Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wow, 2008 is already over....

Well, I can’t believe another year has come and gone….my eldest daughter the other day was commenting on how fast the year has gone by and said “is this what happens when we get old?”…..Yes, I guess it’s true. It does happen as we get older. I can remember actually being bored by the time summer vacation ended when I was a kid. Now I’d kill to have 3 months off with nothing to do.

It’s been a good year and my family has been truly blessed. My youngest is doing well down at UC Santa Cruz. She’s pulling good grades, is having fun and somehow seems to be keeping it all in balance. Obviously inherited those traits from my wife as I was a total spaz until I was married and had kids. (actually for the most part I still am a total spaz)
My oldest is turning out to be an exceptionally good mom to my grandson. She’s calm and patient and kind. Again, thankfully I married someone further up the genetic food chain as I have none of those qualities.

My wife continues to put up with me and my bicycle, I mean hobby.

As far as riding goes, this year for me was a little different than last. My motivation was a real challenge and I’m sure I have a lot less miles than I did last year. (getting in to my jeans further proves that fact) The interesting thing is I’ve done a lot more mountain bike riding than road riding this year. And it’s been a blast.

Going forward into 2009 though, I’m thinking I’ll be spending more time on the road bike. Mainly out of wanting to survive (and even possibly enjoy) the commitments I’ve somehow gotten myself in to.

Right now, I can handle a pretty moderate mt bike ride, but I definitely need to ramp things up pretty quickly... In March I’ll be doing the Solvang Century. Pretty sure the last time I rode my bike 100 miles was this same ride last year.
April will be the Tierra Bella Metric that we always do on our single speeds. I may even join my buddy Chris this year and do it on the fixed gear….we’ll see.
May will be the Tour de Cure which will be another full century. This is one of my favorite rides as we do it with a group from work, it's a lot of fun and supports the diabetes foundation.
June will be mainly spent climbing every hill I can find in preparation for the Death Ride in July. (I have to finish this year, or I'm selling all my bikes and taking up golf)
August will be a nice easy month :-) gathering up as many miles as I can so that in September when I do the California Coast Classic from SF to LA I won’t suffer. (too much anyway)

The Coast Classic will probably be the end of my organized rides for the year. I think after that I’m going to just want to ride my mt bike and drink beer…..which will lead me right back to where I am today….200+ lbs and trying to breathe while wishing I had bought larger sized pants….

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Infamous Yankee Swap (aka white elephant gift exchange)

Last week, the Thursday night group decided to do our ride with lights on the bikes and to follow the ride with a potluck and gift exchange.
Seeing as eating tends to be one of the key ingredients with this group, the potluck definitely didn’t disappoint. We had fresh lumpia, chicken curry, fried rice and who knows what else….pretty sure I took in way more calories than I burned during the ride. (which is pretty much par for the course)

Next came the infamous Yankee Swap. You know this one, it’s where you bring a gift that doesn’t suck, you all take turns opening gifts, some of which are pretty cool, people have the option of stealing from each other and in the end you hope you get a number that allows you not to get stuck with the gift that does suck….
At least that’s how I remembered it…..

Turns out this group doesn’t do it that way. Everyone brought cool gifts and the challenge, when it would be my turn, would be deciding whether I wanted to steal one of several cool gifts that had already been opened or open something new in the hopes that it was even cooler.

Evidently Jack had the same idea and unfortunately (or fortunately, I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to that) he chose to pick an unopened gift and got the one gag gift in the bunch. At least I’ve been telling myself it was a gag…..if someone brought it thinking there was someone in the group that wanted that….well, I guess I just don’t know any of these people well enough….

(As a side note - even the gag gift came with a nice bottle of champagne, so maybe it wasn't a gag....)

So, now seeing that there was indeed potential for this to turn out less than perfect, I decided to steal a gift. (One in the hand two in the bush and all that) I ended up with a very nice bottle of wine and a baggie of homemade toffee......

All in all a very fun evening and even though I have yet to take my new bike on a real ride it’s always good to get out for an hour or so….even if I did stay on the pavement.
(PS don't even ask about the red velvet thong......some of us are still trying to come to grips with that one....)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter: a blessing and a curse…..

Well, it’s officially winter and the rains (and snows) have come. (finally)
When I was younger and skied a lot I used to love winter and fall was just an interruption between hanging out in the summer and skiing in the winter.

The past couple of years though, since I’ve begun biking, fall is one of my favorite times of the year.
I ride a lot in the summer and the long days and warm weather are great for that. I especially like riding in the early morning.
In the fall though, the weather is just perfect for riding. It’s never blisteringly hot, the day starts out cool and usually warms up nicely, the trails are usually not as crowded and scenery and the trees with their leaves mostly gone can be very surreal looking.

Winter on the other hand is a hard time of year to be a cyclist. It’s cold, it gets dark early, and it’s either currently raining, has just rained or is about to rain. Add to this the fact, that I’m basically a wuss and you come up with an equation that leads to me not riding much.
The interesting thing is that I really rely on my riding to help mellow out my attitude and even out my moods. If I’m having a rough day, a ride helps me leave it on the trail. If I’m depressed or stressed about anything, there’s nothing that helps smooth out the bumps like a little exercise induced suffering.
With the holidays here, the stress level goes way up, but with the rain, the ability to go out, get on the bike and blow off some steam diminishes drastically. It’s no wonder I’m so cranky this time of year…..(not to mention the increase in my beer consumption)

The upside is that if it’s raining here in the bay area, chances are it’s snowing in the mountains and while I don’t’ get up to ski as often as I used to when I was a kid, I still love it.
It’s actually very similar to mountain biking…
There’s a certain level of fitness required in order to really enjoy it
There’s a certain and very controllable level of risk involved - If you want to hang it all out there and let it rip you can. If you want to take it easy and just glide down the easy stuff you can do that as well.
The more skill you have the easier it is
The ability to pick your line can be critical (esp on a rigid ss)
The penalty for exceeding your abilities can be swift and painful

So, the rain here in the bay area sucks. Many trails are washed out and not ride-able, it’s cold and damp even when it’s not raining and it’s easier to talk myself into opening a beer by the fire than it is to go out and get on my bike... BUT, I will get a few ski days in and hopefully those will make up for the lack of riding.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thoughts from the first ride back and on the new bike….

Well, now that I’m done building the new 29er have pretty much exhausted my patience in trying to tweak it and finalize it. I decided the only thing left was to go out and give it a whirl. I know, I know the doc said not till next week, but it was either go for a ride or go insane and invade a small country….

First let me start by saying, last night was one of the coldest nights I’ve ridden in a long time. Pretty sure it was in the 30s. My goal was to get out of the house and on a bike firstly, secondly was to give the new gal a test run to see how everything felt.

Not sure if it was just the timing or the fact that it was so cold, but most of the riders must have decided to stay home where it was nice and warm. I only saw one other rider. I did see at least a dozen joggers though. (just goes to prove that cyclists are crazy, but runners are flat out nuts)

The arm felt pretty good which I expected since it really only hurts when I straighten it or rotate it. Neither of which I did on the bike. The one bumpy downhill section didn’t feel so great, but it wasn’t too bad. (Not bad enough to keep me off the bike anyway)

Now, for the bike... This is my first ever ride on a 29er and although it’s set up fully rigid and single, this gal gives you a really smooth ride. It just rolls and where the washboard section on the first downhill usually rattles me fairly well on the SOMA, this thing was much smoother.
The other big difference is just how stable she feels on the downhill. I’m assuming it a combination of the bigger wheels and the longer wheelbase. (of course according to their website, Vassago says it’s their wet cat geometry which could be the case) But where the SOMA was almost twitchy this thing is like my old 205cm Rossignol ST’s on a long steep groomer…..they just flat out fly down the hill with nary a chatter or a twitch….

I haven’t weighed the bike yet, so I’m not sure total weight, but just by lifting it, it feels a little heavier than the SOMA which would make sense with the bigger wheels and larger frame/fork. It’s not that much heavier though.

The ride was a short, test ride – both for my arm and the bike – so I wasn’t able to really run it through it’s paces. I mainly wanted to make sure that the idiot that built the bike tightened all the bolts and adjusted the brakes…..and it appears that I….I mean, he did.

