Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cold Toes….

I usually dress for a ride so that I’m a little cool at the beginning but comfortable once I get going. Saturday, in an effort to burn off at least a couple of the Christmas treats I had been stuffing in my face for the past couple of days, I decided to head out for a ride.

I met up with Trace at his house and we took off. The goal being a 43 mile loop out Alameda creek, through Niles to Palomares, over Palomares to Dublin, then back around through Sunol and back the way we came.

By the time I got to Trace’s place my toes were cold. By the time we got through Alameda Creek to Niles, they quit being cold and were just numb. The rest of me was plenty warm from trying to keep up with Trace though so all things considered I guess it could have been worse.

Niles canyon is probably one of my least favorite rides as it’s fairly busy and narrow. Unfortunately, it’s also the only way to get to the valley side of the hill from Fremont. So, pretending I wasn’t afraid of the cars whizzing by at 300mph, I sucked it up and headed out on Trace’s wheel for Palomares. (at first I was thinking it was nice that he was willing to pull all the way through the canyon until it dawned on me that since I was in the back, I was more likely to be run over than he was)

Palomares is usually one of my favorite rides. It’s got a pretty good climb, it’s scenic, it’s winding and there’s very little traffic. Today though, and I’m not sure if it’s because I was cold or because with all the Christmas cookies I’ve eaten I now weigh almost 345lbs (ok, maybe exaggerating a little bit) I was not having fun climbing up Palomares.

This is a ride I did this last summer on my single speed and here I was huffing and puffing to get this climb over with.

Eventually though, we got to the top and the fun began. There’s a wide open, fast downhill for the next few miles and even though I could no longer feel my toes, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the ride.

As the old proverb states, all good things must come to an end, and keeping in this theme, Palomares empties out onto Dublin canyon which of course is uphill. That too though has a downhill side and soon enough we had finished that and were on our way down Foothill Rd headed for Sunol. Just past Pleasanton Ridge park, we caught up to and were passing another rider when we realized it was JoAnn. She jumped on our wheel and we headed through Sunol, down Niles Canyon and then she split off at Palomares where we had been not too long before.

The rest of the ride is mainly about surviving Niles Canyon and then Alvarado Bl….having done that, I split off and headed for home. Feeling pretty good about getting back on track with my eating/exercise balancing act, I walked in the house to find the girls had made a fresh batch of haystack cookies...not sure if you’ve ever had haystacks, but they are the greatest cooking invention ever to come out of anyone’s kitchen...ever!!!!

All in all I had 44 miles and under 3K of climbing. Now, if I’m able to do this twice a day every day for the rest of my life, it might make up for the 37 little haystack delicacies I jammed down my throat...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Riding the new bike….

Yesterday was the third ride on the new bike. I met Chris down at his house in San Jose and we headed south towards New Almaden. I’ve never been down that way before and the area is really pretty cool. Evidently they used to have a mercury mine and the entire area is now on the historic register.

We took a little detour on Beltram Rd and went back through the neighborhood to look at all the homes. Many from the late 1800s. It was here I realized I left the camera in the truck...

Once the scenic portion of the ride was over we continued up past Quicksilver Park where we turned right onto Hicks Rd. Chris had warned me that this was a “pretty good climb” but I had no idea what I was in for...the next mile and a half was spent in my small ring and standing up almost the whole way. Wow, that was a tough climb.

So far the bike is amazing. I wasn’t sure if, at my level of riding, I would even notice a difference between my old bike and the new one, but I definitely can. On rough roads, the carbon frame is much smoother. When seated on the flats, I feel like it’s a lot more efficient, and when standing and climbing, I feel like every pedal stroke is directly related to moving forward. There’s no flex or wasted energy at all.

The other thing I noticed is that on the downhill the bike appears to be a little twitchier. I’m not sure what the wheelbase on my old bike was, and it’s not that the new bike is un-stable, it’s just different and I need to get used to it. (yesterday’s descents were on shaded, damp roads which also added to my tentativeness)

At one point we were on a slightly downhill winding road with no traffic and I really tried to put the hammer down. I grabbed the drops, shifted into the highest gear and really started pedaling and the bike just responded amazingly well. It seemed like I could have gone on like that forever. I was comfortable, I was making great time, the curves were being shredded and...well...I started to run out of gas…..but the bike was incredible.

