Sunday, February 28, 2010

TNT DR team ride # 3 -- where some confidence emerged

The Death Ride team ride yesterday started in Marinwood, headed out Lucas Valley Road, Nicasio Valley Rd, Pt-Reyes Petaluma to Hicks Valley, over the infamous Marshall Road and down to Highway 1, though Pt Reyes Station and then back inland on SFD, Platform Bridge, back to Point Reyes-Petaluma and onto Nicasio Valley Rd where we retraced our route back to Marinwood.

At the end of the ride we had a potluck at the Marinwood Community center to celebrate our TNT Honorees.

I approached this ride with a lot of trepidation.

It was going to be my longest, toughest ride since the end of last March.  I had visions of me continuously holding back my group, and our group arriving at the Community Center late in the afternoon after practically everyone else had left and the last scraps of the potluck were being packed up.  Or worse yet, I'd need to be sagged back. Gahhhh.

It was raining like stink all day the day before, and the weather report called for rain at least for the early part of the ride.  And then there was the possibility of a tsunami, yeesh  (OK, I'm stretching it here, the likelihood of a tsunami was very very low where we were, but it didn't help matters :D)

And then there's The Potluck Curse.  My crash occurred the day of the DR team's Honoree Potluck last year.  I was briefly on the Solvang team this past fall, and on the ride preceding that team's honoree potluck, there was also a very scary crash (not me this time, but still).   Does bad luck really come in threes?  We shall see.

Well.  To cut to the chase  -- I completed the ride, I didn’t hold up my group (well, not too badly, anyhow), and I felt fine at the end, woo-hoo!  There were lots of people to chat with and lots of great food to enjoy at the potluck.  It was rainy and chilly at the start of the ride, but thanks to Appropriate Attire, it wasn’t bad.  No sign of a tsunami descending upon us.

And no word of any crashes, horrific or otherwise, occurring on the ride.  The Potluck Curse is broken!!

I have to admit, I had some very low points during the first part of this ride.  Once the grade on a climb kicks up around 8% (aw heck, 6%) I still get very, very slow.  And it takes me a while to get into the groove.  So, I had a grand old time on our first climb on Lucas Valley Rd, only about 4 miles into the ride.  My “who am I kidding?” mantra promptly kicked in.  I was already thinking to myself  “I SO don’t belong on this team!” and “maybe I should switch to the STP team” and  “no, I’ll just quit and help out with SAGing on this team”, and so on. 

I got a bit of a respite from the negative singsong in my head heading up Nicasio Valley Road, but it all came back in full force on the slog up Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd heading towards the Cheeze Factory.  I was so down on myself I almost started crying, pathetic but true!   I was in my great-granny gear (a triple crankset with a 32t mountain cassette, oy), trying to maintain a reasonable cadence, trying to pedal in reasonably smooth circles, with my speed dropping under 5 mph, 4 mph … gahhh. 

Our wonderful SAG guy Ken was parked on the side of the road at the top of that  climb cheering us on.  When I finally reached the top he couldn’t help but notice how slow I was going, and he cheerily called out “you need to be in a higher gear there!” or something along that line.  Luckily by then I had pretty much gotten over the urge to spontaneously burst into tears, but I might have shot poor Ken the Jobob Death Glare(patent pending).  He didn’t spontaneously combust, so either I didn’t shoot it at him after all, or I was just too whupped to zap him full force (in which case I hope his jacket wasn’t singed).

My companions -- Susie, Maggie and coach Peg, all Death Ride veterans -- were great.  They gave me lots of encouragement and helpful suggestions.  Peg would occasionally have us pull over and give us really good tips, checking on how much we were eating and drinking, that kind of thing. 

The self-defeating noises in my head receded by the time we reached our first SAG stop on Hicks Valley Road.  There, Nancy and Grace had a fabulous spread of food waiting for us right by the Lincoln School.  It was so awesome to see Nancy again, I first met her during the Crater Lake Century, when I reached the rim of the crater – which was my first significant ride since my crash (this one being the second, I suppose). 

