Category Archives: daily report

Flat in the Dark

I’ve found something that I love. Finally. It’s not a person. Nor is it running. Well, okay. I do love running, but that’s not what this post is about. I’ve been converted to night riding.

My first true night ride was about a week ago. I took off after work and rode about a 60 mile training ride. Before that I had commuted while it was dark, but that was always less than 5 miles. My first night ride I turned the headlight on about 1/3 of the way into the ride. It was a little awkward at first having to get used to only seeing a small bubble right in front of you. But the views of the sky were gorgeous.  It was made even better because I could view the stars without looking up the sky was so clear and non light polluted.

That night I was riding the infamous Shootout route. From Tucson, I went south on Mission Road, used Duval Mine Road and came back north on Nogales Highway. In total it’s about 60 miles, but riding from home adds another 6 to that. Unfortunately, the end of the ride takes place inside the city of Tucson, so seeing the stars is harder not only because of the light, but because one has to pay more attention to riding and avoiding cars.

2011-oct-26_map

Route ridden on the 26th of October, 2011.

Last night I once again planned a night ride. I would take off after work and ride about 40 miles. Have a looksee at the map I rode, taken from Garmin Connect. Garmin has updated their site to include Google Maps with bicycle routes on it. I don’t know if I rode on any on this ride because the real route ridden in red covers the green bike routes.

Anyway, I took off westbound at around 4pm when the winds were west-northwest at 30 gusting to 48! As the night progressed, the winds died down, luckily for me. I went out on St Mary’s and transitioned to Gates Pass Road. Riding up Gates Pass into that wind was so hard. But I made it up and over and all in the large chainring! My heart rate got pretty high, and the legs were burning bad, but I knew I had a long decent ahead of me.

2011-oct-26_metrics

Speed, elevation, and heart rate data from the October 26, 2011 ride.

After cresting the pass, I enjoyed the long downhill on Gates Pass Road until Kinney. I made the left on Kinney and now has a quartering tailwind. Not the greatest, but at least it wasn’t a headwind. I was really looking forward to making the turn from Kinney onto Ajo and having a full tailwind while going downhill! What I didn’t plan on was flatting. At the corner of Kinney and Ajo I noticed the telltale signs of a flat tire. I dismounted, checked, and yup, a flat. My first flat at night. We’d see how well I knew how to change a flat.

Looking at the data, it seems it took me about 20 minutes to change the tube. Not bad considering I made sure to check for glass and other crap in the tire that may immediately puncture the tube. I took the descent a little slow because I didn’t want another flat going downhill with the wind going at 40 miles per hour! I will note that road is much steeper than I previously thought. I had only ridden it going the other way, and it doesn’t seem that steep. I was wrong. Holy crap!

When I got to the intersection of Ajo and Mission I had a decision to make; should I head home or should I continue on the planned route. Since the tube had held up through the descent, I decided to go on the planned route. Besides, I had 2 more CO2s and tubes in the saddle bag in case of more flats. The planned route is visible in the image above and took me south on Mission to San Xavier Road where I headed east. This took me past the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, which I couldn’t see because it was dark. I continued past Desert Diamond Casino and the Tucson International Airport and turned north on Nogales Highway. A quick jog east at Valencia to Park and it was a straight shot north to home.

All-in-all it was a fun ride, even with the flat. My next night ride might be the same except extending the southbound leg so that I do the entire Shootout route. That would increase the total distance up to 100 miles. It’d be fun to complete a century all after dark. I’m not sure when I can fit that into the training schedule, hopefully next week.

Keep the rubber side down…

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Force reps

force reps map

Doing some force reps along the multi-use path.

Today the training plan called for something I haven’t seen before: force reps. The description that came along with the plan said to find a straight-and-level surface to do them on. Then, select a gear where you can only manage 50-60 revolutions per minute (RPM) while seated and mash for up to 20 revolutions. The training plan didn’t say mash, but that’s what it would be. Repeat up to 10 times. Sounds easy, no? See my Garmin Connect activity profile.

The first step was finding a suitable flat spot in Tucson. The Rillito River park is about as flat as you can get. The path along the Santa Cruz River park may be flatter, at least it seems so to me, and it always seems to have less walkers and runners, but it’s a long way from my house and wasn’t prepared to do the commute first, then the workout. So the Rillito it was. I took Campbell over the river made a 270-degree turn westbound on the path and I was off to start my warm-up. Looking at the metrics below, you may be thinking, “where’s the warm-up?” It wasn’t a very good warm-up, but it was actually better than usual. I got the legs spinning at pre-dawn hours and the blood flowing a little. Heart rate only got up to 130 beats per minute (BPM) but I was feeling a bit warm. Not sweaty, but ready to start the reps.

After 20 minutes my watch beeps at me. I can set it to do intervals, which is basically what this training session was. It was time to do the first rep. I start changing to harder gears while simultaneously slowing my cadence. I wish I had a cadence meter so that I could show that data in the metrics. As long as I’m wishing, I wish I had a power meter too. C’est la vie. I quickly find that I’m in the 50×12 (my hardest gear) and standing. Doh! I wasn’t supposed to be standing. Even so, after a minute I started to get really tired. You see, I had set the intervals on the watch for 2 minutes. How did I come to that number? I have no idea. At the most, the intervals should have been 20 seconds. 20 revolutions divided by 60 RPM equals 1/3 of a minute or 20 seconds. I think I got confused and just put the 2 in the wrong slot in the watch. I actually didn’t realize that while riding, so these were actually about 1 minute intervals.

force reps metrics

Speed (blue), elevation (green), and heart rate (red) during the reps.