We did another climb and looped up through the hills above Los Gatos, before eventually coming back down to the flatlands and working our way back to Chris’ house.

All in all we ended up with 36 miles and who knows how much climbing. A great day on the new bike and perfect weather to boot.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A NiteDawg Christmas…

Twas the week before Christmas and all ‘round the lake,
The Dawggies were pedaling and avoiding their brake

The bikes were all set up with lights ever so bright,
As they pedaled into the darkness of the cold winter night

The riders had settled into a nice easy pace,
No-one was passing, everyone had their place

When out of the darkness there arose such a cry,
It seemed that our Tracy, thought a monster nearby

Jerry and Rich, at the very back did they hang,
While the others took off like a shot with a bang

After the trails were poached, and some singletrack swiped
We drank beer and partied and mud from our faces we wiped

At the end of the loop, a feast and party was to be
The gifts were exchanged and we ended with glee....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mental Floss…..

The holidays are a really busy time of year. What with shopping, decorations, family visits, getting the house ready for the big family gathering, etc. Add to this the fact that the recent storms have increased my yard chores by ten fold and the to-do list can be a bit overwhelming. This combined with work, which right now is pretty crazy and stressful and you have the makings for a perfect storm in the mental meltdown department...

I recently read an article about the importance of flossing. As I understand it, bacteria get caught up in your teeth. This creates acid which then causes the enamel on your teeth to break and down and you end up with cavities and tartar buildup. This tartar in turn, allows the production of toxins that irritate your gums and can destroy your teeth.

Not a pretty picture right?? Well sometimes, I think we need to floss in other areas of our lives as well and for me a good hard bike ride is just the thing. Stress, anxiety, cranky bosses and the holiday rush can build up and produce toxins that flow into other areas of my life.

The symptoms of these toxins in my life manifest themselves in lots of different ways. I don’t sleep well, I’m irritable with people that don’t deserve it, I feel crummy and listless and I tend to eat...pretty much anything and everything in sight. Of course these symptoms in turn have results that in turn lead to more stress...

So, yesterday since the storm that was supposed to show up decided not to, I left work early to perform some routine maintenance on myself. I call it mental floss and I was way overdue.

There’s a great road not far from home that I really enjoy riding. Redwood Rd starts in Castro Valley and heads north up into the easy bay hills. I got to the parking lot at 3:20 and by 3:30 had the iPod on shuffle, was all geared up and leaving the parking lot. I’m not sure if it was the new bike, the music or me blowing off steam, but I felt great heading up the hill.

I haven’t been riding that much lately so I was obviously working hard and at times, I redlined, but it felt good. The harder I worked, the more I could feel the stress falling away. Every time I’d start to think about work, I’d just upshift stand up and hammer until I couldn’t breath. (flossing can be painful if you haven’t done it in a while)

Originally my goal was just a quick ride to the top of Redwood and back since I had chores at home that needed to get done. Once I got there though, the stuff at home didn’t seem as pressing. The bike felt great and was calling for more so I decided to go to the bottom of Pinehurst before turning around.

The backside of Redwood Rd is a fun, fast, swoopy downhill and although I’m old, fat and slow, I felt as if I was literally flying down the hills and carving the corners like one of those skinny little racer guys. The new bike disappeared beneath me as the music played in my ears and the curves came and went one after another. I could feel the plaque and toxins of life falling off me as if they couldn’t keep up.

Before long, I was reaching the bottom of the hill and although my original plan was to turn around, I decided at the last minute to just add the climb to the top of Pinehurst before getting home to those chores that suddenly seemed pretty insignificant.

I like the climb up Pinehurst. Mainly because it’s short and not too steep, but also because it’s really curvy and I can break it down into small sections and attack it one section at a time. Just as I made the turn, Stevie Ray Vaughn came on the iPod and it was perfect for this climb….before I knew it, the song had ended and I was at the turn around point.

At this point, any thoughts of chores or getting home were pretty much gone. I decided to try to get to the bottom of Pinehurst then turn around and head home. Of course once I got into the trees, it dawned on me that it was quickly getting dark and cold and I had better turn around. And, for once in my life I actually did the smart thing and did just that.

