Monday, March 29, 2010

Death Ride training begins....

The alarm went off this morning at 6am, but I was already awake. As I reached over the shut off the alarm, it was with a mixture of excitement and dread...

Mt Hamilton is actually one of my favorite rides. It’s a tough but not brutal climb. It provides some amazing views of the south bay and the weather today was supposed to be perfect. In addition, we were going to have a great group of people on the ride, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a while.

Today though, was to be the beginning of my actual training for the Death Ride and Tracy and I had decided that we were going to ride to and from Mt Hamilton and not just start at the base of the hill like we usually do. This would take what is a nice, fun, 40+ mile ride and turn it into a tough, 90+ mile ride with over 6000ft of climbing.

As I stood at the kitchen window, eating my bowl of cereal and staring out at the dark, I began to wonder just what I had gotten myself into. What was I thinking scheduling a 90+ mile ride when my longest ride so far this year had been 60 and left me sore and tired for 2 days? (evidently I wasn't thinking)

Eventually, the sky started to lighten and I filled my water bottles, loaded up my pockets with clif bars, electrolytes and e-gels and at 6:45 headed out the door to meet up with Tracy at his house down the road.

The ride to Mt Hamilton was pretty uneventful. It’s mostly flat and since it was early on a Saturday morning, we had very little traffic to deal with. My legs felt good and we kept a decent, but not too fast pace on the way there.

Jerry and the rest of the gang were supposed to be meeting up near Alum Rock at 8:00 and our goal was to catch them somewhere on the hill. Evidently it took them a little longer to get started than I thought since we caught them at the top of the first climb out of Alum Rock and before they got to the road up Hamilton.

After stopping to say hi to everyone we started out on the climb and people began to spread out...

Knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I picked a pace that would allow me to stay up with the group but wouldn’t push me too far into the red zone, and settled in for a nice long climb.

My pace pretty much kept me right in the middle of the group with the front group quickly leaving me behind and the following group a few turns behind me the whole way to the top.

As I stated, this is probably one of my favorite rides in the south bay. It’s a good climb but not ridiculously steep and there really isn’t much car traffic. In addition, it provides some amazing views of the south bay area.

Alone with my thoughts and the music from my iPod, I continued to alternate between sitting and spinning and standing and grinding. I actually felt pretty good for most of the climb, but towards the end, I could tell I was running out of gas.

It’s funny. I kept hoping to come around a corner and be able to see the observatory. I mistakenly thought this would be a motivator for me. The reality was, that when I finally did come around the corner and could see it, I was demoralized by just how far I still had to go...

Eventually though, I made it to the top. If you’ve never been to the Lick Observatory at the top of Mt Hamilton, you owe it to yourself to go. It’s a really cool place on it’s own, but on a clear day, the views from up top are spectacular!
Obligatory group shot from the top...sorry Gail, Bill said we didn’t need to wait for you so yell at him.

Obviously the best part of any mountain, is the downhill portion and Mt Hamilton doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fast, curvy, sometimes bumpy downhill that ends up being almost as much of a workout for your arms as the climb is for your legs.

One interesting note about this ride is that the climb isn’t always a climb. There are a couple of pretty good downhill sections on the climb which in turn end up being a couple of decent uphill sections on the descent. After these though, it’s a wide open, curvy downhill screamer all the way to Alum Rock Park.

From here, Troy and Patsiano headed back to the starting point and the van full of drinks. Tracy and I with +/-25miles yet to go went in search of fat, carbs and protein...and Jack in the Box fit the bill perfectly. Seeing as my Garmin was telling me I had already burned about 5000 calories, I did my best to replenish every last one of them.

I’m pretty sure one of the hardest parts of any ride is after lunch. And no, I don’t mean the first couple of miles while your legs warm back up, but the first few minutes after the last bite of your lunch...I was tired, full and having just consumed the biggest bacon cheese burger on Jack’s menu along with 27 pounds of curly fries, I was getting darned sleepy to boot. I was SEVERELY tempted to sit in that booth and call my wife to come get me right then and there at the Jack in the Box on McKee Rd...

Instead, we got back on the bikes and began the long (and thankfully FLAT) ride home. Of course it did seem like there was a headwind in whichever direction we went so it wasn’t a total cruise. I had to work a little bit.

All in all I ended up with 95.6 miles and 6295 ft of longest ride to date and still a long way off from where I’ll need to be for the Death Ride in July.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weekend rides….

Well, as I expected my two laps around Lake Chabot last Thursday pretty much destroyed me. The first lap, which was non-stop took Tracy and I an hour and fifteen minutes and left me totally wiped...the second lap, which thankfully had several stops to regroup, wasn’t as bad as I expected until the last climb up the road to the parking lot. By then, which is about 26 miles into the evening, I was totally spent and cramping.

