Finally Blazin!

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No, it's not what you think.  I'm not smoking pot - get your mind out of the gutter!

This weekend I finally got in a training ride with a local group that I've chatted a lot with on Facebook - the South Bay Blaze.  It just seemed like things always conspired to keep me from riding with them.  Chris' Distance Training rides are always a priority on the Saturdays that they occur, so anything that took me out of town had to happen on the off Saturdays.  One thing or another meant that it wasn't until the end of the season that I got in a good ride with this very social and fun training group.

A lot of this ride covered the area from my Sunday ride last weekend.  We headed south along Blossom Hill until it turned into Santa Theresa - going in the opposite direction of the Slog.  Yay!  And we stayed on Santa Theresa until it turned into Hale and kept going until it dead ended on Main Street in Morgan Hill.  Morgan Hill, it so happens, is where the headquarters of Specialized is.  So my bike was "going home" so to speak.

We climbed up to Anderson Dam - a short but steep climb.  It was at this time I started to hear a "ticking" noise.  I figured out my wheel was flexing enough under the power I was putting out to cause the magnet from the speed sensor to hit the sensor arm.  That got fixed.  (And I have new stiff wheels on order anyway.) Lunch came after the dam - and after a couple of wrong turns.  The route sheet was a bit...imprecise.  

After a seafood wrap at Quiznos it was back to the same Coyote Creek Trail from last week.  Something about that trail doesn't agree with me.  We kept going to the Hellyer Velodrome where I diagnosed a bit of a toe problem as being a sock issue.  However, I've also been getting numbness in my big toe on my right foot that I need to figure out.  After the velodrome and some great cookies we came home through Campbell and had a nice stop at a Starbucks exactly 10 miles from home.  Something about the dryness and the wind was really making me tired.  The last 10 miles were fine and I was glad to see the familiar corner of Fremont and Mary.  I really enjoyed the ride and the group - there was a lot less pressure than the groups I've usually ridden with.  It is something for me to keep in mind when I plan training for next year.

When I got home I figured out that perhaps using DuoDerm for saddle sores while riding isn't a great idea.  It had disintegrated into a sticky mess that I'm hoping comes out of my chamois in the wash. :(

As far as Sunday I had two options - an epic ride along the coast with the Awesome Ahead group - 85 miles and 5500+ feet of climbing.  While I'm all for back-to-back riding (and including a quick ride on Friday this would be my third day in a row) I wasn't up for that.  So I showed up for what I thought was a renegade ride, but actually was an official training ride at only about 36 miles.  A quick Portola Loop with some of my new friends from the Blaze.  It was great and I really pushed on the way back to get my speed average up.  14.1mph over 36 miles is not bad at all.  At our rest stop (Robert's Market, natch) I happened run in to Chris, the leader of the Distance Training series.  Hearing that this really hardcore guy also didn't need to punish himself with the mega-climbing ride that I ducked out of made me feel like I had made the right decision.

This week I am meeting with Vanessa again to try and sort out some butt and foot issues.  Hopefully those will get solved before Saturday, when I'm supposed to ride the 113 miles to Gilroy and back.

Oh Hai, Butthurt!

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This is the time of year when the back-to-back rides become necessary, or so I'm told.  You need to get your body used to the idea of riding in that not-so-fresh state.  (Get your mind out of the gutter.)  And as much as I love Princess Bob and the whole Awesome Ahead crew I knew that I wasn't up for 80 miles on Sunday, so I saw a 40-mile "late starters" ride and decided to give it a go.

Unlike most of my rides the start point was rather far to the south, and given that I got up a bit late I was in a rush out the door.  I made it to the start point 10 minutes after the meeting time but it turned out ok.  The bad news what that I had left something at home - the headband that keeps the sweat out of my eyes.  Todays ride convinced me that it is not really an optional bit of kit these days.  The route was advertised as only having one climb of the day and mostly flat for the rest.  Unfortunately there was no "Ride with GPS" link posted, so I couldn't download the route onto my Garmin.  This would be my first training ride without GPS assistance and just reading a route sheet.   

We started off on a bit of bike trail.  That time of day it was pretty empty.  The climb up Bailey was ok - it's a nice climb I guess.  Coming down it was way more fun as I had done on an earlier ride.  Up and over and done with climbing - or so I thought.  I was a bit concerned at the bottom of the hill as the turn direction didn't match up with the route sheet but one of the TRLs told me we were going in the right direction so that was good to hear.  But then there were two more decent hills - so much for one climb only. Eventually there was a water stop near the reservoir.  I got my bottle topped off by fabulous sag driver Jim.  Sadly I was rocking plain water with Endurolyte caps today as I had run out of Skratch.  

