Monday, March 25, 2013

Pescadero for Lunch....

What a week! I almost  bailed on the ride, but decided my mental health required a good flushing and nothing clears the cobwebs like a bit of climbing and suffering on the bike.

It almost went bad right form the start as I waited for everyone to arrive. With 20 minutes still to go, I decided I just had a feeling I'd better check out Jerry's website to make sure I was at the right!
I assumed we were doing the Pescadero/Tunitas Creek loop when in fact we were doing the Half Moon Bay/Pescadero loop.

Despite the fact that I now needed to hustle over the hill to the Half Moon Bay starting point, I was somewhat relieved to find out Tunitas Creek wasn't going to destroy me today.

I made it to the correct starting point with time to spare ad met up with the gang. As we headed out through Half Moon Bay I was reminded of all the time the girls and I used to spend here when we were first married and had the mobile home over here....thinking of all the great rides I didn't even know existed.

The ride heads through downtown and up Higgins Purisma road. It's not too long before it angles upward and after a nice warm up of ups and downs and as we made a sharp left turn, Leticia made the comment that "now the climb really begins". and boy she wasn't kidding...I tried valiantly to keep up with Bill as he made smooth, easy circles, but it wasn't long before he was a full turn ahead of me then eventually out of my sight.

I concentrated on trying to spin while at the same time trying to keep my heartrate under control as the climb continued through turn after turn until. It wasn't ridiculously steep although I did see 10 and 11% on my garmin more than a couple of times.  Eventually we reached the top and had caught our breath as we waited for the others to catch up. 
The best part of any climb is when it ends and in the same way that dessert always follows dinner, a downhill always follows the climb. And this one was beautiful.

From here it was rolling hills and descents as we worked our way to the coast.  I was still trying to work through some issues from the previous week and putting my head down and powering the pedals is the best way I know how.  As I stood for every climb and hammered on the downhills the rollers the led west worked their magic on both my legs and my psyche.
Eventually we were dumped out onto Hwy 1 and once again I was thankful I hadn't bailed on today's ride.  At one point as a few of us stopped to take pictures, someone made the comment about how blessed we were to have this in our backyard when people come from across the country to ride these roads....I couldn't agree more.
As we rolled in to Pescadero and one of my all-time favorite grocery stores, Arcangeli Grocry we realized we were missing Bob and Leticia.  Assuming they had pedaled on without stopping for lunch, the rest of us went in and enjoyed a snack and a drink.

As much as I wanted to nap in the sun right there on the back lawn, everone else was ready to get rolling so we headed out.  Every time I've done the Pescadero loop, whether from the San Mateo side or this time from the Half Moon Bay side, Stage Rd is always one of my least favorite climbs.  I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that we've just spent 30-40 minutes lounging in the sun and stuffing our faces, than it does the elevation gain, but it's still a really tough climb for me.

As with all climbs though, it's followed by a nice downhill before beginning to go up again. This happens again a couple more times before we're dumped back out on Hwy 1 for the slog north.  Hwy 1 is a beautiful ride with the ocean guiding us along on the left, the problem is, it's usually windy in the afternoon and the traffic tends to freak me out a bit.

Amazingly enough, I actually felt pretty good and as we motored north, I could again disappear inside my head and spend some time cleaniing and scrubbing out the garbage that had been piling up there all week.

Eventually, we rolled back into Half Moon Bay and as we loaded up our bikes, used the rest room, enjoyed cold drinks from Jerry's ever-present cooler, Bob and Leticia rolled up.  Turns out they had decided to head firther south to the lighthouse whereas we had turned inland to hit the lunch spot.

I'm not sure how many bonus miles they picked up, my garmin showed a days total of 43 miles with 3470ft of climbing.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Toxic sweat....

Pedaling through the golf course parking lot my brain begins to process what's to come like a kid waiting to tell his dad he wrecked the car....immediately my heart rate ramps up, my legs, though making smooth circles on the flat pavement, twitch in anticipation of the coming climb...

I wasn't going to ride today.  I knew it was going to be hot, I knew I hadn't been riding and, if it wasn't for a pile of stuff bouncing around in my head that I needed to sort through and dispose of, I would have followed my own advice and stayed home with a cold beverage to relieve my stress. But I knew I didn't want that.  I wanted to make circles with my legs and let the suffering of my body wash the dietris out of my head.

