Friday, December 25, 2009

Bald Eagle Sighting and Snowshoes on Christmas

Awesome day today! Besides it being Christmas, I was able to go snowshoeing for a quick hour up in the foothills of Lone Peak. As I was getting out of my car, I noticed this Bald Eagle in a tree not more than 50 yards away.

I could hardly believe my eyes and got within about 50 ft. of the tree that it was perched in before it flew away.

I did some brief research and confirmed that Bald Eagles in Utah are extremely rare with 11 nesting pairs in Utah in 2007. It sounds like the population is making a comeback, so keep your eyes open for them when you're out and about.

Climbing in my new 25" MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes was a blast. They are super light at 3 lbs. 12 oz., have great traction for climbing and I think the Omniture green paint job on them is an added bonus. I'm looking forward to using them frequently this winter to stay in shape and mix it up when not riding the bike. If anyone wants to go snowshoeing, let me know. I think we could have some good lunch meetings while hoofing it in the Timp Foothills.



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lunch Ride - Road Bikes Now

On Friday at lunch, a group of us met at Omniture's parking lot and rode to HWY 92 and back. It was fun to get back on the road bike after riding the mountain bike solid since October. I really needed that ride to help offset all of the extra calories I've been consuming lately.

I don't know if it's like this at your home, but on our kitchen counter top there's a variety and seemingly continuous supply of "neighbor gifts" such as frosted sugar cookies, Sees chocolates, candy cane bark, etc. Since I seem to have very poor will power, I end up consuming my fair share of these items. Also, I had a business trip to San Francisco earlier in the week during which we ate some great food, including dinner one night at the Slanted Door. It's a phenomenal Vietnamese restaurant overlooking the San Francisco Bay. We ordered a wide variety of dishes family style. I highly recommend the japanese yellowtail, crispy imperial rolls and the niman ranch shaking beef (cubed filet mignon with lime sauce).

What else is new? Well, I took my 3 sons on a hike in the snow today up in the foothills of Lone Peak. We started at the base of Hog Hollow and hiked up one of the jeep roads for about a mile and then turned around. The snow off the trail was about 8 inches deep and crusted over. We saw probably 50 deer and my boys had fun exploring. I was most impressed with my 4 year old who climbed pretty well and didn't once complain. I'm looking forward to exploring this area more on snowshoes this winter. I'm thinking it will make a good before work cardio workout, since the trail head is only 5 minutes from my house.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sad Day Indeed

We've had some fun times riding the timp foothills at lunch this fall/winter, but I'm afraid biking the dirt this year has come to an end. At lunch today, I drove up to the shooting range to take the above picture. Time to get some snowshoes? cross country skis?

We enjoyed one last ride on Friday (yep, December 4th). We had a good group of guys show up, probably 10+, and ended up riding from the shooting range up the water tank road, down Bramber (fun downhill)* to University, climb up to Indian Springs trail head, Indian Springs to BST, descend BST to highway and ascend dragon's back. Aaron, myself, Brandon and a few others bailed at this point (check out Brandon's video of us climbing dragon's back - yup that's me 2nd to last....). The rest of the group** continued up Frank to Altar and down Dry Canyon.

*PHAST Dan and Mike Y. collided at the bottom of a particularly steep and loose section of this trail. I shouldn't talk though, I came oh so close to flying off the trail myself. In fact someone behind me yelled out, "stay on target."Like I said, there were 10+ riders and we were all amped to going riding, so it was a bit jumpy for the first part of the ride.

**must all be either self-employed, out of work or on vacation cause at this point we'd been riding for an hour and a half. I was jealous I had to get back to work.

Btw, as a side note, the above referenced Mike Y. (Steve Young's brother) is my 2nd cousin. Mike doesn't know that and sometime when I get a chance, I'll let him know, but it's true. You see, my grandma is sisters with his grandma. Small world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

11:45 AM - Best time of the day

Lately, I find myself feeling extremely antsy to get out and ride at lunch time no matter how busy things are at work. For example, last week was the year end accounting close (yes, Adobe has a November fiscal YE). Typically this means I'm glued to my desk staring at spreadsheets all day and I end up working through lunch and eating something at my desk.

Despite it being hectic with the accounting close, I found a way to fit a few mountain bike lunch rides with the local Utah County crew (Rick, Ricky, Aaron, Dave B, Jon, Nick, Miles, Brandon, Dan and Adam [sorry if I left anyone out]). I actually think these rides have helped me be more productive. You see, knowing that I'm basically cutting out 2 hours (desk to trail and back to desk) means I have to be more focused in the morning in order to get all of my work finished. Then in the afternoon, I'm wide awake due to the cleansing effect (no not that type) that comes from redlining your heart rate for 60 minutes.

It's been simply awesome lately and I'll be sad when this all comes to an end soon with winter approaching.

Here's the route we took today (shooting range, water tank road, betty, lower belt, frank, dragon's back, gravel road, race track, betty, roller coaster, water tank road, shooting range):


You'll have to check out some of the video footage of the lunch ride scene that Miles posts on his blog. He has an awesome helmet camera that's been capturing it all. I may have to ask for one of those for Christmas....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Road Ride

Since I bought my Superfly in October, I've been riding on the dirt non-stop. I wanted to ride the "Turkey Trot" on Thanksgiving morning, but it ended up not working with the family schedule (am I the only one with this issue?). Instead, I dusted off the skinny tire bike and left the house at 7 AM for a climb up the south side of Suncrest, with the thought of returning before the family rolled out of bed.

I'd forgotten how much I hate the pain of the first 10 minutes of the steep part of that climb. I live close to the base of the climb, so despite my efforts to try and warm up and get my blood flowing before the grade ramps up, it never seems to be adequate and I end up gasping for air. Once I was in a good groove though, I just enjoyed the rest of the climb and didn't push it too hard. I made it to the top in around 25 minutes, which is a long shot from my TT personal best back in August, but like I said, I wasn't pushing it. Actually, to be honest, I've gained a few pounds lately and it felt like I had lead in my wheels.

As I was going back down, I had to stop and take this picture of the sun rising over the mountains.
I'm thankful for many things*, but on this Thanksgiving ride, I couldn't help but to be grateful for the beautiful mountains and valleys here in Utah and of course for the bikes that I get to ride through/up/down/across them.

*At Thanksgiving dinner later that day we each had to say what we were thankful for. I really wanted to say I was grateful for bikes, especially my new Superfly, but I showed restraint and expressed my gratitude for more important things.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Got my fix

I went to the BYU vs. Airforce football game Saturday night with my father-in-law. It turned out to be a decent game. I was glad when BYU was up big at the end of the 3rd quarter as I was planning to bail early in order to beat the traffic and fit in a mtb ride before my "committed time" to be home.

I should have just left at the end of the 3rd quarter, but as it turned out, Airforce scored 2 touchdowns in the fourth, so I stayed around longer than planned.
I've never left a football game in such a hurry. I pretty much jogged the whole way from the stadium to my car.
Once on my bike, starting at the firing range, I rode up the water tank road and took this picture of Orem and Utah Lake at the top of the climb above the race course.

I headed up Betty, then turned onto Crank. I love climbing Crank as there aren't too many rocks, yet there are some steep enough spots to make it challenging and fun. By this point it was dark, so I turned on my headlight. Most all of Crank didn't have snow except for this stretch of 50 or so yards:


Shortly after taking this picture, I startled some animal that was about 5 ft. from the trail. It was probably just a bird or a small rodent, but it jumped and I jumped too.

