Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mother Nature is pretty fast

Those who know me well (or read the pontification on this blog), know that I have this unexplainable fascination with numbers and statistics. When I was a kid, my sister would convince me to go do things for her with the "I'll time you" angle. Still to this day I am very interested in the distances, times, averages, etc that I encounter.

Yesterday I did my first bike commute to work. A pretty sizeable commute of about 23 miles each way, which should make for some great "data" of my ride. On the way to work yesterday morning, I covered the 22.5 miles in about 1:15, or about a 18.5 mph average. Pretty good considering I could only hold a 13 mph average on my Yeti when I rode to work a couple months back.

Of course on my return trip home I wanted to improve on my 1:15 time of the morning. In typical Colorado summer weather fasion, a nice sunny 80 degree day turned into the sudden dark and stormy Colorado summer afternoon. The storms build up and move through so fast they can be incredibly unpredicatible. So as I approached quitting time yesterday I was carefully checking the local radars and the views outside trying to time my escape just perfectly. After a couple hesitations I decided 3:45 would be the time for me to head out to just avoid getting caught in a thunderstorm, or even worse in hail.

I changed back into my cycling gear, stuffed my backpack with my work clothes and headed out the door as quickly as I could. I got on the bike and my legs were initially a little heavy from the 23 miles that morning, but after the first short & steep climb on Mapleton Hill, they started coming back to life. The problem was, the sky was coming to life at the same time. As I peered over my shoulder towards the foothills, an ominous dark cloud was making good time on me. Uh oh. I thought to myself, "I'm moving at almost 20mph, that should be good enough to outrun this thing".

For the most part I was right, had it not been for those pesky traffic lights. As I powered down the street, the sprinkles seemed to be just on my heels. Problem being that everytime I hit a traffic light, they seemed to start catching up to me. By the time I was at 28th & Iris, it was starting to coming down pretty good. Lucky break at the next light as I timed the light well and was able to cruise through, taking a left turn to head north and hopefully avoid the dark clouds which appeared to be moving east. I quickly cut across Jay Rd. and over to the Diagonal as I felt I was slowly starting to get ahead of the storm.

Finally making it to the Diagonal where there are very few stop lights (and most of those I could time easily), I finally started to sense I was going to beat this cloud. After the excitement of storm chasing (although I was the one being chased), I settled back into my typical ride. It was at that time I realized for 1/2 my ride home, that the speed, distance, average meant absolutely nothing if the storm behind me had better numbers. I guess thats the moral is that there is always someone (or something) faster than you coming up from behind.

Of course today when I get on my bike for my "easy" spin at lunch, I'll have the heart rate monitor going measuring speed, distance, cadence, averages, and heart rates as I pedal along.

Yesterday's totals were something like this:
46 total miles
2 hours 27 minutes ride time
18.8 mph average
1 flat tire on the way home

Of course the real number for me will be 185, a weight total which I haven't seen in at least 2 years. I'll get there this summer.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Long Live Long Weekends....

I live for 3 day weekends. I often think I should work 10 hour days, 4 days a week so I can have a 3 day weekend, every weekend. Memorial Day weekend may be one of the best 3 day weekends around as it marks the start of Summer. True there is a ton of traffic and people, but we found ways to avoid the masses most of the weekend.

Friday night we headed north to Loveland for some food and a bit of shopping. Saturday we headed south to Colorado Springs to check out the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The Zoo was quite unique. It was considerably smaller than a typical zoo, but offered a much closer experience with the animals. The zoo is cut into the side of the mountain just above the famous Broadmoor hotel. We toured the zoo thoroughly, then detoured briefly to the Garden of the Gods. Jill decided that Garden of the Gods was a bit too powerful of a name (we're really jaded having seen all the gorgeous things we've seen), so she dubbed it Garden of Jeff the God of Biscuits (if that makes no sense to you, see Eddie Izzard's Dressed to Kill comedy routine).

Sunday was a pretty relaxing day. We met up with Scott & Kim Turner over in Lyons at Meadow Park for some grilling out action along the St. Vrain River. We stuffed ourselves and conversed as the day passed.

