Monday, December 08, 2008

October & November 2008

October 2008 mileage: 804.5
November 2008 mileage: 472.1
2008 year-to-date mileage: 4989.8

Long time no post. Been busy ridin'. November mileage was lower since I raced on the weekends, tried to recover during the week, and traveled over Thanksgiving. The Vision Quest is less than 3 months away so in the next week or so my training will start to pick up in preparation. Southern California is an incredible place in the winter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Night Off

Tonight's plan was to test out some new tubeless tires on my mountain bike. I lubed everything up, set my stuff by the door, but I just couldn't find the motivation to get out. Instead I scratched the biking plan and decided to read, but it turns out I left my book at work, so I suppose it's a good time as any to update!

The first weekend in October I raced the first of the triple crown challenge, a series of 3 mountain bike races this fall. It took place about 6 miles from my apartment, so I really didn't have a valid excuse for not going. Turns out all the extra off-road time has helped and I won the 19-26 sport class. The second place rider and I were pushing each other to the end, but I was able to overtake him on a long climb and I never looked back.

Katie and I had plans to head out to Joshua Tree last weekend, but the strong winds and sand storms in the forecast changed our mind. Instead I started scouting out routes to train for the Vision Quest, a 56.5 mile mountain bike race I have in March down in Orange County. The race has 11,000' of climbing, and luckily there are lots of mountain roads and trails within 5-10 miles of here to train on. I started in Rancho Cucamonga and rode up Cucamonga Canyon to the Barrett Stoddard Truck Trail, an old 4x road that's overgrown but still great for biking. It popped out up near Baldy Village, so I combined it with a climb up Potato Mountain, then descended Palmer Canyon to finish the day. About 35 miles with a guess of 5-6,000' climbing? I don't have a GPS so I could be way off. Either way, it worked me pretty good, but it was definitely worth the views.

Cucamonga Canyon from Jeff D. on Vimeo.

Maybe we'll get out to Joshua Tree this weekend. November will be a busy month with the Mt. SAC Fat Tire race, the Tour de Foothills road ride, 12 Hours of Temecula (I'll be on a 5-person team again), and lastly the Southridge XC Challenge. Definitely not hard to stay busy out here. Maybe a little too easy, actually...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

September 2008

September 2008 mileage: 570.2
2008 year-to-date mileage: 3713.2

September was my lowest mileage month since moving out to California, but I'm pretty sure I spent more time in the saddle than July or August. My commuting miles were about 60% of normal due to being lazy and driving (among other reasons), and most of the other miles were off-road. We only rode the tandem 85 (!!) miles this month, something we'll hopefully remedy in October.

The heat continues and I find myself missing the change of seasons more and more as we progress into "fall". We had about a week of temps in the 70s and low 80s, which was refreshing, but lately it's been back up in the mid 90s. I'm surprised at the lack of daylight, but I guess it makes sense given how far south we are. The sun rises between 6:00-6:30am and is just about gone 6:30-7:00pm, which makes me think we'll have a winter with comparable daylight to the UP. Then again, our winter will consist of mostly sunny skies and 60-70 degrees.

Near the finish line at Hurkey Creek

September was an exciting month. Most of my riding focused on training for 24 Hours of Adrenaline, which happened on September 20. I was on a team of 5 that I met through the internet, all of whom ended up being pretty cool guys. The race took place at Hurkey Creek, around 5000' elevation up in the mountains near Idyllwild. The race took over the forest service campground, resulting in a weekend full of bike riding, hanging out, and beautiful weather. The race itself was fairly intense; we rode tag team style, and over 24 hours we each ended up riding the 10 mile, 1200' climbing laps 5 times. I rode at 1:00pm, 5:30pm, 11:00pm, 3:30am, and 9:00am. I pulled pretty consistent laps, 0:51 and 0:53 for my first two day time laps, 1:02 for each of my night laps, and 0:54 for my last lap. I rode my Kikapu for the first 4 laps, but borrowed a singlespeed (32-22) 29er for the last lap, which was a surprisingly smooth ride. All in all we ended up finishing 2nd of 8 in our division, and 9th out of 82 total teams (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10 person). It was enough to win a free pair of tires, so I'm proud of that! My training rides took me to the Santa Ana River Trail again, which was as fun as the last time, and over to Simi Valley for some technical climbing practice.

