Monthly Archives: September 2014

Everest Challenge, brief race report

The Everest Challenge is a beautiful ride and makes you feel a little bit closer to the essence of life.   I finished for the second year in a row.  Since we met I hope I can do the Everest Challenge every year.  The promoter has some preliminary results and other fun stuff on his facebook page here:

There are so many good reasons to do this event.  The primary one for me is the setting in the Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County California.  It is one of the best places on earth for bicyclists that like to ride up mountain roads.  This year it was snowing in the mountains and sporadically raining in the valley.  The entire valley smelled like wet sagebrush, artemisia tridentata.  A 10,000′ elevation difference sets off the valley from the mountain tops.  The prominent wall of mountains one sees when approaching the Sierra from the eastern side appears to rise straight up.  The sheer rock walls and icy crags folded beneath the jagged peak lines signal to travelers like a hand beckoning up from the earth.  The valley is enormous and graced with sparse vegetation so the form of every mountainside fold leaps out in light and shadow.  One wonders what this different kind of landscape might be good for, so unlike anything else we’ve ever seen.  It is certainly good for bicycling.  It takes a while to adjust to this environment but it grows on you.

Those mountains are so unimaginably high and habitat so different the bike racers standing in the valley really couldn’t know what the weather was like looking up to the top of the climbs.  When we rode up there we found out it was bitterly cold, and sometimes raining and snowing.  I ended up riding solo from the start and got caught on the final climb to the finish about ten miles out.  My leg muscles were battered from the cold descents.  I finished but had failed to send a bag to the top with warm clothing in the race director’s van, so suffered worse than I had all day on the descent back down to the camp at Millpond.  With the storm blowing through the valley all day and all night long it was cold camping the whole night.  I must admit I liked it.

On day two clouds were enveloping the highest peaks still but it was dry enough on the valley floor to start the riding.  Race is on.  Kudos to the director and officials for letting the riders go at it unencumbered by thoughts of cancellations or lowered summit finishes.  I was more patient this day but felt enthusiastic on the second climb of the day on Death Valley Road and jumped away from the group.  I was caught on the descent though and probably squandered any chances of winning a stage by using that magical leg feeling too early in the race.  PT called me and clearly let me know this, that riders in a group have an energy savings advantage, especially on the flats between climbs and on the descents.  I love having knowledgeable genuine friends that will let you know exactly what you need to understand.  Even though I may have went hard too early, on the finish of day two I still had legs left for the final thrashing of 12% above 10,000′ near the groves of ancient bristlecones and put some time into the rider sitting in second place on general classification, but not enough to advance any placing.  But I was pleased to have some legs left on the grades that I had to walk on at times last year, literally limping to the finish.  This year I was riding so hard at the end my glasses fogged up from heat convection and sweating.  Racing in fall storms is strange.  I had to stop and put my wool gloves on but kept my jersey and vest unzipped and I was steaming profusely.  This time I was racing to the end.  That was fun.  Next year I may have to be brighter tactically if I want to succeed.

A big thanks to volunteers, staff and public agencies.  The aid stations and support are miles above the standard I’ve witnessed at any other event.  I got bottles every time I needed them, and always was handed what I wanted, water, or heed (an electrolyte endurance drink made by Hammer Nutrition, good stuff).  When I asked for two gels they handed me three and I always needed them!  During the Everest Challenge you have to eat and drink a lot.  Being fed builds strong admiration, and the EC volunteers I hold in the highest regard, along with the coordination it takes to get them in the right places exactly where the riders needed them at exactly the right time.  Thank you!  And to the promoter, you are the man with the divine races at hand.  Keep up the good work!  To the locals, thanks for sharing your beautiful town and roads.  We spent lots of money eating at your local establishments, filled up our gas and propane tanks, bought supplies, and we tell our friends about the lovely country you call home.  We really appreciate the stewardship you show caring for the mountains and valley for all to enjoy.  We tread as lightly as possible and sing songs of joy at experiencing the lovely mountain roads.  Arigato.

Bicycle Country

The Everest Challenge is an Endless Road.  I’m looking forward to going out there this year and raising awareness for sharing the road and safety on our largest public commons, the road.  I had some great training rides in Albuquerque thanks to Scalo Velo.  We made some wonderful friends there and the geography and people are enormous inspirations.  The one ride I’ll always remember is around the mountain, up the mountain, then up the mountain again.  I’ll have to get that one on Strava for you.   The repeats on La Luz are spectacular (“the best middle distance climb anywhere”, that’s right Mike Cline) and the route east through Tijeras Canyon opens up to incredible riding in the east mountains, and is a wonderful route itself and improving thanks to NM DOT paving edge to edge and creating generous shoulders with smoothness and consistency equal to that in the general travel lanes.

