Posts Tagged 'gu'

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


All spun up

Another Sunday, another “recovery” ride (still in quotes, as it was more than double Saturday’s distance). Our ever-growing TNT morning after crew met up at the Chain Reaction and rolled out just after 9am. We were a bit behind schedule leaving the parking lot due to both a couple latecomers and Don and I burning time (and zip ties) in an attempt to get my cadence meter functional. Honestly, my frustration with the thing has been pretty high. The meter has worked fine for 2 years on my other bike! How is it possible that it would take three weeks, 6 rides, approximately 20 black ties and at least 2 brains to get this thing up and running?! A combo deal of user error and curve-y bike frame action turns out to be the answer.

When we finally hit the road, the stupid meter was working and I decided to put some of my “knowledge” into practice by focusing on keeping my cadence between 85-95 rpms. (Knowledge goes in quotes since I was actually just taking the advice of one of my coaches… I can’t speak to its validity firsthand!) I shifted down a couple notches and really concentrated on keeping my legs spinning. Somewhere around three miles in, I realized that I was moving so fast that I had dropped the rest of my team. Wow! This fast cadence thing really works, right?! Wrong. As it turns out, one of group busted his chain immediately upon leaving the parking lot, and they’d all stopped to make sure he was OK to get back to his car. Apparently I was so “in the zone” working on my revolutions that I didn’t hear their cries (for me to wait up, not for help… thankfully). Yays for tunnel vision!

I pulled over and waited for the rest of the crew before continuing on my spastic spinning circuit. Once we’d all regrouped, I refocused on the goal… and darted away again. And that’s pretty much how I spent the first half of the ride. I quickly discovered that 90 revs per minute and my big chain ring don’t really mix well. Same deal for 90 rpm and my heart rate. I definitely felt like I was pushing less weight and going a bit faster… but was dropping energy much quicker than normal. I was grateful for the quick arrival of the rest stop, where I put a few new foods to the test.

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Gu Rocktane Vanilla Orange 7 One of the few fruit gels that doesn’t make me gag with chemical flavor badness. Tastes mostly like a melty dreamsicle (appropriately annoying stickiness included). Roctane supposedly has more cool stuff than regular GU (2x the salt, 3x amino acids, almost 2x caffeine, extra potassium), which I can only assume makes it even better for me… right?
Gu Chomps Orange 8 Probably best orange chewy thing yet. A bit saltier than the Clif version, which keeps it from being overly sweet (and is thankfully missing the odd chemical aftertaste).
Hammer HEED Sports Drink Subtle Strawberry 2 The only thing subtle about this drink would be its resemblance to anything strawberry. Tasted something like the aftertaste that you’d expect from diet strawberry candy… only watered down. Why can’t fruit drinks ever taste anything like fruit?!

The climb up Arastradero was pretty quick (although I discovered a completely inability to keep my legs churning anywhere near goal levels). Don and I had a great tiny paceline descent down Alpine – over 30 on the flats!  He then dropped off to wait for the rest of the group while I continued along with my spin-but-don’t-flail exercises. And that really was the rest of the ride. I tried to keep my cadence up and heart rate down, while traversing our well known route. The few conversations with team mates that I did attempt were punctuated with me either cursing my legs or cursing the bike’s still-terribly-clicky middle ring gear.

I rolled into the parking lot with almost the exact same timing as last week, and immediately (well, immediately after breakfast) left my bike to be de-clickified (aka serviced). I am happy to report that the cadence meter stayed functional for the entire ride, even if focusing on its data did nearly kill me.

Up next this week? Our first hill repeats of the season! Stay tuned…

Los Altos Recovery Ride 6_14

New Does Not Always Mean Better

I love testing new cycling food, but (true to my ultra-picky nature) tend to hate most of it. Oddly enough, this never seem to diminish my enthusiasm for experimentation. I am consistently drawn in by the shiny packaging, cheap single packet costs and exciting sounding flavors… only to whine about them later. For extra bonus fun, my love for testing food has to be balanced against my general inclination to forget to eat on rides, or to only eat the bare minimum that’ll keep me going (as too much food tends to make me nauseous). Therefore, in order to test new foods and actually complete rides, I typically have to carry backup items that I know I’ll eat in case of emergency… and then force myself to consume one or the other in its entirety.

