March 2013 Archives

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.