Monday, April 9, 2007

Tucson Hiking: Pusch Peak

Hiking is something I didn't do until coming to Tucson. But with the arid air clarity of the desert, spectacular peaks and uncrowded canyons all around, how could I not take advantage of this unique opportunity to explore?
{Picture taken by Jim Montgomery.]
One of my favorite hikes in the Tucson area is Pusch Peak. I love taking visitors to the top for a 360ยบ view. (Google Earth image: green triangles mark the GPS route.)

{Google Earth file: PuschPeak.kmz]
About a 825m (2700ft) rise in 2 miles (3.2 km), it's a half-day hike. (For more details, include topo information, see my webpage.)

The scenery and vegetation changes from winter, to spring and summer. Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to spot a squirrel on a rock near the top:

Though the hike can be steep:

the rewards for making the 2 miles make it worthwhile.

View of Bighorn Mountain from the top, compare with Google Earth image above:

Looking north, Picacho Peak (tiny) in the distance:

Looking southwards, Tucson:

It's hard to capture the scale and immersion of the canyons and peaks with conventional 2D camera technology. One day I plan to get a digital SLR and panohead and make 3D QT VR pictures.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

AZ 600k Brevet and Moots Tailgator rack

This past weekend I did the AZ 600k brevet, website here. An official qualifier for Paris-Brest-Paris. 29 hours and 24 minutes total time. 380 miles (600 km). Ouch!

It all began on Saturday morning at 5am. Route was Casa Grande to the west side of Tucson, to Continental, to Sonoita, to Elgin, to Tombstone and all the way back. Recent emergency travel has left me without significant brevet training. I was restricted to 30 minutes on a hotel gym treadmill. This does not make for a lean, mean brevet rider. I also managed to pick up a sprained left ankle (anterior talofibular ligament) and a dry cough a week before. So it was all about surviving the distance.

Once again I have Gerry Goode to thank for surviving a 600k. Gerry is one of my heroes of cycling. Let me explain. Some historical context is in order here. My very first 600k was at the 1996 Boston Brevet Series. I had stomach problems and Gerry played a large part in making it possible for me to complete the ride in 39 hours and 30 minutes, barely under the 40 hour cutoff. Years later, my best time (on the Boston 600k with about 18,000 ft of climbing) was 23 hours and 30 minutes. However, despite the accumulation of experience, I've never managed to comfortably master a 600k: meaning that I've always felt completely wasted at the finish.

Now, over ten years later, Gerry again schools me on how to survive a 600k. Given my lack of bike-specific training, an untimely puncture at mile 20 didn't bode well for survival. (However, Mark Thomas broke a Cinelli stem on a bridge expansion joint, and still managed to continue after purchasing a new stem, so that puts my puncture into perspective.) Anyway, I played mostly solo catch-up for over 80 miles before seeing Gerry and co. again.

Image linked from AZ Brevet website (by Lonnie Epic Wolff): (from front to back) Greg Jones, Lisa Jones, Sandiway Fong (red jersey), Clair Jensen (yellow jersey), Rick Blacker.
Picture was taken in Marana on the way down after my puncture. I believe this was one of the groups I caught on the way back up to Gerry and co.

Come darkness, as we progressed from Sonoita to Elgin to Tombstone and back, I was of little use as Gerry set the pace. Given my lack of shape, I think I spent a few too many kcal during catch-up. Only after a dawn breakfast stop at the Marana (Avra Valley Rd) airport on Sunday morning for scrambled eggs, sausage and toast, did I manage to reboot my legs and pedal respectably. Real food. Real results.

Rather dangerously, my tiredness meant that I also nodded off a few times on the bike, only to be woken by a jerk of the handlebars as my bike dove either to the left or right. On Kinney Rd just after dawn on the return leg, one micro-sleep episode freaked me out so much I believe I got a shot of natural adrenaline that kept me awake for the rest of the ride. I woke to find myself off the paved road, wobbling in the sand. Years of bicycling reflexes came into play as I steered myself away from an unscheduled meeting with a cactus: a collision that I could only lose.

I think part of this was compounded by the lack of sleep also on Friday night, i.e. the night before the 5am start. I was making changes to my brevet bike setup and it took all evening.

Fortunately, the equipment change was a positive one. And I felt very pleased with how it worked on the 600k. I finally found a very lightweight seatpost rack that didn't sway but could hold a few kilos of equipment for ultra-riding. This is the Moots titanium/aluminum Tailgator rack (website).

For a quick changeover, I bought a second Selle Italia SLR saddle and Bold Precision seatpost (300mm). Once sized and aligned, I plan to leave the rack permanently attached to the seatpost. And I can quickly swap the entire setup out for regular riding.

Weight as shown above (458g): 144g Selle Italia SLR saddle, 190g Bold Precision Ti 300mm 27.2mm, 14g 27.2mm Moots shim, 110g Moots Tailgator rack.

Below is the entire system with the separate upper and lower bags (230g + 130g, respectively).

I stored clothing in the top section. Leg warmers, long-sleeve windshell, ankle reflectors, helmet liner, liner gloves, and reflective vest. Unfortunately, even when adding a long-sleeve jersey from the bagdrop at the Elgin checkpoint to this list, all of this was not sufficient to keep me from shivering on descents in the middle of the night. At altitude, it was much colder than I'd budgeted for.

Food and bike accesories go in the lower section. 3 inner tubes. 4 CO2 cartridges. Tools. On-bike food and energy drink mix for 200 miles.

Unlike the Klikit trunk bag and nylon seatpost rack I used back on Boston-Montreal-Boston 1996, I detected no sway when leaning into the corners on descents. Also I mounted the Moots low enough not to interfere with my legs during pedaling. Highly recommended.

I now have the 600k and 300k down (see prior blog entries Eve of Stupidity and 190 miles). I'm missing the 400k and 200k qualifiers. Gotta make up those if I'm to be in Paris come August.