Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Pre-monster monster….

This past weekend I had planned a big ride with quite a bit of climbing. I did this not just to torture myself, but to try to gauge my readiness for the upcoming Mendocino Monster. I invited some friends since it really is true that misery loves company.

Tracy, Troy, Bill, Gail and I started out at the place I work in Hayward, and within the first 3-4 miles we came to Carlos Bee Blvd which in the first quarter of a mile gains almost 400ft. (At some points it’s a 17% grade) from there we continued up through the Hayward hills, up, up and up until finally we headed down through 5 canyons and out towards Dublin Cyn.

The downhill didn’t last long though (it never does) and we were soon headed up again on Dublin Cyn and then later on Shaeffer Ranch Rd. before heading down again on a nice long glide into Dublin and San Ramon Valley Bl.
San Ramon Valley Bl. is a nice mostly flat run up into Danville where at about mile 30 we stopped to have a gel/clif/bathroom break before heading up the big climb for the day...Mt Diablo.

We cruised out of downtown Danville and up towards the mountain. The shortcut goes through Diablo Country Club which is where the rich people in the east bay used to buy homes before they built Blackhawk. It’s a very cool, very expensive area at the base of the mountain where even one of the smaller homes will set you back about $1½ mil...

Once you cut through the little path at the end of the road, you begin the real’re on the road up the mountain. Immediately after starting the climb, our group began to spread out. Even for Bill and Gail who had never been on this climb, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost. So, telling them to just keep climbing till they ran out of road, I pedaled off.

Not long after we started the climb I came across a few of the local residents. They didn’t seem too concerned about a group of cyclists and moseyed off the side of the road.

The climb is pretty uneventful. It’s just a long upward grind with a couple spots that allow you to catch your breath and get your heart rate under control.

For the most part, I just tried to go to my happy place and suffer along until it was over. And eventually as all things do, it did finally come to an end. Boy do I HATE that last little section.

Earlier in the day we had pedaled up into the fog in the Hayward Hills, as the day wore on though, the weather continued to get better and better. The views as we went up Diablo were gorgeous!

At the top we caught up to Jerry, Paciano, and Kim who had left Danville earlier that morning and were doing the regular Diablo loop that started and ended at Lunardi’s market in Danville.

After filling our bottles we turned and started back down, running in to Gail and Bill after going only a little ways. Seeing as we didn’t want Bill to summit alone, we turned around and headed up after him. Tracy and I chose not to do the “driveway” again at the top and instead waited for Bill and Troy to come down.

Once we had all gathered again, we started off down the mountain heading out the North Gate and down into Concord and eventually into Walnut Creek where we caught the Iron Horse Trail which eventually led us back to Lunardi’s for a late lunch.

I had only had a clif bar since 5 that morning and after doing all the climbing and miles we had done, I was feeling pretty beat. As we sat down to eat what would be the best sandwich I had ever eaten, I commented that I had never felt so tired and still been so far from the end of a ride. (Tracy said I also whined about wanting my mommy, but I’m sure he’s making that part up)

After sitting for a while and eating lunch, and having a couple of FRS energy drinks I started to feel human again and we set out for the last leg of the adventure. With 30 miles yet to go, we headed out down San Ramon Valley Bl. through Dublin, in to Sunol and out Niles Canyon to Fremont. After heading north on Mission Bl for a bit, we bid goodbye to Tracy and Troy as they were headed back to Tracy’s house in Union City.

We made good time and were almost back to the office when I heard a pop and felt my back tire going flat….quickly…sure enough I had taken something sharp to the sidewall of my brand new Michelin Pro Race 3 tires. After putting in a new tube and a boot, we were back on the road and shortly enough, back at the shop.

All in all a great ride with 98.4 miles, 7499 ft of climbing and one tire to be replaced...Bring on the Monster!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Saturday Mt Bike ride...

I was hoping to do the Mt Charlie ride with Jerry last weekend since I need both the miles and the climbing in order to get ready for the Mendocino Monster. Turns out I had to work in the morning and then there was the volunteer orientation for next weeks Tour of California, so that wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I picked Chris up at his house in San Jose and headed down to Lexington Reservoir to do a mt bike ride. This is the same start and end point as Jerry’s ride so we’d be able to hook up with him and the group afterwards for a bbq and a beer.

No, we were not bbq’ing and drinking beer in the parking lot of a county park. That would have been illegal. (or so the ranger that asked us said)
But I’m getting ahead of myself here...

The ride started with a nice fast downhill along the Lexington reservoir dam, down the multi use trail towards Los Gatos and through town before turning uphill.
I had no clue where we were going other than “up near those power lines”.

Now, granted, the word “up” should have triggered something in me, but no, I blindly followed along as Chris led us up Kennedy Rd for a while until we came to the entrance to a park trail where we got off the pavement and started into the dirt.

