Archive for the 'Rolling With friends' Category

A Different Kind of Labor Day

Alternate Post Title: FRIKKIN’ FINALLY!!

Generally speaking, I don’t approve of failure through not trying. If I go out, give something my all, and then find out I can’t do it — fair enough. I need to train more/work harder/grow taller/read books/sleep less… whatever. Tried + fail = ok. Room to grow. Applies to all facets of life really. On the flip side, failing at something due to complete inaction? Problematic. I accept that I can’t be good at everything (or even, really, a lot of things), but I can’t accept that until I’ve at least tried it. Could I be a scuba diver? Maybe not… but until I take a course, strap on the gear, and hop in the water… how will I know?

This “guiding principle to life” is why the latest failure on Old La Honda really got in my head. I knew I could ride that hill. I’d dominated (or at least limped through) bigger and bad-assier hills than OLH. Multiple times. In sometimes ridiculous weather conditions. How is it possible that this one stupid road bump continued to elude me?! Often through no fault of my own! I steamed over it for about a week. Grumbled, bitched, kvetched… whatever you wanna go with. Until Julie (probably annoyed at said whining) says to me — “Do something about it. Let’s ride it.”

Like alone? Without SAG and team encouragement? Give up on my “doomed to fail at Old La Honda forever” posture and… just… ride it?! Well shit. Now there’s an idea! We could just pick a route. Map one out designed specifically to ensure OLH climbing success. Short warm up and then straight to the hill (no “extra” climbs to break down the legs early). Down 84 and then another short cooldown back to the start. This could work! I know how to make route sheets!!

And so I did. I hopped my tail over to MapMyRide, picked a known starting area and mapped out a ~30mile loop designed purely around climbing the “Bay Area Hill Standard.”  The following Monday was Labor Day, so Julie and I decided to make the most of a long holiday weekend and met up around 9am to get ‘er done. We rolled out pretty casually, and took our time warming up the legs through the back rounds of Menlo Park and into Woodside. The roads were surprisingly empty for a holiday weekend (maybe everyone else was at the beach? Or BBQ-ing?), and the weather was perfect — sunny with just a few puffy clouds; warm without being hot.

By the time we hit Portola Road, I was feeling pretty good. My chest was bothering me (yet), and you really couldn’t ask for a better day to be on the bike. By the time we hit the base of Old La Honda, I was raring to go. Julie and I stopped at the bottom, Gu’d up, and then agreed to meet at the top. I took a deep breath (or as close as I could come to it), clipped in and started spinning.

The climb was surprisingly easy… which I think makes sense compared to how much it had obviously been built up in my mind. Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t work, because it was. There are bastardly punchy sections of that hill that exist solely to make you pop kidneys. There are unexpected switchbacks that make you wonder if there is, in fact, a top to this thing. There are, in some cases, couples riding side by side in matching rainbow jerseys just fast enough to stay ahead of you… but just slow enough to make you think you could get by if you tried. For the record, those suck. I spiked my heart rate at least three times trying to pass, or passing and then getting lapped by, a couple wearing rainbow argyle. I really hate climbing directly behind someone… but couldn’t quite seem to break the pace with these folks. Grrrr!

For extra bonus fun, sometimes there are fail route sheets. As it turns out, if someone were to accidentally include the west segment of Old La Honda in the route, it might make you think that the hill was 3 miles longer than it actually is. This in turn might make you aggressively start throwing down GU, spitting wrappers on passerbys… 1/8th of a mile before the summit. And by “might”, I mean “did.” I made the fail route sheet, thought I was 3-3.5 miles from the end and, feeling kinda tired, decided I should proactively take down some carbs. A couple passing me on the left (who, thankfully, didn’t actually get hit by my spit) chatted me up as they went by. On finding out this was my first time climbing OLH, they congratulated me on finishing the climb. I yell back (as they start to pull away) that they should hold their congrats until I actually finish… only to find them at the top, just around the next switchback. Who knew?!

I’d like to say my feeling of finally cresting Old La Honda was euphoric – I mean, I’d stressed about it enough that it should have been – but I was so dang surprised to actually have hit the summit that my first reaction was “Damnit! I could’ve had a better time if I’d know the top was that close!” About five minutes later, the joy-part set in and I stood around grinning at random people (and telling them all about my “first time”) while I waited for Julie to finish her climb. Thankfully, most cycling folks at least remember being noobs once upon a time — and they bore my enthusiasm graciously.