And man are there are lot of exciting, new, and (so far) mostly terrible things to try this season! I’m trying to front-load my testing phase (no sense bonking on a 60mi ride due to lack of electrolyte drinks), which means I’ve already started ripping through the bright neon pouches.

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Clif Shot Razz 3 Sticky sweet to the point of nauseating, with that chemical-fruit flavor problem. Texture wise it wasn’t terrible, but I couldn’t manage to swallow more than a quarter of the packet
Clif Shot Vanilla 3.5 Too sweet, but at least didn’t sport a terrible chemical aftertaste. Overly pasty texture, but I did (with a lot of water) manage to eat the whole thing.
Clif Shot Bloks Orange 6 Decent orange flavor and I always love their texture. Also dig the new “easy access” packaging. Odd aftertaste (possibly due to the caffeine?) knocks this one slightly below typical Clif Shot Blok average.
Clif Shot Blocks Mountain Berry 8 Good flavor, no funky aftertaste, good texture. Excellent non-caffeinated block option.
Gu Chomps Strawberry 8 Solid strawberry flavor with a non-offensive (not too sweet) aftertaste. Good texture, but a little annoyed at the giant packaging. Fully support anything that can combine caffeine and berry in a tasty way though.
Clif Electrolyte Drink Crisp Apple 2 Excellent apple flavor on the front is utterly crushed by terrible salt flavor on the back end (had I read the website before buying, I would have known this was the intention and sidestepped this one). Definitely not for me. Ewie… salt.
Luna Sport Recovery Smoothie Dark Chocolate 4 Someone took a chocolate milkshake and removed the milk, leaving… chocolate water. Tastes exactly like what it promises. May try again blended with milk, but not sure how much dairy I actually want in a post-ride drink.

No good news on the drink front so far, but the chewy snacks are faring well. I’ve got at least a dozen or more options till to burn through, so I’m still hopeful for a few more gems to come out!

Making a List

Trying to pack for a ride at 10pm the night before you leave is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Trying to do said packing knowing that a good portion of my bike gear was likely still in boxes was even less so. I suppose that its ever so slightly better than packing the morning of, right? In my panicked attempts to pull everything into a reasonable number of bags for a two day trip, I kept rolling though a mental list in my head (that I really should have written down) and checking things off as I found them. Some sections fared better than others:


  • Two pair of bike shorts. The long ones, as it might be cold – Check
  • TNT jersey. Crap, missed sendoff ride, so don’t have event jersey. Will take training jersey and hope to find Kate before actual ride – Check
  • Two undershirts, as will be cold in mornings at least – Check
  • Two (matching) pair of socks. Rummage through many laundry baskets and bags. – Check
  • Leg warmers. Well, they have a hole in them…but… – Check
  • Newly washed foot covers – Check
  • Shoes. Found in Charles’ truck – Check
  • Jacket. Remembered Friday morning as was getting into car when I spotted it sticking out of laundry basket – Check
  • Ear warmers – Check
  • Long and short fingered gloves (dunno how cold fingers will be!) – Check
  • Something to wear when not on bike. Right…good plan that – Check
  • Assorted toiletries thrown into plastic baggie just before leaving – Check Hope Charles grabbed the toothpaste.


