July 24, 2012 on 2:56 pm | In Employee Adventures | 2 Comments
Just about a year ago I set off to accomplish a bucket list ride and when I finished I didn’t say a whole lot about it outside of my circle of friends. After a year of reflection I have come to the realization that I should probably write about it – not for bragging rights, not for chest pounding, but merely to document my experience for historical purposes. To the best of my knowledge I am the only person to do this exact ride. Who knows, maybe my kids or grandkids will read this one day.
If you are a serious cyclist in this country you know about at least one of the great mountain top hill climbs – Mt. Washington, NH; Haleakala, HI; etc. In southern Arizona, we happen to be home to three of the best hill climbs in the U.S. – Mt. Lemmon, Mt. Graham, and Kitt Peak. Two of these – Mt. Lemmon and Kitt Peak – are visible from Tucson, and when you are climbing either one you can look far across the desert and see the other staring back at you. Well, over a decade ago I was coming back from a trip full of debauchery down in Mexico with some friends and we were driving by Kitt Peak on our way back to Tucson. Needless to say, this is when the question was planted in my head, “what would it be like to ride both Kitt Peak and Mt. Lemmon in the same day?”
The top of Kitt Peak – photo from http://www.noao.edu/kpno/
Fast forward to the spring of 2011. I had two big races I was prepping for – Leadville Trail 100 MTB and Ironman Arizona. I was putting in some monster 300-350+ mile weeks on the bike w/tons of climbing leading into late June, and it magically dawned on me that the moons had lined up and I was going to be in good enough shape to take on this monumental ride. The catch with this particular ride is that I made one rule for myself – it had to be completed in daylight. In order to make that happen, the ride would have to be as close to the summer equinox as possible so there is enough daylight. The obvious downside is that I live in the desert and it is quite hot in the summer. Of course, because the ride window opened up so suddenly (back to my fitness and training cycle), the ride fell into the first part of July (July 9th to be exact), smack at the start of the monsoon season. The monsoons open up a whole other potential issue because they tend to explode in the mid to late afternoon and can wreak havoc due to wind, hail, rain, flooding and lightning. I figured I would just duck and cover if this became an issue.
About 10 days out I started getting the word out to some other crazies I know that I was going to do this ride. I was able to get three “volunteers” – one of our sponsored athletes (Chrissy Parks) and two employees (Billy Brenden and Steve Acuna) to accompany me through the 120 mile Kitt Peak leg. I was also able to get another warrior to join me for the entire ride – Chris Chesher. Chrissy is the real deal on a road/tri bike, Billy and I had trained for IMLP together in 2009 and Steve is an up and comer in the sport who was there for the beating. Chris is a BAMF, one of the strongest guys on the bike in Tucson – he will punish you. If you ever come to do the shootout here in Tucson, Chris is probably the guy in the front making you suffer.
I didn’t bother mapping the ride because I have ridden both Kitt Peak and Mt. Lemmon many times, but I was guessing about 200-210 miles. Chris met me near the base of Mt. Lemmon and we took off west at about 4:45AM (just as the sun was coming up behind us). We picked up Chrissy, Billy and Steve by the University of Arizona at about 5:15, and we were off. To make sure this was a real suffer fest and that people couldn’t come back and say, “but you went the easy way,” we headed over Gates Pass and around McCain Loop and headed out Sandario to hook up to Ajo (Hwy 86). With the exception of me getting a flat and not having an inflator with me, it was a pretty uneventful ride to Kitt Peak. Chesher was really pushing the pace as we circled our pace line – he was probably putting out 300W – it was the train of pain and we hadn’t even done a climb yet. I didn’t mind only because I knew my fitness and knew the longer this went, the better I would feel. We arrived at the base where Debbie, my wife, brought the kids for a “fun day watching daddy ride his bike up a mountain.” She played sag support for us on the mountain. We all rode Kitt Peak at our own pace (leaving the car at different times) and Chris and I rode together at a sustainable 230W.
Kitt Peak (6,880 ft) is a National Observatory that houses 24 telescopes and sits alone in the Sonoran Desert. The climb is about 14 miles long and is unique because it only gets steeper as you climb – there is absolutely no relief on this climb. A friend of mine who has done Alpe d’Huez several times said that Kitt Peak is equally, if not more, difficult. At the top is the 4-meter Mayall Telescope that can be seen from both Tucson and Mt. Lemmon. This particular telescope taunts you all the way from Tucson and all the way to when you “think” you are done with the climb.
