Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Am I really that slow?"

Someone posted a question to the Randon list recently asking about average speeds of randonneurs. There were some interesting replies, but this one by Dr Codfish was especially good.

(there was also this thread on speedwork which I thought was very useful)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I finally rode my own permanent route!

For the last few months I've been feeling like Such a Loser because I hadn't managed to ride my own East Bay 200K permanent route.

Granted, it's a fairly demanding route with 7000 ft of climbing over about 125 miles, but still, it's my own route so you'd think I could eeke it out once in a while. :p

Well, yesterday I finally rode it, and I'm pleased as punch!

After last weekend's reasonably successful Crater Lake Century, I realized I had nothing planned for this weekend so I thought it was a good a time as any to give my perm another try. I didn't tell anyone my plans (except Lee of course, who drove me out to the start in Dublin) in case I ended up bailing again.

My goal for this ride was simply to finish sometime within the allotted 13 & 1/2 hours. So I employed the time-honored "start slow & taper off" approach. I never really pushed on any of the climbs - except for the last climb on Reliez Valley Road, at which point forward momentum was a bit hard to come by (gahhh) - and I stopped a lot for photo ops, snacks, water, chatting with people, & nature breaks. All told it took me 12 hrs and 20 minutes to complete the ride, which is kind of lame (especially compared to others who have ridden this permanent) but hey, it's a start. With all the stops I took I'm pretty confident I will smash that elusive 12 hour barrier next time. :)

The day started out chilly, damp and foggy. The weather report said it would get to the low 90's inland so I wore a sleeveless jersey & bolero. Calaveras Road was very misty on the way up to and at the False Summit:

At the bottom of Calaveras I stopped at the first checkpoint, Christies Donuts, where I scarfed a couple of glazed donut holes - yum - and refilled my bottles. The overcast fog finally burned off by the time I reached Niles Canyon Road.

Heading up Palomares Road I passed a tarantua - my first Big Fuzzy Spider Sighting of the season! - toodling purposefully up the road. I took a couple of photos (in telephoto mode, natch) and thought of putting my foot near to him for a comparison pic, but I didn't want to run the risk of a heart attack so early into the ride if he chose to change course and climb on my foot. If you're like me you like to prepare yourself before viewing a photo of a Big Fuzzy Spider, so here it is.

Continuing up Palomares I was passed by a big group of vintage cars. Much nicer than the usual noisy obnoxious groups of corvettes and beemers and whatnot that like to bomb through that canyon.

Recently someone marked the road with mile markings indicating the distance to the summit. While the 4 and 3 mile markings weren't really thrilling, I definitely perked up when I say the 1 and the 1/2 mile markings. And this one was most certainly welcome:

I headed down the fun descent on the other side (40+ mph, whee!) and into Castro Valley. I stopped at the Willow Park golf course near the bottom of Redwood Road to use the restroom and have a snack, and I got chatting with a woman wearing an Oakland Yellowjackets jersey. Seems the Bike Against the Odds was being held that day (I totally forgot about it!) and she had just finished her volunteering stint and was out on her own ride. I spent entirely too long hanging out there, but it was nice.

I called Lee just as I was about to head out from the golf course to let him know how I was doing. He told me that after he dropped me off in Dublin he went over to Danville and rode up Mt. Diablo. While he was up there he saw Veronica and they chatted for a bit. He went and told her that I was out riding my permanent!! OK, I didn't tell him it was a secret or anything. But V told him "tell her she better finish!". Aw crud. No more riding under the radar. :p

Redwood Road was lovely, as always.

And hilly, as always.

At Pinehurst Road I starting seeing signs and route markings for the Bike Against the Odds ride, and for much of the next 40 miles or so I was following the BATO century route.

I reached the third checkpoint in Moraga only about 25 minutes before the closing time. While by then I had completed most of the climbing, I still had the long hot slog on Alhambra Valley Road and up Pig Farm Hill. I was starting to wonder if I'd make it to the fourth checkpoint in Martinez in time.

Although I was running a bit low on time, that didn't keep me from stopping again at the Starbucks in Orinda for the restroom, more water, and a slice of banana nut bread. That Starbucks was the last opportunity to top off my bottles for quite a while & I wasn't about to pass on it. The nut bread, well, I just felt like it.

Continuing down Camino Pablo I passed the intersection of Bear Creek Road and saw there were tents set up for the BATO ride. One of the tents had a LunaChix banner so I stopped to see if CindySue was there. Turns out I missed her by only a half hour, bummer. Probably for the best because I couldn't spare too much time chatting.

Luckily, there was a light cool breeze blowing on Castro Ranch and Alhambra Valley Roads so it wasn't as hot out there as it could have been.