I finished the ride descending on Ireland and back down the water tank road. It was a short but fun ride. Probably one of the last of the season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pinewood Derby

A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get an idea from my oldest son Austin of what type of pinewood derby car he'd like to build. We looked on the Internet for ideas and saw an abundance of different car designs. There was one shaped like a hot dog, another one like a pencil and so forth. I asked him if he liked any of the designs. He said, "No Dad, I don't really care what it looks like...... I just want to win.....I want the trophy."

Wow! Nothing like a little bit of pressure to put on the old man. I mean, I learned a trick or two from my Dad when I was a cub scout and we built some pretty fast cars back in the day, but that was 25+ years ago (yikes!! I'm getting old).

Well, I'm happy to report that we (I mean Austin) did not disappoint. His car won every heat. It really wasn't even close. What can I say, it was a blast to win. Austin was beaming ear to ear the whole night. Okay, I admit, I was beaming ear to ear too.

Here's a pic of the cars we built. The pink one is Austin's and the purple is mine (actually now, my younger son Isaac officially has title to it as I "gave" it to him).

You're wondering why two cars? Since I'm a den leader, I had the opportunity to build a car too. For the most part, I used my car as the "guinea pig" or test car. For each step of the build process, I'd do the work on my car first and let Austin watch. Then, he'd work on his car. Believe me, we worked together hard and pulled out all the stops to build the fastest car. On the wheels and axles alone, we spent probably two hours grinding and sanding and polishing until late at night.

My pet peeve is when it's assumed that I built the car and that's why it won. Sure, I was very influential and involved in the build, but Austin was there at my side participating in every step of the process, including the initial design discussions, driving around 1/2 of last Saturday together to purchase the supplies we needed, measuring, marking, sanding, painting, grinding, straightening and baking (yes, we did bake and it's a secret that I won't reveal....sorry).

Anyhow, we both really enjoyed the time we spent together building the car, learning together and to see the hard work pay off with a win was very rewarding. Sometimes in life hard work doesn't always directly translate into a victory, but when it does, how sweet it is!

(no trophy, but Austin wasn't complaining about the 1st place cert.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Belated Tour de St. George Century Report + Encounter with a Scorpion

I'm not entirely sure why, but I didn't post anything on my blog during October. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to blog about. I think maybe it had to do with Adobe's acquisition of Omniture and sort of being in a funk not knowing what my future would hold. During that time, I was able to escape with the family down to St. George for a long weekend where I rode in the Fall Tour de St. George. So, here's my long overdue report on the ride.

The Start
Getting ready to ride:

I should mention that a few minutes after this picture, I was riding through the parking lot and this guy swerved hard left right in front of me. I pretty much locked up my brakes in order to avoid t-boning him.

I was with a friend and his wife at the start and we decided to let the hoarded mass of people pass through and thin out before we even began pedaling. This may sound like a smart thing to do on a century ride, as one would think you could avoid participating in a potential pile up caused by nervous and inexperienced riders, but in reality it wasn't a good idea and I don't recommend it. The issue is these century rides have several hundred entrants, a good portion of which haven't before ridden on a group bike ride. These types typically are riding one of the shorter 10, 20 or 50 mile options rather than the full 100 miles. Anyhow, it was nuts navigating through all of these people on mountain bikes, beach cruisers, etc., especially when they'd ride 4 people wide and you'd have to cross the center line to pass them. I bet within the first 5 miles there were 4-5 separate incidents of people going down from crossing wheels and the like. Luckily, I avoided all the carnage. Next time I'll be at the front, even if I'm not planning on pushing the pace.

The Route
I'd give the route a 8 on a 10 scale. I particularly enjoyed the first 60 miles of the ride and not just because I was fresh. It had some nice, smooth roads with generous shoulders and a good mix of short climbs and downhill. I particularly enjoyed riding around Sand Hollow Reservoir (including the climb on the east side) with the beautiful red rock scenery and also motoring through the country roads south of Hurricane. After Hurricane there was more climbing here and there and then a long, gradual descent towards and past Quail Creek Reservoir. This section of the road was fairly rough and bumpy. Any discomfort from the road was offset by the thrill of the downhill ride. If UDOT would resurface that road, that downhill stretch (the frontage road parallel to I-15) would be a joyous stretch to ride.

The back half of the century was highlighted by the long climb up to the top of Snow Canyon. It was a challenge, especially with the temperature on that day above 90. The descent through Snow Canyon was rewarding, except I couldn't really enjoy it as I getting dehydrated - see more below.

The Rest Stops
The quality of the stuff (food, water, energy drinks, etc.) at the rest stops seemed to be adequate. I didn't stop, except for water, until the lunch stop at mile 60 and then once again at mile 90. The lunch was a sandwich, cookie and I believe fruit? (can't recall exactly). I mostly relied on my oatmeal for breakfast, CarboRocket and a handful of gels. My biggest complaint for the ride organizers was the fact that they didn't have an aid station at the top of the Snow Canyon climb. About a mile from the top, both of my bottles were completely dry. I thought, no big deal, I'm sure there will be a station at the bottom of the canyon. Not so. The aid station was another 5 miles after the bottom of the canyon and it wasn't flat getting there. In fact, I was so parched, I came a hair away from knocking on some one's door and asking for water.

Post Ride Food
Not much to report here. There was no "real" food at the finish line, just sodas and some fruit, which isn't a big deal for me as I'd rather go get something to eat at a restaurant of my choice after taking a shower and cleaning up.

Summary
All said, this century was my favorite of the 3 centuries I rode this year (Zion to St. George and Tour De Cure were the other two) and I'll most likely be back next year.

-----------------------

Scorpion Encounter

While on the above noted trip to St. George, I found this little bugger in the bathtub of our condo in Hurricane. I of course didn't tell my wife about it and quietly took this picture. Then I forgot to tell her about it. Two weeks later I got a call at work frantically asking about this picture and where it came from as she'd seen it on the camera.

Anyone know what kind of scorpion this is? I know nothing about scorpions. I imagine they are common in Southern Utah.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bad weather tomorrow

Do you find yourself checking the weather to see what time the storm is supposed to roll in with the hope of stealing one more ride hours before the bad weather hits? Here's the weather forecast near my home for tonight:

TONIGHT: MOSTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE MID 40S.

Okay, so mid 40s is definitely rideable weather in the morning. Just throw on the bike light, arm warmers (probably leg warmers too) and you're good to go.

Here's the forecast for tomorrow (Thursday):

THURSDAY: BREEZY. A CHANCE OF RAIN IN THE MORNING...THEN RAIN LIKELY IN THE AFTERNOON. CLOUDY...COOLER. HIGHS IN THE MID 50S. NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH LATE MORNING THROUGH AFTERNOON. CHANCE OF RAIN 70 PERCENT.

A "chance of rain" feels like maybe a 25% chance? That means a 75% chance of no rain in the morning and if it's mid 40s, I'm on the bike for sure.

So here's Plan A. Set the alarm clock for 5 AM. Be on the bike by 6 AM. 7:30 AM finish ride and shower in time for 8 AM meeting.

Plan B (assuming storm comes early) is to head to the gym for a spin class.

Hopefully it's Plan A and I can steal one more ride.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Erratic Steering

Today I went on another awesome lunch ride in the Timp Foothills with some guys from work and some other friends. We took advantage of the beautiful fall weather while it lasts (no arm or leg warmers needed).

