Saturday, May 26, 2012

The reward of suffering is experience - Harry S Truman
Two days from today, we'll begin our SF to Tahoe bike ride. The route has been finalized, the bike is ready, the lodging is reserved...I'm pretty much all set with the exception of maybe my fitness. I've actually been riding pretty regularly, I just haven't been getting any really long rides in.
Last weekend I had planned on getting in a good long ride, had a 70 mile route planned out with some good climbing, but the schedule filled up and I had to settle for a 3 hour, 40 mile ride with about 4K of climbing.

This week, I've been busy getting work and chores done and spending time with the family in preparation of being gone all next week so in Monday, we'll start out with my single longest ride of the year being about 60 miles.

60 miles is actually a pretty good ride and normally I wouldn't be too worried about my level of fitness. Having done 60 and feeling good, I'm pretty sure I could bang out a century and survive. I'd probably even feel ok at the end. My concern though is that this coming week starts out with back to back 90+ mile days and both with 6K + in climbing.....pretty comfortable handling either one of those days, but BOTH of them back to back????
Day 3 from Davis to Folsom should be a good rest day. Its only 43 miles and less than 800ft of climbing....after that though, we head up into the sierras for days 4 and 5. The distances will be manageable, 54 and 53 miles but the climbing will be significant.

Once we actually arrive in Tahoe, we're still not done since Saturday, we plan on riding around the lake. Its 74 miles but only about 1400ft of climbing so assuming I can still actually sit on the saddle, it should be a perfect ending to an amazing adventure....yes, there will be suffering, but I'm pretty sure as Harry S Truman stated, the rewards and the experience will definitely be worth it!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Would You Want To Do That????

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that question over the past couple of weeks....its pretty much become the standard question when I tell people I'm spending next week, my vacation, riding my bike from here to Lake Tahoe with my friends.

The question comes from friends, family, people I talk to in the deli, everyone except my riding friends think I'm either crazy or just plain stupid.

The unspoken question behind the question though has, at its foundation, as many different motivations as the answer does.
Its dangerous - what if you get hit by a car, what if you crash, what if you get lost, what if you run out of water, what if, what if, what if....
Its hard - why ride a bike for 5 days when you can drive there in 4 hours, there are lots of hills, do you know how far Tahoe is, its going to be hot, windy, cold, raining, etc, etc
Its not normal - why don't you relax on vacation - take 5 days and lay on the beach, go fishing, read a book, go to the movies, etc etc

My standard response is that "its my 50th I needed to do something to prove I'm not old" but that's not really true. I'm actually not one of those guys that is worried about his age. I don't need a corvette or a young girlfriend to make me feel young. I'm actually pretty comfortable being middle aged. I have an awesome wife, incredible kids, wonderful grandkids, a roof over my head, food on the table....who could really ask for anything more? ok, maybe a head full of hair but even that isn't too big a deal....

This past week, I've spent quite a bit of time pondering why I'm doing this and I believe that there really are a lot of reasons....none of which probably make any sense and most of which would provide an interesting project for the local psychologist....
  • Spending a week riding my bike is actually my idea of fun
  • I enjoy doing things that other people consider hard or stupid
  • I enjoy doing something that pushes me outside my comfort zone
  • I need adventure in my life
  • facing hardship enhances my ability to appreciate life
  • I get bored when life becomes "routine"
Granted, not all of my decisions have been smart but only a few have had almost seriously bad results. Like when I quit a really good job that paid well because I was bored and didn't feel "challenged" (burned through our entire savings before I wised up and got another job) or when I encouraged our group on a multi-day mountain bike trip to go off route because the fire roads were boring (someone crashed and we had to be rescued by some motorcyclists), or when in high school I tried to swim across a river and almost sent my parents into apoplectic shock while I was pushed downstream by the current....

Despite these few minor setbacks, in living my life I've come to realize that life really isn't supposed to be a nice safe journey to the retirement home with all my parts intact and in good working order. Its supposed to be an adventure where at the end I can hold my grandkids on my lap and explain how I got this scar or that bump and amaze them with the stories and enthrall them with the pictures I paint in their imaginations.....all the while enjoying the fact that I did and saw and tried when others were content just being....

