Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winter Training Recap

Given it’s the first warm sunny day of the year here in Utah it seemed like a good time to record how my winter training program went. Maybe then winter here in the Wasatch will finally end. We kind of skipped spring but what are you going to do? At least our house isn’t about to get flooded so I’ll count myself lucky.

Back in December I wrote down some goals and carved out three large blocks of training leading to a race at the end of April. May was a month “off”, and now it’s time to add to the base I spent the winter building. I don’t often record the end result of my programs. The goal of this blog is to educate; hopefully in an entertaining manner, and planning a program aids with this. Results are a nice perk, especially when you hit a goal, but the important elements of training programs happen en route. End results are personal and I only report on them if there’s a good story involved or something to learn.

This time, however, I’m rolling my winter training into another program that should be some help to all of you Beachbody-ers that use our programs to train for sports. The next phase of my Year of Fitness will be putting my knowledge to the test, big time. But that quest begins later. Today we’re recappin’.

From December:
Goal: since all training plans must have one, is to build a huge fitness base that will see me through an epic year of adventures.

I think this goal went well. While a lot of my sports specific fitness is nowhere near its peak my general conditioning is as good as it’s been in my life. I’ve got no acute injuries (other than some scrapes from falling off my mountain bike), my chronic pains are all at bay, and my strength base is very well rounded.

training with finnegan: meaning most of it was on trails. not ideal for speed but big plusses for fun, especially when you consider how crazy an un-exercised rescued cattle dog can be.

My primary fitness test, Duathlon Nationals, went well. With very little sports-specific training I easily qualified for the World Championships in a fun, very spirited, and ultra-competitive race for a multi-sport event (which can be very boring). Later I learned that a few of us had been penalized for some weird infractions and then had to sweat out the selection process as our penalties (6 minutes in a race where I was 4 behind the winner) knocked us into the alternate category for the US team. My official notification of selection came just as I was ready to target some new goals for the next round of training, but now I’m all in for the World’s in September, in Gijon, Spain.

probably losing time for sporting un-triathlon-specific ritte clothing

Climbing-wise I’m way behind schedule, mainly because the weather has been dreadful. Last week we humped some gear up to a local crag (with a one-hour uphill approach so we stash gear so that we can “run” up and down after work) and it was still completely soaked. Most of our local cliffs won’t be ready until midsummer so there just hasn’t been any urgency to get serious.

And while I’ve had very little time for long endurance days the few I’ve put in went surprisingly well. This is a testament to how solid a fitness base our programs build as my training centered, as you may know, on Asylum, an as-of-yet unannounced Beachbody program, and the PAP phase of X Two.

likely i was the only one racing in tucson who did this sort of thing for training.

There were no injuries during this phase. I only missed training during 90X filming, where I’d scheduled a break anyway, and the week following it when I got sick—about as good as I can expect in a five-month program.

what's next, buddy?

My break officially ends on June 1. The summer training schedule will be announced soon. If you plan to use Beachbody programs to prepare for any outdoor sports pursuit, particularly multi-sports, I’d recommend following along.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Open Letter To The Tour of Utah

With the Tour of California having just ended, wouldn’t it be great to have another big stage race in the US that would keep the international peloton racing here for a while? Today’s edition of fantasy psyche offers a solution.

A few years back I spoke with the Tour of Utah’s founder, the late Terry McGinnis, about the possibility of it becoming a point to point tour across one of the most beautiful geographic regions in the world. He said that was his ultimate dream. With the success of the Tour of California I think the time for Terry's dream has arrived. I’ve been playing around with various possible routes this tour could take for years. Here is my proposition for expanding the already cool Tour of Utah (valley) into an actual tour of the great state of Utah.

While I have no time to arrange such an event the organizers might. If not, here’s an open letter to the public hoping someone will take the reins and make it happen. I’ll be the first one in line for the amateur version, which would certainly become one of the most sought after events on the amateur tour rider’s calendar.

The first thing on my agenda should be to move the race up to last week of May/1st of June (between ToC and Dauphine Libre) in order to couple it with the ToC as part of the prep schedule for the Tour de France. This would enhance scenery as the mountain tops are still snow covered, as well as make the riding temps more Tour like (blistering hot in the deserts and frigid on the summits). The kids will be in school and route passes many small town schools, where organized could motivate them to participate. Summer tourist season will have begun, to provide good crowds, but not yet be in full swing so lodging will be more plentiful and easier to organize.