My teammate Robert in Simi Valley

In the work world, I'm happy with how things are progressing. I had hazardous waste training in Newport Beach, so instead of driving down, I decided to load up the touring bike and ride down. My boss agreed to pay for a hotel in lieu of paying mileage for driving, so I was able to spend the night and take the train home after the training completed. A few of us have decided to start addressing some energy efficiency projects throughout the mill, taking advantage of the reimbursement program offered by Edison, and I'm hoping to implement a recycling program this month. My perspective of the steel world widened as I attended the SMA environmental conference in Cleveland the last few days, joining environmental staff from 95% of other steel mini-mills throughout North America. Business has not been good with the economy in its current state, but we're hoping to take this slow time to make lots of improvements at the mill, so when (if) things pick up again, we'll be rolling smoothly. I still marvel on occasion that I'm working in the manufacturing world, in crowded, smoggy southern California, but it is definitely the right place for me at the moment.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Perks of Bike Commuting

I checked the clock and realized it was about that time to throw on the bright orange jersey and bike home. It was just another commute when I pulled out of the parking lot and found every bike mechanic's best friend, laying right there in the middle of the street: zip ties!

Not just entire, beautiful bag of them. Some poor sucker must've dropped them off their truck. Add this to my 3 bungee cords on my rack, collected earlier this summer from various streets in southern California.

People can rave about the health benefits of bike commuting, the greenness of one less car, the relief on the I do it for the zip ties.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

August 2008 Recap

August 2008 mileage: 872.7
2008 year-to-date mileage: 3,143.0

Despite being out here for several months already, this was the first month that it's really started to hit me that I'm living out here. I have a feeling that the big city will always overwhelm me, that I'll continually have periods where I feel claustrophobic living amongst so many people. But there will also be times like the several night rides I did this month, where I watch the sunset over the mountains, then turn around and see the city pulsing below.

A friend once expressed his desire to me to move to a large city, to just blend in and get lost in the shuffle and hustle of life. I certainly feel that way sometimes, for better or worse. But, we also get into routines and patterns where things become familiar. I pass the same businesses on my morning commute, see the same people going about their daily happenings -- hopefully they recognize me as a fellow commuter also, not just a spandex-clad cyclist who doesn't belong on the road.

As I mentioned before, I hope to get some more dirt riding in this month. I just received word that my broken fork is finally on its way back to me, so by this weekend I should have a working mountain bike again. As the weather begins to cool down (one can hope), I want to start exploring the local trails at Potato Mountain, Marshall Canyon, and Sunset Ridge. I'd also like to ride up in Big Bear or the Santa Ana River Trail before the snow falls.

If we're lucky, we might even get some dirt under the tandem.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Long Weekend

Hard to believe it's already September...I remember not long ago looking back and thinking how fast July flew by (and the same about June before that...). After I graduated high school, someone told me to get ready, because things would start moving really fast. Some of my recent ambitions have been to stop and smell the roses every once in a while, because it sure seems that time can get away from you pretty easily if you let it.

We're moving into our final stretch of summer here, before cooler weather and "winter" starts to set in. You can tell the weather is itching to change here because we're getting a little more clouds in the morning, followed by slightly more humid days. Winter is supposed to be dry and in the 60s and 70s during the day, opposed to 80s and 90s. Nights are supposed to be down in the 30s and 40s! I am definitely excited for cooler weather.

Clouds in southern California!?

This week was the typical blur of work and bike riding, with a nice 3-day weekend thrown in the mix. Between commuting to work, mountain biking, and the tandem, I am spending 15-20 hours riding each week. This lends itself to sinks full of dirty dishes, laundry piling up, attempts to watch movies thwarted by sleep, and the like. We tried to watch The Deer Hunter the other night, and I fell asleep in about 20 minutes. Not that this is anything new for me...

Wednesday I did a night mountain bike ride at Bonelli Park, and Sat/Sun/Mon we spent on the tandem. We didn't quite make our ambitious goal of 200 tandem miles for the week, but ended up with about 130 miles. Today was our longest ride to date, about 64 miles with 4000-5000' climbing. Glendora Mountain Road was closed to cars for the holiday weekend, but it was full of cyclists, including another tandem couple! We also saw a small coyote hanging out alongside the road, probably wondering what the heck we were doing in his territory.

These next couple weeks I hope to get some more saddle time on my mountain bike, assuming my front fork will return from the warranty work being done on it. I'm riding the 24 Hours of Adrenaline race in Hurkey Creek on September 20 with a team of 5. I've also had my eye on a 29" Kona singlespeed mountain bike, but that'll have to wait a little while.

Good night from out west.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hundred Mile Weekend

Katie and I had our first 100 mile weekend on the tandem, and she also had her longest ride to date on Saturday -- a 63 miler down to the San Gabriel River Trail and back via the Rio Hondo trail. We've met some really fun people through the weekly Coates Cyclery rides, and it looks like Katie has found some other women who like to mountain bike. Our definite slow area on the tandem is climbing. We like to be out front on the downhills because the tandem carries so much momentum, and on the flats we are steady once the pace levels out. During stop-and-go riding or sprints we are pretty sluggish. We're probably ready to tackle a 100-mile century ride or some longer climbs in the mountains.