  • Helmet – Check
  • Garmin – Check
  • All important Garmin charger – Check!
  • Tiny camera for photo-logging first century ride – Check
  • Charger for afore-mentioned camera – Borrowed and Check
  • Water bottles. Emergency tearing through bags found one…so – half-check!
  • Sunglasses – Check
  • Contacts. No freakin’ clue where those are. Decided would ride blind; my vision’s not that bad, I think – Big Red X
  • Dirty Evil Camelback – unfortunate check
  • BIKE. The last thing to make it into the truck…but a definite necessity – Check!
  • Floor pump – Check


  • GU. Managed to find one mint-chocolate and one espresso love. Hope to borrow/buy more on site – Half check
  • Shot Bloks. Three bags split between bento box and evil camelback. – Check
  • Clifbar. Can’t find them. Assume were thrown out in move (as movers apparently catch on fire upon touching foodstuffs) – Big ol’ X
  • Cytomax. Well crap. Also apparently thrown out. Could live without Clifbar, but will need to find/borrow drink or will never finish ride. Stress about this for a full 24 hours – No check. Possibly negative sign instead.
  • Water. Not really food, but closely related. Will have to hit store somewhere in Solvang. Assuming psuedo-Danish drink bottled water – No check

Two suitcases, two laptop bags, one gym bag, one purse and one bike later (plus that darn camelback), the truck was packed. With emergency dog sitter acquired (big almost-oops there!) and her tests passed, we headed out around 9:30 Friday morning for two nights in Solvang. Hopefully all boxes in the house will be unpacked before the next attempt at one of these things (assuming there is a next time, of course!).

Old La Honda(less) Odyssey

Old La Honda is the hill in the Bay Area. Its not that long (3.35 miles), or that steep (15% grade at points, 7.8% avg), but it is the hill that every cyclist in a 30 mile radius knows their best time up. People climb this hill repeatedly, trying to improve their time for boasting rights amongst their geeky cyclist friends. Some do it weekly! Some probably more frequently than that. Certain cycle teams place you in ride groups based solely on your best time up this hill. Its a bay-area-cyclist-cultural-monumental-climb-thing. A rite of passage if you will. And I’ve never been up it. (feel free to recoil from the screen in horror)

That’s right, after nearly a year of riding on a bike out here, I am required to claim the title “cyclist” only in quotes in front of my bikenerd friends, as I have no Old La Honda personal best time. Lucky for me, the TNT winter training Ride 8 was going to change all that. An odd combination of surgery recovery timing and a nasty bout of California winter rains moved the 70 mile Old La Honda Odyssey to February 2nd; just three short days after I was cleared by the orthopedics people to ride again. Coaches note was to show up at Foothill college at 7am that Saturday morning rain or shine. Too many rides had already been cancelled for the season, and we’d at the very least sacrifice some sleep on the off chance that the weather would cooperate. So, show up we did.

While the sky was overcast, it wasn’t pouring down rain, so the team rolled out as planned. Knowing that my arm would be weak after surgery (especially in the cold weather), I tried to break the ride mentally into small goals. The first few miles are almost always cake, so I set goal one at 30 miles. Goal two would be the first climb of the day up Altamont. Then rest stop three…etc. The first goal was easy. Goal two, however, a bit more challenging. Now, compared to a lot of climbs we do in the area, Altamont is short. I’ll give it that. What no one tells you about Altamont though (at least not anyone who to convince you that you can ride up it) is that Altamont is steep. Like 18% steep in parts. Like you could walk faster up this hill than I will be able to ride it steep.

It doesn’t start out that bad. In fact, looking at the hill, you think to yourself…”this isn’t going to be that bad! I can see the top!” And then you hit the beginning of the actual incline… and then you hit the first curve… and then (if you’re me) a truck magically appears 6 inches off your rear wheel and scares the bejesus out of you. So you stop breathing, realize you can’t possibly turn that crank over without gasping like a fish for breath (and possibly popping your guts out through your spine in the process) …and you frantically pull into a driveway madly trying to unclip before falling over, since you were going a whopping 4 miles an hour to begin with. At this point you’re (I’m) approximately a quarter of the way up the hill. Freakin awesome.