I visualize three versions:

Amateur tour (early AM start)
Women’s race (early start)
Men’s (late start to plan daily finish late afternoon/post work)

Taglines: hardest stage race in the US, most beautiful race/bike tour in the world

The Stages

Stage 1, Sunday: Moab to Moab
Approx 75 miles, 4,000’ elevation gain

Ride out of Moab over the Big Nasty climb, descend Castle Valley, follow River Road back into two and finish when a number of circuits (to be determined) around town. Short stage with one major climb early, 5 star scenery.

Climber points: Big Nasty summit (with bonus seconds so this summit will be raced agressively)
Sprint points: Finish (with bonus seconds)
Transfer to stage 2: 2.5 hours. Amateur and women lodge in Torrey or Hanksville. Men in Moab.

Stage 2, Monday: Torrey to Brian Head
Approx 160 miles, 12,000’ elevation gain

Epic stage with a moutain top finish along “the most scenic drive in the US”. While insanely long with two major climbs, this stage trends down hill and should be fairly fast for most of its length. Climb out of Torrey is out of the gate and the stage should then be fast until the final long but not horrendously steep drag up to Brian Head at 10,000’. This promises to be one of the most beautiful bike routes ever raced. Perhaps start women’s race in Boulder and amateur in Escalante, both versions eliminating the first big climb and making the lodging logistics simpler.

Climber points: major points for first climb out of Torrey and Brian Head finish. Two minor point climbs in between.
Sprint points: Sprints held in towns of Boulder, Escalante, Tropic, Panguitch
Transfer to stage 3: 45 minutes. Lodging at Brian Head, Cedar City, and Parawon

Stage 3, Tuesday: Cedar City to St. George
Approx 100 miles, 3,000’ elevation gain

Fast stage with a lot of down hill riding. One medium climb near the end through Snow Canyon State Park could weed out some sprinters but with 10 miles and circuits still to race will likely come back together. Head west of of Cedar City, then south using back roads when possible. Finish with afternoon circuits in downtown St. George to encourage large crowds and events.

Climber points: a few minor climbs and then good points for the Snow Canyon climb
Sprint points: Sprints held in towns of Enterprise, Veyo, Santa Clara, and maybe into town
Transfer to stage 4: 2.5 hours. Amateurs and women stay in Richmond. Pros in St George of Cedar City.

Stage 4, Wednesday: Richfield to Mt Nebo
Approx: 90 miles, 5,000’ elevation gain

Fast flat stage for 80 miles (and a likely tailwind) to a massive climb and summit finish on Mt Nebo. Scenic ride up route 89 with many intermediate sprints to engage the town citizens with what should be a spirited fight for sprinters jersey. Epic finish.

Climber points: couple of minor points en route.
Sprint points: Sprints in Gunnison, Manti, Ephraim, Moroni, always in front of schools or business districts to increase crowds.
Transfer to stage 5: 1 hour

Stage 5, Thursday: Salt Lake City to Salt Lake City
Approx: 75 miles

Challenging circuit race downtown Salt Lake City with a party-like atmosphere. Amateur ride will tackle the “Ronde van SLC” course (75-mile tour of the Salt Lake valley and benches that features all of the toughest bergs, or short urban climbs.)

Climber points: probably each lap on the “Capital climb”
Sprint points: many primes
Transfer to stage 5: 45 minutes

Stage 6, Friday: Ogden to Park City
Approx: 90 miles, 5,000’ elevation gain

After parading around downtown Ogden, the riders engage in one downtown sprint prime and then head east taking the back roads to Park City, finally finishing on a number of challening circuits through downtown Park City, perhaps also using the Royal Street climb if very hard circuits are desired.

Climber points: numerous minor points available
Sprint points: available in Ogden, Morgan, Coalvillle, Kamas
Transfer to stage 6: 1 hour to Miller Motorsports Park

Stage 7, Saturday: Larry H. Miller Motorsports Park
Approx: 50 miles or TT

Saturday at the races will feature a cycling festival with an entire day of events, demos, films, music, amateur races, etc. Amateur tour has a day off and free entry to the festival. A crit would probably be more fun for the fans but organizers may wish to do a TT instead, even though a flat TT has little meaning in a race with this many mountains and the sprint jersey competition will likely be fierce.