Tonight, if it doesn’t rain, we’re doing the lake loop and I’m going to give that a shot. Probably the abbreviated version but that still involves the big climb and a pretty decent downhill portion so I’ll be able to get a better idea of the new bike’s personality.
Of course, with 18 layers of clothing and my big winter gloves, I may not be able to tell if it’s a smooth ride or not….

Friday, December 12, 2008

2 weeks to the day later……

Well, it’s been two weeks to the day since “the incident” and I still don’t have full use of my left arm. (You’ll notice that by naming it and putting it in italics like “the big war” or “the great depression” I’ve managed to make it sound more interesting than if I had just put “the day I fell off my bike”)

There’s no pain, and if I keep it in the sling during the day, I almost forget I’m injured.
For example, I just about finished the build on the new bike yesterday and was feeling good about getting back in the saddle…..until of course I straddled the bike and reached for the bars!!! Um…ok…so maybe I’m not quite ready to ride just yet.

As a side note, they’re now saying the storm door has opened and Tahoe is going to be getting some snow (finally) which is good. But there’s no way I can ski, which is bad….I gotta tell you this getting old crap is for the birds.

One positive aspect of this injury is that, knowing I can’t ride, I’ve really altered my schedule on the current build. I don’t have any of the desires to “hurry up and get ‘er done” as I have had with past builds. I’ve resigned myself to taking my time and building it up EXACTLY the way I want it.

What’s also interesting is how not having a deadline has affected my beer intake. Taking my time and working to make sure my new bike comes out perfect has led to spending a significant amount of time “analyzing the esthetics” of the bike….(which really means sitting there with a beer in my hand staring at the bike)

I have found that an evening in the garage is no longer just a one beer event. It usually means at least two, sometimes three beers are ingested in the hopes of triggering the optimal creative attitude when sitting and staring at the bike.
Not that this is time wasted of course. For instance, Monday, I installed the disc brakes and rotors only to later take off the rotors so I could paint the centers red to match the headset and seatpost clamp.
Tuesday, I installed, then removed 3 different sizes of zip ties for the cables only to pull them all off last night and order some clips instead. They just didn't look right.
Yesterday, I installed the tubes and tires and mounted up the wheels only to pull them back off because the tires are used and they didn’t show up very nice in the pictures as well as the fact that the logo of the tires isn’t lined up with the valve stems.(tonight the tires will be washed and new photos taken)

Granted, this is time that could be spent cleaning the garage, hanging Christmas lights or doing other chores in and around the house, but I guess it’s fair to say I’m mildly obsessive and the bike is taking all of my creative faculties at the moment. I just wouldn’t be able to focus adequately on any other task to give it the proper attention it deserves. (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

Tomorrow I’ll be waxing each of the spokes on the new wheels. Yes, I know they’re brand new, but a good coat of wax is required for adequate aerodynamics…..

Monday, December 8, 2008

Third Time’s A Charm….

Well, after meeting with the orthopedics doctor (physician’s assistant technically) the good news is the arm is NOT broken. The bad news is I still can’t get on the bike for another couple of weeks. She says I just jammed it badly and that after one more week of no lifting and no load bearing exercise, I can start working on range of motion stretches.

Happily after x-raying it again today, with the swelling having gone down, they don’t see anything broken. She did point to one little “thing” (no idea what she was pointing out) she said “you do have this little thing floating around in there and if it becomes an issue we may have to address it at some point in the future”. (ok, that doesn't sound great)

What I don’t understand is why doctors (or physician’s assistants) feel the need to inflict pain needlessly. When she came in to the room she asked me if I had any pain. I explained that it only hurt to extend my arm or to rotate my wrist. At which point she grabbed my arm and tried to extend it!!! SERIOUSLY??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

Of course, being a man I couldn’t cry (very loudly anyway) so I calmly said, yes, that causes me some discomfort (at least it my head it was calm. What came out may have sounded like a a grown man screaming at the top of his lungs)
After I had calmed down and the sobbing had subsided, she must have decided I was pretty tough and have a high pain tolerance, (or she just likes making men cry) because she decided to rotate my wrist. (again, it may have sounded like a wounded banshee, but I think I pulled off the macho tough guy thing pretty well)

Well, long story short, I’m not quite good to go. No lifting, no weights, and no riding. I did get her to agree that if I was just taking it easy around the block I could get back on the bike in 2 weeks…..(at least that’s how I heard it)

A 50/50 chance….

So, the weekend before last I crashed on the mountain bike. The next day with my elbow swollen to the size of a grapefruit, I went to the doctor. After looking at it….seriously, he just looked at it. Never touched it, bent it, asked me to move it or anything, he sent me for an x-ray. After the x-ray, I was put back in the room and waited for the prognosis. The doctor came in with the picture in his hand, proclaimed the arm “definitely broken” and had me put into a partial cast and set an appt for today with the orthopedic surgeon.

Well, the Monday after the initial visit, I emailed my regular doctor to let him know what happened and to see if he could find out anything else.
Wednesday rolls around and I get an email response from my doctor that says, “Rich, sorry to hear about the elbow. Good news though the x-ray doesn’t show any broken bones”

Now, I’m obviously not a doctor and I didn’t get to look at the x-ray (not that I would know what to look for even if he had shown me) but how is it that two doctors can look at the same picture and see two different things? Either there’s a break or there’s not right?
I mean wouldn’t the phrase “obviously broken” indicate something that is totally visible on the x-ray?

The good news is that today I go see the orthopedic surgeon so she’ll definitely confirm there’s a possibility that maybe there’s a chance that either one or the other opinion could absolutely be possibly correct…..

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

DATMBA – Part Duex…..

Once we got to the Tractor trailhead we started climbing….and climbing…and climbing.
I actually ended up walking a fair portion of it and was pretty tuckered out by the time we reached the top.

At this point we had a decision to make….go back the way we had come or ride down Ridge to Sawpit and then back. Well, down Ridge to Sawpit took us further from the truck so I opted for going back down Tractor (did I mention I was tired?)

So, after an e-gel and a couple handfuls of trail mix…off we went. And it was awesome. The first section is fairly steep and muddy and there were some pretty crazy jumps (which we went around). It was fast and swoopy and I was thinking to myself how much like skiing it felt….find your line, get in the groove and let ‘er rip….

It was further down the trail that it really became like skiing…….you know how you always get hurt trying to get in that “one last run”….well as I was grooving down the trail loving life I spotted a log …ok, probably more like a branch (and despite what Tracy says, it was NOT a twig)
I attempted to bunny hop it but evidently my lack of enthusiasm (or energy) allowed my rear wheel to hit it, slide down the length and throw me from the bike in the blink of an eye.

Luckily for me the ground was nice and soft and damp. (although it did taste funny) I landed on my left side and despite knowing I shouldn’t, I put out my hand to break my fall.
Well, as I got up I was pretty sure something was messed up. I couldn’t really extend my left arm and when I moved it I felt something “grinding” in the elbow.
Figuring I’d better just get back on the bike and get to the truck I took it easy and just coasted the rest of the way down Tractor to the fire road and started the climb back to the truck.

At this point I realized that our good buddy Chris is a liar. Yep, bold faced liar. I distinctly remembered him saying that it would all be downhill back to the truck and it was definitely not the case. And I could tell this because every time the trail headed uphill, I’d have to get off and walk. I’d sit and spin as much as I could but when it got steep, I wasn’t able to pull back on the bars at all with my left arm because it would hurt like….well you know.
Adding to that, my left leg kept cramping up. Not sure if I was really that cooked to the point of cramping or if I hit it on something during my dismount, but it was sore.

I felt bad because I know I was holding everyone up every time I’d get off and walk, and I’m usually not such a wuss (ok, that’s debatable) but we eventually made it back to the truck and the ice chest…
Nick had also had a nice little dismount and slammed his shin pretty good....

After taking off the jacket I found it was a little swollen, and was starting to stiffen up, but, after administering 2 Tylenol and 2 beers, I was feeling good. I still let Jack drive home though….

Seeing as it was Friday night, there was no way I was going to emergency. (have you ever seen the Kaiser emergency room on a Friday night?) so Deb called and got me an appt at the minor injury clinic for Saturday afternoon.

Obviously it pays to know people (Deb just spent a month at the Hayward minor injury clinic training all these people) as soon as we walked in everyone started saying hi to Deb, they took me right in and I was in and out within an hour…with a fractured radius and a partial cast.