The next bit to lunch was fine.  There were some flats where I got to sprint.  I love getting up out of the saddle and winding up the bike to 20 mph.  Eventually we were back in civilization and we stopped at a little shopping center.  I got a Jamba Juice all fruit smoothie which was a great idea.  Best rest stop food ever.  Even though it had only been 20 miles I also re-applied the Chamois Butt'r.  That's important.

On the ride back my butt did really start to bother me.  I think part of it was that while I had shrunk down into XL size shorts from Pearl Izumi I don't think they fit me well.  Not as well as the Specialized RBX bibs I wore yesterday. I was chaffing a bit at the edges.  Also my butt in general was sore and cranky - the change in seating position seems to have aggravated things.  I will be asking Vanessa if it's something I will adjust to or if it means something else.

As we were heading east I was starting to get nervous.  The route sheet said we had 3 more miles to go east and I was wondering if there were going to be some more unadvertised hills.  But it turns out that the route sheet was just inaccurate and our north turn came a few miles early.  Eventually we came back to the bike trail which wasn't too busy and I was able to do some fast cruising.  It looked like the mileage for the ride was going to come up about 4 miles short but the stretch on the bike path was longer than advertised.  My truck came in to sight and I was done for the day.

When I'm far from home after a ride I do enjoy my truck as something to come back to.  It has plenty of space for me to get organized.  I cranked the tunes while trying a new flavor of Recoverite and oddly enough the citrus flavor was not as foul as the chocolate of yesterday.  Thank jeebus for small favors.  I stopped by the bike shop to pick up some more Skratch and to get another pair of RBX bibs ordered. 

My legs didn't feel too bad.  I felt I could have ridden longer.  It's my backside that may be the limiting factor which concerns me.  I'm not sure what I can do about it at this point, however.

A Century

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Back in October of last year I rode in Foxy's Fall Century.  I had built it up into a major stress-filled event in my head.  Could I do it?  How could anyone ride 100 miles?  Was I gonna crash and burn?  Well, as you may remember, that did not happen.  I had a decent time with my posse and made it out safe and secure.  This year a century wasn't a training goal.  It was just another training ride.  I tried not to even think about it.  "Oh, yeah, just another century."  No big whoop.  And...that's pretty much how it happened.  No big whoop.

The day started out in the dark and we (Tom and I) arrived at the start point on time - even a bit early.  Tom was driving SAG today, but he was 1 of 2 SAG drivers.  The other driver - a very experienced ALCer - gave him some tips.  The usual pre-ride festivities and we were off!

The route started by going out and through Arastradero Preserve.  I've had enough of that place, really.  Yes, it's pretty.  And yes, it's a good ride.  But between the pre-Xmas rides and the early part of the year I've had enough.  Really.  The good news was that instead of turning left at Alpine and continuing the climb to Robert's Market we got to go down Alpine, which was much more fun.  A quick jog over to 84 and down towards the bridge and our first rest stop of the day. I realized there that I had lost my route sheet, but Andrew gave me one (which I hope was an extra). It turns out that I needed it later.

Thankfully the bridge was much less messed up than last time.  They had fixed the bike path, so getting on and off the bridge was painless.  The road after the bridge was as it always is - just the roughest, buzziest road you can think of.  Given what the pro riders were going to be doing the next day (Paris-Roubaix) it seemed appropriate.  And again I had that odd experience where my feed and hands were buzzing but my butt was not due to my magic seatpost.  After that it was Mission Blvd. I remembered it from last time - mostly because a lot of it was a "false flat".  By the time I got to the second rest stop I was ready for a break.

The third leg was where things went a bit sideways.   There were a couple of turns that were just not on the electronic cue sheet, and I missed them twice.  I ended up doing about an extra mile.  And given that once I realized it I had to go back uphill to get back on course I was not happy.  I texted Tom to let him know, and he let the sweep TRL know that I was back on course.  Also, once I got up with him Tom had let me know there was a bathroom about "a mile up the road".  Which was good, because I had to pee in the worst way.  Unfortunately the mileage estimate was a bit off, and it was about 4 miles up.  I was cranky about getting lost, getting me more behind, Garmin being lame, and a full bladder.  This was not Happy John.  Eventually the bathroom was found and there was much rejoicing.  There was only about a mile and a half from there to lunch and it was with a nice downhill.  I was in such a bad mood when I got to lunch that I gave in and had Panda Express.  