Transfer to stage 8: back to Park City

Stage 8, Sunday: Park City to Snowbird
Approx: 120 miles, 13,000’ elevation gain

The queen stage once again. Not much else needs to be said about this one. It’s been the pinnacle of the race every year and should stay that way.

Climber points: big mountain points available prior to the final climb
Sprint points: a few to motivate the sprint jersey to get over the climbs

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Damn Good Coffee!

I swear I’m not on any coffee company’s graft list. But my role of media watchdog on health makes its benefits virtually impossible to ignore its benefits, which seem to grow exponentially each year. Last week the BBC reported on a study conducted on nearly 50,000 men over a 20-year period that concluded those who drank coffee were 60% less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. Why yes, I’d love another cup!

From the BBC:

Those who drank six or more cups a day were found to be 20% less likely to develop any form of the disease - which is the most common cancer in men.

They were also 60% less likely to develop an aggressive form which can spread to other parts of the body.

But charities say the evidence, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is still unclear.

They do not recommend that men take up coffee drinking in the hope of preventing prostate cancer.

I’d like to take the second part first, please.

Excuse me, but why the heck not?!! If I’m a non-coffee un-achiever and see this I’m hightailing it down to my local java joint pronto. While I completely sympathize with a cautionary approach to scientific data this one’s practically a slam dunk, since jillions of studies (okay, thousands), conclude there’s very little scientific downside to coffee consumption, most of which is tied to caffeine and lack of sleep. However, the study indicated no difference between regular and decaf drinkers showing, once again, that there’s a lot more benefit to our morning black gold than it’s hyped up headline catcher, caffeine. If the protagonist here happened to be, say, apples I’ll bet they’d be singing a different tune.

More coffee, sir?

A number of other studies looking at coffee and prostate cancer have found that drinking coffee does not affect the risk of the disease, and this study only found a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer in men who drank more than six cups a day.

Admittedly that’s a lot of coffee but, man, without a ton of downside and prostate cancer rates among aging males around 30% I’d say those are some dice I’d like to roll, especially if I were getting on in years and know that I don’t have to OD on caffeine.

Yinka Ebo, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "There's no need for men to start drinking gallons of coffee in an attempt to lower their prostate cancer risk.”

I agree. Just six cups or so.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Losing Face

Even though I don’t report on doping anymore last night’s 60 Minutes piece is too much to pass up commenting on. The show got me to click the doping label on my blog to see what I’ve written in the past and how accurately I was conjecturing. By recent accounts it seems as though I was doing okay. Anyone interested in doping in sports, particularly cycling (not that it’s so different elsewhere), might want to give it a perusal. Today I’m adding one more tidbit on my personal doping history for your entertainment.

To me, and most of my friends, the only thing astonishing on 60 Minutes last night was that it was actually playing on 60 Minutes. Tyler, nor anyone else, said anything we didn’t know (or at least thought we knew). When Tyler said “I’d bet my life” that every other team was doping it was nothing different than what I’d heard from many other racers over the years, except that it was on the record.

Velonews added a different perspective with Neal Rogers’ article:

Scott Mercier: Former Postal rider says Hamilton’s charges ring true

Mercier’s account is level headed and hard to discount. Riding for Postal in ’97 he was offered a doping regimen. When he couldn’t complete the training he was given without it he took the other path and resigned from the sport.

Mercier packed the drugs with him and said he contemplated using them but ultimately decided against it. He attempted the training program anyhow but found himself unable to recover and instead left the sport and moved to Hawaii. In the years that followed, he said he “assumed that anyone that had stayed on as a professional was using some sort of performance-enhancing drug.”

“In the off-season races, or the shoulder season, the big races in America, or anywhere other than Europe, you could compete with some guys, but in Europe you just couldn’t,” he said. “I’m not sure that I really viewed the doping as cheating; it’s just that I could not live with the hypocrisy and lying associated with it.”

On a personal note this was the same decision I made in college. I doubt that I had Mercier’s talent, and always stated my choice was lack of commitment because I didn’t see my upside as worthy of the risk. Doping, back then, was not the controversial topic it is today. If you were serious that’s what you did. The rest of my thought process was identical. I knew similar athletes to myself who doped and were better, so I assumed the guys with extraordinary talent were doing the same. It was not a value judgment as much as a rational observation.

