Friday, December 30, 2011

The Last Group Ride of 2011…..done solo…

I knew as soon as the emails started flying yesterday afternoon that I’d probably be riding alone last night. The excuses were flying fast and loose with pretty much everyone deciding they were too sick or too tired or too whatever….and that was ok with me.

There was no way that, after surviving Christmas and the week that followed, I was going to not ride. You see, riding for me is about so much more than exercise….for me, its therapy, anti-depressants, exercise, self esteem classes and anger management all rolled into one nice little ball of pain and suffering…..

As I arrived at the parking lot Jer and Bob were coming up the hill having just finished their loop. We also ran in to Raj who I haven’t seen in a while, but has been riding pretty regularly. After chatting a bit they went home and I headed out on the trail. The sun had gone down and the fog had rolled in, and although a bit damp, the weather was perfect for the base layer, long sleeve jersey and shorts I had on.

The first section, although not having any long climbs has a couple of short steep sections that got the legs warmed up and the heart pounding. It’s here that I check in for my appointment with the therapist. The short climbs allow me to focus on my stress, anger, anxiety, whatever and really try to kill myself in an effort to flush out the system. There’s no time for thinking or rationalizing…it’s just a brute force attack on my body to get the blood flowing….

Later as I start up Brandon, the therapy takes a different tack. It’s a long slow grind that allows me to push myself but also provides time to be a little more contemplative. I try to keep a pace that while keeping my heart rate up, also allows me to think about things and process all the crap that keeps bouncing around in my head. It’s actually a balancing act….too fast and hard and all I can think about is the pain, too slow and I feel like I’m wasting my time….

I arrive at the top of Brandon pretty well spent and ready to allow my heart to recover. It’s here that I usually begin actually enjoying the ride. Tonight, it’s here that I realize just how dark it is….and how alone I am….better reel in the attitude and slow things down a bit on the downhill….a crash out here would really ruin my evening.

I continue on through the ups and downs, passing lots of deer and an enormous owl, until eventually coming to a point where with the moon trying to peek out of the fog above me and the lake below me I pull over, turn off my light and let the quiet and the darkness envelope me. The sense of calm and quiet is almost overwhelming. Gone are the emotions, the frustrations and the stress of the week replaced instead by a feeling of contentment and thankfulness for the blessings in my life that allow me to get out on my bike on a fairly regular basis.

Eventually I mount back up, turn on my light and begin the rest of the ride. From here back, it will be about exercise, pushing my legs and my lungs to the point of failure in the hopes that this is making me stronger and faster, better able to keep up with the group on our next ride…..

As I eventually make it back to the marina, it dawns on me that I haven’t seen one other person the entire loop. This is strange as I always see other riders and/or hikers. Even the fishing docks normally busy in the evening with those that are still willing to exercise their right to go out and kill their dinner, are quiet tonight….it could be that it’s cold and damp and dark or it could be that the universe has decided that tonight, more so than most other nights, I needed to be alone…completely and totally alone as I swept out the cobwebs, crap and trash from the upstairs storage….

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good Bye 2011

As we come to the end of 2011 I was struck by the fact that for my family especially and for several of our close friends, this was kind of a rough year….

With the economy being what it is, some health challenges and some personal challenges, it’s easy to look back on 2011 and think that I’m not only glad it’s over, but hope that 2012 is much, much better.

To stop there though, would be a mistake. It’s easy to look back on a tough year and point out all of the issues, challenges, problems and negative things with which we’ve had to deal. If I spend just a little more time though, and really think about the year, it’s pretty darn easy to see that overall we truly have been blessed this past year as well.

Both my wife and I have been fairly healthy this year with no major illness, we both have stable jobs, our house, through dropping in value with the rest of the country isn’t so far upside down that we’re forced to move, both of my daughters have found good, decent paying jobs that they don’t hate, my youngest has started a new chapter in her life by moving out with a couple of her friends, my oldest has two amazing kids that we are blessed to spend a lot of time with, and although I haven’t ridden as much as I would have liked this past year, I still managed to get out at least once per week and most weeks it was twice.

The other point about making it through a challenging year is that you come out the other side better and stronger for having survived it. I know in our family each of us has had our faith tested and strengthened.
In the same way that fire purifies gold, the testing of our individual faiths has strengthened and deepened them.  My oldest, who had a very challenging year personally, has blossomed into a mighty woman of faith that not only knows that God loves her, but believes it and lives it at the very core of her being.  My youngest having seen not only her sister but one of her good friends struggle this year, has also not only been strengthened through the experience but has shown an amazing capacity for kindness, love and and support.
My wife and I similarly have learned that when the challenges seem to be too much, we can give the battle over to God and he will help us to get through it.

So, do I hope that 2012 is a better year than 2011? Absolutely!
Do I wish I hadn’t gone through the challenges we faced in 2011? Mostly.
Do I know that no matter what we’re faced with in the coming year that we’ll be able to get through it relying on God, our family and our friends? Without a doubt!

So, good riddance 2011 and Bring it On 2012…..we’re ready for whatever you throw at us…..
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Friday, December 23, 2011

Diablo on the Dirt…..

Last Sunday after church, I talked Jerry and Paciano into joining me on an exploratory ride up Mt Diablo on the mountain bikes. I’ve ridden this mountain a bunch of times, but always on the road. And it’s always tough….

I knew that the trail version of this climb would be tough. My hope though was that with the lower gearing afforded by the mountain bike, it wouldn’t be quite as bad as the road bike with a compact double….(funny, as I type this I’m surprised it sounded so logical in my head)

We started at the Athenian school at the bottom of the hill and followed the road into the park. Just past the entrance to the park, the summit trail is just off the left side of the road. I assumed that we would be following a nice wide fireroad from here up the mountain. Boy was I wrong. The first section as you turn off the pavement is a fun, swoopy singletrack that weaves along the canyons for about a mile. It was a very pleasant surprise!
At the end of that though, you cross a bridge and turn on to a fireroad that goes up…..and up….and up some more……eventually popping out on pavement up near Rock City.
We did stop once on the way up to take pictures (not because my heart was going to explode or anything, just to take pictures) but other than that, it’s a tough upward slog which should pay off nicely when we come back down.

From just above Rock City you cross the road and get back on to the Summit trail and continue up. Nothing steep or crazy, but up, always up until we came to another scenic stop where you actually look down on Rock City and most of the bay area.

It was here that we decided to turn around. I was told (with the promise of death and dismemberment if I failed) that I had to be home by 4:30 in order to take the grandkids to the Zoo Lights and I wasn’t about to risk raising the ire of my wife, daughter and grandkids.

The benefit to all the climbing was that now and for the next 5 miles we could get away with pretty much not pedaling at all….and it was awesome! The fireroad is wide, offers lots of little bumps and ledges to get air if you’re in to that kind of thing and offers a great sightline so there’s very little fear of running in to a hiker or cyclist coming up the trail.

Sooner than I would have thought we were back at the wooden bridge where we crossed over to the singletrack back to the start. I had really enjoyed the singletrack section on the way up never really realizing that it was slightly uphill the whole way. It was only as I continued to need to use my brakes on the way out that I realized it was even more fun going this direction. The trail just swoops and swerves along the edge of the hillside following the contours of the canyon…’s like an E ticket ride at Disneyland (although hardly anyone even knows what that means anymore)

We arrived back at the parking lot grinning from ear to ear, tired but totally wishing we had time to go further and explore more of this amazing park.....a 10 mile ride wasn't nearly enough for a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, but it would have to do....I had grandkids that were expecting me....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sunday afternoon ride...