We camped here:

Ojo Caliente campsite Sept 2014

We walked here:

walking in Sandia foothills Sept 2014

I acted like a tourist here in Abiquiu:

Abiquiu Sept 2014

I wore my special National Parks shirt from our friends Dave, Yuka and Ray!  I’ve been studying hard and am indebted to you all to put my education to work.  I’m on it!  As soon as I am back from the Everest Challenge bicycle event this weekend, I’ll write up what I’ve been putting down in the journals.  There is lots to do.  In the meantime:

Relax and Enjoy

Relax and Enjoy

Bicycle Birthday Celebration in New Mexico

Thanks for the good birthday wishes!  Mai and I were traveling in New Mexico and went to Ojo Caliente to take the waters.

mudbath at Ojo Caliente

mudbath at Ojo Caliente

You put on the mud, dry off in the sun which happens very quickly in the Southwest, and then soak in a rinse pool and finish off with a hot mineral water shower on the deck in the sun.

healing waters

healing waters

The pools helped me recover from all that bike riding.  But didn’t totally cure the tan lines. We emerged from the waters at Ojo Caliente feeling fresh and ready for a new start.

big space

big space

Sunset in New Mexico is a fantastic cap on vivid days.  Bicycling in the good light of New Mexico inspires me.  I had time for reflection and for work on the bicycling initiative.  Coming soon a post on the upcoming Everest Challenge.

Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists: Bike Org of the Month

Cup of Pop by Don Ross

The Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists has been instrumental in supporting my bicycling education and improving my confidence for riding safely.  Learning bicycling skills is continuous for me even though I’ve been cycling for seventeen years and have pedaled over 200,000 miles.  In fact thanks to the Coalition my education is accelerating!  The Coalition is like an open source course on bicycling.  Members share information freely, connect and guide one another to cutting edge resources, and create a sense of community where all the participants have an awareness of and great sensitivity to what it means to be a bicyclist in 21st century America.  The Coalition does a lot of work on bicyclists’ behalf including liaising with politicians and planners to ensure active and traditional transportation life ways are part of the backbone of Arizona’s transportation infrastructure and culture and well integrated into the daily traffic flows.   The Coalition advocates for bicycling as an egalitarian transportation method and provides educational resources so everyone can feel confident bicycling to get to where you want to go in life.  Even though I’m a racing cyclist the Coalition welcomed me in and truly supports the entire spectrum of a diverse community of riders around our common passion for keeping bicycling as a beautiful part of daily life in wondrous Arizona.  Thanks CAZBIKE for helping citizens better implement freedom of choice in our daily transportation decisions by making bicycling a safer and more enjoyable way to go.  I highly recommend everyone who bicycles in Arizona to join.  The Coalition ensures the voices of bicyclists are heard and makes us stronger bicyclists by joining us together.

First Strava Ride: Three Times Snowbowl

First Ride by Don Ross

I did my first ride recorded on Strava today.  Here it is:

It was the three times Snowbowl workout where I try to do three ascents with a combined climbing time under 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The first time up today was 29:05, then 29:53, and 30:30.  That is using the “Snowbowl (Official sign-to-sign)” route name on Strava.  Who is this Drew Miller guy with the record of 26:54?  He is a legend and still doing legendary rides.  In 2003 Drew set the race record on Snowbowl with a 26:23.  When I spoke to Drew’s then teammate Jake Rubelt about the record in 2003 Jake was still wincing from leading him out so hard.  I guess Drew was on fire that day.

It looks like my watts were calculated incorrectly so I checked the weight on my Strava profile and sure enough it thought I was slightly slimmer than I am, by about 40 kilograms.  I adjusted it and next time should be right.  I will do this same workout again perhaps and certainly do a one time up as fast as I can go attempt.  But I think I’m going to have to put some work in over the winter to really get better at climbing.

Thanks to Mike W. for the pull up on the third ascent today and great to see Erin O. out there too, the Queen of the Mountain, trying to break her own record today.  Watch out for her when she puts her mind to it.  What a great climber.  Lots of great climbers here in Flagstaff.  Snowbowl Road is one of the reasons why.