We fueled up at the top and headed back to Tucson where Chrissy, Billy and Steve detached from the mother ship and headed in for the day (a “mere” 120 mile ride – one that not many people ever do). By this time the temperature was pushing 102F and the humidity was about 60% with no cloud cover. To make sure, once again, that no one questioned my ability to suffer, I dragged Chris over the back side of Gates Pass (it’s a climb over the Tucson Mountains that pitches to about 16%) before we descended into the Tucson valley and made the voyage across town to do Mt. Lemmon. I was dreading this part of the ride, dealing with the cars and the lights, but it was actually fun! The crazy thing was that I felt fantastic – yes, 140 miles into the ride and I was feeling fresh as a daisy. Along the way across town my Garmin 705 was giving me the Low Battery warning so I had Debbie bring me the charged Garmin 310xt I had at home – there was no way I was doing this ride without proof! Chris and I made it back close to the base of Mt. Lemmon and swapped out our TT bikes for road bikes for a change of pace, and because I wanted the better climbing position, then headed toward the 26+ mile climb.
This brings me to the part of the story where things get interesting. As we are climbing the first miles of the mountain I tell Chris “yep, over 150 done and about 50 to go, just this small mountain in our way.” Chris looks over in all seriousness and says “wait, I thought this was a 170 mile ride……I guess it doesn’t matter.” By about mile 5 the realization of what we had already put our bodies through started to sink in. I think my lungs were literally burnt from inhaling the hot air and I was having a very difficult time breathing – from here to the top it would be short, shallow breaths. Chris didn’t have enough nutrition so I was donating mine because I knew I needed the company (and a witness). Both Mt. Lemmon and Kitt Peak are known as Sky Islands because they emerge from the desert floor and host their own ecosystem – pine trees, ferns, bears, mountain lions, skunks, deer – it’s a forest in the middle of the desert. Another unique thing about these mountains is that they create their own weather, especially during monsoon season. As we climbed, it was becoming quite evident that a monsoon was pounding the top of the mountain and our destination lay in the middle of the beast. Luckily, the storm was dissipating about as fast as we were climbing and we didn’t get hit by rain or hail. As we climbed toward Ski Valley, however, the roads were wet, steam coming off of them, and the temperature had plummeted to about 50F (it felt like 35 after being in the heat all day). The road was lined with about an inch of hail. My big reward for the day waited for me at the vending machine at the bottom of the ski lift – a Coke. When I arrived there, thirsting for an ice cold caffeine-laden drink, it was out of stock! In fact, everything with caffeine was out, all they had was Sprite. What a letdown. After waiting for Chris (he was about 20min back at this point), he finally arrived and he was destroyed. He had a white rag wrapped around his head and when I gave him the Sprite he dumped it on the rag. “So, um Chris, are you going to go with me to the top?” Chris replied with a confused and startled look, “we are at the top!” I replied, “no, the real top – up the telescope access road.” Chris looks at me and says, “you are f’ing crazy, I will head down to where it is warmer and I will wait for you. See you at Palisades.” Palisades was about 8 miles back down the mountain at around 7,800 feet and out of the hail-entrenched monsoon war zone.
So this was it, just me. There was no one on the mountain but me. I started the final 1000 foot, approximately 1.5 mile climb with a little reluctance. The monsoon had absolutely destroyed the road. There was 2-3 inches of hail on huge sections of the road and the sections that didn’t have hail were full of rocks and mud. This would be a challenge on my mountain bike, let alone on my road bike with wet tires. The real problem wasn’t going up…it was coming down. This was a very real threat because I knew I would be freezing and, worse, I questioned if I would be able to actually make the bike stop in these conditions. I made my way through the debris without ever unclipping and made it to the gate to the observatory. I hiked through the hail and rode my way to the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center, the home to several telescopes, the same telescopes you can see from certain parts of Tucson and that stare back at you when you are on Kitt Peak. I took my self-portrait and gingerly headed down the mountain. Shivering almost uncontrollably down the descent, I willed my hands to stay on the brakes as I weaved around and through the debris. I managed to make it back to Ski Valley with the rubber side down!
After climbing to the very top of Mt. Lemmon (9,157 ft), you would think you could just coast all the way down, which you can except for one ~750 ft climb about five miles from Ski Valley. A very miserable sight to see for anybody who does Mt. Lemmon. I made my way over the climb and down to Palisades to find Chris resting. We joined up and headed back to the desert floor below (about 2300 ft). We finished the ride as the last little sliver of sunlight was left in the sky behind a couple of picture perfect monsoons that were hanging over Kitt Peak far off in the distance.