Then came Monday, and the relaxation took a backseat as exurtion took over. Jill & I met up with John & Amy Perry to go ride up in Nederland. As well documented on this blog, John "The Punisher" Perry is a superhuman when it comes to athletic events. Jill didn't know what she was signing up for, but an easy ride with John is like a deathmarch for most. Jill did admirably, never complaining and just spinning along as John took us all over the countryside climbing up and descending down (even though she had severely bent a disc rotor that was rubbing terribly). We topped off the ride with a huge plate of nachos and some food and drink at Southern Sun in Boulder, timing it nicely as to avoid the Boulder Boulder 10k crowds that had recently dispersed.

And then it is back to the daily grind. Work really gets in the way of my play time, but you gotta pay the bills so I keep going. The great part is that it is a short week, thanks to those glorious 3 day weekends. Viva la 3 day weekends!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My apologies to all you roadies out there...

I went out on my first ride on my road bike today. I wanted to get in a nice loop, 15-18 miles where I could work out any fit issues and see how my body would react to the drastically different positioning of a road bike. So I decided I'd do a loop from my office off the Pearl St. Mall up Broadway to 36, take a right on Neva Rd., right over to the Diagonal Hgwy and then back to the office down some street with a bike path.

So I get changed, fill up my water bottle and head out to go see how these tiny little tires actually work. I started up Mapleton Hill, and quickly realized that the 34 tooth cog in the back wasn't there on this bike. So 25 tooth it was as I stood and climbed up the steep, but short hill. I was impressed at how quickly the bike responds to power. Even though my Yeti is a good climbing dual, it still isn't exactly "snappy" when you lay down the power. My heart rate jumps up quickly with my out of the saddle effort, but now I've crested the hill and start racing north weaving my way amongst the numerous bike paths and bike lanes scattered throughout Boulder.

So I hit 36, and start the brief descent as I head towards Neva Rd. I notice a roadie up in front of me who is coasting on the downhill, he is decked out in tight spandex that is surely team issue stuff. Not wanting to be the newbie roadie would doesn't know the rules, I took it really easy down the hill fearing I would pass him then he would suck me up on the small climb ahead. The problem was that I had come up on his wheel pretty quickly, and he had noticed. He had to have been on a recovery type ride, as he was surely holding me up, and I wasn't exactly burning up the pavement. His bike was decked out with a Powertap rear hub, and a super bling Cervelo frame so he obviously rides a little bit. I waited for a widening of the shoulder, then calmly sped up and passed by him hoping that I used proper roadie ettiquette.

Turning right onto Neva Rd. I got my first taste of the headwind. I quickly realized the big difference in riding a mountain bike on the road and riding a road bike on the road, the wind. On a mountain bike, your fat tires provide the most resistance but on a road bike your #1 foe is the wind. Since you travel at higher speeds the wind is much more an issue. I started to figure things out a bit, and used the drops a little when fighting into the wind. I'm sure I made some drivers and other riders nervous as I swayed back and forth, showing that I'm much more accustom to the slacker geometry of my Yeti.

About 10 miles into my ride, I had my first major epiphany....Road riding is harder than I ever thought. I've done a lot of climbing on my mountain bike, put in several 25+ mile mountain bike rides on trails in the last 4 weeks but this is a different scenario all together. Mountain biking is a kind of on/off type of situation, but road biking never seems to let up, its a constant push. So my sincere apologies to all you shaved leg, spandex wearing people out there that I've scoffed at as I've passed on the road.

Back to the ride...
I ended up putting in a 21+ mile loop, in about 1:10, so somewhere around a 17mph average. Pretty good considering it was my first ride and I was just trying to go about 70-75%. I really felt pretty comfortable on the bike, and kind of settled into the pace after I realized the different demands this type of riding would be putting on my legs. It also made me realize that if I'm going to finish the MS150, I need to put in some longer, slower paced days in the saddle. I had thought it would be a snap, but after doing some small climbs in a 39x25 gear I am rethinking that "easy" thought now.

So am I hooked on the "dark side" of cycling?
No. I really enjoyed my ride, and think its a great, constant type of workout but I can't imagine choosing to do road rides over a nice singletrack path up in the mountains. The Yeti still holds the top spot by a long way, but I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the road riding and how well the Roubaix rode.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The arrival

My new (to me) road bike showed up today. It is in as good, probably better condition that I expected. It literally looks like it came straight off the showroom floor. It is very, very light at just under 18lbs with pedals.

I haven't really gotten a chance to ride it yet, just getting it reassembled from packing and setting it up to work with my Polar HRM/bike computer. The sizing is pretty much perfect, although I will probably end up adjust the stem at some point. I'm going to give it a good ride and see how it feels before making any adjustments.