If you count the spikes in the heart rate in the metrics, you’ll see that there are eleven. I can’t even get that right. In my defense, the beep that starts the cool-down sounds very similar to the beep that starts an interval. It was only after that 11th one that I looked at the watch and it said I was supposed to be in cool-down mode. Jeez, I can’t get anything right with this workout.

So it turns out that 50×12 at 60 RPM isn’t that hard to do on a flat surface. As an aside, 50×12 for those that don’t know the lingo means that I had the chain in a 50 tooth front chainring and a 12 tooth rear cog. Why is the front called a chainring and the back a cog? I have no idea.

If my hardest gear wasn’t hard enough, what was I doing wrong? I had already quickly dismissed the idea that I was already at the top 1% of 1% of all athletes in this particular drill. A little searching on the web turned up this blog post by none other than Joe Friel of TrainingBible fame. It turns out that I was doing them wrong. Friel explains that they work best when done on a hill with a 5-8% grade. Hmm. Why not just call them hill repeats then? I think because the gear is specified to be such that RPM is maximized at 60 instead of sitting and spinning all the way to the top. And not standing too. But “sitting low-cadence hill repeats” would have been a clearer name for what I was supposed to be doing.

He also explains why he calls them reps and not intervals. See, his intervals always have a set time between each set. So an example would be 10 1-minute intervals with 1 minute rest. With reps, there is no set rest period between sets. So you get to rest until you feel you can complete the next rep. He also explains that this exercise is for more advanced cyclists who should ideally have several years of racing under their belt. Actually, he doesn’t say that in the blog post. I remember that from the TrainingBible. Why would I, a new cyclist with less than a year experience and no racing experience, be doing this workout? Because I don’t have a coach; or more accurately, I’m trying to self-coach myself, and I screwed up.

What I’m finding is that coaching yourself is more difficult that I ever imagined it would be. It was really nice having someone tell me what to do everyday and all I had to do was go do it. Sitting down, making a plan, and executing that plan is hard work. But I’m determined to stick with it until at least the end of the year. I have the Tucson Marathon coming up and before that a whole lot of other shorter races. After that, I will re-assess my goals and see if I need (and can afford) a coach.

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Documenting the Mountain Avenue bikeway

This morning I decided I’d take a long my Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera and document the bike riding conditions along the Mountain Avenue bikeway starting at the Rillito River Park and ending near the University of Arizona. The route is about three and a half miles (thanks to MapMyRide.com). I started at about 8:30 and got to campus at around 8:50 for an average speed of 10.5 miles per hour. I would usually go much faster than this, but was going slow to take the pictures.

mountain avenue map

Map and elevation profile from Mapmyride.com.

So the route isn’t much to look at. It’s straight south on Mountain Avenue. The elevation profile shows a continuous uphill climb, but if you look closely it’s only 200 feet over a distance of 3.5 miles. So that’s like a zero percent grade. Okay, it’s more than that, but it’s relatively flat and even the most novice cyclist should have no problems riding this route. I started documenting when I got to this little park within a park on the Rillito River Park multi-use path. There’s a couple tables to sit at and enjoy a snack or picnic plus a garbage can to throw your trash in. So don’t be a litterbug.

picnic area at river path and mountain crossing

Picnic area where the Mountain connection meets the River Park multi-use path.

Immediately adjacent to the picnic tables is a bridge that connects the linear park to Mountain Avenue. Both sides have a nice arch that proclaims it to be the River Park Gateway bridge. It is a very nice bridge and I’m glad I live in a community that thinks it’s important to build infrastructure for biking and pedestrian use. I have no idea what it cost to build this bridge, but thankfully the City of Tucson was wise enough to do so. I always see people using the bridge whether on bike, pushing a stroller, and even on horseback. And this wise investment was built with tax dollars.

river park gateway bridge

Crossing the River Park Gateway Bridge.

After crossing the bridge there is a sharp 90-degree turn that you need to negotiate which is followed within a few dozen feet by this T-intersection. The 90-degree turn will soon be another T-intersection as the south side path is completed. Make sure to be especially careful in this area as there are short sightlines and high volumes of traffic moving at different speeds. I was thinking that to myself this morning as I was taking this picture and making my left hand turn onto the connector between the river path and Mountain Avenue.

northside of path open

On the north side of the connector bridge, the path heading west is now open.

Then I saw this pedestrian enjoying the cool morning Tucson air with his dog followed by a cute couple with a stroller. As I said, this section of the path always seems to be busy. I’d suggest slowing down to a walking pace if you’re on your bike. It may take you a few minutes longer, but the added safety is worth it. Can you imagine what would have happened if that couple with the stroller had been just a little earlier and I had taken that blind corner at a little higher speed? Not good.

connector from rillito river park to mountain ave

A short connector from the Rillito River Park to Mountain Avenue.

The connecting path comes out at the intersection of Prospect Lane and Mountain Avenue. This is sort of a weird intersection. I wish I would have got a picture of it, but there was a lot of traffic due to the start of the school day at the nearby Rio Vista Elementary School. In fact, just as I was passing I could hear the morning announcements being read through the loud speaker. Ah, I remember those days. Announcements being read to grade school kids as if they cared.

south on mountain just off path

Heading south on Mountain just off the connecting path to the Rillito River Park.

Once on Mountain, there is a dedicated bike lane all the way to campus. Here we see a speed bump to slow automobile traffic but it doesn’t extend into the bike lane. It’s a nice touch although I don’t think that metal pole is necessary. Also, the low branches on the trees restrict the bike lane to about the left half. So even though the bike lane is striped to be 5 feet wide (estimated), only about 2 feet of it are actually useable at this point.

approaching first intersection

Approaching the first intersection heading south on Mountain.

