Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of my most favoritest rides…..

Saturday a group of us met to do one of my most favoritest rides. Mines Rd in Livermore which goes out to The Junction and back. It’s a great country road with very little traffic and some good climbs. It’s about 60 miles out and back with lunch in the middle.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t always one of my favorites…..as a matter of fact, the first time I did this ride, I hated it. Pretty sure I chalked it up as a ride I would NEVER do again.

The first time I did this ride, I wasn’t really in very good shape. Actually, when I first started riding, it seems every ride I went on was over my head. I used to think that it was me. I figured my friends wouldn’t take me on rides I wasn’t ready for and that I must be a weaker rider than they thought or at the very least, weaker than I should have been at that point in my riding.

What I later found out was that it wasn’t me…..all my riding friends are just liars. When they’d talk about a ride and I’d innocently ask if they thought I was ready for it, the answer was always, “oh yeah….you can totally do this ride”.

This usually led to me on the ride, suffering and wishing I was dead while they just cruised along chatting and having a great time. Afterwards, it was always followed by “what a great ride” or “man, wasn’t that an awesome climb coming out of the canyon” or my favorite “boy, I just wasn’t feeling it today, I was dying”…..that one really used to get me since they were always chatting and laughing and obviously have no idea what it feels like to really be dying…..

The funny thing is, that at some point, things changed. I still suffer on many of the climbs and I still feel like I’m dying on many of the rides, but at some point my attitude has changed. I really do like the climb coming out of the canyon and I really do enjoy the challenge of making it to the top of a climb wondering what will stop first, my heart or the climb…

Scott Martin, who used be an Editor at Bicycling Magazine, summed it up perfectly….."To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain....at cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks."

In the beginning, I obviously didn’t agree with this train of thought. I thought suffering was something to be avoided at all costs. My logic was that if something was hard, or hurt, then you probably shouldn’t do it.

The longer I ride though, the more I look at cycling as a contest. Not against other people, although beating your friends is also a fun experience, but a contest against the hills and the roads themselves.

We always talk about conquering the hills when in fact, we never conquer the hills. We instead conquer ourselves. We keep pedaling when what we really want is to quit, we go faster when our legs cry out for us to back off, we continue to push harder up the hill when our lungs are screaming for us to stop…..and the benefit? We win. We end up stronger or faster or we lose weight or we finish our first century or we beat our friends to the City limit sign.

Saturday was definitely one of those rides. The climbs worked me, the downhills thrilled me and the flats as we headed back to the car at 26 mph definitely took me to the point where I had to choose to keep pedaling instead of backing off.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

I am Not “The Man”…..

Last night I was stripped of my crown in a brutal and bloody battle. It was like one of the fight scenes from Braveheart where Mel Gibson, as William Wallace, dressed in full regalia with his face painted, runs head long into the enemy line with his broadsword slashing and cutting…….

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t quite like that. It was probably more like George Foreman and Smokin Joe Frazier where the anticipated drawn out battle between the two bruisers ended rather abruptly when Foreman soundly trounced the reigning champion in a quick but decisive battle….

Actually, it probably wasn’t really like that either…..it started with a simple gesture, Lynn opened her beer and handed Tracy the bottle cap…..and the battle began.

Tracy, ever the underdog and knowing what was at stake, looked askance at me, the implied statement being “you’re going down old man….” Quickly, he lined up and launched a nice floater off his thumb….it sailed past the first parking stall and landed smoothly, clattering out to the second stall.

Well, like Mighty Casey, the hero from Leadville, I stepped up, drew back and sailed one out to the second line where it bounced and rolled almost to the third stall. Smugly I sniffed and turned, and, with sure and complete victory in my voice, I said something to the effect of “pretty sure that will do it”….

At this point you could see the anger in his eyes as he admitted he had been outdone….but, knowing he had nothing to lose, and, with his pride, self esteem and the future of all mankind resting on his shoulders Tracy stepped up once again to take a turn…

The crowd grew silent, as all waited with bated breath to see whether this young upstart from the south could knock the king off his throne….quietly and with a quiver in his voice he said, “well here goes”…. And, with a thumb bloodied by his hours and hours of practice and a finger almost too sore to even snap he stepped up to the line and launched an amazing shot…..It was a thing of beauty as it caught an updraft and floated…nay, it levitated towards the sky and drifted as on wings out past the second stall and well into the third parking stall before landing gently and smoothly….at least 40 feet from where it had started….

Well, knowing that a shot like that was going to be tough to beat, but also having supreme confidence in my skills, honed over many, many summers spent emptying and then launching case after case of lucky lager bottle caps….I stepped to the line to take my place in the history books as the supreme bottle cap flicking champion.

I smirked to myself, knowing how crushed this poor guy was going to be once I put him in his place. Knowing he’d probably never recover and would become yet another empty shell of a man, another victim, another wasted soul, destroyed by my amazing skill with a bottle cap…..but wait, could it be? Could this really happen…..

