Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rides in Tucson

After less than 2 weeks here, I realized I could stay here much longer than a month. Like much, much longer!

Should I tell my boss that I have not bought a return flight yet?

On Monday, a friend and I decided to ride the full length of Mount Lemmon. Because it was so cold the week prior, we could not ride up all the way during training camp. So, this was the first time I rode Mt Lemmon to the top and the first time that I climbed anywhere for 26mi. Mt. Lemmon is such a great climb that it deserves its own blog entry. A 26mi climb, a foot-wide cookie at the top, a super fast descent, 90mi and an elevation gain of almost 9000 feet later --, that was a super ride!

Apparently that ride was my recovery ride because Tucson’s cyclists geared up on Tuesdays for another fast group ride. It definitely reminded me of the mountains on the East Coast. The ride covers some fun rolling terrain down on Ajo Rd, follows the McCain loop, and then ascends Gates Pass.

If you skip the McCain loop as I did, you get to the top of Gates Pass faster than the Garmin or Real Cyclist riders. Since you can see the entire climb from the top, it’s like watching Tour de France observing all the pros sprinting up that mountain.

Riding in Tucson is way too much fun to schedule a rest day! How do the Tucsonans not get over-trained? The riding is incredible. It’s basically a must to go out and ride every day!

Monday, December 26, 2011

First week in Tucson

Greetings from Tucson and, oh yeah, Froehliche weihnachten…it’s weird to think of Christmas when you are in the desert.

I have spent the first week in a military training camp. All services were represented spiced up with 11 civilians including one Indian, one French and one German.

The group: Air Force, Army, Navy, US Military, RAAM and mentors

Daily rides included any distance between 40mi and 120mi with climbs like Kitts Peak (13mi), Madera Canyon (15mi or so) and Mt. Lemmon (26mi).

Day 1: Shootout loop

At the first camp day we rode the loop of the notorious shootout – one of the hardest group rides in the country so I heard. It’s a 3% uphill which becomes 4% and then 5% and if you still haven’t realized after 20mi that you are actually going uphill, you will definitely at the hill that suddenly pops up after a slight turn. Brutal! Legs were fried.

Day 2: Madera Canyon

Although the first day should have changed my view about climbing, the epiphany came day 2. I came to the camp with the anticipation that the climbs are steep like in Frederick, >10% grade. So I was fooled by the climb of the day – Madera Canyon. When we approached the climb, I was going up this false flat which goes straight forever. I could see miles and miles ahead of me. The team leader said there will be a turn to the right and then the climb starts so I was waiting for the turn but there was no turn. So I asked a fellow rider when the climbs starts and he said “We have been climbing for four miles already.” Oops. Madera Canyon is no joke because the slight uphill becomes gradually steeper and tops out at 9% after 13 miles of climbing.

Day 3: Rest day – Mt. Lemmon

My understanding of rest days has changed since training camp as well. We rode for three hours, including 7 miles of climbing up Mt. Lemmon. I have to say though, my legs felt great after that!

Day 4: Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak is a 13 mi climb to the top. Awesome steady climb. It makes for a great all-around view over the country side.

It was a 47mi ride out to the mountain so it became a 120mi day.

Three of us working together against a heavy crosswind on our way back to the city

Day 5: Rest day

Day 6: Mt Lemmon

It was supposed to be a 90 mi ride to the mountain, up 26mi to Mt. Lemmon and back. But it was freezing and for safety reasons, it was decided we will only climb the first 13 mi. I love Mt. Lemmon! It’s a great climb. Steady 13mi climb where riders might drop you mile 2, only so you can pass them on mile 7. Patience pays off!

This was my first-ever cycling training camp so the learning curve was steep. Trying to figure out what works best for recovery was key. Having the right stuff in the fridge after the rides is important because after six hours on the bike, everything eatable sounds just great.

Case in point was my attempt to go vegan at the second dinner that lasted exactly until my recovery meal after a long, intense ride the next day. No vegan diet for me.

And then it was Friday and everyone was leaving.

I had to start to make my own riding plans. Well, there was the notorious “shootout” on Saturday - one of the hardest group rides in the country. I could postpone my much needed rest day to Sunday and try it out. So 7:30am and 35 degrees it was and I faced my upcoming pain: riders from Garmin, Real cyclist, Tibco, etc were present. More I don’t have to say. I know now what to expect next Saturday!

Sunday was my true rest day and I actually got the chance to go mountain biking – I never thought I would ride mountain bikes again…

Friday, November 25, 2011

Going vertical

Several weeks ago, I moved for the better part of the week away from DC. I had to come up with something to make the winter training more exciting. Rain, cold, snow, indoor trainer, early darkness, and 5 inches of layered clothing do not really get me motivated to ride my bike. So I hoped a change in scenery would do the trick.

I moved to Middletown, MD - a small town outside of Frederick with two and a half restaurants, one grocery store, two traffic lights, no traffic jams, no honking, and two mountain ranges - my new cycling hub.

Since Cascades Cycling Classic or Tour de Toona will not get any flatter, Middletown seemed like a great training place to face some vertical challenges and still being close to DC.

I have been riding here now for a while and made some interesting observations.

The area definitely has its quirks:

  • Weather: If it is 60 degrees in DC, it will be 50 in Middletown. If it rains in DC, it will snow in Middletown.
  • Cars: Either not existent or driven by cycling-friendly people. 90% of them are waving at you!
  • Dogs: well…they make you faster here in Frederick county:
What I was used to:
  • Monika passes house with dog in yard. Dog in yard sees Monika and starts barking, runs along the imaginary fence line, barks some more, gets bored and turns around.
What I have to get used to:
  • Monika passes house on 10% grade climb, panting profusely, German shepherd (you see the irony!!!) comes out, runs circle in yard, Monika face down concentrating on not falling over suddenly has dog gnawing on her ankle. Besides that German shepherd does not recognize he is attacking compatriot, he even managed to get stuck with his teeth in shoe covers. The water bottle came in handy.
  • A 11-25 cassette is good for 50% of the roads, the other 50% should be faced with either hiking boots or a 12-28.
  • Rides should not be measured solely in riding time or distance but in vertical feet. My goal is it to find the shortest routes with the most vertical feet of climbing. I welcome any route suggestions.
All the climbing training will hopefully get me some sort of ready for Arizona in December and January. Mount Lemmon, 34mi and 6600 feet of climbing! That would be either 6 times Lambs Knoll climb or 23 times Old Anglers.

Riding in Frederick county is the perfect get-away for vertically challenging riding in a cycling-friendly and beautiful environment close to DC.