The first traffic control device you encounter on Mountain is at the intersection with Limberlost. Here we see a stop ahead sign with lots of cars backed up waiting to get through the intersection. There usually isn’t that this much traffic, and I’m attributing it to the time of day. The bike lane at this point is nice and wide with no obstructions, but you can see up ahead that there are trees overhanging the road. This will get interesting.

mountain and limberlost no stop sign

Almost to the intersection of Limberlost and Mountain, but no stop sign is visible from the bike lane.

As we approach the intersection, we can see where the cars have stopped, but there is no visible stop sign. In fact, due to the overhanging tree branches, the stop sign is invisible to the point of uselessness for cyclists in the bike lane. If you forget that it’s there, you will run this stop sign. I’ve done that once and almost twice. The second time I barely avoided a crash with a car turning left from Limberlost north onto Mountain. This is a dangerous intersection because of the obstruction to viewing the stop sign. I would highly encourage whoever is responsible, be it the City of Tucson or Pima County, to trim the branches on these trees so that the stop sign is visible from the bike lane.

this car made sure to hold up traffic so I could get through

Looking east on Limberlost.

Here’s a picture looking east as I’m traveling through the intersection. I wasn’t going to snap anything here, but the woman in the SUV clearly didn’t know how to behave with a cyclist at a 4-way stop. She arrived at the intersection before me at about the same time as another vehicle from the opposite direction. The other vehicle, which can be seen in the photo above, correctly assumed the right of way and drove through the intersection. The woman in the SUV did nothing beside wave me through. The car next to me didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I and the car next to me went through. Everyone was delayed and put at increased risk, and all because this woman didn’t know the rules of the road.

south of limberlost wide path

The bike lane south of Limberlost gets a little wider.

As we finally get through the intersection, the bike lane gets wider. Well, it sort of does. I think the official bike lane is still just the portion of pavement to the right of the right-most solid white line. But the car lane is offset by another solid white line with a buffer of about two feet. While this provides no extra safety for a cyclist if a driver sways into the bike lane, it does provide a safety margin that makes it feel safer. That may be enough to get more riders on this segmet of road. As you can see, the road at this point is not well-kept. It has lots of cracks and weeks growing through the curbs. Thankfully, there is hardly any traffic on this segment either.

mountain and roger

The intersection of Mountain and Roger.

The intersection of Mountain and Roger is pretty mundane. At this point, Roger is a two-lane road. In all my time going through this intersection, I can’t remember it ever being as busy as it was today… and you can see that in the picture above. There was an SUV travelling eastbound and a car travelling westbound with a string of cars heading south. The lane markings are a little weird. There is a marked bike lane seen by the solid white line on the right and then a dashed white line as well marking the right turn lane. This lane is not wide enough for a car, so when they turn right they either do so from the through lane or use the bike lane. I’ve seen both, but I’m assuming they want the cars to use the bike lane.

south of roger brick dividers

Just south of Roger, the bike lane picks of a row of brick dividers.

The intersection with Roger marks a turning point for the Mountain bike lane. From here to the university it gets more use and the condition of the surface is much better. We can see here that there is a row of red-colored bricks that now seperate the bike lane from the car lane. This is a nice touch. It looks pretty and provides extra room for cyclists to manuvour in the bike lane; whether they need to avoid debris or pass a slower cyclist, they now can do so hopefully without conflict with faster moving vehicles in the car lane.

median with trees

The brick dividers are gone, but there's now a median with trees.

At Knox Drive, we see the start of this median. I’ve noticed that the cars travel much slower when they are on this segment of road than on other parts. I don’t know if that’s because of the median or not, but in any case, I like it both for it’s aestetic and practical qualities. I like it much more than the bricks that we saw earlier, and will see again later. Medians like this act as great traffic calming devices by restricting the field of view of the drivers which naturally causes them to slow down. As the trees grow, this effect should get larger.

approaching prince

Approaching the first stop light at Prince.

The intersection at Prince Road marks another major milestone as the first stop light. From the Rillito River Park to campus there are only four stop lights, but all of them are at major intersections. One of these can be easily avoided as we’ll see later. Approaching the intersection, we notice a line of cars about 5 deep and a cyclist in the bike lane. I saw a lot of this cyclist this morning as we were going about the same speed so I didn’t want to pass him and then have him pass me while I slowed for a photo and then me pass him and then… you get the picture.

prince and mountain

Stopped at the intersection of Prince and Mountain.

For some reason, I always seem to have to wait at this intersection. Fort Lowell and Grant I hit green a fair amount of the time, but I can’t recall the last time I did so at Prince. I have the sneaking suspicion that the red light is longer at Prince due to the higher volume of traffic compared to the other two intersections. I don’t know how long the cyclist ahead of me was waiting, but he looked like he was there so long he was actually getting comfortable. I like the one huge pannier on the left side of his rear tire; I wonder if that makes it harder to steer.

looking west on prince

Prince is a wide road. Looking west from the intersection with Mountain.

Traveling at 10 miles per hour, it took a little while to get through the extra large intersection at Prince. So long that I decided to whip out the camera and snap a quick picture. I didn’t have time to actually try to compose this shot, but I think it turned out well. Price at this point is 5 lanes wide; two in each direction with a suicide lane. I’m sure they’re officially called something less drastic, but that’s what my mother called them the first time she saw them and the name stuck for me.

brick dividers come again

South of Prince, the brick dividers are back again.