By the way, I wore my new Twin Six jersey for the first time. Now I have exactly 2 jerseys that fit me and exactly 2 that don't. I need (want?) more cycling clothes, but after buying the Superfly last month, I better lay low for another month. Besides, the cycling season is all but over, so maybe I'll save it for a trainer (buying a trainer is so depressing) or maybe some snowshoes.

Back to the lunch ride. We climbed up the normal route past the water towers, up Betty and then East on "Kenny's Belt Route" (I think this is the name), which starts out fairly mellow and then there's some fairly steep climbing. My heart rate over the first 4 minutes on the Belt Route tells the story: 122 (right after taking a breather at the trail fork), 128, 133, 137, 141, 146, 149, 152, 158 (okay, starting to feel it), 159, 161, 161, 162, 166, 169, 170 (can someone put me out of my misery?), 169, 168, 167, 168, 167 (trying to recover by pedaling slower to ease the pain), 168, 169 (grade picks up again), 167, 166, 165 (the worst is over as the trail starts to flatten out).

During the period when my heart was at 165+ (and probably for a while after that), the two guys behind me were probably wondering if I'd ever ridden a mountain bike before as I was weaving all over the trail. I'm hoping that as my riding skills improve, I won't be spending so much wasted energy trying to keep my bike straight on the trail.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jacob's Ladder

Saturday was my 2nd time riding / exploring the Corner Canyon trails in Draper. I drove 5 minutes from my house to the top of Suncrest, parked and hopped on the still muddy jeep road that runs into Suncrest Dr. near Eagle Crest Drive. The road was deeply rutted thanks to the off road vehicles that ignored the posted no motorized vehicle signs.

I made my way to the bottom of Jacob's Ladder via Brock's, the upper part of Canyon Hollow and then down the dirt road. I started climbing Jacob's Ladder and hadn't gone 100 yards through the scrub oak when a guy who yielded to me muttered something as I passed by. I thought he said, "one-way dude" but wasn't sure. The next biker I saw descending was a lady and I asked her if it was a one way trail and she said "not that I know." So I kept climbing. It wasn't long and the trail became pretty steep as it headed straight up the spine of the sharp ridge. I struggled to keep my balance on the steep grade as I grinded it out in my granny gear and ending up bailing several times. It was definitely a challenge, but I really enjoyed it. The steep upper part of the trail is a mix of banked bobsled-like chutes and unique rocky limestone outcrops.

I made it to the top and could see that everyone else climbed from the other side of the mountain on this double track.



As I caught my breath at the top, I met a few really nice guys (Brandon, Erik and Mike) and they explained that most people do Jacob's Ladder as a downhill ride (of course). They invited me to join them on the descent.

These guys had high-end full suspension bikes that you could tell they'd ridden hard and often. I let them lead out. I enjoyed the ride down, except that I found I'm pretty timid on the hairpin switchbacks. I'll have to practice. After Jacob's Ladder, we rode down Ghost Falls and some other trails that I'm not sure of the name. I finished the ride by climbing up Clark's and then back to my car.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Drug and I'm Hooked

A few weeks ago I purchased this beauty:


It's a 2009 Gary Fisher Superfly 29er. I've been having so much fun with it, that I've been riding both in the early morning before work and at lunch time. It doesn't help that 5 minutes from my work are some awesome trails in the foothills of Mt. Timpanogos.

Here's a map of the trails I've been riding (thanks KanyonKris for making this map, it's very helpful):


Today being Friday, 67 degrees (is it really November??) and the bossman out of the office, I took a little bit of a longer lunch ride*. I climbed up the gravel jeep road past the water tanks, then hopped onto the single track trail Betty straight up to the Altar, a place where the trails intersect near a cairn. I've noticed my climbing skills are getting better (still pretty weak) but at least I wasn't bailing on every steep section of the trail. Just before the Altar, there's a very steep and rocky section that I hiked. It looks like there's short bypass trail that you can take to avoid that section. I'll have to try that next time (I hate hike a biking).

*Technically I think you're only supposed to take 1 hour for lunch. Usually lunch rides end up being more like an 1 1/2 hours. Today it was 2 hours. Bossman: In case you read this, I did stay late to make up for it.

After Altar, I then headed west on Lament, which is a nice trail through some meadows. There are 3 or 4 steep spots on this section. I did better than last time but still had to hike twice. I'm finding that balance, momentum, steering and keeping your center of gravity in the right spot are keys to climbing.

After Lament, I descended on Crank, then connected over to Blackbird and then back to the water tank road.

There are so many things I love about riding the mountain bike. For one, it reminds me of my childhood days riding dirt bikes on the farm. I've also enjoyed the new challenge of learning to climb on the mountain bike. Not only does it require excellent fitness (just like on a road bike), but it also requires some technical skills, of which I have very little at this point. Plus, there are so many awesome trails to ride and explore in the beautiful mountains close to my home. I've only scratched the surface, so I think I'm going to be doing this for a very long time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

American Fork Canyon - Doesn't get much better

One of the best things about where I live is being 20 minutes from the mouth of American Fork Canyon. It's my favorite place to ride. I'm saddened though that with fall and winter approaching, the days are numbered before I'll have to ride elsewhere.

So until the snow falls, I'm determined to ride it as much as possible. This past week, I climbed the canyon twice, once in the early morning and once in the evening. Hopefully I don't bore with the details. If you've ever ridden this ride, hopefully my write up will inspire you to "hit it" hard a few more times up the canyon over the next few weeks.

Evening Climb

I started up the canyon after work. It was a beautiful night with the sunset lighting up the mountainside with a soft golden glow. The wind was hardly a breeze, which I especially noticed on the approach to the canyon, since this portion usually presents a stiff 20 mph headwind.

My legs felt pretty good, so I pushed the pace in hopes of making it to the top in record time. By the time I reached Pine Hollow, it was starting to get dark quickly. However, because I was gaining altitude, I'd go in and out of the low light. Out when on a switchback heading south and then into the light again as I changed directions to the north. I thought of turning around so that I wouldn't be descending in the dark, but I quickly dismissed that idea and continued.

On the last switchback before mile marker 18, I passed a guy walking on the road alone in his street clothes. He definitely didn't look like the outdoors man type. More like the serial killer type. I said hello as I passed him while thinking how strange that was to encounter him there.

Anyhow, I made it to the top in a personal best time (I won't mention my time as it's nothing to brag about). Nothing like that feeling of accomplishment and progress.

Here's the sunset from the summit:


I quickly put on my jacket, leg warmers and beanie hat and started the descent. By then it was completely dark. I thought it was odd how I didn't see the same "serial killer" guy on the descent. Maybe he was just camping off the side of the road near the summit?

I have pretty decent LED bike lights*, but my batteries were low from the previous day's ride, so it didn't take long for my headlight to drop from high beam to low beam and there's a big difference between high and low on my head light.

*I'll do a separate post on my tail light. It basically makes me look like an ambulance (seriously-that awesome).

I was surprised at the number of cars coming down the canyon at night. The descent took forever, but I made it safely to the mouth of the canyon and then back home.

Lesson learned: Make sure your light batteries are fully charged if you're going to descend AF canyon (or any other canyon) at night. I actually really enjoy riding in the dark when I have a bright light, but it's next to miserable with a dim light.

Morning Climb

On Saturday morning I was at the mouth of the canyon at around 6:15 AM. Still dark as the sunrise wasn't until around 7:15 AM.

The ride was pretty cold. I didn't wear a jacket but had my leg and arm warmers.