More pictures

More More Pictures

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


That’s DayAfterThanksgivingMtBikeAdventure for those of you that don’t know.

This little adventure, the 4th annual to be exact, was really something a couple buddies and I thought up so that we wouldn’t feel guilty about an extra slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.(loaded with whipped cream of course)

The goal of this ride, in addition to burning off as many calories as possible, is to explore someplace we’ve never ridden before and this year we picked the Soquel Demonstration Forest.

We set a start time of 10:00 am and had 8 riders and 1 hiker show up for the fun.
It started out cool and foggy and like last year’s ride at Montebello began with a climb up the road.
The road soon turned off to a dirt fire road though and the climbing continued.
The fog was creating an eerie scene with riders up ahead fading in and out and the trees reaching over the road….all very surreal to be sure.
Eventually we reached the top of the fire road and took a break. I came pedaling up at the very rear (from stopping to take pictures of course) and saw our group along with a few other guys and their dog. They were all decked out with long travel bikes, pads, full face helmets and all that other stuff guys that go fast wear.….obviously not part of our group.
And, thankfully, they left first since I guess they realized our group would only be holding them up.

Chris had said that we would do all of our climbing in the beginning and that way everything back to the trucks would be downhill (we’d find out later he’s a compulsive liar)

So, after looking at the map and discussing our route, we began the fun portion of the ride….the downhill.
I haven’t really ridden too much single track and even less really technical stuff and this was all of that. It was narrow and steep and fast and there were log piles, jumps, ramps, even a teeter-totter.
I would imagine the group in front of us with the long travel bikes and full face helmets had a blast, but even traveling at a “reasonable” rate of speed, we were having a fantastic time.
We went up and over the logs piles, we went around the jumps, We navigated the steep muddy hills, the root sections, the staircases and even did the teeter-totter. (Well, I did the teeter but lost my balance and rode off the side before the totter portion)

When we finally got to the bottom of the Braille trail – I’m sure it’s called that because it’s so steep I was scared and had to close my eyes most of the way down – we were muddy and some of us were battered a bit but all of us were grinning like the cat that just ate the proverbial canary.

It’s funny how in the heat of the moment a normally sane person can make such bad decisions…I proved this point perfectly when, as we were sitting there basking in the glory of an awesome ride, I said, “lets do another loop”.

Well, obviously some of the group still had the ability to make a rational decision because half the group went back to the trucks while TRACY, Chris, Mark, Nick and I decided to “climb” (understatement of the week here) Tractor trail back up to the ridge and do one more loop.

Now, in my defense, I was still operating under the assumption Chris had told the truth earlier and that there wasn’t much climbing left to get back to the truck. If I had known we had another few miles of UPHILL back to the truck, I may have skipped the last loop.

Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound I always say so the four of us started off for the next loop which included a nice fast fire road downhill to the Tractor trailhead. ( to be continued....)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Riding and dying….

Well, maybe not quite dying…but totally sucking wind. Last night we had our weekly night ride around Lake Chabot and since I’m tearing apart the SS I rode the geared bike.
It SUCKED! The whole sit and spin thing just killed me and I don’t think I ever really got into my groove.
Now, part of the issue I’m sure is that my bike, while it was pretty state of the art when I bought it 5 or so years ago, is not the lightest thing around. And the front fork has no lockout feature which makes the standing and pedaling that I’m used to on the SS ridiculously bouncy and ineffective.

Actually, it’s not fair to say the whole ride sucked because having full suspension instead of the rigid frame and fork sure made the downhill fast and fun. Where I normally pick my line and try to avoid the most rocky and bumpy sections of the trail, last night I pretty much just pointed the bike downhill and hung on. There’s one really bumpy section that when on the SS I have to ride the very edge of the trail for fear of losing my fillings. Well last night I just ripped right down the middle using a couple of the bigger rocks as launch pads. It was a totally different experience.
The flats too were kinda nice since I was able to shift gears and keep up instead of spinning like crazy and falling behind.

Ok, so the only part that really sucked was the climbing. I started off on the first hill downshifting and spinning my way up and it just totally blew me out. I’m sure it’s a combination of different muscles and different pace, but I just couldn’t hang on the climbs like I do on the SS. The standing and climbing is so much better now that I’m used to it on the SS, yet when I did it last night the bike would get all bouncy and I’d end up red-lining my heart rate really quickly. Then I’d be forced to sit down and spin and my legs would start screaming.

I used to think riding SS made me a stronger rider and when I started I was convinced that it did. Now though, I think it just made me a stronger SS rider. I do think the SS makes me a better rider though. I’m better about picking my lines, I’m better at controlling the bike and I’m better at climbing when standing up.
I don’t know about stronger though….. I think that the best idea is probably to mix it up a bit and keep the body guessing. That way I get a better all around workout.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What a night!

A week ago my post was titled “time to dig out the winter gear” because it was starting to get cold on our rides. Well, last night we not only didn’t need winter gear, I was wishing I hadn’t worn my jacket…. It was so warm that by the time we were done I had totally sweat through my gloves and my jacket. (btw – there’s nothing quite as gross as taking off your helmet at the top of a climb, only to have the sweat run down your neck as you squish it back onto your head when you start again)

It was a great night, with a full moon to boot. Evidently we weren’t the only ones out taking advantage of the weather. We must have seen at least a dozen other riders out there. More than I think I’ve seen on any other night ride.
Afterwards, we were joined by Jerry (aka broken-wing) and Sandy for the bbq. It was good to see them as we’ve missed him on our rides while he heals up.

Jim and Lynn brought brats and Jim grilled them to perfection with some onions boiled in beer on top…’s no wonder I’m gaining weight even though I ride 2-3 times per week.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I’m guessing you can tell what this means, but just in case…..someone went down on our ride last night and two others went down on last Thursday’s mountain bike ride.
It’s interesting the thoughts that go through your head when someone crashes.
The title of this blog pretty much sums up the thoughts going through my head when I crash and I can only imagine they’re similar to the thoughts of others as well.

Last week, on our Thursday night mt. bike ride, at the top of the golf course climb we split into two groups. Our group continued on the regular route and the other group took a different route back to the truck to get the bbq started.
The ride was going pretty well and we were making pretty good time. As we finished the climbing and started on the mostly downhill portion back to the marina I went out front, followed by Dan and Paul. They always seem to let me lead which I’ve assumed is because although I’m slow uphill, I’m actually pretty dang fast on the downhill. I’m sure it has to do with having more mass (fat) but I tell myself it’s the hand-built wheels and my amazing skillz.

Anyway, after heading down one steep section and the next couple of corners, I noticed there weren’t any lights behind me. I turned around and headed back to find Paul standing on the side of the trail and Dan picking blackberry vines out of his helmet.
My first thought was oh man, I hope it’s not serious, getting him outta here is gonna suck. Luckily he and his bike were alright. A little banged up but able to finish the ride.

Then, last night, Roy, Greg, JoAnn and I headed out to the Alameda Creek trail on the road bikes which is a nice flat 20 mile out and back. Technically it’s not a challenging ride, and there is absolutely no climbing….ok, maybe a total of 20 ft of climbing if you figure in the underpasses. But it’s a good workout for speed and intervals. Towards the end, Greg and I cranked it up a notch and Roy and Joanne kept their steady pace. Well Greg and I got back to the truck and waited…..and waited….finally Roy and JoAnn rode up slowly. JoAnn had gone down and had some pretty good road rash on her knee and elbow….
Luckily nothing was broken and we were able to get her bandaged up. We then prescribed two doses of 12oz liquid medicine in the way of Alaskan Winter Ale and things seemed to be ok.

I was thinking about this last night after the ride and it struck me that crashing really sucks. I mean I’ve always known crashing sucked, but it dawned on me that a major crash could really be scary. For instance, what if Dan had been jacked up to the point that he couldn’t get back to the truck? Someone would have had to ride up to where they had cell service and get help, while he would have had to sit there in the dark and wait.
And, although JoAnn crashed about 20 yards from the truck, what if she had broken something or was hurt worse than she was? Would I have been able to assess the situation and deal with it properly?
Sure I have a pretty decent first aid kit in the truck and a smaller one in my camelbak, but do I know what to do with it?