The week before last I was thinking of exploring Mt Diablo's mountain bike trails. I've never ridden up there other than the road and am really curious about the trails.  Unfortunately, I fear my fitness is not at the same level as my curiosity so I decided to do the road bike instead.

I was able to con Jack and Lynn to join me in the "fun" and we agreed to meet at the bottom of the hill after I was done with church. Turns out the post-service socializing took longer than planned and I found myself running late. I texted both Jack and Lynn to let them know and Lynn agreed to wait. Jack said we could "catch him on the hill"

It was a gorgeous day for the first weekend in January. Clear and cool, but sunny. This made for nice weather riding up the hill with some amazing views of the bay. You could see San Francisco, one tower of the Golden Gate and Sutro Tower.

The fact that the weather was nice and the views were amazing did not in the least detract from the suffering I was experiencing though.  I have to admit, I'm at the heaviest I've been in a long time and I haven't been riding nearly as much. Both of these factors contributed to the level of suffering I was experiencing as we climbed the mountain....several times I pushed on the shift lever only to find I was already in the lowest possible gear....

Eventually, as Lynn and I got near the top, we saw Jack on his was down. So, no Jack, we will NOT "catch you on the hill" Amazingly enough, he agreed to turn around and head back to the summit with us. I guess he was feeling particularly fiesty and wanted the bonus miles.

As we reached Devil's Elbow and made the last push for the top, Lynn said she wasn't doing the driveway and I agreed, that I had had enough for one day.  When we made the last turn though she pulled over for the parking area and I just had to keep going. I don't think I can deal with riding all the way up there and not going to the summit.

As I suffered up the driveway I thought about stopping several times. I didn't though. I once walked up the last section and coming over the top to see everyone watching you walk up the hill pushing your bike is something I don't want to do again....

The views from the top were just as amazing as they had been all the way up the hill.  You could see Antioch and the Delta to the northeast and as far as Livermore and beyond to the southeast.


Although the cool and sunny weather had been perfect for the climb, the ride down was freezing... we actually stopped a couple of times, supposedly so I could take pictures, but more so I could thaw out my fingers....
Overall an absolutely beautiful day with incredible views, good friends and lots of suffering.....a perfect ride!

Monday, December 5, 2011

DATMBA 2011...

Every year for the past 6-7 years a group of us has done what we call the DATMBA (day-after-thanksgiving-mt-bike-adventure)

It started in 2004 with a crazy idea and two friends with bad judgment. It was pouring down rain and we ended up walking more than riding because the mud clogged up our cantilever brakes so bad the wheels wouldn’t turn….

From there, it’s been an annual tradition and although I don’t think it’s ever actually rained like that again, each ride brings with it, its own memories. We did Henry Coe one year when we rode across frozen puddles in the morning and were down to short sleeves by the end of the day...we did Demo where I crashed and fractured my elbow… Mt Tam where Chris, on his single speed with panniers brought an entire feast, including tablecloth and pie, Joaquin Miller where Tracy broke 3 forks trying to get one bite of pie into his mouth and this year we did China Camp…..

If you’ve never ridden China Camp, you should. It’s got a lot to offer. Although, I’ve heard its best avoided on the weekend when it can be pretty crowded. There’s a good mix of easy fire road, singletrack, some good climbs, some technical sections and even a fairly long steep paved section that will send SSers into the pain cave for a bit…

As Jerry and I started planning this and sending out the emails, we weren’t sure how many of us there would be this year. As late as Thursday morning, it looked like it would be 3…maybe 4 at the most. By Thursday evening though, we were up to about 10. Evidently people started feeling guilty about those extras pieces of pumpkin pie and wanted to try to burn them off.

The morning of, we were up to an even dozen riders with clear skies and mild temps expected for the day as we started out. A few miles we were stopped by a couple of different problems…..Bob had a new bike and was having some rear shock issues and Troy in an attempt to climb a ridiculously steep section had broken his chain….he’s claiming too much torque from his quads, I’m leaning towards old chain or bad maintenance….
Those issues resolved, we continued on up the hill. Most of the trails in China Camp are fairly wide for singletrack and the technical level is low. There is one section though where you’re riding on a pretty narrow uphill on the edge of a ravine with roots and rocks jutting here and there trying to throw you off your line.

On the SS, it’s just a matter of momentum. As long as I could keep the pace up and keep the legs pumping, things went well. There were a couple of sections though where I almost stalled out and at one point I had a pedal strike that threatened to send me off my line and over the edge. I made it though as did everyone in the lead group. We reassembled at the next intersection waited for the others to catch up…..and waited….and waited…..

Finally Troy and I decided to head back down and check on them. Several turns down the trail we came across Bob, Jerry, Brig, Pam and Angel walking up the path. Jerry was muddy pretty much head to toe and explained that his front wheel had slid off a rock, hit the wooden border to the trail and caused him to high-side over the edge sliding waaaaay down the ravine before he could stop.

Thankfully he wasn’t too badly injured but had lost his glasses and his knee was tweaked from trying to stop his slide.

As we all got back up to the regrouping spot, we decided that Nick and Troy would lead the rest of the group on the remainder of the ride and Jerry, Bob, Angel and I would head back via the shortest route possible with Jerry either coasting or walking his bike. His knee was definitely swelling up and pedaling was out of the question.

Eventually, we made it back to the parking area where the gang was gathered waiting to see what the plan was. Jerry having taken a couple of Tylenol, was actually feeling pretty ok so the normal post ride BBQ and beverages commenced.

It wasn’t till I was home later, having cleaned and lubed the bikes, showered and relaxing on the couch that it really dawned on me just how badly things could have ended. We’re actually lucky it was wet and muddy as he slid down the hill instead of tumbling. We’re lucky he only tweaked his knee and didn’t break any bones and we’re lucky that we were in a group. If someone had gone off the trail without anyone seeing it, they’d probably still be down there.

Overall, this was yet another memorable DATMBA with good friends, good weather and luckily for us, a good result to what could have been a bad situation...
I guess Oscar Wilde said it best when he said….Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Solo Rides....Cleaning out the Cobwebs....

Saturday morning I got up early to go for a ride.  It was my first attempt at doing the Chabot loop on the SS since I crashed back in August.  I've actually been riding, but only on the full suspension geared bike.  I just wasn't sure my collar bone was ready for the rigid SS. 

My regular riding buddies had either come up with good excuses or ignored my calls and emails (one even went so far as to move out of state) so I was going to hook up with a group of guys that I don't really know, but that ride out there every Saturday morning.

They had been calling for rain, thankfully though I woke to partly cloudy skies and really cold temps but at least it was dry.  As I bundled up and pulled on my long fingered gloves, the group showed no signs of actually getting ready so I decided to head off on my own figuring they'd catch and pass me on Brandon.  It turns out I never did see them and ended up doing the entire ride by myself. There were a couple other riders I did see and one that I chatted with as he would pass me, then I him as we each stopped to either admire the views or take pictures. (or in my case, get my heart rate back down to sustainable levels)

The ride on Saturday morning, even though I did the regular loop, was a different experience than our normal Thursday ride. Saturday morning was foggy heading up the trail which lent a completely foreign look and feel to what is a very familiar trail. In addition to the fog, the pace on our Thursday rides is more about keeping up with the group and trying not to hold anyone up or make them wait. So, although I'm not the slowest rider, there's an underlying pressure to make sure I keep up.