Nothing too eventful on the way up, except that I passed Chad Lewis (former BYU and Eagles tight end) on his mountain bike. A little bit about Chad Lewis. Chad Lewis is one of the coolest guys ever. I don't know him personally (he doesn't know my name and wouldn't recognize me), but he and I attended BYU at the same time and I used to run into him frequently in the training room and weight room when I was on the track team (yeah, hard to believe I know but it's true). He was always so friendly to me and I've only heard good things about him ever since. He's one of those guys that consistently exceeded expectations. He began as a walk-on at BYU and ended up as a 3-time pro bowl receiver in the NFL. What a stud. What an inspiration for hacker cyclists like me who are trying to get fast and exceed expectations. So, I felt inspired when I buzzed by him. I think I kicked it up a notch too once I was far enough away for him to not hear my heavy breathing.

The descent was cold. I had my wind jacket, full finger gloves, beanie, leg warmers and toe warmers and I was freezing. Next time I'll wear my warm jacket.

Here's a picture I took on the way down the canyon:


I ended up flatting about a mile before the mouth of the canyon. Thanks to the 1/2 dozen people that either pulled off the side of the road or stopped riding to ask whether I needed help.

So, there you go. American Fork Canyon. Pretty awesome place to ride.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Drafting

Ever felt the urge to draft behind a semi while driving on the freeway?

Well, several weeks ago after I'd just finished a bike race and had been riding in a pack all day, I was zooming along on the freeway in my commuter car, an awesome Hyundai Accent GL, and I just couldn't resist drafting behind this semi.

My Hyundai has been the best commuter car I've ever owned. It's cheap (I paid like $5K for it 5 years ago), it gets good gas mileage, a tire cost less than a bike tire at like $40 at Walmart, it's never been in the shop for any repairs and I can fit my bike in the back when I lay the seat down. My only complaint on the car is that it's really gutless and starts shaking at 75 mph. So, I typically hang out in the far right lane going 60-65 mph. But every so often when I'm running late and need to go faster, I'll just latch on to a speeding semi and draft.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Dirty" Potato Chips

I'm not a big consumer of potato chips (sorry Dad*), but the other night at work I needed something to eat from the vending machine and ended up eating not one, but two bags of these. Since then, I've been back to the machine twice for more**. The cracked pepper and sea salt are a great combination. You've gotta try these, but be sure it's on a day when you ride hard....

*My Dad farms spuds
**Since they installed the debit card option on our vending machines, I've been a frequent customer, since I hardly ever carry cash/change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Upgrades and Late for work

Yesterday morning I was hoping to leave early while it was still dark for a 2 hour ride up the canyon and back, but just as I was about to hop on my bike, one of my friendly neighbors popped into my garage and started asking about cycling and my bike lights (I had to chuckle when he asked whether my lights were battery operated or "powered by the bike"). He's a good guy and is considering buying a road bike, so I offered up some suggestions. Normally when someone who is starting out asks whether to buy a carbon frame or an aluminum frame, I'll tell them to just buy a quality aluminum bike that's not going to break the bank and explain that if they end up really enjoying cycling, they can always upgrade a year or two later once they get some experience and know what they really want.

I agree with Eddy Merckx who said "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." which to me means if you want to be a good cyclist, get out and ride (preferably up mountains) and don't worry so much about your bike. The gains you'll achieve from increasing your level of fitness will far outweigh any gains from an upgraded bike.** Caveat: Of course, if you're a competitive cyclist, then you'd definitely be at a disadvantage if you didn't ride a quality racing bike, but for most people who are buying a bike for the first time, you don't need carbon this and carbon that unless you have money to spend. That being said, I'm the first to admit that I'm very anxious to upgrade my bike.

**To back this up, note the first time I road up the South side of Suncrest when I weighed 30-40 lbs. heavier than my current weight, I did the climb about 15 minutes slower than my current PR using the same bike.

Anyhow, with this particular neighbor, whom I knew to be a successful businessman with extra cash to spend, I didn't hesitate and explained that he should go for the carbon bike. I mean, if you have the money, you might as well, right? It'll be interesting to see how long it will take before I see him cruising around the neighborhood on his new carbon bike.

The rest of the story...

I had a great ride up AF Canyon to the top of the Alpine Loop. It's my favorite ride around here. I saw more cyclists than cars on the climb. The leaves are starting to change colors and the air was noticeably cooler at the higher elevations making the descent a bit chilly. I think next time I'll take my full finger gloves and my beanie cap to supplement my windbreaker and arm warmers on the descent.

By the time I buzzed down the canyon and made it back home, I was already late for work. I rolled into the office at 10 AM. I have no regrets though of being late. It was well worth it. Plus, here at my work people are pretty cool about having a good work life balance as long as you get your work done.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some Favorite Cycling Quotes

"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." - Eddy Merckx

"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever" - Lance Armstrong

"he looks between his legs and sees.....nobody there!"** - Phil Liggett "

**For the non-bike racers, a rider on a breakaway will frequently look between his legs to see if someone is chasing as opposed to turning around.

"So much of it is power to weight, so I've got to increase the power and lower the weight and, you know, you can lower the weight anywhere, but you can't increase the power just anywhere. To increase the power, you have to have great training." - Lance Armstrong

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." - Ernest Hemingway

"Ride lots." - Eddy Merckx

"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring." - Desmond Tutu

"There were something like 50 good, arduous climbs around Nice, solid inclines of ten miles or more. The trick was not to climb every once in awhile, but to climb repeatedly. I would do three different climbs in one day, over the course of a six- or seven-hour ride. A 12 mile climb took about an hour, so that tells you what my days were like." - Lance Armstrong

"Ullrich and Kloden are having a bit of conversation back there. I wonder if Lance understands any German?" - Phil Liggett (2004 TdF)

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." — Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Today I was anxious to get back on my bike after taking a few days off to recover from the 1,000 warriors ride. To be honest, I was not only recovering physically from this ride but also mentally. My legs have taken longer to recover from a combination of the difficult course/conditions and the fact that I had severe cramping multiple times throughout the race.

Coming on the scene of the big crash just below Timp Cave in AF Canyon (my favorite place to ride) and the big pool of blood all over the road and the mangled bikes has been on my mind the last few days. I also saw another crash during that race right in front of me that easily could have been me. I've questioned myself, "Is it really worth it"? And to make matters worse, I bumped into one of my friends at the store Saturday night and he recounted his recent wreck on his tri-bike and showed me all of his wounds. Another coworker told how he was riding with his friend recently and his buddy tried to bunny hop a cattle rail resulting in his front tire getting caught causing him to fall and compound fracture his arm.

But after thinking this through, I've come to the simple conclusion that you can't live your life in fear of getting injured. If you love to do something like cycling, then get out there and do it. Sure there's the risk you might run into the back of an SUV going 40 mph or wreck and get some nasty road rash or break a bone, but that's just part of life and part of being active.

This isn't the first time I've had these thoughts. When I was 13 years old, I started pole vaulting. I broke my arm once when I fell off the mat. Another time I witnessed one of my best friends land on his head after he missed the mat. I thought he was dead, but he stood right up and was just a bit dazed from the impact of the soft dirt (he left a good imprint of his nose and forehead). After breaking my arm, I went on to pole vault for 5 more years into college and never again was seriously injured. Just think if I would have concluded that it was "too dangerous" and quit. I would have lost out on all of those experiences.

Growing up on a farm, we did all sorts of risky things from jumping our motorcycles across ditches to water skiing/wake boarding in the canals while being pulled by a four wheeler or pickup truck. Sure we would get injured every now and then but I think it was worth all of the good times.