The last climb is usually a piece of cake. It’s paved, not very steep and allows me to work the kinks out before I begin the after ride beverages...this past Thursday though, it was less than fun.
I was cramping to the point that I’d sit until my quads and calves would begin to cramp, then I’d stand until my hamstrings started to cramp, then I’d sit, then I’d stand...and on and on until I finally limped up to the parking lot...pretty sure that’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

Saturday, a bunch of us got together to ride China Camp again. I have to say this is one of my favorite, fairly local rides. It’s got fun, fairly fast singletrack, a couple of decent climbs and some long swoopy downhill that is designed perfectly for my rigid single speed.

We had a good group of people, perfect weather and a great day! Which is more than I can say for the guy we came upon that was climbing back up the canyon after tumbling over the side and down the hill.

He was actually only somewhat banged up but it looked like the canyon was covered with poison oak, so I have a feeling the sucki-ness of his ride was just beginning.

Sunday, after church, Deb and I took out the pepto-bike. We had planned on doing the Alameda Creek trail, but at the last minute did the bay trail instead. This is a gravel trail that goes from hwy 92 all the way to the San Leandro marina. It was kind of windy and completely flat which meant 8 miles in each direction with no coasting.

There were a LOT of people out enjoying the first weekend of Spring and it was a fun ride along the bay. Towards the end as we were coming back to the truck, a guy on a mt bike passed us...I had to explain to Deb that we (and by "we" I definitely mean "I")do NOT like being passed.

By the time she caught on that we needed to reel this guy in, he had a pretty good gap on us and we really had to put the hammer down in order to catch him.

Poor guy didn’t stand a chance. Granted he didn’t know we were racing, but we totally reeled him in and ended up kicking, that’s what I wanted to say.

16 miles on the tandem at an average pace of 12 mph...a pretty great ride and a new best to the pepto-duo!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This will probably hurt a little...

I remember when I was younger, I got my hand caught in a machine at work....I was able to get it out, but ended up having to go to the emergency clinic to get it cleaned up and stitched.

I'll never forget when the nurse came and said she had to clean the cut before the doctor stitched it back up...she had a tub full of liquid and what appeared to be a wire brush and her comment was "now honey, this will probably hurt a little"
#$%^&*%$#!!! Are you kidding me? Hurt a LITTLE????? It felt like she was going at my hand with a chainsaw.....

Well, tonight my ride is probably going to hurt a little....

It's our regularly scheduled Thursday Lake Chabot ride. It’s normally a 13ish mile loop and I’ve decided to try to do the loop twice today to check my fitness level.

The first loop will be with my buddy Tracy and should be pretty painful...he routinely tears my legs off (which actually makes me wonder why I continue to ride with him) and tonight will probably be no exception. With just the two of us, there’s no reason to stop and regroup (or catch my breath)

After that lap, I’ll hook up with the regular group for a loop at our regular pace and with our regular regrouping stops. The pace is still fairly spirited, but with all the regrouping points, I can usually catch my breath before we start out again.

I’ve done this loop twice on a couple of previous occasions, but it’s usually later in the year and my fitness level is higher (and winter fat content is lower) so I know pretty well just how painful this evening is going to be for me.

The problem is that in less than 4 weeks, I’ve got the Sea Otter Classic Mt Bike race and I really don’t want to embarrass myself out there. Yes, once again, I’ve let a couple of beers, and an inability to ignore a challenge from my friends, get me into a situation that I’m neither equipped for nor willing to bail out of...(they say pride goeth before the fall, and I’m afraid in this case that may actually be the case)

So, tonight, in a desperate attempt to show myself I’m not in way over my head, I’m going to be doing two laps. Obviously, not at race pace, and the second lap will include several stops and rests. Of course as slow as I am and as out of shape as I am at this point, the race itself may also contain several stops...wonder if there’s a donut shop anywhere on the route?

Hopefully it will all go well and I’ll feel great for the entire ride...sadly, I don’t think that’s going to be the case...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This weekend, in addition to being the end (or is it the beginning?) of daylight savings time, we actually had a full weekend of Spring-like weather. And boy was I ready for it!
About this time every year, I’m usually whining about the rain and the cold and wishing for the nice weather.

Saturday dawned sunny and clear and, as usual, I woke up early. The only problem with being an early-riser, is that while I was all fired up and ready to start on my list of projects, the household, and the neighborhood were still asleep.