Last week was quintessential southern California, weather-wise. Highs rarely peaked over 90 and it was in the high 50s riding to work each morning. Just about perfect. Today was warmer at over 97, and it looks like the rest of the week will follow suit. I met another "easterner" today, a guy from West Virginia, who mentioned that he really misses the changing of the seasons. I know that I'll miss fall colors and the smell of leaves, the crisp air of fall and winter, and riding in the snow with studded tires. I think, however, that the novelty of year-round sunshine and warm weather will take a little while to wear off.

I've started a practice I call "casual commute Fridays". My work commute is a bit under 24 miles round trip each day. Monday through Thursday I like to ride pretty fast, almost treat each ride like a training ride. I also ride on my fixed-gear track bike to practice spinning and staying fast uphill. On Fridays, I relax a little, ride my comfy touring bike, swap the cycling shoes for a pair of sandals, and just cruise. I also take the opportunity to explore new routes and side streets I haven't seen before. At some point I'll probably write a post on bike commuting, but things like casual commute Friday sure help to keep commuting interesting.

Other than riding this weekend (yes, we sometimes do other things), a coworker gave us his tickets to the Angels game Saturday night. Despite not following baseball at all, we really enjoyed the night out, and I really enjoyed the three stadium hot dogs I ate. Too bad those dogs didn't enjoy our 40 mile ride in my intestines this morning...

Back to the grind tomorrow. I've really got to start getting to bed earlier.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Riding Twogether

About a month after we moved to California, Katie was getting tired of me disappearing for hours on end with my bike. It was frustrating for me as well, because I wasn't able to fully share my favorite past time with her. We've tried to ride together in the past, but it discourages both of us; me because I'd feel like I was waiting all the time, not pushing myself hard enough, her because she couldn't keep up and would burn herself out.

Enter: the daVinci Grand Junction. We'd borrowed a mountain bike tandem from some friends in the past (which is a complete and utter blast), but never seriously considered one for ourselves until about 2 months ago. Turns out daVinci just started making a "budget" road tandem, with 26" wheels to fit fatter tires -- up to 2.3" if desired -- as well as having Avid disc brakes. This thing rides like a steel dream. It climbs like a dog but once you point it downhill, get ready for perma-grin. We'll effortlessly hit 35 on downhills, and we can cruise comfortably on the flats around 18-20. We've actually ridden some of the steepest mountain roads with only minor suffering. And, arguably the best part, we're together the whole time. I can hammer it out and satisfy my masochism, Katie can push herself and then some, or we can relax and talk about our days together. Cue the cheesy music, I know, but it's really a cool thing to be able to share something like this.

One other neat thing about the daVinci -- and sorry for being all bike geeky in this post -- is that we can independently coast. Normally tandems are linked front and back, that is, if the front rider (or captain) is pedaling, the back rider (or stoker) must pedal as well. daVinci uses a double freewheel system so we can coast independently, but both drive the bike as we pedal. "Ride together, think independently" is their slogan.

Add a touch of California sunshine, a couple riding buddies, and some chilled beverages afterwards, and you've got a recipe for a perfect southern California evening.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finding Peace

"Life After Pasties", I've decided to call this. Yeah, I don't know about it either. It's now been 3 months since I left the UP to start anew in California. It's one thing to leave for a trip, a vacation, a bike ride across the country, all the while knowing that you're coming back. But it's a whole other experience to leave and not know what's next, not know if you'll stay where you're going. It's the kind of experience you know all along is coming, that you tell yourself you're preparing for, an "After I finish this degree..." type of thing. Then it comes up and you wonder if you're ready.

As soon as I reached Colorado, I knew I was ready.

The biggest challenges out here have been pacing myself, keeping in touch with people, and finding peace in a very busy place. Southern California has lots of cool nooks and crannies tucked away where you can find solitude, but there are also more people than I've ever seen in one place, all going about their own business in a hurry. Luckily, there's a bike path just a short detour away from my daily commute.

The wilderness park a few miles north is nice, too. It's a 5 mile loop, basically a fire road, with cut offs for mountain bike trails in Marshall Canyon and a climb up to Potato Mountain, which I have yet to try. But if you go up at night, this place feels like another world. The hikers and joggers are gone, sometimes there are a few bikers, but it's so quiet, cold, and dark compared to the city. In 10-15 minutes, I can escape to a world overlooking the smog below, smelling of sage and full of crickets and other odd noises in the night, all the while 10-15 degrees cooler.

Finding peace: check. Here's to keeping in touch. Pacing myself will have to come later.