Monthly Archives: June 2015

Crest Road Race Report

“If you haven’t ventured over to NM for one of their road races, I highly recommend it.”
Joey Iuliano, an Urban Planning student, on Facebook.  Joey came from Tucson for this race–the only road race in the Southwest with a summit finish–and brought three friends.  Joey was in the breakaway all day.  Way to represent UofA Cycling!  Please come back again Joey.

This was my third Sandia Crest Road Race.  We had great conditions this year.  The forest is moist from all the Spring rain and snow so we didn’t have to worry about forest closures or severe fire danger.  We just had to worry about the winds pushing against us and our bicycles.

Crest Road sinuos

I got up early at 5am and had four eggs and red quinoa.  The race course is about 57 miles and takes about three hours so you need a good base of fuel stashed away for endurance.  I had four hours to digest breakfast before the race start at 9am.  Maybe I ate a little too much because I was feeling lethargic all the way up to the point where the race went fast.

long and winding road

I didn’t have any teammates in the race so it wasn’t going to be easy executing strategy.  The race ends on the 12 mile climb up the Sandia Crest so you know you absolutely must conserve energy for that.  After the race start near Central and Tramway in ABQ the first series of attacks went about three miles into Tijeras Canyon.  A couple riders chased and then everyone started to follow.  When the regrouping occurred a few riders put in a new series of accelerations and I decided to carry my momentum forward and link up to them.  As we crested the rolling hill just before the I-40 underpass at mile 4 we had a gap and decided to work with it.  There were four of us in the break.  It is a risk going in a small group like this because you are going to have to do more work comparatively to the larger peloton where the draft is greater and there are more riders to share the load pulling at the front.  The advantages of the break include a steadier pace and a more cooperative spirit, plus the feeling of freedom you get being off the front in a small unit.  It was an interesting dynamic because all the breakaway riders except me had teammates back in the peloton, so their personal chances for success were hedged by the reserves behind them.   So maybe they were a little less motivated to work than me.   But I’ve got to say everyone did their fair share of pulling and did a professional job of balancing the shared work with their roles on their respective teams.  This made the break quite cordial, with no wasted energy.

Crest flowers two

We had about a minute or two gap at the most and carried that over Heartbreak Hill.  But on the way through Cedar Grove the gap started to come quickly down and I realized we would be caught.  Well, I thought, this is probably what everyone had planned, to get me out there working and tire me out some.  I was OK with my choice because metering the throttle out front is a much more active way of racing than minding myself in a large peloton that is not motivated to chase down a breakaway (if I wasn’t in the breakaway there is no guarantee that anyone in the peloton would be motivated to chase it, lest they basically assist me by bringing the whole group me included back up to the race front).  Still, getting caught is a tough mental struggle.  The legs felt tired and I was reminded how psychological racing can be.  The opposite was true earlier, when I was excited to be off the front and the legs felt stronger than they actually were.  Our breakaway was caught somewhere on Frost Road.  Thankfully the main pack had splintered in the chase so not everyone was there.  But those that were threw down some mean accelerations.  I had to react to each one relying on instinct to time it.  You want to close the gaps in a quick fashion so you’re not sitting in the wind too long, but the snappiness of the moves strained my already tired leg muscles.  I’ve got to hand it to the New Mexico peloton.  They made this race very interesting and super challenging.  I was just hanging on by the time we reached the base of the Sandia Crest climb.


When we hit the slopes of the mountain I felt steadily better with the rhythm of the tempo and the cramps that I had started feeling settled down.  As we climbed higher I felt better.  On the climb riders and teams impressed.  The Zia and Nero teams won over our admiration for their depth, sacrifice and shear strength.  Cooper Shanks from Alamosa, Colorado put in some nice pulls.  Chris Brennan, an old school racer from Telluride, Colorado put in quality work.  And most notably young Greg Albright from Carlsbad, New Mexico performed courageously on the entire climb.  Greg is at the USA Cycling talent ID camp in Flagstaff the next few weeks so let’s wish him luck!  I would vote for him as the most exciting young rider I’ve been privileged to ride with since Ryan Geiger, who is one of the best mountain bikers in the Southwest and based in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I’m reminded of what an honor it is to simply participate.  The whole race was one continual stream of a beautiful and very challenging bicycle ride.  The determination it requires to stay focused in race mode for three hours rewards you with a satisfying feeling of accomplishment.  It is this process of pursuing excellence in the sport–the great balancing act of cooperation and competition played out in the landscape of mountains, long roads, and fatiguing winds–that brings out the best in us.  What we learn from it and how we apply it is the key moving forward.  I simply want to keep being a part and share the joy of cycling.  Thank you everyone for giving me the chance to race and focusing on safe and honorable riding.  Racing is part of the good life.