My plan is to ride it to/from work tomorrow, but I may go ahead and drive and then just do a lunch ride to shake out all the setup issues. We'll see how excited I am about it tomorrow morning.

Anyway, here are a few quick pictures that I snapped. The bike is black, but has some carbon showing through in the middle of the tubes, which looks pretty slick IMO.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

54 down, 29 to go

Did another lunch ride, but switched my route up yesterday. I did the steeper, tougher (although shorter) climb up Sunshine Canyon. I was feeling pretty good, although I did have to use the granny gears on the steeper sections, so I kept climbing steady as I could go without blowing myself up too much.

I hit the cutoff for Poorman (normally coming from the other direction) and thought about just turning around and heading back, but decided to descend Poorman and get in another climb. So I sped down Poorman, stopping at the bottom long enough to take a couple drinks and get turned around for my attempt up Poorman.

I really started with no motive, just figured I should get in some more mileage and climbing. As I started I tried to keep a good speed and cadence while climbing in the middle ring. I felt better than normal despite the tougher climb I had done on the way up the canyon. I kept pushing in the middle ring, and when I came to the final section (which gets steeper) I did everything I could to make it to the top without using the granny.

As I crested the top I was pleasantly surprised to have climbed Poorman for the first time totally in the middle ring. Upon pressing the lap timer at the apex I got another pleasant surprise.....8:59! My previous best was 9:53, and my goal for the season is 8:30. So in the last two weeks I've gone for 11:12 to 9:53 to 8:59 on the Poorman climb. I'm not sure how I'm shaving this much time this quickly, but I like it. Again these are pretty poor times for Boulder standards (fast would be 6 minutes), but for me its a very clear sign that whatever I'm doing seems to be working for me. So I've already taken 54 seconds of my previous best and just need 29 more seconds to hit my season goal of Poorman in 8:30. Maybe I should have set a more ambitious goal....

In other news, my road bike arrives tomorrow and I'm giddy about that. Should be a great option for me to get some more mileage in and being able to ride from the house should be a great option for the days when time is short. I've been riding my 30lb, 6" travel bike like a road bike so much lately that I have a feeling this 17lb road bike is going to feel really fast in comparison.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Suffer fest

Against better judgement, I went for a ride with my ex-coworker Chris Lane yesterday. I had used my legs up quite a bit the day before doing a time trial type ride up the Poorman loop but wanted to do a longer, tuffer climb. Chris is a leaner, sleeker rider who rides a XC racer type bike so me showing up 15lbs heavier on a 6" travel bike with tired legs was like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Chris has always killed me on the climbs, then we reverse spots for the descents. Yesterday was really no exception, except I think I've managed to narrow the climbing gap quite a bit from last year. Yesterday I was able to keep Chris within about 20 yards about 90% of the time. He got away from me every now and then, but I would pull back up to his wheel in other areas. We are two very different climbers, so our strengths and weaknesses show quite evidentally as we yo-yo back and forth up the hills.

The route we took was especially punishing for me since I had never been up this way. We started up Sunshine Canyon, which is 4 miles of pavement that averages about a 7% grade, with short sections in the 14% range. After 4 miles, we traveled down Poorman over to Four Mile and then up to Logan Mill, which is a steep, winding dirt road that is about 3 miles in length.

We took a brief stop at the bottom of Logan Mill and then started up. Per the usual, I seemed to get stronger after about an hour of riding and rode side by side with Chris up much of Logan Mill. Within about a 1/2 mile of the summit, you hit the hardest grade and Chris pulled away from me a bit here. We regrouped at the top, took in the views near Arkansas Mountain and then started our rampant descent back into Bouler.

Getting back to the truck I was running late as usual (I always think I'm a faster climber than I really am), so I grabbed my stuff and headed home. I really felt pretty good considering we climbed somewhere between 2500-3000ft and did about 20 miles. Forcing myself to do these path/dirt/paved canyon rides around here is certainly paying off for me this year. It isn't a joyous time to grind out miles of dirt road climbs, but I'm getting out, dropping pounds and getting faster so it is all worth it.

Today I'm just going to do a nice, easy spin at lunch. Tomorrow I'll try and hit a trail somewhere and hopefully hit another trail on Sunday.