Saturday, by myself, there was no pressure at all. I could stop and take pictures, I could pull over and admire the view or I could hammer along and not worry about stopping at the regrouping points.  I could make the ride and the pace as difficult or as easy as I chose.  Of course, with it being my first ride back on the SS, no matter how easy I tried to take it, it was still fairly difficult....

Lately, it seems like life has been pretty complicated and really chaotic so although I enjoy and look forward to the Thursday night group rides, I also think I'm going to be adding more solo rides to my schedule.

There's something very cathartic about being alone in the hills with nothing but the sound of your breathing as you climb and the sound of your tires rolling along the trail as you's good for me to get out and clean out the cobwebs in my head once in a while and a good, long, hard ride is always one of the best ways for me to do that....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Giro D’Vino 2011

This past weekend was the Giro D’Vino out in Lodi. This was our 5th annual I believe, and it’s always surprising to me just how pretty this area is.

It’s funny, but if you listen to the words written by John Fogerty, you get the impression being stuck in Lodi is punishment….

Just about a year ago
I set out on the road
Seekin' my fame and fortune
And lookin' for a pot of gold
Things got bad, and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again

The reality though, after riding through the area, is completely different. Lodi, and the surrounding area, is really pretty. Lodi has a cool little downtown section and the surrounding area is all vineyards and orchards.

Last year was the first year we actually had rain to deal with although I think almost every year the possibility of rain has been a concern. This Sunday I hit a couple of light showers on the way there, but there was no actual rain at all during the event.  It was cold and cloudy in the morning, then as the day went on we had periods of sunshine, more cloudiness and towards the afternoon, the temps started to drop.  But overall, it turned out to be a nice day.

We had a pretty large group there, 14 I think, although we were pretty spread out.  At the beginning I saw just about everyone with the exception of Keith, others in our group had reported seeing him though.

The route this year had changed and there were a couple new wineries on the loop.  Two that really stood out were Cycles Gladiator which in addition to being a nice winery, supports cycling and racing and has a Merlot that I really liked.

The other was Harmony Wynelands which has a beautiful property and grounds along with a gigantic pipe organ…..very nice.
It’s been a few months since I’ve ridden any distance further than about 20 miles and doing 65 miles this weekend was definitely a push.  Thankfully this route is almost completely flat.  I say almost because one of the new wineries this year has a road with a short STEEP climb.  Like steep as in even with a bit of a running start I couldn’t make it on the single speed.  Granted, that’s probably also due to my lack of fitness, but I’m not sure I could have made it last year either….

All in all, this is a really well supported ride, through some really pretty countryside and empty backroads and if you like wine….well how could you go wrong with a ride called the Giro D’ Vino?
Can't wait till next year!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Night Riding...It's the most awesomest

Next week, we'll be instructed to turn back our clocks for the start of Daylight Savings Time. Or is it the end of Daylight Savings Time??? I can never remember...actually, I'm not sure I ever knew....

Anyway, as I was saying, or writing, or blogging....or know what I mean. Next week, it will be dark an hour earlier than it was this week. Ok, actually a little more than an hour since the days will be getting progressively shorter....but I digress....anyway it will be dark at the beginning of our rides and not part way through our rides like it was last night.

But I'll be ready for it. I think that after several years of riding at night, I've finally come up with bike light nirvana.....Last night, I put together what is sure to be the best night riding setup I've fielded so far. (and believe me, the pile of not so great efforts is large on my workbench)

I've combined last year's MagicShine MJ 808 900 lumen light on my bars with this year's Gemini Xera 750 lumen light on my helmet. And boy does it work! The 900 lumen light on the bar casts a nice beam waaaaay down the trail and offers a decent amount of spill lighting up the edges of the trail. Then if you add the Gemini light on my helmet, which allows me to put light wherever my head is pointing, you end up with a package that allowed me to ride last night at the same pace as I do in the daylight.

Never once, did I outrun the beam of the lamps and never once did I feel like I couldn't see exactly what was going on down the trail.

The Gemini light is amazingly small and light too. It and the 2 cell battery both mount with velcro to the helmet so there are no wires hanging down in to the camelback and never once did I feel like it tilted my helmet forward as my old niterider did back in the old days (3 years ago)

When I was younger, my brother and I used to really enjoy night skiing. We'd ski all day at Squaw Valley, then on the way back to the bay area, we'd stop and hit Boreal under the lights. There was just something about skiing at night that made us a little bolder and a little more adventurous off the little jumps they used to have on the mountain.

Night riding on the bicycle is very similar. Although I'm older and supposedly wiser so I don't go off jumps, riding at night just seems a little more adventurous. I was a little slower in grabbing for my brakes, I carried a little more speed though the corners and I tended to let the bike run a little looser on the one long fast section near the golf course.....

There's just something about riding at night that brings a completely different dynamic to our regular Chabot loop and turns it in to a whole different experience.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A bike crash....the pain continues....

It's been 6 weeks and the doctor cleared me to ride again.  So I did, and it was fantastic!  I was slow and tentative and it took about 2 hours to finish a 1 1/4 hour loop, but I was riding again and that's all that mattered....

That was Thursday.  Friday, excited about being back on the bike, I swung by the bike shop to pick up my road bike with the plan of bringing it with me to Tahoe.  I figured there would be at least a couple hours at some point for me to get a nice ride in.

As I walked back to the shop area, Matt, the bike wizard mechanic guy, said "Hey Rich, did you get my message yesterday?"  immediately my stomach started doing flip was pretty much the exact same feeling I had when my high school girlfriend pulled me aside after school and said, "we have to talk".

I forced down the lump in my throat and put on a brave face as I responded "no, I didn't get your messsage, the girls must have deleted it" while secretly wishing I had gone home and listened to it alone where I could throw a fit and cry and stomp without making a spectacle of myself.....again.

"Oh, you didn't?" he asked looking at me in that awkward way a doctor does when he has bad news. "Well, um....we got your new carbon bars in and the tape you wanted was in stock and won't be a problem and the scratch on the chainstay well, that isn't life threatening......but.....uh.....and he mind was screaming..."come on, out with it, what's wrong? I know something is wrong!"

"Yeah, uh....your fork has a pretty good crack where the brake mounts and you need a new fork"

There it was.....the other shoe had mind was reeling, I felt woozy.....this was my dream bike. This was the bike that had cured me, once and for all, of bike lust.  She was fast, she was sexy, she had amazing curves and all the right components.....this was my "last road bike I'll ever buy" bike and now she needed major surgery.

Oh....ok, was all I could manage....I was lost....what was I going to do?  I can't even afford the repairs I already agreed to, let alone a new fork.....I didn't want to ask, I really didn't want to know, but like a person watching a car wreck, my mouth disconnected from my brain and just took over. The words came tumbling out without my knowing......"ok, well whatever it costs"

"Hey, the good news is Giant has a crash replacement policy so the fork is only going to be $225.00" He said it so nicely and without any hint of guile and I think he actually believed I would be happy.....and to some extent, I guess I should be.  She'll have a new fork and she'll be back home with me.

So, this week Wednesday, I'll get a call from my new best friend Matt, or maybe my buddy Chris, the owner of the shop will call since I'm probably putting his kids through college, and tell me my baby is all back together and good as new. 