So, with that behind me I took my bike to work today with plans for a lunch ride. I haven't done lunch rides lately due to being busy at work, so I was a little out of that routine. I quickly got all dressed in the parking lot in my lycra only to realize I'd left my cycling shoes and helmet at home. Doh!! I was so disappointed to say the least. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done that before.

Luckily I was able to leave work at a decent time and rode up the south side of Suncrest. It was great to be on the bike again. I love the feel of the cool evening air and there's nothing like working up a good sweat from a hard effort up a climb.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1,000 Warriors Race Report

I must not get up early enough. I woke up at 3:55 AM, picked up my father-in-law Bob (my SAG team) at 5:00 AM in Orem and headed up to Park City. I arrived at the starting line at 6:00 AM. My start time for the CAT 5B group of 54 riders was 6:35 AM. After waiting in line for 10 minutes to use the "Honey Bucket," I felt rushed to make it to the starting line, leaving no time for warming up. Guess I should have set my alarm for 3:30.

I should mention we had our CFO, Mike Herring cheering our Omniture team of 9 riders at the starting line. He had a cowbell and Omniture flag. Pretty dang cool.

I'm used to riding in century rides (only done 2 so far) where you roll out of the start and take the first 10 minutes to get the legs warmed up. Not so in this race. Right away my Omniture coworkers Nick, Dave and Ryan put the hammer down. My plan was to ride with the lead pack for as long as I could, but since I wasn't paying close attention, I missed accelerating with the front 10-15 riders and a gap opened between them and me in the main pack. I decided to bridge the gap on my own and burned a bunch of energy catching them. Once latched on, I was able to settle into the pace line at a manageable pace. I'm still amazed at how huge of a difference it makes in terms of saving energy when you ride in a pace line. The climb up the NE side of Jordanelle Resevoir is not too tough, but since I didn't warm up and since the pace was pretty fast and I probably wasn't paying close attention, I dropped off the lead pack again. Three of us that were dropped organized and tried to bridge the gap, but we weren't strong enough to make it happen and the gap widened to a couple of minutes by the time we made it to Kamas.

The 3 of us took turns pulling for the next 10 miles, although one guy who kept fiddling with his jacket instead of pulling when it was his turn made our efforts less effective. By the way, not sure why this guy brought a jacket as the temperature couldn't have been colder than 60 degrees and by 8 AM it was probably 75 degrees.....nothing arm warmers couldn't handle.

On the downhill side of the road that runs along the south end of Jordanelle, I got the first taste of how much faster my Rev-22 wheel set is compared to my old Bontrager Selects wheels. I let go of the brakes and got up to 53 mph (sorry Tiff).

Further down the course on the south side of Deer Creek Reservoir, a rider in front of me about 75 yards crashed. I don't know what happened, but I just looked up in time to see his bike go tumbling on the road. He was on his feet immediately and was shaken up, but didn't appear to be injured.

The real race began as we started the climb up the Alpine Loop towards Sundance. At this point we were 44 miles into the race. On Tuesday I did intervals on the bottom portion of the Alpine Loop from Provo Canyon to Sundance, which is the steepest and most difficult portion of the climb to the 8,000 ft. summit, so I was dialed into what tempo I wanted to ride. From Provo canyon to Suncrest, I didn't get passed by anyone and I passed probably 20-30 riders. I was maintaining a steady heart rate and feeling good.

That all changed pretty suddenly when about 1/2 mile past Sundance my legs locked up like I've never experienced in my whole life. Both quads and both hamstrings almost simultaneously contracted so hard that I had to immediately stop on the side of the road. I was devastated thinking that there was no way I was going to finish this race with these cramps. I've had cramps before but nothing like these. The first time was in February after 80 miles and 5 hours into the St. George to Zion Century and then recently at the end of two separate 5 hour training rides that included 8,000 ft. of climbing, but never only 2 hours into a ride.

I downed almost an entire water bottle and stretched on the side of the road for 15 minutes while probably 50-60 riders passed by. Many were kind and asked if I were okay, which was nice. I hopped back on my bike and started pedaling thinking that within any minute I'd start cramping again, but to my surprise I was fine. I pedaled softly for another 10 minutes and then started to increase the intensity slowly. I made it to the summit with only a hint of more cramping. The only problem was my bottles were now empty and the next feed station wasn't until Highland.

As it turned out, UDOT and the race organizers failed to shut down the Alpine Loop to vehicles, so there were 600+ racers "bombing it" down the narrow canyon road (AF Canyon side) which by 9:30 AM was already busy with the weekend traffic.

I frequently climb AF canyon during the week in the early morning hours when the traffic is light as this is one of the best road bike climbs around and it's a 20 minute ride to the base from my house. On most days, I only see one or two dozen cars during a 1 hour ride to the top. The traffic on the weekend is a different story. You have guys pulling horse trailers and ATV trailers, mountain bikers driving up to the mountain bike trails, hikers, campers, tourists going up to visit timp cave, etc. It's ALWAYS busy on the weekend, even in the earlier hours of the day and the 2 lane road is curvy, steep and no shoulder.

So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when a race volunteer with a flag warned me of an accident as I passed through the timp cave parking lot. As I came upon the scene of the accident, I was deeply disturbed by the blood stain covering half of the road, the mangled bike and the bashed in back window of a black SUV. For a second it made me want to just ride home instead of finishing.

At the bottom of the canyon they had shut down the race as the life flight helicopter was in the middle of highway 92. About 100 riders were stopped, waiting to get further instruction. I spotted a couple of Omniture guys in the crowd and learned that the SUV braked to avoid an oncoming vehicle and several riders following rear ended the SUV.

Note: As it turns out, one of the riders who went through the SUV's windshield was in critical condition as he was cut severely from the glass and lost a large amount of blood, which explains the blood all over the road that I witnessed at the scene. As of Sunday night per the news he broke nearly every bone in his face and has had multiple reconstructive surgeries but fortunately they said he's recovering.

All I'm going to say is I feel very badly for those involved in this accident and I hope they recover as quickly as possible. And to the race organizers and UDOT, it's absolutely IRRESPONSIBLE that there wasn't more safety measures involved with this part of the race. Given the conditions, I'm surprised that this was the only accident in the canyon between bikers and cars. At a minimum they should have had flashing caution signs at several points warning people of the racers. Most of the racers would have passed through within a 2 hour window, so they could have easily done a rolling closure with police escorts like they did for the Tour of Utah pro riders that passed through on the same route later that day. It's these types of accidents that ruin it for cyclists when it could have been avoided in my opinion with some added precautions.

Anyhow, back to my race report.

I filled up at the neutral aid station at the base of Suncrest. I'm glad I made it there before most others as there honestly wasn't that much to go around.

Same story on the climb up Suncrest as on the Alpine Loop. I was climbing strong, passing people left and right without a heavy effort. In fact, I kept looking down at my Garmin to see if I was really redlining it and just not perceiving my level of effort. As I was about 2/3 of the way to the top, I stood out of the saddle to accelerate into the flats. Mistake...instantly, my right quad locked up stiff as a board. I was able to work out the cramp without stopping, but had to limp my way to the top.

