Thursday, April 26, 2012

Corporate Challenge Bike Race 2012 Edition

Yesterday was the 2012 Corporate Challenge Bike Race.  It was held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway complex just like it was last year.  I was one of 2 riders representing our organization in the Men's 45-49 Division.The short version is I pedaled hard on my back up bike and I finished slower than last year in 59:53.

The long version is a bit more interesting.

I had signed up weeks ago for the race with our company's team captain, but I let him know that I was not going to be fast.  I knew this because of the lack of riding while my knee healed and the fact that I'm just not fast to begin with.  I told our captain that I would love to participate, but that if there was a faster rider in my age group who wanted the spot, to go ahead and give it to them.

Two weeks ago, he sent out an email listing the team members and their divisions.  There I was, a member of the team.  I decided I needed to step up my training a bit to get ready for the race.  The distance was listed at 12 to 14 miles.  The farthest I had ridden in the last 6 month was 7 miles and that's when I hurt my knee in December.

I started getting up more often at 4:00 am and actually started increasing my distance 5 miles one day, 6 miles a day for several days.  I then did my long Sunday ride and managed almost 13 miles.  Last week, I increased my daily distance to 8 miles for a couple of days.  Then on Thursday I was riding and developed a bad squeak with every turn of the crank.  I cut my ride short at 6 miles and intended to look at the bike on Friday to see what was up.  BTW the bike is an early 90's Univega Alpina Trail.

Friday came and went, as did Saturday and Sunday without my looking at the bike.  There were many things going on and I just didn't make the time to look at it.  Monday evening I finally found the time and went to look at my trusty steed.  Bad news.  The bearing on the crank were totally shot!  I could actually move the pedals about 1/2 to 3/4" side to side.  There was no way I was riding this bike on Wednesday for the race.  Fortunately I had a back up.  My Trusty Schwinn Landmark Cruiser I had purchased 2 years ago when I decided to get back into riding.

The Schwinn:

Schwinn Landmark Cruiser

I checked over the Schwinn and lubed the chain and verified it was in good working order.  Tuesday night I loaded it and the rest of my gear (helmet, gloves, shoes, riding clothes, a couple of tools just in case) into the van ready for the race on Wednesday.

The weather forecast said that there might be rain on Wednesday, starting in the afternoon.  That was a concern that it might be wet and windy and a bit cool for the race.  The morning of the race dawned and it was overcast, with some light drizzle and 10 to 20 mph winds and the forecast was just as dire:

Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 77F. Breezy. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Wednesday Night
Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 55F. Breezy. Winds from the West at 10 to 20 mph shifting to the SSW after midnight. Chance of rain 70% with rainfall amounts near 0.4 in. possible.

Meanwhile I had been scouring the Craig's List ads in hopes of finding a replacement steed.  I did find a couple of ads posted by the same person that looked promising.  One was a Univega and the other was a Specialized.  I made arrangements to look at the bikes on the way to the event on Wednesday.  My hope was that if one was in good shape and fit me, that I could purchase it and then maybe even ride it in the race.  They looked both bigger and in better shape in the pictures than they did in person, so I passed on them and headed to the speedway.

When I arrived at the speedway I quickly realized 2 things: first, the weather forecast was wrong (it was in the mid 80's with sunshine) and second, mine was the only cruiser on the premises.  I also realized as I mounted the Schwinn and headed up towards the tunnel, that the Schwinn really was not the right size for me.  My knees were coming up and almost hitting the handlebars and the seat was nowhere near high enough.  I knew the seat post was at its maximum extension so there was nothing to do but ride.

I met up with the rest of the team and got checked in with my number and my timing chip and then rode around for a bit to warm up and get ready for what was to come.

The course this year was similar to last, except instead of running on a part of the road course, they extended the course out through one of the back parking lots to reach the 10 mile length.  we still got to ride on the Super Speedway, up the drag strip and around the Bullring. There was still the nasty climb up from the tunnel to the grandstands.

I knew I wasn't going to be fast, so I just determined to enjoy the ride.  As we were queuing up to get ready for the start a couple of other new members of the team were remarking on how awesome it was to be in the infield and have access to the track.  They were Nascar fans and had only ever been up in the stands.

As we waited, one of the organizers went through the pack of cyclists giving a bit of course info - the right lane of the drag strip was being worked on, so use the left lane; there were some other cones set up by LVMPD and they were shorter than the race cones so ignore them. Then it was time to go.

Starting Line waiting to go

I started my Garmin as I crossed the line and headed around the track.  It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to be working hard to get the race completed. The Fat tires of the Schwinn were great for a comfortable ride, but there were also requiring more effort due to the rolling resistance.  I probably could have put another 10 lbs of air in them.  The other thing I quickly realized was that only having 7 gears was going to hurt me.  I ran out of gears on both the uphill and downhill portions of the race.

Throughout the race I tried to keep in touch with a group that was a little ways ahead of me, but it wasn't to be.  They seemed to keep just barely out of reach as I followed them around the course.

Here is the map of the ride from my Garmin:

Map of ride

My finish time for the race, as I said was 59:53.  I had to really dig for the last 1/2 mile to make sure I finished in under 1 hour.

I'm certainly glad I did the race and it has definitely motivated me to find a new bike that is the right size for me!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Nice Sunday Ride

The weather was around 70 degrees, bright sunshine and a light breeze from the east.  Beautiful weather for a ride in the desert.  OK, along a road in the desert. :) I have been getting back into the swing of riding with more regularity and this was to be my longest ride so far this year.

I aired up the tires and headed out about 11:30 am for a nice "easy" ride.  OK, it would be easy for those who are in much better shape and logging many more miles per week than I have been.  Still, it was good to be out on the bike.

I headed West on Blue Diamond road and started feeling the elevation gain.  Now to some of you power climbers out there, you'll call it more of a false flat, but to us mere mortals, it is a bit of a climb.  When I got to State Route 159, I headed north west towards the town of Blue Diamond.  I almost made it to Blue Diamond, but not quite.  My lack of riding since mid December caught up to me and I stopped at the Gypsum Mine just over 6 miles from the house.  I decided I'd had enough for the day and turned around for the fun part - downhill to home.

The relatively light tail wind I had experienced on the ride out, turned into a headwind heading home, but since it was mostly downhill, I didn't mind at all.  The ride out took 57 minutes, but the ride back was only 27 minutes for a total 12.78 miles in 84 minutes.  Looking back over my log, I did the same ride last May in only 73 minutes.