Julie hit the top maybe 10 minutes later. After a quick recovery and “wow, how awesome are we for doing this unsupported?” chat session, we rolled out again to enjoy our descent down 84 — which was surprisingly technical! Hwy 84 is supposed to be the “safe descent” compared to coming back down OLH… so apparently I’m never trying that idea!

The remaining cooldown miles flew by, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what they were without looking at the route sheet. I’d done what I set out to do, and that was what frikkin’ mattered. I remember that we had a great rest of the ride and that the weather stayed gorgeous. And even if that wasn’t 100% true at the time, it’s definitely how I’ll remember it. I mean, my lung issues held themselves in check for a day, I finally conquered the Beast — and did the entire thing in the saddle; no stopping. Pretty damn good for a Monday.

Holiday OLH Ride


Two’s company

I just didn’t have the energy to get up for the recovery ride after Tour de Montañas, so I voted to sleep in a bit and then hit the trail near my house for a quick loop. Sometime around 10am I actually managed to roll out of bed to try and get the deed done. Per usual routine, I invited the other half to ride as I suited up… and nearly fell over from shock when he agreed to accompany me! We checked his not-ridden-in-a-year tubes, replaced one, and then headed out to the Foster City trail.

There’s actually not a ton to say about the ride. I rolled without Garmin, so I don’t have any data and the +/-1 ft elevation gain doesn’t give a ton of challenge to walkthrough. The most interesting part of the whole event was really riding it with someone else, especially as that someone else was Charles – who I’ve been trying to get back into cycling on and off for two years! Riding is just more fun with other people (well, with cool other people anyway), and that’s doubly true on routes that suck. There’s nothing like chatting/singing/making fun of people to keep your mind off of terrible roads!

Anyway, we rode a 10 mile loop out to Seal Point dog park, back down passed our house, over to Chipotle for lunch and then home again. The trip was enjoyable despite the still-present evil headwinds, although I think we both learned a good “only after rides” lesson for the best burrito intake process. We did make it home (with food still in its proper location), and I think Charles enjoyed the run much more than the fail Los Gatos trail miles we used to ride in San Jose. In fact he ended up doing a couple solo rides on his own over the next week! Perhaps I’ll have a new ride partner sometime soon after all (…at least for the short rides!  …for now!).

All spun up

Another Sunday, another “recovery” ride (still in quotes, as it was more than double Saturday’s distance). Our ever-growing TNT morning after crew met up at the Chain Reaction and rolled out just after 9am. We were a bit behind schedule leaving the parking lot due to both a couple latecomers and Don and I burning time (and zip ties) in an attempt to get my cadence meter functional. Honestly, my frustration with the thing has been pretty high. The meter has worked fine for 2 years on my other bike! How is it possible that it would take three weeks, 6 rides, approximately 20 black ties and at least 2 brains to get this thing up and running?! A combo deal of user error and curve-y bike frame action turns out to be the answer.

When we finally hit the road, the stupid meter was working and I decided to put some of my “knowledge” into practice by focusing on keeping my cadence between 85-95 rpms. (Knowledge goes in quotes since I was actually just taking the advice of one of my coaches… I can’t speak to its validity firsthand!) I shifted down a couple notches and really concentrated on keeping my legs spinning. Somewhere around three miles in, I realized that I was moving so fast that I had dropped the rest of my team. Wow! This fast cadence thing really works, right?! Wrong. As it turns out, one of group busted his chain immediately upon leaving the parking lot, and they’d all stopped to make sure he was OK to get back to his car. Apparently I was so “in the zone” working on my revolutions that I didn’t hear their cries (for me to wait up, not for help… thankfully). Yays for tunnel vision!

I pulled over and waited for the rest of the crew before continuing on my spastic spinning circuit. Once we’d all regrouped, I refocused on the goal… and darted away again. And that’s pretty much how I spent the first half of the ride. I quickly discovered that 90 revs per minute and my big chain ring don’t really mix well. Same deal for 90 rpm and my heart rate. I definitely felt like I was pushing less weight and going a bit faster… but was dropping energy much quicker than normal. I was grateful for the quick arrival of the rest stop, where I put a few new foods to the test.