I downed 2 more water bottles (making it 6 for the day, plus the water I drank at the Suncrest aid station) as I soft pedaled all the way to the last neutral aid station at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The guys at this aid station were really nice and helpful, but honestly their supplies were extremely inadequate. They had two coolers full of water and they ran out shortly after I was done filling up. I felt terrible for the guy behind me who was begging for water and they said they were out. In my mind this is simply poorly executed planning. If you have 600+ riders and you know the weather is going to be scorching, you better have lots and lots of water and lots and lots of ice, especially at the base of the biggest climb of the event at the point when everyone is spent and parched.

The climb up Little Cottonwood was a tough way to end this race. For the first few miles I felt pretty good, although I was pedaling cautiously in order to avoid cramping again. It didn't matter at this point. My legs cramped hard again and I was forced to stop on the side of the road for about 10 minutes while I worked out the cramps.

About a 1/4 mile from the top this nice old guy on the side of the road asked me if I wanted water on my back. "Absolutely", I told him! Man did that feel good! There were lots of nice people like this on the side of the road cheering us on. The words of encouragement made a big difference except for the people who kept saying "you're almost there." That's annoying, not sure why, but it is really annoying. "Great job" and "keep going strong" or "looking good" are much more effective.

I ended up finishing in 6:49, quite a bit slower than my goal of 6 hours. The cramps were frustrating, especially since they came so early in the race and hampered me throughout the rest of the course. But on the bright side, I finished one of the toughest races around,** which is something I never could have done a year ago when I was fat (45 lbs heavier) and out of shape.

**Nick told me at the finish line that this race was as difficult as Lotoja. He ended up taking 3rd place in our CAT 5B group (actually 3rd place out of all of the CAT 5 racers and had a podium finish last year at Lotoja, so I'll take his word on that comment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

1,000 warriors race

I'm at work thinking about my first "real" bike race that's tomorrow. The "1,000 Warriors" race is the same course that the Tour of Utah pro riders will race later in the day. It's 96 miles starting in Park City, climbing over the Alpine Loop, Suncrest and then finishing at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It should be a fun and difficult ride. The trick I'm thinking is to leave enough in the gas tank for the last brutal climb up to Snowbird.

I upgraded my wheels to Rev-22s by Revolution Wheelworks, which pretty much dropped a whole pound from bike's weight.
I'm anxious to see how they improve my time on climbs. A whole pound may seem insignificant, but back in July I did a demo on a pair of Bontrager Race X Lite wheels and that alone knocked off 2+ minutes on a 40 minute climb. Later I found out the bike shop accidentally mounted 25s instead 23s on those demo wheels, so in reality, the comparable time would have been even faster.

The biggest thing on my mind about this race is proper hydration. It's supposed to be 102 tomorrow and I sweat heavily, so I'll need to really watch that I don't get dehydrated.

If you happen to see the race go by, look for me in my Omniture team kit. There will be 8 or 9 of us from Omniture in my start group of 50.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Man up

Last Saturday I was halfway through my long ride and halfway up Squaw Peak when I had to pull off the side of the road to catch a 10 AM conference call for work. I'm glad I didn't blow it off (I seriously considered it) because a couple of people who skipped out got a verbal lashing by one of the VPs on the call. The call lasted about a 1/2 hour and I was walking back to hop back on my bike when a guy and a girl, both on rode bikes, passed by climbing up the mountain. I said hello as they passed and then resumed checking my email on my blackberry. I sent an email and called my wife to let her know of my whereabouts as I was already late getting back. As I was prepping to mount up again, I was thinking to myself, "I wonder if I can catch those two before they reach the summit?" By then a few minutes had already elapsed since they passed by and the summitt was only 15 minutes away, so I dismissed that entertaining thought and started pedaling a good tempo.

To my surprise I caught them on the 2nd to last switchback before the top. Even more surpising was the fact that the girl was kicking her boyfriend's (or husband's) trash up the climb. I'm not saying that women are inferior cyclists to men as there are plenty of women around the valley that would leave me in the dust. It's just that this guy looked pretty fit, definitely not overweight and he was wearing my employer's team kit (last year's version), so I was expecting a better showing from him. You might suggest that he was sandbagging. I thought that too, but then I noticed he was doing something I'd never seen done before on a climb. He was actually zigzagging the road!! Granted the last 2 switchbacks on Squaw are about an 11% grade, but come on, zigzagging it! In the meantime, while he was making his own switchbacks back and forth accross the road, his girl was powering to the top, about 50 feet ahead of him. All I can say is that's some dang good motivation to get your sorry self out of bed in the morning and ride...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I'd rather be cycling as you can see by my grass

Work has been busy lately with quarter end accounting activities making for long working days and the last 3 Saturdays I've done long bike rides, the kind of rides that take up half your day even when you start as the sun is coming up. The last thing I want to do after a long day at work is mow the lawn and the last thing I want to do after a long ride is fire up the mower at the hottest part of the day.

Today I had good intentions. I decided I needed to do some work around the yard (like mow the lawn), so I climbed AF canyon and then pretty much came straight home. The plan was to mow the lawn while it was still cool. Instead I ended up watching the DVR recording of the Mt. Ventoux stage of the Tour de France. Pretty amazing how Lance at 37 was responding to all of the attacks by the Schleck brothers. It's good motivation for me who's making my own comeback of sorts.

On a side note, is it just me or is the team RadioShack announcement by Lance sort of anticlimatic? When I think of RadioShack, I think of going to the mall in Wenatchee, WA when I was 8 years old (in the early 80's) with my older brother Brent who was really amazing with electronics. He'd buy lots of transistors, wires, solder, etc. and it usually took forever for him to pick out all of the little various parts. So when I think of RadioShack, it just isn't that exciting. Is that the best sponsor they could get? I mean, why not try to land a flashy company like Google or Goldman Sachs or maybe Wells Fargo Bank to go along nicely with the Rabo Bank and Saxo Bank sponsors?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Butterfield Canyon

Back in the spring I was hunting for new climbing rides and came across Butterfield Canyon, which is near Herriman and the Kennecott Copper Mine. I attempted the climb but ran into snow on the road about halfway up. Since then, I've wanted to try again as I was curious whether the top half of the climb is as tough as rumored.

From the turnoff of HWY 111 to the top, it's about 6.9 miles and approximately 2,300 vertical feet with the summit at 7,786 ft. (per my Garmin). The first 3-1/2 miles are uneventful but then it really gets steep for the next mile. It was so steep that I was in my 30t front ring (yes I have a triple and on this day very glad to have it) and 25t rear cog and either standing up to keep my momentum going until my heart rate redlined or sitting in the saddle grinding it out until my heart rate came back down. After this brutal stretch, the road flattened out a bit for a half mile and then ticked up to 8 or 9% for the last 2 miles.

It definitely was a very challenging climb. I was disappointed that the road had quite a bit of rocky debris on the last 2 miles (see my picture below) as it made the descent pretty sketchy. The thing I like about it though is the approach ride from Utah county is pretty nice, the view at the top is great and it's a nice change of scenery to keep things fresh.

Kennecott Copper Mine (Butterfield Canyon is on the left of the mine in this picture):

Lots of rocks on the road in some sections near the summit:


View from the top looking NE down the canyon road:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Smoothie the night before my long ride


On Friday night I made this smoothie, hoping it would give me some good fuel for my long ride on Saturday. It's made up of fresh peaches, banana, fresh blueberries, skim milk, 2 scoops of protein powder and one scoop of vanilla ice cream (slow churned Dreyers).

