What have I done?

Today marks two straight weeks of riding my bike every morning.

For those who know me, you should indeed find that fact astounding because 1) I have to ride my bike in the MORNING, before work, very early due to the desert heat, 2) I am NOT a “morning person,” and 3) riding my bike is not without effort for me, even after accomplishing the purpose of this blog and gaining all that cycling experience. It has admittedly been difficult to get up some mornings the past two weeks knowing that the third thing I was going to do (the first thing being go to the bathroom and the second thing being eating breakfast) was place my posterior on my saddle and pedal my lethargic body some miles somewhere.

However, I want to lose the pounds I gained while working my day job and get back into shape. Or, get back some of the shape I used to be in….or something like that.

So, my dear “self-appointed trainer” (SAT) enthusiastically and too quickly suggested I start riding my bike each morning with him. The dialogue went something like this:

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SAT: “So it’s summer now and I know you want to get back into shape. The only good time to get out and exercise is the morning because that’s the coolest part of the day. Let’s ride our bikes together each morning!!!! [insert his maniacal laughter at suggesting this “brilliant” idea]

Me: “–urgh–grunt–”

SAT: “It’ll be so great. You’ll get SO STRONG in NO TIME. Think of how awesome this will be!!!!”

Me: “–gs#$98d–meh–blurgh–”

SAT: “It’s settled. We’ll start tomorrow. Let’s not be too ambitious this week. Let’s sleep in a bit, maybe get up around 5:30am, then start riding around 6am. That should allow you to get used to the schedule.”

Me: “–hiss–”

SAT: “After 3 weeks, your body should be fully adjusted! You’ll feel awesome!!!!”

Me: “–whimper–”

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Another small motivational factor in this new riding regime is the fact that I am now part of a cycling team. Ok, so the “cycling team” is really more of a “social club,” but members have the option of entering whatever cycling races — road bike races or mountain bike races — suits his or her fancy. I decided reluctantly (in keeping with the name of my blog) to enter my first team race in November. It’s a 12 hour mountain bike race and before anyone gets too excited, no, I am not going to be riding my mountain bike for 12 hours. I am not stupid. I will be part of a 4 person (women’s) team and we will all take turns riding a pre-determined loop. The team that rides the most number of loops, or laps, wins!

I don’t want to be the “weakest link” on my team, so I’ll do my best to stick to a regular “training plan.” I’m not certain if I’m feeling stronger yet….I don’t feel “awesome” [you LIED to me, SAT!], but getting regular exercise hasn’t been scientifically proven to harm anyone….yet. So, I will carry on.

I hope to update again soon with some mountain bike stories and pictures. In the meantime, I will leave you all with a couple of pictures from this morning’s mountain bike ride. The first is of a pretty cactus in bloom and the second is of a gila monster (they’re rarely spotted, so seeing one in person was cool!).

 

More hikes!

In the past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate to hike in a few pretty places. Last month, a couple of work friends and I hiked a little 10 mile loop in the Seven Springs Recreation Area, just north of Carefree, AZ. We started our drive at 6:30am and arrived at the trailhead just after 8am. Pros: great chance to get to know some work people, exploring a new place, exercise….Cons: rather warm that day! Our original plan was to follow trail #4, which would be 16 miles in total. However, around mile 5, we lost the trail due to overgrowth so we decided to go back out the way we came in. Despite the name “Seven Springs,” we didn’t see a lot of water, but when we did, we took advantage of it by wading around a bit to try to cool off. Most of the hike was in direct sunlight, which made us all feel rather sluggish near the end. One of the things that kept me going was the thought of the icy cold Coke I had in the cooler in the car!

(Clockwise from top left: lots of cacti; lots of saguaro cacti; Lindsey, Jennie, and I posing for a poorly taken selfie; still hanging in there!)

(Clockwise from top left: pretty cactus “hand” holding a couple of flowers; Jennie and I about to wade in the water; a snake we spotted on the trail; water felt great!)

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Last weekend, my friend Lindsey and I hiked Humphreys Peak near Flagstaff, AZ to try and escape the record high temperatures in Phoenix. (As an aside, when we left Phoenix at 5:40am, the temperature was already 85F / 29C. The high temperature hit 118F (47C) and the high temperature that my truck’s thermometer hit was 122F (50C)!) When we got to the trailhead, we noted that the parking lot was full. Apparently, most of Phoenix had the same idea we had: drive to Flag to escape the heat. The hike begins in wonderful, shaded, cool forest (adjectives used to convey the sheer joy and relief we felt at being able to walk outside without the fear of sunstroke) then gives way to numerous switchbacks, until finally, the true peak appears, after 3 false summits. Humphreys Peak is the highest point in Arizona, topping out at 12633 ft / 3851 m and the main trail we took is about 4.5 miles (one way), with an elevation gain of 3300 ft / 1005 m. We saw snow at the top, we felt cold enough to wear a jacket at the top, and we rejoiced in the much cooler temperature! In addition to feeling cool, neither of us experienced any altitude sickness, which is always a possibility when one is at a high enough altitude. After the hike, we stopped in at a local brewpub to devour some well-earned calories.

(Clockwise from top left: The temperature at 5:40am!; snow near the peak; we did it!)

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Yesterday, my SAT (self-appointed trainer for all of you who are new to the blog or have forgotten what the heck “SAT” means) and I hiked the Granite Mountain trail just outside Prescott, AZ with our friends Ben and Colleen. I met Ben, a clarinet player, in grad school and we played a number of recitals together. Turns out that he and his wife Colleen are moving to CO very soon, so we all thought it would be nice to get together one more time before they leave us. 😉

Total round trip distance is about 8 miles, with about 1500 ft / 457 m of elevation gain. The temperature was very delightful; Prescott sits at 5400 ft, which makes the town very appealing to us “lowlanders” in Phoenix (elevation 1100 ft), as the temperature is much more bearable higher up. [Temperature seems to be a recurring theme in this post!] As we hiked, we saw lots of burnt trees (evidence of a recent forest fire) as well as rock ledges, which are popular with rock climbers. This wilderness is a protected area for the nesting of peregrine falcons, which were almost extinct just a few years ago, and the protective order keeps the cliffs off-limits to climbers for much of the summer.

Once we reached the overlook at the end of the trail, we sat and enjoyed the views. From this viewpoint, you can see the lake which looks like a puddle from 7186 ft (2190 m). There are lots of extremely large boulders, rocks and huge stone slabs in the area. It would be easy to spend an entire afternoon just climbing the rocks and exploring. Reaching the actual summit would require some bushwhacking, rock scrambling, and navigation skills. If we had more time, we may have considered that. Perhaps next time…

(Clockwise from top left: start of the hike. You can see the granite in the top right hand corner.; Burnt tree; some sort of baby dragon?; view from the overlook. The lake on the left looks like a little puddle!)