And, on a grander scale than my own contentment Who knows, maybe even despite living in this scary, dangerous world they'll realize that life is about more than "stuff" and there are things more important than who has the highest score on the latest video game.
Maybe, just maybe I can be the motivation that convinces them to climb a mountain or go on a mission trip or even just finish college and make a difference in our world.....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Riding for A Cause……

Every year, for the last 5 years, we’ve gotten a group of people together to do the Napa Valley Tour de Cure. You’ll notice I said “people” and not "riders" and this is an important distinction.
Had I used the word “riders” it would have implied that this group rides more than one time per year which for many is not the case and, gives testament to 1) how important this cause is and 2) how willing people are to suffer if they’re doing something good.

The Tour de Cure is a fund raiser bike ride that benefits the American Diabetes Association, a group that does an amazing amount of research and work to help people that are affected with this illness. This year, our team raised just over $6,000 for this important cause.

The interesting thing is that for many of the riders I talked to on the route, and for some on our team, this ride is the one time a year that they even get out on a bicycle. The Tour offers routes at 10, 25, 50, 80 and 100 miles and while just about anyone can roll out of bed and suffer 10 miles on a bike, the largest groups of riders appear to be the 25 and 50 mile groups. Riding 25 miles for someone that doesn't ride regularly is no small thing.

The ride starts in Yountville at the Veteran’s Home and does a loop north on 29 across the valley, south on the Silverado Trail, back across the valley and back up 29 to the beginning. The only difference in the routes is the cutoff across the valley determines how far north (and south) you end up going. It’s a gorgeous ride through one of California’s most beautiful valleys.

The first section winds along a narrow lane shaded by mature oaks that have been around as long as California has been a state before eventually spitting out onto Hwy 29. Hwy 29 is the main route up and down the valley and the traffic is indicative of just how popular this region is. This is probably the least pleasant part of the ride and even this is beautiful.

After heading north, my youngest daughter and I turned onto one of the many crossroads that bisect the valley. Immediately the traffic dies and we’re able to ride 2 abreast as we chat and admire the various vineyards and wineries.

Eventually we meet up with the Silverado Trail and begin our trek south. The northbound leg was in to the wind so once we’ve made the turn, the pace picks up as the wind pushes us along.

After the one rest stop on our route, we’re only doing the 25 mile loop, we’re treated to almond butter and bananas on bagels, trail mix, fresh fruit and jelly belly sport beans. Once back on the bikes we continue south for a ways, enjoying the push of the tailwind before heading back west across the valley.

It was once we’d crossed the valley that reality set in for those that hadn’t ridden much over the winter. The last 4-5 miles is back north towards Yountville and directly into an afternoon headwind. Surprisingly towards the end of this leg, I could tell my daughter was starting to suffer. She slowed way down and got quiet. The quietness was what really gave her away. She’s one of those eternally chipper and “up” personalities usually so I knew she wasn’t having fun.

The last little section of the ride is up the hill to the veteran’s home. As we got to the top of the hill I looked down at my daughter’s front tire and saw it was completely flat. She had no idea and neither did I although that could explain why she was having so much trouble on the last leg.

We did it though, rode 25 miles through one of the most beautiful areas in the state, if not the entire country….it’s a tough job but hey someone has to do it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men….Often Go Awry….

Yesterday was to be the first official “training ride” for my upcoming birthday adventure ride. (I still have 26 days so there’s no rush) The plan was to leave work at “early” at 3:30 and head out to meet the gang at the base of Mt Diablo.

Well, as the quote from the Robert Burns poem indicates, the “plan” fell apart soon after its formation. Turns out I didn’t leave work till a few minutes after 4:00 and by the 4:45 "planned" start time I had still not even made it out of Hayward….yes our traffic SUCKS!

So, being the flexible and adaptable guy that I am (yep anyone that knows me knows I’m lying) I made a quick decision to bag the original plan and go to plan B.  Plan B, which I made up while sitting in traffic, was to stay on this side of the hill and ride out Redwood Rd as far as I could while still getting back in the daylight. Normally I’d do the zoo loop, but I’m not sure what time they close and I didn’t want to be lost in Oakland and running out of daylight.

I got to the Redwood Rd carwash, changed into my riding gear and was on the bike pedaling by 5:30. The first climb up Redwood towards Proctor is one of my least favorite climbs anywhere. It’s not that steep and its not that long…I just hate it.  Probably has something to do with the fact that I’m never warmed up by then, I usually hit it pretty hard and I suffer the entire way up.  By the time I get to the top, my legs are screaming, my lungs are collapsing and I’m huffing like an old steam train climbing Donner summit.