The fourth leg had the only real climb of the day (although there had been plenty of climbing for me before this point).  The hill was your basic sonofabitch, pretty much.  I had to stop a few times on the way up when my HRM said I was north of 170 and I started to get shaky.  I heard that last year the temperatures were north of 100.  I have no idea how I could have even done it then.  I was in pretty rough shape at this point.  But we got up and over it and then the next challenge was the Santa Theresa Slog.  5 miles long, straight, headwinds, and just lameness.  Again, it was survived.

At the last rest stop I was both feeling pretty good and a bit apprehensive.  I knew we were gonna have the climb up that bit of Highway 9 and I never like that.  It's not a "real" climb, but it's enough to be annoying.  Andrew, the sweep for the last leg, gave me a nice head start.  Once I was past that climb I knew we only had a mostly downhill 15 miles left.  There was a quick climb up McClellan and then back down Foothill.  The last part was really fun because the gentle downhill slope let me go 15mph + and feel strong.  That is until the guy in the recumbent dusted us like we were standing still.  Going up Shoreline we hit EVERY SINGLE LIGHT WRONG.  So much for finishing in stellar fashion.  I pulled into the lot with almost 102 miles on the odometer.  Quite the day.  I was glad enough to have finished that I wasn't too annoyed with being last.

Today was a day for beverages. In my search for the best electrolyte solution for me I tried quite a few things.  A few days before this ride I tried the Blackberry flavor from Osmo Nutrition but I didn't like it.  On this ride I tried their Orange flavor and that wasn't great either.  I also tried the Endurolytes Fizz from Hammer.  They have many flavors, but the one I tried made me gag.  I had to force myself to drink it.  The one that was the hands-down winner was the Skratch Labs "Lemons and Limes" flavor.  Super easy to drink.  Not too heavy.  I may very well go through the effort to bring enough of this on the ride for me to use all the time.  They have a new fan!  I have to admit, I had been hoping I'd like Osmo better - their beverage is closer in composition to what the Endurolytes capsules contain.  But I figure that if the Skratch lets me stay mostly ahead of the electrolyte game then I can supplement with the caps when needed.    

There were some other nutrition experiments today. Instead of bringing individual gel packs I used a flask from Hammer and filled it with my favorite flavor of Hammer Gel.  I feel this works very well - the ease of use of the flask is worth being stuck with only one flavor of gel.  I don't know if this will work well for me on the ride or not - individual packs might work better then having to bring a big bottle.  I'll debate that internally.  I also had their Recoverite beverage before getting in the car to go home - the chocolate was FOUL.  That's not gonna work well.  I also ate one of their whey recovery bars.  The bar was not quite as foul, but it's not really good either.  They have a lot of science to back up their claims, but I wouldn't mind a better tasting replacement for either of them.

Electrolytes, math, and me

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As the rides have been getting tougher the stress on my body has been getting greater.  I have in the past had post-ride cramps that I've been trying to avoid.  One thing I've figured out is that I haven't been getting enough electrolytes.  The ALC guidelines say that I should have 1 bottle with water and 1 bottle with electrolyte.  What wasn't clear is that is the MINIMUM.  No reason not to have BOTH bottles with electrolyte solution.  Yay.

I started off using Nuun.  Easy to carry, it tasted ok.  I had it one bottle.  But I was trying to "balance" the plain water bottle vs the Nuun and that's where I think my mistake was.  If I keep using Nuun I plan to use it in both bottles and just drink a bottle until it's done.  That makes it easier for me to understand.

The next step was to use Hammer Endurolyte capsules.  They said "1 cap per 50lb body weight per hour" as a base.  That was easy enough.  For me, rounding up, that was 5 caps per hour.  I did that my last ride and felt ok.  They also have a "Fizz" version which seems similar to Nuun that I have *not* tried. 

My next step will be to try Skratch Labs.  Vanessa, Cycling Goddess, loves it.  It has a great rep.  We'll see.

