Posts Tagged 'cañada'

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


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

These clips weren’t made for walkin’

Coaches lie. Sometimes the do it intentionally. They’ll tell you you’re halfway up a 5 mile climb .75 miles in to try and keep you thinking positively (or to laugh in their own heads as you suffer… I’ve never really figured out which.). They’ll claim that something is “not a hill” based on asinine criteria that they can’t explicitly define and that changes depending on which non-hill they’re trying to downplay. (“You can see the top from here.” “The grade is less than X%”.  “There are only 12 switchbacks; real hills have at least 13.”) When they’re really feeling evil, coaches will tell you the ride is “all downhill from here” knowing full well that there are at least two climbs or 45 “rollers” to go. I expect (or hope) that there’s a method to their madness… but you can pretty much assume most non-safety related things they tell you are falsehoods.

The trickier scenarios though, are those when coaches lie unintentionally. They say things that seem reasonable and that don’t fall into the standard “coach-speak” repertoire. Take last Saturday’s buddy ride, for example. Coach Matt gives us a rundown of the ride before we roll out from the Menlo Park Safeway lot. He talks us through the 50 mile loop, which, other than a couple small climbs sounds pretty easy. He’s never ridden the whole route, only driven it… but we’ve done a couple 57-milers at this point – 50 should be cake! Matt does mention one road with a 100 yard or so steep climb, with an off-handed “remember you have feet if you need them” remark… but with my last couple weeks at hill repeats focused solely on short, out of the saddle climbs, I don’t think much of it. What’s 100 yards?! Have I foreshadowed enough here yet?

Roughly eight of us headed out together after our pep-talk (we had a really small turnout for this ride for some reason). We made quick work of Alameda de las Pulgas before turning onto our “warm-up” hill at mile five, Edgewood. Despite some pretty cold muscles (why oh why did I forget my armwarmers?!), I buzzed up this bad boy without too much of an issue. The group turned right onto Crestview at mile 7, where I dropped into my baby ring and prepared to stand… only to see my entire crew walking up the hill. As in… not on bikes. What the hell?? That’s not a good sign. I took a deep breath and resolved to sit and spin for as long as I could before standing (which always makes my heart rate explode instantaneously). I pushed into my lowest gear and got to work.

Wow. 100 yards was definitely a lie. As far as I can tell from the map data, the first “mini summit” was about .75mi up… and running about perpendicular to sea level. About halfway up to the false top, I could no longer hear people talking next to me over the sound of my own breath. I switched my hands to the top bars and got my whole upper body working to keep moving. My speed dropped to somewhere around zero (although I did manage to keep going just enough to prevent the Garmin from shutting itself off). That grade was ridiculous! I passed 4 or 5 people walking, as I got it into my head that I could at least make the first intersection before I had to dismount… which is exactly what I did. At the first side street, I hopped off the bike and started hoofing it toward the top.

Now, walking in clips is dumb. Really dumb. You can’t balance properly on your toes (because there’s a giant frikkin’ piece of plastic there), so you end up waddling like a duck back on your heels. Only… when you’re walking uphill at absurdly steep angles… waddling doesn’t really work. You need to push from the calves, which requires full-toe contact. EESH! After about 100 feet of awkward-walk, I gave up, pulled into someone’s driveway (to have a flat spot to clip in), and went back to gut-punch climbing. I huffed and puffed, gasped and wheezed the rest of the way to the stop sign… in the saddle. Woofreakinhoo! Once everyone reaches the “top,” Matt lets us know that we should have rollers the rest of the way up, and pedaling through the downhills should get us up the next climbs with ease.

