Thursday, January 31, 2008

Out of Colorado's Icy Clutches

Wednesday I woke up early and started getting my poop in a group so that I could leave Salida before lunchtime. I loaded up my truck--probably half of everything I own went in there. A friend was very kind to loan me a popup camper, and I was carefully packing stuff into the nooks and crannies. It was clearly going to be a pretty heavy load.

At 8:30 I went to my yoga class. It let out at 10. They day was looking good for travel. The report was for something to roll in later in the day, but I figured I'd be safely down in New Mexico before that happened.

I finally rolled at a little before 11. On my very last trip out of my apartment, I stepped onto the zamboni ice in front of my place; the same ice I had been walking over carrying stuff all morning. This time I slipped and went ass over tea-kettle. Bam, I landed on my right elbow and tweaked that shoulder. Fuggin' winter!

Poncha Pass was snowy, and the road from the Pass to Villa Grove, CO was snowpacked and slick. I took my time. After I got down a little lower the roads became just a little moist with ice on the edges. I could see down into the San Luis Valley and there were some suspicious-looking dark grey clouds down there. Hmmm.

I got to Alamosa and filled up with gas as a gnarly cold wind chilled me to the bone. Yeah, go ahead and blow you stinkin' winter wind! I'm going to Arizona!

The crosswind was ripping as I made my way south. A half hour south of Alamosa I crossed the New Mexico border, and found that the road maintenance had been remarkably different down there. As I passed to the east of San Antonio Mountain, gateway to the rural elk-crossing country of northern NM, a ground blizzard screamed across the slick highway.

As I got closer to Espanola, NM, the snow abated, but a gusty wind continued. As I headed up the climb to Santa Fe there was the snow again; big fat flakes driven by the persistent hard wind. Once I hit I-25 the snow stopped, but the wind doubled! On Tuesday I'd drilled my truck's quarter panels for cleats to hold the tie-downs for the camper. The wind driving into the passenger side rocked the whole rig, and I kept watching the turnbuckle in my rear view. Could something like this straighten the hook out? Could it be enough force to flip a half ton of camper with another 250 pounds worth of cargo in it off the bed?

Dang. Winter really doesn't want to see me get out of here!

All the way down I-25 the wind was on and off. At times it would slack and I would think, ìgreat, I've finally driven out of it.î Then it would come up again, rocking the truck to the left.

I cut over from Hatch to Deming at about 9 PM. I'd been thinking about maybe parking the camper and crashing in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Deming. But I figured that would be not very restful with the wind howling like that. So I downed a Red Bull, put another gob of gas in the tank (I was burning it way too fast), and pointed it right into the shank of the wind roaring out of the west. A stretch of I-10 that should have taken three hours took nearly four, and cost me over a half tank of gas, but finally I pulled into Tucson after midnight and headed up to Willow Springs to try for a few hours of sleep and then set up for some cram training.

16 days to the Old Pueblo race--can I establish a usable endurance base in that amount of time?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Leadville Snow Bike Race

You have to try this to know what it's like.

Racing in the snow is another flavor of kick in the pants. This time of year, bikey people like me often can use this sort of kick.

I rolled up to Pb-town first thing Saturday morning, paid my entry fee, got my number, and started putting on clothing. The dressing took a notable amount of time. Who knew that I was going to be sweating like that? I think I could have worn a t-shirt and shorts.

Well, almost. I did do about half a dozen full catapults into the bottomless snow next to the snow machine tracks we were flailing through.

This racer shows you what it's about--trying to go in a straight line!

snow racer

I was out on the 11-mile course for a little under 2 hours. A volunteer told me I was in 14th place somewhere in the middle of my suffering, and I wound up passing two riders before the finish, so I'm guessing 12th?

There was some snow-packed road, but the real contest was the snow-machine tracks. Any incline and I was walking, as was anyone else I saw out there. Level ground was sometimes rideable, sometimes just a staggering slog. The downhills were a hoot. The bike won't go straight. It just will not. As you pick up speed the front wheel wiggles all over the place. Arms and shoulders get very tired wrangling with the handlebars, balance muscles get a workout too. Sometimes things go supercritical and you wind up pointing off the track, and that means the whole front of the bike dives deep into the soft snow and you follow it there.

Good fun. Good warmup for the riding I'll be doing when I head to AZ this week (woo hoo!). I intend to put in some good long rides to try to coax a bit of endurance out of my body in advance of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.

See all you happy people who will be there February 16!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Another year.

Just like anyone, as December ends and January starts I get a dose of awareness of time passing. Short days and long nights give us plenty of time for introspection. And of course new year begins, but according to an arbitrary definition. Shouldn't the year begin at the vernal equinox, when there’s renewal of life?

I was born in early January so the feeling of time passing this time of year is doubly acute. It’s birthday time! Oh goody!

I'm into my 5th year of mid-life crisis, and I've become pretty much comfortable with it. Unfortunately I don't have a BMW Z4 or a 19-year-old trophy girlfriend.

Soon I’ll be in my mid-40s(!), but my internal self is somewhere between 28 and 33. The illusion is only shattered when I wind up in front of a mirror. I avoid mirrors. (Any cute 19-year-old girls out there reading this, drop me a line. Let's talk. I might be willing to lease a Z4 if that would make any difference!)

My new normal is defiance against acting my age. For 2008, my immaturity will again manifest itself in a flurry of endurance bike riding. 2007 was by far my most accomplished endurance riding year so far. In 2007 I redefined the boundaries of what I consider possible in terms of endurance cycling. Definitely makes me feel more like I’m 30.

Lots of changes rolled at me in '07. Becoming accustomed to being unmarried is going pretty well. The total freedom that comes with it is exhilarating while also being a little scary. After operating in a partnership for most of my adult life, I now can do whatever I want within the bounds of my financial means without discussion
, consensus, compromise, or approval. It's almost like I’m 18!

Beyond my intent to keep riding like a lunatic, I intend to become an inept telemark skier in winter of '08. I think I have what it takes to achieve true mediocrity in that sport.

Salida is having another real winter so far, but this year I intend to ride it out rather than run away. In February I'll be doing at least a road century and a duo 24-hour race (missed my chance to register as solo at the Old Pueblo. Doh!)

Here's the desperate measure I'm taking to stay somewhat fit for those bikey efforts:

Tom P: committed to not taking myself too seriously in 2008.