Posts Tagged 'portola valley'

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


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

The need to breathe

Coach George’s 7/18 buddy ride was excellent for quite a lot of reasons. First off, a ride that starts with a well formatted route sheet on arrival just makes me happy.

Side bar: I’m not entirely sure how so many bike riders fail to realize the space limitations of handlebars. There’s totally no room in a tiny map clip for three-quarters of a normal page width! I typically end up folding the vast majority of my sheets at weird locations (cutting off the helpful “tip” text) to make everything fit without encumbering my bar access — so I really appreciate when people get the format right. For the record, I’m also totally OCD about random crap like formatting issues… so I acknowledge/accept that the rest of the universe probably had to tune out during that little praise/rant section!

Aaaaaaand we’re back. After picking up my lovely route sheet and signing in, I had a few minutes to socialize with the crew while waiting for our pre-ride pep talk/info meeting. I was excited to see that Hilton (from my first season) made it, along with one of our honorees (and former ride support / coaches), Ed. I managed to corral them for a quick reunion photo before we rolled out.

Team Tikitiki reunites (partially)

The other big reason to love this ride was really familiarity. While the total loop was over 50 miles long, it mostly included locations that we’ve ridden before – which is definitely a bonus when you’re riding without SAG support! Hilton, Julie and I set out from our Starbucks basecamp and, after a few less familiar roads, found ourselves climbing up behind Foothill college — our new hill repeats stomping ground. We tackled a couple mini-climbs and then hit our first descent just in time to see Jonathan, on the side of the road, packing up his bike to be sagged out. Apparently, he’d hit a sharp banked right turn going a bit too fast (I think) and ended up going right off the road. Thankfully he was fine other than some more road rash action, but he’s definitely having a rough season for crashes! In some ways though, there was good in his misfortune. By an odd quirk of timing, my group was coming up on that curve just as they were recovering… so we all got a natural slowdown (and therefore safe descent) as we called to offer help. Eep!

We quickly progressed from the hill repeats area over to another favored haunt: the Arastradero preserve from our recovery ride. Hilton, Julie and I took our first rest stop there, and had a grand old time discussing the Tour coverage while we food/water-ed up (sometimes it’s nice to have that “go at your own pace” leisure!). Somewhere along the way we picked up Mike as well, and the four of us made easy work of that “not a climb” climb. With a quick left turn, we found ourselves rolling through another Bay Area favorite: the Portola Loop.

Now, it’s right about at this point in the ride (just after the devil false flat of Alpine) that I start to struggle a bit. For one, the day was really starting to heat up. By the time we actually hit Portola, I was glad for shade and starting to reapply sunscreen. But that wasn’t the real issue. You see… I hadn’t really thought that it might be important to mention… but I kinda couldn’t breathe (and still can’t for that matter). Not in an asthmatic sort of way, and definitely not in an allergies kinda mode. Truth be told, I wasn’t (and still am not) sure what was going on. I woke up one morning with a weird but minor condition that can really only be described as an intermittent chest tightness that only shows up when I take big, deep breaths. It doesn’t hurt all the time, and it doesn’t seem to be induced by stress, exercise, or known allergens (as I actually don’t have any). The issue had been going on for a little over a week at this point, and cycling had never really set it off. Before today.

Some combo of the heat and the lack of normal breathing rhythm caught up to me around mile 15 or so. My body wanted to take a few big deep breaths… but my chest would tighten up every time I tried. I didn’t hyperventilate or anything, I just took about a bazillion extra shallow breaths and felt more tired than I expected to at that point in the ride. So goes life. I was pretty confident that continuing the ride wouldn’t kill me (or even likely cause me any permanent damage), so I sucked it up (sadly, not literally) and rolled on. I felt slow and …gaspy… but I could definitely still pedal!

The ride continued for a good 20 miles without incident. We finished off the lovely shady end of the Portola loop pretty easily and I had what I felt to be a monster climb up Sand Hill (~10mph in the middle ring! Woohoo!). From there the route sheet took us through another portion of our normal recovery loop, passed the Stanford preserve and down Foothill expressway. Our fantastic foursome (to steal a moderately lame phrase) pretty well flew through this area – despite being nearly killed by another enormous peloton of biker bees – and had a nice recovery at Shoup Park before tackling the next big section (awesome thing number 3 about this ride? Lots of places for water and potty breaks!).

