Monday, September 28, 2009

No really I’m fine….just a little woozy

Saturday we had our last group training ride before we leave next weekend for our San Francisco to Los Angeles Coast Classic adventure. Since it’s almost the beginning of October and we were riding towards the coast, I figured I’d throw the arm warmers in the, didn’t really need those.

A dozen or so of us started out in San Rafael and about 5 miles in, half way up the first climb, I knew it was going to be a warm one. Hmmm 10:00 am and it’s already in the high 80’s...this can’t be good.

As much as I enjoy climbing, and I really do enjoy climbing, I enjoy the downhill that much more. The road from the top of Lucas Valley down to Nicasio Valley was gorgeous.
It was fast, smooth and went through a nice grove of redwoods. Justin, his two friends, Tracy and I took off and made great time out to the next turn at Nicasio Valley Rd.

From there, we jumped on Nicasio Valley Rd and headed out for the first regrouping stop. The Cheese Factory in Petaluma. We had one detour where the decision was either left or right. Downhill to the left, uphill to the right...and of course our route had to go uphill.

Once we got to the Cheese Factory it was time for a snack and some Gatorade. Unfortunately, the muffin I chose turned out to be a little older than I realized. As I was almost done, I noticed the bottom was all nice and grey and fuzzy...mmmm...pretty sure that’s not good when I have 55 miles still to go.
We did see this guy on the penny farthing which was cool Turns out I had talked to him a year ago on the Chico century.

After we left the cheese factory I rode with Jerry for a while and then decided to try to catch up to Tracy and Justin who had motored ahead. Having left Jerry behind and not being able to catch Tracy and Justin, I rode a good portion of the section before lunch by myself.
Riding alone was actually ok, since it allowed me to stop and take pictures whenever I felt like it. (and, it allowed me to take my time up the Marshall Wall which due to the heat was kicking my butt – yes, it was the heat. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it)

At the top of the Marshall wall though, is where the fun begins. I had this amazing view
and this nice descent ahead of me.

Once that was done and I was on Hwy 1, I tried to make up some time on the others so I didn’t really stop and take all the pictures I could have. Every turn out though seemed to have a parked car and a group of people with cameras. There was this cool little old building in one of the towns I went through.

Eventually I made it into Pt Reyes and met up with everyone for lunch.

After an amazing sandwich (compared to a moldy muffin what sandwich wouldn’t be amazing?) we got back on the road and headed towards home.

The ride out Sir Francis Drake Bl past Samuel P. Taylor Park was a nice ride in the shade of some beautiful redwoods. Had the road not SUCKED so badly, it would have been downright pleasant. As it was we spent quite a while trying to stay on a really rough shoulder and avoiding the traffic that buzzed by.

Eventually though we came out of the park and onto a regular road. It was here that Tracy decided he needed to pick some blackberries. I tried to tell him the season was over, but he insisted that we stop so he could look for himself.

It wasn’t long after that stop that I realized just how hot it was. It’s funny that the increase in temperature coincided perfectly with the transition back to Nicasio Valley road and the beginning of one of the last climbs of the day.

I felt Tracy would want to know just how warm it was getting, so for a while I continued to call out to him every time the temperature would go about 102 he said something to me I didn’t catch. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he swore at me...nah, couldn’t be. Anyway just when I thought it couldn’t get any hotter, I looked down and saw this...

Ok, this officially SUCKS! I was tired, it was hot and for some reason my legs just didn’t want to keep going round and round. Pretty soon we came to the official last climb of the day. Earlier in the day I had rejoiced in this downhill and now, going the opposite direction, rejoicing is pretty much the opposite of what I was doing.

I was REALLY starting to not feel so good. At the top of the climb, I polished off the last of my water and things got even less fun. The downhill was nice and the wind was cooling, but I had stopped sweating and was actually getting goose bumps – pretty sure that’s not a normal reaction to 104 degree weather.

