Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Olympic Vortex

I thought I'd have time to write more about cycling with the recent end to the Tour and Olympic track and field still one week away. But good Lord, the Olympics just overwhelm don't they? I neither have the time right now to write or follow the Games but the discipline of my attention span is notoriously poor, so a few notes on the first week in London:

  • This year's Tour de France champion was British rider Bradley Wiggins. He was the first Brit in the Tour's long history to finish in yellow, but also the first former track cyclist to win in Paris. Wiggins has multiple medals, including several gold, from the velodromes in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing. This year's champion in the Giro was Canadian rider Ryder Hesjedal, the first Canadian to claim the pink jersey. He also came to the cycling via early successes in mountain biking, including an Olympic appearance in Athens in which a flat tire spoiled a probable ride to the podium. With all this in mind who would win the Olympic Road Race on the first day in London? Savy veteran Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan stole the race from upfront as the favored Brits tried to control the race from the peloton and set up their best sprinter Mark Cavendish.

  • A vivid illustration of the difference between being an Olympic champion and becoming the stuff of Olympic legend. Human laser-beam and fastest-man-on-the-planet Usain Bolt joined his Jamaican teammates for a trip to the dining hall in the Athlete’s Village. The place quickly erupted into a prolonged standing ovation of fellow Olympians. The throwers in his entourage quite literally found themselves in the role of bouncers and personal security detail for the guy.

  • I was secretly hoping to see one of the legends of sport - Roger Bannister - light the Olympic torch in London. His fame isn’t tied to the Games as much as to his challenges with a stopwatch on the Iffley oval in Cambridge. Bannister’s shot at Olympic glory fell to pieces in 1952 as he faded late in the race to fourth. It was this failure ironically that motivated his efforts in training that produced the world’s first fourminute mile two years later, after which, he retired to a career in medicine. I was hoping the Games organizers would look past this technicality, but they chose not to.

  • There are reports that marathon world-record holder and part-time Albuquerque resident Paula Radcliffe will be a scratch for next Sunday’s womens marathon. Old foot injuries continue to bother her. Radcliffe hasn’t raced much over the last few years and one has to imagine she may have hung up the flats before now had London not been the host of this year’s games. American marathoner Desi Davila is also a likely scratch. Alternates from the Trials would be Amy Hastings or Janet Bawcom, both already qualified and set to compete in the 10000m. The next alternate would be none other than Deena Kastor. It remains to be seen if any of the alternates are prepared to run.
2012 London Olympics
 - Olympic 800m Recap
 - Olympic 1500m Recap
 - Olympic 3000m Steeplechase Recap
 - Olympic 5000m Recap
 - Olympic 10,000m Recap
 - Olympic Marathon Recap
 - Week One: The Olympic Vortex

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Tour Was Better With Armstrong

The four jerseys of the Tour de Franc

Another Tour de France has come and gone. I had been super-excited about this year's Tour but then found myself so overwhelmingly busy over the last three weeks that I missed all but one of the days' races (I saw Pinot of France attack on an early climb and narrowly hold the gap to the chase group. A great stage to have caught). Results and summaries show that I really didn't miss much. Most of the Americans crashed out in the first week, the Schleck brothers were MIA, Contador is on suspension, there were few if any meaningful attacks or breaks in the mountains. The arrival of young Slovak rider Peter Sagan was noteworthy in that he captured a Tour stage on his very first try. One lucky s.o.b. He topped himself by riding off with the Green Jersey a couple weeks later. Voeckler of France rode off in Polka-Dot (k.o.m).

The Armstrong investigations reared their head once again and marred the career ending Tour of beloved and heavily decorated American rider George Hincapie. Sad and unfortunate but keenly reflective of the current state of cycling. As this mess drags on and Armstrong and his legacy at the Tour become more polarizing it struck me how easy it has become to forget how dominant he was. Especially after a bland Tour like this year's race, re-watching clips of Armstrong thrash dudes in the mountains is extraordinary.

A clip from 1999 when he captured his first Tour victory - already in yellow at this point Armstrong attacks the lead riders on the climb of the Sestriere. They're all caught unaware since the yellow jersey generally covers attacks rather than gambling with attacks of his own. A few riders manage to ride back onto his wheel, but he attacks again on the descent. Nasty.

Armstrong's most memorable attack was on the Tour's most iconic climb, the Alpe d'Huez in 2001. Before blast-off, Armstrong pivots in his saddle and stares into the face of his closest rival, Jan Ulrich, telegraphing to him that he was going all in, right there right then. He proceeds to bury Ulrich and the others, claim the yellow jersey, lock up his third Tour, and cement his legend.

Related Posts:
 - The Santa Fe Century and Gran Fondo

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scouting New Mexico Running Trails by Plane

New Mexico Sport Aviation
Trail scoutin' time
One of my trail-running friends is a pilot and flight instructor who happens to own a plane. Recently Mike had this genius idea that we'd motor the plane above the foothills and scout some of the running trails from the air. Sounded pretty good to me but it was much better than good. Certainly one of the finer ideas I've been a part of in awhile, and the following is what we saw.

