Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Condor Classic

I meant to post this a while ago, but seem to have hit the "save" instead of "publish" button. So, belated ride report.

On October 11, Andrew and I did our first century. It started at the ridiculous hour of "before sunrise" in Hollister, so we drove down the night before and stayed at a hotel. This was complicated by (a) the need to find an open REI so we could buy arm-warmers; (b) extra-horrible traffic on the 101; and (c) the GPS having no idea where the hotel was and leading us on a wild-goose chase straight out of a horror movie. You know, the kind where the teenagers are hacked to death in the wilderness of the central valley. Anyway, we eventually made it to the hotel, which smelled exactly like my parents' basement, and I proceeded to get no sleep. (Those are not correlated.)

Six hours later, we woke up and discovered that it is cold in Hollister before dawn. On go the arm warmers and mittens, and we gather at the start line. My stomach was too cold to eat anything, so I sort of ate some gorp and a coke, but I couldn't even eat a chocolate croissant. The first few miles were downhill, where we made great time and I discovered each and every gap between the layers of my clothing. (For example: jersey sleeves end a half inch before the arm warmers start. Ears completely uncovered. Legs - forget about it.) Five miles in, we settled into the first climb, and I realized it was a very bad idea to not eat; so now bits of me are frozen, my stomach has started hurting, and I'm very hungry. Andrew feeds me some Gu and a pint of water and we kept climbing. Ten minutes later, the Gu kicks in and I'm all good. We climb faster than most, reaching the first food station at mile 15 in good time and passing lots of people who waste breath complaining about the steepness. I ate some peanuts. Andrew ate some of everything. The next ten miles are flattish, and the next food station has crackers and fruit, which I eat. So far so good: I am now neither freezing, nauseas, nor hungry. Some more climb, then long descent into the pinnacles, which was awesome. Peanut butter and bananas there at mile 40 or so. We're at least three hours in, which means our time isn't as good as I thought. Lost some time to Andrew's flat #1, then we start back.

But, what goes down must go up, and the next ten miles back from the pinnacles are the opposite of the "nice long descent" of the last paragraph, with a fairly stiff headwind. It's a good thing I'm not cold or hungry anymore, or I'd be giving up. We're plugging away at it, not seeing anyone for another ten miles, when Andrew gets flat #2. We carefully check the tire again, swap in a new tube, and watch the headwind blow tumbleweeds across the road. SAG wagon guy asks if we're OK, and a couple dozen riders pass us. We continue. Now hungry again, I'm extra-motivated to get to somewhere where there is food that is not classified as "energy bars". The wind remains against us through the next food station (mile 60) where it looks like the bulk of the pack has come and gone. Sandwiches and more fruit, then onwards.

There was an extra loop somewhere around mile 70 which gave us the chance to ride with the wind instead of against it, which I appreciated. At mile 75, out of nowhere, a hill loomed. Well, loomed is not the right word. Imagine an element of surprise. More like an iceberg, which I suppose does not 'loom'. Anyway. This hill cannot possibly be steeper or longer than the last mile to my house, but with 75 miles down already, that's pretty significant. I stood up and pedaled until I saw red. The reward for reaching the top is... more wind. And a nice view of some cows, who are unimpressed by our feat. I can't even keep my heart rate up anymore; it's sitting firmly at 160. Going faster than 12 mph is out of the question. It's ten-ish miles to the next food station, now with a side-wind (mile 90), where there are fresh strawberries. We've now been on the bikes for about eight hours, but several people show up behind us, so we are definitely not last. We're even on track to finish by 3 p.m., which is sort of the official end time.

Then Andrew says, "My knee feels funny". (Note: He did not say "... for the last five miles" or "... by 'funny' I mean 'hurts a lot'", either of which would have been more accurate. Out of that last station it's supposed to be an easy ten miles back on the shoulder of a still-being-constructed freeway, which is not so awesome given the traffic and that somehow we are still working against the wind. At mile 92, he says, "uh, I can't move my knee anymore", so we stop. He has already tried (a) taking it easy; (b) pedaling with only the other leg; and (c) ignoring it (*). He's sure that if he can rest for a minute that he could keep going, but this seems like a Bad Idea, so I flag down the sag wagon and get us a ride back to town.

Then there's a nice big barbeque, followed by a relaxing evening. Yummy.

So, we almost made it. It sure felt like we put in enough effort to go 100 miles. Our average speed was pretty crummy, but I don't think I've biked in wind that strong ever for sustained periods. The event organization was fantastic, though, and I'd do it again. At no point was I worried about getting lost.