Eventually though, the end was in site and with less than a mile to go to the van (and the ice chest) we pulled into a market, bought a vitamin water and consumed it in two gulps.
A couple of blocks later we pulled into the parking lot where it all started so long ago and proceeded to put a dent in the drink supply Jerry had brought with him.

Total for the day – 71.1 miles, 4000 ft of climbing and not nearly enough fluids….

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mt Tam...the foggy, sunny, foggy adventure...

This past Saturday we started out at Chrissy Field headed for Mt Tam and Alpine Dam. This is a really nice loop that should net us about 60 miles with almost 5K of climbing.

I’m always amazed at the number of people that are out in the morning when we start at Chrissy Field. I don’t normally associate San Francisco with fitness, but based on the number of people you see out there running, walking, biking, roller blading or just strolling with their dogs, it seems like everyone in SF is athletic. (The bummer is that I forgot my camera so you’re just going to have to take my word for it. There were TONS of people out and about)

This past Saturday, there were even more than normal since there appeared to be some sort of training event going on...large groups of people were jogging along the marina and there was an obvious starting area with a large Nike tent set up and people milling about everywhere.

As we gathered, getting ready and waiting on some of the late comers, I faced the normal dilemma of what to wear. No, my concern isn’t about whether my shorts match my jersey, but whether I should bring a jacket, arm/leg warmers and long fingered gloves.

The problem is, that since I didn’t have the rack mounted on the bike, I knew whatever I wore in the morning, I’d most likely be carrying back in the afternoon. The question is whether it was cold enough to warrant the extra stuff or should I suffer across the Golden Gate in the hopes it warms up in Marin?

I decided on the jacket and left the arm/leg warmers in the van. As we started out, I was really thinking I had made a mistake. It was cold, damp and breezy as we headed out.
Afterall, as the saying goes, the coldest winter ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. (Here’s a pic from a previous ride that shows exactly what it WASN’T like Saturday morning)

Soon enough though, once over the bridge and down into Sausalito, the weather turned nice. So nice in fact that along the bike path headed towards Marin, I completely tuned into the music from my iPod and the beautifu morning and zoned out...zoned out so completely as a matter of fact that I missed the turn off. (Thanks, Jonathon for chasing me down and waking me up. Oh well, backtracking to regroup gave me bonus miles)

Once in Marin and starting on our way up to the mountain, all thoughts of cold vanished as the sweating began. Eventually, after enough climbing, we popped out above the fog and had a nice sunny climb up to the intersection that leads either to the summit or back down along the ridge and eventually down to Alpine Dam.

The majority of the group decided to skip the summit, but Eldred had never been so I agreed to head up to the top with him with the hope that we’d catch the group later at lunch. The funny thing about the climb to the summit is that much of it is downhill. This of course means you get to climb back up AFTER the summit...I know, weird huh?

Anyway, the coolest part of the climb this day was that part way to the summit, you come around a corner and have this amazing view of the City. Only today all you could see was a solid bank of fog with the very tip of Sutro Tower peaking out. A really amazing view! (again, since I’m an idiot and forgot my camera, you’re just going to have to take my word for it)

After reaching the top, taking the obligatory “I made it picture” and basking in the view, we turned around and began the climb back down the mountain...I know weird huh?

Once you get back to the bottom of the summit you head north and onto Ridgecrest Rd. This is usually an amazing road with views of the ocean on your left and the hills of Marin on your right...well, today you couldn’t see anything on your left except the solid bank of fog. It was ok though since we were above that in the sun and the road is exceptional.

Eventually you turn off Ridgecrest onto Bolinas Rd (I think) and you start down a steep, bumpy narrow road that gets considerably cooler as it descends into the redwoods before dumping you out at Alpine Dam. From here, the climbing begins again and although it’s not steep, it’s still a climb and the weather had warmed up so I was thankful that I hadn’t brought along the cold weather garb.