Pretty much immediately we started climbing...and it didn’t stop for about an hour. Chris said, its kind of steep and then you come to a tree in the middle of the trail and then we’ll come to the steep part. Oh yeah, and after that it gets really steep.

I wasn’t quite sure what Chris’ definition of kinda steep, steep and really steep were but I was soon to find out.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT - For any of you that might ride with Chris in the future, let me further define and recategorizing his definitions so you’ll know what to expect:
Kinda Steep – Wow, this is hard. I wish I had more gears
Steep – Man, I really want to walk right now and my front wheel won’t stay on the ground
Really Steep – I hate Chris and dragging my bike behind me up this hill SUCKS!!!

Note – I forgot my camera in the truck, so this phone pic is all I have to show the sheer suckitude of this climb - you'll notice how far forward on his seat he is and how his wheel is angled over....

This went on for an hour. There was maybe one spot where it almost leveled out, but by then I was so redlined I couldn’t enjoy it anyway. Until eventually we hit the top and started down the backside.

It just doesn’t seem fair that you can suffer and climb for over an hour - you’ll notice I’ve taken what I previously described as climbing for an hour and just “expanded” it to over an hourthat’s using creative writing to enhance the reader experience (and to make myself feel better since it seemed like my suffering went on and on)
Anyway, the downhill portion of the ride was awesome! It starts as fast open, steep fireroads but eventually we turned off to a narrower, shaded, loose, and somewhat sketchy section that required my full attention and made me wish I had built up a full suspension bike instead of a hardtail.

The downhill section totally rocked and the only really scary part was when we came around the corner to find two people walking a great dane and a mastiff...running into them would have really ruined our day.

Eventually though, we made it back to civilization, onto the road and back to the start. There we opened a beer, set up Chris’ Weber bbq on the tailgate and proceeded to grill up some hot links. Little did we know, Jerry and his group were still at least an hour away.

At one point, as we were sitting there enjoying a fat tire ale, a ranger across the street mentioned that “although I don’t have any jurisdiction in that park, you’re not supposed to be bbq’ing there”… which we replied…”oh ok, we’re not”……(afterall, she just told us she had no jurisdiction, so why wouldn’t we lie to her?)

After Jerry and the gang made it back, we chit chatted a bit, had another beer, polished off the last of the hot links and headed for home. All in all only about 15 miles and no idea how much climbing (my garmin was the other thing I forgot to bring with me)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Tour de Cure 2010…

This was the 3rd year that TheOverTheHillGang would be rolling out for the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure in Napa, CA. We didn’t field a team last year due to work schedules, and it turns out it was a good thing since it rained on the day of the event.

Riding in the rain isn’t something I’m opposed to, and I’ve actually done it quite often, but you have to understand that the main premise of our Tour team is FUN. Most of our riders are not regular riders and for some, it’s a once a year event. (somewhat like a dental exam except the pain was at the opposite end of their bodies of course)

Roy’s wife got us the hookup on the hotel as she’s done in years past and this time we were at a brand new Holiday Inn Express. The hotel turned out to be a very nice surprise in American Canyon since it was brand new and had a free continental breakfast.

The pre-ride dinner though, was less than I had hoped. I called Downtown Joes Brewery in Napa which is supposed to be a good brewery with pretty good food and a nice upstairs room overlooking the river. Turns out they neglected to mention that they were undergoing renovation when I called and in addition to offering a limited menu and only having one restroom, they weren’t even brewing any of their own beers.
The food was actually pretty good, but the portions were small and they were served on paper plates. The view of the river was nice and the beer they were serving was good, but for the price it was definitely less than expected and I was still a little bitter about them not mentioning the construction when I made the reservations….

The next morning, Jim, Lynn, Tracy and Tammy were out the door and off to the start line early since Jim and Lynn were doing the Century and Tracy and Tammy wanted an early start on the 50 miler. The rest of us gathered in the lobby, enjoyed the free breakfast and moseyed on up the road to the starting line.

After registering, the 50 milers headed out among cowbells and cheers. Deb and I on the tandem, Anita, George and Karl were all doing the 25 left just behind them.

The morning was gorgeous. The weather was sunny and mild and as usual the scenery was perfect!

George and Karl took off and Deb and I, with Anita took our time and cruised along. At about mile 9 I realized Anita still had a full bottle of water and after encouraging her to drink more, found out she hadn’t quite mastered the art of drinking while riding. I apologized for my oversight, since even though I knew she was a new rider, I never even thought to ask about that.
So, as soon as the road widened, we pulled over to drink. Immediately after we pulled to the side, one of the volunteers pulled up to ask if he should call a sag wagon for us...ummm really? did we look that bad??? After telling him no, we were fine, we laughed about it and motored on.