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Gu Rocktane Vanilla Orange 7 One of the few fruit gels that doesn’t make me gag with chemical flavor badness. Tastes mostly like a melty dreamsicle (appropriately annoying stickiness included). Roctane supposedly has more cool stuff than regular GU (2x the salt, 3x amino acids, almost 2x caffeine, extra potassium), which I can only assume makes it even better for me… right?
Gu Chomps Orange 8 Probably best orange chewy thing yet. A bit saltier than the Clif version, which keeps it from being overly sweet (and is thankfully missing the odd chemical aftertaste).
Hammer HEED Sports Drink Subtle Strawberry 2 The only thing subtle about this drink would be its resemblance to anything strawberry. Tasted something like the aftertaste that you’d expect from diet strawberry candy… only watered down. Why can’t fruit drinks ever taste anything like fruit?!

The climb up Arastradero was pretty quick (although I discovered a completely inability to keep my legs churning anywhere near goal levels). Don and I had a great tiny paceline descent down Alpine – over 30 on the flats!  He then dropped off to wait for the rest of the group while I continued along with my spin-but-don’t-flail exercises. And that really was the rest of the ride. I tried to keep my cadence up and heart rate down, while traversing our well known route. The few conversations with team mates that I did attempt were punctuated with me either cursing my legs or cursing the bike’s still-terribly-clicky middle ring gear.

I rolled into the parking lot with almost the exact same timing as last week, and immediately (well, immediately after breakfast) left my bike to be de-clickified (aka serviced). I am happy to report that the cadence meter stayed functional for the entire ride, even if focusing on its data did nearly kill me.

Up next this week? Our first hill repeats of the season! Stay tuned…

Los Altos Recovery Ride 6_14

Earn your reward

Five of us (ex or future) TNT-ers met up to ride the Woodside-Portola Valley loop again last Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day, and everyone was excited to be out, in the sun, and back on bikes. Or at least they seemed to be. I suppose it’s possible that half of them felt like crap and wanted to go back to bed… but no one told me.

We rolled out shortly after 10 and quickly arrived at the first climb. I was feeling really good at the start and attacked the “hill” in my front middle chain ring. I powered to the top only to find that my Garmin was completely failing (not recording cadence or heart rate), and had to stop and spend a couple minutes both waiting for everyone to catch up and trying to fix my gear. As it turns out, we only managed to fix half of the problem… and then I forgot to turn it back on for a couple miles, so my data is utterly borked this week. After a small snafu in which I thought I dropped my chain after the descent (I actually just dropped two rings), the ride continued without much drama.

The rest of the loop wasn’t hugely exciting… at least not in a storytelling kind of way. I started the ride feeling strong, and despite trying to burn off the energy by attacking some baby climbs, was restless for most of the ride ride. I felt fast (and darted ahead of the group a few times), but still had to make a game of chasing Hilton – who was definitely kicking my tail. The group ended up spread out a good bit for most of the ride, meeting up every few miles to refuel, check the route sheet, and chat a bit. Despite a good number of breaks, our overall finish time was about the same as the week before. My average moving time was actually up, although my missing data log doesn’t show it very well.

We all hit the Safeway parking lot just before noon and decided that we’d earned a good brunch reward. With belgian waffles as a requirement (per Julie), we quickly settled on Mike’s Cafe as the location of choice. I think everyone enjoyed the chance to eat food mostly guilt free and attacked the breakfast fare with gusto. I jumped on the belgian waffles bandwagon (plus bacon) and thoroughly enjoyed the food. And the company. But mostly the food… Hey! I worked hard!!

Smooth(ish) Sailing

I might not have had time to test the new bike fully on Saturday, but you can bet I took full advantage of the long weekend to test her out Monday. And man, what a great ride it was! Hilton, Julie and I synced up with Mike (who sadly missed our early weekend adventures) at the Safeway in Menlo park for a 21 mile Woodside-Portola Valley loop. This was a new route for all of us, and I have to say… we really enjoyed it. There were no major climbs, but we passed the access points for at least two that could be easily added to make the ride more challenging (some other day). All but one road had a large shoulder, and the scenery was great. Highly recommended!

After a minor mishap involving me, a brand new bike and a dropped chain 500 yards out of the parking lot, we started with a baby climb up Sand Hill Rd. True to form, Hilton all but sprinted up the thing, leaving Julie, Mike and I to follow along behind him and varying speeds. We reached the summit and were treated to fresh roadkill deer (ew) and a nice decent. Or, more accurately, a descent that would have been nice had a minivan not raced up behind me and honked loudly for… existing (at least as far as I can tell). Asshat. Because startling and knocking over a cyclist going 30mph or so who isn’t even in your lane is such a good plan? Apparently he thought I should take a major highway on-ramp in order to better stay out of his way. Grrrrrrrr!!