A big thanks to my partners at Caruso Cycle Works for keeping me rolling with precision, confidence and simplicity, and to the family at High Desert Yoga for the last minute boost.  Thank you to Earl and Robin for the peaches.  Thank you James and colleagues at the Trek Superstore for all your help since I’ve moved to Albuquerque last October.  And a deep bow of respect and silent thank you for the race promoter who works consistently hard year after year and to the welcoming and dedicated bicycling community that imbues New Mexico Cycling with the spirit of family.  Let’s keep encouraging more cycling, New Mexico.  Thank You!  –Mark

Crest and a Coke

Sandia Crest Race 2015: Photographs

Sansai Photography has photos available from this year’s race.
Galleries from Heartbreak Hill, Sandia Crest, and Race Highlights
Here are some highlights from Heartbreak Hill.

sansai heartbreak toby

Sansai Heartbreak

sansai heartbreak Cat 1 2 3 peloton

Sansai heartbreak suffering

sansai heartbreak natural grocers


Resilient People: Walking the Michael Emery Trail

I’ll be doing a Sandia Crest race report soon linking to Sansai Photography’s race gallery, but in the meantime I wanted to get a post up on healing and rejuvenation.  In particular I’ve been thinking about all the people recovering from injuries and from stuff that happens in day to day life that requires some slow time to reflect and breath deeply to restore our bodies and mend our minds.  It helps me to spend time in healing places.  Last Tuesday on the full moon Mai and I took an evening walk at the Michael Emery trail up in the high desert.  It is part of the Sandia Foothills trail system.  With the abundant Spring rains and under New Mexico’s lucid June skies, the desert colors are shining brightly, a patchwork of reds, browns, purples, greens and more.

Mai from Sansai Photography surveying the desert

Mai from Sansai Photography surveying the desert up close

Mai with the best light
Tall grasses with yellow flowers
“What we are probably witnessing is growing awareness of human needs generally…disasters are teachable moments.”  –Richard Levy, Yours for the Asking
Our cities are critical human habitat, especially since we spend most of our time there.  It is complimentary to have open space accessible nearby to unwind and enjoy nature’s supple grace.  We are fortunate in Albuquerque to have inherited the legacy of people with foresight to reserve an abundance of diverse lands.  Nearly 30,000 acres of major open space is protected and managed by the Open Space Division in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

desert splendor

trailing light
“What counts for long-term survival is intelligent self-understanding…for the real human story, history must comprise both the biological and cultural…The origin of the human condition is best explained by the natural selection for social interaction–the inherited propensities to communicate, recognize, evaluate, bond, cooperate, compete, and from all of these the…pleasure of belonging…”  –E.O. Wilson The Meaning of Human Existence
When I spend time in a place like the Sandia Foothills open space, I leave there feeling rejuvenated and relaxed–miraculously bouncing back–ready for more.  Thank you CABQ.

shapes in the moon light

purple flower trails to Sandias

Sandia Crest Road Race: Southern Rockies Racing at its Finest

“Albuquerque’s got a lot of history…a lot of great races.  Road and Mountain Bike.”
–Ned Overend, 1st mountain biking world champion in 1990, and still racing (and winning!)

One of the best races in the West is this Sunday, the Sandia Crest Road Race.  It’s starts in Albuquerque and finishes at over 10,000 feet in elevation at the crest of the Sandia Mountains.  Beginning racing licenses are available, so anyone can do it providing you have the fitness and preparation.  This course is one of the best in America, and on par with excellent venues such as the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic from Durango to Silverton, Colorado.

Register for the Sandia Crest event here

The Sandia Crest road is a National Scenic Biway

The Sandia Crest road is a National Scenic Byway.  There is an Aerial Tram to the top for an easier ride

This is a difficult ride.  So why would people do it?  I think road racing and especially events with big hill climbs are a metaphor for life.  Nothing worth doing is easy.  The rewards match the challenge.  You’ll get to a point on the Crest climb where you are not sure that you are up to the task.  Seeing that through is a test of faith and self reliance.  It’s amazing what resources you can find to overcome, or how much one little thing like a sip of water, a break in the gradient, a deep breath or someone calling your name can do to restore your rhythm.  The sense of accomplishment at the finish can be a big release.  I get a heightened sense of appreciating simple things like water, food, and rest.  The intensity that a race brings to the Crest climb can make a relatively short moment–about an hour of climbing for the quickest–expand into a longer journey, one that can help bring life into focus.  Sharing the challenge with a supportive community is extraordinary, and the energy from so many valiant people spreads inspiration.