The nice median is gone and is replaced with the bricks again. There’s not a whole lot to see at this point in the ride; it all starts to look the same. Two lane road for cars with a wide bike lane with brick dividers. There was still just the one cyclist and me using the bike lane.

I like the brick crosswalks

Some of the crosswalks were marked with the brick too.

I don’t recall which side road this was taken at, but some of the crosswalks were paved in brick as well. I thought that was a nice astetic touch as well as clearly marking where drivers should stop. Also notice the great photography with the shadow of my head getting in the image.

approaching fort lowell

Approaching the second stop light at Fort Lowell.

Off in the distance is the second of four stop lights. Medians again with no bricks. Also, no more cyclists.

car on the sidewalk

A car blocking the sidewalk.

As we get closer to Fort Lowell, there’s this car parked on the sidewalk. This is the first time I’ve seen that on this road. I’ve seen plenty of cars parking in the bike lane, cars using the bike lane as a turn lane, and all other sorts of shinanegans. This one was odd though. The licence plate is visible if anyone from the city wants to have a chat with the owner. I’m sure any pedestrians who were trying to use the sidewalk this morning would appreciate it.

mountain and fort lowell

The intersection of Mountain and Fort Lowell is busy at this time of day.

The busy intersection of Fort Lowell and Mountain. We can see a car legally using the bike lane to make a right turn. While it may be legal, it is still dangerous for cyclists. The rider ahead was coasting so he wouldn’t get right hooked by the car making a right from the through lane. I had to slow up due to the confusion and barely made it through the light. Today that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I usually don’t like stopping at stop lights if I don’t have to do so.

ghost bike mountain and fort lowell

I pass by this ghost bike every day on the way to work.

Ghost bike. Not much to say. A rider died trying to make it through this intersection. I pass by every day making sure I’m extra careful.

south of fort lowell

South of the Fort Lowell intersection to bike lane gets even wider to accommodate more bikes.

Here the bike lane gets even wider. However, it’s at this point that the surface condition starts to get worse. I noticed a lot of spiderwebing and cracks due to neglect. Routine maintanance would have prevented some of the problems on this stretch of road, but funding seems to be extra short these days. Remember that great bridge that was built with tax dollars just a few pictures ago? Wouldn’t it be nice to continue that great infrastructure all the say to campus? Yeah, it takes money.

even the pavement markings have helmets

Even the pavement markings have helmets!

I love the pavement markings on this road. The cyclists all have helmets! I wish I could say the same for all the cyclists I see riding on the Mountain bikeway. Helmets may be a pain, they may not prevent all head injuries, but they do prevent some. They are cheap and if you’re in an accident, they could save your life. Please wear a helmet.

approaching gless and mountain

Approaching the last of the stop signs at Glenn and Mountain.

Glenn and Mountain marks the last stop sign. At this point we also pick up another commuter on her way to campus. I’m assuming she was going to campus, that’s where most of the riders on this road are going. We also see a lot more cars. For some reason that I can’t figure out, they also seem to be going faster in this segment as well. I don’t know if that was psycological because there were more or if they actually were going faster. I do have a hypothesis though: if they were going faster, it’s probably because they were university students trying to make it to class without being late. I’d suggest riding a bike instead!

first major debris in the bike path

South of Glenn, I encounter the first major debris in the bike lane.

One major problem on Mountain is the amount of debris in the bike lane starting at Glenn and continuing all the way to campus. Here is the first bit of loose gravel that I encountered just south of Glenn. This seems to be the most problematic the days following a large rain event. And last night we got rain, and the last few days have been extremely wet. As the number of cyclists ride over the gravel, it gets kicked to the side of the road and the path eventually becomes clear. Either that or the city finally has a street sweeper go through.

passed by a fixie

Between Glenn and the university there were a lot of cyclists. Here I'm being passed by a guy on a fixie.

South of Glenn I also noticed that there was a very large number of cyclists. I noticed this because I was going so slow and they were all passing me! Here I got passed by a guy riding a fixed gear bike. I’ll take all 20 of my gear combinations, thank you very much. Although he was going faster, so maybe he’s on to something.

grant in the distance

The last stop light at Grant is in the distance.

Way off in the distance you can barely make out the stop lights at Grant. The last major intersection before making it to campus. I didn’t get a good shot of the actual intersection, which is why this lousy one is posted here. You can also see the guy on the fixie avoiding a large gravel deposit in the bike lane.

south of grant quite a few cyclists

Looking south just after crossing Grant on Mountain with quite a few cyclists up the road.

After crossing Grant. The fixie is way off in the distance. The bike lane has switched to concrete and is much nicer to ride on. Sometimes. There are some places where the junction of two of the concrete slabs doesn’t line up just right and if you’re not prepared you’ll get a bone-jarring bump. As I’ve ridden this road so many times, I know where all the bad places are and can generally avoid them without thinking. Also of note in this picture, you’ll see how far I am to the left. I was avoiding a bunch of glass in the bike lane that the guy ahead of me ran right through. I hope he didn’t get a flat. As I was snapping this, I heard “on your left”, which of course made me swerve a little to the left, causing the faster rider to pass on the right. Straight through the broken glass. Sorry guy. Hope you didn’t get a flat either.

plants overgrowing into the bike lane

Going south on Mountain there is not too many obstacles. Here some shrubs are overgrowing into the bike lane. The northbound lane has low overhanging trees that will smack you in the face.