To put icing on the cake for this ride, I got up the next morning and rode with Debbie back to Mt. Lemmon (this time only to mile 5). As I made the turn at mile two, I looked over my shoulder out to the west and could see Kitt Peak staring at me. Probably one of the best feelings I have ever had – I now knew, I knew the answer.
Distance: 209 miles
Elevation Gain: 13,637
Food Consumed: About 2500 calories, but a ton of water!
March 15, 2012 on 4:00 am | In Employee Adventures, Life at TriSports.com, Races, Sponsorship | No Comments
TriSports has been sponsoring Leanda Cave for the last three years. Over this short time she has accomplished numerous athletic feats in the world of triathlon. One thing she hasn’t yet mastered is the handicapped bet with the staff at TriSports. In July of 2010, she lost a bet to our sponsorship coordinator and had to put in a long day of work at TriSports.
Fast forward to November 2011 at the Ford Ironman Arizona and we were both going to be on the starting line. Two days before the event, I had breakfast with her and she said that we should have a friendly wager. The bet: I would get a 20min handicap. She wins and I shave my head (a real problem because I don’t think it would grow back). I win and she has to babysit my 3 and 6 year-old kids. My goal for IMAZ was 9:30 and the fastest Leanda has ever gone was 9:20’ish. I took the bet.
Race day dawns and it is going well for both of us. I see her on the run course at about mile 6 (the pros left 10-15 min before the age groupers) and did a time check…she had 6 min on me so I thought all was fine. Mile 16 comes and I find myself stopped in front of hundreds of people under the Mill Avenue Bridge, unable to move because my legs are locked down from cramps. I finally got going again and had one more time check on her that was north of 20min. I should have been jumping for joy because I was about to crush my IM PR that I set 10 years earlier, but noooooooo, all I was worried about was having to shave my noggin. I went 9:14, Leanda went 8:49.
I arrived at my hotel that night, got the kids down for bed, checked my Twitter account and found this message:
Yes, 26 minutes. Look who’s babysitting now!
Leanda, the consummate professional, lived up to her word and in December she came over and watched the kids for a solid 5 hours. When we got home at 10:30PM, Leanda was on the couch (reading Lava magazine) and I asked how the kids behaved. Before she could answer, our 3 year old jumps up from next to her, yelling “mommy, daddy!” “Leanda, ummmm, bed time was 8:30PM.” Her response: “Your daughter has a lot of staying power.” I will take that as a compliment coming from one of the best athletes on the planet. I guess her idea of pumping the kids full of candy didn’t pay off too well!
February 10, 2012 on 11:18 am | In Employee Adventures, Product Information, Random Musings, Tech Tips | 2 Comments
There aren’t many products that I gush about, but I have found myself more than once in the past few months on the sales floor gushing to a customer about the Saucony Kinvara. I had been a long time Mizuno Wave Rider wearer, but after my last 70.3, the first thing I did was take off my shoes. My heels were once again blistered, my feet ached, my shoes were soaking wet and seemed 5 pounds heavier. It was time to find a new pair of running shoes.
I headed to the TriSports shoe wall and consulted with one of our expert shoe fitters. I wanted a light weight shoe with good drainage, enough cushion to run an Ironman marathon, and a lower heel-to-toe drop (around 4-6mm). I tried on the Brooks T7, the K-Swiss Blade Light, and the Saucony Kinvara. Right away the Saucony’s were noticeably different. The shoe’s upper was soft and flexible, free of unnecessary decorations, and allowed for good ventilation. The heel cup was also very pliable and securely wrapped around my narrow heel. With 4 mm of drop between the heel and toe it was the perfect shoe for transitioning to a more minimalist style of shoe.
Fast forward 5 months and I still love my Kinvaras. I am well over the “300 mile limit” and the shoes still feel like they did when they came out of the box. If you are in the market for a light weight trainer/racer with a low profile, try out the Saucony Kinvaras, and if you need a stability shoe, try the Fastwitch. Happy running!
November 23, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Employee Adventures, Random Musings | No Comments
If you have ever done an Ironman, or ever been to see one, there are two things that are most certainly consistent – the M-dot logo and the voice of Mike Reilly. Mike has announced over 100 Ironman races over the years and has said the words, “You are an Ironman,” tens of thousands of times. His voice is the welcome home committee for many of us that cross the line. I have been racing Ironman races for over 12 years and am about to do my 8th race; in all but one of them Mike has been there to welcome me across the finish line. Mike and I are on the board of Triathlon America together and have gotten to know each other a bit better over the last year. On his way to Ironman Arizona I persuaded him to make a right hand turn off of I-8 onto I-10 (he lives in southern CA) to come and visit our operation.
