Saturday 26 April 2014

Whiskey 50 on ice

Beauty pre ride yesterday had us hoping the weather forecast wasn't true. 

When we woke up it was cold and down pouring. I didn't really bring warm enough clothes. TV in breakfast area was going on about anomalous super-cells driving today's weather.  Jeez. Rounded up all I had plus started making garbage bag poncho, shower cap, garbage bag shoe covers, double shorts, wool t shirt, gore wind proof arm warmers, surgical gloves over my gloves. 

Start was rainy. I was at front of non-prestige start block. Chambers and I were few minutes apart last year and he made the cut when I was dinking around pumping my tire every couple minutes to try to make it back into town. Anyway, this year I had made up my mind to ride  steady but conservatively and see how that sorted me on the long climb out of town. Turned out it worked well as I could see Shawn up front and I was 20th into the single track and I felt like I saved all my matches for later when guys around me were at max ventilation. 

Singletrack was awesome till the sideways snow and sleet really started puking down. It coated my glasses so I couldn't see. It was blustery and cold. Cold enough that my hands started to freeze on the climb. I knew that would be bad for the descent, and suicidal on the long gravel descent. I plugged away and started seeing guys in the trees unable to fix flats as their hands were frozen to clubs. Other guys were doing arm swings. Some were wiping glasses. Hail and sleet were sandpapering my knees. I was all of a sudden really cold and knew this wasn't going to happen. Then I thought with Yak Attack, Water Valley under my belt, and I'm toast, this is going to decimate the field.  I knew there was no way with my gear that I could do the 12 miles of skull valley descent going fast down a gravel road. I'd have no body heat left. 

I stopped where cars and supporters were. Few guys were going through. Someone let us in an Explorer to warm up. I was shiver convulsing and worked fingers through that pain zone, then caught first ride back so I could drive the 15 passenger van back out and help extract people. 

Feet were frozen in my casual shoes even after a hot shower, and I think I set new passenger van speed record up the twisty road. Helped a few people out, but they also had busses and the fire dept emergency response unit out. 

Big let down overall. I had hoped to ride well. And had I brought Canadian winter riding gear I could have done it... but that's out of expectation coming to Arizona. Shoot. 

Tim had a tougher day with a rib and fingers injury wipeout. Shawn finished 3rd and froze his hands. Cindy pulled and was hypothermic. Ashley didn't start the 25. 

Saturday 19 April 2014


The wedding festivities kicked off tonight.  The bride's in-laws set up and paid for dinner at a… local saloon with live rodeo.  Given the bride's context I've always known her in was pure Vancouver hipster, it was an amazing night.  We took a shuttle to some saloon out of town.  It had live rodeo, brisket and sausage dinner (the pre-paid ticket guaranteed you one pound + bbq sauce), and the people watching was unbelievable.

The parking lot looked like mad max.  BBQ flat black painted trucks with giant tires and lift kits were the norm, peel outs, arguments, yelling.

Motorcycles revving.  The guy working the entrance didn't look like a bouncer at a place in Calgary.  He looked like he'd spent a lifetime dealing with rough 200lb cowboys and bikers, not kids.  I'm certain his tax filings didn't show reward commensurate with the challenge of his job.

After I got my meal ticket, I talked to the lady at the fish fry, which seemed lighter than the pound of brisket.  She said "cat or cod" - hopefully meaning catfish.  I said mix it up.  I asked where the washrooms were and if I'd have time to do a trip before the fry was up.  She said "in that door, past the arm wrestling machine, and turn right by the pool table".  You can't make this stuff up. First time I walked by, it was in use by people I didn't think I should pull out my phone to snap a picture without consent.  Later I caught it empty. 

After food, there were marshmallows circulated for making smores over the fire pit.

The interior was pure saloon.  I thought I'd see Jake and Elwood Blues singing the Rawhide Theme behind chicken wire.  Packed.  The beer mugs were tall - must be 500ml. 

Ray Ray won the bull riding with a ride of 80 points on Bruiser, which was a giant and mean looking animal.  My photography equipment doesn't do the speed of bull riding from stands 30 yards back justice.  Some of the other cowboys got seriously bruised up, working your way up through the ranks in this sport isn't easy on the body.  There were a set of brothers riding, and to be clear, in rural Arizona, brothers are two white guys related by common parents.  One won, the other got an ankle landed on by a spinning bull and limped off but I'm sure won't be walking right for a while.   One guy couldn't get his hand out of his tie for what seemed like forever and got dragged around while the clowns tried to help; one guy had a mean bull who charged and flipped him in the air with his horns twice after he was down.  I've also seen mutton busting with kids on sheep before, but it was young sheep and kids with hockey helmets with full face guards.  Here it was adult sheep (they're fast) and kids with bike helmets.  The second kid, when we were right up against the fence spectating, held on across the whole infield until the sheep scrubbed him off  when he was on its side on the fence at full speed.  I've never seen a 70lb body hit steel fence that hard before.  I'm guessing the waiver the parents signed was pretty thorough.  Couple of the Vancouver girls who'd never seen Stampede or any rodeo before were just beside themselves.

