A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Ride at the Air Force Academy

The dramatic spires of the Cadet Chapel are an iconic symbol of the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs.
I remember visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy many times as a kid. My grandparents lived in Colorado Springs and we made many trips out here to visit and often drove through the Academy. But in recent years I've only driven past it on I-25 thinking it had been closed to the public post-911. Then, several weeks ago my daughter's rugby team (yes, you read that right) played in a tournament on the grounds of the Academy and I learned that visitors, including cyclists, are welcome to enter via the North Gate (with proper photo ID) with access to several scenic overlooks, the Cadet Chapel, Falcon Stadium, and the Visitor Center.

Me and Woody at Air Force Falcon Stadium.
So this past weekend I made plans to meet up with fellow Ride the Rockies Team Bar2Bar member Woody for a ride on Memorial Day. It just seemed fitting to pay tribute to those who had given their lives for our freedom on the hallowed grounds of the Academy. I downloaded this Air Force Cycling Team road race map on the internet and met up with Woody on Monday morning at 0700 at the North Gate. We entered through security with no problem (they will ask to check your trunk, which can be tricky with a loaded bike rack!) and parked in the lot near the start/finish line on this map (you can also park in a dirt lot outside the North Gate and ride in).

The B52 Bomber is an imposing site as you enter near the North Gate of the
U.S. Air Force Academy .
Following the arrows on the map we set off on the 12.5-mile road race loop. Turning on Stadium Drive (look for the imposing B52 bomber) we rode past Falcon Stadium and soon ran into a security checkpoint where we were informed by a stern female cadet that only military personnel are allowed past this point. Not ones to challenge authority (she was carrying a gun) we doubled back to Academy Drive and headed West up the serious climb to Pine Drive. Meeting back up with the course we hung a right past the visitor's center and completed the shortened loop (about 9 miles) back to our cars.

We did this loop three times, with several variations. All of the roads within this area, including Interior Drive and Parade Loop, are open to cyclists and offer some nasty hills (if you like short but steep climbs the Cross Drive cutoff between Interior Drive and Parade Loop hits 12% grade!). In total we rode 31 miles (with 2,500 ft. of elevation gain).

Cheyenne Mountain, in the distance over my left shoulder, is the home to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
The roads are very nice, with little traffic and great views of the Front Range from the Academy to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) facility on Cheyenne Mountain. Of course we also stopped for pictures at the Chapel, Stadium and B52.

If you are ever in the Colorado Springs/Denver area I highly recommend going for a spin at the Air Force Academy. It was well worth the extra effort to load up my bike and drive the 30 minutes from Castle Rock for a change of scenery from my normal routes. And it was great to catch up with Woody, a friend I met on my first Ride the Rockies in 2005 and look forward to seeing again in two weeks on RTR 2012!

Ride on!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Ode to Wind

Spring is windy season in the Rocky Mountains. Strong, gusting, ever-shifting winds can present quite a challenge riding along the Front Range this time of year. Though they typically blow from the south. And this Memorial Day weekend they came in gusts up to 60 mph carrying smoke from wildfires in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

Yesterday's high winds blew smoke from fires in New Mexico

My normal riding routes take me south along the Front Range on Hwy 105 towards Palmer Lake, Colorado. Hwy 105 climbs steadily from around 6,000 ft to 7,300 ft. as you head south toward the Palmer Divide. I prefer to start my rides heading into the wind, or uphill, or both as is often the case riding south on 105.

The long, slow grind up to Palmer Lake into a stiff headwind offers plenty of time to let your mind wander and mine often turns to thoughts about how much I hate the wind! Actually, I have a love/hate relationship with wind.

When riding into the wind I feel like a weak, struggling, middle-aged man trying to stave off old age by dressing up in spandex and pretending to be Lance Armstrong. But when I reach the southernmost part of the ride, turn around, and start back downhill with a tailwind I am Lance Armstrong riding in the Tour de France cruising along at 30-40 mph without breaking a sweat.

While riding into the wind this morning I came up with an Ode to the Wind:

Wind, wind, miserable wind.
Like the breath of the devil you repel me.
I spit in your face and you blow it back in mine.
I despise you.

Wind, wind glorious wind.
Like wings of angels you lift me up.
I sing of your grace and your gentle push from behind.
I love you.

Wind, wind, fickle wind.
Like the mind of a woman you change without warning.
Once at my back now back in my face.
You torment me.

And there you have it. My Ode to the Wind.

May the wind be always at your back!

Ride on,


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ride the Rockies Training: Kicking It Into High Gear

On March 3 of this year I received notification that I had made it into the lottery for Ride the Rockies 2012. On that day, on this blog, I set a goal to ride 1,500 miles "in the next 14 weeks" so I could "be in the best cycling shape of my life by June 9" (the start of the ride).

Since that day I have ridden 37 times either on my trainer or on the road for a total of 993 miles. I started off strong, averaging 100 miles per week in the first two weeks of March. But then the wheels fell off. In the second two weeks I managed just two rides for a total of 56 miles. March came in like a lion but went out like a lamb and I was already 150 miles behind schedule with only 260 miles in four weeks.

April started slow with just two indoor trainer rides totaling 30 miles in the first week. Between my travel schedule and weather I was struggling to find a way to get any meaningful miles in the saddle. So I decided it was time to start riding to work even though it was barely light enough and still rather chilly at 6:00 a.m.! The miles add up quickly when start logging 25 miles per day during the week plus longer distances on the weekend. I racked up 350 miles over the next three weeks, maintaining schedule but not gaining back those "lost" miles from March.

But then I ran into another speedbump. Between my brother's birthday trip to Amsterdam and business trips to Oklahoma and Texas, I squeezed in three rides for a total of 72 miles in the first two weeks of May. Not good. By Sunday, May 12, I was running approximately 300 miles behind schedule.

Time to kick it into high gear! In the past 10 days I have ridden 280 miles. I'm on pace to ride over 200 miles this week and still have the Elephant Rock century ride (100 miles) on June 3. So my goal is still in reach but I also want to make sure I taper off the week before the ride and store up some energy for the big event -- 442 miles in six days!

Speaking of storing up energy. I feel like I'm eating all the time these days just to maintain my weight. According to MapMyRun I've burned 97,919 calories since January 1 between running and riding. That's almost 50 days or 150 meals (or 1,030 Michelob Ultras) worth of calories based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet!

Coming up next week, I will preview the route based on my recollections from previous rides and whatever info I can dig up on the sections I've never ridden. Stay tuned...

Ride on!