I’ve been leaning on the side of writing in my blog for a while. I would sit down with a nice cup of coffee (Dunkin lately), ready to type away all the information stored in my head from recent adventures, races, and other undertakings. But, something has stopped me. I’m not exactly sure what was causing this detour or would lead my mind straight to a dead end. In any case I’m not here to pontificate over my loss of motivation to write.
I’m here to update!
A lot has gone on in the 1+ months I have not updated. In the month of April Maija and I had her mother and sister come visit followed by my mother and brother the next weekend. The weekend my brother and mom came to town was also my cousins wedding. I would have to say it was one of the most unique ceremonies and wedding parties I had ever been to. The Ceremony took place in one section of an art gallery while the majority of the party took place in another cut off section. What made the night so interesting was an unexpected marching band came charging in from the city streets to play a few conventional wedding songs in a most unconventional manner. Very cool! Food was also provided by a hotdog stand right outside the gallery doors. The food was great, music was fun, and it was nice to see my family altogether. Maija and I even got our cartoon portrait drawn which is now framed and hung up in our office. Props to my cousin and his new wife Amy for throwing a notable wedding!
Maija, Mom, My brother Drew, and I.
A cartoon drawing of Maija and I.
The day after my mom and brother left I packed up and headed to Silver City, NM for Tour of the Gila. This was a 5 day stage race with three hilly road races, a time trial, and a downtown Criterium. Overall the experience was humbling and enjoyable. I gained a lot of fitness and was able to pinpoint some of my own specific racing weaknesses. I went into this race a little under fit and found myself surviving each day rather than at the front. Racing is always the best tool to figure out what we as athletes need to work on. I won’t go into a stage by stage recap of each day’s racing. My best finish for the 5 days came in the Criterium as I placed 8th. I don’t think I’ll go back next year as it was more of a “bucket list” stage race. The wind was always prevalent and during the time trail there were a few instances I almost got blown off my bike! 135lb rider doing a time trail in 35mph winds with gusts up to 50mph = no fun.
After Gila, Maija and I took a trip to Santa Cruz, CA. Maija had her first Xterra race of the season. This was only her second Xterra ever. Aside from the race, we both wanted to do something different than staying in a generic hotel. We started looking at VBRO.com for a quiet cottage we could stay in for the weekend. Most cottages were beach bungalow’s and we wanted something closer to nature preferably surrounded by a wooded area.
The weekend was definitely going to be epic. It started by nearly making our flight at DIA (Denver Airport). There was a lot more traffic from our house in Highlands Ranch to DIA than we expected and we made it to the departing gate about 20 minutes before take off. We were literally running through the airport. I chose to wear my comfortable Timberland boots which definitely posed an issue when time was of the essence. The other reason we were slow going through the airport was our two cumbersome bicycle boxes I had to lug to check-in. My arms were burning and it felt as if I was in a strong-man competition. In those strong-man competitions it always seems as if they need to carry or hold large usual objects. People in the airport kept asking us “What was in those boxes?”. I felt like telling them I was a 007 agent and I was carrying high powered weapons to my next mission. My tongue caught me as I started to realized we live in a September 11th sensitive world where verbal communique’s whether fact or fiction are taken with a grain of salt. The flight was rather calm and it was nice flying into a California sunset. I only wish all flights were this easy. We landed around 9:30, rented an SUV, and headed south to Santa Cruz from San Francisco.
The cottage we decided to rent was in a small section of rural hills surrounded by large Redwood trees. The pictures on the website showed a cute cottage with a relaxing decor.
Perfect! After what appeared or felt like a long drive we reached the cottage around 11:30 Thursday night. We pulled up to the cottage noticed the lights in the downstairs we already on. As we started to make our way up the wooden stairs there was a tapped piece of paper which read “Welcome Adam and family”. Right next to this sign was another piece of paper which welcomed another family! What was going on? It was our assumption we had rented a cottage to ourselves for the weekend. This was obviously not what we had imagined. We held our breath as we walked up to the second floor of the cottage where we were staying. Maija and I opened the doors to a small but appealing interior. A while back I had contacted the owners of the cottage to make sure they used non-scented detergent as Maija has a sensitively. We smelt the pillows and sheets and it had a very strong overwhelming smell of detergent. This was strike 3. I fuming and Maija could sense my edgyness to wake these people up. The owners had lived on the property which I had no problem with. My major issues were the obvious strong detergent smells and the completely wrong description of the cottage. It turned out the pictures were of the downstairs where another couple was staying. I knew there was not much I could do at 12 midnight. We we attempted to get some sleep and figure things out in the morning.
I woke up and told Maija we are not staying here. It was about 6:45 A.M and I knocked on the doors to the owners house. I told them about the issues and the man was nice but played the innocent role. It seemed as if he was just as surprised about the stay as we were! We packed up the car and booked a room at a near by spa and resort which turned out to be a pretty nice place.
The road leading up to the resort & spa.
