Archive for the 'Team in Training rides' Category

Pulmonary Dysfunction

Do you ever wonder if you just weren’t meant to do something? Like you try and take a trip somewhere and always miss ticket sales or your dog gets sick or your car breaks down on the way to the airport… and you just wonder if maybe the universe is trying to tell you not to go? I’m pretty sure that’s me and climbing Old La Honda. Every time the OLH Odyssey ride rolls around I get excited. I’m finally going to be one of those cycling nerds who compares times up “the hill” (or who has the option to compare but decides not to for reasons of not bragging/being mocked) instead of just wondering what all the fuss is about. And then something happens. I break a bone and am not in good enough shape when it’s OLH ride time. The weather turns terrible and it’s not safe to climb. For whatever reason, I never manage to go up this stupid, supposedly mythical hill. Granted, I’ve actually only tried twice… but that’s not the point!

Last August’s Old la Honda ride was, sadly, no exception. I show up, ready and raring to “tame the beast” and get myself geared to head out in short order.  Snag a quick briefing on the ride, meet up with my team, and roll onto Foothill. I remember noticing that the world smelled faintly like barbecue… or campfires… but didn’t think much of it. We were going to tackle Old la Honda!! Finally! What did cookouts have to do with me?

In case you aren’t good at anticipating my heavy-handed foreshadowing, I’ll tell you now – the answer is: a lot. Less than two miles into the ride, I started having trouble. I was shouting “GAAAAP!!” and gasping like a fish out of water pretty much immediately. On Foothill! Possibly the flattest and fastest piece of pavement in a 20 mile radius! My coach dropped back to check on me.

“What’s going on there Jamie?”

“I dunno… can’t seem to breathe. I guess my lung issues are flaring up again.”

“Well, you did hear that Santa Cruz is on fire, right?”


“…yeeeaah. So there’s a giant wildire going on not that far from here. It won’t impact our route or anything, but there’s a lot of ash in the air. It might cause folks to need to work harder to breathe… didn’t you hear us cover this at pre-ride meeting?

Thinks to self: Of COURSE I heard it… I just didn’t anticipate it having an impact on ME! It’s OLD LA HONDA DAY!

*grumbles some reply that was likely both offensive and vaguely incoherent*

“So… uhhhh… maybe you should drop back to the Bs for today. We’ve got plenty of support, why don’t you take it easy?”

Had I been able to get a word out of my mouth, I probably would have declined. Or at least wanted to pretty badly. I’m your *ride support* for pete’s sake… not the noob who falls of the paceline!! But I was getting dropped on the easiest part of any ride ever and, after two minutes of standing still, could not breathe. My legs felt like jello at mile two. So I acceded. My group rolled off, and I continued my grind up Foothill — too stubborn to call it a day this early, breathing or not.

I was pretty quickly caught, and subsequently passed, by the Bs… and then the As. I slogged out the first ~15 miles to rest stop 1, on truly some of the easiest road in existence… in my little chain ring at about 10 mph. Apparently lungs are fairly essential tools in powering your body to ride (who knew?!), and my legs pretty much told my brain to shove it at the wussy levels of oxygen I was providing. At the first rest stop, I flagged down Charles (who was, once again, providing rock-star SAG) and pulled out the useless-to-date inhaler.

Side note: We missed a post on this. My vaguely fail doctor decided that I *obviously* had what I can only term “Random Onset with only Some Symptoms Adult Asthma” and prescribed two inhalers to help with my lung issues — one for every day and one for “attacks” — despite the fact that I never had an attack or …really… more than one  indicator off the laundry list signs of asthma. The daily one didn’t do crap other than to make my mouth taste bad twice a day, but I carried the emergency jobber around on the off chance that the doc’s predictions would prove correct (in which case having it would save my life… right?).

I figured that if I was ever having “an attack,” this must be what it felt like. I wasn’t quite wheezing, but I was light headed and couldn’t get enough air in to power my legs… or much of anything else. So I tried it. Two puffs of the emergency inhaler, a wave off of the “maybe you should just SAG this one” and I was off to climb Stevens Canyon Road. (Have you gotten the impression yet that I’m a teeeeeeensy bit stubborn?)