Moving on. I spent most of the ride focusing on two main things: learning my new shifters and chasing Hilton’s tail. I’ve heard you improve the most when struggling to keep pace with people who are faster than you. I’m not sure if it’s true yet… but trying to catch him – or even just trying not lag too far behind – was certainly more challenging! The new bike was both fantastic and frustrating. I’ve never had a smoother ride (oh how I love thee already carbon frame!), and the bike felt very responsive on those “I can almost get him, or at least stay ahead of the guy pulling the baby in a cart” sprints… but I was *really* struggling with the stupid half-click front chain ring positions. In some ways I felt like I was back in time two years, trying to how to learn how to shift all over again. At least I didn’t have to re-learn how to clip too!

Beyond some terrible gearing noises (and a second dropped chain just before we ended), there isn’t much to complain about. California apparently realized that Memorial day is traditionally the start of summer and gave us absolutely beautiful weather. All the roads we hit were nicely paved, and everyone was riding pretty strong – if a bit strung out (definitely still some wildly different speeds). I tested and shared a few new food/drink samples and actually found a couple winners! (I seem to be cultivating popularity on rides by bringing enough snacks to share… even when they kinda suck. Guess I’m not the only one who likes to try out new eats!)

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Clif Bar Mini Chocolate Chip 8.5 Possibly the highest rating I’ve ever given a bar. Clif took some of their classic flavors and shrunk them to roughly 1/3 of normal size. I already liked the flavor, but *really* dig the tiny form factor. I’ve never managed to eat even an entire half of a Clif Bar… so this is perfect for me.
Clif Shot Chocolate 3 Clif giveth and he taketh away. I don’t want to chew my gels – ever. Chocolate toothpaste might have sounded cool to me as a kid, but as a cyclist looking for a quick, easy to eat snack? Not so much. The flavor didn’t compare to the GU version and the texture was terrible.
Luna Sport Moons Pomegranate 8 I expected to hate this. Pomegranate just sounds too… rich for a successful cycling food. But I have to say that I was shocked at how much I liked the flavor. Super tasty tart-but-not-too-sour goodness and the exact same nutritional goodness of a Clif shot. I’ll be stocking these.
Clif Electrolyte Drink Lemonade 2.5 I think I’ll just rule out the rest of the Clif energy drinks out now. Same problem as the apple from last week – decent upfront flavor (actually slightly better than the apple) and a crushingly salty aftertaste. If I can’t do Gatorade, there’s no way I can do these.

We celebrated our ride success and the holiday with the traditional Memorial Day meal – P.F. Changs – and vowed to hit that same route up again soon. As it turns out, we’ll be riding it again tomorrow!

OH! And for all my data nerds: Garmin is in the process of shutting down MotionBased and migrating to their new site, Garmin Connect. Most of my activities have already been moved over, save a few larger ones that will lag a few weeks. The new site is pretty awesome — I love the look and feel, and the player functionality — so I’ll likely be uploading all my rides there going forward (MotionBased is actually shutting down for good later this year… I’m just trying to stay ahead of the curve!). That said, GarminConnect does not yet have any ViewPorts that I can export for this site, so for now you’ll have to deal with screenshots from my dashboard. Never fear – they’ll still click through to all the ubergeek info! Check it out!

The Light Fairy Shines on Some

Namely, the quick. Julie, Hilton and I set out to ride the Los Altos loop yesterday. I’ve ridden this area an awful lot (we typically use this as the “recovery” loop after long rides during the training season), but don’t know that I’ve ever really described it much. The route is a pretty easy 23 miles with very little climbing, a great rest stop at an open space preserve, and long stretches of flats along the Foothill Expressway. Now Foothill is one of *the* most popular roads for cyclists in the area. It boasts a very wide shoulder, access to several of the more popular climb routes nearby, and generally pleasing scenery. Annoyingly (and somewhat surprisingly given its popularity), the road also seems to have stoplights placed every hundred feet or so.