Isn’t the Stanford preserve area pretty?

By mile 30, the heat plus lack of oxygen combo was really getting to me. I was rocking some lead-legs, and definitely feeling the effort to turn the cranks over – even on a relatively mild stretch of kickoff ride road. (Seriously, if it’s part of the loop we hit on the very first ride of the season… it can’t be that challenging — we’d scare everyone away!) I kept huffing and puffing (well… taking quick, shallow breaths) and tried to keep my frustration level low (surprisingly, anger doesn’t really increase one’s ability to breathe easily) down the whole stretch of Foothill. From there we headed out to our old hill repeats torture section: Stevens Canyon Road! Oh yes folks, you read that right. Our last 15-ish miles was basically an out-and-back loop up passed our reservoir “warm up” stretch, to our old Eden laps turnaround park, and down the hill repeats graduation road. Fun times!

I had to make with some hawt birdbath action at the turnaround park, literally splashing the fountain water over my head and down my jersey to bring my core temp down to something reasonable. We were over 3.5 moving hours in at this point (probably somewhere around 1-1:30), and the day had gone from warm to hot. Pro tip #38: Pour water under your wick-away base layer if you want any hope of that cool goodness actually touching your skin. Those netted bastages definitely do their “keep water off skin” job, whether you want them to or not! With a little time to cool down, catch our breaths (especially important for me!), and carb-up, we all decided to make the final push and do the “graduation road.”

The climb out was more of a struggle than it should have been, but (as I told Julie and wasn’t lying) the rest of the ride really was all downhill. I mean… there were a couple rollers, but nothing that a bit of pedaling action and natural downhill momentum couldn’t solve. We all made it back to the start point intact and together — only to find that everyone else had already finished, SAG’d or bailed early. Oh well. We managed to rally a small group for some Chipotle reward action, before I headed home for some recorded Tour coverage. Nothing like spending all day biking, then coming home and spending hours watching other people do the same, no? Overall, the ride was a great route – although I did discover a lack of oxygen intake makes even familiar, easy roads challenging. I promise… I’ll get to the doctor at some point. Probably.

George Buddy Ride


It’s weird the things that you forget with just a little time off. Like downshifting before a stoplight (see, I’m working to drill that one in Don!). Or eating bananas before rides. Or putting on both gloves before rolling (that one only happened once… so far). Or how much false flats absolutely suck. Especially false flats that you’ve ridden at least a dozen times before… the other way (and at least twice in the correct, terribly deceiving direction). Well, I can tell you for certain that I’ll remember one of those things… for at least the next week or so.

The team met up for our time trial (er… ummm… “timed ride” — don’t want to unduly threaten the new folks) last Saturday. We were quickly divided into ride groups by expected speed, and lined up along the parking lot awaiting the signal from our benevolent (or at least pretty patient) Time Mistress. As there were seven sets of cyclists, we opted for number designators rather than multiple iterations of the “fasterererers.” I requested a middle group, and ended up riding out with a small team of Fours.

The loop was a quick 11.5 mile run around Portola Valley. I made a fast start down Portola Road and (surprisingly) climbed the “easy side” of Sand Hill at a reasonable clip. Seriously! I’m pretty proud of climbing anything in the middle ring at 10mph! I managed to pass my fair share of early groups (slower riders start first so that we all end around the same time), but was quickly eclipsed by the Sixes… and probably some of the Fives on our descent. What can I say, I still play those downgrades pretty cautiously — although I’m *starting* to feel more confident.

I very nearly took a spill just before our turn onto Santa Cruz. I was buzzing along, chasing someone’s tail when a car full of rabidly raving hounds (or, more accurately, a pair of woofing fuzzballs) pulled along side of me. The noise pretty much terrified me and I swerved a bit… just enough to clip my front wheel on a good sized orange rock. I managed to keep the bike upright, but the rock did fly into my chin, leaving a nice little nick on my left leg. Jamie’s first injury of the season? Done.

And then… the devil’s road (aka Alpine). It looks flat. Heck, I’d swear to you that parts of it look to be downhill. But it absolutely is not. In fact, the stupid route is steadily climbing, teeny tiny bits at a time. Your paces starts to drop 16… 14… 12… 11. Eleven?! I start giving myself crap (in my own head of course). I’ve been flying the whole way! It’s only eight miles in! How is it possible that my legs are so blown that I can’t stay above a freakin’ ELEVEN on FLATS?? And just for extra bonus fun, my new bike absolutely refuses to shift into the gear I want. I can go one up or one down… but the middle front ring, 3rd-ish biggest back one pops and clicks and sounds something like Chittychittybangbang every time I drop in. So I grind the Alpine miles out in too large of a gear (and at too low of a speed), kicking my own ass (in my mind) the whole way.