But what do the numbers say?  Well, let's take the recommended numbers.  The standard rule of thumb is 1 bottle of fluid per hour.  What's interesting is that it's not body weight dependent.  Maybe I need more?  Here are the numbers comparing 1 bottle per hour at the recommended concentration vs. 5 Endurolyte caps.

Nuun 

Serving size: 16oz prepared, 1 24oz bottle/hr

NutrientPer servingPer hour
Sodium360540
Chloride540810
Potassium100150
Magnesium2537.5
Calcium12.518.75


Skratch

Serving size: 8 oz prepared.  1 24 oz bottle/hr

NutrientPer servingPer hour
Sodium120mg360
Chloride180540
Potassium
2060
Calcium2060
Magnesium16.850



Endurolytes Caps

Serving size:  1 Cap, 5 caps/hr

NutrientPer servingPer hour
Sodium40200
Chloride
60300
Calcium50250
Magnesium25125
Potassium25125
B66.633
Manganese1.68


Endurolytes Fizz

Serving size: 16 oz prepared, 1 24oz bottle/hr 

NutrientPer servingPer hour
Sodium200300
Chloride6090
Calcium100150
Magnesium5075
Potassium100150
B61319.5
Maganese34.5


The numbers are interesting.  The Endurolyte option is giving me less sodium but way more of everything else.  They have a detailed article telling me why they have their mix the way they do, but it's interesting that their fizzy version mixes things up differently.  The one other variable is that the Skratch drink mix has 40 calories per serving, so that 1 bottle per hour would have 120 calories in it.  

Then there is the issue of practicality.  This is something I have to carry with me - none of these options will be found at ALC rest stops.  Let's say that I consume 1 bottle/hr minimum.  On my first century it took 7.5 hrs - I'm gonna round that up to 8 hours moving time for a long day.  The first two bottles of the day I could make at home (or in camp).  So that's 6 bottles over the course of the rest of the day.  At 1.5 little envelopes per bottle that's 9 envelopes of Skratch that I would have to carry with me.  If I "went safe" and doubled up on Nuun and/or Endurolytes Fizz it would be 12 tablets (or 1 tube).  It's 40 caps of the regular Endurolytes which is fairly easy to carry in a small baggy.  The Skratch Labs option is the least practical for sure.

I also haven't hydrated with anything that involves real calories.  I think I'm getting enough calories over the course of a ride but it's uneven - I eat when stopped.  Perhaps there is value in getting some calories in on a regular basis.  

I haven't tried drinking nothing but Nuun for a day.  I know there are times where I've preferred the taste of water.  I also haven't tried the Endurolytes Fizz at all.  I will be trying Skratch Labs on a short ride in the next day or two.  I have done a ride where I drank plain water and took 5 caps every hour (when the "moving time" clock on my Garmin said so).  That seemed to work ok, but like the un-even energy intake I wonder if it's less than ideal.

I will say this - this all gets to be rather overwhelming, and it's also rather individual.  I've got about 2 months to try the combinations and find what works best for me.  Hopefully I will be able to leverage the experience of others in addition to my own experiments.   

New shoes (again) and a valuable lesson

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One of the weird things about losing weight has been my feet.  When I started this I asked my podiatrist if my feet would shrink, and he said no.  I'd always be a "wide".  Well, while I was getting a bike fit done a while back my fitter, the Cycling Goddess Vanessa, said "Hey, I don't think your feet are wide."  And she got me to try on the new Specialized S-Works shoe. Back then I didn't think I was going to need new shoes, but boy were they comfy.  And they look cool, don't they?


As training wore on I thought about getting new shoes.  Last week I was somewhat down to the wire - you can't really make too many changes this close to the ride.  I had to get all my "interface" things locked in before the ride.  Training rides are gonna be at the 100 mile mark soon. That normally would be a crazy time to make changes, but I have two months to go.

The bad news was that the color I wanted (the all black pictured above) was out of stock.  The shop did have the black and white in my size.  I thought they would have to do and I made an appointment for Friday afternoon to get get them, put cleats on, make sure cleats were right, and to also check saddle height.

