Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Tierra Bella…..a perfect day….

So, this was the third anniversary for me and the Tierra Bella. Our relationship almost ended badly when halfway through the first year’s ride it started raining…and by raining I mean, Noah and The Flood type of rain. Rain so heavy that the road up to Hot Springs looked more like a water ride at Great America than a bike route….

Luckily, I found it in my heart to just chalk it up to experience and give her another chance. She really is beautiful this Tierra Bella. With nice roads, very little traffic, some pretty views and well supported rest stops……although her ability to give directions could be better…..of course she’ll say we weren’t paying attention…which may be partly true….

Saturday, Chris Nordby, his buddy Rich and I started out on the metric century. Chris on his fixie, me on the SS and the other Rich on a classic Motobecane.(before the name was owned by bikesdirect)
It was cool in the morning, but destined to be a beautiful day.

We were riding along and chatting and pretty soon we noticed there wasn’t anyone in front of us and only a few others behind. Usually this is a sign that you might be lost, but instead of turning around and trying to find the route, we, being adventurous (some might say bull-headed), continued on determined to find our own route.

Chris has ridden this area a few times before and I’ve done this twice, so being only half clueless, we had just enough of an idea where we were headed to get good and lost. And with two strangers who for some reason actually thought we knew where we were following us…we pushed on. (some people will follow anyone...)

We turned left and right and up over the overpass and down a nameless farm road and sure enough we eventually found ourselves on the map and later on the actual route. We rejoined the route at the base of the climb up to Hot Springs and prepared for the only real climb of the day.

With a single speed, the key is finding your rhythm and a pace that you can sustain without blowing up. I know what my rhythm is and just how hard I can go without dying. And, as long as I don’t have to talk or anything, I can usually keep a pretty good pace for a good distance.

The other thing is I really prefer to suffer in silence so I quickly distanced myself from Chris and Rich and settled in to suffer my way to the top….and it was working. I had a good pace, I was blowing pretty hard, but not redlining and I was working my way to the top….until this guy pulled up alongside and started wanting to chat…..hey is that a single speed – yeah. Is it fixed or freewheel – freewheel. How hard is that right now – hard. Why do you do it – dunno.

I’m not an anti-social person. Normally I love chatting with people, but as I said, I was in a rhythm and I prefer to suffer in silence…..I assumed he would take my one word answers and my gasping for oxygen as a sign that I didn’t want to talk, but of course he didn’t…..thinking I could probably get away from him, I cranked it up a notch…now I’m redlining and he just downshifts and stays next to me….so, are you dying right now – yes. Are you faster on that than gears – dunno. Is it more fun – no. Why do you do it – dunno....

Finally upon getting to the top I pull over under the guise of waiting for my friends, but really to try to shove my lungs back down in my chest and thankfully he waves and continues on….

The rest of the ride was beautiful and uneventful. It got warmer, but never too bad. Rich and I had the entertaining task of watching Chris’ legs go 1500 rpms as he sped down the hills and we coasted along nicely and before we knew it, we had finished yet another Tierra Bella metric….what a great day!

Wow, that was really…….FUN!

Now, I totally realize that we’re supposed to be riding for the “fun of it” and that none of us NiteDawgs are paid racers. And, for that matter, with the exception of NickDawg, will probably ever race….so our regular weekly rides are supposed to be fun right? That’s why we do it…isn’t it?

Well, yes…and no….

I don’t know if it’s been the weather being cold, or the fact that it gets dark so early or what, but while I always look forward to the weekly ride, I wouldn’t say the riding has been “fun”.
Has it been a good workout? Absolutely! Has ripping down the trail trying to see with just my headlamp been an adventure? You bet! Has it been fun hanging out with everyone that I ride with? Definitely! But I wouldn’t say the riding has been really fun…..

Well, last Thursday night was different. I think between the nice weather, having daylight for the entire ride and just not totally suffering on every climb, the whole tone of the ride was more “fun”.

The climb up Brandon was as long and as un-fun as usual, but the nice weather made it more enjoyable. I got a jump start on the group as we came through the gates at the bottom and set a pace that I hoped would keep me in front…..wrong….the entire way up I was looking over my shoulder and sure enough, not too far past the second bench I turned around and saw Paul make the turn…..I had hoped that by cheating I would somehow be able to beat him to the top of the climb, but it just wasn’t gonna happen…he passed me and motored on.