I have to say it was a pleasure to have him in the building, as I think almost everyone one had a life story that involved him. He is pretty much like Kevin Bacon, except in triathlon you are only 2 degrees or less away from him. If you haven’t met Mike Reilly, I will tell you that he is the real deal; he cares about this sport and more importantly cares about the people that are fortunate enough to have found this sport as part of their lives.
November 21, 2011 on 3:45 pm | In Employee Adventures, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
Do you remember the first time you watched an Ironman? Did you get goose bumps at the swim start, shed a tear as you watched athletes cross the line, and get up early the next day to sign yourself up for next year’s race? That is how most people end up doing an Ironman. I, on the other hand, signed up for my first Ironman on a whim one day at work, without ever witnessing one. With a long list of sponsored athletes, coworkers, and friends racing Ironman Arizona, I figured I should go see what this Ironman thing is really all about.
I arrived about 45 minutes prior to the swim start giving me enough time to park, swing by Starbucks, soak in the energy, and head to the bridge. The energy throughout Tempe was like Christmas morning, with everyone bubbling with the anticipation of the long day to come. Watching 2,500 people tread water below the bridge was incredible, and as the cannon went off and the athletes started their day, I tried to picture myself on the beach in Idaho.
After a quick breakfast and more caffeine, I found myself on a curb about ¼ of a mile from the bike course turn around. The day was perfect for racing, with temperatures in the mid 70’s, mild wind, and 0% chance of perception. Here I was able to get a good picture of how our athletes were doing. Torsten Abel looked calm and confident in the chase group (12th place), which was quit a few minutes (about 8-10) down from the lead pack. I knew the day was still young and Torsten has a killer run, so I wasn’t worried. Leanda Cave came out of the water in 4th but experienced a crash and some mechanical problems and looked pretty frazzled as she exited T1 in 8th. I was worried, but by the time she finished lap 1 of the bike she looked focused and back on her game. Woohoo! Seton was cruising right along, enjoying the cheers, and hamming it up as he rode in 3rd place in the men’s 35-39 age group.
As the pro’s took to the run course, I made my way to the best aid station at Ironman Arizona – Aid station #7 under the Mill Ave. bridge, which is staffed by the employees and customers of TriSports.com and headed up by our Vice President, Debbie. My goal on the run was to make people smile and with the help of my trusty hot pink sign, I think I accomplished just that.
The run consists of 4 loops; with each lap I watched Leanda’s lead increase and Torsten run his way up through the ranks. As they passed through the TriSports.com aid station for the last time I made my way over to the finish line just in time to see this happen…
Then came Thomas Gerlach. Thomas received his pro card about a month ago and this was his professional Ironman debut. 8:57, not too shabby!
Not too long after Thomas crossed the line, Leanda passed under the Ford arch with the biggest smile I have ever seen from the mild mannered and reserved Brit. A few month ago Leanda was in the shop and said, “I want to win one of those,” referring to an Ironman. With numerous 70.3, ITU and coveted race wins (Alcatraz, Wildflower), it was only a matter of time until she won one. It was incredible to watch one of the most decorated athletes in our sport finally cross the line first at this distance.
Just 18 minutes after Leanda, TriSports.com CEO, Seton Claggett, came running down the shoot to win the men’s 35-39 age group, finishing 50th overall and 8th amateur. Imagine what he could do if he didn’t have 2 small kids and a company to run?!
Charisa Wernick hung tough and rounded out the top 10 for the pro women after a Tour de Porta-Potty during the second half of the marathon.
For Billy Oliver, the day didn’t go quit as planned. After a 2 minute swim PR, Billy crashed on the 2nd loop of the bike. He only suffered some minor road rash, so he dusted himself off and got back into the race, willing himself to the finish only 3 minutes slower then his IMAZ PR. Bad ass.
Could I have asked for a better first Ironman to watch? I don’t think so. Multiple podium finishes from friends, watching Team TriSports athletes dig deep and push through the pain, all while spending a lovely day in Tempe, Arizona. Congratulations to all those who competed yesterday; you are an Ironman!