Let me digress to tell you a story about how awesome Vanessa is.  She's the manager at Cognition Cyclery, where I have bought the overwhelming majority of my bike stuff.  She did my fit (she's a certified Master BG Fitter, natch).  She's just way on top of things and talks about anatomy like a med student.  It's crazy.  And she's figured me out pretty well.  I got there Friday and we discussed "Do I really need new shoes?"  She thought it could go either way, but in the end I decided to go for it since I was concerned about a hotspot I had been getting on my big toe.  After having decided that yeah, I was gonna do the shoes, she went to get them.  And then she says that she didn't want to say anything until I was sure I wanted new shoes, but something had arrived that very morning from Specialized...a pair of all-black S-Works 2013 shoes in my size.  Yep, she didn't tell me she had them until I was sure I wanted *any* shoe, since she wanted my decision to be not driven by my lust for matte black sexiness.  Does she know me or what?

The only bad news here is the lesson I learned: After making any changes I should take a quick test run on my "usual" route before doing a big training ride.  I was riding with a new (to me) ALC training group Saturday morning and I ran in to two problems.  One was that I hadn't made sure the float was set up right on the cleats on the new shoes.  (New shoes - new cleats.)  The other was that once again my seatpost had slipped.  So 3 miles in to my training ride I had to limp (figuratively) back to the car and go back to the shop.  

Fortunately the seatpost problem was finally fixed.  It turns out that there wasn't nearly enough carbon prep put on when it was installed.  They actually use a cream that increases friction so that (in theory) you don't have to clamp as hard.  But every time I had used the seatpost it had slipped and this time it was enough to make me not want to ride.  The shop took it out, checked it, and told me there was not nearly enough on there.  I'm glad that they diagnosed the problem.  Vanessa had put tape on the post the night before, so we knew it wasn't my imagination.  I went home and after playing with the float adjustment on the cleats I went for a short 15 mile ride and everything seemed fine.  I am going to try and sneak in a longer ride this week with some climbing before the weekend, which should be the first century of the season.

The lesson: Don't screw with the bike before a big training ride unless you have time for a short no-pressure run to make sure it's working as you expect.

Calaveras, take two

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I remember thinking last weekend "Oh, we're not going over the bridge? Huh, I must have misread the route sheet."  Nope - I had last week confused with this week. Which meant that I would get another crack at the hill I so did not enjoy the first time for the second week in a row!  Oh lucky me!  Oh happy day!

I was taking no chances this time.  While Tom was not SAGing for this ride he was SAGing for me.  And since I was still feeling my cold a little bit I was reserving the right to bail if I needed to.  I asked him to come along more for piece of mind than for any other reason.  Also he was going to meet me at each rest stop and I would be reapplying chamois cream each time.  It was an experiment to see what was causing my butthurt.  (I ended up using WAY too much this time, but hey no butthurt! Yay!)

The route this time did go over the bridge.  That part was familiar from the last time I went over the Dumbarton.  However, what I was not prepared for was the road work in process.  Which turned out to be a lot.  It even gave a few people flats.  My quote was "Hey, what's up with all this cyclocross shit?"  And the road after the bridge was crappy as usual.  It gave the COBL GOBL-R a good workout.

The first rest stop came quickly, but sadly it was the slowest Starbucks known to man and waiting for bottled water put me way behind especially with spending extra time putting on the cream.  While in line I chewed on some Perpetuem Solids.  Someone's gonna have to convince me that they're worth it - they were nasty and I think I'll go back to Shot Bloks.  (The Endurolytes worked though.) When I came out Andrew (my favorite TRL of all time - my two favorite TRLs are named Andrew) was waiting for me as the sweep and we had to book.  It turned out that Niles Canyon Road was closed due to a car crash.  We missed a turn but Garmin let me know eventually and we caught up with everyone as they were waiting where the road was closed.  Just as Chris was going to explain an alternate route they opened the road so off we went! The police even held cars for a few minutes to give us a head start.  Thanks so much!

So the good news was that we didn't spend nearly as much time on highway 84 this week.  The bad news was that it was because we were climbing Palomares, the ride that one of my compatriots last weekend pointed out as an epic climb.  Yeah, it kicked my ass pretty hard.  I was starting to worry if I'd have the juice to meet the challenge of Calaveras again after that bit of fun.  We had caught up with the other TRL Andrew and eventually made it to lunch.  I got a sandwich from the Bagel Street Cafe.  Turns out they make a really good sandwich!  And the fruit cup was great!  I only ate half of it and sent the other half with Tom to meet me at the last rest stop. 

After lunch it was time for Calaveras...again.  This time I decided to not be in a hurry.  I took many rest stops.  I had a gel.  I drank LOTS of water.  And you know what?  I survived.  I may have been faster the previous week (when I felt the sweep pushing me on) but I made it.  And that's what matters.  My final speed for this longer, harder ride was faster than the week before, so maybe going easy on the hills is a good thing.