And I, knowing she's worth whatever it costs me to make her whole, will head over to the bad part of town to visit a man named Guido.  Afterwrds, I'll show up at the shop, smiling in spite of the pain from the surgery of selling one of my kidneys on the black market and pay the guys that brought my lovely bike back to life....

Friday, September 30, 2011

First Ride in 5 Weeks.....

Well, last night was the regular Thursday night Lake Chabot loop and was to be my first ride in 5 weeks.
The ride normally starts at 6:15 but seeing as I didn't really want my first ride to be in the dark, Jerry and I met and started at 5:00

Since I knew my fitness would be off, I brought the bike with gears and not the singlespeed.  And,, since the geared bike also has suspension at both ends, it would help prevent the jarring and bouncing.  You'll notice in the picture that the bike is absolutely spotless..I don't ride it much to begin with and for the last 5 months I haven't been able to do anything but clean and tinker with my bikes.....every one of them looks brand new at this point.
I have to admit, I was tentative and slow.  In addition to my fitness being off by quite a bit, the thought of crashing and being back off the bike for an extended time really had me kind of rattled.  As we finished 10 hills and Brandon though, I started to loosen up and relax.

By the time we were coming down towards the stone bridge, I had relaxed to the point that I could just ride and not spend the entire time dwelling on the "what ifs".....I was still slow, as a matter of fact Jerry was faster than I was on just about every downhill.

I don't think I've ever used my brakes quite as much as I did on this ride and I have to say, those Deore XT hydraulics are awesome.....very smooth modulation, no fading, no squealing (now that I have the Alligator rotors anyway) and no issues at all.

Eventually, we made it around the lake and back to the paved path towards the marina.  It was here, after surviving the loose dirt, the rough bumpy trail and the foot deep ruts that I almost got taken out by a young lady on a mountain bike.  As I came around the corner, she was on my side of the trail headed straight for me looking down at her pedals.....As she looked up, I went left and she did the exact same I went right and she grabbed both brakes, skidding and almost turning back into me....

Luckily, there was no collision and although she was seemed rattled, she didn't fall and continued on her way.  Obviously a new rider and although I was in the right and riding in control, I felt bad about scaring her.

Eventually, we made it back to the parking lot never needing our lights and, hung out chatting while we waited for Bob who, also recovering from a broken collar bone, was still out hiking.

All in all it was a really good ride on a beautiful Fall evening.  I couldn't get over how excited I was to be back on the bike and how great it felt to be riding.  I've enjoyed the hikes I've been doing and didn't completely hate the little bit of running I did, but none of those things filled the empty spot in me that riding does.....even slow, tentative, worried riding....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Try Not To Crash....Ok?

So, today I had my 5 week follow up with the orthopedist for the broken collar bone.
Turns out everything is healing up the way it's supposed to and once it's all said and done, my right shoulder will be 1" narrower than my left, but the bone will be twice as strong where it overlaps.....makes sense I guess.

After the x-ray and the visit with the doctor, I asked if I could get back on the bike and her response was, "yes, but try not to crash, ok?"

Wow! Now that's good advice....I wonder if someone had told me that 5 weeks ago, if I could have avoided this whole episode....

Typically, my rides have several goals. Get a good ride in, have fun, rack up some miles and improve my fitness.....never have I really started out a ride with the thought that , maybe I should "try not to crash" on this ride....

Of course I'm being sarcastic, but to be honest, I think that my outlook on riding is definitely going to be affected.  At least for a little while until this whole thing is in the past.  Being forced to stay off the bike for the past 5 weeks has been brutal.  Not to mention the thought that had it been worse, I could have been off work and that would have affected my income.

I was talking to one of my co-workers and he mentioned that once he got married and had kids, he gave up skiing and rock climbing.  He was too worried about getting hurt and not being able to provide for his family.....Is that normal?  Is it normal to let fear of injury dictate the things you enjoy in life....maybe it IS normal and I'm irresponsible for not living that way....who knows.

I do know though, that I will probably be slower and more careful than I've been in the least for a little while....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thursday Night Lake Chabot…..Hike

Pretty much every Thursday for the past few years I’ve done the Lake Chabot loop with the nitedawgs, our riding group. This, combined with a Tuesday road ride and a longer ride on the weekends has enabled me to eat pretty much whatever I want and still maintain my weight under 200lbs.

For the past few weeks since the crash though, I’ve not done anything. Well that’s not totally true. I’ve sat on the couch, caught up on some reading, eaten pretty much everything in the house and surfed the web for a pair of those cool polyester pants with the expandable elastic built into the sides.

Last night though, I decided to break the cycle of lazyslob-itude and head out to join the Thursday group at Lake Chabot. Knowing I still can’t ride, or even grip a set of handlebars, I planned a hike instead.

I had no route planned, but grabbed my iPod, my Garmin, my trail runners, threw a water bottle in my pocket and headed out. I followed the group down the 10 hills trail to where it intersects with the Cameron Loop, headed down to the wooden bridge, over that and began the climb up Live Oak trail.

Once upon a time I tried to ride up Live Oak and, after almost passing out while pushing my bike up it, have chosen to only use this particular piece of hell on earth as a downhill route. It’s steep! Like 20% in places and rutted and loose… a matter of fact, I don’t even really like riding down this trail.

The hike up the trail was pretty much exactly what I expected. It’s a 0.9 mile, max heart rate, lung busting, sweat running into the eyes suffer-fest. The strange thing is, that after being off the bike for a few weeks, it’s exactly what I needed. I loved it! I had the iPod cranking some of my favorite tunes directly into my brain and I pretty much just zoned out and enjoyed the suffering.

After reaching the top, I turned around and headed back down the way I came. I’m pretty sure I’m actually faster uphill than down as I’m afraid of falling and screwing up my other arm. Once at the bottom and back across the bridge, I turned right and headed around the lake. It was a gorgeous evening and there were a lot of people out walking around the lake. None of them seemed to be working as hard as I was though…could it be that not everyone enjoys suffering…..weird….

As I got back around towards the marina, the sun was setting. I didn’t need my flashlight yet, but I could tell that in the weeks to come, my hikes would be ending in the dark. There’s one last little joy-fest before you get back to the road to the parking lot. It’s a little no named path that is less than a half mile, but it at least 20% for the majority of its length… be honest, I hate this section on our weekly rides, but tonight hiking up it as fast as I could go, felt great….one last lung burner to end the evening….

It’s here that the group caught me. I saw their lights at the bottom when I was about half way up and try as I might, there was no way I could hold them off… by one they passed me, leaving me in the twilight to finish my hike with the music from my iPod and the sound of my heartbeat pounding in my ears….

All in all I ended up with 4.7 miles and 1020 ft of climbing…..a pretty good evening workout for a one armed, overweight slug who’s previous 3 weeks had been spent watching reruns and sitcoms….

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Thank You Letter to Bell Sports...

It’s funny that in last week’s crash, I was immediately aware of the broken collarbone and the copius amounts of road rash that I had sustained. The interesting thing is, that until I was in the ER and the doctor looked at my head, I didn’t even realize that I had a pretty significant scrape and hefty little lump on the right side of my head just above and behind the eye socket.

Later as I looked at my helmet, it dawned on me that had I not been wearing it, the outcome of the incident could have been much different.  And for that I want to thank Bell Helmets.

For the past several years, I’ve worn a Bell Alchera helmet.  It’s a great combination of price and value.  My first one was a black, carbon fiber looking one that I got at Performance Bike for about 50 bucks.  It fit my head well and it has a really nice retntion system that allows you to loosen or tighten it with a knob on the back.