I had a long list of things I wanted to get done, the problem was, I couldn’t mow the lawns without being rude to everyone in the neighborhood, couldn’t get my haircut because they don’t open till 9:00, couldn’t trim the ivy since the trimmer is just as loud as the mower, couldn’t fertilize the lawn until after it was mowed, etc, etc, etc…..

So, I made coffee, turned on HGTV and watched programs about other people doing their projects. Funny, but it only adds to the stress to see other people getting projects done while you’re sitting on your couch...Eventually though, the rest of the world woke up and I was able to get started.

Like most people I know, I LOVE weekends. The only reason I even work is so that I can afford to have weekends, and, because it seems like it's been since forever that we've had good weather, this one was shaping up very nicely.

Saturday was a gorgeous day and I got all of my chores done. Lawn mowed - check, new bark in the planters - check, fertilize the lawn - check, trim and weed the beds - check...In addition, Caleb and I got this year’s batch of strawberries planted.

Planting strawberries is a fun project for us. (we’re boys and playing in the dirt is in our genes) We pull the old dead plants out of the planters, mix some fertilizer and compost in with the old dried up dirt and Caleb gets to pull the strawberries out of the cell packs and put them into their new home. I had considered going with seeds this year instead of cell packs, but decided we still weren’t at that level of patience quite yet. Maybe next year...

Of course, after any planting job, there's some cleanup involved...

I know it looks like I'm making Caleb do all the work, and I'm fully aware of our state's child labor laws, but I am management afterall....

Sunday, since the nice weather continued and since I have several big rides coming up that I'm supposed to be training for, I met up with Chris and Nick after church for a ride up Mt Hamilton.

The weather was sunny, but cool which is perfect for a day of climbing. We ended up with 38 miles and 4800ft of climbing which was about perfect for this time of year. My legs were definitely tired, but not destroyed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Napa Valley Escape….

I know it's been a while since I posted at work has been pretty insane with 50-60 hour weeks being the norm lately.

So, this past week, both Deb and I were pretty thrashed and when she suggested we ditch the kids and sneak out of town for the weekend I was all for it.

We decided on Napa and as soon as we’d gotten home and packed we headed out. (right into the 5o’clock traffic...) Soon enough though we were pulling in to a B&B that I had found on the web. It was a nice Victorian home with two additional units in the back. Unfortunately, when you pick something from the web, they don’t show you that it’s right in the middle of a residential neighborhood and across the street from a Safeway.

The place inside was very nice though and had one of those huge beds with the feather pad that you pretty much fall into and never want to come out from.

Saturday, after a pretty amazing breakfast, we wandered around the downtown area, which is very nice. We had lunch at the Napa General Store and then found a cool little bakery that makes the most amazing dessert snack I've ever had. It's called a whoopi and it's two giant cookies (oatmeal in this case) with a big glob of some whipped cream frosting in between.....unbelievable!!

Sunday, we headed up to Yountville to pre-ride a portion of the upcoming Tour de Cure route.

The weather cooperated perfectly with clear sunny skies, and a slight breeze. We started out cool, but quickly warmed up with the pedaling. Heading out of Yountville we were on Yount Mill Rd which is a very pretty and lightly travelled road that loops around and connects with Hwy 29.

Hwy 29 is a very busy road on a Sunday afternoon so we took the first turn and ended up heading east on Oakville Cross rd. This lightly travelled road crosses the valley with wineries on both sides.

It’s a very pretty road, though pretty much dead straight so it’s not as nice as Yount Mill. Plus, because it’s so straight, every car that went by was going at least 70...

Just before we got to the Silverado Trail we came to a hill. This is the first hill we’ve done on the tandem and when I asked Deb if we should go forward or turn around, she pretty much told me to shut up and pedal...(though not in those words of course)

Cresting the top of the hill we were both breathing pretty good and when we got to the intersection with the Silverado Trail we decided to take a break.

The Silverado Trail is another highly travelled road and cars continued to wiz by...seems Deb wasn’t as fazed by it as I thought she might be and we continued to make good time.

Eventually, we came to another of the “cross” roads that bisect the valley and headed back over towards Yountville. Again, we were surrounded by vineyards and amazing homes. Would be lovely to live out here....I guess I just need to win the lottery.

Arriving back in Yountville, we loaded the bike in the truck and went out in search of lunch. We ate at a cool little place, sitting outside in the sun. Afterwards we went to Bouchon bakery and picked out something sure to replace all the calories we had burned (and then some!)

After some discussion, and no small amount of whining on my part, we decided there was no way we could just disappear from our kids and our real lives and live up in the wine country. So, after dealing with all the traffic coming back into the east bay, we arrived home to cloudy grey skies and cold wind....immediately, I wanted to head back.