The Redwood Gulch Death March

This ride report is more than two weeks late.  That should show you how much fun we had.

The ride began with a route I was pretty familiar with.  Head out from downtown Mountain View to Foothill Expressway, and stay on that until it turns into Stevens Canyon.  But instead of going up Mt. Eden road we stayed on Stevens Canyon until it hits Redwood Gulch.  Now keep in mind that this is already a fairly gradual climb – about 500 feet over 10 miles or so.  Nothing major but you feel it a little.
I did have an ace in the pocket.  While Tom was not officially a SAG driver for the day he was out there for me.  I had told him to make sure I made it to the top of Redwood Gulch and then he could go on about his day.  Having him on the road with me is such a huge piece of mental insurance.  I know I can go all out and just not have to worry because if I need to I can just throw the bike in the truck and go home.  His willingness to be there has been greatly appreciated.  
I knew Redwood Gulch was gonna be crazy.  It’s often 18% in places.  It’s THE CLIMB by which many local climbs are judged.  However, I was not interested in hurting myself, so I ended up walking most of it.  This frustrated me because it made me feel weak.  And even with my cleat covers on I ended up being very uncomfortable walking that far in bike shoes.  Maybe in a couple of years, when I’ve lost another 40 pounds and have become a cycling god, I’ll try that again.
After climbing to the top of the hill we were promised a glorious descent.  But we were also told to keep within the speed limit because the cops would ticket cyclists.  One of my concerns on the downhill became managing my brakes because getting over 35 mph was trivial.  I’m sure 45+ would have been easy.  Also there is no bike lane on Highway 9, and since I was going the speed limit (and thus impeding no one) I was entitled to “take the lane” as they say.  However the motorists (who are usually quick to decry cyclists as scofflaws who run red lights) were for the most part greatly exceeding the speed limit and seemed to resent my staying to it.  They would express their resentment by attempting to run me off the road.  So nice.  But I did make it to the first rest stop without being killed.
The next stretch wasn’t too bad.  Down into Saratoga and such.  We had nice tailwinds to the pretty reservoir.  It turns out there was a gradual climb there which I didn’t really notice.  That made the descent on Bailey even more awesome because it felt like a freebie.  Who doesn’t love a free descent?  The only trick was that those tailwinds then became crosswinds, and from the side I am not very aerodynamic.
We then proceeded onto Santa Theresa Blvd., or as I heard it called the “Santa Theresa slog”.  The tailwinds became headwinds and they were strong.  After a couple of miles we made it to the lunch stop and I was so ready for it.  (Yay Togo’s.  Much nicer than Subway.)  The winds were still there after lunch, and I think it was only about 12 miles from lunch to the last rest stop but it was a sucky 12 miles.  My speed was only around 10mph for that stretch.  
Finally we made it back to Mountain View.  I finally understood why the ride needed a 12mph minimum – the sun was clearly going down when we checked in.  (I only ended up with a 11.8mph average).  The daylight was clearly against us.  I was starting to worry about making it home before dark (I live about 2 miles from where the rides start and end) but Tom was there to meet me with my truck so I threw the bike on the back.  After a day like that I didn’t feel I needed any more miles.

“This parrot is no more. He has ceased to be.”

Our fearless ride leader loves hills.  If the choice is “hills” or “more hills” he will always choose “more hills”.  So when he said he had found a new hill, one that most of us hadn’t been up, that was some interesting news.  (To be fair most hills are ones I haven’t been up.  I’m just learning all the classic climbs around here.)  I think that perhaps in response to his underselling of Farm Hill at the first ride of the season he felt the need to hype this hill up a bit.  Of course things like that go straight to my head, take up residence, and start playing mind games. 