After a few years and several thousand miles, the foam pads on the inside began to fall out.  Pretty sure the amount of sweat I produce had something to do with this and seeing as even trying to glue them in with a hot melt glue gun failed to hold, I decided to replace it.  It just so happens I also had gotten a new bike and wanted a helmet to match the color scheme I had going.....

So, off to Performance again and this time home with the exact same helmet, but in blue and white and with all the foam pads intact.  Amazingly, after 2 1/2 years, the price was still the same at around $50 bucks.

As I sit here and type this, looking at the photos of my helmet post-crash, it dawns on me just how thankful I am to Bell Sports for the Alchera Helmet.  It's a product that not only fits my head well, but offers a secure and easy to adjust retention system, great venting to keep my head cool and is available at a price that won't break the bank.  Add to all tha, the fact that I can still eat solid food and remember my name after putting it to the test and Bell has a customer for life.

This thing does exactly what it's supposed to do and at a fair price.....I'm not sure if I'll replace it with another Alchera or upgrade to one of the new swoopier, fancy models, I do know though, that I will alway wear a Bell Helmet.

Thank you Bell Sports!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The ER….

After meeting me on Redwood Rd and loading both me and the bike into the back of Michelle’s car, we dropped Michelle off at the parking lot where I left the truck so that she could take that home while Deb took me over to the ER to have my shoulder looked at.

One of the things I hate most about cycling is the clothing that road cyclists wear.  I completely understand the reason and purpose of the spandex shorts with their built in chamois and I’m totally sold on wearing them when I ride.  I enjoy the comfort the lightweight nylon jerseys provide and appreciate the pockets in the back where I can stash my gels and snacks.  What I don’t like is wearing them when I’m more than 10 ft away from the bike.  I feel self conscious and somewhat silly.  The shorts and jerseys are tight and with my middle-aged physique the jersey ends up looking like I’ve shoved 10 pounds of pork into a 5 lb sausage sleeve.  As a matter of fact, I always wear baggy shorts over them if there’s any chance I’ll have to be seen in public off the bike.

Today, of course was an exception.  I left my house in my spandex.  I planned on doing the ride, getting back in my truck and going home.  No side trips, no going out in public and no reason for anyone to see me off the bike…..Obviously that plan went out the window as soon as I crashed and now here I am, standing in the ER in shredded spandex and a ruined bike jersey.

Luckily at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, the ER isn’t quite in full swing yet and they got me registered and in process pretty quickly.  I went to x-ray where they took pictures of my shoulder, my ribs and my collarbone.  Everything looked good except of the course the collarbone.

From x-ray, they took me in to a room where I met with the doctor who not only showed me the x-ray, but provided a print out that I could save for future bragging rights.  Unfortunately this is also where I met the nurse that was going to clean out the road rash on my knee.

She was young and cute and seemed like a nice enough person….right up until she grabbed the sponge and water bottle that she used in the dark art of torture that she practiced…oh sure, she kept apologizing and tried to appear sincere, but I could tell that for some reason she hated me and wanted to see me cry….I didn’t of course, because I’m tougher than that…..ok, it’s possible I whimpered a bit, but I did it in a very manly way.

After what seemed like a full day of the Spanish Inquisition but was probably less than 10 minutes, she covered the wounds, the doctor deemed me fit and sent me home to begin my rest and recuperation period.

For anyone that knows me, you’ll understand when I say this is going to be the toughest part of the whole process for me.  I’m not really good at sitting still.  As a matter of fact, if I’m not sleeping, I prefer to be in motion.  The whole idea of spending the weekend laying on the couch would be like a prison sentence…..a sentence I have a feeling I’m going to be enduring for at least a couple of weeks…..

Friday, August 26, 2011

uh oh....crap...ouch.....

I was in the beginning stages of what was looking like it was going to be a great ride....I left the house at 7:00, got to the parking lot, unloaded and was on my bike beginning my ride by 7:30. It was cool, but not cold and traffic heading up Redwood Rd at this time on a Saturday morning was light.

As I passed the golf course and began the climb, I felt great! I hadn't been on a long ride in a few weeks and it felt good to be back on the road bike and riding alone on a beautiful morning. The climb up Redwood can either be a joy or a suffer-fest depending on my mood and current level of fitness. This morning, it went by really quickly and although I pushed the pace, I never once felt like I might blow up. The backside down to Pinehurst is a nice reward for the effort spent climbing and as I made the turn, I know it was going to be a great day!  The climbs were pushing my heart rate to the redline, but the descents and flats left me feeling good and I seemed to be recovering quickly.

My goal had been to meet Jerry and his group at the Orinda BART station or if my pace was off, then to run onto them somewhere between there and the top of Pinehurst.  I hammered the first climb on Pinehurst as hard as I could without exploding and as I got to the top, I was still feeling really good. I sat up and crusied throught the short flat section, finished off my first water bottle and got ready for my reward.....the narrow, fast downhill section on Pinehurst....

The first few turns were everything I expected. No cars, copius amounts of sunshine and me tucking my shoulder into every corner....the bike disappeared beneath me as I railed from corner to corner....I looked down and saw my speed was just over 25 mph. Fast but not a ridiculous downhill pace....What a great ride this was....and then all of a sudden it wasn't.....

In the blink of an eye, I had gone from leaned over and enjoying the grip provided by my Pro Race 3's to sliding across the road on my side to tumbling in the dirt of the far shoulder. As I stood to begin the inspection of both my body and my bike, another cyclist rode up to see if I was ok. As he helped me assess the damage I realized that in addition to quite a bit of road rash my right shoulder and collar bone were both feeling a little out of whack. I was almost afraid to look inside my jersey for fear of seeing a bone sticking out.....luckily that wasn't the case, but I could definitely tell it was broken.

Thankfully, once I got up and got myself together, I checked to find that I had cell service. This was surprising actually since I was out in the middle of the hills between Oakland and Orinda and nprmally don't have great coverage in this area.  After calling Jerry to let him know I wouldn't be meeting up with him, I called my wife and asked her and my daughter to start out towards Redwood Rd to meet up and pick me up.

As I pedaled back up Pinehurst, down the other side, then up Redwood,  I had time to think about how quickly things went from great to not so great and exactly what had gone wrong. I had worn my helmet, my bike was in top working order, I had definitely been going fast downhill, but felt completely comfortable and within my abilities.....the only thing I couldn't and didn't plan on was the gravel in the corner.

Could I have been seriously injured? Sure. If someone had been driving up the road as I slid across or had I been further down the hill and slammed into one of the large redwoods lining the road, or I could have not been wearing my helmet... things could have definitely ended badly.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't think there's anything I could have done differently to prevent the crash. Sure I could have stayed home in bed and prevented the entire event, but I think that to avoid anything you enjoy because you're afraid of getting hurt is a sad way to go through life.
Living is risky, that's the just the nature of it.

One of my all time favorite quotes is by Helen Keller that says: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Taste of Failure...

Today, I was entered in to the Howell Mountain Challenge Mt Bike race. Without making excuses, I haven't  been riding as much as I should have been for a 20+ mile mt bike race and to be perfectly honest, I probably took it too lightly....

Afterall, I did an almost 50 mile road bike ride last weekend with some decent climbing and felt great....the truth though is that mountain biking and road biking, other than both being done on bicycles, have absolutely nothing in common.