My friends always seemed confused as to why I didn’t dope since I’d almost habitually test my body’s limits with very little regard for its welfare. I’d experiment with diets to the point of starvation, hydration til I’d go into electrolyte shock, and exercise until I couldn’t get out of (or make it in to) bed. But, to me at least, doping was less interesting because we knew that it would work. And if it was already known then there was little to be gained from the experience. Winning, and maybe money, I suppose, if you’re into such things, but winning by knowingly cheating has always rung hollow, which leads to my final anecdote.

My friend Phil and I were discussing something once about training and volume and challenges, likely a birthday challenge, when someone at the table, upon hearing that all of our numbers weren’t witnessed, said “what’s to stop you guys from just making stuff up?” Phil and I looked at each other, shrugged, and said we’d lose face.

Looking up colloquial definitions of losing face I see it referenced as losing public respect, which is something I find as mixed up as our society is in general these days. Our interpretation is different. Losing face was only about a self reflection. As long as you were attempting the right thing you could not be totally wrong. If you were deceitful, no matter the outcome, you had lost face to yourself. One of us added, “and then we’d have to commit suicide.”

Which brings me back to The Grand Boucle of deceit. As Tyler tried to point out last night, Lance was only doing what everyone else was doing or, at least, everyone else who had a physiological chance of winning the Tour de France was doing. Does that make him so wrong? And, ultimately, no matter how this turns out in public, he’s eventually going to have to reconcile that one with himself because it’s the only self that matters.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Study: Exercise Prevents Premature Aging

You’ll have to excuse me for re-using a graphic from a post a few weeks back. It’s even more appropriate for today’s entry on the effects of exercise on aging.

The actual title refers to endurance exercise but the findings here were mainly obvious so it didn’t seem worth dilluting the topic. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics and medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and principal investigator of a study on the relationship between exercise and aging at McMasters University stated, "We have clearly shown that there is no substitute for the "real thing" of exercise when it comes to protection from aging."

While I’m pretty sure that anyone following my blog knows this, I reported on the study for a couple of reasons. First, I’m sick of people trying to champion nutrition as the be all end all of of health. Humans are animal that are designed to move. When we don’t we fall apart prematurely. End of story.

Diet is important, sure, especially the way we’re taught to eat these days. But exercise is the big ticket to health. Bad diet can be offset by exercise a lot more effectively than what a good diet can do for you if you sit on the couch all day. This study is getting’ some Straight Dope love because it forcefully points this out.

"Others have tried to treat these animals with 'exercise pill' drugs and have even tried to reduce their caloric intake, a strategy felt to be the most effective for slowing aging, and these were met with limited success," said Tarnopolsky.

The other reason it picqued my interest was this,

These mice were genetically engineered to age faster due to a defect in a gene for polymerase gamma (POLG1) that alters the repair system of their mitochondria — the cellular powerhouses responsible for generating energy for nearly every cell in the body.

Mitochondria are unique in that they have their own DNA. It has been thought that lifelong accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations lead to energy crisis that result in a progressive decline in tissue and organ function, ultimately resulting in aging. But the study on genetically-disadvantaged mice found those who had endurance exercise training three times a week looked as young as healthy mice while their sedentary siblings were balding, graying, physically inactive, socially isolated and less fertile.

Not the part about genetically engineering mice to age quickly. I find that ethically a little troubling. But the part about mitochodria having their own DNA is down right fascinating, and a pretty clear link to the importance of exercise. I do take note that unsupervised treadmill running is not necessarily “endurance” exercise, which should only be stated if they controlled that situation, which there is no indication of. The mice could have been interval training and my guess is they probably were but, you know, whatever.

"I believe that we have very compelling evidence that clearly show that endurance exercise is a lifestyle approach that improves whole body mitochondrial function which is critical for reducing morbidity and mortality,” states lead author Adeel Safdar. “Exercise truly is the fountain of youth."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Training Your Brain

The entire mission over at P3 is staying ahead of everybody else when it comes to training the body to achieve human potential. And when I say that body I mean all of it, including the parts we may not associate with athletic performance. Lately, they’ve been focusing on the mind. From their blog:

The brain is the command center that drives the body’s performance. How it functions affects an athlete’s control of focus, speed of reaction, quality of sleep, efficiency of motor movement, emotional reactivity, and ability to mentally recover after an error. When the brain is able to efficiently function, an athlete is better at performing under pressure, sustaining focus, as well as mentally resetting during competition.

“Sure, sure,” you’re probably saying. “Of course athletes need to control their minds. They’re under a lot of pressure to perform. But I workout in my living room while the rest of the family is asleep. How does this affect me?”