(*) Everyone has suggestions about what's up with the knee. Um, except for the actual doctors at Kaiser, who seem to think that rest and steroids fix everything. Current prevailing theory is that it's an IT-band issue, and that he should try stretching a lot and make sure the bike fits correctly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Adventure South on Highway 1 (Parts I and II)

In preparation for the century we're biking tomorrow, I've been doing longer and longer weekend rides, and trying not find new territory. This pair of rides emerged from the hypothesis that it would be totally calm and flat to ride down Highway 1 from San Francisco.

Part 1

to the end o
(Here's my MotionBased GPS data, for those of you that like to skip ahead.)

We started from SF, went down Skyline (Hwy 35), and cut over to Highway 1 on Sharp Park Road. (Which, by the way, has a bike lane for the first hundred yards - then you're in the lane with traffic and need to keep pace with it to stay safe; fortunately the speed limit's about 30 and it's downhill.) That dropped us into Pacifica, where we followed the beach for a bit and watched the despondent surfers waiting for waves. Then we got to ",-122.507987&spn=0.014487,0.043945&z=15">here, just south of Pacifica, where the road narrows to not-quite-one-lane-in-each-direction with negative shoulder (gravel leaks on the road, as opposed to there being excess pavement on the other side of the white line). It's twisty and the traffic is fast and it's pretty significantly uphill. I must have driven this road dozens of times, but somehow did not remember this four mile stretch. After an eternity we made it to the top, with a nice view of the ocean. The way down the other side is more complicated: instead of going 6 mph and keeping to the "mountain-side" edge of the road, you're going 25 mph on the "cliff-side" edge of the road. Cars that would have been able to pass you going up are now stuck behind you going down, with predictable displays of unhappiness. (It's a freaking construction zone - it's not safe for them to be going faster either.)

Anyway, we got to the bottom in one piece and decided we were definitely not biking back up that stretch of highway. The remaining descent into Half Moon Bay is very pleasant, with a wide shoulder and expansive ocean views. From Half Moon Bay, tere's only one other choice for getting back to SF: go up and over Hwy 92, then back on Skyline. So, after a sandwich, we headed up the 92. I remember this being ridiculously steep from the last time (5 years ago?) I tried it, so I stayed in a comfortable cadence in a lower gear the whole way, expecting it to get steeper. But I think it's a pretty even 7% grade for the whole way. Drafted off a motorcycle group on the way down. Back up Skyline was pretty uneventful, until we got lost and cranky in Daly City (a maze of twisty passages, all alike).

Total ride: 60+ miles, 6800 vertical feet.

Part 2

Having learned my lesson, and still wanting to see what was further south, the next weekend I drove the car to Half Moon Bay and rode the bike south starting there. (This was a solo ride, as my better half was sleeping off the previous night's festivities.)

South from Half Moon Bay, Hwy 1 is almost-imperceptibly uphill for a while, then is a series of rolling hills into Pescadero. I assume this would be beautiful country on a nicer day, but the sky and ocean were both slate-gray and the temperature was hovering around 50F. The surf looked like crap but there were still some diehard folks out there. I didn't see many other cyclists.

Pescadero appears to have no actual, um, restaurants or anything, so I nibbled at the gas station and watched tourists complain about the price of gas. Then I took Stage Road north towards San Gregorio, which has some hills taller than "rolling" but with a similar effect of "climb 300 feet, descend 300 feet, repeat, repeat". There's a general store in San Gregorio with a bike rack out front and a sign that asks cyclists to take off their shoes before entering. I was going to lock up my bike before going in, but the motorcyclists having a heated debate out front assured me that the last thing anybody would steal around here is a bike. I went in and got a coke. Sure enough, nobody stole my bike, although when I came back a dog was... never mind.

Stage Road meets back up with Hwy 1 a few miles later, and it's all downhill back into Half Moon Bay. At this point I suddenly felt the need to make creme brulee that evening, so I bought a blowtorch from the Target and drove home. 30 miles, 2000-ish vertical feet. (MotionBased data)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Epic Ride

I spent most of last week with a cold, and the weather had for the most part been overcast, windy, and otherwise depressing, so I didn't ride much during the week. On Thursday I may have overdone the weight on the deadlifts, leaving me with sore/stiff hamstrings afterwards. Still, on Saturday morning the weather looked fantastic (cold and sunny) so, sniffles and hamstrings be damned, I was going out for a ride.

After a quick check to see if this would be a group ride (nope, everyone's hung over, sleeping, and/or working), Andrew and I set off to do Paradise Loop. I put on my longer bike shorts, the ones that cover my knees, and thought, that's funny, these are pretty loose around the middle - but chalked this up to recent weight loss. I filled up my bike pouch with a tube, house key, sunscreen, and a CO2 cartridge, and we set off.