MAN! Does that lung stuff make a difference!! I can only assume “rescue inhaler” is another term for some combination of crack and steroids. By the time I left the parking lot of rest stop 1, I had gone from feeling just about as bad as I’d ever felt on a bike to… superwoman. Or my version thereof. I powered up that climb and even managed to catch back up to the groups that had dropped me (well, the A/B folks… my team still lapped me). I hit the end of the road and flipped around, ready for a typically awesome descent. When it’s not wet, that road is super fun to ride down!

Turns out, crack and steroid highs are short lived. About halfway down the hill, I started feeling kinda lame again. Bottom of the hill I seriously considered sagging out of the ride — before deciding that I could still bang this thing out. Back out on Foothill (this was an out and back piece of the route), I was worse than before. I was literally in my smallest ring, panting, alone, and pushing a whopping 7mph. And then, to make things just a bit worse, I spaced out and completely missed my turn… adding 6 miles to my route. Full of win!

I did eventually get back on route and made it all the way to Altamont. The very foot of Altamont, to be precise.(For those who don’t remember the reference, Altamont is a beastly little gut-popper that exists to make cyclists cry. It’s just long enough and just steep enough to suck lots.) I Gu’d up. Poured water on my head to cool down. Clipped in. Spun twice. Realized there really wasn’t another gear lying around, waiting to take me up the hill. Turned around and flung my bike in the truck. Yep… at this point, Charles had been assigned to be my personal SAG. I was THAT far behind. I had made it a full 36 miles, but I truly had nothing left in the tank. I couldn’t climb Old La Honda if I couldn’t breathe. Hell, I couldn’t ride the flats! I found the limit to my stubbornness, accepted that OLH wasn’t going to happen for me… again… and threw in towel.

To add insult to injury, I had to ride along as SAG for the rest of the team for the remainder of the day. Just because I failed didn’t mean Charles was off duty! On the one hand, I was happy to cheer folks on — especially those climbing “the beast” for the first time — but I’d be lying to say it wasn’t hard to watch, knowing I couldn’t pull it off myself. Again.

Believe it or not, I did live through it. The rest of the team rockstar-d up the climbs and, for the most part, had a nice, uneventful day. (Apparently ash doesn’t affect all equally!) As for me, the best I could do was resolve to get my lung issues nailed down sooner than ASAP – with Moab on the horizon, climb skipping just wouldn’t work!

TNT Ride #8 Old La Honda Odyssey


Super (stalker) SAG

Still playing catchup on posts, but as it’s after 10pm on a ride night… I’m probably only going to get a short one in.

From a “how the ride went” perspective, the Tour de Montañas was pretty uneventful. Sure, it was hot — but we’ve done much hotter rides. It was long — but we’ve done longer. There was climbing but… well, you get the idea. On the whole, my team performed really well on their longest route up to that point. There were definitely things that could be improved upon (leaving a paceline out of a stoplight? not a race!), but most things that were “wrong” were really more like fine tuning of techniques than actual problems.

The real story of this week’s ride was having Charles as driving SAG for my team, complete with doggie sidekick! This was the first day in over a year that Charles has been able to sign up for SAG, and his first time as road support (rather than rest stop volunteer). I was a little worried that he’d be bored (hey… 65 miles worth of riding takes a frikkin’ long time!), but I’m pretty sure that he actually enjoyed it… once he recovered from the absolute horror of being out of bed before 7am, that is. The Dream Catchers rolled out of Foothill College a little after eight, with our trusty SAG support following by about 10 minutes. We quickly covered the first 10 miles (Foothill and over Mt. Eden? No problem!), and had a regroup before covering the next reverse downhill – Pierce. Side note: Big congrats to Chi Lam who made it down the backside of Eden on bike! Re-riding an accident scene is always tough, but he rocked it!