But I submit that your life is probably harder than a professional athlete’s. Sure, if you fall over during Yoga X there aren’t five million people watching but you also probably don’t have the means to focus 100% on your training and performance. In fact, you’re probably trying to it in around your job (or two, this being America and all), family, maybe school and whatever vestiges of social life you can still weave in. Quieting your over-stuffed brain long enough to get the most out of your workout takes fortitude. Just think how much easier life would be if you had the ability to control your anxiety or stress levels in this hectic world. Getting interested yet?

After a basic analysis of how brain training works the article concludes:

Along with baseball players initial observations of better sleep, the data showed that P3 athletes improved their focus (increased beta, decreased theta), reaction and mental processing speed (decreasing dis-regulation and increasing regulation, brain wave patterns are optimized which enables more efficient processing of sensory information) and stress regulation (having the correct alpha to beta ratio) throughout the off-season. Perhaps most interestingly, we are already able to identify hitters vs. pitchers based on their original EEG patterns.

Being able to quantify and train mental performance systems, similarly to how we quantify physical systems, is very exciting and will prove to be the new frontier in performance.

As cool as this might sound most of us don’t yet have the means to make it happen, at least at this level. P3 is partnered with a company called Neurotopia, which makes equipment to test and train brain function. And while this stuff’s a ways off from becoming standard exercise equipment in any household juggling whether or not they can afford an extra set of dumbells, just the knowledge that training your brain is effective should get the ball rolling.

We already know that, with our customers, by far the biggest obstacle in their path to success is motivation. This is why we’ve created such a strong support system and was the catalyst for our coaching network. As we learn more about the effects of brain training you can be sure that it’s going to make its way into our training systems as well.

pics: p3 athlete parker coffin in a situation where the benefits of mind control are obvious. below, visionary businessman jackie treehorn's been championing the potential of mind training for decades.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sedona’s Big Friggin’ Loop

“If you had only one day to ride in Sedona which trails would you do?” I asked, not expecting a definitive reply since it’s rumored to be one of the world’s foremost mountain biking destinations. In the middle of an answer filled with qualifiers I interrupted, “How about the Big Friggin’ Loop?” to which eyes squinted, sizing me up, before deciding I might be the type who would try such a thing alone and then, answering, in decidedly non-qualified fashion “fuck yeah!”

I’d heard about The Big Friggin’ Loop earlier this year. Unfortunately I couldn’t get away to ride it with the group but I knew, from the first description, I was going to try it sometime. And, as long as it had approval from the locals, it seemed worth trying alone. It’s exactly the kind of ride I’d concoct on my own and, in fact, has similar ambitions to my Park City link-up; a circle around town with samples from each separate trail system.

The distance was tamer but the technicalities promised to be greater. As Big Jonny at The Drunk Cyclist so eloquently waxed:

At a “mere” 37 miles, a few hardened heads even bailed on the idea in wait for the longer distances of later events. But there’s an exception to this need given the Sedona area. Riding there isn’t the smooth roller singletrack one might anticipate for a long ride. It’s a hop-scotch full of premium obstacles on sublime singletrack for its entirety. A core workout if you will, will you? There’s no real significant place on the route where one can settle into the aero bars what with the ledges upon rocks upon curvy things with more rocks and abrupt turns with no flagman. Chutes and Ladders and Vortexes. Questionable drops and descents. Questionable traction on uphills. Herkenham by authority of Chad? River crossings and the like. That’s the gist, and the gist is good. By the time it was over, I didn’t want anymore.

The route finding seemed tricky, with or without a GPS (see above link), but, given you were always above town, if things get grim you can point your bike down hill and will back in civilization in a matter of minutes. I bought a map and studied it for a route, sans GPS, that would most likely be the BFL course. A few beers later and I was 100% certain I had it nailed. I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. Below is the course I chose, where it went right and where it went wrong, in an attempt aid you in trying this adventure solo. That said, I highly recommend trying to make the race. It would have been nice to have some local knowledge out there.

Part I: Broken Arrow Trailhead to Bike & Bean

I began my ride on the system the organized event ended on for two reasons. First, I didn’t know how bad the river crossings were and wanted to ask someone and, second, I thought I’d get some miles in before having breakfast at the Bike & Bean.