IYes folks, it’s true, like the Mighty Casey, my confidence was to be my undoing. This one Spring evening all my training, all my practice, all my skill failed me as I did the unthinkable…..I foul-flicked what was sure to be the winning cap….it not only didn’t sail across the lot, it bounced off my chin and went afoul in the shrubbery like a badly sliced tee shot……

Humbly and quietly I bowed to the new champion, the new reigning King of the Beer Cap Flickers….Tracy, though an underdog coming in walked away that evening as The Man…..

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Well, the first century of the year is in the bag…..

The Friday before last, a group of 6 headed out for Solvang. Two additional riders were to follow later in the day. First stop, the annual In-and-Out Burger/Pearl Izumi outlet fest where we lay waste to our diets and our wallets….

Unfortunately, one of the riders mentioned a healthy alternative to In-and-Out and the die was cast. Suddenly nobody wanted to eat In-and-Out and everyone wanted to do the “healthy” thing…..of course it was the smallest, slimmest and fittest of the group that put the idea out there…..(you know who you are)
Add to that, this crazy economy and everyone was pretty sedate in their spending at the Pearl Izumi outlet too…..hmmm….this year is already shaping up differently.

We made it to Solvang, got our rooms at the Holiday Inn Express, which except for screwing me over on the rates is a perfect hotel right on the route at the edge of town.

The entire town of Solvang pretty much sells out for this event. The first year my buddy Patrick and I did it we stayed in San Luis Obispo. The next year we booked early and got the Holiday Inn and last year, I lagged and we ended up camping in Buellton.
Knowing this, I reserved 4 rooms 6 months in advance. The problem is, I booked them over the phone and didn’t get a confirmation in writing. I know they quoted me $149.00 per night because that’s what I put in my email to everyone that was riding. The problem was, when we checked in, they told us it was $194.00 and since I didn’t have anything in writing, I was out of luck. Oh well, at least we had rooms.

After everyone was settled we set up our room as the bar and the party began. With 5 of the 8 riders having never ridden more than 60 miles, the mood was festive and excited about the pending ride.

At one point though, things almost got ugly and there was some heated discussion as to whether I was actually “flicking” my bottle caps off the balcony or “throwing” them…The judges (me) ruled that since the main person raising the objection (Tracy) was from Tennessee or Arkansas or some other third world country his objection was overruled and his protest ignored.

After a couple of beers, we all headed out to find dinner. We settled on a steak house up the road. I think it was the Hitchin Post, which was delicious and even allows you to bring in your own beer. Ok, so they don’t technically “allow” it, but evidently if you sneak it in your jacket pocket they won’t know….not that anyone in our group did that of course….

Saturday morning dawned cool and cloudy. I thought everyone was shivering with excitement about the ride….turns out they were just shivering.
Also turns out Jack’s rear tire went flat while it was parked in his room so he got to fix that before breakfast.

In years past, the goal for this ride has been that this will be a nice, easy century. It’s the first century of the season and for most of us, the longest ride so far. I should have known when the In-and-Out burger idea was scrapped for healthy sandwiches that things were going to be different and sure enough, by the first climb of the day, I could see some of our group didn’t understand “nice, easy century”.

By the time we got to the first rest stop, we were pretty stretched out as a group and we made the decision that the faster people should go ahead and those of us that were more “relaxed” (I didn’t say slower) would take our time and we could all meet up at the end.

At the second rest stop, Jer, Jack and I again caught up to the others. It seems there was an accident on the road and they were delayed a while. We also ran into one of Jerry’s friends, Rich Rosendale. It turns out both Jack and Rich had flats at the second rest stop so we were even further behind what was to become known as “the fast group”. (flat #2 for Jack)

The rest of the ride went well. The day never did warm up and we had a pretty good headwind heading into Santa Maria. On one long stretch after I, then Jack had pulled a pretty good line of riders, 3 of them passed us and said they would take a turn at the front. Well, it turns out their pace was a little faster than our and at about 22mph (into the wind) I got spit out the back pretty quickly. At the rest stop in Santa Maria Jack and I regrouped with Jerry and Rich and set out.

Once you get out of Santa Maria proper, you get into the hills surrounding it. There the ride becomes much prettier and more hilly. As a matter of fact, the organizers of the ride thought it would be fun to put the toughest climb of the day at mile 80something and to follow that up with another short, but steep climb at mile 90something…just goes to prove there are some sick people in this world.

After the last climb, I usually get in the horse back to the barn mentality and this year was no different. The last 10 miles though the canyons behind Solvang are populated with beautiful ranches, rolling hills and pretty views….and buffalo

So, about 8 ½ hours after we started, the “relaxed” group, Jack Jer and I rolled across the finish line. The “fast group” had finished between 1-2 hours faster than us…..but none of them saw the buffalo

Saturday night, 4 of our group headed home (turns out Jack loaded his bike in the truck and the tire went flat again) and the rest of us went out for an amazing dinner. Sunday morning was breakfast at Paula’s pancake house and hitting the road.