The downhill after Calaveras seems way too short.  But while on it I had a run in with a cranky motorist.  Since I was doing 35 mph (or...uh...maybe slight over), which was the speed limit, I had every right to be in the lane.  The fellow in the sporty beige Camry behind me seemed to disagree and leaned on the horn a lot.  Then he unsafely passed.  What a nice guy!

The next rest stop was a welcome sight.  Only 15 miles to go and I had no specific complaint other than fatigue!  Tom was waiting again, and after the second half of my sammich and a cookie (my only "cheat" of the day) and a quick re-apply of the magic cream, we were off.  Similar to last week, but this time past the new stadium and up to Great America Parkway.  (Last week we rode by it on the outbound leg.) There was a tailwind on GAP so I was happy with that and making good time.  Then up Central. We were supposed to go all the way back to the starting point but I live on Central Expressway and didn't feel I needed the extra mile.  So a quick 5 miles and I was back home.

At this point I am pretty sure I am in shape to do any one day of the ride.  It's doing all 7 I worry about.  I went out for a short ride today and it was fine, but we'll see what happens next weekend. 

Well, that sucked...

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This ride was almost as not fun as the first ride of the season.  But it wasn't my fault, really.

Saturday afternoon we got home from Las Vegas and I had been a little bit worried that the fellow next to me had been sneezing on me the whole flight.  It turns out I was right to be worried, because I think I was feeling pretty run down most of the next day.  An hour or two after I got home from riding the cold came on full force and pretty much ruined last week.  So that's strike one.

Also, my bike shop had tried to be nice to me.  The prior weekend, after the ride to Pacifica, they called and said they they had a new toy for me.  However, I hadn't really had a chance to test-ride my new seatpost before this ride.  So the bad news was that while they had followed the measurements given them by the fitter the mechanics had measured to a different spot and my seatpost was 14mm too low.  Everything was off and that really kind of messed up my day because my knees were very cranky and sore.  That was strike two.

But on with the route.  It was kinda interesting.  We went to Central Expressway and got off at Fair Oaks, just like going to Fry's or Sports Basement.  Shortly after we got off of Central a driver tried to kill me with the classic right hook.  We all yelled at her and went on.  We ended up riding to Mission Blvd and kept going north (never thought I'd ride in that neck of the woods).   That was the first rest stop where we were encouraged to buy our lunches.  Our super epic SAG driver Diana ferried them to rest stop 2.  

Then it was Niles Canyon Road.  While riding along 84 the nice lady riding with me (a TRL from the Orinda series) pointed out Palomares Road saying if I wanted a really nice climb to try that some time.  (Uh, yeah.  I did.  The following week.)  Highway 84 was pretty stressful - almost no shoulder and plenty of fast moving traffic.  I was glad to exit.  And I was glad to already have lunch - there was nothing at all there.  

Then the big hill of the day - Calaveras.  The thing that sucks about it is that while there is a nice long climb and it's nice and gentle - there is also the fact that when you're at the top there are evil rollers.  They are evil for two reasons: 1) you're still going up, so the top of the next little hill is above the one before it and 2) there are hairpins at the bottom of most of them so you don't keep nearly as much momentum as you think you should.

And all this with a bike whose fit is off.  Not fun.  I was so cranky about it that I called the shop from the final rest stop to make a Monday appointment to get my fit checked.  (That's when we found the error).

Eventually I made it back home.  And boy was I glad to have that ride out of the way.  Oh wait...

Gobble gobble!

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COBL GOBL-R

The idea is pretty simple.  They make bike as stiff as they can because it's supposed to help the power you put out get onto the road.  However that also makes the bike transmit the buzz and bumps on said road to your backside.  Specialized decided to build a magic seatpost that has a carbon spring in it that takes some of that harshness out.  It's worth a try - we'll see what it does.  

Pacifica

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I was somewhat nervous about this training ride as I often am.  I was nervous for three reasons. The first reason was that travel was conspiring to keep me off the bike and this would be my first bike ride since Redwood Gulch.  The second reason was that while I came back from New York on the Thursday before the ride Tom was still there.  No private SAG for me.  And while there was an official SAG it wouldn't be the same as the emotional support that Tom's presence on the road has for me.  Lastly, while in New York I had made my knees cranky.  And at more than 5000 feet of climbing this would be the most climbing I had even done on a single ride.  The fear comes from not being fast enough or strong enough to complete the training ride.  As someone who only started riding last May doing the Distance Training Series is a bit of a stretch.  I want to push myself, but I worry about going too hard.  