The day started very clear but a bit cold.  We got up around 7 – both of us because Tom was not just going to be shadowing me for the day but he actually volunteered to be an official SAG driver for this ride.  Having a SAG wagon out there is great for psychological support – knowing that if something does go wrong you’re not completely stuck helps a lot.  Having the SAG wagon being driven by your partner is an extra special bonus.
We got to the meeting spot around 9:15 – enough time for a bit of chit-chat before the briefing started and enough time for Tom to get his bearings regarding his official duties.  After the usual pre-ride routine – stretching, going over the route, and safety briefing – we were off.  
The beginning of this ride started out very similar to my ill-fated first ride of the season.  Out to Sand Hill Rd, then to Alameda de las Pulgas.  I quickly lost touch with some of my friends but given the climbing coming up I didn’t feel like rushing myself in order to keep up.  I wanted to keep as much in reserve as I could.  One thing that was interesting – I went farther on Alameda de las Pulgas than I had before – so after that point there was plenty of new scenery.  I did my own pace until the first rest stop where I tried to be efficient.  A quick visit to the rest room, some water, some Shot Blocks, a quick hug from Tom, and I was off.
Then the climbing began.  The first thing after the rest stop was a hill they call “Alameda de las Steeps”.  It was a nice little wakeup call, and made me thankful for my big cassette in back.  After that Parrot Drive was up and the real fun began.  And by fun I mean not fun.
I will say this – it did match up with what Chris promised.  And I did climb it.  I had to walk a couple of spots near the top of the last hill (it’s really 3 hills), and at the stop signs I had some trouble getting going again.  Tom was waiting at the bottom of the hill so I got to proudly tell him that I didn’t walk it.  I scarfed down a gel (WTF is “Montana Huckleberry”?) and got back on with it.  It felt like a really long ride to get to the second rest stop and I was REALLY hungry.  A nice BLTA (BLT + avocado), a nice sized rice-krispie treat, and I was a happy camper.
After lunch it was some more familiar roads back home – except that there was one big hill left.  One completely unnecessary hill.  La Cresta.  I’m going to assume it means “the crest”.  But we had to get UP to the crest.  And there was only one way to do that – by going up.  Yay, more climbing.
After La Cresta we were pretty much done.  It was mostly flat/downhill all the way home.  And I’ve never been more glad for that!

The Mean Streets of the South Bay

Today was billed as an “urban cycling sampler”.  I liked the idea – after a fair bit of climbing yesterday I was all for a nice flat ride.  But just because it’s flat doesn’t mean that it has to be easy.  Today was a speed day and the numbers back it up.  A 14.5mph average!

I woke up an hour late (8am instead of 7am), so I was rushed going out the door.  I really hate that.  Especially since when that happens I tend to screw something up, which is how the kitties escaped that one time.  But today I took care to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid like that today.  And I also made sure I remembered locking the door so that I didn’t have to go back and check it.  I did end up getting away about 10 minutes later than I wanted to at, leaving at around 9:10am.
The ride to Fremont and Mary was pretty simple.  I don’t quite like the stretch of Mary between Central and El Camino.  It’s listed as a “bike route” but it’s not very comfortable.  I think I see why Google Maps wanted to send me a different route.  I felt a bit under pressure to get there on time…and I pulled in to the parking lot at exactly 9:29am.  That works out well.  For now I think I’ll ride there – the extra 6 miles didn’t hurt.
Now Terri, who plans the rides, seems to REALLY like to make me ride back home at the start.  This time it was EXACTLY the route I take home, going right by Whisman and Gladys (which is how I go home).  Then she made me go to work…as in riding right by Yahoo!.  Then around to Caribbean (which I hadn’t been on before on a bike).  After that it was a bike trail I hadn’t been on before and a lot of urban riding that isn’t really worth describing in detail.  It was a good route, but I couldn’t tell you where we went.  I just did what the Garmin told me.
I will talk about the pace, however.  I made sure to leave with the front group, and my hope was to stick with them until the rest stop at least – and I pretty much did that.  But I was spent.  I left it all on the road.  After the rest break I was much slower.  However, my resulting pace being at 14.5mph over 40 miles – I’ll take that.  

The Lonely Road

Due to the ALC Expo/Kick Off Party up in the city Saturday there weren’t many organized rides.  I felt the time had come for me to go out on my own.  I was a bit worried because Tom was out of town so I didn’t really have any backup.  I could always call my homegirl Leeann for help, but since she has 3 kids and a husband (so, like, 4 kids) I’d only do that if things really got bad.  For the most part I was on my own.

