Posts Tagged 'california'

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


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

Tour de Hometown

Julie and I decided, rather last minute-like, to ride the Tour de Peninsula back on 8/2. Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted — between fail lung sickness, traveling and book editing I haven’t been online much at all… but more on that later. She had friends coming into town and had to miss Matt’s buddy ride (which I’m sure that she regretted HUGELY), so we decided to hit the TdP as a way for her to make up some miles that weekend.

The two of us rolled up to the starting area at Coyote Point ridiculously early Sunday morning. I was afraid that day-of registrations might get cut off and that we might not get our T-shirts if we came late. As it turned out, everyone who came could register and everyone who registered day-of got their shirts mailed to them — but by the time we’d figured that out it too late to reclaim any lost sleep. Hey – it was only my second non-TNT event ever… what do I know?

Given the state of my legs after the buddy ride the day before, we opted to register for the 31mi route instead of the 65 or 100 options (well, instead of the 65. Realistically, the 100 was never on the table… but it sounds more impressive if you put it in the list!). The lines moved super quickly, and we traded our $40 cash for an armband and route sheet with a full hour to spare. We braved the obnoxiously short and steep climb to and from the starting zone two extra times – had to shed some layers and drop off the empty Julie-fuel cells (aka Diet Mountain Dew bottle) at the car.

Extraneous objects stowed, we joined the rest of the cattle herd in between the plastic ropes that formed the start-line chute. Actual roll time was delayed a good 10 minutes, which meant extra time standing in the cold, grey fog of San Mateo mornings. We managed not to freeze to death in 50 degree weather (barely!), and, after a near-wipeout at the actual start line, were on our way.

I probably won’t be able to describe the route super accurately, despite the help of my Garmin data. Time and the most-fail route sheet that you’ve ever seen (Seriously? A full-color giant map with almost no road names? And no distances?) has dulled my memory, and the GPS data is hard to interpret as the route looped over itself in several spots. I know for sure that the route first followed the Coyote Point Trail south before heading across downtown San Mateo. This was one of my very favorite parts of the ride, as Charles and I hang out in this neighborhood often — but I’ve never ridden it. I felt a bit like a tour guide – “there’s my movie theater, and there’s the awesome Italian place.” Fun stuff! I was sorely tempted to stop at Pete’s somewhere around mile 5; only Julie’s hatred of all things coffee kept me on bike. Silly girl… coffee is tasty!

We quickly learned to appreciate the CHP providing “traffic calming” at intersections as well as all the super enthusiastic volunteers directing us at every turn. Most roads had no cars at all and we almost never got lost (we’ll get to that in a minute), no thanks to aforementioned Route Sheet of Faildom. Our first climb went up Crystal Springs Road (which you might remember from the previous day’s ride) and was a good way to finally warm up. Julie and I split up during the climb, but regrouped easily at Rest Stop #1 at the top of the hill.  This stop seemed way too early in the route, so we just topped off water bottles and kept on rolling.

From there we headed down Skyline and out onto everyone’s favorite closed road: Cañada. The sun started to peek out just as we hit the reservoir, and we enjoyed some warmer miles along familiar territory. I’m actually beginning to think that legislation was passed at some point requiring 98% of all rides in the area to include Cañada road! We opted skip Rest Stop #2 at the water temple as well, figuring that we’d just hit it on the way back (as the 31 mile route was an out-and-back on this road). Julie and I rolled along for another 2-ish miles before hitting Edgewood and running out of “31 mile route –>” signs. Apparently what the route sheet had failed to make clear was the fact that the second rest stop was our turnaround spot. Oopsie!

We quickly whipped around and headed back to check out the goodies. One very tasty plum and one somewhat-less-tasty See’s chocolate lollypop later, we were back on the road. The next bit of the route was pretty fun. We veered off to the right of the main road, just before 92, and took a little walking trail up over 280. There was a bitchy little popper climb to get up to the overpass, and a longer but milder-grade one to get up to Ralston Ave… but I enjoyed the scenery (and the novelty of riding over a major highway). After some lack-of-crosswalk stoplight cursing, we were treated to an awesome long descent down Ralston and Polhemus.

The furiously waving flags at our next turn just barely kept me on track for the turn onto Crystal Springs Road again (deja vu all over again or somesuch — 3 times in one weekend!). I made the turn at the last possible second, but was stuck climbing in my biggest gear for awhile. By the time Julie and I were about a quarter of the way up this hill-lette, I was starting to feel the pain of yesterday’s ride. 31 miles isn’t really that much longer than our typical 23 mile recovery loop, but this route definitely had a bit more climbing than I expected. We crested the top and hit rest stop #1 again – this time pausing for a bit of refuel action.

With (significantly more tasty) butterscotch See’s lollies in hand, we set out to ride the Sawyer Camp Trail. Seriously, sooo much route overlap – at least I knew what to expect! The day was gorgeous – sunny but not hot – and the trail was much more fun to ride when it was closed to pedestrians. We wound around the reservoir, celebrating the win that is butterscotch candy and taking in the scenery. The short climb at the end of the trail felt much harder than I know it is… but Julie and I made it up pretty quickly nonetheless.

We zipped through Rest Stop #3 without stopping and enjoyed/clutched the handlebars in terror through the descents back down to civilization. (As it turns out, coming straight down from those hills up in Millbrae is much steeper than you’d imagine!) The rest of the ride really was mostly downhill and definitely uneventful. The very last mile of the route went through a bizarre gravel patch which made me feel as though I should’ve been on a mountain bike… or at least riding commuter tires… but we made it through and back up the hill to the start/finish zone without any flats (miraculously).

Hooray for pops!

After checking out the (rather paltry) selection of vendors in the finish zone, we hauled our selves back downhill to the car. I did get a pedometer that I have no idea how to use and a bunch of brochures for rides that I’m probably not doing — but that was about it. We decided to pass on the lame-ish looking food at the end, opting for BJs (yay giant potatoes!) as a lunch reward instead. All in all, my second event ride ever was a very fun time — a bit challenging for a “recovery ride”… but good times nonetheless.

Tour de Peninsula

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

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

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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