Later, after passing the paved portion of the golf cart trail we decided to go straight instead of the left turn back down to the lake. What a great little detour. You ride up along the ridge with a view of the entire west end of the lake. Note – it was here that I learned you should not get into a shoving contest with someone bigger and stronger than you are - as I attempted to lean into Tracy as we rode, forcing him off the trail and into the shrubbery, I was instead forced off and almost took out Jim as he tried to slip by on my left….note to self….pick on someone smaller next time.

Later as we hit the paved section back to the marina, Jim and I were racing up the last climb when Jack tried to pull the stealth attack. He worked up a head of steam and attempted to blow by us on the left shoulder…..little did he know, that Jim, being a devout Nascar fan, had seen this trick before and promptly put him into the wall (or curb in this case).
Jack, in an act driven by desperation, performed the nicest bit of riding I’ve seen and with tires scrubbing the curb for at least 10 feet, maintained his balance and although he failed at the pass, he did succeed in staying upright…..barely….

All of this fun was enhanced even more as we got back to the parking and Jim and Lynn pulled out Carne Asada for the bbq…, bbq, friends and fun… just doesn’t get any better than that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spin class epiphany……WOW…

Well, last night I finally made it in to the spin class. It turns out that the 24hr fitness closest to my house has no waiting list for their spin class…..of course not knowing that and thinking it would be the same as the other 24hr I had gone to last time, I showed up EXACTLY 1 hour early in order to get my name on the list…..
Oh well, that’s ok. That just means I was able to get in a good workout before the spin class. (wonder if I’m going to regret that)

About 10 minutes before the class is supposed to start, Lynn shows up and we head into the main room where the bikes are lined up against the wall. I guess the Hayward gym is smaller than Newark since Newark, and San Ramon from what Lynn tells me, both have separate rooms set aside just for the spin class.

We pull a couple of bikes away from the wall and start setting them up. These are obviously not your everyday, run of the mill exercise bikes. They have adjustments for the bars to go up, down, forward and back. The seats are adjustable for height as well as front and back and the pedals have toe straps on one side and SPD compatible clips on the other…..there’s also an innocent looking little black knob on the down tube that I will quickly learn to hate….

Will, the instructor comes over and cheerfully introduces himself. Other than his bike shoes, he doesn’t look like a cyclist. He actually looks more like a very fit, 20 something, poster boy for the 24 hr fitness chain or something to that effect…..He’s pleasant and helpful and promises that this will be a great class…..He seems like a pretty good guy…

The first thing I notice is just how warm it is in the room. We haven’t even started to pedal yet and I’m sweating…

Well, with the music blasting away, Will, in that fired up, let’s go team voice starts us off. He tells us to turn the little black knob so the resistance is light and start spinning away to get the legs warmed up. While we’re doing this he has us stretch our arms, and back and neck, this way and that in an attempt to loosen us up….

After doing nice easy spins for a bit, I start thinking, ok, it’s warm and I’m definitely sweating, but this doesn’t seem too bad….I look around and can tell that other than Lynn and I and Will there are actually only a couple others that are wearing bike shoes….maybe this won’t be that bad….afterall, I’m a cyclist and ride pretty regularly…..

Pretty soon though, Will, in that, happy to be alive voice says, “ok, turn your tension knob to a 5….You’ll have to play with it a bit but try to find something that isn’t too hard but isn’t too easy….assume your max is a 10 and try to find something half way there…..”

Well, the tricky thing is….the knob has no numbers and no way to figure where a 5 should be….so, assuming it should be set fairly tough I pick what I think is a 5 and we start in earnest….

Pretty soon Will has us standing and hammering away….and every couple of seconds he says…In that psychotically peppy voice “ok, turn it a quarter turn to the right….ok, turn it another quarter turn to the right….come on now….another quarter turn to the right”……(did I mention I set it “fairly tough” to begin with?)

By now he’s saying “ok, stand and pedal, now sit….stand and pedal, now sit….stand and pedal, now sit”….it was hard enough standing and pedaling but sitting and keeping the same tension is killing me….”ok, stand and pedal….sit…..”