The good news was the weather was amazing.  I had managed to duck out of NYC just before a major storm hit.  However the weather in California that Saturday was stunning.  For the first time on a training ride this year I didn't even need my wind vest (although I did wear my arm and knee warmers all day and I also had a base layer on).  It was so nice that it put me in a good mood right away.  Also we started an hour earlier than before.  The extra hour plus only being 7 miles longer than the last ride made me feel like I didn't have to worry about running out of daylight as much.

It was my first time on a route that I guess is common for many of the Mountain View rides - heading out Foothill Expressway until it becomes Junipero Serra.  (The road has been torn up by PG&E so we've kept off of it.)  Eventually you make a little jog across Sand Hill and it becomes Alameda de las Pulgas.  (It really means "flea street".  Who knew?)  Normally we would take a route through Mountain View, into Palo Alto, and up Sand Hill and then onto Alameda.  I liked this way better.  Foothill was mostly slightly downhill so you look down and realize you're cruising at 20 mph with little effort.  That's always fun.  But it's also a popular route so we got "buzzed" by a huge peloton of cyclists who were not really playing nice.  It gives one an appreciation for why some drivers don't like us - and that's frustrating because ALC has taught me to play by the rules. 

Eventually we got to Woodside Road and turned left.  I hadn't gone this way before - it's another one of those slight climbs.  But it was uneventful and we got to Robert's Market.  Partly up Woodside friendly TRL Bob, who was sweeping, caught up with me - I ended up riding with the sweeps most of the day.  On the cat 2 rides (which have a 10 - 12mph requirement) I'm a middle to front rider but the cat 3 rides (which are 12 - 15mph) are just barely within my reach.  Sometimes I feel bad that I'm holding up the sweeps and keeping them from meeting their own training goals.  But Chris has kept encouraging me to stick around - I'll do so until told to buzz off, I guess.

After a brief stop at Robert's Market it was time to head up CaƱada Road.  I do love this road to ride on - especially knowing there are bathrooms hidden on it.  (Yay bathrooms!)  I made ok time and then hit the Ralston bike path which is a nice little climb.  Then down onto Polhemus and up Crystal Springs and onto the Sawyer Creek Trail.  None of this was really new since I had done it with my friend Bob (the first time I met him, actually).  The new part was that we kept going north, even with a brief stretch on Highway 280.  (Yep, it's legal.)  Eventually we made it to Pacifica, so we turned the corner and headed down.  

Now that's an amazing descent! Not for any technical reasons but because you turn a corner and there is the cute town of Pacifica and the ocean right in front of you.  The weather was so awesome and so clear that I just had to stop and take a picture.  As usual the friendly sweep was with me, and he actually took a picture of me.  I immediately send said picture to Tom, still in NYC, to taunt him with our glorious weather.  

At this time I would like to take a detour onto the subject of TRLs and sweeps.  On ALC training rides there are always "TRLs", or Training Ride Leaders.  They know the way of the secret ALC Kung-Fu and are there to instruct us n00bs on the way to do things.  There is always one of them riding as the last person - "sweeping" anyone who has gotten lost or whatnot.  If you're riding with them that means you're the caboose - and since Chris' training series attracts some pretty hardcore and fast riders I usually am towards the back.  I want to thank all the sweeps who are pretty nice to us slower guys.  I especially want to say that Bob, who was sweeping from the start to RS1, and Andrew, who was sweeping from RS1 to lunch, are especially awesome.  Andrew has the best energy of any TRL I've met.  He is super positive energy and for some reason I always feel in a better mood when he's on a training ride.  It's awesome.

Lunch was a quick bite at Subway (yay, BMT) and then time to head out.  Before we started Chris had said that Sharp Park Dr. was like climbing Mt. Eden.  However what I didn't know, was that he meant climbing Mt. Eden from the "hard" direction.  I'd only done it the "easy way". Sharp Park Drive just kicked my ass.  I saw numbers on my heart rate monitor that I hadn't seen before.  I had to stop pretty often to let it get below 160.  It was not steep enough to walk but after all the climbing we had done already it was steep enough.  Then there were the rollers on Skyline which I really didn't need at that point.  Eventually we came back to Crystal Spring and headed down and to the Starbucks there.  I was feeling tired enough that it was time for my secret weapon - the margarita-flavored Shot Bloks.  They taste nasty but have extra salt.  I was sure I needed it.

