Sunday, August 9, 2015

Weekend's Ride: 8/8 To Placitas and Back Again

We had the best rider turnout of the season for this ride - an amazing 15 riders showed up early for the ride up to Placitas (route here).  Riders today were - Tina, Jeff, Evil Gary, Maneeshika, Matt, Greg, Alba, Ryan, Laura and Eric (returning triumphantly on the orange tandem), John, Stacy, Frank, Captain Awesome, and Captain Snookums.

This ride is can be divided into four parts: a fast flat out to Bernallilo, a long slow hill up to where the sidewalk ends (anyone?), a long fast down hill section, and finally another long fast flat ride back. And aside from the brief stretch where 550 meets I25, relatively quiet and beautiful, especially the ride north from ABQ and the climb into Placitas.  Overall, it was a great ride, a great goup and nice cool weather due to an blissful overcast sky (a rarity here in the high desert).  It was also great to overlap with a Women Riding Well training ride!  We weaved in an out up the long hill to the top where we rallied.

At the first rally point!
As the season continues, it is always great to see our team in action!  Everyone has a great time, and some of the best friends I have have come as a result of miles riding with the Penultimates.  It is always fun to get to know people while riding.  I am pretty sure if it is the lack of pretension that comes with dressing up in spandex and plopping a helmet on the noggin and then working and sweating for hours on end.  That tends to get people to let their guard down.
Clouds?  In ABQ?
One thing that came to mind today especially, was a great scene from that classic film - The Great Muppet Caper.  Check it here.  It reminded me of our team today - especially the end when the whole group rides together.  Sure, maybe it is our team's general nature of contained chaos and good will when riding. Maybe it was long ride induced loopiness.  Maybe it was the orange tandem.  Maybe we all just look like muppets.  In any case, it made me happy!  Go Domo!  
Right at the start - covert captain cam!
Not the Penultimates, but close.

Leaving rally point 1
At the top!
Mr. Miyagi riding in Stacey to the top of the hill.  Another reason why our team is the best!

Captain's Log: The Taos Grand Fondo

Several rides headed north to Taos to participate in the Taos Gran Fondo (route here).  At the urging of Mr. Miyagi (Jeff) we had 12 past, present, and future (?) Penultimates representing - Evil Gary, Greg, Jeff, Calvin, John, Erica, Justin, Daryl, Amber, Ryan, Alba, and myself.  Great to have so many teammates and friends out on a new adventure.  Not sure what the ride was like for everyone else, I only briefly caught up with the main Penultimate pack at the first stop before they headed off again, and then caught up with Calvin at stop 3.  Beyond that, I rode pretty much solo.  So here is my ride report from the Gran Fondo.

Pulling into the ride start early on Saturday morning, I could tell this was a different type of ride. Lots of high end bikes and lean serious riders in complete sponsored kit.  These guys were talking pacing and how to shave minutes off their ride.  My thoughts tended to drift toward "how far to the first rest stop?" and "what kind of food will they have?".  Could the Penultimates even hang?  We were surrounded on all sides by "those spandex guys" that I try to avoid (I always think back to this scene from the classic movie "Breaking Away").  
At rest stop 1 about 22 miles in.  Still smiling
The small cluster of riders (maybe 170ish) all crowded to the front of the starting line.  I started near the back and pretty much rode there most of the day.  The main crush of good bikers disappeared from my view about 4 miles in near the start of the first hill/mountain.  (Seriously, check out the route here - how I ever let Jeff talk me into this I will never know).  A total of 6000'+ of elevation gain in a series of roughly 3 grueling climbs.  The flip side to this?  At least 3 series of thrilling downhills.
The main group of Penultimates heading off.
Riding solo has a certain meditative side to it.  The ride itself was beautiful and it gave me a long 8 hours in the saddle to get some exercise, listen to music and podcasts, contemplate the meaning of the life and universe, and eventually, when exercise induced insanity set in, to talk to and argue with myself regarding the meaning of life and the universe and the merits of embarking on foolish endeavors. After about 50 solo miles in, you have no idea how exciting cows along side the road can be.  Just a chance to yell "COWS" is pretty fun.  
At top of Hollman Pass looking west.
At top of Hollman pass looking at the road winding down the mountain.
The highlights of the ride for me:  

  • Making it to the top of the first mountain pass at 9500' and seeing the long road winding down the mountain and rolling into the valley far below (and then descending that mountain at speeds over 40 mph for the better part of 13 miles).  
  • Seeing the alpaca farm near Mora and giggling uncontrollably (at 50 miles in, things were getting a little weird)
  • Not dying while climbing up the second pass and making it to the top of the climb around mile 66.  There were sections of road that were 10-12%! Your car would hate you if you made it climb that.
  • Cruising through a beautiful high mountain meadows with gorgeous views of miles of wild flowers and heavenly aromas around mile 70.  (See the last picture below).  It may have been my recent brush with death by heart explosion, but it was quite beautiful.  Again, things were a little weird.
  • Being consoled by my wonderful SAG drivers that indeed, I was finished with the hills, and now had a long 15 mile descent to the finish line.  (You guys were the best and kept me supplied with food and water for the last 30 miles).
  • The long epic descent to the ride end through storm clouds and patches of rain.
  • Pulling into the end of the ride and seeing my teammates in the parking lot waiting for me! Seriously, you guys are also the best!
  • Beer and burgers with great teammates later that evening!  A green chili cheese burger and pint of beer never tasted better.
All told I was the last rider in with a total ride time of 8:40.  I was behind the next group of riders by about 20 minutes.  Not so bad!  Considering drafting in a pace line cuts your energy consumption compared to riding solo by about 30%, I am going to consider that I rode 130 miles!  Not quickly mind you, but like they say "slow and steady wins the race".  But no, I definitely didn't win, that is a pretty dumb saying.  I finished though, and that is all that matters!

Very rural roads
At the top of the hill that nearly killed me at mile 66.
The most beautiful stretch of the road of the ride.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Weekend's Ride: 7/25 - Uphill all the way!

I'm not gonna lie - this ride is no fun.  Well, it is only 50% no fun.  The 13 miles of uphill - no fun.  But the 13 miles of down hill?  Very fun!  Today there were 8 heading up the mountain from a leisurely 7 am start time - El Jeffe, Evil Gary, Gregg (!), Matt, Brady, Ryan, John, and Captain Ali.  One rider headed back at the ski area, and all the others made it to the top.  Beyond that I don't have much to say, since I wasn't there.   But I got lots of pictures!
The crew at the top
Matt working hard
A triumphant Ryan
A mid ride photo?
What a view, if only those guys would get out of the way.