We spent a good deal of Friday checking out Santa Cruz, picking up Maija’s race essentials and then relaxing at the resort. Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach city with plenty of local coffee and deli shops. It was nice to support local business rather than major chains back home. It was bit cold for the weekend. The temps never reached the 70’s except on Friday. So, what better to do than go for a ride? I had researched the area a bit on Google Maps and had some ideas of where I wanted to ride. Nothing major just an hour or two to get the legs alive from a 48 hour rest. I rode through the downtown area for a while and saw a road which took me up into the hills of Santa Cruz. I decided to cut through a parking lot to get to the road. Bad idea. I took my hands off the handlebars for a quick second and ending up hitting a speed bump causing me to slide across the road. I had a few scrapes on my legs and arms. My bike was OK except the cable and housing and been ripped apart from the fall. After getting some new cable, I spent a couple hours working on the bike while Maija rested and relaxed in the room. We went out to dinner and finally got to bed.
I woke up the next morning with sore legs from the fall and very sore arms from carrying the bike boxes through the airport, to the monorail, then to the rental car company. Still, Maija and I wanted to make the most of the day. We began to research different areas close to Santa Cruz which would be good for riding and for Maija to get an easy shake-out run in before her Xterra on Sunday. Big Basin State Park was about 25 miles from Santa Cruz. The plan was for Maija to drive in the car to the park go for run and meet me near the entrance. Before we could head out on this journey Maija wanted to do a short pre-swim in the ocean. The water temp was a frigid 51 degrees! I was freezing standing there as she put her wetsuit on and made her way down to the ocean.
After a quick swim in the water we made our way back to the car, blasted the heat for a bit and headed down the road to a small park where I could change into my cycling clothes and start the ride. I made my way on the bike down Bay street which turned into another road called High Street. High Street turns into Empire Grade and takes you up into the hills. Right outside of the Santa Cruz city limits the road starts to climb. Nothing too intense but enough to tire the legs. After another couple of miles I road past the University of Santa Cruz which plants itself on a rolling country side. A few more miles down and Maija pulled over to tell me there were a couple of cyclists up the road and I might want to catch them. Before I saw Maija I was riding hard but at a sustainable pace. Once she told me the news about the cyclists I gave chase and found myself in a climbing frenzy. The road would pitch up, shoot down, flatten, and then kick up again. After only 3-4 miles I caught up and past the riders with little to no effort. I realized some major differences climbing at or close to sea level. My breathing was completely erratic as I could burn my internal engine a lot harder. My legs on the other hand were completely fresh and I could push the watts up whenever I chose to. Breathing heavy does not scare me, nor should it scare yourself. Personally I tend to be a heavy breather whether at sea-level or at altitude. My friend Sean always says to me he can’t figure out if I’m hurting during a training ride because I’ll constantly be gasping for air. No matter the fact, I was reaping some major benefits from all the altitude riding. Big Basin State Park summits at or around 2,000 ft above sea level. A rather mediocre height for someone living and/or training at 5,000+ft. I never felt tired nor did I ever totally feel a major build up of lactic acid in the legs. Once past the other riders on the road the climb became much more difficult. Steep switchbacks and long 5%+ gradient roads made me dig into some reserves. It was nice to push hard alone on the road. I have always believed it’s necessary for an athlete to understand how to suffer through pain during solitary training rides. After 45 minutes of riding I saw Maija parked on the side of the road. It was a bit confusing whether to head straight or turn right at a specific intersection. I hopped in the car and Maija drove down a 3 mile descent before the road kicked up for another 5 miles to the park. I wasn’t complaining about the short rest from the bike as it was below 50 degree and I did not have any cold weather clothing except a light long-sleeve jacket. I jumped out of the car and began riding again. The last 5 miles to the park were the most beautiful. A couple dozen houses were the minority compared to the thousands of redwood trees which surrounded the area. It was a beautiful spectacle to witness from my bicycle and I feel so fortunate and humble I didn’t have to drive the loop in the car.
A view from my bike. A lot more green to witness compared to those mountain roads in Colorado.
Finally arriving at the park.
Big Basin in the oldest state park in California.
I followed Maija in the car through a small portion of the park until we found a good parking spot where she could go for a short run. While Maija went on a run I did a short hike and snapped some shots of what nature and the park had to offer. These redwood trees were not the largest of their kind but they were still a sight for sore eyes. Their towering masses were compelling. They were unlike any trees I have seen up close.
Sunday – Race Day:
The next morning we woke up and headed to the Transition 2 area so Maija could drop off her running shoes for the last part of the race. The mountain bike and running portions were mostly done at Wilder Ranch State park. The park entrance is nothing special but a dirt road with some parking areas. Once you head deeper into the park you are able to get some great costal views. I was a little jealous of Maija because I didn’t get to see all the park had to offer. After dropping her running shoes off we made our way back to the boardwalk and beach. This was the start of the race and the location athletes transitioned from the swim to their bikes. The sun came out for the start of the swim but didn’t make the water temp any warmer. Just like yesterday when Maija was doing her pre-swim I was cold standing on the beach in a jacket. I took some shots of Maija and her teammates coming out of the water and into transition. Once Maija was on the bike I drove back to Wilder State Park and awaited her return. It was nice to cheer on other athletes and to take the position of domestique (For Maija) and spectator.
I took a cool shot of Maija when she was on the bike. Once day I’m going to get a nice DSLR camera with a good lens to get those professional sport shots. Still, I thought this was an interesting perspective.
After the race Maija and I had to rush back to the resort as we were already overstaying our checkout time. We packed the car and decided to take more scenic drive on Highway 1 back to San Francisco. It was well worth the extra time as we made a few stops to take in costal views and enjoy the sunshine. Maija and I had a great time in CA. Although a few disruptions along the way we still made the best of our vacation together.