Gun t-shirts were de riguer.  "2nd amendment" with a long rifle underneath and an American flag, "5.6mm diplomacy" and a string of bullets, and my favourite "well within my rights" and an M16 pictured.  Ladies outfits were… less.  There weren't a lot of clothes mammas would be proud of here.  And they spanned 18-50 year old bodies.  Here's one of my favourites that was less controversial.

There were a few fights, and not all were male.

Welcome to rural Arizona.

Friday 18 April 2014

Seven springs

Seven springs exploration ride.  I could tell this isn't as popular as I'm not the 245th guy on the various Strava segments.  I just paced out an 80k ride.  Cindy joined me for the first 45 minutes, but the call of wedding duty had her turn around at that point. A few roadies passed us, I wanted to zoom along and show them I wasn't droppable at their passing pace, but valued a nice spin with Cindy more.  We had a nice spin, and it was helpful to have a bottle to chug at that point so I could set off from the 45 minute in mark well hydrated.  It wasn't as warm today, but I'm concerned when there's cactuses around about being the dope who didn't figure out hydration well enough.  Shortly after the road turned to gravel exiting town, I hear some scuffling on the hill, and over my right shoulder there were deer up on the hill.  Not the easiest to spot, but I tried with this photo.

I was riding off to the side of whatever turnoffs there were to explore a bit, and eventually the campground just past this point on Seven Springs Road had enough of a map to relocate where I was.  I decided to ride past the county line by a couple kilometres and turn back.  Lots of climbing as you head north. 

The frequency of getting passed by other vehicles was a #DIV/0! if you're into Excel error comedy.  I ate and drank at my turnaround, figured that'd be about right with my water levels with some buffer, and tried to ride back at a solid pace into the headwind in that direction.  Surprisingly I got rained on for a bit - it wasn't cold at all though.  Dipped to like 20C for a while.

I had seen one snake earlier in the bushes on the side, but this time I saw this one on a downhill.  I went screaming by, locked up my brakes, and went back up logically to get as close as I could for a photo.  I had hoped to lay my bike down behind it for scale, but he was moving to the edge too fast so I clicked this.  I'd say he was about as long as me - definitely longer than a bike.

Naturally with no people around, no cars, and this vastness, snake spectating is the thing to do.

80k all in, not as warm as yesterday, but still nice.  Feels good to get in some miles with nobody else pushing pace, no place to be or time to be home by, and just exploring.  It's also fantastic to leave in shorts and jersey and not even consider that you'd need any more clothing!

Birthday Ride with Cindy

We retreated to Scottsdale/Carefree today for Cindy's best friend's wedding this weekend, but Cindy was observant early on that coming a day early coincided with my birthday.  We built our bikes and headed out in shorts and jerseys to road ride our mountain bikes out to the Bartlett Dam.  Nice day - sunny and 30C, no traffic, no bike cleaning needed after.  Fantastic! 

Nothing caps off a birthday ride better in my books than Mexican dinner!

Monday 14 April 2014

Russ Travers

Best cycling video I've seen as of late.  Best reason I've seen to keep booking races, rides, coffees to talk about races and rides, and breakfasts up at Chez Bunnin to talk about races, rides, bikes, bike parts, racers, riders and coffees.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Day after a 200

I was up earlier than predicted, and watched Paris Roubaix at chez Bunnin which was nice, along with gourmet breakfast and coffee. After that it was cleaning: clothes, gear, bike, car and house… and I wouldn't say the task is yet complete.  After that, this is how hard one needs to relax after a ride of that length in those conditions!

Spring Loaded Telemark, Silver Star, Vernon BC

After the fun and excitement of the Norquay telemark race, Cindy and went out to Vernon the following weekend for the Spring Loaded telemark festival.  Longer drive, but weather was great.  It was enjoyable to be out with such a good group of people, meeting new friends, and learning the ropes a bit on gear, techniques and equipment.  I didn't pull my phone out much for photos, but this was Sunday morning early before racing started, and before we had slipped the course several times.  This was closing day at Silver Star - but such beautiful spring skiing.  All in it was successful - I did well for a non FIS racer, got split times to actual fast people for me to ponder for the off season, and won a boot bag, glasses and handmade bamboo poles for the three different wins.  On the to-do list are track down some GS skis, NTN binding risers, and figure out what I'll do for race training for next year!