We caught up to Jonathon and Jerry at the top of the climb as Jonathon had flatted. We caught the rest of the group just before the descent into Fairfax where they had pulled in to the shade to wait for us. Once down in Fairfax we had a delicious lunch at Fair Fix CafĂ©…..I know it was delicious because I completely devored my turkey and cheddar on foccacia bread…..(of course that could be because it was 2:30 and I hadn’t eaten since 6:00am)

From there we headed back into the City via Ross, Kentfield, Larkspur and several other towns I don’t remember. As we got in to Sausalito the crowds increased and the weather cooled at almost the same rate. Sausalito was PACKED with tourists walking, driving and riding rental bikes. As we climbed back up to the bridge it really started cooling off and once at the bridge, the weather was once again damp and windy. It’s funny though, that the weather doesn’t stop the people from riding across the bridge in shorts and t-shirts...

Eventually we made it back to Chrissy Field where we enjoyed a nice cold beverage... What a fantastic's another picture from a previous ride that is pretty much the exact opposite of the weather we had on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mt Charlie...sounds innocent enough...

This past weekend I did a ride I’ve been trying to do all summer. This was the third time my buddy Jerry has scheduled this ride and every time up till now, I’ve had to bail at the last minute.

This time it almost happened again. I woke at about 4am thinking someone had driven their car through my house. Turns out it was thunder...which was soon followed by flashes of lighting and then more thunder. (yes, I know lightning comes first, but I evidently slept through the first bout of lightning and only awoke when the noisy stuff started)

As I lay there for a few minutes, I began to wonder if I was ever going to get to do this ride that I had heard so much about.
I awoke a couple of hours later to wet streets and quiet skies and emailed Jerry to make sure the ride was still on. Yep, definitely was the response that came back almost immediately. Jack called shortly afterwards also to see if we were still riding. Why not I asked? You don’t want to ride a metal bike in a lightning storm???

Soon enough we were all gathered down at Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos under a perfectly blue sky with temperatures predicted to be in the mid 70’s...we couldn’t ask for a better day to ride.

The ride starts out on some rollers to get the legs warmed up. From there it’s a mild climb for a few miles then some more up and down rollers before you hit San Jose Soquel Rd. This road was amazing. Its 7-8 miles of perfect, big ring, crank as fast as you can, downhill with nice swoopy corners...

Chris took off, I followed and immediately behind me were Troy, Len, Justin and Ken...I think the top speed was 45 mph. Did I mention there’s hardly any traffic and it runs amongst some beautiful redwoods...definitely a perfect road.

After you go through Soquel you come in to Capitola where we stopped for lunch at Gayles Bakery… was packed with people and I soon found out why. The bakery goods they have in the cases looked amazing and the sandwich I had was incredible. Ham and shredded parmesan on a baguette with artichoke!

From the bakery we cruised through Capitola, up through Santa Cruz where we eventually got on Branciforte Rd, up along and eventually over Hwy 17 to Glenwood Dr which eventually connects to the reason for the ride...Mountain Charlie Rd.

You merge from Glenwood onto a narrow, winding, uphill road with some pretty steep sections. I think it was about 1500ft of climbing over 5 miles if I remember correctly. (one of these days I’ll get a bike computer)
Sidenote – Mountain Charlie was the first white settler in the Santa Cruz mountain area. He’s famous for building a toll road from what is now Scott’s Valley to the Summit. Also known as the man with the silver skull for wounds received during a fight with a grizzly - more HERE

From the Summit of Mt Charlie, it’s a pretty awesome downhill back towards Lexington Reservoir. Once we get back on Old Santa Cruz Hwy, it’s about 3 miles of FAST downhill with no cars in front of us. Who knew my legs could get so tired cranking downhill...

There are a couple of short little climbs as we worked our way back to the starting point, but nothing crazy and soon enough we were pulling in to the parking lot and opening beers...what a fantastic ride!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…..

Of course if it actually does kill you, it’s probably kind of a drag. I wonder how hot it has to be for your brain to actually boil inside your skull??? Why aren’t I at home drinking beer??? Who actually rides their bike on days like this??? How much does a helmet full of sweat actually weigh???