The twin posts that mark the entrance to the trailhead greet me.....this is the maginot line...the line between the civilization of smooth black asphalt and the pain of a recently graded, loose, dusty climb in the full sun that will cause me to wish I had found a different vehicle for blowing off steam.

It's really hot.  Although, according to the thermometer, its not as hot as it seems which I can only assume has something to do with my lack of ride time lately. The first part of the ride, the section along the fireroad behind some of the nicer houses in the area and down to the golf course had been a nice warm up. The trail is in the shade, there was a nice breeze and I took it easy, stretching out the taut guitar strings that run up and down my legs where the relaxed flowing muscles are supposed to be.  Inevitably my mind begins to head toward the place I hoped it would go. It loosens up letting thoughts and ideas crash and bump against each other in the hopes of a brainstorm or at least a glimmer of a thought.

As I suffer and make horribly sloppy circles with my lactic acid filled legs sccreaming to stop, the bike weaves and wobbles all over the trail at the slightest incline. My heart pounds mercilessly in my ears like a bass drum at a pep rally and the stinging, salty sweat runs down my forehead and into my eyes blinding me until I can let go of the bars long enough to wipe it out. Still I pedal on....

Work has been insane.  Normal for this time of year although after the last three years who's to say exactly what normal is for the construction industry anymore.  This year though is almost like the "good old days" when we were backed up for weeks and couldn't hire guys fast enough to keep up.  I don't want to complain for fear of jinxing it.  Busy is good.  We want to be busy, we need to be busy, for three years we've been fighting for our lives and the pace now is good.  But will it be good enough? Can we dig fast enough to fill a three year hole that has left us no safety net, no cushion, no other option than to run like crazy in the hopes that we can pull a rabbit out of a hat?

Damn! that really stings. The sweat pours from under my helmet and into my eyes causing me to squint. Everything looks fuzzy and weird as I wipe my eyes time and again only to realize my sunglasses are coated with sweat.  Eventually I reach the top of the golf course climb having pushed much harder than I planned and paying the price.  I pull in to the shade to get my heartrate down, calm my breathing and finally clean my glasses and wipe my forehead.

Eventually I begin again. This next little section is nice.  It's a shaded flat leading to a nice downhill before getting to the rollers that make up the majority of the loop.  Originally I planned on adding in the Redtail trail but the pace up Brandon leaves me unsure if I want to suffer any longer.  The same pace that left me huffing and puffing has also allowed me to reach the place I hoped to be.  My body is tired but not destroyed.  My mind is empty, relaxed, ready to disengage from life and engage fully to the rest of the ride. I flip the lever on my shock with a smile plastered on my face where stress lines lived only a while before.

This is my place.  This is where I come when life is crazy or hard or discouraging.  This is that warm, empty, nothingness that is the ride.  Some days its easy to find this place, a few pedal strokes and I'm on my way.  Other days its a long, hard journey to get here... miles of road, thousands of feet of elevation, hours of saddle time, but its always here. Its always waiting to be found.

The biggest challenge in getting here is making the decision to step away from life long enough to start the journey. It's true the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step...

Sure there are places that will promise to help, promise to relieve me of my burdens.  The bottle invites me in but only leads to time lost to stupor and the results of decisions made while there.  The couch invites me over to rest a while but leaves me with the same challenges only with a couple of hours gone.  The TV offers up some mindless drivel that promises to entertain and fulfill leaving me instead feeling guilty for squandering productive hours and a mind that hasn't been entertained, only turned off.  No, no place delivers like the ride does.

As I finish the loop I pour my guts out on the last climb up the road to the parking lot.  My heart once again pounding in my ears, my breath coming in ragged, gulping gasps, the sweat pours down my head again carrying with it the toxins and poisons from a life lived in this crazy screwed up world. This place where the size of our TV is more important than the depth of our character, where what we wear is looked at more closely than who we are and where our real goal should be not in making a living but in living a life.

A Quick Saturday Ride...

On the last weekend in February, Jer and the gang were planning on doing the Niles, Sunol, Calaveras loop which is a really nice ride. The route includes a few nice climbs, Palomares, Dublin Canyon and Calaveras for a total of just under 60 miles and about 3800ft of climbing.

Since I don't have the time for long all day rides lately, I decided to do a variation of my normal 25 mile loop and hook up with them at the start of theirs for the Palomares climb.  The route from my house to Fremont is completely flat and since I started fairly early there was no wind. This allowed me to make really good time and I actually averaged about 18mph for the first 8 mile segment.

