This One’s a Blowout


My alarm went off at 6:30 for a 7:30 ride. Half hour to get ready and a half hour to get there (or so was the plan). At 6:32 I checked the weather reports looking/hoping for rain. By 6:35 I’d determined that the ride was not, in fact, cancelled due to some injury/freak weather occurrence/pity on my sick feeling self. Around 6:58 I re-dragged myself out of bed. Hey, there were still 32 minutes in which to get dressed, eat, buy a bottle of water, and drive to the start point…totally doable. The throat swelling hadn’t really abated, but i was bound and determined to get at least one ride in on the new crank and seat setting. At least that’s what I told myself after I finished a mental guilt trip of how bad I’d feel if I missed knowing that everyone else showed up. So I pulled on the winter weather gear (yay!) and rolled out around 7:05. Thankfully the start for this ride wasn’t too far from the house!

The ride started out pretty rough. My paceline group was feeling pretty good so early in the morning and were ready to take off on the first little climb on Route 9. My snuffly, snotty self was having issues processing the 32 degree air; hard to warm up the air if you can’t breathe it in. Pair that with cold toes and the sensation that someone was shoving needles into the tips of my frozen fingers and I was damn uncomfortable. By mile 2 I’d decided I couldn’t hang with an 18mph pace on the flats – I just couldn’t process enough air and felt like I was hyperventilating. Thankfully, our group was super small on Sunday, so Ron volunteered to stay back with me (after sprinting up to let Devan know, of course).

And that’s pretty much how the first half of the ride went. Ron and I hung back, cruising around 14-15mph (except on the hills. And on the devil false flats.). Eventually I must have crossed some exertion threshold, and my fingers and toes magically thawed in the space of 20 seconds. Weird how that happens; freeze for an hour and then instantly get warm. Not that I’m complaining. We rolled through the first 15 miles up to the rest stop pretty uneventfully, thanks to the fount of cycling advice that is Ron’s brain. Seriously, if you are new to cycling on the team chat this guy up! Not only does he know a ton of good techniques to help you get more for your effort, he’ll keep you distracted from the cold (and, in my case, lack of breath). Interestingly enough, Ron and I showed up at the rest stop at the same time as the rest of our ride team. Apparently they had pulled back a bit after that initial speed burst.

I scarfed down a couple shot bloks and two pieces of fruit, then forced myself to drink a good half bottle of water before hitting the road again. It’s really challenging for me to remember to drink on super cold days, even though I know that it is key to preventing bonk. Anyway, Coach Devan’s team headed out together and tackled Mount Eden (yes, of hill repeats fame) in good time. We regrouped at the top and then made plans to meet at the bottom again. The descent was a bit scary for me. There were a good number of blind or partially obstructed (Oohhh…driver’s ed word there) turns, and I freaked out just a little the first time my tail shimmied in gravel. But, I made it to the bottom without injury – I just took it a bit slower than the rest. One day, I’m convinced those will be fun again.

The last half of the ride was pretty challenging. I was riding with the full team, so I had to push it up to an 18-21mph pace for a good while (or so it seemed). I hung with them for a couple miles at least, but really ended up in more of a chasing position. Somewhere between the rest stop and the descent on Mount Eden, my body had chilled again and I just couldn’t push enough oxygen through to keep up. By the last 5 miles, we’d reigned the pace in to 13-14, and I was able to hold my place in line (feeling completely and utterly burnt as I did so).

And then, just as our paceline was cresting 20+ mph on a descent maybe 3 miles from the end of the ride….BOOM! The loudest popping noise I can remember (near my immediate person anyway), and a horrible smell of burning rubber. I yelled for a “MECHANICAL” inbetween curse words while simultaneously trying to slow down and stop my front end from careening off the road. Yep, I had a blowout. (Seriously, every time I convince myself the cycling-gods don’t hate me, especially on descents, something like this happens!) I managed to get stopped and off the road without taking out the paceline or any innocent bystanders. Yay me!

Our awesome roving SAG showed up within 2 minutes of pulling off the road. After inspection we found that the tire was not only flat, but that there was a giant rip in the sidewall from whatever the heck I’d managed to run over. Thankfully, I carry my patch kit (and other tools), knowing that even if I don’t know how to apply them, someone will be able to help me as long as I have that materials. Thanks to Chris, Devan and Ron, we had the tire patched, pumped and reinstalled in almost no time. I so appreciated the help too. Between the cold and the 25 miles, my arm strength was utterly sapped. We rolled out again to finish the last 5 miles basically uneventfully (unless you count the maniac who tried to run me over on the Route 17 on/off ramp).

I rewarded myself for finishing the ride on a wobbly, ripped tire without falling with a nice breakfast (brunch?) in the area and a hot shower when I got home. Apparently I’ll have to get new tires installed this week before I ride again (stupid money-sink bike). If anyone in the area is really bored, feel free to volunteer to come install them for me! And so my fall-free season continues…

MotionBased Data – Los Gatos High Ride (minus the last 3 miles where I turned the thing off after the blowout and forgot to restart it, and minus the heart rate data because it was too damn cold to put that thing on in the parking lot that morning! So don’t forget to add those miles on, dangit.)

Total Time (h:m:s) 3:10:35 5:52 pace
Moving Time (h:m:s) 2:12:04 4:50 pace
Distance (mi ) 27.27
Moving Speed (mph) 12.4 avg. 29.3max.
Elevation Gain (ft) +1,927/ -1,845
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What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

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