These are the thoughts that were going through my head yesterday as I did the Lake Chabot loop.

I had forgotten my lights so I told Lynn and Jim I was going to go early and do the loop by myself. This way I could avoid getting stuck in the dark and would be back early to get the bbq fired up and going. (the real reason was that I was really pretty cranky and just needed to blow off some steam – oh yeah, and I’m afraid of the dark)

So, with no-one but myself to set the pace and no bike computer, I started out at 5 minutes to 6 and I went as hard as I could without totally blowing up and having to suffer to the finish.

It’s interesting riding the loop by your self. There are none of the usual rest stops where you regroup, there’s no one you’re chasing or trying to stay in front of, and there’s no way to judge how you’re doing as compared to the group. All I knew was that I never stopped sweating and my heart rate only came down on the downhill portions.
On the climbs, I was just under redline the whole climb, and on the flats, I was going as hard as I could without spinning out (the Achilles heel of single speeds is the flat portions) The downhill sections were actually the only area I took it easy. I kept thinking how embarrassing it would be for the following group to find me wadded up around a tree...

The funny thing was, that throughout the entire loop, I felt like I was way off the normal pace. I felt slow and was convinced I was going to be passed any minute by the group starting a half hour behind me. This, of course motivated me to push harder, but still it didn’t seem like I had it. It seemed like one of those off-days where you go as hard as you can and your buddies still drop you like a fat guy on a huffy.

Well, it turns out, I was wrong….when I got back to the truck, I took off my helmet, pulled the phone out of the camelbak to check out my time and lo and behold I finished in best time EVER doing the loop. I guess that explains why my helmet was floating on my head and my shirt looked like I had just lost a water fight with my also explains why the first beer seemed to just disappear down my throat.

Speaking of beer - you've got to check out this survey

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Loaner Bike….

Back in 2004 I bought my first full suspension, disc brake equipped, full on mountain bike. It wasn’t my first mountain bike by any means. I had been riding since the early 80’s and my first “real” mountain bike was a Schwinn High Sierra with Suntour derailluers – boy was that thing the cat’s meow back in the day...from there I had various bikes. A Giant Iguana, Diamond Back Ascent and a Raleigh of some type...

Anyway, I had quit riding for a while and in 03 I decided to get back into it. I bought a K2 Attack 2.0 and started riding the heck out of it. Seeing as this was my first bike with suspension and since disc brakes were still fairly new, I felt like I was on the cutting edge and loved my bike.

I kept her clean, well maintained and when the savings would allow, I upgraded various bits and pieces… lightweight wheels to make her faster, high end carbon bar with bar ends, upgraded shock, better brakes, and so on...I took her out to the nicest places and made every opportunity to take her picture and brag about her to my friends.

Last year though, a new girl came into my life. I built up a single speed and my previous love, the fancy full squish, disc brake equipped, love of my life was relegated to the garage. More and more I began to long for the no-shock, no gears, simplicity of the single speed. All my love and attention went to the new girl, buying her presents and trinkets to make her feel pretty….
She received all my attention and most of my ride time (unless of course I was out with the roadbike)

In an effort to show her she still had a place in my life, I brought the old girl out of retirement as “the loaner bike”. My rationale was that hey, at least she’s getting out of the house. I had her tuned up and cleaned, lubed and prepped by the bike shop – sort of like a spa day for bikes.

In the beginning, I’d only loan her to my riding friends that had a short term need. Either their bike was in the shop or they had some last minute malady that they hadn’t planned for...I was careful who I loaned her to so that she wouldn’t be treated badly or abused.

Unfortunately, like a bad pimp in a B movie, I started being less “particular” about the men that took her out. Pretty soon I was loaning her out to anyone that asked. I had total newbies that had never been mountain biking that would try to downshift under full power on a steep hill, I had guys that repeatedly fell over in the rocks, I had a nephew of mine that jammed her chain in the front crank twice and I stood by idly as he repeatedly yelled at her and blamed her for his lack of skill...never once defending her honor….oh, how the girl I cherished had fallen...