As a result, I’ve signed up for a wilderness first aid course. Afterall, I spend enough time in the mountains fishing and hiking and mt biking that I think I should at least know the basics…..who knows what could happen and believe it or not, the liberal application of beer won't cure everything.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The power of the interwebs…

I was talking to someone the other day about the impact of technology on our lives. Especially as regards the youth who have grown up with it.

The discussion rambled about how the youth of today spend more time inside and less time outside running and jumping and playing. How kids are less active, have a higher propensity to be overweight, expect too much to be given to them, don’t have to learn good penmanship or spelling since they type everything and have never had to go to a library for a research paper.
We pretty much came to the conclusion that technology is to blame for all the woes of the world.

Then the discussion shifted to the power of technology to change lives. A friend of ours recently had knee replacement surgery. They pretty much cut out the old defective knee and replace it with a high tech titanium and plastic one. We also talked about how they use lasers to improve vision, voice recognition software to help disabled people speak, computer controlled wheelchairs to help people get around, etc, etc.

As we were talking about this, it struck me how the internet can and is used to create community. One of the things I do just about every day is to log on to It’s a blog started by a guy I worked with once upon a time (goes by the nickname Fatty) with the goal of allowing his friends to keep track of his weight loss and cycling goals.
As time has gone on though, it’s become a community of people that have never even met Fatty and has recently been focused on the struggles he and his family are facing as his wife deals with cancer.

One of the things that really amazes me is that the number of people that log on and comment. Even more is how the community he has created responds when there’s a need. He had a couple of fund raiser contests this year and they always generate huge responses and donations.
My wife, who has never met this guy or even logged on to his blog, and I talk about how Susan (Fatty’s wife) is doing and what the latest developments are.
How is it that so many people can be affected and touched by someone they don’t know, have never met and will probably never see in person?

The other thing that I find incredible is that at a time when the world seems to be filled with greedy, selfish people that are only concerned with getting over or getting ahead, I’ve seen such care and concern for a total stranger. Who knows, maybe there is hope for this world yet……

Friday, November 7, 2008

Time to dig out the winter gear…

Last night was the first post-end of daylight savings ride. (Does that even make sense?) With the end of daylight savings time, or the beginning of pacific standard time, or whatever, we had our first Lake Chabot ride that actually started in the dark.

It’s been cooler here in the morning and in the evenings, but the days have been just about perfect. So, I started out last night with tights, a long sleeve base layer and my gore jacket along with my half finger gloves.
The first downhill leads to an area that is always the coldest on the ride. This is followed by a nice little climb to get the heart pumping and some rollers to warm up the rest of the body.

After this, we cut through to the golf course and the big climb begins. Needless to say, after the first couple of yards up this hill, I was plenty warm. So warm actually, that I was struck by bizarre anomaly of being able to see my breath in the cold air, while at the same time wiping the sweat from my eyes. At the top of the climb, I was so warm I had completely unzipped my jacket and was pretty well soaked through. Which felt great for about 2 minutes….after which I was shivering and ready to get started again.

This cycle pretty much continued the rest of the ride. Hammer, hammer, hammer, sweat like crazy. Stop and start shivering.

It really was a pretty night though. The stars were gorgeous, the views of the bay from the top of the hills were beautiful and the weather was cool, but not freezing.
Although, the few times we did stop, reminded me I need to find my long fingered gloves, my thicker jerseys and my under helmet beanie thing. I’m pretty sure I have some toe warmers somewhere too and I remember being thankful for them on more than a couple of rides last year.

Afterwards, Nick had brought a pot of tortilla soup and we all brought other munchables (along with a nice assortment of beer) so as always it was an awesome night!
Of course when the alarm went off at 4 this am I felt like I had just lay down.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fall sucks, but not really….

Ok, so I hate the fact that it’s now dark by 5:30 in the afternoon. Usually we start our Wednesday rides at 4:30 and have at least 2 hours to get in a nice long after work ride.
Last night, we started at 4:30 and by the time we got back to the cars at 5:30 it was already dark.
The upside to this time of year is that the weather is perfect! It’s not really cold yet, but it’s cool enough for arm warmers and cool enough that a nice long climb at a brisk pace doesn’t leave you feeling like a well used salt lick.

Last night we started at PW market in Castro Valley, rode up and over the Dublin grade at a pretty good pace then back. On the way back we did the first section of Sunny Slope which is a pretty decent climb, especially if you take it pretty fast.
Afterwards, there’s a nice downhill followed by the last climb up ECV Bl and back to the cars.
We hammered it out pretty good so although it’s not a long ride at 13 miles with about 1000ft of climbing it left me feeling like I had done something at least. All in all a nice Fall ride…..except that it was too dark to go longer….

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Gamble Paid Off…

Yesterday was the Giro d’Vino ride in Lodi. A bunch of us had registered for this a while back since it’s a great ride and one of the last organized rides of the year….
The only issue was that the weather guy was predicting rain this weekend and we weren’t sure if he was going to be right or wrong…..flipping a coin will usually be just as accurate as listening to those guys. We were betting he was wrong.

Saturday it poured all day. They said we received an inch and a half in a lot of areas and I was concerned Sunday would be more of the same. Still, after emailing and calling around it seemed that most of us were still game. We had a backup plan though, so if it poured we were heading for the Indian casino….

Well, Sunday turned out to be a perfect day! The weather was cool but not cold and the sun even made an appearance a few times throughout the day. The Giro d’Vino is a great ride through the wineries of Lodi, Clements, Acampo and the surrounding areas. It’s a really pretty area that I don’t think many people know about. There are a ton of nice little wineries tucked between Hwy 5 and the foothills.

Everyone that showed up met up at the registration (evidently some in our group decided not to chance it and were "at home having coffee" as we registered) and immediately split into two groups. One group was planning on doing the 50K ride with a goal of making sure they took advantage of the wine tasting on the route. The other group was doing the 100K with a goal of …well…finishing the 100K.

The route is a completely flat 100K so I took the single speed. The single speed was built up with a goal of being a nice riding, fairly lightweight, speed demon. This is probably my favorite bike and the one I prefer when we’re doing rides that don’t have ridiculous amounts of climbing.
Yesterday though, because of the weather, it was anything but lightweight. After mounting fenders, a rack and the music player,(gotta have music on these rides) it was quite a bit heavier than usual. Add to that the fact that since I was organizing our group and had a few new riders, my trunk bag was filled with rain gear, arm/leg warmers, first aid kit, 4 spare tubes, a bunch of gels and tools I’m pretty sure this thing was closer to 40 lbs that 20.

Well, the ride went really well and although the 50K and 100K routes split pretty early on, we still managed to hook up with the other group at two of the rest stops. Not sure if they were slow or we were fast, but it sure worked out nicely.

Things actually went smoothly for both groups except for the one incident where Greg, feeling like he didn’t want to pedal anymore tried to attach his bike to mine for a tow….he quickly learned the error of his way as he went into the dirt like he’d been thrown from a bull. He claims I did it on purpose ….I of course deny that… no one can prove I pointed out the Goldwing to distract him, then immediately grabbed my brakes….

All in all it was a great ride. We had several personal bests in both groups and a for a couple of the riders this was almost 4X their longest ever ride.... Afterwards the organizers fed us well and we relaxed and listened to the Vine Dawgs ( while we enjoyed a pretty good bottle of wine.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wow, almost a month without a post…

So, I logged on today to realize that it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything…..
Too be honest, I can’t believe October is almost over. It seems like this month has just flown by.
My wife and I were actually talking about whether or not we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner in a few weeks and it dawned on me that Christmas is right around the corner as well…..insane!

The first part of the month has just been so-so as far as riding goes. I’ve been trying to get out at least once per week for the mt. bike ride at the lake, but other than that, I haven’t been riding much. Just not really motivated…..
This past weekend we did Mt Diablo, and when we split at the second ranger station, I wasn’t even tempted to try the summit. Weird, normally I’m all about suffering, but Saturday, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Last night we did the Cull Cyn out and back 2x…the first time, we really tried to hammer it and to be honest, it about killed me. My legs just kept saying “hey now, knock it off and take it easy….” If Jack hadn’t been behind me, I probably would have slacked off but he kept on coming so I had to keep pushing.

The upside of Fall is that the lake loop is almost all in the dark now which definitely adds to the fun factor. Plus the weather has been amazing. It’s beautiful during the day and cool in the mornings and evenings. I’m guessing as it gets colder our socializing after the loop will dwindle considerably.