Johnny P. and the Nebo Loop

This morning I was halfway up the climb to Payson Lakes on the Nebo Loop Rd. when all of the sudden a car pulled up beside me and the driver said "Hey how's it going...great to see Omniture out on the road," or something like that. Immediately I recognized the driver of the car to be John Pestana, the co-founder and current Board of Director of Omniture, commonly known as "Johnny P". I was wearing my Omniture cycling kit in case you're wondering how he recognized me.

I've always thought highly of Johnny P. He made himself a small fortune when Omniture went public in 2006 in one of the most successful IPOs of that year. Our stock price went from $6.50 out of the gate in June 2006 to almost $40 by the end of 2007. Despite his wealth, which sometimes ruins people, he's always had a level head and been humble and approachable, at least from my observations. Before he left Omniture as an employee to pursue other interests, I used to run into him ocasionally in the office. I remember one time he was using the copier at the same time I was and he started up a conversation and we chatted for a minute. Just a great guy.

It was no different today when I ran into him on the road. It was pretty sweet as he was driving his yellow Lamborghini Murcielago like this one:


When he pulled up next to me, I could hardly carry on a conversation with him as my heart rate was close to 160 from the climb. He said he and his buddies were driving the Nebo Loop and then he said goodbye and sped off. His buddies were following, one in a Ferrari and another in a Dodge Viper. Pretty awesome!

I hadn't climbed more than another mile and I ran into Jay Beck with a couple of his mountain bike friends that he grew up with in Goshen. I work with Jay at Omniture in the accounting department. He's a good guy.


Continuing on, I made it to the Payson Lakes. Here's a picture:



Overall, I liked the climb. At the bottom of the canyon for the first few miles there are quite a few undulations in the road, which was an added challenge having to switch from short climbs to short sections of flats/downhill. I noticed the road at the bottom was pretty beat up (especially noticeable on the descent when I wondered if this is what riding on cobblestones is like). The grade ticks up after mile 3 with the toughest sections of 7%-8% coming between miles 5 and 6 and then again between miles 7 and 10. To Payson Lakes, it's about 12 miles and 3,100 vertical ft. If I would have had more time, I would have loved to continue on the Nebo Loop Rd. and finish the climb to the summitt and drop down into Nephi, but since I rode from Lehi, that wasn't an option (next time I'll drive to Payson).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To pass or not to pass?

A couple of days ago I was riding along through Alpine on my early morning ride at a steady pace of around 20 mph when two other guys on bikes came up on my wheel, kindly greeted me and then passed me on the left. This was all fine and dandy until 10 seconds later they dropped the pace down to a leisurely 17 or 18 mph. I thought okay, I don't want to pass them right back as if I'm trying to show them up, so I dropped my speed down too. I figured they'd be turning a different way than my planned route within a matter of minutes and then I could pick up the pace again, no worries.

Well, as luck would have it, I found out after following them for another 5 minutes or so (including 3 turns) that they apparently planned the exact route that I planned! So what do you do I pondered? They probably think by now that I'm stalking them, since I'm following their every move. I probably should have just peeled off on a different route, except my problem is that when I decide on a specific route, I don't like to change mid ride. As I was debating what to do, the road turned to a short hill and then a short descent. I decided this is enough. No more tailgating and soft pedaling. I went into the drops, passing them on the little descent, settled back into my planned pace and didn't look back.

I guess the moral of this story to me is that if you're out cycling and you pass a stranger, it's poor cycling etiquette in my mind to then immediately drop you speed down a notch unless you're truly spent from your hard effort to make the pass.

Instead, consider one of my favorite things to do when you see a "carrot" riding in front of you, especially if it's a male rider on a road bike who is reasonably fit. Note: mountain bikes and girls on bikes don't count....no offense intended, it's just a general rule as I'm sure there are plenty of folks in both classes that could drop me in a heartbeat. So, you see the carrot up ahead and you make a hard effort to catch the carrot, and then lay off the gas as you approach closer, matching the carrot's pace and recovering from the hard effort. If it's a climb, I especially like to then observe their form and wait until they are showing signs of weakening. When the time is right, you turn up the tempo again, only slowing slightly as you pass so that you can cordially say "hello" or "hey." Then it's goodbye for good. Definitely none of this pass and then slow down crap.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More reasons to climb...

The other day on my blog I posted about my top 5 reasons for my preference of climbs over the flats. Well, this morning I decided I needed to hit the flats for a change and it didn't take long for the flat route to remind me of another big reason for climbing.

6. Stop signs / Stoplights - I hate it when you're on the flats, you get into a good rhythm, pedaling hard, heart rate is up, you're moving at 23 mph and just then you hit a stop sign or a stoplight and you're forced to brake, shift down, etc. At least with a stop sign you can quickly move through, but with the stoplights, sometimes you get stuck waiting for it to turn. And since you're usually riding on a less traveled back road, the light won't turn green for an eternity (arrrghh).

Here's a little trick I learned to speed up the light change on those stubborn lights that take forever to change. Pedal on over to the crosswalk and hit the button! I've done this the last couple of times on the stoplight at the intersection of busy HWY 92 and the road that goes up to Suncrest and within 2 seconds the light changes.

So back to my point. With a mountain climb, you never have to deal with these intersections. It's so much better.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bald Mountain

Our family spent last weekend relaxing in Park City. Except for some rain Friday night, the weather was absolutely perfect, making it a great opportunity to check out some new routes.

As I was falling asleep Friday night, I nudged my wife and said, "uh, by the way, I'm going to ride from Kamas to Bald Mountain in the morning." She was half asleep and I'm pretty sure she didn't know where Kamas nor Bald Mountain are located, but replied drowsily, "Okay, what time will you be back?" "Umm, not really sure....." "So, like 10AM? "Well, probably more like 10:30 or.....uhem (under my breath) 11:00. "Okay, good night." "Good night."

The next morning it was a chilly 45 degrees in Kamas at 7 AM as I started pedaling. It didn't take long though for the temp. to warm up as the sun made its way up into the clear blue sky.

The roughly 30 mile climb from Kamas to the top of Bald Mountain pass was long and mostly gradual. The last several miles before the summit ramp up to around 5-6%. I wasn't sure if it was the elevation that was getting to me or just that I was getting fatigued from the long climb, but I did notice those last few miles were difficult. I was glad to see this written on the road as I neared the summit.

The picture sort of got cut off on the left side, but it says "1 KM to KOM." This was still on the road as the previous weekend, they had the High Uintas Race Classic and this sign was to notify the riders that the check point to get the King of the Mountain or KOM time bonus was near.

Still a bit of snow on the side of the road....

At the top of the pass looking up at Bald Mountain

And here is a view of some of the High Uinta mountain peaks as seen from state route 150 at Bald Mountain Pass.

The ride back down to Kamas was pretty fun since it was mostly all downhill........except for the not so fun part when I ran out of water with about 13 miles to go (couldn't find one of my waterbottles while packing for the trip).

On the descent, I noticed the traffic was getting pretty heavy coming the opposite direction up the mountain. I didn't pass one rider the entire climb up, but probably passed 20-30 on the way down. I don't know why people start climbing so late in the morning. It gets hot, you take up the whole day, and then the traffic gets worse as the day progresses. With my early start, I had 30-40 cars pass me the whole climb, but I bet those coming up had 3-4X that many cars passing them.

Here's the route map in case you're interested. I highly recommend this ride.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why climb a mountain?

I've been pondering this question lately. Why is it that I pretty much only want to ride up mountain passes and canyons? I mean, why not instead find a flat road and just enjoy a nice and easy spin?