As you’ve seen in most of the photos, there hasn’t been much in the way of obstructions to the bike lane. Here we see some shrubs that have grown a little to big and should probably be trimmed. I don’t think at this point that they are causing a safety hazard, but if they get too much bigger they will cause cyclists to avoid them.

left turn top of the hill

A cyclist attempts to make a left turn as we approach the top of the hill. It's all downhill from here!

The last obstacle southbound on Mountain is this little hill. It’s not that big, you can make it. But I have seen quite a few people on bikes that look like they weren’t going to make it. Just keep pedaling and it’ll be over soon enough. It’s downhill on the other side. The rider on the left is trying to make a left hand turn. He made it without problem, but at the previous intersection I saw a woman on a comfort bike that looked like she was really nervous trying to make the left onto southbound Mountain. I’m not sure how, but it would be nice if there was a safer way for cyclists to turn left onto this nice bikeway.

after the right onto helen

I turn right onto Helen to get to the Olive Underpass.

Off the Mountain bikeway and onto Helen. Up ahead is the Olive Underpass which avoids the stop light at Speedway. After the underpass, you’re on campus!

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Friday fun day!

another cloudy morning in tucson

Rolling down River Road looking east towards the rising sun.

After the long day on Thursday, I decided to prolong the fun by getting up early on Friday and doing a brick workout. The day started with a 42 mile bike ride with 1800 feet of elevation gain. That was followed by a flat 3 mile run along the river path. The training plan again called for zone 1-2 on rolling hills. This time for three hours. I brought along the point and click camera and took a few snapshots along the way. My favorite was going down River Road near the end of my ride. It was pleasantly cool do to the clouds and as I looked to the east, I didn’t have to wonder why. Look at all those clouds! Well, for Tucson anyway. This would be a clear day for San Francisco, Seattle, or Portland.

The ride started off well. Heading east on River there were few cars since it was still before the morning rush hour. There’s a weird intersection between River, Alvernon, and Dodge that’s a little dangerous for bikes when there’s traffic. On the odd days I do this loop counter-clockwise, I usually cut to the river path at this point and take that to Craycroft. It’s easier since it’s flatter, but I also don’t have to deal with the cars. But I stayed on River Road and got to do the rolling hills. They’re always fun for me because it seems like they’re downhill both ways! Love them.

Nothing notable happened during my travels along River. The left turn through the River-Sabino Canyon intersection was non-notable; which I guess makes it notable in itself. There’s usually something funky happening there. Must have been the early hour that everyone was behaving. On the way up Sabino I had a decision to make. Should I continue straight on Kolb and ride the Kolb/Craycroft loop or head out to Sabino Canyon. The Kolb/Craycroft loop is not nearly as much climbing and coming from this direction it’s not very steep. I could have gone over and started it on the Craycroft side, but then there would have been backtracking and the perfectionist in me would not have liked that one bit. Plus, that road is really rough. And I don’t like that one bit either.

So Sabino it was! I was expecting there to be a lot of bikers, runners, and walkers out since it was Friday morning and the weather was so nice. However, much to my surprise, there was hardly anyone there! The first biker I saw was at mile post 1. For a while I thought that I had somehow missed a notice about there being no bikes today. But there was hardly anyone out there at all. So the ride up was uneventful and the ride down was uneventful. I forgot to take any pictures though, so you’ll have to use a search engine to find some and then use your imagination and superimpose me in them.

A little pseudo-sprint at the top of the hill got the heart rate to 169 beats per minute. Up until that point I had been averaging about 130 bpm. On the mostly downhill way home, I’d average only about 120 bpm. In terms of heart rate it was a very easy ride. Actually, in terms of a lot of metrics it was an easy ride. But during the whole ride I couldn’t help think of how my legs felt like jelly. And I had a run to do after this as well! Oh goody.

ina road morning rush hour traffic

At the top of the hill looking down on rush hour traffic. Halfway into the 3 hour, 42 mile ride.

On the downhill on Ina, I picked up a rider wearing a TriSports Cycling kit. I tried to keep up with him as he passed, and did a decent job for a bit, but then lost him at a stop light. Heart rate got up to 140 bpm and speed up to 30 mph, so I wasn’t pushing it too hard.

Last time I rode this route I made the left turn from Ina onto La Cholla. This time I went up to Thornydale. This had two major consequences: one was planned and the other not so much. Firstly, by going this extra few miles I cut off one left turn from the route. This is good. I don’t like left turns that leave me sitting unprotected on a bike in the middle of traffic. However, it also was bad because the intersection of Ina and Thornydale was extremely busy. I couldn’t get into the left lane to make the turn. As I got up to the light, I was planning on going straight across and then riding south on Thornydale. But the light turned green in the opposite direction just as I was getting to the light. Some quick thinking, and I decided to walk my bike from the bike lane in front of the cars waiting at the red light to the left turn lane. Totally illegal, but I did it anyway. And as I did, I notice there’s a Pima County Sheriff’s deputy sitting right at the front of the line. Doh! He has his window down, but doesn’t say anything to me. Whew.

The ride down Thornydale, which turns into River, saw a crosswind, and as River starts more westerly that turned into a headwind. At this point, River also starts to head uphill. My legs, which had been feeling like jelly all morning long, now felt like mush. My speed dropped to 15 mph and I was counting the miles until I got home.

I make it home, change into running gear and head out. East, north, east, north, path, and back. 3 miles. 10 minutes per mile pace. Just getting the miles in the legs. Boring. A lot of runners and coaches don’t like runs that just put in the miles. Even though they’re boring, I’m a big fan of them. Non-elite runners, like myself obviously, need to build their base endurance. That is accomplished by running lots of slow miles in zones 1 and 2. You’ll notice this is the same training I’m doing for the bike. Putting in the miles in zones 1 and 2 to increase my cardiovascular endurance. This is also the method advocated by Hal Higdon, who is quite possibly the most notable person ever in the running world.