I hit Portola Road again, and the world realigns. My legs can once again spin. I pick up the pace and roll into the parking lot after about 43 minutes all told, irritated with my performance. I toss the clicky bike into the car and recap my ride with Coach Keith. I complain about how much I slowed on Alpine, only to have him remind me that the road is uphill in that direction. Light dawns. Oh. Right. I’ve only done this route three times now. And I ride it super fast the other way every Sunday. I knew that! DOH!  Of course, I still think I could/should have done a bit better – but I’m a lot more calm after that (hey, at least I wasn’t actually utterly burnt in eight frikkin’ miles!). As for the bike, she’s probably due for her 30 day tune up; a newly stretched cable is probably futzing with the gears a bit.

With evil hill memories quickly fading, I spend some time directing the participants to our various bike skills clinics. Our coaches are drilling riders on braking, core control, bike lifting and slalom stations. I lend a hand mainly by taking pictures and cheering, and was glad to see that a lot of people seemed to learn at least a little something new.

Riding the lines

Weaving through the cones

Lifting the bike

Once people finished their clinics, we all headed to our team breakfast at Mike’s cafe. Despite our best “staggered arrival” efforts, I’m pretty sure we overwhelmed the waitstaff instantaneously. I went with a well deserved repeat of my last meal here – belgian waffle and bacon – and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know even more of the folks on our team.

As for the Garmin data, let’s go ahead and declare a Giant Failboat right now. The darn system was definitely working when I rolled out of the parking lot, but somewhere around my first stop light I must have just barely nudged the sensor. We lose rpms somewhere around 15 minutes in… and I can guarantee you that I didn’t do the last 30 minutes as a no-pedaling descent! I was so confident in my installation skills from the night before that I never rechecked the monitor after the first couple miles (I even sent Don a celebratory email… only to find out on the online player that the signal dropped). Oh well, everything else is still there!

TNT RIde #2 Timed Ride

Earn your reward

Five of us (ex or future) TNT-ers met up to ride the Woodside-Portola Valley loop again last Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day, and everyone was excited to be out, in the sun, and back on bikes. Or at least they seemed to be. I suppose it’s possible that half of them felt like crap and wanted to go back to bed… but no one told me.

We rolled out shortly after 10 and quickly arrived at the first climb. I was feeling really good at the start and attacked the “hill” in my front middle chain ring. I powered to the top only to find that my Garmin was completely failing (not recording cadence or heart rate), and had to stop and spend a couple minutes both waiting for everyone to catch up and trying to fix my gear. As it turns out, we only managed to fix half of the problem… and then I forgot to turn it back on for a couple miles, so my data is utterly borked this week. After a small snafu in which I thought I dropped my chain after the descent (I actually just dropped two rings), the ride continued without much drama.

The rest of the loop wasn’t hugely exciting… at least not in a storytelling kind of way. I started the ride feeling strong, and despite trying to burn off the energy by attacking some baby climbs, was restless for most of the ride ride. I felt fast (and darted ahead of the group a few times), but still had to make a game of chasing Hilton – who was definitely kicking my tail. The group ended up spread out a good bit for most of the ride, meeting up every few miles to refuel, check the route sheet, and chat a bit. Despite a good number of breaks, our overall finish time was about the same as the week before. My average moving time was actually up, although my missing data log doesn’t show it very well.

We all hit the Safeway parking lot just before noon and decided that we’d earned a good brunch reward. With belgian waffles as a requirement (per Julie), we quickly settled on Mike’s Cafe as the location of choice. I think everyone enjoyed the chance to eat food mostly guilt free and attacked the breakfast fare with gusto. I jumped on the belgian waffles bandwagon (plus bacon) and thoroughly enjoyed the food. And the company. But mostly the food… Hey! I worked hard!!