This was to be both Deb and Anita’s longest ride ever and while Deb has done a couple of 16+ mile days, she’s been down with pneumonia for the past 3 weeks and hasn’t even sat on a bike in that time.

Things went well though. We made it to the rest area at mile 15ish, filled up on Almond butter and banana sandwiches and headed out. The loop for the Tour de Cure is like a big rectangle. Head north on Hwy 29 for a ways, turn east at one of the many roads that bisect the valley, head south on Silverado Trail, turn back west at another of the bisecting roads then head north again parallel to 29. (note, the 25 and 50 mile routes share this loop but with longer or shorter north/south legs)

This worked well for most of the ride. In the morning, there was no wind when headed north, the cross road is covered with trees, then by the time you get to Silverado there’s a nice tailwind pushing you’s only as you head back west that things get interesting.

By now, there’s a nice strong breeze coming at you sideways which is a pain. And then when you make the turn to head back north, things get REALLY interesting. If you’re a new rider, as both Deb and Anita were or you just haven’t been on the bike much as some of the other riders were, you’re really not having fun at this point.
In addition to being tired and having a sore butt, you’re now at mile 21 or 46 depending on which distance you’re doing and you have 4 more miles directly into a nice solid headwind...

Eventually though we made it back to the grounds of the Veteran’s Home which is the start and finish for this ride. We called Anita’s daughter and our girls from the bottom of the hill to let them know we’d be coming through the finish line in a few minutes. Anita’s daughter was ready and waiting, our girls it turns out were still somewhere on the road to the event. (yeah, they got a late start then got lost)
As a result, we were forced to sit in the shade and relax till they got there. Pretty sure neither Anita nor Deb minded getting off the bike for a few minutes. And it was fun to sit and watch the other riders go by. It’s amazing how much attention the pepto-bike generates.

Finally the girls showed up and after saying hi they drove up the hill to get positioned to cheer us over the finish line.

All in all a really fun day and in addition to raising almost $11,000 for the Diabetes Association, it was a new personal best for many of the members on our team.

(note - due to the fact that Jim and Lynn did the 100 miler and left before and got back after us, they aren't in any of the team photos)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Once again work and life have kept me away...

It’s been a busy few weeks and while both work and life have conspired to keep me from blogging, I’ve actually been doing some pretty fun rides.

Once the Sea Otter mtn. bike race had passed, the pressure to get miles on the SS was off and I could concentrate on the road rides I had coming up.

The weekend following Sea Otter, I headed up to Chico to do the Wildflower metric with my sister and brother. This is my fourth year doing Chico and the third year I’ve done it with the two of them.

My sister is one of those really fit, always active Tahoe people that we all secretly envy...she’s managed to get older without actually aging. I can remember skiing with her when I was in high school and not being able to keep up. Now, a "couple of years" later things are still the same. She’s fitter now than I’ll ever be, she skis, plays tennis competitively, rides her bike and manages to juggle a family at the same time.

My brother on the other hand, works hard. He’s an iron worker out at the lab and has one of those jobs where you have to actually work all day long. I don’t mean listen to customers complain, deal with broken computers or even balance budgets. He has a job where you have to lift stuff, move stuff, fix stuff, run up and down catwalks and in general are on your feet and working for at least 8HOURS!!!

The difference in the two lifestyles is interesting actually. My sister enjoys exercise and whether, biking or skiing or playing tennis, the better the workout, the more fun it is. My brother on the other hand, sees work as his exercise and anything that resembles exercise, therefore resembles work and should be avoided unless there’s a paycheck involved. (which actually makes sense when you type it out that way)

So, every year, my sister looks forward to the Chico ride as a fun day outside with her brothers. My brother sees it as one more day when he doesn’t get to relax and enjoy his backyard patio. It’s his once a year bike ride and he doesn’t see any reason to do it more often than that.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day and after sitting up until after midnight getting caught up, none of us saw any reason to rush into the ride.
So, after waking up at the civilized hour of 7:00am we wandered across the parking lot to Denny’s to fuel and caffeinate the machines and then decided to head out to the start.

Technically we started out 3 different times, but my sister kept remembering stuff she left in the truck so after 3 laps of the Motel 6 parking lot we really headed for the start.

Turns out the group doing the metric century left at 8:00 so by 9:30 when we started, we had the route all to much so that we weren’t quite sure which way to go at a couple of intersections.

Turns out we did ok though and made it to the first rest stop to find we had caught some of the early starters that weren’t making as good of time as us.

At the second rest stop we were joined by the 100 milers and from there to the end we had a nice crowd to ride with and made it the rest of the way with people ahead of and behind and passing us…..(lots of people passing us)

Once again, Maureen and I had a great time on the bikes enjoying family time, beautiful weather and pretty scenery while Bob got it done once more and out of the way until next year.