For today's race, I had entered the Sport Class Single Speed division which is the same group
I had entered in the Sea Otter Classic back in April.....unfortunately for me, that was also the last time I had ridden 20 miles on the mountain bike.

For anyone that has ridden both road and mountain bikes, you understand the difference between the two....I compare the road bike to running long distance and the mountain bike to running wind sprints. Neither one is easy, both take training, good cardio fitness and strong legs....the mountain bike though, in my opinion is harder.....much hard that todays ride left me cramping and sore and wondering what the heck I was doing out there....

All of my non-excuses are leading up to what you've probably already figured out...I didn't do well today in the race....not only did I not do well, I DNF'd....after 10 miles of some steep ups and downs, amazing single track and more than a couple walking my bike sections, I came to the decision point where I could either turn right and do the second lap or turn left and call it a day.....yep...I turned left....the direction back to the beginning....the direction of failure

I don't race competitively, I don't get paid for riding my bike and today was just supposed to be why does it leaves such a crappy taste in my mouth that I DNF'd? Is it because I should have taken it more seriously and trained harder? Is it because I quit before riding to the point of failure like a real racer would have? Is it because I had to explain to everyone we talked to afterwards that I didn't finish?

Actually, it's all of those things....but even more, its because I let my ego lead me directly to this failure... I seriously thought I had this in the bag. I felt like I was in good enough shape that I could roll out of bed, show up for a tough 20+ mile mountain bike race and fake it well enough to pull off a respectable finish....

Sure I could have entered in the Class 3 group and my time of 1:17 probably would have netted me 4th place....but I didn't. I didn't think I needed to do that....I thought I was much better than I am at this point in the season....

So, what does failure taste tastes a lot like humble pie....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Death Ride…..version 2011

It can’t really be 4 am already can it?  As I lay in my sleeping bag in the pitch dark of early morning I hear zippers from the other tents and rustling as others in our group begin to move….

Finally, realizing that, unfortunately, it must be time to get up, I look out the tent and see lights and movement over by the picnic table. Bob and Leticia are already up and making coffee....(I LOVE these people…almost as much as I love coffee)

After a breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and a cup of coffee to wash down a couple enduralytes, we loaded up and drove down to town to begin the day’s festivities. Our goal was to begin pedaling at 5am and we were almost right on time. Bob and Leticia started off while Troy, Bill and I finished getting ready.

The advantage to starting in town as opposed to up at Turtle rock is that it’s cold in the morning and you eliminate the first downhill section where last year I froze my butt off. Granted, it’s still cold and you’re still an hour or so from sunrise, but at least you’re not going 30 mph in the dark, with a puny little headlight and shivering….

We met up with Bob and Leticia before we came to the bottom of Monitor and were able to chat and talk with everyone as we hadn’t started the slip into oxygen deprivation soon to come. As soon as we made the left turn, the sound of hundreds of derailleurs clicking surrounded us like a bunch of cowboys getting ready for a gunfight and the joking and chatter came to an abrupt halt….replaced I guess, by the need to suck in as much air as possible.

Monitor Pass…The climb from the turn to the top of Monitor is just about 9 miles and gains about 3,000ft of elevation. With grades that range from 7-10% it’s funny to see a 5% grade on your Garmin and think of it as a section for resting your legs during the climb. The further up the hill we went the closer we got to sunrise and as we came towards the summit the vistas opened up reminding us of the sheer enormity and beauty of God’s creation.

As I pedaled up the hill mostly hanging out and chatting with the other voices inside my head, it was easy to forget that there were over 3000 riders in the event. At the top though, as I looked into the distance, and saw bikers stretched out towards the horizon I was quickly reminded that I wasn’t alone.

The east side of Monitor pass provides a view into Nevada that is the complete opposite of the road we had just climbed. Where the California side is lush and green and covered with trees, the Nevada side is strictly high desert. Still beautiful and amazing in its own way of course, but different…

BTW - the sign at the top of Monitor looks a LOT like a tombstone....I'm just sayin....

For the next 9 miles I was torn between enjoying the amazing downhill and agonizing over the fact that what goes down, must eventually come back up. As I wove and worked my way down, passing and being passed by the other riders, I tried to block out all thoughts of the climb to come and focus instead on the enjoyment that comes with descending a closed road, in good condition surrounded by amazing scenery.

Soon enough though, the turn around point was in front of me and as I regrouped with Bill, Leticia, and Troy. We also ran into Dwight who’s buddy Dave was somewhere well ahead of us all.  Having forgotten my under helmet head covering,  I went off in search of sunblock for my dome. The funny thing is that as I was slathering it on, another follically-challenged guy came up commented on what a good idea it was and did the same thing. No sense getting the silly looking sunburn from the vents in my helmet…..been there, done that.

As we started the climb back up the east side of Monitor, I actually felt pretty good.  It was definitely getting warmer and with no shade, I managed to empty both bottles before the halfway point where the Boy Scouts were manning the refill station, but all in all I felt ok.
I wasn’t fast by any means, but as long as I maintained my pace and kept my heart rate under control, I felt good. Hopefully this would continue.

The downhill on the west side of Monitor is by far one of the best downhill sections I’ve ever ridden. The road is in excellent shape, the turns are wide open and you have great visibility. Add to that the incredible vistas and 9 miles with no cars to worry about and you have cycling nirvana. Troy was right on my wheel as we ripped down this section and although we got caught behind some slower riders in a couple sections, we pretty much let gravity dictate our pace. I saw 45 a couple of different times, but to be honest, I really didn’t want to look down at the GPS since the road was going by really fast beneath me.

We got to the bottom, regrouped and began the next section of slightly uphill towards Ebbetts Pass. Somewhere on the climb we had gotten separated from Dwight and not knowing how far behind us he was, we motored on. This section follows the Carson River and is just beautiful. Again, though it’s tough to just cruise along and enjoy the scenery when you know that in just a little while, it’s going to get painful….

Leticia had said that once we crossed the cattle guard the “honeymoon would be over” and she wasn’t kidding. From the turnoff up to that point we had been going pretty much uphill non-stop. The cattle guard though is the line in the sand where the mountain declares war on the cyclists….Immediately, the ride goes from a “nice climb” to “oh crap this is hard”. Several times on my GPS I saw 17% and although my legs were still feeling ok, the standing required would immediately push my heart rate into the red zone. Soon enough though, I went from feeling ok, to feeling done. My legs were running out of gas, every extra effort pushed me to the limit and I pretty much just wanted it to be over.

Bill and Leticia decided at the half way point that they felt good and still had another pass in them. Troy, not sure what to expect said he was happy only doing 3 and I knew there wasn’t a 4th pass anywhere in my future today. I’d like to blame the weather but it could just be my lack of commitment, either way I hadn’t trained nearly as much as I’d hoped for this year’s Death Ride and since my longest ride so far this year had been the weekend prior at 74 miles and 7400ft of climbing I was completely satisfied finishing only 3 passes.

As Troy and I headed back down the front side of Ebbetts we had already agreed to take it easy. This is a narrow road with lots of sharp corners and I was amazed at how many people were screaming down the hill, at 30+ mph, riding 2 across when there were still people coming up the hill. After all, it’s not like it’s a race. Is it really worth causing a huge crash to save a few minutes getting to lunch?