Smooth(ish) Sailing

I might not have had time to test the new bike fully on Saturday, but you can bet I took full advantage of the long weekend to test her out Monday. And man, what a great ride it was! Hilton, Julie and I synced up with Mike (who sadly missed our early weekend adventures) at the Safeway in Menlo park for a 21 mile Woodside-Portola Valley loop. This was a new route for all of us, and I have to say… we really enjoyed it. There were no major climbs, but we passed the access points for at least two that could be easily added to make the ride more challenging (some other day). All but one road had a large shoulder, and the scenery was great. Highly recommended!

After a minor mishap involving me, a brand new bike and a dropped chain 500 yards out of the parking lot, we started with a baby climb up Sand Hill Rd. True to form, Hilton all but sprinted up the thing, leaving Julie, Mike and I to follow along behind him and varying speeds. We reached the summit and were treated to fresh roadkill deer (ew) and a nice decent. Or, more accurately, a descent that would have been nice had a minivan not raced up behind me and honked loudly for… existing (at least as far as I can tell). Asshat. Because startling and knocking over a cyclist going 30mph or so who isn’t even in your lane is such a good plan? Apparently he thought I should take a major highway on-ramp in order to better stay out of his way. Grrrrrrrr!!

Moving on. I spent most of the ride focusing on two main things: learning my new shifters and chasing Hilton’s tail. I’ve heard you improve the most when struggling to keep pace with people who are faster than you. I’m not sure if it’s true yet… but trying to catch him – or even just trying not lag too far behind – was certainly more challenging! The new bike was both fantastic and frustrating. I’ve never had a smoother ride (oh how I love thee already carbon frame!), and the bike felt very responsive on those “I can almost get him, or at least stay ahead of the guy pulling the baby in a cart” sprints… but I was *really* struggling with the stupid half-click front chain ring positions. In some ways I felt like I was back in time two years, trying to how to learn how to shift all over again. At least I didn’t have to re-learn how to clip too!

Beyond some terrible gearing noises (and a second dropped chain just before we ended), there isn’t much to complain about. California apparently realized that Memorial day is traditionally the start of summer and gave us absolutely beautiful weather. All the roads we hit were nicely paved, and everyone was riding pretty strong – if a bit strung out (definitely still some wildly different speeds). I tested and shared a few new food/drink samples and actually found a couple winners! (I seem to be cultivating popularity on rides by bringing enough snacks to share… even when they kinda suck. Guess I’m not the only one who likes to try out new eats!)

Brand Flavor Rated (1-10) Notes
Clif Bar Mini Chocolate Chip 8.5 Possibly the highest rating I’ve ever given a bar. Clif took some of their classic flavors and shrunk them to roughly 1/3 of normal size. I already liked the flavor, but *really* dig the tiny form factor. I’ve never managed to eat even an entire half of a Clif Bar… so this is perfect for me.
Clif Shot Chocolate 3 Clif giveth and he taketh away. I don’t want to chew my gels – ever. Chocolate toothpaste might have sounded cool to me as a kid, but as a cyclist looking for a quick, easy to eat snack? Not so much. The flavor didn’t compare to the GU version and the texture was terrible.
Luna Sport Moons Pomegranate 8 I expected to hate this. Pomegranate just sounds too… rich for a successful cycling food. But I have to say that I was shocked at how much I liked the flavor. Super tasty tart-but-not-too-sour goodness and the exact same nutritional goodness of a Clif shot. I’ll be stocking these.
Clif Electrolyte Drink Lemonade 2.5 I think I’ll just rule out the rest of the Clif energy drinks out now. Same problem as the apple from last week – decent upfront flavor (actually slightly better than the apple) and a crushingly salty aftertaste. If I can’t do Gatorade, there’s no way I can do these.

We celebrated our ride success and the holiday with the traditional Memorial Day meal – P.F. Changs – and vowed to hit that same route up again soon. As it turns out, we’ll be riding it again tomorrow!

OH! And for all my data nerds: Garmin is in the process of shutting down MotionBased and migrating to their new site, Garmin Connect. Most of my activities have already been moved over, save a few larger ones that will lag a few weeks. The new site is pretty awesome — I love the look and feel, and the player functionality — so I’ll likely be uploading all my rides there going forward (MotionBased is actually shutting down for good later this year… I’m just trying to stay ahead of the curve!). That said, GarminConnect does not yet have any ViewPorts that I can export for this site, so for now you’ll have to deal with screenshots from my dashboard. Never fear – they’ll still click through to all the ubergeek info! Check it out!

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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