Using Ride With GPS I modified a training ride from a couple of weeks ago with a suggestion from the Cycling Goddess to add a few more miles.  The day was pretty grey.  Cloud cover was present the whole day – although it was looking at times like it might burn off.  It was cool, but not cold.  I had on knee warmers (like I probably almost always will) but I didn’t need full finger gloves, for example.
I started out from home and headed out Grant Road all the way to Foothill Expressway.  That was a good thing to do, because now I have an easy way to get out there.  Once they’re done tearing up the road I suspect I’ll be doing that quite a bit.  Foothill eventually became Stevens Canyon Rd and went through the lovely park as before.  And then I got to the stop sign where Mt. Eden Road is.  But unlike last time I turned right and continued on Stevens Canyon.
Even if the skies hadn’t been grey it was going to be pretty dark back in there.  Lots and lots of trees and lovely cover.  I came to the stop sign where Redwood Gulch is, and having researched that particular road (well aware that one of the TRLs wants to take us up it in 3 weeks), I shuddered.  And then I kept going until Stevens Canyon came to an end.  It was a very gentle climb, just enough to get the heart rate up a little.  Then I turned around and headed back down.  The road was rather bumpy which I felt more on the way down, vertical compliance or not.  But when I got back to the Mt. Eden stop sign I noticed something – I was VERY dirty. Parts of the bike were caked in mud.  Oh no, not my baby!
Well, nothing to do about it except keep going.  The ride up Mt. Eden seemed even easier this time than last.  Although I missed having company to distract me it was just a pretty simple and easy climb.  I stopped at the top, scarfed some food, and bombed down.  Since I had gotten a late start I wanted to try and keep things quick so I did not dilly dally.  I bombed down the descent and came back to Sunnyvale-Saratoga.
The thing I like about going back to Mtn. View after being up in the hills is that it’s all very gradually downhill.  So I can crank along and see myself doing 18 to 20 mph in the bike lane and feel like a cycling god.  I know I’m not but it is more fun to go fast than to go slow.  Especially when you know there is no more climbing to be done.  I made a brief stop at Leeann and Mike’s house to say hi and show off my bike.  I hadn’t expected it to be quite so dirty though.
After I got back from the Expo up in the city I did the only thing I could do.  I washed my bike.  No way I could let it stay that dirty!  

It’s better the second time around…

After the ride the day before I was looking at my Sunday ride as a “recovery” ride.  I should have been paying closer attention to the route.  I got up in the morning with my quads a little sore from the sprinting I did on Saturday.  Breakfast, shower, get the bike on the truck, and head out.  I’ve got it down pretty well so that I got to the meeting spot 15 minutes before the meeting time, which was plenty of time to get the bike off, put things back on it (computer, saddle bag, etc.), and the rest of the bike clothes.

As with last week Her Highness, Princess Bob, was full of positive energy this morning.  I fear he may be a “morning person”.  I, as some can attest, am not.  We did a bit of stretching, and then usual review of the route.  Bob mentioned an option for “extra badass points” and I was feeling a need for a challenge.  Or my brain wasn’t fully awake.  Either way, I was thinking “why not?”.  Then the usual safety speech and we were off.  
The interesting thing about the first part of the route is that it basically took me back home – or within 500 feet of it anyway.  This was good for me to do, since I’ve been thinking about starting to ride to these rides anyway.  The effort of putting the bike on the truck and whatnot isn’t worth saving a little bit of riding.  We’ll see how I’m feeling about it next weekend.  As the rides get longer I’m not sure the extra 5 miles might be necessary.  Also the group was moving VERY fast to start with – 15+ mph on the straights.  
However that speed was not to last, and the climbing started.  I’m not a climber…yet.  We did a few familiar hills and eventually ended up at Robert’s Market.  As I was coming up to Robert’s Market I heard a honk behind me and it was Tom.  I pulled in to the parking lot and said hi to him.  He commented we were fast – I had to explain that we weren’t stopping here.  I was mistaken and thought we’d end up at the *other* Robert’s Market but I was wrong.  He was at the right Robert’s Market – we were going to be looping back around to it. 
A quick hug and I was off.  Shortly I came to Alpine Road – the slight detour that Bob was offering as some extra climbing.  As I was starting up Chris Thomas was coming back down because he is a super fast badass.  (I need to stop comparing myself to him – it only makes me feel lame.)  It turns out, however, that it wasn’t a mile up to the top.  It was 2.5 miles.  Fortunately it was a gentle and very beautiful climb.  It was hard, but nothing insanely steep.  It wasn’t as much fun on the way down because of the windy and damp road.  No insane speeds were achieved.
Thankfully after all that effort lunch was next up.  Bob made a sensible choice of a turkey avocado BLT.  I saw a southwest tri-tip sandwich on the menu and had to get that.  It was tasty.  I almost succumbed to a monster Rice Krispy treat they had there but I was able to leave it behind.  I tried to eat quickly (but not too quickly) so that I wouldn’t hold up the sweeps.
While I did leave with the sweeps I wasn’t with them too long.  We soon caught up to a few people and while I would have loved to ride with them I felt the need to keep pushing.  The post-lunch part of this ride was basically a repeat of my first ride of the year and I was hoping it was going to go better.  As always the quarry in Los Altos was…creepy.  After a bit I caught up to some other ride leaders who I was with for the rest of the day.  We even caught up to Bob which was nice because he’s a very strong rider.
All in all I was happy with my performance on Sunday.  Strava gave me 15 trophies which was nice.  But more importantly I feel like I’ve made progress since the start of the year.  85 miles this weekend and many more to go.  I’m hoping that by training hard the ride won’t be too bad.  Now I just have to keep at it.