A few miles in, Andrew looks over and says, hey, are you wearing my shorts? I'd assumed that there was no way I could mistake his castelletti men's large shorts for my castelleti women's large shorts, but that would certainly explain the extra room around the middle. But once he pointed this out, I couldn't stop thinking about the important difference between boy shorts and girl shorts: the specific arrangement of padding sewn into them. Once I started thinking about it, I noticed some... chafing. Which I will not go into the details of. Anyway, I now have a much more highly developed sense of what constitutes Good Padding.

The weather warmed up after we went over the Golden Gate Bridge and dropped into Sausalito. We were keeping a pace much slower than usual due to the combination of sore hamstrings and sniffles, but were still going fast enough to weave among the bike tourists that clog the area. When we got to the hill to Corte Madera, I had a sudden burst of energy and did that climb at 9mph, a chunk better than the 7mph I did the last time. When we got to the top, both of us realized we had forgotten to downshift, and had done the hill in a middle gear instead of an easy one. So that was cool.

Another 10 miles of rolling hills later, the road suddenly started to feel bumpy. I thought I was imagining it at first, but when I felt my rear wheel shift around a little bit I realized the tire was going flat. Boo. It wasn't all the way flat though, just at about half pressure. A quick check of the time suggested that we didn't really have enough time for me to change the tube and still make the next Tiburon ferry, so I figured I'd gamble: spend the CO2 cartridge on inflating the tube and hope it held until we got back to the ferry. This worked swimmingly for another six miles, when the tube lost pressure again. I figured with one cartridge left I'd better spend it on a tube with no hole in it, so I pulled everything out of the pouch, replaced the tube, spent Andrew's CO2 cartridge filling it, then put the bad tube, spent cartridge, and sunscreen back in the pouch, put the tire back on, and we went on our way.

The astute reader will notice that something is missing from that sequence of actions. We rode on for another few minutes before the nagging thought surfaced: had I put the house key back the pouch? I dug through the pouch and discovered that (a) I had one more CO2 cartridge than I thought I did, and (b) no house key. We retraced our steps and went back to the place where I'd changed the tire, but at this time of year the roadside is covered in tiny gold leaves that look *exactly* like my house key, and after fifteen minutes of searching did not find it. So now we're way too late to get the Tiburon ferry and I've lost my key.

This meant we either had to ride all the way back to SF, or catch the ferry in Sausalito. Normally we'd just ride all the way back, but there's a pretty significant hill on the approach to the bridge, and I was already pretty tired. So: Sausalito ferry it is. This would require a 15mph pace for the next 45 minutes, which is easy enough under normal circumstances but felt herculean this time. I ate my last clif bar, hoping it would stir up some energy, and resolved to not think about my hamstrings at all. My respiratory system sensed the urgency of the moment and decided to step up its production of mucus, and of course a stiff crosswind popped up out of nowhere. That was the longest 10 miles I've ridden in a long time, with a constant stream of mucus coming out of my nose, a heat-related headache setting in, and the pain in my hamstrings spreading out to cover more leg muscles. Not sure how we made it there on time, but we pulled up just as the ferry boarded.

The extra CO2 cartridge I mentioned earlier now becomes relevant to the plot, as Andrew got a flat right after getting off the ferry. We popped in a spare tube for him and spent the last cartridge. The rest of the ride home was uneventful, thankfully, as we were completely out of spare parts.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An efficient 100 mile week

I rode 115 miles this week, mostly in three batches instead of evenly distributed across the whole week. 50 miles for the full tiburon loop, no ferry, and two 25 mile rides in the hills near Palo Alto. The one new ride for me was up Page Mill, where I should have planned in more time - I made it a few miles up into the hills before realizing that I had to turn around *right then* to catch the last bus back to SF. As it starts to get dark earlier this should be less of a problem as I will be less tempted to start a ride at 5, and will start riding at noon instead or something.

The third ride was just the portola valley loop on Friday afternoon, something I know I can do in 2.5 hours. I did the loop clockwise instead of counterclockwise and made significantly better time than before. I was able to comfortably get up to 33 mph on a downhill without freaking out, which was nice. At one point a Yukon pulls up alongside me, paces me for a while, then the passenger window rolls down and the guy asks for directions to the palo alto country club. :) he'd missed it at the last turn so I gave him directions. Otherwise three batches of riders passed me but I re-passed one on the uphill part of Sand Hill Road.

I had hoped to ride in marin today but my legs are still tired. I guess I'm supposed to pay attention to that. Maybe tomorrow

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Was my last blog post really 1250 miles ago?

I guess it's been a while since I last posted. :) Between work and exercise, I havenn't have a lot of time for anything else. The weight-loss plan over the past few months has been basically "eat less beer/donuts/other-sugar and more vegetables, and ride my bike as much as possible", which is working pretty well, in the sense that I'm at least trading fat for muscle even if the scale isn't moving much.