The elevation chart:

Thursday, May 18, 2006


After a couple weeks of not getting in much bike time due to vacation, weather, and some family visiting, I am finally starting to get ramped back up on riding. Monday I had a fun ride up in Nederland after work and felt pretty good on the climbs.

But the real sign of progress came yesterday on my lunch loop...
I did the Poorman loop here in Boulder that consists of a gradual climb for about 5 miles, then a steeper climb for another mile followed by a fast 4 mile descent back to Boulder.

As I started up the path I was feeling good, pulling a higher gear than normal but not pushing too hard as I went. I started catching other riders pretty quickly, which is always a motivating factor. As I pressed to the end of the Creek Path, I passed through my "check point" about 30 seconds faster than typical.

The next section is a gradual climb on pavement. I kept a steady solid pace, taking the opportunity to grab a drink or two as I rode up. Hitting the end of the pavement stretch and approaching the steepest part of the ride, I was again faster than my personal best time in both this section and the total ride as well.

Poorman Road is a fairly steep, dirt road that connects Fourmile to Sunshine. The road starts steep, it then lets up a bit in the middle before getting steeper towards the apex. I typically hit the dirt road and immediately shift into my smallest ring on the front chainring to make it through the steep section. Yesterday I decided to try and hold my middle ring up front as long as possible. To my surprise I climbed through the steep initial section and around the corner in the middle ring without suffering too severely.

I pressed on up Poorman climbing quickly, probably about 85-90% of max but not red-lining my heart rate too much. I did have to use my granny gear up front for the last push up the climb, but I felt pretty good about the ride. Upon cresting the top of the climb I set my lap marker and was pleasantly suprised/shocked to see 9:53 popup as my split time. My previous best time had been 11:23, so shaving a full minute and a half of my previous personal best was quite surprising.

Now I realize these times are pretty poor for Boulder rider standards (fast guys climb this in 6 minutes), but for me its a clear sign that my fitness is progressing. If I can continue to drop weight and ride, I expect that I can continue to drastically drop my times. Having a road bike to ride longer climbs will certainly help as well. My goal is to do Poorman in 8:30 or less, which I think is obtainable. I'd need to shave 1:23 of my time, but with a bit more attacking on the climb I think I can get it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Bike On The Way

Well after searching high and low, I finally settled on a road bike. I ended up buying a 2005 Specialized Roubaix Comp Double. I had been looking at the 2006 model, but I happened across a 05 model on Ebay in my size that appears to be in pristine condition. The seller had 100% feedback and the detailed pics showed the bike's condition which looks impeccable.

I ended up saving a considerable amount of money on the 05 versus the 06, and the 05 has a much better component spec. The bike looks like its never been outside, and the seller told me he would refund my money entirely if I wasn't 100% pleased with its condition, so I felt pretty confident about the purchase. I never would have thought I would have bought a bike off Ebay, but this was too good of a deal (and perfect timing) for me to pass up.

It should arrive sometime early next week and I plan to put it to immediate use by commuting to/from work a couple days on it. I need to get some miles in on it to get used to the positioning of a road bike versus the Yeti.

Speaking of the Yeti, I took it up to Nederland for the first time last night. I absolutely love the West Mag trails, and we got in a good 9 mile route before I had to abandon due to time constraints. Hoping to head back up there this weekend.

Back to the new addition, here is the pic from the Specialized website & one of the pics from the Ebay ad:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Weekend Fun

First and foremost, I've got to wish a Happy Mother's Day to my Mom, Martha, and to Jill's Mom, Judy. Thanks for all you've done for us through the years.

Now on to our weekend activities....

Saturday Jill & I checked out the Switzerland Trail in the foothills west of Boulder. It used to be a railroad bed, but has since just been turned into a doubletrack path for bikes, ATVs, 4x4s, etc. We did about 12.5 miles out and back and got to see some great scenery. Nice day to be out checking out a new area for sure.

Sunday we got up and took the dogs to Lion's Gulch for a hike. We just did a couple of miles with them and then headed out in search of a swimming hole just west of Lyons. Nice spot with some rapids and good current to entertain the two dogs. Baloo was intent on fetching sticks and Molly was content on taking said stick from Baloo.