But as I was slogging along AVR I started having my first major case of the Dreaded Self-Doubt (Why on earth am I doing this? Who am I kidding? and so on). I was seriously doubting I'd make the Martinez checkpoint in time. I decided I would check my time when I reached the intersection of AVR and Reliez Valley Road. I'd have about 8 miles to Martinez from there, and if it looked like I wouldn't make it to Martinez by the 5 pm checkpoint closing time, I would simply continue on Reliez Valley Road and head into Lafayette and take BART back home. I tried not to think of what V would have to say if I bailed yet again. :p

But in the meantime I still had to tackle that stinker, Pig Farm Hill:

Oddly enough, Pig Farm Hill wasn't too bad, I simply geared way down and chugged. I heard one guy come up rapidly behind me and I assumed he would pass by, but as the grade reached its 12-16% max I heard him emitting death throes. Meanwhile, my super-low gears & I just continued upward, slowly but surely. At the top I caught my breath and chatted with the guy in the photo (who was well ahead of me all the way up the hill) while he waited for his friend (the aforementioned Death Throe Guy). Guy in the photo really liked my Keen cycling sandals so we were discussing the merits of Keens and super-low gears, and Death Throe Guy soon appeared.

I bid my farewells and bombed down AVR. When I reached the intersection I checked the time. It was only 4 pm! I had a whole hour to ride 8 flat miles to the checkpoint! Yee-hah, I was actually going to do this!!!

I reached the checkpoint at 4:22, and headed out again at 4:30. I called Lee to let him know I thought would finish between 7 and 7:30. I was relieved that I'd likely finish before sunset.

A couple of weeks ago I changed the remaining route slightly. Instead of a long, shadeless slog up the very busy Taylor Blvd, the route now went back on AVR to the intersection with Reliez Valley Road and continued on RVR until it joined up with Pleasant Hill Road leading into Lafayette. It's a much more scenic, shady, less travelled route. Except I forgot about that last stinker of a climb before reaching Pleasant Hill Road. It occurs around mile 105 and it's nearly as difficult as Pig Farm Hill. But, at least it's in the shade. And once that's over with, that's it for the big climbs. Yay.

I can understand why V says she hates that last slog down Danville Bld. After Reliez Valley Road, I was more than ready to be DONE, dammit. Although it's flat & shady, Danville Blvd was hard - my legs were yelling "uncle!" and I had to stop to take a couple of ibuprophen. At least when I reached Railroad Ave I knew I only had 10 miles or so to go, and the last 5 miles on San Ramon Road was a slight downhill grade which was a definite plus. I rolled into the Safeway at about 7:05 pm, a very happy camper indeed.

After I cleaned up a bit in the lovely Safeway bathroom, Lee and I had a celebratory dinner at Bosco's in Sunol. They make a mean linguine with Dungeness crab! I probably shouldn't have eaten the whole thing, but geeze it was goood. I then slept for a good ten hours.

This morning I was pretty creaky but I did a quick easy spin along the AC Trail out to the bay & back, and I felt fine after that.

And still mighty pleased with myself! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crater Lake was wonderful!

This past Saturday, Lee & I rode the Crater Lake Century up in Oregon, along with Sarah, Bill, Kim & Mel.

More pics be here

We stayed at Jo's Motel (of course) in Ft. Klamath, which was located very close to the start which was tres convenient. We were there from Thurs through Monday; Sarah, Bill, and Kim were there Friday thru Sunday, and Mel stayed with us in our cabin on Friday night.

It was freakin' hot up there from Thursday onward. I did a short ride from the motel just to Mazama Village on Friday morning, and it was already very warm when I started out at 9 am. It worked out to about 32 miles and about 1800 ft of climbing. I started out at about 4000 ft elevation and I wasn't sure how the altitude would affect me, but turns out it wasn't particularly noticeable. The heat on the other hand, yeck! I knew the heat would be an issue so I took it easy.

Saturday we were all up at O'Dark Stupid and rode over to the museum where the ride began.

We started out with the first wave of riders at 6:30 - we were all very concerned about the heat (it was supposed to get even hotter than it was on Friday) so we wanted to get off to an early start and get up to the rim as soon as possible. We opted not to follow the full century route, which included about 20 miles or so of meandering around flat cow pastures to take the total distance up to 100 miles. Instead, we followed the metric route which took us directly up to the rim. That was an excellent plan because it indeed did get very hot up there and it would have been even worse for us if we arrived up there the hour or so later if we followed the full century route.

The grades on this ride were never particularly steep. The ride up to the rim averaged around 4% (some stretches of 2% and some brief 6-8% bits). On Rim Drive itself, many of the climbs were in the 6-8% range but I don't think there was much if any at 10%. The climbs were fairly long, and as the day wore on and the sun moved overhead there was very little shade. But the descents were a lot of fun! :^)

My one and only criticism about this ride was the lack of a water stop before the long hot climb leading up to the Mt Scott trailhead. There's apparently no water available at the various picnic areas along Rim Drive, and I went through nearly all of my water & Cytomax on that climb. At the very end of that climb there was an out & back section which took us out to the Cloud Cap overlook. After consulting the route sheet I realized that it was just an out & back, so I asked riders coming back if there was water available at the turnaround. When I found out there wasn't, I was too low on water to risk it (and I was whupped from the heat) so I skipped that portion and continued directly on to the rest stop at the Phantom Ship overlook. I think the organizers weren't prepared for the extreme heat but it sounds like they will add another water stop next year.

