Monday, 23 February 2009

Where to live

I've been on a rollercoaster lately in terms of a general desire to upgrade my living conditions. The process of design has been interesting, yet slow. The change of economy has been a consideration felt by me more than my renovator, apparently. The pace of dealing with our fine City is something different than the timelines I'm used to dealing with in pace of private business (especially that sector of business that I occupy, which I'd argue is at the more hurried end of general private business pace overall).

It's been a patience stretcher and a learning experience. The house sitting gig has taught me that I do get along pretty well in just a small old bungalow in a basement suite. Tucson has told me I'd probably find a way to make a 1973 Dodge Camper van work out just fine for the long term, as long as I could afford enough Mexican food and bike parts.

I'm 13 months into this, with little tangible to show for it - although I'd argue that the somewhat invisible commodity of prudent financial decision making along the way has been satisfying.

Let's just say I'm really hoping to end 2009 with some visible form of progress.

Home on the Range

This weekend was spent back home on the range, on familiar rides with familiar faces. I loved the scenery and the weather, and did my best to bring up the tail end of the group on our Saturday excursion. Something about the flurry of activity leading into Tucson, the hard efforts there, and the flurry of activity upon my return left little time for rest - left me feeling generally like a pile of junk out there on the roads, despite the recent round of favourable riding volumes and conditions down south.

Sunday was a different story all together. Keith, Craig, for a while Dallas, and myself rode around the city on as much pristine, acceptable, marginal, and downright sketchy snow/ice/mud/grass singletrack as we could. Edworthy to Fish Creek, plus everything in between, we sought out to roll our little 'cross tires all over.

It's interesting to see people's respective comparative advantages out on the roads. Dallas on Saturday brought out the horsepower for a few stretches. Keith is accelerating like an espoir. Craig was finding traction on technical snow and ice climbs with his 'cross tires like nobody's business in Fish Creek. Where does that leave a jesk jockey like me? Apparently sketchy ice and snow downhills are my thing. Of course this isn't fair without Nutbrown out as the gold standard, but there were more than a few pauses along the trail at the top of sections where the preference was to dismount to navigate down, that my eye didn't see any particular reason not to roll. Collectively, I think we surprised a few people walking about the various parks when they saw what, and how fast, we were riding on what would appear to them as entirely inadequate winter bicycles.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Madera Canyon

Tori and I wrapped up our Tucson cycling with a ride up Madera Canyon, an offshoot that can be done from the Shootout to take it up nearer to 100 miles than 100 kilometers.  It's an out and back route up a beautiful canyon, with a long gradual uphill approach, then a grade that just gets steeper and steeper as you climb up the mountain.  Beautiful spot, popular with hikers and birdwatchers.  The novelty of the route is that I coasted 100% of the 20km back to our car after the ride (we were helped by a pretty good tailwind for this).

All in, it was a great 4 days of riding.  We were happy to see the sun, and to relax and ride together.  I suppose living in the American southwest might be different, as the landscape novelty might wear off, but I certainly love visiting/riding there a few times a year.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Mt. Lemmon

Tori and I started today by fueling up at a Waffle House location that a few of us deadgoats ate at a couple years back.  $6.99 goes a long way these days in Tucson.

Once we had enough coffee to feel energetic, we started riding for Mt. Lemmon.  It's about an hour to the base from by the university, theb about 2:40 to the top for me at just an average pace, and Tori made it up in about 3:20.  Lots of snow, so there were lots of families, mostly Mexican, tobogganing, making snowmen, filling their trucks full of snow, and making snowmen on the roofs, hood, or back windows of their cars for the drive down.  Most were pretty well done and had some artistic or creative merit to them. 

We had chili, corn bread and pie at the Iron Door at the top, plus hot chocolate and coffee and sat at a table by the fire.  Quite nice, I think Tori enjoyed both the climb and the restaurant.

By the time we got home, it amounted to 5.5 hours of saddle time, so we're off to find a good burrito somewhere.


We woke up at 6:30 AM to get ready for the Shootout, which rolled out only a few blocks away from our hotel. Tori left at 7:15 to do the "old guy" shootout, and I stayed around for a relatively small group ride normal shootout, as the 24 hours mountain bike race started today at noon, and as well there's a big road race in Phoenix this weekend. Unfortunately just as I was leaving town where the pace would start to pick up, I saw Tori fixing her tire, so no old guy shootout for her.