I really do need to get some miles in though since I’ll be doing the Giro D Vino in Lodi in less than 2 weeks. The good thing is that although it’s a metric century, it’s completely flat.
It’s a fun ride and goes through some really pretty countryside. Plus every rest stop is at a winery. Last year a few of us were cruising along chatting and not really paying attention when we realized we had missed a turn and had no idea where we were. The really funny thing is that when we stopped, there were at least a dozen or so people that had followed us off course – lemmings, all of ‘em

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Even an idiot driver and an angry bug couldn’t ruin last night’s ride….

My buddy Jack and I decided to ride the zoo loop last night. It’s a really nice 26 mile loop since its local and can be done before dark even as the days get shorter. It’s got some nice climbs and some really long fast descents. Plus the weather was perfect, warm but not hot.
The only downside is there’s a section towards the end of Redwood rd that is kind of narrow and in the evenings, there can be a lot of cars. Last night was no exception.

Jack and I were cruising along and while we were riding side by side when we could so we could talk, every time we would hear a car coming we’d get back to single file. (it drives me nuts when I’m in my car and cyclists are riding 2-3 abreast and hogging the road)
Everything was fine until we got to a point where we saw 2 cyclists coming down the hill with 4 cars behind them. They were moving along at a pretty good clip since it was downhill, but evidently it wasn’t fast enough for “the idiot” in the Infinity at the back of the line because he decided he needed to pass the 3 cars and 2 cyclists in front of him.

The problem was, as I explained, is the road is kinda narrow there and when he passed them, he came within a foot of embedding me and Jack into his nice chrome grill. (it was an aftermarket mesh looking grill)
Now normally, I don’t notice the cars that go by us, but since I got sooooo close to this one, I did notice that “the idiot” was driving an Infinity G35 with nice rims and an aftermarket mesh grill. I was particularly interested in the grill since I was picturing us embedded in it.

Anyway, after narrowly avoiding a certainly painful and messy meeting with “the idiot” (did I mention that Redwood rd is a completely winding road with NO straightaways for passing) we continued the climb up to skyline. From there the road continues to climb until you reach the top which has the most amazing views of the bay area. Most of Skyline is a divided road with a planting area and path in the middle. Sometimes we see people walking, we’ve seen people on horseback and last night we saw a really nice 3x3 buck just grazing in the middle of the road.(seeing wildlife is always a highlight on any ride)

The nice part about the climbing is obviously the downhill that follows. So, last night when we hit the downhill I really let it out and was zipping along at about 35-40 mph when BAM! I get hit with something in my lip. Two things register at this point, The first is that whatever it is, it’s alive and fuzzy because it’s now stuck in my lips and the second thing is that it’s FREAKING STINGING ME!!!!!!
Well, although the whole incident of it hitting me, me feeling it and me spitting it out all happened in the span of about one second, my amazing powers of deductive reasoning kicked in and I figure out that this small fuzzy thing that stings must be a bee and he's probably pissed (I know pretty impressive the way I deduced that ain’t it)

Anyway, the rest of the ride went without incident, we finished the downhill, went through the zoo, through San Leandro, up Lake Chabot rd and back to the start where we congratulated ourselves on not becoming a hood ornament for “the idiot”.
All in all though, it was a great ride. We couldn’t have picked better riding weather, the views from the top of skyline were a little hazy but still gorgeous and the pace kept us working near, but not over our limits.

(Although, when I went home, my lip looked like I'd been punched and required benadryl and ice to bring it back to normal size)

Monday, September 29, 2008

What a nice ride…..

I took a ride the other evening with a buddy that has been off the bike for a while. Knowing this, we set out with the goal of a nice relaxed ride. And we accomplished that. We took it easy, we saw wild turkeys, we chatted the whole way out and back and we generally had a nice relaxed ride followed of course by a couple of beers back at the truck.

The next day we were talking and I commented about how much fun it was to just cruise along, relax and enjoy the ride to which he responded “..of course it was, you know Rich you don’t have to kill yourself on every ride…”
Obviously this comment left me dumbfounded because I had never really thought of that. I mean, after all, riding is exercise right? And the goal of exercise is a certain level of fitness right?

I spent a couple of beers I mean hours thinking this over and came up with the following formula:
Level of Fitness(X) = Intensity of Exercise(IE) x Amt of Time Available(ATA)

Therefore X=(IE)x(ATA)

Now, if you assume that a basic level of fitness requires at the very least 1 hour, 3x per week, then you factor in the fact that each week has only 168 hrs.
Factor in the basic assumptions that you need to sleep 6 hours a night and most of us work 9 hours a day.
In addition our spouses and families demand to see us somewhat regularly. If you own a home then the project and chores need to be done and if you hope in any way to have a social life or friends then there’s the basic life requirements on your time….

After you incorporate the following other variables into the equation (W) work, (L) Life, (P) projects uncompleted, (K) kids and (S) Spouse, the equation ends up looking like this:

X= (IE) x (3/168)X((ATA)-(W+L+P+K+S)
X= -4

Now granted, I wasn’t a math major, but I come up with somewhere around -4 hours at the end of every week and I haven’t even begun to figure in eating….

Now, although my buddy was right and riding is fun…..I don’t think there’s time for fun in my previous equation…

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Happy Sad Camping Trip...

This past weekend the entire family (inc. dogs) went up to Silver Lake for the end of the season camping trip.
It was a Happy Sad camping trip.
The weather was really nice, warm but not hot during the day and cold at night. The lake is pretty low, although the Silver Fork River was flowing nicely.

Deb and I and the two dogs headed up early Friday since the campground is first come first served and we actually made it out of the house by 7:45 which was only 15 minutes later than our planned start time.
Of course by the time we stopped to do the grocery shopping and at Walmart for a couple of items, we didn’t get into camp until almost noon.
Also of course, things never go quite as planned. Our goal was to get camp set up followed by a nice nap on the new cots. What we didn’t realize was that after the last camping trip, one of the tent poles got put away with Michelle and Chris’ tent so our nice nap on the new cots wasn’t going to happen. That’s ok. A truck with a camper shell and a couple of blankets works just as well.(although it’s a tad bit more “cozy” with the both of us and our two large dogs)

The kids, who thought they’d be up there about 9ish, finally rolled in about 11 and we got to work setting up the tents (afterall, grandpa’s bedtime is usually 9)

Mornings camping are my favorite time and Saturday morning was one of the best. We all got up, got the fire going, made a pot of coffee and started on a nice big breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon….with a few sweet rolls thrown in to tide everyone over. (probably not on the AMA’s heart healthy diet sheet)

The day ended up being a great day, we got a little hike in, the boys did some fishing (you’ll notice I said fishing and not catching….no catching was done this weekend) and everyone had a nice relaxing day that ended with s’mores around the campfire.

I titled this blog the Happy Sad Camping trip for a reason though. This trip was set up as the last family trip of the year before the youngest heads back down to UCSC for the school year and that feeling definitely came through on Sunday morning as we packed up. I could tell Deb was feeling it and as I sat there having my coffee, it dawned on me that, like my oldest, my youngest is going to move out someday and these times will be fewer and farther between.

Deb and I are really blessed in the fact that it seems both of our kids actually enjoy hanging out with us. And, to be honest, we mostly like them as well. So, since we’ve already found with Michelle that you can’t lock them away and keep them to yourselves, we’ll be moving Christina down to Santa Cruz this evening and she’ll start on her last year of college. Oh well, it’s not that long till Christmas break…..

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Having fun and touching lives ….

It’s interesting how you can set out to do something you enjoy and have it wind up touching so many other people’s lives….
My wife and I went to a fundraiser dinner the other night for my buddy’s team that is doing the Coast Classic ride form SF to LA to benefit the Arthritis Foundation.

I’m not sure how Jerry got involved with the Arthritis Foundation other than he loves to ride and it’s a good cause. I don’t know that he is directly connected to anyone that has suffered from this disease.

We went mainly because we thought it would be fun and to help him raise some money. I figured that’s probably why most everyone was there….