After hooking up with the gang at Niles, we headed out and up Palomares.  It's amazing to me the number of riding areas we have here locally where you feel like you're anywhere but within the city limits.  At this time of the year, Palomares is a tree laden canyon, shrouded in lush green beauty and dripping with cool wet shade.  This is a wonderful environment for climbing and Bob, Leticia, Bill and I chatted easily as the road slipped by beneath us...
There are a couple of short, steep sections and as Bob is always in shape and I'm currently not, in those sections, he kept chatting while I desperately tried to take in enough oxygen to keep the bike moving forward.  Eventually, the incline lessen to the point that I could rejoin the conversation and we moved up and along until eventually reaching the top.

At this point, I had to turn around and head home while they hadn't even finished the first quarter of their ride.  Where the cool shaded climb had been a relief and actually enjoyable, the descent was downright cold.  I'm not sure if it's because I was born and raised in California and expect it to be warm all the time, or just that I don't always think things through, but this morning I had thought about and decided against bringing a jacket.  My thinking was fine for most of the ride and it wasn't until this one section that I really stopped to think about is February after all....I really should have brought a jacket.
As much as I enjoy Palomares, I hate Niles canyon the same amount.  Whereaas Palomares is quiet, pretty, and peaceful, Niles canyon is like a super highway with pretty scenery.  The shoulder is narrow, the road is busy and the speed limit is ignored....yeah, it's the worst of road riding all rolled in to one nice busy package.

The upside is, the fear of being run over usually motivates me to some pretty spirited riding and I definitely turned myself inside out trying to get through there.  Eventually, I made it back to Mission Blvd and the long slog back home.  The funny thing about Mission Bl is that no matter when I ride it, morning, afternoon, middle of the matter when, it always feels like there's a headwind.

The other thing about Mission Blvd is that it's actually in pretty good shape. Nice wide shoulder, fairly new and smooth pavement and they keep the shoulder clean of least from Fremont through Union City and all the way up to the Hayward border....once you get there, things take a turn....for the worse. 

At exactly the point where Mission leaves Union City the smooth pavement stops, the shoulder gets narrow and evidently the City has gotten rid of all it's street sweepers because the amount of glass and debris raises the challenge of the ride to all new levels as I try to maintain my cadence, keep up my speed and play dodge the junk in the road.

Eventually, I turned off of Mission on to Industrial Bl which has the same crummy shoulder conditions, but thnakfully less traffic on a Saturday.  Pulling back in to the house I ended up with 34.5 miles and 1500ft of climbing. Not a huge day, but definitely a nice ride to be able to do in a couple of hours leaving from my doorstep.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Riding with the grandkid...

In keeping with my theme of trying to catch up on recent rides, I came across a couple of photos of my grandson's first "real mountain bike" ride.

He and I ride in the neighborhood pretty regularly but he's always asking me to take him on a "real mountain bike" ride.

Evidently, he's made a distinction between our rides together where I'm in regular shorts and t-shirt and no helmet and my rides where I'm in biking clothes and a helmet.

So, on a Sunday after church while the rest of the family relaxed, he and I loaded up our bikes, our gear, some snacks, and water bottles and headed over to Lake Chabot for a "real mountain bike" ride. 

There's a trail that although it's paved for the first section, follows the lake around to the back where it turns into dirt.  With only a couple of hills, it's a nice fun ride and I was sure there'd be a couple of puddles for us to splash through.

It was actually a nice day for the middle of November and there were quite a few people out on the trail. We played "dodge the walkers" for the first part, but once we crossed the bridge and the trail turned to dirt, we pretty much had it to ourselves.

One thing I found interesting was that I thought he'd be complaining on the uphills and zooming down the downhills....after all, that's what I do on every ride, but it was the opposite.  He did say "my bike is slow going uphill grandpa" (again, I have the same issue, but didn't have the heart to tell him it was our fault not the bike's) but in complete opposite to me, he was careful and tentative on the downhill sections....I'm pretty sure that will change with time and more confidence.

We made a couple of stops to throw rocks in the water, have a snack or sit on a dock and look for fish.  We also made a point of going right through the middle of every puddle we came across and actually found a little "secret" trail that wound through the bottom of a creek.

All in all it was an awesome day and we both really enjoyed our "real mountain bike ride"

Here's a short video of our "Secret Trail"

caleb mt biking movie1 from Rich Sims on Vimeo.