Thursday, May 20, 2010

I gots my Descending Mojo back!

One of the biggest changes to my riding after my bike crash last year was that I became a tentative descender.

I've always enjoyed descending, and over time I became pretty good at it. Up until right before my crash I'd only ridden Rivendells which are rock-solid descending bikes. Then I got my MidLife Crisis Bike, my lovely titanium Lynskey, and proceeded to crash it on a descent 10 days later. I was off my bike entirely for about 3 months, recovered well and gradually got back in the groove. I didn't remember anything about the crash, but once I started riding for real again I realized I wasn't having fun on descents.

I wasn't being fearful, exactly, although there were some descents early in this year's Death Ride training that made me wonder if I was devolving from tentative to fearful.

And, face it, half of the Death Ride is descending. While some people take solace from that fact, I was starting to wonder if that would be my big obstacle. Ridiculous but true.

Well, I'm happy to say I done gots my Descending Mojo back!

Here's how:

1. For starters, I abandoned my RetroGrouch sensibilities and switched out th bar-end shifters on my Lynskey to those newfangled :D brake/shift levers. I went whole hog and got the nifty new Ultegra carbon levers, which look very nice indeed (I always disliked the look of brifters, but these actually look nice). They took me a bit of time to get used to, but I really like them now. There are times it's nice to not to have to take a hand off the bar to shift, especially on bumpy descents (which could have contributed to my crash in the first place; but no-one was with me at the time and I don't remember it, so we'll never know).

2. Probably the single most important change was switching out the Shimano pads that came with my brakes for KoolStop brake pads. The Shimano pads didn't brake all that well, and over time they performed even worse, which could be why I felt less secure descending over time. I felt much more confident in my descending almost immediately after the switch to Kool-Stops.

3. The icing on the cake is that I'm now very flexible. Soon after I stopped wearing the back brace I took up yoga to help strengthen my back and regain some flexibility. I'm not going to classes right now, but I've kept up with it at home. I can now easily lay my palms flat on the floor in a forward bend, and after a few moments I can even bring my nose to my knees. So now I can very easily ride way down in the drops, which I wasn't able to do before. That makes a big difference in stability and security while I'm descending.

So there you have it. I's a happy camper.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My BigAzz Big Basin ride report (a work in progress)

I know those of you who read my blog (both of you, one of them being me) are eagerly awaiting the report from my Big Day on Big Basin and Beyond. Rather than keep putting this off as I usually do, I'll just add to this as inspiration strikes or repressed memories resurface.

To cut to the chase, or, as they say at My Fine Workplace, the Executive Summary cuz Executives are far too busy to be bothered with the trivial and mundane:
It was a great ride. Nothing was thrown – that includes sandwiches, bikes, or hissy fits. I had a couple of Are We Freakin’ Done moments and one really low point, but I managed to get through them. I had to walk a couple of places on stinky-steep climbs but I didn’t mind. I did not Meet My Maker riding up Rt 84 as I had feared. Awesome descents, I think my descending mojo is back. Got to know some of my teammates a bit more and they are a grand lot. I finished DFL, but not too far FL, and what’s important to me is that I finished, and I’m really really proud of that.

Here's the route. My Garmin crapped out on me so I have to settle with the drawn route, not the GPS trace, you'll just have to take my word for it. I have witnesses.

The general consensus is that the honest-to-god total climb was between 10,500 and 11,000 ft.

Things I learned (and where I learned them):
  • You know a climb is freakin’ steep when you think it’s leveling off some, and you glance down at the grade indicator on your computer and it shows yeah, the climb is leveling off, it’s down to 10%. (on Redwood Gulch)
  • You know you're climbing really slow when your GPS goes into autopause mode while you're still moving forward. (on Redwood Gulch and Jamison Creek)
  • You know a ride is freakin’ long when you’re going up a 3% grade in your great-granny gear. (on Rt 84)
  • When a bug flies into your mouth on a big gasp for breath and lodges into your windpipe, it dissolves eventually. (back on Redwood Gulch)
  • Follow up a stinky-steep long climb with a fabulous descent and you’re less likely to want to strangle the coach. (Jamison Creek / Pine Flat and Bonny Doon)
  • It’s really hard for me to chew and pedal at the same time. (anywhere past mile 10)
  • I have fabulous teammates.(Portola Valley to Portola Valley)
  • I really think I can do this. (Various places, but especially cresting Rt 84 at Skyline)
That's it for now, check back later.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I did it I did it I did it!

That was the chant running through my head as I reached the top of Route 84 at Skyline Blvd on my DR team training ride yesterday.

Like I mentioned in my last post, the training rides on the Death Ride team were going to get a lot longer and a lot tougher.   This one was about 110 miles and somewhere between 10,000-11,000 ft of climbing.

I was *really* worried about this ride.

I had a crappy ride a couple of weeks ago on the Grizzly Peak century.   About  20 miles into the ride I simply Did Not Want To Be There.   It was so strange; I was riding with Maggie and Lori, two friends from the DR team, and I was really looking forward to this day.  But for some reason, my brain and my body were telling me they were just not up for this.  I started to get a pounding headache -- cause or effect, I do not know -- and after a miserable slog up McEwen Road I decided "screw this".   I told Maggie and Lori not to wait up for me anymore, I was out of there, and when I reached the turn for Pig Farm Hill and the Bears, I turned the opposite way and headed for Lafayette.   I took  BART and rode home (Lee was surprised to see me), laid down and conked out for three solid hours.  So, maybe I was coming down with something, who knows.

But my motivation for the DR took an absolute nosedive.   Coach Sarah, who gleaned so insightfully that I was having a crisis   (could have it been all my posts on facebook saying that I was miserable and thinking of quitting? :D), exchanged a few emails with me and then we had a long phone conversation.

She let me know that while she really believed I could do it, and she was hoping I wouldn’t give up on it, she’d understand if I wasn’t up for it this time around.   She told me if I wanted to continue but not train so hard I could scale back on the training and aim for only a few passes rather than all five.   She even sent me her ride report from her very first Death Ride, where she did only(!) four passes, but was eager to do all five the following year (which she did, no surprise there!).

That all helped a lot.   At the end of our conversation I told Sarah I’d stay with the team, and play it by ear regarding the scaled-back training.   Getting it through my thick skull that it really would be OK if I didn’t do all five passes, and having the option to scale back on the training if I wanted, took an awful lot of pressure off me -- pressure that I didn’t even know I was feeling until it was gone.

I kept up with my training, including commutes to work and good times with Evil Coach Troy. The following weekend I had a really fun ride with Maggie and another teammate Tricia; it wasn’t an official team ride, it was what we call a buddy ride. It wasn’t epic as our usual training rides, but it had a decent amount of climbing, and I felt great. It helped me remember why I love riding in the first place. And the fact that a bakery stop was involved didn’t hurt matters.

So, that’s the lead up to the Big-Ass Big Basin team ride we rode yesterday. More on that later. I’m heading out soon for a recovery ride along the Alameda Creek Trail & Coyote Hills Park.

Recovery ride? Heh, more like a victory lap. :D