as well as the usual road cracks, warps and poorly patched holes. The worst feel I had were the cattle guards and rumble strips. It felt like I rank over a bag of marshmallows someone had dropped.

Ready for some bike porn?

Next event, well, besides the P.F. Chang’s Rock-n-Roll Arizona marathon this weekend, which I think I will go ahead and run-walk with my wife because I think my foot is healed enough to take, is a 300K brevet in Casa Grande Arizona on February 3rd.

Ok, one other item. The weather for my ride this last weekend…temps never exceeded 35 degrees and I spent about 30 of the miles in a direct headwind. At one point I was on a flat road in the small chain ring (not the third ring or granny gear but ring number two) out of the saddle in order to reach a speed of, get this, 5.9 mph!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Terra Incognita De-mystified

It’s in the books, my first brevet and the beginning of what I hope to be an excellent year of athletic pursuit. January 1st I woke early in Arlington Texas and loaded up my now modified commuter bike to head to the start line of the 200K brevet that would kick off the year for me and my new “other team”, the intrepid Lone Star Randonneurs.

The morning started off far more casually that I am used to with my background in triathlon. I was greeted warmly and invited to conversation. There was little preparation necessary and so I spent my nervous energy, which is usually used in setting up transition and shooting off at the start gun, frittering with my bike and checking and double checking the fact that I had some Cliff bars and hammer gels.

I think I heard that there were 39 riders present but I really have no idea. It was a small event but a giant group ride. I had said in an earlier post that I honestly did not know what to expect vis-a-vie difficulty. Brevets are NOT races and nobody earns places. Now read the more obvious writing on the wall if you think to do so.

Here you have a group of people, expensive bikes, and distances to be covered that demand a huge investment in training and time. What you have is a recipe for the challenge driven competitive spirit. I can not speak about brevets longer than 200K but I am telling you, if the distance is 200K or less you have a race in its truest sense.

We headed out at a leisurely pace with everyone else. We stayed together as a group for at least the first 23 or so miles…to the first control (check point). I know this for sure because somewhere around mile 15 we were heading up a curving hill and I took my eyes off the task at hand long enough to ride into the curb and go flying off my bike and rolling into the weeds. I then had the pleasure of trying to regain my place in the pack while EVERYONE (except the very leading edge) asked me if I was ok and commenting on what a fine job I had done at rolling along the ground. Thanks.

I can’t tell you exactly when the pack split apart but I can tell you that I recognized a very significant schism at about mile 40.

Basically we were riding along talking sometimes speeding up, sometimes slowing down but always staying together. I remained up front with no more than three or four people ahead of me at any time. Suddenly there was a recognizable surge to break away off the front. I followed, I assumed everyone followed. The pace slowed and just like before I was riding and talking with no more than a few folks ahead of me. Surge, relax, surge, surge, surge, relax etc…

From a triathlete’s perspective, it was beautiful! Six guys certainly racing but also working together to maintain maximum speed. While triathlon is more a game of pacing and endurance this was more a game of strategy and attrition. You want to maintain the maximum pace that a group can sustain, a group that can help you move along quickly and still be able to rest some. That is until you determine that enough distance has been covered where you can afford to drop to a smaller, harder riding group to keep the pace high but to eliminate competition for a final surge across the finish.

But I digress. We were riding in pace lines and echelons each of us taking turns at pulling. Mile 40 or so, NOBODY was behind me as far as I could see…SURGE I fell off the back and five went ahead then another fell off the back and four went ahead and then another fell off the back and three went ahead.

I eventually caught up to the team captain/leader/organizer Dan, who was the #5 man to fall back, and he said “If we can catch Bob (fictional name) then the three of us can work together and catch the other guys at the next control. If we just speed through that transition we can ride out with them again.” Good. We two pressed the pace and caught Bob; we three pressed the pace again and caught the leading three at the control. We six rode out together…nice and easy…SURGE!

My quads were on fire! Let me put this in perspective. It is winter. As a dutiful triathlete I have been working on my weakness during the winter, running. I have been in training since November 1st for the Rock-n-roll Arizona MARATHON. Not the Arlington Texas BREVET-A-THON. Add to that, my longest rides in “preparation” for this adventure was 112 miles as part of an iron distance triathlon on September 23rd, a 60 mile hillbilly hill adventure through Alabama 3 days before the brevet and 56 miles during the Soma half-iron on October 31st. Whaaaaaaa, right? Ok, I’ll shut up and take my medicine.

SURGE, SURGE, SURGE and at mile 73 I was off the back again and this time for good. The group was on a long rolling straight away heading into the wind. I fell off the back on another one of the uphill surges. There is a specific and pathetic loneliness attendant to being spit off the back of a pace line that is riding into a head wind and this pathetic loneliness was only accentuated by the mocking straightness of the road upon which we were traveling. I longed for the speed and protection of the group as they pulled relentlessly away, growing ever smaller on the horizon. Bitterly I thought, “Now I have to fight the wind alone.” Of course this is what we do all the time as triathletes but this is NOT what we try and do as cyclists. I was a lone monkey on the open Savannah without a tree in sight. Time for an attitude adjustment.

I suppose one benefit to my being a psychologist is that I can employ a wide variety of psychological defense mechanisms at will. In this particular situation I rolled out “reframing”, ego boosting narcissism and unwarranted optimism.

Reframing: instead of “%#@*! now I have to slog through this #@%& cold and wind alone!” I chose “Golly, now I totally have the opportunity to gain the full randonneuring experience of finding my OWN way, using my OWN wits”

Ego boosting narcissism: “These guys are going to think I am a natural after I find my way back to the start all by myself.” And “These guys are going to be impressed by my mental toughness when I finish this cold and windy ride all by myself.”
Unwarranted optimism: “Now the fun REALLY begins. Going it alone out on the Texas countryside, figuring it out, enjoying the scenery…COOL!”

To shorten this long story, I did find my way. I did have a good time. I did finish my first brevet. I will be back. Distance covered 128.83 (I got a wee bit lost at one point). Total time: somewhere around 8.5 hours. Bike computer time: 7 hrs 58 min.

Photos to follow…hopefully.