The roads for the most part were very good to excellent. Even the "bad" part, on the descent after Cloud Cap, wasn't bad at all compared to many California roads!

LeeBob was waiting for us in a bit of shade on the last long climb up from Vidae Falls. He had signed up for the Metric century, which would involve going counterclockwise on Rim Drive only as far as the Phantom Ship stop. He was feeling very good on the climb up to the rim so he decided to accompany us on the full route clockwise around the rim, but after a few miles he decided he'd be better off backtracking and head counterclockwise until he met up with us and/or went as far as he felt like going. When he saw how long the climb was from the bottom of Vidae Falls towards Phantom Ship, he decided he'd gone far enough, thenkew. :^)

When we all regrouped we continued on to the Visitor Center for more water, then for the fun descent back down to Ft. Klamath. It was very warm on the descent and especially along the last 8 miles or so of flatlands back to the start. We took the opportunity to stop at the Ft. Klamath General Store (which I call the Deliverance Store) to feast on ice cream bars before we rode the remaining 2 miles to the Klamath Museum for barbecue and our second desert of pie and ice cream.

It was still oppressively hot in the shade on the museum grounds so Lee took the cue from some others and practically submerged himself in the ice-cold stream running through the park. Happily, he has yet to show signs of hepatitis or bubonic plague or any other maladies that may have been lurking in that stream. :p Most of the rest of us were content with soaking our feet, which helped a lot.

Sarah on the other hand preferred to make good use of a buff soaked in ice-cold drinking water, embracing her inner Amish maiden.

The elevation gain fell way short of the advertised 7500 feet according to their Topo map. My CicloSport showed about 6100 feet, but I cut out a bit of climbing from bypassing the out & back to Cloud Cap. I'm very happy with how I did - I took it very easy on the climbs since I knew the heat would likely be a big problem for me if I didn't. So although I took it very slow, I survived, and enjoyed it immensely! :^)

This was a really great ride, and I'd love to do it again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A lovely day out

Yesterday I went on a ride that was pretty much perfect.

I slept very late, and between that and lazing around watching the Olympics we had tivo'd the night before, I didn't get out until nearly noontime. It was pretty warm out by then but I figured a bit of heat acclimation would be Good For Me.

I took my usual route from home along the Alameda Creek Trail out to Niles Canyon Rd and up Palomares Rd. On account of the heat, I took it really easy on that climb, spending lots of quality time in my small chainring. Turns out I took 36 minutes, not great, but then again only a minute more than this past Thursday when I was pushing it some and ran out of gas at the steeper one-lane section. And this time I spun and felt fine all the way up. So there.

When I reached the other side of Palomares I was still feeling very good so I continued along the DMD route up Crow Canyon & Norris Canyon. I stopped at the mini-mart on Crow Cyn for some cold water & a Red Bull (say what you will about Red Bull, but I find nothing more refreshing on a hot hilly ride). The climb up Norris Cyn had little shade so again, no speed records were endangered. I doused my head & neck a bit with water at the top of Norris so the descent into San Ramon was delightfully almost cool.

I stopped for a bit at Livermore Cyclery on Dublin Blvd - OMG the air conditioning felt soooo good! - to buy some more cold water and a packet of Cytomax and use their rest room. I'm still not keen about the tropical fruit Cytomax flavor - I'll stay with orange. I then headed along Foothill into Sunol and along Niles Canyon back home. The AC Trail Wind Tunnel had kicked up by then but the wind off the bay felt very refreshing. All told about 64 miles and 2400 ft of climbing.

Throughout the ride I was downing lots Cytomax, Clif Shot Blocks (egad! fake food!!), a bit of Hammer Gel, and lots of water. That worked very well for me, I felt remarkably good despite the heat which normally bowls me over. That and the fact that I didn't push hard at all on the climbs. I'm really pleased with how this ride went - no aches, no pains, no energy lows, and I enjoyed every moment.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where've I been?

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I've just been lazy. Riding stopped being fun so I kicked back for a couple of months but I'm gearing up again. High time since I'll be attempting the Crater Lake Century in Oregon in a couple of weeks.

Last weekend I rode up Mt. Hamilton (and set a new Personal Worst, bah) and this Saturday I'll be slogging up Mt. Diablo. That ought to get me ready. Bwah hah.

As for other fun goings-on this past summer, at the end of June Lee and I helped out at the Mazama overnight checkpoint for the Cascade 1200 Randonee up in WA state. We then headed down to Bend and spent the 4th of July weekend with Sarah & Bubba, and accompanied them on the Firecracker 100 metric century.

My East Bay 200K RUSA permanent is becoming fairly popular, and who knows, maybe someday I'll even manage to complete it myself.