Troy and I took our time enjoying the lunch stop. We found a spot at a fairly shady table and relaxed thinking that Dwight would eventually catch up to us. After about 45 minutes though, we decided we’d had enough sitting around and got ready to head out. It’s amazing how good I felt after lunch. Between the nice long rest, the food and the knowledge that we were done, Troy and I set a pretty brisk pace back to town. We had a good paceline going and were cruising along at about 24-26 mph. I’m sure the people we were towing thought we were super human to be pulling them along at this pace, but little did they know we had skipped the 4th pass, were headed back to the barn and were pretty much done for the day.

After getting back to town, it wasn’t too much longer that Bill showed up. He assumed Leticia wasn’t far behind, but after waiting another 30 minutes or so we were getting concerned that she hadn’t made it back. Just as we loaded up and prepared to drive back up the road, we saw her pass, looped back around and met up with her. Turns out she was pretty shaken having seen a really nasty accident coming down the front of Ebbetts. In exactly the manner Troy and I had been discussing, someone flying down the hill had clipped someone going up and several riders ended up down and bloodied…..thankfully, she wasn’t among the carnage but the event shook her up enough that she sat for a while trying to rergroup and had fallen behind.

From there, she went to turtle rock to meet up with Bob who had decided to go for the 5th pass while Troy, Bill and I headed back to camp to clean up before heading over for dinner. After cleaning up, Dwight met up with us and we went to the start area for delicious burritos, live music and some relaxation.

The next morning we all got together for a breakfast of coffee, blackberry pancakes, bacon and eggs. We had after all burned off several thousand calories the day before so we felt we deserved to stuff ourselves silly….at least I did.

Dwight, Troy and I ended up with 3 passes, Bill and Leticia had 4 and Bob and Dave did all 5….

Thursday, July 7, 2011


It's the week before the Death Ride and I haven't ridden at all....I guess I'll just say I'm tapering...yeah, that's it I'm tapering....
So, since I haven't ridden, I don't have anything exciting to post of my own....

I do though want to share an amazing video put together by Mike Curiak of an adventure he just had up in amazing video of an incredible journey...ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Going to Cramp City....

Leticia, who has single handedly organized more miserably hard, uncomfortable rides than any one else I know, had pulled together yet another doozy of a ride for our last weekend training ride before the Death Ride.

Although this one didn’t have the phrase, Mountain, or Monster or even Death in the title, it was still going to be a long tough ride.  We met up on Canada Rd at 8:15 and weren’t sure whether to bring a jacket or not.  I could tell it was going to be warm but the fog rolling over the top of the hills from the coast had me a bit concerned….in the end I decided to do without and filled my jersey pockets with gels, shot blocks and clif bars. More than I would ever need I was sure…

The ride starts out with a nice warm up along Canada Rd into and through Los Altos.  From there the fun begins as we headed up Old La Honda Rd. Thankfully, it was still pretty early in the day and with all the shade, the climb was tough, but the heat wasn’t too bad. (was that a cramp I just felt in my hamstring?)  Troy and Paciano motored off and as tempted as I was to give chase, I knew we had a long day ahead so I took it pretty easy.
As we got to the top and headed down, the weather remained clear and sunny. The west side of Old La Honda is a fairly fast 2.5 miles downhill and although the road isn’t in great shape, it’s downhill which is always more fun than uphill.

From here we merged with Hwy 84 and enjoyed another fast, swoopy 4 mile section where, according to my garmin, we averaged 25.4 mph before turning off on Pescadero Rd and starting to climb again.

This climb is called Haskins hill, although I have no idea why.  It’s a little shy of 1.5 miles and again, thankfully, is in the shade.  The backside of this is yet another downhill section where the road is in good shape, the traffic is light and our average speed went into the mid to high 20s.  Although it flattens for a while coming in to Pescadero, we took turns pulling and kept our pace high, knowing food was within reach.

We rolled in to town and headed for the Arcangeli Grocery, our usual lunch stop on this route.  In addition to the deli, they have the most amazing treats and locally baked goods in the world.  As we walked in there were two people out front enjoying personal sized Olallieberry pies….I opted for the hubcap sized chocolate chip cookie instead. (no, I didn’t eat all by myself, what kind of glutton do you think I am?)
From here the route goes up Stage Rd which is incredibly hard on a full belly.  It was here with all of my energy focused on digesting my lunch and not heating my body that I began regretting the decision not to bring a jacket, although the climbing warmed us up pretty quickly. (did my calf just twinge?) We hit 84 and headed out to the coast which was cool and breezy. Again, the climbing kept us warm.

Coincidentally, Bob, Leticia’s husband, head domestique and chief mechanic had met up with us at lunch and decided to ride with us the rest of the day.  Lucky thing too since not far up Hwy 1 Leticia flatted.  After we all stood around watching Bob repair a flat faster than a Nascar pit crew we were back on the road and soon turned inland.  Verde Rd connects to Purisma Creek rd which again has a nice little climb before turning back downhill towards the coast again where we rejoined Hwy 1 then again rejoined Verde Rd making a complete loop with the only purpose being that Leticia wanted to make us climb some more...

From Verde Rd things really became “fun” (yes, it’s in quotes because that’s sarcasm) Verde Rd takes you to a nice little section called Lobitos Creek Cutoff which at mile 60+ was a taste of hell for my already tired legs.  This cutoff is only about a half mile climb, but there are sections at the beginning that are 14%.  Eventually the cutoff from hell brings you to Tunitas Creek, the last climb of the day and the one to which I really did not look forward.

Tunitas Creek on a regular Pescadero Loop usually comes at mile 40ish….today, we were way beyond that and had done quite a bit of climbing already so I just plugged in my ipod, put my head down and went to my happy place for the next 7 miles….several times as I stood at particularly steep sections, I could feel my legs begin to twinge with the beginnings of a cramp, but it never actually hit. Thank you Enduralytes!

At the top, Troy noticed that Leticia’s rear tire had a bubble sticking out of the sidewall.  So, in true domestique fashion, Bob not only booted it, but he swapped wheels with her so she wouldn’t have to worry about it on the way down Kings Mountain.

The ride down Kings Mountain and through Los Altos went smoothly.  You could feel the heat building as we descended.  My legs were toast and there was nothing in the tank so when we stopped to turn on to Canada Rd I reached into my pocket for a gel only to realize that, although I had brought more than enough gels, bars and chews, I had gone through every single item.

The last section of Canada Rd is a slight downhill and Bill decided to put the gap on everyone.  I made up my mind to let him go until Troy, Tracy and Leticia went whizzing by and I had to jump on their wheel.  Soon after Troy decided to put the hammer down and I tried to follow….pulling up to the truck as I unclipped, I was thankful to be back….another 100 yards or so and I was sure to have been in cramp-city….all in all another great ride – 74 miles and about 7400ft of climbing….

Strava details -

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Solstice Ride....

Sweat was pouring in to my eyes and I was pedaling like crazy. The only problem was I wasn’t making any headway….I mean, I guess I was moving fast enough to stay upright, but for all the effort I was putting in, I should have been flying up the hill instead of wobbling and bouncing along at a pace barely faster than walking….actually, maybe not even as fast as walking….

It was Tuesday the 21st….our second Annual Summer Solstice Ride in which we celebrate the longest day of the year with a mt bike ride and a bbq. It was also the hottest day of the year so far with temps in the 90s in the east bay.

We met up at Jerry’s house in the Hayward Hills and, after everyone agreeing that we were nuts to ride on a day like this, we headed out. The trail starts out with a nice steep downhill followed by a solid mile of climbing. Some areas of the climb are so steep that even after multiple attempts by the strongest climbers in our group, everyone walked them.