Highlights of the 2013 Sandia Crest Road Race courtesy of Chad Patterson, Proview Networks:
Heartbreak Hill  Good footage here of the riders struggling up one of N. Mexico’s steepest hills
Kip Taylor, winner, being interviewed post race.  “You start getting those doubts in your head…you can’t push that away…work with it…Just believe in yourself”.
Ned Overend, cycling great, interviewed post race.  “It feels good to finish third out here.”
“I was in trouble when there were still five guys in the group.  Fortunately for me there were some other guys that were in worse trouble than me.”  –Ned Overend
The whole race.   There’s some footage of me on the Crest climb around the 2:05-2:15  mark.  The race, like life, is very humbling.

Taos with Love

I walked up to the Río Grande gorge on the West Rim south of Taos and stood atop the basalt cliffs scanning for bighorn sheep, watching the cloud’s liquid movement in the cielo azul.  The tumble of water changed sounds from a fuzzy gush to a bright roar when I looked over the edge at the stilted volcanic canyon walls.  After ambling across the fragrant sagebrush mesa to this point Mai intoned in a hushed voice how immense the power of water is in carving this gorge.  Her words touched against the silence like water splashing over dry stone.

Sagebrush and mountain background Taos

Taos desert garden

Truchas New Mexico from high desert to Alpine heights.  You can still see the Sandias from nearby

Truchas New Mexico from high desert to alpine heights. You can still see the Sandias (when you look South)

When we look around Taos we can see the force of human actions at work on this place over time.  On this high plateau and mountainous landscape innovations are happening at a high pace due to limitations and constraints on resources.  A sense of limits draws our focus to making best use of what we have.  Rangeland, water, and fertile soil are highly valued.  Everything is precious.  Human communities are rightfully cherished.  The Taos Land Trust works at finding a sustainable balance of grazing to replenish grasslands and restore soil health.  Energy efficient household ecology is cutting edge in Northern New Mexico.  Solar power innovations focus on efficient use and improving transmission, storage and designing a better regulatory framework.  Rainwater harvesting is being maximized with system improvements like underground cisterns for storage.  Broadband internet is coming with fiber optic cables going overhead and underground to facilitate information exchange.

Cerro Pedernal and the Jemez in the distance above Embudo Creek near Picuris Pueblo on the road to Dixon

Cerro Pedernal and the Jemez in the distance above Embudo Creek near Picuris Pueblo on the road to Dixon

Picuris road down to Dixon

Every time we stepped out of the car the world came alive.  When we started down the trail toward the confluence of the Río Pueblo de Taos and Río Grande we were swallowed by the eruption of space and silence.  In these great spaces thoughts echo around and the whole time scale from moment to seasons to epochs, from ages to eons, spans the seamless embrace of a single day.  We worked up quite an appetite for lunch at La Cueva Café.  Delicioso.

The La Cueva Cafe back patio at Historic Casa Baca Plaza

vista norte from the La Cueva Cafe back patio at historic Casa Baca Plaza

Taos sidewalk walking the narrow

new cholla flowers

Transportation is certainly an outstanding issue since the big open spaces can mean big travel.  Putting walking, bicycling and animal power to use helps.  A regional solar pioneer told me he blew all his carbon savings from his off the grid solar system, which supplied all of the power needs at his home, through the extra driving his family undertook based on their rural location.  Having a strong village life and people living nearby helps.  Building a complete local economy is enterprising and efficient.  And making the tourist economy value added and non-extractive, while encouraging experiences with a light footprint, promote eco-balance and sustainability.

On our walk to the West Rim on the mesa trails we saw two mountain bikers, two hikers, and two horseback riders

On our walk to the West Rim on the mesa trails we saw two mountain bikers, two hikers, and two horseback riders

Driving is a serious act requiring responsibility.  When I drive I pay close attention and appreciate what I’m doing because, as David Owen points out in Green Metropolis“…a gallon of gasoline we burn today represents the transformed remnants of almost a hundred tons of prehistoric plant material—roughly the same quantity of biomass to be found in a forty-acre wheat field, including stems, leaves, and roots.” (68)  Driving with care protects people and communities and makes precious fuel last longer.  Enjoy staying in one place when possible.

cielo azul pop

Northern New Mexico’s vertical features thrust upward from the earth, sometimes out in the open, other times enfolded in a spectacular framework of surrounding landscape.  So much variety, so much intimate detail, in one broad contrasting vista.  Taos country recharged our spirits.  It’s an enduring place that makes one look at the world differently.  The first question upon getting there is how long can we stay.   Upon leaving the last question is when are we going back.  Good thing we live in New Mexico.  Explore with love and care.

Taos mesa walk sage flowers mountains BIG

Buffalo at Picuris Pueblo with calves.  What a scene.

Buffalo at Picuris Pueblo with calves.