Thursday, March 11, 2010

Death Valley Take-Aways

I rode in the middle of the pack, my usual and expected spot when riding with accomplished riders.

I’m not washed up, chronologically.

Vision Quest off-season training paid off handsomely.

I climb easily, not fast, but easily on long, 10-15 mile climbs of 4-11% grades.

The one night I was unable to fuel properly I had no fuel in the tank to ride more than 10 miles the next day confirming, again, nutrition is my biggest performance issue.

I gotta find a way to come back to Death Valley; it’s calling me.

Death Valley Itself

Death Valley (DV) is like a place no other; Mars might be the closest appearing relative. Indeed, DV has been used to portray Mars-scapes.

Some WOW! facts:
humans roamed DV 10,000 years ago
Borax mining with famed 20-mule-teams was big in DV in the late 1880’s
Summer temps are often 120+ F
DV is about the size of Connecticut, 3.3 million acres
Ground temperature can be 80 degrees higher than air temperature. Ground temp was once measured to be 201 degrees F
2001 saw 154 days in a row of temps 100 degrees F or above
Yearly rain fall is about 2 inches with February being the rainiest month with .38 of an inch.
A rogue 2’ rain fall several years ago washed cars into a gully from the parking lot of the Furnace Creek Inn

Adventure Corps has been hosting endurance events in DV for the last 20 years, their signature events being the famed Spring and Fall running of the Furnace Creek 508, a 508 mile bicycle race which begins in Santa Clarita, CA, travels through DV (mid point) in the middle of the night, and ends in Twenty-nine Palms, CA .

Adventure Corps also hosts the 135 mile Badwater ultramarathon running race in mid July which runs from Badwater (-282’ elevation) to the summit of Mt. Whitney (+8,300’ elevation).

Riders numbered about 50, a more balanced gender mix than I’ve ever ridden with, as well as a number of spousal couples.

Riding narrative would detract from the ride-stopping beauty. Just enjoy the pictures. Click here to go to pictures.

PHX Didn't Treat Me Well

February 26th I would fly from Phoenix to Las Vegas where I would meet Mark and Jeff, riding buddies from home, who would be riding Adventure Corps Death Valley Camp with me.

Why don’t airports have scales near the check-in counters so you can weigh your bags before it’s your turn to check in your luggage? At least then you can redistribute your poundage from one bag to another to meet the 50# weight restriction.

I typically LUV Southwest ‘cause 2 bags fly free, if they’re under 50#. My bike fits in an airline compatible suitcase, meaning it’s under 62” in combined length, width, and depth. This day I had the un-privilege of an authority-seeking SWA check-in agent. “Is that a bike in this case?” How can I say “no” when I’m holding a wheel in a wheel-bag and a helmet is dangling from my carry-on day pack. “That will be $50.” But, I fly SWA regularly, fly with this bike multiple times a year and I’ve never been charged for it just because of what’s inside the box. “Well, you were just lucky, and besides it weighs 54 pounds.” By this time I’m not about to repack the bike box and the duffle to equalize the weight between the two pieces of checked luggage. Besides, I was going to be charged $50 regardless of weight since he was in a power-happy mood.

I got to know the PHX TSA guys and gals way better than I ever wanted to. I had a 4# bag of Hammer HEED (powder to mix with water for my cycling water bottles) in my carry on Day Pack. Apparently there’s something in HEED that warrants it being considered contraband and its carrier (me) being raised to the profile of highly suspicious. After a 20 minute TSA-style wanding of everything in me/on me/with me, TSA said I could fly, but my HEED could not. My choice was to surrender it or take in on the pre-screening side and ship it.

And to add insult to insult, Starbucks, near the gate, wanted to charge me $4.21 for a cup of Early Gray tea with steamed soy, plus the flight attendant was not in the mood to help find a place to stow my wheel on the plane.

What a welcome sight to see that Mark and Jeff had arrived 45 minutes early, the beginning of up, more ups, and upper ups. 

Readying For Death Valley

October 12, 2009, my trigger finger hovered over the “register” button on the Adventure Corps Death Valley Cycling Camp web site. The next four and 1/2 months till Camp would begin in late February would seem like an eternity given yet another Chicago winter before being able to feel the wind through my helmet once again.

There was, however, recovery work to be done from the rigors of my 3,500 mile PAC Tour Transcontinental from Portland, OR to Tybee Island, GA completed August 3, 2009.

First would be recovery for my body which would take about a month--regaining the 12% loss of body weight due to food allergies, muscle fatigue, and sleep catch up. Oh what a glorious feeling to go to sleep in my own bed and know that tomorrow I didn’t have to face another 120-150 mile day of riding.

Soul recovery would take longer, maybe two months.

Having fallen short of my personal expectations of riding in the middle of the pack; having lost the joy of riding on about Day 8 (with 22 more riding days ahead); having my mood tank abysmally on a regular basis (due to inadequate fueling) found my head believing that I was totally washed up, that I was indeed old and could only look forward to a steady decline in cycling performance.

In my head I knew my performance struggles were the result of my huge nutritional deficit. But head knowledge gave little comfort when my mood regularly descended to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Soul recovery goal #1 would be to find a Spring Cycling Camp where I could be challenged and that would hub someplace, rather than being a point-to-point tour. I needed to be somewhere where I knew I could refuel at the end of the day; Adventure Corps Death Valley Camp met those criteria.

Soul recovery goal #2 would be to seek a performance evaluation at Vision Quest Coaching with Robbie Ventura. I needed to know how far my performance numbers had fallen in the 3 intervening years from completion of my 2006 transcontinental ride and performance evaluation with Robbie. To my surprise my numbers hadn’t changed at all, AND I was at the 75th percentile of all the women, regardless of age, who worked out at Vision Quest.

That piece (or peace) of knowledge was HUGE validating with hard data that my struggles were nutritionally grounded, not age related.

Computrainer workouts at Vision Quest during the off-season was goal #3. Beginning in November I would work side-by-side with amazing cycling athletes building strength, endurance, and raising my V02 and lactate threshold, those personal numbers as valuable as weight and cholesterol, numbers that determine your ability to go harder and longer before grinding to a a halt.

Accepting two Ultra Marathon Cycling Association Year-Rounder Challenges was goal #4. The first of those challenges is riding a century each month in 2010, not hard to do except that I live in Chicago, don’t ride a mountain bike, and get cold very easily. So, getting a January, February, and December century in would take a little creativity. The second challenge is riding 3,000 miles in 2010 where each ride would be 90+ miles in length. Again, not hard to do except that there are several months in the year where getting those miles in will require creativity.

Our trip to Hawaii in January enabled me to get my January century in on my Bike Friday Tikit; I found two centuries in Arizona in February while visiting our son, Daniel; and I scored two centuries in March at Adventure Corps’s Death Valley Camp.