2014 Water Valley 220

17 brave souls started this year, and by clothing pictured you can tell the weather wasn't starting easy.  It snowed overnight more to the north, and was -8C for much of the way to Water Valley, with a stiff headwind and blowing snow.  The last few km into town it "warmed up" to about -6C.  Here's a shot courtesy of Trev where you can feel the balmy conditions. 

There's also one record setting first.  Geoff Clarke, to the left and zipping up, hammered it out on a 46x16 single speed.  Manly.  The Water Valley saloon provided for a long lunch stop.  It's never particularly warm in there, but unlike Nepal it was warmer than the ambient temperature.  They aren't used to group orders of size on Saturday.  We were down a few riders by then who had to make it home for time constraints of life, but Dallas randomly joined, observing that he likely put too much vodka in his bottles to keep them thawed - then ordered a beer.  When we emerged it was several degrees warmer, and we were now heading up, west, and in the trees.  Heavenly.

My observation however was "the good thing is it's warm, the bad thing is it's warm".  Road was muck.  We were sinking in, moving slow, and derailleurs were suffering, some even imploding.  The group split as we tried to ride frozen ice lines.  Dallas, Geoff, Cesar, Kate and Jay were on the front mission.  Rest of us were in "keep everyone moving" mode, either by mechanical attention, moral support, concrete like ice-mud picking, or pushing.  Unfortunately we were out of cell service, and by the time 3:30 hit, we were still 70k away from my surprise.  Cindy and Ashley were sag wagon extraordinaire, with soup, coke, treats, and I managed to put the 4 bike hitch rack on this morning solo, not the easiest thing.  They exercised their patience at the top of Wildcat Hill and wondered what the heck was going on.  I told the surprise to only a few who contemplated turning back, as we were now closer to salvation (and extraction by sag vehicle with rack) by going forward.  Trev's derailleur bit it, so we rigged him up single speed.  He did very well on the Harold Creek climb, but couldn't go fast enough to expend energy on the downs and got cold/hypothermic.  Andrea and Ryan got picked up when their issues continued to compound by a friendly guy in a giant Dodge Ram for extraction to Cochrane.  Jeff waited at the Forestry Trunk road intersection and gave a status update of what was ahead and behind, while I picked at ice mud in my cassette for 20 minutes to try to have more than two useable gears.  The innovation of the day was peeing on your cassette then spinning it right away so it wouldn't re-freeze.  Amazing.

Our thinned out group eventually made it to the paintball place near Waiparous.  We ate cookies, Coke, Twix, hot dogs like they were going out of style.  Shortly thereafter the super-sag was coming toward us with Trev and Jay picked up.  I ate 3 small bowls of soup and grabbed a Coke and banana for the road.

South it was Shawn, Craig, Thomas, Jared and I, and we got to riding bikes like this was supposed to be.  Bunnin had somewhere along the way dropped any signs of fatigue, and got us right up to 40km/h with pulls of excessive duration.  When Jared got picked up we continued on like that, taking a small breather before the climb for this - one foothill ridge left to cross.  8pm, only enough sun to make it to Cochrane, and cool temps.  Cindy and Ashley had waited at the top, just over the crest so climbing riders couldn't see until they were there, for hours.

I rolled through Cochrane and declined the extractions.  Beautiful evening, wide shoulder so I could be 20 feet from cars, had my blinky, and no wind.  It was pleasurable.  Funny thing was, as I paced throughout the day, it was easy and I didn't feel spent.

After leaving home at 7:30 and Cadence at 8:45, I returned to the Defender at 10:02pm, and home and in the shower by 10:30.  Here's the Strava capture of the ride.  We skipped a few km on the way out to stay on pavement over gravel, and to get to lunch faster in that north headwind, and on the way home I did 1A for shoulder width preference instead of the south of river route.  Big day of adventure.  3 finished from what I can gather now, and not all of those made the Wildcat hill… so it was a day of attrition.

Friday 11 April 2014

Spring Classic Season

I'm a fan and have been watching them... but it's better to ride and watch as you relate better.

This weekend has two Monuments.  Paris Roubaix is very well known:

The Water Valley 220 is lesser known.  But it's gaining in popularity ; )

Us amateurs head out to test our mettle on an uncobbled course that substitutes in plenty of gravel, a course with more vertical, but 37km less.  Alberta is cooperating by delivering rain/snow and temperatures expected to range +-0C.  But even that "smaller effort" brings context to Spring Classic watching - those guys race hard, and those races are long.