I mean especially since riding up a mountain can be a grueling and painful experience. Many times I've started a climb and thought to myself, "self, why are we doing this today?.....this hurts way too bad.....why don't we just turn around and go home?"

So, despite the hurt a good climb provides, I still much prefer riding uphill than on the flats and these are my top 5 reasons why:


1. There is a defined goal/destination. I find this to be a very powerful motivating factor. I know the distance, I know the elevation gain and I know how long it will take to reach the summit. Sure, you can establish a predefined route on a flat road when you ride a loop or out-n-back, but it's just not very motivating to ride say 20 miles to point "A," turn around and then ride back. Along with this comes the sense of accomplishment from reaching a given summit or multiple summits in a single ride. Nothing like finishing a ride where you climbed 5,000+ vertical feet.

2. Can't beat the scenery and natural beauty. The mountain passes and canyon climbs here in Utah along the Wasatch Front (e.g. Alpine Loop, Nebo Loop, Suncrest, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, Butterfield Canyon, Squaw Peak, etc.) are simply breathtaking. Flowers, lush aspen groves, wildlife, rivers, granite cliffs and views of the valleys below definitely add to the experience of climbing and help to distract the mind from the pain of the climb.

3. Generally fewer cars. I'll admit it......I HATE cars when I'm cycling. Even though most people are considerate and give you plenty of room when passing, it seems about 1 out of 10 drivers, often the white trash types in their big diesel-polluting-jacked-up trucks buzz you without slowing down or even making an attempt to move to the left. Even worse is when the same is pulling a giant trailer with their dirt bikes, ATVs or construction equipment. I've found that especially in the early morning the traffic is noticeably lighter up the canyons and mountain passes. Fewer cars means a much more enjoyable, less stressful ride.

4. The descent. When I first started riding, I hated riding faster than 25 mph. I was timid, riding the brakes the whole time, and stiff as a board. As my confidence and skills have improved, I now really enjoy the rush from a fast descent.

5. Training benefits. The nice thing about a challenging climb from a fitness perspective is you typically push your heart rate to the highest level that you can manage without "blowing up." So, the intensity is pretty high and you get a good workout in a short amount of time compared to a flat ride where you have to push a very fast pace in order to keep your heart rate at an equivalent level. The result is you become a stronger and faster climber and sooner or later you're dropping other riders on climbs. I also really enjoy keeping track of my fitness gains through doing time trials to the top of my favorite climbs. Nothing like pushing it hard to the top of the mountain and beating your personal best time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm a missionary of cycling

About a year ago in June, I purchased my first road bike. Since then, I've lost about 40 lbs of fat and in reality, probably more like 50 lbs. of fat, since I've most certainly gained some muscle weight. 50 lbs. of fat is approximately the equivalent of 8 of these 6lb., Costco-sized Crisco containers. Glad to have that gone!! I truly feel like a different person now.


By the way, a few months ago we kicked off a competition with a few people at work to see who can lose the highest percentage of body fat by getting a "Bod Pod" test down at the "Y-Be-Fit" office at BYU. The "Bod Pod" tests your body fat % using air displacement. After paying the $15 fee, the technician has you hop into spandex, put on a little cap and then sit inside the Bod Pod capsule that's shaped like a giant egg with a window on it. It only takes about 60 seconds for the test, enough time for the air to pump inside the chamber a couple of times. You then get a printout of the test results. For most people, you'll be surprised at how high your body fat percentage is from this test. I don't remember exactly, but I was over 20% and that was one of the lowest in the group of coworkers that were tested that day. We are going to do the test again, probably next week, so I'm anxious to see how I've improved. You should try it! It's a great and accurate way to measure your fitness gains and a great way to have a weight loss contest.

Anyhow, since I've lost some weight over the last year, I'm frequently being asked "what is your secret?" Of course I tell them about how I started cycling and so on and so forth. I always put in a good plug for cycling and actually encourage them to think about purchasing a bike or if they already have a bike, suggest ways for them to ride more often.

For example, one of my coworkers has a quality mountain bike and I suggested he could easily ride to work on the canal bank road that goes all the way from his house in American Fork to right by our office in Orem. He's now riding to work a couple of times a week and is looking to purchase a road bike too.

My older brother also recently purchased a road bike after I had a chance to offer up my sermon to him on the benefits of riding a bike.

And just yesterday, one of our external financial auditors who hangs out at our offices about 6 months out of the year pulled me aside and asked for some advice on buying a road bike (I thought he was going to ask me a lame theoretical question about accounting fraud, so I was glad when he wanted to talk bikes). I took the next 15-20 minutes explaining to him the different options and proclaiming how great cycling is, including emphasizing how much better it is than running. I'm thinking within 2 weeks he'll be sportin' a new bike too.

There are more examples that I could provide of people I've "testified" to about cycling and later I hear of them buying a bike and riding, but you get the point.

I definitely don't take all the credit for these "conversion" stories, but I've enjoyed seeing people get excited about the sport like I have. Cycling, whether you ride a mountain bike or road bike really is a fantastic way get yourself in shape, lose some extra pounds and have fun while doing it. It's also a great way to cut down on driving your car everywhere. So, if you're sitting on the fence and aren't sure whether to start biking, just do it! I promise you won't regret it.

Oh, and here's a pretty sweet Trek Madone to help you get motivated even more.....

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Day Off - Little Cottonwood Canyon

At my work, we've been encouraged as a cost cutting measure to use 4 days of PTO in June. If you use 4 days, you get one additional day free....sort of like buy 4 get one free. So, I decided to use up one of my PTO days today. Not a bad day to miss work with the sun finally showing itself.....and not a bad day for a long ride up one of our beautiful, Wasatch Front canyons.

I started the ride in Lehi (northeast Lehi that is......), climbed over Suncrest and dropped down into Draper and up Wasatch Blvd. to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, which by the way is a really nice route for a bike ride with its wide shoulders, bike lanes and plenty of climbing. On a tangent, I really hate those roads where the white line is two feet from the edge of the road. I wish Barrack Obama and the Democrats would make a new law that would require all roads to have a minimum 4 ft. shoulder, with no rumble strips please!!

For those of you who aren't familiar with this canyon, it's the one with the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts (best snow on Earth). It's been a while since I've been up Little Cottonwood Canyon and the first time on my road bike, so I felt like I was riding blind. What I mean is when you're climbing on a road bike, it's nice to know the route, so that you can pace yourself accordingly and also break the climb into smaller, less intimidating pieces. For example, if you know the road is a 6% grade for 3 miles, then flattens for 1/2 mile, then changes back to a 6% grade for the last 2 miles, you can break such a climb into two shorter climbs. It really makes a difference mentally, at least for me.

The climb up Little Cottonwood is actually pretty challenging at just over 8.57 miles and 3,225 vertical ft., which is about a 7.1% average grade. In comparison, the climb up American Fork Canyon (Alpine Loop) from the Alpine/Highland side is a little longer at 10.85 miles, but not as much elevation gain (2,861 vertical ft.) or an average grade of 5%.

Anyhow, I made it to the top of the canyon and here's a picture from the end of the road just above Alta. Still a decent amount of snow at this elevation (just below 9,000 ft.).


The descent down the canyon was pretty fun, except that the road has some potholes and rough spots that you have to watch for. I also enjoyed cruising on the mostly downhill ride on Wasatch Blvd. and into Draper and then finished finished it off with a painful climb (my legs were shot) up and over Suncrest.

Like I said, not a bad way to spend a Friday morning. So much better than sitting at my desk looking at spreadsheets.....