Most days the lights don’t really matter. If you make one and keep a pretty steady pace… you’re likely to make them all. If you’re really lucky (or remembered to sacrifice that goat), you get to giggle at the angry faces of all the “super fast” racer types that ZOOOOOM by you at warp speed only to get caught again and again at each intersection. Yesterday, however, Lady Light Fairy was not on our side. Or, more accurately, was only on the fast people’s side (maybe they have better goats?). We rolled out around 10:45 and hit Foothill at a brisk 18mph pace. Hilton must’ve been feeling pretty good, because he dropped us in the first 3 miles, and with the light gods blessing, was out of sight in no time. Julie and I limped along behind, catching pretty much every single stop between the start point and our first turn. We didn’t even try to catch him after the third cursed light.

The three of us had a quick exchange upon leaving Foothill, in which Hilton yelled “Meetcha at the rest stop, I’m going for some extra punishment today,” and then we split up again. He took the extra climbing miles, while Julie and I opted for the no-cars route along Old Page Mill. Surprisingly, we all pulled into the Arastradero Preserve around the same time for a quick break. I took this opportunity to share my food experimentation tactics with my two unsuspecting (or overly forgiving) ride buddies (you do remember all the samples I bought, right?!). Pretty sure the definition of friendship is being able to say “Wow, this is terrible… try it” — and having them do so willingly. Twice. Separate foot post incoming soon!

The little climb through the preserve went surprisingly quickly for all involved. The three of us regrouped on Alpine for “the best part of the route,” which is basically a few mile stretch of very fast, slightly descending, well paved road. We rolled along at a good clip, despite being nearly killed at least three times by Biker Bees (fast riders who announce their presence only by the buzz of their tires – with no understanding that a quick “on your left” is less likely to kill their pace than the accident we’re gonna have upon collision). The headwinds coming back around Stanford and then back on Foothill slowed the… ummm… less in-shape (insane?)… of us considerably, and our group ended up splitting again for the remainder of the ride. Still, we all rolled back into the parking lot in pretty close time — and regrouped for shopping and food fun. Overall, a good “getting back on the bike after two weeks slack” trip.

Motion Based ride data

Two 100-pound Rubber Bands

I’ll try and keep this post short (yeah, that’ll happen…DANGIT! Did the parenthetical interruption thing already! That does NOT help in keeping things short. GAH rambling! Done now.), cause I’m falling behind on my updates! Anyway, Charles wanted to ride with me again on Sunday, so I decided to do that instead of the group recovery ride in the morning.

As promised, I went with Charles to Performance to pick out new slick tires for his mountain bike before the ride. As cycling is medically recognized to have potential shopping compulsions, I didn’t feel too bad when we added 2 new pair of gloves, a new saddle (for him), and several fun new food products to the pile before leaving. Hey – at least it’s medically excused, right? Or is that just something a mentor told me to make me feel better? Hrmmm… Notes things to ask doctor upon next appointment…

The day was busy with a variety of mundane household tasks that seem incapable of accomplishing themselves without my direct intervention, so it was early evening before Charles and I set out for our ride. Apparently, no one explained to me ahead of time that recovery rides are best served before noon (i.e. before the muscles have had nearly 12 hrs to cramp and whine). I was (slightly) amazed to find that my legs all but refused to turn the crank, even in a fairly low gear – hence the post title. I literally felt like my legs, especially thighs, were made of something resembling overstretched rubber bands; rubber bands that just happened to weigh a good 100 pounds each. OW!

I was actually drafting Charles for the first part of our ride. His new tires and saddle (once adjusted a good two inches up) made a huge difference, and he was keeping a 15mph pace with ease. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We stopped at the dog park to watch the puppies, and then pushed on to Vasona. I had a minor scare when I stopped for Charles at the Second Wooden Bridge of Doom, and ended up backtracking a bit to look for him when he didn’t show up. As it turns out, he stopped to help someone with a flat (awww, so nice), and was NOT wiped out on the side of the road…but I was worried!

By the time we were headed home, my legs were feeling much better. Charles promised Buca di Beppo for dinner if I could get home, confirm their hours, and get ready to go in time to eat before they closed. I all but flew the last 4 miles (and man was it worth it. Mmmm arrabiata)! Surprisingly, the legs were still feeling pretty good on Monday – just some minor soreness – so there must be something to this recovery ride concept.

OK – DONE! Was it short enough?

Distance: 12.34 mi

Time: 53:04

Avg MPH: 13.5

Max MPH: 22.6

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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