The stretch from rest stop 3 to the end wasn't too bad.  Somewhere in there I hit 42.1 mph on a descent.  Towards the end even the little rollers were getting to me - climbing up a small hill on Alameda de las Pulgas I really started feeling cramps on the back of my legs.  But eventually we made it back to town.  My favorite part of that stint was turning onto El Monte because from there on out I knew it was all very slightly downhill, which means easy cruising at 15 - 20 mph.  Shortly we were home.  I was glad I hadn't ridden over but instead had brought the bike on my truck because I was DONE for the day.  I dropped the bike off at the shop for an upgrade, grabbed some elicit fast food, and headed home.

I felt good about finishing the ride.  It is similar in difficulty to Day 1 of ALC - and I still have 2.5 months of training to go.  The only downside is that after resting in my chair at home I started to get leg cramps in my dominant leg.  The application of heat helped but I won't have a heating pad on the ride.  I need to figure out how to solve this problem soon.


The Redwood Gulch Death March

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This ride report is more than two weeks late.  That should show you how much fun we had.

The ride began with a route I was pretty familiar with.  Head out from downtown Mountain View to Foothill Expressway, and stay on that until it turns into Stevens Canyon.  But instead of going up Mt. Eden road we stayed on Stevens Canyon until it hits Redwood Gulch.  Now keep in mind that this is already a fairly gradual climb - about 500 feet over 10 miles or so.  Nothing major but you feel it a little.

I did have an ace in the pocket.  While Tom was not officially a SAG driver for the day he was out there for me.  I had told him to make sure I made it to the top of Redwood Gulch and then he could go on about his day.  Having him on the road with me is such a huge piece of mental insurance.  I know I can go all out and just not have to worry because if I need to I can just throw the bike in the truck and go home.  His willingness to be there has been greatly appreciated.  

I knew Redwood Gulch was gonna be crazy.  It's often 18% in places.  It's THE CLIMB by which many local climbs are judged.  However, I was not interested in hurting myself, so I ended up walking most of it.  This frustrated me because it made me feel weak.  And even with my cleat covers on I ended up being very uncomfortable walking that far in bike shoes.  Maybe in a couple of years, when I've lost another 40 pounds and have become a cycling god, I'll try that again.

After climbing to the top of the hill we were promised a glorious descent.  But we were also told to keep within the speed limit because the cops would ticket cyclists.  One of my concerns on the downhill became managing my brakes because getting over 35 mph was trivial.  I'm sure 45+ would have been easy.  Also there is no bike lane on Highway 9, and since I was going the speed limit (and thus impeding no one) I was entitled to "take the lane" as they say.  However the motorists (who are usually quick to decry cyclists as scofflaws who run red lights) were for the most part greatly exceeding the speed limit and seemed to resent my staying to it.  They would express their resentment by attempting to run me off the road.  So nice.  But I did make it to the first rest stop without being killed.

The next stretch wasn't too bad.  Down into Saratoga and such.  We had nice tailwinds to the pretty reservoir.  It turns out there was a gradual climb there which I didn't really notice.  That made the descent on Bailey even more awesome because it felt like a freebie.  Who doesn't love a free descent?  The only trick was that those tailwinds then became crosswinds, and from the side I am not very aerodynamic.

We then proceeded onto Santa Theresa Blvd., or as I heard it called the "Santa Theresa slog".  The tailwinds became headwinds and they were strong.  After a couple of miles we made it to the lunch stop and I was so ready for it.  (Yay Togo's.  Much nicer than Subway.)  The winds were still there after lunch, and I think it was only about 12 miles from lunch to the last rest stop but it was a sucky 12 miles.  My speed was only around 10mph for that stretch.  

Finally we made it back to Mountain View.  I finally understood why the ride needed a 12mph minimum - the sun was clearly going down when we checked in.  (I only ended up with a 11.8mph average).  The daylight was clearly against us.  I was starting to worry about making it home before dark (I live about 2 miles from where the rides start and end) but Tom was there to meet me with my truck so I threw the bike on the back.  After a day like that I didn't feel I needed any more miles.