What I didn’t realize was that the team Jerry is on is called Team Also-Touch and they have a very specific reason for getting involved in this cause. The family that started this team lost a 10 year old daughter, Christiana, who suffered from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and although, she passed away as a result of another illness, the two are connected in some way that I don’t understand.(

The thing that really amazed me at the dinner, in addition to the ribs and mashed potatoes, was how many people were involved and what their stories were. There’s Jer, who has been involved in the ride from the beginning. There’s the father, Dwight, and his oldest daughter, there’s the doctor from Stanford that attended to Christiana, there’s a spin class coach who got one of his students involved. The student, rides with a bike club in Tracy and he got a couple of his riding friends involved, then there are all of us that just know Jerry from his rides…

It’s interesting how fitness and fund raising go hand in hand. As a kid I can remember doing a walk-a-thon where people pledged a certain amount of money per mile walked. And, now we’ve got literally hundreds of walking, running and biking events that raise money for a good cause.

And of course there’s the Tour de Donut….which although it’s not a fund raiser, looks like something I could definitely have a chance of winning…..
The Tour de Donut bicycle "race" starts with a mass start

The route has varied slightly from year-to-year do to road conditions/construction and is over rolling terrain with two donut stops. Riders must stop at the two checkpoint stations (donut stops). Donut consumption is not mandatory, however, a five minute bonus is awarded for each donut consumed and recorded. After the race placement awards are presented for best Elapsed Time, Adjusted Time and Most Donuts Eaten. Door/Attendance prizes and a grand prize are also awarded.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Riding at that place known as …..the Edge….

I know you’ve been there. It’s a great place to ride….as long as you stay within the Edge and don’t go over the Edge…..

Some days getting there is easy….you start off feeling great….start cranking along and pretty soon you’re there….just rippin it up at the Edge. Legs turning, lungs pumping but not burning, wheels humming along effortlessly over the bumps and dips and washboards….it’s almost as if you and the bike are one. Perfectly balanced and fluid.

The challenge though is to not go over the Edge. This is where your lungs feel like they’ll explode, you can feel your heartbeat in your ears, every bump throws you off your line and you just can’t get in the groove….

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the Edge is not a specific place as much as a mental and physical state. And it’s fun when you’re there. I’ve had some great rides there. Rides where I’m really strong going uphill and really smooth and fast going downhill….I love those days…..

But, last night was not one of those days…

One of our group suggested a new route and we, like the lemmings we are, joyfully agreed. The first part is nice. It cuts out some miles and a couple of the climbs. The problem is it also cuts out the one long climb and replaces it with a shorter climb. Which, I assumed, would be a good thing….well, you know what they say about assuming….it was only after getting a little more than half way up that it dawned on me that I still had to get to the top of the ridge and substituting a long grinding climb with a shorter one would require the shorter climb to be steeper….MUCH steeper.

I quickly went over the Edge….I could feel my lungs preparing to explode, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, I couldn’t get enough air and did I just feel something “pop” in my calf???? Whose FREAKIN idea was this route anyway?????

And…to top it all off, when we finally did reach the top, which I must confess required walking, I find out that the genius that suggested this route had bailed and was headed back to camp (with some lame excuse about mechanical failures….riiiiight)

But, we survived and eventually made it to the top where we crossed the road and caught on to our normal loop. The worst part is that I never really did recover from going over the Edge. Sure, my heart rate settled down and I was able to shove my lungs back down into my chest where they belonged but my rhythm was off the rest of the evening. I somehow left my groove halfway up that first hill.

The only upside to all of this is that the guy that picked the route will end up spending a lot of money on a new bike which for some sick and twisted reason does make me feel a little better….

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So....what's next Mr. A???

A couple of months back as I was dragging one of my buddies, (we’ll call him Mr. A) up the Alp d’ Huez, and we got to talking about what he was planning on doing with his future….(ok, I was doing most of the talking since he couldn’t really keep up with me, fight for breath and talk at the same time) I mean, he’s done the Tour de France thing enough times that he’s proven himself one of the greatest racers of all time, he ran the Boston marathon in under 2:50 and although he didn’t win the Leadville 100 he still finished second which is a pretty impressive feat for a non mt biker…
So what’s next? I asked…..

Well, of course at the pace I was setting for him, he was having a hard time breathing and at the time, I wasn’t sure if it was oxygen depravation or if he was really serious, but he said “I have several goals in my life right now……one, is to pose naked on the cover of a women's magazine, the second is to win an eighth Tour de France title and the third is to someday run for Govenor of Texas.....

Now, granted, I had been pushing this tired old 37 year old to keep up with me as we crested mountain after mountain in the Alps, and he was probably just blustering to save his self esteem since he was getting his butt kicked by an old, fat, balding guy on a single speed, but could he really be serious? Could he really try to win another Tour?

Well, of course he could….just look at the past Olympics. We had a 41 year old mother win three silver medals in swimming. The age at which we’re expected to slow down and relax, our golden years continues to go up. Many athletes are still competing well into their 30’s and even 40’s …Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Nolan Ryan to name a few…

So anyway, once we were done with the ride and Mr A had gotten his heart rate back under control and was able to talk in full sentences again I asked just how serious he was….and although at our age “as serious as a heart attack” isn’t a phrase we use too often, he said he was really serious…..

I guess one of his goals has been attained...and he's pretty committed to the second one..,

I actually think he can pull this off.....and the fact that he'll get back in racing shape will definitely halp in the fact that I won't be waiting for him all the time at the top of the climbs......

(Note - the author makes no claims whatsoever to the validity of the above stated claims and in no way guarantees, implies or by any statement attests to the accuracy of the above stories....esp as regards a certain middle age,out of shape, balding rider having ridden with or being forced to wait on a certain famous unnamed rider/racer/cancer survivor/superhero)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Workin out….Old Skool…..

Saturday was supposed to be my grandson’s 2nd birthday party. And since I’d rather hang out with him and eat cake than ride my mountain bike, I passed on the Big Basin ride with the gang…..
Turns out, the little guy had some sort of a virus and a fever so not only did I not get to see him, but there was no birthday cake in my immediate future AND I had bailed on a really fun ride….
So, in an effort to avoid the crankiness that usually comes with sitting idly on a weekend, I launched myself into some projects.

First, I finished and painted the trellis I started a few months ago. Then I wired up and installed the lights for said trellis. It looks really good if I do say so myself.

Then, with a big chunk of the day still in front of me, I decided to split some firewood that I had piled on the side of my driveway back in the Spring.
Now, other than riding and running and an occasional game of basketball, I don’t really work out anymore. I mean, at least not in the traditional weight-lifting sense….
Even though, I still tend to think I’m in fairly good shape and figured I’d have no issues splitting about a half cord of wood…….yeah, I was wrong…!

Between the lifting of the rounds, the swinging of the sledge for the maul, and then the ax for the smaller chunks, loading it in the wheelbarrow and later stacking it in the backyard…..I was tired. Reeeealllly tired…..The tired that comes from having done something. Which is different than the tired that you get sitting on the couch watching football as I did yesterday.

The really crazy thing is just how sore I was today when I got out of bed….I’m sore from my shoulders to my waist with the majority being in the trunk area. My sides, abs and back feel like I just did about a gazillion situps. My shoulders are sore and tight and my forearms are tired to the point that I have no strength in my grip…..

Which got me to thinking….I can remember my grandfather having a grip like a vice, zero body fat and wiry arms that looked like cords of rope under his t-shirt when working in the yard and he never lifted weights or did any “exercise”….he just worked….

Hmmm……..I think I’ll sit on my back patio with a beer this evening and see if there are any lessons I can learn here….now, where did I put that cookie????

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do I look anxious to you??????

For the past couple of months I’ve been having these weird “episodes”. I call them that based on the fact that no-one seems to be able to tell me what the real issue is. Basically it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and my arms go numb. Now, normally this sounds like a heart attack right? But it’s obviously not since it never happens when I’m running or riding and passes in less than a minute with no other effects. It happens less than once a month and only at times when my heart is normally at rest.....sitting at the desk, walking through the mall, driving in my truck...watching TV.....

In an effort to figure this out (and appease my wife that I'm not the walking dead) I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. He’s a runner and a pretty straight shooter and after taking my blood pressure, asking me a bunch of questions and listening to my chest, he agreed that it’s probably not my heart, but wanted to schedule an EKG, chest xray and stress test just to rule everything out.
So, I went down to the lab, had the EKG and Xray done and then setup the stress test for this past Tuesday.