Well, last week, I had the opportunity to take the old gal out for a couple or really good rides in Tahoe and up above Placerville. Luckily for me she doesn’t hold a grudge and took me everywhere I needed to go and did everything I asked of her with no complaints. I did notice though that she was moving a little less than smoothly and I’m sure the incident where she came to a sudden stop and I slammed"boys" against the seat was not something she did on purpose...and, as we drove home together after a full day of playing dirty, it dawned on me that she’s still a lot of fun to take out on the town...err trail...

I decided this week, that all the abuse stops now. No more will I treat her like a 2 bit crack fiend. I’d help her get back to her former glory. So last night I spent the evening tearing her apart in preparation for her redemption. I pulled out the parts bin and took a run by the bike shop for some additional baubles to help with the re-birth..she’ll be better than ever when all is said and done and I promise to never treat her badly again..

I vow to spend quality time with both my dirty girls...of course not sure how I’m going let the road bike know she’s not getting any new upgrades in preparation for the upcoming Coast Classic...I just hope she’ll understand...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It’s time to panic….

So, last night after a great road bike ride, my buddy Jerry mentioned we had less than 30 days before the California Coast Classic...and so begins the panic.

I’m already wondering what I’ve gotten myself in for...8 days and 525 miles seemed like a piece of cake last year when I agreed to do the ride. Of course I was riding between 100-150 miles per week back then.

This year I'm riding quite a bit, but I’ve been riding my mt. bike more than my road bike so the majority of my rides are only about 20 miles long...I did a 75 mile ride on the road bike a few weeks back and was pretty beat afterwards.

So, the question becomes, is it possible to go from general basic fitness to 8 days and 525 miles with only 3 weeks left to train????

Last night we probably did 20 miles at a pretty fast pace and I felt great...of course on the Coast Classic, there are 2 days over 80 miles the first day being the longest of the trip at 85!!!!

Can I do 85 miles on day one and not be totally trashed for the rest of the ride???? I guess we’ll find out...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trail #8 and Sly Park Sweetness…..

Last week, my buddy Mike was on vacation and was going to be up at his cabin in Pollock Pines. Using this as an excuse, my other buddy Tracy and I decided to call in sick and go ride mt bikes.

We met up about 5:30 and after a stop at 7-eleven for a 6lb apple fritter and a 20oz coffee, we got on the road. Tracy decided to bring his GPS just in case, but since I pretty much already know everything in the world there is to know about everything….I chose to ignore the nice lady’s suggestions as to the best route. (afterall, I do posses the sense of direction gene)

The first indication that I might not be quite as smart as a talking computer was the fact that instead of taking Hwy 80 to 50 I chose to add about 20 miles and do 580, to 5, to 50.
Evidently she doesn’t like being ignored because her tone was less than pleasant as she repeatedly told me to “please proceed to the indicated route”.

I guess she finally gave in to my superior knowledge (they always do) and adjusted her directions to meet the route I had chosen. (see, I knew she’d come around). Unfortunately, just before we got to Sacramento, my bullheadedness showed itself again as she repeatedly tried to get me to jump over to 99 to avoid the downtown loop and I in turn repeatedly ignored her. Do you think she knew traffic would come to a standstill as we tried to get on to Hwy 50 east?

Eventually though, we made it through Sacramento and up the hill to Mikes cabin. (Due to some bad transcribing we drove past the place 3x before realizing someone had written the address down incorrectly)
Finally after getting the tour of the house (way too nice to be called a cabin) we loaded up the bikes and headed for some of Mike’s favorite trails.

The first loop we rode was Trail #8. (Fleming Meadows Loop) Trail #8 was a combination of single track and fire road and was amazing! There were some technical rooty, rocky sections, some tree shrouded, almost tunnel like sections and some nice swoopy, fast downhill sections.