A Bridge (not too) Far

The Dumbarton bridge is something I’ve driven over before.  Like, in a car.  I know people ride their bikes across it but I’d never felt called to do so.  If you ride over the Golden Gate Bridge (from SF) you are riding across a national landmark with beautiful views of the ocean and/or Bay (especially if you’ve ridden through the Presidio to get there), then there is a thrilling downhill, and then you’re in lovely Sausalito.  Riding across the Dumbarton you approach through East Palo Alto, you go over marsh, and then you’re in Fremont.  Not nearly as thrilling.  That all being said, it was Saturday and time for another Ride with Chris.  Unusually for Chris this ride was promised to be a fairly flat 50 miles – and it was.  

The weather reports had been looking pretty good.  But when I got out of the apartment at a bit past 9 to ride over things were decidedly wet.  I checked Facebook to see if the ride had been cancelled knowing that it was unlikely.  I decided to ride over to the starting point anyway – if it was miserable then I didn’t have to go on the ride.  I got to the meeting point with my glasses nicely smeared with rain and feeling quite soggy.  However there was blue sky off to the north which was our direction of travel, so things were looking good.  By the time the stretching and safety speech was over it wasn’t quite raining.
The ride started out going up and over Shoreline.  A bunch of folks missed the turn at Charleston but they caught up soon enough.  We rode past the old SGI headquarters (and it will ALWAYS BE SGI HQ, Googlers) and then turned north.  The rest of the ride to the bridge at this point was kinda boring for me.  I dunno, I just didn’t get excited until we got to the bridge itself.
I don’t know why I was excited to get to the bridge – it was pretty simple.  Up and over.  However the road on the other side of the bridge was this super bumpy pavement.  My hands started to feel odd from the vibrations.  I know the bike has a lot of “vertical compliance” but there’s only so much isolation it can do.  (I’m still waiting for my COBL GOBL-R.)  It was so buzzy I wondered if something was going to fall off the bike.  Fortunately that segment was short, and then we quickly came to the first rest stop.  I tried not to waste too much time – a quick trip to the loo, some Shot Blocks, and I was back on the bike.
The next segment seemed pretty short to lunch – only another 10 miles or so. But it also seemed like we had some false flats – it was a bit of an effort.  Although I had stopped only about 10+ish miles back I was ready for lunch.  Unlike my last longer training ride I didn’t skip eating this time and got some Subway for the first time in a long time.  I’m guessing it won’t be the last of this training season.  I had a nice chocolate Cliff Shot for dessert and got on with the ride.
I was a bit worried that the segment from RS2 to the end was 22-ish miles (I think) – a fair distance to go without stopping. But it actually went pretty easy.  It was flat and the winds weren’t too bad.  We went past a landfill that was nice and stinky, and then through Alviso which was kind of an interesting place.   There was a fair bit of time on a nice bike trail that eventually ended in a park…and the park had restrooms.  Yay!  (I never try to pass up a well placed restroom.)  Eventually we were right by the office and went home the “scary” way – on Moffet Park Drive.  (If I ride to work I usually cut out that part by cutting through Lockheed).  Then it was back to downtown Mtn. View via a route that was not what *I* would do, but still got the job done. But it worked.  50+ miles done, a nice 13.8mph average (according to Garmin), and another training day in the books.