We got out on a perfect New Mexico summer evening for sight seeing and watching the sun chase the horizon. Fired up our little rocket and shot into the sky Chuck Yeager style - albeit with a propeller in place of sonic jet engines. Our initial flight path took us over Casa Dirt and the new trail underpass at St Francis Dr., then we headed out and over Museum Hill, then east toward Thompson Peak and the city reservoirs. This is a restricted area of the Santa Fe Watershed, restricted to hikers and what-not, but not to planes - suckas! Pretty phenomenal back there, the reservoirs were looking a bit low but the rains are now doing their best to fill them back up.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains
The Sangre de Cristos viewed from the McClure reservoir

Big Tesuque Winsor Trail
Big Tesuque Creek and the Winsor Trail

The Pacheco Fire burn-scar and Santa Fe Baldy. Borrego Trail follows the drainage along the backside of the burned ridgeline at mid-photo. Upslope is green but the other half of the trail drainage is black. Erosion is undoubtedly a problem over that section of trail.

Close up of the Pacheco Fire damage. SF Baldy towers above.

Puerto Nambe
Nambe Creek amid a charcoal forest. The Puerto Nambe saddle is clearly visible up canyon, SF Baldy (l), Lake Peak (r)

Nambe Creek - A close-up of the silting and flooding damage. That's all ash, silt, and debris.

From there, we headed north to gaze down on the Dale Ball and Winsor Trails. We sort of circled around trying to get a good look at the Piedra connector. We ventured higher and east-er to investigate the Pacheco Fire burn scar from last year's fire season. A lot was burned crispy, a lot was singed a little, and strangely there was some large areas that just seemed to have been left alone. Flooding damage (from ash and erosion) in the upper Nambe drainage there was pretty extensive. The section of Borrego Trail that runs from Aspen Ranch to Nambe Creek was torched on one side but untouched and green on the other. If I remember correctly this is where land managers believe the fire touched off. I need to get up there and check things out on foot.

The flight's true highlight (there were actually a lot of highlights) was investigating a five-year old timber blowdown way up in a remote section of the Pecos Wilderness. We found it up around 10,000ft just west of East Pecos Baldy, which is the second peak north from Santa Fe Baldy, south of the Truchas white-caps.

The forest blowdown, East Pecos Baldy in background

View from above the ridge
Finer detail - note the trees are just laid down whole

Finer detail. Note that those are mature 40-60ft tall ponderosa pine trees.

I had heard about the blowdown from an SFNF ranger (Miles Standish) but was not expecting to witness several square miles of giant ponderosas neatly fanned out on the ground like some odd Twilight Zone event. We circled around a bit to sort of absorb the scale of this madness, particularly in relation to the burn scars we'd just seen. We quickly concluded that had someone been on the ground when it happened there would have been no hope of survival - either you'd be dashed against a tree or rock, or crushed moments later, or perhaps both. Forest managers estimate a 100mph microburst of wind created this mess around the month of August, 2007. Capulin Trail 158 used to pass through the area but is now obliterated and will be abandoned.

Click through the map below to see detail of the blowdown event on Google satellite images. 

View Santa Fe National Forest Blowdown - Pecos Wilderness in a larger map

Mike carts folks out and above town nearly every day via hourly flying lessons. Skip the next obligatory gift of a tie for Father's Day or the birthday tool set or whatever and opt for something way more awesome like a few hours in the skies instead. Highly recommended. 

New Mexico Sport Aviation
Mike's flight shop

Mike Szczepanski Sport Aviation
Mike pilots through a banked turn - we removed the plane's doors for better viewing

New Mexico Sport Aviation
Yours truly at the controls (note the sweat-seasoned running hat). I appear tense because I'm trying not to land my friend's plane in a juniper tree

New Mexico Sport Aviation
Coming in low over Las Campanas. Sandia and Tetilla Peaks in the background

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day Sons

America kicking ass for the 236th straight year. Cheers to that and to the brother who brought his A-game against the royals. Washington sets a high bar for badassness, and he did it while sporting a powdered wig. Nicely done sir.

Happy Independence Day

(Probably not safe for work. Particularly in Greater Britannia)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On the Other Side of the Lens - Cycling in Santa Fe

One day after posting a series of time-lapse photos of the Arroyo Chamisos Trail Underpass, the new bikeway was opened to the public. One week later I was caught on film by a Journal photographer as I was passing through the tunnel during the lunch hour. Showed up on the front page of the Journal North the very next day (Fri. June 29th). A bit of an odd karmic circle in some ways.

arroyo chamiso trail
Great image of the new underpass - plus myself. Reliefs on the wall mimic a flowing river. The east entrance in the distance, the receding light fixtures frame perspective, and me-plus-bike illuminated by the skylight at mid-tunnel.  
photo by: Eddie Moore for the Abq Journal

My mom saw this photo while reading the paper and was alarmed that I bike in my work clothes. She was very relieved however that I bike with my helmet. After hearing this from her I'm fairly certain that she doesn't frequent anything I post on this blog which is probably a good thing.

View Gail Ryba Trail - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map


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