Hmmm.  There’s now a link between Nancy and the good outcomes of my significant rides. Hope she comes to the Death Ride.  :D

The climb up Marshall Road was of course hard, but not as demoralizing for me as the climbs up Lucas Valley Rd and Pt Reyes-Petaluma Rd.  Go figure.   I took the descent down the Marshall Wall very cautiously – didn’t want to push the Potluck Curse!! – but all went well. 

Once I made it over Marshall my self-defeating mantra was pretty much gone.  Heading down Highway 1 I started having some fun with coach Peg and the rest of my group, plaintively whining every time we passed some landmark known for its good eats – the Marshall Store and the clam chowder, Tony’s and the BBQ oysters, the Bovine Bakery and everything in it, the bar in Olema…  Coach Peg would just smile every time I kvetched about the snack opportunities we were missing.

We had an excellent time pacelining and riding the rollers on Highway 1.  But, perhaps I was having too excellent a time, I kind of forgot about keeping up with the all-important eating and drinking.  I was so busy whining about Missed Snack Opportunities that I neglected to refuel – and yes, I get the irony!   :p

So, once we were heading up the relatively shallow grade on Sir Francis Drake towards Platform Bridge, I started feeling what I call a “pre-bonk” coming on.  It’s where I feel a little jittery and lightheaded, and, based on past experience I know when I feel that coming on I must stop immediately and refuel to avoid a full-blown bonk.  Seriously, I have maybe a five minute window to chow down or suffer the consequences.  I pulled over and sucked down some vanilla Hammer Gel from my flask and swallowed some more Spiz drink, and was good to go again within a few minutes.  But clearly I’ll need to stay on top of my refueling a lot better than that!

The rest of the ride went fine.  I was starting to wear down a bit by the time we reached Nicasio, but the short break we took there helped.  And by then the rain was long gone and it had cleared up considerably so we had some beautiful scenery to enjoy. 

The climb heading up Lucas Valley in the other direction was yet another long slog, but by then I knew I could manage it.  And I had a blast heading down the other side of that climb – I went down it ahead of the rest of the group and had the descent essentially all to myself.  I didn’t take it at breakneck speed, but I did it at a good clip and felt pretty relaxed and confident.  That’s huge for me, I’ve been a tentative descender since last year and it looks like I’m getting better at it.

I slowed down a bit at the bottom of the descent to let the others catch up, Coach Peg got us into another paceline, and we cranked it back to the finish.  Peg gathered us for a short and informative post-ride debriefing, and then we headed off for the potluck.

By the end of the ride I was thinking, hmm, maybe I really can do this!, which is a big about-face from what I was thinking during the early part of the ride.   Many thanks to Maggie, Susie and especially to Peg for helping me through my self-doubt,  and for making it fun. 

An excellent day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nemesis repeats, whee!

Nemesis is the name I've given to a hill out in Coyote Hills Park,  near the Dumbarton Bridge in Fremont.

It's a short climb, only about 1/2 mile long, but it's a steep little stinker.  The climb is in two parts, both about 8-12% grade, with a short rest in between of about 3-5%.   It then levels off at the top, and for extra credit I can continue on, past a shooting range used by the Fremont police and a former Nike missile control center (cool, eh?), and up a last short bit of another 10-12%.  There it dead ends at a gate at the very top of the hill, past which there are cell phone towers and lord knows what else.  :/

I call it Nemesis because it took me *weeks* to get up that stinker for the first time, back when I first started riding. I was such a happy camper that day when I reached the top -- until I realized it wasn't really the top and there was still that  last section.  Ack!

Nowadays it's much less of a nemesis, but I like the name.  And it can still kick the crap out of me.

The view up there is really nice -- you get a vista of the southern part of the SF Bay and the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges.