After nearly three and a half hours training, I still had to get to work. A quick shower and lunch making later, I get back on the bike for the 3.5 mile to work. I’m pretty sure walkers were passing me I was going so slow. At this point, I’m still planning on riding 4-5 hours on Saturday, thinking my legs would get better as they usually have done before. On the ride home, my legs still feel extremely tired. I have a quiet Friday night at home, trying to decide whether to do the Shootout or Lemmon on Saturday. Then it occurs to me. It’s 9 o’clock and my legs still feel like crap! Plus, if I want to do the Shootout, I need to make breakfast and get to sleep ASAP. Since the Shootout has always ended with me getting dropped at the bridge, I decide I don’t really want to do that. Then I realize that I don’t have any portable nutrition to take on a 4-5 hour ride. Thinking again about my extremely tired legs, and my thoughts about overtraining from yesterday, I made the hopefully wise decision not to ride at all today. Well, I did ride into work. And since I’m a total doofus and forgot my keycard to get into the building, back home and then back to work. And since I won’t be sleeping here tonight, there’s a plan to ride home too. So about 14 slow miles today.

This is my first day in a long time without any training of any sort. I’m sort of worried about my calorie intake. I can usually just eat and eat and eat and eat and come out pretty close to a calorie neutral day. Today I didn’t eat anything besides a walnut or two before riding into (and back and in) to work. But I brought along a fruit salad consisting of two apples, two bananas, and two plums. This is actually more calories than I usually have with my breakfast cereal. But I was out of cereal (on purpose, more on that in a future post), and I usually have a mid-morning snack. The fruit should get me through lunch. And since it’s 12:15 as I’m writing this, it has. A chicken salad from Chipotle (black beans, fajita, tomato salsa, corn salsa, no vinaigrette, no cheese, no sour cream) for lunch is about 440 calories and quite filling. Dinner looks like chicken with a small veggie salad.

Racing tomorrow…

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Filed under brick, cycling, daily report, running, training

Thursday lift, bike, run

shipping box

The first installment of my recent Amazon order arrived!

Yesterday’s schedule was a little hectic. Like usual. I’m a bit tired and think I’m getting near the point of overtraining. This is a problem for me because not only am I trying to get in cycling shape for next season, I’m also training for the Tucson Marathon in December. It’s not official yet; I haven’t signed up, but I’ve put it on my training schedule. So in addition to a full cycling training load, I’ve started a full running training load as well. At this point, a coach might step in and say ,”whoa!” you need to cut back a little. Unfortunately, I’m my own coach and one of the problems with being your own coach is that while you know your body the best, you’re not always 100% objective. So while I think I’m coming up on the point of overtraining, someone else might think I’ve already passed that point. The only thing to do is keep vigilant.

Switching to good news, I got a package in a huge box! If you can guess what’s inside I’ll give you a free Wald 215 rear rack. Okay, that’s one of the items that was in the package. The bad news is that it didn’t fit over the tires on my Giant Cypress hybrid bike. I was planning on using that to go grocery shopping, which is the only thing I use my car for at the moment. Then I can, temporarily, be car-free!I’ll need the car still to get to races, so I’ll technically be car-light, but I’m well on my way to getting rid of the car once and for all!

In terms of workouts, the last two days have kicked my butt! Thursday started before the butt crack of dawn, aka 5:00AM. For those of you who haven’t seen a sunrise in a while, I’ll remind you that it’s been so long since I’ve actually seen a sunrise that I don’t remember the last time I haven’t! I also usually go to be around 9PM so there is definitely a trade-off. No wild parties for me in a loooong time. But getting up that early on Thursday was not for training like it is most days. Nope, I needed to get to work and get a few last done before the weekly Tropical Group meeting. And get things done I did! Enough that I don’t think my advisor was annoyed at me this week. Woot!

UA rec center frong

University of Arizona Campus Rec Center. Photo courtesy M.Fitzsimmons at Wikimedia Commons.

But that meant I had to postpone all my training until after work. Ugh. I went straight from the meeting to the gym where I commenced what can only be described as a grueling workout. For an hour and a half I lifted heavy objects for no other purpose than to make me look good. Okay, that’s a side effect hopefully. The real effect should be to make me a better, stronger cyclist and runner. Leg curls, leg extensions, calf raises, squats, leg presses, crunches. I think that’s all, I don’t have my list in front of me right now. Plus a 10 minute warm-up and ten minute cool-down. Suffice to say, I was thankful to get out of there with all the top-heavy guys looking like they were going to topple over! Do some leg work for gods sake!