Broken Arrow was tough for me out of the gate. It would have been nice to warm-up a little longer. It’s both climbed steadily and was technical and my slow pace had me slightly concerned. Very ride able in a downhill direction; I was off my bike too much going up. Regardless, it was a nice trail with gorgeous views. At Chicken Point I dropped into Little Horse and flew down it to Llama, which turned out to be one of my favorite trails of the day. After Llama I wanted more to get more riding in before breakfast so, instead of heading down the Bell Rock path I chose to ride Templeton out to Slim Shady and took it back. The latter might be my favorite trail of the day; it’s always technical but still flowy and fun.

slim shady follows a creek bed with a perfect blend of rocks, single track, and slick rock.

This first section was five star riding, with the only difficult place to navigate being the start of the unmarked Slim Shady trail. If you ride in from Llama via Bell Rock it’s easier to catch the Slim Shady start at the Bike & Bean, which I’d recommend.

a great shop with fantastic coffee. highly recommended pit stop in the middle of your ride.

Part II: Cathedral Rock system to Airport Loops to Euro Café

I was pretty confident, riding Templeton under the Cathedral Rocks on a fast flowy trail, that things were going to go without a hitch. It took me a little while to find Red Rock crossing, which seemed barely crossable so I can see how this bit can be dicey at times of the year (I think there’s a place to cross on the road but I didn’t find it). Then I hit my first sandbag of the day.

I asked a ranger where the Old Post trail started. She didn’t know but thought if I went up Ridge I could get there. My map showed something else but, as I was ahead of schedule I decided to give it a shot. This was probably a mistake.

don’t take this trail in this direction

It was pretty obvious right away that I was on a trail not ridden much and generally in the opposite direction I was going. Unlike the well marked paths I’d been on the soil was loose, steep, and lacked many tread marks. The trail leveled after a while and came to an intersection with trails not on my map so I kept climbing. At one point I made another mistake (I think) by taking a trail heading left up a ridge. This was very narrow, often without room to get between trees or rocks and a lot of exposure, and had very little wear. Certainly, this was a downhill trail. I was walking way too much of it, and getting a little irritated, but figured I’d be heading down soon enough.

steep, exposed, but mighty pretty

When I hit the top even the downhill was hard, and was made even harder when I saw my intended path, the Old Post Trail, far below. It looked fun and fast.

supposed to be down there

Eventually I connected back with the Ridge, which felt paved by comparison to whatever I was on. As much as I was irritated by this trail and my route finding skills I would ride it a lot if it were at home. I’d just do it in the other direction.

Then I got lost again. And again. I’d heard from Reed that his favorite trails were unmarked behind the airport, which is where I was. Being Reed’s favorite meant technical and down and, I figured, I’d probably just come up one of those. I decided my rule would be to follow the trail marked with the most tire tracks from now on. This didn’t help that much as I ended up doing some circles. There’s a lot of unmarked and well trodden riding in this area. Luckily, all of it was good so being lost was pretty much just fine. I finally popped out on route 89A, out of water, and went looking for somewhere to rehydrate.

Even though I got lost the riding in this section was almost all excellent. The ride was still getting 5 stars, assuming a 5-star scale.

how can a self-respecting cyclist not stop here?

Part III: Dry Creek to Jim Thompson

After lunch I headed into the Dry Creek trail system where I also knew was going to offer similar challenges as the airport area; a network of unmarked but fun, well-ridden trails. Well, some are marked but I was trying to avoid Girdner (the main trail) as much as possible, because I heard it was sandy this time of year, and was looking for a new trail the guy at the shop recommended. I didn’t find it and, after some time, found Lizard Head and began heading towards Chimney Rock.

Here things got a little ugly. I turned left onto the Chimney Rock trail (cause it made sense on the map), which was an often un-ride able climb to a Wilderness sign. Since you weren’t supposed to ride in designated wilderness I knew I was off route. But I kept going because, hell, I was walking at this point anyway so I wasn’t breaking any rules and according to my map I was very close to a trail junction. Luckily the trail began descending, quite steeply, back down towards the legal Thunder Mtn trail where I figured things would improve. Not so much.

Thunder Mtn doesn’t seem to get ridden a ton. It was hot, dusty, quite technical and very very slow. I’m pretty sure you could out run even a good cyclist on this section as it winds around up and down over rocks. It was uncomfortably consistently. I wanted it to end.

looking down on teacup

My map showed a skull and crossbones on the next trail, Teacup, but it felt sublime compared to Thunder Mtn. Teacup did end up throwing the techie stuff at me (along with exposure) but it’s a beautiful trail nonetheless.

there are a few sink holes around sedona. these are deep holes with abundant life but no way in. fascinating geography.