My second-ever(*) long bike ride was in mid-May, for Bike to Work day: San Francisco to Mountain View. At that point my bike odometer had about 550 miles on it (got the bike in October, so that's ~70 miles per month or so, almost all commuting to the transit stop). To make a long story short, that was an incredibly tough 33 miles, where I didn't eat enough, didn't drink enough, got dehydrated, and my muscles were very unhappy with me 3 hours later when I got to the office; and this was my first real ride on the new clipless pedals, which it turned out had springs that were too tight, so my right knee was acting up all day afterwards.

(*) The first long ride, in the hills of Marin a month earlier, resulted in a crash at 35 mph in which I ended up in a ditch.

But it was really satisfying to have ridden that far, so I started doing more of it, mostly just with Andrew as it was clear I wasn't really fast enough to ride with other groups. We've explored lots of San Francisco, Marin County, and San Bruno. One of my favorite routes in Marin is Paradise Loop, which is about 40 miles with a little bit of hills. The bike odometer is now at 1250, which works out to about 60 miles per week since Bike To Work Day.

As I spent more time on the bike, what I realized is that I like riding up steep things better than riding back down them, and prefer both to riding in urban traffic with stoplights. Fortunately SF has no shortage of hills - the one I live on has blocks of >15% grade - so it was easy to just take the "short way" to wherever I was going instead of the longer, flatter way. So, a detour up Twin Peaks on the way from Noe Valley to Golden Gate Park, which is maybe a mile or so of 5% grade, with a great view at the top. And if you go out to Marin and ride around the headlands, the climb from the Golden Gate Bridge to Hawk Hill seems like a little less than 2 miles at 6% grade, with nice views the whole way up.

I've recently started exploring the area around Mountain View on my bike as well. Last Friday I rode up Old La Honda. Which is really why I'm blogging now, to brag about that. :) It's 3.3 miles averaging 7.2% grade (see Lucas's measurements, and it took me 43 minutes to get to the top, after which I needed a good long sit before riding back down. (I also learned a valuable lesson: Do not eat a clif bar immediately before starting the climb, or you will spend fifteen minutes in the middle of the ride wanting to throw up.) This is not a particularly fast time - several groups of color-coordinated bicyclists passed me, and according to the Western Wheelers classification my time is "group B", or one step above novice - but I want to emphasize that I am excited about having made it all the way to the top without throwing up at all.

Now that I have a little GPS gadget thingy I will try to blog more often with the routes I'm doing, assuming I can figure out how to upload its data.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

This is Ella, who has recently discovered that petting is fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The sixth anniversary is... penguins?

So I'm at a 2/4 limit table at the Luxor, still a little steamed (and sleepy) from an early-morning tournament loss (who plays poker at 9 a.m.? Apparently I'm not the only one - hence the sleepy), when a giant penguin sneaks up behind me and goes "bap bap bap" (here you should imagine the penguin beak pecking at my shoulder). This is not a hallucination - Andrew has gotten me a life-size stuffed toy emperor penguin. Context: "life size" == "larger than the carry-on sizing bin for an airline" or "tall enough to see over a poker table". The penguin brought me good luck, though, and overall the poker play was profitable for both of us this time in Vegas. (We solved the "bigger than a carry-on" problem by sitting it on my lap in the plane, where it made an excellent pillow; it did take some explaining to get it through the security checkpoint.)

So now I have to think of something equally cool to get Andrew as an anniversary present. Suggestions from the peanut gallery are welcome, but it sounds like he wants another camera.

This was a fun trip to Vegas. We played poker in the Luxor, the Excalibur, and the Bellagio. We intended to play at the Rio and Mandalay, but they were only running no-limit at the time, so no go. Context switching from limit to no-limit is something I don't do quickly. All poker rooms we played in were nonsmoking (a welcome change from last time I was in town for gambling purposes) and had several tables running at once. All were near the casinos' sports books, so I watched an unusual amount of ESPN too. The Bellagio's poker room is very nice, but I'm not a big fan of the clientele it attracts - imagine the stereotypical young aggressive hoodie-wearing player who won't shut up about how stupid he thinks you are. Even if you're taking his money. That's just not fun. All the other card rooms seemed to have a nice mix of tourists, locals, and other assorted people who do not Take Seriously a game of low-limit poker.

We ate at Michael Mina's, which was seriously awesome. I didn't know beforehand that he was also the chef at Aqua, but the similarities are apparent. The tasting menu had this lobster pot pie thing, and tuna tartare, and the yummiest cod ever, and kobe-style beef with foie gras and lots of different sauces, and then loads of chocolate-themed desserts.. each dish seemed small, but I didn't need to eat for the whole next day because it was just that filling. I have also been instructed to try to replicate the chocolate chip cookies, which were quite something.

We saw Penn&Teller and the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil, which were both pretty cool. It's sort of hard to describe either one, though.