“Being awesome is a full time job. Now where do I collect my check?”

Today was my first time doing “back to back” rides.  After all, ALC is not like a regular century or something – it’s 7 days.  Not 1.  I need to get my body used to the idea of being on the saddle several days in a row.  I thought starting with two would be a good idea.  It just happens that we also have two days in the weekend.  Coincidence?  “I do not see coincidence, I see providence. I see purpose.”  (Oh wait.  This is a three day weekend.  Well, you get the idea.)

It so happens that my friend Bob runs a training ride series out of Sunnvyale that he’s named Awesome Ahead.  The first time I went riding with Bob he dragged my butt up Edgewood (which is a nice climb) and led me on what ended up being my longest ride to date.  So if Bob’s going to run a training series then I’m gonna have to check that out.  The fact that my friends Jim, Wendy, and Per are gonna be there is more extra bonus.
But no, that wasn’t enough, so I brought a friend.  Ryan had been a co-worker and eventually boss (briefly) at Inktomi.  He rides, and hadn’t ridden with me since I started riding, so I threw out the idea to him that he should come out for this training ride and he took me up on it.  A good idea, because the day was…wait for it…awesome.
One nice thing – the meeting spot is about 10 minutes away by car.  (I’ll start riding there, I think.)  So I was able to roll out of bed at 7:30 and be on the road at 9 with plenty of time to spare.  After some stretching Bob ran down the route and then we had the mandatory safety speech.  (I think by the end of the season I will be able to recite it from memory.)  Things were warm enough that I ditched the arms of my jacket (yay for convertible clothing!) before we even left.  
The ride going out to Mt. Eden was nice.  I rode Foothill Expressway for the first time.  A good thing to know it’s there – doing “laps” on Foothill would be a good way to get some intervals done.  The ride to the bottom of the climb was a bit odd, though.  I’m used to “false flats” – sections of road where you think you’re going flat but you’re actually slightly climbing.  (This becomes obvious on a bike because you’re sweating and only going 12mph.)  This one was rather odd because it didn’t just look flat, but looked like we were going downhill.  Bizzare!
The we started the climb.  It was actually not that bad.  I never ran out of breath, and didn’t get to my 170bpm “oh crap” heartrate.  Oh, and did I mention the spectacular views?  I had no idea that little park was back in there.  Easy riding distance from home and all of a sudden you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Most excellent.
The climb wasn’t enough for some people – Bob, Wendy, and Per all did it twice.  Wendy said she “didn’t get it right the first time”.  They got extra badass points.  I suppose I could have done it twice – but after Rheem and Happy Valley yesterday I was good on the climbing.
Also on the way up this guy yelled at me from his car.  I was innocently pedaling along and I heard “Hey, pedal faster!” I looked over and it was Tom.  That was so cute!  And then he was waiting for me at the top of the hill.  He got to meet Ryan and we chatted a bit to relax after the climb.  Then it was back on the bikes for the descent which was much longer than the climb.  (Which, of course, means I will need to come back and try the route from the other direction.)
At the bottom of the hill I was greeted with deja vu – we were at the same shopping complex as last weekend!  Our one rest stop on this ride was the same as the second rest stop from my ride last Saturday.  I did my “usual”, grabbed some water and fruit, and then ended up being the last guy out of the stop, practically.  (I need to work on staying focused at rest stops.)  
On the ride back we hit EVERY FREAKING RED LIGHT, and so of course quickly lost touch with the main group.  Fortunately I was on familiar ground, and literally rode by where I live.  We finally made it back to our starting point and there was Tom waiting for me again.  Awww.  I loaded the bike back up and made it home fast enough to bother with stretching (yay foam roller and yoga strap) and have a recovery mocha shake.

Happy Valley is not happy

Today I visited the East Bay.  Greg, member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Cycling Club (a.k.a. someone who rode Foxy’s Fall Century with last October) is a Training Ride Leader in the East Bay, home of the hills.  He suggested I come over for one of their Cat 1 rides.  Other than the 8:15 meeting time in Orinda (which is an hour away) it seemed like a great idea.