Bicycling Ecologies

Atomic Reshuffle by Vicki Genfan

Bicycling perpetually lifts the human spirit and opens the human mind.  Moving our legs sets in motion the pumping of the heart at a faster rhythm and makes our bodies flush with blood.  Our mind circulates with our legs.  The first twenty minutes of a ride sometimes includes a rapture of thought bursting out of nowhere.  There is also some kind of deeper inscription of the experience going on inside. You caste off a good deal of your self-consciousness and a gateway opens to the world around you.  Wisdom sits in places.  Ride out into it.  Charge forward like a ray of light barely bending with gravity.  Immerse yourself.  Be a part of the new social dimension in landscape change through your authentic experiences.

“Take into account a wider range of points of origin and points of view, and the most prosaic and pedestrian landscape lights up with meaning.”  Patricia Nelson Limerick, Something in the Soil

What opportunities does the landscape provide for people to flow freely to destinations in all directions and places?  How much do landscapes of risk impose on the joy of discovery and meaningful relationships between humans and between humans and the greater environment?  Is it an egalitarian landscape where all people share power regardless of rank, class or status or a specialized one with hierarchies dominating via force?  What kind of living can you make here, and what kind of freedoms of choice are apparent, and hidden?  What is the full story of the human presence here?  Are we including the full range of all human participants or cutting out populations and seeing something incomplete?  Are we learning from the land and biosphere and in congruence with it so it sustains us, heals us, and illuminates our presence?

These questions and more I’ll be investigating in an upcoming series of studies on practicing bicyclists called Bicycling Ecologies.  I’ll investigate human relationships in the context of the physical environment, both the built landscape and underlying natural structure, with a special attention to the insights garnered from the complex heritage and identities inherent in the bicycling population.  Rather than survey data my inquiry will be conversation based so that I may listen fully and carefully to complete individual experiences.

“To Generalize is to be an Idiot.

To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit.”

–William Blake, epigraph to Provincial England

Paradoxically vulnerability–as in loving–is the only way to experience a fuller range of human power. This is one of the basic reasons why bicyclists are motivated to build a culture based on trust and understanding.  What is this great yet subtle power inherent in bicycling all about, this power that can heal the body, inspire the mind and invigorate the soul, promoting resiliency in human relations and society?  What is it about bicycling that encourages us to face ourselves and reckon with our deepest set problems and histories?  How does riding and walking help us shake off habit and convention to innovate new directions forward?  I’m working hard to find out more!  And I am thankful this investigation requires more bicycling.


Everest Challenge training report, 3 weeks out

Ouray by Andy McKee
The Everest Challenge (EC) bicycle race and ride is coming up Sept. 27, 28.  Two 100+ mile days, about 15,000 vertical feet of climbing each day.  The EC is in the Bishop, California area, a climbing mecca on the eastern Sierra, the range of light.   Here is a good graphic of the climbs involved.  Antigravitycycling puts on the event.  It is run spectacularly well and attracts a great community of riders.  It is hard to train for.

I keep a riding diary of where I ride, for how long, who I met, things that stand out.  Last week I rode about 20 hours, which is more than usual.   To prepare for EC I’m climbing a lot and losing some weight.  One thing I noticed today is I’m tired and grouchy.  Why is that?  These are signs that it is time to take a break!  Looking back at the rides from last week I notice I didn’t do any easy rides.  I rode Snowbowl Rd. (climbing from 7300′ to 9,250′ in just over 6 miles) twice on three different days, did the Wupatki-Sunset Crater loop from home, did Snowbowl plus the group ride around Mormon Lake on Saturday, and Snowbowl again Sunday, and took one day off the bike, which I always do.  What’s missing are some easy rides.

Today I did a recovery ride, which for me means less than two hours, putting barely any pressure on the pedals (spin circles!), and avoiding any big hills (no Snowbowl!).  Active recovery is even better than a day off.  It is kind of like listening to your body and letting the training ferment and sending oxygen to the muscles for healing.  My legs felt pretty good today but I’m guessing one more recovery ride may be a good idea tomorrow.  Then something big on Wednesday coming back fresh.  I enjoy the hard training days best but the discipline of being patient and allowing for resiliency may be the hardest part of the equation.  I enjoy being outside and experiencing the weather and feeling the excitement of each day unfolding as I ride through places.  The group ride was my favorite ride of the week.  It is an improvisational community, different all the time.  Someone visiting Flagstaff asked me once if I ever got tired of the San Francisco Peaks, our mountains above town.  I never tire of them.  I don’t get tired of the group ride either.  The personalities from week to week are like the changing light on the mountain.  It is never the same and always original with new energy.  I love the bicycling life.

letter to the editor published

The local newspaper the AZ Daily Sun published a letter I wrote.  Thank you!  We have such a beautiful cross section of citizens riding bicycles and it is important to care for one another and work together to make our roads healthy and safe for all.  We are the fabric of community.

