Via Linda Circuit

Seven hills
Seven hills profile
A portion of my route for Saturday, out to the Hills of Via Linda.

With spring weather at its finest, it was a no-brainer to go out on Saturday. And continuing with my hill climbing theme, I upped the ante and zoomed (well, crawled) up six hills in the Via Linda area, (Desert Cove, Hidden Hills, Scottsdale Mtn to gates, 132nd St, 128th St and 124th St), with a few friends along for company. Thanks Deb, Chris, Joe, and Mike. You guys sure were troopers, doing any hill I might suggest, and then patiently waiting for me at the top of each climb!

These climbs are ones I used to do every Thursday morning with (or should I say … er … somewhere behind) the Gainey Village / Tri-Scottsdale group. Now none of these hills amount to much, neither being long or steep, but my legs were burning by the time I got home.

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After waiting for me for hours (okay, a minute or two) at the top of Desert Cove, my companions are well-rested and ready to go.

A few pics of Paradise Valley under full April color:

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Wild goose chase

Thompson Peak Out and Back

Most of the route for today: An out and back along Thompson Peak Parkway.

Went for a fun ride on Saturday. Here’s a slightly edited version of the email I sent to my riding companions:

To Sally, Chris, Bill, Debby, Josephine, Stephanie, the other Bryan, et al:

 Sorry about the mix up this morning!

When I was saying, “Hey, let’s just ride up Thompson Peak and then west to Scottsdale Rd and then turn around for an out and back,” I really had Pima Road in mind, not Scottsdale Road. I realized this one block after we left the light at McDowell Ranch Rd, and thinking I had just sent y’all on a wild goose chase looking for the elusive Scottsdale Road, I yelled to get your attention, but by that time y’all were already far enough ahead that no one heard. So I guess the goose doing the chasing was me.

In particular, Sally and Chris were well up the road within minutes, the cycling animals they be. And since I’m Mr. Weak and Slow at the moment, I could not catch up. My legs were … er … goosed, though I tried mightily for the next five miles or so, and almost did succeed a few times as y’all were stopped at lights, but still, no one heard my yells, and no one turned around to see me frantically waving.

What? Did this goose slip into some kind of astral dimension, unseen, unheard?

I stayed in this invisible and silent twilight zone all the way past Pima, where I thought surely you guys would have realized my mistake and waited; then to Hayden Rd where I had the same thoughts again, but no one in sight. I really had no idea if Thompson Peak went all the way to Scottsdale Rd (Update: It does. You learn something new ev’ra day) and figured y’all wouldn’t even try to go that far. But since I didn’t know for sure what you were up to, and thought maybe y’all turned south down Hayden to do a loop, I just turned around and headed back the way I came, east / south on Thompson Peak to the pre-planned stop at AJ’s at Thompson Peak / Frank Lloyd Wright.

I figured maybe you guys would catch me somewhere along the way, but no dice, though Stephanie, Josephine, and Debbie did roll into AJ’s about ten minutes after me.

So now you’ve learned the lesson for today: Scottsdale Road is really Pima Road. Got that? Okay, then!

Seriously, I had a great time being out and about with everybody. Finished my first quarter-double (50 miles, ha!) in  over a year, and wasn’t all that tired, so I guess that counts for something.

Bryan

P.S. #1: Today marks the “twelfth-full-moon-aversary” of The Crash. Back then, it was on the lunar eclipse. Only fitting today’s ride was too. And just to twerk those lunar eclipse gods, I defiantly rode right past The Site on the way home.

P.S #2: The patio at the AJ’s on Thompson Peak and Frank Lloyd Wright has lots of room, and even though south facing, has plenty of shade. Problem was the service was very slow as they were super busy. It seems to be a popular spot.

Spring Cycling fever

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Spring color in the McDowells

Cool spring breezes ruffle through my jersey as I spin down the street and turn east into a beautiful Tuesday morning sunrise, wheels rolling, freewheel cogs whirring. My legs have good sensations, feeling strong, while I pedal in full, consistent circles. And miracle of miracles, no aches or pains present themselves, not even as I embrace the small climb known as Mohave.

An intense vinyasa class the night before has something to do with this. So does having ridden a few days before, out to the Hills of Via Linda, where the climbing almost felt like it used to, back in the day, back before The Crash.

On that earlier weekend ride, I had chanced across cycling acquaintances from the Bullshifter / Moon Valley ranks, people I hadn’t seen in a while. I got to ride a mile or two with them, which caused all sorts of memories and sensations to come rushing back: Long days in the saddle with like-minded cycling fanatics, cool morning breezes morphing into warm, sunny afternoons, the days turning magical as the sun sets, legs still spinning, chattering freewheels still churning.

And a certain fever — a fever that leaves you wanting more after you reach home, no matter how many miles you just completed, making yourself ask, “So, when can I ride again?”