Jill sat on a rock and read a book while I tended to the dogs and snapped some pics. Here is a sample of the pics:

Baloo & Molly fighting over the stick as they prepare to hit a small rapid

Baloo & Molly making nice and sharing the stick

Baloo hits the rapid again

Molly always keeps her eye on Baloo to see what he is up to

Friday, May 12, 2006

It was bound to happen...

but for me it is all too soon. As much as I hate winter with its short days and cold temps, it does have one really great thing going for it. No snakes. I went out for a spin at lunch today, nothing huge, just a ride up the road to the Boulder Valley Ranch trails. Road ride up, then hit the dirt trails and spin around once before heading back. The trails there are mainly double track, but bikers have created a singletrack path that parallels the double track almost around the entire loop.

Singletrack > Doubletrack

Well not today anyway. I was spinning around the back side of the trails on the singletack path when I came around a slight corner and the rock I was about to jump off started moving.

In the immortal words of Shaggy.....ZOINKS!

I do love big, hydraulic disc brakes though. I grabbed a bunch of brake and steered hard right missing the 2 (yeah not 1 but 2) snakes by about 3 feet. These two were all twirled up in a frightening ball of evil. It would be my guess that they were doing the unthinkable and creating a bunch of baby snakes. I stopped about 1/10th of a mile down the trail to warn another biker headed that way of the danger that was head. He asked "What kind of snakes were they? Where they rattlesnakes? I've got my camera maybe I can get some pics". I hopped back on my bike while thinking "you go ahead and do that". No way was I headed back to take pictures.

Needless to say the rest of the day I pretty much stuck to the doubletrack the rest of the way around.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

30 is the new 20

I turned 30 yesterday, and despite my thinking I would wake up much wiser and knowledgeable about things I feel pretty much the same. I really don't get caught up much with the age bit, as there is nothing you can do about it and it is really a relative thing.

The cool thing about turning 30 is that people consider it to be a "bigger" birthday and you get loads of cool things. Among those things, Jill got me a new Ipod Shuffle. We opted for the Shuffle over the Nano and regular Ipod as we wanted a small, rugged Ipod we could use skiing, hiking, biking, etc. So far I'm impressed with it. Its tiny, stores 1GB of music (200+ songs) and is very easy to stuff in a pocket and never be noticed again.

I also received a lot of birthday money, which is always a welcome thing. Admittedly, I am a hard person to shop for. I never want for anything, as I always just get it. I tried to be good this year and not buy myself anything within a couple months of my birthday, but I still accidentally ruined Jill's Shuffle surprise when I joked about buying myself a Shuffle. Oops. Since I've been on a buying hiatus for the last couple months, the birthday cash is a welcome sight. I've tucked it away to buy myself a road (or cross) bike as soon as I can settle on which one I want.

Gas Mileage Experiment

So a couple weeks ago I saw a report on the news where the report claimed that you could see as much as a 31% improvement in gas mileage by accelerating and braking slowly, driving the speed limit, and keeping your windows rolled up and air conditioner off. 31% was a large number, and I really didn't believe that report so I decided to do my own experiment under my conditions.

My test consisted of the following:
1. Accelerate slowly, always keeping the RPMs below 2k
2. Observe the lights and let off the gas and coast to lights that were red
3. Use the vent, but not the A/C and keep the windows rolled up
4. Drive my "normal" route to and from work, which is a mix of city and highway driving

I typically get about 400 miles from a 21 gallon tank, or an average of roughly 19mpg.

My test results gave the following:

454.6 miles from 20.892 gallons or 21.75 mpg.
So I gained about 50 miles per fillup and about 2.75 mpg increase, which translates to about a 15% increase in fuel economy.

Not bad, but not 31% either. Being as I drive a full size pickup with a big V8 engine my results may be somewhat of an outlier, but regardless it does show a decent improvement.

Other thoughts on the experiment:
1. It wasn't easy to do. Accelerating slow and steady off the line is something I had to remind myself to do. I tried to be a right lane driver as much as possible, but still drew the ire of many speed demons. Jill told me that I was being the type of driver that drove her crazy.

2. It was very relaxing. Not launching off the line and cutting in and out of traffic really makes the drive very stress free. I would just focus on the aspects of the test and not worry about the other people around me, which made my drive very easy. Granted my drive isn't usually stressful, but you can make it as easy or as hard as you want.

3. I rarely was slower getting to/from places. I was interested to see how much slower I would arrive at work or home with this slower, more methodical driving pattern. What I found was that I often would roll through lights as the speed demons who blew by me would be sitting at the same light. I found I could just coast towards a light when it was red and slowly brake as to keep moving, and often it would go green before I came to a complete stop.