The training plan called for me to go directly from lifting to an hour and a half bike ride. Okey-dokey-pokey. I get to my bike locker, pull out the bike, and what do I find? A flat tire. Darn. 20 minutes later as I inspect the tire pre-ride I notice that the tire is not seated all the way in the grooves. For about 1/2 an inch it’s just sitting on the edge. Oh crap. It would have been fine to limp home on it like that, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Deflate the tire, seat it properly, and since I don’t want to waste another CO2 canister, walk over to FairWheel Bikes and use their floor pump. There’s another 20 minutes gone by. While I’m there, I notice I’m getting hungry already. So I grab a Caffe Latte flavored Hammer Perpetuem As I’m paying for it, I notice the Julie Bars sitting by the register. They’re in a nice location so I make my second impulse buy in as many minutes. The Julie Bars were only $2.50 at FairWheels compared to $2.59 at Fuel. A penny here, a penny there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

hammer caffe latte front

Purchased at FairWheel Bikes for $2.90

I had a little trouble getting the Hammer powder into my water bottle. In fact, even though it’s a single serving, I ended up splitting it up into two bottles because it was easier. As you can see, I had a heck of a time getting the packaging open which almost certainly contributed to the difficulties getting it in the bottles. Once it made it into the bottles and I got the wheel back on the bike, I was off for my 1.5 hour spin. I decided to ride the Santa Cruz River path. No pictures of the route or metrics today. If you want to see them, go to the link. There’s nothing fascinating there, otherwise I would have posted them here! 😉

What did I think of the Hammer Perpetuem? To be perfectly frank, I didn’t like the taste one bit. I’m a coffee guy; I go through more coffee in a day that I should. And this tasted like crap. Literally. I would not want anyone else to have to taste what I did. Maybe that’s because I didn’t follow directions and split the package into two servings. If that’s all it takes to make this product taste like poo then you still shouldn’t buy it. After the first swig I thought I was going to vomit. It was that bad. And I had another hour of riding with nothing to drink but this swill. I made through. Out and back with some zone 1-2 work on flat terrain. Going out was slightly downhill but into a stiff wind. Coming back was a lot nicer since it was with the wind.

julie bar mint chocolate front

Purchased at FairWheel Bikes for $2.50

Getting back to my bike box, I notice that I’ve been riding with my running shorts over my cycling shorts. Whoops. I forgot to take them off before the ride. The transition to running will be a lot shorter now though. I lock my bike up, whip out the Julie Bar and head out for a 6 mile run. After my last write-up, I received a nice reply from the one-and-only Julie of Julie Bar. She reassured me that, yes, they do sell Julie Bars at Highland Market, but they aren’t in the spot I was looking.

Anyway, I didn’t really get a chance to sit down and enjoy this bar. It was presumably used for its intended purpose: to be scarfed down during endurance exercise. With that in mind, I didn’t really enjoy this as much as their German Chocolate flavor. The German Chocolate tasted chocolate-y, this one tasted like watered-down chocolate. Maybe that’s the German heritage in me coming out. 🙂

The Mint Chocolate flavor has 210 calories compared to the 180 in the German Chocolate, so it gives a bigger bang for the buck. And since I actually paid less for it, I got more bang for less buck! Woohoo! It tasted okay and would recommend at least trying it, but for me, I enjoy the flavor of the German Chocolate more. I still have more flavors to test out though, so who knows, maybe I’ll be hooked by the next one.

university of arizona mall

University of Arizona mall during daylight hours.

The run, which started immediately after the ride, without the product review interlude, was fairly uneventful. Since it was already post-sunset, I decided to stay in the light, which meant running around campus. Luckily I had remembered to bring my lights for my bike so I could commute home. The path took me along the University of Arizona mall, running east to Campbell Ave, turning around and running west to Park Ave. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a 1.5 mile loop, so simple math tells me I did the loop 4 times. That seems right.

What amazed me was the number of bikers riding along the mall. What surprised me even more was the number of bikers riding without lights! Come on folks, you’re just asking for trouble. Buckle down and buy a front and rear light for $20. Besides being the law, it’s just common sense. Be safe. Be seen. Don’t become a statistic.

Back to the run. 6 miles. 60 minutes. Obviously 10 minutes per mile. Just getting some miles in before the 5k this Sunday. I’m not sure what my goal is for this race. I signed up just last week because I got a free registration. I’ll probably try for slightly faster than 7 minute/mile pace. I can always slow up if I don’t think I’m going to make it. We’ll see. No running tomorrow, but the plan still has a 4 or 5 hour bike ride. I don’t remember, I’ll have to look. I’m not sure if I’ll do the Shootout or head up Mount Lemmon. First comment (before I head out early tomorrow morning) decides!

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Filed under cycling, daily report, nutrition, product reviews, running, weight lifting

Zone 1 doesn’t mean it’s easy

Last night started off so well. I was in a great mood; my package had arrived. In it, I found a rear rack, two shopping panniers, and a bike repair stand that I had ordered a week ago. It had arrived from Amazon.com about a week early. Sweeeeet! After unpacking the oversized box and cataloging the contents, I got to work getting the rack and panniers on my old Giant Cypress hybrid bike. After only about 2 minutes of work, 1 of which was opening the plastic bags, I found out that I had bought a rack that doesn’t fit my tires. I was super bummed, especially after I had spent so much time researching what to buy. Anyway, I headed over to Bikeforums.net to seek help. I ended up not getting into bed until 10, and not falling asleep until after 11! This would turn out to be a problem, as I was planning on getting up at 5 like most mornings to get my workout in before it becomes too hot. I ended up getting up at 5:30.

The first workout of the day was supposed to be an easy 3 mile run. You can see the path I took here. Usually an easy run for me is a 10 minute per mile pace. This may seem fast or slow to you depending on your typical pace, but for me it seems like a turtle when I have to run that slow. Unfortunately, before I set off I didn’t switch my Garmin to the correct pace and it wanted me to run at an 8 minute / mile pace. Umm, no thanks. While I could have done it, and recently did in my 8-miler race, that wasn’t the plan. So I switch to plan B: run by perceived effort. If you followed the link, you’d have seen that I started at an 8:30 pace and ended at a 9:30 pace. That’s much faster than I wanted and I would regret it later, because today’s training plan, like a lot of them, called for a bike ride as well.