The past year, I hadn’t dared entertain such feelings, to dream such thoughts. Whenever cyclists came zooming by on my morning walks with the pupster, I tried to stay indifferent. To be wistful was the road to madness, I reasoned. I had even convinced myself that, no, I just wasn’t that into cycling anymore.

Ha! To think I could fool myself like that!

It doesn’t help that on this morning, the weather is as perfect as it can be, and I encounter the Tri Scottsdale group as they fly down the road on their usual circuit. Memories of training ride after training ride with these folks washes over me, making the fever return.

I want to follow the pack, but cannot. There’s no way I can match their speed, and that’s probably best anyway, quite frankly. Riding is not without its risks, especially for me, a point re-emphasized when I realize how unsafe the pack seems when they come flying by, and later when I encounter unexpected road construction going through the golf course in Paradise Valley. I come to an abrupt halt just inches away from a section of road that had been ground down in preparation for paving.

Now, that seems familiar. Too familiar. And though technically a person could negotiate such a surface on a road bike, there was no way in hell I was going to. No sirree, you won’t see me making that mistake again! After unsuccessfully backtracking to find another way through the neighborhood, I eventually return to the road construction and walk my bike the quarter mile to the next rideable street, no matter how wimpy that may look to the few riders that come rattling by.

Tomorrow is when the next of the series of lunar eclipses occurs, and it will be exactly twelve full moons (and three lunar eclipses) since I took a serious tumble. Will I risk riding?

Most likely, for I’ve got the fever!

Spring pigeons

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Image illustrating pigeon prep, adapted from here.

A few weeks ago I reached a milestone in yoga class: I was finally able to settle into the pigeon prep pose on my right side, (shown above), something that a few months ago was unthinkable.

This pose is a preparation for more advanced forms, all with “pigeon” in their title. (Hey, google it!) Pigeon prep is a valid pose in its own right. It’s a great hip opener, and is regarded as one of the best poses a cyclist can do. It seems to counteract tightness in the hips that comes from miles and miles of cycling. For me, that tightness mostly involves the muscles in the general area of the piriformis muscle (see this site). After having suffered a hip injury last year, that’s now more true than ever. If I don’t stretch the hip muscles on my right side daily, they tighten up like a wet drum. Pigeon prep is the perfect counter for this, though I often don’t think that when I’m in the pose — it’s a burner for sure!

An alternative form of pigeon prep is to lie on your back, and starting with both knees bent and feet on the floor, cross one ankle over the knee of other leg, bending the first leg into a “figure-4″ like pattern. (The link mentioned in the last paragraph shows variations of this.) That’s the alternative I had to use for months and months, and even that often caused more burn than I wanted. I would limp out of class with very sore hip muscles (which usually felt better by the next morning.)

The day in class when I finally managed to fully settle into pigeon prep with my right leg forward and crossed over, as in the figure above, I was so proud of myself! — only to have the instructor move the class into more advanced forms of pigeon. Thanks a lot Jen!

1-2-3 Hills

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My co-conspirators of Los Freeloaders fame from last weekend, who witnessed my amazing strength and prowess on the climbs. I would’ve included a selfie here, but I couldn’t find the “tummy tuck” tool in Photoshop. Hee hee.

I’m slowly (and cautiously) returning to cycling, having ridden five Saturdays in a row, under glorious spring weather.

My first two rides were flat as a pancake, no hills at all. I rode with a few friends from the Los Freeloaders, and on the second ride it was all I could do to reach home some 36 miles later.

The next weekend, I did my first hill (Hidden Hills) since last spring. Woo hoo! 36 miles! Completely wiped out the rest of the day! Woo … hew.

The next Saturday after that, I did two hills in a row! (Hidden Hills, 128th St). Woo hoo! 42 miles! Completely wiped out the rest of the day! Woo … hew.

Then last Saturday, I did three hills in a row! (Desert Cove, Hidden Hills, 128th St). Woo hoo! 46 miles! Not completely wiped out the rest of the day!

And so it goes, this humble journey back into the world of cycling. I still don’t know if I should be doing this, and it’s weird riding the old haunts — the old roads, the neighborhoods, the hills I’ve ridden so many times in the past. It’s like those times were yesterday, though yesteryear is more accurate. On the climbs, I’m a mere former of my shadow self. But still in those legs is the ability to keep going. Something those legs haven’t forgotten, apparently.

Why, it’s almost like learning to ride a bike. Once you learn, you never … oh wait!

Flowing yoga, melting concrete

Yup, that just about sums up the past few months. Trying to attend yoga class a bit more regularly — taking a vinyasa (flow yoga) class twice a week, trying to melt those various muscles and sinews which currently feel like concrete.