So the bottom line was I gained 55 miles from a tank of gas. At 20mpg, that is 2.75 gallons which at $2.75 per gallon means I save about $7.50 per tank. 2 tanks a month (guessing) for $15 per month savings over 12 months means I could save about $180 per year by driving in this manner. I'm going to go back to "normal" driving for this tank, then alternate driving methods between the test and normal for a few more tanks to ensure the validity of the test but I think I will find similar results in the coming few tanks of gas.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Antelope Canyon & Animal Park - Day 3

I won't babble on too much today, just let the pics speak for Day 3 of our Arizona trip. We drove up north almost to the Utah border to go on a guided tour of Antelope Canyon, which is a unique slot canyon that is unlike anything I've ever seen.

After that we raced back down towards Sedona to the Out of Africa animal refuge. They had lots of lions, tigers, bears, and various other big cats that were rescued from bad situations. While still in captivity, the animals get large pens and a lot of attention.

The full galleries can be found on my PBase account, but here is a sample of some of the things we got to see on Day 3. To the pics!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grand Canyon - Day 2

We woke up at 5 a.m. to get on the road ahead of the crowds and hopefully be able to spend some time exploring the Grand Canyon on Friday. I had read/heard horror stories about how overrun with people the GC can be during the peak months, so we tried to go before the school kids are out and on a weekday hoping to avoid the masses.

As we left the hotel we were shocked to see rain. It rains here? Weird. Not to worry, we had a couple hours to drive and we were confident that the rain would be long gone by the time we arrived at the Grand Canyon. Headed up the road we stopped in Flagstaff and grabbed some food and snacks for the day.

We took an alternate route into the park, and as we rolled in to the park about 8 a.m. we shocked as there was no ranger working the admission gate and the massive parking lots had less than 5 cars in them. I guess our plan worked....

We started on the very east side of the canyon, and spent some time gawking at the enormity of it all. We explored the observation tower with its multiple levels of overlooks. Jill & I both agree the views from above the canyon were superior to those offered by standing at the overlooks on the rim.

We began driving our way west in the park, stopping at lots of overlooks and admiring the views. We eventually worked our way to the center of activity in the park, where all the hotels and services are stationed. We hopped on a bus so we could take in the Hermit Road views where only park busses are allowed to travel. The overlooks got better and better as you went west on Hermit Road. At one point I looked over and saw a trail etched into a ridge that jutted out into the canyon. What I didn't realize at that point was the trail we were looking at was the Kaibab Trail, a trail that we would become very familiar with later in the day.

After doing our touristy tour of the canyon, we set off to do something a little more gonzo. After all tour busses aren't exactly our style....

Jill made some sandwiches up as I drove back east towards the Kaibab trailhead. We snarfed up a couple sandwiches each, drank as much Gatorade as our bladders could hold and filled up our Camelbak to the brim with water. Upon arriving at the trailhead we made note of the distances and time to allow for the two major points on the trail. I scoffed at the thought that a 3 mile hike should allow 2-4 hours or the thought of spending 4-6 hours on a 6 mile hike. "Who are these people? Well they are obviously not as tuff as we are" I thought as we started our sheer plummet on the Kaibab Trail.

Looking in the faces of the people suffering their way back to the top as we descended I realized this was going to be a bit tougher than initially expected. The trail was steep and powdery dry, with many sections were the "steps" were about two feet differences in elevation. We kept chugging along making pretty quick work of the descent into Cedar Ridge, the turn around point for the 2-4 hour hike. As we arrived I looked at my watch and found we made it in just under 30 minutes which I was pretty pleased with considering we yielded to lots of uphill hikers along the way.

At Cedar Ridge we had a big decision to make, we could continue down the trail to Skeleton Point or turn around and head back to the top. We debated about the merits of the two but I finally decided that we needed to "live a little" and we headed out. I was under the impression that the CO River was near Skeleton Point and I'd get to cross the suspension bridge, but later I would find out that my main motivation for continuing was under false pretenses. Oops.

Once we got to Skeleton Point we were rewarded with our first view of the Colorado river. We could barely make out the campsites below as we were still several thousand feet above in elevation. We stopped and took in the scenery at Skeleton Point while I gave Jill a pep talk about our plan of attack to get ourselves out of the canyon. We are now sitting a full 3 miles and more importantly 2,000 vertical feet below the rim of the canyon. The route back is a punishing series of steeps steps that switchback on the ledges overlooking the canyon.