The stress test is actually pretty interesting...
Basically you take off your shirt, the nurse wipes you down with alcohol wipes that I’m pretty sure are frozen solid for your enjoyment, then they use sandpaper to rough up your skin - honest, she told me it was sandpaper - and they attach about 12 million little wires to you. (I think in some countries this would be considered foreplay)

After you’re all prepared the nurse explains that the treadmill will automatically increase in speed and elevation regularly until you reach your max heart rate….not sure how they tell what your max is….unless they keep increasing it until you actually die….

Once I’m all set up and on the treadmill (with 12 million wires hanging off me) the cardiologist comes in and starts asking questions. Why are you here, describe your symptoms, when do they happen, what’s your diet like, how often do you exercise…..etc.

I explained that I didn’t think it was my heart since I never have an issue when I run or ride and that I was mainly having all this done to prove to my wife that I didn’t have heart problems.

Immediately, whether from his tone or his posture I wasn’t sure, but I got the distinct feeling he pegged me as a hypochondriac….which I’m not. Ask my wife, I’m the last person to complain about my health and I rarely go to the doctor. Either way, I was now feeling somewhat defensive.

Anyway, when he asked about exercise I told him that I ride my bike about a hundred miles a week and that I had ridden about 40 miles the day before.
To which he replied, “Why do you ride so much?” I was a little dumbfounded by his question and just said, because I enjoy it and exercise is good for you….right?
Well, yes he says, in moderation…but not that much, that’s just excessive. And why would you ride on Monday when it was so hot? You could have died….

I explained that we were in the City so it wasn’t that hot on Monday and I hardly think 3 rides a week to be excessive.

He then went on to ask me, why, if you think you have a heart condition would you be exercising at such an extreme level….again, it’s not extreme and as I stated before, I don’t think I have a heart condition….oh, so now you’re a doctor he asks????

What the h#**? Did I do something to offend this guy? Isn’t he supposed to encourage my healthy lifestyle? Why do I feel like he thinks I’m some sort of idiot? Maybe I should just start smoking and sitting around so he can prescribe some pill and justify his million dollar education….

Anyway, the treadmill starts going, and going, and going…..and finally he says well, you’re on level 7 and aren’t at your target heart rate, you’re obviously healthy, I don’t know why you even came in. (well, it sure as heck wasn’t my idea)

He then asks if I want to keep going or end the test… now, I really don’t like this guy and knowing he’s probably late for his golf game or something I tell him Yes, I want to keep going….. finally, at level 8 I reach my target heart rate. Which he says is 150 and he starts slowing down the treadmill, tells me I’m fine and says once the nurse unhooks me from everything I’m free to go…..

At this point, I’ve learned absolutely nothing about these “episodes” and it’s obvious my doctors know even less so I ask him….well, what is it… which he replies….it’s obviously just anxiety…… huh? Me?? Yeah, pretty sure he pulled that one out of the back of his fancy smock…..

The good news is my wife is no longer shopping for more expensive life insurance and hasn’t started selling my stuff on Ebay since she’s resigned herself to the fact that she’s stuck with me a little longer

The icing on regular doctor, whom I actually like, emails me today and says everything looks good but if I want to talk to a "professional" about my anxiety he can set it up.... I DON'T HAVE ANXIETY DAMMIT!!!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's a little warm out there....

It’s funny how now that we’ve passed Labor Day, the unofficial end of Summer, and are heading towards the Fall that we’re having some of the hottest rides of the year.
Last week, when we started our Wednesday afternoon ride up and over Redwood Rd, my truck showed 100 degrees. Last night was quite a bit cooler showing a brisk 99 degrees in Castro Valley. The loop is a quick 20 mile out and back with about 2000ft of climbing so it’s perfect for an after work ride.

It’s amazing to me how much of an effect the heat has on my performance. In the Spring I do this ride with one water bottle and finish feeling pretty good. Last Wednesday and again last night, I went through both bottles and finished feeling much more tired than I should have for a 20 mile ride. As a matter of fact, one of my buddies, who is a very strong rider, ended up stopping in the shade part way up last week just because it was so freaking hot.

My question now is, are there any added benefits to riding when it’s so hot or is it just more dangerous? I’ve read that you burn more calories when it’s hot since your body has to work harder to cool you off, but I’m not sure if that’s true or not.

Maybe like some of my buddies (you know who you are) I should stay home and have a beer when it’s too hot to ride……

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some days, you just get lucky…..

Its funny how sometimes things work out even better than you expect….

I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that I probably wasn’t going to get a ride in this weekend. I had way too much stuff to do around the house and figured I’d spend most of my Labor Day holiday actually…well… laboring…..

But, Saturday went so well and I got the two major projects I had to complete done in one day instead of the two I had planned. That just left the normal weekend chores to do and Deb had gotten most of the house and laundry taken care of Saturday so all I had to worry about were the yards….

So on Sunday, talking to Jer, we decided we were going to ride on Monday and blow off any responsibilities we may have. We’d go from Chrissy Field, across the Golden Gate, through the Marin Headlands, Sausalito and the Paradise drive loop.

Now, I’m sure everyone has heard the famous quote about the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. And it’s true. You never really know what you’re going to get for weather over there. Some days it’s cool and clear, some days it’s foggy and damp and once in a great while you get a perfectly clear bluebird day and guess what??? Monday was a perfectly clear, bluebird day!

As a matter of fact, when I went to early Monday morning to look at the weather for SF and Marin, they listed it as “abundant sunshine”….don’t think I’ve ever seen it listed that way before and decided that was a very good omen and a sign that I was meant to be riding and not mowing lawns and pulling weeds.

We rode across the bridge enjoying the “abundant sunshine” turned and headed up Conzelman Rd into the headlands…, this was a FANTASTIC idea!!!

When we got to the top we were rewarded with the most amazing views. The City looks great from the headlands, the bridge practically shines and you could see all the way to Mt Diablo in the distance.

One of the coolest parts of this ride is coming down the backside, the first part of the descent is steep and with the sharp curve makes it look like you’re going to ride right off into the ocean. After that you go by some very cool old military batteries that were built back in the 1900’s to protect our shores from invasion. (side note – these batteries had 12” guns that could fire a projectile 15,000 yards)
One of these days I’m going to have to come back here with the family to explore and take pictures.

From there we rode through Suasalito, where we saw the beginnings of a fire at the local hotel, (although we didn’t know it was a fire at first) then on to Tiburon for lunch at the Shark Deli, up through Paradise drive and back to Chrissy Field.
I was amazed at just how busy Chrissy Field was when we got back. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people out there other than possibly during fleet week.
So, what looked to be a long weekend of chores actually ended with a fantastic ride on one of the most beautiful days in the City.....and I have the sunburn to prove it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Well, it’s over….(the Olympics that is)

Last night they had the closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics. And, like the opening ceremony, it was pretty amazing.

I was saddened by the fact that they’re over for a couple of reasons. In addition to just loving the Olympics, I was thrilled that for 2 weeks now, there’s actually been something good to watch on TV. Don’t know about you, but I don’t want to watch someone survive, or that thinks they can dance or even wants to be the next top model. I am so tired of reality TV that I’ve pretty much given up on evening television. I’d rather read a book.

But, for the last 2 weeks I’ve enjoyed watching TV. There’s just something special about watching the best of the best compete for a medal. About seeing these athletes rise above everything and compete at the highest possible levels. It doesn’t even matter what sport they’re showing I’ve watched as much as I could. Gymnastics, women’s softball, freestyle wrestling, track, swimming, baseball, all of them…. (except maybe that dancing with the ribbon thing, that’s just silly)

The other thing that I love about the Olympics is that every 2 years, there’s a point in time where you can almost forget just how screwed up this world is... We put aside the differences, the politics and the distrust and we just compete. The athletes and the competition are able to take us out of our current lives and help us see something better.

As a kid I can remember the whole family watching the US hockey team beat the best in the world against all odds. I remember watching Sugar Ray Leonard, with a picture of his girlfriend taped to his shoe win a gold medal. I remember seeing the American gymnast Kerri Strug hurt her ankle on her next to last vault and still win a gold medal. And I can remember being so disappointed the when we boycotted…

This year was no different. The drama and the excitement as Phelps broke the record set by Mark Spitz so many years ago. (yep, I remember seeing that one too), the US swimming relay team winning on the last leg (after France had tallked so much crap), The US men's volleyball team winning after their coach's father in law was many amazing stories.