Progress is slow, but it is real. The warm, 85 degree temps during flow class do help loosen up things. The classes are challenging. I can only muster half the poses, if that. But who’s counting? I just do what I can.

On the cycling front, I’ve been out riding three Saturdays in a row. The weather has been too nice not to! A 36-miler last Saturday was about 12 miles too many, though. I was completely wiped out by the time I got home. Felt like I used to after, say, 120 miles. Oh well.

While on these rides, every now and then a whiff of warm breeze has come drifting by, reminding me of all the many hours once spent on the bike in days gone past — reminding me that I once enjoyed this sport immensely. Will that feeling return?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

One thing that’s apparent, yoga and cycling do go hand in hand, and both are making a noticeable difference on my healing process, even if it is slow.

Now, to just stay away from piles of gravel and construction zones …

I’m done!

With “formal” physical therapy, that is. I finished the day after the Winter Solstice. ’twas only fitting to have this astronomical connection, seeing’s how crashing and subsequently getting back to riding also occurred near major astronomical events, in those cases, total lunar eclipses near the equinoxes. Since the first ride back, though, I’ve only gone out twice more. It seemed a bit premature.

Took longer than anticipated to get through the therapy process. It was deceptive. Unlike the years-earlier broken shoulder injury, this hip injury wasn’t as painful, so I figured a few months at the therapy clinic and that would be that. But the sessions dragged on, the progress slow. The breakthrough came in mid-December when I found out my hips were out of alignment, and that was the source of most of the lingering problems.

Now what?

So, it’s a new year and all. What will it bring? Will I join the ranks of avid cyclists again? It’s a question I’ve yet to answer. I don’t know how to feel about it. But I imagine I’ll be back at it eventually.

One thing’s for sure, I now deem it not worth riding when the temps are not pleasant. No sense in exposing myself to further crashes doing cold weather riding. Looks like spin-cycling classes would be a good option right now.

Hmm… maybe I should work up to doing a full century on an indoor-trainer. Would be a good challenge, mentally and physically.

And it would be a bit more difficult to crash. Ha!

 

Luna(r eclipse)cy

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I crashed last April, the morning after a total lunar eclipse, which was part of a rare pair this year, the other one appearing tomorrow. So it seemed only fitting to start riding again now, when the sister lunar eclipse is about to occur. “Yes,” I decided when I woke up this morning. “It’s only fitting to bookend these eclipses.”

So that’s what I did. Rode down to the coffee-shop where the TriScottsdale riders like to hang out after their Tuesday morning romp. I rode as an act of defiance, I guess. Take that, you lunar eclipse gods!

It was either courage on my part — or hubris, or lunacy. I’m not sure which.

It was a scary ride at first. I stopped and got off and walked around any corner that had gravel. One of the riders I talked to afterwards thought I was being foolish to worry this way — that to give into my fears and be too cautious was the wrong thing to do.

But last time I rode, my inner voice was telling me to get off and walk through the construction we were riding through, and I didn’t listen. This time, I wasn’t going to make that same mistake!

Someone asked me how the ride went. “I was so out of breath,” I replied. “Saddle sore, hands numb, sore knee, sore hip. Other than that, it was a great ride!”

Actually, I was surprised how sore my hip was. This hasn’t occurred while riding the stationary bike at the therapy clinic. The worst part was getting off the bike. It was hard swinging my leg around to dismount. Curiously, getting on the bike wasn’t so bad.

Does all this mean I’m back to riding regularly? It’s been many a moon coming back from injury. How many moons before I’m completely healed, physically and mentally?

Well, the mental part might never be cured. And perhaps I was “mental” before all this anyway. You know, a bit .. er … loony.

 

Ready to ride. Not ready to fall.

Last night I had a dream where I was with a group of cyclists, but walking my bike. (Hey, it’s a dream. It doesn’t have to make sense.) The group rode away, and in an impromptu moment, I decided to hop on and ride — to catch up with them. I rode tentatively through a parking lot, wary of potholes and gravel, and then pedaled with more speed. After catching the group, I tried to get them to understand how momentous this was.

That’s when the Bullshifters came by, but on mountain bikes, not road bikes. And they were heading for the trails up a mountain pass nearby. I watched them go with a bit of longing.

I turned around and rode down a street by myself, first a mile, then another, wondering if I could actually ride all the way home.

And then I woke up.

I guess this dream means my spirit is ready to start riding.

My body is ready too. What it’s not ready to do is fall again.

Hence, an impasse.

Whodunnit at the Hoodoo 500

Jim Pettett of the Bullshifters, one of my riding partners on the Death Valley Double Century last fall, just completed an impressive feat: finishing the Hoodoo 500 race up in St. George, Utah, racing 500 miles on a four man team — of riders over 70 years old.

They beat the course record for that age group. That’s impressive Jim! Kudos!

You can see his interview at the 5:15 mark on the video above.