As I got back to the top of Pinehurst and began the descent back to Redwood Rd I realized if I didn’t hurry, I was going to be finishing the ride in the dark. Definitely a prospect I didn’t like.

With the music playing in my ears I kept the pace as high as I could all the way up Redwood Rd. I was definitely working harder than I intended today but it still felt good. The plaque was gone. The stress of work, the irritable boss, the chaos of the season all melted into the background as I concentrated on turning the cranks and beating the sunset.
Much more quickly than I expected, I was at the top of Redwood with just the downhill and one more little climb between me and the warmth of my truck.

As I started down the hill an old UFO song came on the iPod, Lights out in London, which I found very fitting since I was facing the same prospect. It was definitely
going to be close….

Going downhill is definitely an area where being a bigger guy has an advantage. So, shifting into the big ring, with the music helping me keep my cadence up I flew down Redwood Rd. past the golf course, up the last little climb and down to the truck...pulling in to the parking lot at 5:00 pm.

Total for the ride 22 miles and 1600ft of climbing...Flossing is good

Monday, December 14, 2009

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…..

Christmas at our house is an event that starts the day after Thanksgiving and continues until after the first of the year.

My wife, before she worked full time, used to decorate for every possible season and holiday. There were bins of decorations for Summer, Spring (with sub categories for Easter), Fall, again subcategories for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and Winter with the largest group being for Christmas...(16 bins if I counted right and didn’t miss any)

This year, the weekend before Thanksgiving, Chris and I cleaned the garage. Part of my motivation was to just get the garage clean. The other part was to make room for the bins that would soon be coming down out of the rafters. These bins, and there are a LOT of them, contain years and years of decorations, garlands, lights, trees, wreaths, statues, figures, and miscellaneous doo-dads that will soon be spread upon and throughout the house.

So, with the prep work done, the day after Thanksgiving is the official beginning of Christmas season at the Sims house. Now, seeing as I have my own day after Thanksgiving tradition, my only job on this, the first day of the season, is to get all the bins down from the rafters.

Since that weekend, our house has been in pretty much constant transformation. It’s gone from a fairly neat and clean, but definitely full house to a partially decorated, full house with decorations strewn from one end to the other. Every room was in a partially decorated state of confusion. (as I think my wife put it, it looked like Christmas threw up in our house) Up until this past weekend...

The rain and stormy weather this past weekend created a perfect excuse for staying inside, building a fire and getting the house under control. And that’s exactly what we did. We did get out to run some errands, but for the most part, we concentrated on getting the last of the Christmas decorations up, the house cleaned and all the bins back out into the garage. (I still have to get them back up into the rafters, but that will be done tomorrow) Michelle even went so far as to wrap some of her gifts so there are even presents under the tree...

So, although we all totally agree that Christmas is not about the decorations, the tree or the presents, it’s a fun time of year and our house and our family are ready to celebrate...(the only downside is knowing that in less than 3 weeks, I get to do the entire process in reverse)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Patience is a virtue……

And, while I personally have many virtues, ok, a couple...ok, well I make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich... anyway, my point is that patience is definitely not one of MY virtues.

I regularly save money by buying stuff online only to waste that savings by paying for overnight delivery. I’m constantly annoyed when it takes the microwave more than 1 minute to heat up my frozen burrito and instant rice is obviously a marketing ploy intended to torture people like me since you still have to wait for the water to boil...

The reason I bring this up is that last night I got an email from Chris at Eden Bikes. His email included a picture showing my new bike in its most basic form...a frame and fork. Now, as you can imagine, this is very exciting news and I immediately called my wife and daughters over to see the picture. (strangely they didn’t seem nearly as excited as I thought they would)

The downside, as I’m sure anyone in this situation will understand, is that a frame and fork do not a bicycle make. So, now it’s been at least 12 hours since I’ve seen that picture and I still don’t have a bike to ride. I know, I know. I have to cut them some slack since well, the bike shop was closed for most of those 12 hours and technically I am at work and couldn’t ride anyway, but still, this is killing me...

The really crazy part, and most of my friends will tell you I have an sickness in this area, is that I haven’t even gotten the bike yet and I’m already thinking about upgrades. Is it crazy to think of upgrading something that isn’t even built yet? I don’t think so..