On a Personal Note: End of the Riding Year Report

Last week marked the end of my 2011/2012 riding year. For those not interested in cycling and related topics, please skip to the next entry. For those wondering why a riding year would end June 13th, well, because I got back on the bike, after a 7 year hiatus, on June 14th, 2005. In any case, my riding year ended, and another has begun, one filled with some real challenges, if I press for the goals I have set for myself.

2010/2011 had been a record setting year. 9000 miles and 338,607 ft. of ascent was so far beyond anything I had ever done before it was amazing. Back in 1998, my last year of riding before moving into the “weight lifter” phase, I had ridden 6,300 miles. In 09/10, 5420. So to jump to 9k was massive. Further, I only climbed 148,579 ft. in 09/10, so I more than doubled my climbing in just one year. As I began 11/12, I did not look to exceed the distance I rode last year, but I did look to at least match, if not exceed, the climbing. Every cyclist knows, if you want to improve, you have to climb. It hurts, but it is good for you.

My final distance for 11/12 was 8,619 miles, 381 miles less than last year. Now, that might indicate the old guy is slowing down, right? But a little closer examination would indicate otherwise. Though I rode a few less miles, my climb over those miles was 393,845 ft, i.e., 74.59 miles, more than 55,000 ft. beyond last years total! That’s a lot of climbing, meaning the miles I was riding were of a higher “quality” than last year. But, add to that another factor: my average speed over the 8619 was a full half a mile an hour faster than last year. That may sound utterly insignificant to the non-cyclist, but my fellow cyclists well know that a half a mile per hour increase in average speed over 8619 miles means a lot more energy was expended to cover that distance. Add in the extra 55,000 ft. of climbing as well, and that is a significant improvement over last year.

This year I managed to finally get my gold medal in El Tour de Tucson (holding a 19.9 avg over 111 miles with 3300 ft. of ascent). I also set a few personal records over the course of the year. I did my longest single day ride on April 2nd, doing a Triple Metric (300km = 186.4 miles) at an average speed of 17.5 (which, given the 20mph wind, was pretty good). I also broke a record I set back in the mid 90s on I-17 descending 5 mile hill into Black Canyon City, my all-time speed record. It had stood at a pitiful 48.0 all those years. Yeah, I’m not interested in the thrill the pros get when descending at 70mph. I like my skin where it is, thank you. But with all the climbing I’ve been doing, I’ve been disappointed with my descending skills, or lack thereof. So I’ve been working on it, pushing myself, and in the process managed to finally break that 50 mph barrier, clicking her up to 50.6 on a perfect downhill on May 30th. I also bested last year’s best time up South Mountain in the USCF sanctioned Time Trial on May 12, breaking the 25 minute barrier by three seconds, averaging 397 watts all the way up that bad boy (that’s what you get when you are as heavy as I am and try the climbing gig) and hitting a record 60.36 VO2 Max (I have no idea what I could do back in the 90s…I had never heard of it back then). I also put in a real hard effort up to Snow Bowl on May 10th. The best ascent/descent I had done over the years was about 1:09, but this time I really hammered it up, and then pushed the descent real hard, trusting my lovely EA90 rims and Continental 4000S tires, completing the entire effort in 58:04.

One other record of note was ascent in a single week. I had tried to go for a 4 mile ascent (21,120ft.) in a one week run in December, but on the last day my right Achilles informed me that it was not to be. I really think this was related to the fact that 1) I am getting older; 2) my muscles do not like the cold, and 3) it was cold. So this past week I went for it again, but now it is June. In Arizona. It is not cold. At all. And I set my record at 21,311ft. (over the course of 218 miles). Achilles are content and happy, thankfully.

This year I noticed that I was doing daily rides that a few years ago were once-a-month or year experiences that I had to prepare for, and then had to recover from. I used to work hard to climb 100 ft. for every year of my age on my birthday (here’s one example) but now I do 4000+ as a regular daily type ride, go home, get cleaned up, head in and work a full day. I also have noticed that as I age I can suffer more, push myself harder, and farther. I do not know how long the Lord will give me to do this–I realize every ride could be my last for many reasons–but I am so, so thankful I have been able to ride, as of today, 68,016 miles in His glorious creation. I have seen some of the most awesome sunrises, and I am truly grateful for the health and strength it takes to spend 11 to 14 hours a week in the saddle. And, of course, I know that only His grace has kept me from the front fender of many a distracted driver.

I have been focused for many months upon my major ride for this summer, that being the Triple By Pass ride in Colorado in July. 120 miles in one day with 11,000 ft. of ascent–with the kicker being that the lowest you are during the ride is 7,400 ft. above sea level, and the highest you reach (Loveland Pass) is 11,990 ft. above sea level. That’s great…especially if you are allergic to oxygen! Riding in Colorado is truly an experience.

So there’s my end of the year report. I have great plans on the bike for the next 12-14 months, but, as the Scriptures say, “if the Lord wills….”