After that though, there’s a nice long downhill to a flat that allows my legs to loosen up and my lungs to be shoved back down inside my chest before the real climb up Redwood begins.  Redwood in't actually a brutal climb, I think it’s only about 1000ft to the top, but it is a long grind and having very little climbing miles logged, it had me huffing like a water buffalo in heat….the good thing is, I was mostly alone only seeing 2 or 3 other riders heading down as I climbed.

As I crested the top and began the downhill my legs were cooked…further testament to a winter of couch time and bad eating. The downhill though, again allowed me to recover and when I got to Pinehurst I felt good. So I turned for yet another climb. The climb up Pinehurst is fairly mild, about 1 ¼ miles and maybe 600 ft of climbing. This was actually the best climb of the afternoon. I felt good and tried my best to maintain a strong pace all the way up…..(evidently I didn’t feel as good as I thought since part way up some young skinny guy passed me as if my brakes were rubbing…..yeah, I checked and no they weren’t)

At the top of Pinehurst there’s a turnout and although the afternoon had up till that point been mostly cloudy and breezy, I pulled over into a nice sunny spot and enjoyed some water and an e-gel.
Sidenote – if you’re looking for a gel this is one of my favorites. It’s actually almost too sweet, but the fact that it goes down easy and contains less sugar than gu or clif shots and has way more electrolytes than either makes it my go-to favorite for gel products.

After enjoying both the sunshine and a rest, I headed back down Pinehurst and began the climb back up Redwood Rd. The climb wasn’t bad and soon I was enjoying the fruits of my labors with a long screaming descent back down to the golf course. Spin along the flats and then climb up the last little climb back to civilization and soon I was back at my truck loading the bike and headed for a long hot shower.

The ride for me was good on several levels. It was a decent amount of climbing without being a suffer-fest, there was absolutely no traffic so it allowed me to spin along and lose myself in making circles and it was great to measure myself on a ride I’ve done a hundred times to see where I’m at physically.

Unfortunately on the not so good side of things, it brought home just how out of shape I am. The front side of Redwood used to be a big ring climb for me. Sure I stood a lot and it was definitely not a cakewalk, but I had done it a number of times at the end of last season and was surprised when I had to drop into my small ring pretty quickly after starting....oh well, I'll get there eventually....

As Helen Keller said, "All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Much Fitness Can You Cram Into 27 Days????

Well, I guess I’m going to find out.  On May 28th, I and several friends will begin the ride to celebrate (lament?) my 50th year on this earth….the problem is that I’m not in any kind of shape to actually ride from here to Tahoe, so I’ll spend the rest of this month trying to get in to the kind of shape I need to be in to pull this off.

It was actually supposed to start last weekend with a 60 mile ride up in Chico with my sister and brother. Every year we get together for the Chico Wildflower ride and do the 60 mile “flatflower” loop which is a lot of fun, has gorgeous scenery and definitely has THE best food of all the organized rides I do. Unfortunately, my sister has an overuse injury from tennis and big back to back tournaments the next two weekends so she was hoping to take it easy. This combined with the fact that my brother hasn’t ridden at all this year and my basic laziness convinced us all just to do the 30 mile loop.
It was a great weekend though and hanging out with them and my brother in law the night before and all day on Sunday was way more fun than chalking up some random number for mileage.

So, this week I’ll try to get my act together and log some decent miles and elevation in an effort to coerce my body into some sort of shape by the end of the month. Tonight I’ll start with a ride up Mt Diablo. Granted, this isn’t much mileage, but it is almost 4,000 ft of climbing and the suffering that goes along with it should if nothing else act as penance for a winter of TV and couch surfing.

I’ll rest tomorrow, ride again on Thursday and then this weekend I’m going to try to do back to back rides. Saturday morning I’ll get out for an early ride and hopefully do at least 50 miles. Sunday we’ll be in Napa for the annual Tour de Cure which is another low mileage, but really fun ride we do with family and friends.

I guess the good news is that the anniversary of my half century on earth proves that if nothing else, at least I’m consistent. Its not that I procrastinate, I just prefer to put myself in positions where I’m forced to rise to the occasion…

One of my favorite quotes about procrastination is - "I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by." ~ Douglas Adams