Posts Tagged 'cycling'

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!

Best,

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

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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

In case you didn’t know

As a TNT mentor, I’m not technically supposed to give much in the way of advice. I can, of course, answer questions when directly asked, but anything that might fall under the umbrella of “coaching” should be deferred to those best suited (and insured) to cover it… namely the coaches. Yet in chatting with participants, particularly those new to cycling, I can’t help but think of all those little tips, tricks and just general knowledge that I now take for granted (so coaches probably definitely do!). I point things out where I think its appropriate… but I couldn’t help (when distracting myself on the last couple weeks’ rides) making a mental list of  stuff I wish someone had told me early in my riding career. While printing a flier to hand out at our next training session might be a bit presumptuous (and crazy), I figure I can’t get in too much trouble (or ruin too many lives) posting it on here!

A Few Things I Wanted to Mention, Just in Case You Didn’t Know:

  • Gearing up
    • Invest in comfortable gear. Touch the fabrics, try things on and pick stuff that feels good to you and on you. If you’re lucky, it might come cheap… but even $150 investment once is going to pay you back tenfold when you can ride 8 hours without thinking about chafing.
    • For the love of gawd, wear bike shorts. Yeah, they look ridiculous. But you know that… umm… uncomfortable feeling “down there” that you’ve been hoping will go away for the last two weeks? Not gonna happen in cotton workout shorts. I promise. Suck it up and join the “Spandex Adult Diaper Club.” You’ll be in good company!
    • When you get your fancy new bike shorts? Leave the undies at home. Yeah, I’m saying it (in case you missed the shopping clinic). Cycle shorts are meant to work without them, and trust me – you’ll appreciate the friction  minimization.
    • Layer. Layer layer layer. Figure out what works for you, but in this silly state, it will absolutely be cold in the mornings and (at least sometimes) scalding by noon. You’ll be riding all day, in and out of shade, at varying degrees of workout intensity. There is no good reason to make yourself suffer from cold or hot (on top of everything else!).
    • Sunscreen up before you leave the house. Even on cloudy days. Even if you don’t burn. Ever. You arms almost never move while biking, and your thighs are exposed a lot. Four to eight hours, even without searing sunshine and you WILL fry something. Believe me, two weeks of riding with a recovering burn is not the way to go. I actually spray on Neutrogena sunscreen before I even get dressed (less chance of missing any spots). Works wonders!
  • Filling the tank
    • Eat breakfast. I know you never do. Neither do I. Force yourself to get in the habit anyway. Even just a little oatmeal/cereal/clif bar and a banana. You’ll need that stored fuel on long rides.
    • Oh yeah… eat bananas. Or anything else with a good amount of potassium. Balanced meals are one of the keys to avoiding muscle strain, and most of us are terrible at it. Find something you can eat with a good amount of potassium and avoid the terrible muscle spasms/pulled calves that I’ve ended up with on at least two separate hill repeats.
    • If you’re even remotely picky about food, start testing your ride snacks early. Yes, even if you never eat while you exercise. You’re gonna have to get used to it, or you absolutely will end up on the side of the road bonked. My tummy is super sensitive, so I only eat a few things (although I love to test new ones constantly!). Find something that works early, then stock up. 
    • Drink more than you think you need to. Your body is probably always dehydrated anyway. We’ll be in the sun. Lots. Water (and electrolyte drinks) are your friend. 
  • On the road
    • You will fall at least once. Hopefully at slow speed and in front of minimal people… but it’s going to happen (and it’ll hurt less than you think – unless you count wounds to pride). There’s no use being scared about it all the time — the coaches will teach you everything they can to keep you safe. And when it does happen? Use your bruises as sympathy ploys for donations.
    • Clipless pedals are not as hard as you think they’re gonna be, and they really do make a ton of difference in both your power and safety. If you’re thinking of switching, go to a good shop and ask if you can try some out early in the season. Nothing sucks more than being the person learning a new pedal system two weeks before the big ride!
    • Similarly, get familiar on the gears with your bike early. Learn to shift up and down when appropriate. Ask coaches for help. As a good friend of mine can attest: climbing every hill in your biggest ring is not the way to go through an entire season.
    • Downshift as you roll up to a stoplight (I still vaguely suck at this). Having to push off from a standstill in your highest gear will blow your knees faster than anything. Two clicks down makes a world of difference!
    • Go to the hills training. I’ve done a season going to every optional training, and one going to almost none. If you can do only one optional thing, I promise you hills training is the one to pick. You’ll hate it at first. Everyone does. But you’ll get stronger and enjoy your rides a lot more. 
    • Pacelining is not as scary as it looks or sounds. It will take awhile to get used to riding in a line (trust is earned, right?)… but when you’re only having to take the full force of the wind 10-30% of the time, you’ll appreciate it. 
    • You’ll almost always feel good when you start the ride. Learn to reign in your racehorse tendencies and don’t blow it all off just out of the gate. You’re gonna need that energy four hours from now – do yourself a favor and keep a steady pace!

I’m sure I’ll think of more (probably as soon as I push the “publish” button), but this list probably covers off the basics. Cycling is really not that scary, or that hard. Be smart, ask questions often, use a bit of common sense, and (I swear!) you’ll have fun.

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
Food
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.
Drinks
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!

Spring Not-So-Rigorous Training

It is that time of year. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming. The weather is warm, but not yet too hot – and all around town people are waking from hibernation, hitting the roads and starting to burn down those insulation layers. The cyclists (and probably all manner of other sports-types) are out en force and, despite lack-of-posting evidence to the contrary, I’ve been one of them. That’s right, for roughly the last 6 weeks running, I’ve been out riding at least once a week!

Now my regular readers (do I still have any of those?) might scoff, “She always posts rides! With charts! Where’s the proof?” My TNT buddies might retain a healthy level of skepticism – “I haven’t seen her on a single Mayhem or TNT ride in months.” And you’d all be right. To the latter point, I’ve been branching out in my riding buddies and tackling shorter rides with smaller groups of friends. It’s not that I don’t love you all anymore… I just couldn’t fathom breaking a five month hiatus with a 140-person, 60+ mile spring team buddy ride! If I’m going to fail miserably, I’d like to keep the audience small. Or nonexistent. So I’ve been rocking 12-25 mile rides solo or in a pair. I have tackled the recovery ride loop a couple times and even went so far as to take my new (and likely soon to be ex) friend on a voluntary hill repeats ride! Well, voluntary on my part… not so much hers! I’ve also been rocking spin class once a week to build up ye ol’ climbing muscles and that cardio fitness, and expect to be in tip-top summer cycling shape in the next month. Well… at least I aim to be.

But what about the former argument? Where have the blog posts been?? Sadly, my laptop had the technological equivalent of a stroke and, due to a high degree of fail on the part of its should-be support staff saviors, it was completely out of commission for about three weeks. Now… this doesn’t *completely* excuse a lack of posts, but was definitely a large contributing factor. The problem has since been rectified. My laptop has returned (brain replacement surgery was successful) *and* my shiny new desktop is here and set up. I should have the Garmin software installed by the end of the week and all will again be right in the “blogs at length about rides and random details” world. A backlog of links, graphs and maps will all be available soon!

As a side note: blogging from one’s iPhone is an utterly ridiculous undertaking, and I will be placing a link to the “Support this blog – buy Jamie a netbook” fund soon.

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

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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