I decided to work hard and steady and get a quality workout in for myself rather than sitting in and trying to hang on the longest with the fastest pack. For the first third, I was one of the front three riders for a huge portion of time. I slowed down by one of the climbs and popped/got dropped while I was trying to take my windproof cap off  from under my helmet... good TT effort till that point though. Took a few minutes to recover, then I just tried to reel back in as many other popped guys as possible, which was fairly easy (ie. I popped because I was wasting an inordinate amount of energy at the front, and the guys I was now catching popped from a drafting position at the back). Just after the final stage of the climb, I got up to the first part of the chase group and we held together for the whole downhill.  Some guy thanked me for working together with him to chase back to the group, and I just said I was here to burn as much energy as I can, not to out think myself on a February training ride. Nice of him to notice though I guess.

I rotated through with about 6 others the whole way back at the front, trying again to do as many and as long/hard of intervals as possible. Of course when we got 150 m from "the sign" this didn't do much for my chances for a sprint, but I didn't really care. Considering it's downhill the whole way back, I think you can more or less coast the whole way back to set up for the sprint. Maybe if I did the shootout every weekend that'd be something to think about, but just pedaling hard felt way better.

When I got back to the hotel, Tori was here, hadn't ridden. Problems with tubes/tires/patches. I showered, got a bagel sandwich, then drove her to where she stopped before (and had cabbed back), then let her do the loop. I drove the Corolla around in the desert - I like driving, I like that little car, and I like the solitude of the desert. I waited for Tori just past the top of the climb, and when she came over to see me she wiped out on the gravel going pretty fast. Not what I had hoped... so it took a little while to calm down, then she rode just to where the road makes a T to the busier downhill straight highway back to town, where I picked her up so we could go to Safeway and buy bandaids and such. I've bought more bandaids with Tori at Safeway than with anyone else in life I think. Legs seem fine, elbow is scratched and puffy. Elbows don't move much on a road bike, so probably will be fine.

After she was patched up, we relaxed, had a snack, then started phoning places for last minute dinner reservations on Valentines day. Not much luck, until I shifted google maps down to South Tucson. South Tucson is a lot less english, and a lot more basic in general appointments. We ate at "Little Mexico", which had all the trappings of being very authentic family restaurant. Grandpa, wearing a tan blazer and cowboy hat, saw us to our table. Food was good, and pretty darn cheap. Can't beat that.

It felt good trying to ride hard today. I haven't seen sustained power output files recorded for a while with that sustained power for me, so that's good.

Tomorrow is sleep in, and ride Mt. Lemmon. Somewhere in there I need to fit in a bunch of work. Wouldn't be a long weekend vacation in another country if that weren't the case.

Tucson bound

Tori and I are leaving for Tucson on Thursday afternoon. I can't wait. Despite a restful time last weekend, I feel burnt out. Work has been over the top... I stayed late Tuesday and Wednesday, then came in at just after 5am on Thursday. The pace was just accelerating through the day on Thursday, it's so strange sometimes. I did what I could, then at the last minute that would get me home in time, just dropped what was left and headed out. Tori had helped get my bike from Bow Cycle to home the prior day, and packed it, otherwise there's no way I had enough time. Dad drove us to the airport, where after waiting in the lineups, I slept on the tile floor waiting for our plane... then slept from takeoff to touchdown on the flight to Phoenix.

In Phoenix we picked up our brand new Toyota Corolla rental car, then found a Mexican place for dinner. Our goal is to only eat Mexican for dinner to try to satisfy the craving. We checked into our hotel around 11 PM, then slept till 10 the next morning, put together our bikes, and rode west to Gates Pass, Old Tucson studios, north for a ways, it just felt so good to be outside in the sun where the air temperature was just like your skin temperature, you didn't need 4 layers of bike clothes, and 23 mm tires were rolling on smooth blacktop. It feels so efficient and free.

We at at El Choro, the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson - "not good because we're old, but old because we're good". We went to bed early in preparation for the Saturday morning shootout.

KERN ski weekend

For the last two years, I hadn't made it out to the KERN ski weekend, but I'm glad I did this year. It was really the only opportunity in a blitz of a workweek to get out for some relaxing downtime.

The drive out Friday was poor, heavy snow made the roads slippery and made visibility poor. We had a fun group dinner at Coyotes in Banff, then crashed at the Post hotel in Lake Louise. Tori and I were asleep  within minutes of arriving.

We skied Saturday - I did alpine and Tori telemarked. The snow was  hard, not many of the runs were open, attendance seemed lackluster,  and two adult tickets cost as much as our old student season passes at  Sunshine. After skiing, I went for a 90 minute ride - several km down the 1A, then back up to the Skoki lodge parking lot, over to the ski  area base, then down to the hotel.

Dinner was fun - great appetizers and fun company in the private  room. Full and tiring day overall.

Sunday the plan was to do a nature walk at Johnson Canyon with guides. It sounded fairly tame (2.7 km shouldn't take 2.5 hours), so I biked there to burn some energy ahead of time. Nice morning for a  ride, not too cool, except that I forgot to dry my gloves from the  prior day.