I am, by this point, a cross between a huffing locomotive and a leaking waterbed… towel has quickly reached the saturation point and is no longer even slightly helpful in stemming the flow of sweat down my face….my heart is pounding in my ears and my legs are screaming for relief…finally….Will, in that ax murderer on a rampage voice says ok, let’s take a break….loosen the knob from hell and spin nice and easy while we do some more stretches…

As I sit up and look around, I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong….there’s a guy over in the corner who obviously spends more time with a bag of cheese puffs than a bike, and he’s sitting there smiling and chatting with his neighbor….there’s a lady on the other side that I’m pretty sure hasn’t even begun to perspire in her designer brand, all velour, matching sweat outfit….and there’s me…a dripping, gasping, jelly-legged puddle of goo trying not to fall of the bike as Will, in his whiney, pissy little voice tells us to streeeettttcchh….

I gulp down water and try to dry my face as I tell Lynn she is no longer my friend for getting me in to this….
And then I hear psycho Will start up again telling us we’re doing intervals….He splits the class in two groups and labels us One’s and Two’s….the goal being that while one group is pedaling like they’re fleeing from the hounds of hell, the other group gets a chance to rest…..

Just as we’re about to begin the lady in front of me almost falls as her seat comes off her bike….Thank you God!

Will has to delay the start of the intervals while he helps her fix it…..

Soon enough though, he gets the music turned up and, sounding like Hitler as he rallies the SS, tells us “ok team one go, go, go!!!” And we start pedaling like crazy…’s funny, when I’m really suffering on the bike, whether I’m trying to hang on the back of a fast group, taking a pull at the front or suffering up the last section of Mt Diablo, I have this place I go in my head….I just hide away in there and concentrate on keeping my legs turning while everything else just kinda shuts off….and you can bet I’m headed there now..….as Will, the sick, twisted, drill sergeant, keeps yelling how we’re doing great and only 30 more seconds….soon enough though I can hear him counting 5,4,3,2,1…..and then we rest….

I sit up and, trying to catch my breath, spin easily while I wait for the next one…and sure enough in what seems like way less than a minute…he’s yelling for us to start again… I put my head down, head for my happy place and begin again…..

Finally, after doing this 5 or 6 times, he has us spinning slowly and stretching ….and then it’s over….I’ve survived my first spin class…..

As I gather my stuff, put my bike back against the wall and wipe up the area on the floor that looks like someone’s water heater broke….I think….Wow, I can’t wait till next Wednesday…maybe I don’t hate Lynn, or Will, afterall……

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spin class??? Maybe this time….

For some reason, Spring has decided to take a break and allow the rain back into it’s schedule….. I know, I know, April showers, May flowers and all that junk….whatever! I’ve moved on…I’m ready for warm weather and shorts….no more rain…..drought or no drought….I don’t care….

So, tonight I will once again attempt to take a spin class. This will be my 3rd attempt. The first time I showed up on time and the 12 year old waif with zero percent bodyfat told me “sorry, it’s already full, you need to get here early”…. So, forewarned is forearmed and on the second attempt, I arrived 35 minutes before class...and was told the same thing…..but I am early!!! To which she ever so sweetly smiled and explained that the class sign in sheet is put out and filled up exactly 1 hour before class starts. I could reserve a spot for a $1 fee….

Of course I, being the tightwad that I am, don’t believe in paying to reserve a spot in a free class, so tonight, I will show up at least one hour early and watch until they put out the sign up sheet to make sure I get on the list.

Obviously I’ve never done a spin class and truth be told, I’m still not sure I’m ready for this. I mean, it’s bad enough I’m willing to ride my bike in public wearing lycra and spandex. Many of my co-workers already make fun of me and have openly questioned my masculinity…..and to be completely honest, I’m not sure I want to ride a bike for 60 minutes and not get anywhere. That just sounds like torture….afterall, I’m pretty sure the treadmill and the exercise bike are the leading cause of boredom induced suicide.

And, have you ever actually looked at the people that come out of the spin class? They’re young, thin, very fit looking people and most of them shuffle out of there as if they’ve just finished the Bataan Death March…..and I would guess that some of them paid to get on the list for that class…..