Walking for grocery getting

One of the keys for me is integrating exercise into my daily routine by combining it with other things I need to do.  Going to the grocery store is something I need to do quite often.  Why not walk there?  It requires no motivation to actually do the exercise because my initiative comes from being hungry.  I call this “mindless” walking.  It is a great pleasure and hundreds of times more efficient than driving and about as quick.  Walking to the store is very stimulating, easier than driving, and doesn’t cost a darn thing, plus boosts your day by basking you in fresh air and circulating your legs and thoughts.  I walked to Flagstaff Farmers Market in about ten minutes time and here’s what I bought:

Flagstaff Farmers Market score

Flagstaff Farmers Market score

I spent $18.01 for all this.  Grapefruit were 3 for $1, hatch chilis at $1/pound, tomatoes from Four Peaks farm were $1.50/pound, spinach was .99 cents/bunch.  The hardest thing about this trip was that I took the time to lay out the food and take this picture before eating.

simple transportation technology w/ high performance capabilities

simple transportation technology w/ high performance capabilities

It is dangerous going to the food store hungry but the backpack is a fine check and balance.  If I overdue it and it won’t all fit into the backpack that is OK too.  Then I’ll swing grocery store bags from each arm and do curls on the way home.  Because bicycling doesn’t do much for my upper body I need this kind of cross training and weight bearing activity.  But just a little.  Walking to the store seems to be a good maintenance dose for staying healthy.

FFM is a great place to shop

FFM is a great place to shop

The most expensive item line was tomatoes.

went shopping with one bill and came back with two

went shopping with one bill and came back with two

I like the way carrying the groceries home gives me more of a sense of what I’m buying.  I don’t know how many pounds of produce this was but it was a lot of weight for the money.  The trip there added value to the haul for me.  It doesn’t seem like much but when you are training and paying attention to your budget and body every little thing counts.



Thank you for bicycling today

musical accompaniment: That’s the Spirit by Tommy Emmanuel
In Corrales, New Mexico a roadside sign reads “Thank you for bicycling in Corrales”.  The Village of Corrales has taken careful consideration to arrange human activities on the land to work in congruence with the invisible forces of natural splendor.  The living that goes on here is intricately woven into the landscape.  The long rectangular bands of agrarian parcels stretching away from the Rio Grande contain a diverse mix of open fields adorned with stately horses and manicured crops including grapes, raspberries, and corn.  Elegant vine covered work sheds and adobe houses blend into the khaki colored landscape.  Silent and moving fluidly over the earth like water with such agility even smaller life forms such as caterpillars on the road can be respected, bicycles easily blend into this timeless scene.  A place like Corrales helps people discover a new kind of bicycling experience through the confluence of human life and landscape.  To take a bike ride in Corrales early in the morning and see the sunrise burst over the Sandia Mountains, chasing away the shadows and illuminating the long hill and fields, the animals slowly awakening, and people moving about tending to matters at hand and underfoot is to feel a physical grace and freedom of movement, a stronger connection to place through a higher awareness of being.  Bicyclists in Corrales know well “that the world surrounding us affects every aspect of our being, that far from being spectators of the world we are participants in it,” as geographer JB Jackson wrote.  Human life is anchored in biodiversity.  In Corrales this integration of human life in the terrascape is apparent and well acknowledged.  We depend on growing food and not just consuming it.  We depend on having places to live in that enliven the full extent of the human spirit in relation to all else that is.  The Village of Corrales provides a platform for human living without overtaking the greater landscape.  Therein lays the key for creating places that are productive in the broadest sense of opening opportunities to meet the whole spectrum of human needs.  This is a landscape, through its arrangement of smells, sights, sounds and rhythms, that grounds the individual while suggesting we are part of something greater than ourselves.  Bicycling in this delicious landscape evokes experiences that tell us more about what it means to be human moving through and enfolded in this beautiful world.  Bicycling in Corrales bestows us with knowledge while adding integrity to place.  It’s wonderful, try it!