…right. I’m not sure if Matt ever actually drove this road, or just has a really bad memory… but there were no “downhill” sections. We were treated to some “significantly less steep” uphill sections, but the next .75 miles to the actual summit were 100% climbs. The Garmin will verify!! (And in case you’ve been keeping track? The whole of Crestview was ~1.5 miles… not so much 100 yards. Average grade estimate is 9%… although I guarantee it was much higher along the way. Always lies.) In good news, I was bound, determined, and able to reach the actual crest of Crestview in the saddle, without stopping. I’m pretty sure that a few people walked it faster than I climbed… but no matter. I pulled that shit out on a bike! We took a few minutes for recovery at the top, and tried to put in a call to Don to give him fair warning on how terrible this climb would be. (I hope, for the sake of his ladies, that Don got that message. Owie!)

Luckily the descent off of Crestview and eventually down Ralston was pretty long and served for good recovery time. I kicked up some good speeds coming downhill, and pounded some food and drink at the bottom (no cramps for me today, please!). We watched a deer and its very tiny baby meander across the street (thankfully safely), before turning off the main drag and onto Crystal Springs road. I should have been able to make quick work of this “not a climb”… but I’m pretty sure that I’d blown all of my reserves back on that mile seven monster. My lead-legs and I did rock the entire stretch of road in the saddle, and not even in my smallest gear — it just took awhile.

Our crew headed next out Sawyer Camp Trail, a 6 mile multi-use trail that circles the Crystal Springs Reservoir. The loop reminded me a bit of riding back on the Los Gatos Creek trail. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous, and it was definitely an excellent place to continue recovering from climbs… but they constant people dodging inherent in “multi-use” public areas can be frustrating. If I hadn’t been so tired, I’m confident that I would have been more annoyed. Still… I could absolutely imagine taking people newer to bike riding around this trail, as it is very pretty and very manageable.

At the top of the Sawyer Camp Trail climb, our group decided to go “off sheet” and head out Skyline instead of coming back down and performing Dodge The People: Act Two. I’m pretty sure that we ended up with a few extra “rollers” (coach speak!) for our trouble, but we did get back down to Hwy 92 fairly quickstyle. Now, right about here is where our group broke apart.  I missed the light on 92 by about fifteen seconds, and then didn’t weigh enough to trip it for the next two cycles. By the time a non-human-motor vehicle showed up, the entire group had a 10 minute lead on me. I may be capable of a decent short sprint… but catching them at those distances just wasn’t gonna happen! Thankfully, Dan waited for me just passed the light, so he and I headed out together to finish the last twenty miles.

From this point on, the ride progressed into super familiar territory. We rolled down Canada Road (site of our pacelining clinic), and picked up Chi Lam’s buddy, Shawn, along the way. Apparently his energy was starting to flag and he’d dropped off the tail of the main group somewhere along the flats. The three of us meandered down parts of the Woodside-Portola Valley loop (Olive Hill wiggling to Woodside, to Portola to Apline style), consistently dropping pace along the way. You see, Shawn hadn’t ridden in awhile. A good long while apparently. (Don’t start your friends back to cycling on a 50 mile climb-heavy ride, people!) Somewhere in the vicinity of Portola Road, he came perilously close to a bonk without saying anything (sigh… boys). Dan and I noticed him falling off our backs, even with the pace around 10mph on flats and started to get worried. I declared the need for another rest stop, where we all but force fed him a Power bar and a Gu. With the number of times I’ve “hit the wall” or had someone in my ride group do so… I recognized the signs easily (and buddy rides don’t come with SAG!). For the record: if Chocolate Outrage Gu ever tastes like “the best thing you’ve ever tasted”… you are in dire need of carbs. 

Sugar consumed, we were ready to roll back out for the last 10 miles of the ride. I kept the pace low (near-bonk is not the time to be setting speed records), determined to make sure that we all finished together. We had a few minutes of worry on Willowbrook Drive, as there’s a tiny little gut-popper bump at the end — but managed to hit the “really downhill from here” stretch of Alpine after only one more small break.  The three of us rolled back into the Safeway parking lot intact, and acceded to a near-ravenous Shawn’s demands for a cheeseburger in short order. All told, it was a very pretty 50 milers – just a bit more challenging that coach-speak had led us to expect!

Coach Matts Buddy Ride

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

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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