This was followed with the slightly less technical, but still engaging, Jordan Trail that finally (must have been getting tired) ended at the Jim Thompson trail head.

riding the delicate balance between alcohol and caffeine

Here is where this year’s BFL would end and, as the river crossings at Huckaby were still impassible, it’s where mine was slated to stop also. But the lure of the Jim Thompson Trail was strong as I’d assumed it was named after the pulp author who’d often written about the southwestern US. “Life is a delicate balance between alcohol and caffeine,” he famously penned, and with my coffee buzz well gone I was looking forward to a cold beer at the end of the ride. It just made sense to end on this trail. There was a road section back to the car either way but I could get there from both the beginning and the end of Jim Thompson, so on I went.

A few minutes later I began to have second thoughts. I couldn’t find any tire tracks on the trail and whenever this had happened today things went south. Big Jonny hadn’t sounded sorry to be missing this section of the original BFL so it got me wondering why the trail wasn’t ridden more. Then, perhaps in a dehydrated state, I began to second guess the trail name. Was I mixing Jim Thompson up with author Jim Harrison? And wasn’t the lobbyist, Presidential candidate and sometime actor Jim Thompson from Arizona? That guy’s an asshole. When my noir sentiments were replaced with “a Ruskie don’t take a dump without a plan,” the latter Thompson’s line from The Hunt For Red October, allure of Jim Thompson began to fade. I turned around, rode out to pavement, and headed towards the car. It was time to balance out the caffeine.

Overall, I’d say the BFL is one of the best rides I’ve ever done. Only the Lizard Head to Teapot section, and a little of Jim Thompson and a bit of the Ridge-ish line, was truly unpleasant and none of it was that bad. The rest was faaaaantastic. For sure with more experience in the area you could improve the loop but it’s not a ridiculous thing to try and on sight. Go do it.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Hill In Spain

A Hill in Spain from chris akrigg on Vimeo.

I had my own psyche post ready to go but then ran across this and, well, I rarely tire of watching such things, and this is hot off the press, so mine can wait. Enjoy.

I don't do much riding like this myself (none, actually) but I'm still completely inspired by it. I like to use the kid excuse, saying I'd have tried this stuff if I were younger and less fearful, but I'm not sure I would have been into it even in my wildest years (mind wanders back to motorcycle bb gun fights wondering which is crazier). Regardless, I can't help think most of you will find it pretty rad. Even Romney thinks it's pretty cool, though she did add, "boys are so weird." Whatever. I'd still rather huck my bike off a roof, even knowing full well I was about to eat shit, than spend a day at the mall.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Recovering From Relaxing

Ah, it feels sublime to be tired and sore when you’ve gotten that way from activity. And when I get time to relax pretty much all I do is exercise. After ten days of gettin’ after it I lied in bed til nearly 8am, deciding after numerous false starts that my aching muscles needed a few more moments on snooze. Phase one of my year is in the books and now it’s time to play a bit while I decide what’s going to come next.

near lee's ferry.

the type of nav reading that makes me happy.

My schedule over the last ten days, generally, had me up by 5:30 and working ‘til it was warm enough to head out. Then climbing, riding, hiking, running, or driving until it got dark, followed by dinner and, finally, more work until my eyes would no longer stay open—usually by around 10.

my mobile office.

trails around sedona.

I think it’s safe to say that I don’t relax like most people. I’m not getting out as much as I once did so, when I’m on the road, I try and cram in as much into each day as possible. Over the last ten days I’ve ridden six new (for me) trail systems, gone to six new climbing areas, driven 2,000 miles, done one national championships race, and managed not to fall too far behind on work. In fact, it’s due to work I’m home now because there was more on the agenda. My computer died Tuesday night, prompting cancellation of this weekend’s little Grand Canyon sufferfest, and forcing me to high tail it home instead.

room with a view in tucson.

putting on my best special agent dale cooper impersonation at mom's, in salina. 'once a day, every day, give yourself a present...'

So now I’m back at the morning ritual: sitting on the computer, slowly sipping coffee, Finnegan by my side asking repeatedly if I’m ready to get outside yet. Today he’s going to have to wait longer than normal. But with temperatures on the rise, some good winter fitness in the bank, and longer days ahead I will be making this up to him. I don’t think he believes me.