Oh well, I guess that, being secure in my masculinity and always eager to attempt and overcome a new challenge, I might as well give it a go….Stay tuned…..

Monday, April 6, 2009

The sound of suffering….

Last Thursday evening the nitedawgs rode out at Lake Chabot. It was also my only ride for the week. Between working 10-11 hour days and trying to get my backyard all cleaned up and ready for this past weekend, which was Deb’s birthday, I hadn’t been to the gym or on the bike.

Needless to say, the first part of the ride really kicked my butt. The first section of our normal loop involves the trail around the lake called 10 hills. You’ll never guess why it’s called that…..there are 10 hills on this section. Granted most of them are little hills that you can just roll over using your momentum, but there are a couple of short, fairly steep ones that definitely get the heart rate up.
This section is followed by Brandon Trail behind the golf course, which is about a 1.7 mile climb, sure there a couple of spots where it almost levels out and you can catch your breath, but for the most part, it’s a 1.7 mile grind.

I started out with Jer determined to take it slow and easy, but I just wasn’t feeling the slow and easy so I ramped it up a bit, pretty soon I was there in no man’s land. I started too slow to catch the fast group and was now going too fast for the slower group….I was alone.
Granted, 1.7 miles isn’t a tremendously long climb so the time I was alone wasn’t very long. But still, I was alone for a bit and during that time, I had a chance to really concentrate on my pace, my form and my breathing….

One of the interesting things that dawned on me was that, when riding the SS uphill, there is absolutely no way I am going to sneak up on anyone. Granted the bike is actually pretty quiet. There are no gears to make noise, no shifting to hear, no suspension squeaking and since it’s uphill, you obviously don’t hear the sound of the freewheel.

What you do hear is what I’m sure sounds like a herd of overweight water buffalo huffing and puffing up the hill. But what you would hear and what I hear are different. The things I hear are actually helpful in maintaining my pace and knowing just how hard I’m going.

I know when I hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears that I’m at or above my redline. I know when my breathing goes from a consistent (and yes, loud) in and forceful out to a ragged gasp that I need to back off. I know when my heart isn’t pounding and when I can talk consistently without gasping that I can go harder.

So, I've learned that the sounds I’m making can be a really useful tool in telling me how I’m doing. The other really important thing I learned is that when I’m trying to keep up with the fast group, I’m usually crying like a little girl and can’t hear any of these things….

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Singlespeeding isn’t really challenging enough…..

As many you know, I’ve really gotten into this single speed thing lately. Many of my friends have asked me what the attraction is and I’ve never really had a good answer…So, last night I sat down and really tried to figure out what it is that attracts me to this.
The first reason is the simplicity. You pedal, it goes… shifting, no muss, no fuss. Another reason is the challenge. I tend to have a huge ego and love to strut around with my chest puffed out like a male turkey exclaiming how awesome I am since I ride a single speed.
Lastly, chicks dig it. It seems like just about every ride I do, I’m surrounded by women that want to talk to me about how cool I am since I’m riding a single speed…..

The problem is though, lately, it doesn’t seem to be enough…..Sure I’m at the very peak of physical perfection, I have an adonis-like physique and quads like tree trunks, my bike is a work of art deserving a spot in the Louvre, my guy friends are all insanely jealous and don’t want to ride with me because I just destroy them…..but I still have this empty space in my heart….I just know there’s something more…some challenge I haven’t conquered…..

So, I’ve built up a new bike….one that is even cooler than anything I own….One that will finally offer the fulfillment I seek…..One that I can ride in the upcoming Death Ride and know that I am truly the supreme ruler of the cycling world……

And here it is…..

I’ve decided that freewheeling on the SS allows me too much time to rest and recover so this is a fixed gear. More Challenging.
I’ve also decided that with only one wheel, my chance of getting a flat is cut in half and with no gears, I’ll be able to do all my own maintenance and repairs.
Plus, by doing the Death Ride on this thing, I’ll be able to claim ultimate superiority over all my two wheeled friends and laugh in their faces as I strut around the parking lot….

So, today, April 1st, I plan on riding up and down Mt Diablo at least 5 times consecutively to prove just how awesome I am....