From there we crossed over the road to Sly Park Reservoir to do the loop around the lake.
After riding Trail #8, I was ready for more fast swoopy stuff, but that’s not what the lake loop is about at all. The beginning section is pretty narrow, technical singletrack.
There are lots of roots and rocks to navigate and as I found out, pedal position is critical when going over some of the roots. (hitting a pedal will cause the bike to stop abruptly while your forward momentum will keep you moving….directly into the seat….hard)
There was one steep uphill section that none of us cleared, but I’d love to have time to come back and keep trying it until I did.

After a while the trail opens up a bit and you come to a perfect spot to sit and have a clifbar. The lake is obviously very low due to our recent string of dry winters.

From there you continue to loop around the lake until you eventually reach the campground and from there the road where you ride across the dam and back to the trucks. Total for both loops about 17 miles with a grin factor of 10+

After a good ride, what could be better than a big fat juicy burger? We rolled into the town of Pollock Pines and found The Burger Shack where a double bacon cheese burger and a vanilla shake replaced any calories we burned during the ride. (and probably added a bunch of calories we didn’t burn)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finally I ride a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail...

This past Saturday I drove to Tahoe for my nephew Mark’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding in the backyard of one of his relative’s house in the Tahoe Keys.

Of course I figured since I’m driving all this way, I might as well spend some time with my sister who lives up there and since I’m going to be up there anyway, I might as well try to ride a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail which I’ve always wanted to do.

My sister has lived in Tahoe for 30+ years and ever since I got into mt biking, I've wanted to go up there and ride the Tahoe Rim Trail. It's supposed to be one of the most scenic rides in California and I've never done it.

Saturday evening my sister and I had a great visit and were able to get all caught up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. It’s odd to sit and talk about our kids (and my grandkid) as adults. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was spending portions of my summer up there when I was a kid fishing,hiking, riding my bike and just hanging out...those will always be some of my best memories growing up.

Well Sunday morning after breakfast, Maureen took Craig, their dog Louie and I up to the Nordic Center outside of Tahoe City and dropped us off for our ride. Craig has lived in Tahoe for over 30 years and knows just about every trail up there so I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

We started off up a trail that lead past some little lake/pond where Louie took his first break. From there we were on a trail I think they called the jump trail due to the water bars that cross it regularly. Evidently if we had been going down this trail instead of up, these would be jumps instead of obstacles. Every one required a burst of effort to get over which at sea level probably would have been a decent workout but at 7000ft was more like a constant redline stress test.

It was a nice long climb that definitely got the heart rate up and kept the legs burning. At the top, we came to Fiberboard Rd (not sure if that's the real name or not)which is where Craig and Louie would be heading back and I’d be continuing on. Well, as we sat there taking a break, Brad, one of Craig’s buddies pedaled up the hill with a couple other friends in tow.

They stopped and we chatted and introductions were made. Turns out Brad’s friends, Noel and Nancy, were actually from the bay area and were doing the loop that I had planned on doing by myself. Since it’s always more fun to ride with others, I joined them and we continued up the hill towards the Tahoe Rim Trail.

I was a little concerned about keeping up since they were obviously a very fit group, but I managed to not hold them up too much. Luckily they weren’t acclimated to the elevation either so every time we stopped to rest, they seemed to be just as out of breath as I was.

We continued up the trail to a place with an amazing view. You could see all the way up Squaw Valley...just amazing!

From there we started climbing again (ugh) up to a place called Painted Rock – more amazing views and the last of the climbing for me for the day. From here it was an amazing single track ride down to another fire road where Noel, Brad and Nancy would spin off for a different loop. I needed to get on the road home so I took a more direct route down. I went down some trail called the Wall which connected to another trail I don’t remember, which connected to the Western States trail and eventually to the paved bike path along the Truckee River.

From there it was just a 6 mile grind back to town along the Truckere River.

When I got to Maureen and Craig's house, Maureen made me lunch, I had a shower and got on the road for home…..
What a great weekend!