Sunday, February 22, 2009

DR Team buddy ride - Woodside / OLH

Saturday I joined the San Francisco DR team's buddy ride, which started from Cañada Road at Rt. 92 and went through Woodside, Los Altos, Portola Valley, up Old La Honda Rd and down Rt. 84, back through Woodside and Cañada Road.

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I bonked on the climb up OLH. So embarrassing, you'd think by now I'd know when and how much to eat on a ride. Gahhh. I need to start using Spiz again ...

It was about 48 miles and 3700 ft of climbing (with a couple of bonus miles from overshooting a turn mis-marked on the route sheet).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Better to feel good than to look good

... or, my second TNT Death Ride team ride.

Lee and I drove up to St. Helena very early yesterday morning for my second DR training ride with the Redwood/Wine Country group. Guests were allowed on this ride, but Lee was going to play it by ear. If the weather looked too yuck he was planning to do a short ride on his own, or just hang out in St. Helena until we returned.

Once we arrived at the start area we found the weather forecasts were pretty much accurate. Rainy & cold. Lee decided to not join in on the fun. Instead, he wisely took Ken, our SAG captain, up on his offer offer to join him in the warm & dry SAG truck.

I had layered on the wool and broke out my trusty Castelli rain jacket, which is usually too warm to wear during the day (although it's great on my early morning commute rides). For maximum dork effect I also wore one of those Saran bowl covers (the ones that look like shower caps) over my helmet. I suppose I'm the anti-Fernando, I always think it's better to feel good than to look good (and if you saw my closet you would agree). Ken was taking photos so if I come across a picture of me with the Saran bowl cover on my helmet I'll be sure to post it for everyone's amusement. Even with all that wool I was very cold as we started out. I was hoping I'd warm up once we started climbing.

We HTFU'd and headed out in the rain towards the Silverado Trail. There was one mishap early on when one of the guys rolled over something slippery and went down. He was a bit shaken up but got it back together quickly and soldiered on.

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After a few miles we regrouped at the intersection of the Silverado Trail and Rt. 128 (Sage Canyon Road). We were going to have a time trial to determine how we would be grouped for subsequent rides. I could have told the coaches they could put me in the slow-but-steady group, but, whatever. We all started out together and I fell off the back almost immediately. I stayed fairly close to a couple of guys up ahead of me, they were my rabbits. I would almost catch up to them when the grade kicked up over 10% thanks to my super-low gears, but when the grade was under 8% they were able to pull well ahead of me again. Oh well. At least I was warm by then, almost too warm. We all continued up Rt. 128 for nearly 8 miles, until just before the turnoff to Chiles Valley Road where we all regrouped, and Ken & Lee were taking down our times.

We all set off again and headed along Chiles-Pope Valley Road. The faster folks vanished in no time, and I was in a nice group going at a manageable pace so life was good. The rain backed off some although the roads were wet so it really didn't matter whether it was raining or not (I had thought about bringing my Romulus with fenders but since I assumed on one else would have fenders it seemed sort of pointless). It was relaxing watching the arcs of spray come off of everyone's rear wheels. And the scenery was lovely, green hills with mustard flowers everywhere. I love riding up in Napa, even in the rain.

We soon reached Ink Grade, a four mile climb. I was getting tired so right off the bat I kicked it into my "great-granny" gear and spun on up at a snail's pace. Surprising to me, I wasn't alone on this climb. A guy who was doing his first ride in months(!!) and so wasn't in shape yet had to stop a few times along the way, so I would gradually catch up to him. This was one helluva ride to do after you haven't been riding for a while, Tony, so kudos! Will, one of our mentors, stayed with us to keep us company. I picked on Will mercilessly and bless his masochistic heart I think he enjoyed it. :)

Ink Grade was actually a nice climb and it was almost pleasant in the misty cold and damp. Considering the last time I did that climb it was hideously hot out, this was a nice change. After what felt like hours we finally reached the top where the SAG guys and a surprising number of riders were gathered. Some of the riders looked really cold so I'm glad they headed out shortly after our arrival.

Will, Tony & I headed off again soon after, at which point the heavens poured down upon us. On a downhill. Lovely. By then it was getting seriously cold and I was ever so grateful for all the wool and the excellent rain jacket I was wearing. One of the coaches, Theresa, waited up for us at a confusing point on the route sheet to make sure we were headed in the right direction down Howell Mtn Road. She's my hero. So the four of us continued down Howell Mtn, usually a pretty good descent (albeit bumpy) but with all the rain it was a bit dicey. But we made it fine and before long we were back to the start in St. Helena, where the rest of the team was packing up, trying to dry off, and giving us high fives. Go team.

All in all, it was a good ride and an epic Personal Growth Experience. :D My Garmin (uploaded to Sportracks) showed we rode a bit under 40 miles with about 2800 ft of climbing.

Mel, Amy, Lee and I then headed off to Tra Vigne Pizzeria for warm minestrone soup (ahhhh) and great pizza, washed down with some well-earned beers.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The first TNT ride

The first TNT Death Ride team ride was short & fun. We met up at the Mill Valley community center where we first had some brief talks and demos on riding in groups, and on braking & descending skills, and they checked to make sure our bikes were in decent working order.

Then we headed out on the Paradise Loop which took us around Tiburon & Corte Madera back to Mill Valley. I hooked up with some women from the SF group (Gabrielle, Lori & Elizabeth) and we had a really pleasant ride. From Mill Valley to Tiburon we followed much of the multi-use trail and there was a TNT group of runners heading in the opposite direction. Lots of "go teams" were exchanged, and big cheers as we passed their rest stops. That was fun! Past Corte Madera, Gabrielle took us on a bit of a shortcut which took us up to Camino Alto via some quiet back roads. We had a deer cross the road and jump a fence (more like scramble over it) maybe a dozen feet ahead of us, quite the sight!

The ride was only about 22 miles but it was nice to get out & meet the group. As coach Sarah put it later, "This was sort of a lull you into a false sense of security ride." She's a riot sometimes, that one.

Afterwards many of us met up at Maria Maria for eats & conversation (a few of us partook of their excellent margaritas as well).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

This is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which kind of sums up how I feel about the Death Ride. I might need to tattoo it on my wrist or something. :)

Today I rode up Mt. Hamilton with Mel & Amy. I was surprised to find I was feeling pretty good for the most part, and I kept it in the middle ring for longer than I think I ever had before (granted, I have a touring triple so my middle ring is only a 36, but still). Not that I was going any faster than normal -- Mel and Amy left me in a cloud of dust, as usual -- but I didn't seem to tire out as quickly as I normally would. Nice!

Ah, and then I reached the "5 miles to the observatory" sign. That's where the road kicks up a little bit more and there are a lot of switchbacks. And the observatory looks so close it seems you can reach out & touch it. Especially today, it was gloriously clear out. And that's where I always seem to peter out. I'm sure a big part of it is psychological, but even if so, my body wastes no time in joining in. Today was no exception, it didn't take long at all for my legs & back to start complaining loudly, and switching down to my small ring didn't really help. But I managed to slog it out the remaining few miles, although I did need to stop & rest a lot.

I eventually made it, but I couldn't help but think when I reached the observatory that I'd have to complete a climb sort of like this one four more times to finish the Death Ride. And in considerably less time. Ack.

Hopefully I'll look back at this five months from now and marvel at how far I progressed over that time. Still, Sarah & Michael (my Death Ride coaches) have their work cut out for them. :D