There were two “named” climbs this time – Rheem Boulevard and Happy Valley Road.  Rheem was very steep – I reached that point where I had to “cross-train” (a.k.a. walk) a little bit.  If a climb gets too steep it becomes a matter of protecting my knees, not actually cardio fitness.  Happy Valley was longer, but less steep so I handled it better.  I didn’t have to get off the bike, at least.  And oh yeah, Camino Diablo had a bit of a climb on it, but the walk they roll in the East Bay they didn’t think it was worth mentioning. 

The weather was much warmer this weekend.  I actually ended up first taking the sleeves off of my jacket, and then disposing of the jacket entirely.  The ride was pretty good, although we’re still tweaking the fit of my bike and I think the seat needs to come up (which we did).  Also, the last adjustments to the bike went too far and it was shifting funny, but that’s also been addressed for tomorrow.  This will be my first weekend of back-to-back “serious” rides.  I’m hoping that goes well.

French toast!

I was thinking – after Chris’ big ride, I could do another serious ride, or I could do the French Toast ride.  A short social ALC event in Newark with French Toast at the end.  A lot of folks I knew were there, and there were also going to be folks I wanted to meet.  The ride was short, and a lot of the roads were…sub-optimal.  But it gave me an appreciation for the pavĂ© of the famous Paris-Roubaix race for which my bike is named.

It was a good call – I got to meet my cyclist rep, see some good friends, ride my bike, and eat some French toast.  What could be better?  

Greetings from Hoth

The Bay Area is in a bit of a cold snap and we knew it was going to be bad this weekend.  During my Thursday afternoon workout it was about 45 degrees and when I got home the only reason I knew my butt was still attached was that I could see it.  I certainly couldn’t feel it.
After last weekend’s epic fail I went for a couple of my “usual” rides during the week.  That was a very good idea because it gave me a chance to get to know my bike a bit better.  So I wasn’t nearly as worried about this weekend’s ride as I was about last weekend’s. Also, Tom was going to be around, and since he’s familiarized himself with my truck he was going to be able to serve as a personal emergency SAG if need be.  However, one thing the rides did teach me is that I needed to add some bits to my arsenal of cold weather gear.
Going shopping last night I went to two shops – instead of doing what I should have done in the first place and going to my regular shop.  Pickings were slim.  I had hoped for some leg warmers or even tights (as opposed to knee warmers), shoe covers, warmer socks, and something to cover my ears.  Sports Basement only came up the last item – fortunately I found a pair of shoe covers at Mike’s Bikes and some socks.  
The morning was very clear and sunny, but of course very chilly.  I got out of the house a bit earlier this time which was great – the ride over to where the rides meet up is a nice little warm up, and I got there 15 minutes before meetup time.  I was able to say hello to folks and participate in all the stretching exercises.  Also, it turns out that Tom had followed me over.  That was good because I realized I had left my RoadID at home, so he ran back to get that.   
The ride started off quite nicely.  It was flat to lightly-inclined going to the first rest stop.  I had started off with some folks I know but ended up getting dropped pretty quickly.  Not a surprise – I’m barely fast enough for this group as it is.  I also made an emergency pit stop at a gas station and came out to find that the sweeps had caught up to me.  I made it to the first rest stop with a little bit of time, but I hurried a mocha and snack and got back on the road.
The next segment was the majority of the climbing.  Chris, the ride facilitator, is basically an evil man who loves hills.  I, being a mostly (but not completely) recovered fat person hate them.  The hills this week were not quite as evil as Farm Hill was last week, but they were evil enough.  There was one little segment where you are climbing through a hairpin and I just couldn’t keep enough speed.  I ended up walking a tiny bit, but not much because it wasn’t as steep as I thought after the hairpin.
After the two big hills it was a very nice decent.  I got in to the drops and felt all racy.  I also got to get a better feel for the brakes on the bike.  After that there were a few rollers into rest stop 2.  At rest stop 2 I was feeling fat (long story), so I just took a bathroom break, slammed a gel, and got going.  It was only 15 miles to home, and fairly uneventful at that.  A quick stop at my shop to see what kind of cold weather gear they have and I was back home.  I had an HMR shake (pretty good recovery drink), a shower, and decided what to do with the rest of my day.
For the official ride report from the man in charge, please click here.