Pierce was a new and nasty hill for me… but, thanks to my ever-knowledgable teammates, one for which I was (at least mentally) prepared. After a little gut-punching action, we enjoyed a nice series of downhills to Rest Stop #1 at McClellan park – passing the time by hunting for my black truck SAG stalker. Charles wanted to execute his duties with “optimal response time” to any potential incident, so we saw him every mile or two as he pulled off to make sure we were ok (Sasyha helped… or… stood outside the truck looking official at random intervals… ). After a quick refuel break, we hit a good stretch of paceline practice roads back in the Alameda de Las Pulgas – Menlo Park area.

Of course, there’s only one way that we ever seem to come off of Alameda de Las Pulgas… and it’s one that made me glad for the group-ride energy conservation: Edgewood Road. We did part of this climb for Matt’s buddy route (right before turning off to hit “the wall”), and I’ve driven it about a billion times – but man did I underestimate what a pain it would be to ride! In all actuality, the hill itself isn’t too tough — just a little over 2 miles long at a reasonable grade. The problem lies in hitting that climb in 90 degree heat with 40 miles already under your belt. The road actually cuts through two larger hills on either side, which means that you get absolutely zero breeze going up. The sun pretty well baked me dry, but (thanks to an emergency Chocolate Outrage Gu!) I made the top without stopping.

I was in pretty dire need of rest come Rest Stop #2 at the summit. Thankfully, Charles was there to fill my “hug something warm and fuzzy” distraction needs, while Sashya filled my bottles and fed me fruit. Wait… hrmmm…. reverse that. I hugged the puppy, recouped (puppies really are the best medicine!) and headed for a nice downhill to the ol’ ride sheet standby – Cañada. Yes, again. Stop asking. We put our “you’re only as fast as your slowest person” gap calling paceline skills to work on this stretch – those headwinds really are a bitch, and people are tired by mile 45. We accidentally temporarily lost our super SAG  by pulling off for a potty break at the non-car-accessible water temple. Oopsie! We did manage to find him again in a couple miles (he rode all the way to the end and back looking for us), but we would have totally blown his self-imposed response time goals had anything actually gone wrong. Lucky for all involved, the worst thing anyone could complain of on that stretch of road was some tired legs.

The next miles were familiar and uneventful. We headed down Portola to Alpine and then climbed up the backside of Arastradero. With only 5 miles to go, everyone started to perk up a bit… only to get smacked in the face a bit with another climb over Purissima. The whole team made it up, but the “GAAAAAAP!” calls increased drastically — a sure sign that people were wearing down. And then… Elena. We’ve done this hill a bunch of times for repeats, but not typically this side, and never the whole way darn stretch! Grrrrrr. Our team split up pretty drastically on this climb (much to super-SAG’s chagrin — too much space to cover effectively!) as we spun out the last two miles. Yep… a two mile climb at the end of a 65 mile ride. At least Coach George didn’t try and call it “just a bump,” as I think someone (me) might have had to punch him. Or at least had to think about punching real hard while, in reality, being too tired to execute pretty much any nonessential movement.

I was dragging tail over the last stretch, but seeing Charles and Sashya every little while helped me a lot. Maybe it’s true that smiling while climbing relaxes you (seriously… Google it! That’s a documented cycling theory right there!), because I was actually able to make the summit without stopping. After a pretty nasty descent over some “road work in progress” pavement, the entire team regrouped back at Foothill College. I forced everyone to stand still long enough to snag a group picture:

before Charles and I headed out to lunch to review his premier SAG performance. Hey – if he’s going to make this a regular thing… we need talk strategy! The team is up for a 75 miler next weekend (well… the weekend after this ride… which was back on the 8th), so stay tuned for more super cycling stories soon.

Tour de Montanas

Temperate triumph

What a difference a few degrees makes (temperature speaking, that is)! Two years ago, the Calaveras ride killed, maimed or at the very least disheartened what must have been a full half of our team. The weather then was so hot and the climbs were so long that multiple people SAG’d out with heat exhaustion. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I suffered a near collapse myself only to rebound… and then crash out about 5 miles from the finish.  With such lovely memories to recommend it, you can imagine my level of excitement showing up for this season’s East Bay sojourn.

The morning started off promisingly overcast. Oh yes, when living in fear of heat stroke, “promising” and “overcast” can be used together in a positive manner… even at the perceived expense of pretty pictures. The newly-dubbed Dream Catchers rolled out from the parking lot (complete with our new group-mate Dan) and, after a few adjustments to paceline technique, quickly passed through the neighborhoods of Milpitas. We joked, laughed, sang (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard my on-bike rendition of “Some Kind of Wonderful”) and, despite a few nasty construction zones, had a good warmup.

There is definitely some advantage in experience. By the time we hit the “secret restroom stop,” I knew, not only that our first climb was coming up, but also roughly how long and how terrible it would be. I downed a few gummy sharks (Yep. Sharks. Remind me that I owe a new food review post soon!), and started to get mentally fired up for the Palomares climb. A couple miles and a few encouraging words from Coach George later, we were spinning our way skyward.

Now, I should probably mention at this point, that I’d gone out and bought new shoes and clips the night before. My old ones were starting to show their age (and by that I mean, they were well passed the point that anyone thought they should still be worn) and, in a desperate bid for their retirement, had decided to start squeaking with every pedal revolution. Knowing that I didn’t need one more source of annoyance on long climb rides, I made a last-minute dash to Palo Alto Bikes Friday night to procure their replacements. (For the record: the guy at the store actually told me “I’d definitely gotten my money’s worth out of ’em” on seeing the old pair. Doh! I didn’t think they were that bad!)

Why is this worth mentioning? To reiterate Important Cycling Pro Tip #24:  try your gear out at least once before a long ride. I quickly discovered that, for whatever reason, my left clip was too far forward. By a lot.  Every time I pushed with my left leg, I unconsciously tried to scoot my foot up so that I could push with the ball of my foot. Of course, that didn’t actually succeed in doing anything other than making my left toes go numb and my left calf ache. My left calf is having a bad season! Egos are a funny thing though (as is a lack of readily available hex-tool), and I decided to spin up to the first rest stop rather than trying to stop and adjust. Hey! No one wants to hold up the team, right?! I made it to the top, solid in the middle of the pack, and proactively pushed the potassium and salts (No sense tempting the Calf-god Fates). There wasn’t really a good spot to try and adjust my shoe, so I headed into the descent planning to make an adjustment at our next stop point.

Palomares has a kickass downhill. There are a small number of switchbacks early, followed by some lovely, sweeping sections. I pushed my speed up a good bit (ever conscious of the deer that tried to kill me last time), and topped out just a smidge under 40mph. Wahoo! The rest of the team made it downhill without incident, and we proceeded into my (second? third? depends on if you count the hills) least favorite part of the ride: the 580 parallel false flats. I just don’t have anything good to say about a hot exposed road, running adjacent to a major freeway, that tries to trick your brain into thinking that it should be easy. So rude! We were rewarded with another nice descent into Pleasanton… but really the nicest thing I can say about this stretch of the ride is thank goodness the weather stayed cool through there this year!

By the time our group stopped at the Marriot for a quick restroom break, my left calf and toes were really starting to complain. I took a chance on inconveniencing the group, borrowed a multi-tool and pushed that darn cleat back. And whoa was it out of place! The entire base was shifted a full notch forward compared to the right side and the whole thing was sitting at about 45-degree angle! I’m not sure if the cleat was just not secured well initially (and then slipped when I first clipped out) or what… but it was definitely utterly wrong. I saddled back up just about the time the boys were ready to roll, cleat in much better shape (but calf definitely still feeling the abuse). 

The stretch of ride down through Pleasanton and into our next rest stop was fairly uneventful. I mentally celebrated my shoe-repair success and remained cautiously optimistic at the lack of rising temperatures in the area. I managed to climb the amazingly steep driveway into rest stop two (again, advance knowledge is your friend!) and was rewarded with a fantastic spread of goodies (including my personal favorite: fresh watermelon!).  After a quick break, George ushered us back onto bikes and out on the road. After a few short turns, we found ourselves winding through Sunol.

Now, Sunol is one of those love-hate sections of the ride. On the one hand, there is some absolutely gorgeous scenery to behold, and there are typically very few cars. Yay! On the other, the entire area consists of what should feel like manageable rollers… except for the persistent, high speed headwinds. We definitely put our pacelining skills to work through this stretch, trying to focus on keeping the pulls short as the heat plus wind combo was making people really notice their thirst (only drink at the back people!!). We did have one dropped bottle almost-incident (almost in that no one actually hit it), but otherwise hit the bottom of the second big climb, Calaveras, drama free.

I’m not gonna lie. I was dreading Calaveras. Think about it. My experience on this hill pretty much consists of struggling up the thing in 90+ degree heat, making the rest stop only to fall trying to leave, getting back up, nearly passing out, temporarily recovering, breaking my derailleur (through no fault of my own!) and then having to SAG out. Not exactly a friendly track record. I was absolutely determined to make it through this climb and set the record straight — bum calf be damned! So I GU’d up, dropped gears and sat back to spin.

It’s odd how you can build things up in your mind. You worry about flying gravel and stress about the heat, imagine a dozen ways to fall and vilify innocent landscape, only to discover… this hill isn’t so bad. In fact, when your eyes aren’t burning with the dripping chemicals of dissolving sunscreen… it’s actually kind of… pretty. Who knew? I chatted with Colin, kept my breathing fairly normal, and made the top without stopping. Well.. the almost top. The rest stop anyway, which you falsely believe is the top the first time you do this ride (haha! Didn’t fool me this time!). After a quick-ish SAG supported recovery, which may or may not have included me making out with a very cute puppy, we hit the road to burn out the last 10 miles.

Or so we thought. Apparently the area around Calaveras is absolutely covered in not-so-tiny, dried burrs which, upon encountering bike tires, throw a happy pokey party. Mike and I each dislodged four or so of these stabby bastards before we headed into the rest of our climb. Unfortunately for him, these burrs are nothing if not persistent in their desire to pierce all rubber through and through. Mike suffered no less than four flats on the 3-ish mile stretch that remained of the Calaveras climb. Seriously. To be fair to the puncture happy fauna, one of those was a pinch-flat. Thankfully our SAG car was never far behind (as we weren’t actually moving far), and each tube change was pretty quick… although definitely not fun for poor Mike!

Miraculously, my own tires never went flat ,despite initial hissing air noises to indicate that they would. One was, however, flat as a pancake come Monday morning. We finally finished the climb (ha! take that heat!), and hit the last descent of the day… down the backside of “the Wall.” I’ve gotta wonder… do all neighborhoods have something they call The Wall? I can think of at least three! Once everyone survived the “descending on your head” feeling of actually going down such a steep hill, the group was free to enjoy a swooping descent back to civilization. Well… most of us were. I’m pretty sure Mike’s enjoyment has faded in memory, as he found a fifth flat in his tire at the bottom of the road. Doh! 

Our newly-crowned Tube Swapping Expert made quick work of his last flat (for real this time), and we all easily finished the last tiny stretch of road. With yet another old demon conquered, 57 miles down and over 3000 calories burned, I headed to El Torito for some mexican refuel action… before heading home and hoping for a nap.

Calaveras ride

HMB hates me

Dear Half Moon Bay:

I’m sorry. Really. I have no idea what on earth I might have done to offend you (especially considering that I’ve never really come to see you save on rides… actually maybe that’s it? Lack of attention?), but I swear I didn’t mean it. I’ll be good from now on, I promise. I’ll visit as often as you want. Or at least at some interval that’s reasonable. I’ll invite friends to see you. Throw a party for you. Take pretty pictures with the doggies on your beach. Or not. Just, for the love of Pete… tell me what I need to do to get you to stop randomly injuring parts of my body!


That chick who’s calf you spazzed out on that 7/11 ride

So, in case you didn’t catch the drift… my version of the team’s 50(ish) mile Half Moon Bay ride (two Saturdays ago) was a bit less than ideal. The day started off well enough. The weather was a bit cold and drizzly, but our quick “still feeling fresh first thing in the morning” pace was enough to get the engines revved up. By the time we hit the first mini-climb, I was glad that I’d left the leg warmers behind (the arm coolers were totally still a good call). After minor mechanical difficulty (Brent had some flat-tire issues), we regrouped and rolled down for a nice descent into the valley.

And thus the first 18ish miles passed almost without incident. We joked, laughed, took our turns pulling, and just generally enjoyed the scenery. The coastal views and mountain/valley action are really quite gorgeous. You still listening HMB?! I complimented you there!! Somewhere along that stretch we did end up leaving Brent and Geoff behind (HMB is a tough ride to start back on after a couple weeks out of training), but the rest of the team maintained a great line all the way up to the first actual climb (not a bump!).

Somewhere around two miles before we turned onto Haskins Hill, my right calf started feeling a bit… twingey. Yes, I realize that’s not really a word… but it’s the most accurate that I’ve got. Every few pedal strokes something seemed to pull back up feeling a little… well… wrong. Now, this wasn’t my first rodeo(ride?) or my first pulled muscle precursor. I knew something felt off and immediately took to pounding sport drink and chomping down some shot blocks every time I dropped to the back of the paceline. By the time we actually hit the base of our climb, I was pretty sure that I’d staved off any issues and wasn’t really worried about a thing (other than actually reaching the top). Shows how much I know.

I actually had a nice sit and spin ride up 99% of Haskins. Its a fairly long climb with a ton of little switchbacks and a few false summits… but it is also well shaded and is of a mostly gradual grade.  Having done this hill a couple times before, I actually had a pretty good idea as to when it would end (yay for recognizable landmarks), and started to pick up the cadence …or at least tried to… for the last couple curves.

And then, out of nowhere, my left calf gave one… two spasms… and (just as I crested the summit) it locked solid. And I mean solid. Screamingly so. The kind of cramp where you have to shout because it hurts so much. (And yes, for some unknown reason… for all the warning signs that I got from the right leg, it was the left that cramped. Who knows?!) I managed a miraculous one-legged unclip dismount, handed my bike off to our friendly neighborhood SAG (who was fortuitously/unfortunately positioned to see the whole thing), and hopped across the street to whimper and stretch. At least I made the top first, right?

By the time the rest of our ride group had reached the top and recovered, I decided to go ahead and keep rolling (or at least to attempt to do so). I didn’t want to leave the team entirely without ride support, and the rest stop was only another 10 miles in — how bad could it be? Pretty bad. The descent off Haskins went well enough; at least I remembered to keep feather-pedaling to keep from re-cramping too quickly cooled muscles. I really had to baby the left leg into the rest stop (I couldn’t pull up with it at all), but did manage to make it into the parking lot without further incident.

Knowing the likely culprits for muscle cramping (Potassium or salt deficiencies), I headed straight for the SAG table and snagged a whole banana and two roasted red potatoes, rolled in season salt – well the potatoes were, I mean. I refilled all my bottles, gulped down some more Cytomax, then went back to stretching (thanks to George for his help in targeting that darn calf muscle). By the time we rolled out, I was feeling… still tight but a bit better overall.

And then, just for extra bonus fun, we hit Stage Road. I’m sure you all remember how much I love that “little” stretch of pavement (2 broken bones ringing any bells here?). Well, for the record, I love it even *more* when I get to climb it with one gimped leg. No… really! Ok, ok. You caught me. Not really. The only positive note I can give for this series of climbs is that I did, in fact, manage to do them, fail left calf muscle notwithstanding. I also didn’t burst into tears (or even really consider doing so) when passing my accident spot this season. In fact, my Stage 1 descent was actually pretty darn smooth! You hear that HMB?? You haven’t crushed my soul yet!

By the end of the Stage 2 hill, I was pretty much toast. Everything felt off-kilter, as I was only push-pulling on one side… which tired me out darn quickly. The last stage climb back up to Hwy 1 was, well, rude. It’s actually not particularly steep or difficult, but (as I learned in my Tour de France coverage watching) placement in the ride matters. We hit the “final final” summit with only really 10 miles left to ride, and I think most of the group was feeling pretty beat up by that point. We did get some nice downhill action and some truly lovely views coming back down the highway (sadly, 30mph descents on a major thoroughfare… not the right place to bust out a camera), and finished, mostly intact in just under 4 hours. **Appeases the HMB with many compliments in a single blog post**

I dragged myself home after a quick burrito refill, and got to work on leg repair. I hot showered, iced, and IcyHot-ted before, ultimately, trusting its care to a professional. I was lucky enough to get a massage appointment in the same day, which helped a ton in relaxing all the terribly torn tissue. I did, once again, skip the Sunday recovery ride (I could barely walk… especially after an ill-advised bowling session late Saturday night) as well as Tuesday night hill repeats to allow for a bit more babying time.

I am definitely glad that I finished the ride, even though it meant doing 30 miles on a bum calf. I’m not sure why my Half Moon Bay karma is quite so terrible (did I ride over its invisible dog?!), but, thankfully, I won’t have to test my apology effectiveness letter for probably another year.

TNT Ride #5 HMB

High heat shenanigans

Last Saturday, our team met up at the Los Gatos High School parking lot for our first “real ride.” Why would I classify this one as real? Well, the skills clinics are mostly done (save our Tuesday night torture sessions), our paceline groups are set, and everyone has a pretty good handle on the basics by now.  All that’s really left to do is build up the mileage and refine what we’ve already learned for the next couple months, until we can ride far enough and climb long enough to finish Moab! We’ll be cruising through 100 miles in no time… pretty much.

After a quick, but handy pre-flight bike check seminar by Jim of BAMBR (gotta love the Wiggle Test), my surprisingly small ride group circled up to roll out. Apparently a few teammates had other plans for this weekend, so the Mighty Cs (nope… haven’t been renamed yet) were down to 5 riders – plus our Coach, of course. With last minute sunscreen applied, and the “remember to drink at the back of the line, every time, for real” talk delivered, we hit the road. Our ride got off to a bit of a shaky start. Chi Lam was learning his newly installed pedal system, which made the 5 billion stop signs in downtown Los Gatos more than a little challenging. (I promise, it gets easier with practice!!)

Just as we hit the main drag and really started pacelining, we had another small accident. As if learning pedals wasn’t tough enough, Chi Lam was being tutored in the harder-than-it-sounds art of pulling water bottles without stopping. One misplaced hand and he was down for the count. Eesh, poor guy! We’re definitely asking him to learn a lot in a single day! For the record, I still mostly suck at pulling bottles and often have a mini-mental-panic-attack when doing it… a full 2 years after I started riding. I totally sympathize. Luckily there was no major damage (although I can’t speak to bruised spirit status), and we were all cautiously back on the road in a matter of minutes.

From there, the rest of the first half of the ride passed without incident. I quickly discovered that riding in the summer apparently means riding in the heat! I’m confident that this little documented fact was known to me at some previous point in time, but months of sporadic spring, fall and winter riding seems to have granted me temporary amnesia. Well, the veil has been lifted from my eyes… and something is going to have to be done about my terribly non-breathable (but oh-so-fashionable) TNT jerseys! I was pretty much sweltering by 9:30, with quite a few miles ahead of us. Doh! Thankfully, there was only  a brief potty-stop and two small, but familiar climbs between me and break time. Knowing the terrain is a definite advantage, and I was around the reservoir and up to the shade in no time.

The first “real” ride of the season also means… the first rest stop! Charlotte’s crack team of SAG masters was out en force to provide refuel and refreshment goodies. I don’t usually eat much at the stops, but the lemon-lime sports beans were just too exciting to pass up. Oh… and the fresh giant strawberries. Mmmmm berries (so much tastier than their chemical-y sport goo counterparts). With some food snarfed down, water bottles refilled, and a good amount of huffing and puffing completed, Team C headed out to tackle Eden.

Now, Mount Eden isn’t the worst hill in the world (heck, it’s probably one of my favorites just from pure familiarity), but it definitely qualifies as a “meet at the top,” regroup, and then “meet at the bottom” type climb. Which is pretty much exactly what we did. I’m happy to report that I rode the entire length in my middle chain ring – although I was less happy about that later when I was dragging tail on the last 5 miles. I reached the top with pretty much no problem, and was glad for a slight rest at the top. My descent was solid (but not super fast), and I reached the meet-up point right in the middle of the pack.

And we waited. Mike, Silvana, John and I sat in our designated driveway and chatting and recovering. At some point my muscles start getting a bit cold and I think to myself… “hrmmm, it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I wonder if something is wrong.” I check my cell phone but have no reception. Everyone gets the same idea around the exact same time, and we start musing aloud that maybe we should head up the hill and check in on Chi Lam and George. Rockstar-John (so named for taking the extra-climbing hit) heads up the backside of Eden to hunt them down. Another 15-ish minutes later John rolls back with some bad news. Chi Lam’s tire had gone flat and he went down pretty hard on his descent. He seemed fine, but Charlotte was taking him to the hospital just to be sure. Eeep! Definitely not our teammate’s luckiest day.

We eventually regrouped and rolled back out, a man down and a bit subdued (of course, you can probably blame a good bit of that on the heat!). Comparatively speaking, the back half of the ride was uneventful. Our pace slowed (and voices faded) as the day wore on. I think it takes awhile for the “don’t blow everything out while your fresh in the cool morning” message to sink in… but we finished as a group, intact. Given the fact that I’d been sick all week (and was, in fact, still sick on Saturday), I thought my ride was pretty strong. I did go ahead and give myself an extra “stop being sicky” recovery day by skipping Sunday’s ride, only to spend the day hiking the Armstrong woods (super steep trail side) instead! Hopefully everyone will be back on the bikes – not sick, not injured and ready to keep things uneventful –  for our first buddy ride on the 4th.

TNT Ride #4 Los Gatos High

Learning to trust

Fair warning, this week’s been suuuuuper busy… which means I’ve been a big blog slacker. Gonna try and keep these short tonight!

OK, so the title makes it sounds like this post is going to include some manner of psychobabble and possibly the phrase “getting in touch with your feelings.” Rest assured, Team in Training has not added a psychological health component to its regimen… at least not insofar as I’m aware . (I do assume that TNT cares about our mental health in that “keeping confessed serial killers off the team” kind of way… but I’m guessing that is more an informal rule that doesn’t come into play often). No, the trust I’m speaking of is that which comes only from practice riding in the second scariest sounding cycling formation every — a paceline. (Pretty sure peloton is first. And there’s probably others if you count mountain bike rides. Or track races. But who counts those?)

Yep folks, it’s that time of the season. We’ve been split into our ride group teams, and will be traveling in pacelines for the rest of our training. Of course quite a few participants are fairly new to cycling (or at least new to riding in a line), so the coaches gave their (always) excellent off-bike demonstration before we started. After a rapid review of hand signals, voice commands, positioning techniques and other time-tested tricks, we broke into our groups and got ready to ride. BTW – You can click through to my Flickr for more pics from this ride.

Coaches paceline demo

My group (Go Cs! …no, not bra sizes… Middle speed!! We won’t have an “official” name for another couple weeks or so.) is the largest this season – and a good portion of ’em have never ridden a paceline before. I was a bit nervous about having so many people (and so many NEW people) all in one group… but I’m happy to report that my fears were pretty quickly laid to rest. That’s not to say that we were riding 6″ off each wheel out of the gate or anything, but the group was absolutely excellent at keeping a steady pace. We rocked out with minimal accordion action, even on the first trip out. At the end of the lovely (but ridiculously windy) Cañada Road, our stand-in coach, Ron, gave us pointers to work on for the trip back.

Getting a few tips

And from there on out, we did nothing but improve. I don’t think we’ll be riding each others tails (literally) for another few weeks at least… but compared to my first season pacelining, I think we’re already looking pretty good. We made a total of three out and back loops (Cañada @ Edgewood to 92 and back again). Our speed was pretty consistent, which is more important than fast(!), and I think people started to feel more comfortable by the end. On the very last half trip out, Ron had us push the pace up a bit – just to challenge the group and make sure everyone got a good workout. We definitely flew (compared to the other rounds), and absolutely earned another helping of banana bread at the rest stop!

I forgot to hit laps for the data… so there’s no easy comparisons between loops. But I do have all the other bits!

TNT Ride #3 Pacelining

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

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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