All in all a wonderful weekend with good friends and a great ride.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Well, that went better than I thought…..

I’ve been wanting to get back on the bike since I’ve been sick. (ok, that’s a lie, I’d rather sit on the couch and eat double sutff Oreos) so last night my buddy Jerry and I did the zoo loop.

I’ve been off the bike since the Saturday we did Diablo which is about 2 ½ weeks ago now and really needed to get a ride in to prepare for Solvang this weekend. The zoo loop is a 26 mile loop from Castro Valley out to the Oakland hills, through the Knowland Park Zoo (hence the name zoo loop) and back. The loop is a perfect after work ride (esp now that we're in daylight savings) with about 2700ft of climbing.
It’s actually a really pretty ride down through the redwoods and then coming out up on top of Skyline Bl. Last night was cool and clear and the views from the top were amazing. (of course I forgot my camera)

The great thing was that I actually felt good the entire ride. I did the whole thing in the middle ring and although our pace was pretty relaxed and we were chatting the whole time, I was happy that I felt as good as I did.

So, I guess this means that for this weekend’s century, I know for sure I can make it at least as far as the first rest stop before I break down and die…..

ride info here - http://connect.garmin.com/activity/2475943

Monday, March 9, 2009

Well, here we are…it’s riding season again….

The Solvang Century is next weekend and once again I’m not at all ready. Every year I tell myself “this winter will be different, I’ll ride more, I’ll go to the gym more, I’ll stay in shape through the winter and Spring won’t be quite so painful….."

Of course this year, it was a little different. I haven’t been getting the miles that I had hoped, but I’ve been riding the SS mt bike pretty consistently and that’s a really good workout.
On top of that I’ve been sick as a dog for the last week and half so my weight is down….

Don't think I've seen 185 for the last 10 years....

This weekend should be interesting I haven’t ridden more than 60 miles this year and haven’t been on the bike in about 2 weeks. I’ll make a lame effort to get out a couple times this week, but it will be more about trying to get my wind back after being sick than it will about wracking up miles.

I guess the easiest way to get through a century is to just break it down by rest stops. Ok, just left the start, only need 20 something miles to the first rest stop….ok, back on the bike, another 25 and we’re half way done…..ok, finished lunch, we’re almost thee fourths of the way finished…….it’s all about mind games and convincing yourself you can get to the next milestone. That and lots of Advil of course…

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Well, we survived the road trip

But I gotta tell you, I don’t think I’ll ever do that again. At least not on that schedule.
My brother and I left Livermore on Wed at 4:00pm and headed east. We drove through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and finally arrived in Missouri 30 hours later....

We took the southern route due to the fact that it’s winter and got on Hwy 40 in Barstow and never got off.

Hwy 40 follows the old Route 66 which used to be the main cross country route from Los Angeles to Chicago. The sad part is that Route 40 is also pretty much what killed Route 66 and many of its communities.

It was interesting in that the new Pixar movie Cars is one of my grandson’s favorite movies and to drive this route, stopping along the way for food and fuel, I was constantly reminded of the movie as we’d pull off the freeway to find something to eat, only to get back on after having driven through a small, dead, town…..

There were a few places where you could see they were trying to leverage whatever tourist attractions they had to revive themselves. Santa Rosa, NM for example… While we could only find one restaurant for breakfast on Friday morning, there were signs of construction and landscaping projects going on as well as advertising for the Blue Hole dive site which evidently is a spring fed freshwater sink hole that has become regionally famous for scuba diving.

And of course there’s Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, which I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of, or there’s the giant cross in Groom TX, which you can see a long way before you actually get there since it stands 190ft in an area where freeway overpasses are the highest points in the county.

All in all it was a long drive with not very pretty scenery. But it’s done and we made it and my mom was thrilled that we took the effort to come see her…..

On a related note, when we were out there, my brother was telling me that sunflower seeds were the best cure for sleepiness when driving and while I wasn’t sure I believed him, I bought some just in case. Turns out he was right. Nothing, not gum, cinnamon bears, mt dew, nothing helped me fight the nods at 2:30 in the a.m. like sunflower seeds.

I imagine it’s because, during the act of eating sunflower seeds, your brain is so busy trying to help your tongue maneuver the seed into place, crack it, separate the pieces and spit out the shell and chew the nut itself, that you really can’t go to sleep….as a matter of fact, after writing that out, it’s amazing someone like myself with less than a full dose of coordination, could actually pull that off with out choking, biting my tongue or repeatedly spitting out the wrong portion of the shell……I imagine it was someone just like me that invented the shelled sunflower seed.....