And it's a good hill for repeats.  Which is what I did today.  I could have gone on a "buddy" ride today with my TNT Death Ride team, but I really wasn't up to driving all the way out to the Presidio for the start of the ride, especially since the weather was iffy.  And after the long week I had at work, a sleep-in was in order.  So it seemed like a good a day as any to start up the masochistic ritual known as Nemesis repeats.

My initial plan is to just do a few of them at a time, maybe a couple of times a week, and not worry about my speed yet - just get up the sucker.  I figure over time, hopefully my strength & stamina will improve and the climbing speed will follow.  I hope.

And since what goes up must come down, this'll also be good for my descending. I'm a much more tentative descender since my crash last March.  I'm not fearful, but I do take descents a lot slower than I used to.  I may never again be as fast a descender as I used to be, but I would like to get my confidence back.   Although the trail on Nemesis is paved, it's bumpy in parts, and there's a bit of gravel on it.  I think the more I descend it, the more assured I'll be, and that's a good thing.

So, today I warmed up slowly and deliberately, first heading out to the bay and back around the park,  getting about 8 miles in before I reached the climb the first time.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't all that difficult for me.  I kept in my lowest gears and spun reasonably well heading up.  Just before the top it kicks up to about 14% so I was a bit labored, but still, not too shabby.  I turned around, headed down and along the trail to the parking lot on Patterson Ranch Road where I looped around and headed back.

There were a few other cyclists doing repeats on Nemesis today.  We'd nod to each other as we passed, but we were all in our own little worlds.  It was that kind of day out; on really nice sunny days the park is teeming with people but today, notsomuch.  Nearly everyone I saw out there seemed to be doing some sort of training.

I managed to do four repeats, and I wasn't whupped at all, which was great.  On the last two I headed up to the very top by the cell towers to take in the view.  On the fourth climb it starting sprinkling and the wind was picking up some more (made for some nice crosswinds heading down, yikes) so it was time to pack it in.  Heading back to the Alameda Creek Trail I met up with Lee who had been out on his own ride out to Shoreline Park, so we rode home together.   A good day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

TNT Death Ride SF team ride - one climb down, waaay more to go!

 Today was our first long-ish training ride on the TNT Death Ride team.  For the early training rides we're split up into 2 groups, the SF/East bay group and the Redwood Wine Country(RWC)/Marin group.  Last year I rode with RWC but this year I'm sticking closer to home.  So today's ride was with the SF/East bay group, headed up by Mistress Karen and her crew.

It wasn't wasn't  much compared to what we'll be doing in the upcoming weeks, but hey, it's a start!    I was really happy with how I did, after 50 miles I wasn't whupped.  Yeah,  the bar is set kind of low... :D

The climb up Palomares road was kind of ugly, and I was having one of my "who am I kidding" episodes.  As evidenced by the fact that I yelled out WHO AM I KIDDING at least once.  And by at least once I mean at least five or six times.  But Coach Peg stayed with me and gave me encouragement and advice (and none of it was along the lines of "give up now and spare us").

So I finally made it over Palomares -- the Hard Way, mind you! -- and the rest of the ride went really well.  Communist Captain Amy quipped, "Well, that's one climb down.  Wonder how many more climbs we'll do before the Death Ride?" 

I'm proud to say I resisted the urge to tip her bike over.

We had a time trial up Calaveras Road to determine what groups we'll be placed in.  I told Coach Karen that we could skip with the formalities and just put me in the slowest group, but she wouldn't go for that.  

On Calaveras Road we passed a big group of Solvang Team TNT riders -- so nice to see them!  They were looking great.   The Solvang Century is only a few weeks away, booyah!

After the ride up Calaveras we turned around at the false summit and headed back to Welch Creek SAG stop where we entered our times.  Then we headed back to Sunol and on to Castro Valley via Dublin Canyon.

All told it was 50 miles and about 3400 ft of climbing.  So far, so good...