November 17, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Community, Employee Adventures, Giving Back, Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Uncategorized | No Comments
This weekend is the 9th edition of Ironman Arizona and for all 9 of these, the TriSports.com staff, family, friends and loyal customers have been on the course volunteering and racing. This year will be no different. Our great customers from around Tucson, Phoenix and beyond come out in droves to support the TriSports.com aid station that is nestled under the 202 and Mill Ave bridges. This aid station serves as a safe haven for volunteers, racers and spectators because of the built in “roof” above. Along with volunteering, we have four great staff members, representing four different departments (customer service, accounting, buying and management) stepping up to the line representing the red, white and blue of TriSports.com. All combined, over 40% of our staff will be involved with the event in some way, shape or form.
I have to say that we are very fortunate to work in our facility because it really does feel like the entire TriSports.com staff is behind you. They understand when you had a hard day on the bike, a great run or a meeting in the Pain Cave. Most of the time when you see someone dragging in this building, it is because they just tortured themselves on some epic workout. Why? Because we live the endurance lifestyle, it is what we do, it is who we are. See you up in Tempe!
November 14, 2011 on 12:37 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, Sponsorship, TriSports Triathlon Club, TriSports.com/Eclipse Racing | 1 Comment
I look forward to my Saturday ride all week. Nothing is better then spending a couple of hours on my bike when my only worry is what I’m going to have for breakfast. The only thing that can make a Saturday better is getting to share those miles with some elite athletes. This Saturday, the Tucson community and I enjoyed a ride with the sponsored professional triathletes of BH bikes – Angela Naeth (Team TriSports), Eneko Llanos and Nico Ward. We headed out west to ride through the cactus forests of Saguaro West on a beloved route for Tucson riders. After a solid beat down, we returned to the shop for some bagels, coffee, raffle and conversation with the pros and the minds behind BH. A big thank you to the pros and BH crew who came down to ride with us, and for hosting the breakfast! We look forward to having you back in January with the BH demo fleet!
Photos by Tom Demerly.
November 1, 2011 on 6:00 am | In Community, Employee Adventures, Life at TriSports.com, Uncategorized | No Comments
October 25, 2011 on 11:31 am | In Community, Employee Adventures, Giving Back, Life at TriSports.com | No Comments
October 24, 2011 on 2:58 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, Random Musings | 1 Comment
By Tom Demerly
He hollered through a broken smile that looked like his brown teeth had chomped down on rock.
“Hey- how much was ‘saht bike? I seen ‘em bikes ‘sat cost eight hunder dollars and weigh three pounds. You kin pick ‘em up with yer pinky finger…”
Every morning on the commute in, and again on the way home, I see the men at the corner. They live under the bridge and sell papers to people stopped at the traffic light. Most people sitting behind safety glass in temperature controlled distance ignore them. Some buy papers, mostly tan men in pick-up trucks with ladders and tool buckets.
On a bike you are connected to the world, the environment. You sit on a bike, not in it. There is a greater level of interaction, intimacy even- with your surroundings. The interaction is both beautiful and sobering.
So it was that one morning I decided to ask one of the paper men; “How did you start selling papers on the corner and living under the bridge?”
This would seem an inappropriate question. It’s none of our business. We turn up the radio, crank the air and look away. Mind our own business. How much are tinted windows? And the Nietzsche quote, “If you stare into the Abyss long enough, the Abyss stares back” came to mind just a second after I asked him the question.
“Awww…” He started. “I’s ridin’ the buses. You ‘kin stay on ‘em all night. But they threw me off. I had a bed up in Phoenix- they let ya keep it fer a month. You get all yer own stuff, a locker too…”
The light changed. I got up on the curb with him. “But ya gotta find a job, and I ain’t had a job in eight years.” Cars were turning left now, passing inches from us. No one looked at us. It was as if he and I didn’t exist.
“Where you goin?” He asked me. I told him, “work”, pointing up the street to about where TriSports.com is. “You make bombs?”
“No, no, we sell triathlon stuff- bikes and shoes- mail order.”
“Ahhh. Bikes. They make bombs over there for the Air Force Base.”
He didn’t answer my question. What I wanted to know was, “How did you wind up here? What led to this? Do you ever dream of getting out- getting a job, getting an apartment?” and perhaps most importantly, “Are you happy this way- have you made this ‘work’?”
The light turned green and I had to get to work. I told him, “Listen Man, have a good one…”
“OK Man,” he said through the broken tooth smile. “I’ll see you later buddy…”
It was unrealistic to believe I could gain an understanding of why people are homeless in one conversation between stoplights. Like most issues in society it’s more complex than a four minute, two traffic light conversation. But it is a start. And that start is reflective of how riding a bike can connect us to our surroundings.