Two stops and one almost stomach-emptying-heave later, I’m at the top. Go me. On the bright side, whatever fear I had of Old La Honda had pretty much entirely faded in the face of the horrid, steep, gut-wrenching, Hill-o-Doom that was Altamont. I’m basically spent at this point and have to re-GU before rolling on towards rest stop two. Now it is at the second rest stop where I seriously consider sagging out. The cold damp weather had progressed from overcast to drizzling, and my arm was aching like mad. I wasn’t really able to support any weight on the gimp-arm and wasn’t sure I could take another 30 miles with all of me leaning on the right side. Tired and wet as I was, the allure of finally passing into Bay Area Cycling Adulthood was great, and I decided to push on again. Rest stop three was just passed the Old la Honda climb…I could always SAG out there (new mental cycling badge acquired), right?

Well, it was a good theory. Unfortunately, for once, the weatherman was dead on in his rain prediction. Overcast in the morning and full on rain by noon played out almost to the minute. Our team rolled up to Portola Road, looked at the thick grey fog encasing the top of our mountain destination through rain spattered glasses and decided that even if we could reach the summit the descent would be too treacherous to risk. We were all pretty bummed to have to skip the hill (me especially as one of the only people in the state never to have done the climb), but even I can’t deny that “safety first” is a pretty darn good rule.

By rest stop three, I was toast. I may have missed the second big climb for the day, but I was rained on, missing guts, and barely over surgery. The last 12 miles of the ride were going to be cut short anyway (taking the shortcut back because of the weather), so I opted to take the SAG route home. I’d more than surpassed my original 30 mile goal and my Altamont goal. Giving up on Old la Honda glory had been difficult and even a little heartbreaking. Letting go of the “I rode the last 10 miles in the pouring rain on a bum arm” glory was easy in comparison. The good (by weird cycle standards) new is, I live close enough to the benchmarking hill to give it another run anytime. I’ll get those bragging rights yet! At least amongst really slow, easily impressed people…

Motion Based ride data

A Food Interlude

Hey, it kinda rhymes, no? Since Saturday’s ride was unsupported (I miss you SAG!), I had a chance to scarf down a bunch of the new foods that I’ve been saving up. Surprisingly, almost everything I tried this week was pretty darn good! Here’s a quick rundown…

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Accel Gel Chocolate 8.5 Shockingly tasty. Not pasty, not watery – even in 90+ degree hit. Something on par with a melty milkshake. Has a blend of protein and carbs…not that I understand really why that’s good for me yet.
Accel Gel Vanilla 7 Good flavor, but a bit overwhelmingly vanilla on a hot day. Think rich vanilla ice cream melted (although not quite that sweet). I liked it, but needed a lot of water to wash it down.
GU Tri Berry 7.5 Not overly sweet, which I’d expected from a berry gel. I always seem to like the GU texture – but prefer their other flavor options to this overall.
Clif Bar Oatmeal Raisin Walnut 7 One of my favorite bars thus far. I typically don’t like too many raisins, but this bar is really light on them. A bit too heavy for me to eat once I get going – but a good pre-ride food.

Coach Don asked me this week if I’ve managed to settle on any foods yet after all this trialing. Well, yes and no. It’s a bit too much fun testing to give up, but I have gone out and bought big kid sizes of the Cytomax Tangy Orange (which is almost always in my bottle now), and Clif Shot Bloks – Strawberry. I’d actually be content with almost any of the Blok options, as I really like the texture, but I haven’t been willing to drop the money on another flavor just yet. As for gels, I’m definitely still in the experimental phase, but the GU Chocolate and Accel Chocolate or Vanilla seem to be my frontrunners thus far.

Bedtime now…hill repeats with Garmin data tomorrow!! (Yes, I broke down and bought one. I am so bad!)