As we started our death march back to the top I tried to make sure Jill was drinking plenty of water as the exposed trail gave way to the heat of the day. We powered out the climb back to Cedar Ridge, but Jill started to hit a wall as we approached. We stopped at Cedar Ridge, ate a couple candy bars and then started the trek again. The bad news was the trail we were starting up now was the steepest part and we had already expended a significant amount of energy just getting to Cedar Ridge. Maybe those recommendations actually meant something....Huh.

Jill dug down deep and I tried to help keep her mind off the enduring pain as we trudged up the final climbs of the day. We took rest stops in any shady spot we could and I tried to conserve the water as much as possible. I've run out of water on death marches like these before and that is the point where it gets really ruff, so I hoped to conserve enough to get us both back to the top as there was no other option.

Finally we saw the final set of switchbacks and slowly made our way up the final climb and to the trailhead. We weren't the only weary hikers to be glad to be done with the climb, as there were about 15 of us who climbed the whole route together exchanging pleasantries as we past, but upon reaching the parking lot very few words were spoken. I couldn't resist taking a picture of my "trail tan" that I got, couldn't wait to get to the shower back in Sedona.

I was really glad we did the hike, and happy that we continued although I think its going to take some time before Jill feels the same way. I pushed her probably a bit too hard coming back up trying to get her to not concentrate on the daunting task as a whole but merely a series of smaller steps. A cool hike IMO.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sedona Vacation - Day 1

Our 5 year anniversary trip has come and gone, although I'm flat exhausted today. When we go on vacation, we tend to marathon it and do as much as we possibly can squeeze in. This trip to Arizona was no exception.

We started our trip flying into Phoenix, and then driving north to Sedona where we were staying. Sedona is a picturesque setting, with the deep red rock formations circling the town. We wasted no time getting our vacation kicked into high gear as we stopped just long enough to check into our hotel before heading off for a 30 minute biplane flight around the Sedona area.

Upon approaching the Sedona airport I've gotta admit that I was a bit nervous about this whole flight. I had opted for the excitement of the biplane over the calming hot air balloon flight thinking it was more our style, but standing on top of the small butte that housed the airport as the wind whipped around fiercly,I was wondering what I had done. The tiny runway housed on the butte had no room for error as both ends had complete sheer drop-offs. Very reassuring.

The nerves quickly subsided and the excitement started to grow. Jill & I headed out to the runway and got outfitted with our "Snoopy hats" so we could hear the pilot as he pointed out the landmarks on our flight. We sat directly in front of the pilot in a rather snug cockpit, which had VERY active flight controls all around us. Pretty much all the controls needed to fly the plane were present in our cramped surroundings, so we just tried not to come near them as best we could.

Upon taking off all the nervousness was gone and I was just in awe of the surroundings. Cruising around above Sedona the beauty of the landscape was ever more apparent. We soared around for over 30 minutes, but it went by in the blink of an eye. The landing was exhillirating as we did buzzed the runway perpendicularly then banked hard left before setting up for the landing. Despite the winds, the ride was very smooth and the landing was textbook.

Then came the papparazzi....

No sooner did we land and start making our way back to the parking area for the planes, we saw the paparazzi lurking. A Phoenix TV crew was there filming some segments for a TV show, and they obviously were tipped off that we would be in the area and cornered us for an interview before we could even get out of the plane. We gave them some sound bites and sent them on their way, I just hope they don't quote me out of context...

Once we dealt with the media, we set off on a hike on the Mystic Trail. A pretty short hike, although situated between two ridiculous housing editions the trail seemed far away from civilization. We enjoyed the easy hike, taking several pictures along the way.

We did have a minor medical emergency as I was trying to frame a photo op and my foot introduced itself to a cactus. One thorn was visible from the outside of my shoe, so I removed it. After a couple steps it was quite evident there was another hiding in my shoe. I had a tender little toe for about a .5 mile, but luckily we were able to handle the situation before having to call in for the medi-flight. We took a small detour by the Church of the Holy Cross, which has a unique setting above the town.

After the hike we cleaned up, and spent some time walking around the shops near our hotel. We grabbed some dinner, watched the sunset from our hotel room's balcony, which had a spectacular view, and then went to be early to prepare for a long day at the Grand Canyon the next day.

View from the Mystic Trail

The aforementioned Church of the Holy Cross:

The view from our hotel balcony: