Posts Tagged 'bike'

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?”

*blankstareface*

“…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

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Sometimes Change is Good

After last Saturday’s ride from Chain Reaction, I decided that I had the time (and energy) to go for a quick test ride on one of my new bike candidates. As it turns out, I was only right about the former. I asked the first saleswoman I saw free if I could take a short spin on the Trek 5.2 Madone WSD. They had to do some hunting in the back room for awhile — only one 54cm frame left — but quickly got my pedals swapped in and heights roughly adjusted after that. Rather that riding up and down Foothill, my lady recommended a route that wound up through mostly residential neighborhoods; less cars (and less chance of me ruining their bike) plus a baby climb.

Apparently my 23 mile ride just before this test loop had taken more out of me than expected. Almost as soon as I started uphill, I felt like my energy reserves were totally tapped – just this side of Bonkland. Darn it! Utterly worn down is not really how I imagined testing a bike. Still, I didn’t know when I’d be back in Los Altos (or when I’d feel not guilty enough to ask someone to set a machine up for me again). I made three full laps around the neighborhood before I decided it was head back or pass out. By that time I’d learned pretty much what I needed to: I liked the bike, hated the saddle, and failed at the new shifters.

Big decisions are definitely not best made while starving. I gave the store the pretty ride back, reclaimed my slightly abused one and headed for the time honored cyclists standard refuel meal – Mexican. I recruited my two riding buddies for the “talk me out of” (aka “talk me into”) buying that bike conversation. Their arguments were persuasive (seriously — that pair made some surprisingly good points), but I still wasn’t sold. We parted ways at the end of the meal, intending to chat more at Monday’s scheduled ride.

I made it all the way to the car. I really did. I sat there and thought a bunch. Called the boy. Thought some more. And then, in case you somehow missed my 45 million tweets this weekend, I went back in and bought a bike! (Yes, I do feel a bit of shame for using the word tweet in such a trendy way. No, that doesn’t stop me from doing it. Stop judging me!) It took almost 2 hours to get her fitted for me, geared up and paid for… but by 4pm I was on my way home with a two bikes in the back of the truck. Don’t even get me started on what a pain it was to fit them both in there!

It was too late (and I was too tired) by the time I got home to ride again Saturday night. I contented myself with a bunch of pictures and the knowledge that I had an extra day of riding due to the holiday weekend. For your viewing pleasure, my new baby (kickass name still TBD).

At the store
Back at home

As previously mentioned, she’s a Trek 5.2 Madone WSD. I made a few swaps from stock in the store – higher stem, Terry Fly saddle – but mostly I have what’s shown on the site. By Sunday night I’d also picked up and/or migrated over the necessities (bottle cages, tail pouch, Garmin), and had everything ready to roll for a Memorial Day break-in ride. She’s new and she’s mine… just in time for summer season kickoff!!

Off-Road Productivity

No, I’m not taking up mountain biking. (Seriously, not a chance – I can barely stay upright on roads!) But, between putting in extra hours for work (the next launch is coming up!) and jetting off for a 3.5 day Vegas getaway, I just could not find the time to ride last week. Which means I had to get my cycling workout another way… or at least my wallet did. That’s right folks, a new season signup is the ultimate reason (aka excuse) for my favorite biking activity: shopping! Well, second to nice day riding with no *major* climbs, but shopping is up there.

And if you’re gonna do something, best to go big… right? True to my signature OCD-gone-cyclist-style, I’ve thrown myself behind a hefty bit of research, employing exhaustive amounts of interweb digging, magazine reading, and in-person touching. Surprisingly, there have been a lot of new developments in the “almost a year” since I was last stalking pretty gear on a regular basis. Luna makes wearable chick gear now? And so does Mavic? Gu and about 10 other sports food companies all launched fruit chews?! There’s so much to catch up on! Two weeks before season start, and I’m in for four new jerseys (which I can’t even wear to TNT rides), two pair of shorts (one’s going back!), and about $100 in food samples… and I’m still going strong. Guess it’s about time to start hoping my fundraising goes well this season, or I’m gonna get poor quick!! Speaking of, my fundraising site is up and running again… check me out and hook me up!

Even with all that spending already done, the biggest purchase is still yet-to-come. What could *possibly* be left, you ask? No, not a new color Garmin (although I confess to at least considering it). No $300 sport optics glasses, and definitely not another overpriced helmet. Any guesses yet?! Hint: It has two wheels… Got it now? A bike! A bike! A bike! *boingboingboing* That’s right! With my signup form officially processed, fundraising site up, and 5 participants already under my mentor wing, I’m definitely on the hook for the season – which means I can finally bully Charles into keeping his “no falls=new frame” bargain from over a year ago. Nothing is purchased yet… but yet is definitely the operative word. I’ve been doing a TON of research to narrow what I want (and to balance that against what I can afford), and think I’ve finally narrowed it down to:

  1. Trek Madone 5.2 WSD newstyle
  2. Specialized Ruby Pro newstyle
  3. Orbea Diva oldstyle

 

I’ve lusted after the Diva for a couple years now… but cannot possibly afford it new. So, unless I find a “never ridden, not pink, but sold at super low used price” option – she’s out for this year. Just can’t take the chance of dropping $3.5k on something used and having it show up cracked!! Between the other two, I’m super torn. I ride a Trek now (and she’s only *mostly* evil), but the Specialized is pretty hawtness and gets good reviews. I’ve debated for a couple weeks now, and have finally come to the conclusion that this cannot be solved with internet research; test rides are in order! With a little luck, I should be able to fit them in this weekend (bike stores are totally having Memorial Day sales… right?!), so more to come soon!

I Support a Healthy Tail(wind)

Cycling solo-style gives you lots of time to think. Too much time, typically. In fact, if I am riding alone and am unable to come up with something to keep my mind occupied… I start to have a pretty bad time (especially if a climb isn’t going so well). As counterintuitive as it may seem, having someone with which to chat or some other task on which to focus actually makes me a better rider. The more cycles I spend thinking about how tired I am/how long the climb is/how far it is to get home… the worse everything seems – downward spiral style. I’m pretty sure the technical term might be called “psyching yourself out.” Luckily, I identified my tendency toward mental self-flagellation and its negative impacts on performance early on in my cycling career (ha!), and discovered a few tricks to keep myself spinning happily. The easiest one? Entertainingly enough: plotting my next blog post. That’s right, trying to pick out which pieces of my ride might be interesting enough to write about actually distracts me pretty well (remembering what the topic I’d picked by the time I finally get home is a whole other story).

Today’s ride was a tough one. It was solo (so no oddball companion stories to share). It was short (no “omg my legs” whining to be had), and the route was a three times out-and-back repeater course (no unexpected hill surprises to be found). I didn’t run anything over, and I didn’t fall down. So… you’re probably wondering by now… what do I have for you? Well, when there’s no giant interesting event to talk about, sometimes summing up all the small things you notice can be pretty amusing. For today this translates to the “I support” and “I cannot tolerate” lists. Oh yeah folks, two for one here. Please try and keep the excited screaming to a minimum. Without further ado:

I support

  • Riding outside. Spin class is good (and is what I had planned for today), but wind, sunshine and outdoor smells are better.
  • Nicely paved roads, closed to traffic. Descending at 30mph without worry of being hit by a car is a good thing.
  • New batteries in the chest strap and cadence meter for my Garmin. My data nerd side will finally get a full-on fix!
  • Awesomely cute puppy jerseys (and people who compliment me on wearing them).
  • Little kids out riding bikes. Not much bad to say about parents encouraging kids to get active (especially these days).
  • Re-riding well known routes and focusing on performance and “all those little things.” Believe it or not, practicing pulling bottles solo (after a season using the devil Camelback) was way helpful.
  • Kickass tailwinds. Pushing my average speed from 13-14mph on flats up to 17-20 is frikkin’ fun.
  • Attacking from behind on a climb just to see if you can get ahead and stay there. Internal mental contests keep me motivated!

 

I cannot tolerate

  • The friendly tailwind’s flipside: the headwind. Grinding my flats time down to 10mph around some turns is just mean.
  • People riding without helmets — especially kids. Hitting your head on pavement at any speed is dangerous, there’s just no reason not to be protected. And parents should know better!!
  • Riding serpentine patterns in the middle of the road, especially on a descent. Yeah, the road is closed to traffic… but I’m pretty sure traveling in unpredictable patterns “just for fun” is still a bad idea.
  • Tiny kids and the middle of the road. Be sensible folks! If I smack into your 3 year old at 30mph, it’s not gonna go well for either of us (especially if he’s not wearing a frikkin HELMET!!!). Keep ’em safe, keep ’em on the shoulder.
  • Fixing flats at the crest of a climb with 6 of your friends, when there’s a perfectly good shoulder three feet to your right. C’mon man!
  • Forgetting that I’d hurt myself and then pushing off hard to get up a hill on my already stressed out knee (at the very first baby climb). Ow. Just… ow.
  • Core classes with an over-abundance of squats which caused aforementioned knee issue.
  • Snot rockets. Not much more to say there. EW.

 

Nothing earth-shattering, but it kept my mind busy. And that enabled me to try and push my speeds up and improve skills without *too much* self abuse. My overall pace was up about 2-3mph from average, and I pushed my descending speed a bit faster than normal with some hawt “core engaged” crouch in the drops action. Not bad for a quick, unplanned, hour long ride! And… because I know you’ve been missing it… the return of Garmin data!!

Motion Based ride data

Bring it on Home

I tried to delay this post long enough for the new Garmin connector cord to come in…but I just couldn’t wait any more. I forget things easy in my old age! If the data’s what you’re looking for, rest assured a new USB cable is en route and I’ll update all the posts ASAP once its in.

The descent off of that last hill led Ron and I passed a couple crashed cyclists and into the final rest stop. Nothing like harsh visual cues to remind you to be careful. And this wasn’t even the area that the ride sheet warned about…and I quote “WE DON’T NEED YOUR BROKEN BONES”. How’s that for reassuring? Thankfully everyone we went by was in pretty good shape and waved off assistance (although some of that road rash looked painful!); but we sent a police car back up the hill when we pulled into the stop just to be sure. And by that I mean we nicely asked someone to go check on the people fallen over and they agreed. Not like we order cops around or anything (shockingly).

Now the fifth and final rest stop rides and interesting balance between refreshment and torture. Its located at this gorgeous winery, with lovely views of the countryside and (of course) provides much needed nourishment and the ever important potties. It also is approximately 50 yards from and directly pointed at the “final” climb of the ride known only as “THE WALL”. Some of you uber cyclists out there are probably reading this with some hit of skepticism. It seems that every area popular with road bikers has its own “the wall”; who’s to say how tough the one in Solvang actually is. Well, truth be told (with no Garmin data in hand), I don’t know. I can’t tell you the average grade, max grade, climb length or overall elevation change. I can tell you that after 95 miles in the saddle, sitting down, eating your banana and staring at that thing…”wall” seems like an understatement. Anticipation only makes it worse, ya know?

If Ron and I kept rest stop 4 short, the Firestone Winery was lightning speed. One wall and less than ten miles stood between us and glory. Or us and beer. Whichever. I scarfed my snacks, chugged my sports drink and (grudgingly) climbed back in the saddle. I might be close to the end, but my tail knew that it wasn’t getting a break yet! As far as I can tell, this particular hill was longer than the previous one but not quite as steep. It was definitely…wigglier (yes, that is a technical term) and had a couple decidedly unfriendly banks. Lucky for me, I had powerhouse-Ron at my side. He helped keep me going when I struggled, and we hit the top in pretty good time.

The view from the peak was phenomenal. If only my legs weren’t utter jello at this point, I’d be showing you a picture of it here. As it was, there was a 0% chance that I was going to unclip without falling – so I kept pedaling into the descent (and muttered internally about all the great missed pictures of the day). The downhill portion itself was actually much less rewarding than the last one. The pavement was truly wretched and my arm (and ears…oh my god the squeaking!) was giving me a good deal of complaints. I managed to keep hold of the handlebars the whole time, but I was really glad to see the stop sign at the bottom!

Of course, no cycling story would be complete without someone lying about climbs. Ron was pretty upfront that there was one “minor” hill after the big one we’d just done…but his idea of minor and mine are definitely not the same. Just after the aforementioned stop sign, we pulled up to Solvang’s answer to Mt. Eden. Much like our beloved hill repeats climb, this particular hill boasts fairly mild grades but a bunch of tiny switchbacks. We slowly weaved our way to the top – my legs were seriously dead at this point – and were rewarded with a downhill grade the rest of the way back to Solvang. As much as I’d like to whine about the unexpected or underrepresented final climb, 3+ full miles of downhill into the finish line was pretty frikkin’ sweet.

 

Me and my medal. I barely look winded!

 

I seriously couldn’t stop smiling riding into the finish line. There was a TNT contingent cheering for us as we rode across the line, complete with friends from last season who I hadn’t seen in months! A few more smiles and a couple hugs saw me to the actual finish line…well, the faux-finish line…still gotta get those last three miles in after the break!). I picked up my finishers packet (also known as a bunch of ride flyers – exactly what I wanted to think about after 7+ hours in the saddle) and headed to the Team in Training tent to checkout and get my super cool finishers medal. As super cool as medals can be, I guess. They aren’t exactly fashion friendly, but what in biking-land is? I hit the Solvang gear tent and purchased my very own event jacket; small jerseys were sold out. It is basically hideous (think bright red with green, yellow and purple accents) and vaguely overpriced, but its one of those thing you have have from your first century ride!

 

Ron and I at the finish line

Colin (my mentor) and I smiling pretty

 

Charles caught up with me shortly after checkout, food in hand. Score one point for him! The promised BBQ looked kinda shady, so he brought a bread/cheese/fruit plate instead. Mmmmm cheeeeeeese. Add in a tasty Danish pastry thing, and my recovery time was pretty short. Feeding time quickly gave way to “take lots of pictures to compensate for not taking them on the ride”. Of course these were of sweaty people in spandex cycling gear and not lovely rolling green hill, blue sky scenery…but whatever. Once the photos were done and the last of Team Wolverine had crossed (they all did make it in, just at varying points after Ron and I), Rich, Angie and I settled into back into the saddle for those last three miles home. Lucky for me, I avoided the beer – alcohol and a fierce wind combined with my exhaustion would likely have landed me as someone’s hood ornament!

 

Coach Don, me and Leigh Ann about 10 minutes before CollapseTime

 

I’m sure the Team in Training wrap up party was lovely, but I confess to not staying long enough to find out. I actually hit McDonald’s just after the ride (FOR SHAME!), so basically just picked at my dinner and ate the dessert. By the time the dancing started, my legs had one slow dance (aka turn and sway) in them before collapse. Charles and I hit the hotel room early and I feel asleep watching Troy on AMC (since when was this an American Movie Classic?!) by 9:30. All in all, pretty darn good day.

Motion Based ride data

The Ride Continues

For all that I learned about eating right while your ride over the last two training seasons, I learned a lot more between rest stops two and three. Its weird how you can actually feel your energy levels ebb and flow the longer you are on a bike. Somewhere around mile 45 or so, I started to feel…off. I wasn’t bonking yet, but I knew that if I didn’t eat something soon that I wasn’t going to finish this ride. It was the middle of a rolling climb, so I fought for the top before pulling over.

I inhaled a few shot bloks, chugged some sport drink, and climbed back in the saddle. The weather had cleared up entirely, fog giving way to 70 something temperatures and not a cloud in the sky. I shed a couple layers of clothing (stuffed conveniently into back pockets. Why don’t normal clothes have pouches?), pedaled easy for 10 minutes or so, and was feeling good as new in no time. There really is something to this eating thing (apparently)!

The next 10-12 miles were straight into a headwind, but I felt great. Where I’d been lagging a bit before, I was now able to take my pulls on the paceline like it was nothing despite the nasty wind gusts. If anything, I was having to hold back to keep from taking off and gapping the line when it was my turn! The road condition worsened and my arm started to ache (let’s not even mention the annoying bike squeak), but overall the ride could not have been better.

Well.. all things in moderation or… all good things must come to an end. Pick your catchy saying. You knew this was coming, right? About 3 miles before rest stop three, my energy level was just gone again. I’m not sure if it was the wind, the sun, or some combination of the two (or possibly my overly enthusiastic attitude) but I went from feeling great to convinced I was going to faint in a matter of minutes. The thought of seeing Charles at the next stop really kept me going. How disappointed would he be if he waited for hours at that stop, only to find I’d been SAG’d out (or even just waylaid for awhile) just a few miles away? It simply wouldn’t do. So, I reigned in my pace, was thankful when other teammates did the same, and managed to hit the rest stop without collapsing.

Rest stop three was chaos. I managed to find a spot to lay my bike down (which was a challenge, despite the giant airport hotel parking lot) and stumbled exhaustedly to the food tents. There I was greeted with possibly the longest line I have ever seen (that wasn’t for a new gaming console in front of a Best Buy – people like their Wiis). Who’s bright idea was it to make a line anyway? The random elbowing and crowding had worked fine up to this point. As luck would have it, just as I thought I’d faint before actually getting any food, a girl carrying an enormous tray of PBJs and bananas walked by. Apparently the ride volunteers also realized that it was only a matter of time before a line that long led to riots! I snagged half a sandwich (which I never do), scarfed it down instantly, and stole two banana halves before heading back to the group. I was hungry!

Sometime during the frenzied inhalation of shot bloks, I realized that I hadn’t yet found Charles. I’d scoped out the obvious locations – potties, food line, TNT SAG crew – and he was nowhere to be seen. I wrestled my iPhone out of the Camelback only to discover that he had somehow lost his car keys in the hotel room, and would take a cab to meet me at the finish line. Bummer! I was so counting on seeing him to give me that additional motivation to finish out…guess that was going to have to come from me or something now. So sad! I continued stuffing my face for a full 10 minutes or so, took a few pictures, and even saved a cyclists life (by offering up an extra pouch of my borrowed Cytomax) before the team was ready to roll again. To be honest, I still wasn’t feeling that hot coming out of stop three. I no longer felt like I’d actually faint at any moment, but devouring that much food and chugging all that water in such a short time span left me nauseous at best. Lucky for me (although possibly unlucky for them), several teammates were also starting to show some wear around the edges – so we set a pretty tame pace for the next few miles.

Somewhere after that rest stop, Ron and I split off from the group. The hills weren’t treating me well and I didn’t want to hold up my team while I spun it out (and waited for the nausea to pass). Entertainingly enough, he and I rolled passed Devan and crew a couple miles down the road; they’d gotten a flat and were changing it out on the side of the road. That was the last time we’d spot Team Wolverine for the rest of the ride. A little more climbing and whatnot and we were the next break point. With only two people to keep track of, rest stop four was pretty short. I pulled off my shoes and massaged feeling back into my toes – I’m a horrible toe pointer – while the cutest kid I’ve ever seen offered to fill my water bottles. He could not have been more than ..seven… (I’m actually quite bad at ages), but he handled those Crystal Springs jug like a pro!

Ron and I picked up a nice tailwind coming through a 20ish mile flat span in Foxen Canyon which sped my recovery quickly. In no time at all we were flying passed cyclists, part of the time with Ron pushing the two of us faster than most singles could go! Ron and I hit Solvang’s answer to Altamont (you remember…short, steep and dirty) at the end of that nice flat stretch, and struggled up mightily. I would definitely classify that particular hill as a “gut popper”. We did make the top in the saddle and were rewarded with an absolutely fantastic descent. I stood a little to relieve the saddle-sore (hey man, we were over 70 miles in at this point!), and enjoyed the cool rush of wind. You seriously couldn’t find a cloud, and last temperature check was over 80 degrees! In March! (So much for that rumored hail, right?)

How do you Title a Post that Spans 100 Miles?

The short answer is, you don’t. When a post spans over seven hours of saddle time, more like nine hours total time, over a hundred miles traveled, everything that happens in between simply cannot be covered in one witty title post. Unfortunately. I know how much you all look forward to my alliteration. Anyway, let’s get to the task at hand (trying to sum up this monster ride), and hope that I don’t end up splitting the post into multiples, thereby negating all the crafty intro/prep text I just typed up.

Team Wolverine, as we C’s were dubbed (no, I was not present at the naming and take no responsibility for our “winter animal” name choice. And don’t get me started on what on earth a winter animal is in the first place. Do they die out during the other seasons like flowers? Moving on…), were scheduled to roll out of the Marriott at 6:30am Saturday morning. I hopped out of bed around 5:30 and, after fighting with the evil hotel alarm clock for a full five minutes (I told you they couldn’t be trusted!), was ready to leave by 5:45. Well crap. I walked out into the hallway, thinking I’d go buy a bagel, realized I didn’t have shoes on nor did I know where the bagel place was, and quickly returned to the room. I did get a glimpse of my team motivational floormat though, so not a total wasted trip. Gotta love anything that can make you smile on no sleep at 5-something in the morning! After a quick room search revealed no mini-fridge or snacks, I settled for hastily made hotel coffee as my “breakfast of champions”.