It appears that the parks dept has been out there doing trail “maintenance” recently. Yes, evidently if you work for the parks department then you consider dragging the trails with a D9 Cat to be “maintenance”. This left the trails ragged, loose and full of large sections of soft fluff and clods the size of basketballs…..

The last section of the climbing is a short, rutted, steeper than Jerry’s driveway section of maybe 100 yards that left me feeling like I might lose my lunch. It’s in full sun as well as full view of the riders ahead of you at the top, so there’s no chance that I was getting off to walk no matter how loudly I could hear my heart pounding in my ears.
Once we reached the top and regrouped for the requisite “aren’t we having fun now” photo, the fun began as the next section is a rolling, ripping 2 mile downhill through the trees that almost justified the climbing we had just finished. Even the parks dept “maintenance” couldn’t prevent the whooping and smiling that this section generated.

From here, the decision to continue or head back was upon us and Bob and Jerry, needing to get the BBQ started headed back while the rest of us continued “down” the hill. I put down in quotation marks because although we were working our way down the canyon, there were still several short steep sections that caused me to question my decision not to go back with Jerry and Bob.

Evidently, this section is even more well loved by the parks department since they took the “maintenance” here to a whole new level. Not only had they done the trick with the Caterpillar, it appeared almost as if they had roto-tilled sections they were so loose and full of chunks. There was also tree and shrub debris strewn throughout the trail to add to our fun.

There were a few creek crossings which are always entertaining.

As we reached the mid-point of the second section of the trail it, was already 7:30 and, not wanting to miss out on the BBQ we made the decision to turn around. As we began the climb out of the canyon, I realized that concentrating so hard on trying to find a decent line and stay upright while coming down the canyon, I hadn’t really been paying attention to just how much downhill we had done or just how steep a couple of the sections were.
As we climbed those sections, I was forced to sit and spin in my granny gear, legs working furiously, the rear suspension bouncing all over the trail, sweating my butt off, and again, thinking I should have volunteered to head back with the others to start the BBQ.

Eventually though we made it back to the top of the trail, jumped on the road and headed back to Jerry’s house. With only his unbelievably steep driveway standing between me and something cold to drink, there was no stopping me.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice BBQ, a beautiful evening and good fellowship. Toughest 6 miles and 1200ft of climbing I think I’ve ever done….

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Great Father’s Day Weekend!

Obviously, the title of the post could be construed a couple of different ways….Was it a great day? or am I a great father? both? or neither? (obviously it’s not or neither or this would have just been a silly title for today’s post)

Well, being a father, I can safely say Father’s Day is one of the few things I am totally qualified to celebrate. Thankfully the only criteria required to celebrate this event is the ability to produce offspring and not in any way measured or quantified…, if it was “Good Fathers Day” or even “Nice Father’s Day” I’m not sure I’d be able to get in on it. Of course it would all depend on what day the qualifications were taken and who the judges were….

The best part about Father’s Day is that it’s is all about ME and, as anyone who knows me, knows, I like it all about ME. I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Honestly, I don’t care about YOU. I only care about ME and this specific holiday, along with my birthday, are days in which it’s ok for me to be  completely and totally selfish and not be forced to pretend that I care about anyone else.

And, to make matters even worse for those poor people that are forced to live with me, I not only spent Sunday doing exactly what I wanted, I expanded the concept to become Father’s Day weekend and took a nice long ride on Saturday too…..yep, I’m totally selfish that way. Granted, I used the Death Ride as an excuse and believe it or not, my wife thinks it’s better if I don’t actually die on that ride so she agreed to my training ride.

Saturday morning Jerry picked me up at the house and we headed out to ride Mt Tamalpais. The plan was to have two groups. One group would be led by Jerry and include Sausalito and some other stuff but be geared towards beginner, intermediate riders. The other group, I was supposed to lead was going to climb Mt Tam and should be a “tougher” ride but should also be the smaller group.

As you can see, my leading the smaller group ties right back in to the selfish thing. I don’t want to have to be responsible for anyone else. I don’t want to have to pretend I care when they’re tired or out of water or crash or anything like that. The fewer people I have to be responsible for the better. I can only pretend to be concerned about others for so long before my true nature comes out.

Turns out Jerry had 3 riders and I had 15….wait…huh? How did this happen. I can’t even keep track of my second set of keys and now I’m supposed to keep tabs on 15 different people on bikes?
The ride turned out pretty well though. I lost two riders right off the bat which it turns out was ok since that was their plan to begin with. I forced myself to be caring and supportive for the riders that fell behind (most of the time) and other than my phone jumping out of my bento box and trying to commit suicide by sliding across the road at 20 mph, there were no crashes or injuries.

The best part is I pulled off such a convincing act of concern and compassion for my fellow riders, none of them even know how selfish I really am.

Sunday, being the official Father’s Day, my Rich-centered world fully blossomed into a full day of ME-ness. After church, the girls and I loaded up the bikes, drove down to Monterey and in a supreme act of “it’s all about ME” I forced them to ride their bikes with me along the coast on a beautiful, sunny day….I know RIGHT???? Pure selfishness at it’s finest.

We rode through the Fisherman’s wharf area, Cannery Row and along the coast. Obviously not everyone knew that Sunday was supposed to be about just me as there were thousands of people out there taking up space on the bike path… all laughing and having a good time like it was their father’s day too….

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wow, its really hot!

As I pulled in to the parking lot at the bottom of Diablo, my truck showed the outside temperature to be 92 degrees… 4:45pm…..I guess summer is here.

Lynn and Xing pulled up not long after I did and since Jim had bailed, Lynn offered Xing the use of Jim’s road bike which was already in the truck. I knew this was going to be a bad idea... Xing rides an older mountain bike. And he rides the heck out of it.  As a matter of fact, even on the mountain bike up Diablo, with knobbies, it’s tough to drop him.

So, once he was on the road bike, had figured out the shifting and braking and gotten comfortable, well…..we pretty much never saw him again until we got to the junction where he was waiting for us.

The entire ride up Diablo is tough. There really are no easy parts, but the first section up to the junction usually isn’t as tough as the second section. Usually…. This week though, I was dying. The combination of the sun baking my head and the heat radiating off the asphalt together provided a convection oven aspect to the ride that allowed me to cook my brain more efficiently than if I had stuck it into a microwave.

Needless to say, when I finally arrived at the junction I was cooked to the point that I wanted to call it a day and head down the hill where I had beer sitting in an ice chest in my truck. I didn’t though. After refilling my bottle, drinking most of it and refilling it again I was starting to feel better and we decided to continue.

Xing stayed with Lynn and I in the beginning, but as soon as we were passed by a couple of the local guys in their team kits, he motored away. Lynn and I decided to take our time and cruised our way up the hill. Thankfully it had cooled a bit and a nice breeze now either pushed us or greeted us as we turned each corner.

With my head no longer set on “broil”, I was able to actually enjoy the beautiful evening and the views that greeted us at each turnout.

Eventually, we reached the top and then the fun began. I love riding down Mt Diablo. It’s probably one of my all time favorite downhills in the area. The road is in good condition, there’s usually very little traffic and as I mentioned the views are incredible.

It almost made climbing it worthwhile…..

Oh yeah, and we ran into a friend of ours on the road, I guess he was enjoying the heat as well.