A Shocking Revelation

It occurred to me last night, bounding into Chipotle after our ride that I might…gulp *insert pause for dramatic effect*…like hill repeats. Now whether or not this is simply a result of the brain-happy-endorphins working their magic on my mind is up for debate, but I fear that I may be morphing into one of those cycling obsessed, wishes-they-were-riding-rather-than-normal-fun-activities types! Granted, I haven’t gone all “Death Ride” or “STP in one day” crazy yet, but if I’m in possibly the best mood I’ve had all week after five arduous trips up a large hill…can a double century goal be far behind?? (Realistically, yes – very far behind actually, as I currently fear Saturday’s upcoming 45 miles.)

All of this is not to say that repeats last night were easy. Mother nature was being a bit of a tease, and the cool winds I had up in Dublin decided not to follow me down to Foothill. The first three trips up were overly hot, and I had to maintain some very strictly cadenced breathing (let’s not mention the sweating) to keep going. Then, the sun went down, the sweat dried, and my warmed up muscles contracted. A lot. I went from overheated to freezing in literally 10 minutes; I would have killed for my arm warmers, which were safe and sound in the front seat of the truck. Sigh.

Weather issues aside, I actually thought this was one of my best hill repeats performances yet (despite missing almost all my rides last week). A quick rundown of the trips:

  1. Moderate exertion: I felt really strong the first time up, despite the heat. I hit my personal best for distance up the hill, although I was still in my lowest gear. Maybe next week I’ll try it up one…maybe…
  2. More Spinning: I couldn’t drop a gear, but tried to spin more when I could. Surprisingly, I hit almost the same spot on the hill before coming back down.
  3. Standing: This is still hard for me. I started in way too low of a gear and had to sit down a couple times to bring the gears up (which is super easy to do when already on the hill. Riiiiiight. A bit of gear crunching later and I got out of the saddle for a good bit. Unfortunately, by this run up, the heat was really getting to me, and I had to sit and spin it in the low gears…doing a bit of gasping.
  4. Circle-pedal – to the TOP: I found a gear faster than last time, and focused (when I could breathe) on the push-pull pedal method. Surprisingly enough, with the newly cooled off weather, I made it up in pretty good time and feeling better than the repeat before.
  5. Down and up again (aka torture time): Coach Dave gave some quick instructions on descending before our last down-and-up repeat. Now, I was already a master (or overconfident novice) at “inside foot up” and “get in the drops”, but the added note of “put your weight on the outside foot” was new to me. Logically, it made sense, but I never really consciously thought about it before. And what a difference it made in my descent!! I didn’t go a ton faster – maybe 4-5mph, but I felt much more in control, especially on the tighter turns. Who knew descending would be SO FUN?! I did make it all the way to the top again, huffing and puffing (and freezing) a good bit.

And then it was back to the cars, off to dinner, and commence with the bouncing. (Apologies to anyone I bowled over with freakish-happy-Jamie at dinner.) Speaking of food, I tried out some new stuff last night:

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
GU Orange Burst 5 My least favorite of the GU brand’s flavors so far. Something about the orange flavored gels really seems to let the chemical-y ingredients taste through. Not horrible, but not a fan either.
Clif Shot Bloks Cran-Razz 9 One of my favorite flavors, turned into a block. Mmmm raspberry.
Powerbar Gel Raspberry Creme 7 “Borrowed” from Ron, the first Powerbar product I didn’t instantly hate. Actually not an overpowering flavor, nor was there a pasty texture. A decent gel option, and again…yay raspberries!
Clif Bar Cranberry Apple Cherry 7 A bit lighter than some of the other bars, possibly due to the fruit bits. Still a bit long on the chewing side, but OK for a before-ride food.

That’s about it for now. Note that we’ll have to monitor this potential obsession closely over the next few weeks (I mean, I seriously can’t afford to let it make me spend more!). Perhaps the intimidating sounding 45miles this weekend will be a good counterpoint to this developing love-affair. Bring it on!

Distance: 14.75mi

Time: 1:17:053

Avg MPH: 11.5

Max MPH: 35.4 (woot!)

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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