Of course it’s not all perfect. There were questions and concerns about Chinese gymnasts, scoring biases and questionable calls, but overall I loved it and can’t wait till 2012…..of course now that we’ve heard that China invested almost 40 BILLION dollars in this year’s Olympics, where does that set the bar for future countries???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How quickly it goes…..

Well, I haven’t been riding as much as I’d like lately and, due to some drive train issues on the SS, on the rides I have done, I’ve ridden the full suspension bike. This means that not only has my fitness suffered, but my skills on the rigid SS also suffered.

Well, thinking I had the issues on the SS all worked out, I decided to take it out and give it a go. I was supposed to meet a couple of my friends out at Lake Chabot to do the loop, but it didn’t work out so I ended up riding by myself. Which actually turned out to be a good thing as you’ll see later…

After being off the bike for a while, riding the SS for the first time was definitely different. And of course by different I mean HARD….. The climb up behind the golf course pretty nearly killed me. And it wasn’t just my legs. With the single speed you’re standing the entire time and as a result, my arms and shoulders were getting tired too.

The first benefit of riding alone is that the pace you choose is dependent solely on how you feel and has nothing to do with trying to keep up or stay with a group. Last night, that meant that I could take my time where I wanted and make time where I felt stronger. It also meant I didn’t stop at any of our usual rest points.

I didn’t have a watch but noted my start time and was hoping I’d be back in around 1:45. (my best time for this loop is a little under 1:30) I thought I was actually doing pretty well and was trying to make up as much time on the downhill and flats as I could knowing I was slow on the climbs.
Of course, having ridden the suspension bike mostly, my form was less smooth and more about point and shoot….plus I was tired….which meant that when I hit the bottom of one steep downhill I wasn’t back far enough, my arms weren’t relaxed enough and I hit it pretty firm (ok, hard)….which of course led to a nice loud bang from the front pinch flat…which of course led to a nice over the bars dismount….which of course led to a nice loud uuummmpphhh as I landed on my back…..
Luckily, even at my fastest, I’m pretty slow. So although the dismount probably would have rated at least a 9.5 scoring from the judges, I wasn’t hurt and popped back up like it never happened. (just in case anyone was around)
This is the other benefit to riding alone….no witnesses…no scars…..never happened…

After dusting myself off and getting off the side of the trail, changing my tube, pumping it back up (note to self – the little POS pump sucks, buy new pump) and getting on my way, I made it back to the truck in 1:48 which I thought was pretty darned good considering…..

Today although the back is a little stiff from the dismount, what really amazes me is how tired my legs are. I was actually tempted to work from downstairs just so I didn't have to climb the 16 steps to the second floor..... maybe I should trying riding a little more often so it doesn't feel like I'm always starting over....

Friday, August 15, 2008

It’s all about confidence….

I was thinking, during theRide this year, about how our confidence has a direct effect on our ability. Or should I say how our ability is affected by our confidence….
I haven’t been riding the motorcycle much this year since I’ve been spending most of my free time either doing chores or riding my bicycle.
Because of this, when we took off on Friday morning, my odometer had maybe 300 more miles than it did when I parked it at the end of last years theRide.
The result was that when we hit the twisty stuff on the first day, I had absolutely no confidence on the motorcycle.
Oh, I could ride the thing, but I was way off the pace and back at the end of the fast group….actually almost closer to the cruiser group than I was to the sportbike group.
That’s ok though, my goal every year is to enjoy myself and not doing anything stupid like die or get injured……or drop my bike in front of everyone when I forget to put my feet down.(yes, it’s happened)
Day 2 my confidence was growing. I started to get in the groove and although still not willing to go as fast as Scott and Dan, I was consistently up with the fast guys…..until that sharp left turn that totally scared the #$%* out of me and blew my confidence again.

Sunday I was definitely feeling the groove a little more and by the end of the day felt like I knew what I was doing and Monday was pretty comfortable except for a couple of blown corners where I forgot to keep my head up and ended up grabbing the brakes in mid-corner.

The funny thing is that it’s totally a mental thing. The motorcycle hasn’t changed, if anything with all the work I did this year, she’s better prepped than previous years. The science of a motorcycle taking a corner hasn’t changed, as a matter of fact, I’m not a good enough rider at my best to even get anywhere near the limits when I corner on that bike.
It’s all about confidence. On the corners where I feel confident I lean her over and she goes. On others, I chicken out, grab a handful of brake and she stands up and doesn’t want to turn.
I’ve got to believe that it’s not really the speed so much as the familiarity with the bike. After all, I’ve come down Mt Hamilton on my road bike with skinny tires and no suspension much faster than I did on Friday on my motorcycle with the nice fat tires and the suspension. And believe me, crashing on the road bike with the little plastic helmet and my lycra on would hurt a heck of a lot worse than with my full face helmet and armored jacket and pants.

So, the question is do I try to ride more and become more comfortable with the speed or, do I just slow down, get a cruiser and ride with that group?????

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What an awesome theRide!

No, it’s not a typo, it’s the official name of the annual motorcycle ride a bunch of us do every year. And while it seems the group changes from year to year based on who can and can’t make it and whether or not there are any new people, it’s been pretty much the same core group for 4 years now.

This year, as in years past, we try to find roads we’ve not done and explore areas we’ve never been. The funny thing this year was, we were never more than a couple hours from home.
As a matter of fact on Friday, when we finally stopped for lunch, I called my wife and told her I was at Alice’s. Her first question was why it took us most of the day to get to a place 30 minutes from home……she just doesn’t understand….
We ended up Friday in Monterey, had dinner at what turned out to be a great little Italian restaurant and retired to the motel parking lot for cigars and Patron – I almost felt bad for the other people trying to sleep in the motel.

Saturday, we headed out. Our final goal for the day would be the Holiday Inn in Atascadero. Again, we took backroads and secondary roads which were wonderful. There was that one time coming up over the hill to find that the road made a hard left…..probably should have been going a little slower on that one.
Saturday night, after a swim and hot tub, was spent at Outlaws card room and restaurant which turned out to be much better than I expected. That will teach me to pre-judge. Other than a nice midnight hike looking for the lost penguin, it was a perfect day.
Here’s a tip. If you’re ever in Atascadero and want a tattoo, the parlor (yes, there’s only one) closes at 8pm, but there’s a pretty decent bar right next door so your walk won’t be a total waste.

Sunday, we headed out to explore the roads east of Atascadero with a goal of Ojai for lunch. The roads were fantastic, the weather was fantastic, the lunch was fantastic….pretty much a fantastic day. (ok, so I need some new adjectives) Hwy 33 is probably one of the nicer roads I’ve ever ridden. It was…........wait for it…................fantastic!!!
Sunday night, the group split, with some going back to Outlaws and others of us ordering in pizza and hanging out in the lobby of the motel watching the Olympics.

Monday, the last day of the ride was to be a fairly short day. We’d be taking Hwys 41, 46 and 25, to Hollister where we’d check out the Corbin factory and Wizards cafĂ© for lunch.
The weather was much warmer, but the roads were great and traffic was pretty much non-existent. Ray and I went on ahead so we could get some photos of the others as they rode by.
It worked fine except that when he and I got back on our bikes to catch up, a Sheriff pulled out and followed us for about a half hour…..which obviously means we had to obey the speed limit…..not something we had really paid any attention to all weekend.
The Corbin factory was cool and lunch was good. Afterwards we said our goodbyes, promised we’d ride together more than once a year as we always do and headed our separate ways.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Night photography is fun…..

My oldest daughter and I have been taking a photography class one night a week at the local rec. dept. And, although it’s only served to reinforce the fact that I’m not smart enough for the camera I have, it’s been a lot of fun.
Last week we worked on night photography which was actually very cool.
I had no idea how we were supposed to take pictures, at night, without the use of a flash.

Well, it turns out that exposing the picture longer, which is completely different than exposing yourself (that's downright weird....and illegal), actually makes for some really cool night pictures.

It turns out that fiddling with all those little tiny buttons, in the dark of night while trying to take pictures was one of the more challenging parts of the evening. Thank goodness my daughter with her better eyesight, bigger brain and smaller fingers was there to take care of that portion.