Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ride Outside in February? Sign Me Up!

The past few years, we have managed to get in a February snowboard trip and since Denver is so much closer to Phoenix than Pittsburgh, we have tacked on a quick trip to PHX to visit Cath's parents.

This year was much the same, but this year I'm training for IMTX and my Phoenix Saturday included a three hour ride followed by a 30 minute run. So let's ponder on this for just a second: Phoenix in February and three hours on the bike...

Oh Yeah, I get to ride outside!

Of course that happens only if I can find a bike, helmet and route, but how hard can that be, really? As it turns out, it was not hard at all. I hit up a local (PGH) pro on Twitter and @BethShutt recommended @TribeMultiSport. Winner! It was reassuring when other local (PHX) people tweeted their love for Tribe too.

I traded some emails with owner (?) Glen regarding arrangements and we finally settled on a Cervelo P2, and that I would bring shoes and pedals, but not a helmet. Fitting bike gear into my already full snowboard bag was a challenge, but that's a story for another time.

Our travel day was interesting as we overslept and missed our flight to PHX. Things got worse when the @Southwestair website refused to change our flight because it thought the "new" flight was leaving in under an hour. It wasn't, the dumb website was calculating the departure time against the wrong time zone, but that too is a story for another time. Oh, plus I had a SWA supervisor shrug her shoulders at me and walk away. So much for "listen and respond with empathy"... But I digress. I was talking about getting to ride outside in February!

Saturday came and I found the shop no problem. Everyone at Tribe was really nice and helpful. They got my pedals mounted and before I knew it I was spinning on a trainer for a quick fit check. One or two tweaks later and I was good to go.

After the fit, they set me up with a local map complete with a highlighted route and markers for possible water stops. Based on my desired distance (50 miles) and their recommended route, I decided to load the bike into the car and drive to my starting point. It would have been easier to ride directly from the shop, but the local traffic and the recommended route made that impossible. No big deal though. I found my way to Shea Boulevard, parked at a local McDonald's, unloaded, suited up and started my ride!

Here's a shot of the P2 before I head out.

Shea Blvd was a bit of a drag. It had more traffic and a smaller shoulder than I like, but it was a means to an end and I was only on it for a few miles. From Shea, I turned onto East Palisades and then onto North Fountain Hills. These were both nice roads with few cars and good shoulders. The scenery was nice too. North Fountain Hills turned into McDowell Mountain Road and the scenery got even better. On this road I think I saw more bikes than cars, well maybe not but I sure saw a lot of bikes.

Here's the view on McDowell Mountain Road

Anyway, I turned left onto Forest Road and then left again onto East Rio Verde Drive and headed right into the wind.  In the shop they said something about a long stretch of three percent grade, but I was not paying enough attention to connect the dots on what that actually meant. I had just finished a 14 minute split and I was feeling pretty good, so I put my head down, got small and kept pumping. The wind was thumping and I was crawling along thinking WTF, I’m freezing and I’m moving at a snail’s pace, I hate this wind. What I came to realize, after looking at my GPS data and then seeing a Strava segment, was that I was climbing something the locals call nine mile hill. Needless to say, my next split was well north of 14 minutes.

I finally crested the hill and started down the other side, picking up speed until I had to make the left onto North Pima Road. This continued downhill for an additional five mils (13:48 split!) before it finally leveled out and I got a little lost. After a missed turn and then a wrong turn, I had to dig out my phone and do a quick map check. Turns out I was right where I needed to be but that I was headed the wrong direction. One U-turn later I was back on track and before I knew it, I was at the McDonald's where I started! Total mileage – 49.57, so just under my 50 mile goal – perfect!

I got back in just over three hours and I figure I probably wasted 10 or 15 minutes between the stop signs/lights, wrong turns and map checking, so that puts me right inline with my recent HIM pace. I was also happy with the fit on the P2, so if I do decide to get a TT bike, that one will be on the short list for sure.

It was cold, for AZ anyway, so I'm sure all of the people in long pants and jackets that i passed thought I was crazy for riding in shorts and a short sleeve top. I was cold most of the ride, so the short sleeves were a bad choice, but I was outside, in February, and not in snow or slush - winning.

The 30 minute recovery run was great too as it helped me stretch out my shoulders and back. I think my legs loosened up some too, so the drive back to Glendale was not so bad.

I walked around the bike shop some after returning the bike and I was impressed. I can't say enough good things about Tribe. If you are ever in the area, stop by and check them out, you will not be sorry.

A great bike, nice people, a beautiful route, chilly but tolerable weather and no drama all adds up to an excellent day.

Thanks to everyone who helped to make it happen.


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