I slurped down the vaguely horrid hotel brew and managed to sit still all the way to 6:10, at which point I had to go to the meeting spot. Yes, even though it was approximately 25 feet from my door. Better to fidget in the cold than in the room…I guess. Perhaps not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one who was early. I joined ranks with Angie, Rich and Ron and waved hello to our team manager and head coach. After forcing down a granola bar at Ron’s insistence (you cannot start this ride on an empty stomach. So many rules!), I lined up with the rest of the crew for a few team pictures. Or, as I like to call them, the “before” shots. Seems more ominous that way somehow. Two emergency trips to the room for ear-warmers and long gloves (it was cold!) later, I was ready to roll.

The morning fog seemed to thicken around us as we hit the road. By the time we’d made the turn onto the first long stretch of road, my glasses were completely and utterly covered in water drops. As we started our first descent, I had condenstation rolling down my helmet, down my glasses, onto my face. So crazy! Pair that with what can only be characterized as a “really rough” stretch of pavement – 10ish miles of it – and the first section of the ride should have been torture. But it was my first century, and even roads causing awful jarring sensations up my bad elbow couldn’t get my spirits down. As we climbed the next “little” hill, the sun started to break through the mist. Right as I started to get annoyed with the cold and wet weather, I was treated to a view from the side of a hill, over the fogline, just as the light came out. It was awesome. Of course, it was also a descent, and the best I could do for a picture was to grab one back at the general area from the next stop sign. Le sigh.

The route cruised along Highway 1 for a bit before sending us to our first stop at mile 23. Actually it was only mile 20 for us…TNT starts at the hotel rather than in Solvang and then does the entire route up to the finish line. Technically, that’s a full 100 miles, as the entire route is 103.4, but the TNT veterans claim that you haven’t really ridden the Solvang Century until you’ve hit the finish line, eaten dinner, had a couple beers, and then ridden the last 3.5 miles back to the hotel. Well, the beer part is probably unofficial. Gluttons for punishment is the only phrase that comes to mind on the whole “false finish” arrangement! Regardless, the stop almost seemed to come to early. Yeah, it was over a quarter of the way through the ride, but I wasn’t ready to break.

Lucky for me, the route planners and team coaches know more about century riding that I do. More rest stops is better than less. Or so I would learn. Coach Devan not only stopped the group at the stop, but made sure that we were all eating and drinking properly. I managed to choke down a couple banana segments (seriously, it was too early for eating!) and laid heavily into the Cytomax in my bottle cage. I was wearing the Camelback full of regular water for the ride, but gimp-arm still wasn’t strong enough to consistently, safely pull the bottle from the frame while moving. Gotta consciously load up on those electrolytes at the stops! I earned a few glares taking pictures of teammates (too early? Bah! They’ll thank me later!) before we headed back out on the road.

The miles between stop one and stop two all sort of blend together for me. My energy level was still pretty high, and I attacked the climbs on Highway 1 with a vengeance. The uphill struggle was rewarded with a phenomenal descent; super smooth pavement and a wide shoulder. Even throttling the brakes like I have been since the accident, I cracked my season speed record by far (up to 36.5, I think). I can see why the organizers put a “Watch Downhill Speed” note on the route sheet! I’m betting some of those experienced riders (or possibly a well ridden tandem) could blow by that 55mph posted limit without trying.

We turned off Hwy 1 towards the second rest stop, at which point I discovered…the squeak. Now, my bike, for all its problems, had never had a squeak before. Loud popping noises when tires blew? Yes. Grating noises on concrete when I’ve fallen? Sure. But horrid, high-pitched creaking like a demented cricket? That was new. All I can claim to remember of miles 32-37 is how desperately I wanted to reach the next stop and have my bike looked at by the mechanic. All I could remember for the rest of the day was how little worth waiting in line for that mechanic actually was. Twenty minutes and a lot of cyclist muscling later, the bike had been oiled up and declared “fit to ride”. Thirty seconds on the road after the stop and I swear the squeak was worse. So goes life. Notice there are no pictures from this leg of the journey…

I should have expected this. (Well, technically I did expect this…see first paragraph note.) The post is already almost too long to be bearable, so I’m making the first split here. More to come after the break!


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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