Flat out failed

Well, I’ll just cut to the chase on this one – my first buddy ride of the season sucked (and, for once, it wasn’t even Coach Keith’s fault!).

Whew. Glad we got that out of the way.

What? Not enough detail? See… I knew was terrible at short blog posts!! OK, the expanded version. Fourth of July. (Oh yeah, this suckage happened on a freaking holiday, people.) The 36 mile loop left from the Almaden Park & Ride in San Jose, one full hour later than normal time. Of course the ride point was also a good half hour farther from my house than our usual routes, so this didn’t buy me much in the way of sleep. So goes life! I get ready to roll and grab my route sheet only to realize that I left my wallet at home (no cash, no license — EEP!). After minor freakouts about what could have happened had I been pulled over (and a good long lament over the coffee that I won’t be able to buy), I declared myself ready to roll.

The first few miles are pretty uneventful. I’m riding with a good crew of folks – many from my super-C ride group – and we’re cruising at a really nice pace. There is some minor confusion around the fourth turn, as half of the ride sheets seem to have the next two directions swapped! The mileage and street names were correct – everything was just out of order. I’m not sure if Leigh Ann was intending to make the ride extra challenging… but nonsensical directions pre-caffeine is just mean! We managed to sort everything out in the end (even with half of us scouting streets that couldn’t possibly have existed where they were named), and quickly moved from a fast section of what I call “nice pavement” into our first climb.

Now I’ve climbed both of the hills from this buddy ride once or twice before, and, from my perspective, Shannon comes out as our first “real hill” of this season. Sure, the team did Mount Eden the previous week… but for those of us who’ve done hill repeats (and really, even for those who haven’t) it’s more of a mostly-friendly, overly long bump. Eden is pretty short, easy to memorize, and with a relatively low grade. If you know what you’re in for, there’s almost no reason to freak out on that hill. This ride’s stint on Shannon, on the other hand, is none of those things. OK, well the grade isn’t particularly steep, and there’s still no reason to freak out… but the climb is long enough and unfamiliar enough that you have to move away from the “I know exactly what’s coming, I can do this” thought model to the “focus on something else and just keep spinning” one. Honestly, the latter thought process is what will get your successfully through the season – but the first “OMG When DOES it end?!” climb is always the toughest.

I’m happy to say that my crew of buddies all made it to the top without incident. Chi Lam blew by me like I was standing still (told you he’d be fast once we clipped him in!), whiel I was resolved to just sit down and spin it out to the top. The day was already getting to be hot, and I was definitely glad that I left the layers back in the truck. I hit the summit winded and sweaty at the front end of the pack, grateful for the time to recover. Pounded some chews and sport drink (no cramping for me please!), and exercised my right to photo ops before we all rolled on to the descent. Shannon’s a bit switcback-y, so I took my time getting to the bottom.

All smiles at the top of Shannon!

The next few miles of the ride all blur together for me now (waiting a whole week plus to write this post probably didn’t help on that front). Our little group stayed together fairly well through downtown Los Gatos, where preparations for the 4th were kicking into high gear (no pun!). After a ridiculous amount of people dodging and one overly long, single bathroom rest stop, we emerged back on Hwy 9. I remembered this stretch of road from the week before, and figured we’d cruise at a quick and easy clip. And for awhile, I was correct. Our post pit-stop group of 4 (a few decided to hang back with Don for break in the pace) hit the highway with relative ease. I felt pretty good, and ended up having a little bit of breakaway action – figuring that I’d meet up with everyone at the corner of our next turn. A couple of the rollers felt a bit tough, but I wrote it off to a fairly nasty headwind and just kept on attacking.

The Great Equalizer (aka a red light) decided my lead was too large, and my group ended up catching me just before a busy intersection. As I clipped in and tried to push the slight downhill (another roller ahead), I heard everyone’s favorite noise… thuthuthuthuthum. Oh yeah, flat back tire. Could be worse I figured; last time I rode this area, I had a high speed front tire blow out. At least this one came at a fairly safe spot! I got over to a shady area of sidewalk and commenced the significantly less than fun back end change. I quickly pulled off the wheel and ran the speed lever around the outside. With ye ol’ flat tube stripped out, I felt my hand around the inside and outside of the tire. Nothing. *shrug* Must’ve just hit something and not noticed. I put in a new tube and began pumping away with my “oh so friendly” frame pump.

About 4 days later, the pressure seemed “greater than 40,” so I went to pull the pump off… and took the stem with it! Who even knew that was possible?! Awesome. Borrowed a tube (and a less fail pump), and started all over. Another 3 days and one “how does this wheel fit back in there” discussion later, and we were ready to roll. For about a mile. Oh yeah, you guessed it. Thuthuthuthuthum. Whatever caused the first flat? Still working its tire-breaking magic. The four of us pull over again, and commence a highly focused Foreign Object Detection Investigation. Eventually the suspect (a piece of glass so far in the tire that the rubber had rolled over it) was apprehended, and a tire-patching operation followed. Having used literally every tool in my bike bag, the team declared my third tire change a success – and we were once again ready to ride.

The she-bike gives up

But does the fun (fail) stop there? Oh no my friend… there’s more. Determined to not be the very last people to finish this ride, Mike and I try and pull up the pace a bit. So much so, in fact, that we paced right by our next turn… and added two plus miles to our loop. Julie and Chi Lam directed us back by phone (we weren’t that far off!), but tempers (mine leading the pack) were high. We managed to loop all the way back to our final climb without incident, only to discover that while we had rested” several times during the ride – no one had thought to really eat while doing so. The four of us started the second major climb of the day, Kennedy, on what seemed to be pretty empty tanks. The lot of us took turns starting, stopping, sharing food and just generally bitching the whole way up the climb. I had to make two stops to reenergize on my way up; bad tire incidents do not lead to good decision making! Luckily, no one actually hit the wall, and we did all successfully reach the summit.

The last five miles were pretty much not worth mentioning. Most of it was downhill (yay), but we were all too tired and too hot to make much conversation (there’s a reason rides start early in the morning — especially in south San Jose). We finished the ride together, and I groveled as convincingly as I knew how – both for taking up so much time and for borrowing so much stuff! Shockingly, I don’t carry 4 spare tubes. I’m hoping that they all went home and passed out… and forgot how much they all wanted to kill me in time for the next ride. (Actually, my ride buds were all great and very helpful… it just sucks to have to fail enough to need that much help!)

I missed the recovery ride on Sunday due to utter lack of tires – I mean… how much would you trust my patching skill?  …Exactly. I did manage to get them replaced late Sunday afternoon, but didn’t manage to get another ride in until the following (this past) weekend. Late work meetings plus hill repeats is a whole other kind of fail!

Terrible buddy ride of utter faildom data below. Enjoy the 45 minute gaps in movement! 🙂

Leigh Ann's buddy ride


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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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