Not only was I pulling double duty today, it was a long ride. Not necessarily a hard ride, in fact, the plan said to make sure to take it easy and not go hard. Sometimes that’s hard. 😉 So immediately after my run, I put on my biking gear and head out in what’s called a brick exercise. As my now-former (thankfully) officemate would say (often), “no rest for the wicked”. As I started riding, I noticed that my legs were not responding as they usually do. Well, that’s normal for bricks I tell myself, so I keep going. I start off on the Rillito River Path, which is really flat. See the map and metrics at this Garmin Connect link and the images below.

riding route for 9/7/2011

A seemingly random path through the city.

I had planned to ride the river path out to Sabino Canyon and then ride up and down the canyon road and then tool around in the foothills a bit, but then I remembered that for some unknown reason bikes aren’t allowed to ride the Sabino road on Wednesdays. And today is a Wednesday. So when I get to the end of the path, I make a decision to test out the Aviation Bikeway. I was going to link to a webpage on the bikeway, but couldn’t find anything from Pima County or the City of Tucson. Someone should get on that. Anyway, in the map above, it’s the portion starting in the south-east corner going west-northwest along highway 210. It connects Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) to the downtown/4th Ave/University area. Along the way, I’d get to ride south on Craycroft and hit lots of red lights.

Getting on the Aviation Bikeway from Craycroft is both easy and hard. It’s easy in that it’s easy to find: just make a hard right at the intersection of Craycroft and Golf Links. The hard part is that you need to be in the right turn lane, and there’s a lot of cars turning right at this intersection because Craycroft dead-ends into DM. So as a biker you get to queue up in the turn lane with cars behind wondering what the heck you’re doing. I get the same thing everyday when I have to turn left, but it’s still weird and a little dangerous. One would think that if you want to encourage bikers to use a bikeway, you’d give them a safe way to get on.

But that’s not where the safety issues with the bike lane end. Oh no. The bikeway runs along the north side of highway 210 and is basically a glorified sidewalk that’s usually separated from the road by barricades of some kind. At several crossings of side streets, it looks and feels just like you’re riding on a sidewalk. You’re not, of course, but it offers the same limitations of riding on sidewalks: most notably, it’s dangerous! When I came to the first of these, I couldn’t believe that the City of Tucson would want to encourage this type of cycling behaviour. Luckily, I only saw one other cycling on the path. Although I heard later in the day that a cyclist was struck trying to cross one of these intersections.

During my excursions on the bikeway, I kept my heart rate in low zone 1. Basically just keeping the bike moving. Even so, I caught up to another cyclist and “drafted” off of him for a bit. I stayed back about 20 feet, so there really was no draft, but I didn’t feel like passing. At Highland Ave he got off the bikeway and presumably went north to the University. I continued on, not knowing where I’d end up. As it turns out, I ended up pretty close to downtown, so I headed in that direction. This slowed my average speed considerably. Especially since I sort of got lost in all the one-ways and no left turns. Zoom in on the map to see what I mean. Eventually, I got spit out the west side of downtown and decided to ride up A Mountain. As I got to the enterance of the park, I noticed that it didn’t open until 8. It was about 7:50. What to do? I saw another cyclist go around the gate, so I followed.

9/7/2011 metrics

Speed (blue), elevation profile (green), and heart rate (red) data for the ride today.

In the graphs above, the A Mountain ascent is the fairly sharp peak in the green curve that starts at about mile 20. You can see my heart rate shoots up pretty good too. For that climb, my HR maxed out at about 160 bpm. Still in zone 2. After a quick descent, avoiding the gate again, I head out south on Grande Ave which later turns into Mission Rd. with the itent of riding west on Ajo and climbing Gates Pass from west heading back toward the city. A very short time later, I decide that would take too long and reverse course to ascend the pass from the east. Plus, it’s easier from the east and my legs were still a little sore, but feeling much better than when I started.

Getting to Gates Pass was uneventful. I’ve done it many times before. HR peaked at 172 bpm as I reached the top of the pass, a little into zone 3, but not for too long. I quickly flip a bitch, and make a beeline for home. Well, not a beeline exactly. I make a detour south on Greasewood where they have markings for 1k and 200m to the finish line of the Tucson Bicycle Classic. This is the peak in the HR at mile 40. I tried to sprint to the finish line from 200 meters, but by this point I just didn’t have it in me. I sat up, feeling dejected with 100 meters to go, watching imaginary opponents pass me by as I crawl to the finish.

And that’s exactly what I did on the rest of the ride. I was out of water and extremely tired. I made it home, but that wasn’t the end of things. I originally was going to take a quick shower and get right back on the bike and head to work. But then I got caught up looking at my Training Peaks data for about 15 minutes. And in that time, I decided I’d take my lunch with me to work, but that meant I had to make and pack my lunch. So I made some veggie hash, basically a baked potato cut into bite-sized chunks with eggs, tomato, and onion. It tastes pretty good, but isn’t that great to look at. I brought along 3 kiwis, a plum, and a raisin-walnut mix to balance out the rest of my food intake for the afternoon. While I was making lunch, I drank a hemp protein shake which added another 5 minutes to my delay. By the time I got to work and settled in my desk, it was 11:30 and time for lunch already! Luckily I brought my lights so I can ride home after sunset tonight. As for food for tonight? I haven’t decided yet. It’s either hash again or making a trip to the grocery store. I’m leaning towards the store.

Tomorrow starts another day…

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Filed under brick, cycling, daily report, nutrition, running, training, tucson